Dinner tonight was to be two recipes: Deb Perelman's Egg, Potato & Chorizo Tacos with Queso Fresco, and Madhur Jaffrey's Stir-Fried "Foreign Vegetable," i.e. Watercress. First task was to start the potatoes cooking while I prepped most of the other ingredients (a minor affair). Then the potatoes were fried with chorizo and onion while I washed up the day's dishes and set queso fresco, chopped raw onion and hot sauce on the table. In the last 5 minutes, I scrambled the eggs into the potato mixture, quickly stir-fried the watercress, and heated 8 corn tortillas, one by one, on a hot frying pan. Serve. Easy-peasy. The tacos were amazing, the watercress less so. It looked so wilted in the pan!-- but I found the stems were still tough while eating. There was way too much salt and sesame oil for the amount of watercress I ended up with, too. On the other hand, I ate two tacos, holding myself back from a third that I greatly desired, and then continued to think of them all evening in a rather obsessive fashion. For a simple meal, the tacos really seized my imagination. Make them, they are easy and worth it. As for the watercress, you might do just as well feeding it to your cat.
After ending the daily food diary, I found myself still taking photos of food, but having no text to accompany them.
Oh, wait, that's really it.
On a Tuesday evening, my husband and I went out to Capital Fringe to see my stepson's girlfriend perform in Over Her Dead Body, an 80-minute theater piece composed of bluegrass murder ballads, with full bluegrass band and five top-notch singers (including my stepson's girlfriend, who has a beautiful, deep, North Carolina voice-- and somewhat macabre sensibility-- perfectly suited for the material). I would have loved this even if a family member were not performing. I would have seen it again. (But it is sold out.) I hope they are able to take this show further than Capital Fringe, because it is wonderful. Review here. (Update: Over Her Dead Body won Best Overall show according to the audience awards, and is moving on to the Millenium Stage at the Kennedy Center! See video here.)
After the show (which, due to tight Fringe scheduling, was at 6:30 pm), husband and I were trudging back up Florida Ave., to the nearest Metro station which is over a mile away, and wishing we would encounter something for dinner. It was still light, the most amazing huge orange sun setting over the city street. Only a single restaurant offered itself, but its board outside proclaimed $2.75 tacos, so I convinced my husband it was a good idea. It was. The Far East Taco Grille. Far East? Tacos? Maybe just because it was on the east side of the city?
Nope. In some ways these are conventional tacos: you choose flour or corn tortilla, several types of salsa are available. But the fillings are things like Korean short rib, spicy pork, tofu. Topping styles include a kimchi version. Clearly this is a Korean-fusion joint, just like where I work, only so different. Better. Though the menu is more limited and it is just counter service. I order two tacos: flour tortilla, short rib, "#15 sauce," banh mi-style toppings. Short ribs cost $0.25 more each for tacos, so this meal cost $6 altogether, and it is perfect. So, so good. The short ribs are tender and delicious (better than those at our restaurant, maybe even better than the ones Scarlet made for me), the #15 sauce (whatever the hell that means) is a sweet and spicy Asian-influenced sauce, I suspect involving gochujang, and the banh mi toppings are pickly, spicy, sweet. Total flavor bomb. I think it would be overwhelming to eat more than two. My husband ordered more conservatively, as he always does: spicy pork in a rice bowl with their simplest topping option of lettuce, cheese, and lime crema. He said it was very good too. In total we paid $20 (including a tip, which would be optional here) for one of the best meals I've had in a while. I have no idea how they can make any money at all, charging $3 for tacos containing a substantial amount of expensive short rib, but GO THERE while it lasts.
Next day. I've finally had time to organize my recipes and do a more extensive shopping trip at the Whole Foods, so (after a long, busy day at work) I have three dishes planned to cook this evening. One is my second effort from Mridula Baljekar's Best-Ever Curry Cookbook, the Tandoori Chicken. This time I buy the appropriate amount of chicken, and actually look up the spices involved in tandoori masala. So I believe myself to have followed the directions fairly well. I did blend my own tandoori masala out of spices I already possessed, instead of buying a prefab paste, so it's possible I missed out on some ingredients that might have been present in the paste... sugar, perhaps? Because my chicken tasted nothing like what you get in an Indian restaurant. (Perhaps it is just more authentically North Indian, as it appears in that section of the book.)
Anyway, I managed to skin my whole chicken myself (with painful slowness, using kitchen scissors), a feat that used to be quite ordinary for home cooks, but of which I now feel inordinately proud. It marinated for two hours in yogurt mixed with the tandoori spices, then roasted at a high temperature (475 degrees) for about 30 minutes. Simple enough, except the chicken was not done after 30 minutes. It looked quite done on the outside, but close to the bone it was still soft and pink. Returned to the oven and eaten after 15 more minutes, the cook on the chicken was still only barely adequate. Another 10 minutes would have been better.
While the chicken was marinating, I made the Buttery Cayenne Pecans from the October 2015 issue of Bon Appetit. These were a simple matter of melting butter, stirring in Worcestershire sauce and spices, tossing with the pecans, and roasting. Kind of like the chicken, actually. But more successful. The one problem did not lie with the recipe: the pecans themselves were not very good. I bought them in a package from Whole Foods, and they had the bitter aftertaste and discomfiting mouthfeel of unripe fruit. The flavor was worse when raw, but they retained some of their bitterness even after roasting.
The third recipe was intended as the final Pie-of-the-Month for my husband, and was from this month's Bon Appetit via The Bitten Word. The Bitten Word guys had made this Blueberry and Corn Crisp, and concluded that it had potential, even though it seemed not to have enough corn in it, and the topping did not brown well. They discussed the desirability of trying it again with double the corn, and a blast of higher-temperature baking in hopes of achieving a true "crisp." So I made the recipe myself, incorporating these tweaks. Nope. Before baking, I had a full 1-inch (or deeper!) layer of corn-y crumbs on top of the blueberries. During baking, almost this entire layer sank into the bubbling berries, leaving only a little topping peeking out. Even that didn't brown much. So, to the extent that there was any perceptible crumb topping at all, it was mushy and dissolved in your mouth (and not in a good way). Definitely not "crisp." The corn kernels (whose quantity I had doubled) simply dropped out of the topping and mixed with the blueberries, creating a somewhat odd fruit filling instead of a cornbread-y crumb. Your experience will probably not differ, as other Bitten Word commenters seemed unhappy too. It was not inedible, but I can confidently fail to recommend this recipe.
All in all, it was a disappointing dinner. The pecans were all right.
The author is a waitress, home cook, and foodie who has trouble sticking to a subject. She currently resides and works in the Maryland suburbs of D.C..