muckefuck: (zhongkui)
I decided to take a break from coques for a year, but stayed in the Catalan mode with canalons de peix. Except we didn't have a source for fresh pasta sheets and no way was I going to try to make my own. Crespons de peix is a recognised variant, though, and I know I can handle crêpes. At least I thought I could, but when the Old Man pronounced my first attempt "doughy", I had doubts. To be honest, I had a bit of a tantrum, blaming the substitution of soy milk for RUINING HOGMANAY.

But I pulled myself together, leapt over a few more obstacles (e.g. splattering the microwave with melted butter, burning the garlic), and got the meal on the table only a half hour later than planned. Like most Catalan recipes, this one is essentially very simple: fish simmered with a bouquet garni flaked and mixed with a little garlic, shallot, and cream and stuffed into cannelloni (or crêpes) before being topped with more cream mixed with bleu cheese and baked. But it was really tasty, and it will only take a bit more practice to make it much less stressy. (The side--rapini with raisins and pine nuts--is one I can do in my sleep.)

Afterwards we retired to living room for athol brose, amaretti, and presents. The vegetarian cookbook and historical fiction I got him went over well and his relatives concentrated on food this year, so it's a more useful assortment than usual. He got me lots of food, too (including those amaretti), as well as a few curious picks we made it clear to me just how much fun he had shopping for us despite the craptastic weather at the time. Today isn't bad, just cold, so I'm pretty content to stay in, recuperate further from my cold, and make plans to leave the house tomorrow.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
I guess my mission this spring is going to be to bake my way around Britain. Out of nowhere (well, out of his current series of detective novels), the Old Man came up with a request for Chelsea buns, a traditional English take on the cinnamon roll. I sampled recipes, found one that looked better in some regards, and eventually got down to following one. I had to wait for my mother to leave for St Louis (and for myself to do a little moping over that) before I got started, but we still had them in time for afternoon tea.

[livejournal.com profile] monshu's book describes them as "good for dipping", which they accomplish by being a bit crustier than similar pastries. They seem to fix two problems we've generally had with cinnamon rolls, namely that they're too soft and too sweet. We did tone down the recipe a bit by omitting the sugar glaze (replaced in tonier versions with melted apricot preserves), but some recipes called for as little as a teaspoon of sugar in the dough. The filling is "mixed dried fruit", which I've only belatedly realised is Limey for "raisins and currants" and not an invitation to raid the granola ingredient section of the cupboards. Similarly, "mixed spice" means "cinnamon with allspice and nutmeg, and sometimes some other stuff". (I added a few coriander seeds and a dash of ground clove.) Of course we have no muscovado sugar, but brown sugar with additional molasses seemed to work just as well. With a little more practice I'm sure I could get better at rolling out the dough and rolling them up.

Overall, his appetite is good and we're doing what we can to whet it. Yesterday he asked again for jiaozi so I stopped at Trader Joe's and got an assortment of their potstickers and wontons. Now he wants sushi, so I plan to check Devon for the makings of inarizushi. Can't wait to find out what's next.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Now that I'm cooking regularly again, I'm excited to find this site of traditional Dutch recipes. (Relax, there are English translations there as well.) I never realised that authentic peperkoeken use rye flour rather than wheat or that stamppot has bacon and onions in it. Kind of makes me wish for a good Dutch holiday to provide an excuse. (I guess Koninginnedag is only a couple months off at this point.)

Yesterday's dinner was provided by [livejournal.com profile] bunj, who'd dropped off some tasty ginger carrot soup on his way to an Oscar party. That freed me up to follow through with my plan of rescuing [livejournal.com profile] monshu's homemade applesauce (we'd defrosted it with the hope he'd eat some but he didn't) by baking it into a cake. Food Network actually had a pretty good recipe after I'd halved the sugar content. I also halved the walnuts since we were using black rather than English, but in retrospect I would've been happy with the full amount. The Old Man was happy with it, too, which was the real bonus.
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muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Turns out the answer to, "When will the copy of Sensation I ordered arrive?" is "In three business days." And that's with ordinary shipping. PM Press, you are a class act. I will take the enclosed sticker and display it prominently at my workplace. Innsmouth Free Press I'm less sanguine about. Where PM sent me an immediate acknowledgment, plus another when my purchase shipped, Innsmouth has sent me nothing at all. They took my money though. Or at least PayPal informs that some dude whose name I don't know accepted it, so if he doesn't work for them I'll have reason to be annoyed. In direct contradiction of Murphy's Law, the book that arrived is the one I'm most anxious to start reading, so go me.

