Corn Chowder

Image of a bowl of corn chowder garnished with baconSummer In The City
One of the perks of living in the Bay Area is that come the summer months, we get some of the best sweet corn from Brentwood—which is right in our backyard. I wait all year for the arrival of fresh local corn and have a tendency to overdo it in the beginning so I need to pace myself.

There is another truth in the Bay Area. Although the calendar might say June or July, there are days when it feels more like November…in Michigan. Mark Twain nailed it. Summer in the city can mean some chilly and foggy days while at the other end of the bridge the locals are melting in one hundred-degree heat. That being said, there have been plenty of evenings when we have been enjoying a lovely time outdoors when “nature’s air-conditioning” rolls in and you go hypothermic.

What I am trying to say here is that it’s not unreasonable for something like a corn chowder to be the perfect answer for a summer dinner. It combines two very Bay Area things, local corn and chilly nights. Plus it tastes good. Pair it with a lovely green salad and a nice chilled white wine from Napa or Sonoma and you have the quintessential California dinner.

Corn Chowder Recipe
Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine
Yields 4 servings

Our simple Corn Chowder recipe combines pureed sweet corn, sautéed kernels for added crunch, and an infusion of bacon. (If you want to make a vegetarian version of this dish, skip the bacon and use vegetable stock.) Read more…

Roasted Gochujang Chicken with Potatoes Revisited

Image of a roasted Gochujang chickenBest Laid Plans
May is always a busy month of celebrations for me and my family. This May particularly is one that I have both looked forward to and dreaded because of its potential to be intense. This May there are four birthdays, two volleyball tournaments, Mother’s Day, a school musical, the end of a baseball era, five AP Exams, Senior Ball, and, to top it all off a high school Graduation. At a time when all hands on deck were required, I did not have time for Covid. Covid laughed and said, Hold my beer…

The bright side is that my husband and I are the only victims—which is a switch from when all three kids had it in January. The problem is that the inmates are now running the asylum. Two high school seniors and a sophomore are now in charge of everything in the house from groceries, to laundry, to taking care of the dog, to keeping up with dishes.

It’s been…interesting.

As you can imagine, meals are an issue since we’ve been sequestered in our bedroom. The good news is that they all can cook, and can cook well. I made sure of that. The bad news is that there are a lot of activities happening (see above) that take them away from the house and from our beck and call. (I mean continuing to live their lives? How rude!)

The situation has been somewhat eye-opening for them. The three kids now get a good picture of what their parents’ lives have been like for the past 18 years. This is why they’re happy to get out of the house whenever possible. Our issue is that we’re hungry…and we’re getting kind of tired of sandwiches (and possibly each other).

The current plan is to send up a flag or some flares and see if we can’t get some rescue tacos or an emergency roast chicken with potatoes. In the meantime, here is a repost of our Roasted Gochujang Chicken with Potatoes recipe from 2020.

Roasted Gochujang Chicken with Potatoes
Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine

In case you haven’t noticed, Korea’s gift to the culinary world, gochujang, has taken over menus everywhere and I am totally okay with that. I have become addicted to this stuff and what it does to the humble chicken.
Read more…

Curry Chicken Salad

Image of curry chicken salad on half an avocadoParty Time
In our lives, we will attend many celebrations. (I know…such amazing insight!) There will be birthdays, holidays, and graduations. There will be happy celebrations and sad. What is interesting to me is the type of celebrations you attend in a lot of ways depends on your age and where you are in your life. Let me explain…

Not too long ago my husband and I were sitting around talking about how we really wanted to go to a wedding. It had been years since we attended a wedding and the two of us were kind of in the mood for a good party. The only problem is, at this point in our time on earth, all our friends are married and their kids as well as ours aren’t even close to thinking about marriage let alone doing it. So, alas, no party.

Same thing is true with bachelorette parties, wedding showers, and baby showers, though I’m pretty sure I couldn’t survive a bachelorette party at this point (It hurts just thinking about it.), I haven’t been to a shower other than the wet and soapy kind for almost 20 years. This is nuts because for about a five-year period of time it seemed like I was hosting or attending a shower of some variety at least once a month.

It got to the point that my sister and I became masters of the baby/bridal shower—mostly because my sister is just good that way. But, we got it down to a science. And, as long as the guest list was different, you just went with the same process, menu, and setup. Different colors of course. We were a well-oiled machine.

Our menu of choice included this Curry Chicken Salad that we served in a fresh papaya boat. But, you could also do it with half an avocado if you wanted to go smaller. The recipe came from a Junior League Cookbook of my mother’s that has given us several family favorites. The recipe below is the original. But, if I had to make this recipe today, 20 years later, I would make a few changes as my personal tastes and eating habits have changed significantly. I’ve noted them in parentheses in case you feel the same.

Curry Chicken Salad
Adapted from the Private Collection: The Junior League of Palo Alto Cookbook
Yields 8 servings Read more…

Cochinita Pibil

Cochinita PibilHome Plate
A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of hosting my sons’ baseball team for dinner. Twenty or so 16–18-year-olds invaded my kitchen…and mass hysteria ensued. Team dinners are a long-standing tradition that rotates from house to house each week. Since the dinner the week prior to my hosting the event served tri-tip, and the week after is going with a pasta feed, I had to come up with something that the boys would like, that I could make a lot of, and wouldn’t break the bank.

After much deliberation and a suggestion from one of my boys, we went with tacos.

Tacos are always a good idea. I have never met a person who didn’t like tacos. (Although I am sure there is someone somewhere.) I could have made things super easy and had the whole party catered. But, my inner Abuela wouldn’t allow it. That’s just not how I roll. To save at least some of my sanity I did order large amounts of beans, rice, and salsa from my favorite taqueria—as well as a mountain of freshly-made tortillas. As it turned out I didn’t order enough.

I did make all the fillings. There was Pollo Asada, Carne Asada, and last but not least, Cochinita Pibil which is similar to Carnitas—except that instead of cooking the pork shoulder in lard you slow-cook it in a marinade with achiote paste and citrus juice. Alas, I did not dig a hole in my backyard and cook it in banana leaves as is traditional. I figured that might be just one step too far.

The Cochinita Pibil was so good. It was very hard not to keep stealing some for a snack throughout the day because I was worried about having enough. And, it turns out I should have been worried (and perhaps afraid).

Twenty-two boys showed up at my house after practice that evening and consumed 12 pounds of Carne Asada, 10 pounds of Pollo Asada, 10 pounds of the Cochinita Pibil, 4 quarts of rice, 3 quarts of beans, and about a dozen avocados worth of guacamole. It was like a swarm of locusts blew through. There was nothing left except for a few sad tortillas. It was a staggering display of teenage calorie consumption. How they still had room for ice cream after is astonishing. One of my sons ate himself to the point of pain. So, I guess it was tasty. He rallied the next day to head off to school no worse for wear.

I am hosting the team again at the end of the month since I have two kids on the team. I’m not sure what to have yet. But, I am more prepared now. And, I understand that even though I may think I have enough, it’s a good idea to add a little more just in case…

Cochinita Pibil Recipe
Yields about 16 tacos
Recipe adapted from Tacolicious by Sara Deseran  Read more…