Monday Meal: Let’s Hear It For the Boyz

Monday was a meal of Monte Cristos and Apples & Onions.  Monte Cristos are one of David’s favorite meals, and he had asked Chef Sunday if he could help make them because he wanted to learn how.  Of course, Chef agreed.

But when Monday came, David had homework he wanted to finish.  Plus, Malachi, our nephew and one of David’s good friends, showed up.  David and Malachi don’t get a lot of time to hang out, so David was hesitant to pass up time with his friend in order to help Chef.  But then Malachi agreed to work in the kitchen, too, so they got the best of both worlds!

They started with the Monte Cristos.  Chef lined up the bread, and David was responsible for slathering on the mayonnaise while Malachi took charge of the mustard.

While those were cooking, they moved on to Apples and Onions.  Malachi used the Apple Corer-Peeler-Slicer.

David worked on sauteeing the apples and onions with the bacon.

The meal, of course, was wonderful.  And I bet the boys enjoyed eating even more because they knew they’d helped.

Well, that’s what I like to think anyway.  And if I convince them, then maybe they’ll take over the cooking altogether!

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Monday Meal: Pre-Thanksgiving

A couple of weeks ago, our housemate Lisa came home with a frozen turkey in her arms.  “Do you think this will thaw by tomorrow?” she said, that Sunday afternoon.

“No,” Chef and I both replied.

“Oh, shoot.  I was thinking you could use it for Monday dinner,” she said.

Chef answered, “Well, we already have Monday dinner planned.” (that was Camp Miners’ Pie Miners’ Camp Pie week.) “But we can use it next week.”

“Okay,” Lisa said.  “I was just hoping to have some for my lunch this week.  I need a little more protein in my diet.”

I won’t try to understand the logic of a woman who buys a thirteen pound turkey to get “a little more protein” — instead of buying, oh I don’t know, lunch meat.

Anyway, that meant we had turkey for our Monday Meal.  And the most scrumptious mashed potatoes with fabulous gravy.  And some lovely sauteed red cabbage.  And hot, spiced apple cider to drink.

If only I had a photo that wasn’t blurry.  (My friends Rajeev and Karen fixed my camera — it was on manual focus instead of auto focus — but that was after all the lovely food was in our lovely bellies.  So while I could post a photo that I took, you would see only colors and question the prescription in your eyeglasses.  Next week should hold better photos.  I hope.)

However, I can give you a few tips.

Chef’s secret to a yummy turkey:  bake it inside a paper bag.  You know, the kind you get at the grocery store.  He says it makes all the difference in keeping the moisture in the bird.  And fear not, the bag won’t catch fire.  Paper burns at 451 degrees Fahrenheit, after all (anyone remember Ray Bradbury?)

Image courtesy fantasticfiction.co.uk

And you won’t be cooking your turkey at such a high temperature.

The secret to amazing gravy?  Use the drippings from the turkey.  Avoid packaged gravy mixes! They are yucky.

The secret to fabulous mashed potatoes?  I didn’t ask Chef about this one, but my guess is lots of butter.

And for the cabbage, just slice it and saute it in hot oil.  Once it’s slightly caramelized (brown), cover and let it steam until it’s just slightly crisp.

And for dessert, we had creme brulee.  The funny thing is that Chef said he couldn’t remember the recipe so he looked it up on my blog.  But when I just looked it up, I found where we had creme brulee one night, but I didn’t list the recipe!  So I’m not sure where he found it.  I know he used egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk, and probably some vanilla.  He also made some chocolate creme brulee.  There was much debate over whether the vanilla or the chocolate was better.  I wholeheartedly voted for the vanilla.

I know, you want recipes.  I’ll do my best to get them from Chef.  But he’s in Tennessee right now, so they will have to come in another post.  Along with pictures, which I don’t have from Monday due to the camera trouble.  Oh, darn, that just means we’ll have to make creme brulee again so I can get photos, doesn’t it?

So, this pre-Thanksgiving didn’t have all the trimmings of most traditional American Thanksgiving meals.  What does your Thanksgiving meal contain that you just can’t do without?

Monday Meal: Miners’ Camp Pie

Okay, I teased you a little last week.  I told you that Chef was going to make something really yummy with lamb again, but I wouldn’t tell you what it was.

Hey, a girl’s gotta try to increase her blog readership however she can.

This week was a dish called Miners’ Camp Pie.  Except for some reason, Chef and I always call it Camp Miners’ Pie.  I’m not sure why we get it turned around like that.

Essentially, it’s a lamb pot pie.  He found the recipe years ago in a cookbook called something like Heritage of America or American Heritage. It’s an old cookbook, and I tried to find the book on Amazon or someplace so I could link to it, but I couldn’t tell if I was finding the right one because Chef has used his so much that he loved the cover right off of it.

