Archive for the ‘dubious’ Category

Next up in project clean out my parents’ freezer: pork loin

Back when I was buying cheap meat, a pork loin was one of the best bargains out there – almost all lean meat, no bones, and could be found on sale as cheaply as $1.88/lb

Being just one person, I’d cut a whole loin into three roasts and freeze them. Even then, it’s quite a lot of meat. And it has a tendency toward being dry and flavorless.

The cooking method I learned from my mother was to pick the roast with the thickest outer layer of fat as possible, embed some garlic cloves in the meat and threat some rosemary sprigs between the fat and the meat, coat the outside in garlic salt, and roast it in a slow oven. This produced a lovely, and usually juicy, meal. But the leftovers still tended to be dry.

So ever since I discovered carnitas, I’ve taken to braising this cut. And that means I can even trim off the fat layer.

Braised Pork w/ tomatoes and orange peel

Put the following things into a pot:

  • Pork roast, trimmed of exterior fat and freezer burn (cause I live a classy life)
  • 1 quart of (homemade, home-canned nyah nyah nyah) stock
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes (okay, so this was storebought, but it was a great sale)
  • thinly sliced orange peel – now this one requires some explanation because I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do this, but last year I started keeping my citrus peels in water. That simple: eat fruit, put clean peel into a container, fill container with water all the way up to the top so there’s minimal oxidization, refrigerate. I should probably worry about bacteria, but the citrus is fairly resiliant on its own and the peels never developed an off smell. If you change the water every couple of weeks, then the peels are less bitter with each successive change of water, and the pith softens so it can be easily scraped away. Seriously – this is amazing. Why isn’t everyone doing this? Right, so I had these from last winter and they still smelled fine, and I knew I’d be cooking the stuff for hours, so I sliced it into little orangey ribbons and delicious flavor.

And then cook it for a few hours. I went to OutFest with it on low, and then turned the heat up for a few hours once I came home and could supervise it.

I considered it done once the meat was falling apart and almost all of the liquid had been cooked out (as much as I felt confident cooking out without burning it to the bottom of the pan)

So now I had a tasty meat base, so what was I going to do with it so I didn’t get tired of it?

Well, I made half a cup of white rice, and I froze some lunch portions with the rice and about half of the braised pork.

And I had a we smidgeon of rice left, so I took another wee smidgeon (1/4 cup) of pork and made quesadillas

Braised Pork Quesadillas (pork is braised, not the quesadilla)

They key to a good quesadilla (and a good filled crepe) is to not put too much in. If it’s still flat, then you’re I’m going to enjoy it more.

So throw a tortilla in a heated skillet. Once the tortilla is warm, flip it over and start working very quickly (that is – have a mis en place).

Add the thinnest layer of cheese you can.

Pick a half of the tortilla. Cover it with a little leftover (but warm) rice that has been tossed with lime cilantro dressing, a little of the braised pork (drain the liquid away and have a mostly dry filling), and some shredded kale (some sharp onions would have also been good here).

Fold the bare (i.e. with just cheese) half of the tortilla over the filling and make a nice even sandwich. Press flat. And flip it over to brown the outside of the tortilla and wilt the kale. Peek under to see when you have a few burnt spots on the underside of the quesadilla. Decide whether you want the (now) top crisped up anymore (if so, flip and cook a little more). Then serve. Have sour cream on the side.

And I still had about half of the braised pork left. So I made a stew-type dish.

Pork and Chickpea Stew

Add a little oil to the bottom of a pot and sweat an onion, diced. Once the onion is translucent, add a drained can of chickpeas (or soak them overnight and cook them a bit longer than is called for in this recipe… since this here cooking is mostly just getting everything warm enough for the flavors to intermingle).

Now my braised pork was pretty intensely flavored, but if it hadn’t been, I would start adding seasonings here – some cumin seeds, maybe a stick of cinnamon, marjoram, and maybe some raisins would have been an interesting choice. But I didn’t do that.

I did, however, have a baked sweet potato in my fridge, and that seemed like a good addition, so I pulled it out, peeled it, sliced it a couple times against the grain, and mixed it in with the chickpeas.

And then I added the braised pork.

Cooked it for a couple minutes until the smells mixed, and then I dished it up into containers to freeze for lunches.

24
May

Fish Pie

   Posted by: Livia Tags: , , , ,

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I hardly ever cook fish. It’s not easy here to find a good fishmonger, and then you have a narrow window for getting your fish home still happily fresh. It can’t hang out in your fridge until you have inspiration – it’s a make it right away kind of thing.

