Monday, January 31, 2011

Meal No. 215: Lasagna for a Crowd

After a picture-perfect weekend of sunny days and temps in the low 60s, today has turned gray and cold and the birds and squirrels are going crazy around the feeders as though a winter storm were imminent. But what we'll have is a couple of days this week with a lot of rain and chilly temps, but nothing like what's crossing the country to the north and west of us here in Winston-Salem.

2:30 pm. The house smells great right now because of the Americanized bolognese
that's simmering on the cooktop. In a little while, I'll be using it to assemble a huge pan of lasagna for the five or six of us who will be sitting down to an early dinner.

3:35 pm. The lasagna is assembled and is about to be covered in foil and sent into the oven to bake half of its total time. Then, a little after 4 pm, I'll remove the foil and let it finish baking.

4:30 pm. The cooked lasagna comes out of the oven and gets to set up and rest for about 15 minutes. In goes the garlic loaf to toast so that dinner may be served.

4:50 pm. All that great-smelling food got my belly hitched into a high-geared state of anticipation once the meal was served up.

6:20 pm. With the pasta sleepies coming on me fast, and the house quiet and me again in solitude, and a belly full of delicious lasagna...I'd call the evening meal a pleasant and complete success.

"World's Best Lasagna," by John Chandler (Dallas, TX). Found online at

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Meal No. 214: Chicken Tikka Masala

When I was teaching at Wake Forest, I had a graduate student named Laymarr Marshall, who now teaches at Mount Tabor High School and is also head varsity football coach. He rang me up a couple of days ago and pointed out that it had been too long since we'd caught up. So you know how my mind works: I figure that's another good reason to whip up a tasty dish for dinner. I didn't reach back too far, because it was only earlier this month that I tried out this recipe for chicken tikka masala for the first time, and I thought it was a serious hard-core keeper.

Laymarr was not the only former graduate student from Wake Forest to be present for tonight's dinner. Also on hand was the Roediger House regular guest Bradley Phillis who, like Laymarr, continues teaching in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools. Bradley is on faculty at the Atkins High School Complex. Both of these guys are reasons for me to miss working with the program I ran at Wake Forest, although there are a lot more reasons for me not to miss WFU.

I think I had always figured I would continue the tradition of various meals and events for the local social studies family, including program alumni and the teachers in the local high schools we worked with, even after I moved on from Wake, but that's not come to pass. Instead, it's evenings like tonight when I can catch up with those former students, and that makes it a good evening.

Along with brown basmati rice in the rice cooker and some cumin-coriander roasted cauliflower, this evening's chicken tikka masala turned out to be another fine feast on Spring Street.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Meal No. 213: Burris Birthday Bash

In the spirit of repeated meals, here's another: the honorary Jon Piper dish dubbed The Pipetizer Casserole. This is what I cooked up this afternoon as a meal for six of us before the evening's main fare: a 40th birthday party for good friend Chris Burris, a regular in the Roediger House line-up. We were all so ready to sit down to eat that I forgot to do my usual plated food photo. The picture above is what was waiting when I headed back for the irresistible seconds.

And since tonight was going to evolve into a party, I had to get crackin' on some food prep. For instance, I think a gathering like this at the house deserves a big tray of monster chip cookies:

And while I tried just one when they came out of the oven hot, I understand from some of the attendees (who left very few on the tray once the night was over) that they were pretty good. I hope so.

Chris Burris 40th Birthday Bash

When I was a graduate student getting my masters at Wake Forest University, I was also a Hall Director, and that's when I first met Chris Burris as a freshman on one of the halls in Kitchin Dorm. That same spring, I met his sister Candice, because she was a senior at Mount Tabor High School, where I did my student teaching in the Spring of 1990.

Chris is one of the usual suspects 'round here, a regular at movie nights, parties, and dinners. And with the milestone of his 40th birthday coming up on Monday, it was a great reason to put the socially-inviting spaces of the Roediger House into play.

It was a sci-fi themed party, with a particular emphasis on all things Doctor Who. Below, you can see Amy Williamson (in companion Amelia Pond attire) emerging from a homemade representation of the Tardis.

Lots of good friends came to help Chris celebrate, such as his long-time buddy Brad Weidemann, pictured below.

