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I love food, and I really enjoy great photography, so when the two come together, it’s pure gemütlichkeit. Enter these photos I found today, thanks to my new favorite app, Flipboard.

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When the food budget is tight (which it always is now that gas/food prices are creeping up every day) it’s clean-out-the-Frigidaire time at Chateau Nelson. This recipe is the result of one such night, and I didn’t want to forget it because it turned out quite tasty. All that is to say, throw in whatever is in your fridge to make this your own personal fridge-cleaner-outer.

1 lb. penne
1 zucchini, sliced paper-thin (I used my mandoline slicer for this – love that thing)
1-2 garlic cloves, sliced paper-thin (mandoline slicer, but watch your fingers)
1 sweet onion, sliced into semicircles (not on the mandoline unless yours can handle onions)
1 tablespoon butter
15 oz. ricotta cheese (I could have sworn this used to come in 16-oz. containers)
1 large boneless/skinless chicken breast, grilled and chopped
parmesan
XV olive oil
salt & pepper

Boil the pasta until al dente (I usually go one minute less than the shortest time on the box directions) and immediately strain. After straining, stir in a little olive oil, zucchini, and garlic so the heat from the pasta cooks the vegetables.

While your pasta is cooking, melt butter in a saucepan and add onions when hot. Cook until they’re a tasty golden color (caramelized). Add a teaspoon or so of sugar if you want them extra sweet.

Combine pasta/vegetables, caramelized onions, ricotta, and chicken, then add parmesan, olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste.

Variations: Bacon, of course, never hurt anything. Asparagus would be good (throw it in with the pasta for the last 1-2 minutes of cooking). Fresh or sundried tomatoes would also be tasty.

Here in Atlanta, we’re experiencing our biggest snow since about 1993 (measuring six pure, fluffy, delightful inches on the patio furniture). I cannot tell you how much I HEART SNOW DAYS. It’s especially exciting since Mikey is stuck at home, too, and we’re keeping up the unflinchingly rigid Waldrop family tradition of making donuts on snow days (another recipe for another day). The Price is Right comes on in half an hour … I love my life.

All this calls for a killer comfort food recipe. I made this for the first time on Saturday, and our tongues beat our brains out trying to get to it. It took several hours to make, but every hearty bite made the time and effort worthwhile.

GUINNESS POT PIE
Makes 6 big servings
Prep & cook time is about 3 hours (see busy day option at bottom)

olive oil
3 lbs beef stew meat
1 onion
½ teaspoon dried rosemary (or one sprig fresh rosemary)
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 carrots, peeled and chopped in chunks
2 russet potatoes, peeled and cut in ½” chunks
8 oz portobello mushrooms, quartered
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
salt
pepper
2 tablespoons flour
11-oz bottle Guinness (or if you have the 15-oz cans, one of those works, too)
beef stock (about 1 cup)
8 oz extra sharp white cheddar, shredded (I like Cabot Seriously Sharp White Cheddar)
1 puff pastry sheet, thawed
1 egg, beaten (with a splash of water for egg wash)

1. In your biggest oven-safe pot or dutch oven, brown beef in hot oil in batches (it doesn’t have to cook all the way through). It might take as many as six batches, but your patience will be rewarded. Be sure to not overcrowd the pot or the beef won’t brown. Once browned, move to separate bowl.

2. Add a little more oil to the pot and sauté onions until tender, about 5 minutes, then add garlic and rosemary and sauté another 2–3 minutes. Add carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, butter, Worcestershire, salt, pepper, and flour, and stir to combine. Add beef (WITH juices in the bottom of the bowl), Guinness, and enough beef stock so liquid level is just below beef/vegetables, not fully immersed. Bring to a boil and transfer to oven.

3. Braise at 350° for 90 minutes, until the sauce is good and thick. Remove from oven and stir in half of shredded cheese (about 1 cup). Increase oven temp to 375°.

4. Pour stew into a greased 2.5–3-quart baking dish and top with remaining cheese. Roll puff pastry sheet so it’s big enough to cover top and to create a seal on the edges of the dish. Press puff pastry to edges of baking dish, and brush puff pastry top with egg wash.

5. Line a jellyroll pan with aluminum foil and place dish on it to bake. Bake at 375° for 45 minutes or until puff pastry is golden brown and stew is bubbling around edges. Make sure you have some good crusty bread with which to soak up every drop of the delicious Guinness-y stewiness.

BUSY DAY OPTION

Brown beef, then cook onions/garic/rosemary in pot. Combine this and everything else through beef stock in a Crock Pot and cook on low for 8 hours. Then, stir in half the cheese (about 1 cup) and pick up with step 4. I haven’t tried this yet, but fully intend to in the next few weeks. Can’t see why it wouldn’t work well for a weeknight dinner.

No pictures to share … sorry … we plowed into it too quickly.

In full disclosure, it’s impossible for me to say I’m totally against mood-altering drugs. I love the way caffeine makes me feel. Today I had a full-caf latte (from my perfectly-sized Bialetti Moka), my first full-caf coffee in several weeks, if not months.

Anything is possible … Maybe I’ll paint that still-blank canvas. I may write a book today. I ought to redesign this website from scratch. I could drive my new car to Orlando to watch the shuttle launch. Or I could probably run there. Who knows? I can do anything!

emptycoffee

Inspired by a tasty dinner prepared in Jon & Amanda‘s kitchen and the ensuing conversation. Thanks, friends.

