Monthly Archives: February 2011

>sarah’s mac’n’cheese

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To go with the astonishingly simple beer can crock pot chicken, Sarah made this relatively complicated mac n cheese. I tried to tell her that I would have been just fine with the box stuff. But she insisted on this, and I am glad that she did.

But, because it does seem like it is a little more complicated than macaroni and cheese needs to be (it’s an alton brown macaroni and cheese recipe), I wouldn’t recommend making this on a regular basis. But if you need a dressed up side dish, I think this is a good bet.

Sarah’s Mac’n’cheese

  1. 1/2 pound macaroni: get it boiling and cooked
  2. roux: melt 3T of butter in a saucepot. whisk in 3T of flour and 1T of mustard powder and keep mixing for about a minute or so. then, add 3C milk and 1/2C minced onion. season with some paprika and a bay leaf. Mix and then cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it starts to thicken. Then keep it on low. 
  3. add egg: the recipe says to temper in 1 egg. I asked Sarah if she did this, as I didn’t think that she would know what that meant. She tells me that she beat the egg into the bowl, and then put some of the roux in the bowl, and then put the contents of the bowl back into the saucepot. She said that she did this because she was worried about putting raw egg into something hot. She then asked me if that was tempering is.
  4. add cheese: stir in 12 oz shredded cheddar. the recipe also says to season with salt and pepper, but Sarah skipped this.
  5. combine maraconi with cheese: once combined, Sarah then put it into our large class baking dish.
  6. make topping: melt 3T butter and mix with 1C panko breadcrumbs. Then, scatter it over the top.
  7. bake: 350 for 30 minutes
This recipe turned out really well. It needed a lot more salt, which I expected since Sarah doesn’t add salt to her food when she cooks. I also particularly like a lot of pepper with my macaroni and cheese, even if I am eating the box kind.
The macaroni and cheese was very flavorful. It had a nice crusty texture on top because of the panko, and the mustard powder gave it a nice, savoriness. It did lack a little of the creaminess that you might normally get with box macaroni, so kids may not really appreciate it. 
We had this macaroni and cheese with the beer can chicken that sarah had made, and the flavors really seemed to complement each other well. We had leftovers of it for days, too, which was nice. 

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>beer can crock pot chicken

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In anticipation of the Great Blizzard of 2011, Sarah had bought a whole chicken. And because I was still at trial, I really didn’t have time to cook it. This was a perfect opportunity for Sarah to try out a beer can chicken recipe that she had gotten from her sister. The recipe is remarkably simple. Astonishingly simple, really. And it makes for some really moist and tasty chicken.

Beer Can Crock Pot Chicken
  1. 1 whole chicken thawed: put it in your crock pot.
  2. 1 can of beer: put it in your crock pot.
That’s it. When Sarah and I were talking about the write-up for this recipe, she told me that she did put two cans of beer in the crock. But, she thought that it was too much liquid, which, if you look at the picture, is true. 
Also, I asked her if she added any spices or anything, but she didn’t. The seasonings were just the natural flavors of the beer and the chicken. It wasn’t like it was boozy or anything. Just a nice, juicy chicken. And because making the chicken was so simple, Sarah was able to also make corn bread and some mac’n’cheese.

We also had plenty of leftovers from this chicken, which I didn’t think we would have. We made some chicken tacos using some fo the dark meat, and that was just divine. There are a lot of recipes out there that call for you to use the meat from a rotisserie chicken. I think that making this beer can crock pot chicken is the perfect substitute. It’s super easy and tasty. It basically cooks itself.

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Egg Pancakes

At some point during week 2 of the Trial That Would Never End, my wife was craving egg pancakes. Egg pancakes are something that I had never heard of, growing up in New Jersey. That is because it is an Iowan food.

And, like most Iowan food, people from Iowa are completely unaware of their food’s regionality. So, the first time Sarah told me about egg pancakes, I was bewildered. And so was she. She couldn’t believe that I hadn’t heard of them.

Since then, I have become a fan of this part-crepe/part-pancake dish. The lovely recipe is from my wife’s mom, who I presume got it from her own mother.

