vrai-lean-uh

Cooking, eating, making sweeping pronouncements

4 notes

Tastes Like Chicken, or, The Banality of Chicken
To prove to you that I do not write this tumblr solely to pick on Bon Appetit (but seriously, if someone from BA is reading this, do get your accessibility game in order), I am incredibly grateful for their grilled citrus chicken recipe because it is fantastic.
I have eaten so much tasteless chicken that I have developed my own theory of the banality of chicken. Too many boneless skinless chicken breasts and bad chicken Caesar salads lead us astray. We eat it, it tastes like nothing, we stop thinking about it as an ingredient that came from an animal that can taste wonderful.
But good chicken is fantastic. I am reminded of this every single Thanksgiving when we are wringing our hands to get a turkey to taste half as good as a good chicken.
And while I love the simplicity and elegance of a roast chicken, I do not always want to turn on my oven for an hour in the middle of summer.
Enter grilled chicken!
It’s simple, although not foolproof exactly. There are two difficult parts:
1. Cutting up the raw chicken. Not precisely difficult, but involves some wrestling with slimy raw meat and identifying joints underneath the slimy raw meat. But this can be conquered! Here’s a Martha Stewart slideshow explaining the process and here’s Melissa Clark going through the process in a NY Times Food Section video. Do note the amount of manhandling in the video. 
I like to have both a knife and good kitchen shears for this process. We bought our kitchen shears maybe 5 years ago at Sur La Table. They weren’t very expensive but they’re sturdy and can cut through bone fairly easily.
Promise me you will save the backbone for stock, okay?
2. Managing the cooking temperature on the grill and taking the chicken off when it’s done but not overdone. Because we have a small charcoal grill, creating clear “zones” is more like a idea I keep in my head than an actual real thing I do. Sort of like in yoga when I am supposed to let the idea of grabbing my foot in a given pose enter my head when in actuality I would have to remove my foot from my leg in order to touch it from that position.
In practice, I try to pile the coals sort of one one side and then I put my hand over the grill to figure out how hot certain areas are and I just try to monitor things.
There’s a great pull to stick the meat on the hottest part of the grill and watch everything sizzle and get those blackened grill lines immediately. If you do that with chicken, the outside will burn/dry out while the inside is still raw. Be patient!
If you have a good speedy meat thermometer, bless your heart. I do not. So instead of buying more shitty meat thermometers, I’ve learned to get to know what cooked chicken feels like when you squish it. It has more resistance. Raw chicken will feel a little jelly-ish inside. Give the flesh between your thumb and fingers a little pinch while your hand is relaxed. Raw chicken feels like that. Do your best, cut up a piece to check, don’t worry too much.
Anyway, besides all that, I am a firm believer in squeezing orange slices over the chicken as it’s cooking. It adds a really lovely sweet/citrus flavor to the chicken and I think it helps keeps things moist.
Here’s a link to the grilled citrus chicken recipe.

Tastes Like Chicken, or, The Banality of Chicken

To prove to you that I do not write this tumblr solely to pick on Bon Appetit (but seriously, if someone from BA is reading this, do get your accessibility game in order), I am incredibly grateful for their grilled citrus chicken recipe because it is fantastic.

I have eaten so much tasteless chicken that I have developed my own theory of the banality of chicken. Too many boneless skinless chicken breasts and bad chicken Caesar salads lead us astray. We eat it, it tastes like nothing, we stop thinking about it as an ingredient that came from an animal that can taste wonderful.

But good chicken is fantastic. I am reminded of this every single Thanksgiving when we are wringing our hands to get a turkey to taste half as good as a good chicken.

And while I love the simplicity and elegance of a roast chicken, I do not always want to turn on my oven for an hour in the middle of summer.

Enter grilled chicken!

It’s simple, although not foolproof exactly. There are two difficult parts:

1. Cutting up the raw chicken. Not precisely difficult, but involves some wrestling with slimy raw meat and identifying joints underneath the slimy raw meat. But this can be conquered! Here’s a Martha Stewart slideshow explaining the process and here’s Melissa Clark going through the process in a NY Times Food Section video. Do note the amount of manhandling in the video. 