And I grew up with a father who did not enjoy the smell of fish, especially as it cooks. So I have little knowledge or practice.

But I have acquired sketchy frozen fish, and I hate wasting food. How sketchy you ask? Well, I’ve been cleaning out my parents deep freeze of things at the very bottom that are too old for them to consider worth eating. And this was in a box labeled with a neighbor’s name, so we were clearly storing it for her – especially since we don’t cook fish. And this neighbor has been dead for about seven years. On the other hand, the freezer has been a very reliable freezer without power outages or temperature variations.

The fish is Oreo Dory – which, wow!, so not sustainable. But it’s a little late to lecture my former neighbor on her purchasing habits, now.

So what do you do with seven year old frozen fish? Apparently, you make pie!

I looked through several recipes, and I ended up combining traditional recipes (with roux) and modern ones with more vegetables. But I had milk nearing its life expectancy, so I knew I needed the roux base to help me use up ingredients.

Fish Pie

In one pot, pour a little less than a quart of milk and add a pound of frozen fish. Also season with a bay leaf and a clove or two. Bring it to just barely simmering for five minutes and then remove from heat and strain the fish from the milk and into a casserole dish. If you added a bay leaf and/or cloves, remember to make sure you remove as many as you added.

In another pot, clean and quarter (and peel, if you so choose) some potatoes (I did three baking-sized ones, but it could have used another potato or two) and boil them in salted water until easy to pierce with a fork.

In a third pot deep skillet, sautee a minced or finely diced onion in lipids of your choice (I used a teaspoon of butter). Now you’re going to make a roux from untoasted flour. You might need to add more fat for the right consistency. Then add the hot, fishy milk to the roux – stirring assiduously – so you get a nice, medium-thick white sauce. Mine was actually much thinner than I wanted, so the trick for adding more flour when your roux is insufficient is to spoon the flour into a small sieve and tap dustings of flour into your simmering liquid (stirring assiduously) until it’s just thinner than you want. Remember that once your gravy has boiled (which it will do as you’re baking) and cooled, it will be even thicker.

I shredded three carrots, the flesh of a mild red pepper, and the zest of one lemon and added them to the fishy bechamel, too.

By now, your potatoes should be soft. Drain them and mash them with butter and milk until you have fluffy mashed potatoes.

Take a moment to salt everything! Salt the bechamel; it needs it. Salt the mashed potatoes; they need it. Maybe even sprinkle a little more salt on the fish in the casserole dish. Oh, and black pepper. Everything needs black pepper, too.

I also added some ground summer savory and a dash of ground thyme to the sauce.

Right, so there’s a casserole dish of fish fillets. Break them up into chunks.

And then sprinkle them with some (white, if you have it) shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese.

Pour the sauce over the fish, and swish everything together.

Top with mashed potatoes. Some people sprinkle more cheese on the top of the mashed potatoes, but I didn’t.

Bake at 350F for 20 minutes, until bubbling. After 20 minutes, my potatoes still didn’t have any color, so I turned on the broiler for another three and a half minutes.

It was surprisingly pleasing.

1) My house did not smell strongly of fish during the cooking process!!! Now were there any lingering cooking odors this morning

2) The fishy milk sauce, which just sounds disgusting, was exactly like chowder. I should have guessed, except that I always think there are extra fresh ingredients and a bit of magic in good chowders.

It was a lot like soup in a casserole dish. On looking back at the recipes, a lot of them called for half as much milk as I used (though how that will fully cover the fish as it’s poaching, I don’t know). And they call for a thick layer of mashed potatoes, whereas I barely had enough to cover.

While the taste was smooth and pleasing (like chowder), there probably is no way to make seven years frozen fish not have the texture of seven years frozen fish – i.e. rubbery and a bit chewy

Okay, so the second try was also a big shameful and full of weird miscellaneous condiment selections. And yet also tasty.

Turkey Squash Lentil Soup

Okay, so roast squash and have some sitting around in your refrigerator all cooled and diced.

Also, leftover turkey, cut into chunks.

And this time, I’m trying it without soaking the lentils first. Rinse/wash them in three vigorous changes of water before using.

Oh, and I’ve made both turkey stock and vegetable stock. You can go with all of one or the other or just water – but they shouldn’t be at least warmed up to room temperature.

