1020 Two Attempts at Fries

I promised to bring bread and salad to dinner tonight – but when I went to the store for bread, I neglected to pick up the salad, and so made sweet potato fries instead.

Sweet Potato Fries

That’s a logical progression, right?  It’s obviously easier to peel, slice, season, bake, flip, and salt a giant sweet potato than it is to swing by Plum on the way to dinner, right?  Riiiiight.

I started from this recipe for the sweet potato fries, but in reviewing the steps, I realize I did something completely different, which must mean that I combined 2-3 other recipes into mine, which I have to say is probably the best:

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

1-2 pounds sweet potatoes (I used one GIANT one)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
a generous pinch of kosher salt
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400, and line a baking sheet or two with tinfoil.  Peel, wash, and dry your sweet potatoes. Slice the sweet potatoes into roughly even pieces. In a bowl – or, better, a big ziploc bag, combine your spices. Working in batches, toss your fry slices in the spice mix, then line up on a cooling rack placed over a baking sheet. I can’t remember why this is exactly important, but I’m guessing it has something to do with the fries not soaking in oil and/or encouraging air circulation.  Drizzle a generous amount of olive oil over the top, then bake for 30 minutes. Flip the fries, drizzle with a bit more oil, then bake for another 20 minutes or until browned and crispy on the edges. Good stuff.

I should note that I’ve tacked on the tinfoil recommendation because my baking sheet is now a sticky mess of burned-on olive oil, and no one wants to deal with that when there are delicious fries to be devoured straight from the oven.

Oh yeah, and the other fries?  Kinda weird.

Celeriac Fries

I was inspired to make fries with the impulse celeriac I bought at the market the other weekend.  They were definitely fries – good texture and all of that – but they were pretty weird otherwise.  The seasoning wasn’t quite what I was going for, and none of us really knew what to expect from the celeriac itself anyway.  Everyone tried one or two, and then I tossed the rest with no regrets.  50% ain’t bad!

1019 Taco Tuesday? Taco Tuesday.

At some point this afternoon, Matt and Shannon both tweeted about TACO TUESDAY.  I don’t know if their tweets put the seed of Taco Tuesday in Shane’s head, but by the time he finished his workout, he had a mad craving for tacos al pastor.

Tacos al pastor con cilantro y cebolla
Photo by Dave77459

So back to Sabor Latino for another sub-$20 meal – 3 tacos for me, 4 for Shane (plus a bonus unwanted fish taco), and 2.5 (free) orders of sweet-hot salsa over crispy chips. I would say that we’re going to go broke if this Taco Tuesday habit keeps up, but while I’m interested in making tacos al pastor at home, I suspect we’ll be back for another Taco Tuesday soon. Like maybe next Tuesday.

1018 Quick Dinner/KotWS

We had a hot date with some Toms Collins tonight, but were both definitely too hungry after work to wait until 7pm.  Yeah, yeah, we eat like old people.  I’m less bothered by that fact than I am bothered by my total hunger at 5pm when I’ve had breakfast at 6:30am and lunch at 11.  I suppose if I shifted my schedule forward by about two hours – breakfast at 8:30am and lunch at 1 – I might be able to wait til 7 for dinner on an average night.  This shift wouldn’t do me much good, though, as I’d still wake up at 6-6:30, even in the pitch black, and then I’d just be grumpy and hungry for two hours.  And no one likes that.

ANYWAY.

There’s about zero chance of us resisting the fluffy golden dinner rolls at Knight’s, so all we really needed was something simple to tide us over – maybe some veg and protein?  Lacking any coherent entree options, I sauteed some Brussels sprouts and shallots with butter until golden-brown, then gently scrambled a few eggs and warmed up the last of the bread from Saturday’s ad hoc dinner.

We ate everything up – and it’s a good thing, too, as the two martinis I had later went straight to my head.  Despite the ounce or two of regret later, we had a great time at KotWS, and look forward to the next meeting of this geographically collocated fraternity of imbibers.

Things I Love Thursday #1

a la Julie Mack

  • The NPR New App for Android – I’ve been a mass transit or bike or walking commuter for 5 years, and for 5 years I’ve missed NPR on the commute. NO LONGER!
  • Winter veg: first successful batch of sweet potato fries last night, Suz’s cauliflower soup, sweet and spicy butternut squash soup for lunch.
  • Sweater and kneesock weather make #argylethursday a no brainer:

    Double #argylethursday

  • First email addressed to Professor Beers
  • Ginger tea (which I could really use right now)
  • Filling out my Goodreads with my old reading lists and scattered reviews – my as I think of it project for the last week or two
  • Reading somewhat trashy historical fiction in the bathtub

What are you into this week?

