Daeji Kalbi, Gamja Saelleodeu, and Pajeon

This will be a short post and not because I didn’t love this meal but I’m a little grumpy right now. I went out for my afternoon run and I tripped and fell because the sidewalks in our neighborhood are atrocious. I was almost done with my run anyway and took it as a sign that the universe was telling me to go home BUT that’s not the point. Or points. There are two points.

1. Get it together City of Austin! Sidewalk repairs are the city’s business and if this is how they work, maybe they should just close up shop and put up an “Out of business” sign on their door because they are clearly not doing their job. Talking to neighbors it seems that the sidewalk repair department (I don’t know the real name but that’s what I’m calling it) is made up of five employees. FIVE people for all of Austin. Sidewalk repair department: I’m a stay at home mom and have a few free hours a week. Employ me. I’m pretty sure I can figure out how to pour concrete. Our property taxes went up by 10% this year and our limited district is proposing another increase in fees but for what? So people can trip and fall on their sidewalks or so people can have their strollers almost tip over (with children in the stroller!) every time they hit one of the cracked or the uneven spots?

2. Four cars passed me and not a single person slowed down and asked if I was okay. I fell in a school zone, they were already going 20 mph, would it have killed them to stop?! I mean, I just have a scraped knee and was less than half a mile from home but they didn’t know that! This is what people mean when they refer the Californication of Austin, no one cares about their neighbors anymore.

Rant over.

Maybe the memory of this meal will put me in a better mood. The ribs were super yum and not as spicy as they should have been, probably because I only used half a cup of gochujang instead of the full cup the recipe called for. The pajeon (scallion pancakes) were also delicious is not a little burned. I blame it on my cousin Robert. He was our dinner guest and I was too busy talking to him to pay attention to the pancakes. The gamja saelleodeu (potato salad) was hea-ven-ly! Not even joking. I consider myself a potato salad connoiseur and this was probably the best potato salad I’ve ever had. The apples, carrots, and corn added some crunch and just the right amount of sweetness to balance out the bitterness of the mayo. I loved it so much that it will now be my go to potato salad recipe. It changed my life, y’all.

Okay, talking about the potato salad lowered my blood pressure but I’m still shaking my fist at you, City of Austin.

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Japchae, Kongnamul Muchim, Gaji Muchim, and Dubu Jorim

My favorite aspect of Korean food has always been the many side dishes that are served along with the main meal. The first time I had Korean food, I was worried we were going to have to pay for the extra food and was a little annoyed that we were even asked if we wanted it. James, always the logical, rational person in our relationship, said it was probably included in the meal because they wouldn’t just bring us food and expect us to pay for it. He likened it to free chips and salsa. Like Forest Gump’s momma, James always has a way of explaining things. I was still a little skeptical but ate whatever they gave us and shut up.

Aside from the actual food, I most enjoy trying to figure out the ingredients of each side dish. Usually it’s some kind of fermented vegetable but I always like it when they throw in something new like sliced omelet or a suped up tofu. These little dishes, or banchan, are probably what I was most interested in learning how to make. I’m always astonished by the quantity given, which apparently also signifies how fancy the meal is. The more banchan, the fancier the meal. I honestly would prefer a meal solely made out of banchan but it was nice to learn this in case I ever host the Korean royal family.

Kimchi is probably the best known banchan but I was introduced to so many (in my opinion) better banchans than kimchi. The squid from the last meal is a very popular banchan and I think it was a billion times better than any kimchi I’ve ever had. I was going to make some kimchi but I read that it’s better to let it sit and ferment for at least thirty days but I only had seven days. And honestly, we weren’t ever going to eat as much kimchi as I would have made.

After earmarking the recipes I wanted to make, I realized over half were banchans. When figuring out what to make on Thursday night, I got worried about not having a main dish until I read that japchae is also a stand alone meal. Problem solved! So while technically this entire meal is made up of banchan, it also isn’t.

I’ve had japchae before but I wanted to make it just to have an excuse to cook with sweet potato noodles because there’s something fun about saying you’re eating glass noodles. It required a lot of mushrooms and I actually couldn’t find the oyster mushrooms that the recipe called for but I had three other types of mushrooms so I think I was okay. It was kind of pain in the ass to make, in between boiling the noodles, chopping the billion mushrooms, and then trying not to spill everything when mixing all the ingredients together in my cast iron skillet, but it turned out well so there’s that. The girls really loved the noodles and mushrooms. We had gone to the park earlier in the day and found a bunch of wild mushrooms. The four year old was in awe of all the mushrooms so I think that had something to do with her willingness to eat them for dinner.

