I’ve cooked a lot of food lately. Some of it has been good and some of it has been exceptional and some of it has been downright shitty. I will tell you about all of it. But first, I will make you a promise: my next post will be the long-delayed, way-too-late post on Super 8 that I’ve been
putting off working on for months. If any of you remember what Super 8 is by the time I publish, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Thing #1: I made these fish tacos for dinner for me and my parents last week. They sucked ass, guys, I’m not even gonna lie. I don’t know if it was our grill (it is an outdoor propane grill, not exactly the kind that leaves pretty grill marks like in the step-by-step recipe photos), or the fact that I didn’t make the avocado cream (the store was out of ripe avocados! I know!), or that we used cod instead of tilapia (fish department manager’s recommendation for tacos, okay?!), or if the recipe just sucks. I did make the recommended Southwest Slaw, which tasted overwhelmingly of adobo sauce and had no other notes besides “crunch”. Whatever it was, I really, really did not enjoy these. To me, the combined flavors of “grill” and “adobo” overwhelmed the fish totally, so it basically tasted like I was eating a taco made of grilled adobo sauce. My parents enjoyed them more than I did, which is fair – I’m always my own worst critic, especially where my cooking is concerned – but I can’t give these tacos any recommendation whatsoever. Not that I think you were planning to make these (it doesn’t get much more obscure than random shit scrounged off Tasty Kitchen), but if you were, un-plan.
Thing #2: Last weekend my favorite plant lady and I took a journey into the wilds of New York State, wherein I bought three kinds of jam from a local farm called Luft Gardens who, startlingly, are not on the internet. Now, you may have previously noticed that I have very little tolerance for overly sweet things. This makes me a less-than-ideal consumer of homemade jam, whose ingredients tend towards “sugar all the sugar do you think this contains enough sugar because i only put in five parts per one part of fruit.” So I bought all three kinds of jam – peach, blueberry, and strawberry-rhubarb – with the explicit intention of baking with them, because lord knows I wasn’t going to make jam sandwiches. After harassing my facebook friends for recipe recommendations, I discovered that there isn’t actually enough jam in a medium-size jar to last you for more than one recipe (psych facebook friends, but thanks for being so forthcoming!), and that I would in fact need all three jars to do justice to this smitten kitchen sweet bar recipe.
In stark contrast to the fish tacos, these were outrageous. Straight out of the oven they were too sweet for me – I suspect that baking reduces the jam somewhat, enhancing its already super-intense sweetness – but once they had cooled I found the sweetness of the jam to be well-balanced by the crunchy autumnal (yes, something can taste autumnal, go away) oat-and-brown-sugar crust. My favorite, both of the jams and of the bars themselves, was strawberry-rhubarb. I didn’t change anything about this recipe, other than obviously omitting Deb’s suggested raspberry filling. If you make these, I strongly suggest you use softened butter if you can, since you need the butter to be evenly dispersed throughout the dish to melt and firm up your crust. I wound up having to emergency-melt some butter in the microwave and pour it over the crust in the oven when it became clear that one section wasn’t coming together. (At least, that’s what I should have done. In reality, I stuck a pat of butter on the section in question, and five minutes later scraped frantically at the crust with a fork because holy shit, it didn’t disperse, and now I have a puddle of butter.) This is why we don’t use frozen butter, kids.
Thing #3: Breakfast is always tough for me. I get sick of always eating the same bread/pastry-type stuff, and then I get sick of eating bread/pastry-type stuff at all, but I never want to cook, and fruit isn’t filling enough, and the scope of my first-world problems is tremendous. So on Sunday, the only day of the week when my family breakfasts together, I decided to dig into the stash of breakfast recipes I keep claiming to want to make and actually make one. We had corn, bizarrely enough, so I decided to go with smitten kitchen’s sweet corn pancakes. Other than the facts that 1) I am apparently chronically incapable of not burning pancakes at least a little bit – I didn’t grow up making them, okay, I am still learning, if you want to give me a tutorial I promise to be all ears and eyes, and 2) chopping raw corn off the cob is fucking hard and it gets all over your counter, cutting board, and computer, these were reasonably easy to make and totally fucking delicious. They are probably easier to make if you’re accustomed to making pancakes. (Deb has an amazing tutorial here that I should probably put into practice one of these days.) I panicked a bunch, but they came delicious, and are equally fantastic with or without syrup. I happen to enjoy my breakfast items unadorned – a holdover from college, when my then-idiot-boyfriend (still idiot, I’m sure, but thankfully no longer boyfriend) would make waffles every Saturday morning and, lacking real maple syrup and preferring my breakfasts unsweetened, I would eat them plain like cookies – but these pancakes can take the maple syrup without becoming soggy or too sweet. Without maple syrup, they taste sort of like corn casserole cakes, and holy shit, I have not shared with you guys my corn casserole recipe. THAT MUST BE REMEDIED. Super 8: pre-empted.
And guys, can I just take a moment to say – if you’re not using real maple syrup on your breakfast items, what the shit are you doing with yourselves, seriously. I was raised on the stuff and honest-to-God didn’t know that Aunt Jemima, etc. wasn’t real maple syrup until a couple years ago because I didn’t know fake maple syrup existed. Real maple syrup is not that much more expensive than the colored corn syrup that passes for “breakfast syrup” and it tastes approximately a million times better.
Thing #4: Last night I was on my own for dinner with a chicken breast the size of my head available for cooking, so I decided to try out this method for poached chicken from Simply Recipes and top it with a variation on my vegetarian pasta dish. I’ve never poached chicken before, but out of the many ways I usually cook chicken exactly zero of them sounded appealing. I didn’t want to eat something fried, didn’t have anything I’d need to make something fried even if I did want something fried, was totally turned off by the idea of a roasted chicken breast, and don’t really care for grilled chicken except as sandwich filling. Plus, after the shitty fish tacos, I’m kind of not feeling grilled anything other than steak. So I marinated the chicken in olive oil, fresh-squeezed lime juice, salt, pepper, fresh garlic and a little bit of sriracha, and made the topping basically as indicated in my recipe, only without oregano and subbing lime juice for lemon juice.
One thing I’ve learned is that meat never, ever cooks as fast on my stove as it does in recipes. I had to poach the chicken for about half an hour to make it done, and in the end I wound up just putting the burner on high and poaching it in heating water for five more minutes to finish it off. I don’t know if this is because I used the world’s hugest chicken breast, or because I was poaching both halves in the same freezer bag, or because I didn’t get all the air out of the bag before putting it in the water and so it floated a little. Whichever the case, be aware that if you try this method it may take longer to cook than stated in the recipe. Overall though, the combination of pasta topping and chicken just didn’t do it for me. Maybe swapping lime for lemon isn’t as clean a substitution as I thought it could be? This is the second time I’ve done a lime juice + olive oil marinade, and after two tries I’m ready to say the combo really doesn’t work for me. It gets almost bitter. When cooked, it’s inoffensive but unexciting.
So those are my cooking adventures of late. I’m thinking of making something slightly more interesting tonight, but idk what yet. This recipe from Happy Opu, subbing chicken for veal, has been tantalizing me for weeks. So we’ll see =)