I have achieved French fries!!!!

This has only taken me 12 years of trying, 17 years off my life, thousands of recipes and countless YouTubes to accomplish. Just a few days ago I made them after watching some doofus roast them in the oven with too much olive oil. I’d watched Cook’s Complicated make them in the oven by coating them with a corn starch slurry which was just an ugly mess despite their efforts to make them sound all crunchy and delicious. I’ve been burned all too often by their cockamamie recipes to try it. Plus it didn’t look at all like something I’d either want to do or eat.

So this time I used a french fryer but tried the pre-boiled potato method. I have, in the past, used the double oil fry method but for my money a quick boil (5 minute) works perfectly. The short ribs were fabulous. Plus there were bbq beans, home-made bread and butter. (Making a small batch of butter is really easy, it turns out.)

Arroz con pollo

Cook’s Complicated, er, Country, or America’s Test Kitchen or some one of those Christopher Kimball-related shows had a complicated recipe for Rice with Chicken. And you can watch the video here.

I made the recipe exactly as instructed (Karen please take note). But the roasting time of 20 minutes was 20 minutes too short. After 40 minutes in a 350 degree oven and 20 minutes of resting. It was perfect. And it was. Just exquisite. I would soooo make this again. And now that I know what I am doing I can do it without the anxiety. Just kidding. There’s always anxiety.

Gratuitous salad shot


Arroz con pollo recipe

Six chicken thighs, salted and peppered on both sides 

and then browned on both sides in a dutch oven.

While that is happening, 7-9 mins per side,

process a cup of cilantro

1/2 cup onion

1 cup green pepper

5 garlic cloves

1TB cumin

to a paste

Remove chicken from pan, pour of most of the fat (or not)

add 1/2 cup of chopped onion to the pot and

1TB Sazon

this is a Mexican seasoning mix. 

I used Culantro [yes, culantro is a thing, it’s not cilantro]

 and Achiote flavor (as they did in the show, Karen)

Then add 2 cups medium grain rice and sauté with onions and Sazon

Add 2.5 cups chicken stock

1 tsp salt

Bring to simmer, add the cilantro paste 

1/2 cup sliced green olives and 2 TB capers (rinsed if salted capers)

Remove the skin from the thighs and nestle them 

into the dutch oven cover and bake at 350 for 20-40 mins

Rest 15 minutes add 1/2 cup peas, fluff rice.

Good luck….buena suerte

It’s delicious but Jesus what a rigmarole.

Notes: Thats a holy hella lot of rice. 

I think 1.5 cups of rice and 2 cups of stock would be plenty.

Gateau au pommes

Apple cake for my French class. This is an apple batter cake that is relatively simple recipe, well, it’s relatively simple for Cook’s Complicated, er, Illustrated. (Actually it is from Milk Street but that’s Christopher Kimball and it’s all the same, Cook’s Country, Cook’s complicated, er Illustrated, America’s Test Kitchen, whatever). 

The cake is supposed to be served with crème fraîche. 

I believe that it is possible to buy crème fraîche in the grocery store for slightly more than a half a week’s salary so I decided instead to make it myself. It is stunningly easy. One cup of cream and 2 TBS of buttermilk at room temp uncovered for 12 hours or something. 

Letting milk or cream stand out at room temperature overnight goes completely against my nature but I did it and it was amazing. It turned thick and tangy and it was perfect on the cake.

Rethinking food decoration

Jacques Pepin is forever putting mint on desserts, sprigs of sage on platters of duck, lemon wedges on god knows what, and it always makes the dish look so much nicer. Martha does this, as does that menace to society, Lidia Bastianich, tucking wads of basil into piles of chicken, and so do many of the other celebrity chefs (hate the idea) that I watch in my spare time instead of, say, cleaning the house. But on Cook’s Complicated, er, Country and America’s Test Kitchen this seems to rarely happen. And as I am more of a Cook’s Complicated kind of guy I don’t do this all that much. Not that I don’t think about it. It’s just that usually when I am about to serve a meal my mind is on other things, not the chopped almonds I have in my mis en place. Only to find it as I am cleaning up and toss it.

The other night my friends Judy and Susan came over for dinner and I made that berry pie, yet again, and I had leftover strawberries and extra time on my my hands (not to mention fresh mint on my balcony). I sliced up a strawberry and put it and a fruity sprig of mint on top. 