My favorite gadgets I don’t own yet:

  • Pasta extruder (the aforementioned)
  • Burr grinder (if I could find one that was reasonably priced and smaller than a breadbox)
  • Citrus juicer (I’m tired of picking out the seeds)

Even in manners. Just one more thing from The Rituals of Dinner

“In many cultures, two people do not feel they can talk in a friendly way with each other unless they have first eaten together … A corresponding attitude is that which makes it impossible for a desert Arab who has once eaten salt with a man ever to treat him thereafter as an enemy. It is as though reconciliation must never be needed,  because it has taken place already; enmity has been overcome in advance.”

I’ve been known to pick up an eclectic assortment of library books.

ritualsExhibit A:
The Rituals of Dinner: The Origins, Evolution, Eccentricities, and Meaning of Table Manners by Margaret Visser

What I’ve learned:
“The Latin word for a hearth or fireplace is focus. [Sorry for not learning that in 10th grade, Mrs. Sullivan.] … The French word for  a household is a foyer, literally, a ‘hearth.'”

“[In many cultures, both ancient and modern,] if a woman decides to stop cooking for her man, or if he refuses to be fed by her or insists on cooking for himself, the breakdown is an outward signal of a serious failure in their relationship … In Assam, south of Tibet, if a family member is furious enough to refrain from eating with the household for a whole twenty-four hours, the dissension is extremely grave. If he then decides to cook separately, he is taking an irreversible step; it must be followed by his building a new house and by a splitting up of lands and property. This is a terrible rite of rejection called ‘the throwing away of the cooking pots.'”

“In some African societies … [the husband’s] avoiding the food in any particular wife’s dish is a deep insult, ritually suggesting that he suspects her of trying to poison him.”

On Saturday, Mike and I took a class at Whole Foods on grilling beef. Highly recommend it. A few things I learned:

  • E. coli is the most commonly-found bacteria in beef, but it only grows in the cow’s intestinal tract. When beef is processed industrially (read: 400 cows an hour for 16 hours a day), the chances of puncturing the intestines are pretty high. When processed on smaller farms at a slower rate, the chances are almost negligible, making it far safer to eat rare beef.
  • Assuming you’re eating beef that’s been handled well, much more raresteakflavor is retained when it’s served rare. Next time you cook beef, try eating it one notch rarer than you normally do. Close your eyes if you have to, but it will be much tastier.
  • Beef should be thawed and brought to room temperature before cooking. This allows the meat to cook evenly, keeping you from having a raw center and charred outside. Do not skip this step. It’s that important.
  • I kind of thought the draw of “free range” beef and poultry was just the touchy-feely aspect of happier chickens and cows. Not so. Free-range animals, as the name suggests, move around a lot more than industrially-raised animals in pens, which means they use their muscles, which develops flavor in the final product. It also means they’re leaner since they don’t stand in once place all day.

I came across a recipe for a Muffuletta Calzone last weekend and, in the interest of broadening our culinary horizons beyond Italian and Chinese food, I whipped it out for dinner last night.

Holy virgin. Outstanding.

Thanks to my favorite guy‘s pizza dough (ask him about his secret ingredient) and my favorite knife, the whole thing was quick and easy.

Finely chop the following and combine in a large bowl:

  • 1 cup mixed pickled vegetables (This was a new ingredient for me, but I found them in the grocery store near the olives. The mix I bought had carrots, cucumbers, cauliflower, onion, celery, and peppers, and I olivesrinsed them in cold water first to cut down on the saltiness.)
  • 1/4 cup (or more if you’re a Waldrop) pimiento-stuffed green olives
  • 1/2 cup ham
  • 8 thin slices Genoa salami
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Add an 8-ounce bag of shredded Italian cheese blend, and fill your pizza dough with the mixture in calzone style. I could have easily made four calzones that were 6-8 inches along the straight side, but I made two and kept the rest of the filling for sandwiches (and wasn’t disappointed when I stuffed a pita with it today). Grate some parmesan on top and bake for about 20-25 minutes at 425 degrees.

Note: If you have a problem with salt, you should probably skip this one.

I have to confess no small amount of pride (both the sort-of-okay kind and the sinful kind) at the Easter feast my Mama and I put on this past Sunday. It was full of flavor in a way I’ve rarely seen (er, tasted), and all the various herbs and seasonings and sauces came together in a symphony of deliciousness that Mama and I were quite happy with, not to mention Daddy and Mikey.

Sweet-Hot Plum-Glazed Ham Due to a vast shortage of plum preserves in the greater Forsyth County area, I substituted apricot preserves for plum and reduced the red pepper by half. SL likes their stuff slightly more en fuego than I do.

Roasted Potatoes with Green Beans and Creamy Tarragon Dressing Used red potatoes rather than fingerlings (budget cuts, you know), and the whole thing was out of this world. Leftover dresssing was pretty good on a salad the next day, too.

Fruit Salad with Lime Syrup Fresh pineapple, mango, orange sections (with no membranes – very important), and  seedless red grapes with a 1:1 simple syrup with lime juice and lime zest. Who needs dessert?

citrustartTwo-Seed Rolls Originally called for three seeds, but nobody here likes fennel seeds so we stuck with sesame and poppy seeds. Mix seeds and one egg white together and dip uncooked rolls in the mixture (worked quite nicely with frozen rolls which thawed and rose overnight), then bake according to roll directions. Brush with melted butter after they come out of the oven. Swallow tongue.

Double Citrus Tart Holy schnikes this thing was out of this world. Very light orange and lemon tart with ginger snap crust. Wash it down with some sweetened whipped cream.