Indian Butter Chicken

A lot of my earliest memories are food related. I remember sitting down at the dinner table with my dad and my little brother after my dad got home from work. My mom worked at a Hospice at the end of our street a couple evenings a week, and before she left for work in the afternoon, she would make dinner that my dad could put in the oven when he got home. She would make Chicken Tetrazzini or Mac and Cheese or Chicken Divan and we would sit down at the table and instead of saying grace, we would count to three and scream “Good Dinner Mom!” at the top of our lungs, because my brother and I were SURE she could hear us down the street. And the next morning when we would ask if she heard us, she always said yes.

I remember my dad making us Cream of Wheat in the mornings. It was my favorite. He would skip stirring it just enough, so that it would be the perfect amount of lumpy, because I loved it lumpy. On St. Patrick’s Day he would put a drop of food coloring in the bottom of the bowl, so when we stirred it up it would turn green.

I remember my brother burning his top lip on a cookie sheet of hot homemade pretzels, and he had to wear this green vitamin e paste on his top lip for days, so the burn wouldn’t scar.

I remember special chicken, the most delicious, perfect birthday dinner of fried Chinese chicken wings you could ever imagine, which I have never been able to recreate correctly.

I remember lobsters every July for the joint birthday celebration for my mom and dad and their friends. My middle sister and I would get to have a lobster of our own because we would eat anything and everything. The other two would have chicken or hot dogs or something, because they were not very adventurous eaters and had no interest in lobster, which was fine with my parents because two kids with expensive tastes were plenty.

I remember the school lunches my dad always made. Always. Like every day of my life until I graduated from high school. The lunches were epic, the brown bags were always overflowing. He started making me two sandwiches because the boys in high school would hound me for mine until I shared. Bulkie roll, mayo on the bottom, then lettuce, then ham, then American cheese, then tomato then more mayo on the top – the tomato juice and the mayo made the most delicious combo.

I remember my grandparents’ 50th anniversary dinner at their beach club. My dad and my aunt cooked for my grandparents and all their friends. I suspect my mom made dessert. That’s always been her wheelhouse. My cousin and brother and I were the servers. I have a picture of my dad from that night over the sink in my kitchen. Just looking like he’s always looked, and like I picture him. With an apron on, prepping something and smiling.

I don’t remember when my dad took over primary cheffing responsibilities, it was probably gradual, but now when I think of him, it’s always in front of the stove or the cutting board. It might be for that night’s dinner, it might be for the next day’s brunch and it might be for something a week down the road, but that’s where he likes to be. It’s a very good thing. We eat well at my parents’ house.

I also don’t remember when I really started cooking, though I would imagine it was in college. I used to bake in high school, lots and lots and lots of chocolate chip cookies, but cooking came later. My first major event was a sit down, plated engagement lunch for my college roommate junior year. Which was totally insane, if I think about it. I made pork tenderloin, and fried chicken and greens for the people that didn’t eat pork. It was for about 30 people I think. That was the start…I never really looked back. There were epic law school dinners, and lessons for my roommate who would eat anything, and wanted to learn to cook herself. And then I had a big kitchen all to myself, and so there have been Christmas parties for 40 with food for 90, and football Sundays, and lots of brunches and a few catering gigs.

I am never happier than when I am in a kitchen, preferably my own, cooking for people I love. I love the feeling of providing for people, for nourishing them, for making them happy and, if we’re being honest, the kick in the ego I get when people enjoy it. I feel good when I am cooking, in part because I think I am pretty good at it, but mostly because it is the surest way I know how to tell people I love them. And this, more than anything, is the part of my cooking that I got from my dad. It is how we are most alike and it what I am most thankful to share with him. (If you are wondering, this does NOT translate into us cooking well together, which is mostly on me, because if he’s the sous chef he can’t help futzing and adjusting and perfecting whatever is in the works – as all good sous do – AND I DON’T LIKE PEOPLE TOUCHING MY STUFF. And I’m nobody’s sous-chef. So you see how this is a problem. (That kind of obnoxious behavior is how I’m LEAST like my dad, BTDubs…))

All of this is basically just to say Happy Father’s Day, a couple of days late and plenty of dollars short, of course, to a dad who continues to teach me and my sibs what it means to love and be loved. And who makes one hell of a frittata…

Killer 'stache.

The Man, the Myth, the Legend

———-

And now, a confession. I am losing my mind. I posted the last installment, and promptly realized I ALREADY HAVE A CARBONARA RECIPE ON HERE. I am THE WORST. And then I took eleventy months off. So I am making it up to you by posting THIS recipe. Because it is delicious. It should make up for all manner of sins, it is that good. I actually made it a couple of months back, and have been meaning to share it with you since, but then time got away from me (have you heard that before?)

