Carbonnade Flamande

This dish was one that was recommended to me by various people who have visited Belgium. There was a lot of praise and many said it was their favorite thing to eat in Belgium. So I obviously had to try it.

There are many variations of this dish and it was hard to find a true “Belgian” version and I think that has to do with Belgian cuisine being so heavily influenced by neighboring France, Germany, and the Netherlands. After looking at many, I just chose one that was the easiest. Don’t know if that’s being true to the dish but it made my Wednesday night a lot easier.

It’s very similar to beef bourguignon and the Nourished Kitchen‘s Braised Short Ribs with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Herbs*, both of which I’ve made before. The biggest difference is that both those dishes are made with red wine while carbonnade is made with beer. Actually, that’s the only difference. Well, beef bourguignon doesn’t use any pork and also includes onions and mushrooms but you get the point. Seeing as how I’ve made these before, I felt pretty confident with making this meal as well because I have, just with wine. Confidence is very important in the kitchen.

My confidence paid off because this was an extremely satisfying dinner! I did forget to make frites but this was more than enough food for us. I feel like it could have used a bit more tomato puree and I don’t say that because it affected the flavor but because all the pictures I saw of this dish were significantly redder than mine. I couldn’t find anything that told me whether I should marinate in the fridge or at room temperature so I did overnight in the fridge and then let it sit out in a covered dish in the kitchen for about six hours. I don’t know if that made a difference but just want to throw that out there.

The oldest was not interested in it at all. I can’t remember her reasoning but I’m pretty sure it was not logical. The baby, my beautiful, healthy, somewhat gluttonous baby, had two servings. That’s right, she ate hers and her sister’s. And it wasn’t that she was hungry, she had already eaten a lot that day, she just really liked the meal. I’m telling you, this kid and I are going to take a food tour of Europe someday and the oldest will be at home, eating McDonald’s.

So I now have three versions of this dish that I can make and that’s good. It’s nice to be able to change things up every once in a while. And it’s also nice to have options when you’re missing certain ingredients for one meal. Which, of course, never happens to me because I always have a fully stocked pantry and refrigerator and never forget to buy anything at the store. Never.

*If you are not familiar with Nourished Kitchen, I cannot stress enough how much you are missing out! She focuses on using real food and preparing them using traditional methods like fermentation and soaking and souring grains. The Beef Braised Ribs can be found in her cookbook and before starting this project, I used it all.the.time. I have yet to have a bad meal from her recipes and I cannot recommend it enough!

Recipe

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Chicken Waterzooi

About ten years ago I bought a book titled 501 Must Read Books. Reading all 501 books is on my bucket list; I’ve read about 30 so I have a ways to go. Anyway, at some point I was browsing for books at Goodwill. This was before the bedbug epidemic and before all the transplants from bedbug infested cities moved to Austin and brought their creepy crawlies with them and you could buy secondhand books without worrying about bringing them into your home. Ruining secondhand book purchases for Austinites is something that is often forgotten when we complain about how transplants have ruined this city but honestly, I think it’s far more important than what they’ve done to traffic. Think of the books!

Back to my story. I was at Goodwill. One book I came across was Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald. I remember feeling it looked familiar and the story on the jacket was interesting (“the story of a man’s search for the answer to his life’s central riddle”) so I bought it for a whopping $1. I got home and put it with all the other books I hadn’t yet gotten around to reading and forgot about it. A bit later, when updating my reading list in the 501 book, I saw that Austerlitz was on the list. The “Woah!” and “Wow!” feelings were full blown kismet. I was meant to read this book!

I started reading the book last week and I’m on page thirteen. What does this have to do with this blog? Well, the first thirteen pages are set in Belgium and reading those thirteen pages inspired me to do Belgian food this week. So here we are. It’s all connected.

Also, before I move on, those first two paragraphs would not have been possible had I been reading an ebook. Physical books have more stories than just what’s written on the pages and let’s try to remember that. No doubt, there’s a place for ebooks, but they will never replace the real thing.