I like to have both a knife and good kitchen shears for this process. We bought our kitchen shears maybe 5 years ago at Sur La Table. They weren’t very expensive but they’re sturdy and can cut through bone fairly easily.

Promise me you will save the backbone for stock, okay?

2. Managing the cooking temperature on the grill and taking the chicken off when it’s done but not overdone. Because we have a small charcoal grill, creating clear “zones” is more like a idea I keep in my head than an actual real thing I do. Sort of like in yoga when I am supposed to let the idea of grabbing my foot in a given pose enter my head when in actuality I would have to remove my foot from my leg in order to touch it from that position.

In practice, I try to pile the coals sort of one one side and then I put my hand over the grill to figure out how hot certain areas are and I just try to monitor things.

There’s a great pull to stick the meat on the hottest part of the grill and watch everything sizzle and get those blackened grill lines immediately. If you do that with chicken, the outside will burn/dry out while the inside is still raw. Be patient!

If you have a good speedy meat thermometer, bless your heart. I do not. So instead of buying more shitty meat thermometers, I’ve learned to get to know what cooked chicken feels like when you squish it. It has more resistance. Raw chicken will feel a little jelly-ish inside. Give the flesh between your thumb and fingers a little pinch while your hand is relaxed. Raw chicken feels like that. Do your best, cut up a piece to check, don’t worry too much.

Anyway, besides all that, I am a firm believer in squeezing orange slices over the chicken as it’s cooking. It adds a really lovely sweet/citrus flavor to the chicken and I think it helps keeps things moist.

Here’s a link to the grilled citrus chicken recipe.

Filed under the grilling edition chicken

7 notes

Pickled Watermelon Rind

(I was canning peaches with a friend last night and she asked, “do you still do your blog?” Oops! It’s been a while. Sorry, friends!)

Watermelon Rinds

I get enormous delight from making good use of things that might otherwise be thrown away. Case in point: chicken stock, pickled watermelon rinds. I am not at the stage where I am knitting sweaters from the hair our dog sheds (*ahem sixth grade social studies substitute teachers*), but if I’m being really honest with myself, I can see the appeal.

I’ve been skeptical of pickled watermelon since I was in high school. I studied Russian. At one point as part of a let’s-try-to-appreciate-the-richness-of-this-culture effort, I learned that pickled watermelon was a thing that people in Russia ate. I just felt like, man, communism has really brought this people low. We have fresh watermelon in America!

It turns out pickled watermelon rind is neither a dog hair sweater nor a metaphor for the yoke of communism. It is really, really tasty. I made pork tenderloin the other night with pickled watermelon rind and it was fantastic. 

I got the recipe from the August 2014 issue of Bon Appetit.* It’s not hugely dissimilar to other pickled watermelon rind recipes, except that it instructs you to leave some of the red part of the watermelon on the rind. Otherwise, same deal. You peel your watermelon, cut up the flesh, save the rind and chop into 1” pieces.

I found it easiest to cut up the watermelon into half moon shapes 1” thick first. Meaning, I cut the watermelon in half, then cut into 1” slices, and then peeled those slices with my y-shaped peeler, then cut out the flesh and reserved the rinds.

Watermelon rinds simmering in the pickling liquid.

I didn’t can it, I just made it and dumped it in a jar in the fridge.

image

The above photo from Bon Appetit. (It’s not meant to be cut in half, but I kind of enjoy the effect.)

I HIGHLY recommend it.

* I would like it to be said that I don’t take issue with the magazine as a whole. There are many good recipes, and I subscribe, and do appreciate it. I just hate the new editorial voice/tone.

Filed under pickling cross cultural understanding ha are you even trying to not be the crazy substitute teacher?

