Melissa Elsmo Supper Club

On Friday night, I visited an Oak Park underground supper club. It’s called Kindred, and it’s someone cooking out of a private space; I gather this is quite a thing in big cities these days? But I’ve never been to one before, and it was fabulous. My favorite bite was perhaps the chicken sausage and sweet potato in the second course; my favorite presentation was probably the third course salad of edible flowers, micro greens, and soft cheesy dressing, served in a little glass cloche. But it was quite wonderful all around.

  

  

Usually Chef Melissa Elsmo does 12 courses; we only did 8, because we were intercutting it with the other event of the night, a powerful and moving storytelling session organized by Cynthia Martz. I was deliciously replete by the end, and also emotionally rejuvenated by the honest storytelling and warm fellowship of the women Cynthia brought together. Sometimes you don’t know what you need until you get it handed to you.

This was just splendid, and I’m hoping to take Kevin for supper there another time, perhaps for his birthday, if we can arrange 6 friends to come with us. (She also puts together blended tables, if you don’t have 8 people on hand.)

More about Melissa here: https://www.oakparkeats.com/…/meet-the-ope-t…/melissa-elsmo/

Find her on Facebook and send a message to reserve your spot!

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Curried Tamarind Pork with Sweet Potatoes and Apples

I wasn’t sure if this would work, and I have to say, it’s a little nerve-wracking taking a great big pot of delicious pork curry and adding something to it that might ruin it….but I do love pork and apples and pork and sweet potatoes, so I thought maybe, just maybe, adding sweet potatoes and apples to my traditional Sri Lankan curried pork would work nicely. And it does!

Minor modifications — used apple cider vinegar instead of regular vinegar, added an extra cup of water when I added the sweet potatoes (just as the pork was becoming tender), because the sauce was getting a bit thick and I wanted to be sure there’d be enough liquid to cook the sweet potatoes, added the apples about 15 minutes after the sweet potatoes and cooked 15 minutes more — which was a little too much; they started to dissolve, but I just used the somewhat soft apples I had on hand. But with firm cooking apples, I think 15 minutes would be about right.

(1 1/2 hours, serves 6-8)

3 medium onions, chopped fine
1 TBL ginger, chopped fine
4 garlic cloves, sliced
3 TBL vegetable oil
1 tsp black mustard seed
1 tsp cumin seed
1 TBL red chili powder
1 TBL Sri Lankan curry powder
1/3 cup ketchup
1 T tamarind paste
1 heaping tsp salt
3 pieces cinnamon stick
3 cloves
3 cardamom pods
1 dozen curry leaves
3 lbs pork shoulder, cubed, about 1 inch pieces
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
1 c. red wine
2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into large chunks
2 apples, cut into large chunks

1. In a large pot, sauté onions, ginger, and garlic in oil on medium-high with mustard seed and cumin seeds until onions are golden/translucent (not brown), stirring as needed. Add chili powder and cook 1 minute, stirring. Immediately stir in curry powder, ketchup, tamarind, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and curry leaves.

2. Add pork and stir on high for a minute or two, browning the meat. Add vinegar & wine and stir well, scraping to deglaze pan. Cover, turn down to medium, and let cook one hour, stirring occasionally.

 

3. Add sweet potatoes, stir well, and cover again (adding water if needed). After fifteen minutes, stir in apples, cover again. Cook until sweet potatoes are cooked through, adding water if needed to maintain a nice thick sauce (and to keep food from burning), stirring occasionally. Serve hot with rice or bread.

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Weekend Cooking

If I make them every week, eventually I will be able to make them perfectly every time, right? Sometimes my batter is too thin, or too thick, or not fermented enough. Out of a dozen hoppers this morning, this was the only one I liked the look of enough to photograph.

They were all excellent to eat, though. Jed had his with leftover saag and the last of this week’s batch seeni sambol. Kevin and I had ours with leftover lamb vindaloo. The kids tried them with maple syrup — Kavi didn’t like it, but she doesn’t like anything she eats this weekend, so we’ll try again. Anand only liked the lacy crispy bit, not the spongy sourdough part. If I make them every weekend, though, they are going to learn to love them, right? Well, we’ll see.

#weekendsareforhoppers

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Make

There was a moment in grad school. Kevin and I had split up and I was desperately broken-hearted. I’d been getting up at 4 a.m. every morning to an alarm because it was the best time for me to concentrate, when the world was dark and still, writing by the light of a candle. I’d gotten about halfway through drafting Bodies in Motion at that point; I had been working so hard, for so long. I loved the book, but I was otherwise very tired and very sad. I cried all the time.

There came a day when I just couldn’t stare at the computer screen any longer. I found myself — and I honestly don’t even remember making the decision to go — at the art store, ringing up $200 of supplies (money I didn’t really have, but I just didn’t care). I came home and I made things — candles and collages mostly. They weren’t very good but I needed to do something that wasn’t just brain work, that didn’t require so much deliberate thought. I needed to use my hands. It helped. (My mother still has the candle I made her that year. She thinks it is too pretty to light it.)

