Spaghetti Two Ways

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These recipes are both basically ''take a box of spaghetti, make a sauce, then eat it!' but one of them involves stirring sliced hot dogs (wieners, in the parlance of the recipe, which, since I am 12, is hilarious to me) into the finished sauce. As this sounds revolting, I am lucky because I live in a country with little to no respect for the hot dog so I was unable to find hot dogs and had to make this with chorizo,* thus combining both recipes into a simpler single version with optional chorizo sprinkles.

Since both recipes require some kind of pre-made sauce base that obviously doesn't exist anymore, I made my own sauce from scratch (-ish) using their additions to dress it up. I had mine with chorizo and Judson tried it without, so you can make it either way, or, if you're feeling really authentically 1950s, go ahead and stir in some sliced hot dogs. What could be better?

I made this for us one night when it was raining (not snowing for once!) and I couldn't be bothered to cook anything that required much thought but still wanted to be in the kitchen because it's always the warmest room in our flat. I really love mindless cooking like making pasta sauce or chili sometimes- the kind of thing where you just chopchopchop sizzlesizzlesizzle simmersimmersimmer taste and adjust, then start again from the beginning. I love zoning out to an old episode of the Golden Girls, my favourite playlist, or an audiobook (my newfound passion- I can read twice as many books at a time now!), listening to the rain and filling the kitchen with steam and good smells until it's time to eat, and this recipe is no exception.

Very much intended to be a 'clean-out-your-fridge' type recipe, this sauce is the kind of thing you'll never make the same way twice because it's completely dependent on what you've got to hand; have an open jar of anchovies you need to use up? Throw 'em in! A stalk or two of celery that are going soft? Chop 'em up! Half an onion, one shallot, and a piece of leek? In they go! A carrot? Fine! A handful of strawberries? WHOA, no. This is not a free-for-all, you know.

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Anyway, here's how I made mine, based on what the original recipe recommended to add to a prepared sauce base, but as I said, edit it to your heart's content. You can cook this for as little as 30 minutes including softening time, but it's going to keep getting better the longer you leave it, so if you have time, do your prep a few hours before you need it and then let it simmer for a few hours so the flavours really blend. It'll be worth it.

*Truly, this country has so little respect for the hot dog that the only ones I have ever seen in my shop come full-length in a can packed in water, and the label is, of course, an American flag. Once upon a time, the existence of those water-packed canned weiners was the most embarrassing thing about being an American abroad.

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The verdict:

3 spoons out of five. I'm knocking off one spoon because this is no spaghetti bolognese made with fresh tomatoes when they're actually in season, but for a recipe that cleared out my fridge of all the veg I would otherwise probably have had to toss, it's great. And I'm knocking one more spoon because the chorizo didn't really add anything and I can all but guarantee the requested hot dogs would have been even worse.

ONE YEAR AGO: TOLL HOUSE MARBLE SQUARES
TWO YEARS AGO: ASIAN CHICKEN TWO WAYS

the recipe:

Spaghetti

the directions:

Saute the anchovy in the oil in a deep saucepot until it melts.
Add the celery and stir well, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 4 minutes, until slightly softened.
Add the garlic, onion, bell pepper and mushrooms and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until well-softened and slightly browned, at least 10 minutes or up to 20 minutes.
Deglaze the pot with a generous glug of wine, turn up the heat to medium and add the tomato paste. Stir to combine, then add the passata and stir well.
Bring to a simmer, add red pepper flakes, then taste.
If needed, add sugar, salt and additional red pepper flakes.
Reduce heat to medium-low and either allow to simmer with the lid on for up to an hour, or cook your spaghetti.

