Tag Archives: Lunch

2017 Cookery Project — Beef Bourguignon

Beef Bourguignon

Beef Bourguignon

According to Julia Child’s classic recipe, it takes about six hours to make Beef Bourguignon.

The recipe I used, from a cheery little website called The Café Sucre Farine, said I should “Plan about four hours from start to finish to prepare this Beef Bourguignon, with about one hour of hands-on time.”

I wanted Beef Bourguignon for lunch on Friday. The plan was to have everything—except the peas, which would be added just before serving—done the night before. So with that “four hours” estimate in mind, I started cooking just before 8PM….

I was finally able to refrigerate the plastic container I used to store the almost-finished dish at around 1:45 Friday morning, Clean-up would have to wait until later. Much later.

There’s a happy ending to this one, though. The Beef Bourguignon was literally the best I’ve ever tasted. Everything blended perfectly. Sure, I gave up an evening of re-watching Riverdale episodes and playing Gummy Drop, but it was worth it!

And, just as expected, it tasted even better the second day.


My rating. The boldface entry is my evaluation of the current dish.

★ Disaster. Inedible. Poisoned the cat.
★★ OK, but once is enough.
★★★ Mixed results. Something went wrong, but might try this again.
★★★★ Good, but lacks that special something.
★★★★★ Excellent. Goes into my “This is a winner” file.

2017 Cookery Project — Chicken Salad with Greens, Roasted Potatoes, and Shallots

Chicken Salad with Greens, Roasted Potatoes and Shallots

Chicken Salad with Greens, Roasted Potatoes and Shallots

The recipe for this meal of Chicken Salad with Greens, Roasted Potatoes, and Shallots comes from an old issue of Bon Appétit. I couldn’t find the recipe online, so there’s no link with this one. Sorry.

Putting it all together was a three-step process: prepping the vegetables, prepping the chicken, and prepping the vinaigrette.

For the vegetables, I peeled a couple of russet potatoes and cut them into bite-size cubes, sliced the shallots, put them on a baking dish, doused them with olive oil, and roasted them for half an hour. The chicken was dredged in flour and then pan-fried. The shallot and mustard vinaigrette included balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and fresh chopped thyme.

When everything was ready, I plated it on a bed of watercress, and served it hot.

The chicken and vegetables would have been good on their own, but the shallot and mustard vinaigrette was what put the dish over the top.


My rating. The boldface entry is my evaluation of the current dish.

★ Disaster. Inedible. Poisoned the cat.
★★ OK, but once is enough.
★★★ Mixed results. Something went wrong, but might try this again.
★★★★ Good, but lacks that special something.
★★★★★ Excellent. Goes into my “This is a winner” file.

Thip Khao — Lunch on 10 June 2017

I’d never tasted Laotian cooking before I went to Thip Khao last week.

The restaurant came with great credentials: It’s on The Washingtonian’s “100 Very Best Restaurants 2017” list, and The Michelin Guide, which started rating Washington restaurants just last year, included it on the “Bib Gourmand” list of recommended restaurants offering two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less. (The “Bib Gourmand” list is sort of Michelin’s version of a JV team—no stars yet, but keep an eye out, because some of them have the potential to go far.)

Siin/Muu Haeng

Siin Haeng

Most of the reviews of Thip Khao recommended starting with what the menu called “Siin/Muu Haeng — crispy sesame jerky, ginger, sriracha.” The “Siin/Muu” in the name indicated that the diner had the option of choosing either beef or pork. I chose beef.

I can’t come up with a better description of Siin Haeng than the one in the Washington Post’s review:  “…sun-dried beef teased with lemon grass and ginger should be what American beef jerky aspires to.”

Knap Paa

This is what my main, Knap Paa, looked like when it was served.

Just for a second, I hesitated. I get a tiny bit nervous whenever I see pod-like vegetation. I think it’s because I was traumatized as a child by watching Invasion of the Body Snatchers on TV late one night….


