Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Feasts, Yum.

For Christmas dinner, I had turkey, ham, green bean casserole, celeriac remoulade, brie en croute, apple pie, and cherry chocolate bread pudding. I made the celeriac and the bread pudding. The celeriac came out of Keller's Bouchon cookbook, and it was awful. I attribute this to not owning a mandoline- the slices were way too large, so the texture was just wrong- mushy instead of crunchy. The bread pudding was an Emeril recipe, and was also delicious and really easy. It would've been better had I used the three cups of cream called for rather than chickening out and using all 2% milk. My cousin made the green bean casserole (good, but it needed a thicker top layer of onions) and apple pie (yummy). The turkey was a little dry, and not quite as good as the spicy turkey I'd had the night before.

Also worth mentioning is the Christmas Eve party last night. My aunt's family is very sweet, and they alway throw a party with an amazing spread of food, so I try to go when I'm around. I snacked on yummy cranberry-sauced meatballs, the aforementioned spicy southwestern roast turkey, italian cream cake, sugar cookie snowmen, and pinot noir.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Holidays= Too Much Food. Yikes!

This week I've had:

-homemade breakfast tacos with scrambled egg, queso fresco, whole wheat tortillas, and weird hot sauce from Malawi (not very good, I can't wait to make it to Belize to buy more Marie Sharps)

-pljeskavice stolen off Jon's plate at a Bosnian restaurant, and my own lamb stew with kajmak and veggies

-strange baked goods from a panaderia. Including dulce-de-leche-stuffed churros, conchas covered in buttery frosting, and some Christmas-themed cookies.

-very lardy yummy tortillas from said panaderia, with spicy hummus and dolmades from the Middle Eastern market.

-gianduja from Cost Plus. It's their house brand, trying to be Nutella, but it's crunchy and soooo much better.

-A cheeseburger with bacon from Whataburger. Very overcooked, and kind of icky.

-A softshell crab po'boy with fried zucchini and housemade potato chips from a beachside restaurant in Surfside, TX, still crushed by the last hurricane.

-Lamajoun from the Middle Eastern market, cooked on my new pizza stone ($7 at Ross!)

-"Bourbon balls" from the ME market, because they're a pain to make and I always crave them in winter. Turns out, it's a REALLY bad idea to buy bourbon balls at a ME market, even if they're really cheap. These were like glorified marzipan, rolled in chopped nuts. I like marzipan, but I wanted bourbon...

-Armenian beer from the ME market (meh), super-cheap Slovakian beer (good), and raspberry brown ale from Vermont (good).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Vietnamese Sandwich Lunch

For lunch, I had yummy shrimp spring rolls, a Vietnamese sandwich, iced coffee, and something labeled "Banh Bo- Puff Cake".

The location was Les Givrals,a Vietnamese sandwich shop that also served pho and noodle dishes. The place smelled amazing, so I was tempted to get the pho, but I resisted. I've heard that you don't want to try the pho at a restaurant that doesn't specialize in it.

Instead, I ordered a bbq pork and pate sandwich. It came on the most beautiful toasted baguette I've ever seen, with lightly pickled cucumbers, mayo, cilantro, and jalapeƱo. The bbq pork was sweet and nicely fatty, while the pate was barely noticeable. For $2.50, it was truly fabulous. The fresh Vietnamese iced coffee was great with the sandwich.

Then, the "Puff Cake". It was actually four small cakes, two dyed spring green, one dyed pink, and one white. They came with a little tub of sauce, which automatically made it more interesting than the other dessert selections (all of which involved rice flour and more food coloring). The cakes turned out to be a basic rice flour and sugar, and the sauce was coconut milk. The texture left a lot to be desired, but they would be very cooling in the summer, and they had a nice degree of sweetness.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Yummy French Toast!

For breakfast, I had homemade French toast with large puddles of butter and some tea. I didn't feel like dragging myself out of the house for a huge brunch, but I wanted something kind of elaborate and interesting. We had leftover french bread and some rapidly spoiling eggs, so French toast seemed like a good plan. No milk, though, so I mixed the eggs with sugar and dry sherry and hoped for the best. Sherry French toast is good. I soaked the bread, cooked them in my little cast-iron skillet, covered with pats of butter and more sugar, and ate. Yum.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Something for Breakfast.

For breakfast, I made...something. I was going for omelette, but I didn't want to get more cooking implements and bowls dirty than necessary. I poked through the refrigerator for things that could, conceivably at least, go well with eggs. I came up with leftover butternut squash soup and some frozen sweet potato chunks.

I mixed two eggs and the rest of the soup together in my skillet, and stirred, and stirred, and raised the heat, and stirred some more. The egg finally started coagulating into a repulsive yellow-orange mess. Then I added the sweet potato chunks, not realizing how truly disgusting this would make everything. It looked like chunky technicolor cat food. It was also on the watery side, so I finished it off in the microwave and then siphoned all the extra water off and added a little salt.

If you can get past the way it looks, it's actually pretty good. Even without the sweet potato, the soup gave the eggs a nice silky texture and fall flavors without adding more dairy.

