Good-Quality Brownies from the Hamptons.


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Back when Food Network showed shows about non-contestant forms of cooking, I used to ridicule the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten. For one, she came off as just a HAIR aloof, like specifying to use GOOD olive oil (as opposed to the Karkov-brand swill I’d been cooking with), and oh, I don’t know, LIVING IN THE HAMPTONS. For two, well…there really wasn’t a ‘two’, I guess. I just had a thing against rich people. That, and she talked about Jeffrey too much, when you could basically see him wiping secretary lipstick off of his collar as he walked in the door at the end of the day (or at least that was my speculation).

But let me tell you a thing about her brownies: She knows how to make a damn brownie. Now, if you remember many moons ago when I wrote my last blog, I stated something about taking intelligent shortcuts and being okay with 90% of the results if it meant 10% of the work. I have no problem with boxed brownies; I will house boxed brownies all day long.

These brownies, however, are for when you want to show the love in a way that boxed brownies simply can’t do. These brownies are for when you don’t want to do anything else but spend an extra 20 minutes in the kitchen and have your taste buds reap all of the benefits. These brownie are when you want to give a high and tall middle finger to all those prude doctors that say, “You shouldn’t consume a pound of butter and another pound of sugar.” I love these brownies so much, I have the recipe displayed on the front of “Tasty Vittles”, my three-ring binder of recipes (even though it’s committed to memory at this point).

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I’m not a natural baker. I mean, I’m not a natural COOKER, either, but, save for a mean batch of chocolate chip cookies, I really only started baking in the last couple of years. For you cookers that aren’t bakers, please keep in mind that trying to amend quantities or substitute ingredients in baking is the worst idea you could ever have. It doesn’t work, so don’t try it. Having said that, I always omit the instant coffee granules (sorry, I don’t have any Sanka sitting around the house) and the walnuts (gross), and nobody’s said, “Hey, these brownies don’t have enough nuts or coffee in them.” These brownies are Kevin Date, chocoholic, approved.

As an additional note for you non-bakers, don’t get water and chocolate mixed up – it’s like getting a Gremlin wet. If you’re worried your double-boiler might go amiss (or if you view a double-boiler as archaic and tedious), just microwave the chocolate chips, unsweetened chocolate, and butter. Start with 90 seconds, stir, and add 45 seconds until fully melted. AND DON’T GET IT WET. OR LET IT EAT AFTER MIDNIGHT.

Lastly, I cut this recipe in half, because I have no self-control in the field of chocolate, and don’t need 1.5 square feet of brownies beckoning me. But 3/4 of a square foot? Bring it.

Recipe courtesy of Ina Garten and FoodNetwork.com :

recipe/video link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/outrageous-brownies-recipe3.html

OUTRAGEOUS BROWNIES

Ingredients

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 12 x 18 x 1-inch baking sheet.

Melt together the butter, 1 pound of chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate in a medium bowl over simmering water. Allow to cool slightly. In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee granules, vanilla, and sugar. Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, sift together 1 cup of flour, the baking powder, and salt. Add to the cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the walnuts and 12 ounces of chocolate chips in a medium bowl with 1/4 cup of flour (not this much; just enough to coat), then add them to the chocolate batter. Pour into the baking sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes, then rap the baking sheet against the oven shelf to force the air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Bake for about 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Do not overbake! Allow to cool thoroughly, refrigerate, and cut into 20 large squares.

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Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork Rolls.


and coleslaw. and love.

It’s easy to be lazy. Case in point: this blog has not been updated in two months (thank you very little, seasonal work schedule), and – let’s be honest – this one certainly isn’t exactly going to be “War and Peace”. But sometimes being lazy can yield surprisingly delicious results – at least when they’re intelligently employed.

Semi-stealing a page out of the Sandra Lee school of cooking and opening bottles, this meal is really more assembly and patience than straight-up cooking, but hey, it’s the summer, and there are apparently more pressing things at hand. Why toil in the kitchen when lemonade and gin go so well together after a 10-hour work day? This recipe utilizes my favorite meat (pork), my favorite cooking device (the slow cooker), and a few pre-packaged ingredients, which I will rationalize now:

Pre-shredded Cole Slaw Mix: First, you can’t shred cabbage that finely and simultaneously keep all of your fingers. Second, have you ever shredded an entire cabbage?? You have enough coleslaw for like three weeks. I enjoy coleslaw, but I also like moderation.

