Yes, You Can

I often find when reading advice columns, what the writer most often seeks is permission.

Is it ok. Is it ok to feel bothered by this behavior after months of gaslighting to the contrary. Is it ok to leave. Is it ok to stay. I like this, does it mean I am broken. Am I weird for being this way, am I the only one.

This is a non-educated guess but judging from the epiphanies I see on social media this is common in therapy as well. Folks contorting themselves into different people, forcing themselves into triggering situations because not being bothered by them is surely something “normal” people do.

Is it ok to not be normal. Is it ok to just…not do this thing normal people do.

It is not lost on me that it is a strange post to be tied to a picture of a crispy-fried sunny-side up egg, but it happened to be my first one in years.

Why?

I detest anything but a completely set white, but I love a runny yolk. And I just discovered it is an Instagram foodie hack to simply…cook the whites first, then gently re-add the yolk.

Is this the most non-normal method of frying an egg I have ever heard of? Absolutely. Did I do just that and gobble it up anyway? Of course. Because I can.

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Stag Hacks: Trader Joe’s Lobster Mac and Cheese

I really wanted this to be a #PostYourRecipeAndGo post. I did.

However this is a blog about solo living, so I do feel obligated to explain how I arrived at mac and cheese for one.

Angela Davis (at kitchenistadiaries.com) is one of my fave comfort foodies on Twitter, and I adore her site (and e-books! Go buy them!). However, she cooks for family, and I am just one person. So I end up furiously adapting recipes to fit my lack of enthusiasm for the idea of eight servings of leftovers.

Which brings me to mac and cheese.

If you scroll back far enough on my Instagram, you’ll note there was an entire month where it seemed all I posted was mac and cheese. Creamy mac, cheeseburger mac, Cajun mac with shrimp, I did it all (I also gained eight pounds). I became obsessed with figuring out how to shrink the recipe, reduce some of the labor-intensiveness of it (because all that grating for 2-4 servings?) and still make it tasty.

Enter Trader Joe’s, and a random surplus of their “crowd cheeser” cheese platter after having friends over.

I have no idea what made me think “I have just enough for a tiny bit of mac and cheese!”but it was enough to make me try it. I’d long started using sliced block cheese (that I hand-chopped) from the deli for the larger pans, so why not mini-slices from TJ’s? Turns out the entire process was just within my labor intensive comfort range and within my time/pots limit. And since we’re all about hacks here (as in, how do we not have to buy a ton of fresh ingredients that will go to waste), I present what I’m now calling “Trader Joe’s Lobster Mac and Cheese”!

(I’m sure this recipe could be tripled or quadrupled to accommodate larger servings or more people, but please don’t ask me. This is a FUBU production.)

Lobster Mac and Cheese (Click HERE to print)

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Servings:  1 Meal-size serving

1 oz Sharp Cheddar (or 2 slices of TJ’s “crowd cheeser” cheddar)

1 oz Pepper Jack  (or 2 slices of TJ’s “crowd cheeser” pepper Jack)

1/2 oz Gouda (I used one slice of TJ’s Sliced Smoked Gouda)

1/2 cup Dried mini Elbow or Mezze Penne noodles

1 tbsp Salted Butter, plus additional for baking dish

1 tbsp All-Purpose Flour

1 cup Whole Milk

1 Dried Bay Leaf

1/2 Shallot, sliced in thick rounds (do not substitute w onion)

1 Packet TJ’s Savory Broth Reduced Sodium Liquid Concentrate (or low-sodium bullion, must be under 500mgs of sodium)

1 pinch dry mustard

1 pinch nutmeg

Black pepper to taste

1 shake of Worcestershire sauce (this is for one, remember!)

1/4 cup TJ’s Langostino Tails

Kosher salt (for pasta water)

Old Bay Seasoning & Chopped Parsely(for garnish/topping)

 

Place cheese slices in freezer for 5-10 minutes for ease of chopping. While the cheese firms up, bring 3 cups of water to boil in a small saucepan. Add kosher salt and dried bay leaf, simmer on lowest heat for 10 minutes or until leaf begins to soften. Turn off heat and cover until ready to boil noodles. While the water boils, slice 1/2 of the shallot into thick rounds and place in a microwave-proof bowl with the milk, microwave on high 2 minutes. Set aside to steep.