I loved how easy the gaji muchim (soy marinated eggplant) was to make. It literally took maybe ten minutes, including the five minutes it took to cook it in the microwave. I think this would make a great side dish for any kind of grilled meat meal, Korean or not. Saving this one for barbecue season next year!

I was not as pleased with the kognamul muchim (crunchy sesame bean sprouts) but I think that had nothing to do with the recipe itself and more with the state of my bean sprouts. I had planned on making this meal on Wednesday, after having bought the ingredients on Tuesday, but James and both girls weren’t feeling well on Wednesday so I didn’t cook that night. That meant the bean sprouts sat in the fridge another night and that gave them another night to get gross and soggy. Had they been fresh and crispy, I think it would have turned out a lot better. Instead they came out mushy and that mushiness really enhanced the oyster sauce, which resulted in a lump of fishiness. Barf.

The dubu jorim (soy braised tofu) was by far my favorite. The longest part of the prep was waiting for the tofu to air dry before frying it. I know you can dry tofu with a paper towel but it’s always been my experience that patting it dry and then letting it air dry for a few minutes results in a crispier tofu. I’ve fried a lot of tofu in my day and I’ve also gotten burned from oil popping out when the wet tofu hits the pan so I think I know what I’m talking about. I think I added a bit too much water to the sauce because it never caramelized, even after six minutes, but it just meant the tofu was a little less chewy. Even with the 1/2 inch knob of ginger, tablespoon of gochugaru, and teaspoon of Korean red chile pepper, it wasn’t incredibly spicy. The four year old even ate it and she hates spicy foods. This along with the japchae were just as delicious the next day and maybe even a little better.

So aside from the bean sprouts, everything was great. I probably won’t make japchae again because it was so time consuming and messy but that’s okay, I know where to find it. Everything else I will save for future meals. Especially the tofu because my fiery four year old ate it. She probably enjoyed the fact that she finally found a meal to match the spiciness of her personality.

Spicy Cold Buckwheat Noodles, Spicy-Sweet Shredded Squid, and Soy and Sesame Spinach

This week we are eating food from Korea. I love Korean food. I say that with having only eaten beef bulgogi, bibimbap, kimchi, and japchae BUT I love everything I’ve eaten. My cousin’s wife is from South Korea and every time she posts their meals on FB, I’m left drooling and wondering if moving back to Uvalde would be worth it just to be able to eat dinner with them on a weekly basis. Fyi, it wouldn’t be. Based on what Sujin has posted and the few meals I’ve eaten, I knew we had to do Korean food for this project. James and I were giddy about it all weekend.

Koreatown: a Cookbook came out earlier this year and I’ve had my eye on it since. It got on my radar when Food 52 named it one of the best cookbooks to come out this year and honestly, the cover is what got me. I totally judge books by their covers, literally. I don’t do it with people so I at least have one redeeming quality. But yes, the cover of the book is very simple yet appealing. Look at it! Very basic black, no crazy font or a chef holding a bowl of rice, it really lets the food speak for itself. I loves it. And I mean it, I really love this cookbook. It’s the first book during this entire project where I’ve sat and read through the entire thing. Well, not the entire thing, there were some interviews that bored me, but I’ve read most of it. The tone is very conversational and it doesn’t treat cooking or food as something precious. There’s no pretension about it, they are making food that you like to eat because it’s good. Not because it’s trendy or has some hard to find ingredient, it’s just good food. I cannot recommend this enough.

Which is why I won’t be sharing the recipes. I really want people to check this book out. It’s not terribly expensive, $30 at Barnes and Noble, and I think it’s a great book to have if you like cooking and like eating. If you are really not into buying it, check out the preview on Google Books. I’m not saying you can Google the names of the recipes and they come up on Google Books. I’m not saying that at all.