The weather outside is, to quote Dylan Moran, "fierce mild". If I didn't know better, I'd think it was March. On the way over to Touché, I work nothing more than an overshirt and Miss Cleveland kept worrying I'd be cold without a coat. I wasn't. Afterwards, they treated me to dinner at the mediocre stealth Thai place around the corner, the one [livejournal.com profile] monshu and I tried once and decided we'd never visit again. Any doubt that that was the right decision was dispelled during the appetiser course, when Bigbones used his napkin to capture a cockroach clinging to the exposed brick above his head. We traded it to the waitress for free edamame. Not sure what you get if you catch the next size up and never going to find out.

BigBones leaves for his new job in Pittsburgh the middle of this week while Miss C will stay on a while longer to wind down the household. I e-mailed them several days ago offering my help and suggesting a farewell dinner. As usual, I got no acknowledgment until this morning Bigbones called and asked if they could stop by. I wasn't annoyed, just glad I wasn't committed already and could see them. As I told his husband on the way to the restaurant, it seems any time I start to get really comfortable with new friends here, they either leave town or stop talking to me. He countered by saying that Bigbones is happier than he's been in ages, and I don't begrudge him that a whit.

Unfortunately, it was too late in the evening for the Old Man to join us. But don't pity him: he got homecooked chowder. It was my third or fourth try at making my father's recipe. Last time I was disappointed with how thin the broth was so I decided the cream-of-celery-soup substitute needed ramped up with a purée. (The recipe calls for canned soup which I replace with a roughly equal amount of Béchamel.) I'm not a big celery fan and I thought celeriac would add more body anyway, but I was making a half recipe and didn't need a whole head. Luckily Devon had parsley root and two of those was just enough. (Actually, I needed four since I burned the first two during the steaming process.) It's more work, but the results merit doing it again.
Jan. 1st, 2015 11:12 pm

NYD

muckefuck: (zhongkui)
I did try to make the hoppin' john vegetarian, but at the last minute I panicked and tossed in a short section of smoked sausage from the fridge. I thought that after stewing for an hour it would be too waterlogged and insipid to keep, but it tasted fine so I cut it up, browned the pieces, and tossed them back in. I also intended to make it for lunch but got a late start so it was our dinner instead. I worried about the consistency, but in the end I think I got it just right. I also played with spicing a bit and I think Bittman's suggestion of fresh rosemary is a keeper.

The greens were more problematic. I didn't like the look of the chard, so I junked it and cooked up the last of the rapini instead. This didn't seem very Southern and I didn't want to reprise [livejournal.com profile] monshu's method of preparing the chard (i.e. with almonds and raisins) so I toasted some pecans and chopped them. I used only half and, stuck with what to do with the leftovers, just poured them into my fist and ate them.

Other than that, it was an uneventful day. Umm Ata'ullah came by around noon to serve as our first-footer and gift us with some precious black bun. (The Old Man just tried a piece and found it good.) I had notions of doing some reading, but getting to bed at 2:20 a.m. last night left me too bleary for that so instead I wasted a good portion of the day in front of the new idiot box. Besides, the comfy chair is [livejournal.com profile] monshu's second home these days and I'll not be the one to deprive him of that.

I also considered making some calls, but due to my poor planning with the food prep, the time didn't work out. I feel like my ongoing resolution to stay in touch better with good people is achieving nothing. I didn't even remember to wish [livejournal.com profile] innerdoggie a happy birthday!
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muckefuck: (zhongkui)
The Old Man wasn't in the mood for coca this year, but it just wouldn't be New Year's without me ruining my back wrestling with some sort of dough, so I decided to make oatcakes to compliment the Scottish smoked salmon he picked up for us. Much as I liked the look of this recipe in the Graun, I didn't even know what "pinhead oats" were, let alone whether we had any on hand. (Apparently they're the same as the steel-cut oats we make our porridge from.) Moreover, I did not feel like translating from the metric.

oatcakes
So I just used the recipe on the side of the box, decreasing the sugar slightly (and substituting brown) and doubling the baking powder (like [livejournal.com profile] monshu's grandmother always did). I'm quite happy with the results, though I think they needed a skotch more time in the oven. If I made them again, however, it would be worth buying a proper steel cake cutter. I tried using an old honey jar of appropriate dimensions, but even after switching to the plastic lid it was hard to cut through to the board.

The Old Man whipped up some horseradish cream to affix the fish with. Then he prepared a simple dish of fresh tagliatelle with oil, garlic, and anchovy and some chard with almonds and raisins. There's still plenty leftover for me to make a side of greens to accompany the hoppin' john I plan to fix for lunch. He also introduced me to the Laphraoig "Triple Wood" now that the bottle is nearly empty. (Mallachdan!)

