Jerk chicken and the controversial corn

Backyard Jerk Chicken

Savory Corn pudding

Don't worry, chicken.  This isn't about you. You're good.

Don’t worry, chicken. This isn’t about you. You’re good.

Let’s start with the totally uncontroversial part of this delicious Sunday meal: the chicken.  This chicken recipe is easy and delicious.  The ingredients are fully bizarre.  If you can name me any other food besides jerk chicken that has you combining hot peppers with allspice, please do.  This was super hot.  D told me that the vapor of marinade hitting heat on the grill was giving him coughing fits.  I believe it.  I had one fingerful of the marinade right after it was done and my eyes were watering.  Keep in mind, please, that this was all with a jalapeno pepper because we couldn’t find a habanero or scotch bonnet pepper at the store.  I can’t imagine how much hotter this could get.  The chicken was awesome and that is that.

The corn pudding was also good, but therein hangs a tale, as they say.  The directions call for you to grate 8 ears of corn.  I really had no choice but to use a box grater for this.  I got one ear in to this process and was pretty exhausted.  After two ears, my arm was tired and the kitchen looked like a corn cob exploded on it (which it kind of did).  After three ears I was getting desperate and losing hope.  D suggested that I cut the corn off the cob and run it through the food processor.  Fine.  Sold.  He could have suggested putting whole ears in the blender.  I was ready to try anything.

Please also note that the coffee maker, in D's words, looks like a crime scene.

Please also note that the coffee maker, in D’s words, looks like a crime scene.

You can see that the one on the right, the grated corn, is considerably juicer than the one on the left.  To which I say “Who cares?”  Yes, this might have been a little bit more pudding-like, but I have the use of my arm.  So that’s that.  Even with that modified process, this was still terribly tedious.

Was it all worth it?  Depends who you ask.  I thought it tasted like high brow creamed corn.  To me, in a world where canned cream corn exists and, more importantly, where corn casserole exists, this cannot be justified.  Oh yeah, you add bacon and some basil to it.  Still not enough to justify the hassle.  D also thought it tasted like high brow creamed corn, and he thought that was good enough to make it worth the trouble.  Who went through the trouble?  Yeah, good point there…Grumble, grumble…  Also, D doesn’t like corn casserole.  For the uninitiated, corn casserole is a mix of a can of corn, a can of creamed corn, Jiffy cornbread mix and some proprietary ingredients to make it hold together which are then baked in the oven.  My brother’s girlfriend tops hers with cheese.  It’s delicious.  D is wrong.  If you too think that two cans and a box do not a side dish make, then go ahead and grate some corn until your arm hurts.  I, on the other hand, won’t be fooled again.

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Hot dogs: the other red meat

Banh mi hot dogs

As B said, "Is there a hot dog in there somewhere?"

As B said, “Is there a hot dog in there somewhere?”

Before I tell you about this awesome hot dog, I need to tell you a disgusting but true story.  You know how Chinese restaurants usually sell items where you can swap out one protein for another?  So shrimp fried rice, chicken fried rice, pork fried rice, etc. etc.  Yes, I’m referring to American Chinese restaurants.  I don’t know what real Chinese restaurants serve.  Probably not egg rolls, so that’s a deal breaker right there.  Anyway, cultural insensitivity aside…you’re familiar with the choices of protein at your standard Chinese restaurant.  It’s usually beef, pork, shrimp, chicken, maybe tofu.  I once saw a flyer for a Chinese restaurant where one of the protein choices was…hot dog.  That’s right, hot dog.  You could order hot dog fried rice.  This struck me as absolutely hilarious because hot dog fried rice is the kind of poverty chow that everyone makes in a pinch (especially in college or right before grocery shopping), but no one would ever advertise in a thousand years.  It’s like a restaurant bragging that they offer American cheese microwaved on a bagel or Pop Tarts.  Also, I can hear your eyes rolling incredulously through the tubes, so I’ll just leave this here.  You’re welcome.

So you’d forgive me for being skeptical about a banh mi hot dog.  But this thing is delicious.  The carrot slaw is lovely.  The mayo and cucumber cools down the jalapeno slices.  The cilantro leaves bring their special bitter bite.  The hot dog brings the salt…  This is just a delicious and easy meal.  I’ve actually made it a few times before.  I wouldn’t feel embarrassed serving it to guests.  Unlike hot dog fried rice.  That’s just…  No.

