Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Help me feed my family

Q: What is the earliest example of pornographic dialog in a television show? A: "Ward, don't you think you were a little rough on the Beaver last night?" That one tickles me every time.
I grew up in the 60s and 70s, in a superficially traditional Leave it to Beaver-oid nuclear family. Our neighborhood brimmed with other Beaveroid households. Our dads worked traditional jobs, and our moms were housewives who fixed Coca Cola ham on Sundays and proto-Hamburger Helper dishes on weekdays. Tuna casserole wasn't the punch line of a bad joke; it was dinner. Steak used to make me cringe. To each steak, my mother applied a culinary shoe polish known as Kitchen Bouquet. Then she would lovingly cook every last drop of moisture from the meat. Blood carried disease, so God forbid the steak be slightly pink inside. Too dry? Here's some A1 Steak Sauce. I found a number of creative ways to deal with this trauma. Our chihuahuas were quite handy. I also discovered that a well chewed bolus of meat would stick to the undersurface of the dining room table until long after dinner. While my mother washed up, I would return in secret, retrieve the evidence of my crime, and feed it to the dogs, or flush it down the toilet. At age 16, I took a job washing dishes at Sizzler. Our meals were free. I hung out with the other dishwashers and the cooks, none of whom spoke a lick of English. They were cool guys who, every pay day, would invite me to go whoring with them in downtown LA. (NO, there's no story there. I was hitched to GFv1.0 at the time.) Anyway, one day one of the cooks noticed that I only ever ate salads and hamburgers. He asked me why I never ate any prime rib. They ate prime rib every single night. It's good, man. Try some! Oh. My. God. Was it ever good. I couldn't believe that this was even distantly related to "steak". Yes, that's how underprivileged I was: Sizzler tasted like ambrosia. (Beth: in case you're wondering why I didn't become a vegetarian, some day I'll tell you what my mother did to vegetables.)
Ribs for dinner tonight. Okay, I admit it. This week I'm hung up on dogs with things in their mouths. I do the shopping and cooking in my family. I'm good at it (cooking, I mean), I enjoy it (usually), and I now have a kick-ass kitchen (or it will be, once we have floors and countertops), so I shouldn't complain, right? But I had a full day in the O.R. today. Then I had to do the shopping and run a few other errands, and so by the time I got home, I was tired. Fatigue takes all the pleasure out of cooking. Fatigue also taxes the culinary muse. Some days, I can't f%*^ing think of what to make. And that's where you, faithful reader, can help me. Point me to your favorite EASY recipes. All I ask is that the recipe be easy and good. I'll pony up my Easy Ribs recipe to get things started. By the way: I'm a bright guy, and I don't need a recipe spelled out. Rough ideas, that's what I need. Incidentally, tired and everything, I still made ribs, steamed broccoli, and corn bread (with blue corn meal, just to be different). So don't go thinking I'm starving my wife and son.
Easy Ribs
Pour about six cups of water into a Dutch oven (or other heavy-bottomed pot) and bring to a boil. Add a heaping tablespoon of salt, a heaping tablespoon of Old Bay seasoning, a teaspoon of red pepper flakes, two bay leaves, freshly ground black pepper, and just about any other spice that strikes your fancy. Tonight, I added cumin seed, sliced ginger, two garlic cloves, and coriander seed. Cut pork ribs (bone in) into 3- to 4-inch pieces and add to the broth. Simmer for an hour. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a foil-lined casserole dish and pour your favorite barbecue sauce on top. Bake in a 350 degree oven for twenty to thirty minutes. Make sure you really pour the sauce on; otherwise, the meat may not stay moist as it bakes. By the way, if you do a good job balancing the spices in the broth, you'll have yourself a fine soup. Play with it. Mexican variation: include onion, celery, and carrots in the broth. After boiling for an hour, separate meat from the bone and add the meat back to the broth. Adjust the seasoning with lime juice. Add chopped fresh cilantro. I never liked overcooked soup vegetables, so I add my vegies perhaps 40 minutes into the simmering time. If you're the kind of person who likes exact measurements, sorry. I cook by pinches and palmfuls. If you're uncertain how to proceed, taste the broth before you add the raw meat. As long as it isn't too salty or too bland, you'll have a great soup at the end. D.


Anonymous fiveandfour said...

I kind of "invented" something this week when I had some leftover spanish rice and refried beans, but no meat or tortillas and I was cooking for just me...I sprinkled a little bit of one of those taco seasoning packets on a chicken breast and rubbed in the spices, browned it in a nonstick skillet at a relatively high heat on both sides, then poured a bit of salsa and water in the pan. I covered it and left the heat moderately high and in just a few minutes I had a moist and nicely spiced chicken breast. Later on I realized my combination of ingredients would have added up to a decent taco salad, but since I didn't think of that until too late I just had the chicken with my leftovers. (Mind you, it was a small breast, but I imagine the same thing would work on a larger one if it was either cut up or pounded to be thinner before cooking commenced so that the meat didn't end up either half raw, burnt or dessicated.)