Afterwards, he toddled off to bed exhausted. (Foreseeing that outcome, I insisted he open his Hogmanay gifts before the meal.) I went down to soak my back in hot tub for long enough that I could face the half-mile walk over to my friend the Ewok's place for his little shindig. I was underdressed for the cold, but it was only on the way back that I noticed it.

If there was any doubts about the extreme nerdiness of the gathering, they were quashed after the ball-drop when one of the young otters switched on Dragonball Z and half the crowd were transfixed by it. But I can't complain too much, since without him I would never have known about let alone seen Nick Offerman's full erect frontal in Deadwood. (It also didn't hurt that he was cute as a fucking button with his bowtie and Ruttles-snug slacks.)

When I got back, [livejournal.com profile] monshu was up for me to fill in on every silly detail. Can't say I'm thrilled with the note this year is starting on, but the fact is he's still here, I'm still here, and that's what matters.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
We might just have to make it a Pyjama Thanksgiving every year. ([livejournal.com profile] monshu didn't want to put on pants and I joined him in solidarity; we should've let Nuphy know ahead of time so he could've joined the fun.) As for the meal, I'm going to call it a qualified success until the Old Man comes up to deliver his verdict without company present. He was polite about my forgetting to foil the dressing, but I suspect he would really prefer the bread in it not be crispy croutons. The brussel sprouts were "too crunchy", but at least that wasn't my mistake.

Everything else, though, came out swimmingly. Not that there was much more, given we seldom have more than four people at table. This year in particular, we pared down to the basics: bird cooked blind, giblet gravy, bread and apple dressing, sweet potatoes with pecans, brussel sprouts (microwaves) with balsamic, and a homemade mincemeat pie with ice cream for dessert. (I bid au revoir but not adieu to my pecan pie earlier in the week by filling a pie pan with nuts and then pouring them into a freezer bag for later retrieval.) We had a red, and a white, and sweet sweet sherry. Nuphy brought treats from the Christkindlmarket for Nach-Nachtisch, but we only sampled the Zimtsterne and left the Schokolade for later.

The funny little man had a lot to say, much of it about his latest project, a tight-lipped straight boy from the 'burbs who needs some lifecoaching. We reminisced about mutual friends we'd all but lost touch with and, as he was bundling up to catch his bus, it occurred to me that it had been just over twenty years since we first met. I'm amazed--amazed he's still around, amazed he still puts up with me, amazed [livejournal.com profile] monshu still puts up with us both. He looked tired and sounded tired, but--despite our urging--he kept hanging around in the front room listening to us bang on about one thing and another.

There were a few moments where I got a little farklempt fun hertsn, but mostly I was able to do what he's always urging me to do and be in the moment. Easy to do, of course, when that moment is just hanging out with your two best friends.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
I wish my system were a little more resilient. I made myself a breakfast burrito this morning, and in place of cotija or queso fresco I dropped in a dollop of Quark. Only afterwards did I notice the discoloration on it. Within an hour, I started noticing the effect of very mild food poisoning--you know, the kind most ordinary people probably experience once a week or so and just shrug off. But it's left me feeling off all day.

Still, I had a plan and that hasn't changed. I told myself I was going to make a real Zwetschgendatschi and I did--even though I couldn't actually find any Zwetschgen. They still had "prune plums", but of a monster size which bears the name of "Empress". And they were still stocking them, so they were naturally somewhat underripe. But that's what maceration is for, right?

This time it was a yeast dough and something about it smelled and felt very...familiar. After I put it in the oven, I told the Old Man, "It's essentially a coca de prunes." Unlike the basic coca recipe, this called for a bit of sugar and an egg, but those are both ingredients in the crust of a coca de Sant Joan. Since the plums were larger, they didn't cover the top as effectively, so there were some dry areas along the perimeter and they have the bready taste of coca. Hopefully, though, it won't stale like one.

So it's certainly closer to my ideal of this dessert than Sheraton's recipe, but it isn't quite there yet. We'll see how long the fresh plums keep coming; I might just be able to take another crack.
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Sep. 1st, 2014 10:04 pm

Plummy

muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Another eventful weekend that I'm too tired to summarise. It was predicted to be wet, and we were both looking forward to some powerful thunderstorms as an excuse to stay inside and watch our NetFlix (a gay German film and GoT). But, alas, it was clear and sunny every day. Saturday was a wash due to my gout and the associated annoyances (although I did get a little bit of planting done), but the next day I was feeling cautiously optimistic enough that I joined the Bear crowd at the beach (although I avoided spending to much time in the cold water). I would've liked to have lingered longer, but we already had plans to meet Turtle and Turtlewife for ramen in the burbs. After that, I was too pumped to relax, so I went out to the bars. It didn't quite go as planned, but I got to be there for a good friend, which was frankly superior to most of the plausible alternatives.

