Monday, November 20, 2006

Committee promises renewed efforts to normalize relations with Blogistan

Wow, I haven't posted anything in ages. I'm sorry to report that I wasn't preoccupied with something fascinating; I was just working a lot. Probably not a bad thing, since my billable hours hitherto reflected an ambivalence so pure and so true that it remained untouched by greed.

I intended to write a bit about a party I went to but I see now that it was three weeks ago; in blog-time it might as well be last year. Since it was a mostly-bloggers party, it's been amply and ably covered here and here and here and here, and surely a few other places. I will add only that it was really great to meet Ann and her Boy; to make the acquaintance of a witty and delightfully potty-mouthed blogger I hadn't known about and his consort/collaborator; also, to meet a woman with the brilliant idea to begin organizing a dumpling party, all of this at the lovely Electric Stove HQ (thanks again Chris!). Did I take any pictures? Noooooooo. I suppose it's just as well; until I am ready to invest any more of my pennies in a fancier camera I would have had to shout "Sorry everyone, I'm just gonna turn all the lights on for just a minute! Just a minute! Sorry! Almost done!" That's what I do at home, and it kind of sucks.

Anyhow. On to the second part of the round-up I started so long ago.

  • Salade Lyonnaise — I had such a craving for this and besides, it was a good excuse to try my hand at poaching eggs without clunky training wheels. It's far easier than anyone lets on; the only tricky thing is timing everything so that your eggs are hot when you need them to be, but you can make them in advance and reheat them for about a minute in simmering water. (Dab off the water with paper towels, of course).

    salad Lyonnaise

    There is a salade Lyonnaise how-to video here and it's dull but oddly mesmerizing. The recipe being demonstrated is the only one I've seen that uses just endive and no frisée, but it might be helpful to watch if you tend to forget things while getting your mis en place together.

    I basically followed this recipe from Gourmet, although I used thick slices of bacon rather than slab bacon/lardons. I also left out the shallot and simply deglazed the pan with the vinegar to make a dressing because the only shallot I had in the house was a ginormous one and I didn't want to use only part of it.

    I have a feeling I am going to be making this salad again at least a few more times this winter; I love eggs for dinner but was getting almost tired of omelets and coddled, and the combination of bacon, a fresh, runny egg and slightly-bitter greens is superb.

  • Chicken with shallot, sage and white wine pan sauce with roasted potatoes — This was so easy that my description of it below can hardly be called a recipe. I was surprised by how satisfying it was; the fact that I used Dines Farms chicken undoubtedly had something to do with it, but I also had low expectations. I tend to either roast a whole chicken, or I make cut-up pieces of chicken on the bone in some sort of sauce, something like this; I almost never buy boneless, skinless breasts, the Mom-jeans of the food world.

    chicken with shallot, sage and white wine sauce roasted potatoes

    This dinner was sort of Mom-jeans too but it was a very satisfying I-have-to-use-up-that-chicken-tonight dinner and it was very, very easy. I roasted some potatoes with olive oil and rosemary to go with it.

    I didn't make any notes as I was cooking so this is from memory: Season two boneless skinless breasts generously with salt and pepper and brown them in olive oil in a good, heavy pan. (Cast iron is ideal; you don't want to use non-stick because you'll need to deglaze the pan). Remove the chicken from the pan when it's nice and brown and set it aside, or, if the pieces are exceptionally thick, put them in a medium-hot oven to finish cooking while you make the sauce. Add sliced shallots (2 or 3 small ones or 1 very large one) to the pan you cooked the chicken in and sautée them until they soften and begin to brown. Then add 1/2 cup of white wine or good dry vermouth (Noilly Prat) to the pan and scrape up the browned bits with a wooden spoon. Add 2-3 teaspoons chopped fresh herbs (I used sage) and simmer until the sauce reduces a bit; spoon over chicken and voila, a boring but very tasty dinner.