Anyway, the recipe, as I mentioned, is basically lamb pot pie, but it has cream cheese in the filling, which makes it very rich and tasty.  The crust is very flaky, as well.  It is so delicious, and it’s comfort food for sure.

Chef says that he’s glad it tastes so good, because he doesn’t think it looks great.

You can be the judge, though.

To go along with it, he made brioche, which are kind of funny looking rolls with a knob on top.  They are always made this way, though I don’t know why.

The rolls were kind of heavy, and therefore not my favorite.  But this was the first time Chef had ever tried making them, so maybe they’ll be better next time.

In addition to the delicious meal, we had some unexpected guests this week.  The Bankers, friends of Chef’s family from forty years ago.  The Bankers were a fun addition to our regular guests.

Rita and Donna talked about old times.

Dennis and Aaron had some in-depth discussions.

And Mike apparently didn’t want his picture taken.

Then we had dessert: an original creation featuring the brioche dough, glazed pears, and fresh mozzarella cheese.

After he finished making dinner, Chef regaled us with his story, told in a Wisconsin accent, about the five-point doe.  We all laughed and laughed.  It was a good time.

And what was even better was that there was leftover Miners’ Camp Pie.

Monday Meal: Potato Patties and Vindaloo

Last Sunday, Chef made some potato patties for lunch.  It was his first time making them (from a recipe in my Betty Crocker cookbook), and he liked them so much he decided to make them again for Monday night.

He also made a salsa with black beans, tomatoes, onions, and a few of the little cucumbers that came from our garden.  Our guests topped the patties with salsa and sour cream.

The feature dish was inspired by our friends who are working on opening an Indian resturant nearby.  Chef has been helping them by moving equipment, giving input on kitchen set-up, and going with them to auctions.  Since we’ve been thinking so much about an Indian resturant, our thoughts naturally have turned toward Indian food.  Chef wanted vindaloo, and since the restaurant won’t open until February or so, he figured he’d just make it himself!

He found the recipe at IndiaCurry.com, though he did tweak it a bit.  There was lamb in it, but because lamb is rather expensive, he supplemented with duck that we had in the freezer.  Chef’s vindaloo was not as spicy as what you usually get in an Indian restaurant, and I was glad about that.  I like spicy food, but I don’t like it to burn my face off.  This stuff was sooooo yummy.

It also made me decide that Chef and I need to raise sheep, because I love lamb.  But it’s so expensive, and I think it might be cheaper to raise the sheep and butcher them for meat.  (And maybe make a little money on the wool, while I’m at it.)

Too bad an eighth of an acre isn’t enough room to have dogs, grow a garden, and raise sheep.

Not to mention those silly town ordinances against livestock.

But eating that lamb made us think of our other favorite lamb dish, which Chef plans to make next Monday.

I’m not going to tell you any more about it, though.  You’ll just have to visit the blog next week to find out what tasty dish he made.

Monday Meal: Sponge Cake

Last Monday was another night of great dessert.  Please understand, the meal was wonderful, too.  Butternut squash soup (a little bit spicy), risotto (creamy and delicious), homemade bread, and chai.  But for dessert, we had a sponge cake.  The great thing about sponge is that you can make it when you have almost no ingredients on hand.  All you really need is eggs, flour, and sugar.

You will use equal amounts of each ingredient.  Ideally, you should weigh the ingredients, but if you don’t have a scale, you can still figure it out.  A large egg is about 2 ounces.  A cup of flour is about 4-5 ounces, and a cup of sugar is about 6-7 ounces.  For the eight people we had for dinner, Chef used three eggs, so he and Kayla did some math to get approximately 6 ounces of flour and 6 ounces of sugar.

Chef wanted to have two thin layers of cake, so he and Kayla used two eight-inch round pans.  Chef brushed melted butter on the inside of both pans.

Then he cut two circles of paper (he used paper grocery bags) to line the pans.  Ordinarily, he would have used parchment paper, but we are out of that right now.

Kayla put the sugar in a bowl with the eggs.

Although the photos don’t show it, Chef also added some almond flavoring.  You could add vanilla or rum extract if desired, as well.  Or you could forgo any extra flavoring at all.  It’s up to you!

Then she put the whip (whisk) attachment on the Kitchenaid mixer and creamed the eggs and sugar until it was stiff and doubled in size.

Meanwhile, Chef showed Kayla how to sift the flour.  We have a flour sifter which I like better than using a mesh colander, but Chef likes using the strainer better.

