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Posts Tagged ‘budget’

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The Boy and I consistently and most seriously acknowledge the fact of his Irish heritage having given him a genetic affinity for potatoes.  While we can’t explain his attraction to curry by such convenient AND INCREDIBLY SCIENTIFIC means, we accept it without question as another certainty of our little life together (Do we like curry?  Uh, is the Pope Catholic?  Does the sun rise in the East?  Does Bad Mama Genny like fishnets?  I rest my case).

Thankfully, potatoes are also excellent budget food, and therefore, were to be a staple of our sobering (in many senses) week of post-Christmas meals.  Meals the week after Christmas tend to involve…innovative…combinations.  Take this morning’s scrambled eggs with hot dog wheels (“Mmm, wheeler-ific!”) or noon-time’s handful of leftover spiced pecans with a swig of grape juice (“Goes down so much smoother than Listerine!”).  So while The Boy and I were naturally okay with the idea of a week of potatoes, we were also bored with the same old standby options.  Enter…

THE MAIL!

You guessed it, my dollies: the mailman, unhindered by rain, sleet, or snow (or in the case of our neighborhood, stoned Mexicans, cantankerous elderly Asian men, or the cat-lady’s many savvy, trained-to-kill, unnecessarily aggressive “kitties,” if we may call them that), saved our day–NAY–our LIVES!  That’s because the mail brought us a Christmas present from the Girl and the Girl II–a Curry Lover’s Gift Box.img_4894

from the Spice House!

!!!

!!!!

I mean, great jumping Jehosephat, that kicks all kinds of ass!

For you poor souls who are unfamiliar with the Spice House, suffice it to say that they are a tiny chain of, well, spice houses that exist only in the greater Chicago/Milwaukee area (but by the magic of the Internet, absolutely anyone can enjoy their wares!).  I’ve managed to spend hours perusing their collections, and have never left disappointed (Spiced cider blend anyone?  Corned beef seasoning?  But of course!  I’ll take fifty!).

So after we got over the initial giddiness from huffing the Double-Strength Vanilla Extract and the Saigon Cassia Cinnamon they also sent us, our thoughts turned, naturally, to potato curry.  A quick survey revealed that we also had peas and carrots, and a dinnertime star was born.

The curry that resulted was beyond good.  If you can’t find a good hot curry powder, or if you’d like to try to work out your own blend, the one from Spice House is hand-mixed from “turmeric, Cayenne red pepper, China No. 1 ginger, Indian cumin, white pepper, cinnamon, fenugreek, fennel, nutmeg, arrowroot, cardamon, cloves, and Tellicherry pepper.”

Stick that in your tandoor and smoke it!

The addition of coconut milk in this recipe keeps things smooth, creamy, and, hellooooo, vegan!  What are you waiting for?  A freaking sign?  Here is your sign, people!  Here is your sign!

SIGN

Thank goodness for the Girl and the Girl II.  Thank goodness for the Spice House.  But really, let’s not forget the real hero here–no, not the potato.  It looks kinda like a potato, though.  That’s right–the mailman.

Thank you, Mr. Mailman–this time, you’ve really managed to deliver! (You still receive no credit for last week’s shredded magazine, though I will grant that the mangled perfume samples made our building’s wretchedly stanky hallway somewhat more bearable.)

Potato Curry with Peas and Carrots
Makes 4 generous servings

Go Get:
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon hot curry powder, preferably from the Spice House (the Boy and I like it hot, as I’ve heard some do…use discretion, you may want to add it gradually)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large onions, thinly sliced
8 oz. carrots, thinly sliced
1 1/4 cups frozen peas
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. turmeric
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ chunks
1 can coconut milk
1 cup water (you may need more)

Go Do:
In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. When hot, add the hot curry powder and stir it around for 30 seconds. Add the onions to the pan and saute until they are tender and a bit golden. When you’re there, add the carrots, potatoes, and minced garlic. Give it all a good stir, and then add about a half cup each of water and coconut milk. Stir in the turmetic, salt, and coriander. Reduce the heat to low and cover it. Check every so often to stir the pot and check the moisture level. When the moisture is almost all absorbed, add more coconut milk and water, in equal parts. Continue to cook, stir, and add liquid until the vegetables are very tender and the curry is nice and thick. At this point, taste it to check that the spice levels are where you like them. When you’re there, stir in the peas and the rest of the coconut milk (and water if necessary), and cook it for another 3 minutes or so, until the peas are heated through and the curry thickens up again. Serve over brown rice.

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It all started with three dollars.

‘Twas the night before payday,
and all through the place,
not a crumb of food lurked,
no way to stuff my misfit face.

So after taking inventory of the kitchen (organic cocoa, Kashi cereal, spices, 8-10 edamame pods…seriously?), Bad Mama Genny and The Boy set off in search of dinner with nothing but hope and three dollars.