Last night I made Chicken Waterzooi. Traditionally it’s made with fish but I wasn’t in a fish mode so I chose the chicken option. Also, it’s traditionally eaten during the winter because it’s a hot, creamy soup. Hot, creamy soup and I made it in Texas summer. All glorious 95 degree Texas summer with 1000% humidity. It was not the smartest decision but it was a DELICIOUS one. It was very rich, probably due to the large amount of chicken broth and egg yolk, but the veggies made it lighter. The use of leeks, celery, and onions (some of the lightest vegetables you can eat) really helped offset the creaminess. I think it would have been a different story had I used a starch like potatoes so I’m grateful for the lightness.

The oldest didn’t eat it. Her exact words were “Mommy’s soup is yucky!” but oh well, more for us! The baby loved it because she’s an amazing child who appreciates what her mother does for her. And also she likes to eat but in order to shame the oldest one into submission, I’m focusing on the love the baby has for me.

I really am the best mother around.

Recipe

 

 

Mie Goreng

This is my fourth attempt at posting this but Squarespace, or maybe my computer, was being difficult. OVER IT. I also spent an hour and a half driving to New Braunfels today, spending thirty minutes doing what I had to do, and then another hour driving back to Austin so maybe I’m more over that than anything else. Actually, I’m over many things right now. Let me list them so I can get this out of my system:

– searching for a dresser/buffet for the dining area that doesn’t cost over $500.

-this heat that requires me to wake up at six in the morning so I can run.

-my inability to wake up at six a.m. the past two mornings because I haven’t been getting enough sleep.

-the character of Rebecca Bunch on Crazy Ex-girlfriend. She is the worst! I can’t even hate watch the show anymore.

-me whining. I’m over it.

Now that I’ve gotten that out and woo-sawed, let’s talk about this meal! So I actually made it last week. It was really easy to make. The hardest part was mixing all the ingredients together in the wok because the noodles made things a little cumbersome but overall it was pretty quick to put together. The recipe called for Indonesian soy sauce, which is a soy sauce sweetened with palm sugar, but I didn’t have it so I just added some palm sugar to the mix. My noodles were also a little thinner that what I think is typically used but I don’t think it made a huge difference. We all liked it but the baby especially loved the noodles so I was very pleased.

This week is another off week from cooking. A last minute opportunity came up for the almost four year old to have private swim lessons so we’ve taken it and are spending evenings at the pool. It’s not really an off week, I’m still cooking and experimenting, sort of. We had a birthday party last weekend for my mother’s 70th birthday and were left with almost four pounds of sausage. FOUR POUNDS. Dinner for the past two nights has involved sausage and I plan on doing the same for the next two nights because I refuse to just throw all that sausage away. I’ve made very simplified versions of gumbo and jambalaya that turned out surprisingly well. I think I’ll do a stir fry tonight. Or maybe I’ll say the heck with it and get pizza. 

Recipe

Gado Gado

Last night was the start of Indonesian week for us. Irish, Jamaican, and American week had their fair share of fried foods so we wanted get some roughage in us and give our arteries a break from being clogged.

So I made fried tofu and potatoes. I mean, if you’re going to eat fried food, it should be fried tofu, right? That makes it a little better, doesn’t it? No, no it doesn’t. So it goes.

We originally wanted to do Balinese food but when searching for recipes, I kept encountering Indonesian food. This left me perplexed. Does Bali not have their own food? Why is their food classified under a neighboring country? Why can’t Bali be great????

Bali’s food is classified as Indonesian because Bali is a province of Indonesia. Yeah. We thought Bali was its own country…so not only am I learning about food, I’m also learning about geography. The lessons abound in this project! Just this morning I was telling the almost four year old that she should strive to learn something new everyday. We’re having issues with her wanting to read books at night because she’d much rather watch My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Friendship IS magic but so is reading! I tried to explain that by watching tv, her brain is turning to mush and reducing her ability to learn because she isn’t taking the time to observe or analyze things. She then said “Momma, the light is red.” I should really listen to myself sometimes. I’m going to take my own advice and make an earnest attempt to learn something new every day; yesterday was that Bali and Indonesia are NOT two different countries. I haven’t learned anything new today.