11/09/2005 09:50:00 PM  
Anonymous fiveandfour said...

Oh, and hey, my ribs are even easier: dump ribs into a crockpot and cover with a store bought barbeque sauce. Cook on low for several hours while you're at work or running errands or whatnot.

Yeah, yeah, it's not purist. But it makes a fiiiine dinner for the tired of body and spirit - especially with some fresh corn on the cob.

11/09/2005 10:00:00 PM  
Blogger THIS! Christine said...

Doug, dahling... a gazillion posts ago, you linked to something that summarized "the great canadian novel'.. something about no plot, meandering flashbacks... do you remember at all?
I've gone through your archives and couldn't find it, now I have a horrible feeling it might be link in the comments sections.

If you could, dahling Doug, just give me the blog it linked to.

Thanks much


11/09/2005 10:58:00 PM  
Blogger Darla said...

I'm trying to think of something I make that's not quick and easy.

Fridays is always homemade pizza here--homemade crust is pretty easy, or you can use frozen bread dough, a loaf of French bread split lengthwise, English muffins, tortillas, whatever--and then you put on whatever sounds good. Last week it was pesto, leftover gyros meat, feta cheese, garbanzo beans, olives, & artichoke hearts.

Or you put some rice on to cook, and while it's cooking, you toss everything that looks appealing in a large skillet. If you're using raw meat, put that in first, then veggies according to how long they'll take to cook. Maybe a little oil to keep things from sticking. Play around with spices a while. When the rice is done, stir it all together, maybe add some cheese.

Or to expand on 5&4's invention: chop that chicken breast up, brown with the taco seasoning packet, chop up a couple of potatoes, throw in a can of pinto beans, maybe some frozen corn, and then when everything's all cooked, stir in a bunch of salsa & sprinkle some cheese on top.

Or there's that salmon soup I made when it was cold out--thin white sauce (butter, flour, milk), chunks of boiled potatoes, sauteed leeks, a couple packets of boneless salmon, a few dashes of Tabsco.

Or... Okay, I'm shutting up. This is turning into a time-sink.

Packaged salad greens are the work of the gods, by the way.

11/10/2005 02:48:00 AM  
Blogger Invisible Lizard said...

Doug, I will direct you to Invisible Lizard's Excellent Lasagna. It's easy and excellent.

11/10/2005 04:58:00 AM  
Blogger Moi said...

If you've got some prep time, a little marinade my kids call "dragon scales" is fabulous on pretty much any meat (chicken, beef, venison--never tried it on pork. Steaks can go in whole, beef ribs get cut into servings, roasts get sliced down into 1-2" wide strips, varying widths).

The marinade is simple: 1 bottle soy sauce, garlic & ginger to taste.

I stick it and the meat into a gallon-sized sealable freezer bag (double-bagged if it's really full) and let it marinade overnight. The family has the task of making sure it gets sloshed around and evenly coated (the kids like that job LOL!).

Cook it up however you want. I generally broil, but I've fried, grilled, baked, etc. too. Warm the juice up and serve over rice. Add a veggie or a salad and wah-la! Good food.

This is my son's favorite meal, FWIW, and the mandatory birthday food for about 10 years.

11/10/2005 05:52:00 AM  
Blogger Robyn said...

My family's fave enchiladas:
Pour half a can enchilada sauce on bottom of 13x9 pan. Mix diced cooked chicken with 8oz sour cream, 1 or 2 cans green chilies, 1 cup mexi-blend cheese and as much chili powder as you'd like. Fill 10 small tortillas and put in the pan. Cover with the rest of the sauce and more cheese. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

11/10/2005 06:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Candy said...

One of my favorite easy-peasy things to make:

4-6 pieces or so chicken (bone-in or boneless, it don't matter)
1 large onion, diced
2 lbs. fresh cherry tomatoes, diced
As much garlic as you want, either diced or in whole cloves (I usually go with 50-50)
3 ribs celery, diced
1-2 carrots, diced
Whatever other firm vegetables you have on hand, like zucchini or eggplant; potatoes would be good, too, but you're on Atkins, right?
Dash of olive oil
Salt & pepper
A couple tablespoons of fresh herbs (I usually use the Holy Trinity, i.e. rosemary, basil and thyme)
2 strips bacon, diced (optional, but it adds a nice smokey flavor to the dish--use turkey bacon if you don't eat pork)

Toss all vegetables and diced bacon (if used) in olive oil, salt & pepper and herbs in a large bowl. In a 9 X 13 pan, place chicken pieces, and coat with more salt and pepper. throw veggies on top. Bake in 450°F oven until chicken is cooked, stirring the crap occasionally to make sure nothing gets too toasty. 'Tis easy, takes minimal effort, AND it's pretty healthy.