4 notes

Readability
I don’t mean to be a jerk to Bon Appetit. I don’t. I subscribe, I read the magazine, I enjoy cooking quite a few of their recipes. Truly.
And then I got to page 28 and I just…
I took a picture because I think it’s hard to really explain the scope of the problem without an illustration. What you’re seeing above is an article about encouraging kids to appreciate fish. The headline is “Hook, Line, and Dinner.” It’s printed over a black and white photo of a small child holding up a fish. Did you have a hard time reading it? Perhaps because they printed it IN WHITE TEXT ON A WHITE BACKGROUND.
I am interested in the story about encouraging one’s child to eat fish! But not if it’s printed it IN INVISIBLE INK.
So here’s my PSA: there are lots of people out there in the world with low vision. There are quite a few people who would never, ever think of themselves as having a disability who have low vision. And there are those of us who think we have perfectly fine vision but want to read our magazine before bed and don’t want to turn on the super bright overhead light because it creates an un-restful sleep environment and getting a full night’s sleep is very important so are reading at night with a moderately dim bedside lamp and thus cannot read a damn thing when there is basically no difference in color or tone between the background and foreground text.
If you have bothered to write something, make it readable.
Here’s a really nice resource.
This makes me annoyed not just because I hate having to work harder than necessary. It makes me annoyed because someone made a design choice that pretty explicitly excludes a large portion of our population. I don’t want to live in a society that systematically excludes certain people who don’t fit our view of what “normal” looks like.
Maybe someone with low vision wants to figure out how to encourage their kids to eat fish. They should be able to do that.
It wouldn’t have been any more work to make this accessible. Having low vision should not keep you from reading and enjoying and complaining about Bon Appetit.

Readability

I don’t mean to be a jerk to Bon Appetit. I don’t. I subscribe, I read the magazine, I enjoy cooking quite a few of their recipes. Truly.

And then I got to page 28 and I just…

I took a picture because I think it’s hard to really explain the scope of the problem without an illustration. What you’re seeing above is an article about encouraging kids to appreciate fish. The headline is “Hook, Line, and Dinner.” It’s printed over a black and white photo of a small child holding up a fish. Did you have a hard time reading it? Perhaps because they printed it IN WHITE TEXT ON A WHITE BACKGROUND.

I am interested in the story about encouraging one’s child to eat fish! But not if it’s printed it IN INVISIBLE INK.

So here’s my PSA: there are lots of people out there in the world with low vision. There are quite a few people who would never, ever think of themselves as having a disability who have low vision. And there are those of us who think we have perfectly fine vision but want to read our magazine before bed and don’t want to turn on the super bright overhead light because it creates an un-restful sleep environment and getting a full night’s sleep is very important so are reading at night with a moderately dim bedside lamp and thus cannot read a damn thing when there is basically no difference in color or tone between the background and foreground text.

If you have bothered to write something, make it readable.

Here’s a really nice resource.

This makes me annoyed not just because I hate having to work harder than necessary. It makes me annoyed because someone made a design choice that pretty explicitly excludes a large portion of our population. I don’t want to live in a society that systematically excludes certain people who don’t fit our view of what “normal” looks like.

Maybe someone with low vision wants to figure out how to encourage their kids to eat fish. They should be able to do that.

It wouldn’t have been any more work to make this accessible. Having low vision should not keep you from reading and enjoying and complaining about Bon Appetit.

Filed under bon appetit jesus christ

2 notes

Dinner Suggestion: Turkey Burgers with Salsa Verde and Carrot Salad

Some divine light shone on us Tuesday night and we had a really fantastic mostly leftovers dinner at 5:45 pm with Bear.

Despite my best intentions, we mostly don’t eat dinner with Bear. He goes to bed really early, and needs a bath to keep the rashiness under control, which means we’d have to eat at 5:30 or so. I can pull together a simple dinner for him between when I get home from daycare pickup and 5:30, but I can only very rarely pull together a real dinner for all three of us in that time.

Except Tuesdsay night! We had turkey burgers topped with the extra salsa verde from the summer squash gratin along with the leftover carrot and chickpea salad. The salsa verde was perfect on the turkey burgers, and the whole dinner was filling and light. The carrot and chickpea salad saves really nicely in the fridge. The turkey burgers only take maybe 15 minutes.