That left today, much of which I spent sleeping. [livejournal.com profile] monshu had sent me by the store on my way back from the shore and I noticed how lovely and ripe the damson plums were. So this morning he asked me if I still intended to make something with them, so I was forced to make good on my idle plans of baking Zwetschgenkuchen. Mimi Sheraton doesn't usually lead me wrong, and I think if I'd baked this a little longer, she wouldn't have. As it was, the filling was a bit runny and the crust underbaked.

zwetschgenkuchen2

Still, it was tasty enough that I went back for seconds twice. The plums are still there at Devon Market, and I've planted the idea in the Old Man's head of a clafoutis. Hopefully it's sprouted and will bear fruit later in the week.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
A good day, but a tiring one. We were meeting friends at the Natsu Matsuri hosted by Chicago Buddhist Temple in Uptown, so the trip to replace the boots that I trashed in Florida after filling them with bilgewater from the lagoons in MacArthur Beach State Park go to pushed to first thing in the morning, when I was still pretty knackered from too many juleps the night before. Fortunately it all went to plan and we were back with new boots (and Rockports and a belt and thongs) early enough to get a bit of a rest before heading out again.

The festival was a more modest version of the Midwest Buddhist Temple's--so modest it reminded me almost exactly of the parish fairs of my youth. They ran out of teriyaki before we arrived, forcing us to fill up on inarizushi and udon. Since there wasn't much in the way of events (not to speak of the exhibits), the real attraction became talking to our pals and the couple who joined them. Soon enough we realised we could just as well do this anywhere and moved on to a hip bakery on Wilson.

We got there just as they were closing, but ended up with about an hour outside before they came to tie up the chairs. That was ample to discuss shisō recipes, kaijū fetishists, and a restaurant with a critter-meats concept called "PDF" or "Pretty Durn Fresh". I still wanted to make a coca de Sant Joan to celebrate Midsummer's, so we skittered home and I mixed up the dough before heading out to do some gardening.

My back started screaming almost immediately, so I accomplished only a bit of what I had planned. But the tulip bulbs are in the ground at last and I've moved the lilies-of-the-valley from the south fence and certain death under the shade of the giant hostas to the edge of the devil strip and a fighting chance at survival. Then it was back inside to scrub the inside of my fingernails thoroughly, less I make it a more earthy bread than I had planned.

The yeast action was so subdued, however, that I worried whether anything was happening at all. Annoyed, I turned the oven on low and distracted myself with the Old Man's carbonara. When I checked again, I was relived to see proofing, but I gave the dough an extra half hour before stretching it, painting it with egg, and strewing the pine nuts and diced candied peel.

For perverse reasons known only to him, Colman Andrews has you bake this coca for at least twenty minutes whereas his ordinary recipe calls for only 10-15. Good thing I'm a nervous baker who checks too often or we would've had a tragedy. Instead, it was just a somewhat blackened crust. We were both pleased with the result, but acknowledged that it wasn't quite up to the level of a good roscón or pan de muertos.

After all this, I still had the laundry to finish plus a raging case of reflux left over from that moring. (The chai latte at the bakery-café was a definite mistake.) Right now I'm consoling myself with the fact that I still have four sickdays and nothing pressing on my calendar for tomorrow, so another bad night like the last one and I'll just stay home.
Jun. 5th, 2014 03:08 pm

Tapas-heavy

muckefuck: (zhongkui)
As late as yesterday afternoon, I was having misgivings about our planned dinner at Mercat a la Plantxa. Rereading [livejournal.com profile] bunj's note, I noticed that in the same sentence he'd also suggested Cafecito and, given the lingering GI issues I was having, I mused that a cozy sandwich joint might be a better pick than a fancy tapas place.

Alas, I didn't listen, so I'm writing this review to serve as a reminder to myself. Mercat is the kind of place that gives tapas a bad name: where you can spend $40/person and still leave hungry. I should've ordered my diagnostic first; anyplace that can't pull off a decent tortilla española should just get out of the game altogether. Theirs was rubbery on the outside (a sure sign it had been cooked ahead), had parsley in it, and was topped with gobs of saffron aioli. As if that wasn't bad enough, strands of saffron were sprinkled around as a garnish.

