What sounds less appealing than boiled chicken in tuna sauce? Veal in tuna sauce! That’s the dish that inspired this week’s menu. Oh, Lord. (more…)
Eating Soup Like a Goop September 22, 2010
Meal No. 38: Spicy Stir-Fried Shrimp; Rice Noodles with Coconut Broth; Braised Bok Choy; Sorbet with Wonton Crisps
Although most of Martha’s Asian-style meals have been good, the last coconut soup was a slimy disaster, so I was a tad nervous. (more…)
Topsy Turvy Land September 19, 2010
Meal No. 37: Some Salmon; Some Weird Leek Sauce; Some Rice with Stuff in It; Some SUGAR SNAP PEAS Again; Gelatin with Stuff in it. (This is also on her website! Damn it all.)
I am so glad Martha has finally published a recipe that tells me exactly how to salt and pepper a salmon filet and cook it in a skillet! I never would have figured out that I needed to both salt and pepper it, then put it in a skillet and cook it. (more…)
Keats and Kidney Beans September 15, 2010
Meal No. 36: Tender Shredded Pork; Mexican Corn Cakes; Red Beans with Cheese; Tequila-Soaked Lemon Sorbet (From Martha Stewart’s Dinner at Home)
I was looking forward to this one, as I love Mexican/Tex-Mex food, and the photos led me to believe that lovely delights awaited me.
A tenderloin was poached in chicken broth with an onion, a jalapeno, a half bunch of cilantro, cumin, and a bay leaf. Sounds like it has potential, right? No, it was boring, just like all the other pork we have made. Even after the meat was shredded, then tossed with olive oil, butter (weird), and another onion and broiled until the edges were crispy, it had little flavor. I tried putting some unauthorized garlic powder on it before popping it in the oven, and yet, it evoked nothing but desolation and melancholy. In fact, Keats once wrote an Ode to Melancholy Pork:
Veil’d Melancholy Pork has her sovran shrine,
Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
Can burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine;
His soul shalt taste the sadness of her might,
And be among her cloudy trophies hung
Shock and Awe September 10, 2010
Meal No. 35: Cantaloupe Wedges with Feta Cheese; Honey-Glazed Chicken Skewers; Summer Squash and Olive Phyllo Tart; Espresso Cream Crunch (All recipes online here).
I have been dreading this one all summer.
Cantaloupe and Feta:
This seemed like an odd combination. Martha says she chose this combo as a variant of melon wrapped in prosciutto. Prosciutto and feta are not exactly interchangeable, but ok.
I like watermelon better with feta, it turns out. I thought the cantaloupe and the feta cancelled each other out and the black pepper took over. Mr. Squeaky Peanut, who is not a melon fan, liked how the feta “hid the grossness of the cantaloupe.”
I thought this would be horrible; my abhorrence of sweet + savory is well documented.
The recipe called for marinating chicken thighs and red onion chunks in a mixture of red wine vinegar, olive oil, honey, salt, pepper, and garlic. Martha wanted me to put the meat and onions on skewers and then bake them. I actually started to soak the skewers but quickly gained hold of my senses. Why should I bother, when I could just throw the chicken and onion chunks in the pan and roast them? So that is what I did.
By the way, this meal is supposed to be Greek. I suppose the skewer makes it so.
Right out of the oven, while hot, I didn’t care for this. The vinegar and honey flavors just didn’t meld at all. But by the time I served it at about room temperature, it tasted a lot better. The Husband particularly enjoyed it with the onion. Surprise!
As much as I was dreading the chicken, I dreaded this even more, recalling the spring’s puff pastry asparagus tart fiasco. I bought the phyllo dough, decided I wasn’t going to make it, fearing it would be an oily disgusting mess, then changed my mind at the last second. Luckily, it doesn’t take anywhere near 4 hours to thaw at room temperature contrary to what the package said.
I won’t lie; dealing with phyllo is a bit of a pain in the arse, with having to keep it covered with a damp towel, and the ripping, etc. The recipe called for six layers of phyllo, each brushed with butter. I made a half batch in anticipation of gruesomeness. Yellow squash and zucchini were mixed with olive oil, thyme, oregano and parsley and strewn on top of the phyllo. ACtually, Martha tossed her squashes on top all higgledy-piggledy, but as you can see, I alternated the layers to make a pretty tart. It is not often that one gets to out-Martha Martha!
By golly, by gum, it was fantastic!!! The Husband couldn’t stop exclaiming about how much he loved it, and was doing his best Bill Murray from “What About Bob?” imitation, with the MMMMMing, and MMM MM MMMing. The crust was nice and crispy without being oily (I tried not to use much butter) but the squash was a nice touch of moisture, and we liked the warm kalamata olives on top. One note–it cooked much more quickly than the recipe called for.
