Thursday, March 26, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

It's been 2 weeks since SP's company told employees to work from home. Since he was sick before that, it's more like 3-4 weeks that I've had company during the day (he took several sick days and worked from home a few days while he was sick). We've settled into a new routine, one that is not much different from the previous routine. He works from his office, I do my usual things, sometimes I hear his conference calls, sometimes he goes for a walk, dinner is still after 7 pm, we still don't go to bed until nearly 1 am, but we do sleep in until 8:30-9 am. It's amazing how much extra time there is without a 40 minute commute each way!

Like everyone (or like everyone should be), we are staying home except for grocery trips. Our plumber visits did not end last Friday. Turns out a pipe under the garage/driveway was leaking, so this past Monday the plumbers jackhammered up a corner of the garage to replace a section of pipe.  Four plumber visits, thousands of dollars, gallons of bleach, and cans of bleach wipes later, everything is OK (as far as anyone can tell).

I'm still suffering from allergies which means my mind still goes to horrible places when I sneeze, ache, or feel it in my chest. I guess that's the "new normal" for me for the next 18 months. I worry what this stress/anxiety is doing to everyone's health. I know we're both very worried because we both have pre-existing conditions that put us in the high-risk category. We try to stay informed but sometimes, we have to turn off the news.

What We're Eating:


What We're Watching:

  • The Outsider (HBO). Really good. We watched all ten episodes last weekend. I liked it more than I expected.
  • Abominable (movie). Cute animated movie.
  • Where'd You Go, Bernadette (movie with Cate Blanchett). I enjoyed this more than I expected based on reviews. I have not read the book, but now I might.
  • Survivor. I haven't watched for years but started again this season. Interesting how the tribal council votes have gone.

What I'm Reading:
I finished The Body Outside the Kremlin by James L. May. Very good read. I have a lot of thoughts about the book and what's going on in the world right now but I'm going to to keep my thoughts to myself!

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

Happy Spring!

Last weekend we were supposed to see The Band's Visit and have dinner at Mezzo with friends but then the Cultural Trust cancelled events for a while. Since 75% of our dining group are at higher risk for COVID-19, we cancelled dinner, too. Instead, we stayed home & ordered pizza delivery.

We got cozy inside, disinfected the house, and then we discovered the leak. I kept hearing a noise and as usual, SP couldn't hear it, making me think I was crazy, or maybe having a new kind of ear/carotid issue. I even said it sounded like a drip but none of the sinks/tubs were dripping. Then Saturday afternoon he went to change the furnace filter and found a puddle of water in the utility room and it looked like a leak from the bathroom above it. So we called a plumber. One came, checked things out, and said they'd be out Tuesday to fix things. Tuesday we waited & waited & waited and finally the plumber arrived, entering our safe, germ free zone. Turns out, we had 2 minuscule holes in a piece of copper pipe that were spraying constant water up onto the ceiling and at a certain point, the sprayed water started dripping down onto the floor (what I heard). So he replaced that piece of pipe. Thank goodness it was accessible (not above a finished ceiling). There are some other issues, too, a couple new and a couple I've just been living with, so the plumber needs to come back Friday to fix those (the hot water handle that leaks when water is used, the overflow drain leak, etc.).

Ugh! So we cleaned the house then found the drip, re-cleaned my bathroom after the plumber (so much bleach I felt like I couldn't breathe and then thought I had the virus), and now we'll have to clean again on Friday. Fun times. Lots of bleach and Clorox wipes.

SP had to get the car inspected today. He went armed with Clorox wipes and rubber gloves to disinfect the car, just in case. We also tried to stay 6' away from the plumbers.

Meanwhile, I feel crappy today. Tired, a little achy, congested, just not great. I've been feeling not great/like I have a cold or bad allergies for 3 weeks. Of course my mind is going horrible places every time I sneeze.

What we're Eating:

  • Coq au Vin
  • Italian Flatbread (Piadine) with prosciutto, mozzarella, arugula)
  • Lunch: Polenta with Roasted Tomatoes & Mozzarella
  • Dessert: Pizzelles
  • Snacks: Veggie Straws

What we're Watching:

  • We watched I Am Not OK With This on Netflix. It was really good! Only 7 episodes, about a half hour each.
  • Spring Baking Championship. Some of the sunrise/sunset doughnuts were so pretty as were some of the Celestial Event theme desserts (shooting stars, northern lights, etc.).
  • Our usual shows.