 

Space Coyote?

Spicy Chard with Ginger Sauté 

Find your soulmate, Homer.

Find your soulmate, Homer.

Kale with Tomato, Garlic, and Thyme Sauté

Kale turns out to be delicious once you boil the weird out of it.

Kale turns out to be delicious once you boil the weird out of it.

Beet Greens with Bacon

points for bacon and pasta...

points for bacon and pasta…

On page 22-23 of this magazine, there are four sautés.  They just kind of look like blobs of dark green stuff, so it’s difficult to tell at first glance what you’re supposed to do with the “in season winter greens” pictured.  Just eat them?  A quick glance at the under 100 calorie nutrition information for all of them should tell you that, no…you’ll starve.  In steps the bubble on page 23.  It states, “Enjoy the sautés as sides, toss with pasta for a main course (the chard’s great with Asian noodles), or serve on crostini.”  I said, “Ok, bubble.  I’ll buy it.”  So I made the kale, the beet greens, and the chard.

I’m going to get the less than awesome experiences out of the way first so I can end on a high note.  Ok.  The bubble said (and when has a bubble ever lied to me?) that the chard is great with Asian noodles.  I still had a good amount of rice noodles in the pantry from the beef salad way back when.  I asked for suggestions on how to get these things out of my house, internet, and the silence was deafening.  Deafening.  Either we are all at a loss for what to do with rice noodles or someone has the secret and she’s keeping it from me.  *narrows her eyes…*  Easy peasy, I’ll toss the spicy chard with ginger sauté with the rice noodles.  Here’s the important word in that recipe that you must pay attention to: “spicy.”  The recipe has two sliced jalapeños in it.  There’s no mention of seeding them, removing the ribs, or anything.  That’s two jalapeños and to balance that out?… chard and ginger.  Fun fact about chard and ginger: they do jack squat to cool down jalapeños.  I made this recipe as written and it was physically painful to eat.  And I love spicy food.  I put it on the rice noodles thinking, “Here we go.  The noodles will cool it down.”  Nope.  At this point, it was either throw it out or start doctoring it.

Paging Dr. P. Nutbutter!

I added a pretty considerable amount of peanut butter to the sauté.  Maybe a 1/4 cup.  It was still spicy, but not punishing.  As the final touch, I served it with diced mangoes and pineapple on the side.  Finally, after all that, we ate dinner.  Whew!

The upside: if you’re going to make this recipe, I highly recommend making a peanut butter-based sauce to put on top.  I added a 1/4 cup of peanut butter.  I could also see a mixture of peanut butter, sesame oil, and rice wine vinegar, not unlike my beloved Sesame Noodles.  You will also want to serve this on noodles.  I also recommend serving it with a cooling side.  If I did this again, frankly, I would also use only one jalapeño and take out the seeds and ribs.  Or coat your mouth with wax like Homer does before he eats the Guatemalan insanity peppers.  Upside to that plan, you get to meet a space coyote.

Then there’s the beet greens with bacon, which has the opposite problem.  It’s pretty boring.  Maybe the problem is that I tried to make all of these sautees into main dishes when this one should really just be a side dish.

With that out of the way, we have an unqualified winner of a recipe to report: Kale with Tomato, Garlic, and Thyme.  This one is as quick and easy as it is delicious.  Sauté some veggies, boil some kale, boil some pasta (I think I might have used the same water), and toss it with salt, pepper, and oil.  C’mon!  Also, with the nice garlic and thyme, plus the intense green flavor of the kale, this prevents this recipe from becoming one of those dreaded Everyday Food pasta with no sauce recipes.

Easy fish and the incredible shrinking recipe

“Aldi fish” veracruzano

Beef Tacos

These two recipes are from the “Some Like it Hot” story(?…column?…feature?) in the October 2003 issue.  They are all supposed to be based on a classic Mexican food.  I generally like the way Everyday Food does Mexican food.  Lots of avocado and healthier stuff than beef enchiladas with extra cheese.  

The fish veracruzano called for red snapper, but Aldi carries two kids of fish: salmon and tilapia.  So this is tilapia.