• Welcome to Memoir
• Designing in Inkscape for Cricut
• Survival Cooking

I was talking to Jed a few nights ago, trying to explain why I haven’t been able to let go of the idea of the maker space, even though it takes lots of time that would perhaps be otherwise spent on writing (I am still writing, but inevitably slower than I would normally be).

• Fix Your Own Garbage Disposal!
• Checklist for a Renovation
• Visible (Beautiful) Mending

I did try to set the makerspace aside, over and over, for the last few years. I told myself, “This would be a nice retirement project, but first, write the damn novel.” Then I’d find myself scouting out spaces, or making workshop lists again, or thinking about whom I knew that had skills they could teach. (Lots of people, it turns out. Lots and lots.)

• Stop-Motion Animation with Legos
• Intro to Weaving on the Rigid Heddle Loom
• Botanical Soaps and Candles

Workshops I wanted to teach, workshops I wanted to take. And many of these don’t fit neatly into some conceptions of a ‘makerspace,’ but to me, these are all making. Making with hands and mind and generous creative hearts.

• Getting Started with Arduino Controllers
• Firespinning!
• Drawing Comics

A friend just offered to pass along some shoes for Kavi, and she didn’t want money for them. I am going to leave her some handmade soap and caramels and a book. Gift economy, and how much more satisfying that is.

• 3D Print a Custom Drop Spindle
• Planting a Wildlife-Friendly Garden
• Jewelry Making with Resin

I am not quite old enough to be focused on my legacy yet, but the thought does pop up now and again. I’ve done some good things in politics, and hope to do more. I’ve done some good things for science fiction and fantasy too, and ditto. But if I can leave behind a thriving Oak Park makerspace, one that might even (a girl can dream) spin-off into Austin and Berwyn locations too, encouraging collaboration, artistic expression, and entrepreneurship throughout our community, bridging silos and ending isolation — that would be a legacy to be really proud of.

• Worm Composting
• Knitting with LEDs
• 3D Printing for Cosplay

I can just see it, humming with life, in my mind. A makerspace, an artist shop, a free art supply exchange, cafe and lounge, co-working space, an artist residency program, low-income artist housing, and more. I hope we can make it happen.

• Stained Glass using the Copper Foil Technique
• Songwriting
• Welcome to Podcasting

(Pictured, dried marigold petals harvested from my garden for marigold-turmeric soap, made with a coconut milk base, unscented. I’ll be selling them at Pem Hessing’s Colorful Holiday fair, featuring the work of makers of color in our community, Saturday 12/15, 10 – 3:30. I’ll also be donating some to the Garden Club holiday sale, where they’ll be incorporated into hostess gift baskets to be raffled off at the December meeting, to support club activities. We’re hoping to host a fundraiser for the makerspace in December as well — details soon.)

• Art Journaling
• Resume Writing
• Crowdfunding for Beginners

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Tandoori Chicken & Pasta in a Béchamel Sauce

Kavi: Can I learn to make something today?

Me: Sure? Like what?

Kavi: Maybe cooking?

Me: How about I teach you how to make a white sauce? We have some leftover pasta and tandoori chicken to use up.

Kavi: Okay!

Me: You know, this is going to make your college roommates very happy with you.

[continuing with snooty accent]

They’ll be all, “Oh, all we have is some plain pasta and last night’s dried takeout chicken. Sad!” And you’ll be all, “No problem! I’ll just toss together a béchamel!” And they’ll say, “What’s a béchamel?” And you’ll say, “Oh, it’s just one of the French mother sauces, you know. If you can make those, you can make anything!”

Kavi, barely restraining her pre-teen eye-roll: I’m sure everyone in college talks like that all the time.

Basic béchamel recipes are all over the internet, but essentially, warm milk in pan or in microwave. Then in separate pan, melt butter on medium heat, stirring (careful not to brown). Next, make the roux — add an equal amount of flour (about 6 T butter to 3.5 T flour is standard, with 2 c. milk, though I admit, I mostly eyeball it), stir until it’s a bit clumpy. Whisk in a little of the warm milk to smooth it out, then add the rest of the milk and whisk whisk whisk, stirring, until it thickens. Stir in your cooked pasta, shredded leftover chicken, maybe some frozen peas, and you’re good to go. 10-minute easy delicious & nutritious meal to feed a hungry college student and her roommates.

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Sous Vide Egg Bites

 

There is something incredibly pleasing about stocking up for the weeks ahead. I would’ve been a good farmwife, in another lifetime.  And they are so pretty to photograph, bonus!

This round of sous vide egg bites, I used buttermilk with the eggs, which
should give a rich tanginess. Bell pepper and goat cheese, broccoli and cheddar, pork sausage and cheddar, all with chives sautéed in the leftover pork fat. Mmm… Three weeks of breakfasts, done.

 

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Sri Lankan Curried Roast Lamb

Traditionally, we don’t do a lot of roasting in Sri Lanka — too hot, I suspect! But here in Chicago, as it gets cooler out, roasting is a nice, easy option; it takes time, but very little effort. And if you prepare a spicy curry sauce separately, this method lets you adjust spice levels easily to the taste of your guests (or kids). The lamb itself is flavorful but not spicy; the potatoes ditto. The sauce adds a nice kick of heat for those who enjoy it!

