Sunday, November 30, 2008

Veal Chops with thyme, mashed potatoes refritos

Saturday 29 November

A trip to Antipastos to stock up on meat, and their veal chops are now one of our standards.
Katharine had sent us home from Thanksgiving not just stuffed, but with a Tuberfest care package of mashed potatoes. Holt beat some cream into the mash, then added a little bit more, then that fatal bit more than that. The mix was a bit too soft to be flipped for potato pancakes, even after being patted with bread crumbs. Holt applied Kitchen Rule 3 ("When all else fails, rename it"), declared that that was what he had had in mind all along, and treated the tatties as for frijoles refritos. Flipped 'em over, pushed 'em around a bit, let 'em develop a bit of crispness on the bottom. Not bad at all.
Once that was done, we could deal with the chops. Again, constant vigilance is the price of dealing with the stupidhead electric stove. But truth, justice, and the Canadian way (plus an application of fresh thyme and coarse salt) prevailed with the chops, and they came out very nice indeed.

Lamb sausage and fennel with stuffin' muffins

Friday 28 November

Really just an excuse for more stuffin' muffins. A mound of braised fennel in the middle of the links, nicely cooked despite the best efforts of the stupidhead stove to 1) go on too high, 2) then turn itself down for no reason.

USA Thanksgiving at Katharine's, featuring Tuberfest!

Thursday 27 November

Despite the fact that it was a normal working day here in Canada, and a teaching day at Brock, Katharine kindly invited us over for a down-home south of the border style Thanksgiving.
Holt made:

Stuffin' muffins. The wonderful cornbread recipe, but with no cheese but lots of onion, celery, and sage (see below) baked in muffin tins. The colossal amount of butter makes them very moist.

Side dressin'. There was a little more cornbread batter than the muffin tins could hold, so we baked it in a pan, crumbled it up, and took it to Katharine's. There we just mixed it with enough chicken stock and a egg to get it wet and popped it in the oven for a bit.

Pumpkin clafouti. On something of a clafouti binge, and this one is a real keeper. We had a tupper of frozen pumpkin flesh (from Canadian Thanksgiving—because of the earlier harvest). We added a shot of brandy and pumpkin pie spices ("cinnamon and ginger, nutmeg and cloves," as the old song goes; except we didn't have any nutmeg, but Katharine provided fresh grated nutmeg on the spot). The recipe is here, but you needn't do all that draining if your pumpkin puree is already rather solid.

We also provided a turnip gratin (warning for next time: a little lighter on the salt) as the first part of what would turn into Tuberfest 2008.

To drink: Flat Rock chardonnays, a quasi vertical tasting of 2004 & 2006. Verdict: 2006 will get you more horizontal.

Katharine made:
Stolichnaya vodka with hand-picked rowan berries

Zakuski of bread, butter, 3 kinds sliced meats, fingerling potatoes (Tuberfest II), coarse salt for dipping, sour cream with maple syrup for ditto

Organic chicken: crisp, brown skin and moisture!

Cranberry sauce: her sister's recipe (thank you, sister!)

And then Tuberfest III and up: mashed potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes, and baked squash.

To drink: Cave spring gamay (Katherine lives just down the street from this winery) and 2006 pinot noir (a touch light).

And as Holt's grandfather used to say after any similarly enormous and delicious meal:
Mighty good eatin', what there was of it.

White Bean Soup Tuscan style

Wednesday 26 November

In the crockpot, one day old.
I'm becoming a convert to the slow cooker. We don’t have one at home, but we're going to get one, as it does a nice job on beans and friends (as the ol' Moosewood cookbook said). The white beans soaked overnight, then went into the slow cooker with a big chopped onion, 4 cloves of garlic, 2 bay leaves, whatever tiny sage leaves had held on this long, a grind of rosemary, and a long afternoon. After about 4 hours, I tossed in little cubes of an old "ham" (i.e. "ham and water product": anything that has to be labeled "product" ain't food) found at the back of the freezer and in its own (slightly spongy) way not bad for flavoring the soup. Barbara scored some more dried sage from this dude she knows. We served it with the toasted Christmas focaccia that Holt had made last Friday. Like a winter night in Florence, if you overlook all those Canadian bungaloes with Christmas lights outside.