Espresso Cream Crunch:
I also wasn’t planning to make this, what with the dairy and all, but since I had all the ingredients and time to kill while the chicken and tarts baked, I made it. I whipped some heavy cream, instant espresso powder and a bit of sugar to soft peaks, then stuck it in the freezer until we were ready to eat it. We were supposed to toss in some crushed espresso beans but we didn’t have any. The Husband added some coffee beans to his for crunch.
This turned out ok. It kind of reminded me of a part fluffy/part frozen (it had an uneven texture) jamocha shake, but with less mocha flavor. I think it could use more espresso powder.
This was actually a good meal, considering what a disaster we thought it would be.
MELON: Should we grade this? It’s hardly a recipe. I suppose it’s average, so a C.
CHICKEN and ONION: A-
TART: A++ Completely exceeded all of our expectations
ESPRESSO CREAM: B
Pugilistic Soup, Wine Jello, & Some Other Food September 3, 2010
Menu No. 34: Blender Gazpacho; Grilled Steak and Blue (sic) Cheese Potatoes; Spinach and Grilled Corn Salad; Blackberry -Red Wine Gelatin
In which my tongue was assaulted and not in friendly ways….
I don’t like gazpacho. It’s usually like eating liquefied salsa without the fun of the tortilla chips. I thought I was the only one, but several fellow gazpacho-haters have come out of the closet to me when I mentioned having to make this. I didn’t have high hopes, and I am not sure why I didn’t just make a half batch or quarter batch, even. This recipe made a bucketful.
The recipes calls for pureeing garlic, red wine vinegar, water, day old bread, roasted red peppers, tomatoes and half an English cucumber with a bit of oil. While it didn’t taste like salsa, it wasn’t good. The first day I tried it, it tasted odd–one bite would be tomato-y, the next would taste like bread. By the second day, the red pepper taste took over and it was so acidic it burnt my tongue! Yeouch.
Super simple: baby spinach, grilled corn, red onion, and a dressing of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. What, no Dijon mustard? Unthinkable!
Lucky for me, I didn’t even have to grill the corn. Earlier in the summer I was a bit of a corn hoarder. One day, my giant pile of corn fell over and I was missing for a week.
For real, I did somehow end up with 17 ears at one point, so I grilled them all up and then cut the kernels all off and froze them. So that is what I used for the salad, which turned out well. The flavors really paired nicely with the steak and bleu cheese.
The cookbook says to marinate skirt steak in Worcestesrhire sauce, garlic, rosemary, and olive oil for 15 minutes or overnight. I marinated ours for about 12 hours, then grilled it. Our grass-fed skirt steak was super thin on one end, and nearly an inch thick on the other.
The first piece I tried was from the thin end and I hated it! Hated. It. All I could taste was the Worcestershire sauce, which might as well have been A-1. As you might remember, my people don’t believe it mucking with a nice piece of meat. The Husband, on the other hand, thought it tasted good. (He has no cattle rancher relations, so his naivete is forgivable.) The thicker pieces of meat were less atrocious, as the sauce marinade hadn’t totally overtaken the beef flavor. I still would never do that to the meat again.
I boiled some red skin potatoes until they were tender (which, by the way, took twice as long as Martha says it should), cut them in half, brushed them with olive oil and tossed them on the grill for a few minutes. After they had some nice grill marks we spread them with blue cheese. By the way, is anyone else irked that everyone seems to be spelling it “blue” nowadays, including Ms. Stewart?! Hate.
I thought these were tasty, but The Husband thought the cheese overpowered the rest of the meal, while the potatoes themselves were bland. The bleu I got did have a lot of POW.
Finally, some more booze desserts! This concoction is devised of unsweetened apple juice, water, unflavored gelatin, a full-bodied red wine, sugar, and a pint of blackberries.
Guess what? The Husband actually made this several years ago, when I saw it in MS Living magazine! It was sooo boozey that I couldn’t eat it. The Husband, however, really liked it. Needless to say, I excused myself from making it again.
Did you notice that this meal involved five dishes? I could have done without the soup, for sure. And the gelatin. If she had not marinated the meat, and paired it all with a nice peach cobbler* it would have been so much better.
*I made one the other day I may post about.
SOUP: F It was weird and burnt my tongue with its acid, but was it as bad as the raddichio horror of last winter? The flavor was not as bad as the salad, but it caused me bodily harm. It’s a toss up as to which is worse.