This meal was kinda just thrown together. I ran out of time this week and didn’t plan my meals but I did earmark all the recipes I wanted to makein the book. I was running short on time Tuesday because I spent so much time grocery shopping so I just went through the book, found three recipes that didn’t require marination or a two hour fermentation, and made them. I’ll be doing the same today because, ugh, you don’t care why. So yeah, these meals were pretty quick. Most of the work was in the prep. I had to chop a good amount of veggies so I’ve decided my next tool purchase will be a mandolin slicer. I also forgot to set the rice cooker to the “Quick Cook” option when making the rice so it took a little longer than usual to get our rice. If I use the “White Rice” setting, it takes over an hour to make two cups of rice. Hello rice cooker? I need rice now! Haha, I need it rice now! Lame joke.

The buckwheat noodles were good but they did remind me a lot of the Indonesian Gado Gado in terms of fresh veggies. Although instead of a delicious peanut sauce, we ate a molten lava based chilie sauce. Gochujang does not mess around! The spinach was fine as well but it wasn’t anything special. The belle of the ball was the squid. Oh man, I loved that squid so much! I didn’t know what to expect with dried squid because I’ve never had squid except in bento boxes. It’s very chewy and I can’t say it’s my favorite. I don’t like it when my jaw hurts from chewing so hard. The scent from stir frying it wasn’t all that appealing either; my kitchen smelled very fishy and at one point James walked in and said “Oh, wow, um, that’s strong…” and walked out. When it was finally time to eat, I took a deep breath and shoved some squid in my mouth.

The burning. So.much.burning. I know I’ve mentioned it before but I’m not a fan of spicy food. It’s not that I don’t like the flavor or that the heat bothers me that much, I just physically can’t take it. “You just said the heat doesn’t bother you” It doesn’t hurt me but it does numb my mouth. Seriously, anything hotter than a banana pepper and my tongue and lips go numb so I’m not able to enjoy the full flavor of the food. I recently looked into this and apparently it doesn’t happen to everyone so that explains why some people can eat a ghost pepper and continue eating while I eat a quarter of a jalapeno and have to chug warm water just so I can taste the rest of my meal. Also, if you are eating spicy food, drink warm water, not cold. Warm water lifts the oils off your tongue while cold water sets them in. Science!

The squid was delicious! It was spicy and sweet and so, so chewy! But it didn’t make my jaw sore! The only way I can describe it is that it’s like the small nuggets of batter in General Tso’s chicken. You know what I’m talking about. The itty bitty pieces of batter that always get thrown in with the rest of the chicken and are crunchy yet chewy? That’s what this squid was like. And I can’t wait to make more of it. I’m not joking when I say this will be a snack staple from here on out. It took all of fifteen minutes to make and it was amazing. You need this squid in your life.

And if you’re wondering, the girls ate sandwiches. I was not in the mood to hear about how spicy everything was.

I can’t wait for the rest of the week!

Chicken Korma

I was unfamiliar with korma until a little over a year ago. I was going to meet up with a friend for lunch at Hopdoddy because they were having a fundraiser for the Memorial Day floods. Before I left the office, I asked my vegetarian co-worker if she wanted me to grab her a burger as well because I’m that nice. She asked that I get her a veggie korma burger and got super excited about it. I didn’t have time to listen to her explanation (also, I didn’t care. I’m not that nice) and left to meet up with my friend, who was also a vegetarian. As she was going over the menu, she perked up at korma burger so I had to ask, “What is the deal with this korma?!” and she replied “It’s just a vegetarian thing.” I left it at that because vegetarians have their own little world and I get lost every time I try to venture into it. I didn’t become any more familiar with korma after that but it was on my radar and since then, it’s popped up here and there.

When this recipe came up, I knew I had to try it because I wanted to know what the big deal was with korma. Well, veggie friend, it is NOT a vegetarian thing, it’s just a thing that can be vegetarian! Veggies are always trying to claim shit as theirs. If you want a super basic, quick definition of korma, it’s a curry made with yogurt, cream, or milk. It’s actually a bit more than that but that’s the shortest definition. The meat is marinated and braised before it simmers in the dairy, which is what makes it different from rezalas, another white curry. Even then, classifying korma and rezala as curries is a little bit of a stretch but it’s easier to say they’re subgroups of curry in order to avoid getting into a lengthy discussion. We can discuss the complexities of curry some other time, maybe when I don’t have fifteen chores to do before I pick the girls up from school.

The chicken was great, succulent and spicy from the ginger, but the highlight of the meal was making my own garam masala with my new grinder! I always buy it pre-made but now that I have literal pounds of spices and a handy dandy grinder, I can make my own! It made my kitchen smell heavenly and I wanted to keep making more and more but I still have some of the pre-made stuff and, I mean, I didn’t need it. But I can and knowing I can is half the fun.