Sea Bass (Branzino) Chinese style / Plum clafouti

Tuesday 25 November

Zehr's gets its fish in on Tuesday, so Holt picked up a pair of nice big black sea bass. They came ungutted, so he sharpened his knives (I said sturgeon, not . . .) and recalled Julia's lesson on how to clean a fish ("Slit from head to anus"—possibly the first time that word was used on PBS).
We did them in a simple Chinese style, with a bit of improv to make up for the lack of a steamer - more or less as HERE.

And this is where preparation stopped, because a telecommunications failure (apparently snow makes Canadian phone lines wonky - go figure) left Barbara stranded at school till she got a ride from a kindly TA; while Holt tried to get in touch, went up there, found that she'd gone, and came back just before she actually arrived, starving. So dinner only got started at a fairly ungodly hour.

Anyway, after the joy of reunion and some impromptu appetizers to keep body and soul together, slivers of ginger and red onion (playing the role of scallions) with just a dash of soy and sugar were poured over the pyrex pan of fish, which was then covered with foil and set in a roasting pan with some hot water around it. Baked at 400º for about 25 minutes. Really quite a nice fish dish.

For dessert a plum clafouti, for additional comfort after a trying but ultimately harmless day.

Gnice Gnocchi

Monday 24 November

Barbara was working on a project up at Brock until rather late, so it was good that we were already planning to have gnocchi with pesto. The pesto was our own product, from the plant we bought at St. Catharine's Farmers' Market back in August, whipped up in late September, and froze for a rainy day - which this was.

No more than 10 minutes after she got back, we were chowing down.

Sausages with "Sauercraut"

Sunday 23 November

We bought some sauercraut (sic), which turned out to be rather blah, from the farmers' market. So we dolled it up with sliced colbourne apples (ditto) and red onion sautéed in a little oil and then generously doused in balsamic vinegar. The snausages were the regular mild pork from Antipastos.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pennette ala Saffi

Saturday 22 November

Oh, you know. This, but with smaller penne.

Chowder with scallops and Christmas Focaccia

Friday 21 November

The arctic char fumet had firmed up into a nice gelatinous stock, so we browned some onions in butter (for a bit of smoky flavour*), added the stock, more of the PEI potatoes* in cubes, more thyme, some chives, then cream. When all was done in went 440 grams* of bay scallops, and some chopped fresh oregano and chives. The PEI potatoes worked very well in this soup, since the starch helped thicken the stock. A very tasty mess of leftovers.

Holt went to Canadian* Tire, initially to get an icy scraper for the upcoming Winter Fun Fest, and went a little wild. Canadian Tire actually does have tires, round back, but what it had up front was a food processor (on sale for $49.99), a set of mixing bowls, jumper cables (apotropaic), and, oh yes, an ice scraper (also on sale).
Holt thought he'd give the food processor a whirl (get it?) and see if the dough blade attachment really worked. The jury's still out, since he made a big mistake with the pizza dough recipe, which is pretty much Carol Field's recipe for focaccia. When the recipe called for 800 ml of flour, he misread as 800 gr.* So the bowl was overfull, the liquid amount only half, so the little blade thingy just span around pointlessly. He had to pour it all out into a big mixing bowl, sling in water till it looked right, and do it all by hand anyways. (Plus clean up the food processor.)
Still the result was nice, and for a extra bonus, he tossed on the last of the red Hawaiian sea salt and rosemary mixture, thus creating the season's first Xmas focaccia.

*Note Canadian content.

Holt's Birthday!

Thursday 20 November

Barbara took Holt out for a slap-up supper with all the fixin's at Strewn Winery.
We had had their "Terroir" Cabernet Franc at Stone Road Grille and Barbara decided to head for more at the source. So after a tasting and the purchase of a case (note - not just a convenient but a sharable birthday present!), we settled down to dinner at their restaurant, La Cachette.

We started with a bison pâté (no liver, we were assured) wrapped in bacon, which went beautifully with toast rounds, dots of a very thick balsamic vinegar, a salad featuring fresh white beans, eentsy cornichons, and fruit chutney. There was also a big bowl of mussels from PEI, the little island that could. We were intrigued (alright, a tad dubious) about the combo of pernod with chili sauce, but it really worked: a fine fiery bite, a hint of sweet fennel, and big salty capers all around the muscly tidbits.
They had a special of duck breast, quite a lot really, with a splendid raisinized sour cherry sauce. Plus a tender bone-nibblable rack of lamb, with a coating of crumbly crumbs, tomatoes, and rosemary.
We often skip dessert, but, of course, you can't on your birthday, and by luck the restaurant had a winter deal of adding a starter and dessert to the main course for $10 more (a quasi prix fixe). The "pear clafouti" was in fact a rather elegant little pear-and-cream-filled tart shell, and the "whiskey tart" was the subtle apotheosis of one of Canada's main contributions to world cuisine (and cookin'): the butter tart. It was warm, tender, and slightly alcoholic. Which so were we - or is it, we so were?