Whispering to myself, “They’re only banana leaves, They’re only banana leaves,” I eventually opened the packet. Inside was a small serving of monkfish grilled with rice, lemongrass, kaffir lime, ginger, and dill.

NB You don’t eat the banana leaves.

And this is the plated meal, including the sticky rice that arrived in a little basket, called a “thip khao”, which is where the restaurant got its name.

So, how was it?

Okay, but I wasn’t overwhelmed. Given the choice of another meal at Thip Khao or a return to Nam Viet, I’d take Nam Viet in a second. The Knap Paa was bland, and I could barely taste the monkfish.

Perhaps part of my dissatisfaction is a result of my decision to order from the regular menu, instead of opting for a second, much hotter menu that Thip Khao calls “The Jungle”.

Maybe next time.

Nam Viet — Lunch on 6 June 2017

There was a long period when I probably averaged about five meals in Vietnamese restaurants for every hamburger I ate. (This was before hamburgers went upscale.)

Nam Viet, in Cleveland Park, was one of my default choices when I wanted an excellent and not-too-expensive meal, but it’s been at least two years since I last visited.

My loss.

I was in the neighbourhood yesterday, dropping off equipment at the Comcast service center—I’ve finally cut the cord on overpriced cable! Nam Viet was right across the street, and it was lunchtime.

Fried Quail

Fried Quail

I started with the fried quail appetizer, and, oh, was it good. I’d never order this unless I was dining alone, because eating quail is even messier than eating lobster. Quail is small and bony—the smaller bones are actually edible—and, really, it’s finger food. Nam Viet serves it with a glazed sweet house fish sauce and caramelized onions, on a bed of lettuce.

Caramelized Chicken

Caramelized Chicken

My main, from the “Chef Specialties” menu, was a huge serving of Caramelized Chicken with fresh ginger and onions. The sautéed, all-white-meat chicken came in a lidded bowl, with a side of steamed rice.

The sauce was nothing less than amazing—sweet and rich and syruppy. I wanted to taste every drop.

All in all, this was one of the best meals I’ve had in months. I’m thinking of making lunch at Nam Viet a once-a-week appointment for June and July.

2017 Cookery Project — Honey Orange Firecracker Shrimp

Honey Orange Firecracker Shrimp

Honey Orange Firecracker Shrimp

Lunch today came from a recipe for Honey Orange Firecracker Shrimp on Chungah Rhee’s Damn Delicious website. More on that later.

I’m in the process of putting my house in order, both literally and figuratively. One of the things I’m doing is replacing an old, wobbly, handmade kitchen shelving unit with a tall new wire chrome replacement. But first I want to repaint the wall in back of the shelving. Until I do that, most of the equipment I need to cook anything more complicated than toast is resting in boxes on my living room floor.

I’m great at starting things, but finishing them is another matter entirely, so it may be a while before the kitchen is usable again. Fortunately, I live in a restaurant-rich city, I really love Thai food, and sending out for Thai is easy, in this best of all possible worlds. As for the living room, I can always fall back on my standard excuse that I’m planning a yard sale. It’s worked for years.

On to the recipe.

I shelled and cleaned the shrimp, dusted them with cornstarch, and dipped them in beaten eggs, wondering yet again why shrimp tails are always left on. Two minutes in the pan and a quick flip was as much as they needed. The kicker was the sauce, which was made with honey, orange juice and orange zest, garlic powder, crushed red pepper flakes, and ground ginger, cooked down to a syrupy texture. I plated the shrimp on a bed of rice, and poured the sauce over the top.


Now, about that website…

Is it for real?

Everyone pictured on the “Meet Our Team” page is seriously good-looking. Like, model-beautiful, which isn’t really surprising, because their on-line bios are heavy with actor/fitness trainer/model work histories. This isn’t quite what you’d expect of people identified as “Brand Manager” and “Operations Manager.” I also noticed that their individual websites have the look and feel of being created by the same web designer. The websites don’t look alike, but they share a similar aesthetic.