That’s right, misfits, we were, how you say, “living on a prayer.”

After considering the familiar options (one and a half tacos from the taco truck, or perhaps a bottle of malt liquor and a package of expired fried plantains from the “grocery/deli” that actually offers zero deli meat), we decided to venture into the unknown, to take a risk and hang our hopes upon a star!

A red star, to be exact.  Chinatown, bitches.

No, no, not the ridiculous, touristy Chinatown in Manhattan, where frightening old Asian ladies lurk around every corner, ready to offer you an imitation Coach bag at half the price of a real one.  I’m talking Flushing–the more authentic, cheaper, and arguably better Chinatown.  There is a bus that will take you back and forth between Chinatowns–I imagine you could ride it all day if you wanted, enjoying loop after endless loop of Chino-trippy overstimulation…but I don’t want, so I won’t, but you misfits should tell me if you ever do it yourselves!

But I digress.

Dinner was found that night, my fellow underpaid, underfed, city lurking misfits…with CHANGE TO MOTHERFUCKING SPARE WHAT WHAT!!

A steamed bun, as big as two fists, stuffed with pork and vegetables, endowed with glutenous joy that is at once both fluffy and chewy, and ONLY SIXTY CENTS!  For those of you who might wish to recreate this experience, try the dumpling shop under the LIRR tracks, on 41st Ave, at the corner of Main St., across from Starbucks.  The Boy and I hurriedly collected several buns from the bun-lady, ran back to the car, and savored every last cent-worth of our dinner in the warm car as we watched screaming feral cats and passerby scurry about in the freezing air.   Then we joined them.

The passerby, not the cats.  Next time.

The hours that followed took us on a journey down Main St., bopping in and out of bakeries, observing, though not purchasing, other items for sale ($0.95 for a chocolate nut pastry?  Who do they think we are, like, people who just got paid?  Chya!), and checking out the booths set up by anti-Communist groups hoping to find converts to their cause.

As we walked by each booth, I took care to wear the face of one who was interested in and approving of the message, but who had coincidentally already been converted by the last guy.

When The Boy and I were finally ready to end our adventure and scurry home (edamame cocoa, anyone?), we were chilled to the bone, rosy-cheeked, and busting with the sense of having discovered some secret place–sort of like The Secret Garden, but with concrete instead of a garden, and you visit a bun-lady instead of a sickly handicapped boy, and to get into the garden–I mean bun shop–you need sixty cents instead of a special key…also, there are  Communists instead of British people.  So not at all like The Secret Garden.  Whatever, clearly, my point is that I was inspired me to make wonton soup.  Clearly.

Wonton Soup
Makes a metric shit-ton

Go Get:
1 lb. ground beef (or pork or chicken or whatnot)
approximately 60 wonton wrappers
1 gallon flavorful stock (I had some homemade lamb stock in the freezer)
4 large carrots
4 stalks celery
6 scallions (green onions)
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 cups shredded cabbage (or bok choy, or brussels sprouts…get crafty)
1 egg
salt and pepper
tamari or soy sauce, to taste

Go Do:
Finely chop 2 carrots, 2 celery stalks, 3 scallions, and the garlic, and mix it with the beef, egg, and some salt and pepper. Combine the mixture thoroughly (your hands work well for this).

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Lay out a wonton wrapper and place a scant tablespoon of filling in the center (be careful not to overfill, or the wontons will explode in the broth). Use your finger to moisten all four sides with water and place another wonton on top, squeezing the edges shut to seal them, and working any air bubbles out, if you can.  Repeat with remaining meat mixture until you run out.

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Set the stock over medium heat and cover it.  Slice the remaining carrots, celery, and green onions.  When the stock has begun to boil, add the carrots, celery, and shredded brussels sprouts to the stock and turn the heat down to a simmer.  Then, using a slotted spoon, gently lower the wonton one or two at a time into the broth.

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Let the wontons simmer in the broth over low heat, covered, stirring occasionally (gently) to keep them from sticking together while they cook.  After about 15 minutes, or when the meat mixture appears dark through the wonton, take one out and cut it open.  When done, the meat will have no traces of pink and the vegetables will be crisp-tender.  At this point, turn off the heat and stir in the sliced green onions.  Serve with a splash of tamari or soy sauce stirred into each bowl.  Enjoy!

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You know, to watch a recession happening in New York is to watch a shit-show full of contradictions and neat little twists.  There are a variety of opinions on the topic–the alarmists, of course, wonder if this is the beginning of the end for New York (at least for the fun side of NYC-style decadence and excess).  Others claim that this is just what we needed–something to bring the i-bankers and heroin-chic fashionistas down a notch and restore New York to its former, more accessible blue-collar glory.  What does your Bad Mama Genny think, misfits?