Coq au vin deux or redux

Wednesday 19 November

Disaster averted. I had thought about putting the remains of the tough old bird back into the slow-cooker, but was basically too lazy to haul the damn thing out again. So I added some black olives (to give it the zip it seemed to lack last time), put it in a saucepan with some more red wine, on low on the stupidhead stove, and headed into the subterranean vastness of the Batcave to do some work. Quel almost désastre! After an hour or so, lost in the fun of correcting proofs, I smelled a little burnt smell drifting down the stairs. Sure enough, even the very low setting on the accursed electric stove was too high. The involuntary caramelization wasn't too far along, however, and I managed to pull off the top, unburnt layer. Provided that you thought "barbeque" rather than "ruined," it was fine served over a mess of garlic mashed potatoes. These were the PEI spuds with which we had been plied at the Royal Agricultural. A little bit too watery if boiled, but still pretty nice.

Arctic char and creamed leeks

Tuesday 18 November

A morning of errands took me past the fish counter at Zehrs where there were just-in arctic char, looking very pretty. I chose one with an almost watermelon red streak down its side. I was a trifle disconcerted on unpacking the fish, however, to find it richly coated in slime. It smelled nice and fresh, the eyes were bright, and I recalled that the classic truite au bleu necessitates trout still fresh enough to have a major slime on. A quick consult of the wonders of the Intertubes (Google "arctic char" + slime) revealed that your arctic char makes its own slime and that's not a bad thing. So I filleted the fish, made a quick fumet out of the head and frame, then sautéed the fillets, skin side down first, about 5 minutes on this erratic stove top, then over for no more than 3. Came out perfect, nice crisp skin and tender meat. Over a bed of braised leeks with a little cream.
The char was so nice, however, that next time, I think we'll just roast it whole and not bother with the filleting.

Coq au vin

Monday 17 November

Another day for the slow-cooker—a bit of an experiment. I tossed in the last of the bacon, then onions, then celery into the bottom, and while they don't brown exactly in the low temp. cooker, they did render up a little fat and made a nice base. Then the other half of the band-sawn stewing hen into the pot, with thyme and the remains of a bottle of Bordeaux très inférieur. Left this to stew all day and then tossed in a lb. of quartered white mushrooms. It lacked a little zip, however, and even after six hours or so the tough old bird was still more resilient than was strictly necessary. Not bad, just not great. The fresh free-range chickens at Antipastos have been outstanding, but the stewing hen needs a couple of days of commitment.

Oyster Boy

Sunday 16 November

We took Sunday entirely off and spent the day with some new friends, Peter and Athalie, who took us to and around the Royal Agricultural Show in Toronto. This is essentially a national version of a county fair, but held in the early 20th century exhibition halls in the heart of the city. It had the usual displays of prize cows, horses pigs, sheep, goats, bunnies, the odd llama or two, giant vegetables (including the Guinness book of world records largest rutabaga, which looked like a ventriloquist's dummy, and a 1200 lb. pumpkin), and butter sculptures showing jumping cows and real-sized equestrian saddles.

In the commercial halls were plenty of booths giving out freebies, and we're glad we got the Ontario local foods cloth sack (for which we had to sing the rather forgettable "Good things grow-o-o in Ontario" song) before we got the apples, the toilet paper, and the large bag of Prince Edward Island potatoes apiece.

Of course, unless you're a funnel-cake fan, there's not usually much that's good to eat at an agricultural fair. So we bolstered ourselves beforehand by going out for dim sum. The restaurant, Sun Sun, was outside town in a Chinese cultural center, the sort that has giant painted gates and painted sculpture in the courtyard. It was not as good as the place we used to go in Philadelphia - though I can't remember the name of that place - but it was pretty good. Then we exhausted ourselves at the fair, and at the end we went out for EXTRAORDINARY oysters at a local place called Oyster Boy.

The Cape Bretons were small and sweet, the Malpeques were large and briny, but even better than either were the Colville Bays, which were fat and creamy yet still briny and fresh. You can see these appellations, by the way, on the maps of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island (where the potatoes also came from) here.