To serve, place spaghetti in four individual bowls, top generously with warm sauce, sprinkle with cheese and, if desired, add a sprinkle of chorizo. Note that according to this recipe, adding the chorizo turns this into 'Frank n' Spaghetti Supper.'

the ingredients:

Customise the below to fit what you have in your kitchen:
3 anchovies
3 tbsp olive oil or the oil from the anchovy tin
2 celery ribs, chopped very fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ onion, chopped coarsely
1 bell pepper, chopped coarsely
1 handful white or chestnut mushrooms, chopped coarsely
1 glug red or white wine
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 box tomato passata
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp sugar or brown sugar
2 tbsp salt or to taste
4 servings of spaghetti
Fresh grated parmesan or pecorino
Optional: 1 generous handful of chorizo, chopped coarsely

French Onion Soup

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I hate french onion soup. There aren't a lot of foods I really detest, but I've made two of them in the last week for this blog (the other to come next week), and french onion soup is one of them. I'd argue my rationale is valid- without going into detail, it involves a Panera, a group study session, food poisoning and missing the first exam of my college career.

Since then, I have never eaten french onion soup (and I lived in France for a year, got married there, spent my honeymoon and three other recent vacations there- my commitment to avoiding it is truly admirable, if I say so myself). Not only have I completely abstained from french onion soup for the last fourteen years, but I also have only eaten anything made with beef broth maybe a half dozen times in that span. My hatred runs deep.

Because I haven't had french onion soup in that long, I have literally never eaten it in front of Judson. But I realised I didn't want to make a giant batch and be stuck with it if he didn't like it either, so I asked him if he did: 'UGH, french onion soup,' he sneered. 'YOU DON'T LIKE IT EITHER? How did I never know this?!' I asked, shocked. He responded 'it's not that I don't like it, it's just a food that's not fancy but that people eat when they want to BE fancy, and that bugs me. Why? Don't you like it?'

And that's how we each found out something new about the person we've been married to for almost six years. On account of all this, I only made us two servings of it because, I mean, what if I couldn't handle it? It turns out that Judson quite likes the act of eating french onion soup, it's just the idea of it he can't handle, so he didn't mind either. And really, what's not to like here? Onions cooked low and slow until they're sweet and soft, a deep, flavourful broth and seriously, what other soup do you get to serve with the melted cheese right on it, already broiled to a crisp?

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This version of the recipe is insanely easy- put your onions on and forget about them; add your broth and forget about it; when ready to eat, reheat under the broiler with a mozzarella crouton and you're golden- literally, that's the colour your toast should be. Best eaten with a glass of Pinot Noir and a film you've been dying to see (we went with Mindhorn) while you watch the snow swirl outside your window.

One note: my beef broth phobia runs deep, so I went on a limb and used the best quality I could get for this recipe- since it's literally half the ingredients of the soup, I'd recommend going top-notch with it. I didn't have any homemade, so I used the best quality stockpot I could get my hands on and upping the awesome factor with some fresh thyme, a glug of verjus (you can use wine, I just happened to have verjus to hand), and a generous pinch of brown sugar because I like the way it plays off the onions.

 

The verdict:

4 spoons out of five. I don't think I can properly call myself a fan of french onion soup yet, but if anything is going to convince me, the simplicity of this recipe will be it.

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One year ago: toll house marble squares
two years ago: double-chocolate layer cheesecake

The recipe:

French Onion Soup

The directions:

Chop onions into bite-size pieces.
Heat the butter in a large stockpot JUST until melted, then turn heat as low as possible.
Add onions, stir to coat with butter, and add the brown sugar if using.
Put the lid on the pot and allow to cook for 1 hour, checking occasionally to be sure they haven't dried out.
After one hour, add beef stock.
If using the thyme, bay leaf, and verjus/wine, add it now.
Stir well, and bring to a gentle simmer.
Allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes, until heated through.
Meanwhile, toast baguette slices until just crisped through but not yet browned.
Warm your grill (broiler in the US) and place an oven tray in the top 1/3 of oven.
Taste soup and adjust seasoning (ours needed a hint of brightness, so I added a spoonful more wine here).
Ladle the soup into two ovenproof bowls, place the toasted baguette on top of each bowl, and place the mozzarella on top of the bread.
Place the soup in the oven and toast until mozzarella is blistered and bubbly and soup is bubbling underneath.
Remove from oven, garnish with an extra thyme sprig if desired, and eat immediately.