Moving on.

From my extensive research, a.k.a I read two articles, Gado Gado is one of the most popular meals in Indonesia. It’s a veggie salad, plain and simple, however, the peanut sauce is what makes it exceptional. Everything I read, all two articles, mentioned how the key to a great Gado Gado was the peanut sauce. I did everything the recipe said in making the sauce but mine came out a little chunky and I say this just based on the pics I saw online. I don’t think it made a huge difference, it just meant that the sauce didn’t spread as easily across the whole plate.

I had to blanch the vegetables and James was curious as to the purpose of doing it. I don’t have a lot of experience with blanching so I told him that I thought it was to cook the veggies and retain their natural, crisp texture. This wasn’t entirely accurate. According to el interwebs, blanching is used to preserve the nutrients and color in veggies before freezing them. It also helps when stir frying veggies. If you blanch denser veggies, like broccoli, you can then add them to the stir fry with less dense veggies and they will all cook at the same time. This is actually something I’ve encountered when stir frying carrots; I never know how to get them to cook evenly with the other vegetables.

There’s my lesson for the day!

The salad was delightful and I had multiple servings. James took leftovers for lunch and I think would be a great lunch to prepare ahead for the week. My shrimp chips burned a little so it changed the whole flavor of them. I wasn’t a fan of that. I’ll do better next time and there definitely will be a next time!

Recipe

Shrimp Etouffee and Italian Beef

Today’s post is going to be a first for the blog.

“Will it be well written and clever?”

Probably not. No, it will be a first because I am combining two different meals into one post. I know, I know, your world has just been shattered. Everything you thought you knew about this blog has just changed. The reasoning is because both meals were disappointing and I don’t think I can stretch out two separate posts to make the sentiment known. I am not known for my brevity so this is a pretty big deal. You’re welcome.

First up, Emeril’s shrimp etouffee. We visited New Orleans about five years ago and while there, I bought a book on New Orleans cuisine. I’m pretty sure it was self published because it’s bound by those plastic spiral things and most of the recipes are credited to random people all over the city. Now that I think about it, why did I buy this cookbook? I’m sure there were other, better books at the bookstore. I’m going to blame alcohol.

Anyway, there’s a shrimp etouffee recipe in there that I was going to use but then I actually read it the night before I was supposed to make the meal and it didn’t look right. It only required six ingredients, most of which were “pinches” of spices, and the instructions were literally five sentences. I’m no Bubba Gump but I’m pretty sure shrimp etouffee is more involved than that.

Enter Emeril. I Googled a recipe and his came up first. Emeril can be trusted, he’s from New Orleans. Or Louisiana. I could Google it but no, don’t want to. I followed his recipe to a T except for the part where he said to make a shrimp stock from the shells of the shrimp. I couldn’t do this because I bought shelled and deveined shrimp so I did the next best thing: I added water.

Don’t do what I did. My etouffee lacked BAM. All the bam was gone, it didn’t even show up. It was okay but very bland. It could have benefited from some salt. At my cousin’s suggestion, I sprinkled some cayenne pepper on it and that made a huge difference. We had a lot of leftovers so I’ve been eating it for lunch the past two days. The cayenne pepper has made a load of difference so if you do end up doing what I did, add the cayenne.

Recipe

I had never heard of Italian Beef until a friend from back home suggested it when I asked for ideas on FB. He’s actually not back home anymore, he moved to Illinois in junior high (Hi John!). When I first read his suggestion, I just thought it was going to be some type of beef that was seasoned with like oregano and roasted. Turns out, I wasn’t far off. It is a roast, and it is seasoned with oregano (along with other spices) but it’s a sandwich.

Riiiight?

I forgot to buy the right bread for the sandwich. I usually do all my grocery shopping on Tuesday and had planned this meal for the weekend. I didn’t want to buy the rolls on Tuesday and have them go stale by the weekend so I made a mental note to go back over the weekend and buy fresh rolls.