Of the many ways to ruin a good dish, this was the classic more-is-more approach (coupled with a slapdash approach to the basics). I like saffron, but you don't need to cook with it much to recognise that a little goes a long way and too much is gross. Similarly, the kitchen has a penchant for putting chorizo in anything and everything, including our ham-and-cheeese croquettes and--yes--the "paella valenciana". (Don't let the Wikipaella team catch you doing that, vatos!) That only made their omission of botifarra from our "cepas y butifarra" coca all the more conspicuous.

Maybe their straight grilled meats and seafoods are better--certainly the charred endive was decent enough--but we'll never know because half-an-hour into service, our waiter disappeared. Not completely: he later showed up to shower attention on every table in our vicinity but ours, which meant 86ing the Old Man's hopes of an espresso and my chances of going to bed without a growling stomach. Might be worth going back for the roast suckling pig (it's a crime that none of the accompanying sides are available à la carte, since they're better than almost all their regular offerings) as it's pricey enough to guarantee a minimal level of decent service. Otherwise they're off my list.

And who needs them, now that I can get that itch scratched at home? Sunday morning, I unsuccessfully tried to dodge [livejournal.com profile] monshu's questions about what to fix for dinner. Vexed, I answered with one word: "Tapas". Now I can joke around with him about almost anything, but food is something he takes deadly seriously. He called my bluff. Within moments, he was back with the eponymous Casas cookbook, searching for recipes without tomatoes or capers.

In the end, he made sautéed mushrooms, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus (for some reason, the local market has stopped carrying serrano), and, as the pièce de résistance, albondigas swimming in a salsa de picada. All we were missing to complete the feast was some nice crusty bread. (We had a crisp Spanish white, but I wasn't up to drinking it.) As for cheese, he spiked a chèvre with some shallots and chives. They say hunger is the best sauce, but personally I think the envy of your condomates as they eye you eating your Mediterranean feast out on the deck is better.
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muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Today I dragged myself into work for one reason and one reason alone: pączki. Before I heard that our staff organisation was going to be selling them as a fundraiser, I was considering wheedling the Old Man into stopping by Swedish Bakery for them.[*] In the end, it wasn't necessary. Anticipating a crush, I came five minutes early, but the organiser was insistent that no sales would be made before 9:30 on the dot. By 9:37, the last pączek in a box of three dozen had been snatched up. People mostly grabbed their goods and ran, but I stayed around to catch the looks of incredulity on the faces of disappointed colleagues. By noon, though, I decided I'd had enough and headed home in plenty of time to screw up [livejournal.com profile] monshu's cleaning schedule. But though he put off vacuuming, no one had asked the workmen next door to still their power tools, so between them and a rather needy feline, I didn't catch many winks.

I'd already promised him dinner as a Fat Tuesday treat and chosen a recipe which would be relatively easy to throw together after a day's work: an oven-baked pancake. It was a simple recipe--4 eggs, 1 cup milk, 1 cup flour, bake in a hot cast-iron skillet at 425º for 20 mins--that I made a few modifications to. With the Walker Brothers' Danish Garden in mind, I sliced up a zucchini and salted it to get some water out. (The original recipe calls only for a small amount of green onion.) Instead of heating butter in the skillet, I used it to fry the bacon and then supplemented the grease with some corn oil. Since I was worried about the extra weight on top, I beat the whites separately and folded them, plus I added a pinch of baking powder. The result was somewhere between a savoury pancake, a soufflée, and a floury frittata. I used whole wheat flour as per the recipe, which I think next time I might mix with a little buckwheat flour. The GWO loved it.

Were I a little less worn out, I might've attempted another tesenn saffron, but between today's meal and last weekend's almond cake, that's probably enough seasonal baking for a while. Besides, I still have the ambition of trying Staffordshire oatcakes according to this recipe. I bought the oat flour along with the whole wheat, but it's going to have to wait for a weekend when I've got time to let something rise before flipping it in a skillet.


[*] This is Chicago; pączki have long since escaped their ethnic niche.
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Mar. 3rd, 2014 09:14 pm

Keepers

muckefuck: (zhongkui)
I ate the last piece of the "king cake" today, which coincidentally was the one with the coin in it. (Fear not, my reign will be a peaceful and just one; the coin was a James Monroe dollar, not a gold sovereign or piece of eight.) So much for being forced to consume it all ourselves! The recipe (another Cooks Illustrated find) is definitely being added to our stable. A bit fussy, insofar as the mixing all takes place in a food processor, but well worth it for what is essentially a marzipan cake. Really, that's my only justification for calling it "king cake". The name makes me think of a northern French galette des rois with its frangipane filling, but I couldn't be arsed to fool around with puff pastry. And real New Orleans-style king cake, despite its resemblance to tortell de Reis, has never done much for me.

