Monday Meals, August 20: Mom’s Meatloaf

As of late Saturday evening, I’ve been visiting my 80-year-old mother, who is recovering from a severe broken leg (eight weeks ago, spiral break of the femur just above the knee — plate and ten screws).  My mom is in remarkably good shape, and is actually a couple weeks ahead of schedule in her recovery, having been allowed to put 40lbs of foot pressure on the leg this week.  She’s still homebound (no stairs allowed), but there’s light at the end of the tunnel now.

Anyways, my mom and I fell into an informal tradition years ago where she would make me a tuna-fish casserole, 70’s retro-style (corn flakes on top instead of crushed potato chips), any time I’d visit, after once expressing delight (actual) when she made it.  Apparently, I’m the only one of her seven children that is fond of it.  I live outside of Atlanta, and she’s in the woods of Western Maine, so it doesn’t happen all that often.  I fully expected her to make one for me on Sunday, to be the subject of this post.  It didn’t happen — she can’t do her own groceries, and the last sibling to do so failed to note that mom had cleaned out her tuna supply. /-:

The fallback plan was her low-carb meatloaf recipe:

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Monday Meals: 2018-08-13

Chinese Roast Pork

Chinese roast pork: ingredients

This easy to make, can’t fail meal combines a variety of Chinese seasonings with tender, delicious pork, and will provide you with several meals including an entirely different recipe for the leftovers which I’ll present eventually in a sequel to this post.

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Monday Meals: 18-8-6

Japanese Spaghetti: Curried Rice

I think of spaghetti as something you can make simply for a few people or many. The pasta is made then a sauce is added. Japanese eat spaghetti but there quick spaghetti-like meal is curried rice. Anyone can make rice so adding curry to the side of it is easy.

The above picture is from a curry restaurant chain called, Coco Ichibanya. I would call this a type of Japanese fast food. The menu is rice with curry with various toppings such as vegetables or meat. The picture has a pork cutlet. I haven’t gone there very often but when I have gone it is mostly men that eat there.

If you eat curry at home there are three ways to make it.

The first way is:
In the box is a foil pouch that you put in boiling water. After a few minutes you take it out and open the pouch to pour the contents out.  Rice. Pouch. Eat.

 

 

 

 

The second way is:
Inside this box is “a chocolate bar” of curry seasonings. One cooks potatoes, carrots, onions, meat, etc then add some pieces of the “chocolate bar” for the quantity you have made to make the curry.

 

 

 

The third way is:
This is more the scratch method. You put in your own curry spices then your vegetables and meats.

 

 

 

 

 

Japanese curry is different from Indian curry. It came to Japan from English influences and is milder and creamier.

Have you had or made any curry recently?


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Weekly Posts Sign-up August 2018

A new web site needs a lot of varied content. There are three weekly posts to get people talking about food, sports, and photos. The post can be as long or as short as you want.

Have fun and create!

Monday Meals
8-6 10 Cents
8-13 John Walker
8-20 Phil
8-27

Wednesday Sports

8-1 10 Cents
8-8 jzdro
8-15 9th
8-22
8-29

Photo Friday

8-3 10 Cents
8-10 10 Cents
8-17 10 Cents
8-24
8-31

Monday Meals: Sorrel Soup

The darn stuff is so easy to grow. Find a catalog that offers it, prepare the ground, bung the seeds in, and have patience. Growth is slow compared to that of some of the lettuces, for example, but then you see it is slow to bolt, as well.

A delightful sour taste is the outstanding characteristic of this pot-herb. I’d long used it as a minority leaf in a salad bowl, just for the lemony sour accent. This year, the crop was abundant and I had the time, so I whacked off half a row and brought it in.

The chosen starting point was an online Martha Stewart recipe. At Launch, I hauled out a cauldron, melted butter in it, and added a nice little pile of minced white onion. Those pungent little bits softened up in 5 or 10 minutes while giving up their tear-inducing sulfur compounds.

While that was happening, I cut up sorrel leaves into thin strips. Addition of those strips to the onion was Stage 2. The ratio of leaves to broth was to be 1:2. I had quite a pile of leaves; adding 3 cups at a time, the result was 12 cups of raw, sliced leaf material requiring 24 cups of broth. That used up my leaves, which was a prime object.

It seemed like an outrageous volume of leaf material, but it cooked down to a smaller volume, like spinach and other greens.

