Pepper steak

My mother made this exquisite Chinese dish from time to time. Honestly I don’t think we ever had much in the way of steak and while I think she was more than adventuresome when it came to cooking (and cooking within a budget) she didn’t make Chinese food. We did have curry, steamed artichokes, shish kabobs, bunsteads. OK, bunsteads were not adventurous. They were revolting. But you get my point. Chinese food was not a common thing for her aside from chop suey—which was just stew with celery and a can of “oriental” vegetables dumped in it. And then there was this pepper steak that I loved. She made it once when my cousin came to dinner with her husband. As I recall they, my cousin and her husband, somehow managed to get into a fight about it.

I was eating alone when I made this so the risk of getting into a fight while not out of the question, was minimal. And it was delicious.

Pepper steak recipe here. Bunstead recipe here.

These dismal things

I had a half of a can of pumpkin left over after I made the Thanksgiving cheesecake and could not bear to throw it away so I looked up pumpkin cookie recipes. The New York Times coughed this one up and I bit. The recipe called for half of a can so I was all in. The reviews were glowing or least that was my impression. They were easy enough to make but the results were less than subpar.

I’d blame the spices, mine may be a little long in the tooth, but I’d used the same ones for the cheesecake and that was stellar.

The bad news regarding the stupid cookies is that I cannot just throw them away, nor can I give them to people. I mean, I could give them to people I don’t like but then they’d think I was a bad baker. I can’t have that. I ate them.

Pumpkin cookies, not recommended, recipe here. Pumpkin cheesecake pie, highly recommended, recipe here.

A great deal of restraint

Winter, cold weather, Christmas upon us—gets me all nostalgic-like (we put up the tree) and I decided to make my mother’s stew. I could say I’ve been making this stew for decades but really I think I have never ever made it exactly like my mother made it. I can’t control myself with a recipe. I have a compulsion to not follow them, recipes, I mean. Red wine? Yes! Ketchup? Yes! Celery? Why not? I have plenty! Leeks? Of course! Marshmallows? Sounds good!

This time, exercising a kind of restraint to which I am unaccustomed I made MY MOTHER’S STEW. I followed the recipe exactly. It was sublime. And really, the smell was soooo evocative. I would be so happy when I was a kid and came home from school to the smell of stew. The added plus of stew being gravy bread. It was perfect for a warm beginnings to holidays.

My mother’s recipe is called “Delightfully Different Stew.” I am not sure what makes it all that different, maybe it’s the Worcestershire sauce or maybe the lack of all the extra crap I’d usually put in it.

Also on the plus side

Pumpkin cheesecake pie was a smash hit. Fortunately I was able to make it 2 days in advance so I had adequate time to clean up. It wasn’t all that difficult to make, unlike other cheesecakes this does not require a water bath but somehow it ranks up there with the messier individual food items I’ve ever produced.

Still it was really good and good for people who don’t really like pumpkin.

You’d think that no one who’d eaten would want dessert. We had 2 kinds of green beans, 2 kinds of sweet potatoes, a winter salad, roasted carrots, roasted beets, Brussels sprouts, the dilly rolls (I hate that name), mashed potatoes, stuffing and turkey. How could anyone eat more.

Not only was the pumpkin cheesecake completely eaten, my sister’s massive apple slab pie was also decimated. I did manage to get a piece of that and it was fabulous.

On the plus side

I made these amazing rolls. Loads of fresh dill and chopped onion.

The unfortunately named Dilly rolls were relatively easy to make.

I doubled the recipe which can cause problems but amazingly it did not. Also, amazingly although it was sorta messy, it wasn’t hard to do at all and the dough was very well behaved. Doubling exactly the way it was supposed to and baking up just perfectly.

You can watch Alison Roman make them here. I enjoy her. Certain others in this household do not. But the rolls were very good. And the recipe is right here.

Dilly Rolls

makes 12 rolls

The dough is soft and sticky by design, so resist the urge to add more flour, or they’ll end up heavier and denser than they should be. Feel free to bake them on a sheet tray spaced apart if you prefer the spherical little bun shape vs. the squished roll-in-a-dish look. If dill is not a flavor you enjoy, you could certainly leave it out (the onions give a lot here, too), but also, they’re called Dilly Rolls?

1¼ cups (10 ounces) whole milk
2¼ teaspoons (1 packet) active dry yeast
2 teaspoons (12g) sugar
3 cups (450g) all-purpose flour
½ cup finely chopped fresh dill (approx 30g)
½ small white or yellow onion, finely chopped (approx 80g)
2 teaspoons dill seed (I’ve also used caraway or celery seed, both taste great) (optional)
2 ¼ teaspoons (7g) kosher salt
6 tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the pan and pot
1 egg, beaten (or a little buttermilk, milk, heavy cream, or softened butter), for brushing
Flaky salt and cracked black pepper
Softened salted butter, for serving

1. Heat the milk in a small pot over medium heat to a nice, warmer-than-lukewarm temperature. Remove from heat, and whisk in the yeast and sugar, mixing to dissolve both in the milk; set aside.

2. Using a wooden spoon, stir the flour, dill, onions, dill seed, and salt in a large bowl. Mix in the warm milk mixture, creating a rough ball of dough. Add in the 6 tablespoons melted butter, and continue to mix, using the wooden spoon to kind of knead the dough until it comes together (it will be soft, but decidedly a dough, not a batter).

3. Leave the dough in the bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let it double in size at room temperature, about 90 minutes.

4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, and divide into twelve even portions. (I find the easiest way to do this is to divide the dough in half, then keep dividing each piece in half, rather than guessing what 1/12th of the dough looks like.)