What I'm Reading:
The Body Outside the Kremlin by James L. May. Really good, just taking me longer to get through than most books.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Italian Flatbread (Piadine)

Like many people, SP is working from home and will be doing so for a few weeks. Since he currently doesn't have a commute, we have a bit more time to make dinner in the evenings. This week, we used the extra time to make Italian Flatbread (Piadine). The recipe is from Cook's Illustrated September & October 2019.
There isn't yeast in these, so they're quick & easy. Just flour, baking powder, salt, vegetable oil, and water. The dough does need to sit and rest for 30 minutes before you roll it out and cook it in a skillet. We used our cast iron skillet, but the recipe says a non-stick skillet can be used.
The recipe makes four flatbreads. They only take a couple minutes on each side in the skillet and then you fill them with whatever you like. We used prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, and arugula with a drizzle of balsamic syrup. The first night we weren't too hungry so we split a flatbread.
These are really tasty. It's like a less chewy and less dry pita.We both really liked it. They'd be great in the summer with all sorts of fresh, summer vegetables. Any combination of meat, cheese, greens, veggies. The recipe suggests Nutella with mascarpone as a filling so I guess these can be dessert, too.
Definitely a Make Again recipe.

Recipe here: Italian Flatbread (Piadine)

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

Last Sunday, my parents invited us for dinner. Mom made rack of lamb, tomatoes & mozzarella (there was balsamic syrup, too), Brussels sprouts, and twice baked potatoes. It was yummy!
Saturday dinner out was at Downey's House. As always, fried zucchini. For me, grilled chicken, bacon, cheddar, onion straw, BBQ sandwich. For SP, salad with grilled salmon.

The yard service is here today, getting the yard ready for spring & summer. It'll look great until early June when everything will have exploded into a jungle (as my mom calls it) and I start nagging SP to trim the tall grasses. I hope the mulch lasts longer than it normally does. Fresh mulch always looks so pretty.

SP's company has strongly suggested that those who can work from home until mid-April. So he's home. Again. It's Day #2 and I haven't killed him. He brought home bakery treats after his doctor appointment, so I guess he'll live to see Day 3. But I might go crazy from the messier than usual kitchen during the day.

What We're Eating:

  • Roast Pork Tenderloin with baked potatoes and roast cauliflower
  • Salad with shrimp
  • Dessert: Girl Scout Cookies

What We're Watching:

  • Movie: X-Men Dark Phoenix. Not as bad as the reviews but not very good.
  • The usual.
  • It feels like we haven't watched much. We're considering cancelling our satellite service and switching to a streaming TV service so we're in the midst of a trial period. I'm still trying to learn how to navigate the streaming screens and like most streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, YouTube), I'm finding them not especially user friendly. As in, I keep getting annoyed & frustrated & asking WTF the developers/designers were thinking. I have so many suggestions for improvement, but I'm sure my ideas are not correct. Why? Because I've voiced negative opinions on some redesigns SP's company had made to their service(s) and when he explains what the developers/designers said (in response to similar criticisms voiced by employees not on the team), well, I just roll my eyes and all I can say is, the nerds don't really get the average user. Or maybe I'm just too old? Too dumb? I'm tired of constantly re-learning things! Maybe if they made it less nerd-intuitive, they'd get more users. I'm surprised my parents stuck with Netflix and figured out how to use it!

What I'm Reading:
Dead in Dublin by Catie Murphy.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Butcher and the Rye