I could've assembled the Sazeracs more quickly if I'd been willing to mix up some simple syrup, but I wanted more ability to adjust the sweetness since I knew I was preparing for a range of palates without increasing the dilution. The traditional sugar cube looks good, but only allows you teaspoon-sized increments, so instead I pulled out the superfine sugar. It didn't dissolve as cleanly as I might've wished. I prefer a ratio of three dashes of Peychaud to one of Angostura, but I made some with all Peychaud, again for the sweeter palates. But at least one of them actually preferred it with the Angostura.

I kept a shot glass on hand for the absinthe that I poured out after swirling the glass. It tended to become diluted with residual ice water in the glass so I emptied it periodically into my gullet. At one point, Big Tim asked me not to pour out the absinthe from that stage, so I gave him one with it in. He arrived expecting something quite different when I said "Sazerac": apparently he'd had diluted absinthe served to him under that name. Twilight Santa was going on about the toxicity of the drink when he arrived. "Wormwoods a poison!" I mocked him. "What do you think alcohol is?"

In any case, the authorities were right that using rye makes all the difference. I even tried fixing one with the high-rye Redemption I'd bought before and gotten only one slug of and, nope, too sweet. For similar reasons, I think the Armagnac we were forced to use because that's what Nuphy keeps bringing was a better choice than most cognac would've been. I mean, the whole point of doctoring the liquor this way is to smooth off some of the rough edges without eliminating them completely.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
The crabcakes made from Last Days of Dominick's discounted lump crabmeat are firming up in the fridge--one hopes. Otherwise, it's going to be a very messy lunchtime meal. I thought about making a hollandaise, then I looked at the ingredients and was like, "I know we've been insane with the fat calories lately, but that would be insane insane." Meanwhile, [livejournal.com profile] monshu is getting a nap in before 25 friends and acquaintances descend upon our house. Or not--snow's been falling since early yesterday evening, so we'll see how many hardy souls manage to dig themselves out and make it here.

Last night we had our traditional coques. Inspired by talk of lucky foods on Facebook I added smoked sausage cut into coin-like rounds to the one topped with greens. Good idea, but I decided to go with kale instead of chard this year and, as a result, ended up with burnt kale chips on top. The mushroom coca (portobello and porcini--or, to be true to the cuisine of origin, xampinyons i ceps) was markedly more successful. I also ended with a half-size sweet coca topped with sliced almonds in addition to the usual pinenuts. A second (and, in the case of the last, third) rising made quite a difference, so I must remember to do that again next time.

I was so focussed on the food I nearly forgot about the gift exchange afterwards. The Old Man praised the look of his shiny new ashcan, justifying the effort I went through to find one that satisfied my surprisingly exacting requirements. That's sarcasm: Most people I spoke to seem baffled by the very concept. Those that weren't tended to suggest something that was massive, massively overpriced, or both. Container Store was especially vexing: two dozen different styles of waste recepticle and every one of them had a liner. They even had a small stainless can that would've been perfect except the bottom was cut out to make removing the flimsy plastic liner even easier. Unfathomable.

For his part, he tried to pick some of the "more interesting" books on my wishlist and did a damn good job. I started reading Céline Dion's Let's Talk About Love : a journey to the end of taste and could hardly put it down to get some damn sleep last night. (In fact, what am I doing here instead of reading it some more? Oh, right, I'm supposed to be putting the house in order.) I really shouldn't be starting a new book when I'm still in the middle of L'ingratitude, Winter's bone and Wang Gang's English but maybe I'll get lucky and they'll close work tomorrow. (Hah!)

Of course, the present that really mattered to me was [livejournal.com profile] monshu's card, which I knew would bring me to tears and did. How incredible is it that the best thing to ever happen to you thinks you're the best thing to ever happen to him? I'm really excited about seeing how this year will work out for him; it's hard to think of many people who retirement would suit more. Already he's got a slate of projects lined up, starting with some curtains for his downstairs workspace.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
I really do have a knack for picking recipes with ungodly preparation. Salsa di noci sounded easy as falling down: garlic, some walnuts, some breadcrumbs, a bit of cheese, a pinch of marjoram, a spoonful of oil, whip it all together and add milk until it's the consistency you want. Only you have to peel the walnuts first. It literally took me two hours to prepare enough to make sauce for pasta for two. About halfway through, it was clear no pasta sauce known could justify this effort, but I was too invested to pull out.