Don't mind the fabric cutting mat...that's just how I roll

Murgh Makhani

I have wanted to make Butter Chicken since the first time I heard the words. It has butter in the name – I’m an easy sell. When I found out it is kind of  a buttery version of Chicken Tikka Masala, my need to make it got more urgent. I looked around and found a recipe by Floyd Cardoz, who I really enjoyed on Top Chef Masters. The recipe looked like it had perhaps a few more steps than some of the others, but still wasn’t particularly difficult. The extra step is straining, and while it may also be delicious without that step, the sauce that results from it is so silky and creamy, I can’t imagine not doing it.

This Butter Chicken is cumbersome only in that you need to start a day or two before you plan to eat it. I marinate the chicken on day one, cook it on day two, and make the sauce and eat on day three. Each day requires about a half hour’s worth of work, if that, and day two and three could easily just be done the same day. It can be a weeknight meal for sure.

The first step is marinating the chicken, and it should be done a day before you cook it. The marinade is garlic, ginger, jalepeno, lime juice and yogurt with garam masala and paprika. I used skinless boneless chicken thighs because I like the flavor of the dark meat. Marinate the chicken overnight.

Step two is broiling or grilling the chicken until it is cooked through and slightly charred. This can be done the day before or the day of dinner.

Step three is the sauce. Onion, tomato, more garlic and ginger, another jalepeno and butter. This gets simmered down for about a half hour, then pureed and strained. It’s finished with cinnamon, honey, fenugreek leaves and cream. Apparently fenugreek is THE thing that makes Butter Chicken, Butter Chicken, but I have a secret…I can’t find it, so I haven’t used it either time. This was still delicious. Someday I am going to find it and add it, and I suspect my mind will be blown.

It sounds like a lot, or like it might be time consuming, but it really isn’t, it just needs a little foresight. And the results are amazing. The sauce is so smooth and flavorful and great.

Thanks Floyd!

Heaven

Just because I haven’t been around here doesn’t mean I haven’t been cooking and eating – I wouldn’t want you to worry that I have been hungry for four months.

I have had pizza

pizzapizzapizzapizza

mushroom, onion, black olive…doesn’t get better.

Softshell Crabs

getinmybelly

with Israeli couscous, garlic scape pesto and tomatoes

Chicken Stir-fry

quick and easy quick and easy

Chicken with Black Bean Sauce

More chicken of the sticky soy variety

Honey Soy Chicken Legs

Honey Soy Chicken Legs

Somen noodle bowls

Tofu, what?

healthy AND delicious

and lobsters, among other things…

You were delicious

Hello little buddy!

I have also been cooking for others quite a bit. I’ve had a couple of catering jobs, a personal chef gig, and LOTS of baking for office birthdays. Exciting stuff!

In other thoughts:

1.) I needed a distraction this past weekend. I decided on CandyCrush, which may have been a huge mistake. I mean, it was a GREAT distraction, incredibly effective, but now I JUST. CAN’T. STOP. I am really concerned for my future. I thought level 33 was going to kill me dead.

2.) Netflix and Hulu Plus are the greatest and the worst. I am SO EASILY DISTRACTED.

3.) It seems to finally be summer here. It took forever to get here, but the weather has been glorious for the past week. Thank goodness.

4.) It is very nice to live in a place where there is almost always a team in contention, it makes things fun. GO B’s!!

5.) What I am listening to: Josh Ritter’s The Beast in Its Tracks. This album is great. I was listening to it for the second or third time, and bopping along and started actually listening to the words…yikes. Dark. JRitt went through a divorce a couple of years ago, and clearly it sparked his creative juices. All is well though, because I saw him in concert about a month ago, and it was the happiest, giddiest most joyful I have ever seen a performer on stage, so it seems like he’s bounced back.

6.) What I am reading: Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers

7.) I am making an Olive Oil Cake for the wedding reception of one of my oldest friends this weekend. I can’t wait to celebrate with her and then tell you about the cake, because it is pretty tasty.

And now, for the main event. Hopefully I will see you all back here again soon!!!

Indian Butter Chicken (serves 4-6)

From Floyd Cardoz and Serious Eats

4 medium cloves garlic, peeled
2 tbls minced fresh ginger
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
3 tbls juice from 3 limes
3 tbls neutral oil (such as vegetable or canola)
1 tbl kosher salt
3 tbls paprika
1 tbl garam masala
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 cups yogurt
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
 
2 (28 oz.) cans roasted tomatoes
2 cups water
1 large onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
3 medium cloves garlic, peeled
1 1/2 tbls fresh minced ginger
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
8 tbls (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Kosher salt
3 tbls honey
3 tbls fenugreek leaves, toasted and crushed
1 tbl black pepper
1/2 to 3/4 cup heavy cream, to taste
 

For Chicken: In a food processor, combine garlic, ginger, chili, lime juice, oil, salt, and spices. Process to a paste, then add yogurt and process until smooth. Transfer to a large zip top bag or tupperware and add chicken. Marinate 4 to 6 hours, or overnight.

