Saturday, February 27, 2016

Scallops with Pea Puree and Orion

I'd never heard of Orion before but Matt picked this record up on a whim because, well, look at it. Real name Jimmy Ellis, he was considered an Elvis sound-alike so the whole "masked" gimmick was some kind of "Is he secretly Elvis?" ploy (aided by the fact that Sun Records was the label pushing the narrative.) He has a few albums that look similar to this - monochromatic with him just chilling with his awkward haircut and bedazzled mask. There is a documentary about him that was on the festival circuit last year - Orion: The Man Who Would Be King- so if that gets picked up maybe we'll all be hip to the ways of Orion. You can read more about him here.

Now for the bad news..this album was a total snooze fest and will be the lowest rated Records and Recipes album so far! It was barely "rockabilly," just very basic covers of songs like Long Tall Sally. It was very dull and not as fun or funny as the cover lead us to hope it would be. It did allow us to take this creepy masked picture; we look like we're forming a very low budget Slipknot knock-off with Orion.
Orion Rockabilly: D-

Matt recently mentioned we never have scallops so that was the inspiration for this recipe. But there are a couple of good reasons for seldom making scallops at home. Firstly, they are expensive as hell. Not that we never splurge on food but it's usually on going out not buying something fancy at the grocery store that I could easily ruin. So the second reason is related, in that they seem fussy to cook properly so even if they were super cheap, I would still be hesitant to try and master them for an average meal. But I found this very simple recipe and figured if everything else was easy I could focus my energies on not destroying these expensive, delicate white blobs. It seems the #1 rule of trying to make a properly seared scallop is to buy dry scallops. Most scallops you see are "wet" which means they've been injected with some weird solution that makes them weigh more (more $$$ per pound) and preserves them. But when you try to sear them the liquid gushes out and no sear is happening under those conditions. Whole Foods luckily had dry scallops so we were off to the scallop races.

Everything actually came together quite easily...except for the vermouth sauce. I'm a notoriously bad saucier; I can't make a sauce to save my life. It will either remain completely liquid or totally evaporate or just become weird and chunky. I actually made the sauce twice; first was chunky and the second was too liquidy. But even in the picture on the recipe the sauce looks really thin so I didn't feel so bad. It was just vermouth and butter so even if it wasn't texturally great, it was inoffensive. But I seared those scallops like a boss and I was very proud. They got that little buttery crust but didn't get overcooked.

I was excited by the prospect of a pea puree for 3 reasons. Reason #1 was that recently Matt mentioned he liked peas and I never make them for no good reason. Reason #2 was my vague memory of an incident called "peagate" on Top Chef where...someone maybe steals another contestant's pea puree? The details are foggy but Google image search turns up a guy wearing this t-shirt so it was clearly a thing. Reason #3 was simply that I never make purees because I always think they require a food processor but it turns out that a blender is actually just fine. And this puree was so easy; boil frozen peas for 2 minutes and then blend them up with butter and salt and pepper. And it looks so green and vibrant and tastes quite good. I've never loved the texture of peas but all blended up it becomes a non-issue. My favorite aspect of this recipe is that scallop portions in restaurants are always so puny- maybe 3 or 4 scallops, which I get, they are pricey- but we were able to eat a big ol' pile of them which was very satisfying. I also had never bought pea shoots before and figure really any little greens would be fine but having a little fresh greenery on top really did tie it all together and make it look/taste like a restaurant quality dish, a first for Records and Recipes!
Seared Scallops with Pea Puree and Vermouth Sauce: A

Scallops with Pea Puree and Vermouth Sauce (from Serious Eats)

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Maw Maw's Meatloaf and Single Mothers

I am a meatloaf doubter. My distaste for meat formed into a loaf slathered in ketchup-y topping was theoretical because I went my whole childhood/early adulthood without ever trying it. But I'm a much more open-minded eater now and since Matt likes meatloaf I have made it a few times. But I always made it weird, like with BBQ sauce or bacon or in a cupcake mold with mashed potato "frosting", anything to avoid traditional meatloaf. Since Corinne (of Cabbage Rolls fame) is back in town and she misses good ol' American home cookin' using some uniquely American convenience foods that she just can't get in France (where she lives now) I decided to brave some old school, traditional meatloaf.

