A little more kitchen sink, please!

YUM

Oh, my. James made SUCH  a delicious dinner tonight. I wish I had gotten a photo. And no way is there a recipe. He told me to watch out while eating because there still might be bits of the kitchen sink in there.

To my knowledge, the stew contained the following:

  • Leftover kalua pig
  • Okra
  • Tomatoes
  • Salsa
  • Black olives
  • Olive oil
  • Onions

And who knows what else.

Anyway, it was DELICIOUS, both plain and on tortilla chips.

I am a lucky woman.

Spanish Chorizo

Memories of flaming sausage.

If you ask anyone in my family of origin, they’ll probably say the happiest time for us as a family was the four-year period we spent in Spain. My dad had shore duty, my parents had more money than they were used to, and the living was relatively easy.

I have mentioned some of my Spanish food faves already: Spanish tortilla, paella, etc.  Usually, when I mention these foodstuffs, people at least know what I’m talking about. Here in San Diego, though, mostly only foodies know what I mean when I say “Spanish chorizo.”

chorizo2

Spanish chorizo is very, very different from Mexican chorizo, which is what people are used to around here. Mexican chorizo is very loose — like ground meat at fridge temperature and practically liquid once cooked. Spanish chorizo is more the texture of pepperoni or other hard/dry sausages.

The really weird part to most people, though, is how we cooked it. Basically, mom would pour Everclear over it and light it on fire. Talk about a fun lunch! Besides the fun of watching it flame, it was a quick meal that didn’t heat up the kitchen, so it was mostly a summer food for us.

I almost didn’t post this because it’s really just a method and a memory, but it’s really good, and it’s nice to have some simple warm-weather meals to share.

chorizo1

The steps are so simple:

  1. Put Spanish chorizo on a heatproof plate or pie tin
  2. Douse it in Everclear or other highly alcoholic liquid (in a pinch, brandy is fine, but you don’t need anything expensive)
  3. CAREFULLY light it and let the alcohol burn off
  4. Let it cool for just a minute or two
  5. Slice the charred chorizo and eat it on good bread with as many sides as you want: veggies, olives, roasted red peppers, etc.

I’m a little sad that you won’t have the nostalgia to go with it. Or do you? Do you have foods like this in your history? I’d love to hear about them!

 

Pork loin dinner (sorry, no pics!)

Dinners with mom, for real

I’m finally settled in at Mom’s. Well, for now. We moved here in October, and we’re here for good, because it was becoming hard to be of any help from five hundred miles away. We are staying in her guest room, which we renovated first, while our apartment is being renovated. It is SO nice to be near her, both to offer some help, and just to be closer and hang out with her.

I’ve been doing most of the cooking for the four of us: me, Mom, James, and my Uncle Ed, who moved in a couple years ago when my aunt died. I’m trying to make dinners that are homey, interesting, and diverse, so that everyone enjoys them and I have lots of veggies to eat. Tonight’s was a big hit with everyone: Very juicy roasted pork loin, mashed potatoes, mushroom gravy, steamed carrots/squash, and a salad. Even better than the food was the feeling I was nurturing my family and having a good time doing it.

The roast was super-easy. Just rubbed it with olive oil and spices, then put it into a pan in a preheated 450F oven until my probe thermometer said 135F. Pulled it and let it rest a few minutes until it reached a safe 140F before slicing. Very good.

The gravy was also very easy:

1) Slice onions and mushrooms (however many you want) and take out a saute pan that will hold them all — but it doesn’t have to be a saute pan; you can use a big stockpot, even, if you have to
2) Put some butter (anywhere from a tablespoon to several) into the saute pan and heat the pan on medium until the butter melts
3) Add the onions and mushrooms to the butter, and sprinkle a little salt and pepper over the top. If you have it, now’s the time to add a teaspoon of garlic granules or a chopped garlic clove.
4) Let them cook on medium, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid cooks away, then add just enough chicken stock or water or heavy cream to barely cover, and let it come back to the simmer. If you used chicken stock or water, you’ll have to do step 5. If heavy cream, just continue to heat until it thickens a bit and you’re done.
5) In a little bowl, mix a tablespoon or two of cornstarch with a tablespoon or two of cold water. Add to the simmering gravy and stir constantly until it returns to the boil. As thick as it is now is as thick as it will be, so if you need to do it again (to make it thicker) or add water/stock (to make it thinner), do that now.

Mertie’s Mondays: Experimenting with a Sausage and Kidney Bean Stew

Sausage and Kidney Bean Stew, in honor of Mertie!

