Thursday, March 24, 2011
Last night I had a dream I was in an unidentifiable place in the Southern U.S. I was on a holiday of sorts; I remember driving around a big lake picking out some log cabins that I was hoping were going to be my vacation home. There was something to do with the cast from Saved By The Bell, but when I woke up this morning what I remembered most was that it turned into an anxiety dream where I was trying to get to a supermarket before my flight back to Portland so I could pick up some Duke's Mayonnaise. I never got the mayo. And I've never, in my waking life, had the opportunity to sample Duke's, so that's now on the bucket list. Fortunately, in my internet search this morning I learned that I can buy an case of 4 from Amazon for $34.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
I'm a leftovers person. I'm liable to enjoy leftovers more than the actual meal of origin and I like the challenge of figuring out what to do with old potatoes (frittata) or even wilted salad (hippie-style veggie wrap!). Rice, more than anything else, is a cheap and abundant staple that I just can't abide putting in the trash. The other night I made sloppy joes for some friends, one of which is gluten intolerant (for real). I made what ended up being way too much converted rice. Not my favorite rice, by the way, it reminds me of summer camp mess halls. But it felt like the appropriate kind of rice and I had a box I'd been wanting to get rid of. So maybe 1/4 of the rice was eaten on sloppy joe night and the rest is asking, "who's the queen of leftovers now?"
Last night I had a dinner of leftover sloppy joe meat mixed with some of the rice and some cheese mixed in: the kind of meal a divorced dad would cook on his night with the kids. Tonight I got a little more inventive and with a hunk of leftover ham (from a potluck on Saturday) and some fresh collards (from my winter CSA), I made southern fried rice. Just sautee the julienned collards over high heat with salt and garlic, throw in some diced ham and then add a scant cup of cooked rice. Finally tossed in a beaten egg to get that "homestyle" body, some hot sauce and boom: Dad's new girlfriend is coming over for dinner!...metaphorically speaking.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Testing out rillettes with David, Jarrod and Marco. Broke out a jar of pickled cherries that have been living in my fridge for a long, long time. Bracing, yet without subtlety. Anyway, the rest will make a good threat to keep around the office if I need to wager any future bets.
Sunday, March 6, 2011
A few weeks ago I met up with Laura and John, my partners in La Musette, to discuss the its future and each individual's participation. I went into the meeting determined to politely decline from this year's event. Why? I don't really know, call it a deep fear of commitment. Last year's Musette was exhausting but exhilarating and even a little profitable. But now that I don't even have a fraction of a foot in the restaurant industry anymore, the challenge of putting together a 2-day French restaurant and getting it right feels like it should belong to someone else. But only 10 ounces of beer into our discussion I could already feel my will caving as we broached: "if we were going to do this again this summer, what I would change is..." and just like that, I've placed myself on board for the weekend of July 23-24, serving up 6 courses with wine pairings, a tour of France a la Tour de France, at Grochau Cellars in Northwest Portland.
Getting started almost 2 months earlier than last year feels good; so does committing to two nights instead of 3. Now begins the phase of designing and testing out the menu. Today I made a batch of pork rillettes for our stop in the Loire Valley. Rillettes is, if you are too lazy to click on the link, meat that has been cooked sloooowly in fat, shredded, seasoned, and fortified with some of that fat to render it a decadent spread for crusty bread and a friend to cornichons and other zesty pickles. My recipe, an amalgam of a few, called for almost equal parts pork belly, pork shoulder, and homemade lard: the widowmaker special. Chopped into 2-inch pieces and assembled in a pot with thyme, bay leaves and a little water, they cooked for about 5 hours.
When sufficiently melted, the solids took a VERY brief spin in the cuisinart with a dull blade I've been saving for this very occasion. Salt, pepper and secret seasonings (nutmeg, clove, allspice and ginger, in the smallest proportions) were mixed, a little of the fat was added back, and a little more fat topped off the jars, for preservation. The rest of the fat is back in the freezer and will go into my next batch, and like a dough starter or vinegar mother, I think it will only get better.
Lamb tagine with apricots, green olives and almonds, atop my first attempt at making authentic couscous without a couscousiere. I learned that it is difficult but also that couscous is a pretty forgiving medium, especially when drenched in unctuous, fruity and spicy lamb juice.