January, 2011 Archive

Monday, January 31, 2011

mushroom and farro soup

mushroom farro soup

Barely two weeks ago, I used the following phrases to describe soup: “vegetables boiled to death,” “assaulted with too much cream,” “whatever healthy things in there cannot be tasted,” and even “what must have been a practical joke” about an especially awful one I’d ordered recently. I admitted that I found soup boring, and my relationship to it has been on especially unstable terms this year after repeated disappointments.

soaking dried porcinis
slicing

We then proceeded to eat soup for dinner for the next 14 days. What happened? It turns out that baked potato soup is a gateway drug, in that when we finished it, we wanted more soup. Different soup. We swore we could stop any time we wanted, but three batches of soup later, we realize we might have underestimated the power of good soup, the kind that is filling but also freeing of the nightly “What’s for dinner?” because, it’s already made and only needs to be reheated. I’ll admit that the fear of The Swimsuit when we go on vacation in a few weeks may have also egged on this habit, but it was the soup — come on, you know you wanna! — that really kept us engaged.

steamy mushrooms

Continued after the jump »

Thursday, January 27, 2011

roast chicken with dijon sauce

dijon roasted chicken

This is a story about closets, and how messy they can get when you spend a year caring for a baby and put things away so haphazardly that one day, they won’t close at all and you beg your in-laws to watch the baby for a few hours so you can go to a bar get some sleep clean out your closets. Yep, things can get that bad. But if I hadn’t cleaned out this closet, I wouldn’t have snuck off to the bedroom for a while with an old issue of Gourmet I discovered in a totebag, the French Bistro one, and found a chicken recipe I couldn’t believe I hadn’t made yet. That I had to make immediately.

prep work, there isn't much
splatter screen, i got one

So it’s not just a story about closets, phew. It’s also a story about butchering, and I do mean in the wow-you-really-butchered that sense, in that one of my goals in the kitchen has been to learn how to take apart a whole chicken. There are so many reasons I want to be able to do this: it saves money, it makes us more self-sufficient in the kitchen and it’s easier to buy clean and local chickens, which are mostly sold whole. And it’s efficient: my husband likes white meat, I like dark meat, the Muppet ain’t picky and we all agree that chicken stock made from the backs and etceteras of whole chickens (I keep them in the freezer until I’ve amassed enough for stock) is superior in every way. Look how far that little bird goes! So, with the guidance of another Gourmet production, this video from Ian Knauer (who brought us these, by the way), this was my first effort. Which explains why it looks so butchered. Hey, it only gets better from here, promise.

browned skins

Continued after the jump »

Saturday, January 22, 2011

chocolate-peanut spread

peanutella

People, I’m no good. I’m terrible news, a bad influence and possibly everything that your nutritionists, cardiologists and mamas warn you about. There I was, like most people with a pulse, enjoying the heck out of some Nutella on a slice of bread at my in-laws last weekend and I thought, you know what would make this even better? Peanut butter. I mean, is there any question that the combination of peanut butter and chocolate is at the very center of American hearts, gullets and junk food aisles? And then I thought, But it’s January. You’re getting in a bathing suit in a month. This is terrible idea. But then I reasoned, Well, it’s not like I have to eat more than a spoonful. Surely, it’s possible so exercise some self-control around chocolate and peanuts. Guys, I’m really funny sometimes, aren’t I?

puny peanuts
toasted again

So I started looking at recipes for homemade Nutella — pardon me, the non-trademark-protected gianduja paste — which is the smooth and shiny combination of hazelnuts and cocoa loved all over the world. I was surprised to find approaches, as well, all over the map. Some used honey, some began with a caramel but two techniques in particular caught my eye: one in which ground nuts were mixed with just cocoa, sugar and oil, quite close to the ingredient list of jarred Nutella and a very simple one from Martha Stewart, which relied on sweetened condensed milk for its body. I decided to make the Martha version second, but never got there because my mother (who was hanging out for the afternoon) and I never got our spoons out of the food processor bowl from the first batch long enough to even consider if it was less than perfect.

grinding

Continued after the jump »

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

baked potato soup

baked potato soup

We’re on day two of something called a “wintry mix” which I suspect if I lived in one of those places where one was forced to wear shorts and sunglasses in January, eating food plucked recently from the ground (pea tendrils, anyone?) I’d imagine constituted a fun day of mixed winter activities, like snowfall fights followed by ice skating and then, if you’re not too tuckered out, some hot cocoa before you head home. Alas, a “wintry mix” is the precise reason my only current goal in life is to flee to someplace tropic and sandy.

russets
peeling and cubing

And make soup. Except, me and soup have been on unstable terms this year. I know its the “right” thing to eat this time of year but my relationship with soup has been near-irreparably damaged by too many bowls of vegetables boiled to death in an oversalted broth, soups assaulted with so much cream that whatever healthy things in there cannot be tasted, and in what I imagine had to have been some sort of practical joke, a soup I ordered from from a cafe a few weeks ago that tasted, smelled and sloshed about like freezer-bitten spinach pureed in water. (It cost $6.95.)

leeks

Continued after the jump »

Thursday, January 13, 2011

pizza with bacon, onions and cream

alsatian pizza

I am busted. Someone figured out that I made this over a week ago and have been holding out on you and called me out on it. Guilty as charged. I know nobody will believe me, but I swear, sometimes I just come up blank. I keep trying to figure out how I can convince you that you should make this now, right now, but I’m having a hard time. It’s January, after all, the month of absolving (oneself of having eaten a lot bacon) and resolving (to stop eating so much bacon), and I suspect that the last thing people want to be taunted with is a homemade pizza, creamy tangy base, lightly caramelized onions and thick crunchy salty smoky-sweet — that’s right — bacon lardons. Plus, we think this goes best with a generous glass of crisp white wine.

thick cut bacon
lardon-ed

All of which isn’t very “January” of me, and truthfully, I’d intended to squeeze this recipe in right before New Years, as tiny flatbreads for a cocktail party, for people like me who always forget to eat dinner before we go to a party but feel kind of terrible when we eat nothing but tortilla chips, salsa, various cheeses on crackers and cocktails for dinner. Mini-dinner food is the answer. But New Years was a blur and a few days into January I realized I had slab bacon and crème fraîche on the decine in my fridge. One should never let either go to waste.

onions, to caramelize a bit

Continued after the jump »


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