At this point, leaf color changed from bright, clean green to dead-turtle-in-a-puddle tint. Can you guess why I was not distressed in the least by this?

The reason was the fragrance. Simultaneous with the color change was the release of many volatile fragrance molecules. It was lemon perfume time, all through the kitchen.

All was ready for Stage 3, addition of the broth. This time I had some turkey broth and some beef broth, qs to 24 cups with an aqueous solution of vegetable bouillon paste from a jar.

I added no salt or additional herbs, the object being to see what these things would do.

Generally, soup is very much better a day later, what with flavors melding and all that, but today immediate progress to Stage 4 was a gratifying move. Into each flat soup plate I ladled the sorrel soup and schlagober-ed a goodly blob of crème fraîche.

The soup was a bit salty, probably from the jarred veg base, which I will mix up at 80% of label-directed concentration next time. Stirring the crème fraîche around in it mitigated that defect without masking the delightful lemony sour taste. In fact, the creaminess and the sourness complement each other nicely.

How the stars do align on occasion. Recently I studied a Polish language lesson on the theme of food and dining. The hilarious dialogue was between two people, out for dinner, ordering zupy szczawiowej. And now here it was, the sorrel soup.

When I was a little kid, simpering around with my hair in a pony tail, the relatives took me along on their summer trip to a vacation lodge in Middle-of-Nowhere, Outer Farmworld, run by recent Polish immigrants. Hot cream soup on a 95-degree day thrilled them all but revolted me! Now the stuff is delicious, and we enjoy it on our farm. Perhaps it is the operation of something atavistic.

Smacznego!


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Monday Meals: 2018-07-23

Raclette

Raclette is a quintessentially Swiss dish whose origins date as far back as those of the country (a.d. 1291).  Although cheese fondue is often considered the national dish of Switzerland, many Swiss consider Raclette more authentically Swiss, since fondue is equally popular in adjacent regions of France.

Raclette: The Cheese

The word “Raclette” refers both to the kind of cheese used in the dish and the dish prepared from it.  Raclette cheese is traditionally made from raw grass-fed cow’s milk and is semi-hard (pâte mi-dure) with a relatively thin, edible, rind and few, if any, holes.  It is aged only three to six months and has no blue inoculation.  (Today, most raclette cheese made in Switzerland is  produced from pasteurised milk, but in the canton of Valais, it must be made from raw milk to be called Valais Raclette.)

Non-traditional raclette cheese may have added flavouring such as garlic, sliced peppercorns, paprika (all seen commonly) and more exotic innovations such as onions, truffles, bits of bacon, and herbs.  I’ve even tried raclette cheese made from goat’s milk, but it worked poorly.

Raclette cheese is usually produced in rounds whose size varies from one producer to another.  A typical modern round is around 5.5 kg, and is often sold in half-rounds of around 2.7 kg.  You can also buy square blocks cut from these rounds of around 500 g or slices from these slabs; we’ll see how these are used below.

Raclette de Valais: demi-ronds

What is common to all kinds of raclette cheese is that when heated, it melts into a creamy consistency without separating into fat and milk solids like some other cheeses.  This makes it ideal for Raclette, the dish, which we’ll now examine.

Raclette: The Dish

Tradition has it that cow herders in the mountainous regions of Switzerland would, when moving their herds among Alpine pastures, carry with them, for their meals, a half round of raclette cheese and some potatoes or bread, all of which keep well without refrigeration.  In the evening, after starting their campfire, they would bring the round up to the fire so its heat would begin to melt the exposed part of the half-round, then scrape the melting cheese onto slices of bread or potatoes which had been boiled over the campfire.  Racler is the French verb “to scrape”, and the word “raclette” comes from scraping the melting cheese from the heated round.

Today, few people build a campfire to enjoy raclette (although, if you have one, why not?).  Instead, some people and restaurants use an electric heater with a half-round of cheese or a block cut from one.

Raclette: electric heater

You rotate the cheese round under the heater, hold the plate below the lower end of the round, and scrape the melting cheese onto the plate with a knife.  If you’re a purist, special knives are available, with one side for scraping and the other for cutting the rind for those who (being also purists) prefer it with their cheese.  Between servings, rotate the cheese away from the heat so it doesn’t dribble (much) onto the platform below.

This is typically how raclette is prepared in restaurants or at festivals such as the Désalpe de Lignières.  With today’s small families, a 2.7 kg half-round or even a 500 g block is a lot of cheese for one sitting, and the most popular way to serve raclette at home is with slices and a raclette/grill apparatus.  That’s what we’ll use for the meal below.