Another quick-and-easy-but-good thing I make is lamb leg steaks, but you can use this recipe with any other kind of red meat that strikes your fancy.

4 lamb leg steaks
4 cloves (or more) minced garlic
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
Olive oil
A couple small dashes balsamic vinegar

Very, very lightly sprinkle the balsamic vinegar on both sides of the lamb leg steaks. Go very easy on this--you don't want the steaks to smell or taste like douche. Rub garlic and fresh herbs on steaks. Place steaks in a pan, douse with olive oil, allow steaks to marinade for at least 20 minutes (I usually use this time to make side dishes). Heat large skillet on medium-high. Plop bastards into skillet, including the olive oil, lift out when it's cooked the way you like it.

And then there's the super-simple 100% genuine French quiche that my buddy Edouard taught me how to make. It's a bit time-consuming if you don't have some pie crust ready to go in the freezer, but it's so seriously easy to make. The the paucity of ingredients sometimes makes people blanch and go "That CAN'T be right!" and they try to fancy it up with cheese and some such, but lemme tell you: DON'T. We usually eat this with a loaf of very crusty French bread and fresh salad greens doused with vinaigrette. The Approved Method of eating this is to take one bite of quiche, then a bite of salad, allow the flavors to mingle. Eat it this way and ONLY this way or an irate bald French guy will beat you over the head with a 2 x 4.

One recipe for double pie crust, and I'm including mine but I'm sure you have your own failsafe favorite: 2 cups flour, 2 sticks cold butter, 1/2 tablespoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, as much water as needed

Quiche filling:
6 eggs
1 quart half-and-half, or you can make your own using a pint of whole milk and a pint of whipping cream
1.5 lbs. ham steak, cubed into 1/2" pieces (if you don't eat pork, sub with chunks of smoked turkey)
1/2 teaspoon salt
If you absolutely need to, thinly sliced-mushrooms sauteed in garlic and olive oil

Boil ham or turkey pieces in water for a few minutes--this removes excess salt and water. Drain well and set aside. Whip together the eggs, salt, pepper and half-and-half until very foamy.

Grab a 9 X 13 pan, roll out the pie crust and lay in pan. Pour egg mixture in there, and then distribute the ham and mushrooms in the mix. Bake in a 400°F oven for about 40-45 minutes, or until crust is golden, quiche is fluffy and golden-brown spots have formed on the top. Allow to set for at least 15 minutes before cutting into it.

I can go on and on, but I won't. Ha.

11/10/2005 07:45:00 AM  
Blogger Gabriele C. said...

Lol, your mother and my grandmother should exchange receipes. They're bost specialist in killing food.

Ever tried Mehlsuppe?

No, I didn't, but I've heard the stories my father tells.

11/10/2005 08:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Beth said...

1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 bag of frozen mixed vegetables
Some bouillon cubes

Throw it in a soup pot. Stir. Futz around with spices. If you're feeling like being attentive, put some (small) pasta in there and stop before it gets mushy. Serve with a loaf of crusty bread. The end.

Potato Thingie
Make a buncha mashed potatoes, coplete with butter and salt.
Mix in some cooked veggies, some leftover pot roast or maybe some cooked Italian sausage or whatever, along with maybe a cup of parmesan.
Plop it all in a cake pan.
Sprinkle breadcrumbs on top and use a fork to make decorative swirls.
Bake for a while, til the top is crusty-ish. Slice into big honkin squares and serve with a salad.
The end.

Pasta is always, always easy. Fave simple variation: Make a basic tomato sauce (garlic sauteed in olive oil, then toss in a can of tomato puree and some basil or whatever) and add in cream cheese. Like maybe 8 tbsp of cream cheese for 16 oz of sauce. Really. It's divine.

11/10/2005 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger Douglas Hoffman said...

Thanks, everyone. I had one of those days where I couldn't stop and relax until the Daily Show.

Tonight, I stuffed portabella mushrooms with hot Italian sausage, then topped it with parmesan and bread crumbs. Bake, then broil.

Jake liked it the sausage part. I liked the mushroom part. I won't be making that one again any time soon.

Thanks again!

11/10/2005 09:29:00 PM  
Anonymous PBW said...

I'm too vegan to help out much, but I did want to recommend Cooking Light as a great source for healthy recipes that don't taste like cardboard.

11/11/2005 03:32:00 AM  
Blogger Douglas Hoffman said...

Thanks for the rec. I wish I could be more vegan, but the natives cry too loudly for flesh. They'll let me get away with falafel and a variety of tofu dishes, and that's about it.

Incidentally, my favorite online recipe site is RecipeSource, which used to be the Searchable Online Archive of Recipes, a Berkeley-based site. It's a great one-stop site featuring recipes from most types of ethnic cuisine. Just the place if you get a yen for a nice steaming plate of doro wat with injera.

11/11/2005 08:35:00 AM  

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