The end of rehearsals has meant a return to cooking. Like, the kind of cooking we enjoy, not just getting food on the table. I won’t bore you with alllllll the daily details (yet), but there have been a few standouts the past few weeks.
— Orange-Chili Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Carrot Pesto and Grilled Carrots. Pesto. Made from grilled carrots. What a dang delight. Bonus: we used the leftover with this inspiration (sub zucchini) for an amazing veg pasta with crispy maitake mushrooms the next week.
— Spiced Meatballs with Tahini & Yoghurt Sauce. We were supposed to do a veg meal, but I was cranky and it was too rainy to grill as planned. So we subbed ground lamb Hampton picked up at Wegman’s and served with grilled zucchini and halloumi cheese dressed with pickled peppers. How have we never put dried currants in meatballs before??
— Citrus Achiote Chicken with Coconut/OJ Rice and Grilled Squash. For various reasons we had some random orange and grapefruit juices in the fridge to use up (the grapefruit was to make the spicy Palomas mentioned below. Keep reading!). I started searching my Pinterest for citrus marinades and bam, Insta-friend Cooking with Wine to the rescue. I adapted their Citrus Achiote Chicken Skewers with Three Pepper Rice for boneless thighs — not skewered bc lazy. But we DID make our own achiote paste to use up an ancient bag of annatto seeds. And the grapefruit crème fraîche?? *chef’s kiss*
Hampton is not a big pepper fan, so instead of Angela and Mark’s three pepper rice, we made basmati rice cooked with coconut cream and some more OJ. I don’t remember who we first stole the rice-with-coconut-milk idea from, but Cooking Perfected provided proportions for a coding-out can of cream in the Flat 493 pantry. It complimented the flavorful chicken so much, AND because there were serranos in a delicious pineapple slaw he had last night from a food truck at the grand opening of the brewery closest to our house, he admitted some pepper — and perhaps mango — would be extra fun next time.
Lastly, the president of my dayjob gardens in his (very limited) free time, so the yellow squash were homegrown — and super delicious. They were seeded (another Hampton preference) and tossed with Krakow Nights (bc we accidentally bought it multiple times thinking we were out and have tons) and some TJ’s Citrusy Garlic. Perfect texture, lovely char, an earthy/citrusy compliment to the similarly seasoned chicken and creamy dreamy rice
— no real recipes, just good protein: duck with duck fat potatoes and salad and sushi-grade tuna with glass noodles and sautéed veg and leftover smashed cucumber. We had two Wegman’s trips in just over as many weeks because Hampton had to take Pack 493 for a temperament test at a boarder his mom found in Raleigh before we took a mini-break. And then we went again after said mini-break. We can get frozen duck here, but it’s not the same. Duck breast is 100% one of my favorite things to cook — and eat. The crunchy exterior over melty fat and then the lean meat… sigh.
This tuna was, likewise, divine. I have often said I would eat a chunk of raw tuna like an apple. This was my chance, but I gave it the barest of sears (coated in wasabi and togarashi) and shared it with Hampton instead.
— bonus meal prep with random tip: for lunches one week, I decided to use cheese tortellini to make a pasta salad with leftover random veg and pancetta in the fridge. When getting the tortellini, I impulsively grabbed some habanero peppers. When finally looking up how hot they are, exactly (ok, maybe I should have done that before), I found this piece which says you can take out some of their power with liquor, so the peppers are more palatable *and* you get spicy booze. The lunches were easy and great (I just sautéed all the random veg with Garlic Expressions) and even heat-averse Hampton appreciated the spicy palomas he made.
— minibreak recs: so I was supposed to sing in Wilmington last weekend, but the band double-booked singers. Which I only learned *after* we had decided to spend some extra time there and it was a day too late to cancel the hotel. We decided to lean in to the weekend, anyway, and also got some visitation in with my in-laws and a nephew.
Our wanderings led us to a small bar/bottle shop off the beaten path. Literally. One of the main roads was torn to pieces. The Hop Yard had a good selection, and, more hilariously, a GM who was from Raleigh and knew many of the same folks we did. He also led us to the best meal we have had out in a long while, at Caprice Bistro.
I am not generally a blue cheese fan, but their escargot in Roquefort cream sauce was To Die For. We also got their pork dish with both tenderloin and braised cheeks that just melted on the fork. And waterzooi: a Flemish seafood stew. I had done a take on this once upon a time, but will 100% be trying again. Whole Foods has Arctic char on special this week, so perhaps sooner than planned. Stay tuned!
Also of note if you’re in the Port City way, Nikki’s Hibachi Steakhouse & Sushi Bar. This was a rec from another Insta-acquaintance and some of the best we’ve ever had. A perfect way to finish out our trip! Well, before we had Players Retreat burgers back in Raleigh. Because Players Retreat burgers.