We made their great grandmother's (AKA Maw Maw's) recipe. It's got the classics - breadcrumbs, kethcup, Lipton Onion Soup Mix, evaporated milk. Evaporated milk? I was not familiar with this as a meatloaf ingredient and thought it sounded downright disgusting. But I'm a good sport so I went with it (although I've never actually bought evaporated milk before so it took me a hot second to find it; bottom shelf on the baking aisle for anyone following along.) The recipe also didn't call for eggs which seemed pretty strange. But we let go and let Maw Maw and made it as described and it came out...meat loafy. My main concern has always been the ketchup, I'm not a fan in general. AND you mix it with yellow mustard (my least favorite condiment of all time) and brown sugar. I already think ketchup is too sweet and I hate mustard, am I going to survive? Turns out, it's delicious, not too sweet, the balance of flavor is fine which is probably why people have been making ketchup-topped meatloaf consistently for decades.

I am never going to love the texture of meatloaf nor like looking too intently at a big ol' slice of it. I really prefer meat that has been browned in some way to meat that has been boiled, poached, or in this case, loafed. But taste wise, it really was pretty good. It didn't dry out or get too mushy and the onion soup added that savory onion flavor. It was crazy easy, not a single thing was chopped, just open and dump a bunch of shit, just how the Founding Fathers imagined the cuisine of their new nation would come together. Mush it together, dump that ketchup mixture on top and git her done. I made instant mashed potatoes to go along with them (adding my secret shame, secret ingredient: some bottled ranch dressing; can't you just hear someone chanting USA! USA! USA!?)
Maw Maw's Meatloaf: B

Since this recipe is so fast to throw together, we listened to a Single Mothers 7" I'd just gotten in the mail. Everyone I know is tired of hearing about this band but they are great even if you bore easily of white guys screaming. The lead singer and songwriter Drew Thomson's stage swag is fire and his lyrics are very clever and biting and I love it. The A-side Half-Lit features one of my favorite lines: "There's nothing that I can't do/I've tried and I just can't lose" which out of context doesn't sound like much but the delivery is 100% deranged self-delusion. The B-side is a song I'd never heard called Brand New City. I think LA is the Brand New City in question; maybe the song isn't my fave because I have songs-about-LA-and-New-York fatigue. I much prefer the other Thomson songs (Single Mothers and solo) that refer to Canadian geography; you know I looked up London, Ontario on a map (fun fact: Ryan Gosling is from there as well.) I love anyone who reps their less-often-repped city; I always think about the Pretenders song Precious where she's talking about movin' through the Cleveland heat and Euclid Avenue because it's like, there is a world beyond the coasts. All that aside, it's still a cool song and I like the line "Feels like an infected molar/feels like a runaway baby stroller" because it definitely paints a picture of a real unpleasant feeling and it makes me think of the opening scene in Naked Gun 33 1/3 when all those babies roll down the stairs (obviously referencing The Untouchables scene but let's be real, Naked Gun is more my speed.) A

Maw Maw's Milky All-American Meatloaf

2 pounds ground meat (we used a mix of beef and pork)
1 cups breadcrumbs
1 packet onion soup mix
1 small can of evaporated milk

For topping
2 tbs ketchup
2 tbs mustard
2 tbs brown sugar

Mix that stuff up, put it in the pan, top it with the topping. In the oven at 325 for an hour or so.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Pepperoni Roses and Vince Staples

There was a dumb recipe for "pepperoni roses" going around online for Valentine's Day and I was like "yes, let's try that!" Oh, let's be real, I said YASSSS because I'm very basic. But unfortunately, the crust mix we used (this one) didn't allow for rolling into any kind of rose-ish shape. I actually don't think I've ever made pizza crust, from a mix or from scratch, so we were taking a risk anyway. What is Records and Recipes if not living on the edge?  So, just for fun, I did try to make one and you can see how unrosy it came out.