[Note from Serene: Please forgive my lateness in posting this. Chris uploaded it weeks ago and I’ve been snowed under, as I mentioned. I hope that Mertie would forgive my negligence, and I hope you all will, too.]

Now, for Chris’s post:

I would like to dedicate this Mertie’s Monday to Mertie herself, who passed away 30 years ago this week. She would never have made something like this, but I think she would have liked it had I made it for her.

I’ve been laid up for a couple of weeks in hospital, eating pretty bad food, and feeling sorry for myself. So when I got out earlier this week, I decided that I’d cook something in a couple of days and have some homemade cuisine. However, I must confess, the first meal I had when I got out was Beef with Green Pepper and Black Bean Sauce and Vegetarian Spring Rolls from our favourite Chinese restaurant. And last night HWMBO (He Who Must Be Obeyed, my husband) bought a Crispy Aromatic Duck packaged by Waitrose, our upscale supermarket (think “Whole Foods” without the high prices.) It was surprisingly good. But these are only asides.

A few days ago our favourite newspaper, the Guardian printed a recipe in its G2 section (daily magazine). Angela Hartnett (a hot-shot chef here in London) contributed a recipe for Sausage and Kidney Bean Stew.

Sausage and Bean Stew

If you’re interested in her original recipe, follow the link. There is also a nice picture there, much nicer than mine. I liked the look and the imagined taste of the stew, so rooted around for ingredients to make it for tonight. What I write below is my thought process when planning the meal.

I had British sausages in the freezer, and decided on a traditional recipe pork sausage. If you are not in the United Kingdom do not under any circumstances use breakfast sausages for this. I imagine they will not only taste terrible in this kind of sauce, but will ooze lots of fat which will make the stew stodgy. In the United States I would suggest sweet Italian sausage, or even hot Italian sausage. That will give it a tingle, and it will be closest to what we eat here in England.

When I looked at the recipe, I thought that limiting the vegetables to sliced onions might lack a bit of a crunch. So I added to my shopping list a bunch of celery. I have a bottle of pickled sliced jalapeno peppers in the fridge, and thought I’d substitute those for the chile.

So here’s my altered recipe, and HWMBO liked it, so that’s all that counts. I hate it when I cook something and he doesn’t care for it. After all, he’s the breadwinner and he deserves good tasty food because he supplied the ingredients.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Sausage and Kidney Bean Stew
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
 
Ingredients
  • 6 traditional British sausages. Do not skimp on these. Run-of-the-mill sausage will not be tasty and will cook to a pap.
  • (in the US, substitute hot or sweet Italian sausage. Do not use breakfast sausage.)
  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 4 ribs of celery, sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes in juice
  • 1 can of tomato paste (or if in the US, ¼ tube of tomato purée)
  • 1 can of kidney beans, partially drained
  • 1 tablespoon of bottled jalapeno slices, with liquid, OR 1 sliced seeded chili
  • Adobo seasoning, or salt and pepper to taste
  • Dried oregano
  • Dried basil
Instructions
  1. In a medium stewpot, sauté the sausages in olive oil and a gentle heat, browning them on all sides. Remove and set aside.
  2. Add the sliced onions and celery (and the sliced seeded chili if you're using that), and sauté them until the onion is transparent but not caramelised.
  3. Once the vegetables are done, dump in the tomatoes, rinse the can with a little water and add that to the stew. Add the tomato paste, the jalapeno slices, and the beans. I decided that lots of the goodness of the beans was in the liquid with it, so I poured a couple of tablespoons of that into the stew, then drained the beans and added them. I stirred to mix everything, then added the sausages. I put Adobo seasoning in it instead of salt and pepper--a holdover from my days living in the Bronx and cooking Red Beans and Rice every few days. I also added a teaspoon of dried oregano and one of dried basil. Whenever I cook with tomatoes, I always add basil, as basil and tomatoes go together like a horse and carriage...um....yeah.
  4. Some devil in me drew me to the fridge, where I took out the bottle of Tabasco Sauce and sprinkled it liberally into the stew. This was a mistake. The peppers added enough of a kick and the stew was a bit spicy when I got finished with it. However, you may want to try a splash (no more than that) and see whether you like it that way.
  5. Simmer for 20 minutes so that the sausages are cooked through. Stir occasionally so that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. Serve in a soup bowl over white rice, and enjoy. This particular recipe would serve 3. As good UK sausages usually come in packages of 6, allowing two for each person is just right. You could double everything but I think the stew might not be as good if 12 sausages were crowding out the liquid. I haven't tried that yet.