Set broiler rack 4 inches from heat source and preheat broiler to high (or feel free to grill these!). Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Remove chicken from zipper lock bag and wipe off excess marinade. Lay out in a single layer on baking sheet and broil until color darkens and some dark blisters form, about 5 minutes. Flip chicken, rotate sheet pan, and broil until color darkens on other side, about 5 minutes. Repeat once or twice until chicken is cooked through, and there is some dark char on each piece. This takes me 12-15 minutes.

For sauce: In a large, heavy pot, combine tomatoes, water, onion, garlic, ginger, chili, butter, cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium and cook uncovered at a hard simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens to about 2 1/2 quarts, about 30 minutes.

Transfer 1/3 of sauce to jar of a blender. Starting with low speed, gradually increase to high. Blend until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a clean large saucepan. Repeat with remaining two batches sauce. Keep sauce warm over low heat and stir in fenugreek, black pepper, honey, and cream to taste. Season with salt to taste, then chop chicken  into bite-size pieces and add to sauce. Serve with rice and a garnish of julienned ginger.

Lobster Risotto for a Happy Summer…

mmmm, lobster risotto

I spent the other night lying in bed eating Buffalo wings and watching Toddlers in Tiaras. That is either the surest sign of a work trip involving a hotel stay or the symptoms of a stroke.

It was my second trip to Atlanta in as many months. In addition to my work travels, since I have seen you all last I:

Changed jobs

Celebrated a beautiful bride-to-be in NYC

Catered my first big party. For real strangers

Moved

Made a quilt

Made a wedding cake

Went to a gorgeous wedding in Portland, ME

Said farewell to some great friends that I will miss terribly until I get to visit my favorite place in November.

Celebrated the birth of a brand new baby girl whom I already love to pieces

Hung out with the littlest, who came home from her mountain adventure for a visit

Celebrated two years of a bestie’s good health

Celebrated the first birthday of one of my very favorite people…

I’m tired. But oh I missed you so. I haven’t been cooking much. Little stuff, light stuff, quick stuff mostly. And I haven’t been blogging much, though I do have at least three posts started and abandoned. And I do think about blogging all the time. Sometimes guiltily because I don’t have time. Sometimes wistfully because I wish I had time, and sometimes with a little bit of dread because in the moments that I did have I couldn’t think of anything to say. Because to say I had NO time would be a lie. I had enough time to read a couple books, and to watch season one of Homeland, and to lie around and enjoy my new apartment. But I was busy, and I am exhausted, and I am very much looking forward to a little bit of “free” time I have coming up. Only a job to worry about for a couple of weeks! What am I going to do with all that time? I actually have HOLD written in my day planner, so that I wouldn’t forget and book something for myself to do next weekend. Because I will be sitting around, and doing some projects, and hanging some curtains, and enjoying all the summer foods (it’s summer! I’ve only been to the farmer’s market TWICE!) and remembering how to cook.  I have one more fun weekend this weekend in NYC celebrating my amazing Momma and her birthday and then a couple weeks of blissful nothing. I can’t wait.

But I didn’t starve myself over the last couple of months. I did eat. Most recently I ate lobster. Lots of lobster. I ate lobster mac and cheese with my people in Portsmouth, then I came home and ate lobster rolls with my family to celebrate my dad’s birthday.

Please excuse the terrible picture, I was too busy having an awesome time with the fam.

And there was leftover lobster. LEFTOVER LOBSTER! I don’t think I have ever experienced such a thing. So I made risotto…

It took me about a week to move. Not to pack and move and unpack, but to actually move. I had movers come and move my furniture and some of my packed boxes one day, but there was a bunch of smaller stuff that didn’t really fit in boxes or hadn’t made it into one yet, and I figured it wasn’t so much and I could easily do it myself. I didn’t think I was in a huge rush to get out of my last apartment (I ended up being wrong about that, but I still had a couple extra days, which is definitely lucky) so I figured it wouldn’t be a huge deal. But oh my god I was wrong. I have SO MUCH CRAP. On the last night of the move I was essentially just walking back and forth between the two apartments (I only moved down the block) with a milk crate and one of those huge IKEA bags, filling them up in the old place and emptying them in the new place…repeat over and over and over (25 times, to be exact. I moved to a fourth floor walk-up. I did 75 flights of stairs that night. I know because I counted through the pain.) The last trip was the freezer. I filled the IKEA bag with pulled pork, chicken tinga, lobster stock, chicken pieces, parmesan rinds and whatever else was in there, and I tried to pick up the bag. I immediately purged a lot. The lobster stock, the parmesan rinds, and one (of the four or so) bags of pulled pork made the cut. Long story short (ha!) I had lobster stock in my new freezer. And lobster meat in my fridge. It was meant to be.

low-cal

I wanted to make it a little summery and lighter, if that is possible with risotto, so I thought I would add some fresh corn, since it has made an early appearance this year. I am very glad I did. It added texture, crunch and sweetness and I really loved how it turned out.