So brown 2 teaspoons of flour in a pan. Dice an onion pretty finely and stir that into the browning flour. Once the onions are limp and the flour is getting toasty, add a teaspoon or so of butter (or lipid of choice).

Now add some turkey stock and stir it all together until you have a gravy base. Add a teaspoon of red wine, a shake of Worcestershire sauce, and a little bit of browning sauce.

Add lentils and minced garlic with some vegetable stock. Once it reaches a simmer, add the cubed winter squash. And then a couple minutes later, the turkey leftovers.

Season with ground black pepper, ground ginger (I was bizarrely generous with this, but luckily the soup absorbed it well), a sprinkling of cinnamon, and some hot pepper.

Because these are all leftovers that have been sitting in the fridge, you really should have the soup boil for about 20 minutes, but my lentils were already pretty mushy by the end of that.

2
Dec

Soup of Shame

   Posted by: Livia Tags: , ,

So here I am with my 5 pounds of turkey leftovers, and I have visions of a soup I think I’ve had somewhere before – a lovely, brown broth with lentils and pieces of winter squash and turkey. The soup in my head is delicious.

Because I soak legumes, and can not help myself from soaking lentils as well, I started 1 cup of lentils soaking the night before.

The next day, I melted a little butter and a little bacon fat (about 1 teaspoon of each), and once the onions softened I sauteed an onion, some garlic (3 cloves, minced), and some ginger (1 skinny inch, minced). Oh, and I added some asaphoetida – about half a teaspoon.

And then I added turmeric because I’d just been having a conversation with my ex about a bland soup that had been resurrected with turmeric and because the last batch I bought was surprisingly strong scented, so I’m hoping surprisingly flavorful, too.

So cooked that together for about 30 second to a minute, and then I added a scoop of the turkey stock (which had set up all nice and gelatinous) and let that melt in.

And then I added the winter squash. I have no idea what kind of squash this was. It was labeled at the farmers’ market as a sweet roasting squash, was about 5 pounds, and had a blue/green skin that was not as blue as a Hubbard squash. It did not roast up sweet at all. Instead, it had a bit of a sovory poultry-ish flavor, so I figured it’d be perfect for soup. So I rough diced it and dropped it in. Not all of the squash fit because I’ve found that I really can’t go much larger than a 2 quart pot, if I’m still going to like the soup by the last serving (and I only wanted the squash to be a third of the soup).

And then I added the soaked lentils and some more liquid (a mixture of turkey stock, vegetable stock, and water I’d used to cook chicken and onions the day before).

And I added some flavor elements – a whole stalk of celery and a bay leaf (both to be removed after cooking), the last of my buckwheat honey (1 1/2 teaspoon?), thyme, oregano, cinnamon, and freshly ground pepper.

And I let it cook… and it turned to mush, as you’d expect. And adding turkey to it at that point, would have been just gross. So despite having been fairly generous with the seasonings, I had 2 quarts of fairly flavorless mush.

I let the soup sit for a day while I pondered. And I figured that it might lend itself to something spicy/sweet/tangy.

So I came back and started looking through my random condiments. I decided against the tamarind chutney, even though it had a lot of what I was looking for. And I went, instead, with the bottle of Caribbean Savory Sauce that I had been having trouble finding a use for. And a little was good, so I went with a lot. Probably a quarter of a cup would have been the right measurement, but I went ahead and finished off the bottle – and it was not too much.

I also added some paprika (1 teaspoon?) and a lot of cayenne powder (possibly as much as 2 teaspoons, but you might prefer a lot less). And two capfuls of cider vinegar.

So it ended up tasty, but not at all what I’d been aiming for, and it didn’t use up any of my turkey.

11
Aug

Dubious food – vintage caviar

   Posted by: Livia

So I got two small jars of cheap caviar from my mother (*cough*about 5 years ago*cough*) because she hadn’t gotten around to using them (*cough*for about 5 years before that*cough*).

Do you think it’s a fair experiment to open them up and poke at them a bit to see if they are okay?

Needless to say, if there is an expiration date on these, we are way past. But sometimes those are purely hypothetical.

(no, there’s no bulging. Yes, I know to abort the plan if there are funny smells (what is a funny smell when you are talking about fish eggs? Yes, I know to abort if there is a large growth of mold.)

ETA: received following comment;

And, okay, so the glass is dark, but they’ve been packed in water and salt…you know, I’m still saying you should dump them. Salt’s great and all, but if the eggs’ve been packed in it that long then I’m thinking the salt’s had time to dissolve, and regrow around and inside the eggs…either way you’re looking at inedible.