Oh, and the French fries were to die for (with tasty mayos on the side).

Saltimbocca and Sprouts

Saturday 15 November

The overabundance of prosciutto lent itself to a very easy solution: saltimbocca. We had frozen four slices of veal scaloppine from Antipastos, and folded around the prosciutto and a few tender sage leaves from the indoor herb garden pot, they made a nice tender dinner. Since the veal had been frozen, it was a bit wetter than the best fresh, so we did the step of flouring them to insure a crispy crust. (Barbara generally distrusts this procedure since it can lead to a raw flour taste, if entrusted to less than expert hands. But Holt's hands are expert, if you get my drift.)

To accompany: some nice spouts from a sprout-tree, that bit of winter greenery, bought at the market this morning. Braised in a little butter, then chicken stock, carefully watched (see below), and finished with a great grating of lemon zest.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Mai Vi Modern Vietnamese Food, St. Catharines

Friday 14 November

After Holt's hard day lecturing about sex, Mike (the chair) and Katharine took us out for Vietnamese food at Mai Vi.
OK mango roll, indifferent fried coconut shrimp (not enough coconut, not enough shrimp, too much fried). A pretty decent seafood curry.

The thing to go for, though, is a very nice crispy duck, shellacked skin redolent of five-spice, served on a bed of vedge. Various sauces on the side (ours was a soy{a} and ginger that was closer to a hoisin). You get half a duck, crackling, no bones. Worth the detour.

Venison sausage plus fennel two ways

Thursday 13 November

Three venison sausages sautéed in a circle around onions and the last half of the fennel bulb. On the side: the last of the can't-be-beet ('n' fennel) salad from last Friday.

Gnocchi alfredo with prosciutto

Wednesday 12 November

Holt had gone to Zehr's to buy pancetta. He asked for prosciutto, watched as the guy sliced the prosciutto, weighed the prosciutto, wrapped the prosciutto, all the while thinking pancettoid thoughts.
We made a thick alfredo with lots of butter, the last of the cream, the last nubbin of asiago, and showered at the last minute with lots of prosciutto, which by sheer good luck we happened to have on hand.
Salty goodness.


Tuesday 11 November
Remembrance Day
A lovely day in Toronto: A trip to the Royal Ontario Museum to see dinosaurs, diamonds, and Chinese art. Then a nice dinner at a kind and comforting Portuguese restaurant, Adega.
We were a tad pressed for time, but the waitstaff were very accommodating, so we went straight for the main dishes o' fishes. The special was dorado (sea bream): very crispy skin, kept crisp by being served poised on top of clams and a few scallops projecting like zen rocks from the sea of a very rich and tasty broth.
The house specialty is tender octopuses (octopi, octopodes, o heck: a mess o' tentacles), dotted with a sort of Mediterranean confetti of finely diced tomatoes, red onion, parsley, parsley oil, and capers
Then a wonderful Entführung in a gussy theatre with gilded everything. A beautiful and intimate set using turquoise and other Turkish motifs (which had the added effect of moving the action forward and forming a chamber for what is, after all, a chamber opera). A couple of good voices (I'm very fond of Abduction, cuz the bass gets a beefy, very low role), some rather silly dances added so that all the dancers would have something to do, and best of all, an aisle seat with no one and nothing in front of me. I think I'd go to see anything there, if I can just have those seats. Well, may not Avril Lavigne in Concert, but you know what I mean.

Baby Bok Choy and Ground Pork

Monday 10 November

Got several bunches of cu-u-u-te baby bok choy at the market. We did them in a quick braise: ground pork stir-fried with a little garlic and ginger, halved the the bok choy and put them down face first, then a splash (too much really) of soy sauce (soya up here), plus some chicken broth. Covered and cooked till tender, 'bout 10 minutes. Needed to remove the b.b.c. and reduce the sauce a little.

Pasta with salami and zucchini

Sunday 9 November
Penne, salami, and cream.
(Probably the single most often repeated dish of the repertoire. How did we survive before?)

Scallops and Brussels sprouts

Saturday 8 November

A bistro combo but the stupidhead electric stove keeps leading to troubles. So while one burner failed to go on high, leaving some of the scallops undone and having to be shuffled around to find the one hot spot (and so never really seared), the other refused to die and so crisped the braised sprouts.
Not happy, Jan.
The wine was Coyote's Run unoaked Chard. OK, merely.

