Archive for November 2007
The secret shame is that I have an affinity for Blueprint, the hipster nesting mag from Martha Stewart Omnimedia. The more secret shame? I tried a recipe from this quarter’s issue, more specifically, the Cauliflower and Roasted Garlic Soup.
Of course, being me, I didn’t bother reading past the ingredients list (and even then, I was sort of just reading the whatfors, and not so much the quantities), so when I got down to making dinner this evening, I discovered I was going to have to improvise my way through.
This is what I did:
Lay three heads’ worth of naked garlic on aluminum foil, and cover in salt, pepper and olive oil. Squinch up the foil to a tight ball and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes
Meanwhile, slice up an onion and a half a head of cauliflower. Warm up a scant 1/4 cup of olive oil in a deep pot, turn in onions and cook until they’re soft. Add 2/3 cup of dry white wine (I did not pay heed to the “dry” part and used a Muscat) and the cauliflower. Add about six stems of finely minced thyme and cook until the wine’s reduced by about half, or about six minutes. Add 2 1/2 cups chicken stock and a scant 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a simmer and then cover for 20 minutes. When the 20 minutes are up, uncover and let simmer for an additional 15.
When the simmering’s up, add the roasted garlic, and then add 1 cup finely shreded Parmesan cheese and 1 1/2 cup heavy cream. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally for another three or four minutes. Serve immediately. Feeds two hungry people
It snowed Thursday night, which prompted me to stomp around the house, muttering compound, multi-hyphenated profanities. I’m not the biggest fan of the snow, and besides, the previous Sunday, it had been 78 degrees and sunny. But there it was. Big fat wet flakes, falling from the sky.
Don’t think that the snow “inspired” me in any way for the next project. Not in the drippy sense of “a toasty project inspired by winter’s first snowfall,” because I like to think of myself as not being that damn slavish to the Seriously Sincere brand of craft porn. Inspiration more came from “It’s cold. We’re going to the ‘rents’ for lunch. They’ve got a fireplace. Marsh-fuckin’-mallows.”
Marshmallows are like my culinary parlor trick. “Watch me pull a marshmallow outta my hat!” The Capt’n — though he claims to be astounded — is more practical. “Why not just buy a pack of Jet Puffs for $2.49? Seems easier.”
But hell, I am a woman of few-ish talents, and homemade marshmallows can be used as a trump card. “Oh, this is a homemade pie.” “This is a homemade cookie.” “Homemade marshmallows, anyone?”
Yes, if pettiness was a sanctioned even, I would be dreaming of Beijing and practicing my homemade graham cracker recipe. Go for that Gold! Metal!
Anyway. Marshmallows. I follow the Martha Stewart recipe, though this time, circumstances forced a single substitution: when I ran short of corn syrup by a quarter cup (hello, pecan pie), I substituted an 1/8 of a cup of honey and made up the difference with water. It combined with the vanilla to give the mallows a divine taste — better than anything store-bought, believe me.
I also finally found a use for some disposable foil cake tins I’d had for awhile. It only required brushing the sides with vegetable oil, and when it came time to unmold the Cakes o’ Mallow, there wasn’t any problem.
I squeezed about fifty out of the batch and boxed them up in four Glad sandwich meat containers. They stood stacked on my counter like a Leaning Tower of White Fondant, though we took one box to my parents’ for roasting — we didn’t actually roast them. And the Capt’n utilized a few in a cup of hot chocolate, but really, it wasn’t until I was looking at the stacked boxes of finished product that nobody really likes marshmallows around here. I can’t eat them, and, well, the Capt’n prefers store-bought.
I just can’t win sometimes. Damn it. So close.
“So then, I like to take a haaaaaaaaaaalv cup of suggggggggah and mix it with a haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalv cup of achingly sweet golden syyyyyyyyrip shining like Rapunzle’s hair after she had a day at the spa, and then because I like it so much, I do it again.”
“Please stop. I can’t take Nigella in my kitchen.”
“Now, usually when I’m making this southern favorite, I like to add just a little bit of rum, just about two tablespoons, but this pie is going to a party where some of the guests don’t drink, so I’ll substitute an exquisite –”
“No. Seriously. Not the vanilla.”
“Ex-quisite Mexican vanilla.”
“Oh, for the love of God.”
“Mmmmm, the aroma of this vanilla speaks of the mysteries of Central America, where they’re not afraid of spices and all the women are beautiful.”
