Every Sunday, I cook a semi-extravagant meal for the week. It might be a fancy pasta dish, or a meat dish with tasty sides. And for every Sunday meal, I cook it with the goal in mind that I want it to last us as long as possible…so I don’t have to cook again during the week. However, inevitably, Wednesday rolls around and our leftovers are pretty much made up of unsubstantial nibs and nubs. After hours of denial and resistance, I finally accept the fact that I need to go to the grocery store again, mid-week (something I abhor!). However, once I calm down and give it a bit of thought, I am usually able to come up with something pretty awesome. So, without further ado, I now present to you my “delicious mid-week meal when you just don’t give a darn” idea for this week.
I should also note that I try to eat super healthy during the week (Sunday through Thursday). If you’ve read any other food articles on my blog, you’ll know that I always try to cook with nutrition in mind. And even though it takes some extra work, I do love it when I can find that sweet spot of both healthy and delicious. Then, Friday and Saturday are reserved for some variation of take-out, take-in, date night, and/or restaurant experiences. So, if I cook on Sunday, I just need to make it through until Thursday. Friday is always the light at the end of my healthy meal-making tunnel. Until it starts all over again.
You might enjoy reading my arcticles, WHAT I EAT IN A DAY, THE MEDITERRANEAN WAY and WHAT I EAT IN A DAY TO DETOX FROM THE HOLIDAYS. I don’t claim to be a chef or a nutritionist, but these are actually some of my most popular posts!
This particular mid-week meal involves of bit of seafood. Since I’m very inspired by The Mediterranean Diet and a Mediterranean way of life in general, I have been trying to incorporate a bit of seafood in my diet, at least once a week. I don’t love, love, love seafood and didn’t really grow up in a “seafood household.” So, I’m still finding my sea legs when it comes to cooking seafood for myself and my loved ones. That pun was 100% intended and incredibly well-placed, I think.
I swear, I did’t make shitty, crappy crab cakes for this mid-week meal. However, every single time I went to type “crab cakes” in my phone (for my grocery list, when I texted my partner about it, when I saved images of said crab cakes), this happened. I either mistyped it or my devices auto-corrected. So, I’m just going with it…
[Please be warned that you will not encounter the word “crab” for the rest of this article.]
I’ve never made crap cakes before, but I’ve enjoyed them when I order them in restaurants. And at the seafood counter at Whole Foods, I have been eyeing the crap cakes for a few weeks now. After my delicious, early-week meal of Rigatoni with Eggplant Puree by Giada De Laurentiis ran out, I thought, “Yep, let’s do it, let’s get those crap cakes and see what happens.”
I want to tell you right now that cooking and meal planning is HARD. Mid-week meal planning is even harder. I honestly didn’t just throw this together. Like I did, but only after I planned it all out in my head. When we were running low on pasta leftovers, I worked up a scheme and put it into play the next day. I didn’t just show up at the store and wing it. No. Maybe some people can do that, but I can’t. If I did that, I would create so much extra work and stress for myself. Or, I would have to sacrifice nutrition and/or flavor because I didn’t think the whole thing through. So for me, planning is key.
THINGS I CONSIDERED BEFORE I MADE THIS MID-WEEK MEAL
- We had some leftover green beans that I made as a side to our pasta meal. So, I thought we could use those as a side to our crap cakes. One less thing to cook and worry about.
- I usually make a starch to go with a protein and a green of some sort. And rather than make roasted potatoes yet again (they are delicious and nutritious, but c’mon, mix it up a bit), I thought rice would be good with crap cakes.
- I always have a bag of Organic California White Basmati Rice for just such occasions. Brown rice is healthier, I know. But this stuff is just so delicious and works really well with what I have coming next.
- I had a leftover lemon from when I made the green beans. So, I decided to make my favorite rice dish, which is just white rice with freshly squeezed lemon juice, and lots of chopped, fresh parsley. OMG it’s so good, and not gonna lie, it was my favorite part of this whole thing.
- So, then I just had to go to the store and get some crap cakes and some parsley. I also wanted to try some white wine with this. And that’s all folks. I got some other stuff at the store that I needed. But this is all I had to get for this mid-week meal.
I KNOW PEOPLE MAKE IT LOOK LIKE COOKING IS EASY AND FUN, BUT IT’S ALSO A LOT OF WORK. DON’T FEEL BAD IF YOU STRUGGLE, BECAUSE EVERYONE GOOD AT COOKING PLANS IN ADVANCE. WORK ON PLANNING IT ALL OUT AND YOUR COOKING WILL IMPROVE!