Pre-heat your oven to 350. Bring water back to boil, boil noodles till 1 minute short of al-dente (around 5 minutes). While the noodles boil, remove cheese slices from freezer and chop as finely as you can, put back in fridge. Butter your baking dish (I used a mini-ceramic cast-iron pan, but an aluminum mini loaf works well here), set aside. Drain the noodles (reserving the water and bay leaf), rinse in cold water.  Remove shallot slices from milk (the remaining steps go fast and the roux requires your undivided attention, so make sure you get your mise en place!).

In the same saucepan, melt 1 tbsp of butter over medium-low  heat until foamy. Add your tablespoon of flour and stir with a whisk to combine. Lift the pot slightly away from the heat and continue to stir for two minutes or until the roux turns a little golden and the raw flour smell turns toasty. Once your roux is ready, return pot to heat and add a splash of the pasta water (about 1- 1 1/2 tbsp), continuously stirring. Add the milk in a small stream as you continue to stir. Bring béchamel to a boil and turn the heat to low, stirring often. Simmer until it thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon (this goes much faster than you think), turn off the heat & grab your cheese. Add the chicken broth concentrate, pepper, dry mustard, nutmeg and Worcestershire sauce. Stir 3/4 of the cheese mix into the béchamel until melted, then add your noodles.

Pour 1/2 of the mixture into your baking pan, add 1/2 of the langostino tails, top with remaining noodles (this recipe makes about 1/8 cup too much cheese sauce, but I won’t tell if you won’t). The mix will go all the way to the top, but I love the look of cheese bubbling over the pan! Top with remaining cheese, place on a baking dish to save your oven and bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and brown in spots. Remove from oven, top with a healthy shake of old bay, remaining langostino tails and parsley. Eat right out of the pan with no regrets, and make sure to take a few pics to make your friends jealous!

Scallion-Herb Dutch Baby (Or, How Kingpin Taught Me to Love Eggs)

Ok, so it’s been a while.

Originally this blog was meant to detail how I found myself, one dish at a time. And probably the longest-running theme was learning how I liked my eggs.

Also, pancakes.

Mind you, there was a point where I hated both.

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I think the latter had to do with the labor and ingredients required. As I am not a baker, this means a trip to the store for baking powder every time I wanted pancakes, to then toss the batch when I used it for exactly nothing else. I also had to time my cravings to fit the leftover buttermilk, so pancakes would always be followed by fried chicken or tandoori. AND? It is impossible to make just four pancakes, so I had to lament having no one to share Sunday mornings with as a pile of pancakes I knew I wasn’t going to finish went wistfully into the freezer.

Before you start, yes my pancakes have to be from scratch.

As the years passed I found out the reason I did not like eggs, or pancakes for that matter, was because I hadn’t found a way to make them attractive for my lifestyle as a person living alone, or suitable for the tastes I was developing.

Enter Daredevil, Season One, Episode 8.

If you have not caught Daredevil for lack of time, interest or a Netflix subscription, this particular episode features the backstory of the main villain Kingpin, all told between his routine preparations of breakfast. It is the most serene minute of omelet-making I have ever seen outside of a cooking documentary, complete with classical music and the hypnotic chopping of herbs.

From the day I have watched that episode; both classical music and herbs have become part of my breakfast routine.

I have since learned the French method for omelets, which have made me fall in love with eggs anew. And my pancake problem was solved by learning how to make them German-style.

Which bring us to our Dutch baby.

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While most top them with fruit and some form of cream or curd, I have found that they work just as well when you have a savory craving. And with no baking powder or soda needed, my Sundays have become a celebration of tranquility.

Scallion-Herb Buttermilk Dutch Baby (Click HERE to Print)

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15-20 minutes

Servings:  2

3 Room-Temperature Eggs (place eggs in warm water for a few minutes to speed the process)

¾ Cup Buttermilk, Room Temperature (powdered buttermilk shines here)

2 Tablespoons Corn Starch

½ Cup All-Purpose Flour

4 Tablespoons Butter, Divided (Melt and cool 2 tbsp, reserve the other 2)

½ Tsp Salt

Pepper to taste (optional)

2 Tablespoons Chopped Herbs (I used a combination of parsley and chives)

2 Scallions, chopped

 

 Hand-Mixer or Blender

Cast-Iron or Oven-Safe Heavy-Bottomed Skillet

 

Place the skillet in the oven and preheat at 450 for around 15 minutes.

While the oven heats up chop the herbs and scallions, separating the white and green parts of the scallions.