“And where the men all speak the one language we need to know, and that’s the international language of amore.“
I have ordered yarn off the intarwebs. I have become one of those people.
It was rationalized thusly:
• I needed it to finish the six socks project
• My local supplier was out
• I honestly wouldn’t have used the left over yarn for this project if I didn’t think I’d had enough in my stash to finish. Obviously, I underestimated.
I still feel kind of dirty.
Growing up, chicken pie was a regular Sunday night dinner. It was one of my very favorites, but rather labor-intensive, which is probably why Mum saved it for the weekends and special occasions like my birthday or the fall of communism.
Later, when I was living on my own, I asked her for the recipe, but because it involved canned mushrooms (and for some reason, I had it in my head that canned mushrooms was where Botox was formed) and began with the string of words, “first, make a roux,” I never attempted it.
But the Capt’n, even with his gouty toe, is a big fan of chicken pie and had been asking for it, and his pleas had doubled after an episode of Nigella Express which featured a chicken pot pie, so I figured, what the fuck.
Simple puff pastry recipe from the yellow book
1 lb chicken breasts
1 thing of mushrooms
1/2 pound pearl onions
First, make a roux. Seriously. I took two pats of butter and two tablespoons of flour and did the thing in the pan. Once it was all roux-like, I added in cut up pieces of chicken and set it to brown, giving it a tablespoon of olive oil, just to mix it up.
In a separate pan, I cooked the onions and mushrooms (and some garlic) in olive oil, adding fresh rosemary and thyme and letting everything cook down some. When the onions were giving up their juices and the mushrooms had whithered, I added in about two cups of chicken stock and let it simmer away.
Once the chicken was cooked through, I added it to the onions and mushrooms, gave it a couple of stirs, and then tossed the whole thing into a casserole pan and draped with the puff pastry dough. The pie was then shoved into a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes. It came out nice and golden, though I think it could have stayed inside for another 3 to 5 minutes, and really, it could have stood for some green chile, but over all, mmm.
No, kitty. That is my pot pie.
The idea that Thanksgiving is on Thursday still hasn’t taken hold, not even after spending a weekend fighting for the last bag of Las Cruces pecans, not after watching a chorus line of Butterballs go down grocery conveyor belts, not even after having the “what should I bring” with conversation with my mother. It was 75 degrees today. Really, it’s just not decent to be thinking about roasting a turkey when it’s still that gorgeous outside.
Thanksgiving is on Thursday.
Thanksgiving is on Thursday, and I have been charged with making pies.
I can make a mean pumpkin pie, we all know that. But pecan pie can be a different story. I’ve made a few in my day; some have turned out, some have turned into boiled monstrosities. I decided to get a practice pie in before I have to make one for real. The Capt’n has no problem with this; it means he gets more pie. [More pie! -- Teh C. ]
So I made a pecan pie.
And now we know why I always put a cookie pan under the pecan pies.
So, note for Wednesday night, don’t fill it quite so much.
But hey, that wasn’t the only project in the kitchen. There’s a potluck scheduled for Tuesday, and even though I was late to the sign-up sheet, nobody had jotted down a pie-type dessert. So, I’m bringing pecan pie bars.
The recipe’s out of the yellow book, but instead of using honey, I substituted light corn syrup to make it conform to my notion of what pecan pie should taste like.
And I also have my very first attempt at puff pastry setting up in the fridge for tonight’s dinner (chicken pie!), but whether or not it will actually puff remains to be seen.
When I had my birthday in April, the Capt’n gave me a choice between two gifts: either I could have an iPod that I could cram full with Pearl Jam bootlegs and 80s dance pop, or I could (with a little help from other gift-givers, namely my parents) get my hands on a Nikon D40.
At the time, I was working for the paper in a soulless position, a job where I would go in every day, pull my iPod mini out of my bag, and spend the next nine hours trying not to A) cry B) quit or C) become very stabbity, so I chose the bigger iPod, thinking only of having a little extra musical variety for the soundtrack of my depresison.
The following Thursday I had the interview which landed me in my current gig, in an office environment where iPods are tolerated, but earbuds are frowned upon (a gig where, I should point out, I was able to afford a D40 within a few months of barely saving for one, whereas the old position paid so little that when I told my boss how much I was making after nine years of employment, her jaw unhinged and her boss patted my hand and told me it would be all better, now).
