My, how fun

I was born with what I believe is a legitimate congenital defect.

The technical, Latin nomenclature for this is (or should be), Lingua Infans, or “Baby Tongue”.

Regardless of appetites or desires, the ingestion of fiery, spicy foods results in pain and distress.  As a result, I can eat almost no Indian food, and Jamaican food scares the pants off me.  Even a heavy-handed use of black pepper can overwhelm.

Many people make fun of this flaw, and inform me that it’s a matter of will; that if I want to be a grown-up and eat spicy foods, I should just put on my big girl panties, and do it.  Not true.  I’d love to be able to tuck into a plate of tikka masala, or some spicy nachos, but I am physically unable to do it.

But what I also don’t do is make a big deal out of it.  It’s my habañero-covered cross to bear, no one else’s.  So when eating out I’ve become very good at avoiding suspect menu items.

I think that’s one reason why I love Chinese food so much.  While there are dishes with enough heat to really hurt me, they don’t comprise the bulk of the menu.  Other Asian cuisine; most notably Thai, are not so safe.

This week’s recipe is my home version of Chicken Mei Fun (pronounced, “my fun”).  It’s very similar to fried rice, but instead of rice grains, angel hair pasta made from rice is used (Find it in Asian markets and some grocery stores).

Chicken Mei Fun

8 ounces rice vermicelli

Lay into a pot of very hot water, and soak for 20 minutes.  After soaking, pour into a colander in which you’ve placed the spinach.  This will wilt the spinach and get it ready to toss into the stir fry.



3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken

3 eggs, well beaten

2 tablespoons chives, chopped

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

Make an omelet with the eggs and chives.  Cut into 1/2-inch strips and set aside for assembly.



2 carrots, julienned

1/2 yellow onion, sliced thinly

8 ounces mushrooms

1 tablespoon vegetable oil



3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons grated ginger

1 large shallot, diced



Whisk together

3/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1 tablespoon Sherry



2 cups raw spinach

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

 *Stir frying goes crazy fast once it gets started, so get all of your prep done before turning on the burner.

To cook:

If you don’t have a wok, get a very large, very heavy pot almost smoking hot.  Add 1 tablespoon oil to the pan.  Put in the carrots and mushrooms.  Cook for a couple of minutes, and when all the liquid has released and cooked out, add onions.  Cook for 30 seconds.

Stir in aromatics then immediately add the proteins.  Pour in sauce and toss.

When coated, pour in noodles, spinach, and thawed peas.  Gently mix to coat.

mei fun

Serves 6-8.

I’ve eaten this from a few Chinese restaurants.  But the more popular recipe is called Singapore Mei Fun.  It’s a reflection of the Indian population living in Singapore, and this version has curry.  As you can guess, because of my affliction, I do not have a good relationship with curry.

But if you would like, you are welcome to Singapore up this recipe with the addition of 1 ½ tablespoons curry powder and 3 dried bird’s eye chilis.

Bon Appetite, intrepid soul.

Thanks for your time.

The opposite of money

Give a man a ribeye and you can eat in twenty minutes; teach a man to cook a pot roast and dinner will be ready in six to seven hours.Last week I talked about cooking with ingredients that are scarce and expensive.

This week is all about the ingredient that money can’t buy—time.

Salad bars and prepped produce in grocery stores can be a convenient time saver.  But you will absolutely pay for it.  Usually 3-4 times the price of its un-messed-with cousins.“Peasant” food; tough cuts of meat, slow cooking beans, humble, tough grains all take time to prepare.  On the other hand, choice cuts of meat and tender, young vegetables only suffer if they stay on the heat too long.

Frozen dinners and pre-cooked meals from your local store’s hot bars more expensive by a factor or five.  Like my mom says, “Boy, they sure saw you coming”.  It may be nice to quickly grab ready-to-eat dinner, and sometimes necessary, but doing it night after night will triple or even quadruple your monthly food budget.

It’s all about the time.

Like last week, this week’s recipe uses mushrooms; but here the much less costly button-style.  It’s risotto that can be breakfast, lunch or dinner.  It’s not fast, and has to be tended.  All of the components are relatively cheap and just need flavor to be teased from them.

Bacon and egg risotto

b&e risotto

3 slices bacon cut into ¾ inch strips

1 pound button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

1 large shallot, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups Arborio rice

½  cup Marsala wine

4 ½ cups chicken stock (approx)

12 ounces frozen peas

¼ cup parmesan cheese

3 tablespoons butter, divided

Salt and pepper to taste

6 eggs

1 tablespoon vinegar

Put stock into saucepan, and set to medium-low.  (You only want stock to simmer; turn down if it starts to boil.)

