Winter Archive

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

pancetta, white bean and chard pot pies

pancetta, white bean and chard pot pies

For the last month or so, my cookbook had been on a boat, an image which delighted me to no end. I pictured it heading to a dock at the edge of a continent, like Arya at the end of Book 3 of Game of Thrones, and hoping that someone would give it passage. I imagined it splashing through waters rough and calm on a long journey, like the one depicted in Lost and Found. And then I imagined it arriving at the shipping docks, unloaded by the likes of handsome Nick Sobotka in Season 2 of The Wire (er, hopefully under happier circumstances), its container being fitted to trucks or rail cars and heading to a warehouse where it would tap its feet impatiently until October 30th arrived and it could finally come out and see you.

And now you know the truth: the inside of my head mostly looks like pages from picture books and scenes from HBO. I don’t know how I hid it so long.

pretty, pretty rainbow chard
pancetta, chard and bean pot pie prep

The first printing did indeed arrive at a warehouse in Maryland last week, but lest you think authorship has any privileges, I have seen but three copies of the book, one that I was allowed to hold briefly on QVC, one that was quickly snatched up by my parents, and a third one disappeared at my husband’s office for a while. The good news is, nobody hates it. The bad news is, people are kind of mad at me. “When did you make this and why didn’t we get any?” they ask and oh man, scrambling for answers is getting uncomfortable. My husband asked me this about a vegetarian taco dish that the babysitter and I completely inhaled the second I got the photo I needed, and decided to keep this information to ourselves. (Soo busted.) There’s a potato salad I didn’t share at all, just tucked away in the fridge and had for lunch for a perfect few days. (I’m not sorry.) And the giant pancake? Well, it’s not my fault that the toddler was too smart to share it all eight times I made it for him for breakfast.

under the pot pie lid, a hearty fall stew

Continued after the jump »

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

chicken noodle soup

baby, (all of the sudden) it's cold outside

There are about as many recipes for chicken noodle soup as there are people who enjoy it, which is everyone. Well, everyone but me. I understand that announcing that one does not like chicken noodle soup is tantamount to saying that one dislikes comfort, thick sweaters on brisk fall days, well-padded shoes for long walks and sips of tea from a steamy mug. I get this. But in my defense, I am not the one who broke it.

getting started
browning the onions, wisp of steam

I cannot take responsibility for delis that keep a batch of soup at a low simmer 24/7, until the noodles are gummy and the bits of chicken taste like death itself. I find it depressing that few recipes on the first three pages of Google results for chicken noodle soup image that one might want to make it from scratch, that an “old fashioned chicken noodle soup” recipe on one of the largest food websites out there has you begin with eight cans of low-sodium chicken stock. I am equally suspicious of chicken soups that have you cook the chicken to a point beyond repair and then discard the meat, because my inner Depression-era granny (frankly, outer, too, on days where I don my aforementioned thick cardigan and padded shoes) would fall over at the thought that people cook a chicken only not eat it, and therefore, maybe so should we. I am uninspired by soups that have you cook the chicken so briskly in the name of saving it for later leaving just a pale, weak broth behind. And with this, what happened is what always happens when I attempt to explain in great detail why I have no love for a certain dish: I ended up making it anyway.

not bad for a 40 minute chicken broth

Continued after the jump »

Thursday, March 15, 2012

potato knish, two ways

potato knish, two ways

Where have I been, you ask? Did I fly off to a small Caribbean island again, only to return to rub it in? Did my book project or adorable distraction eat me alive again? For once, no. I have actually been out climbing another (slightly smaller) culinary Mount Everest for you, and I have returned bearing not one, but two recipes.

both get peeled
onion, leek

I’ve been wanting to make potato knish almost as long as I’ve had this site. I thought I’d finally tackle it this winter, when carbs-for-warmth are the order of the day but New York up and decided to not have a winter this year and so it was a 60 degree day or never. I’m glad I went with it as knish are quintessentially old New York, brought to the Lower East Side tenements by Jewish Eastern European immigrants who knew, like most of our forefathers did, how to stretch staples into belly-filling delights.

russet potatoes and caramelized onions

Continued after the jump »

Sunday, February 12, 2012

lasagna bolognese

lasagna bolognese

This, this is my culinary Mount Everest. This twenty-layer striation of noodles, ragu, béchamel and cheese, repeated four times and then some took me more than five years to conquer. To be honest, six years ago I didn’t know what it was. Sure, I had heard of lasagna but I wasn’t terribly fond of it because I don’t much care for the texture of ricotta once it has baked. (Ricotta, I’d argue, is best rich, fresh, and cold on toast.) But I was galloping through a post on an Italian food blog and I stumbled upon a parenthesised side-thought that stopped me dead in my tracks. It said something along the lines of “I don’t know whose idea it was to put ricotta in lasagna but… shudder.” And I thought, but wait! What’s supposed to go in lasagna? But there was no answer, so I set out to find one.

minced mirepoix (love this step)
browning the meat, vegetables

Lasagna alla Bolognese is an epic dish. Oh sure, it looks like an ordinary broiled mass of cheese, pasta and meaty tomato sauce but it’s so much more. To make it as I dreamed from that day forward I wanted to, everything gets a lot of love and time. The ragu is cooked for hours. The béchamel (ahem, besciamella), although the simplest of the five “Mother Sauces,” is still a set of ingredients that must be cooked separately, and in a prescribed order. The pasta doesn’t have to be fresh, but I figured if I was going to do this, I was going to really, really do this and I wanted fresh, delicious sheets of pasta to support the other cast members I’d so lovingly craft. And the cheese? There’s just one, Parmesan, and it doesn’t overwhelm.

simmered and dreamy

Continued after the jump »

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

pear cranberry and gingersnap crumble

pear, cranberry and gingersnap crumble

In my defense, I resisted this crumble for possibly even a single hour before going to the kitchen to assemble the ingredients. A whole hour, an hour in which we could have had a buttery, spiced gingersnap and brown sugar crumbled lid atop a glurp-ing puddle of soft, sweet pears and slumped, tart cranberries, bubbling through cracks in the rubbled surface. An hour in which I instead thought there were better things to do, like pretending to clean the kitchen while staring into space and imagining how good the crumble could be. They give out medals for this kind of valor, right?

the line-up
shedding pear skins

My husband and I, well, we’re exactly as exciting as you might imagine because we talk about pears a lot. I’ll take the blame, I’m sure I usually start the conversation, which goes roughly like, “Pears? Really? You just don’t like pears?” And he’ll say “They’re just so one note. They’re sweet and boring,” usually while slicing another of his beloved Granny Smith apples into perfect quarters. (He’s such a tidy eater people, I comparatively eat with the grace of a Hoover). And the thing is, I agree with him 100 percent, but I see these things as characteristics, not flaws. However, in baking, I agree that pears could use a little help. They like acid and they like berries; brighter fall spices like ginger play off them well and you’ll be surprised what a pinch of white pepper can do to wake them up.

de-bellied pears

Continued after the jump »