How they were supposed to look and how they came out.

Not too pretty and all the cheese sorta oozed out the bottom.

We realized quickly enough that the best course of action would be to make a regular pizza with the ingredients which saved the day. We made the sauce ourselves and it was the easiest most delicious thing. Just a can of tomatoes (people always swear by San Marzano tomatoes but the Trader Joe's ones worked fine) and garlic, olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper, none of which we really measured. Just blend it up, didn't need to cook it since it cooks while the pizza does. The regular pizza was delicious!
Pizza Roses: F
Pizza: A

We listened to Vince Staple's Summertime '06, one of my favorite albums of last year. I'm old enough to still feel a little guilty when I listen to music I haven't paid for explicitly since I listen to everything on Spotify or YouTube now. So usually we just try to see the artist live so we can buy the album from them. We live in a largish (albeit 2nd rate) U.S. city so most acts make it here eventually but when Vince Staples came last year he was with Tyler the Creator and A$AP Rocky so not only were the tickets kind of expensive, I would argue overpriced because both those guys are pretty overrated and just not my favorites. But I wanted to give this dude a small sum of money for all the entertainment he has provided me (the album and his many hilarious interviews on YouTube, he's both very funny and very cute) so I decided to buy the record online which featured this sweet lenticular cover.

This is the first time the chosen Record lasts for the whole Recipe; good job double album! I do favor the first disc and think it loses a little steam on the second, but then I hear Get Paid and I'm back on board. I enjoy good stories and interesting lyrics and, ahem, dope beats. This album provides all 3! The production on this is killer and even if much of the content isn't exactly upbeat, he has a pretty great sense of humor so it all balances out. Norf Norf is a stand out track but despite the chorus "ain't never ran from nothing but the police" he has, in fact, run from a possum once.  A-

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Cabbage Rolls and Israeli Folk Songs and Bully

I always thought I didn't want our record to "match" our recipe. Like, we didn't listen to Vietnamese music when we made Vietnamese food, I preferred for our choices to be organic and just whatever we wanted to eat and listen to. BUT when talking about making cabbage rolls, our special guest for Records and Recipes this week (Corinne, my Sister-in-law) was like "what could you listen to for cabbage rolls? Israeli folk music?" and strangely enough, Matt had bought a record of Israeli folk music recently, despite us having no particular attachment to Israel or their musical traditions. It was just too coincidental so we had to listen to it! Or rather, one side of it, it wasn't the most fun, lively cooking music. The record is pictured with Corinne pretending to spill a glass of wine on it because she had spilled her wine earlier that evening. You are now in on the joke!

Then we switched to the Bully album "Feels Like" which was a great album released in 2015 (as mentioned in the Shrimp and Grits post.) We saw them in 2014 before the album was released but we were able to buy a single from them. They must have already taken all their merch back to the van when we inquired about buying something so the lead singer, Alicia Bognonno (pictured right), walked all the way out of the venue, down the street, and got one for us out of their van. I thought was really nice of her because she couldn't have been making much bank off of a single 45. She also produced their album; she went to audio engineering school which is just not something a ton of women go into. I also like her whole vibe, how she's clearly a gorgeous woman but wears baggy t-shirts and always has her hair in her face. I respect whatever women do with their image as performers (put it all out there or cover up or anything in between) but I appreciate her take on it.
Israeli Folk Songs: C
Bully "Feels Like": A

So cabbage rolls! Matt suggested it and it's something I'd never made before. We had some really good ones semi-recently in Hot Springs and so I was optimistic we could make something similarly good with another Serious Eats recipe. Be forewarned, a lot of our recipes are probably going to be from Serious Eats, I just trust them. I cheated a bit and bought a thing of pre-chopped mirepoix at Trader Joe's. Usually Matt is perfectly fine with chopping (and of course it's usually cheaper than pre-chopped stuff) but this was a case where we got going kind of late and it was actually perfectly fine. I always assumed mirepoix meant something in French but Corinne speaks French and was like "nope." Turns out, it was named after a French dude, ol' Lord Mirepoix.