Egg Pancakes

  1. 3 beaten eggs
  2. 1/2 C flour
  3. 1T sugar
  4. 1T oil
  5. 1C milk
The instructions for the egg pancakes are simple, like the recipe for most pancakes are. Mix the ingredients. Pour into a hot, greased pan. Flip, cook some more, roll, and eat.
The key part of egg pancakes is to make them really really thin, which reminds me of crepes. But the batter is unmistakably pancake-y. I like these because I generally think regular pancakes are much too doughy. But the egg pancakes are slightly more savory, due to the egg, and are very light and airy.
Once they’re cooked, my wife then spreads some butter on top and sprinkles some cinnamon. Then, it is rolled up and eaten like a Taco Bell meximelt, if you remember what those looked like before they changed them into a taco shape.
My wife tells me that, growing up, her mom would make these and serve them for dinner. This is bizarre to me because they are pancakes and they taste like a chewy Cinnamon Toast Crunch. But, I suppose breakfast for dinner is, and always was, pretty popular, so I let it go. What’s ironic though, is that Sarah can’t seem to get over how Koreans eat dinner-type foods for breakfast.

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>Deep Fried Veggies

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 It was the playoffs and the Bears were playing. I wanted to make something special. The previous week, I had made a brisket, and the Bears won. So, of course, I was going to make the brisket again. But since this game was against the Packers, I wanted a little something extra. That is how I decided I would make beer batter onion rings and green beans.

Beer Batter Green Beans and Onion Rings

  1. Green Beans: Green beans are my favorite vegetable. For this recipe, and for most of the times that I eat green beans, I buy a bag of pre-cleaned, pre-washed green beans. It’s a real time saver.
  2. Onions: I take one large yellow or Vidalia onion. And I cut it into rings. Then, separate the rings out. You have to be surprisingly careful when doing this. For some reason, the rings want to fall apart if you do this too quickly.
  3. Flour: I put about a cup or two of flour in each of two large bowls. One will be for flouring the veggies. One will be for the batter.
  4. Beer: Put in enough beer to turn the flour into a beer batter. It should be about the consistency of pancake batter – maybe a little bit thiner. I use a light beer for this. Sapporo is the best for this type of application. I usually end up using miller light or pabst. I wouldn’t use a dark beer unless you’re battering up some fish. One time, I was making deep fried cookie dough, and I believe I used a chocolate stout. That was good.
  5. Oil: I use a smart balance oil. They sell a small bottle and a large bottle. I use one large bottle and put it in my dutch oven.
  6. Heat: get the oil to around 350. As you can tell from the picture, I was obviously having some problems maintaining oil temp. It happens. It’s not the end of the world, but it can tend to make your veggies greasy if your temp gets too low for too long.
  7. Flour the veggies: coat the veggies in the flour. You will have to do this in batches. This helps the batter to stick to the veggies. 
  8. Batter the veggies: after the flour, dunk the veggies into the beer batter. 
  9. Fry: Shake off the excess beer batter. Add into the fryer. You will know when they are done when they change color to a nice golden brown.

The onion rings and the green beans were good. Very very good. And one onion and one bag of green beans made more deep fried veggies than Sarah and I could eat, even over multiple sittings. To reheat them, we put them in the oven, and they stayed pretty crispy.
Unfortunately, the Bears lost that day.

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>Veggie Chili

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With how cold and generally unpleasant the weather has been in Chicago this winter, Sarah and I have been making a lot of chili. We’ve made beef chili, turkey chili, and white chili. So, when I saw this recipe for veggie chili, I couldn’ resist. Plus, I generally like Real Simple recipes. So I thought I would give it a shot. It has some ingredients that I was very interested in seeing in a chili, like sweet potato. But it also has some ingredients that I thought were dumb, like cocoa powder.

