Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Domestic Sluttery: Improv Apricot & I’m-Going-To-Hell Tagine

Among myriad other things I am well aware I should and should not do, I have a terrible horrible no good very bad habit of using pork in recipes that really should not include pork.  I could say it’s not really my fault that the flavor profiles of a lot of these recipes lend themselves spectacularly well to the inclusion of pork.  I could say that Costco tempts me mercilessly with their high-quality low-priced bulk trays of country-style ribs* which freeze beautifully and are an absolute treasure in slow-cooked dishes.  I could say a lot of things.  All of which are to say, yeah, pretty sure I’m going to hell.

Having accepted this eventual doom and the freedom to be found therein, I decided to make Domestic Sluttery’s Slow Cooked Chicken & Apricot Tagine with a couple of big chunks of pork shoulder.

The sweet spicy rich delectable damnation that followed is well worth any pesky eternal hellfire, I assure you.

I made a ton of changes to this recipe, starting with not using my slow cooker** and opting for a stovetop preparation, which worked quite well and had the added benefit of making the whole house smell a lot more delicious than it would have had all this yum been relegated to the sealed confines of a crock pot.

I didn’t have any squash handy (hurry UP already, garden) so I increased the pepper from one red to a whole bunch, i.e. all that were left in the bag from the previous week’s Costco excursion because it was Friday and that’s what I do on Fridays.

I also didn’t have celery, which I don’t keep in the house because I have a mild sensitivity to it, so I substituted celery salt for regular, and the harrisa paste was swapped for half a teaspoon of crushed red pepper in canola oil.

I left my dried apricots whole because I love big chunky stews, and in lieu of the sliced almonds the original recipe suggested be sprinkled over the finished dish at serving, I threw in a cup of whole almonds.  They cooked down to just soft enough to not be annoying but still crunchy enough to add textural wow.

All of this was put in a stew pot, with an extra tomato-canful of water to compensate for stovetop vs. crock pot cooking, and left to become magical.

Which it did.

I intended to make chapati to go with this*** but ever since my excursion at the beginning of the week into the wonderful realm of cooking spaghetti in wine, I have been haunted by the question, “What other starches can I cook in what other alcohol?”  The answer that came to me was, “I can cook brown rice in brandy”.

And by “can” I mean “should”.

And by “I” I mean “everyone”.

I started small since I had no real idea how this would work, just a few tablespoons of brandy in the cooking water with a good dash of salt.  The result was the rice having a nice little bite to it, which was needed to balance the richness of all the pork and apricots and almonds.  Next time, there will be more brandy.****

Unlike the labels of most packaged foods which seem to be written by people who have never actually eaten, this recipe is not kidding when it says it serves 4.  Which comes in really handy on Sunday night, when a weekend of manual labor started at 7:00 on Saturday morning and you barely had the mental acuity necessary to order a pizza online Saturday night and knew you couldn’t get away with that two nights in a row but by the time another dinner was required you would happily have just thrown yourself to a pack of rabid wolves rather than have to figure out and prepare another meal, just throw the leftovers in the microwave and slice some bread to go with it.  Super delish and requiring no significant brain power.

*Which actually aren’t ribs at all, unless they’re farming some bizarre mutant pigs with really oddly-shaped rib cages that finish in their shoulders, which I doubt.  Or which could explain the consistently low prices.  I think I’m going to not think about that anymore now, just in case.

**I was going to use my slow cooker.  But it’s been so long that when I took it out of the cupboard and tried to remember how to take it apart to wash it, I… couldn’t.  It’s either fused permanently as revenge for my neglect, or I’m dumb.  We’ll call that another thing I’m not going to think about anymore now.

***Chapati is my new favorite thing.  It’s naan for people who are too lazy to make naan.  Things for people who are too lazy to make other things very often become my favorite things.

****If this makes no sense to you, I am now sad for your childhood.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Domestic Sluttery: Improv Creamy Seafood Curry

Shortly after my 40th birthday, shrimp got together and decided to exact their revenge for my lifelong love of Sizzler All-I-Could-Eat sprees by making it so that if I ever ate another one of them, I would die a fairly quick but nonetheless quite uncomfortable death.

It’s okay, shrimp.  I forgive you.  If somebody ate a few thousand of my cousins, I’d probably go a little Carrie on their ass, too.

Now my go-to seafood is tilapia, which is inexpensive, not destroying the planet, and worked really nicely when recreating Domestic Sluttery’s Creamy Seafood Curry.

This was actually the first recipe I grabbed when I decided to do this weeklong tribute to DS, for a number of reasons.  I love curries.  I love seafood.  I love recipes that call for an entire can of coconut milk and half the contents of my spice rack.