Additionally, I'm glad we didn't have to chop all that onion, carrot and celery because the cabbage roll rolling was labor intensive enough! My SIL was actually helping more this time than Matt (although he did chop the garlic!) and we somehow did something weird with the cabbage when we cored it so instead of rolling two huge rolls as described in the recipe, we had a bunch of little leaves therefore LOTS of rolling. Also, I always have issues with rice so this was no different. I ended up doubling the time in the oven to actually get the rice cooked- I would probably parboil the rice before making this again. But the extra time in the oven didn't seem to negatively affect the cabbage or the meat stuffed within; it all came out with a surprisingly rich flavor and the cabbage was tender but not mushy at all. I ended up buying all the ingredients at Trader Joe's so I didn't have spicy V8 but rather their variation on regular V8 and it was great but not really spicy at all, which was fine.
Not-so-Spicy Cabbage Rolls: A

Smoky Spicy Cabbage Rolls (From Serious Eats)
1 medium head Savoy cabbage
1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1 medium carrot, shredded (about 1 cup)
1 rib celery, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
3 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1/4 cup chopped jarred or homemade roasted red peppers
1/2 cup uncooked white rice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon pimentón de la Vera (smoked paprika)
4 cups spicy V8
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. 1.
    Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Cut the core out of the cabbage, leaving it whole. Place cabbage in a large bowl. Boil a medium pot of water and pour it over the cabbage and let sit for ten minutes.
  2. 2.
    Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large straight-sided sauté pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the ground beef and brown, breaking into small bits. Add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and continue cooking, stirring often, until vegetables are tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Add roasted peppers, rice, tomato paste and paprika. Season with salt and stir to combine.
  3. 3.
    Drain cabbage, remove large leaves and cut out any tough veins. Pat the leaves dry with a paper towel. Using large leaves to create two cabbage rolls, fill each with about 1/3 cup of the meat mixture. Roll up as you would a burrito, tucking the sides in first.
  4. 4.
    Spray a 9- by 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray, and arrange rolls tightly in the dish. Cover with V8 and season with additional salt and pepper, if desired. Cover with foil and transfer to the oven to bake until bubbly, 35 to 40 minutes.
  5. 5.
    Remove from oven, let sit for 10 minutes and serve, spooning additional sauce on top of cabbage rolls when serving.

Shrimp and Grits and Tweens and Revolver

I got into Tweens last year. They are female fronted "trash pop" from Cincinnati and the album is just fun and I think the cover is especially cute. I've listened to this album a million times on Spotify but had never actually listened to the record we bought when we saw them at a live. "Be Mean" is my favorite song on the album which is good because we ended up listening to it twice since record started skipping for some reason we never determined. It came out in 2014 which was a good year for debut albums. For me, 2015 was kind of eh for me musicwise. The only two albums released in 2015 that grabbed me were by folks I already liked from their EP's...released in 2014, namely Bully and Vince Staples. We'll probably listen to those in future Records and Recipes! It is a very short album (which is ideal for me, I am very impatient and think almost all songs could be a minute shorter except for all Crosby Stills and Nash songs, for some reason they songs can all be 7 minutes long and I live for it) so we also put on Revolver, which I always claim is my favorite Beatles album until I realize it has Yelllow Submarine on it. But that's not even THAT bad.
Tweens: A-
Revolver: A+

