AboutMy name is Michelle but my friends call me Mitch. I live in New York City, where I work as a clinical dietitian. These are my adventures (and boring weekday evenings) in home cooking.
You’ve probably already heard that Mexican mole requires a long list of ingredients and a lot of time spent cooking and pureeing. I find this concern to be slightly less important than the fact that the end result is so delicious and so worth it, if you’re feeling ambitious. Most of the ingredients are common pantry items (nuts, raisins, dried spices) and leftover odds and ends (a slice of bread, half a stale tortilla), if that’s any consolation.
While rich, dark mole Poblano is probably the most well-known type of mole, several other versions are out there (and require less time to make). Pipian verde is a good place to start, in my opinion. I chose turkey in mole rojo for my big Thanksgiving undertaking because the preparation time is 2 hours less than the 6 required for mole Poblano according to Rick Bayless’ Authentic Mexican. I don’t have a good blender so the sauce didn’t come out as smooth as it could have, but whatever (we can call it “rustic,” right?). The recipe is long, so I’m not going to retype it all here, but good news, someone else already blogged about it with step-by-step photos! And a final word: this stuff gets even better with age, so you’ll be really happy to eat the leftovers.
Ever since I baked a whole turkey three Thanksgivings ago, I have vowed never to do it again. (Well… unless I’m feeding at least 10 people, and I won’t get stuck with all the leftovers, and everyone else is having their first traditional American Thanksgiving ever.) What this means is that I’ve continued to come up with other ways to cook turkey or dismissed turkey entirely in favor of pork.
This year, I thought it would be fitting to do turkey in mole, because 1) we’ve been having a love affair with Mexican food since going to Mexico in March, 2) mole is exciting because it’s all about the sauce and less about whatever meat goes in it, and 3) sure, sometimes I do look forward to spending 5 hours in the kitchen using up all my pots and large bowls.
I will share more about the mole rojo later, along with the delightfully spicy chile glazed sweet potatoes I made. For now, you can check out my plate (which includes fugly homemade tortillas made from fresh masa, a basic salad I don’t need to tell you more about, and stuffing/dressing made with butternut squash, kale, chorizo, and cranberries because there HAS to be stuffing on Thanksgiving) and I’ll try to get my life back in order after too much online shopping, lots of dessert, and not enough yoga.
I was forced to learn how to cook beets when I joined a CSA six years ago. Back then, I would wait until I had accumulated a few pounds’ worth, roast the whole batch, then toss them into salads (with goat cheese, predictably) or make red flannel hash for brunch over and over. While I’ve branched out a bit since then (beets with bulgur, spreadable beets), red flannel hash is still pretty well received for brunch or dinner.
To make it:
1. Fry some bacon in a pan, then set it aside. Leave some of the bacon drippings in the pan.
2. While the bacon is cooking, mix parboiled potato cubes with cubed cooked beets, chopped onion, parsley, and little bit of half and half (or cream, or milk, or sour cream). Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are good in this too, if you’d like. Season with a little salt and pepper.
3. Add potato mixture to the pan and cook until things get a little crispy.
4. Chop bacon and add to potato mixture. Garnish with additional parsley.
5. Put an egg on it!
New favorite way to spend a weekend evening: making carnitas, then eating carnitas. You need to allow a few hours for things to cook, but I assure you, the wait and planning are well worth it.
There are actually two methods for making carnitas: the lard way (slow-frying in lard, similar to the technique used for confit), and the less-lard way (braising the meat in liquid, then frying/crisping it). I used this delicious recipe, but I’ve also seen others with even simpler ingredient lists or use lime instead of orange. If you’re in the mood for an explanation of all the cool food science principles behind these techniques (and an accompanying recipe), check this out. Whatever recipe you choose, make a lot, because the leftovers are crying out to be made extra-crispy (excuse me, I’m drooling at the thought).
Skordalia is a Greek dish that helps you use up leftover stale bread, nuts, and/or potatoes by pureeing them with garlic, lemon juice or vinegar, and a healthy dose of olive oil. While skordalia is often served with sliced beets, a cozy little restaurant/wine bar/food shop called Kashkaval on the west side of Manhattan went ahead and blended the beets right in. The result is a very addictive dip/spread/side dish that is so delicious I could simply eat it by the spoonful. And in case you weren’t already convinced, this might further your appreciation for the Mediterranean diet.
I made my own version of beet skordalia by blending cooked beets, walnuts, lemon juice, and olive oil in the food processor, then folding it into finely mashed potatoes (don’t ever put cooked potatoes into a blender or food processor… their texture will become gluey and unappealing). Season with salt and add olive oil as needed, to get the right tasty smooth texture.
Here’s a nice lil’ pasta dish I’ve made more than a few times in my life. I took a glance at this recipe, cut down the amount of olive oil by a lot (seriously… it doesn’t need that much), cheesed it lightly, and you don’t really need to go through the trouble of putting the olives and parsley in a food processor (just roughly chop by hand with the knife and cutting board you’re already using).
So basically: Saute some cauliflower florets in olive oil, add garlic and chile flakes, add pasta with a little pasta water along with chopped green olives and parsley, toss with grated cheese and almonds.
It’s getting chilly in my apartment. There is a 10-degree temperature range that is below comfortable (I have to wear layers indoors) but above the cutoff that requires the landlord to crank up the heat to tropics-level in the building (we break out our summer clothes for some of these occasions). In this setting, a light but satisfying bowl of chicken soup really hit the spot. The recipe is pretty straightforward, but you could easily shred leftover cooked chicken into it instead of poaching your own or add some cooked white beans. If you’re planning on making a big batch and saving some for later, leave the orzo out until it’s time to eat, otherwise it’ll get mushy after repeated cooking.
Anyone in the mood for grownup Handi Snacks? This simple spread (here’s the recipe) requires only a short list of ingredients: cheddar cheese (the sharper the better, in my opinion), sour cream, prepared horseradish, white wine, and some hot paprika. And since you already opened that bottle of wine, go ahead and have yourself a little party. Another good idea: slather the cheese spread on a piece of bread and put it under the broiler just until the cheese begins to brown.
I always end up with more than a few impulsive buys when I leave my go-to supermarket in Chinatown. Recently it was dumpling wrappers (I mean, I have neither the time nor the skill to make them myself), two kinds of mushrooms (CHEAP oyster and shimeji mushrooms), and a bitter melon (planning to find out whether my adult palate can grow fond of it). The bitter melon will have to wait its turn, but I did pull off some kind of ravioli-ish things. A lot of recipes tell you to just use wonton wrappers to make ravioli based on the observation that basic flour and water doughs are a cross-cultural sort of thing. I get it now.
3 oz soft chevre
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
5-7 stems fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon fresh rosemary
dash of salt and a few grinds of black pepper
Stuff about 1 teaspoon of cheese mixture into:
10-12 dumpling/wonton wrappers (or however many you need to use up the cheese)
Dip a finger in water and drag it around the edge of each dumpling wrapper as you go. Fold them in half and seal the edges.
Cook in simmering water for 3-4 minutes, until tender. Gently remove dumplings from water with a slotted spoon. Combine with sauteed mushrooms, toasted walnuts, chopped parsley, and grated cheese. Or hey, this mushroom ragout I shared over 3 years ago. Or really, any other sauce/veggies you’re in the mood for.