After the eggs and sugar were stiff and the flour was sifted, Chef and Kayla worked together to carefully fold the flour into the eggs and sugar.  Chef says it’s easier if you have two people to do it, but you can manage on your own if you have to.  Just be careful to add the flour a little bit at a time, and be very gentle as you fold it in.

When it is finished, it will look something like this:

Chef poured the batter gently into the buttered and lined cake pans.

And Kayla tasted the batter.  She approved!

Chef put the pans in the oven, which was set about about 400 F.  He said that if you have a thicker cake, you should use a lower temperature and bake it for a longer time.  But since he had two thin cakes, he used a higher temperature for a shorter time (about 15-20 minutes.)

With Chef, cooking seems to be more of an art than a science.

You know it’s done when you press your palm gently into the cake and it sounds like crunching leaves.

Again, art here.

Chef removed the cake from the pans and added delicious toppings of fruit sauce and cream.  Because a sponge can tend to be dry (especially if over-baked), many people choose to serve the cake with a sauce that will soak into the cake nicely.

It was a perfect way to end the meal.

Monday Meal: Desserts Galore!

For dinner last Monday, we had a really yummy potato soup along with some sauteed zuchinni and yellow squash.  But really, the highlight of the evening was dessert.

We don’t always have dessert on Mondays.  But I had some leftover sweet roll dough, so I made some cinnamon rolls.  They were kind of funny looking because they were so little, they didn’t fill a regular pan.  We started to put them in a 9 x 13 pan, and realized that was too big.  So we moved them to a 9 x 9 pan, and realized that was too big.  Then we put them in a loaf pan.  They looked a little strange, but they sure tasted good.  I didn’t even put icing on them, but they were still very good.

(And seriously, I don’t know why ALL my photos are blurry lately.  This sounds like a total cop-out, but I really think it’s the camera and not me.  I’ve got plenty of light, I’m not wiggling — so why the blur?)

But then… the coup de grace…

BAKED ALASKA!

Chef and I had been watching this Scandanavian cooking show over the weekend, and the guy made Baked Alaska (only he called it something in Norwegian.)  Basically, it’s a sponge cake (Chef used a Red Velvet mix instead), topped with ice cream, then meringue on top of that.  You put it in the oven (wait — with ice cream in it?  Yes — it won’t be in long enough to melt the ice cream too much) to brown the meringue.  Chef put it in for seven minutes, with the oven set as high as it would go.

Then, with the lights dimmed, Chef brought the cake to the table, and poured flaming Raspberry Vodka over it.

It was an amazing sight to behold.

Chef’s goal was to make it look like a volcano, which is why he used the Red Velvet cake.  (See?  Lava!)

A few tips:  Chef says he wouldn’t necessarily use Raspberry Vodka again.  He thought it was too sweet and too strong.  When he was reading up on how to make Baked Alaska, most people recommended using rum, and he said if he did it again, he’d probably find a spiced rum to use.  In order to make it flame, you need something with a high alcohol content.  Then, to achieve flaming, heat the alcohol in a pan on the stove.  Agitate it, then light it.  You have to keep agitating it to keep it flaming.  Of course, when the alcohol is burned off, the flaming will stop, but the flaming will also stop before all the alcohol is gone if you don’t keep agitating it.

The Baked Alaska was definitely the hit of the evening.  Not only are people impressed any time you light food on fire (especially when you do it on purpose and the food remains edible and no one gets hurt), but the fact that he baked the meringue when there was ice cream under it was amazing to many.  And on top of that, it tasted really good!

Monday Meal: Chapatis

Last Monday, we had chapatis, which is, if I have my information correct, a common meal in some African countries.  Chef learned about chapatis from his college roommate, Otieno, who grew up in Kenya.

When we make chapatis (which is the bread), we always serve them with the same sauce.  We do that because it’s what Otieno always served with chapatis.  Maybe other people eat chaptis with a different sauce, but this is what we do.  The sauce has ground beef, peas, and lots of tomatoes and tomato sauce.

For the chapatis, Chef used 6 cups of flour, 2 cups of water, and 1.5 tsp of salt. Mix, knead, let rise.  Then divide, roll into snakes, coil, flatten thinly and cook over a flame.  We have a gas stove, so Chef just turns on the burner and cooks it directly on the flame there.

The key is to roll the chapatis really thin by rolling it, letting it rest, then rolling it again–the gluten will expand more but needs to rest between stretchings. Then when the chapati is really thin, griddle it on both sides then flame it and it will puff up.

There’s a more detailed play-by-play, with photos, at this link.

For dessert, we had a yummy spice cake with cream cheese frosting.

Which reminds me, I really miss baking and I want to do more of it.  I think autumn gets me feeling the need for baked goods.

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