Rudolph’s Coleslaw Dressing and Garland Jack’s Barbeque Sauce: Could you or I make either one of these and have what would probably be a superior product? Yes, but these are both very good prepackaged products, and if I can get 90 percent of the flavor for less money and lot less work…well…please refer to the first sentence of this post.

Lastly, I enjoy pineapple in my coleslaw. I understand that not everyone does, though I do not understand why. The irony in this is that, for all of the other shortcuts I’m taking, PLEASE USE FRESH PINEAPPLE. That is all.

Is this a porterhouse from Murray’s? No. But it is an eminently edible meal pretty much every day of the week. AND I’M NOT ONE TO BRAG, but this was the concoction that earned me the title of “Chef Max” at Ston’s bachelor party last year. So I have that going for me – which is nice.

What you need:

3-lb. pork butt or shoulder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. cayenne
2 tsp. brown sugar
1 c. chicken broth
1 package of pre-shredded coleslaw mix
1 c. diced fresh pineapple
1 bottle Rudolph’s Coleslaw Dressing
½ bottle Garland Jack’s Barbeque Sauce
1 package of King’s Hawaiian Rolls

Trim excess fat. Season the pork with salt, pepper, cayenne and brown sugar, ideally the night before, but at least an hour ahead of time.

Heat some oil over medium-high heat in frying pan. Sear the pork on each side for around 6 minutes.

Transfer the pork to a slow cooker and add 1 cup of chicken broth. Cook on low setting for 8 hours.

Meanwhile, make coleslaw by (PAY CLOSE ATTENTION) mixing the coleslaw dressing into the coleslaw mix. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Once pork is cooked, place in a bowl and let rest for 10-15 minutes. Shred pork with forks, and add sauce to your liking (I personally don’t like drowning it, but to each his or her own).

Fill rolls with generous helping of both pork and coleslaw (yes, both go on the sandwich). Serve with aforementioned gin and lemonade.

Basil & Brie Sandwiches.


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I’m sure your life is busy. My life is busy, too. But even when I didn’t have to keep tabs on a wife and two kids, life didn’t often allow time to prepare a four-course meal.

Rarely, in fact, does it allow for a meal that doesn’t contain the term “frozen mixed vegetables” or “Cool Ranch Doritos” (not that there’s anything wrong with either one of those items). So when you can find a nice twist on a classic and easy meal combo, *Martha Stewart voice* it’s a good thing. Everyone loves tomato soup and grilled cheese, and although I would be the hypocrite of the century to bad-mouth either canned soup OR Velveeta, it’s nice to class things up a bit on occasion and pretend you weren’t brought up in a mobile home park. Enter Basil & Brie Sandwiches with a hearty bowl of tomato soup.

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THE SANDWICH: Don’t let the name fool you; there’s chocolate on them, too. WHAT CAN POSSIBLY GO WRONG??? You have the melt-iest cheese in the world – brie melts if you LOOK at it cock-eyed. I have no idea why brie hasn’t been considered as the default grilled cheese sandwich cheese – must be because nobody likes the French. You have basil, which I like using the way boring people use parsley. You have sourdough, which is crusty and delicious. And you have chocolate, which is proof that God exists and wants us to all be happy (okay, I stole that from Ben Franklin’s quip about beer, but it works here, too).

THE SOUP: I love to make homemade soup, but I’ve found that in a lot of cases, if you can get 90% of the end results with 15% of the effort, it’s worth it. Find a higher-quality tomato soup (Trader Joe’s organic is pretty good) and go all Sandra Lee on the bit. If you want to get snooty and impress some females with your homemade soup style, give this one a shot.

The sandwich is a Giada recipe off of the Food Network website, and before Food Network went solely to playing food contests, reality shows, and Guy Fieri, I really enjoyed watching “Everyday Italian.” After all, whenever there’s an opportunity to watch a lady in a low-cut shirt over-enunciate Italian food terminology, I’m on board. Not only does this make a tasty and easy lunch, I have toyed with making mini-sandwiches as an appetizer at my next dinner party. I’m kidding, I have kids; I never do anything REMOTELY formal or refined. But IF I DID, I totally WOULD.

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MODIFICATIONS: when you find delight in sandwich form, you don’t mess with it. Also, there really isn’t anything TO mess with. Limited, very specific ingredients don’t lend themselves well to ad-libbing.