  • Simple salad of bitter greens — I think I like autumn and winter salads of spicy or bitter greens even more than wispy, delicate spring and summer ones.

    simple cold-weather salad

    I wasn't going to bother mentioning dressing, particularly since it was in the Times not long ago, but I am constantly surprised by how many people I see buying salad dressing. I hate bottled salad dressing with a passion that I just don't have for other icky processed foods. It never, ever tastes good, and almost all of them, even the upscale ones, seem to have some form of sugar in them. The sugar is what jumps out at me, and I hate it. Blech. Here is my usual vinaigrette:

    Whisk together 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon walnut oil, 2 tablespoons canola oil, 1 tablespoon white or red wine vinegar, and 1 generous teaspoon of good-quality Dijon mustard. (I am partial to Maille "extra hot"). Stir in 1 small shallot, minced, and season with salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste.
    If you are not going to be using the mustard, a more flavorful vinegar is nice - I like sherry vinegar. The reason for using a mixture of oils is that canola emulsifies better than olive oil but olive oil adds flavor, and walnut oil is overpowering if it's the only oil used. You will have leftover dressing if you're making salad for one or two people; put it in the refrigerator in a tiny container and use it later in the week.

    roasted parsnips and potatoes I liked this salad of chicory and toasted pine nuts so much I ate it two nights in a row &mdash the first night with a cup of soup, and the second night with roasted parsnips and potatoes and some of the rosemary foccacia that was hanging around in my "Coming Attractions" section for a while but is just too damn boring to bother with.

  • Curried cauliflower soup

    pretty little golden cauliflowers

    curried cauliflower soup
  • Like the chicken above this is so simple it can hardly be called a recipe, but it is a very satisfying dinner on a cold night: Wash your cauliflower and cut it up into bite-sized florets. (I used 4 little golden ones from Norwich Meadows Farm; one head of regular white cauliflower works too). In a 4-quart soup pot, sautée one medium-sized onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil or butter until softed but not browned. Then add two teaspoons of good, fresh curry powder, stir, and cook for another 30 seconds. Add the cauliflower and 4 1/2 cups of water, bring to a simmer, and cook for 25-30 minutes. Puree with a hand blender until smooth, then stir in 1/4 cup heavy cream, season to taste with salt and pepper, and reheat if necessary. You can skip the cream, but only 1 tablespoon ends up in each of the 4 servings you'll get and I think it really improves the flavor and texture.

  • Cabbage soup — Am I the only person in the history of the world who had a moment of nostalgia for hospital food? I had to spend a few days in the hospital over the summer for surgery and the food was, as expected, almost criminal in its lack of flavor and consistently spongy texture. Except for the cabbage soup, which was the first thing that tasted appealing enough for me to have more than a teeny, tiny taste of. It actually tasted good, and its power to revive was compounded by the fact that I'd hardly eaten anything for about two days. It was a very, very simple soup of thinly-sliced cabbage and chunks of grilled chicken, in a chicken broth that shockingly did *not* seem to come from a can, and I began to feel more and more like a human being again as I ate it. My mostly-homemade rendition below (I didn't make the broth) did not have quite the same effect but it was still pretty good.

    a vaguely Eastern-European cabbage soup

    3 slices thick-cut bacon (I used this one &mdash insanely good, very hammy-tasting but cooks up nice & crisp)
    1 small onion, thinly sliced
    2 small shallots, thinly sliced
    2 small heads of cabbage, each about 4" to 5" diameter, washed and sliced
    1 large carrot, sliced
    1 potato, chopped into 1" cubes (I used a small Yukon Gold potato; a handful of thickly-sliced fingerling potatoes would be nice too)
    2 fresh bay leaves
    8 cups chicken broth

    Cook the bacon over low heat until crisp in a 4-quart soup pot. When it's done, drain it on paper towels and set it aside. (You might as well cook four slices because it is *really* hard not to eat one). Sautée the shallots and the onion in the bacon fat remaining in the pot until they're soft, then add the carrots, potato and cabbage and give everything a good stir. Add the broth and the bay leaves and simmer for 25-30 minutes, or until the vegetables are very tender. Cut the bacon into small pieces and garnish each bowl with a handful. Good for eating in bed if you're not feeling well.

1 comment:

  1. So glad you could come to the Pickle Party. This cabbage soup looks great. Sometimes I feel like the lowly cabage is too uncool for food blog world. One of these days I have to post my recipe for PA Dutch Cabage and Noodles.

    Happy Thanksgiving!