Another substitution that I would be eager to make is pork chops or pork steaks for the sausages. Pork chops can be pretty dry and tough if not treated right. Imagining this stew with pork chops makes me want to try it—perhaps you’ll try it and report back to us. I suspect that the stewing action will tenderise and moisten the pork chops. Before using them, though, be sure to trim the fat and brown them on both sides just as I did the sausages.

Experimentation is a good thing

Note that while I generally followed Ms Hartnett’s recipe, I felt free to experiment. Some of the things I tried worked—the jalapenos and the celery really made this dish sit up and sing! Other things I tried didn’t. Too much Tabasco Sauce can actually be a bad thing and while it adds its own taste to blander foods, when you have something full-bodied like this I’d recommend leaving the bottle at the table and letting those who wish add some to their own plates.

I can’t stress too much: when you are cooking from a recipe, feel free to experiment according to your own and your family’s or guests’ tastes. When I cook with tomatoes, I always think “oregano and basil”, even if they aren’t in the recipe. I use my experience to do what in the physics lab would be called a thought experiment, but what I would like to call a tongue experiment. When you look at a recipe, think of other dishes you’ve cooked or eaten that had similar ingredients. Feel free to add things you like. Also, feel free to leave out ingredients you don’t like. If you don’t like anchovies, for example, substitute a bit of salt or perhaps some Thai fish sauce in the recipe.

The only things to be careful of here are not to experiment too much with things like baking methods for breads and cakes, or cooking methods for meat, fish, and eggs. If you’re cooking pork, make sure it’s cooked through no matter what method you’re using. Rare pork isn’t a gourmet delight. If you’re roasting a chicken, make sure that you use a meat thermometer and place it between the thigh and the body, directly into the bird. I have often roasted chicken or chicken parts, and plunged my fork into the meat and the juices ran clear. What I encountered when I cut it apart was a red patch right in the middle. The microwave cures that, but it detracts from the taste.

In baking think “chemistry set”. When you are baking, the ingredients should be accurately measured and substitutions should be made with care and only when you are a successful and competent baker. Otherwise, you may end up with a flat loaf of bread rather than a nice risen one.

In short, the stew was indeed spicy. It was very tasty, however, and the kind of a stew that really goes down a treat on a cold day. The blandness of the sausage was complemented by the complexity of the rest of the stew. It sure beats Bangers and Mash as a way to make a British sausage into a great meal. I hope that if you make it you’ll enjoy it as much as we did.

Spam and French-fry Casserole: in case you had any delusions that I’m normal

April Winchell called me a magnificent whore. Read about why!

Important notice: If you’re opposed to really filthy swear words, bathroom humor, meanspirited teasing of people who make bafflingly bad crafts, or videos of aliens kind of having sex, please, for the sake of all that’s holy, don’t click any of the links below. I mean it; the least you can do is not click links that will upset you and spare us both the <a href="http://www.regretsy.com/butthurt/" title="I warned you. I did find out here.”>butthurt.

So you all already know I’m kinda wacky, right? Oh, good, you’ve been paying attention. I was a little worried there for a minute.

Anyway, one of the bizarre joys in my twisted existence is Regretsy [Regretsy website | Regretsy’s Facebook page].

How to explain Regretsy? Well, see, there’s this site called Etsy whose premise sounds good: a marketplace for people to sell their wonderful handmade crafts. Sadly (or funnily, if you’re Regretsy’s April Winchell a.k.a. Helen Killer), the legit crafters are often crowded out by mass-market resellers of cheap baubles and by crafts that make everyone involved go “huh?”

Here’s an example, of the “gluing shit to other shit” variety. I found it on the front page of Etsy just now, but the things April finds range from this kind of asshattery to truly disturbing stuff that I’m not putting on my food blog—if you want to see it, go waste several hours a week on Regretsy the way I do.

octopus glued to a hip flask

by Etsy seller CosmicFirefly

All of which is the long way of getting to my point, which is that Regretsy is a bad influence. There’s a Super-Sekrit Regretsy Club attached to the Facebook page, “a club so mysterious and exclusive that only 103,755 people have the password!” (The password is cf4l, all lowercase, between you and me.) In the secret club, April shares exclusive content with those of us who aren’t content to merely stalk her regular blog, but want more more more. If you want to know why I made Spam and French-Fry Casserole, you have to read first this entry, and then this entry, and all will be made clear. If, on the other hand, you just want to see what a casserole made of spam, frozen french fries, sour cream, cheese, condensed cream of chicken soup, CORN FLAKES, and a couple token veggies looks like, wait no longer. Here it is, in all its glory:

spam casserole and an empty can of spam

See? I’m just not normal.

Not that this is news.