Fideua, Knish Balls, Luster Dust and Chicken Tinga: Recipes To Distract You From Tax Prep
A couple of weeks ago Remy brought a large container of water balloons to my house. She spent an enormous amount of time in the mornings, filling them in the kitchen sink.
During the afternoon we would take them into the yard and let the balloon war begin.
Mostly they crashed and exploded on the ground, which amused the girls to no end.
The balloons weren't a problem until Rory decided it would be fun to let the balloons hang out in her mouth. No matter how many times I thought I had gotten them away from her, she still managed to find more, and they always found their way to her mouth.
Rory is not a baby. She is a three year old child who uses verbal commands on my phone to search for cell phones she'd like me to purchase for her. She is well aware that balloons don't belong in your mouth, and for the life of me I can't figure out what the attraction is.
Luckily Remy decided to take the balloons home for her birthday weekend last Friday, which let me breathe a sigh of relief. With the balloons gone, my only problem now was the princess themed bracelet beads that Rory came across.
She determined that their highest and best use would be to scatter them between my bedsheets which led to them rolling all over the floor.
Despite changing my sheets, I still keep stepping on them and finding them in my bed and shoes.
With the girls gone and the floor swept, I settled in for a weekend of catching up on my favorite cooking shows.
First up was Guys Grocery Games, where one of the contestants made fideua. I'd never heard of fideua, which is a seafood dish originating from the coast of Valencia, Spain.
Similar to paella, fideua is made with tiny noodles instead of rice.
The contestant on the show used a bag of tiny egg noodles, exactly like the one that was sitting in my pantry.
Besides relaxing, my number one priority and project for the weekend was to finish my tax prep.
But with a new dish to prepare, how could I ever think about taxes?
New Project #1: Make fideua.
I had some frozen shrimp, a tiny vial of saffron from Trader Joes and some crushed tomatoes in the house.
Fideua, like paella, calls for an abundance of seafood as well as seafood stock. I had chicken stock in the pantry, but not seafood stock.
I had garlic on hand and the Cajun holy trinity, onions, celery and bell pepper. I decided to forgo the celery. I wanted this to taste more like paella and less like jambalaya.
For that reason, I decided not to add any thyme or bay leaves either. Though I didn't have as much seafood as I would have liked, I still thought I could achieve that paella taste with just some basic ingredients.
If I had had some peas in the house, I would have added that as well.
I was right. Sam and I both loved the dish, though in the future I'd like to try it with the addition of scallops, some crab, green peas and seafood stock.
As for making the noodles like a jambalaya, I think it would work great. Cajun spices could be used in place of the saffron and either chicken, sausage, seafood or a combination of all three would work as well.
In fact, I think you could play around and build a dish like Charleston red rice or a California cioppino with the noodles also.
Once you get the liquid to dry ratios down, the possibilities are endless.
Project #2: Rainbow sprinkle cake and cupcakes for Remy's birthday.
Both Remy and Laura wanted a sprinkle cake, but Laura thought that two cakes might be necessary because of the way friends would be staggering their birthday visits due to Covid.
Earlier in the week, Remy and I worked on making edible luster dust for her cake.
Luster dust is a decorating powder that adds sparkle to desserts.
I had already splurged on a humongous jar of sprinkles. At ten dollars an ounce, I Googled to see if we could make our own luster dust.
It was as easy as shaking sugar in a jar with a few drops of food coloring. Next, you spread it on a baking sheet and place in a 350 degree oven for ten minutes.
Remy and I were both surprised when it came out sparkly, though the sparkles went away when I blitzed one of the batches in the blender.
It just turned to blue powdered sugar. That batch was her favorite. Go figure.
For some time I've been looking for a go to simple cake recipe that would make me happy.
Though I love boxed cake mix cake as much as the next girl, I'm more a fan of a dense, homemade style cake.
The week before I made a few changes to a recipe I had found online and loved it.
It was a small recipe, though. To make the amount of cake I'd need, the recipe would have to be tripled.
I'm far from a good cake decorator, so baking two separate cakes was out of the question. I figured I'd do one cake and a batch of cupcakes. That way there would be less work for me but enough cake for everyone.
Tripled, the recipe worked beautifully. It made 3 eight inch rounds and 24 cupcakes.
Once the cakes were cooled and frosted, I got to work throwing sprinkles at the top and sides.
If you've never made a sprinkle cake, it's darn near impossible to get the entire surface covered with sprinkles. Though frustrating, I will admit to a sort of bizarre glee that accompanies the flinging of sprinkles.
In a bad mood? Throw sprinkles at a cake. I defy you to not smile.
With the cake obligation out of the way, I was free to work on my taxes. Or watch more television.
This time I ventured away from the Food Network, and checked out Netflix.
On Netflix I found a cooking competition called "The Final Table."
This series featured chefs paired in teams of two, competing basically for bragging rights to sit at the final table.
The final table would be occupied by the nine superstar chefs from around the world, who were featured individually in each episode.
Though "The Final Table" didn't get great reviews, I was really loving it.
Each episode featured a different country along with culinary ambassadors who chose the dish the chefs would cook.
The bottom three teams of the day would have to cook again for the superstar chef from that same country, who gave them an ingredient that had to be the star of the dish. The losing team would be eliminated.
Have you guys seen this meme floating around the internet?