A few weeks ago we went to Butcher and the Rye. We've been there several times, but I don't think I've actually written a post in a while. Since we were already in the city for a show, and since it was just after SP's birthday, this was his choice for a birthday dinner.
We always enjoy the cocktails. This time, he started with a special: Wisconsin Old Fashioned (Jim Beam, Brandy, orange, cherry, if memory serves). It was yummy! I also had a delicious, and far to easily and quickly downed, cocktail, Hey, the Gardens (ketel one, grapefruit, rose, lemon, oat straw honey).
As always, we started with Brussels (brown butter, dill, parmigiano reggiano, preserved lemon aioli). So good. And as always, Brussels make for a terrible photo, a blob of a mountain covered with parmesan snow.
One of my favorite dishes in the city: Sunday Gravy (lamb neck, tomatoes, ricotta, olive oil, warm country bread). So. Good.
We shared this cocktail. Sadly, I do not remember the name, and it's not listed online. I remember bourbon and a mulled wine syrup (I think). It was really, really good.
We shared a special: Chicken & Biscuits. Oh my. This was delicious. I wish it would be added to the menu! Hearty and comforting on a windy, cold day. Lots of chicken, shredded into the sauce and the leg in the middle. I couldn't stop eating the shredded chicken gravy.
Coffee to counteract the booze and extra warmth before going back into the cold. 
Dessert: Chocolate Mousse Coupe (dark chocolate cremeux, chocolate mousse, vanilla chantilly cream, chocolate streusel, palmiers). Also delicious. SP probably would have preferred the Apple Bread Pudding, but bread pudding sounded like too much. 
We still really like Butcher and the Rye. We ate a lot less than normal, but that could be because SP was sick and didn't have his usual appetite. We both were stuffed, though, so maybe we usually overeat?! This is the first time we had a seat with a view of the bar and we both enjoyed watching the bartenders climb the ladder to find whiskeys and mix up drinks. We always sit on the first floor (wheelchair) and are happy B&tR has a wheelchair ramp up the one step to the non-communal table dining area. Our server was great, helping me when I was debating between a couple cocktails. Still one of our favorite restaurants in Pittsburgh.


Previous meals at Butcher and the Rye:





Thursday, March 5, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

Not much has happened the past week because SP is sick. He's taken a couple sick days and worked from home a couple of days while he sniffles and coughs. He saw a doctor and has some medicine, but whatever he has, it's lingering. He's never sick this long. I'm the one who gets sick and has it last for weeks. I think I am sick, but I'm not sure because I'm not sniffly, I'm not coughing, I'm just tired and my nose feels congested and I sometimes feel like I have a cough coming on, but then nothing happens.

What We're Eating:

  • Lasagna ( my mom's recipe - yum!)
  • Chicken Tacos
  • Dessert: French Almond Browned Butter Cakes

What We're Watching:

  • We blew through a 6 episode show from Norway called Beforeigners (HBO Europe). The show is set in Oslo. The premise is that suddenly there are flashes of light in the sea that turn out to be a phenomenon where people from the past (the Stone Age, the Viking Age, and the 19th century) suddenly emerge in the present. Fast forward several years & the "beforeigners" are struggling to fit into modern Norwegian society. When one is found dead, a cop who found the first beforeigners and his new partner, a beforeigner who has become a police officer, investigate. It's really good and we can't wait for Season 2!
  • Movie: Marriage Story (Netflix). The movie was a Best Picture nominee and Laura Dern won Best Supporting Actress. It's an excellent movie, but not one I could watch again as it's painful to watch Charlie & Nicole navigate their divorce and feelings. The scene where they let loose screaming at each other? Yikes! The movie is somehow both sad and uplifting.  
  • Movie: We watched Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw. I have never seen a Fast & Furious movie. But this one has Idris Elba. So we watched, and enjoyed it for what it is.
  • John Oliver is back.
  • Otherwise, just the usual shows.

What I'm Reading:

  • I finished The Limehouse Text (Barker & Llewelyn Series #3) from Will Thomas. It was good. I have a few other books to read before requesting the next books in the series.
  • Magazines.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Pan-Roasted Broccoli with Creamy Gruyère Sauce

Usually our vegetable side dish is plain and not very exciting because we put the most effort into a tasty protein. Then one day we made chicken and rice and decided we'd make the vegetable the exciting part. We made Pan-Roasted Broccoli with Creamy Gruyère Sauce from The Side Dish Bible.
This was yummy! I like that it used the florets and the stems. I know we could steam them (steaming being our usual broccoli preparation), but neither of us much likes the stems. Until now. The stems are actually tasty prepared this way. The gruyère-mustard-sherry-cream-cayenne-shallot sauce coats the broccoli, but the broccoli isn't swimming in sauce and it's not a heavy sauce. You can barely see the sauce in the photos. I also really like this pan-roast method. The broccoli stays crisp, it's not as wet/soft as steaming, but it's also cooked through (not crunchy).

