Music Thursday

Stuck on this for the last few weeks and now here she is on Colbert:

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This lasagna ate my lunch

On Sunday nights I go over to my parents’ house and my dad and I make dinner. Sort of. Really I make it, unless it involves grilling, which dad does. We’ve been doing it for a couple of years and I really enjoy it. It’s hard to try out new recipes or make certain things for just one person so it’s fun for me to get to expand my repertoire. Sunday dinner was my dad’s idea and I think he might’ve done it because my mom, bless her heart, is not a great cook. She’s just not really interested in it, plus she’s got digestive issues so if she’s cooking it’s got zero spice and not a lot of flavor.

I’ve been craving lasagna and opened up the Serious Eats website and the first thing I saw was this:

Sunday dinner: No-Holds-Barred Lasagna Bolognese

It even says “Sunday dinner.” And I’ve been wanting to try to up my sauce game, so the Bolognese sounded like a perfect challenge. And it was. So much so that the recipe ended up taking me two whole Sundays. As dinnertime loomed closer on Sunday of week 1 I had to call an audible, bail out and order a pizza. First time I’ve had to abandon a recipe midstream.

Delay #1: I had to go to 4 (four) stores to find all the ingredients. I usually budget time for two stores, because I’m shopping on a Sunday afternoon and stocks are often low. The pesky ingredient I couldn’t find? Whole-milk mozzarella. The first three stores i went to carried it, but were out. At the fourth I grabbed the only package.

Delay #2: I’m sort of a cautious cook and I think I soft-pedaled the directions to simmer the sauce at medium-high heat. I was scared of scorching the bottom so I rolled along at a low simmer and couldn’t get the liquid to boil off. It just wouldn’t reduce for me. This is where I surrendered and called for pizza. Then I loaded my too-liquidy sauce into containers and took it home to finish on my stove. It took another three hours the next night for me to cook it down. And then it sat in the fridge until the next Sunday, which I wasn’t too upset about because stuff like this tastes better the longer it has time to mix and mingle right? RIGHT?

So we resumed the next Sunday, but I had to stop by work beforehand and that ended up taking longer than I expected. The only ingredients I didn’t still have on hand from last week were fresh basil and parsley. Adding that was the last step in the bolognese but didn’t do it at the time cause I thought the herbs would have more kick added fresh. I’m not sure that was the right decision. But since I was running late I only had time for one shopping run. And what were they out of? Fresh basil (I have a pot of it in my garden but had harvested it all the week before for round one). So I had to go with an inferior substitute.

When I got to my parents’ I discovered my mom had used all the whole milk I had bought the week before (they are skim milk drinkers so I assumed I was safe, WRONG) so Mom went back to the store for me while I made the ricotta mixture.  And guess what? No food processor, so I had to make it in a blender. I had to throw in a little milk to help it along because the ricotta was so thick. So of course it came out too thin. We got to the point in the recipe where the directions say “spread half the ricotta mixture on top of noodles with a spatula” which made me laugh out loud as I was pouring it out of the blender like a thick milkshake.

When parmesan came up I had forgotten all about it, so I asked mom to grate it for me and she promptly sliced half her thumb off. “Check the grater for bloody flesh.” Great. (I did not find any.)

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I did do great with the besciamella. It was a glorious sexy thick sauce. I heard Barry White in my head as I was stirring.

I was having my mom read the assembly instructions to me line by line so I didn’t miss anything, but when we got to the end I had three noodles left, so we skipped a step somewhere. I just threw the noodles on top and scraped out what little sauce/ricotta/besciamalla I had left to cover them.

Then I spilled probably a cup of the ricotta mixture out of the baking dish into the stove as I was putting it in the oven, and gave myself a paper cut with the tin foil as I was lining the cookie sheet which went underneath the dish to catch any spillover. But it’s not a party until there’s blood, right? RIGHT?

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End result? It was delicious. So rich and hearty that you can’t eat a lot at once though, so we will have leftovers for quite a while. More stuff to go in the freezer. But it’s very much a meat-and-dairy experience. There’s not a lot of tomato action, which I think threw my parents off a bit. My mom’s recipe is all about those thick noodles, meat and tomato sauce. As the recipe says  “Unlike red sauce joints whose Bolognese is not much more than tomato sauce with ground beef, this ragù is all about the meat.” The cheese is kind of an afterthought. So if you’re expecting kind of a souped-up Stouffer’s it could be a disappointment. I used store-bought broth and ricotta (the non-stabilizer kind that’s discussed) and the Barilla no-boil noodles recommended in the comments section under the recipe on the SE website. I used all the meats as suggested, including the chicken livers

Would I do it again? Maybe. What would I do different? Better planning re: shopping runs. Fresh basil would’ve added another dimension. I would make the bolognese ahead of time so it’s just white sauces on cooking day. I would be sure I have the food processor or a mixer w/whisk on hand. The result gets two enthusiastic thumbs up but I’m not sure it was worth the effort. I’ll update with a verdict on the leftovers.

UPDATE: Still delicious.

UPDATE TWO: from the freezer, still tasty.

Hot time Saturday night

How did I spend this gorgeous Saturday, under the light of the full moon? I did my taxes, went to the mall, bought three new sweaters for one of my dogs, and went to Target for toilet paper and a loaf of bread. Then I had a ham sandwich. Friday night I fell asleep on the couch after eating a dinner of cereal out of the box (although I did watch Westworld, which I’m getting into). Adulting can be super lame sometimes. But there’s no shame in a good sandwich. As my spirit animal Liz Lemon said, “I believe that all anyone really wants in this life is to sit in peace and eat a sandwich.”

I made a run out to the mall because I saw on the internet this morning that my most recent favorite lipstick (kind of a lip balm/lipstick hybrid) had been marked down.

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Sephora Collection Mara Hoffman lip tint

I readily admit to having a love affair with Sephora. I don’t know whether to be proud or embarrassed when the staff recognizes me there. Anyway I love this stuff. Really emollient and moisturizing but not so much color that I can’t just reapply on the go throughout the day. No mirror needed. I bought some backups for me and a couple for gifts. I think I read about it initially on Temptalia or Musings of a Muse, both of which I follow to feed my habit.  Treat yo self.

Warm me up, day 2

Yesterday’s kitchen adventure turned out pretty well. My house reeks of bacon, which I admit I really like. Some of the soup is in the freezer and some went to the office today to share.  Today is still chilly and rainy so I decided to try another cold-weather recipe and went for this:

Serious Eats pressure cooker Texas Chile con Carne

Serious Eats is one of my favorite sources. I’ve made this once before and it turned out great. My usual chili recipe involves a packet of chili seasoning and ground beef so the DIY approach was new for me. But just like my standard chili, this also proved to be great left over and there’s lots of add-on options at the end. I liked it in a tortilla with a little avocado.

I didn’t deviate too far from the recipe but I will admit I didn’t do a good job with the meat. First, I’m lazy and have terrible knife skills so I bought pre-cut stew meat. Second I was supposed to get it nicely browned before it went into the pressure cooker and that didn’t really happen. I imagine the goal was to get a little crisp on it and there I failed.

The chicken broth-chili mixture cleared me, coughing, out of the kitchen when I took the lid off the blender, which was awesome. And I mean that in all seriousness. It’s legit.

Post-dinner update: turned out great! For me the addition of masa harina at the end really makes a difference. I love the robustness and the balance of spices. If you like a bland chili I would say skip it but if you’re up for a flavor bomb, dig in. I can’t wait to see how it tastes tomorrow – should be even better.