I’ve decided that Mondays are going to be “off topic” (OT) days. Here we go with the first one:
I have been using the Internet now for about 20 years (maybe plus a year or two). After two decades of Internet activity I have found only ten recipes that are useful in my life. The rest of my cooking comes from recipes in cookbooks, from my mom, or my brain.
Just three weeks ago there were only nine recipes from the Internet that I would use frequently. Then, one day, I was browsing through the blog Tanglewood Knots by the awesome crocheter, Tami. She posted about a recipe for blueberry muffins. I’ve made a few batches of them and they are now going to be a new staple. Being a Mainer and formidable wild blueberry pickah – ayuh! – I am very fussy about my blueberry muffins and I’d been using the same old recipe I got from my mom for years.
So, now that I’ve got a list of ten, why not share the most useful recipes I have ever found on the Internet? None of them are necessarily better than another. You’ll notice that they are jumbled up a little, alternating sweet with savory, chicken with beef, etc. I did that to emphasize that there is no number 1. These are all equally excellent. By no means do I endorse any of the web sites these recipes link to, although I must confess that a couple of them are repeated. Still, I am indifferent to them. By chance they provided a recipe I think is helpful to me. That’s it.
New England Clam Chowder
I know my “chowdah.” This recipe has additional things that I like in my homemade clam chowder that is not possible to find in a restaurant in Maine. Restaurants that serve “typical” food tend to stick with the same old thing; mostly, I think, to fulfill tourist expectations. I appreciate the use of Tabasco sauce in this dish. In my opinion, it’s so much better that way. I probably don’t follow this recipe exactly as it’s written, but I always add Tabasco now. More than likely, I follow the traditional Mainah recipe in my head and dash in the Tabasco. Just so you know, having a recipe for chowder is like having a baby that comes with an instruction manual. It just doesn’t work that way. Everybody in New England does their chowder in a unique way, depending on family-specific traditions, etc. So, don’t think of this as a recipe. Think of it as a schematic. In the end, you should have a thick, white, creamy stew that tastes like clams, onion, and potato. The rest is up to your own taste.
I found this one on line and later realized something stupid: I already had it in a cookbook I had never used! Apparently, it first appeared in Bon Appetite’s dessert cook book, a collection of what the editor of the magazine thinks are their best in their publishing history. I bought it and left it unused for a few years. I’ve made other things from the book since I discovered this cookie recipe was also in there. I have never been disappointed, so the cook book is sort of like the best-kept secret I hid from myself. The other recipes aren’t my strong go-to’s, though. Anyway, these cookies are killer. They’re also convenient because the dough keeps well in the freezer. I bake off one frozen log at a time. I’m still miffed that a recipe I bought is now free on line, but if I hadn’t been googling for roll cookies, I wouldn’t have rediscovered my unused book.
Blueberry Muffins (I left the smarm off the title)
The title indicates that these blueberry muffins are “to die for.” Personally, I wouldn’t die for them, but this is the best blueberry muffin recipe I have ever tried. It has an excellent crumb. I leave out the sugary topping because I like my blueberry muffins on the tart side, as they should be, in my humble, lobster-killing opinion. In Maine we sometimes use these at cookouts in place of bread or dinner rolls. They sort of live in this gray area between sweet and savory. Warning: the batter is extremely thick. Depending on factors like egg size and weather, the batter can seem too thick and dry. Just add a little more milk (don’t overdo it) and you’re good to go. The batter should be very thick but moist enough to incorporate all the flour. Typically, a couple of tablespoons more of milk saves the day for me. For best results, stir as little as possible, even fold (totally not necessary) the ingredients together if you have the patience. That exploits the perfect crumb this recipe is uncannily able to produce. Tip: if you have a convection oven (an oven with a fan) you might need to reduce the temperature to 375 or 350 F (190 or 180 C). I have had to adjust to 180 C.
The link above doesn’t go directly to a recipe. It’s a list of 50 soup recipes. By all means, try the other soups on the list. I have and I like them. You can find the one for potato chowder at number 14 or so. I make this one a lot in autumn and winter. It’s so easy to make it only occupies four lines or so on the page. It’s my favorite in this index. According to the title, all these soups are healthy. Take that with a grain of salt. Cream and bacon, anyone?