Here’s the salsa verde recipe:

Salsa Verde

  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon marjoram or oregano leaves (I used approximately 1/2 a teaspoon of the ancient dried oregano leaves I found in the pantry)
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped mint leaves
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 small cloves garlic
  • 1 salt-packed anchovy, rinsed and bones removed (I think I used two anchovies, not rinsed, bones not removed, and didn’t use any capers)
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained (and rinsed, too, if salt-packed)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, or more to taste

Blend the herbs, garlic, anchovies, and capers (if you’re using them) in a food processor or blender until they become a paste. You may need to scrape down the sides once or twice. It was more like a very fine chop/rough paste for me and it was fine. With the machine running, pour in the olive oil (my food processor has a little indentation thing in the lid with two holes so I can pour oil into the lid and it drips slowly into the mixture). Season with the lemon juice and salt and pepper.

It keeps well in the fridge, although the oil solidifies.

Turkey Burgers

This is my general process with turkey burgers. This time I used:

  • about 3/4 lb ground dark meat turkey
  • about a teaspoon of mustard
  • chopped parsley
  • chopped sage
  • a large garlic clove, minced
  • lemon zest
  • salt and pepper
  • sometimes I toss in some breadcrumbs, but I didn’t have any.

I folded the ingredients together with a fork (to avoid mashing the turkey too much), made them into three rough patties, and cooked them in a skillet with olive oil.

When they were done, I added a spoonful of salsa verde on top.

Filed under dinner leftovers parenting is more complicated than I anticipated

1 note

Smitten Kitchen’s Fancy Summer Squash and My Lazy Summer Squash
(The beautiful photo above is from Smitten Kitchen, lest you think that I’ve upped my iphone photo game. I have not.)
I made two different summer squash recipes last weekend. First, I made a very basic and easy summer squash sauté in the hopes of encouraging my kid to branch out, eating-wise. Later, I made Smitten Kitchen’s Summer Squash Gratin with Salsa Verde to go with dinner.
The gratin was very good, but harder than the simple sauté, and not really better.
I don’t want to knock it. It was very good. I was pleased for the salsa verde leftovers, since I miss the rich herbal kick of pesto in the summer now that we don’t eat nuts.
On the other hand, zucchini fritters would probably have been less work, and there’s almost nothing I like as much as a good zucchini fritter.
So here’s the link for the gratin. I think it would be really lovely for a low-key dinner get-together. Maybe alongside grilled chicken or piece of fish? Or with a nice turkey burger situation? Much of the prep work can be done well-ahead, which is perfect for a dinner party, and it makes a slightly fancier side dish.
But mostly I’m going to stick with the sauté which was unbelievably good. It was crazy delicious. Dave and I both spent the last portion of Bear’s nap eating it, and then when it became clear Bear wasn’t interested, we gobbled that shit down like a pack of hungry wolves. Some of the deliciousness may have come from the fact that I cooked it in the same pan I had just used to cook a mixture of onions, carrots, and celery (which I tossed with some green lentils, olive oil, and a bit of chicken stock to make a lunch for Bear which he inexplicably loved, despite it being a nice thing mama made specially for him). Regardless, sautéed summer squash is fantastic, and particularly fantastic with onions that are almost caramelized, and the parmesan on top rounds everything out really well.
The real key thing here is to not try to cook too much summer squash at once. If you overcrowd the pan, the squash will steam instead of brown. I am fond of steamed zucchini halfway mashed with a lot of butter and salt, but that’s a different dish, and failed sautéed zucchini is not very good. For that reason it’s a really great dish to make for one person, and I would definitely not make it for say, three or four people.
Summer Squash Sauté
1 summer squash (I had a patty pan, but zucchini or yellow summer squash would work just as well), cut 1/4 - 1/8” thick and chopped a bit.
1/2 - 1 shallot, chopped
Salt
Olive Oil
Parmesan Cheese
Toss the summer squash with a fairly liberal amount of salt. You can set it in a colander to drain or just lay it out on a dish towel. Wait for 10 minutes or so, then press it with a dish towel to dry.
Heat a fair amount of olive oil in a large saute pan or skillet. Add the shallot and sauté until translucent. Add the squash and sauté until slightly browned (the shallot should be on its way to caramelized).
Top with parmesan.

Smitten Kitchen’s Fancy Summer Squash and My Lazy Summer Squash

(The beautiful photo above is from Smitten Kitchen, lest you think that I’ve upped my iphone photo game. I have not.)

