Sunday, January 17, 2010

MPM--Slow Cooking

Hello again from America's Test Kitchen! It sure felt that way here this week. I'm trying to take it a little easier on myself this week. Reviews are below. We had an awesome success and some so-so's. This week's menu will look pretty similar to last week's since we didn't get to many of the recipes. But I'm having a Sunday cooking day so that should not repeat itself.

Anyone seeing lots of roasted chicken recipes running around lately? I'm jonesing to do one but need to keep going on the project du jour. Or month, really. I'm also really craving lamb biriyani and Chinese shrimp with walnuts. Maybe I'll go cheap and get them for lunches.

Which will be hard with my beige-food-only boy with me. He's on his four week break from school. Hold me. The good news is that his lunch bunch is at a different place so he'll keep going there. (Good not because we need a break from each other--though we do--but good because it gives me a chance to be with the other boy for a few one-on-one lunches a week.)

And I just have to say, this feels embarrassingly luxurious to write, as I think and pray over Haiti. I dialed 90999 and gave at a friend's fundraiser and were so proud of our niece, who won a $50 donation to the charity of her choice at our Christmas gift auction, and is sending it all to Haiti...but to be sighing over a too-full freezer and still more time with the boys I swoon's breathtaking. I am humbled and grateful for my cosmic good fortune, and holding in my heart those who are on the wrong side of that equation this week. We'll be thinking of them on Monday, too, on the day of service, wishing we could serve more closely, but oh, there's plenty to do here too.

This week:

Sunday: Real Simple slow-cooker ribs. Didn't get there last week. Iceberg wedge salad with tomatoes (and maybe bacon if I want to throw caution to the wind.) Maybe the zucchini-almond thing from Smitten Kitchen. Though that might be a lunch too.

Monday: Turkey Shepherd's Pie. Didn't get there last week (see below). Salad.

Tuesday: Citrus Chicken (didn't get there last week), Mark Bittman's dal, Bittman's beet salad.

Wednesday: Leftovers, probably. Otherwise, the chicken satay recipe from Glorious One Pot Meals.

Thursday: Spaghetti with crab sauce (for the grownups, or butter and cheese for kids).

Friday: back out for pizza.

I also want to try this 101 Cookbooks sweet potato recipe. I have a bunch of them hanging around and would love to use them well.

As to last week, as I said, we had a great week with some really interesting foods. I know you are on the edge of your seat about the walnut pestos, but first, let me be the eight-zillionth person to rave about the Smitten Kitchen Slow-Cooker Southwestern Brisket. This is the meal that threw off the week. I completely forgot as I designed the week that I had that brisket hanging around. So since the ribs were already frozen, and another week wouldn't change anything, I flipped the two.

When I use the slow-cooker, I tend to be a dumper. As in, if I can't dump it in and walk away, I throw my hands up and walk away. I am SO glad I didn't do that here. The prep really didn't take that much time (especially since I assembled the spice blend the night before), so I seared, sauteed, and then dumped. And had a meal that made my house smell awesome. We made it with SK's favorite green onion slaw (due to my no-peppers thing, it is a great change from salsa for us). And seriously, it was amazing. The flaw: even though he adores tacos, the one boy didn't like this as a taco at all. But bonus for me, he asked to have just the veggies (salsa, tomatoes, lettuce) with taco sauce and sour cream instead. Worked for me. He doesn't even like the cheese so it was overall decently healthy, even. But my husband loved it. And the twist for us: we added avocados, and they added exactly the right note--a little creamy, and a little bit of texture contrast. It was great--and my husband usually doesn't even like avocados. A slightly-less-than-three-pound brisket made a ton. We had this two nights and I had it for another lunch and I still (ahem) froze one more dinner's worth. I strongly, strongly recommend this.

And score another point for Smitten Kitchen. In the initial tasting, I preferred the Real Simple Walnut Crostini recipe. It had fewer flavors and a heartier texture that didn't feel as oily. But I made them the day before I intended to eat them, and overnight, my perspective switched completely. The SK version had more flavors that blended together better and created a smoother spread. And the lemon flavor faded from the other and its smaller amount of oil meant it wasn't as cohesive. So--for drop in guests--the Real Simple recipe wins. But for a party in a day or two? Go with Smitten Kitchen's.

Finally, the cheeseburger pie. Bear with me for a digression: my husband and I loved to watch Iron Chef years ago, before we had kids, and there was this awesome older woman with a variable title ("food critic" sometimes, "fortune teller" others) who would make cryptic comments we tried to guess the real meanings of through the translations. The one we still joke about was "It reminds me of my childhood." We both howled at the opaque comment and laughed at how that could really be taken any way. That said, I'm clearly exploring casseroles, looking for food to remind me of my childhood, I think. But you really can't go home again; they are tasting gloppy and artificial and I'm feeling kind of stuck here, looking for a way to move on. Which brings me to the cheeseburger pie. It was easy, and it used the Bisquick. But it almost ended up quiche-like (which really, two eggs and milk later, I should have figured out, but I was thinking the Bisquick mix would sit on top like a dumpling-esque crust rather than bind the whole thing together). My kids ate two or three pieces and were done. My husband finished it off without complaint, but without the raves the brisket brought. So: a worthy try, but actual burgers are really just as easy. And making that beef made me crave lasagne. So expect to see that sometime soonish.

Don't forget to check out the menus over at I'm an Organizing Junkie! She does a great job. And if you are looking for an excuse to re-organize a space in your life, she's running an Organizing Roundup Challenge again next month.


Mom24 said...

I completely relate to what you wrote about Haiti. I feel like I can never legitimately complain about anything in my life again. Ever. So, so sad.

I also relate to the casserole dilemma. I crave casseroles, my brain thinks comfort food. But, when you actually eat them? Gloppy glop that I'd just as soon skip.

Thanks for the reviews, it's always nice to know what works for others and what doesn't.

Domestic Goddess said...

I used to make casseroles often. But my kids won't eat food that touches and it turns out the husband doesn't like them either (which he didn't tell me until ten years into our marriage. Oh well). I rarely make it. The closest I get is beeferoni/cheeseburger macaroni, which is a box of TJ's mac and cheese mixed with ground beef. Easy, cheesy, three out of four of us eat it.