1017 Proclaiming the Virtues of Toast

This morning I was reminded that the simplest breakfast can be the most wonderful.  I’m not talking about the half order of crab cake benedict that was still almost too much food for me.  I’m talking about this:

Cinnamon Raisin Bread - Toasted and buttered

We were all up and ready for breakfast at 8 this morning, so we decided to try to get in at Angelo’s, a UM dining institution since the 50s.  As you may recall, we tried to go to Angelo’s for a free breakfast on Shane’s birthday, but were unable to find anywhere remotely close to park – and besides, there’s almost always a line.  8am on a Sunday morning – even during Homecoming weekend – must be a magic hour, as we got the last spot in the Angelo’s lot and were seated right away.

Frankly, I don’t get waiting in line for breakfast.  I’ll do it on occasion for something special, but in general, the longer I wait to eat my first meal of the day, the crankier I’m going to be.  This is compounded by lack of caffeine – even worse if I happen to be hung over.  Fortunately none of these things were the case this morning – the wait, lack of caffeine, or hang over – I only mention them in the context of not understanding why anyone would stand out in the cold to wait for breakfast at Angelo’s.  It was fine.  It wasn’t anything special.  Shane had to send his eggs back because they were barely cooked.

Honestly, and as I mentioned before, the stand-out part of breakfast for me was the raisin toast.  Angelo’s bakes their bread in house, so your side of toast is something grander than your average white bread.  Mom and I shared her side of raisin toast – thick slabs of bread studded with sweet raisins, which you could then top with cinnamon sugar from a shaker on the table.  Simple.  Delicious.  Golden, on the edge of brown.  I ate the rest of my breakfast, but would’ve happily traded the crabcake topped with a perfectly poached egg for another slice or two of raisin toast.

1016 Mom’s Belated Football Birthday

Today was all about Mom – from breakfast to football to cake.

Hawkeye Pride

For breakfast: French toast and fried apples.  I don’t love French toast, but Mom and Shane both do, so while they slept in, I battered and grilled up slices of challah dipped in egg, milk, vanilla, and pumpkin pie spice.  I also cut up and sauteed a couple of apples in butter and cinnamon – perfect for spooning over the French toast or, in my case, stirring into Greek yogurt with a bit of maple syrup drizzled over the top.

While Shane headed off to Detroit to watch moped races at the Thunderdrome, Mom and I hit the farmer’s market and did some window shopping in Kerrytown, then grabbed a quick lunch at Plum before heading off to the game!  I came by my love of Big 10 football honestly, albeit later in life. All of my family is from Iowa, so we grew up cheering for the Hawkeyes and the Hawkeyes only. None of us have ever had much use for professional sports, though I do really enjoy live baseball. Mom follows Hawkeye football and wrestling in particular, and seeing the Hawkeyes in all of the Big 10 stadiums has been on her bucket list for years.

Hawkeyes

Getting to watch the Hawkeyes beat Michigan in the Big House, then, was all kinds of dreams come true.  Mom was jealous of all of the high fives I collected as we walked around the stadium exchanging “Go Hawks” with other Hawkeye fans.  Aside from a few grumps, the Michigan fans around us put up with our cheers – and gave us a good-natured ribbing when the game appeared to turn around in the fourth quarter.  If I hadn’t hurt my knee (don’t ask me how – all I did was stand up), it would’ve been a perfect afternoon.

HERKY!

Shane picked us up downtown, and we spent the rest of the night relaxing at home with chicken stew, red velvet cake, and Wisconsin’s victory over Ohio State. Two of the three were excellent, and the other was warm and satisfying, if not exactly what I’d had in mind when I fired up the crockpot. Apart from the knee, it was pretty much a perfect Midwest fall day – and exactly the sort of belated birthday Mom wanted.

1015 Roadhouse Dinner with Mom

Mom picked just about the most beautiful weekend of the year to come visit.  It’s sunny, the days are in the 60s, and the leaves are brilliantly colored.  Tomorrow we’re going to the Iowa game – my birthday present to her – but tonight we stuck closer to home, and indulged in what Laurie Colwin might call “nursery food” and I call just damned good: dinner at Zingerman’s Roadhouse.

Zingerman's Roadhouse
Photo by Debs Leigh

For me: Salisbury steak. I don’t know that I’ve ever had Salisbury steak before, but it’s what jumped off the menu at me, despite Mom’s memories of it as a gross school lunch. In this case, it was a thick burger patty topped with a rich mushroom gravy and served with mashed potatoes and sauteed spinach. I ate every last bite, sopping up the last of the gravy with a slice of buttered bread. I’m sure it went straight to my arteries, and I didn’t care.

Mom had the pulled pork with greens (not green beans, as she expected) and mashed potatoes. The server brought her two extra sauces so that she could try all three, and was happy to bring some extra pork out when her portion turned out to be very fatty. Shane had some amazing scallops – tender, sweet, and perfectly grilled – along with mashed potatoes and spinach.