We'll definitely make this again, although next time I think we'll try the Pan-Roasted Broccoli with Lemon Browned Butter and see which version we like more.

When we reheated it, we covered the glass container with foil and reheated at 350 for about 10 minutes.

Recipe here.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Linzertorte

I posted this on Instagram a while ago but I'm late getting it on the blog. This is the Linzertorte from The Perfect Pie that we made in February. Our PBS station seems to be behind in airing episodes of America's Test Kitchen and it turned out they aired the episode with this Linzertorte the Saturday before we planned to make it, so we watched the episode before baking it that Sunday. It looked easy, and it was, but the crust & lattice take a while with all the freezing, chilling, etc. It uses hazelnuts and almonds as well as cinnamon and allspice. I wasn't even sure we still had allspice because that's not a spice we use very often!
The filling is simply raspberry jam and lemon juice.

This is a yummy Linzertorte. But since the recipe didn't say to grease the tart pan and since our tart pan is non-stick, well, you can see where this is going. We destroyed the tart chiseling it out of the tart pan. It was delicious, just not in pretty slices. Definitely not photo worthy.

We kept our torte in the refrigerator and reheated "slices" for dessert each night. It's much tastier at room temperature or warmed up. The tart dough is really good. I kept wanting more of it! We'll make this again, but next time, remember grease the tart pan.

Linzertorte recipe here or here (videos) or here (from Test Kitchen Instagram link).

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

Yesterday was SP's birthday! His family birthday dinner was this past weekend at Cafe io. Sadly, nearly half the family couldn't make it because of illness, which is understandable, but he was a little sad anyway because it's a BIG birthday for him. It was just our parents and us. Here's what we ate:

  • Crispy Green Beans (tempura green beans, horseradish dipping sauce)
  • Iovino Appetizer (tempura mozzarella, Italian sweet sausage, marinated tomatoes, basil, organic mixed greens)
  • Monster Grilled Cheese (gouda and cheddar cheeses, bacon, egg, pulled pork, tomato, caramelized onions, spinach)
  • Ricotta Cheesecake

I forgot to take a photo of his fish tacos.
Sunday, he & I used his Big Burrito Birthday Card to go to brunch at Eleven. Here's what he ate with his two Bloody Marys:

  • Pork Belly (buckwheat blini, maple, chili, bourbon-black pepper glaze, sunny side egg)
  • Short Rib Hash (poached egg, Madeira jus, pomegranate reduction, herb & horseradish crumb)
  • Prosciutto Cotto, Carmelized Onion, & Cheddar Omelet (fingerling potatoes, bacon or sausage)  
  • Sea Scallop Salad (spring greens, gala apple, fennel, crispy wild rice, feta, ice wine vinaigrette)

I think he had a good birthday. We don't usually get each other gifts but since this was a BIG one, I got him a few gifts. I didn't make him a cake this year because we were eating Chex Mix for dessert plus we have lots of Girl Scout cookies we bought from the neighbor. More dessert didn't seem like a good idea.

What We're Eating:

  • Grilled Lamb and Grilled Asparagus
  • Ham, Pierogie, Broccoli
  • Dessert: Chex Mix, Girl Scout Cookies

What We're Watching:

  • We finished His Dark Materials (HBO). I mostly liked it. The polar bears were the best part.
  • Movie: Jojo Rabbit. We loved this movie! It has my vote for second best movie of the year, after Parasite. I laughed & cried.
  • Movie: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. I cried less than I thought I would! Really good movie about the friendship that developed between writer Tom Junod (named Lloyd in the movie) and Fred Rogers.
  • Seal Team is back! 

What I'm Reading:

  • To Kingdom Come (Barker & Llewelyn Series #2) from Will Thomas. A good read. It's set in May of 1884, and Scotland Yard has just been blown up, the latest attack in the Irish Republican Brotherhood's dynamiting campaign to force Home Rule, so it's an historical crime novel. After I finished the book, I went down the internet wormhole reading about the Fenian dynamite campaign & bombings/attempted bombings in London from 1881-1885.
  • The Limehouse Text (Barker & Llewelyn Series #3) from Will Thomas. I just started it, so I'm not very far in yet.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Beer Batter Bread

Sometimes quick breads are tasty. Other times, they are not. At all. This one, from The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book, is a tasty one: Beer Batter Bread.
It's really quick. Only 6 ingredients: flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, beer, and melted butter. Mix together, pour in loaf pan, bake.
It has a nice lumpy top.
It's really tasty warm with butter melting into it. After the first day, we reheated slices in the toaster oven. There's a lovely beer taste. It is a bit dense/heavy. Excellent with soup.
Definitely a Make Again bread. You can use whatever beer you have on hand, which is nice because then the bread flavor can change a bit each time you make it because it'll take on the flavor of the beer you use.