That was the end of Bangladeshi week. It was probably one of the most informative weeks so far and I think that’s part of what made it so enjoyable. This week we are in Korea and today I spent two hours shopping for groceries. I am really pumped about this week’s foods and can’t wait to share!

Recipe

Beef Rezala and Bhuna Khichuri

Welcome to Bangladeshi week! Actually, it was last week but some appointments took longer than expected and it threw my entire week off. Also, weather. 

As I metioned last week, the Four Year Old became the Four Year Old last Wednesday and we planned a pool party for her the following Sunday. James just happened to check the weather forecast on Thursday and saw that there was a 90% chance of rain on Sunday.

Rain. In August. That almost never happens.

The next couple of days were spent checking the weather every four hours, sending out multiple group texts to our guests, and ultimately deciding to cancel the pool party and hosting a smaller version at the house. The Four Year Old still had an amazing time and even got a piñata, which she wouldn’t have had at the pool and it was the one thing she really wanted anyway, so yay! Birthday success!  

I learned two things from that event. Number one: I really need to buy an umbrella. I don’t know why I don’t own one but I need one. It’s been raining for the past four days and I’m tired of getting wet. Number two: I need to be more flexible. I’ve always prided myself in my time management skills and I still believe that they are essential but I need to make room for unexpected events. Too often I plan down to the minute and I get frustrated when I get thrown off. There is no reason to be so stringent because I end up disappointed and why put myself through that? Life is too short to be so annoyed with myself. 

I’m taking this week off from cooking so I can catch up on posting. I’m actually taking the week off from everything. James is home all week so instead of trying to fit in errands, running, yoga, housework, craft projects, and cooking, I’m filling it with Orphan Black binge watching with my man during the day and fun family time with the girls in the evening. I think it’s much more worthwhile than all the other stuff.

And now for the beef rezala. A rezala is a white spicy curry from Bangladesh. Yes, curries are typically a little spicy anyway but rezalas are spicier because they include whole chilies. They also get their white color from the inclusion of yogurt or milk. Rezalas are similar to kormas in that sense, however, unlike kormas, the meat is not braised. Very slight difference. This beef rezala is different in color from other rezalas due to the spices used but mine didn’t come out as red as I think it should have. My beef released a lot of water so I think that didn’t allow the spices to coat and stick to the meat as well. I was afraid that since it released so much water, it would come out tough but it was surprisingly tender. It also wasn’t as spicy as I expected it to be but that wasn’t bad because it made it more edible for the girls. And yes, both girls ate it. They also ate the bhuna khichuri, which I preferred over the rezala. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it forever, I love rice and beans! 

What I enjoyed most about the meal was being able to use two new tools. After  Indian week, where I scorched my arms from frying spices or worked my arms sore from grinding spices, I decided to invest in some tools that will make life easier. The first is a vaghar vadki, a spice roasting spoon. It’s basically a tiny skillet, about four inches in diameter, with a long handle that fries spices in seconds. The smaller diameter speeds up the process since the heat doesn’t have to be distributed to such a large area like with a regular skillet and it’s ideal for measurements under a cup. I was able to fry up the cumin in less than thirty seconds and had more control over how dark I wanted it to get. The other tool is a spice grinder, although I bought a coffee grinder but it’s basically the same thing. I’ve been using a mortar and pestle, which isn’t terrible except both my mortars have grooves so the spices often get stuck in them. This results in an uneven texture unless I put some real elbow grease into it. The grinder I bought has three different settings, coarse, medium, and fine, and it took maybe a minute to grind my spices into a nice fine powder. Technology is amazing! It was super satisfying and I wish I would have bought one sooner but so it goes.

Recipe, Recipe

 

  

 

Poulet Yassa

When I settled on what Senegalese dishes to make, I was most excited about this one. I love any kind of chicken-rice combination but this recipe also said I could throw in some olives, which is what I was really looking forward to. I will take any opportunity to cook with olives because there aren’t many! I’ve always loved olives. My cousins used to make fun of me because when we’d eat dinner at this very fancy restaurant called Golden Corral, I’d always load up on olives at the salad bar. I only ate from the salad bar at Golden Corral, which I’m sure my mom appreciated because having a child that enjoys eating vegetables is a rarity but now that I’m older and I know how dirty they are, I’m surprised I’m still alive. Maybe that’s why I rarely got sick as a kid; I was basically exposed to every germ in Uvalde by eating from that salad bar. Thanks Golden Corral!