STEAK: B- We were split vastly on this one– Mr. SP gave it an A, and I thought the thin, over-marinated parts were horrible, but not as offensive as the star anise beef recipe of winter.
GELATIN OF MEMORIES: C
FiddlyDee August 29, 2010
This week’s meal was full of fiddly-ness. It turned out pretty well, considering a major component was somewhat disastrous.
Meal No. 33: Grilled Striped Bass; Corn and Clam Chowder Sauce; Oyster Biscuits; Watermelon and Raspberry Salad from Martha Stewart’s Dinner at Home. Menu and recipes available online here.
Martha says you can substitute a firm white fish such as halibut or red snapper for the bass. Since I just so happen to have some halibut steaks that my friend Caitlin caught with her very own hands in Alaska, I opted to use these. Of course, I was really hoping that the recipe wouldn’t ruin them, since they are very precious!
The fish marinated in olive oil, lemon juice, lemon thyme and garlic for 30 minutes, then was grilled. I thought it was delicious–very lemony. The Husband didn’t think it had much flavor on its own, but enjoyed it with the sauce, below.
Clam and Corn Sauce:
Back in winter I made Martha’s spaghetti and clams recipe, and there was all that concern about whether I had killed the clams prematurely by keeping them in a paper bag overnight in the frig. It turned out they were fine, so I did the same thing this time, except when I pulled the bag out of the frig the bottom broke, due to extreme sogginess, and half the clams spilled onto the floor. The Husband worried that they might bite him, but some were already dead and opened, so we had to throw a third of them away. The rest were cleaned and soaked for 30 minutes. After the clams cooked in some wine, they were removed, and shallots, a potato, celery, corn, the strained clam juice, thyme, a bay leaf and some cream were simmered until the potatoes were tender.
In the intro to the recipe, Martha writes that this is brothier than a clam chowder, but that was not my experience; it wasn’t even close to being brothy. It actually was closer in consistency to the creamed corn we made a few weeks ago. Creamed corn with clam juice, and potatoes and celery. The clams were beyond unfortunate, as they were overcooked and rubbery; basically inedible. I made a half batch, but that was still $10 worth of clams ruined!
The Husband, who didn’t care for the recent creamed corn dish, really liked this one. I thought it was pretty good–I am a fan of anything that involves a potato or corn, so it was fine by me. I thought it was a bit bland on its own but it went well with the lemon flavor of the fish.
Even if they hadn’t been cooked to rubber, we found the clams superfluous to the dish. We had a nice piece of fish, why did we need clams? The same thing could be accomplished by using a bottled clam juice, and using mushrooms for an earthy taste. In fact, I should try that and put it in a cookbook. Where can I buy some minions to do it for me?
I was excited to try these, which are supposed to be a cross between an oyster cracker and a biscuit. I made these early in the morning, and they were pretty cracker-like fresh from the oven. They were a touch salty, but otherwise tasty. I used the variation with cumin in it, and I think next time I would use more cayenne.
By the time we ate dinner, however, the texture was more like a biscuit that had been sitting around all day, which is a texture I don’t particularly enjoy. Martha writes in the recipe that these can be made up to a week in advance, though, so I’m curious to see what happens to the leftovers in a few days.
I thought they were kind of redundantly starchy with the corn and potatoes, but The Husband, who doesn’t even like biscuits in real life, actually enjoyed them with the dish. Go figure!
Watermelon and Raspberry Salad:
The recipe calls for a 4.5 lb watermelon. I had a watermelon, but there was no way I was weighing it. I cut off a hunk that looked like the appropriate amount for a pint of raspberries, and cubed it. The fruit was tossed with the juice of a lemon and a quarter cup sugar, and macerated for 30 minutes. I didn’t know what to expect–lemon and watermelon? Why is the salad all red? But, it was actually good. Martha suggests an option to eat it with vanilla ice cream, but the watermelon was too watery and it was just bizarre, so we nixed that after a bite. I am surprised she didn’t throw in mint, though. The Husband wondered where the booze was.
The meal was fiddlesome– every component except the biscuits had something that needed to soak, marinate or macerate for 30 minutes, so it made the timing tricky There was also a lot of chopping and prep work. I am glad I didn’t try to cook this on a weeknight–the dinner portion took 90 min, and the biscuits took about 40 minutes earlier in the day.If you make this, we recommend having a white Cote du Rhone with it. Mmm. mmm. good.
FISH AND CLAM CHOWDER SAUCE: A (on taste, ignoring the clam debacle)
BISCUITS: A- (A from oven, B later on)
WATERMELON AND RASPBERRY SALAD: A