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  1. #211
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    HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY!
    Dinner is served:

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    I liked the results I got with the Newcastle braise. It’s almost...buttery? Nobody is going to complain that it’s too salty. I actually added a shake of garlic salt to both it and the cabbage at the table.

    But I think I preferred the Kirin and Shiner versions more. They had a bit more character. I also think I need to continue experimenting. Guinness has to be tried, if nothing else. I bet Killian’s would be good, too.

    And I’m still jealous of the way another cooking buddy’s grilled corned beef looked. Maybe a beer marinade followed by grilling? Probably would not need to do the water bath if I just let it soak in beer overnight. Should do double duty, reducing salt and imparting flavor.

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    Cooked sirloins, sautéed spinach and potatoes for dinner tonight.


    Clearly, that picture is none of those things. That is a soup I made tonight for tomorrow.

    Chicken broth, leeks, portobellos, cauliflower, garlic, celery and bacon, seasoned with a modicum of black pepper and thyme. While I was sautéing the bacon, garlic, leeks and celery, I was roasting the ‘shrooms, spuds and cauliflower.

    Just based on my tasting as I cooked, I’ll be making this again. But I think next time I may purée the potatoes and cauliflower for a creamy appearance and texture, and I may add a bit more broth.

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    Well, as it so happens, our caterer friend was in town today and staying overnight- not that anyone told ME- so I got extra feedback on the soup.

    OBSERVATIONS:
    1) everyone liked it.
    2) nobody wanted it to be particularly creamier, and liked it as a “clear”, flavored broth. But a some added a pat of butter.
    3) one person wanted more cauliflower
    4) one person- not known for liking mushrooms- wanted a bit more mushroom
    5) I personally think the broth itself could be helped with the addition of one more bullion cube (I used one).
    6) some of the liquid may have been absorbed by the veggies, so I may need to add some more stock.

    The caterer is taking a couple of servings home to experiment with, but beyond a little tweaking, thinks the recipe is good as is.

    I think the roasted veggies could take a bit more oven time to develop their flavors a bit more.

    I might try my next serving with a little lemon juice- something I find works well with most chicken soups.

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    Tonight’s dinner salad:


    Ingredients: baby spinach, torn romaine, sliced button mushrooms, diced carrots, San Marzanos, hand-shredded onion cheese, diced ribeye, and diced fruit-glazed ham, seasoned with fresh ground pepper and chives. Dressing was olive oil and red wine vinegar.

    Mom’s version had less mushroom, but added pickled turnips, pickled cauliflower, and pickled artichoke hearts. She also added a drizzle of ranch to her oil & vinegar.

    The ham in question is my Aunt’s recipe, glazed with butter, brown sugar, strawberry preserves and pineapple slices and/or chunks. It is a symphony of sweet & salty. I’ve mentioned before how I like to use this ham on sandwiches using either roasted garlic or rosemary & olive oil breads, where it’s flavor can play with the herbal notes in the bread.

    Well, it’s also pretty fun playing with the tang of the vinegar.

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    Did some cooking last night. Here’s the dinner that resulted:


    Simple: fried some commercial smoked sausage

    Traditional: did some cabbage with slices of bacon

    Experimental: I cut some cauliflower into slabs, basted them with butter and seasoned the heck out of them, and baked them on an oiled sheet pan at 350F for a while. The bottom side browned nicely, the texture was almost creamy. Next time, I may add some shredded Parmesan or Parrano.

    While cleaning up, I decided to try making Aji, a simple, no cooking Columbian salsa. When I put it away last night, it tasted decent. Haven’t checked on it yet today.

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    I tried the aji on a piece of toasted roasted garlic bread:


    For a first try, attempted on a whim, it came out pretty good.

    If I make it again- highly probable- I’ll do things slightly differently. The green onion I used was just something I had in the fridge, pre-sliced. It’s a little big for aji, which uses slices much smaller than that. I used Campari tomatoes this time, but might buy Romas (which I later found in a couple recipes online) next time. Or try small San Marzanos.

    And I may try a different vinegar. I used Reese’s tarragon flavored vinegar, but a red wine one might be better.

    And I’ll definitely use fresh cilantro next time, too. I would have this time, but I didn’t have any on hand, just dried.

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    A lil’ something from Mom!



    Saturday, I went to the farmer’s market and got her some fresh peaches- her favorite fruit. (Easy points for Mother’s Day!)

    Well, she pitted & peeled 4 of them today, sliced them up, and sprinkled them with lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon and chocolate. They’re tasty, even for me, a non-peachophile. We anticipate them being even better after a night in the fridge.

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    Cooked quite a bit the past two days. Yesterday, did a stock based on smoked turkey necks as well as a pork pot roast with onions, leeks garlic and so forth.

    Tonight, for Memorial Day, I did pan fried rib-eyes and a shrimp & portobello boil. To round things out, I thawed some of my aunt’s fiancé’s red beans. I also gave everyone a small ramekin of Bookbinder’s cocktail sauce. Dessert was a slice of bread pudding.

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    This is my modified moussaka right before I popped it the oven. (Yes, a post-cooking picture will be taken.) While I was working from a couple of authentic recipes, I did make some changes, some by design, some by happenstance.

    By design, I used 1lb of my Louisiana hot sausage as half of the meat in the dish- soooo, “Moussak-aYEE!”, perhaps. I also added a little green onion to the mix.

    But as it turned out, I had no tomato paste, and didn’t want to add more liquid in the form of more canned diced tomatoes.

    Also, I forgot to swing by the grocery to get any of the cheeses the Greeks recommended, so I used a mix of parrano and akkawi.

    Fun footnote: I used my large spurtle for the first time while making the béchamel. To refresh y’all’s memory, a spurtle is a Scottish predecessor to the spatula we all know and love, and I was given a set for Christmas by a good friend.

    Well, damn if the thing didn’t work better than a spatula for both making the sauce and especially extracting it from the 4.5qt sauce pot. I was able to squeegee the side of the pot from top to bottom with a single swipe.

    And after cooking:


    Came out pretty good for the first moussaka I’ve done in years, but definitely had room for improvement.

    My béchamel was a little too loose, probably too much milk. Checking back with the recipes, one of the Greeks added egg yolks to his, which would have added a bit more fluffing to that top layer. When being applied as the top layer, his béchamel looked more like mashed potatoes, mine was more like a pudding. Another added breadcrumbs/crushed crackers to the top as well, to add a bit of toasty goodness.

    The akkawi was a mixed blessing: it tasted good and delivered a nice texture as well, but it gave off a bit of oil during the cooking process. Combined with the looser nature of my béchamel, that meant my topping didn’t quite set up properly.

    The tomato paste was missed. And it probably could have taken a touch more cinnamon.

    More of the Parrano could have been nice as well.

    All that said, it was tasty enough that (modest) seconds were had by all who ate dinner tonight,

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