Tuesday, December 11, 2012

What Fall Tasted Like, or What we ate when I wasn't blogging, or Whoops, it's been almost two months. My B.

Contrary to the evidence on this blog, I have been cooking. Just not writing about it. (Partially because most of my written communication lately has been in the form of emoji, and the food-related emoji have some distinct discrepancies. Partially because this is my favorite time of year and I'm enjoying just being in it.)
Nevertheless, we find ourselves behind here. And we have a choice to make. There's no way I'll get through individual posts on all the things I thought I'd share with you from the last two months, but I can do a round up, right here, right now, to catch us up and help us move forward. Frodo and Sam have reached the eastern shore, their fate no longer in our hands. But we will not abandon Merry and Pippin to torment and death. Not while we have strength left. So here's what I cooked this fall (also, you should know that I'm pretty pumped about our upcoming annual LOTR marathon):

Whether embracing the winter produce with a roast squash and lentil filling, or negating any potential health boosts by beer battering and frying fish (topping with raw carrot and cabbage slaw), we have tacos for dinner at least one night a week. Tacos are always in season and tortillas are always cheap. It's a winning combination. I love charring the tortillas over the stove's open flame, even if it takes me two burned fingers to start flipping with tongs.
Rich, seasonal side dishes:
Above: Sweet potato and swiss chard gratin from Smitten Kitchen. If you're looking to make a two-dish meal feel fancy, pair this gratin with a simple protein (our go-to is roast chicken), and enjoy. It's potato, it's cheese, it's greens, it's baked until bubbly and brown.
Above: Spaghetti squash with sausage meatballs. This is only a side dish inasmuch as garlic bread is a main course. 

My latest trick when Alex requests meatballs (a seemingly simple dish that I find tiresome to deal with (egg yolk, breadcrumbs, ain't nobody got time for that)), is to brown up balls of de-cased sausage. Matched with roasted strands of spaghetti squash (tossed in the sausage drippings and a little oil, garlic, lemon, parsley, and pecorino), the fake meatballs make a flavorful dinner that doesn't leave Alex one wanting.
Above: Butternut squash risotto. Bubbly isn't just for book club. It's also for risotto. I highly recommend this recipe. Again paired with roast chicken, risotto makes Sunday dinner satisfying. I especially like the addition of half the squash as puree, and the other as roasted cubes. Texture is my game.

One note on the recipe: this blogger doesn't mention much about salt or pepper, but obviously those things are necessary. Also, she doesn't tell you quite when to add the squash, I did it with about 1.5 cups of stock left (three ladles from the end). Aaaaand I doubled the cheese. At least. I guess that was three notes. But it was delicious.
Roast chicken and deja food:
You might have seen this coming, based on my suggestions above that you pair every one of those dishes with a roast chicken. But we're really into roast chicken around here. Most recently: spatchcocked. (When you cut out the spine and lay the bird flatter in the pan so it cooks quickly and gets all sorts of crispy on top.) Here you see that I've taken advice from the smitten kitchen cookbook that says to let little yellow potatoes cook and brown in the juices released by the chicken. It was excellent advice.
And what are you gonna make with all that leftover roast chicken? You've used most of the stock on risotto, but there's a bit left over. Pot pie it.

I like to start with bacon. Three-ish strips. Get them crisp, release that fat. Remove from pan onto a set-aside plate. Add in mushrooms, to soak up all that fat. Waste not, want not. When they've done their job, shrunken up and drunken up all that bacon juice, reunite the mushrooms with the bacon on the staging plate. A garlic clove, small yellow onion, three carrots, and three parsnips are next. Chopped how you like, but bite sized. Season and soften, then add a few tablespoons of butter, a few tablespoons of flour, and cook for a minute before adding in a little more than a cup of stock. When the stock has thickened into a gravy, add in however much leftover chicken you have (or none), the mushrooms and bacon, and 1/2 a teaspoon of thyme. Or try with cauliflower, curry powder, and cilantro.

Bake in ramekins topped with puff pastry for 20-ish minutes at 375-ish degrees. No matter what you've done to the filling, the flaky, buttery pastry will make this dinner worthwhile.
Baked goods:
Above: Alex's favorite cookie, dark-chocolate chip and hazelnut. I make a double batch of the dough and freeze half in a couple of saran-wrapped logs so I can make quick small batches whenever the urge hits. It's probably the only thing I don't forget is in my freezer.
Above: chocolate-chip, bourbon, banana muffins. I think those words speak for themselves.
Above: Cranberry orange pecan loaf (I skipped the crumb topping and thus the "coffee cake" aspect of the original recipe on account of an exhausting weekend-long, nine-months late, three-months early spring cleaning project that I completed moments before making this quick bread).  But it was worth it. Cranberries. How great are cranberries? This loaf makes a really top-notch breakfast... and mid-morning snack... and after-dinner snack... and then again breakfast.
In Real Life accomplishment news: I ran shuffled through a 5k, successfully scored Taylor Swift tickets while simultaneously hitting the low point of my marriage (it was a very stressful half hour), and completed watching "Friday Night Lights." So if I disappear again for a while, just know I'm doing really impressive stuff. As Tim Riggins says, "Let's make some memories."
(Anyone interested in what this autumn sounded like should make a playlist combining the Lumineers album, T. Swift's RED (excepting "sad beautiful tragic" because it's a real dud), and this amazing k pop song. You are welcome.)

1 comment:

  1. Wow these are gorgeous photographs! I love it. The food looks amazingly delicious as well :)

    Hello from a fellow Chicago foodie blogger :)