Category Archives: Food

I like to eat. And cook.

My Best Meal Ever

The title of this post is a stake in the ground, and I recognize that it calls out something that is by definition a moving target. If, at some future date, I enjoy a meal that displaces my Thursday, August 21st dinner at Wild Sage Bistro in Spokane Washington, I’ll write about that meal under the same title.

I ate with Lawrence Schoen, Valerie Green Schoen, Laura Ann Gilman, Barbara Ferrer, and Gail Carriger, so I was in the company of intelligent, articulate people, but more importantly I was in the company of people who know how to appreciate good food. We shared bits of our respective plates with one another, and this enhanced the experience significantly.

I can’t describe flavors the way Valerie, a trained chef, can. I end up using words like “amazing” and “powerful” and “oh my mouth is in love,” which might tell you how I’m feeling about the food, but won’t say anything about the food itself. I’ll try to be a bit more articulate.

I ordered the tenderloin fondue as a starter for sharing, the seared scallops (a chef’s special not found on the Wild Sage Bistro’s menu) as an entree, a side of asparagus for sharing, and an orange clementine pound cake for dessert. At the end of the meal Valerie told me I have a gift for ordering well, but I’m quite confident that I’m merely lucky, and that there were no wrong choices on the menu. Also, Val may have been high on pound cake.

You laugh? I had an endorphin rush from the first bite of tenderloin and pear, and the neurochemical joy kept flowing until we’d finished our dessert. It only abated when I sipped the very ordinary and poorly chosen Kaliber non-alcoholic beer, a beverage I usually enjoy, but which was every last kind of wrong for the meal. I would have been better served by ice water.

The gorgonzola fondue sauce had just the tiniest hint of the earthy, oh-dear-this-has-gone-bad flavor that I adore in bleu cheeses, just enough to remind me of what it was. Everything else going on in that little pot was fey magic of the sort you read about in Tolkien. We ran out of things to dip in that pot before we ran out of its contents, so I began looking for other vehicles by which to transfer the fondue into my maw. I finally settled on my finger. The pot was returned to our server very nearly clean enough to serve other patrons with.

The seared scallops were, as the name suggests, raw in the center. I eat raw scallops at my favorite sushi place all the time, so this was a selling point, and was why I’d ordered them. It was the least of that dish’s exemplary attributes. The sauce, the accompaniments, the thing that might have been garnish but I ate it anyway—I consumed them all, pausing only to share, reluctantly, with our party. Fortunately for me, Gail ordered the scallops as well, so we were able to grant others a taste without too deeply depleting our own plates.

I got one bite of Lawrence’s pork shank. I very nearly declared him the winner at ordering, but that would have been premature.

Valerie and I argued a bit about the pound cake before I ordered it. I thought it seemed like a light dessert, probably subtle, and good for sharing. She thought I must never have been exposed to a proper pound cake, because they’re not light at all. We were pretty full, so I ordered just one to share between me, Gail, and Valerie, and I promised that if they’d help a little, I’d take care of the rest, and I’d lie to myself about how I only had 1/3rd of the dessert.

I did not get 1/3rd of the dessert. I got about a quarter of it. I have never had a pound cake like that before, and neither had anyone else at our table. I don’t have words for it, but that was the point at which Valerie told me I had a gift for ordering well. Also, I decided that I had “won” at dinner, pork shanks notwithstanding.

My Best Meal Ever was a title held previously by a dinner with Sal, Caryn, and Sandra at La Vecchia in Reno. I did not expect that meal to be displaced, because it, too, was accompanied by flavor-induced endorphins. They were spottier, however, and wore off by dessert, which was merely extraordinary.

Once, a long, long time ago, the title was held by a meal of crab legs and key lime pie at a Joe’s Crab Shack franchise. I remember that meal fondly, but I don’t expect to ever return to Joe’s in an effort to repeat that experience. The bar has been raised quite a bit.