I’ve posted about risotto before. It gets a bad rap. It is not nearly as picky or difficult or time consuming as people insist it is. You definitely have to pay attention, it certainly isn’t a hands off meal, but you don’t have to stay absolutely chained to the stove for an hour stirring until your arm feels like it is going to fall off. I say a half hour, maybe 40 minutes of frequent stirring. You can certainly walk away to pour yourself a glass of wine (and you definitely should do this) or change the channel on the tv or put on music or use the facilities and it will still be great. I think. I mean, I really enjoy it and I do all of those things. Perhaps if I had risotto that made by someone who literally never walked away from the stove and stirred constantly I would realize the error of my ways, but I don’t think so. Maybe I’ll try it that way sometime so I can compare, but probably not. I am perfectly happy with my way.

One trick, and I think I mentioned this before, is that I also warm the wine before I add it to the rice. Risotto recipes call for warming the broth to a simmer so that when you add it to the hot rice the protein (?) in the rice doesn’t seize up and not let the liquid absorb into the grains, but it doesn’t usually call for you to heat the wine, which doesn’t make sense, since the wine is likely cold from the fridge and you add it first, when I would imagine the rice is most likely to seize. So I throw the wine in a pyrex measuring cup and stick in in the warm broth to heat up a little before I add it. Another note – I don’t like seafood and cheese together in general, so I do not add cheese to my lobster risotto at all. I am not sure how the experts would feel about this, but I feel pretty good about it. You should feel free to do whatever you’d like.

Lest you think I have been eating only cereal for months, let me ease your fears…

Burrata on olive oil toast with roasted tomatoes, basil oil and balsamic drizzle.

simplicity

Chicken Milanese-ish

busy food

Homemade Ranch (I will be talking about this in the future, because I pretty much only like salads with ranch dressing. Because I am an eight-year old.)

guilty pleasures…

Cobb Salad

my kind of salad…

So see….there you go. I’ve been eating, and taking pictures and thinking about blogging…my failure was in the execution. But I’m back! And it’s B&G’s three-year blogiversary! Happy Birthday B&G.

And now I am off to celebrate my mom’s birthday. Let’s Go Mets.

and one for good luck.

Lobster Risotto (serves 4 – or one for dinner and a couple lunches…)

3 tbl olive oil

6 tbl unsalted butter, divided

1 onion, diced

2 small shallots, diced

1 cup arborio or carnaroli rice

1/2 cup white wine

4 cups lobster stock

Kernals from 3 ears of good fresh corn

1 – 1 1/2 cups lobster meat

minced chives for garnish

Heat the lobster stock in a medium saucepan over medium heat to a simmer. Pour the wine in a heat proof glass measuring cup and place it in the stock to warm.

Melt 1- 1 1/2 tbl of the butter in a saute pan over medium heat, and saute the corn kernals until bright and starting to brown, season with salt and pepper, remove from heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and three tablespoons of the butter over medium heat in a high sided saute pan or dutch oven. When the butter has melted, add the onions and shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent. Add the rice and stir, coating the rice with oil and butter, and cook until the rice just begins to brown.

Add the wine to the rice, and stirring frequently, cook until the wine is absorbed. When you drag the spoon through the rice, it should hold it’s place, the liquid should not seep in to fill space. Begin adding the warm stock, about 1/2 – 2/3 cup at a time, and cook stirring frequently until each additon is absorbed by the rice before adding more. Start testing the rice for doneness after about the fifth or sixth addition of stock. When the rice is cooked through but retains a slight bite on your teeth, add your last 1/2 cup of stock, the remaining butter, corn and lobster meat and remove from the heat.  Stir to combine and melt the butter, and plate, sprinkling generously with minced chives.

 

Ginger Scallion Sauce

Oh hello. It’s been awhile…

What’s new? Not much here. Except apparently time travel, because suddenly I looked at the calendar and it’s April, which doesn’t seem possible. Oh also? Apparently Chrissy Teigen – gorgeous lady blogger, SI swimsuit model, fiancee of John Legend – somehow discovered the recipe for Spicy Sesame Noodles with Chicken on here and made them and loved them and then posted about them and linked back to here, so B&G blew up today. So many thanks to her. One of her tweets earlier was that she was packing for a trip to Australia with Erin Andrews and Brooklyn Decker and the background photo on her account is a gorgeous picture of her in her unders – our lives are exactly the same, but opposite – but we can clearly both enjoy the hell out of some noodles! (update: mystery solved – my awesome cousin Danny and his gorgeous girlfriend Kellie brought these to a party that Chrissy attended – my family is fancy…)