Meat and Beet

Friday 7 November

Or The Beet Goes On or The Roast Beef of Olde England II.
We turned the cold beets into a fine salad by tossing them with a half a head of shredded fennel, some EVOO, and white balsamic vinegar.

Pow-Wow Restaurant

Thursday 6 November

After a fun talk about orphans in the ancient world by Mark Golden, the Brock Dept. took him out to Pow-Wow Restaurant. Service was, to be frank, excruciatingly slow; the food only so-so.
Starters were all right: some nice little mussels in cream with leeks, and a very pleasant phyllo nest cradling an egg of goat cheese and topped with pickled red onions.
The main courses, however, bordered on the unpleasant. A beef tenderloin, rightly cooked to medium-rare, was topped with a gelatinous brown sauce (supposedly a "cranberry port demiglace") which reminded at least one of us of the gravy that used to come on TV dinner Salisbury steak. A grouper was rendered towel-like and served with an absolutely tasteless red-pepper sauce. Ah well . . .

"Eeny meeny, chili beanie"

Wednesday 5 November
Guy Fawkes Day

We had put up a mess o' pinto beans (which is the only way beans come) to soak some two days previously, so it was time either to cook them or see if we could make beer out of them (you know that's the origin of tofu).
Into the slow cooker went the beans (drained, fresh water) with two cloves chopped garlic, two onions to bask for about three hours. Then sautéed a lb. of the nice grinded up beef, and treated it as for Indian cooking (which is our way now with such sauces): tossed in 4 TBSP of cumin, 4 TBSP of corinder, 4 TBSP of chili powder, and cooked until the spices had made a gravy. Washed it all into the cooker with a little wine and a lot of salt. Then let it cook for about 2 hours more. No tomatoes, you notice. Then the magic ingredient: a shot of red wine vinegar. These were might fine beans, somewhere between refried beans and chili con carne.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Treadwell II

Tuesday 4 November
Erection Day - A favorite holiday in Japan.

The weather was clear and surprisingly warm, so rather than cling in hope to the TV screen (which only gives us news from the Maritimes anyway), we drove out to Port Dalhousie in the twilight, took a short walk ON A VERY LONG pier, and ended up at Treadwell, where we last dined in June. Our sommelier remembered us, too.
We are beginning to recognize Treadwell's little mannerisms, like opening with a demitasse of foamy soup - in this case, carrot ginger. And serving Fred's Breads - ancient grain and baguette - with a local vinegar (in this case blueberry) and cold-pressed Canola oil.*

So on to starters. One was a circle of carpaccio adorned with truffled hardboiled quail eggs and topped with a cylinder of microgreens held together with slices of grana cheese. The other was beet-cured lake trout (no kidding - red and good!) on a (rather uninteresting) bun with crème fraiche, festooned with assorted red and golden beets, hazelnuts, and cheese.
One of our main courses was lamb shank: a forelimb in a tasty sauce, but the meat could have been tenderer and better marinated/seasoned. Still, it was served with lovely heirloom carrots, and a chive mash. The other, partridge three ways, was more successful: a golden breast, succulent confit leg, and deep rich consommé scattered with perfectly roasted parsnips, carrots, tiny turnips, bits of summer squash, and greens, plus a couple of little goat cheese and fresh corn (yes, it's been that warm!) ravioli.

We too were repetitive, in that we went for the Pinot Noir. We tried to get the Megalomaniac Sonofabitch, but they were out. Our attentive sommelier suggested Rose Hall 2006 Pinot Noir from Prince Edward County, and it was good - though we still prefer the Megalomaniac.
Finally, we had the usual spoon jellies, this time apricot. And on the way out, gawked at all the jars of preserved local vegetables that Treadwell uses as both decorations and delicacies. We'll be back to try them again.

*Once known as "rapeseed oil" (from a member of the turnip family, Brassica campestris, and its Latin name rāpum, i, n. akin to Gr. ῥάφη, ῥαφάνη: 'a turnip, rape'. Rape the root, and rape the oil, had something of an image problem. Not to mention being good mostly for lubing up machinery. But it was improved and rebranded in the 1970's as can-o-l-a = "Canadian oil, low acid" by two Canadian scientists, Keith Downey and Baldur Stefansson. See for a nice picture of fields near Red Deer Alberta.