The shindig went quite late into the night, but it was a terrific evening.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Meal No. 212: Poached Salmon

Only about two and a half weeks ago, I made this same meal, but I think it turned out even better tonight. This is a huge slab of salmon that's been poached and topped with a chilled rosemary dijon cream sauce, served along with couscous and asparagus and a couple of bottles of Natty Green's Buckshot Amber Ale.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Meal No. 211: Ground Beef Stroganoff

Had a lot of trouble getting in the mood to cook last night. After one of the rare days I get to work right here in Winston-Salem, and having taught all day long after too short a night's sleep preceding this, and giving way to the call of a nap this afternoon, and still having last night's dishes waiting to be cleaned...I was defintely stationed in Fort DeMotivate. But I got interested in Emeril LaGasse's recipe for ground beef stroganoff and thought it'd be easy to fix and a nice twist on a staid dish.

Glad I decided to go with it. [Update: And just enough leftover for the next day's lunch, which also proved every bit as good.]

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Meal No. 210: Chicken Enchiladas

Two Mexican meals in a row, a startling turn of events given how little Mexican-inspired cuisine gets fixed in the Roediger House. Tonight's fare: chicken enchiladas. Warm, filling, flavorful. Couldn't eat all of my second one.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Butter Toffee Cookies for Richmond County

I hope the picture of these cookies makes you wish you were an administrator in Richmond County (NC) Schools. That's who's going to get them this week while I am down there working.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Meal No. 209: Chicken Quesadilla

This is actually not that hard: grab a large flour tortilla, put a blend of Mexican cheese on it, toss some diced cooked chicken in, spread some hot diced green chilies on that, then maybe some more cheese...slather it with melted butter on each side, sizzle it in the large skillet, serve with salsa and sour cream and a cold Pepsi Throwback. Monday meal in a jiffy.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Meal No. 208: Tuna Medallions with Sauce à la Moutarde

I guess my cabinet with recipe books might have been considered incomplete until I got, as a very nice birthday or Christmas present, Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking (with Bertholle & Beck). But yeah: I'm a bit intimidated by it. So after some encouragement by good friend and former student Karissa Piper, I decided to try out one of the sauces this evening, to serve along with seared tuna medallions.

This is a plate of seared tuna with mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts, and that's what Julia might call Sauce à la Moutarde. Or mustard sauce, if you prefer (p. 66).

And once again, my labors in the Roediger House kitchen have left me moderately uncomfortable, with a slightly distended belly but a happy warmth all 'round.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Please Report Suspicious Activity

I'm catching up on email and thank-you cards while sitting in my old man's chair by the fireside in the kitchen area, and I look up and see someone walking outside the windows here. Turns out that the toboggan-wearing stranger I subsequently confronted looking around in my back yard was an officer with the Downtown Bike Patrol of the Winston-Salem Police Department. Apparently, they are trying to track down a suspicious character or perhaps serve a warrant on a slippery fellow they believe to be somewhere in the vicinity.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The City Skyline at Night

More fun and experimentation with the new camera:

The downtown Winston-Salem city skyline at night, as seen from the upstairs porch/balcony at the Roediger House.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Meal No. 207: Pastry-Wrapped Chicken

Before heading out of town for some work in Virginia earlier this week, I managed to crank out one more meal, another one that I'd never made before. I had a couple of versions of this recipe: one from my cousin Betsy in Greensboro, and another in the Stirring Performances cookbook published some years ago by the Winston-Salem Junior League. I borrowed ideas from both of them and then added in a few more ingredients that struck me right, and this was the result. It's diced cooked chicken mixed with a mess of good stuff and then wrapped up in crescent roll rectangles.

The green beans were lousy, though.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Van Gogh Restored / Wyeth Cracking

After a full four months being dismantled, one of the new bathrooms servicing a guest room upstairs has now been restored to service.

But now, seriously: if you were the general contractor and you built an addition for a customer, and then problems forced that customer to do without one of his new bathrooms for 120 days, wouldn't you at least make sure you restored it to the original condition, and didn't leave the grout smear clean-up for the homeowner?

I'm just saying.

Cracked Grout in Wyeth Bathroom

Here's a picture you should click on, so that you can get the full-size view of it:

It's a shot of the floor of the Wyeth bathroom, which is the one added on the southwest back corner of the house to service the back bedroom on that side. While nowhere near as extensive as found now in the master bathroom, there is definitely an issue here with the integrity of the grout used between the floor tiles. The picture above gives you a pretty good idea of where cracks have appeared in that grout and between the tiles. This will be more for the general contractor, Peter LaRoque of LaRoque Construction of Mocksville, NC, to correct when he is here soon.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Meal No. 206: Pipetizer Beef Casserole

In preparation for last Sunday night's chili cook-off, I bought seven pounds of ground beef, intending to make both of my favorite chili recipes. But I ended up only making one because there is always too much chili here! (Last year, one whole pot I made went unnoticed and untouched and there might still be one portion container of it in the freezer.)

