Tuesday, February 12, 2013

In Ascending Order of Greatness

It's been drizzly and cold for the past week. Not blizzard-cold, but damp and stormy, in the 40-50 degree range. Fortunately, Nigella Kitchen is packed with comfort food recipes that sound just right on a blustery day. I assume this has to do with Nigella's ingrained Englishness, because it's certainly not something that can be said for every cookbook out there.

I've covered quite a few recipes in the past week, so I'll start with the bad news, and work my way up to the glory that was last night's dinner.

Italian Tomato and Pasta Soup (pg 470-471) is a simple enough recipe. All you do is cook sauteed onion and "6 large, ripe, fabulous tomatoes" (peeled and chopped) in water, salt, pepper, and sugar for 40 minutes. Puree. Boil again. Cook pasta in the soup.

"Fabulous tomatoes" is the most important part of this recipe. My tomatoes were not fabulous. They were average. I'll give the recipe the benefit of the doubt that this was the cause of the soup's downfall. This was vile. It tasted like slightly-sweet water. I didn't even serve this. I didn't bother adding (ie, wasting) the pasta after I tasted it. It was not salvageable. We ate leftovers for dinner.
That is one sad soup.
Conclusion: Hated it, but with the disclaimer that perfectly ripe tomatoes may make a huge difference. I doubt I'll try it again in peak season, though.

I've never been a big gnocchi fan. It's entirely possible that I've never had "good" gnocchi, but every time I have had it, it's just a plate of heavy dumpling bombs that make my stomach hurt. Every supermarket here has packs of nice looking gnocchi in the refrigerator, though, so I thought I'd give Nigella's Rapid Roastini (pg 68) a try. No boiling involved. All you do here is fry the gnocchi in oil for four minutes per side. Mine browned up in a lot less time than that. If I left them for four minutes per side, they'd have burned. I don't recommend taking your eyes off of them. I kept rolling them around so all the sides browned nicely.

Nigella says that these taste like roasted potatoes. That's not true. They are tasty, though. I couldn't eat very many, because, like all gnocchi dishes, they felt too heavy in my tum. Matt finished mine.
Conclusion: Liked them. A nice, easy side dish that I can see myself making again, just because it takes so little effort. I'm sure Charlie would have liked them if he'd been willing to try them. It is so frustrating to have a kid who won't even try new food. I wouldn't care if he tasted it and didn't like it. It drives me crazy that he won't even put it in his mouth, though. I had no idea a child could survive on nothing but English Muffins with cream cheese, and fruit. Doesn't that get boring?? Ugh.

Irish Oaten Rolls (pg 87) are quick little soda breads made out of whole wheat flour and oats. Guinness and honey give the rolls a sweet backnote, but the main flavor is of the whole wheat. The crumb is moist and delicate (I wish my butter was softer, because it ripped up my roll). These are a really nice vessel for a smear of butter and a glob of marmalade.
Nom nom nom
Conclusion: Liked them. Charlie kept singing about cookies while I was taking them out of the oven, so he was mighty disappointed when he bit into his roll. The look on his face was priceless.

How have I lived 32 years without ever putting cheddar cheese in my mashed potatoes? Nigella's method for making mashed potatoes strikes me as overly complicated. Do people really boil whole potatoes for 40 minutes?? I cut those babies up and cooked them in half the time. I just made the potatoes as I normally do, then mixed in the cheddar cheese.

Conclusion: Cheddar Mashed Potatoes (pg 407) are genius. Love them. Am certain Charlie would have liked them if he were open to tasting it. I smeared some on his tongue while he was trying to avoid the fork, and he promptly licked my shoulder to get it off. I can't win. He better get used to them, though, because I'm going to be making these every day for the rest of his life.
We had spinach, too, lest you think I never eat a vegetable

And now, the coup de grace. Ed's Mother's Meatloaf (pg 458). I wish my mother cooked like Ed's mother. My mom's meatloaf was ground beef, mixed with raw onions, slathered with tomato sauce, and baked until gray and dry. Gross.

Matt's mom makes a good meatloaf, involving multiple types of ground meat, and covered in bacon. Even I like it. It's Matt's favorite thing that his mom cooks, and it's what he asks for when we go back for visits.

Matt took one bite of Nigella's recipe and announced, "This destroys my mom's meatloaf." 

I wasn't sure it was going to turn out so great as I was putting it together. For one thing, There are hard boiled eggs in the center. Huh? That's weird. Matt says it's not that weird--that German's are always sticking hard boiled eggs into assorted loafed meat recipes. After eating it, I have to agree that it works. It's weird, but it works.

The only other flavoring agents are onions and worcestershire sauce. This worried me, because it struck a little too close to home, regarding my own mother's "recipe." The difference is that these onions are cooked until soft and sweet for 25 minutes in a heap of butter before being mixed with the meat. The loaf is covered in bacon, which crisped nicely in the oven, and the bottom of the loaf was caramelized in salty bacony greasy goodness.

Don't make this if you're on a diet.

Do make this if you want a delicious meatloaf.

Me: I think the slow-cooked onions are what make this so good.
Matt: I think the everything about it is what makes it so good.

He then asked me if I can cook this regularly. I'm going to need to start eating more salads.

Conclusion: Loved it so much.

1 comment:

  1. I have a vision of Charlie desperately trying to get potatoes off his tongue :-)
    MEatloaf is a tough thing. The meatloaf of my childhood sounds suspiciously like the meatloaf of your youth... Maybe there was a secret meatloaf recipe in NYS that was meant to scare small children off of it for the rest of their days?