Because of the restrictions, the new iPod has taken up residence in the kitchen. Months ago, the Capt’n installed his old speakers on top of the cabinets, and now, whenever I’m in the kitchen with one of my projects, I can have a little music to keep me company.
And now, I can say that the best baking music is power pop. Seriously? Nothing better that whipping up some batter to Fountains of Wayne. The ginger cookies took an album’s worth from start to finish, an hour of singing along and measuring, and singing, and beating, and singing and cleaning.
(I like to sing. Fountains of Wayne is about the only band on my iPod within my range. Just because I like to sing doesn’t mean I do it well or in a pleasing manner.)
There is something joyful, something decadent about having music in the kitchen. In that vein of luxuries-I-didn’t-know-I-needed, I keep seeing ads for LG’s television-in-the-fridge concept, and it dismays me. I have my fuzzy-hippie fantasy of the kitchen being a warm, welcoming place in the home where conversation flows freely, and a television wouldn’t allow for that (not to mention, just how do you hook up the Tivo? Does it live in the crisper?). Also, I have to wonder just how many dinners have been ruined because the television kept getting in the way of paying attention to knife work or a hot stove.
(Which isn’t to say that I’m anti-television. If it wasn’t for the tube, I’d never get any knitting done.)
But music? It’s welcoming, it’s soothing, it can be turned down or up or off. I like it. It’s awesome. And I’m not apologizing for it.
The Capt’n was kind enough to change my oil this afternoon. Normally, that’s a chore I can do by myself, but the Capt’n wanted to crawl around under my car, and hell, I was going to let him, but I did want to repay his kindness, because rolling around on the cold November concrete is a serious act of love, one which deserves recognition.
So I made him cookies.
Years ago, the Capt’n introduced me to Flying Star’s triple ginger cookie — large and soft and drizzled with a ginger-spiced icing — a grown-up version of the ginger snap. I was hooked. And for years, getting a triple ginger cookie was part of the charm of Flying Star or Satellite Coffee, but as this d’oh!mestic phase settled in last winter, I was convinced that anything they could bake, I could bake better.
After months of experimenting, this is the current version of my triple ginger cookie, and one which the Capt’n swears is the best.
D’oh!Mestic’s Triple Ginger Cookies
[Better than Flying Star's -- Teh C.]
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 large egg
1 Tbs Mexican vanilla
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp red pepper (optional — it kicks up the ginger to a slow burn)
1 Tbs cinnamon
12 oz. good milk chocolate chips
Hack up a fist-sized ginger root, throw it into the food processor and blitz. Meanwhile, dice up about six ounces of crystallized ginger and set aside.
In a mixer, cream together the butter and the sugar. Add molasses, vanilla and egg. Toss in the fresh ginger and mix until evenly distributed. In a separate bowl, sift together remaining ingredients (except the crystallized ginger and chocolate) and gently add to the sugar mixture. Mix well. Fold in crystallized ginger and chocolate by hand. Place in the freezer for 15 minutes, and then bake at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes, or until cookies are slightly brown in color.
After finishing off the pair of gloves, I realized two things:
• Oatmeal-colored gloves actually look like carpel tunnel braces;
• My hands are friggin’ tiny.
The first one’s pretty self-explanatory. Oatmeal seemed so lovely, so benign at the time. I thought it would make for a lovely contrast with a dark wool coat. And then I remembered I live in New Mexico, where dark wool coats make a single appearance in a season (if we are very, very lucky), but hell, I work in Antarctica 90% of the time, and I thought the gloves would make a nice contrast for whatever shirt I was wearing. And then I wore brace-colored, brace-shaped gloves into the office. All of the warmth, none of the support. Never again.
The second point — I’m not saying that I am a dainty-handed dame in a world full of man-handed mamas, but the gloves were a touch, um, large. They were large on the Capt’n, even. And that was disappointing, because I really did like the idea — and the practice — of the gloves in the day-to-day operations, if not the gloves themselves.
So I started on a new pair. Because I’ve only got seven weeks-ish until Christmas, and that’s loads of time in the grand scheme of things.
And because I cannot leave well enough alone, I knocked the needles down to size fives (3.75 mm) and added an extra row of cabling to the wrists to tighten things up. Worked like a charm. I am now in possession of one fingerless glove which:
• Does not look like a brace;
I should have the other one done within the next 24 hours, because I am helpless in OCD’s clutches, and I won’t be able to sleep until I have a matched pair.
I am pathetic.