Life is too short to always eat the same things. I’ve had some amazing steaks, but I no longer order the steak if there are weird options on the menu. I’m glad I have friends who will invite me out to places where so many of the options are weird.

 

Shrimp and Grits in 10 Minutes

At LibertyCon I was told that the restaurant did good Shrimp & Grits. I love both shrimp and grits, so I was on board for that, but it turned out that the hotel had no proper kitchen this year during the remodel. I left the convention shrimp-and-gritsless.

The recipes I’ve seen online appear far more complex than the name “shrimp and grits” would suggest. They involve sausage, bacon, cream, a suite of multi-colored bell peppers, and lots more things I don’t have the patience for. Also, they take an hour to cook. I wanted these for breakfast, and breakfast is not a dish I can afford to spend an hour on. I’m breaking fast, not hosting a dinner party.

Here’s my alternative. It’s simple, and like the name of the dish suggests, it pretty much sticks to the “there is shrimp in these grits” theme.

  • 6 medium-large uncooked shrimp, peeled
  • 1/4c Quaker instant grits
  • 1c water
  • 2tbsp butter
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • Zatarain’s Blackened Seasoning
  • 1 green onion
  1. Prepare the grits in the water w/ 1tbsp butter and the bouillon cube. This takes 5 minutes, tops. While that’s working, multitask the rest.
  2. In a separate pan, saute the peeled shrimp in the other tbsp of butter, w/ Zatarain’s seasoning on them to taste.
  3. Chop the green onion.
  4. When the grits are done, remove them from the heat. Toss the chopped green onion into the pot, and then drop the cooked shrimp into the pot. Stir.
  5. Serve.

This is not a big, fancy dish that says “I had shrimp, so I threw a food party and invited all of the shrimp’s friends.” This is a dish borne of “oh, hey… there’s shrimp in the freezer, and nobody is watching. I’ll be done and cleaned up before anybody is the wiser.”

And Now, Cookies!

It’s like this: for the next 25 days I’m going to be burning through whatever social capital I’ve accumulated in order to drive eyeballs and open wallets at this thing. But I don’t want that to be all I talk about. You’ll get bored, and I’ll get stressed out, and then I’ll just get louder and oh! Look! COOKIES!

Puckerdoodles

Long-time reader, first time cookie-sender Blaine sent me this box of shortbread cookies topped with lemon rind, a recipe inspired by the “puckerdoodles” from Force Multiplication.

They were baked by Blaine’s partner Lysander of LDOriginals, and I must say he did a solid job with them. I should also confess to sharing them around generously. My family got one half of the batch, and I got the other.

“Accidental” Enchiladas

“I think I accidentally made enchiladas.” — me, March 16, 2015

I wanted some chicken and cheese in a tortilla, but then I noticed the container of leftover enchilada sauce was on the counter next to the sink as part of a fridge purge. That sauce would go well with chicken, cheese, and tortilla.

I began grabbing stuff, and was going to grab some canned chicken, but then roasted chicken breasts came out of the oven. So I stole a couple of those, and here’s the recipe:

  • 1 8oz package of cream cheese
  • 1 small can of chopped, roasted green chilies.
  • 2 chicken breasts, cooked.
  • 1/4 cup refried beans.
  • 1/2 can of enchilada sauce
  • drippings from the roasted chicken, if you’ve got em.
  • A big fistful of shredded cheese.

Chop the chicken finely. Soften the cream cheese in the microwave. Stir those together in a bowl, adding the green chilies and the refried beans.

Divide the resulting slop evenly among four burrito-sized tortillas, rolling each one up into an enchilada. I used flour tortillas because they’re what I had. (EVERYTHING I used was used because it was what I had.)

Put the tortillas in a baking pan, 9×13 is probably best.

Mix the enchilada sauce with the chicken drippings, then pour that over the top of the enchiladas in the pan. Sprinkle the fistful of cheese over the top of that.

Bake at 375°F for 25 minutes.