Removed jars from cardboard packaging and saw that one of them had definite green colors going on. Disposed of them, jars unopened.

So I punted on Tuesday’s dinner plans – hopefully the eggplants will still be okay by Sunday.

Did not acquire more free peaches in a rare act of prudence (even if they would have been free again, I just don’t have time to even cut them up and sugar them this week. Maybe next week)

Came home last night to realize that I had a few kitchen moths so I did a pantry purge. Luckily, I grew up with a mother who was terrified of having kitchen moths, so most of my moth-friendly staples are in the fridge (all of my flour and most of my rice). But since I am sans-internet at home these days, I got all of my moth information from Meghan and my mother, each of whom has only dealt with them once. So I threw out the spices I had in plastic bags from the indian market because they are kinda floury (curry powder, ground coriander, etc.) and no one knew for sure either way, though both guessed they’d be fine. It’s cool – they were getting old. And I threw out my baking soda (the baking powder is in a canister) and corn starch and the bag of corn meal I bought 5 years ago and only used 2 Tablespoons of. I threw out my opened, but tightly clipped, bags of legumes but I did not throw out the new bags, which I suppose are just as likely to be permeable and/or infested, but meh! I did not throw out the oatmeal in a sealed plastic container, nor the basmati rice in a screw-top plastic jug. I threw out the tail end of a box of rotini, but I did not throw out the open spaghetti or lasagne noodles. And, without opening it, I think I figured out that the one thing most likely to have moths in it was the canister of bread crumbs, which hasn’t been opened in 6 months or so. So is there anything I haven’t thrown out that you think I should? What about the string of dried chilies hanging from the ceiling? Ooh, and the internet says they eat candy – I guess I’d better polish off my two fancy chocolate bars tonight.

14
Apr

Dinner = Fail

   Posted by: Livia

I ate most of my produce before heading off to Boston and then New York, and I finished off the two wrinkly potatoes (in an upcoming post) and the remaining kale earlier this week.

So yesterday and today, I have been steaming chicken dumplings that I bought frozen in Chinatown.

Fail #1 – not reading the package
How hard could it be to steam dumplings? I’ve done this before, and it’s pretty simple. The only hard part is having the water line low enough that it won’t boil up to the level of the dumplings (making them hard and chewy instead of soft and silky, but still delicious).

Well, I missed the part where the chicken meat was not pre-cooked and you should check the internal temperature. Until I was 2/3 of the way through the package (i.e. the second day of eating them). And even when I did notice, I decided that that rather than tossing the pink piece back into the steamer that it would just leak everywhere, and it was tasty anyway.

Right, so if you never see the post about mustard oil, have someone check my apartment to make sure my cat isn’t eating my salmonella-poisoned body.

Fail #2 – Overcompensating
So, once I noticed that they needed to cook a bit more, I walked off and left the pot unwatched for about eight minutes. *cue ominous music*

This was enough time for the subsequent dumplings to steam to tasty perfection.

It was also enough time for the liquid to steam away completely (in a well-covered pot) and for the bottom bamboo tray to stick to the burning non-stick coating of my pot.

Right.

So I’ve had the same cheap, thin, crappy basic apartment-warming set of pots for about four years. Really, they were cheap and crappy. And the coating was starting to wear around the edges of two of the saucepans.

But I kind of loved them. For all kinds of reasons I hadn’t been expecting to.

And now that I definitely need to replace my pots, I have to figure out whether I want quality cookware (foodie guilt!) or whether another set just the same will suit my needs.

What I like about the cheap set
  • the pots nest together, so I’d like another proper set regardless of quality
  • I love the crappy-set wee sizes – the 1 qt saucepan that exactly holds a square of ramen or 2 person quantities of hot chocolate or 1 can of campbell’s soup & the 5 qt soup pot which makes exactly the right amount of stock for one of my large airtight containers
  • I like the knob handles on my lids much more than the ones with two attachments points that you can fit your fingers in, which seem to be more prevalent in higher end lines. I think the lids stack better with just the know resting in the apex of the lid above.
  • Would you believe that I haven’t scratched the non-stick coating on the cooking surfaces at all? It’s dead easy to take care of, if you know how… and I don’t even have a dishwashing machine. The only wear points for the coating have been around the rims where the lids rest

What I would like to be better in my next set of cookware

  • I don’t like handle rivets poking into the inside cooking surface. When I was young, we had no pans that did this. The technology can’t have been lost.
  • fine, slightly more even heat distribution might be nice, but it hasn’t been much of a problem

What I would like, but can’t afford/fit in my apartment

  • I’d love me some enameled cast-iron. I’ve used my friend’s, and it’s easy to clean, surprisingly non-stick, and sexy as hell. But she could find hers at the local thrift stores and had a lot of storage space.
  • I can’t fit a full-sized stock pot, but now that I know three or four people interested in canning, a big ass pot is looking appealing. If I can just figure out where to put one.