Um, so the last couple of weeks (months?)  have involved a trip to Denver to see the littlest, a trip to NYC for a birthday, quality time with my tiny boyfriends Baby L and Baby Dubs, working, the gym, and the other usual stuff. I have been thinking about the blog a lot, but have not actually been cooking all that much because it’s been so busy, so even had I not been suffering from some serious writers’ block (or a serious case of the lazies, not sure which…) I wouldn’t have had much to write about. But things are turning around! And B&G got a bit of a facelift, in case you haven’t noticed…it is making some of the formatting a little wonky but I’ll work on that…

I want to tell you about Ginger Scallion Sauce because it is the greatest thing ever, but in order to do that, I need to start with an apology for my one true chef/celebrity love, Dave Chang…

Oh my heavens.

David, I need to confess something. I’ve been unfaithful. I wanted to make this sauce the minute I first saw it, lo those several Christmases ago when I got your book. And I did, almost immediately. And it was fine, but not great, and I was sad, but wasn’t going to let it turn me away from you. It had to have been my fault right? I couldn’t blame you, I must have executed incorrectly, and you were likely as disappointed in me as I was in you. But it was ok, we would get through it. But then…my eye wandered, and THIS caught my attention. Deep down in my heart I knew it would be Francis. I’ve always had a wee bit of a crush on him too. And so I made his version. David, I’m sorry. It’s better. It’s heaven. But I hope you can forgive me the transgression. You’re still first in my heart. But I can’t promise it will be just that one time. This stuff is too good.

The ingredients

This is a condiment. One of the most flavorful condiments ever. I have mixed it with plain noodles and fried rice, and I’ve eaten it with steak and I’ve eaten it with fish. It would be awesome in soup, and I will add it to the ramen I plan to make later in the month. It is so good that I plan never to be without it again. It is equal parts minced scallions and minced ginger, both of which I did in about 30 seconds in the food processor. Then it gets an almost ungodly amount of salt, and hot oil is poured over it so it sizzles and removes some of the bitterness that ginger and scallions can have raw. It mellows them a little. That is where this version is better than the Momofuku version. I actually finished mine with a splash of light soy sauce as a nod to the version that inspired me, and it is perfection.

With steak and noodles.

Really I can’t say enough good things about this. Just make it and you’ll see.

With noodles and tuna.

Before we go on…

First things first. Please check out my awesome cousin Sam…wish I was half as talented and adventurous!

How come I’m not dating Seth Davis? How have I missed this guy? Anyone know anything about him? Like, for instance, his phone number? Now that March Madness is over he must have some free time, right?

I accidentally saw Tiffany in concert last weekend in New York. It was awesome. I love New York.

What I am reading right now: I am actually too embarrassed to tell you the trash book I’m reading, so let’s just leave it at The New Yorker…

What I am listening to right now: Portraits by The Wheeler Brothers – the band of a guy that studied with my sister in Spain…they are very good.

Craftiness of the week: pillow covers for Al and Dyl and their new apartment…pictures later.

I am in for a few nights of revelry over the next couple of days. It’s my birthday, and I decided drinking is a better option than crawling in a hole and crying. See you on the flip side.

Ginger Scallion Sauce (makes about 1.5 cups)

adapted from Francis Lam and Momofuku

1 ounce ginger, peeled and cut into one inch pieces

1 bunch scallions, roots and ends trimmed, both white and green parts cut into one inch pieces

1/2 cup peanut or grapeseed oil

Splash of light soy sauce

More kosher salt than you think you need

Pulse ginger in a food processor until finely minced. You do not want to puree it, so pay close attention as you are doing it. Put ginger into a large heat proof bowl. Not kidding about the large part or the heat proof part. Do both of those things for real. Pulse the scallions in the food processor (no need to wash it in between) until they are finely minced and add them to the ginger. Throw a good pinch of salt in the bowl and set aside while you heat the oil.

Heat the oil over medium heat just until you see the first wisp of smoke. Be careful. It will be quite hot at this point. Pour the oil over the ginger scallion mixture and step back because it will splatter and smell awesome. Stir the mixture together and add a splash of soy sauce and more salt and let it cool. Add it to everything in the world because it is so delicious.

 

In which I do a week in review…sort of…

I have quite a bit to say about the last couple of weeks, so I shall provide a quick rundown, both in food and life:

First, I have made several things recently, both from the Great Recipe Rescue of Aught Ten and otherwise, which, for whatever reason, don’t really merit their own blog post, but I think I would like to share them with you anyway.

For instance, Sticky Rice with Mango.

yum.