Except I forgot that mental note because my mind cannot be trusted. It wasn’t until I was slicing the beef that I realized I didn’t have the right bread and I was in no mood to go shopping so I used some French bread we had instead. Don’t use French bread, use a hoagie, it makes a difference. I mean, I don’t know what Italian Beef is supposed to taste like but based on the crazy cult following, I doubt it tastes like what we had. I also couldn’t get the beef thin enough and I think that had something to do with the overall flavor.

So American week ended with a womp womp. At least the meals weren’t fried so there’s that. In order to give our stomachs a break, I’m preparing Indonesian food this week. Gimme some veggies!

Recipe

 

 

 

Buffalo Wings with Blue Cheese Sauce and Apple Pie

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this before but I’m an only child. I mean, both of my parents each had two children in their first marriage but I wasn’t raised with them and I’m the only one my parents had together so I’m still technically an only child. People who are the only child get a bad rap. We’re often portrayed as spoiled, stubborn, and extremely opinionated. I’ll admit, I’m all those but I’m also generous, kind (being kind is different from being nice, fyi), and very self-aware. I feel like it all balances out to where I’m a semi-functioning contributing member of society.

In addition to having all those wonderful qualities, I have another that I am not proud of: I hate being wrong. Now many people hate being wrong but I feel like only children especially hate being wrong. I think part of it is we rarely had peers who would call us out on being wrong and we don’t know how to handle it. Parents telling you you’re wrong is one thing, that’s their job, but a peer doing it brings to light a whole other layer of reflection. And not just a peer but a sibling. From what I’ve observed, siblings tell each other they’re wrong all the time and they rarely get their feelings hurt or feel like their intellect is being questioned. Some of it is probably learning how to choose your battles but I think the biggest is knowing that even though that person just said you’re wrong, they still have to love you and you being wrong doesn’t change that.

Only children don’t get that. If someone told us we were wrong during our formative years, we had to prove that we weren’t. If we couldn’t, that would be a failure on not just our debating skills but maybe our knowledge of the subject (translation: we felt stupid). And you know who gets rejected? Stupid people. So we have a fear of being wrong because not only does it make us feel dumb but what if it leads to people not liking us? It’s already hard enough to find people that will play with you because they want to and not because they have to. WE HAVE TO KEEP THESE PEOPLE.

I bring all this up so you’ll understand how hard it is for me to admit that I was wrong about American cuisine being made up mostly of fried foods. It totally is.

Really Melissa? All that introspection to admit what we already knew?!

You know what else only children are? Dramatic.

After the heart attack inducing meal of chicken fried steak, mac n’ cheese, and fried okra, I decided to try something much healthier: fried buffalo wings in cheese sauce with an apple pie that required almost a pound of butter. I’m scheduling an artery cleaning for next week.

I got the idea to make this meal from my friend’s mother, who is from Buffalo, New York. I always forget the New York connection when I think of Buffalo wings. I actually forget about any connection with Buffalo wings when I’m eating them because I’m too busy shoving deliciousness into my mouth to think about anything else.

They weren’t difficult to make although I am currently nursing a minor grease burn on my arm from frying the wings. I made sure to pat them dry before putting them in the hot oil but those suckers still popped more than champagne bottles at a Sunday brunch. The floor and counter top around my stove was super slick and there is still a slight sheen to it.

I know my pic of the sauce looks like it’s just sour cream but I swear there are bigass chunks of blue cheese in there. I probably should have broken down the cheese a bit more but meh, still good.

 

The apple pie was to die for and I don’t like pies. I’m not big on desserts in general but pies especially make me want to gag. I think it’s the warm, squishy texture of the fruit. I love what the syrups do to the crusts but I don’t think anyone sells pie crusts that have been soaked in syrup. They should. I misjudged the amount of apples I’d need so it wasn’t as full as it should have been but that’s okay, the filling is my least favorite part of pies anyway. The crust was incredibly flaky and broke apart as soon as my fork touched it. It was fabulous!