In a bowl, add the eggs and beat on high until frothy, at least two minutes (alternatively, you can use a blender).

With the blender still running add the buttermilk, then corn starch, flour and the cooled melted butter.

Fold in salt, pepper and chopped herbs.

Remove the skillet out of the oven (CAREFUL, it is very hot!) and swirl the reserved butter in the pan (this step goes quickly). The butter should melt, not brown. Immediately pour the batter in the skillet and top with all of the white and half of the green scallions, and return to the oven.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until top is golden brown. The batter will puff up considerably, but will deflate once you take it out of the oven.

Remove and top with your favorite savory toppings! This works for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Friday Faves: 2.26.16

 

As I continue what has so far been a futile attempt at a semblance of work-life balance, a few good reads..

(yes, I will update)

Table for One: Pulling Up a Chair for Solo Diners

Why hasn’t this been done before? Why is this new? In my head restaurants have been accommodating traveling businessmen for decades, right? Perhaps this is more a nod to the casual solo diner, with more time on their hands and whose reason for eating is pure enjoyment. It still strikes me as odd that this took so long to happen, but I’m certainly taking advantage of it!

Single women are now the most potent political force in America

Ok, so I’ll warn you now… if you’ve read the last few of my #FridayFaves women-centered links and then read this…you may stay single for a while. I take nooooo responsibility 🙂

A Composer and His Wife: Creativity Through Kink

But wait! There’s hope! Yet another sweet look at how great life can be when you have the audacity to define it for yourself. Look what Love did.

 

30 Minutes or Less: Shrimp Carbonara

There are few things I love more about winter than cream. Creme Fraiche, to be exact.

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While summer yields the yummyness of cold fresh cream with fresh fruit, winter is the time to double-down on all of the hearty, creamy dishes that my stomach just cannot handle when paired with an apartment that has no space for an air-conditioner (long story). And being that my food is made for a much smaller set of plates (like, uno), nothing holds up to small amounts and high heat quite like creme fraiche.

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What does creme fraiche have to do with carbonara, especially when purists consider adding anything other than Parmesan blasphemy?  Well, if you have ever tried to make a single serving of carbonara with just one egg yolk, you may be familiar with my struggle. One isn’t quite enough and two is a bit too much. Add a generous spoonful of the tangy all-purpose goodness of the fraiche? You just might have a bit of magic on your hands. Besides, I’m already breaking the rules with peas. Purists be darned. I do what I want.

Shrimp Carbonara (Click Here To Download)

Prep time: 15 minutes (or less)

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Servings:  One Generous Bowl

2 oz long pasta of choice, such as thin spaghetti or linguini (2 oz of long pasta is roughly about a ½-inch diameter bunch and yields around a cup, you can get away with a bit more for this recipe though)

1 tsp olive oil

2 slices bacon, chopped into cubes (I use pre-chopped pancetta, around 2 tbsp)

1 shallot, chopped

½ -1 tsp chopped garlic or a half clove, smashed

4 large shrimp, deveined and cut into three pieces each

1 large egg yolk (don’t know how to separate an egg? Here’s a tutorial)

¼ cup Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish

1 tsp crème fraiche

¼ cup frozen peas

Salt and pepper to taste

Parsley, for garnish

In a medium-sized pot, bring 4 cups of salted water to a rolling boil over high heat. While your water is coming to a boil, chop one shallot and bacon and set aside. In a ½ cup measuring cup, add egg yolk, parmesan and crème fraiche, whisk with a fork until creamy. Once water has come to a boil, turn heat down to medium, add pasta and cook until al-dente (1-2 minutes shy of package instructions).

While pasta is boiling, fry bacon in a 10-inch or larger skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally to brown, 3-4 minutes. Add olive oil and shrimp, cook another two minutes or until shrimp is no longer pink. Add shallots and garlic and cook until shallots are translucent, another minute.

If you timed it right your pasta should be just done! Reserve one cup of the pasta water, then throw the peas in for the last minute and drain. Take ¼ of the pasta water and temper the egg mixture by slowly adding it in as you whisk with a fork (do not skip this step, you’re making a very small amount and the heat from the pan will scramble your egg). Remove pan from the heat, stir in pasta and a tiny splash of pasta water to deglaze. While continuing to stir, add egg mixture and ½ cup reserved pasta water (sauce will thicken as you stir). Add pepper to taste and salt if necessary. Garnish with more parmesan and parsley, and enjoy!