Friday, December 25, 2009

Eat It, Bitchezzz

Here are the brilliant ideas you come up with when you're drunk on Christmas with friends;
hosting a blog of portraits of people in front of food they've prepared, posing with mock gang hand symbols.

At the time, I would have given you an impassioned though unarticulated (and poorly enunciated) diatribe about overwrought food photography and how I'm sick of looking at beautiful pictures of food in rich tones and low f-stop settings, but really, this is more about taking pride in one's accomplishments, and having the guts, or lack of shame, to pose with the fruits of your labor.

Here, I'm representin' a Yorkshire Pudding made on Christmas Day for my friends Joe and Jessica Staples, a Cockney/Australian duo with the most ridiculous accents you've ever heard. Being "proper" citizens of the British Empire, they hosted a holiday dinner with all the traditional trimmings. Though a Prosecco-and-Oregon-cranberry-liqueur cocktail we christened the "Oregon Royale" was a Fusion/Artisan Cocktail Movement interloper, and really the impetus for the coffee table book (to accompany the blog) due out for Holidays 2010.

I've made Yorkshire pudding a few times, always accompanied by a standing rib roast. Tonight we had a Christmas turkey, so in lieu of pan drippings (which we saved for the gravy), I brought my own rendered duck fat along with a simple dutch baby/ Yorkshire pudding/popover batter consisting of flour, eggs enriched with yolks, milk water and salt. Thank you Hugh Fearnley Whittinstall for your impeccable and "dead simple" recipe. The secret is mixing the batter well, letting it rest for at least 30 minutes (and in this case, more than 2 hours), getting your fat and cooking vessel scorching hot, and consuming enough Oregon Royales to create a gentle, festive atmosphere in which any proper oven pancake would perfectly leaven and brown to perfection.

If only I had been encourage to drink more, I would have had my new blog, tattoo'd across my forehead.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Today, I woke up feeling like the cold-flu thing that has been persistently hanging on me like a bad case of dandruff is finally on its way out. Generally I am a healthy person, which makes me a bad patient, and for all my ministrations about hot liquids and plenty of rest, I rarely follow my own advice, or at least not with conviction.

So, this morning, feeling like I might actually accomplish something with my day, I made something that I'd been meaning to for weeks: Muesli. Muesli takes minimal preparation but for some reason it felt too extravagant to prepare on a weekday. I took a few seconds to search recipes online that are pretty much all the same: 4 parts grain to 1 part nuts/seeds to 1 part dried fruit. If you have rolled oats and raisins in your pantry, you have muesli. If you have rolled barley and wheat flakes and sunflower seeds and dried dates, you have better muesli. As it was, I had oats, and slivered almonds, and raisins and dried apple. So, I'm ahead in fruit, but could use some diversity in the nuts and grains categories. For this reason, I made a small batch, which will last me the work week. Hopefully by next weekend I'll have ridden my bike to the co-op and picked up a more robust supply, HA!

The one thing I like to do is toast my grains and nuts--bake off the staleness of the pantry. And tossing everything together while your grains are warm gives your dried fruit, especially raisins, a little plumping, which in this case is a very good thing.

Pantry Muesli : make 5 1/2 cup servings
2 cups rolled oats, or combination of rolled oats, barley, rye, wheat flakes, etc...
1/2 cup chopped or slivered nuts
1/2 cup dried fruit

preheat oven to 350. Spread oats and nuts on baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes, then toss with dried fruit. Store in airtight container, use within a week. If you're feeling indulgent, toss in some wheat germ or flax meal too, but only incorporate flax after the baking lest you destroy all its healing properties with heat.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Pictured above are the last remnants of 2009's CSA. If I wasn't so grateful to have vegetables on hand without having to go to the store, I'd be a little ashamed by how long these patient souls waited to be cooked.