Raclette: The Meal

Let’s make a raclette dinner.  Here are the ingredients.

Raclette: Ingredients and grill

For one or two people, you’ll need around a kilogram of “new” potatoes.  These are often sold in Switzerland as “Raclette” potatoes, but elsewhere choose small potatoes with a thin skin (which you cook and eat) that don’t  disintegrate into mush when you slice or mash them after cooking.  In French such potatoes are called «chair ferme»; I don’t know the phrase in English, but most new potatoes (as opposed to the big ones with thick skins for baking) are of this kind.  Don’t peel them; we’ll cook and eat them with the skins on.  The skin has much of the flavour and vitamins of the potato.  If the potatoes are dirty, wash them.  (New potatoes you buy in Switzerland are almost always washed, but if yours aren’t, scrub them under running cold water.  “Don’t eat dirt—dilutedilute!”)

Fill a saucepan with enough water to cover the potatoes (but don’t add them yet), add a bit of salt (or omit, if you wish), and bring to a boil.  Once the water is boiling, add the potatoes (gently; you don’t want to splash the boiling water on the stove or yourself) and boil for 15 minutes or until you can push a fork into a potato without encountering a hard centre.  Once the water comes up to a full boil after adding the potatoes, you can reduce the heat until it’s just boiling; once water is boiling, adding heat only makes the water boil away faster and doesn’t raise the temperature or cook the potatoes any quicker.  (If you’re at seriously high altitude, you may have to increase the cooking time.  I find 15 minutes works fine for anywhere from sea level to Fourmilab’s altitude of 800 metres.)

While the potatoes are boiling, set up the raclette/grill apparatus and the accessories.  Usually, with a dinner for multiple guests, you’ll put it in the centre of the table.  Connect to electricity, turn on, and set to the highest temperature initially to heat up to operating temperature (this takes a while—I usually turn on the grill about half way through boiling the potatoes).  Make sure there is nothing flammable or prone to melting near the grill.  Set out butter, salt and pepper, complements such as cornichons (small cucumber pickles) and pickled onions, and innovative condiments such as hot sauce, jalapenos, bacon salt, sour cream, and whatever else you fancy.  Some people serve cold cuts such as ham or sausage with raclette, but I find that a bit much: cheese and potatoes are very filling all by themselves.

Once the timer for the potatoes goes “bing”, it’s time to eat!  Turn off the heat on the potatoes, but leave them in the water; this will keep them warm during the meal in case people want second or third helpings.  Invite diners to pick four or five potatoes from the pan onto their plates with kitchen tongs and take them to the table, where they can lightly mash them with butter, salt and pepper, and if utterly decadent, sour cream (you want to mash into pieces, not a uniform starchy continuum).  Meanwhile, they’ll have chosen a slice of cheese from the variety you’ve set out (I usually provide an assortment of classic, pepper, garlic, and paprika), put it into a pan («coupelle») and placed it into the raclette/grill.  With the grill up to temperature, it will only take around a minute for the cheese slice to melt to a creamy consistency.  After you start the meal, you’ll probably want to reduce the grill temperature so the cheese doesn’t melt more quickly than a diner can finish the previous slice.  Take some of the pickles and onions and enjoy their crunchy contrast with the melted cheese and potatoes.  You can see the rind in the melted cheese in the picture below; this is how raclette is traditionally served.

Raclette: ready to serve

Innovators may enjoy putting a spritz of hot sauce on top of the cheese before they put it into the grill, or topping it with a slice of tomato, onion, bits of bacon, or whatever comes to mind.  Innovators…always making trouble!

Raclette is traditionally accompanied by light, fruity Swiss white wines such as Fendant, made from the Chasselas grape.  Teetotalers usually choose tea with raclette.  Conventional wisdom is that cold drinks such as water and diet toxic sludge may cause the cheese to harden into a bolus which can only be extracted by surgery or a plumber’s snake, but I know of no hard evidence for this. Consider yourself warned.