Veggie Chili:

  1. chop a ton of veggies: 1 medium onion, 1 green pepper, and 4 cloves of garlic. I like garlic, so I think I may have put in like five or six. These all went into the crock pot.
  2. cube a sweet potato into half inch pieces. Use a heavy, sharp knife for this. Put the sweet potato into the crock.
  3. toss in a whole bunch of canned things: 28 oz fire roasted diced tomatoes, 15.5 oz black beans rinsed, 15.5 oz kidney beans rinsed. 
  4. seasonings: usually, I pretty much make up whatever I want for the seasoning, but I decided to follow the recipe on this one, since I have never made a veggie chili before. 1T chili powder, 1T cumin, 2t cocoa powder, and 1/4t cinnamon. 
  5. time: I put this all in the crock pot for several hours
I served the chili with a dollop of sour cream and a little bit of cheddar cheese. Then, of course, I doused it in hot sauce. 
The chili turned out ok. Not my favorite. It was watery, and I don’t think it was because I didn’t cook it long enough. The sweet potatoes were great. I may even start adding it to all my chilis. But the cinnamon and the cocoa powder were not so great. I couldn’t really taste them, and when I did, I didn’t really like them.
Usually, when I make a chili, I love it and I end up eating in for several meals in a row. This, I didn’t love. I missed the meat. It tasted good and all. But I was expecting something special, and this was just average. I think there’s still some left over in the fridge still.

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Shin Ramyun

Last week, my wife was going out with a friend for dinner, so I was on my own for the evening. And as much as I love eating with my wife, I look forward to the times when she leaves me alone. Because this means I get to eat ramyun. Not ramen. Ramyun.

Ramen is an American thing. Ramen was something I ate in college (and for several years after college due to budgetary constraints). Back in St. Louis at the time, you could find it on sale for 10 for a dollar.
Ramyun, on the other hand, is a Korean thing. It’s spelled different because that’s how Koreans pronounce it. “myun” is the Korean word for noodles. and the “ra” part of ramyun, I don’t know what that means. But its unusual because it’s pronounced with almost a rolling R sound.

The Korean language is weird because it has a full complement of sounds. The only thing I can think of off the top of my head that Koreans shouldn’t be able to pronounce is an F sound (it typically comes out as “eh puh”) or a V sound (typically comes out like a B). But, Koreans have a hard time with a lot of things, like L’s, R’s, and even S’s, despite the fact that the Korean language does make frequent use of them.
For example, Koreans can certainly make the S sound. The capital city, Seoul, makes use of the S sound. But, for some weird reason, “Jesus” always comes out as “Je Jus.”
Koreans can also make an R sound, as in “ramyun.” But try and put a R sound and an S sound in the same word, such as “New Jersey,” and it comes out as “New Juh Jee.”
Anyway…

Shin Ramyun: You pretty much can follow the package instructions for this.

  1. boiling water.
  2. instant shin ramyun.
  3. instant shin ramyun spice packet.
  4. instant shin ramyun veggie packet.
  5. 1 egg.
Growing up, I never knew how much water to add. For some reason, I remember the packages not having any instructions in English. They were usually in Japanese because we ate a lot of Ichiban. (Back then, they didn’t have all the flavors that they have today. There was only the original flavor, I think it was Oriental.) The only way I knew how to make ramyun was to fill the ramyun pot with a certain amount of water. I think it’s about a cup or two. But I still just fill up the pot to the same level, whatever amount of water that may be.
Once the water is boiling, add the noodles. They are pre-cooked and dried into a crisp brick of noodles. When they hit the water, they soften and loosen up. This takes a remarkably short amount of time. Once this happens, add the full amounts of the spice packet and the veggie packet.
My dad only adds about half of the spice packet. Otherwise, he thinks it is too spicy, which is weird because he eats ramyun with kimchee on the side. I add the whole thing, even though I don’t think there’s much in it besides cayenne powder and maybe also msg.
I used to never add the veggie packet. It’s full of finely minced pieces of dried vegetable-ish material of indiscernible origin. But, back when buying good ramyun, rather than cheap ramen, was a splurge, I started eating the veggie packet too.
Once everything is in, I then crack an egg and drop it into the boiling pot. You then have to take your chopsticks and stir everything around briskly. The idea is that you want the egg to break up like a egg drop soup. Some pieces of the egg will be yellow, some will be white, and that’s the charm of it. You don’t want to beat the egg before hand. Plus, it’s still instant noodles. You want to minimize the amount of dishes.
Once the egg is in, you’re done. You don’t really have to worry about it cooking all the way through. The water is boiling, and by the time you get the noodles from the pot to the bowl and the bowl to the table to eat, the egg will be cooked just right.
This particular ramyun is my absolute favorite. The broth itself is light in flavor, and the redness of it comes from the fact that it is spicy spicy. Usually, I eat it just like this. But, it’s even better if you can toss in a scoop of Korean sticky rice and can get some kimchee to go with it too.