DID MY SON EAT IT? Given the culinary fickleness of my son, I’m beginning to question how all humans made it past the age of two. Seriously, it’s a chocolate and cheese sandwich; you don’t NEED to have a hot dog every meal of the day. Just saying. No, he didn’t eat it, but did manage to pack away a hot dog and a couple of stalks of celery. Some day, I tell myself, your children will think you’re a great cook. Sigh. Some day.

THE RECIPE (courtesy of FoodNetwork.com)

Preheat the grill.

Brush both sides of the bread with olive oil. Grill the bread slices until they begin to turn golden, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the panini grill and place 2 ounces of cheese on 1 slice of bread (the bottom half), top the cheese with 1/3 cup chocolate chips, and a sprinkle of basil. Top with another slice of bread. Continue with the remaining sandwiches. Return the sandwiches to the grill until the chocolate begins to melt, about another 2 minutes.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/panini-with-chocolate-and-brie-recipe.html

Beer Cheese Soup.


Sometimes the food gods are looking out for you.

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Like many untrained cooks who fancy Instagram’ing and blogging about their culinary delights, I enjoy cooking for the season – in essence, hibernation food when it’s cold, fresh and light food when it’s not. Well, one of the silver linings to living in the meteorological hell known as Minnesota is that either can be in play pretty much any day of the year. Today was one of the days where a comfort food favorite sprung forth from the union of “for April, it’s really effing cold” and “I’d really like to clean the refrigerator out”: beer cheese soup.

Beer cheese soup, you say? What the hell? I agree: usually, this food-coma-inducing, artery-clogging delicacy never sees the light of a springtime day. Beer cheese soup just screams “meal for when it’s dark by 4:30 pm”. But when a trip to the grocery store is past due, and your only real supplies are cheese, kielbasa, and random vegetables, it’s OK to pretend the calendar says December, not late April. With the Minnesota forecast looking roughly the same for the better portion of the week, this soup might just sneak its way into your weekly meal-planning.

OVERVIEW: This recipe was created by Otto’s Sausage Kitchen and Meat Market in Portland, OR, though the recipe is off of Food Network thanks to Otto’s appearance on Triple-D. I didn’t see this particular episode, but I’m sure there was at least one comment as to this individual dish’s righteousness and how it was transporting Mr. Fieri directly to Flavor Town. Bro.

photo 3SUBSTITUTIONS: Although I do dig this recipe on its own – it’s definitely your prototypical thick-ass beer cheese soup – I like to incorporate some “Mary Date”-esque vegetable addition along the way (because if you’re going to eat a bowl of melted cheese, you may as well supplement the heart attack with some vitamins and minerals). In addition to the carrots and celery, I added some cauliflower and potatoes, and WOULD have added broccoli, had I not been trying to clear the fridge out with my ham and broccoli egg bake this morning. I can also see peas and/or corn being not-terrible additions to this soup.

I do have a confession to make: I did not have any beer in the house. Seeing as how it’s Sunday, and I live in a state senseless enough to retain blue laws, the addition of beer was not really an option. However, I did have a few bottles of N/A beer my pregnant wife bought six months ago. Was it ideal? Nah. Did it work? I suppose – I didn’t really notice a significant flavor difference, though I wasn’t really in a position to compare side-by-side. Again, I’m not proud of this admission, but we all have these moments.

Lastly, is it possible to have too much cheddar? Probably not, but I think I pushed that envelope as far as it would go. In lieu of the Swiss cheese called for in the recipe, I used cheddar jack. Again, it was a fridge-cleaning move, and cheddar jack + extra sharp cheddar = something pretty damn close to cheese dip. That’s why I used 1% milk instead of half-and-half. I know this contradicts every “fat man inside a skinny man’s body” instinct I have, but the soup can handle being thinned out just a little, and I don’t think you lose too much in the process. But hey, I like being able to see my feet – live your life. Hakuna Matata.

DID MY SON EAT IT? As is usually the case, the kielbasa was a hit with Damien. Because, you know, kielbasa is really just a great big hot dog. Other than that, not really. Which is SORT of surprising in the way that he usually destroys cheese, but not surprising in the way that said cheese is usually in block form.