Recipe here.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Florentine Prosciutto Broth (with spinach & farro)

We made a new-to-us soup. It's not much to look at. Honestly, to me, it doesn't look very appetizing. But it's yummy. It's Florentine Prosciutto Soup from the Giada's Italy cookbook which I recently was flipping through once again, looking for inspiration.

It's easy to make. Simmer prosciutto, carrots, celery, shallot, garlic, thyme, and parmesan rind for 45 minutes. Strain. While the broth is simmering, cook the farro in a small saucepan. When the broth and farro are ready, cook some sliced onion in olive oil until golden. Deglaze the pot with marsala. Add broth and farro, bring to a simmer. Add spinach and stir until wilted. Serve.
We made the suggested parmesan crisps, too. They're simply mounds of grated parmesan baked until crispy. I didn't put my crisp in the soup because I didn't want it to get soggy. SP put his in the soup.

This was yummy, quick, and easy. It gave us two dinners for the week. We ate salad on the side, too. Make sure to ask for the prosciutto ends.

Recipe on Food Network here.
Recipe on Giadzy here.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

This past weekend we met friends for lunch at Aladdin's. Here's what SP & I ate:

  • Fatayer (a zesty combination of spinach, onions, and feta folded into a pita pie and topped with feta and scallions)
  • Fattoush (chopped spinach and romaine, Lebanese Salata, and pita chips seasoned with zaatar, tossed with lemon juice, garlic, sumac, extra virgin olive oil, and herbs)
  • Greek Pitza (feta, zaatar, diced cucumbers, green peppers, sliced tomatoes, calamata olives, and sweet basil flakes)

Saturday dinner was at Burgatory. The reason we went there was for the Chocolate Strawberry Shake Special but then we were too cold for a milkshake! My chicken-bacon-egg-greens-tomato-cucumber on brioche was yummy.

What We're Eating:

  • Florentine Prosciutto Broth with Farro & Spinach + side salad
  • Chicken Agrodolce + Baked Goat Cheese Salad
  • Dessert: Raspberry Linzertorte

What We're Watching:

  • Movie: Ford v Ferrari - loved it! I thought I might be a little bored because I do not like racing (I cannot stand Nascar) but this movie made me interested in racing. But not interested enough to watch Nascar. Ugh, so boring watching people drive in circles. How is that even a sport?
  • Movie: Zombieland: Double Tap. It was great to have the original four main cast back & it was a fun movie.
  • TV: We made some progress on His Dark Materials (HBO). Two more episodes to go. The polar bear is the best part of the show.
  • TV: The usual shows. Nothing too exciting.

What I'm Reading:

  • And Dangerous to Know by Darcie Wilde. Of course I started another series with the most recent instead of the first book. Whoops. It was in the mystery section of the library book magazine but it's actually also considered romance and I am not a fan of romance. Ugh. So I have mixed opinions on this one and I'm not sure I'll read the first two books in the series, especially since I have all the Will Thomas & Ken Bruen books to read.
  • My final issue of Bon Appetit arrived. I've been a subscriber for 16 years. I am sad about not renewing. If I end up missing it, I can re-subscribe.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Slow-Cooker Lemon Chicken

Last weekend we made one of the easiest and tastiest meals we've ever made: Slow-Cooker Lemon Chicken from the August/September 2019 issue of Cook's Country. What we really liked about this recipe is that there is no prep work before putting everything in the slow-cooker. No meat browning, no browning of anything. No chopping. Just remove the skin from the chicken and then put everything in the slow-cooker on low and walk away for 4-6 hours.
The Cook's Country photos are much prettier than mine. I didn't take a photo of the chicken thighs intact. We made this on Sunday with the intent to have it for dinner on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. So on Sunday after the chicken was done, SP removed the meat from the bones and pulled it into small bites. He divided the meat into 3 containers and poured an equal amount of sauce into each container.
On re-heating days we set up the rice cooker to have the rice ready around 7 pm. Around quarter til, I put one foil covered container of chicken in a 350 degree oven and I started heating the water for steaming the broccoli. The chicken took about 20~25 minutes to heat.
It's delicious. Chicken thighs seasoned with salt, pepper, paprika, oregano, thyme, and lemon juice. We zested lemon into the chicken after re-heating it, used dried instead of fresh thyme, and omitted the parsley & granulated garlic. It's really good with the steamed rice & broccoli. This is definitely a Make Again Dinner because it's so easy, tasty, and we usually have everything but the chicken on hand.

