Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What I Made for Dinner: June 28, 2011

Outdoor paella.

This is a project I've been wanting to do for a long time.  During my semester abroad in Spain, a mapache's age ago, one of the best meals I had was a picnic where we made paella on an open fire.  Now, of course, a million years later and in my suburban backyard, I am not allowed to have an open fire.  But I do have the Weber
which is very nearly as good.

I have made paella on the stove top, but it is not as good as outdoor paella because there is no smoke and because the pan doesn't get hot enough to give the rice a burned crust on the bottom (the socarrat, a word I just know off the top of my head and was not required to Google).  The Weber fixes both of those problems.

Here is how I did it.  (Photos are by Josh!  Didn't he do a nice job?)

Over extremely hot prepared coals, I heated olive oil in my paella pan, then added chicken breasts cut into two-inch pieces and some large-diced Spanish chorizo.

I browned the meat for a few minutes, then added a large sweet onion, minced.  After the onion softened, I added garlic and a generous pinch of saffron that had been soaking in a little hot water, along with the water.

Then tomatoes and bell peppers went in.

All the while, I kept stirring.  Cooking over the hot coals adds a bit of urgency to the operation.  Things happen very fast.  I was glad I thought ahead so that I had all my ingredients measured and ready to go before I started cooking, because there wouldn't have been time to run into the house.

After the tomatoes and peppers started to yield their juice a bit, in went the rice.

That's a generous bunch of herbs going in with the rice:  fresh parsley, sage, and oregano, chopped.

I stirred everything to coat the rice, then added chicken broth, shook the pan a little to distribute things evenly, and then left it alone until the rice had absorbed the liquid.  When the liquid was almost gone, so it looked like there was about three or five minutes left, I laid some shrimp on top.

Here I am, trying not to burn stirring paella, ever so much older and fatter than I was in Spain.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

What I Made for Dinner: June 23, 2011

Unbaked lasagna with asparagus and chives.

To my utter shock, the children actually ate this.  It was, after all, delicious.  Recipe is here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What I Made for Dinner: June 21, 2011

Crispy pan-fried rainbow trout.

I regrouped.  My dad came over and fixed my literal hack job.  The trout was delicious; I served it with savory matzo meal pancakes and a salad of savoy cabbage, almonds, and mandarin oranges.

Monday, June 20, 2011

What I Was Going to Make for Dinner: June 20, 2011

Crispy fried trout and zucchini fritters.

Several weeks ago, my dad and Josh went on a fishing trip.  They had Tremendous!  Success!  In that they actually caught some really gorgeous trout.  Thus Josh, at ten, has already experienced more fishing success than either I or his father ever have or are ever likely to.

Tonight, I wanted to cook those gorgeous fish.  But I don't really know how to fillet, and I am afraid--ashamed to admit--that I fucked one of them up beyond use.  I am heartsick about it.  I have been crying about it for a full hour, in fact. 

I can't even talk about it anymore.  Here's a picture of Josh's fine work before I got hold of it. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

What I Made for Brunch: June 19, 2011

Cheddar grits, potato and egg casserole, bacon, Belgian waffles with whipped cream and strawberries.

So yes, I will make a lovely breakfast for Fathers Day, but the fathers have to come to my house and get it.  The cheddar grits were particularly nice and I think they'd be good for dinner some time.

Cheddar grits (adapted from Diana Rattray at Southern Food
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups Bob's Red Mill yellow grits (polenta)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs, well beaten
  • 16 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic

Bring water and salt to a rolling boil; gradually stir in grits with fork. Cook, stirring constantly, until all water is absorbed.  Remove from heat and stir in butter a tablespoon at a time.  Stir in the beaten eggs, working quickly and stirring constantly so eggs will not clump.  Stir in the cheese and garlic. Put into a greased 2 1/2-quart casserole. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 15 to 20 minutes.

Serves 8.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

What I Made for Dinner: June 5, 2011

Herb-roasted salmon; penne with roasted tomatoes.

Right, then!  That was awful, let's not have a month like that ever again.  Back to more interesting topics:  My herb garden.

It has gone, in a word, bananas.  I can't explain it, really.  It's been unseasonably hot.  We water when we remember.  Harsh conditions for young plants, but look:
gardening at night
See, unaccountably lush.  So tonight, I roasted cherry tomatoes (store-bought, alas:  not a homegrown tomato in sight yet) with oregano and basil until the tomatoes burst.  I covered some gorgeous, wild whole salmon fillets in olive oil and a mix of chopped dill, thyme, and oregano; covered it lightly with foil to keep the herbs from scorching; and roasted it in a hot oven.  It was delicious.  So so nice to make dinner again.  So civilized.  (The children ate it, by the way.)

Herb-roasted salmon

Two pounds salmon fillets, preferably a wild Pacific variety (I used Copper River; Costco has so many surprises)
One tablespoon olive oil
Several bunches fresh herbs:  I used thyme, oregano, and dill
One lemon, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 450.

Line a baking tray with parchment paper and spray with non-stick cooking spray.  Place the salmon fillets skin-side down on the paper and drizzle the olive oil over them.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Roughly chop all the herbs and combine until you have about a half-cup of chopped herbs.  Spread them evenly over the salmon, lightly pressing them into the flesh. place the lemon slices in a row on top of the fillets.  Cover the fillets lightly with aluminum foil and roast for 20-25 minutes.