0128 Bacon Fat Popcorn

Shane finished up his work at the grad library early , so we grabbed a quick drink and some fries at Ashley’s before braving the bitter cold to catch the bus home. Having sufficiently spoiled our appetites with delicious pub fries, we scrapped our dinner plan and made popcorn later in the evening before settling in to watch movies under our cloud-like duvet.

Over the summer, Kevin and Jill blew us away with by making kettlecorn with bacon fat, a snack we couldn’t wait to try on our own.  I’ll be honest – until quite recently, I had only made popcorn in those potentially cancerous microwave bags.  I had no idea the stove-top method was so easy – or delicious!  We now keep bacon fat in the fridge for expressly this purpose – oh, and also Brussels sprouts.  Mmm.

To make bacon fat popcorn, melt about a tablespoon of fat in a large pot.  When it’s good and hot, add half a cup of kernels, then cover with a spatter screen.  The kernels should start popping pretty quickly, so keep an eye and an ear out, and toss the kernels around frequently to ensure an even pop and avoid burning.  When the popping slows, toss the popped goodness with some salt and eat up!  Half a cup of kernels made 8-10 cups of popped corn in about 7 minutes from start to finish.

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0127 Butternut Squash Risotto with Shrimp

So the idea for the evening was that we’d come home, Shane would work out while I made dinner, and then we’d watch the State of the Union address. Instead, we were both starving when we got home, so that plan totally went out the window.  We worked together to prep the squash, pancetta, onion, and shrimp for the risotto, and were rewarded with a comforting and not totally bad for us dinner.

While I will admit to taking some license with many recipes, we followed the recipe for Butternut Squash Risotto with Shrimp almost to the letter.  Granted, I did substitute Israeli couscous for the Arborio rice, but that doesn’t explain why we had at least a cup of excess liquid.  With the amount of vegetable stock reduced by 1-1.5 cups, I think this would be a just about perfect comfort food – warm and savory, with a bit of sweetness from the squash offset by the unexpected salt of the pancetta.  We both added a bit of kosher salt, and were again amazed by how just that small amount of salt nudges the other flavors to the front.  We definitely will make this again, and hopefully soon.

Recipe:
Butternut Squash Risotto with Shrimp from Bon Appetit

0126 Edamame

Tonight’s dinner was exceptionally simple. I came home early and went straight to bed – my body’s trying to recharge from my blood donation yesterday, which shouldn’t be that difficult but I’m prone to fatigue and low iron levels normally, so this has really wiped me out. When I woke up, Shane was still out, and I wanted something green, so I steamed a packet of edamame from the freezer, tossed it with some salt, and at the whole thing, pod by pod, while reading my book.

There’s something quite satisfying about a meal that requires more time to eat than it takes to prepare – there’s no rushing through it, no matter how many pods you can stuff in your mouth.  I enjoyed the pace of my snack-like meal, popping open each salty pod, then adding it to a careful stack in a small bowl next to me.

0126 Edamame

0125 Let’s not talk about it, shall we?

Today was one of those trainwrecks of eating. You know, the days when you have really good intentions, but then you have some candy in a meeting, and then the healthy lunch you packed doesn’t sound interesting come lunchtime and, oh look! a big tray of bagels and pastries and fruit! So instead of the healthy lunch, you have a totally-not-worth-it bagel and later maybe an apple pastry. And then you go to donate blood and are given cookies in the “refreshments” area and you can’t very well say no, because who says no to Oreos, especially when you’ve just been deprived of your blood?  And after that, cooking just sounds totally unappealing, so you just have a salad and some crackers when you get home, which makes you feel somewhat more virtuous but totally doesn’t redeem the day.

Not that this happened to me, of course.  Noooooo.

I was talking to my friend Tina earlier about how I’ve lost a bunch of weight in the last 10 years, and how it grosses me out to think about how I was eating when I was maintaining 20% more E, and then I have a day like today and feel like shit – and we both agreed that we’re thankful that our habits have changed, and that days of overdoing it actually feel like that and not just like another day.  Tomorrow will be better, Who’s Your Bastard event notwithstanding.

0124 Beer and Onion-Braised Chicken Carbonnade

The January 2009 issue of Bon Appetit featured a menu for a week’s worth of dinners for under $100.  One of these recipes has already made an appearance here – last week’s fish cakes – and a second wound up on our plates tonight, paired with a small salad and a few slices of beer bread from Avalon International Breads.

