Thursday, February 11, 2010

Recipe Roundup: Blizzard of 2010 Edition

Mr. Fritz and I have more or less been trapped in our condo since just before the thrilling and unbelievable Blizzard of 2010/Snowmageddon/Snowpocalypse series of storms started last Friday. I was one of the many who hit the grocery store in advance of the storm to secure enough food for the two of us to "shelter in place" for as long as necessary. Thankfully, I was able to go last Thursday morning, which meant that the shelves were still full and I didn't have to compromise on what I wanted to purchase. I even used some coupons! Anyway, among the meals I've made so far for my hot husband during this snowbound week:

Friday night: Beef Stew. For this, we had the pleasure of having the lovely Ms. Haley join us. She trudged through the snow in full snowproof regalia (ski jacket, snowboarding pants, boots) and even brought a hostess gift (barbecue sauce from Foster's Market!!), true friend that she is.

Saturday night: Okay, I cannot tell a lie; we ate out! On Saturday, we decided to take a walk through the snow-bombed streets of Arlington and wound up sidling up to the bar at Hard Times for some chili. I am not typically such a heavy meat eater - and Hard Times chili really is pretty much just a big bowl of ground beef with minimal but tasty sauce. This did hit the spot on a snowy day and it was pretty great to not cook. Plus, Hard Times is one of Mr. Fritz's favorite spots, so I was glad to be there with him.

Sunday night: My week of cooking truly commenced at this point. I have been having fun these past few weeks cooking in packets. For several weeks I was stuck on a set of Pam Anderson recipes for Foil Packet Shrimp, Foil Packet Chicken and Foil Packet Salmon (I'll post these recipes at some point in the next few weeks, since they are no longer on USA WEEKEND's web site). There really is nothing easier than making an simple sauce or marinade, tossing it with a protein and a vegetable, sealing the whole mixture into a couple of individual foil packets and roasting on a cookie sheet. But in the past couple of weeks, I've been lured into cooking in parchment paper packages, thanks to, once again, the January-February 2010 issue of Everyday Food.

This recipe for Salmon with Green Beans and Lemon Zest is great. For each person, you settle a 6-ounce piece of salmon on a long stretch of parchment paper, top with trimmed green beans, strips of lemon zest, some capers and a bit of olive oil and some salt and pepper, seal up the parchment paper and roast on a baking sheet at 400 degrees for around 15 minutes. It's fun to see the parchment paper swell up as hot air expands it. And the result, taste-wise, cannot be beat. Yum!

Monday night:
For this meal, I returned to a recipe I had made before and really liked: Sausage, Mozzarella and Broccoli Rabe with Shells. I didn't see broccoli rabe at the store (and I wasn't about to try to hit another one in that pre-blizzard panic in order to see if I could find it someplace else) so I used plain broccoli instead and increased the boiling time for the broccoli to one minute. The really exciting part of this recipe, for me, was that I used mozzarella that I had made myself a week prior. That's right, I am officially a cheesemaker! I used this kit from cheese guru Ricki Carroll and followed her recipe for 30-Minute Mozzarella to whip up a pound of mozzarella using nothing but a gallon of whole milk, some rennet, some citric acid and a dairy thermometer. I don't have any photos of it, but it's really pretty tasty. The kit can be used to make 30 batches, so I'll see about photographing the next one.

Tuesday night:
Another oldie but goodie. Both Mrs. Robertson and Mrs. Glade reminded me recently, and separately, about the awesomeness of Italian Pot Pies, so I decided to use some ground beef that I had earmarked for tacos to instead whip up these beauties. I had to use Vodka Sauce instead of regular tomato sauce and dried dill instead of dried rosemary for the biscuit topping, because that's what I had on hand, but they were still completely delicious. Highly recommended!

Wednesday night: Another parchment package recipe from this month's Everyday food. This time, it was for Chicken with Mango and Ginger. I once told one of my editors that my motto in life was "Give me a mango and I'll make you a meal." I was serious then - I had/have a full slate of both savory and sweet recipes that involve mango - and this recipe will definitely be a great addition to my collection. Same general technique as with the salmon, but this recipe is a mix of chicken, mango, ginger, jalapeno and cilantro with a dash of olive oil. I served both of these parchment recipes over rice.

Odds and Ends: In addition to all of this cooking, I also did a bit of blizzard-related baking. I made The Original Mrs. Glade's Easy Chocolate Cake so that Mr. Fritz would have something to nosh on for breakfast along with his daily banana, and tried my hand at these Lemon Ice Box Cookies as a sweet. (Once again, awful baker that I am, these didn't turn out very well... But I fault myself and not the recipe. I fared better a couple of weeks ago with these Dorie Greenspan Peanut Butter Cookies from a recent issue of Parade.) And I have pretty much stopped buying bread. Now I bake off a loaf of 5-minutes a Day Artisan Bread every few days and use that for Mr. Fritz's lunch. This came in especially handy this week, as it was really nice to have fresh bread in unlimited quantities, instead of watching and worrying as a store-bought loaf slowly diminished with no trip to the store in sight. Good times!

So there you have it, my get-us-through-the-blizzard menu. I was really pleased that my planning pre-grocery trip last Thursday morning paid off. And I still have more meals to make with the stuff I purchased, since it doesn't look like we'll be moving our car from its dedicated spot in the frozen tundra any time soon.

Dinner Tonight: Stir-Fried Honey-Ginger Chicken with Peppers

Hello! I'm sorry I've been lax in posting. Especially since I have not been at all lax in cooking for Mr. Fritz. So, without further ado, let me tell you about what I made tonight: Stir-Fried Honey-Ginger Chicken with Peppers from the January-February 2010 issue of Everyday Food. To be honest, I probably haven't made a true stir-fry since sometime in the 90s. But this issue has a whole set of stir-fry recipes that looked good enough that I couldn't pass them up.

The trick to stir-frying, as the article reminded me, is two-fold. First, make sure that you have all of your ingredients prepped and at hand before you get near your skillet or wok. For that, I employed the set of graduated glass bowls that the lovelies, Mrs. Fleming and Mrs. Pantuck, gave me as a gift long ago and for which I continue to be super thankful. Second, make sure the skillet/wok is superhot before you drizzle in that first bit of oil.

After that, everything happens very fast and is very, very simple to execute. You start with that drizzle of oil, then add the chicken and stir fry for three minutes, then set it aside and fill the pan with a mixture of oil, minced ginger and minced garlic. Fry that for 30 seconds before adding the peppers and stirring for another two minutes. Next, add a mixture of soy sauce, honey and rice vinegar and bring to a boil. Then the chicken goes back into the pan and you stir the whole mess for the final three minutes. Serve over hot rice (lately I've been very pleased with the HT Trader's brand of Jasmine Rice from the Teeter - great stuff and comes out perfectly every time) and top with chopped cilantro. Easy and delicious!

This dish also reminds me that I wanted to mention that I have officially fallen back in love with my garlic mincer. I have, for the past few years, been using minced garlic out of a jar. I just thought it was more convenient and always kept a jar in my refrigerator. A couple of months ago, I purchased some real garlic on a whim and pulled out my super handy garlic mincer (a white metal doodad that pushes raw garlic through some tiny holes with the flick of the wrist) and honestly, I have not looked back. Fresh garlic is far superior to the jarred stuff. I also use this funky tan plastic tube to get the skins off of fresh garlic cloves. Pop a clove into the tube, press/roll the tube around and out pops your clove, miraculously unwrapped from its papery skin. Cleanup for both the garlic press and the tubey thingy is a snap. Very satisfying all around!