This was pretty easy to make and I avoided burning the rice by being able to use my rice cooker. Yay! I broiled the chicken to avoid having to fry it and it did give it a nice browning but I should have left it in there a little bit longer. I did not use a whole chicken because I really hate chopping up a chicken. Instead I used chicken thighs and a cut up breast just to have some variety. Every time I eat chicken thighs, I’m amazed it took me so long to become a dark meat convert. I always disliked what I considered the slimy texture of dark meat and that weird gristle on drumsticks so for as long as I can remember, I stuck to white meat. It wasn’t until about four years ago that I decided to try dark meat. A co-worker was talking about how much she loved it because it was so flavorful and then I read an article where they, too, extolled the wonders of dark meat so I decided to try it. The bad part was I was three weeks pregnant and greasy food did not agree with my first trimester of pregnancy so I promptly threw it up and avoided it for another year. I tried it again later on, hoping I wouldn’t barf it up, and realized I’d been missing out! Also, I didn’t barf it up. That was the true victory.

I didn’t have as many onions as the recipe required, even when halving it, but I don’t think it affected it too much. I did add the optional mustard and I think that made a huge difference when paired with the olives. It gave the whole meal a great vinegary taste and many people aren’t fans of that bitterness but I love it. The rice soaked up the grease perfectly so much so that it reminded me of a sopa. The literal translation of sopa is soup but when my mom made sopa de arroz con pollo, there was a lot less liquid and more rice and chicken.

We all loved it. Well, James and I did. The girls weren’t very hungry for whatever reason so they just had yogurt for dinner. Regardless, we had three great meals for Senegalese week. Every meal was super enjoyable and I’ll be making all three again.

Recipe

Ceebu Jen

When we decided on doing Senegalese food, I don’t think either one of us knew what to expect. I have little to zero knowledge of Senegal; James probably knows more because he’s an encyclopedia. I really hope the girls inherit his thirst for knowledge…Anyway, the only thing I did expect was to eat fish since it borders the Atlantic Ocean.

I think I’ve mentioned this before but seafood always makes me nervous. I grew up in southwest Texas and the seafood we ate was mostly catfish and shrimp from the gulf. I’m sure we ate more because my dad loved fishing but all I remember is catfish and shrimp. Catfish is not good. I mean, it’s not bad, but there are few people who would choose catfish when presented with fish options. And there’s only one way to make catfish: fried. You know why? Cause you have to fry all the crap out of it, literally. Shrimp is a little more versatile and I love me some scrimps so I will not say anything bad about shrimp. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried many different kinds of fish but deep down, I’m still that little kid from Uvalde, grossing out over another catfish fish fry. I lived in Austin for almost six years before I ate my first fish taco for crying out loud!

Fish can be gross.

I really hoped that would not be the case with this meal. Ceebu Jen is considered the national dish of Senegal but just because the Senegalese like it, didn’t mean I would. I am seriously a fountain of positive thinking. Constantly shooting out positive energy into the universe.

I had nothing to worry about. This was one of my favorite meals in a looooong time and as the picture shows, the baby liked it a lot as well. I had barely put the plate down when she started scooping out food. And she didn’t stop. It already called for plenty of veggies so the only thing I added was red bell peppers. It reminded me of paella, which it basically is. My rice burned a bit because I forgot about it but it didn’t affect it too much. I never cook rice on the stove top, I use a rice cooker, so when I do, I almost always forget about it. I loved the texture of the cabbage, eggplant, and squash; everything was just so chewy.

We had a good amount of leftovers because the oldest refused to eat it so I had the pleasure of eating it for an additional two days. Let me tell you, it.held.up. I’m a weirdo who likes to eat leftovers cold (I’ve actually analyzed this habit and it’s way too complex to get into) and it was really delicious even cold.

So this is completely unrelated but it’s a pretty big day for us. Four years ago today, our oldest came into our lives. She is now THE four year old and not the ALMOST four year old. She is quite possibly the most stubborn child I have ever met and as a parent, it drives me crazy because sometimes (always) I don’t need to be told why she can’t or doesn’t want to do something, I just need her to do it. I know this will work for her benefit someday and that’s why I’m as patient as I am, which is not very. But her strong opinions have helped me as a person and with this project because as she makes it very clear, I am not the best at everything and not all the food I make is awesome. She keeps me humble and grounded and for that, I am appreciative.