If I wouldn’t have planned all of this out in my head and created a perfectly curated list beforehand, I would have been lost. Put the extra time in during the planning process. It will make your life and your cooking experiences that much easier and more enjoyable.
HOW THE HECK DO YOU COOK CRAP CAKES?
I don’t mind asking questions and I don’t mind talking to strangers. So, when I ordered my crap cakes from the guy at the seafood counter, I asked him how long to cook them in a skillet. His response was, “Oh, I wouldn’t cook these in a skillet.” I thought he was smoking something, but I went with it and trusted him. I mean, he doesn’t work at the seafood counter at Whole Foods for nothing. He advised I bake them in the oven for about 18 minutes at 350 degrees.
This is not my Whole Foods seafood counter, but instead, a cool looking place in Copenhagen, Denmark.
As I’m standing at the counter, waiting for the guy to wrap up the crap cakes, a very tall, older, healthy looking man sidles up to me. And he says, “I wouldn’t bake them in the oven. Broil them for three minutes on each side.” He said this with a firm nod and with complete confidence. I thanked him for his advice and chimed in about how “broiling them will make them crispier, right?” Another nod in the affirmative, and then he walked way.
I MADE AN EXECUTIVE DECISION
Cool, so now I have two “experts” telling me how to cook these crap cakes, and who do I choose? The tall man could be a professional chef for all I know. I was also still not convinced that pan-frying wouldn’t be super fab. Once I got home, I did a bit of internet research, and decided to broil them. Broiling made sense to me because of the crispy factor, and yet it’s still kind of “baking” them. So, by broiling them, I figured I would get the best of both worlds.
CRAP CAKE CATASTROPHE AVERTED, BUT JUST BARELY
Three minutes on each side did not seem long enough to broil crap cakes. Sorry tall-healthy man, but I’m going with my gut. I remember reading online a recipe that suggested broiling crap cakes for 12-15 minutes, er 15-17 minutes, I can’t remember. This is where the winging it part comes in. I just kinda went with 7 minutes on one side and 7 on the other. That seemed like a solid plan to me. I lined a baking sheet with parchment paper (bad idea for broiling, and the recipe online said to spray a baking sheet with cooking spray).
An internet recipe also suggested to put a pad of butter on each crap cake, to help with browning. So I did that.
As the crap cakes were broiling in the oven, things started to smell a bit funny. But I didn’t want to disturb the browning process, so I did keep them in for the full 7 minutes. However, when I pulled them out to turn them over, the parchment paper was darkening and clearly on its way to alighting in flames. No probs. Redirect and pivot. I carefully lifted the crap cake covered parchment paper off of the baking sheet, sprayed the sheet with cooking spray, and replaced each cake on the freshly greased surface, sans parchment.
GOOD COOKING REQUIRES BOTH KNOWLEDGE AND INTUITION. FOLLOW DIRECTIONS, BUT ALSO USE YOUR BEST JUDGEMENT. YOU MIGHT BE AMAZED BY THE WISDOM OF YOUR GUT!
I also flipped the crap cakes before I returned them to the baking sheet, so the other sides could brown. At this point, I started to see why the seafood counter guy advised not to fry them in a pan. They were so delicate and not packed that they kind of, sort of, fell apart when I flipped them. I squished them back into shape with my spatula thingy, and put them back in the oven for another 7.
For whatever reason though, I was feeling bold and rebellious. I wasn’t totally excited about how not brown the broiler was making the crap cakes. And I just wanted to step outside of my box even further. So I thought, “Once they are done broiling, I will just throw them in a pan for a few minutes to brown each side.” I didn’t use oil, but a bit of cooking spray in the pan. Very strange, not sure if that’s even a thing people do. I don’t think so. But I did it.
Not a total disaster, but wow, it was a close one. Firstly, the crap cakes started sticking to the pan quite quickly. And you don’t really want to be wrestling with a delicate crap cake, trying to pry it up and flip it over. Doesn’t work. If you fuck with crap cakes too much, you will ultimately end up with crap hash.
Somehow, I managed to keep them in tact, even thought it was kind of a mess. But who cares? They were yum…
Ok, so they look more like crap piles (hehe) than crap cakes, but it’s okay! Remember, this is my mid-week meal and I just don’t give a darn!