Side story: I've had those napkins since I sewed them for my first apartment back in college

Side story: I’ve had those napkins since I sewed them for my first apartment back in college

This was a relatively quick recipe without a ton of prep, and you’ll notice that most of the ingredients keep for a long time.  The plum tomatoes are the most perishable thing.  Other than that it’s onions, garlic, pickled jalapeños (gotta love a recipe that calls for jarred food), green olives (again, whoo and hoo), dried oregano, fish, and limes.  I like recipes that can be made at the end of the week when the more perishable things I shopped for have already gone bad or been used.

It’s a tasty recipe with lots of saltiness and tang.  If you like olives (attention, B!), then you’ll like this recipe.

On to the beef tacos.  

It's difficult to take pictures of tacos.  They always look like tostadas.

It’s difficult to take pictures of tacos. They always look like tostadas.

This is three recipes in one: beef taco filling, guacamole, and pico de gallo.  Speaking of letting things go bad…I purchased 7 plum tomatoes for this recipe.  The pico de gallo called for 6 and the guacamole called for 1.  All but one went bad in the fridge by the time I got around to this recipe.  Oops.  But I didn’t want to hold off on making this and it was too late to go to the store.  So I made an incredibly tiny batch of guac and an equally ridiculously small batch of pico de gallo.

It's not often you get to sixth a recipe

It’s not often you get to sixth a recipe

You know what?  This was a totally legit option.  Sometimes you don’t need a giant amount.  This was enough for two adults to garnish their tacos for one meal.  It meant we didn’t have them for leftovers, but that’s not the end of the world.

There’s another substitution involved here.  The recipe calls for 3 total jalapeños in the three recipes.  D and I just took apart the last of our garden.  This yielded one more random pepper (Anaheim?):

I'm from LA! ...Anaheim...

I’m from LA!
…Anaheim…

and one eensy weensy baby Poblano pepper:

cutie!!

cutie!!

The long skinny pepper has almost zero heat, so it didn’t help much but the Poblano gave it all good flavor.

This is a fine taco meat recipe, by the way.  I like the freeze it taco filling recipe from another issue better, but this one is fine too.

And if you need more heat, may I suggest Valentina.  Ah Valentina…the magical $1.00 hot sauce. How are they making any money selling this stuff?!

mi amor, Valentina

mi amor, Valentina

Huevos and another cocktail!

Huevos rancheros

Fiestaware = FTWare

Fiestaware = FTWare

This is a dangerous recipe.  Why?  Because it’s super good and it makes a ton of food that you know won’t be good leftover.  I’d be stupid not to eat 5 eggs by myself, right?  oof.  If you split this meal between two people, you will eat too much.  Guaranteed.

Sure, I can eat 5 eggs...

Sure, I can eat 5 eggs…

Let’s take a look at the recipe.  The sauce itself is delicious and easy.  You puree canned tomatoes, a jalapeno, some onion, and some garlic in the blender, then heat it for a while.  Super easy.  Makes me think I should be putting rancheros sauce on everything.  I do have one small bone to pick here.  The recipe calls for a 14.5 oz can of whole tomatoes.  I have never in my life seen a 14.5 oz can of whole tomatoes.  Whole tomatoes only come in the big cans.  Maybe if you’re buying the fancy, fire-roasted tomatoes, they come in smaller cans, but not for me.  So I used 1/2 of a big can.  Lucky for me, the tex mex chicken and beans in an upcoming November issue (stay tuned) could use 1/2 a can of tomatoes.  You are blending them, so I have a hard time seeing why a 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes wouldn’t do just fine.  Anyhoo, here’s the sauce:

sauce rancheros

sauce rancheros

The whole thing is built on an oven-toasted tortilla.  Mine got a little tough.  Perhaps I overcooked it?  I think maybe a plain unbaked tortilla would be just fine.  For toppings we had avocado, Jack cheese, chopped cilantro, and homemade yogurt instead of sour cream.  That’s a move from my childhood.  We never had sour cream.  My mom always put out non-fat yogurt instead.  It’s all well and good until she puts out the vanilla flavored yogurt.  Vanilla refried beans!  Yum!

They do look a little brown...

They do look a little brown…

The D cocktail recommendation for this meal is the La Paloma.  It’s Squirt and tequila.  Sound like a poor woman’s margarita with bubbles?  It is.  What’s wrong with that?

La Paloma, which is Spanish for....the Paloma

La Paloma, which is Spanish for….the Paloma