Put bacon into other saucepan, and render on medium-low until it is brown and crispy.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Pour off the bacon grease until you only have about 1-2 tablespoons in the pot.  Add mushrooms and season.  Sautee until the moisture has released and cooked out.  Add shallot and cook until the veg starts to brown around the edges.

Stir in risotto, garlic and one tablespoon butter.  Cook until the rice starts to brown just a bit.

Pour in Marsala, and cook until it’s completely absorbed.

While the wine is cooking out, put a shallow bottom pan on the stove, fill with water, and add vinegar.  Turn on medium and bring to very gentle simmer.

Constantly stirring, add about 1/2 cup of hot stock to rice pot until the liquid is absorbed, then add more.  After about 3 cups stock, start tasting for doneness and seasoning.

At this point, start poaching eggs, 3 at a time for about 4 minutes.  Remove from water with slotted spoon, and place on a plate covered with a clean kitchen towel to dry.

When the rice is cooked through, add peas, butter and cheese.  Gently stir until butter is melted.

Place about 1 1/2 cups risotto on plate and put 2 poached eggs on top.  Garnish with crispy bacon.  Serves 3.I won’t try to sugar-coat this for you.  It takes a good hour start to finish.

But done correctly you will have a trendy restaurant dish that patrons pay big bucks for.

Because even though money can’t buy time, some people will still try to charge for it.time_is_money-wallpaper-800x600Thanks for your time.

Sneaky Pilaf

Here’s my wish for you:

I hope that after more than thirty years together, you and your SO (significant other) are still capable of surprising the heck out of each other.

By now, Petey and I know each other pretty well.

He knows I consider frosting a necessary food group.  That Roger Moore was the best Bond.  And to never bring up how many shoes I own.

I’ve come to accept that when he is holding the remote, we will never watch a program all the way through from start to finish.  And it’s futile to try and get him out of what The Kid calls the Canadian tuxedo; jeans and a jean jacket, with a t-shirt in the summer, or a flannel shirt in the colder months.

But lately, when it comes to food, he has shocked me to the core.

A couple of years ago, I found out that coconut cake is one of his favorite desserts.  Then after making many, many batches of my green pork chili, he confessed that he’s not a fan (at the time of this revelation I had a gallon bagged up in the freezer, which The Kid generously offered to take off my hands).

In a quest to eat healthier, I bought a ten pound bag of brown rice at Costco; with Petey’s full knowledge and cooperation.

But a month or so ago, he sheepishly informed me that he doesn’t really like it.

I told him that we would have to eat it up, but I would alternate brown rice dinners with the white stuff.  I may have told him that, but I hate serving him food that he doesn’t enjoy, so it wasn’t really being used.

He does love pilafs.  When we go out to eat, if there is pilaf on the menu, he orders it, even over things like creamy mashed, or loaded baked potatoes.

The other night I decided to make a pilaf.  One thing I love about them is that they’re a great opportunity to use up any vegetables in the fridge that are past their prime.

I always use stock in my pilaf, so the cooked rice isn’t snow white.  So I would use this stock camouflage to substitute brown rice in my recipe, hoping that the flavor, and chewy characteristics of the wild rice I planned on adding would disguise my deceit.

It worked.  Petey had no idea he was eating brown rice.  And when I told him, he liked it so much, he didn’t even slow down the chowing down.

Brown and wild rice pilaf


3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

1 onion, chopped

2 cups mushrooms, sliced

1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms

1 cup celery, chopped

3 large carrots, chopped

1 teaspoon each dried thyme

2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/3 cups brown rice

2/3 cup wild rice

1/2 cup white wine

1 teaspoon porcini powder (available at Lowes Foods)

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

3 3/4 cups chicken or mushroom stock or some combination of both

Kosher salt

Freshly cracked pepper


Preheat oven to 375. Put 2 cups salted water in a saucepan and bring to boil.  Drop in clean dried mushrooms, and let boil for 3 minutes.  Drain, using cheesecloth or paper towels to catch any dirt and reserve stock for pilaf.  Slice mushrooms into bite-sized pieces.

In a heavy Dutch oven over medium heat, melt the butter with the oil. Sauté fresh and dried mushrooms, carrots, celery, onions and herbs, until lightly browned; about 8-10 minutes. Add both rices and garlic, then stir until the grains are toasted and well coated, about 3 minutes.

Deglaze with wine.  When’s it’s absorbed, stir in the stock, add porcini powder and Worcestershire. Taste liquid for seasoning, and adjust if needed.  Bring to a simmer, stir and cover.

Transfer the pot to oven and bake until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender, 65-75 minutes.

Remove from the oven. Serves 8 to 10.

     The recent spousal revelations have, at times, sent me reeling.  I’m afraid that one of these days I’ll find out I’m married to an opera lover who hates scrambled eggs, and loves cats.

Thanks for your time.