Happy birthday you difficult, wonderful little girl!

Recipe

Maafe

We are in Senegal this week!

We chose Senegal because it’s in Africa and so far we’ve only done two African countries, Morocco and Israel. I wasn’t aware that we’d done so little in Africa until I started marking off the countries we’ve “visited” on a map of the world. We’ve done plenty in the Mediterranean, Central America, and southeast Asia but the Africa on our map is a little bare. I don’t want Africa to feel left out so we looked at the map and settled on Senegal. Well, we looked at the map for ideas, Googled the cuisine, and then settled on Senegal. We looked at other countries but their cuisines didn’t seem all that appealing or included a lot of yucca and I’m tired of eating yucca. I mean, there is only so much you can do with it, fry it or boil it, and it almost never results in something super good. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the yucca fries from El Salvadorian week but I don’t need to keep recreating them with different spices. I get it, yucca is good!

Quick aside. I use “we” a lot when writing on the blog or when explaining to people what we’re doing. Many people have asked me to clarify who “we” are and when I say that it’s James and I, they ask what exactly he does. First of all, rude. Secondly, he doesn’t have to cook to be considered a contributor.  He helps choose countries, researches meals, helps decide which recipes would work on what days due to time constraints; his input is very important. He also watches our girls while I’m cooking so I can cook with little to no interruption. That right there is probably the best thing he does to help out because those girls be cray sometimes. The second best thing he does is pay for all of this, which he does without complaint. I’m not working so he funds this entire project and doing this is not cheap. For whatever reason, meat and fresh produce are hardly ever discounted, even though they are unbelievably healthier for you than pre-packaged food, so our grocery bill varies from $60 to $200 per week. That is not a complaint, I am fully aware this is a choice and we are by no means obligated to do this, but it is a huge factor. So yes, he is a partner in this and what he does is no less important than what I do.

Now that I’ve talked about how great my husband is, let’s talk about this meal!

This meal was pretty easy to make and the ingredients weren’t hard to find at all. I’ve said it before and I will continue to say it, these types of meals are my favorite! The sauce was made up primarily of tomato and peanut butter. Yes, I was curious about that because those two are not typically paired together (at least I’ve never paired them) so there was some slight hesitation about that. The recipe I used seemed to lend itself to improvisation because it was pretty lax about what vegetables to use. I liked this a lot because I could 1. use veggies I liked and 2. use veggies I could find easily. I ended up using okra and cabbage because I like okra and cabbage. Easy enough.

We all really enjoyed it. The tomatoes gave the peanut butter a little tartness which was interesting. Ginger was optional but I did use it because I love ginger. It was very present but not overpowering, which I think was due to the acidity of the tomatoes. I’m just guessing here, I have absolutely no knowledge of food chemistry. For that, you can turn to J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. The meat was also surprisingly tender for a stew, for which I once again credit the tomatoes. Tomatoes are super fruits for a reason.

This was a pretty great introduction to Senegalese food. It made me hopeful for the rest of the week.

Recipe

Moules Frites

This was our last Belgian meal and oh man! Before I get into how it turned out, let me share with you all the great information I learned about this dish.

1. It’s considered one of the national dishes of Belgium. It shares this title with Carbonnade Flamande. I am very jealous of the Belgian people because they get to choose from two fantastic dishes as their national dishes. As an American, my options are hot dogs and, I dunno, coke? Say what, coke isn’t a dish? Say that to the Fried Coke vendors at the Texas State Fair!

2. There are different versions of moules frites; I made the moules natures. There are six common variations and I would eat all.of.them.

3. There was something else I learned but I’ve forgotten it. It probably wasn’t all that interesting.

There were a couple of hiccups when making this meal. The first was that I couldn’t find fresh mussels. I made this on Sunday and thought about getting the mussels at the end of the week but I got lazy and then I also worried about them sitting in my fridge for a couple of days. Old shellfish is never a good idea. So I waited until Sunday to head out to Quality Seafood to buy the mussels, only to get there and find out they aren’t open on Sundays! Hellur? Did they not get my telepathic message that I was stopping by? Jerks. We weren’t too far from my favorite Asian supermarket, MT Supermarket, so we ended up going there because their website said they also had fresh mussels.

