Friday, March 4, 2011

Xan and Catherine: Please join us in not celebrating Valentine's Day

I have been busy.  So some of this food was made a bit late for Valentine's Day, and all of it is late to the blog.  But better ever than never.

First of all, I am blessed to live in a household where valentine's day is not a real holiday.  That said, we did accidentally appear to celebrate it over the course of several weeks.

It started with a...what to call this? Let's go with Orange Upside-Down Brownie:

So we found a heart-shaped silicon mold in the dollar section of Target.  It doesn't matter that it's heart-shaped, what matters is it was in the dollar aisle.  And this brownie was just to test our new pan out. Okay?

Catherine also managed to buy an entire crate of probably the sourest clementines I have ever tasted.  In an attempt to fix this, I decided to caramelize a couple of them them (i.e. slice them up and cook in sugar water).  Then I put them in the pan with some of the liquid and poured the brownie batter over them.  Problem solved?  Honestly, no.  The clementines were somehow still sour, and in any case we still had a mostly full crate of sour clementines.  But it was an interesting experiment.

For those who would doubt my conviction, let it be noted that if I celebrated valentine's day, I would have made this cheesecake, not a brownie.  As it is, I refuse to grant cheese amnesty for such a lame holiday.  Incidentally, at the link you can find the recipe for caramelizing your own oranges if you're interested.

Okay, moving right along.  I think the following may be the meal that we just so happened to eat on the 14th, which is a regular day in February.  That does not make it "celebrating" Valentine's Day, but it coincidentally happened to be a good meal so I am sharing it here because that's what we do on Vongsafood.  First, these potatoes deserve their own closeup:

You say potato, I say patata: Behold Patatas Bravas from Serious Eats
I'm pretty sure they were cooked in enough oil to qualify as deep-fried.  Therefore they were crispy and delicious, especially after being coated with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika of greatest awesomeness.  Can't really go wrong here, right?  Unless of course you don't like potatoes.  (Actually, most people don't like potatoes, if you believe Tammy. Indeed, Tammy apparently believes so few people like potatoes that she will actually be shocked if she ever discovers you like potatoes.  I DIDN'T KNOW YOU LIKE POTATOES!!!!!!!! she will cry, mouth agape.  Therefore guard your secret closely; as you may know from one of those unfortunate incidents with childhood pets, small creatures can only handle so much shock).  By the way, regarding the aioli you see on the potatoes: more trouble than it's worth, I think, but it certainly was interesting.

NEXT UP: Lamb shoulder chops? This has probably been my most amazing ingredient discovery in the last couple months.  Watch closely:

Yes, for just a few bucks you too can obtain this steak of lamby awesomeness.  Wait, what's this I just pulled off?  Is that...?


Yes, my friends, yes it does. Well, technically no, but as far as I can tell, the difference is mainly a question of how much work you have to do to get at the meat.  Here's the lowdown: Numbering the lamb's ribs 1-12, with 1 being at the front (shoulder) end, it appears that the "rack of lamb" specifically refers to ribs 6-12 (and sometimes 5).  The lamb shoulder chops then presumably contain ribs 1-5 (there may also be lamb shoulder chops that don't have a rib component...I haven't found one yet though).  I'm pretty happy with 1-5 so far; the shoulder meat is more flavorful while slightly less tender, though by far the biggest question is just whether you're willing to do more work to extract the meat from the surrounding fat and bones that are always found in shoulder cuts.  For those of us with sharp teeth and knife skills, it's not a huge deal...and it's not like you should be rushing through a lamb dinner anyway.

If that's not your cup of tea, you can always get yourself some regular lamb chops from either the loin or rib sections.  Personally though, I'm happy with these cheaper and more delicious shoulder chops. I know this might not be a big deal to those of you who have moved to England and all, but lamb is sorta expensive here in the states :(

OK, fastforward to just this past week.  These things appeared on our countertop:

This is the moment in the plot where an improbably chain of events leads to an unfortunate misunderstanding. IT'S NOT WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE!  Should I bother explaining how these icing-coated-heart-shaped-poundcake-topped cupcakes found their way into our heart pan from Target?  Should I tell you it has something to do with Catherine's friend Sneha the Indian boxing swing dancing computer scientist museum volunteer first year grad student runner?  It would sound like a fiction.  If I were to claim the existence of any such person -- and I am not -- you would scarcely believe me.  More likely I am a liar.  I will settle for the outside chance that maybe, just maybe, you will at least believe these cupcakes weren't my idea.

Actually, I've been joking Mr. Perkins.  Pardon me, it's my strange, academic sense of humor. In truth, this year I did celebrate Valentines Day: I got Catherine some flours!  Specifically, bread, wheat, and best of all, all-purpose unbleached.  Best Valentine's Day Ever.

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