So please offer me cookware suggestions.

16
Jan

Flavored cream cheese

   Posted by: Livia Tags:

I’ve written about flavored cream cheeses before, but my latest attempt was not an unqualified success.

So cream cheese.

Then I cut some dried tomatoes into fairly small pieces.

And shredded the last of my Double Gloucester I bought at Tesco New Years Eve.

Mixed it all up and ate it on a bagel.

Yummy.

…but!

Two days later, I came back with another bagel, and the cheese was very dubious, indeed.

It had turned a grey-ish brown and was a bit crackled in texture.

I almost chucked it. Bun instead, I kept thinking that it really was too soon for it to have gone off. So I poked it and sniffed it and decided it was all the fault of the tomatoes.

Apparently, you need to plump your dried tomatoes a bit before trying this, or they’ll dehydrate your cheese to the point where its texture is fine, but it looks sketchy. And the color is just unfortunate. Perhaps you just shouldn’t serve this to company.

But it was still tasty on my bagel.

It was even tastier with some chipotle sprinkled it.

What happens when broccoli rabe goes off
Broccoli rabe, rapini, whatever you want to call it – it’s pretty tasty. And I picked up a bunch the last time I was at the farmers’ market.

So I’ve had broccoli rabe go off once before, and you could tell because the stems got hollow and squishy.

Well, this one was pushing its lifespan, so I checked that and it was fine… possibly because these had been well trimmed by the woman selling them. I also smelled them because I remembered that there had been a cleaning solution kind of smell to the leaves, and I did not detect anything off.

So I went ahead with preparing a delicious meal.

First, I browned a slice of bacon until is was very crispy.

In a pot of water, I boiled a link of turkey sausage I pulled out of the freezer.

When the sausage was cooked through, I pulled it out of the water and pulled off the casing as soon as it was cool enough to handle. Then I sliced the sausage into 1/2″ thick rounds, and put it in the bacon fat to brown.

I also added an onion (cut in half and then sliced), some sliced garlic, and two jalepeno peppers (cut off the seeds and then sliced). Oh, and some sliced bell pepper, too.

Then into the pot of water, I dumped 2 ounces of rotini pasta and brought it back to a boil.

About 3 minutes before the pasta would be ready, I added the stems from the roughly cut up broccoli rabe.

About 1 minute before the pasta would be ready, I added the leaves and buds.

Splash some of the pasta water over the leaves to help them wilt and to add a little more liquid to the dish.

Drain the pasta and then dump the noodles in with the sausage and veggies.

I cut up and added some fresh herbs: fennel sprig and basil (and there might have been a leaf of sage or two)

I put up one portion for freezing, and I poured the rest into a bowl and sprinkled with cheddar from the farmers’ market.

And then two bites in, I got this overwhelming taste of ammonia. URGH!

This would have been a great dish, if the broccoli rabe hadn’t gone off.

Let this be a lesson: eat your greens, and eat them promptly!

I least I had already nibbled on the bacon while making the dish.

~*~

So there’s pretty much 1 recipe for green tomatoes (fried, fried with cheese and tomato sauce, fried in pie, totally fried), but there are a ton of recipes for tomatillos. And, to me, they taste pretty similar.

Can you think of any reason why I shouldn’t try tomatillo recipes with my green tomatoes?

20
May

In the dysfunctional food vein

   Posted by: Livia Tags: ,

If I make it through the night without devouring the cheese dip (even a little bit), I get blackberries with real sugar and milk for breakfast.

ETA: Did not eat more cheese dip. Had blackberries for breakfast. Harrumph – next time it’s with heavy cream! Cheese dip and tortilla chips are now safely located at work where people who are not me will eat them.

ETAA: Gad! I got into work at 8am! (I’m supposed to be in at 9am, but I thought I’d sneak in before the rain starting coming down.) And the whole rest of the week will be morning hours, too.