Whatever, man.  I say it’s time to put your hard-earned cash back in your pockets, get trashed, and make a tortilla.

A SPANISH tortilla thingy, that is–not that flat corn flour thingy.  The thingy I’m talking about is five classic ingredients, all of them inexpensive:  eggs, salt, potatoes, onions, and oil.

Oh, right, THAT thingy.

“But wait!” you’re saying.

“Haven’t I seen that on the menu at fancy tapas bars?” you’re saying.

“About four 1-inch cubes speared on toothpicks?  For, like, 11 bucks?” you’re saying.

Yes, my friends, yes!  But don’t be foolish and fall for such…such…foolery!  For the price of said cubes, you can purchase the ingredients for your own tortilla AND enough liquid bravery to get you through the process!  And if it doesn’t work, said liquid bravery will ensure that you and your own The Boy or The Girl hit the sheets to console one another and wake up with foggy memories and enough of a mess in the kitchen to convince you that, yes, yes, we DID eat a tortilla last night, and it was flawlessly executed and fucking amazing!  We are awesome!  Guess we didn’t leave any leftovers!  Hey, what’s that smell?  Were we smoking last night?  Why are the curtains on fire?

So ANYWAY, The Boy and I have made the tortilla part of our own recession repertoire with fantastic results.  Really, the only thing keeping most people at bay with this recipe is ignorance as to how it’s done.  Fear not–it’s excruciatingly fun and easy, just like your BMG!

What?  Who said that?

Okay, so what isn’t easy is filtering out the passive-aggressiveness that so many fancy schmancy chefs deem necessary.  Go ahead.  Google “spanish tortilla.”  I’ll give you a moment.

See?  The average resulting link will start off by saying how the tortilla is a very individual dish and everyone makes it differently and there is no wrong way, blah blah blah.  Then when they’ve got you all high on the warm fuzzies they smack you in the face with a warning that if you use too little oil, or too much oil, or maybe cook it for 30 seconds too long, your tortilla will be a failure, you’ll lose all your money in the stock market, everyone will stop loving you, and then you’ll die alone.

Really now.  This is all just a tad.  too.  dramatic.

If you should happen to commit a mortal sin and break one of the tortilla commandments “they” swear by, will you go to tortilla hell?  No–it will be completely edible and probably nobody will notice (you ARE on your second bottle of homemade red wine…right?  RIGHT?!).  And anyway, tortilla purgatory can be quite pleasant.  All the cool people have been there.

So go on with your bad selves, misfits! Have a glass of wine!   Get over your fears!  Have a glass of wine!  Embrace the recession!  Have a glass of wine!  Celebrate the disintegration of your 401(K)! And then, have one hell of a tortilla!

…and another glass of wine.

Spanish Tortilla (Tortilla Española)

Ingredients:
8 eggs
1 tsp. salt, divided
2 large potatoes, very thinly sliced
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup olive oil (oh, don’t have a heart attack, you won’t really use all of it)
We left ’em out this time, but I love to throw in a handful or two of chopped green olives…try it! It’s fun and all the cool kids are doing it!

Directions:
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it is sizzle-hot, drop your potato slices in. Stir them nearly constantly-you don’t want them brown at any point (just soft and cooked through). When they’re about 5 minutes short of done, add your onions to the skillet and season the whole thing with 1/2 tsp. of salt. When the onions are done and the potatoes are soft, turn off the heat.

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Crack the eggs into a bowl, whisk them lightly with the remaining 1/2 tsp. of salt, and use a slotted spoon to transfer the potatoes and onions from the oil to the egg mixture. Gently press the potatoes down to be mostly submerged in the egg mixture, and let it sit for about 15 minutes.

In the meantime, discard the leftover oil in the pan (or save for another use) and pour yourself a second glass of wine.  Okay, third.  Let’s have no secrets between us.

Wipe the pan with a paper towel to leave only a skim of oil.  Heat the pan over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the egg mixture, making sure the potatoes and onions are evenly distributed throughout.

Using a spatula, check the bottom every now and then. You want it to be fluffy and golden, but still light, with the top of the tortilla still very liquidy. Here comes the part that requires a bit of finesse.

By now you should be drunk, and finesse will be your middle name.

Place a plate that is larger than the pan upside down over the pan. Gingerly, but quickly, flip the whole thing over. When you lift the pan from the plate, it should all come out neatly and in one piece.

Hooray, you did it!  Or if you didn’t, you’re too drunk to really care!  All right!

Now put the pan back on the flame and gently ease the tortilla back into the pan, liquid-y side down. Cook this side as well, using your spatula to push the sides of the tortilla down, creating a frisbee-like curved edge to your tortilla.

Mmm…frisbee.

Don’t overcook it-when the other side is done, remove the pan from the heat and slide the tortilla onto a cutting board for serving. It’s really. that. easy.


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