British Cooking Shows: Tell us about this wee tart you've made. The crust is just lovely.
American Cooking Shows: We've replaced your knives with Phillips head screwdrivers and released raccoons in the kitchen. The clock is set for 30 seconds. Please bake peace in the Middle East.
Though it may sound ridiculous, it isn't that far off from the shenanigans that take place on Chopped or Guys Grocery Games.
And though I love me some shenanigans, I really was enjoying not only the camaraderie of the chef teams on "The Final Table," but also the focus on a special dish and ingredient from each country featured.
Additionally, the cinematography at the various restaurants was gorgeous. This was primarily fine dining. The scenes from different countries and the plating was stunning.
I began to binge watch the show, taxes be damned.
Project #3: Potato mixture that needed to be used.
Of course watching the show made me hungry, which reminded me that there was a gorgeous mixture of mashed potatoes and carmelized onions sitting in the fridge.
Writing about knishes a few weeks ago found me craving them. With a little leftover pizza dough in the fridge, and a surplus of potatoes in the house, I decided to make a lazy version.
There was also a beautiful layer of schmaltz on the chicken soup I had made a couple of days before.
This was the perfect fat in which to saute the onions.
The onions added to the mashed potatoes along with salt and plenty of pepper made a knish that was "meh." Definitely too dense of a crust.
The potato mixture, however, was fantastic.
Writing about potato croquettes a couple of weeks ago had me craving them, too.
During a visit to the grocery store earlier in the day, I had actually looked for Italian breadcrumbs, thinking I would attempt some croquettes with the remaining potato mixture.
Unfortunately, the store was out of breadcrumbs.
I remembered the container of kasha that was in the pantry. Because Max tries to avoid gluten, I had made him a few treats baked with kasha ground into a flour.
Kasha bread was something he had while doing yoga certification in Nepal. Unfortunately, the only way for me to attempt what he had eaten was to grind my own kasha into flour.
Coating the potato balls in the ground kasha, I pan fried them until golden brown.
Served with a slice of lime alongside, Sam said, "F*** yeah. I'll eat these every day."
Knishes are usually filled with either kasha or potatoes. This improvised dish combined the two.
Though it's not something I'd want to eat very often. It wasn't bad. From here on out, though, I'll likely stick with Italian breadcrumbs.
Our hunger sated, I went back to bingeing on "The Final Table."
Project #4 Make chicken tinga.
One of the contestant chefs, Enrique Olvera, didn't have a fine dining background. He lost his job during the last economic crisis and decided to make ends meet by making tacos.
Many accolades and restaurants later, he's competing alongside world renowned chefs.
One of the challenges involved the chefs making artichokes the star of the dish.
Olvera chose to make a Mexican dish called tinga. Usually made with chicken, it also features chipotle peppers and tomatoes.
With leftover chicken in my fridge and an ice cube tray full of frozen chipotles, how could I not attempt tinga?
I found an easy recipe online and followed the recipe exactly.
I only used one ice cube of chipotle, which had about two peppers in it. Maybe freezing the peppers reduced the spice level of them. I'm not sure.
What I can tell you is that chicken tinga on tacos is far superior to any fajita recipe I've ever tried. Sam thought so, too. It is a dish I will definitely be making again.
Taxes still not done, I stayed up late to finish the series.
When the United States was featured, the superstar chef was familiar to me. I had seen Chef Grant Achatz featured on an episode of Master Chef. I knew he was the founder and head chef of Alinea, the Chicago restaurant that had been named the best restaurant in the United States.
While I also knew Achatz was a master of molecular gastronomy, I wasn't aware of a dish the restaurant was famous for: edible helium balloons.
Photo of Alinea balloons. https://www.alinearestaurant.com/site/
Achatz spoke of serious adults breaking into fits of giggles at Alinea, when offered the magical floating treat.
A clip of a woman enjoying one was not only charming, but made me realize that perhaps there is something universal in wanting to eat a balloon.
I did a search on making edible balloons at home, but therr is no way I can see myself attempting that one. It involves hot sugar and often one to two tanks of helium.
For now, at least, there are no balloons in my house to tempt Rory. We do have some fiduea, knish balls and chicken tinga, however.
And though our desserts may not be as fun to eat as a balloon, our cupcakes are sparkly, pretty and sprinkled with fun.
The taxes, however, remain undone.
A Little Lagniappe:
Balloons aren't new to dining. My friend, Becky, recently reminded me of balloons for banana splits. Back in the seventies there was more than one restaurant on Canal Street in New Orleans that gave you a balloon with your banana split. When you finished your dessert, you would pop the balloon to see how much the banana split cost. Lucky patrons only paid a penny!
Do any of you remember this? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below.
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 small shallots, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, pressed or chopped
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
14 oz can chopped tomatoes
3 pinches of saffron
1 lb shrimp
8 ounces thin, tiny egg noodles
2 cups chicken stock
Warm the oil in a large frying pan on medium high. Add the onion, pepper and shallots. Saute until softened, about 3 or 4 minutes.
Lower to medium and add the garlic, paprika, salt, pepper and red pepper. Saute for a minute.
Add the tomatoes, saffron and shrimp. Cook for another three minutes.
Add the pasta and stir well. Cook for another couple of minutes.
Add the stock. Stir and simmer on low for 8 to ten minutes, until the liquid is absorbed and the pasta is tender.