Cleaning Up

There is very little cleaning up after a meal of raclette, regardless of the number of people at the table.  You’ll probably have potatoes left over.  Pluck them from the now-cooling water and put them into a frigo container (the Fourmilab term of art is “white box”, as in “white box dinner”) and, after they come to room temperature, bung them into the frigo.  Leftover cheese should be tightly wrapped in aluminium foil and refrigerated.  It will have been inoculated with airborne nasties while on the table and will begin growing green hairy cruft after a week or so; be sure to use it before this happens.  The pickles and onions can be returned to their jars and the condiments returned to the refrigerator; they’ll keep almost forever—they’re more patient than your appetite.

One little-appreciated property of raclette cheese is that however crusty it has become when heated, after a few minutes in warm water it softens and is easily wiped away.  After you remove the potatoes from the cooling (but yet warm) water, throw in the cheese melting pans, scrapers, and utensils, wait about ten minutes, and with a quick swipe with the scrubber they’ll be ready to throw into the dish grinder, which will do the work Swiss people won’t.

The best thing to do with leftovers is encore raclette!  Not the next day, but a day or two later, and maybe for lunch.  Now, you don’t necessarily want to haul out the whole apparatus, so you might consider the Fourmilab innovation I call nuclette.  Take a small bowl, place one or two leftover potatoes in it; mash lightly, add a little butter, place a slice of leftover raclette cheese on top, cover with a plate and place in the microwave.  Nuke it for one or two minutes, et voilà, almost authentic raclette.  Add salt and pepper, stir it up, and enjoy.  Repeat if you remain peckish.

If you have entirely too many potatoes left over, consider making Fourmilab’s Can’t Fail Potato Salad from them—they’re already cooked, so it’s just a matter of minutes to prepare.

Bon appetit!

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Monday Meals: 18-7-16 Jaga Bata

Be it summertime, I figured I’d talk a bit about on of my favorite matsuri foods. A matsuri (祭) is a festival in Japan.  Most towns from the smallest to the largest have festivals, which are usually during the summertime.  Accompanying the festivities are food booths with various tasty attractions.  One of my favorite happens to by jaga bata. Jaga bata is a deep fried buttered potato.  The name is a portmanteau of jagaimo (potato) and bata (butter).

Jaga bata is often topped with just butter.

Jaga bata
Jaga bata, lightly fried with only butter.

Many people, myself included, like to put mentaikomayo along with the butter on the jaga bata.  Mentaikomayo is mentaiko (spicy, fermented fish roe) and mayonnaise.  It gives the jaga bata a creamy, spicy quality.  So delicious.

Jaga bata with mentaiko
Deep fried jaga bata with mentaiko and a bit of corn.

If you are ever at a Japanese matsuri, I highly recommend you seek out and try jaga bata with mentaikomayo.


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Monday Meals: 18-7-9

Conveyor Belt Sushi.

There is expensive sushi then there is the conveyor belt sushi. In the sign it has the price. It is 100 yen a plate which with tax is 108 yen. Roughly that is $1.  The name of this sushi chain is Kappa Sushi. A kappa is a turtle like  humanoid creature from Japanese folklore. One of the sushi plates is kappa sushi. It is rice with cucumbers wrapped in seaweed .

 

In the old days it was just the conveyor going around and you picked the sushi that you wanted. Recently there is a touch screen at every table and you can order things. On a separate level above the conveyor belt there is a place for a toy bullet train to bring out your orders.

I hear that conveyor belt sushi is in America now. Is that true? Do you ever go there?

 

 

Here is the video of the toy bullet train.


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Monday Meals: 18-7-2

Japanese fun food

I think of some foods as fun. I would say pizza is fun. S’mores are fun. Popcorn can be fun. These are foods that make us smile.

Here are two foods from the land of Nintendo.

First “likable fry”お好み焼き–Okonomiyaki comes from two words “like” and “fry”. You make up a batter and put different things in it such as meat and veggies then top it off with sauce, mayo, and a paper thin sliced fish. The mixture of tastes are delish.

The picture is from a shop but some restaurants cook it at the table. People at home use an electric griddle to do the same. It is a fun atmosphere.

The second is “octopus delight” (I am being loose with the translation.) たこ焼き–Takoyaki. This comes from the words “octopus” and “fry”. These are made by chopping up octopus and putting that in a batter. Then it is put on a special griddle to cook the small balls. I know this sounds strange but they are quite good. You buy six at a time and top them with sauce, that finely sliced fish, and sometimes powdered seaweed. The octopus is chewy compared to the soft batter around it. Japanese love these.

Well, what do you think?