I love turnips and as I grow older, I only love them more. They're like potatoes that want to be cabbages, and my only criticism would be that they should learn how to appreciate their difference rather than hiding in the shadows of the root cellar. Did you know that turnips are used in sauerkraut, back in the old country? I have a recipe somewhere, but of course it calls for 5 pounds, which is 4 1/2 more than I ever have on hand. My usual preparation for turnips is glazed--sauteed lightly with butter, then doused in some stock with pinch of sugar. Heat and time take care of the rest.

Cabbage doesn't suffer the same maligning of turnips, but nobody is going to nominate it for sexiest vegetable of 2009. Though it's stalwart for so many cultures, cabbage always seems in need of a makeover. What I love most about it is its versatility. It can be crisp and crunchy in a slaw. Or silky and unctuous in a braise, or vibrantly pickled, or subtly sweet and earthy, stuffed or turned to stuffing. It does it all, and takes one for the team holding the bag, as it were when it comes to gaseous notoriety.

So, what are two vegetables I love and whose honor I will defend doing languishing in the crisper a month and a half after they first came home with me? Good question. I'm not sure. My winter cooking has barely begun. It seems like one second I was trying to finish off the rest of the zucchini and then the next I was pulling together my Thanksgiving menu, and turnips and cabbage did not make it into the equation. Until this week, when sick, and poor, I turned to the rejects left in the vegetable crisper and asked them to come to the front of the class.

Well, it was only soup. With black lentils, pancetta and turkey stock, but the turnips and cabbage made front billing.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Here I am in a brief moment of repose on Thanksgiving day. The rubber glove does contrast nicely with the blue striped top but it actually serves a practical purpose, as do the figurines surrounding me on the table. They are covering up the profusion of blood that you would otherwise be seeing in this photograph. It's amazing what one little swipe with a vegetable peeler will do. 5 days later and I'm just getting my typing fingers back in their full capacity.

Thanksgiving was, as predicted, a special day, spent with special people who are particularly special to me, eating and drinking with special abandon. I regret that I don't have more photos but the best laid plans were thrown out the window promptly after the maiden cocktail, a Rosemary Gin Fizz: rosemary simple syrup, Tanqueray, grapefruit juice and sparkling wine. So, for openers I made a fromage fort with from a season of cheese ends, a clove of garlic and a glug of french white. The turkey was already in the oven when I wanted to broil them, so it came out while I first had to burn one sheet pan, then barely rescue the second. Word to the wise: when you begin to smell the food that's under a broiler, it's usually already burned. The toasts, along with some of this summer's homemade pickles, were our hors d'ouevres. How pleasant it was to serve a single appetizer and not over manage or over think the whole thing.

To round out the turkey I served the requisite mashed potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts with sauteed shiitakes and fried shallots (my homage to Green Bean Casserole, a dish that in all actuality I very well may have never eaten), kabocha squash with ginger and garlic, and a phenomenal stuffing with pork sausage, onions, celery, sage and a good measure of this summer's plum bounty, pickled in cider vinegar with brown sugar. Just the right amount of sweet and sour to cut through the heaviness of a side dish that should probably be banned by the FDA.

But back to the turkey, pictured above, as ample leftovers. Remember when I mentioned broiling those cheese toasts? Well, someone forgot to turn the oven from BROIL back to BAKE. I had the heat back down to 350; had I not, I would have discovered my error so much earlier, when the turkey would have caught on fire. But as it was, the turkey got a low-broil treatment. I realized this after it was temping at 140 and over 40 minutes past its scheduled debut. Which was making us rather drunk. Fortunately, before the drinking really commenced, I had made a pretty aluminum foil shield for the bird and it was that preventive measure that kept the breast meat moist, despite my subconscious efforts to ruin dinner. As fate would have it, this years turkey was my finest ever. I'm going to credit Judy Rogers dry brining method and not the alcoholic Robin Rosenberg low broil method.

Dessert was a simple, delicious pumpkin pie from Richard Sax's Classic Home Desserts (a book worth owning!). My crust is reaching new levels of perfection, and with that, we end up here, on December 1st, with the remainder of a turkey potpie that will soon be a memory, of a memory, of a meal that goes in my greatest hits collection, if not for the mastery of skill then for the incomparable comfort and joy it delivered.