I made two different summer squash recipes last weekend. First, I made a very basic and easy summer squash sauté in the hopes of encouraging my kid to branch out, eating-wise. Later, I made Smitten Kitchen’s Summer Squash Gratin with Salsa Verde to go with dinner.

The gratin was very good, but harder than the simple sauté, and not really better.

I don’t want to knock it. It was very good. I was pleased for the salsa verde leftovers, since I miss the rich herbal kick of pesto in the summer now that we don’t eat nuts.

On the other hand, zucchini fritters would probably have been less work, and there’s almost nothing I like as much as a good zucchini fritter.

So here’s the link for the gratin. I think it would be really lovely for a low-key dinner get-together. Maybe alongside grilled chicken or piece of fish? Or with a nice turkey burger situation? Much of the prep work can be done well-ahead, which is perfect for a dinner party, and it makes a slightly fancier side dish.

But mostly I’m going to stick with the sauté which was unbelievably good. It was crazy delicious. Dave and I both spent the last portion of Bear’s nap eating it, and then when it became clear Bear wasn’t interested, we gobbled that shit down like a pack of hungry wolves. Some of the deliciousness may have come from the fact that I cooked it in the same pan I had just used to cook a mixture of onions, carrots, and celery (which I tossed with some green lentils, olive oil, and a bit of chicken stock to make a lunch for Bear which he inexplicably loved, despite it being a nice thing mama made specially for him). Regardless, sautéed summer squash is fantastic, and particularly fantastic with onions that are almost caramelized, and the parmesan on top rounds everything out really well.

The real key thing here is to not try to cook too much summer squash at once. If you overcrowd the pan, the squash will steam instead of brown. I am fond of steamed zucchini halfway mashed with a lot of butter and salt, but that’s a different dish, and failed sautéed zucchini is not very good. For that reason it’s a really great dish to make for one person, and I would definitely not make it for say, three or four people.

Summer Squash Sauté

  • 1 summer squash (I had a patty pan, but zucchini or yellow summer squash would work just as well), cut 1/4 - 1/8” thick and chopped a bit.
  • 1/2 - 1 shallot, chopped
  • Salt
  • Olive Oil
  • Parmesan Cheese

Toss the summer squash with a fairly liberal amount of salt. You can set it in a colander to drain or just lay it out on a dish towel. Wait for 10 minutes or so, then press it with a dish towel to dry.

Heat a fair amount of olive oil in a large saute pan or skillet. Add the shallot and sauté until translucent. Add the squash and sauté until slightly browned (the shallot should be on its way to caramelized).

Top with parmesan.

Filed under summer squash zucchini smitten kitchen

6 notes

Grilled Bread Salad
I started making this based on a recipe in the Bon Appetit grilling issue. It’s very good. I enjoy grilling bread quite a bit, as it turns out. I never worry if it’s under-cooked.
I make this when we’re grilling other things, by the way. When we fire up the grill, I feel a certain compulsion to throw things on it until the coals have died out. If that means we eat grilled salad, so be it.
You grill the bread, peppers, and onions, so you want to cut those up into large enough pieces that they don’t fall through the grates. If I make a small salad for the two of us, I use one pepper and one onion.
Grilled Bread Salad
1 - 2 red peppers, cut into large chunks
1 - 2 red onions, cut into quarters (leaving stem end intact)
A number of slices of bread, crusts removed (no need to be fussy about this, it’s not a big deal), can be sliced thick. You want to use a country-style bread here, not sandwich bread.
A cucumber, halved and sliced (optional)
A tomato or two, cut up (optional)
Olive oil and red wine vinegar
Bit of paprika
Salt and pepper
Toss the cut up peppers, onions, and bread slices with a fairly significant amount of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Grill them, turning regularly, until soft and a little bit charred. I put the bread in the slightly cooler spots on the grill and the vegetables in the hotter spots. It takes a fair amount of time for the onions and peppers to cook. Maybe 10 - 12 minutes?
Cut up the grilled vegetables, tear the bread into chunks, and mix together with the cucumbers and tomatoes. Toss with a little bit of olive oil and some red wine vinegar.
I’m always looking for good opportunities for bread and oil, so I’m pleased to be able to incorporate these into an otherwise healthy salad.

