Well, this has been a depressing month. Back at the end of October I was sentenced to gum graft surgery, something which I had never heard of before and hope to never experience again. The surgery itself went fine, and apart from the general unpleasantness of having stitches all over my mouth, weird putty bandages on my palate and one particularly nasty evening of uncontrolled bleeding from the graft donor site after said bandages came off, my recovery went well. Things went south when I was laid off from my day job, which admittedly was a mixed blessing, since the job was one of those things that seemed perfect for me on paper but was turning into a sort of living hell, then things got even more thrilling when I turned out to be allergic to the antibiotics I was taking. Through all of this, I was completely unable to eat solid food or drink any quantity of alcohol. Here’s what my diet looked like for those first couple of weeks (I know these pictures are hideous, but this kind of food doesn’t deserve good photography):
Day one. Post-op instructions, lots of painkillers, a completely numb face, and a banana smoothie with protein powder. I ate a lot of bananas, particularly since I couldn’t have any sort of acidic fruit or anything with little seeds. Continue reading
A rather nice dinner for one: a chicken thigh dusted with Moroccan seven spice and baked, shredded and piled onto Israeli couscous cooked with broth and vegetables (garlic, zucchini and Swiss chard), on a bed of fresh mizuna from the garden. I really enjoyed the bite of the mizuna with the sweet/spicy chicken. I poured myself a glass of New Zealand Sauv Blanc.
A fine patio dinner of fresh grilled shrimp and vegetables. I dumped a generous handful of chopped fresh marjoram into the warm salad of grilled zucchini and tomatoes with vinegar, which worked beautifully. Also, that was some really lovely radicchio.
I was on my own for dinner tonight, a situation that often leads to macaroni and cheese and/or tuna. Trying to be a bit more original, I tried something from 660 Curries that didn’t sound too difficult – a defrosted piece of salmon, braised in a sauce of coconut milk, curry leaves and balchao masala (a fiery, vinegary flavor paste that we made up some time ago and now keep in the freezer in tablespoon-size portions). I added some peas for greenery and dumped it over jasmine rice. Not thrilling, but not bad, and with a glass of wine and Netflix it did the job.
I’ve made this recipe twice now. It’s really, really good, even if you use a lot less than the traditional 40 cloves of garlic, but when I make it it seems to come out very rich and salty, causing me to wake up at 2am with a certain digestive regret. Maybe if I went easier on the salt and did a better job of defatting the sauce. Or maybe just eat less of it. I dunno, did I mention it’s really, really good?
Braised Chicken with
Forty Cloves a Lot of Garlic
adapted from Use Real Butter, who adapted it from Fine Cooking
4 lbs. chicken, whole or pieces (whole thighs are nice)
black pepper, freshly ground
1/4 tsp sweet paprika
2 tbsp olive oil
a dozen or so cloves of garlic, peeled
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 or 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
1 cup chicken broth
baguette for serving
Pat the chicken dry, season (both inside and out if whole chicken) with 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper, then sprinkle paprika over it. Squeeze the lemon juice into a vessel and reserve. If preparing a whole chicken, place the used lemon half in the cavity. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, place the chicken breast-side or meaty-side down and brown for about 2 minutes. Flip the chicken and brown another 2-3 minutes. Remove to a plate and drain off the oil in the pot (but keep the brown bits!). Return the pot to medium-high heat. Add the garlic cloves and the wine, stirring the bottom of the pot to deglaze the fond. Place the chicken in the pot on top of the garlic, with the breast-side or meaty-side up. Add the herbs and broth. Bring to a boil. Cover the pot and set the heat to low.
Braise 45 minutes to an hour, basting every 20 minutes, until done. Move the chicken to a plate. Defat the sauce as much as possible, bring the drippings to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to a simmer, mashing the garlic into the gravy. Season the gravy with salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste. Serve with the chicken (carved or as pieces) and toasted slices of baguette.
On Monday Jon made kofte kebabs, so to go with them I decided to try my hand at an Afghan-style basmati rice pilaf with carrots and raisins. The pilaf gets par-boiled, then drained and steamed in its residual water. A little dry, but very tasty, will try again!
To go with I adapted a recipe from Turquoise: a chopped lettuce salad with dill, scallion, and parsley mixed in. Liked this a lot.
This was definitely one of those Must Make Again recipes. I’ve been making Hungarian Mushroom Soup (from the Moosewood cookbook) for years, but for some reason this week I decided to try a recipe for “goulash soup” from Barbara Kafka’s soup cookbook, which turned out to be vaguely similar – it has paprika and onions as the flavor base – but is very much its own thing. I didn’t follow the recipe slavishly, but I more or less kept to the ingredient list, and it was incredible. It didn’t hurt that the stew beef I used was from our latest quarter-cow from Skagit Angus, tender and really beefy-flavored.
The original recipe called for coating the beef in flour before frying it, which I didn’t feel like doing. I thought about making a roux separately to thicken the soup, but it turned out not to be necessary – the texture of the broth was thick and silky.
Hungarian Goulash Soup
adapted from Soup: A Way of Life by Barbara Kafka
- 1 pound stew beef
- kosher salt, maybe a tsp?
- a couple spoonfuls of canola oil
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1 onion
- 1 tsp smoked Spanish paprika and 2 tsp regular paprika
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 small yellow potatoes, peeled and diced
- about 1/2 cup tomato puree
- 1/2 tsp caraway seed
- around a cup of dried egg noodles
- sour cream
I salted the beef, then seared it in a soup pot in two batches with canola oil at high heat, then set it aside.
In the same pan, I added the butter, turned the heat to medium and sauteed the onion. Once it softened I added the paprika, then put the meat back in, mixed it all up, and added the stock. I brought it to a simmer, covered the pot, turned the heat to low and let it cook for an hour.
At this point I added the potato, garlic and bell pepper, recovered the pan and cooked for another fifteen minutes or so. Then I uncovered, added the caraway seeds and tomato plus some water to rinse out the can, brought the soup back to a simmer, and added the pasta. Once the noodles were done, I checked for seasoning, added a little salt, and served with sour cream.
Thanksgiving this year had almost all the usual suspects: perfectly brined turkey and very excellent stuffing by my parents, plus mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts salad, two kinds of cranberry sauce, smoked salmon and cream cheese with rye crackers, pumpkin pie and pecan pie, and spiced Old Fashioned cocktails. The only thing missing was the creamed spinach, but we’ll make that for ourselves very soon.
Leftover braised lamb with shell beans from Nell Thorn, warmed up with leftover roasted beets and sweet potatoes from our dinner on Thursday, with quick couscous and a glass of Spanish garnatxa. A great lunch after a morning working in the garden.