As I was eating all this good food, I literally said to James “Fat American food is so good!” Fine, we don’t eat the healthiest food out there but we’re very happy and that counts for something. Happiness is a plate of fried food.

Recipe, Recipe

Chicken Fried Steak, Mashed Potatoes, Mac n’ Cheese, and Fried Okra

In honor of America’s birthday, we ate American food last week. I asked for meal suggestions on Facebook because while I’m very familiar with Texan and southern cuisine, I’m a little lost when it comes to the rest of the country. I mean, I know basics like deep dish pizza from Chicago, chowder from the northeast, and pretentious vegetarian food from California but the rest of the country is a big ‘ol question mark. There were some very good suggestions, like the Italian beef I’d never heard of and plan on making tomorrow, and many eye roll inducing suggestions like “Fried everything” and “Super sized food.” Haha, I get it, we’re a country of bad eaters, bahaha, so funny. I never knew how patriotic I was until my friends started making fun of themselves and the rest of the country.

So you can imagine my “Goddamit!” moment when I decided on chicken fried steak, mac n’ cheese, and fried okra for our first meal. Fried meat, carbs smothered in butter, and fried vegetables. Cholesterol heaven! But the truth is, I love this meal and it’s one of my favorites. I have told my husband many times that I don’t ever want to live in a state where they don’t serve chicken fried steak and I’m serious. A life without chicken fried steak is not a life worth living. I think I’ve also told him that should I ever end up on Death Row, I will probably request chicken fried steak as my last meal. I mean, at that point, why do I need to worry about clogged arteries?

Considering this is one of my favorites, I’ve never made it. Aside from the mashed potatoes, I’ve never made any of the parts of this meal. I’ve made instant mac n’ cheese but that doesn’t count. I’ve made roasted okra and okra casserole but never fried. And I’ve made my fair share of actual fried chicken but not chicken fried steak*. The reason is simple: it’s work. You wouldn’t think frying stuff would take a lot of time but you have to watch frying food so you don’t burn it and mac n’ cheese is pretty sensitive as well; it’s very easy to get clumpy cheese and that will ruin the whole thing.

Before I started, I got everything out and did the whole mise en place to make life a little easier and to not ruin my meal. I highly recommend doing this otherwise your kitchen will look like a disaster. I mean, mine still looked like I got a bag of flour and some grease and sprayed the whole kitchen but it could have been so much worse. I still failed at timing everything so it was ready at the same time. I ended up finishing the mac n’ cheese earlier than expected and let it sit in the oven, with the oven off, an extra three minutes so it came out a little dry but still fully edible. My okra was also room temperature but in retrospect, that wasn’t a bad thing. Hot okra is never fun.

But what was fun was me eating this meal! I was in hog heaven, complete with food coma afterwards. I’ve had chicken fried steak that was dry because it was fried too long but not mine #humblebrag. Mine had the right amount of breading and was still very juicy. The mac n’ cheese, although slightly dry, was CHEESE OVERLOAD but in a good way. And the okra was perfection! Crispy on the outside, smushy on the inside, and I was popping it inmy mouth like popcorn. Everyone was happy and how could they not? This meal is the definition of southern comfort food.

So yeah, maybe we are a country of fatties but whatever, we’re happy and you can kiss our grits.

*Chicken fried steak gets its name from the fact that it’s steak prepared in the manner of fried chicken.

Recipe, Recipe, Recipe

Jerk Chicken, Quick Fried Cabbage, and Cornmeal Fritters

This was our last Jamaican meal. I saved it for last for two reasons: it had to marinate it for up to 24 hours and I wanted a fabulous meal to accompany the Game of Thrones season finale. Marinating meat isn’t very hands on but I wanted to be able to turn the meat every few hours and I didn’t want to get distracted with regular work week stuff.  Had I done this during the week, I could have easily forgotten about the meat sitting in the fridge and then been super annoyed with myself when I took it out and only one side was marinated. So free time was a big consideration but the biggest was filling my belly with delicious food to prepare myself for the GoT finale. That show can be super intense and I typically run the gamut of emotions so I need some sustenance to get me through it. Also, my cousin usually comes over to watch the show with us and I like feeding him good food.