We left full and happy, and after a quick stop by the Deli, we spent the rest of the evening on the couch with Toy Story 3: a nice end to a nice night!

1014 Pizza Thursday

Whoever decided that Thursday night was a good night for a solid TV lineup was on to something.

Thursdays are kind of the no man’s land of the week – moreso even than Wednesday, in my opinion.  On Wednesday, you’re solidly in the work week mode.  You’ve had two days of getting up early and coming home tired to shake you out of your weekend relaxation.  By Thursday, though, the weekend is within reach – but you’re eating leftovers because you’re not quite to payday or Friday’s happy hour or Saturday’s trip to the farmer’s market.  You’re running out of clean socks, and the detritus of the week is cluttering up the table.

I feel overwhelmed when I have plans or responsibilities on Thursday nights.  It’s one reason I stopped volunteering as often at SELMA.  If we’re having weekend guests or going out of town, we need to make sure that the house is clean, the bags are packed, the garden has been weeded, and the gas tank is full.  If one of us is leaving for the weekend while the other stays home, we like to go on dates.  And even if we’re staying put and not entertaining, by the time Thursday rolls around I am usually wiped and want nothing more than to sit on the couch.

My mom is coming up from Rockford this weekend, so tonight we needed to get the house ready for her visit.  The 80 degree days of early October have finally abated, so I needed to dig out the sweaters and put away the sundresses.  Our friends are chefing at SELMA this week, so Shane wanted to help them prep.  And we were both tired, so we ordered a pizza.  And that’s just fine.

1013 25 Cloves of Garlic in the Crockpot

It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally I’ll make a dish that that Shane enjoys more with nearly every bite. Tonight’s chicken was one of those dishes.

This recipe was adapted from one I found on A Year of Slow Cooking and modified based on recipes in the same vein. The original recipe called for paprika and no extra liquid, while the Barefoot Contessa called for wine, Cognac, heavy cream, and fresh herbs for a luxurious sauce. Alton Brown‘s version called for 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil, making it sound more like fried and then baked chicken. I skipped the excess fat in both alternate versions, but did riff on their spicing, subbing ras el hanout for the paprika and adding fresh herbs from the garden. All of that plus the chicken, garlic, and onion went into the crockpot before I left for work at 7.

We came home to a house that smelled amazing. The onions and garlic had charred a bit – 8 hours in the crockpot was a bit too long, so I recommend 7 hours – but the chicken was terrifically moist and flavorful.  I served it with crusty bread and sauteed mushrooms and wee summer squash.  Totally simple, totally delicious, and with every bite, Shane made more noises of happiness, finally proclaiming that next time we have to make the full chicken because two legs and thighs definitely wasn’t enough.  That’s what I like to hear!

25 Clove Garlic Chicken
Adapted from Slow Cooker 20 to 40 Clove Garlic Chicken

3-4 pound chicken, cut up (2 legs and thighs served 3 people)
2 yellow onions, sliced
25+ cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon ras el hanout
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon fresh oregano or thyme
2 teaspoons kosher salt (believe it or not, I measured this out)
1 teaspoon pepper

Place onions in the bottom of a large crockpot, then top with garlic cloves. Place the chicken pieces on top, then dust with half of the spices. Flip the chicken over and dust with the rest of the spices. Cover your crockpot and cook on low for 7 hours – less if you’re using chicken off the bone.

1012 Taco Tuesday

238/365 - Autumn bokeh
Photo by aechempati

It’s fall here – for real, despite the weekend temperatures near 80. Our driveway is full of leaves, and the garden is starting to give up the ghost. It’s basically perfect moped weather, but with other obligations this weekend, we hadn’t had a chance to get out for a ride together. We sold my moped earlier in the week – it’s been acting up, and we were going to get rid of it anyway – so Shane was excited for me to learn how to ride his Hobbit tonight. We hopped on the peds for a short ride before dinner, zipping up Dexter and down Maple towards Huron River Drive.

And then Shane’s ped died. And then, just as the lights changed, my ped died. Did I mention that I hadn’t ever started the Hobbit on my own? So that was fun. Shane had already zipped through the light, and when he realized I wasn’t behind him, he doubled back, fearful that I’d crashed. By that time I’d figured out how to start the bike, but we both decided that a longer ride was a bad idea.

Instead, we went for tacos. Dollar tacos at Sabor Latino, to be precise. Neither of us had been, but it seemed like a good, cheap, and fast dinner – and it was. For $16, we had 7 tacos, an order of guacamole, a soda, a beer, and chips and salsa between us. Not quite as cheap as Taco Bell – but oh so much better! We both enjoyed the tacos al pastor, and we’re resolved to figure out how to make it at home. The salsa was spicy-sweet – even better than the guacamole, which is really saying something since we both love avocado. We left full and happy, and will definitely be back for more soon – perhaps even on the mopeds if this beautiful weather sticks around.