So, that left me with two pounds of ground beef that needed to be used before I hit the road for work this week. I dug into The Big Book of Casseroles by Maryana Vollstedt (2000) and found a recipe for something she calls "Tailgate Casserole" (p. 120). That was the basis of last night's supper. I just used Vollstedt's recipe as the starting point, and ended up making quite a few modifications to it, so I'm not sure it is appropriate to call it by that name anymore.

For instance, I increased the sour cream and cream cheese and dropped the cottage cheese altogether, and I added to them a blend of Mexican cheeses. I added minced garlic and oregano and diced mushroom, and I doubled the amount of diced red bell pepper. I substituted mini-penne for egg noodles. Instead of layering the dish, I mixed it all up and let it cook together.

Since good friend Jon Piper also was here, passing through Winston-Salem once again on quick business, and since he had plans to meet a colleague at Arigato's and only wanted an "appetizer" sampler of the casserole once it came out, I have accorded him some honor in the renaming of this casserole.

"Pipetizer Casserole" is an adaptation of "Tailgate Casserole," from The Big Book of Casseroles, by Maryana Vollstedt. San Francisco: Chronicle Books (2000), p. 120.

Monday, January 17, 2011

2011 Chili Cook-Off

Meal No. 205 in the Roediger House (counting since the new kitchen went into service) coincided with the annual Chili Cook-Off, which is not truly a competitive thing but just a chance to make chili and have others make some if they wish, and we all get together and enjoy the heck out of it. That's what went on here last night.

This year there were five pots of chili and two kinds of cornbread. A gathering of 17 folks partook and it was really a terrific time.

Sorry: I have no pictures to capture: the chocolate eclair cake or the homemade chocolate ice cream, that were available for dessert.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Lingering Ice & Snow

Almost a whole week after the snow followed by sleet and freezing rain, and the temps have not warmed enough to melt the ice on the driveway. So I've continued to park on the street because there hasn't been much time to shovel this away.

I am sick and tired of this winter.

Meal No. 204: Chicken Tikka Masala

A new issue of Cuisine at Home arrived and it came packed with a lot of good new recipes. For last night's supper, I decided to take their recommendations for a slow-cooked chicken tikka masala for a test spin, and I'm glad I did.

I'm also really glad they threw in an easy idea for doing some cumin-coriander-roasted cauliflower as an accompaniment. It sure did seem like I was eating at a pretty good Indian restaurant as this meal went down. The rare treat of one of my remaining bottles of Brooklyn Brewery's Local One was also right on the money.

It was a more involved meal, between creating a marinade, then roasting the marinated chicken thighs, and sautéing vegetables, and making the sauce. Fortunately, it all then goes in a slow-cooker so I could take a respite for about 2 hours before jumping into the rest of the meal prep.

But at 8 o'clock last night, it proved to be worth it, because this was a mighty fine dinner.

Cuisine at Home, Issue No. 85, February 2011

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Meal No. 203: Turkey Breast Filets

A long day, a long week, a long Christmas holiday. It occurs to me that it has been a month since I have worked, thanks to snow days in December, time scheduled off for the holidays, and then taking this week off with my mother's passing. Yesterday was the day of the burial in Erwin, NC, where my family lived for 10 years while my dad was principal of Erwin School. (I was born in Erwin, just before we moved to Buies Creek.)

My kitchen continues to be a place of retreat and solace, and last night's simple meal would have been really enjoyed by my mother, I think.

On the menu, turkey breast filets with a garlic and parsley butter sauce, along with mashed potatoes and seasoned green beans.

I think I shocked the minced garlic with too-high heat in the skillet, but the flavors in this easy sauce packed good punch.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Restocking the Glassware

Some recent events at the Roediger House, combined with a pretty good after-Christmas sale from Crate & Barrel online, led me to restock the glassware (stemware?) in the wetbar cabinet recently. I was down to three of six wine glasses for regular use, and down to four champagne flutes. And when I tried to offer up some pomegranate martinis to folks back over the holidays, I found that two of my four regular martini glasses did not survive the packing and moving process when the new kitchen was being built--they were chipped up.

So I placed an order with C&B and now there's a pretty healthy stock of good but easily serviceable wine glasses, a larger supply of flutes, and a few more martini glasses.