When deciding on meals, I knew I had to do a jerk recipe. Making jerk food is different from my usual being a jerk but like being a jerk, making jerk food was pretty easy for me. What took the longest and was most uncomfortable was making the fire in the grill. It was like ten billion degrees that day and being around direct heat like that was NOT fun. Thankfully the meat came out great. I used chicken thighs instead of cutting up a whole chicken because I really dislike cutting whole chickens. I was surprised by how succulent the meat was since it was on the grill for almost two hours and I don’t think it was just because we were grilling thighs, which are very juicy to begin with. It wasn’t very spicy and from what I read, it should have been. I used habanero peppers which are slightly less spicy than the recommended Scotch bonnet but not by much. I was okay with that since I don’t like my mouth to be on fire.

The cabbage was cabbage, no big deal there.

For me, the true bell of the ball was the cornmeal fritters. I’ve had cornmeal fritters before and they are usually hard, grainy, and taste like cornmeal. So appetizing…These fritters were so far from that and I think it was the inclusion of the coconut milk. Just like it put some glitter on the dull red beans and rice, the coconut milk livened up the fritters. They were a little spongy, light, and with a twinge of sweetness. I had one a couple of days later and it was a little hard even after heating but the flavor was still present.

This was a great way to end Jamaican week and it’s something I will make again. I might try to do a dry rub next time and see if that reduces the marination time.

The older one is telling me I need to get off the computer and I must obey my master.

Recipe, Recipe, Recipe

Roast Pork with Rice and Peas

I have started this post about six times in the past two weeks and am hoping today is the day I get to finish it! Last week was an off week for cooking and I had hoped to catch up on my posts but one thing after another came up and by the end of it, I just wanted to sit on the sofa and zone out. There were many distractions: kids who wouldn’t nap, my dysfunctional extended family, the Fourth of July holiday, and the disastrous state of race relations in this country.

Of the four, my kids not napping was the only one I was prepared for. The oldest stopped napping a couple of months ago but the baby still takes a two hour nap on the days she’s home with me. Even then, there are days when she decides that napping isn’t necessary until five p.m. so because of that, I don’t make plans to post on Mondays and Fridays, when she’s home from school. So yeah, I am prepared for fussy kids who demand every ounce of my attention. The others? Ugh, life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans, right? I know I say that often but it’s true.

The last one left me especially drained the past three days. I wasn’t directly affected by it but I think that like a lot of people, I’m tired. I’m so tired. I don’t even have the energy to get into how tired.

But this is a food blog, not a place to whine about the things that bug me. That’s what Facebook is for!

This meal totally made up for the not so impressive meals that preceded it. It was another easy meal, didn’t require a ton of attention, and it was very, very palatable. The pork was delectable although a little dry. I keep running into this when roasting pork shoulder so I need to figure out if it’s something I’m doing or just the way the cut itself roasts. I’m thinking it’s something I’m doing because pork shoulder is used for carnitas and carnitas are anything but dry, however, it is roasted in a thick sauce…yeah, something I need to figure out. Yes, I think/type aloud when I post.

The rice? Oooooh, the rice was goooooood! When preparing it, I didn’t even think about how the coconut milk would contribute to the overall flavor so it was a welcomed surprise when I sat down and ate it. If you removed the coconut milk, it was just basic red beans and rice and not even the cool Cajun kind. Like, literally red beans and rice. Ain’t nothing special about that! But adding in that coconut milk just flipped that thing on it’s backside and went to town! It was smooth and buttery and just mm! I was eating leftover for days!

Both girls ate this meal, I think. It was two weeks ago. I’ve had to process a lot mentally in the past two weeks so unless it was a major meltdown or life defining elation, my memory has not made room for it in its vault. I need my memory to make more room for the latter and tell the former that “Sorry, no vacancy.”

Recipe, Recipe