I realized today that it is entirely possible that we either have new readers, or readers who still don’t know certain information about me. In the interest of bringing people some new stuff, or at least some new information, here we go with a few fun facts about the Improviser that you may not have known.
#1 – I really DO improvise a lot. Most dinners at our house are the result of me reading a recipe, thinking “wow, that sounds good” and proceeding to forget half of the procedures and just going with the ingredient list. I cook by feel, and I’m working really hard to train myself to use my senses more in my daily life, including cooking. This means that things may burn a little more often because I’m not setting timers. It also might mean that I have to guess how long something baked for – but if you cook my recipes frequently enough, you’ll get the hang of it.
#2 – I do not drink anything even remotely close to the recommended amount of water every day. Or at least, I didn’t, until this baby came into my life. Who knew that all it would take to make me drink water was a cute orange metal water bottle with a sport bottle top? I’m actually thinking about getting an even BIGGER KleanKanteen soon, because I love the little one, but I have to get up and refill it ALL THE TIME. The good thing about drinking this much water during the day is that when it’s time for hot yoga class, I don’t feel like I’m going to die. This is seriously the best.
#3 – My favorite comestibles are, in no particular order: chicken fingers, bourbon, french fries, chocolate chip cookies, macaroni & cheese, pizza, cheeseburgers, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, lobster, spicy tuna rolls, strong dark coffee, chocolate croissants, and cookie dough ice cream. Oh, and buttermilk biscuits with sausage gravy. And Gie’s Mince & Tatties. And Jaffa Cakes. And Diesels and Guinness and Vino Verde. And Riesling. And cheese in its many wondrous forms. You may have noticed that a lot of these things are the same foods that 9 year old boys love. That’s totally cool with me, since they’re also freaking delicious.
#4 – If I’m going the boneless-skinless route, I will from now on be choosing ONLY chicken thighs. No more boneless, skinless, textureless, TASTELESS chicken breasts for this girl – give me a little more fat, which means a little more flavor, and a little more *snap* in the texture. Give me more. If I’m paying the same money, I’m taking as much as I can flavor-wise out of it.
#5 – I have no problem, at all, with plunging a lobster into a pot of boiling water, clamping down the lid, and cooking the sucker.
#6 – I forgot to mention that one of my favorite things to eat is my dad’s Red Beans and Rice. And that by mashed potatoes, I mean my mom’s. By biscuits I don’t mean from a can. I love curry and chickpeas, and risotto (I forgot to mention risotto) and things that involve pumpkin, sausage, stock and cream. I also love cold leftovers, topped with a fried egg, for breakfast. Basically, anything topped with a fried egg.
#7 – I do not consider white chocolate to be chocolate.
I love lasagna. Something about the excuse to eat bechamel, AND sausage, AND tons of cheese, AND pasta all at the same time really gets to me.
See this lasagna?
This lasagna was delicious.
I made a red sauce, by browning a pound of hot Italian sausage along with half a minced onion, and a can of fire-roasted crushed tomatoes. It simmered down for a good long time, until the liquid had reduced by 1/3. But the marinara wasn’t the best part.
There was also a parmesan bechamel, which I made in the usual way, stirring milk and chicken stock into a roux, adding lots and lots of black pepper and a good quarter-cup of grated parmesan cheese. Honestly though, the bechamel wasn’t the best part either.
I grated about half a pound of mozzarella, because this was going to be really really decadent, and made sure that there was plenty of cheese on each layer of the lasanga. Dry noodles, white sauce, red sauce, cheese. Dry noodles, white sauce, red sauce, cheese, until it was all gone. But even the cheese wasn’t the best part.
The best part was that after I assembled it on Sunday, I covered it in foil, froze it solid, and let it wait until Wednesday. Then, Jesse baked it for me, while I was at the gym running my little legs off. I would recommend baking it for 45 minutes at 400 degrees, and another 15 minutes at 425. Covered or uncovered, whatever you feel like, for the first 45. Uncovered for the last 15, absolutely, to crisp the cheese up. Don’t worry about cooking the noodles, since they’ll cook when you bake the lasagna, and the moisture that’s released when the ice crystals melt will keep everything from getting too dry.
Not having to make dinner on Wednesday, because you made it on Sunday and froze it?
That is the best part.
Meatloaf is easily one of the most versatile foods on the planet. Just on this website alone, you will find at least three recipes that are impressively different from one another. This diversity is one of my favorite things about it, because no matter how you make it, its probably going to be good, and no matter what people say, it is still meat loaf . Growing up, I had meat loaf maybe a a half dozen times, but it was hardly a staple in our household, probably because none of us liked it. As I got older and cooking on my own, it was always one of those foods I was curious about, but I had this weird feeling that I had to be a soccer mom of four in a crazy sweater with embroidered reindeer on it to make a successful meat loaf. Somehow I thought the ingredients would not successfully make a delicious meatloaf if they were brought home in my Jetta and not a minivan. However, about a year ago, I decided to conquer my fear and tackle the challenge that was meatloaf. All of the meatloaf recipes I looked at sounded good, but didn’t really seem like they were my style, so I made one up.
Here is my take on the deliciousness that is meat…in loaf form.
1lb ground beef
1lb ground sweet italian sausage
One medium onion diced fine
One large rib of celery diced fine
3-ish cloves of garlic diced fine
a couple of mushrooms (depends on how much you like them) diced fine
red wine – at least 1/3 cup (I usually go more, but I don’t think anyone is surprised by that)
The hardest part of this recipe is cutting all the vegetables up super fine, but the rest of it is cake. Put the meat in a bowl and mix in all the vegetables (your hands are your best kitchen tool here). Mix in the egg and red wine, then the bread crumbs, cheese and herbs until all the liquid is soaked up, if you add too many bread crumbs, the easiest fix is going to be to add more red wine. I know this would be a tragedy, but hey, sometimes you have to do things you don’t like in the name of the culinary arts. Schlep it all onto a cookie sheet and form it into a loaf type shape and top it with more shredded parmesan. Bake it at 375 for appx. an hour…I usually just shove my meat thermometer in until it gets to 160 degrees.
Of course with this, I have to make mashed potatoes. I usually try to make a different kind every time, but so far my favorites are the fully loaded mashed potatoes, carmelized onion and bacon mashed potatoes, and bleu cheese mashed potatoes.