Grilled Bread Salad

I started making this based on a recipe in the Bon Appetit grilling issue. It’s very good. I enjoy grilling bread quite a bit, as it turns out. I never worry if it’s under-cooked.

I make this when we’re grilling other things, by the way. When we fire up the grill, I feel a certain compulsion to throw things on it until the coals have died out. If that means we eat grilled salad, so be it.

You grill the bread, peppers, and onions, so you want to cut those up into large enough pieces that they don’t fall through the grates. If I make a small salad for the two of us, I use one pepper and one onion.

Grilled Bread Salad

  • 1 - 2 red peppers, cut into large chunks
  • 1 - 2 red onions, cut into quarters (leaving stem end intact)
  • A number of slices of bread, crusts removed (no need to be fussy about this, it’s not a big deal), can be sliced thick. You want to use a country-style bread here, not sandwich bread.
  • A cucumber, halved and sliced (optional)
  • A tomato or two, cut up (optional)
  • Olive oil and red wine vinegar
  • Bit of paprika
  • Salt and pepper

Toss the cut up peppers, onions, and bread slices with a fairly significant amount of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Grill them, turning regularly, until soft and a little bit charred. I put the bread in the slightly cooler spots on the grill and the vegetables in the hotter spots. It takes a fair amount of time for the onions and peppers to cook. Maybe 10 - 12 minutes?

Cut up the grilled vegetables, tear the bread into chunks, and mix together with the cucumbers and tomatoes. Toss with a little bit of olive oil and some red wine vinegar.

I’m always looking for good opportunities for bread and oil, so I’m pleased to be able to incorporate these into an otherwise healthy salad.

Filed under the grilling edition bread

8 notes

We took most of the day off yesterday and went to Eventide for lunch. Here is the aforementioned cole slaw. Not pictured: fried chicken bun, sparkling rose, biscuits, fried battered hake, long conversation about what we were doing with ourselves before we had kids and why it wasn’t this, all the time.

We were also next to a small family with a dad with a GIANT camera who spent much of the meal art directing his food and family (including running outside to get a photo of them through the front window).

We took most of the day off yesterday and went to Eventide for lunch. Here is the aforementioned cole slaw. Not pictured: fried chicken bun, sparkling rose, biscuits, fried battered hake, long conversation about what we were doing with ourselves before we had kids and why it wasn’t this, all the time.

We were also next to a small family with a dad with a GIANT camera who spent much of the meal art directing his food and family (including running outside to get a photo of them through the front window).

Filed under portland maine eventide day drinking summer water

5 notes

I don’t quite know how to explain this to people who haven’t been fat for their whole lives, but there’s a very subtle (and very profound) sense of exclusion from “clean eating” lifestyle brands like Gwyneth’s. Fat people are not allowed to eat “beautiful” foods that make them feel healthy and strong, because taking joy in meals is for thin people. When fat people do it, it’s a vulgarity, an indecent exposure, a slow public suicide.

There’s a pretty great essay by Lindy West on Jezebel about Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook. I was expecting it to be all “Gwyneth Paltrow is ridiculous” and it was, a little bit. But there was also this incredible section toward the end about “clean eating” and fatness.* Now, I HATE the term “clean eating”** but the author goes on to describe how great it was to “actually engage with what I was eating. To try on, for just a week, what it might feel like to not be at war with my body, to not have to pretend to hate the thing that keeps me alive.”

That is the way I want us all to eat. I want us all to engage with what we’re eating. To know how to cook, and feel empowered to cook, and take pleasure in the things we make and eat. That’s what I want in my own life, and what I want for my son, and what I want for you guys as readers of my tumblr.

And despite writing this tumblr for nearly four years (I cannot believe it), I very rarely consider the extent to which that is off limits for people who are overweight.

That sucks.

* I am fairly uncomfortable with the using “fat” to describe a person or people, but I also want to use and respect the language the author has chosen describe herself.

** Not just the term, I hate the idea that there is “clean food” and “dirty food.” I don’t think it’s appropriate or helpful to spackle that veneer of morality over what we eat.

Filed under lindy west gwyneth paltrow clean eating privilege