Spring may have allegedly sprung, but while Mother Nature is still going through her experimental college phase this week, sneak some more comfort food onto the menu. Hey, it’s not like swimsuit season is going to be here any time soon.

photo 4RECIPE:

 

1/2 cup butter
1 chopped medium sized yellow onion (white onion)
At least 1/2 cup chopped carrot
At least 1/2 cup chopped celery

½ cup chopped cauliflower

1 medium potato
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 (12-ounce) beer of choice (recommended: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Blind Pig) (um…N/A beer. D’oh)
7 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, shredded
7 ounces processed Swiss cheese, shredded (7 oz. cheddar jack)
2 cups half-and-half (2.5 c. 1% milk)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 pound smoked sausage (recommended: Otto’s Smoked Polish Ring) (Sorry, Otto. I’ll visit your restaurant if I’m ever in Portland)

Directions

Melt butter in a stockpot over medium heat. Add chopped onion, carrot, and celery. Sauté until softened. Add flour. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add chicken broth and beer. Heat until it comes to a boil. Slowly add cheese while stirring until just boiling and smooth. Add half-and-half, salt, dry mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Reduce heat to low and cook until soup has thickened. Cut smoked sausage into 1/2-inch pieces and place in a saucepan. Sauté sausage over medium heat until heated through. It will probably take about 5 to 7 minutes. Add sausage to the soup, transfer to a large serving bowl and serve hot.

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ottos-beer-cheese-soup-recipe.html?oc=linkback

Carnitas!


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On occasion, hovering over the top of the stove can be enjoyable: sauteing onions and garlic, boiling spaghetti noodles, or mixing up a delicious impromptu curry. But sometimes, it’s nice to just sit back and let time be your sous chef.

Of all of the gadgets and cooking devices in my kitchen, the slow cooker has to be one of my favorites, primarily because I’m very drawn to the idea of coming home to the smells of dinner while still maintaining a two-income household. I’d like to think the slow cooker is going to be a recurring subplot of this blog, and we’ll start today with one of my favorites: carnitas.

OVERVIEW: I have never seen the movie “Babe”, and I don’t think I ever will, because I never want my opinion of a pig to be anything other than, “Damn, I really want to eat that pig.” Pork has the versatility of chicken, and a ton more flavor, so it’s my go-to meat. (yes, I realize what I just typed). Chicken just goes through the motions because it always knows you’ll be back; pork looks at you and says, “I’m delicious; try and reject me, fool.”

And although anytime is a good time for a pork taco, it’s an especially appealing choice this time of the year. I personally am not in grilling mode yet, and on a warm April day, I would also prefer to have a dinner that doesn’t make me want to hibernate. Comfort food is so two months ago; incorporating some fresh flavor (and fresh produce) into the dinner mix feels right.

On a pragmatic note, tacos always seem to be an excellent way to clean out the fridge in our household – we always have cheese, and generally the produce we have lends itself very well to taco production.

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This recipe for carnitas itself is a pretty ridiculously easy one, because essentially all you need is a thawed pork roast and some common spices. And about 10 hours. If you don’t have 10 hours, this might not be the recipe for you. On top of that, you’ll want to make sure to have all of your appropriate acoutrements: this time around, we opted for mango (love), avocado (double love), Sriracha, red onion, cilantro, and cheese on top of corn tortillas. I also drizzled a little bit of the leftover slow cooker juice over the meat, to keep it moist.

DID MY SON EAT IT: In nacho form, yes. And in “avocado and mango on its own” form, yes. That’s the other beautiful part about slow-cooking this meat. You can use it in tacos, nachos, sandwiches, BREAKFAST THE NEXT MORNING (foreshadowing, people)…

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The spice mix is courtesy of Erin Parker and AllRecipes (www.allrecipes.com , @allrecipes on Twitter, and while we’re on the subject, they have a fantastic free app to download):

RECIPE: SLOW COOKER CARNITAS

1 – 4 lb. boneless pork shoulder roast (I used bone-in; I haven’t noticed a difference)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 bay leaves
2 cups chicken broth

  1. Mix together salt, garlic powder, cumin, oregano, coriander, and cinnamon in a bowl. Coat pork with the spice mixture. Place the bay leaves in the bottom of a slow cooker and place the pork on top. Pour the chicken broth around the sides of the pork, being careful not to rinse off the spice mixture.
  2. Cover and cook on Low until the pork shreds easily with a fork, about 10 hours. Turn the meat after it has cooked for 5 hours. When the pork is tender, remove from slow cooker, and shred with two forks. Use cooking liquid as needed to moisten the meat.

