I had invited Priscilla for her birthday, but I was a little cooked out and couldn’t come up with anything to make. I started dreaming about the ingredients I knew she’d love – a stew of shrimp, chicken and sausage kept popping into my mind and making me hungry. So I considered what would go well with this rather unconventional trio. The cuisine of the seafaring Portuguese and hearty southern stews seemed apropro, as did capers, some wine and of course my herbs. I wanted this stew to be hearty and full with some heat from Italian sausage, a hint of sea brine, and those perfectly pink shrimp and deep brown chicken thighs.1 Comment » Keep reading »
Meatballs in my family make their own meal. They’re palm-sized and ever so tender nestled in tomato sauce with rarely a carb in sight. You could bake them in the oven – yea you could – but we like them simmered until they are just barely held together. Mom recently bought half a whole hog which she split with her good friend Priscilla who lives up the road. They’ll be cooking everything save a few offal, including the head, which are illegal to ship outside state lines. She’s still waiting on the cured bits, but ground pork, raw sausage and chops have graced our table in the last few weeks. It’s damn good pork, out of a small farm in Maine. Today we broke out the ground pork and some grass fed beef.3 Comments » Keep reading »
In the words of my father, “Darlin, you really went to town on lunch.” Well, not exactly. What he was referring to was our lunch today of mushroom barely and chicken soup with focaccia. The focaccia was made last night by Matt in a baking frenzy – or as much as rolling out pizza dough and topping it with rosemary and goat cheese and little slivers of onions can be considered a sudden impulse. Yet focaccia does lend itself to a certain spontaneity and resulting crusty satisfaction. And we had mom’s post fresh in our heads to fuel the fire. While the dough was being rolled I stuffed a chicken in a pot, covered it in water and made the fixings of a good stock. After an hour or so of ever so carefully simmering the contents – which on mom’s stove requires a ton of finagling of knobs and peeking under the cocked lid to make sure the bloop, bloop is constant – we took the chicken out. I had started to feel the kind of crappy where your head is stuffed with foam and your kidneys hurt and you just want to lay on the floor in the kitchen and moan. So I lay there, perfectly useless, while Matt pulled apart the steaming chicken with a fork and a thumb. I did emerge a few times to pull dark chicken meat from the bowl and pop it in my mouth. I think boiled chicken may still rival the roasted kind in my book. Then we threw the bones back in and continued to barely simmer the stock, for what was supposed to be two more hours. At this point you’re aiming to get all the gelatin out of the bones. Well, unsurprisingly, we fell asleep somewhere in there and woke up at 2am to find the stock had been going strong for three long hours. It was down to about 2 inches in the pot including bones and vegetables and such. Ooops. It smelled divine, but we effectively had the essence of chicken stock, boiled down to very little. Matt strained it while I wobbled around, brushing my teeth, thinking about stock and getting into bed.4 Comments » Keep reading »
This is one of those dishes that is home to me. It comes out all piping hot and bubbling from the oven and you present it simply to your guests. You cut the flaky, tender crust into wedges so everyone gets a good piece and dish out the aromatic, creamy filling. The result is warmth and nourishment to the belly — pure rapture — and a dish that makes everyone feel like royalty.1 Comment » Keep reading »
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I grew up in a family that still made good of our leftovers. We pan-fried leftover grilled corn, made meatloaf, stuffed all sorts of vegetables, made soup with bits and bobs of meats and leftover rinds and things. At times I thought it was amazing and at times a cruel joke. Do they really think I’m not going to notice that the corn in my fritter is from the half cob I refused to finish yesterday?! My attitude towards leftovers depended on age, and whether at that age I saw my parents as gods or messengers of evil, plotting against me. Reinventing foods to make something new and possibly more satiating is no laughing matter. It requires gusto which my mother has in spades. Many of the soups, stews, loafs, and stuffings we revere come from these humble roots.
You can’t go wrong with hearty soups and stews in winter. They make any snowfall feel like the best of snow days, they restore your body and relax your mind, and they simply and deliciously warm you up from the inside out. My family doesn’t eat pork all the time. But when we come across a really good spicy pork sausage, we immediately find a big soup pot to put it in. Allowing the thick coins to soften and infuse a light broth with their rich, spicy, fatty goodness can change your whole outlook on cooking in winter. There must be a group of people out there who have devised recipes that showcase turkey and chicken sausage, but this soup is not one of those recipes. Furthermore, I am not one of those people. The fat and spice is what gives peasant-like soups their umph. It’s why you find yourself leaning in over the bowl and breathing in deep. And fat certainly puts the soul in good ol’ chicken soup.2 Comments » Keep reading »
Tonight was the second night this week we thumped and punched and twirled and proofed and flattened and squeezed and generally manhandled some incredibly fluffy and elastic pizza dough. We’re trying to perfect a fluffy, crispy, and light crust that will rise conveniently fast but not too fast. We’re also working on perfecting cooking in the pizza oven — a feat that requires building a tepee of logs and lighting the paper beneath them ablaze while your whole torso is in the oven and making sure to remove your head quickly before your eyes melt. My mother, the pioneering woman she is, has this down pat. It also means adding logs every 10 minutes to keep the temperature up at 500 degrees, maneuvering hot cheese and dough in and out of the oven on peels with handles of 2-3 feet, and using a camping headlamp and a hat to be able to stand in the front of the oven without singeing the tip of your hair and still see at 4pm on a winter afternoon. In short: totally awesome. Anyone nearby will notice a boldness and exuberance combined with sheer giddiness and seriously flushed cheeks in themselves and their cohorts. Not to mention the heat.1 Comment » Keep reading »
…November 11, 2009 in Connecticut, around 3:30pm to be exact…
Girl wants to make soup for boy on a chilly afternoon. A lazy, delicious conversation ensues.
Boy: What do we have on hand?
Girl: Turnips, carrots, onions, potatoes, and homemade soup stock, some tomatoes, cannellini beans, and all the spices and herbs (at least dried) we could want. Let’s stick to the things that are in season together, and nix the tomatoes. I’ve never made a turnip soup, but let’s try one. They’re a little starchy, sweet, and a little tangy, I think. That’s a good place to start.
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We’ve been moving around quite a bit lately, so it’s been hard to find the time to soak beans. Ah, bean soaking. That cooking activity we all say we don’t have time for but of course we do. Well I’ve also grown tired of using canned chickpeas when I’m in the need for some hummus. And the colder it gets, the more I like the idea of a spread and some toasted pita fresh from the oven. While the unsalted kind can work, the texture of the beans many times turns out mealy, and sometimes doesn’t accept any moisture at all. You wind up with an incredibly green, greasy, ball of chickpea dough spinning around and around in your food processor. Not cool. Amusingly enough, this is the first dish Matt and I attempted together, and basically how he was introduced to my cooking. Note to self: salting too early makes for not awesome mouth feel and impermeable starches and proteins.
I can’t share this whole recipe with you. It’s not a secret. It’s just that I was in a mood when I started it, and ended up opening my cabinets and dumping everything into a bowl in instinctual proportion but without paying attention. So to repeat, you may need to release the tension into the salad dressing, abandoning any care for convention, and relish this spicy concoction. So somewhere in the line of: 2 minced shallots, 2 minced cloves of garlic, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil, 1 teaspoon honey, 1 teaspoon cashew butter, crushed red pepper flakes, a little coconut milk, 1 teaspoon chipotle salsa, 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, 1 teaspoon whole grain English mustard, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, 1 teaspoon rice vinegar, and some pepper. Whisk. Taste. Holy shit.7 Comments » Keep reading »