Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Cleaning Up Part 2

The subject of substitutions brings us back full circle to the recently attempted Lemon Roasted Chicken Thighs recipe, origin of the Sprig search. I liked it, my husband thought the lemon was "too much". He did not declare himself as "allergic" to lemon though, so I will rerun the recipe at some point trying to alter the balance of acidity in one of several ways. Here I'll offer another tip of the toque to my son who gave me several suggestions for tweaks. I can use a Meyer Lemon, which apparently resembles a citric lemon/orange love child. Less acidic, but much harder to find in my regular shopping haunts. I can use half and half lemon and orange juice, resulting in my own FrankenMeyer substitute. I could try using a preserved lemon which is generally less tart overall than commercially available lemons.

I have not yet preserved lemons, but I have a recipe on hand for one technique to try and my son has indicated he might invite me over to learn his technique next time he makes a batch. How fun is that!

So there is hope my friends, a light on the horizon for the Lemon Roasted Chicken Thigh recipe. Now that I have nailed down what constitutes a "sprig" and I have a battery of tweaks lined up to avoid another batch of too-lemony results, I am golden to give that recipe another try.

Because as you can see, even uncooked, this dish looks good. And the entire time it baked, my entire house filled with savory smells. Can't beat that.

I will use the leftover cooked thigh meat, sans the declared "too lemony" vegetables and broth in a couple of ways this weekend. First I'll try using it as a pizza topping, and then I have plans to put the rest to work in a gumboesque concoction I have in mind. I want to try to use up one last pumpkin beer, some leftover grilled Nilgai sausage, organic tomatoes and I'm not sure what else. For lack of a recipe name, this Fall Flavor Celebration will serve as a pantry roundup to herald our return to cooler temperatures.

As to what else I've tried lately with success? I didn't blog separately on this topic, but I took the technique the New York Times Minimalist Mark Bittman advises for making your own hamburger meat here and put that to good use in mini meat loaves for one meal, and my own nostalgic version of Houston's Mighty Bites for the other.

For security reasons I didn't take a photo of the Mighty Bites. Mighty Bites are essentially mini cheeseburgers with onions grilled in, served on Parker House Rolls. If you saw them you'd want to kidnap me and insist I make them for you until your heart failed. Seriously, they are that good.

We used to get a bag full of them regularly in our poor med student family days. They'd run the occasional special offering three Mighty Bites for a dollar and we'd load up, rarely waiting until we got home to take the first bite. I don't even remember if they sold fries with those burgers. And I love French Fries.

I am pretty sure the one tiny Mighty Bites Restaurant in Houston has vanished, but as long as I can stand at the stove I will willingly recreate them for my family. And one of these days, maybe I will break the whole process out for you here. If you're lucky.....

Here is one of the mini meat loaves and they were predictably yummy. My meat loaf tricks are to use sausage ground into the meat in combination with some of Emeril's Essence.

I've done this enough times I don't feel the urge to yell "Bam!" any longer, but the results are consistently pleasing. I don't buy Essence commercially, I grabbed the recipe off the internet and throw the easily found ingredients together myself. Essence has a pretty high flavor profile, so I tend to use it judiciously. Otherwise whatever you've made is just so much texture with a similarly overwhelming spicy kick to it.

I think I have tied up most of the loose ends I left as stepped away from my computer long enough to work with my daughter the activist and her employer Atticus Circle and their partner organization Soulforce this week to help save the world. Their national week long event called "Seven Straight Nights for Equal Rights" has it's own website and the Austin action I was part of was outstanding. You can read about it here
and here.

Now I am heading back outside to enjoy the rest of this beautiful afternoon, knowing my culinary future is well in hand. That is a wonderful feeling and I am hopeful you will all have a similarly wonderful afternoon with the confidence having your own adventures in dining well planned can bring.

Will our favorite version of pizza be acceptable with chicken meat aboard? Will the gumbo type pantry round up be a real celebration of combined flavors or will I find myself wishing our dog, aka the canine disposal unit, was still around to dispose of the leftovers?

I'll be back to tell- hope you'll return to find out.

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