To drink, I had some yerba mate tea from the Republic of Tea. Their blends are usually very good, and this one is my favorite. It tastes nothing like real mate, but the flavors are very nutty and earthy, making it a nice coffee substitute without losing the caffeine.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Adventures in baking- or - Bourbon makes everything better

Tonight for dinner, we tried a cafeteria-style middle-eastern restaurant in Montrose. The food was salty, my dolmades were kind of crunchy, and the food made Jon horrifically ill. So ill, in fact, that he is writhing on the couch next to me three hours later. Nothing more to say, except maybe don't take restaurant recommendations from vegetarians, and don't eat at Aladdin.

After said meal, I had a weird craving for cake. I headed to the grocery store, planning on buying a cake mix because it was late and I was feeling lazy, and cake mix is minimally better than grocery store cakes. But I just couldn't do it. I got to the baking aisle, and started inspecting packaging for something at least minimally nutritive and chemical-free. Perhaps I was naive, but there were NONE (save for the equally scary gluten-free mix). So I instead decided to grab some eggs and go make my own, following this recipe. And at that point, the food gods started laughing at me.

I hadn't bothered to check for ingredients before leaving the house, but I knew I had all the basic baking staples. I got home, laid everything out, and started cooking, only to discover:

1. No baking powder.
2. No baking soda to use as a substitute.
3. No vanilla.
4. No milk.
5. Olive oil-flavored Pam
6. Where the hell did my cake pan go!?
7. Why is my butter taking forever to defrost?

But I'm a pretty adventurous cook, and I wanted my damn cake.

So, instead of following the normal recipe, I deviated by:

1. Mixing my half-softened butter and sugar together, forgetting to cream butter first because it was inadequately softened. Oops.
2. Adding only the egg yolks, reserving the whites, fluffed, to stir in at the end in a sad attempt to leaven my cake.
3. Using bourbon instead of vanilla.
4. Adding more bourbon because it wasn't mixing together well.
5. Using (slightly) expired yogurt mixed with water instead of milk.
6. Using a cast-iron skillet to cook the mess.

I cooked it for 45 minutes or so, and was very shocked when it turned out BEAUTIFULLY!! The bourbon gave it a really nice buttery flavor. The texture is a bit more dense than I suspect it would otherwise be, but it's not a problem at all. I iced it with cream cheese frosting (stick of butter, stick of cream cheese, a little superfine sugar) and some cute little star sprinkles. It took longer than cake mix would've, but it's so much better.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Anorexia in Houston

Well, not really. Finals are at 6pm, and I studied all day, so it was hard to find time to eat. The good news is, I started the day with a filling meal from Cafe Brazil, so I didn't have to.

For brunch, I had "Eggs El Salvador". A poached egg, on top of chorizo, on top of a cheese pupusa, smothered in red AND green salsas, with a side of beans and another side of weird slaw stuff. And coffee.

It was pretty good. I've resisted ordering it on principle, because they consistently spell "pupusa" wrong on their blackboard. I'm sorry, a "papusa" is not food. They finally put it on their permanent menu, and managed to use spell-check to boot. They have really nice (allegedly local) chorizo, the eggs were properly poached (Brazil sometimes has issues with over-poaching), and the pupusa was pretty decent, if not exactly redolent with fresh masa and authentic achiclado cheese. I hate salad anyway, so it wasn't a big deal to discover how creepy the slaw was: limp and wilted, dressed with nothing but lemon juice. I like minimalism, but the slaw was kind of pathetic, and very, very sour. In any case, it helped me to stay awake and nourished well into the evening.

I'm too lazy to blog about my late dinner, but suffice it to say that Whole Foods' spinach, goat cheese, and tomato take n' bake pizzas aren't half bad. Shiner's "Holiday Cheer" beer is kind of weird (FRUITY!), but worth a taste. You know you live in the South when seasonal winter beer is PEACH and PECAN-flavored.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

(K)atfish n' grits at the Breakfast Klub

No, that's not a typo. For breakfast, I had deep-fried catfish, breakfast potatoes, grits with butter, a biscuit, and the best coffee I've found anywhere in Houston. It was all perfect. The only bad thing about the experience was their annoying propensity to spell everything with "k", which led me to wonder if their "bakon" was real bacon or kosher bacon (aka "baken").

The location was the Breakfast Klub, a soul-food inspired breakfast place on the edge of downtown. I always drive by on my way to school and wonder why there's a huge line snaking out the door EVERY morning. Now I know.

I'm not a huge fan of grits, but these were perfect- slightly eggy and dense, with a puddle of melted butter in the middle. I suspect there was more butter mixed in, because they were that rich and delicious. The potatoes could've been a little warmer, but the flavors were a great balance of sweet and savory. The biscuit was crispy on the outside, and tender on the inside, as was the fried catfish. I was expecting the catfish to be heavily seasoned, but it wasn't- just a nice cornmeal breading and maybe a little pepper.

The coffee was killer. I was somewhat skeptical, considering vacuum-sealed coffee carafes are usually a sign of coffee-as-afterthought, but no. I've whined for months at the lack of decent coffee in this town, but no more. Very strong, distinctively flavored, and a choice of four or five different varieties. I tried the house blend, which was almost too strong, and their Costa Rican, which was great.

I'll be back to try their signature "wings n' waffles".