LINK TO THE RECIPE:

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/slow-cooker-carnitas/detail.aspx?src=VD_Summary

 

America’s Test Kitchen. And Pancakes.


Whether it’s the Bible, or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, or Fifty Shades of Grey, most people have a book that changed (or at the very least heavily influenced) their lives.

For me, that book is The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, Third Edition (Barnes and Noble link to buy it is at the bottom of the post, and I’m not being paid to promote it. Yet.).

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I received this book from my lovely wife as a one-year anniversary gift in 2010, and I presumed that, like most cookbooks, I’d find a few things I like in it and use it once every few months. Well, as it turns out, this is the greatest cookbook of all-time, and I’m not sure second place is all that close. I’m not exaggerating when I say that literally every dish I’ve made out of this book has been at least really good, and usually regular rotation-worthy. LITERALLY. I like it so much, it’s forced me to use my least favorite word LITERALLY three times.

It also has cooking technique sidebars, emergency substitutions, lots and lots of pictures for those of us that can’t read, and product recommendations, all of which are much handier than they may at first sound.

So why, you say, are you being forced to read a blog that’s essentially an overly gushing online review? Well, first, I’m not forcing you, but ALSO because it’s the weekend, and the weekend is all about breakfasts that you don’t have the time and/or desire to mess around with at any other time. And you need pancakes, yo.

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OVERVIEW: This breakfast came about because I had a weird craving for Nutella crepes. Okay, craving Nutella crepes isn’t even remotely weird, but wanting to make them on the spur of the moment sort of is. I usually wait for Bastille Day, or celebration of some war we had to bail France out of…like any of the major ones. So anyway, in the cookbook, the recipe directly following the crepe recipe is for the crepe’s non-cowardly cousin, buttermilk pancakes. OBVIOUSLY. And here I am, sitting with an unused pint of buttermilk in the fridge, because this post was originally going to be buttermilk fried chicken. But fate had clearly put its foot down, and pancakes it was.

Now, of all of my fawning over this cookbook, I had never used this pancake recipe. This is because at any point in time, we have at least two boxes of pancake mix in the house. I love things from scratch – more than most, in fact – but pancake mix is just so frigging easy. Additionally, the availability of buttermilk was a key consideration, because whenever I allow foodstuffs to go bad in the fridge, I am treated as if I am taking Damien’s piggy bank, dumping it out on the carpet, pissing on it, and setting it on fire.

SUBSTITUTIONS: If I’ve learned one thing in baking, it’s that substitutions are frowned upon. It’s science, people; being cavalier with amounts and ingredients doesn’t get you different flavors, it gets you ruined food. Having said that, I knew I could safely add chocolate chips to the batter and be none the worse for it. Much the better for it, in fact. And since I was losing the Nutella factor, I needed some was to get my daily dose of breakfast chocolate in.

DID MY SON EAT IT: It was chocolate chip pancakes and bacon. Do Timon and Pumba eat grubs? Next.

So if you still haven’t picked up on my subtle hints, go buy this cookbook and throw the rest of your cookbooks away. Just don’t let it make you so good at cooking that you won’t learn something from reading this blog. Thanks, folks; see you next time.

RECIPE:

Buttermilk Pancakes (courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen)
Makes 16 four-inch pancakes (allegedly)

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 large egg
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
2 cups buttermilk
1-2 tsp. vegetable oil
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 200 degrees. Set a wire cooling rack over a baking sheet and set aside.

2. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, melted butter and then the buttermilk. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, pour the buttermilk mixture into the well, and whisk very gently until the buttermilk mixture is just incorporated (a few lumps should remain). Add chocolate chips. Be careful not to overmix the batter.

3. Heat a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat for 3-5 minutes. Brush the pan bottom with 1 tsp. oil. Using 1/4 cup of batter per pancake, add the batter to the skillet (only 2-3 pancakes will fit at a time) and cook until large bubbles begin to appear about 2 minutes. Flip the pancakes and cook until golden brown on the second side, about 1-1/2 minutes longer. Spread the pancakes out over the wire rack on the baking sheet (they shouldn’t overlap) and hold in the warm oven. Repeat with the remaining batter, brushing the skillet with oil as needed between batches.

