October, 2006 Archive

Thursday, October 19, 2006

wild mushroom and stilton galette

wild mushroom and stilton galette

About five years ago, my best friend decided to host Christmas Eve dinner at her new house, and I came over to help for what seemed like a lovely afternoon, but turned out to be, well, you know how you don’t always get along perfectly with your closest friends when you’re both stressed out? Daunted and nearly pulled under by the amount of work we’d bitten off, I’m pretty sure there were some snippy words between us, and this Wild Mushroom and Stilton Galette recipe didn’t help. I remember thinking at the time it was one of the most elaborate things I’d ever made, but what I really meant was “pain in the ass.” It has all of these, well, steps, directions you’re not sure are utterly necessary or bettering of the end-product but you follow them because you don’t want to find out the other way that you should have just RTFM-ed. Especially not on Christmas Eve with guests coming over. But, we plundered through and ended up delighted with the results. Everything worked exactly the way it promised, and I’d like to think that this galette added an iota of peace and tranquility to our hellish afternoon. Well, that and Baileys.

This dish didn’t reappear in my life until a year ago June at my bridal shower, in the form of a card she’d tucked into a recipe book my sister compiled from guests. I laughed when I looked at it: why would anyone ever make such a pesky recipe again, one cluttered with such exhausted, testy memories? More pertinently, why on earth would I go another round with it on a Wednesday night when I was so tired, even boiling pasta seemed a stretch? It really only sheds further light on my madness, or perhaps denial. Sometimes you really need the exact opposite of what you crave; I mean, my day had been bad enough, why add insult to injury by forcing us to eat an uninspired dinner?

prep time will vary with wine

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Monday, October 16, 2006

winter squash soup with gruyere croutons

two squash soup, one gruyere crouton

High on my list of things I’ve always wanted to do but finances, scheduling or partner interest always got in the way was going to some small town for a rustic fall weekend, even though it risked cementing my unconditionally yuppie status. I mentioned this to my delightful husband a month ago, in a “maybe we could pull it off this year” kind of way and a day later, he had the whole thing booked. Cue: swoon.


And a leaf-peeping — in a borrowed Jetta, no less — we went! Alex and I headed up to Hadley, New York on Friday evening, to stay at an adorable 1885 mansion converted into a yellow, orange and aqua-exterior and rose-filled interior B&B in the early 80s. It’s now owned by a gay couple, formerly of the Upper West Side, one who cooks and paints awesome Hopper-like light-shaped oils and the other who keeps the place up. Needless to say, I immediately decided I wanted a B&B, if only so I could get up early and bake everyone scones and just-picked apple compotes.


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Friday, October 13, 2006

classic brownies

classic brownies

People, I’m getting as predictable as a Cathy cartoon. Take out your calendars, tick 28 days from now, and inevitably, this page will be topped with yet another chocolate-supporting confection. All month long, I look at this dark food of the gods, daily, I submit to a bittersweet bite, yet rarely do I desire to transform it into things. Baking disperses chocolate across flour, eggs, sugars and etceteras. It dulls its mighty intent, and personally, I prefer my chocolate potent.

it's the moon, i swear

But then the moons change and suddenly I can’t get that last brownie recipe I saw somewhere, anywhere, out of my mind. Maybe this is The One, I’ll think, the one that will become my only. I look to my One and Only for support.

“Please convince me that it would be a bad idea to make brownies,” I’ll plead.

“Brownies?! You’re going to make brownies?! Woohoo! Hooray! Yay!” and that ear-to-ear grin terminates my attempts at hip-slimming righteousness in one flash.

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Monday, October 9, 2006

lemon cake

lemony-est lemon cake

I have this theory, or shall we call it a personality disposition, that nothing is ever really perfect. While I would argue this pickiness is unfortunate outside the kitchen — “This date would have been even more perfect if I’d ordered the eggplant and not the chicken.” “I love my haircut except this completely unnoticeable thing going on in the back.” — within the confines of the galley walls, I think nit-picking, when done quietly, helps us become better cooks.

Though a big fan of the small nuances that remind you that home cooked food is precisely that — tart crusts with the inevitable corner pieced together from a scrap, a dark spot on loaf of bread that wasn’t rotated in the oven in time — I find it nearly impossible to eat something I’ve made without making a mental note of how I’d do it differently next time. More hot pepper. Less baking time. Ease up on the olive oil. Blanche the peppers for thirty seconds less.

Which kind of brings us to the lemon pound cake (made here in bundt form) from Ina Garten, a name I’m almost embarrassed to mention I am using as a source once again, as I know I said just a couple weeks ago that we should spend some time apart. I can’t resist this cake though, I think it’s one of the ten great cakes every cook should have tucked into their repertoire. It’s buttery yet bright, and nearly every granule of sugar has been countered by fresh lemon in some form so it never lands cloying or saccharine on your tongue. It keeps well, travels wells and if you make it in pound cake form, you even have an extra that you should feel in no way obliged to share.


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Thursday, October 5, 2006

pumpernickel bread

pumpernickel bread

At Sunday’s final bread class, I was a little slow-moving after Saturday night’s festivities and the cause of last week’s cupcake extravaganza. We focused on whole-grain breads: semolina, Swiss rye, seeded rye and pumpernickel, and though I was a little, um, dehydrated, I think I did all right, surprising myself by getting all four doughs together before noon. It was at this point that I realized I might just have achieved my goal in this class — which was not, by the way, to effectively knead bread with a margarita headache — but to get comfortable enough with the process that I could dive into recipes confidently and know instinctively what to do if things get off-course (or underslept). I’m almost there, and not a moment too soon, because the instructor dug up a recipe for Russian Black Bread for me with about 20 ingredients and it’s calling to me. No rest for the weary, or at least certifiably insane, I suppose.

swiss rye

As there are few things better on earth than a grilled cheese sandwich on seedless rye with a slice of tomato and arugula, I was pretty excited for my take-home bounty and while it did not disappoint, I have to confess that the next day, just the appearance of all those loaves of bread making it impossible to tightly shut our freezer made me feel a bloated, too. Is it possible to have a bread hangover? Fifteen hours of bread baking over three weeks is quite a bit, and while I wouldn’t trade the class or what I’ve learned for anything, those leafy greens and roasted squash are looking mightily more appealing these days. When this phase passes, as I am certain it will, I’m certain we have enough stashed away to get us through the long winter and then some.

unbaked semolina loaf

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