Yields 2 generous servings.

the ingredients:

3 large onions
2 tbsp (28g) butter
Scant 2 cups (400ml) beef stock
2 slices from a baguette
2 slices mozzarella cheese
Optional: 1 tsp brown sugar, 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, 1 bay leaf, 2 tbsp verjus or wine.

Teriyaki Steak

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This is the time of year when I'm willing to spend ages making a dish if I think it's going to come out well, and the time of year when my resolutions about food ('I'll cook dinner every night of the week!' or 'I'll start meal-planning!' or 'I'll start remembering to marinate things overnight the day before I want to cook them!') are coming so fast and furious that I know it's only a matter of time until something falls off the table... hopefully not literally. But while I'm determined to remember to marinate things (surely I'm not the only one who hates this process? The night after I remember to do it, I love it: a delicious dinner with little prep and few dishes... but the night before, when I have to have already done the grocery shopping AND remember to make a marinade AFTER I've already dealt with a different dinner? I usually just can't be bothered), I decided to give this a whirl. My hopes were not high, and when you're dealing with steak that you're pretty sure you're going to ruin, it's easy to get discouraged.

So imagine my surprise when I seared this steak evvvvvver so briefly and it came out delicious! Pink in the middle, tender and juicy with a unique (and very non-teriyaki-ish) flavour, this steak is a perfect dish to make next time you're trying to talk yourself out of ordering takeout again because it's embarrassing that the Deliveroo driver is starting to ask about your family and become friends with your dog. The soy sauce tenderises the meat until it's ready to melt-in-your-mouth, and the wine gives it just enough of a fruity edge to keep the saltiness from being overpowering.

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If you can be bothered to remember to marinate it the night before, this cooks up in less than 5 minutes, start to finish (and if you can't be bothered to marinate it overnight, it's fine to marinate it for only a few hours). We served it with Momofuku's Brussels Sprouts with Fish Sauce Vinaigrette- seriously my favourite side dish to go with Asian flavours, and it was so nice I'm already watching out for the next time this wafer-thin steak goes on sale.

I've eaten enough Asian food in my life to be pretty confident that teriyaki sauce does not usually include golden syrup, but this one does (perhaps contributing to that non-teriyaki-ish flavour I mentioned above). If teriyaki is usually made from soy sauce, mirin and sugar, what we have here is a version substituting white wine for mirin (I would have had to make this substitution anyway because evidently there is not a single shop in Edinburgh- including the rich people grocery store- that sells mirin) and golden syrup/corn syrup for sugar. I'm not complaining; it may not be authentically teriyaki, but it was delicious.

The verdict:

4 spoons out of five. This was really tasty, but I have a feeling a large part of this was the specific cut of steak that I purchased, so I'm knocking off a spoon in case it doesn't work so well on other cuts.

ONE YEAR AGO: TOLL HOUSE MARBLE SQUARES
TWO YEARS AGO: HAPPY NEW YEAR!

the recipe:

Teriyaki Steak

the directions:

Mix together all ingredients except steak, making sure to blend golden syrup into mixture as much as possible.
Pour over steak and marinate at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
When ready to cook, heat a cast-iron skillet until it's screaming hot.
Cook steak, a few pieces at a time, making sure not to crowd them in the pan.
After 30 seconds, flip steak and allow to cook for a further 30 seconds on the other side.
Check for doneness and serve.

the ingredients:

1/3 c (2.5 oz) soy sauce
1/3 c (2.5 oz) white wine
¼ c (2 oz) golden syrup (light corn syrup in the US)
½ tsp ground ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
2 lbs (1 kilo) lean steak, sliced very thin