The thing is that the strawberry is lovely. But the cooked berries look pretty lifeless. It tasted good so that’s all I care about and it more or less relieves me of the burden of garnishing food in the future. Not that I won’t still find a small bowl of chopped chives or a chiffonade of shiso leaves as I am cleaning after dinner from time to time.

La cena para las sobrinas y el sobrino

My in-town nieces and nephew are all scattering to the winds (maybe one is staying) and we had a group meal before they flee for various parts of the country. 

There were 2 kinds of homemade, or homemade-ish, salsa. House-made guacamole (my sister Peggy’s recipe), burritos or enchiladas, I’m not sure which they were more like, so they qualify as more Mexican-ish than technically Mexican. Plus grilled chicken tacos, salad, tostones and chocolate bread pudding.

In the frantic preparations, nothing is ever easy, I didn’t really stop to take pictures. 

The burrito/enchilada things were pulled pork, peppers and jack cheese. Of course, I have to shred my own cheese but then resorted to bottled taco sauce. I wasn’t really even sure what that stuff was—I will have to work on that. I poured the sauce over the top and then covered it with more jack and cotija cheese. I may have tossed in a little provolone left over from a recent pizza excursion. 

I dry rubbed the bnls sknls (I always like that abbreviation on chicken packaging) chicken thighs with taco seasonings. From an envelope. I know. But I had it so I used it. But I added some miracle chili powder (only Spice House, the best, thank you very much) and nonfat dry milk. I gleaned this tip from my hours of Cook’s Complicated, er, Illustrated TV viewing. It makes for a good Maillard reaction. And then grilled them. This is the first time I’ve done that and it really works well. Served it with corn tortillas.

The salad, no pic, was shredded lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, onion, corn, olives, pickled jalapeños and cotija cheese tossed with lime vinaigrette. And it was perfect on the grilled chicken on corn-tortilla taco, all topped with Mexican crema.

There were also the tostones. And then for dessert, wait for it, chocolate bread pudding. This doesn’t sound that Mexican, though chocolate is as Mexican as it gets, I used coconut milk in the custard and served it with caramelized bananas in caramel sauce and topped that with vanilla mascarpone crema. OK, that’s Italian but but it was over the top delicious. Sobre la parte superior deliciosa. This does not translate as nicely as one might like.

Cookbooks and trending

I found this cookbook at my mother’s in her piles of food magazines and cookbooks (including The Dump Cake Cookbook, The Cake Mix Cookie Book, the Cookies and Bars Cookbook and the Taste of Home [ugh] Cookie Book and several other cookbooks that relate to cake mixes and/or cookies). She has about 60 boxes of cake mixes in her pantry that one day I will be throwing out since there is no possibility that my mother will ever use any of them. I don’t know where they all come from. The irony here is that in my entire childhood she never made a damn cookie. We never, or I should say rarely, even had them in the house and if we did they were purchased, the dreadful Pecan Sandies, that my father called “dust cookies,” fig newtons, another ugh, and occasionally Twilight Desserts which I presume were cheap cookies that sorta resembled Oreos in a visual but not delicious way.

Anyway, I asked her if I could borrow this cookbook and she was very iffy about it, there was, she thought, a recipe that looked interesting. Well, it’s Cook’s Complicated, er, Illustrated. (America’s Test Kitchen, Cook’s Country, Cook’s Illustrated, it’s all Christopher Kimball). They’re all interesting but there is no recipe in this cookbook that isn’t mind numbingly complex. It may look interesting but it will be even more interesting to attempt to make. And by interesting I mean frightening. My mother’s idea of cooking these days is a baked apple in the toaster oven. Furthermore, there are no recipes in it that involve cake mixes.

Included in this cookbook are all the recipes from last year’s America’s Test Kitchen. I don’t know why it says 2015 since every single recipe in the damn thing is from 2014. Be that as it may, I have seen every single episode, some of them 2 and 3 times, and know every single recipe in this book. Many of them are scribbled in my cooking notebook(see below). I follow My Year with Chris a website devoted to making all of Christopher Kimball’s recipes.

When I opened the book it was like coming home. It was then that I realized that I had a problem. It’s not a collection of cookie cookbooks yet, but I am trending.