Shredded Beef Enchiladas with Three-Chile Sauce
I make these enchiladas frequently. They are by far the best. I have even replaced the beef with chicken with a lot of success. They are not always the enchiladas I can make, however. In Spain the ingredients disappear from the local shops and supermarkets I have to deal with. The biggest challenge is finding the chilies that the recipe calls for. Currently, I’m out of stock and just need to find some chipotles again. As soon as I do, I’m making these exact enchiladas again.
Lemon Bundt Cake
I don’t like Martha Stewart, but damn does she know how to make a lemon bundt cake. It’s a lot of work (not surprising, it’s a Martha Stewart anal retentive invention) but it’s totally worth it.
Chicken Stew with Biscuits
One morning after a night out, a friend of mine and I were having breakfast and channel surfing at my house. Mid-click, the Barefoot Contessa was demonstrating how to make this dish. I got the recipe and ever since then I make this often. I don’t bother with the rolled and cut biscuits, though. I just make a drop biscuit dough. Call me lazy, go right ahead! I know. I just don’t see the reasoning behind rolling out and cutting biscuits when you can get the same effect – lower in fat no less – with drop biscuit dough. When I make chicken pot pies this is my filling of choice, too.
Pressure Cooker Chicken (I left the smarm off the title)
As the smarmy title indicates, this chicken falls off the bone. That’s supposed to be a positive characteristic to be all smug about. Beware! It is not. If it’s falling off the bone, it’s on the verge of drying out and becoming a chicken Slim Jim from a very seedy gas station convenience store. If you try this, cook for the exact time indicated in the recipe and when the pressure valve is all the way down get the chicken the heck out of the pot so it stops cooking as quickly as possible. It’s worth paying attention to the pressure cooker a little (mine beeps a lot so I know when the lid can be removed). If you are precise with the cooking time and get it out of the pot efficiently you will have a tender, juicy, and flavorful chicken. The meat will be falling off the bone, but not dry as sandpaper, and the breast won’t be falling off the bone, which is essential to be certain it’s juicy. The best part: you can have a full chicken dinner ready in less than an hour, which for me has saved the day as far as balancing work with dinner and not having to order take out, which is far less healthy than this main attraction. When I’m overwhelmed with work I serve this with quick basmati rice seasoned with salt, pepper, and olive oil along with a salad, as I do with my garlic baby sea bass. The seasoning combination in this recipe is also delicious, so I do not advise leaving this or that thing out. They all go together (including the paprika, garlic, and fresh lemon) to create a harmonious flavor. Note: this is one of those annoying “gushing” recipes often found on Pinterest (UG). Just scroll through all the marketing language and skip over the pointless photos and you’ll eventually get to the recipe. The nuisance of visiting this page actually tempts me to put the recipe right here in a no-nonsense way, but I don’t think it’s good to do that since it isn’t my idea. By the way, of all the “gushing” recipes I have ever tried, this is the only one that has ever worked for me.
Very Chocolate Ice Cream
Anyone with an ice cream machine needs to try this. It’s the best chocolate ice cream I’ve ever made. I make this all summer long with my handy-dandy ice cream mixer. The secret trick, as you can see from the ingredients list, is the use of cocoa powder and a small dab of whole chocolate. Usually, it’s hard to make ice cream with whole chocolate because of all the fat it contains, which messes the whole thing up because cream has even more fat. If you try to make chocolate ice cream with bar chocolate only you actually create a frozen butter that is inedible. A little dab of bar chocolate with more fat-free cocoa powder makes it just right. If you have made homemade custard before, you can do this with ease. If you haven’t, don’t be surprised if you wind up trashing your very first batch ever. Low heat, constant stirring, and patience are required.
Homemade Sloppy Joes
I now live in a country where the sauce in the can for making sloppy Joe sandwiches is unheard of. It does not exist here. I was happy to find this recipe, which cures my occasional craving for one of these messy sandwiches. I use 3/4 cup of tomato sauce and a tsp of tomato paste instead of the ketchup. It’s healthier that way and jives with the canned sauce I remember from my childhood. When I was a kid, we had sloppy Joe’s for dinner at least twice a month. The sauce always came from the can with the particular sexist brand name I shall not mention. I think it was my mom’s go-to for when time was not to be had. She kept the cans in the kitchen as part of her busy person’s arsenal. I think even in the 1980s this was a retro-style dinner. I guess now we could consider it ancient! Looking back, this was as responsible a mom could get for prepping a hurried meal for her kids. Tomato and protein between two slices of carbs. That’s pretty balanced.