Recipe here: Slow-Cooker Lemon Chicken

Or here.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Thursday Thoughts

Last weekend we went to see Miss Saigon. I saw it about 20 years ago and loved it, bought the soundtrack, and frequently listen to it. I've been hoping that the show would return to Pittsburgh and this year, it did. I was so excited but also a little apprehensive because sometimes when you have fantastic memories of something, if you revisit it, it doesn't live up to the memories. I was afraid I might be disappointed. I was not! It was fabulous! I'm not sure of my favorite show, but Miss Saigon is definitely in my Top 5. After the show, we ate dinner at Meat & Potatoes.

We started with:

  • Chardonnay and Penicillin (blended scotch, smoked honey, lemon, ginger, ardbeg float)
  • Fried Brussels & Fried Pickles
  • Waldorf Salad (iceberg lettuce, granny smith apples, pecans, celery, pomegranate seeds, goat cheese buttermilk dressing)

Entrees & Desserts:

  • Salmon (black rice, kim chi, cucumber, Chinese sausage, Korean hot sauce, fried egg, ginger scallion relish)
  • Pappardelle (bolognese sauce, pancetta, pork shoulder, garlic bread)
  • Chocolate Pot de Creme 
  • Apple Caramel Bread Pudding

It was delicious! And filling. I brought home pasta for lunch the next day. It had a bit more of a kick than I remember it having. I also liked this version of Waldorf Salad. Not a sea of mayonnaise with apples, grapes, and walnuts.

What We're Eating:

  • Pub-Style Steak & Ale Pie with mashed cauliflower
  • Slow-Cooker Lemon Chicken with rice & steamed broccoli
  • Dessert: Leftover snacks like M&M's, popcorn, etc.

What We're Watching:

  • Movie: Ad Astra. SP saw this in the theater but I hadn't yet seen it. I liked it a lot even though I kept peppering him with science and space questions. I know Brad Pitt won his acting Oscar for Once Upon A  Time in Hollywood, but I thought he was terrific in this.
  • Movie: 6 Underground. A Michael Bay movie on Netflix starring Ryan Reynolds. Ridiculous. Implausible. Hilarious. Predictable. Lots of action. So much fun to see the stunts. What a ride! Much easier to follow all the action than other Bay movies. It did not require any brain power, made us laugh, and held our attention as we tried to guess what preposterous action would next occur.
  • Movie: The Good Liar. Helen Mirren & Ian McKellen. We both really enjoyed this film.
  • Movie: Booksmart. Mostly I wanted to see Kaitlyn Dever. She was fantastic in Justified as Loretta and in Unbelievable as Marie Adler. It's a fun film though I felt really old. 
  • Our normal TV shows. 
  • I watched Survivor last night for the first time in years. I don't know who more than half the winners are. But I remember Boston Rob, Amber, Sandra, Pavarti, Ethan, Yul. Sadly, one of the people I was cheering for was voted out. 

What I'm Reading:

  • I read The Guards by Ken Bruen. This is the first in the Jack Taylor series. I liked it more than the most recent one in the series (the one I read first) because his odd style of writing didn't bother me as much. It didn't take me too long to read it, but I'm not sure if that's good or bad?!
  • I finished Some Danger Involved. I think I'll continue reading this series. I already requested books 2 & 3 from the library.
  • I cancelled/decided to not renew two of the magazines, Saveur and Bon Appetit. Lately I've not found much of interest in BA plus it seems like they Tweet/Instagram/Facebook everything in the issue before I receive my issue in the mail and that annoys me so much because I pay for it and because I've been a subscriber since 2004. As for Saveur, they've reduced the number of issues to 4 a year and they've made the print small enough that I have to find my glasses to read it (also a complaint about BA). I only need my glasses for reading and even then, not always, but the font size is so small that I can no longer just pick up an issue and read an article for 5 minutes or so. I have to go find my glasses. I know, first world problems. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Pub-Style Steak & Ale Pie