Lamb:
3-4 lb. boneless lamb leg or shoulder
2 tsp. ground ginger
2 t. garlic powder
2 tsp. roasted curry powder
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 c. vinegar

Potatoes:
dozen cloves garlic (unpeeled)
3 onions, coarsely chopped
3 lbs. new potatoes, in roughly 2 inch cubes
1-2 t. salt
1 t. black pepper
2 t. mustard seeds
2 t. cumin seeds
2 T vegetable oil

Curry sauce (optional):
2 T butter
1 t. red chili powder
2 T ketchup
1 t. salt
1 c. coconut milk
1 c. water

1. Mix spices for lamb together. Pierce the lamb all over with a fork or skewer and marinate in spices and vinegar for 2-4 hours. (I find this easiest to do in a plastic bag, turning periodically.)

2. Preheat oven to 450 F. Mix garlic cloves, onions and potatoes in a large roasting pan with the vegetable oil; rest lamb on top, fat side up.

3. Roast 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and roast until internal temperature reaches 135-145 degrees (for medium-rare or medium meat), about another 60-90 minutes.

 

4. Remove meat to a carving board and let rest 10 minutes, then slice and serve with the potatoes and onions.

5. While resting, if you’d like, you can make a curry sauce. Put roasting pan on stovetop burner, add butter, chili powder, ketchup, salt, coconut milk, and water. Stir and bring to a boil, then keep stirring and cook down until it makes a nice sauce, about 5 minutes. Pour into a gravy boat or measuring cup with spout and ladle over meat and potatoes. Enjoy!

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Curry-Poached (or Grilled) Chicken Sandwich, Two Ways

The nice thing about poaching chicken on the weekend is that you can then make really quick weeknight meals. Throw a little garlic naan in the toaster oven (I just used some frozen pre-made naan), and then you can top it with all kinds of things. In this case, I did one open-face sandwich with store-bought guacamole and mango salsa (yum), and one toasted sandwich with homemade seeni sambol (also yum). Add in a little salad or some roasted veggies, and you have yourself a very nice meal.

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Curry-Poached Chicken Soup

(20-30 minutes, serves 4)

I’ve been poaching chicken breast lately, and I was curious how it would work with Sri Lankan flavors. This turned out quite tasty served as a soup (very reminiscent of rasam), with a little cooked millet and some chopped bell pepper to fill out the dish. Would make again!

(I tried serving it on a plate with the millet, but even with a little broth poured over the millet, I thought the end result was a bit dry; wouldn’t recommend. The chicken would be nice in a sandwich with seeni sambol, though!)

1 red onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 3-inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced
1 T dark-roasted curry powder
2 t. salt
2 T lime juice
1/2 c. tomato juice (from a can)
1/2 c. wine
3 c. water
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)

NOTE: If serving with rice or millet, start that going first; it’ll be ready in 15-25 minutes, along with the chicken, making this as easy and healthy weeknight meal.

1. Combine all ingredients in a large pot; slowly bring just to a simmer over medium heat.

2. Reduce heat to low and simmer 10-12 minutes (until juices run clear when chicken is pierced in the thickest part of the meat).

3. Remove chicken to a cutting board, let cool a little, slice, and serve with the broth it cooked in. A little sliced bell pepper or scallion is a lovely grace note to the dish; you could also stir in some peas or corn.

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Mango Passionfruit Caramels

Usually I make exactly what I write in the recipe, but the truth is, I find cutting caramels labor-intensive enough that it’s something I only plan to do once a year or so. So I’m not going to make these again anytime soon, even though they’re quite delicious, and even though I think they would be just the tiniest bit tastier with the proportions I’m going to write down below. I made these with 3/4 c. mango pulp and 1/4 c. passionfruit pulp, because that’s what I had on hand, but I think they would be even better with 1/2 and 1/2, so that the tartness of the passionfruit would better balance the mango. But honestly, I think any ratio of those two would be delicious, as long as you ended up with 1 c. fruit pulp total.

Based on a Gale Gand basic caramel recipe. Makes at least 60 caramels.

5 c. sugar
1/2 c. mango pulp
1/2 c. passionfruit pulp
1 c. water
6 T butter
1 c. cream, warmed a little
flake salt for topping (optional)

1. In a very large pot (it will boil up a lot), mix sugar, fruit pulp, and water.

2. Bring to a boil and continue cooking without stirring until hard ball stage (250 degrees on a candy thermometer).

3. Turn heat off and stir in the butter and then the cream.

4. Pour into a 9×12 pan that has been lined with parchment paper and buttered. Let the caramel cool and set until firm, at least two hours and preferably overnight.

5. Once firm, turn caramel out onto a board, cut into rectangles, and sprinkle with flake salt if desired. Wrap in decorative clear plastic (you can get squares online that are meant for caramels, that twist and hold well).

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