Friday, December 22, 2023


Is this a fucking butter board?  (Spotted at Valley View Farms.)

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Thursday, December 14, 2023

A Thai-ish Supper

I always have at least one jar of Maesri Thai chilli paste with sweet basil in the pantry. If you enjoy drunken noodles, you'll like this condiment.

Ordinarily, I plan our weekend dinners a few days in advance, but other times I just wing it. We normally have enough raw ingredients in the house to produce something interesting without having to make a run to the store. On this particular weekend, I decided to use some of the Trader Joe's cod we had in the freezer. Cod's not my favorite--I'm not into its weird, almost-buttery, flavor-- but it's relatively inexpensive and cooks quickly. I thought I could do something like my old standby Sriracha Bouillabaisse, which is relatively easy. (I was feeling lazy.) Then I noticed a jar of Thai chilli paste with sweet basil in the cupboard, next to a can of coconut milk, and dinner suddenly veered off in a slightly different direction.

Both recipes start with sautéing aromatics, then adding tomatoes, stock, and something spicy. In this case, the spicy element is provided one of my favorite condiments. I discovered chilli paste with sweet basil leaves at H Mart many years ago. There are a couple of variations and brands available, with holy basil, or labeled as "pad kapao" sauce. All of them contain some variety of Thai basil, chile peppers, soy bean oil, garlic, and salt. The flavors are spicy and aromatic, bright and fragrant, great with everything (I think). If you appreciate the licorice-like flavors of Thai basil and are into hot stuff, I think you'll like it.

I mostly had peppers on hand--an orange bell pepper and a bag of shishitos that I haven't gotten around to using. I chopped up a handful of those; while not really spicy, shishitos still have the flavor profile of a hot green pepper, which I vastly prefer over a green bell pepper. Green beans would work nicely in this dish, too, so if you have some, toss them in. Hell, any veg would be good, and shrimp or tofu would work just as well as the fish.

I simmer the veg and wet ingredients until they look more like a sauce than a soup, adding lots of fish sauce, lime juice, and a pinch or two of sweetener (sugar, agave nectar, honey) to get a balanced flavor. Restaurant Thai food, at least in this area, tends to be sweet. It's nice to be able to cut back on the sweetness when preparing food with Thai flavors at home, but I still think many dishes need at least a touch of sweetness to balance the more intense flavors of chiles and fish sauce.

The protein is added at the last minute and heated only until cooked through. Overcooked fish is a bad thing, so don't do it. I don't think you can overcook tofu, but probably best not to let that go too long, either. I served the dish with plain jasmine rice, your favorite grain would probably be fine. If you reduce the sauce even more before seasoning, you could probably eat this over pasta, should you be so inclined.

Thai Basil Coconut Fish

2 tablespoons neutral oil
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
1 orange bell pepper, sliced thinly
1-3 green chiles of your choice (jalapenos or whatever you have on hand), sliced thinly
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro stems
2 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt
1 Knorr fish bouillon cube plus 1 cup water, or 1 8-oz bottle of clam juice
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
1 15-oz can coconut milk
2 heaping tablespoons Maesri chilli paste with sweet basil leaves (or to taste)
Fish sauce
Lime juice
Sugar to taste
1 pound boneless, skinless cod filets, or similar white-fleshed fish
Rice for serving
Cilantro and sliced green onion for garnish

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a dutch oven or large pan with lid. Add the onion, peppers, cilantro stems, and a big pinch of salt.. Stir occasionally, cooking until veg have softened a bit and starting to brown, 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook an additional minute or so. Add the bouillon or clam juice, tomatoes, and coconut milk and stir to combine. Bring mixture to a simmer and cook for 8-10 minutes to evaporate some of the liquid and concentrate the flavors.

Turn the heat down to medium. Add the chilli paste and taste for seasoning. If you are serving this with rice, you'll need the sauce to be somewhat aggressively seasoned. Add fish sauce for salt--I used a couple of tablespoons. You can add some kosher salt, too. Add a few squeezes of lime juice and a bit of sugar. Once you have the sauce flavored to your liking (it should have a nice spicy/tangy/sweet balance, but do what works for your palate), slip in the pieces of fish. Cover the pan and cook until the fish is cooked through and easily flakes apart, about 5 minutes.