It also helped that the Old Man wasn't on the scene. He came home from his last day of formal employment so worn out that he announced he was going down to "close his eyes for twenty minutes". Twenty minutes became just shy of two hours, so the timing rather worked out. We were going to have the croxetti with some of the standing rib roast he served for Holy Innocents and a bit of rapini, but at that point neither of us felt like a slab of meat and I couldn't be arsed to make anything more complex than a romaine salad for a side.

It certainly is a tasty sauce, but if the skins make it too bitter to make from unpeeled walnuts, I'd like to see how it tastes with hazelnuts. Or why not cashews? The croxetti were less of a success. They weren't gummy, as I'd worried they would be, but they were an awful lot of dough in one bite. [livejournal.com profile] monshu probably thinks I served them underdone but with much less bite they would've been rather unappealing to chew. As it was, I was tired of eating them well before I was full, so next time maybe we'll use the filei.

Which may not be that long. There was enough left over (I was literally scraping it from the leftover pasta to store for later) that you could add it to a béchamel or simply thin it with some cream and have two more full servings. The flavour wouldn't be as intense, but if it were a side rather than a main dish that wouldn't much matter.
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muckefuck: (zhongkui)
We had a light snowfall today (officially 2 cm) so I'm cooling down the bigos in the traditionally-approved style: By plunging the pot into a snowbank. Starting with choucroute garnie makes the whole business so much easier. I basically made stewed cabbage in a pot I'd browned kielbasa in, then tossed in some mushrooms and the rest of the leftovers. One more cooking tomorrow night and it will be ready to eat--not tomorrow, though, since that's [livejournal.com profile] monshu's uposatha day, so we're having the traditional frittata.

For dinner tonight we played freezer roulette: I pulled out some frosted-over containers, the GWO picked one, and we thawed it overnight in the fridge. It turned out to be a nice mild lamb curry from god-knows-when. He says he plans to eat his way through our freezer stash over the next couple weeks, which is good since I had to give an ultimatum. (Either we do that or we need to buy more containers!)
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muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Even before Saturday's closeout madness, I'd been bitten by the kitchen bug. Good CTA connexions meant that I arrived ridiculously early for a doctor's appointment in Lakeview on Thursday, and in a bid to kill time I marched myself up to Paulina Meat Market. They're still the only store in town to carry my preferred variety of Spätzle and we're both suckers for their smoked meat products, so I picked up a two-and-a-half pound butt and decided I'd figure out what to do with later. [livejournal.com profile] monshu had tasked me with putting out dinner that evening, but the doc kept me waiting for half-an-hour so I kept it simple: fried slices of the stuffed pork breast he'd made the Sunday before, a pear-spinach salad, and the Spätzle with Mom's pesto. (The last dish wasn't bad, but I don't think it's the best preparation either.)

It had also occurred to me that, if I wanted to do any holiday baking, this weekend is really my last chance. Unfortunately, between the trip to the grocery store turning into an event and the Old Man's decision to make choucroute garnie (we stopped by Holzkopf's earlier for sauerkraut and sausages), I wasn't able to get into the oven until after 7 p.m. I made a pumpkin bread recipe from Cooks Illustrated so it was a little fussy (as with the pie filling I made last year, the puree had to be cooked down on the stove prior to baking) but, in the end, worth it despite the toll on my back. I've still got half of the huge can of pumpkin rescued from Dominick's so I might as well make another batch for sharing and freezing.

My other project will be a soup like the one we've made before with the rest of the butt. For a change of pace, I'm swapping out the potatoes for cannellini and the cabbage for kale. Should be just the ticket for tonight along with some crusty bread. The leftovers from the choucroute will be the basis for another bigos now that last winter's supply is gone. And then I still have to make the croxetti alla salsa di noci I promised [livejournal.com profile] monshu months ago along with the crabcakes I just the notion of making. My days idle from work will not be wasted!
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Aug. 11th, 2013 11:04 pm

Choptastic

muckefuck: (zhongkui)
The mewling beastie in my bedroom was the first hint that something was amiss. But the real telltale moment was coming upon the kitchen still dark at 8 a.m. and no one on the porch. Wondering if the Old Man was out shopping, I checked through the whole house before finding him still snoring in the guest room. I suspected he wouldn't be coming with us to brunch and at about 9 I finally confirmed that. Since Mazeppa had chosen a place only a block or two down from the grocery store, I asked [livejournal.com profile] monshu if there was anything we needed from there. "Some sort of meat for dinner. And milk."