And for bonus points, I had a bunch of rainbow chard in the garden that really needed to be harvested and consumed ASAP, so this dish was pretty much perfect on every possible level*

First year growing chard,
happy times :)

I actually had most of the exact ingredients this recipe called for, so my improv was slight.  The only things I had to alter were ground mustard in place of the mustard seeds, and chili paste in place of the chopped chilies**.

Stages of Awesome

This dish is seriously fantastic, the keys to which are the coconut milk and spices with the rest being open to pretty fluid interpretation, so in the future I will be making versions of it that include:

1- Tofu in place of the fish
2- Courgettes***
3- Salmon
4- More spinach
5- All the spinach
6- The use of a larger pan****

On the menu tonight: Apricot & I’m-Going-To-Hell Tagine  

*However, DS, you should know that I take ingredient listings like “all the tasty veg you fancy” as a personal challenge.  Do not tell me all the veg.  You will get all the veg.


**A lot of chili paste.  What some might call inordinate amounts of chili paste.  Again, DS, “add more chili if you fancy it” will be taken as a personal challenge around here.

***Now that I know what the shit they are, and when the ones in my garden are ready to be harvested

****The recipe says it will serve 2 very hungry Christmas mourners with some lunch leftovers.  In our house, it served 2 very hungry Stanley Cup Playoff mourners with some sauce left in the bottom of the pan.  But even The Big Pan wasn’t quite big enough.  Or maybe I was just uncoordinated in my sorrow and not stirring things as neatly as I could have.  Either way, I’ll use a bigger pan next time.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Domestic Sluttery: Improv Breton Chicken

Before I even start talking about food, let me just say my boys were knocked out of the playoffs last night so I’m not in the best of moods right now.

However, the food was good even if the hockey was not* so I’ll try to keep my focus on that.

After two days of fairly big heavy meals, I wanted something at least a bit lighter, and after the temperature decided to take a 20 degree jump between Tuesday and Wednesday, I definitely needed to incorporate as much cold as possible.  But I also really really really wanted to try Domestic Sluttery’s Breton Chicken recipe.

In cooler times, I will revert to my 70’s roots and use it as the basis for a biscuit-topped casserole** but when the temperature is still pushing 100 at 6 o’clock, other measures are called for.

Those measures were not cooking anything other than the chicken, and consuming a lot of very cold wine along with it.  Fat Louis White***, to be exact, in keeping with the whole geographic theme of the meal.  They put the Eiffel Tower right on the label, so you know it’s the real deal.

I wish I could have photographed this smell,
it was basically all the joy of all the lands

I only made minor alterations to this recipe, replacing the pancetta with turkey bacon****, using dried shallots in place of the leek I didn’t have in the house, and using almond milk in place of dairy, which I do in just about everything.

My poor tarragon is not doing well this season :(
but we got through one more meal together

I also may have made another alteration, I’m not sure.  The recipe calls for “English mustard pepper”.  I have no idea if that’s a specific thing, since Google failed me this time*****, or if “pepper” was supposed to be listed separately, or what.  So in context, I decided to go with my old standby of French’s, which is my secret weapon in mac & cheese and had the added benefit of totally furthering our geographic meal consistency.  I like cheap sharp mustard in cooking because it’s ballsier than its higher-quality counterparts, particularly in rich heavy dishes like this one promised to be, and it also balances the slight sweetness that stems from using almond milk in the place of dairy, which is almost always a companion ingredient.  And it worked really well here.

The Dynamic Duo

The Domestic Sluttery serving suggestions for this dish are over rice, with bread, or in a pie.  I will do all of those things in the future, I assure you.  For last night, I stuck with just the bread suggestion, sourdough sliced thin, with tomatoes also sliced thin and lightly salted, some fresh spinach, and a lot of grapes, creating a grab-dunk-wrap picnic-y sort of meal.

As delicious as this chicken is on a slice of bread, it is a whole other sort of amazing when you put a blob of it on a slice of tomato and cram the whole thing in your face.  With the added benefit of limiting the amount of time your neighbors have to spend listening to you yelling at the refs as they hand the series to L.A.******

But I digress.

On the menu tonight: Creamy Seafood Curry

*I blame Darryl Sutter’s evil yellow tie.  I like the guy, but that tie seriously needs to inadvertently on purpose die in a fire forever.

**Anything we didn’t top with biscuits, we put in Jell-O molds.  The 70’s were as fantastic for great bad food as the 80’s were for great bad music.

***Another of my recent Big Lots finds at $7 a bottle

****It’s a pretty sure bet at this point that if any recipe ever calls for pancetta, I will be using turkey bacon.

*****But thanks again for the “courgette” thing, because that was really bugging me