This was something I was introduced to at work. During one of my late nights at the office with my comrades in arms, we ordered Thai food, and my friend Mark ordered this for dessert. He let me try it and I swooned. I immediately ran out and bought a giant bag of glutinous rice and a can of coconut milk, but since I thought it was going to be difficult and since the rice requires a significant soaking before it is cooked (24 hours is preferable) I hadn’t gotten around to making this until recently. I am very sorry I waited. It does require a fair amount of soaking time, but other than that, this really couldn’t be easier. So easy, I never bothered posting about it. If you want to make it, search for a recipe online, get yourself some glutinous rice and have at it. Apparently, it is traditionally cooked in a pot and basket like this, but I don’t have one of those (I will someday though, because I am sort of in love with it) so my cooking vessel looked like this:

a large pot, a strainer, and some cheesecloth. Homemade sticky rice basket.

Worked just fine…be creative, you’ll figure something out.

Also? I made this butter cake. This was from the recipe rescue. It was tasty, but I thought it odd that they suggested serving it on its own, since it is essentially one layer of a yellow layer cake, but a bit more delicate, so it would difficult to use as a layer cake. I served it with strawberries and whipped cream and it was really good, but really, just a cake.

butter cake avec fraises

I also made these crackers one night when my family came over for dinner. They are like Cheez-Its for adults, but way better, because I don’t really like Cheez-Its (fake orange cheese in a snack that I don’t like? What?) They are really great, and easy and a crowd pleaser. And consist of ingredients that I pretty much always have on hand. I am quite sure they will be made over and over and over again.

Dignified snack food

And now? For my first life observation? The LOST finale. I can’t help it. I have been a fan since the beginning. It might be the only show I have ever watched every single episode IN ORDER. I was hooked from the start. And the further I get from the finale on Sunday night, the more I actually like it. Here’s why. I wanted Jack and Kate to be together. I have always wanted Jack and Kate to be together. I am a romantic, and they are supposed to be together in my romantic world. I know there are those that disagree, but just because two people (looking at you Kate and Sawyer) hook up one time in a sex cage, it doesn’t mean they are destined to spend eternity together. (I can’t believe I just typed that sentence in a forum Grammie reads…blame the LOST writers.) I mean it wasn’t flawless, poor Sayid. I understand that the idea is that the time these people spent on the island was the most important time in their lives, and therefore the throw away relationship between Sayid and Shannon comes to represent that in the finale. Fine. But instead of spending eternity with the love of his life, Sayid has to suffer through infinity with the single most annoying character in the series? No fair. At least she was looking fantastic, I guess. Those are my thoughts. I liked the throw down on the cliffs, I hated the hokey Christian Shephard speech, even though it technically defined the whole final season, and I am curious…the sideways world? It was purgatory for all the characters even though they died at different times? Did they all have to be ready to move forward together before any of them did? Was that just Jack’s sideways world? I don’t think so. Confusing. Also, apparently the MIB’s name in the scripts was Samuel. My research told me that. Word. That is simplistic. I have more thoughts, but I know there are not all that many LOST fans amongst my faithful readership, so I will move on.

Back to the food.

There was a roasted tomato risotto that I made with the slow roasted tomatoes I have been making quite a bit of lately.

Risotto with Roasted Tomatoes

I used the leftovers for more fried stuff with cheese. And it was good.

And there was a chicken curry. First I had to make curry powder:

one of my new favorite things.

And then I made my chicken curry. It is a recipe from Epicurious.com, and I think it is the one that my Florida friend Megan made for me one night when I was down there, when I took a deep breath and steeled myself to eat some curry that I wasn’t entirely sure I would love, and I cleaned my plate.

Curried chicken, with accoutrements

And there were more tarts…and look at the pans I used! Huzzah! I made these for the Kentucky Derby, and three of us did a number on them.

spicy shrimp with leeks, fig jam with gorgonzola and coppa, ricotta and roasted tomato, ricotta and olive with orange zest, sweet onions with gorgonzola, olives and rosemary to name a few

And there were these little guys:

frik and frak

I made ramp MAYONNAISE to go with it. Mayonnaise. All by myself. With a wooden spoon. It was fun. And there WILL be a post about it. Because it was that fun.

ramp mayo. by hand.

Alright, I think that’s that. A little week(s) in review if you will. I still have lots of other fun things to talk about though, so don’t worry, I haven’t totally cleaned out my photo files.

And now, to end on a serious note, because I have some great recent food memories from that part of the world…there are MILLIONS of gallons of oil in Gulf and no one seems to be doing anything about it. WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE?? I am not sure if I care at this point whose fault it is. There is plenty of time for finger-pointing and punishment after someone fixes it, but it has been over a month, and for some reason, we can not get the oil to stop? And now it is being relegated to second page news. Time to step up. FIX IT.

PS: Umm, this might be awesome, could you imagine if it malfunctioned like the soda machines sometimes do and spit out two?

In which that’s how I feel about that…

hated it!

I must get something off my chest. Please bear with me.

***

To: Lady Gaga

From: Me

Re: I’m trying, really.