4. Serve with bacon, real maple syrup, butter, and Hershey’s chocolate syrup. Because it’s the weekend.

BUY IT HERE:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/americas-test-kitchen-family-cookbook-cookware-rating-edition-americas-test-kitchen-editors/1100437736?ean=9781933615486

Indonesian Scallops, Spinach and Angel Hair.


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Generally, a show can go a few years before it needs to start shamelessly trotting out guest stars to keep ratings up. It’s viewed by many as something of a desperation move when Ted McGinley finally graces your airwaves.

Well, here we are.

After two overwhelmingly adequate blogs, I find myself abiding by the same strategy. The guest star? None other than my mother, Mary Date.

Now, you know how everyone SAYS their mother is a good cook? Not everyone is being honest with you or themselves. Be it from a generalized sense of denial or a lack of knowing what good food actually tastes like, some people have mothers that are downright terrible cooks (I blame Oprah). My mother, on the other hand, is an excellent cook, and I’m not just saying this on the off-chance she reads this blog. Many of my all-time favorite meals are from the kitchen of Mrs. Date: beef stroganoff, chicken and dumplings —

“WAIT, WAIT, WAIT,” you say. “Max, didn’t you just get done telling us how you don’t like things that have brown sauce, and you like piles of spice on your food? What the hell?”

This is true. When it comes to culinary proclivities, Mom and I are on fairly opposite ends of the spectrum. Which is why I was so surprised…nay, relatively STUNNED…to find Mom cooking INDONESIAN food on Sunday afternoon (Okay, I have to be honest, I don’t know if it’s actually an Indonesian recipe. But it had coconut milk and fish sauce in it, and that counts as Asian food in my book. Hashtag ‘Merica.)

I promised Mom I wouldn’t make fun of her when it comes to her tolerance for spice. And in fairness, two of her favorite restaurants are the Vietnamese place in Mankato and one of the Mexican places in Mankato. I would assume at various points, she does eat food drifting upward into the “Medium” range on the salsa jar. So I won’t make fun of her; I will merely state facts. This is a woman who once thought that ketchup was too spicy. Actually, my sister and I MAY have made that up, but I’m not sure anymore (It seems like it could have been something she legitimately said, in any case). So for a woman with a noted distaste for spicy food, this was pretty out there.

RECIPE SUBSTITUTIONS: Don’t get me wrong, you can add a lot of spice to it and still be doing okay, but it certainly isn’t necessary. I don’t know if she added any spice, short of a few shakes of Tabasco. The recipe calls for 2 serrano chiles, and I think if you shoot for somewhere in the middle of those two extremes you should have a pleasant spice level. She also increase the amount of carrots (power move), doubled the garlic (double-power move), added cilantro (for “that extra heat that cilantro offers”) and added more coconut milk (I don’t know, I think the amount it called for prolly would’ve been OK). If I were to make it, and I most assuredly will, I may try it with some sort of sturdy whitefish instead of scallops – just not a big fan of the scallop texture. It would also be good with shrimp. I would probably also throw a little lime zest and brown sugar in, but that’s more force of habit than anything.

DID HER GRANDSONS EAT IT?: Um, no. Well, Damien was asleep, and in Peyton’s defense, he didn’t really eat anything. But no, I wouldn’t make this with the expectation your kids are going to go for it. But you should.

VERDICT: While my love for Mom’s cooking was rooted in comfort food growing up, I am delighted that she gave this recipe a go and I look forward to putting this one to use myself in the near future. My mother was a big influence in me wanting to cook and a bigger influence in me never starving. And for that, I’m very thankful.

RECIPE: Here’s the legalese: this is a recipe by Robin Asbell from her book, “Gluten-Free Pasta”. We used glutenous pasta, but it was still edible and none of our throats swelled up. Being not allergic to gluten is a tremendous thing in life.

(editor’s note: The following information is courtesy of Jennica Date, regarding my last statement: “While there are some unfortunate souls out there who are actually afflicted with with an anaphylaxis-type reaction to gluten, the majority of us are not “allergic” to gluten. Sadly, as time has gone on – let’s blame the media here – it got easier to describe what celiac disease is by calling it an allergy. It’s actually not. Without going into too much detail, those of us with celiac disease, gluten intolerance and gluten sensitivity have a gastrointestinal tract that can’t break down the protein that is gluten. So when we eat it, intentionally or otherwise, our gut responds with pains and indigestion undreamed of by the makers of pepto bismol.”)

Recipe