I bookmarked this Pub-Style Steak & Ale Pie recipe from the March/April 2017 Cook's Illustrated nearly 3 years ago. I really liked the pub pies we ate in London and wanted to try making one at home. We finally gave it a try.
It tuned out to be more work and more time consuming than we expected. I was in charge of mise en place for the filling. SP made and rolled the crust. He also did the cooking on top the stove since I cannot reach.
Ready to go in the oven. Instead of one large 9" deep dish pie, we made three smaller servings since we wanted 3 dinners. We made extra dough to make sure we had enough crust.
Baked pie. The crust sank down into the filling and the filling bubbled up over the crust and down the sides of the glass dishes.
The crust sinking down into the filling means our crust didn't completely bake. The parts touching the filling remained uncooked while the top got nice and golden brown. It looked like we had it crimped and sealed well, but turns out, nope, we did not.
This dish is only a partial success for us. I already mentioned the raw/uncooked crust bits. The liquid is ultimately supposed to simmer and become thick enough to thoroughly coat the beef. Our liquid never seemed to reduce/thicken enough. We think it was much soupier than it was supposed to be. We even simmered it about 30 minutes longer than the recipe says. Then we baked the entire pie for about 30 minutes longer than the recipe says and the crust was not all that golden brown. At 8 pm, we decided it was time to eat. We ate one of the three pies and left the other two in the oven for another 30 minutes!

Days 2 & 3 were tastier than Day 1. The crust was more thoroughly cooked and the gravy had thickened up more (I guess from cooling & reheating). The beef was tender and pulled apart easily with a fork. The gravy was delicious. Lots of yummy bacon flavor. The crust was delicious, especially on the two that baked longer. I picked off the uncooked parts. I'm glad we used extra mushrooms because they were yummy. The bacon is not supposed to be crisped and browned but we both felt it remained too "soft" and next time would crisp it.

I'm not sure we'd make this again. The meat was pricey. While we chose to make a beef dish, we don't usually eat a lot of beef, so we both felt this dish was too beef-filled for us. It was a lot of beef in one serving, much more than a hamburger or sloppy joe or meatloaf (our usual beef meals). It also took several hours and it still wasn't done! It was a huge chunk of time and with everything else we usually need to accomplish on Sundays, we just don't have the luxury of that much time for one meal.

Recipe here: Pub-Style Steak & Ale Pie
Or here.
*We used chuck-eye roast since our stores didn't have boneless beef short ribs.
*We served mashed cauliflower with this.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Poached Pear & Almond Tart

We have wanted to make a Poached Pear Tart for a very long time. We finally made one a couple of weeks ago following the recipe for Poached Pear & Almond Tart in The Perfect Pie.
It was delicious and worth the effort. This one is a project and takes a lot of time. First we poached the pears:
Four pears, halved & cored, and nestled in an entire bottle of white wine plus sugar, lemon zest, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, cloves, and vanilla bean. The pears only simmer for about 10 minutes, but then they rest/cool for about an hour.
The crust is Classic Tart Dough and is made in the food processor. We love making dough in the food processor. The dough chills for at least an hour before you roll it, chill it for another 10 minutes, put it in the tart pan, and freeze it for 30 minutes. Then you line it with foil, fill with pie weights, and bake until golden brown (about 30 minutes). After that, let it cool for an hour.
The filling is also made in the food processor. Almonds, sugar, egg, almond & vanilla extracts, plus butter.
 Evenly spread the filling in the cooled tart shell:
 Carefully and gently slice & nestle the pears in the filling:
Bake about 45 minutes.
It's such a pretty dessert, even if your pears are a little off-center!
It smelled so yummy! Surprisingly, we didn't mangle the first couple of slices:
The crust is delicious. The filling is yummy. The pears are soft and boozy. We could definitely taste the wine.
This is a Make Again Dessert, but only when we have extra time because there are a lot of steps and it's time consuming. Good thing it's worth the time & effort!

Recipe here: Poached Pear & Almond Tart
Crust Recipe here.