Tonight’s dinner was a beer and onion braised chicken carbonnade, intended for Friday night’s dinner, but then I didn’t have the beef brother, and then I also didn’t have the beer (amazing, no?), and then I also didn’t have the energy to get either of those things. As it turned out, it was a perfect meal for a night of household chores.  While I browned the chicken thighs (dusted with alspice, salt, and pepper), I did the mise en place and the dishes.  While the onions sweated a bit along with some brown sugar, we folded laundry.  With the chicken back in the pan with the beer and broth, Shane worked on his moped and I got caught up on some office-y tasks, all of which left us hungry and allowed us to give the carbonnade our undivided attentions.  The chicken was moist and flavorful, and the sauce – the sauce! – was wonderfully rich, sweet, and savory when spooned on bites of bread.  I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s leftovers, and to perhaps making this next weekend with the stew meat I picked up this morning.

Recipe:
Beer- and Onion-Braised Chicken Carbonnade from Bon Appetit

0123 Detroit

I would tell you about tonight’s dinner, except that there really wasn’t much dinner to speak of. We made our first trip to Detroit proper today, and as is the challenge in any new city, we had about five times as many restaurants to visit as we had meals to eat.  Some time ago, we realized that restaurant meals are generally just too damned big for either of us to enjoy without guilt, especially if salads, drinks, or dessert are in play. We also realized that splitting meals means we can try more things – definitely a good strategy when, as in Detroit, we had more things to eat than could be reasonably managed in one day.

Our first stop was Slows Bar-B-Q, where we split an amazing pulled pork sandwich and Shane enjoyed a remarkable pour of Bell’s Expedition Stout off the firkin cask.  The meat was tender and flavorful, the flavor only enhanced by the array of sauces available for (liberal) application at your discretion.  I really can’t wait to go back to Slows – Shane said that it alone was worth the trip.

Our second food stop was at Supino Pizza, located in the Eastern Market complex.  We split the only slice they had on hand – a very thin piece of cheese with a crispy crust.  Other diners were folding their pizza New York style – with just have a slice each, we weren’t able to enjoy the full experience – or the amazing line-up of other zas.  Another must-return location!

Finally, after wandering around the Cass Corridor for a bit, we grabbed a couple of beers and a pot of crab dip at Motor City Brewing Works.  The beers were unremarkable – I think Shane’s going to review his – but I enjoyed the crab dip, hot and bubbly with a bit of a bite.  I continued scraping the little pot with my spoon long after all salvageable dip was gone.

Detroit, you were delicious, and I can’t wait to visit you again.

January Jam: Honey Clementine Marmalade

Instead of talking about tonight’s dinner (Pizza Mia redux), I’d like to tell you about my marmalade.  Honey clementine marmalade, in fact.

Honey Clementine Marmalade

I signed up for Tigress’ Can Jam, thinking it would be a great opportunity to try some new recipes and get more confident with my canning.  This month’s ingredient was citrus – not anything even remotely local, but a fun place to start.  Tina suggested clementine, and I remembered this dessert, made for Carl several years ago on the eve of my birthday. After some digging around, I settled on this recipe, albeit with a few modifications.  I had intended to photograph the whole process, but as it happened, I started the marmalade Wednesday night, preparing the syrup and peeling the little clementines.  The whole bit needed to go in the fridge overnight, and I had good intentions of finishing it off yesterday – but then the end-of-week exhaustion hit, and I just couldn’t be bothered.  Everything pulled together tonight, though, and now there are three jars of sunny marmalade waiting for English muffins – perhaps another weekend project?

Honey Clementine Marmalade
Inspired by Confiture de Clémentine aux Epices from Serial Cooking

  • 6 clementines
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/2 tsp each of cinnamon, ground ginger, and ground cloves
  • 2 tsp pectin (I used the Ball sugar free stuff)

Grate the zest of all of the clementines.  Juice three of the clementines, and peel the remaining three.  Remove as much of the pith as possible, then slice the segments in thirds.  In a saucepan, bring to boil 2 cups water and the sugar, reserving two tablespoons.  Simmer for 15 minutes, then cool and add to the clementine juice, segments, zest, and spices.  Cover and leave to rest overnight.

The following day, transfer the jam to a large saucepan and bring to a boil.  Combine the pectin and the reserved sugar, then add to the jam.  Simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved, then bring to a boil until the jam sets.

Transfer to sterilized jars and process 15 minutes in an open water bath.  Makes 3 half pints.