I got both those things. The latest copy of Cooks Illustrated arrived in the mail yesterday containing a rather lackluster assortment of recipes, but naturally the "French pork stew" (their take on potée) caught my eye and I found the necessary pork shoulder on sale. No hocks or quality kielbasa, though, but I knew I could find those at Devon Market. What I couldn't find was the savoy cabbage, unfortunately. In the text, the test chef explained that he rejected such traditional ingredients as leeks because they "seemed redundant" given the onion-flavoured broth and turnip because "some tasters objected to their bitter taste". I said "Faugh!" This is a French dish; I want my leeks. And anyone who finds fresh turnips too bitter is just a pansy.

The final result, though, was hardly more interesting than the GWO's Mitteleuropäische take on bacon and cabbage from last year but required much more work: the pork has to be trimmed, the vegetables need to be cleaned, and everything needs to be cut down to size. In total (due to my shitty knife skills) something like an hour in front of the chopping block. And all for a pretty one-dimensional dish: crazy with umami, but without much else going on. [livejournal.com profile] monshu is an easy audience; as I joked over the meal, anything he didn't have to cook gets and automatic 50 points on a 100-point scale. Our dinner guest, who has a background in food service, didn't say a word about the flavours, confirming for me that he found them insufferably dull.

At least the experience of eating it was extremely pleasant. Scooter is on his own this week, his wife and stepdaughters in North Carolina, and he readily accepted the invitation to join us. After sleeping away most of the day and hardly touching anything other than coffee, the Old Man had a healthy serving along with plenty of bread--both the crusty baguette and the "walnut berry" loaf from Devon (which I think he'll be buying again). I also found that they're selling a new brand of prepared meats without liquid smoke, and we still have half a package left for a meal some other time.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Yesterday I decided to try "poor man's asparagus", i.e. green daylily buds. Unfortunately, they didn't exactly cook up according to the recipe. I tried to go for the tightest and greenest ones I could find that still looked large enough to be worth eating, but even so they began to open in the pan. As a result, the protopetals end up crisped. They still tasted alright, but nothing like asparagus and not really any different than a lot of things would've if fried in the same mixture of olive oil and brown butter. We ended up using them as garnish on the squash.

Later, the Old Man was lamenting not having our hanging baskets up (we bought the plants over a week ago but hadn't painted the baskets themselves until last weekend) so I potted them up while he nodded approvingly. This year we through symmetry out the window and opted for a begonia and variegated Swedish ivy in one and coleus in the other with a side of wire vine. The last of these (which I cannot not say with exaggerated diphthong smoothing, i.e. "war vahn") is new to us, something featured in a display at the garden that we bought on a whim.

So that's it then. Once we've figured out what we're doing with the neighbouring plot (probably just basil) and have put in the ground (or larger pots) some of what's just sprouting now, we'll be all done for the year. (Or at least until it's cool enough to sow some salad greens for fall dining.)
Mar. 7th, 2013 10:04 pm

Des trucs

muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Well, now I know where all my tension is going these days; hope that won't cost me too much. I've been having pains in several teeth for about a month now. A few days ago, it finally got to the point where I broke down and called my dentist--I think it's the first time in a decade I've seen him outside of our semiannual appointments. He said he could do nothing for me except perhaps adjust my nightguard. On the way ride back home I started feeling my jaw muscles and found a lump as big and hard as a tumour. Time to schedule some bodywork.

I got home early enough that it gave me the chance I've been looking for since New Year's to make a savoury bread pudding with the stale sandwich slices I couldn't bear to throw out. I didn't feel like going through the trouble of setting up a bain-marie or adding as much cheese as called for in Sheraton's Bayrischer Käsepudding recipe, so what I put together was essentially a cross between that and a Semmelauflauf minus the sugar. I used crema mexicana in place of sour cream and a shittonne of poppy seeds, so to keep it from seeming too desserty, I tossed in a teaspoon or two of horseradish. Not bad, but a bit dry; next time I think I'd double the crema and bake it a little less.

Sis circulated Crazy Brother's note, presumably to silence any sceptics who think this was all just an attention-getting manœuvre (Hi, Dad!). I told him I won't read it if he doesn't want me to; he can't even remember what he wrote so he's going to review it, but his meds got so screwed up in that rural shithole hospital that I don't think he has the concentration to read anything right now. Mom's got plans to stay with him through most of the weekend and I'm trying to call often to convince him it's still worth sticking around.

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