And who is Chungah Rhee?

The Damn Delicious website give includes brief biographical notes, but “Chungah Rhee” does not appear to have a Wikipedia entry. Is she real, or a construct?

Maybe I’m looking to solve a mystery that doesn’t exist.

And besides, from Betty Crocker to Aunt Jemima to Captain Crunch, our food history is full of mythological creators, so whether Chungah Rhee is real, fictional, or a combination of the two probably doesn’t matter.

I sometimes wonder about Alice Waters , though….


I’ve decided to start rating these experiments on a five-star scale, The boldface entry is my evaluation of the current dish.

★ Disaster. Inedible. Poisoned the cat.
★★ OK, but once is enough.
★★★ Mixed results. Something went wrong, but might try this again.
★★★★ Good, but lacks that special something.
★★★★★ Excellent. Goes into my “This is a winner” file.

Spring at the National Cathedral

Years ago, I made it a rule to schedule an at-home vacation during the first week in May. Except for the occasional day trip to Baltimore or Annapolis, I spent the time in Washington, catching up on movies or museum exhibitions that I’d missed, taking care of household tasks, and generally enjoying the warm springtime weather.

The week’s vacation always ended the same way, with a visit to the National Cathedral. Since 1939, the Cathedral has hosted an annual two-day “Flower Mart,” which begins on the first Friday in May.

A spring fete in and around the cathedral? Could there be a more likely setting for a good old-fashioned Agatha Christie murder mystery? Anglophile and Agatha Christie fan that I am, there was no way I could pass that up.

There was always a chance I’d stumble over a body in the flower beds herbaceous borders, and I wouldn’t want to miss that.


“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

—attributed, probably incorrectly, to Albert Einstein

I had another, more practical reason for attending the event: Herbs.

One of the great attractions of the festival is the immense selection of potted herbs for sale on the grounds. Every year, I’d fill a bag with six or eight little plants, carry them home, carefully re-pot them, set them on a windowsill, and faithfully follow the care and feeding instructions printed on their identifying name plates.

And every year, the damned things would be dead in less than a month.

Well, not this year. I’ve finally broken that old and frustrating habit. From now on, I’ll be buying all my herbs in those sealed little plastic packets in the produce department of Giant, as Nature intended.

I may have a black thumb, but I’m not crazy.


After filling my knapsack with late-night munchies from the Episcopal Church Women’s Baked Goods booth, I had to make the difficult choice between competing festival food vendors for my on-site meal.

Crepes or Paella?
Sweet or Spicy?
France or Spain?

This time, the Spanish won. I chose a big serving of the shrimp paella, ate half of it at the festival, and finished it off at home.

2017 Cookery Project — “Tzimmes” Chicken with Apricots, Prunes, and Carrots

“Tzimmes” Chicken with Apricots, Prunes, and Carrots

“Tzimmes” Chicken with Apricots, Prunes, and Carrots

Epicurious had an interesting-looking recipe for Tzimmes, a traditional stew served at Passover meals, when it’s customary to eat honey-flavored dishes. I decided to give it a try.

The defining elements of tzimmes, besides the honey, are carrots and dried fruits, in this case, prunes and apricots. The recipe I used also included red onion wedges, lots of whole, peeled garlic cloves, 20 sprigs of thyme, fresh lemon juice, white wine, olive oil, and ground cinnamon, ground cumin, and cayenne pepper.

And chicken.

I didn’t have a bowl large enough to hold all the ingredients during marination, so I had to marinate the chicken separately, and when it came time to bake the tzimmes, the combined components filled two large baking trays.

The results were a knockout. This one made me v happy.


I’ve decided to start rating these experiments on a five-star scale, The boldface entry is my evaluation of the current dish.

★ Disaster. Inedible. Poisoned the cat.
★★ OK, but once is enough.
★★★ Mixed results. Something went wrong, but might try this again.
★★★★ Good, but lacks that special something.
★★★★★ Excellent. Goes into my “This is a winner” file.