As long as these suckers are cooked (and they were), you can’t really mess them up. These were actually very delicious and fabulous.
THE BEST RICE DISH EVER, ESPECIALLY TO GO WITH SEAFOOD
Ok, I didn’t even really plan for this magic to happen, but this rice dish went SO perfectly with these crap cakes. You know why? Obviously, because lemon and seafood go together like ham and cheese. And the crap cakes were actually really rich. So, the bright and fresh lemon and parsley in the rice just made the crap cakes sing!
Super easy to make this rice dish, and I’m not going to lie, I came up with this myself. Sort of.
I once participated in a “Progressive Dinner.” Have you ever heard of these? You move as a group from one house to the next, with each house cooking a particular meal for everyone. It’s like a mobile potluck, but in reverse (you don’t bring the food, you just show up and eat it). They’re kind of amazing, especially if you are an extrovert and don’t mind walking into a house full of tons of people you don’t know. And then you’re forced to socialize and eat with them for hours. Luckily, I’m an extrovert, so I shined at this gathering!
I went to one in Vermont when I was visiting my aunt. The first night I arrived, she kind of warned me ahead of time that she would be dragging me to this thing. But holy hell did I love it. Vermonters know how to cook, know how to live beautifully, and they did this thang right. The first house we visited was the entree house, and the host of the house cooked a rice dish that I went bonkers for. I asked her how she made it and she responded, “just rice and fresh parsley” with a shrug. This has stuck with me ever since.
EVERYBODY BORROWS IDEAS FROM EVERYBODY. IT’S OKAY AND GOOD TO BE INSPIRED BY OTHERS!
For this mid-week meal side dish, I just followed the directions on the rice package. Then I cut one lemon in half and chopped a bunch of fresh parsley. When the rice was done, I squeezed the juice of both halves of a lemon into the rice. Then I dumped in the fresh parsley. Done. Holy shit, it’s so good. Use this any time. It’s a side that goes with EVERYTHING. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to add an adequate amount of salt and pepper as well. Always. Duh.
I love this old pot. It was my grandmother’s and it’s all dented and misshapen. The bottom of it bowes out so it’s always wobbly on every surface. It has a wooden handle that is always loose and is split down the middle. But it’s my favorite rice-making pot and it gets the job done.
After making the crap cakes and rice (the rice is so not stressful), the rest was easy. I microwaved the green bean leftovers, which were still delicious. And I poured a couple of glasses of wine. I prefer my Aunt Sherry’s and Uncle John’s favorite Chardonnay by Kendall Jackson. I’m not a wine expert, and I don’t really care, but this wine worked perfectly for this mid-week meal and fancies it up just a bit.
For next week’s Sunday-night-through-hopefully-Thursday meal, I’m being super ambitious. My older sister once cooked me Mofongo (Puerto Rican Lasagne) and it was so delicious. I still dream about it. I remember the dish had fried plantains, so I found this Pastelón recipe, which is Puerto Rican Plantain Lasagne. Everything about this recipe reminds me of how my sister made it, so I’m going to give it a try!
Who knows what I will do for this upcoming mid-week meal, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out.
Anyway, to get a jump on next week’s recipe, since it seems so ambitious and I don’t want to get overwhelmed, I am starting early. Today I made this Puerto Rican Sofrito (Recaito) which is what is referenced in the Pastelón recipe. The recipe actually references a different sofrito recipe, but I liked this one better. I remember when my sister made this sofrito, the smell was unbelievable and I just wanted to swirl around in it for hours!
It kind of looks like pesto, although it tastes nothing like it. But it’s used in a similar way to give dishes a mega bolt of flavor and punch.
Let me tell you, if you’re sensitive to onions like I am, you might want to take my advice and make this in advance. This stuff is soooooo potent. I made the mistake of taking in a big whiff to make sure the flavor was headed in the direction I was hoping for (it was), and the eye burn that I was already managing, just went deeper. I was literally down for the count and couldn’t really function after that.
Anyway, I survived (my eyes are still burning hours later) and am going to freeze this until I use it on Sunday. One less thing to worry about, thank you very much!
WISH ME LUCK EVERYONE, AND I WISH YOU LUCK IN YOUR MID-WEEK MEAL ADVENTURES AS WELL!
What do you make for a mid-week meal when you just don’t give a darn? Did you like my crap cake and rice idea? Do you struggle with this vicious cycle like I do? Write to me in comments!
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Seafood counter photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash