Category Archives: Home Meals

2017 Cookery Project — Steak and Cottage Fries

Steak and Cottage Fries

Steak and Cottage Fries

Because I was mentally and physically exhausted from doing my taxes last night—All those numbers to key into the H&R Block screens! All those NEXT buttons to click!—I felt like staying in and cooking instead of going out today, so I reviewed what I had on hand, and came up with this simple lunch.

I took some top round, seared it, and then braised it in beef stock and red wine, something I could probably do with my eyes closed. (I decided to keep them open, though, because there was no one around to impress with my daring, kitchen skills, and savoir faire, so there was no point in risking major injury. I still have bad memories, and a few second degree burn scars, from the last time I tried it….)

My basic rule for the 2017 Cookery Project is that each dish must include a new-to-me technique or ingredient. This time, that requirement was met when I used a method for cooking potatoes that I learned from a recipe called Chef John’s Cottage Fries from allrecipes.com. I’ll let Chef John himself describe it:

I like it spicy, so I went a bit overboard with the cayenne pepper. I’ll reduce it next time.

I crumbled some bleu cheese over the beef, and garnished the dish with parsley, because why not?

Another success in the kitchen!

2017 Cookery Project — Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Cherry-Thyme Pan Sauce

Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Cherry-Thyme Pan Sauce

Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Cherry-Thyme Pan Sauce

For whatever reason, I’ve been finding it particularly difficult to get centered now that I’ve returned to the US. It shouldn’t be a problem—I was only gone a couple of weeks—but I’ve been both antsy and low energy since I got back. As a result, I’ve been living on deli and carryout. Good quality carryout, but carryout nonetheless.

Today, for the first time since I left Venice, I made a serious lunch at home.

I turned to an old recipe from Epicurious for Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Cherry-Thyme Pan Sauce. I gave the pork loin a coriander rub, and then pan-fried it in olive oil to give it a golden crust on all sides. Once that was done, I removed it and cooked sliced shallots and a dozen sprigs of thyme in the same pan. Then came balsamic vinegar, red wine, deglazing, and the secret ingredient, sugar. After the sauce cooked down, I swirled in a big hunk of butter, because once I’m in the kitchen, I turn into a total hedonist who cares not a bit about things like high cholesterol levels. The last thing into the pan was a generous portion of dark sweet cherries. The last things out of the pan were those sprigs of thyme.

(This being April, I had to use frozen-but-thawed cherries. Can’t wait to try this recipe again once I can get fresh ones.)

For the side, I used an incredibly simple Martha Stewart recipe. I sautéed minced garlic in—here it comes again—a big hunk of butter, then wilted spinach in it. It always surprises me how much things like spinach and kale cook down. You start with what looks like a three-week supply, and end up with two meagre servings.

It all worked, and it looked great.

2017 Cookery Project — Shrimp Scampi

Shrimp Scampi

Shrimp Scampi

Did you know that there’s a National Shrimp Scampi Day in the United States? It’s celebrated every year, on 29 April. I hardily approve, and think such celebrations should be expanded. We need a National Boeuf Bourguignon Day, a National Chicken Marbella Day (preferably during National 1980s Week), and a National Hot Fudge Sundae Sunday.

When the Revolution Comes….

As you can see, I’m back in the kitchen again, this time to make Shrimp Scampi for lunch. I used an uncomplicated recipe from Bon Appétit.

The key to giving the dish that special garlicky taste is to marinate the shrimp and grated garlic in olive oil for about an hour before cooking. Then it’s simply a matter of sautéing the shrimp until they’re pink but not quite fully cooked, setting them aside and adding red pepper flakes and sliced garlic to the pan, followed by lemon juice and white wine. After the mixture has cooked down, add lots of butter and return the shrimp to the pan to finish cooking. Plate it, add some chopped parsley, and “Viola!” as the French say, when they’re making a bad joke.

Heat some good white bread—I used part of a baguette—to mop up that rich buttery sauce left in the bowl when you’ve finished eating the shrimp

Then take a long nap.

2017 Cookery Project — Seared Scallops With Mint, Peas, and Bacon

Seared Scallops With Mint, Peas, and Bacon

Seared Scallops With Mint, Peas, and Bacon

Since it’s been six weeks since the first (and only) posting about my 2017 Cookery Project, even my closest followers—all three of them—have probably forgotten by now that it even existed. The simple truth is that I just haven’t done much innovative cooking so far this year. Between a heavy rotation of lunches at various area Restaurant Weeks and an otherwise somewhat crowded schedule, I’ve been living on deli carry-outs, salads, and old standards for most of my home meals. I’m not abandoning my experimentation with tastes and techniques, but I probably won’t get up to full speed until April.

I did try something new yesterday: Seared Scallops With Mint, Peas, and Bacon, based on a recipe from Epicurious. I stuck to the recipe—except for increasing the amount of bacon, because, well, bacon—and made a pea pureé for the first time.

I was happy with the result, and happy to taste my own (new) cooking for a change.

2017 Cookery Project — A Belated Christmas Dinner

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

For reasons of interest only to me and my pulmonary specialist, I was too sick to do Christmas last year. I later made up for it by overindulging in ice cream and Christmas cookies, and by cooking a belated Christmas dinner over the long New Year’s weekend.

The unlikely standout dish was the Brussels sprouts. I halved them and boiled them for three minutes, while frying a half-dozen strips of bacon, which I’d cut into one inch squares. Then I diced a big red onion and sautéed it until the dice turned translucent. I added the sprouts, the drained bacon, a few sprigs of thyme, and some Golden raisins the pan, and gave it a few minutes to heat through. It was a knockout.


The photo is of a serving dish, plated to display the food. There was much more turkey, and other goodies, lurking offstage.

2016 Cookery Project — Second Half Review

I saw an ad a few weeks ago for a novelty Christmas present. It was a 2017 day planner, with spaces on each daily page for progress reports on self-improvement projects, exercise schedules, diet notes, and financial budgeting. That is, it had that stuff for each day until about the third week in January. The rest of the pages were blank.

It was a day planner for realists.

That hit way too close to home. My own traditional New Year’s resolutions—develop a wine palate, learn French, walk more, play Internet less—tend to go down in flames early in the year.

This year, though, I did stick with one of those goals through the entire 12 months: The 2016 Cookery Project.

I learned a lot about food and kitchen skills in 2016. Despite—or maybe because of—any number of stove top disasters, the quality of my meals at home improved dramatically, far beyond what I’d expected when I started the project last January.

Back in July, I posted pictures of some of the things I’d made during the first half of the year. Here are some from he second half:

2016 Cookery Project — Peach and Bleu Cheese Toasts

Peach and Bleu Cheese Toasts

Peach and Bleu Cheese Cheese Toasts

Lunch today came from a recipe in Bon Appétit.

A few years ago, if I’d read a recipe that told me to blanch and shock the peaches, I probably would have stared at the page for a few moments, before thumbing through the cookbook until I found something more within my comfort zone, like a recipe that began “Take one can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup.” But now I know the things I know….

So I blanched and shocked the peaches, then peeled them over a bowl, to catch the peach juice. I added a little olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and honey. Meanwhile, I cut two thick slices of Country White bread and toasted them under the broiler. When they started to singe at the edges, I brushed them with olive oil, and scattered bleu cheese and watercress—my favourite green these days—on top of them. Then I topped that with the peaches and some of the sauce.

It sure beat Cream of Mushroom Soup.