5. Flatten each piece of dough between your palms, then fold the edges to meet each other, making a ball. Smooth the seam by rolling the dough in a tight circle on the countertop. Place each piece of dough in a buttered (or oiled) 3-quart baking dish (I use a regular 9×13), three across, four down (alternatively, bake them on a rimmed baking sheet spaced further apart for a rounder roll shape).

6. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Cover with plastic wrap, and let sit in a warm place (like on top of the oven) for 45–60 minutes, until the balls of dough are puffy and touching :).

7. To bake, you can brush the rolls with anything you want, but they need something: melted butter, heavy cream, buttermilk, milk, or an egg beaten with a touch of water for an egg wash (I like egg wash for the shine). Then sprinkle the tops of the rolls with flaky salt and cracked black pepper.

8. Bake the rolls until they’re deeply golden brown on all sides, have puffed up into what looks like one large-ish roll (unless you’re baking them individually), and feel crunchy and firm when the tops are tapped, 35–40 minutes.

9. Remove from heat, and let cool slightly. These rolls really are best eaten the day of, but can be rewarmed in the oven or eaten at room temperature or whatever, honestly who cares, they’re rolls filled with butter and dill, they’re perfect whenever.

DO AHEAD: Rolls can be made and baked a day ahead, wrapped individually in foil or kept in their baking dish.

LEFTOVERS: They make excellent little breakfast sandwiches the next day, but if you want to relive the glory days of a warm roll, simply wrap them in foil and reheat in a 400° oven for 8–10 minutes.

Thanksgiving 2023

Did not go off without a hitch or two. I was soooo prepared, I thought. This will be easy peasy, I thought. No problem, I thought. Oh, it will be so Norman Rockwellian, I thought.

I thought wrong.

Let’s debrief. We were planning on dinner for about 18 people. I’d handed off sides and pies to various other family members so we were good there. We (OK, he) deboned the turkey the night before and I browned the bones and made stock from them. (I am sparing you the images from the turkey abattoir which are just too gruesome to endure.) The browned bones in the InstantPot, again, too ugly to share. But the next day with a gallon of luscious stock, chopped giblets and 2 bags of Brownberry sage and onion stuffing, plus an addition of Pepperidge Farms marble rye cubes for extra deliciousness, we made the stuffing, filled the damn thing and laced it up.

Heart, giblets and liver, chopped

This is the secret to sublime stuffing. Liver, heart and giblets finely chopped and added to the dressing—before anyone sees because anyone witnessing it will strenuously object to it as “totally gross.” And they’re not wrong but we were using the entirety of the bird. As much and thoroughly as we could. Farm to table, or nose to tail, or whatever. I would say we were honoring the bird by using everything but the beak. But let’s face it, in truth we are just making the best stuffing we could make for deliciousness sake. Furthermore, this is what my mother always did and her stuffing is the quintessence of stuffing splendor.

OK, yes, it was grotesque. I will give you that. It looked vaguely like a headless child. But the deboning the turkey makes it easier, once cooked, to slice and serve. This assumes the turkey is cooked. And that is where we (I) fell down. The heat probe I put into the bird that monitors the temperature whilst in the oven told me it was done.

It was not.

Loaded into the roaster it lost its childlike quality and took on a more, I dunno, pillow-like, proto-blobular aspect that then loses it’s vaguely upsetting appearance for something also unappealing but not immediately repulsive. As I’ve said, the perfectly roasted, deboned bird is the final goal here. No one need see it in its unroasted form. Only to be revealed later, sliced and steaming, artistically arranged on a platter to the oohs and ahh of the assembled masses.

I want you now to imagine 19 people milling around in my small house faint from hunger and, to be honest, with utterly nothing else to do but wait for dinner so the pressure was on. And so when the oven probe announced the proper temperature had been reached we (he) sliced open the turkey only to discover the bloody raw interior.

To my credit I did not, as much as I wanted to, throw my hands into the air, shriek and/or collapse into a gagging heap of tears and choking sobs on the floor, so that was my contribution to the situation. To his credit, Husoor sliced the thing fully in half, exposing the uncooked part, whipped it back into the oven, upped the temp to 375, and announced “dinner in 15!” which, while not exactly accurate was enough to mollify the crowd to the point that they put down their pitchforks and torches and sat calmly back down.

Eventually the food got served and everyone had a fine time and I’d worried needlessly.

Leftover pizza breakfast

It is Thanksgiving and we were too busy making food to worry about making breakfast or for that matter lunch. Thankfully, we had leftovers from our traditional night-before-Thanksgiving meal. Pizza.

My two favorite meals back to back: Pizza, and stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy. You can see why I’d be so very thankful.

Yay! It’s winter (almost)

There are some good things about winter. Like . . . um . . . well, Christmas. Also, warm woolen mittens. Not to mention snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes. And my personal favorite: winter food.

Chicken pot pie and ho-made bread.

Well Diwali’s come and gone

Oh, the hoopla, feasts, joyous dancing and jubilant celebrations were, well, nonexistent for the most part. We did have a meal and I put up some less than exuberant decorations which were met with an “oh, mm hm” from Husoor.

If, like me, you are Hindu you’ll know that Diwali is the biggest Hindu holiday of the year. OK, so I am only Hindu by virtue of my marriage. It still counts. And besides, Hindus don’t care. There are so many varieties of them I doubt you could put a number to ’em. Wikipedia states “Hindu denominations are fuzzy.” I like fuzz. Particularly in my denominations.

But I did get an awesome Indian meal out of it. He made samosas, paneer biryani, some sort of cashew chicken thing, naan (handmade) and for dessert, carrot halwah. I made the raita which of course was the star of the show, as per usual.

Now, if you’ll excuse me I have to make a puja.