Saturday, September 7, 2013

Bulletproof Condiments: Balsamic Syrup and Tonkatsu Sauce

Here are some condiments that we make at home. They're pretty straightforward. Some things (soy sauce, ketchup, chili paste, Franks, etc) just aren't worth making for yourself, but both of these have been solid additions to our inventory.  Last weekend I went on a tear and filled up a 6-pack of squeeze bottles with homemade condiments.  One bottle was my peanut sauce, three bottles were a tzatziki that's not yet ready for publication, one was the balsamic syrup, and one was the tonkatsu sauce.

Balsamic Syrup
This is perfect over fresh fruit. I couldn't stop eating it with a pineapple we had. But then I had just plain pineapple and it was still delicious. It's hard to mess up good fruit. But if you're serving company, this makes for an impressive-looking (and ridiculously easy) dessert.

Ingredients (double or triple as desired)
  • 1/2 cups balsamic vinegar
  • 1 T brown sugar
  1. Add vinegar and sugar to a small saucepan on medium-high heat.
  2. Leave on heat and stir occasionally for 20 minutes. Syrup will reduce by 1/2 to 1/3.
  3. Add to squeeze bottle and refrigerate.

Tonkatsu Sauce
Think of this as a korean bbq sauce. It's probably not close to real tonkatsu sauce, which I've only had once. I'm sure if I tasted them next to each other I'd be able to tell the difference. But this tastes similar to my memory of tankatsu, and it's delicious. I tried making spring rolls today with very thin rolled pasta, and stuffed them with fried pork, onion, garlic, jalapenos, and a bit of this sauce. A big win.


  • 1 tsp. dry mustard powder
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup Worcestershire
  • 4 tsp. soy sauce

  1. Combine and refrigerate.

Late-Night Pasta

This is my favorite pasta dish ever. Think of it as a poor man's / lazy man's carbonara with a fried egg on top. It is delicious, and contains no measurements. If every a dish was bulletproof, it's this one. We had it tonight and both kids (normally skeptical of long noodles) cleaned their plates.

I'll admit that tonight's version wasn't particularly bulletproof, because I'm learning to make noodles and I had to scrap the batch and re-roll them all. Major pain. But don't worry about fresh noodles, just make this with whatever you have in the pantry. The entire point of this dish is that you can throw together an intensely satisfying comfort food in ten minutes. This started out as a Tracey Adaption of a Martha Stewart recipe, but believe me when I say that this is not a recipe that requires Martha-level precision.

I've included some basic measurements, just so the recipe won't be intimidating the first time you make it. Don't feel obliged to follow these numbers; I usually tweak this depending on how much of each ingredient I have. The only thing that could be intimidating about this recipe is the juggling: you'll have three active dishes on your cooktop: the nonstick where you're frying an egg, the stock pot where you're cooking the noodles, and the skillet where you're making the sauce and assembling the pasta.  I know the three dishes (and 11 steps) sounds like a lot, but trust me when I tell you this dish comes together quickly and easily and will absolutely satisfy whatever late-night craving you bring to the table.


  • One box of long noodles (Spaghetti is standard, linguine is our go-to dried pasta, and tonight I made fresh fettuccine.  Do whatever you want).
  • Salt (for pasta water and for eggs).
  • Bacon, cut into 3/4" pieces (3-4 long slices is plenty, add more or less as you see fit).
  • 1 onion, chopped (I love onions, feel free to use less if you like).
  • 1 large spoonful of minced garlic.
  • Butter (for sauce and for fried egg)
  • 1/2 cup (or more) of refrigerated Parmesan cheese
  • Eggs (1 or 2 per person).
  1. Add water to large pot and start boiling.
  2. Cut bacon into large skillet and begin browning.
  3. Once water is boiling, add salt and pasta.
  4. Once bacon is starting to get crisp, add chopped onion.
  5. Once onion gets tender, add minced garlic
  6. Fry an egg or two. No need to get fancy here: throw some butter in a non-stick pan and crack in an egg. Let it cook until it's done. If you like Over Easy or Sunny Side Up, go for it. I just go for a basic fried egg.
  7. By this time, the pasta should be close to done.  Take half a cup (or a large ladle, or whatever) of the pasta water and add it to the skillet. Stir as needed to get everything loose from the bottom of the pan.
  8. Once pasta is done, move it over to the skillet. You can drain with a colander first, but it's easier just to drain with a pasta spoon as you move it over.
  9. Add a large pat of butter (several tablespoons) to the pasta. Mix well to get butter distributed and the bacon/onion/garlic mixture coating everything.  Turn off heat.
  10. Add about a third of the cheese, then toss pasta to distribute. Repeat until you use all the cheese. Add pasta water if needed to even out the sauce.
  11. Add to plate, top with a fried egg.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Three Bulletproof Marinades

Over the past few years, I've tried dozens and dozens of marinades.  I rarely made the same one twice.  95% of the time, any marinade is better than no marinade.  But is any particular marinade worth the effort?  I've taken all of them out of my repertoire, except these three.

The Good is stupid easy and works on everything.  It violates the spirit of this blog (everything from scratch) but once in a while I cheat. I used it this past weekend as we marinated meats and veggies for kebabs (Mom's birthday).  One container had beef and chicken, one container had shrimp, and one container had red potatoes/bell peppers/vidalia onion/cherry tomatoes/pineapple.  We marinated overnight, and it was incredible.  And this marinade went on everything and made everything taste fantastic.

The Better is almost as easy, although I've only ever used it on chicken.  It's more of a wet rub than a true marinade: it imparts flavor really quickly, and I've never left the meat in for more than an hour or so.  We used it tonight on grilled chicken fettuccine Alfredo (pasta makers are really fun).  We frequently buy a big pack of chicken legs / thighs from Meijer for cheap, give them a quick rub in this, and throw them in the oven on a drying rack/cookie sheet. I bet it would be good on beef, but we so rarely have beef that I’ve not tried it.

The Best is an Odor family legend. It tastes awesome, but I rarely make it because the Good and Better are pretty solid and they're easier. Less measuring, and cheaper ingredients. But if you want to spare no expense of time or budget, try this out.

Good Marinade (Beef, Chicken, Pork, Veggies, anything else)
  • Ingredients: Italian Dressing & A1 Steak Sauce
  • Steps: Put meat in large ziplock bag.  Add Italian Dressing to coat.  Add steak sauce.
  • Hint: I’d guess a 5-to-1 Italian-to-A1 ratio.  Try it a couple of times, you’ll figure it out quickly.
Better Marinade (Chicken and ???)
  • Ingredients: Olive oil, kosher salt, italian seasoning, minced garlic
  • Steps: Put a single piece of chicken in a bowl, coat in olive oil, then liberally cover one side with other three ingredients.  Rub to mix and cover, set aside, add next piece of chicken to bowl, and repeat.  Add more ingredients as needed.
  • Hints: Don't be stingy with the salt, garlic, or herbs.  We usually go pretty easy on salt, but this is a place to use it.  Most will cook off anyway (that's what I tell myself, at least). Hypothetically this should work well with a different spice mix if you don't have Italian, but why mess with perfection?
Best Marinade (Everything)
  • 3/4 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
    1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  1. Mix.
  2. Put meat in marinade.  For large amounts of meat, double or triple recipe.