I love eating this in the winter. It’s one of the only things that can warm me up when I’m cold. It’s also particularly good for hangovers.

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>Eggplant Surprise

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I had a ton of leftover eggplant from when I made the eggplant parmesan. Also, looking in the fridge, I noticed that I had a lot of other leftovers that I needed to get rid of. And so I came up with a trio of eggplant pasta dishes: Eggplant Alfredo, Eggplant Pesto, and Eggplant and Gravy. It was super quick and easy. And it cleared out like half my fridge.

Eggplant Alfredo:

  1. breaded eggplant slices: I used three slices for each of the three eggplant mini dishes. These were left over from the time I made eggplant parmesan.
  2. alfredo sauce: I had a half jar left over that I couldn’t remember when it was originally opened. I checked to make sure it wasn’t moldy. It wasn’t, which was a plus. I put the jar in the microwave until it got hot.
  3. mushrooms: I had a handful of mushrooms left over from the last time I made pizza, which was about three weeks ago. I sliced them up and sauted them in a pan. Once done, I mixed them into the sauce.
  4. spaghetti: whole wheat (upon Sarah’s insistence)
Eggplant Pesto:
  1. breaded eggplant slices: I used three slices.
  2. pesto: I had half a jar of pesto left over from when I made shrimp pesto and feta pizza. This was concerning because I knew I had made that about two months ago. I checked to make sure it wasn’t moldy. And I crossed my fingers.
  3. spaghetti: whole wheat
Eggplant and Gravy:
  1. breaded eggplant slices: 3
  2. roux: for the base of the gravy, I made a roux. about a tablespoon of butter and about a tablespoon of flour. Melt the butter and then whisk in the flour briskly. I used fake butter, so I didn’t think this was going to work. 
  3. beef stock: I had a cup or so of this that I reserved the last time I made a pork roast. I had frozen it into a large chunk. I took it straight from the freezer and dropped it into my seemingly questionable roux. It began to quickly melt, but I still had my doubts about this gravy.
  4. pepper: once the beef stock melted, I added pepper. a lot of pepper.
  5. sausage: I had leftover sausage from when I made my own sausage for a pizza. I dropped this into the gravy once it had started to thicken. 
  6. spaghetti: whole wheat

I served this trio of eggplant pasta dishes in a fancy serving plate that we got as a wedding present three years ago but had still never used. I thought it looked pretty good, especially since this was really a leftovers night. The problem was, putting the eggplant spaghetti dishes in this serving plate made it particularly cumbersome to serve once Sarah and I actually sat down to eat. But messiness aside, we were quite astonished at how well these leftovers turned out. 

We had thought that we would have liked the eggplant alfredo the best because, after all, what doesn’t taste great covered in alfredo sauce. But it was actually the one I liked the least. The best of the three was the eggplant pesto. The garlicky and herby goodness of the pesto played wonderfully with the breading on the breadcrumbs. And the unobtrusiveness of the pesto really helped the natural flavors of the eggplant really stand out. 
The eggplant in gravy was also very good. The faux butter roux actually turned out pretty good. And since my biggest complaint about my sausage was that it wasn’t savory enough, adding it to a beef gravy made the sausages taste really good. Overall, the eggplant and gravy dish was really satisfying, like a beef stroganoff, but without the guilt of all that butter.
In the end, I considered this leftovers night a success on two levels. One: it got rid of several half-jars of sauce and lots of other things in the fridge that needed to be eaten. and Two: we didn’t get food poisoning, which is, you know, good.

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