Shrimp and Grits would have taken a lot longer had we used the kind of grits suggested in the recipe but I didn't feel like going to another grocery store and so quick cooking grits it was! A fancier person might have noticed a difference but 7 minutes of cooking versus an hour was worth it to me. One extra step the recipe calls for that was worth it was dry brining the shrimp with salt and baking soda. I really do believe it made the shrimp come out better. Matt is no big fan of mushrooms so I planned to make the mushrooms to the side but he said he had prepared his body for reintroduction of mushrooms so I just made it all together like the recipes calls for. He still liked it, maybe  a little more than I did. As much of a mushroom fan as I am, I think maybe the mushrooms muddied the flavor up or perhaps, I've just never had shrimp and grits with mushrooms in it and so it was just a new flavor to me. The gravy did come out quite flavorful.  We used the leftover shrimp and mushrooms as a pizza topping the next day and that was really tasty as well.
Shrimp and Grits: B+.

Shrimp and Gruyere Cheese Grits with Mushrooms and Bacon
(from Serious Eats)

        5 3/4 cups homemade or store-bought chicken stock, divided
         1 pound large shrimp, shelled (shells reserved)
         3/4 pound mixed mushrooms, such as cremini, shiitake, and oyster, stemmed and thinly sliced (stems reserved)
         3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasonin
         1/4 teaspoon baking soda
         1/4 teaspoon cornstarch
         1 cup grits, preferably stoneground (see note above)
·         1 cup grated Gruyère cheese (about 4 ounces)
·         Freshly ground black pepper
·         4 slices thick-cut bacon (about 4 ounces), diced
·         Vegetable oil (if needed)
·         1 medium shallot, minced
·         2 medium cloves garlic, minced
·         1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
·         2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
·         1 tablespoon fresh juice from 1 lemon

·         2 tablespoons mixed minced fresh herbs, such as parsley, chives, and tarragon, plus more as garnish

  1. 1.
    In a large saucepan, combine 5 cups stock with reserved shrimp shells and mushroom trimmings. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Strain and return stock to saucepan.
  2. 2.
    Meanwhile, combine shrimp, 3/4 teaspoon salt, baking soda, and cornstarch in a medium bowl and toss to coat. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.
  3. 3.
    Whisk grits into stock, set over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer, whisking frequently. Lower heat to a bare simmer and cook, stirring and scraping bottom frequently with a wooden spoon, until grits are fully softened and cooked and have thickened into a spoonable porridge, about 1 hour. Stir in Gruyère cheese until fully melted. Season with salt and pepper and keep grits warm. (A piece of parchment pressed against the surface will help prevent a skin from forming.)
  4. 4.
    In a large skillet, heat bacon over high heat until sizzling. Lower heat to medium and cook, stirring, until bacon has rendered its fat and become crisp, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. You should have 1/4 cup rendered bacon fat in the skillet. Remove all but 1 tablespoon fat and reserve.
  5. 5.
    Return skillet to high heat and heat until very lightly smoking. Add shrimp and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned outside with only a faint trace of translucence remaining in the center of each shrimp. Transfer shrimp to a plate.
  6. 6.
    Add reserved 3 tablespoons bacon fat to the skillet, return to medium-high heat, and heat until shimmering. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, until mushrooms release their liquid, about 3 minutes; scrape any browned bits from bottom of skillet. Continue cooking mushrooms, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 6 minutes; if pan becomes too dry, add vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon at a time, to keep it lubricated. Stir in shallots, garlic, and cayenne and cook until shallots and garlic are softened, about 2 minutes.
  7. 7.
    Add remaining 3/4 cup stock and scrape up any browned bits on bottom of pan. Stir in shrimp. Lower heat to medium-low and whisk in butter until fully melted and emulsified with the sauce. Remove from heat and whisk in lemon juice. Stir in herbs and season with salt and pepper.
  8. 8.
    Spoon grits into bowls and top with shrimp, mushrooms, and their gravy. Top with reserved crispy bacon and serve right away.