Dear Gags,

May I call you that? Gags? Thank you. We must speak, and quick. I’m trying, really, truly trying. I learned to love you begrudgingly. I had to get past Just Dance, which has never been my favorite, and you burst onto the scene opting to forego pants, which, in my opinion, is mostly unforgivable. But then something shocking happened. I started to pay attention and I realized you actually have talent. And you started reeling me in with Poker Face, and I was hooked. But then there was this. I assure you, I never thought I would be in the position of telling anyone what is right or wrong in the face of royalty, but I promise you, that was wrong. And I was angry, and I decided I had no time for you or your shenanigans. But damn you Gags! You performed with Sir Elton at the Grammies, and it was awesome, and then Bad Romance got me again. So you win. Gaga: 2, Me: 0. So perhaps you are a genius, but still, that doesn’t mean I will sit quietly by and abide by this. It can’t go on. It makes me tired. You have TALENT! Make that your schtick! Stop with the outfits! You look ridiculous! It makes me want to poke myself in the eyes! And use lots of exclamation points! And that is unforgivable!

That is all, please go back to making delightful music, and perhaps invest in some pantsuits, at least when you are not performing.

Fondly,

Me

***

Many apologies for that brief interlude, it has nothing to do with food aside from the fact I was thinking about Lady Gaga while eating dinner and perusing the interwebs the other night, and I had to use this, my only public forum, to get that off my chest, because that’s how I feel about that.

And now on to better things. I know I have been MIA, but I have an excuse. This happened.

playing with fondant

Because this happened:

congratulations pretty girl...

That is the littlest. She is now a college grad. I think she is having very mixed feelings about it. But it was a lovely day and we had a little shindig for her afterwards and there was a vanilla cake with nutella filling at the graduate’s request. So I got to play with fondant again. And I get a couple more opportunities to play in the next couple of weeks. Fun will abound. I will keep you posted.

But until then, I would like to discuss this amazing ginger fried rice with you. I feel almost as strongly about it as I feel about Lady Gaga, but my emotions are not mixed, they are unequivocally positive. Overwhelmingly positive even.

a-mazing

This is a recipe I discovered on Smitten Kitchen. It is a Mark Bittman adaptation of a Jean-Georges recipe, and it is remarkable in its simplicity and deliciousness. You use leftover rice. I like (and the recipe calls for) jasmine, but it is a great use for any leftover rice you have on hand. Like all fried rice recipes, you need leftover rice for this. Freshly made rice will end up too mushy.

There are only a couple of other steps to this, and the whole thing comes together quickly. It differs from standard fried rice because it is much simpler, has much cleaner flavors, seems lighter, and in this recipe the ginger and garlic are actually garnishes.

ginger bits

They get fried to little brown crispy bits at the beginning (or ahead of time, if you make extra the first time you make this, they last awhile, and you can cut down further on the steps for next time….super quick!) and then sprinkled over the rice studded with leeks and sprinkled with soy sauce and sesame oil, and served with a fried egg. You can even get fancy like I did and mold the rice in a ramekin, which looks very cool and professional. Take a look.

molded

This really couldn’t be easier. You fry the ginger and garlic, remove them from the pan, add a bit more oil and soften the leeks for about 10 minutes. You then add the rice to the pan to warm through and get a little crispy, as you fry and egg (or as many as you need) in a small pan, then voila! You just plate everything and dinner is served. I used one of my larger ramekins and thought there could have been a bit more egg to rice ratio, so I think I will stick with the smaller six-ounce ramekins as molds in the future, but putting it together couldn’t have been easier. I rubbed the inside of the ramekin with just a little bit of oil, and packed the rice/leeks combo in so it was fairly tight quarters in there.

molded

I covered the ramekin with a plate, and turned the rice over onto the plate, it slid right out and kept its shape. Then I sprinkled the rice with the soy sauce and sesame oil, topped with the fried egg, and sprinkled the whole thing with the browned garlic and ginger bits.

quick perfection

This really was so easy and good. And I will be making it again and again and again. And I recommend you do as well. It is an easier, and seemingly lighter, version of more traditional fried rice. Which I also love, but I think I love this one more. (You can see just how much I love this in the very top photo. My plate has looked like that both times I have made this.) It is easy to scale down for one, and makes a really great quick dinner.

Ginger Fried Rice (serves 4, technically, but like I said, I prefer the ratio of a 6-ounce ramekin to one egg, so this might serve six if I was serving it-and then they might want more because that is not enough to fill one person, but adjust at your leisure)

From Mark Bittman in the New York Times, inspired by Deb’s rendition on Smitten Kitchen

1/2 cup peanut oil (I used canola and it was just fine, but peanut would be very good.)

2 tbl minced garlic

2 tbl minced ginger

Salt

2 cups thinly sliced leeks, white and light green parts only, rinsed and dried (I use one good-sized leek when I make this for one.)