Serve in bowls, with rice on the bottom or on the side. Garnish with cilantro.

Serves 4.

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

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Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Roasted My Ass

It's been a while since I've been truly disappointed by a restaurant meal. I've had some fairly meh experiences, but most have been good or even very good. And then we had dinner at Nepenthe Brewing Co

Now before you scold me for expecting anything fancy or chef-fy, I knew from the start that Nepenthe is a local brewery and their tasting room serves grub like burgers, fried chicken sandwiches, and macaroni and cheese. We hadn't been yet, and since we happened to be in the neighborhood, we decided to check it out. Our first matter of business was to order drinks from their IPA-heavy list of interestingly named house brews. I had the Boreal Crypt, a cloudy yellow IPA with the "cold indifference of winter’s cruel grasp." Mr Minx had the clearer and darker Prototype 36--a collab with the Wine Source--listed as a "West Coast IPA" and made with 6 kinds of hops. I'm not a beer connoisseur by any means, but I think both of these brews could be enjoyed even by those who say they don't like IPAs (like hubby, who drank two). Neither of our choices were particularly fruity, nor were they bitter. They were beers. 

Then we went onto to the food.

I hadn't had battered mushrooms since the 80s, when we frequented the fried veggie joint at Harborplace. Squirting fungus napalm singed our palates every time, but we never learned. At Nepenthe, we nibbled our initial 'shroom with trepidation and were thankful not to get burned. The mushrooms themselves were pretty good, but the "bulgogi sauce" made them soggy and super salty, and I saw no use whatsoever for the sprinkle of nutritional yeast on top (a dip of gochujang mayo on the side would have been so much better). For the $12 pricetag on these ten or so small-to-medium button mushrooms, edible gold would have been more apt.

Mr Minx chose for his entree one of the day's specials, a grilled cheese sandwich with pulled pork and pickles. He rather enjoyed it. I declined to try a bite because I was already suffering from dairy overload thanks to our recent Thanksgiving cheese-fest, but I did partake of his fries and their super garlicky aioli dip.

I'm sure you're wondering where the great disappointment comes in. I'm getting to it. It was my entree.

When I perused the menu earlier in the day, I was attracted to the "roasted butternut, acorn, & kabocha squash, toasted couscous, gala apples, & toasted pumpkin seeds on fresh spinach with a creamy poppy seed vinaigrette." Not only was the Oxford comma correctly employed multiple times in that description (be still my heart), but also I love roasted squash. Mr Minx does not, so it's rare when I prepare it at home. I was pretty hungry, so chose to add on a grilled chicken breast (bacon was another option). I couldn't wait to dig into to what I thought would be a masterpiece of seasonal simplicity. What arrived at the table was quite large and indeed attractive. After forcing the dish to pose for the requisite photos, I tried a bite of apple. It was mushy and flavorless, at first reminding me of d'anjou pear (not my fave). Then I took a bite of squash. It didn't look roasted, and it wasn't. Perhaps the squash had been introduced to the oven, decided it was a place it really didn't want to linger, and skipped on over to the microwave for a few short minutes from which it emerged relatively unscathed: crunchy, with none of the expected sweet caramelization. The spinach was fine, as were the couscous and the pepitas. But where was the promised creamy poppy seed vinaigrette? As I look closely at the photo, I can see dark specks on the salad which might be poppy seeds, and some of the greens appear to be moist, but as far as my tastebuds were concerned, there was nary a hint of vinaigrette flavor. Indeed, no seasoning whatsoever. The chicken, on the other hand, was quite salty. Additionally it was overcooked and dry. 

I ate the chicken--dipped into Mr Minx's aioli--and some of the salad, but took most of it home. We consumed it the next morning under a couple of over-medium fried eggs, the yolks of which acted as a dressing of sorts (I also topped mine with a couple spoonsful of chili crisp), but it didn't make the squash or apples any less sad.

Thank goodness for beer.

Nepenthe Brewing Co.
3626 Falls Rd
Baltimore, MD 21211

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

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