Their website lied!

They had fresh catfish, some other weird fish that I forgot the name of but that the girls enjoyed watching swim all over its tank, red tilapia, octopus, shrimp, you get the idea, but no mussels. I ended up going the frozen route and I wasn’t too excited about that because I’d gone the frozen route during Thai week and the results were not good. So I sucked it up and hoped for the best.

The second hiccup was making the mayonnaise. For whatever reason, the mustard and egg yolk refused to emulsify and I think that threw the whole thing off. Regardless of how much warm water or whatever other suggestions the internet offered, it would not solidify. I was annoyed. I only had one lemon so making another batch wasn’t an option. I ended up using store bought mayo and sprucing it up with a tablespoon of mustard and a lot of pepper. It ended up tasting as close to homemade mayo as possible so I was pretty content with that and hoped that it wouldn’t affect the meal too much.

So after holding my breath while adding the mussels and literally watching the timer to make sure I didn’t go over the recommended four minutes, I announced that dinner was ready. The baby set the table (She literally sets the table at two years old. What did I do to get such a wonderful child?!) and the oldest informed me that she didn’t want to eat dinner (Oh, that’s what I did. I had a temperamental, opinionated first child and the universe showed me some compassion and made up for it with the second kid). I served dinner and hoped we wouldn’t be taking a trip to Taco Cabana.

We didn’t go to Taco Cabana.

This meal was EVERYTHING. The mussels were not chewy or tough like during Thai week. Instead they were buttery, chewy, and slightly fatty. The leeks and celery completely dissolved in my mouth into rich, gooeyness and the fries, er, frites, were perfectly crispy on the outside and soft at the bite.

The oldest held true to her statement that she didn’t want to eat so she ran off and did what she does best, hide in her room and tell her imaginary friend how annoying I am*. I am not exaggerating about this. I’ve literally overheard her talking shit about me. Usually it’s after I haven’t let her do something like watch tv for six hours or because I’ve told her she needs to put clothes on. The teen years are going to be amazing with this one. The baby, however, ate TEN MUSSELS. She just couldn’t stop, she loved those little suckers. She also loved the mayo because at one point she just kept spooning it directly into her mouth. She is a treasure.**

This was a fantastic way to end Belgian week. The onion soup wasn’t my favorite but three out of four meals is not bad. And my two year old ate mussels. I mean, if that’s not a victory, I don’t know what is!

*She later told me she loved me and that I’m the best mommy. She might cause my blood pressure to skyrocket but within hours, she’s turning my cold, black heart a nice shade of gray and warming it up to just above freezing.

**She later kicked me in the stomach when I picked her up to put her in the bath. I had a tall glass of Frambois to calm down.

Recipe

Onion Soup

This will be a short post because this meal was neither amazing nor terrible. It was right smack in the middle: good. I think there was a few factors contributing to it’s mediocrity but the biggest was the heat. I made this last Wednesday and even though we were experiencing a “cool” front of 85, it still made me feel very warm. This is precisely why I have issues eating hot soup during the summer. It’s too dang hot! It’s the same reason why I won’t eat tamales during the summer. it’s too hot!

Have I mentioned it’s too hot?

There’s a meme floating around on Hispanic websites that pairs “When your mom makes caldo on a 100 degree weather” with a picture of a celebrity crying (the most popular is Michael Jordan) and that basically sums up my feelings of eating soup during the summer. You’re already sweating because the Sun has decided to lay down on your part of the Earth and then you pour almost boiling liquid into your body so your insides can be just as hot as your outsides? Que pendejada.

I clearly have strong feelings about this.

So after I got over boiling my insides, I was able to focus on the flavor of the soup. It was okay. The truth is, I don’t like French Onion Soup and this was basically the same thing but with veggie broth instead of animal stock. This wasn’t as rich or tart as its French version but I actually liked that. A lot of the reviews complained about its sweetness but that’s what I liked about this soup. I think I put in more sourdough than I should have but I feel that helped with the saltiness.

I didn’t even bother giving this to the kids because 1. onions and 2. toddlers eating soup is messy as hell. No thank you.

I have one more Belgian meal to post about and then I need to figure out what I’m making this week. I want something with lots of veggies and that doesn’t require me turning on the oven. Any suggestions are much appreciated!

Recipe