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Monday Meals: 2018-06-25

Steak with Roquefort Mushroom Sauce

Here is a meal you can make yourself from all natural ingredients in minimal time with little to clean up afterward.  It never fails and requires very little of your time.  I use one low-tech gizmo to save time and ensure success, but you can use alternative means at the cost of a bit more fussiness and time.

Start with:

  • A good cut of steak, 250 to 350 grams per person
  • Roquefort cheese, 100 g
  • Sliced mushrooms, 200 g before draining
  • Garlic purée, around a tablespoon (15 ml)
  • Cooking oil (olive, etc.)

We’re going to cook the steak in a Tefal Actifry.  This device is colloquially called an “air fryer”, but that is misleading: it actually cooks by blowing very hot air onto the food.  This creates much the same effect as deep frying, but without a bath of hot oil or tendency to make the food greasy.  What I discovered when developing this recipe is that, delightfully, when used on meat, the process triggers the Maillard reaction which makes flame-seared steaks so attractive in appearance and delicious.

Start by drizzling a little oil (about a teaspoon or two, 5–10 ml) in the back part of the Actifry pan, below the hot air input.  Now drag the steak through the oil, coating both sides and the edges with a thin film of oil.  Ideally, when you’re done, there will be hardly any oil left over in the pan.  The Actifry stirrer should be removed; the steak will be stationary beneath the air vent (visible at the top of the picture).  Close the lid, set the timer for 8 minutes, and press the start button.  (There is no temperature setting on the Actifry.)

While the steak is cooking, place the Roquefort cheese, sliced mushrooms (drained), and a squirt of garlic purée in a small saucepan and put on very low heat.  You can break the cheese up into chunks with a stirring spoon if you like, but if you don’t it will still work fine.  As the cheese melts, stir all the ingredients together.  Once the cheese is melted and everything is mixed, turn the heat down to the lowest level or off and cover.  You don’t want to overheat the cheese, which will denature it and make a mess.

When the Actifry beeps at the end of the 8 minutes, open it and turn over the steak, keeping it at the back under the air input.  Set the timer for 7 minutes and restart.  When it beeps again, the steak is ready.  Take it out of the Actifry pan and put it in a bowl.  Pour the juice from the pan into the sauce pan and stir it into the sauce, then pour the sauce on top of the steak.  You’re ready to eat!

While you’re enjoying the steak, let’s get the Actifry busy making a companion: chips or French fries.  Install the stirrer in the pan, and add your desired quantity of store-bought frozen chips.  Try to get the kind intended to be prepared by deep-frying, not those made to be cooked in the oven.  The latter will work, but may come out oily and less than ideal.  Drizzle a very small amount of oil on top of the frozen chips, close the lid, set the timer for 15 minutes and press start.  Don’t bother cleaning the pan; the remaining juices from the steak will add flavour to the chips.

When next you hear the beep, dump the chips into a bowl, give them a few sprays of Balsamic vinegar, season with salt and pepper, and bring to the table.  Catsup?  Catsup!  What do you take me for, an American?

After dinner, cleaning up amounts to loading the Actifry pan, stirrer, and filter, the saucepan, and the bowls and silverware into the dishwasher.  There’s no grill to scrub, charcoal to extinguish and dispose of, frying oil to filter and eventually recycle, or other detritus.

The cooking times given result in a medium rare (à point) steak.  If you prefer a different degree of doneness, adjust the time accordingly.  This recipe and the Roquefort sauce also work well with boneless chicken breasts.  When cooking chicken, you may have to increase the cooking time slightly so the cooked meat isn’t pink in the centre—chicken should always be cooked well done to eliminate the risk of Salmonella.  The core temperature of cooked chicken should always be at least 75° C.

This recipe is sized for one person.  For two, simply double the quantities.  Place the two steaks side by side in the back of the Actifry.  The cooking times do not change.  I have not tried cooking more than two steaks at once in the Actifry; since additional steaks would be farther from the air input, they may not cook as well—you’ll have to experiment if you want to do this.

If you consider the sauce a Continental desecration of red meat, don’t make it!  The steak will be just fine by itself.  If you prefer to use fresh mushrooms rather than store-bought prepared ones, start with around 250 g of brown or white mushrooms, cut off and discard the bottoms of the stalks, cut into slices and place in the Actifry pan with the stirrer installed.  Drizzle a teaspoon or two of oil on the top and cook for 10 minutes.  You can cook the mushrooms first and set aside to add to the sauce while the steak is cooking.


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