4 cups day-old cooked rice, preferably jasmine, at room temperature

4 large eggs

2 tsp sesame oil

4 tsp soy sauce

In a large skillet, heat 1/4 cup oil over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp and brown. With a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels and salt lightly. (Can be done ahead, feel free to make extras to cut down on this time for the next time you make this. Just store them in an airtight container or plastic bag.)

Reduce heat under skillet to medium-low and add 2 tablespoons oil and leeks. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until very tender but not browned. Season lightly with salt.

Raise heat to medium and add rice. Cook, stirring well, until heated through and starting to get crispy. Season to taste with salt.

In a nonstick skillet, fry eggs in remaining oil, sunny-side-up, until edges are set but yolk is still runny.

Divide rice among four dishes. Top each with an egg and drizzle with 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil and 1 teaspoon soy sauce. Sprinkle crisped garlic and ginger over everything and serve.

In which I make some fried stuff with cheese…

fried stuff with cheese

Do you guys remember the Friends episode where they imagine what it would have been like if Monica and Joey had gotten together in London instead of Monica and Chandler? There is a scene where a very heavy Joey sits at the kitchen table, and Monica said she made him his favorite foods and Joey says “fried stuff with cheese” in that way that Joey says everything. That is what goes through my head every time I think about my recent experiment, arancini. Or as my neighbor Mike calls them, rice balls.

Arancini are in fact, rice balls. In this case, risotto chilled, formed into a ball, coated in bread crumbs and fried in oil. The outside is nice and crispy, and the inside is creamy and melty and full of flavor, and for these, stuffed with a little mozzarella surprise. This is a great way to use leftover risotto if you have it. You can add most anything you want too. Prosciutto, peas, various cheeses, lemon, whatever your little heart desires.

I made a standard risotto – onions, wine, chicken stock – but at the end I added a cup of ricotta cheese and the zest of a lemon. I wanted these to be relatively light. Because, when you are making deep fried rice and cheese, lightness should be top on your list of requirements.

Risotto step one. Onions in oil and butter.

Risotto step two, warmed chicken stock and wine.

Risotto step three, add the rice

Risotto step four through tenish. Add the wine and stock and stir stir stir.

For a bit more in-depth discussion of how risotto is made, see here.

After the risotto was finished, I zested one whole lemon over the pot, and stirred that in along with a cup of ricotta cheese. I tasted for seasoning, and then poured the risotto into a baking pan and stuck it in the fridge to cool.

After the risotto cools and firms up a bit, the fun part begins. I had mozzarella in the fridge, so I cut it into small cubes (about a 1/2 inch or so.) I scooped a spoonful of risotto into my hands, smooshed it a little bit, and added a mozzarella cube or two to the middle.

smooshed and filled

I formed the risotto into a ball around the mozzarella cubes. They were a bit bigger than a golf ball.

risotto golf balls

Then I dredged the rice balls in flour, then egg, then panko crumbs to make a nice crust.

swimming

When they were all coated, I filled my cast iron pan about half way with canola oil and heated it over medium-medium high heat. When the oil was shimmering, I fried the rice balls in two batches.

The oil tester

The first batch

When the arancini were a gorgeous golden brown on all sides, I removed them to a paper towel lined plate, sprinkled some kosher salt over the top, and did the next batch.

bliss.

When the arancini are cooked, they are crispy on the outside, and dense and melty and rich, without being heavy somehow, on the inside. The melted mozzarella is a bonus.

seriously. bliss.

I used about half the risotto the first night, heated up some red sauce I had in the freezer, and brought them over to neighbors Mike and Amanda to watch LOST. Mike, the resident rice ball expert, approved.

With red sauce

The second half of the rice balls, the next day, went into my tomato soup as a substitute for grilled cheese.

fried islands of bliss

These were such a treat. And really not that difficult to make. And I actually reheated some leftover arancini a couple of times (definitely in the oven or toaster oven on a fairly high heat. Not in the microwave…crispy is still the goal.) In fact, I am not even going to include a recipe, because I imagine most of the time these will be done with some leftover risotto. That is the beauty of arancini. These would have been great with the leftover butternut squash risotto, and they would be great with leftover risotto made with peas or asparagus, and you could fill the middle with prosciutto or ham instead of cheese. Or prosciutto or ham and cheese. Be creative. I bet there is a way to do these with like a rice pudding or a sweet risotto too. I will have to ponder that one for awhile. Just make sure you coat them in flour first, then egg, then breadcrumbs (I like panko, but regular or Italian style would also be just fine.) Make sure the oil is hot so they don’t get greasy, and enjoy! If you don’t include risotto making time, these probably take 20 minutes tops. They are a delightful treat on cold day. You will want to make them again for sure.

You can’t argue with fried stuff with cheese.