Tortels in Cream

3 November
Trying day part II, involving a long drive to an eye-guy. All turned out well, though Barbara says she's never had an ophthalmologist try to climb into the back of her eye before.
So quick comfort food on our safe return. Little meat tortellini (frozen from Antipastos) in a quick cream sauce. Lotsa cream, a little zotz of the leftover herb butter from the day before yesterday (which in our opinion, made the dish), plus more asiago than you could shake a grater at. And another good salad out of the last of the radicchio and lettuce.

The Roast Beast

Sunday 2 November, Commemorazione Defunti
(I can't seem to quit the liturgical calendar .app)

A noble roasted beast, purchased according to Alton Brown's sage mnemonic: top not tip. So about 3 lbs. of protein, coated with grinded up dried thyme, rosemary, salt, black pepper. Into the oven at 450º for 10 minutes, then down to 350º for 2 hours, till the old instant read thermometer hits 120º. Rest for 15 minutes.
Roasted alongside a covered dish of golden beets. Almost passed these up at the market in favour of the usual cute little red ones, but as I was passing as woman said, "I had these last week and they were so good." I bought them and suggested to the guy that since the lady had made a sale for him, he should give her a discount. He accused us of working in collusion. Ah, the classic double-play Golden Beet Sting.
Also roasted some quartered onions and apples in the same pan as the beast. The differemt varieties of apples went into only 15 minutes before serving but some still made apple sauce. Tasty, though, with all the roasty toasty juices mixing together.

Sole with citrus-herb butter

Saturday 1 November - All Saints Day

A simple meal after a trying day (scary things with eyes; but it's all OK now).
So: four nice sole fillets on a baking pan, with one trick adapted from Gordon Ramsay: we not only smeared the pan with EVOO as per usual but salted and seasoned the surface as well. Then under the broiler for about 5 minutes. Topped with an herb butter featuring chives, white pepper, a little oregano, and parsley squished in with some lime juice.
On the side a salad of radicchio di Milano (Barbara now knows and grows these things; praised by Virgil, too). Yes, I know, this late. But the LOL (lil ol' lady) at the farmers market had the very last couple of bunches and some cute, cute, cute oak-leaf lettuces, plus a few cherry tomatoes. Thank you, Indian Summer.
Angel's Gate 2006 Chardonnay: unoaked; good varietal tastes: a little butter, yeast, and pear.

Chicken Pot Pie

Friday 31 October - Hallowe'en

A fine dish of scraps, which is what THE PIE is all about. We had a vat of chicken soup left over from Tuesday, which we strained, freezing the stock for later. Then chopped up a parsnip for extra vedge, cooked till tender in a little water and salt, added the left-over chicken and its vedge and hotted it all up. Bind with cream (I thought it might need a beurre manié, but the parsnips and potatoes sopped up lotsa cream). Poured the lovely sludge into two pyrex soup bowls and topped with a biscuit. Someone out there in webland suggested lemon peel in the topping for chicken pies, so here it is:
1 1/3 cup flour
1 TBSP baking powder
1 tsp sugar & salt
4 TBSP butter
1/2 cup milk
zest of a 1/2 a lemon in the fridge drawer
Usual biscuit procedure: cut the butter in. Stir in the milk. Fold a few times. Pat into a pyrex-soup-bowl-sized circle.
Bake at 450º for 20 minutes.

Mighty good eating while waiting for the rather thin stream of trick-or-treaters in this neck of the woods to show up. Still, they were all little and costumed and cute, and they enjoyed the chocolate treats that we were giving out. (Even in Canada, people won't trust home-baked stuff, as we found out when we tried to give out Holt's Patented GingerDead Men - a gingerbread body in an iced chalk outline. We had only one taker, and she lived right upstairs, so her parents knew we could be trusted.)

Served the hot pot pies with a good chicken wine: Cave Spring Riesling.
Do you like Riesling?
I don't know. I've never riesled.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Trout Salad with Apples and Walnuts

Thursday 30 October
Like last time but it needed a little more zip of lemon juice and some chives. No cukes, since there weren't any.

Scaloppine* al limone

Wednesday 29 October
The real thing, de emese zach,** as we say in Italian. Dredged in flour (salt and pepper), fried in butter and oil (OK so not so kosher), then deglazed with a touch of wine, a squeeze of lemon, and salty capers. On the side, smashed potatoes with lots of chives.

* One -l-, two -pp-'s. Nothing to do with scallops. And it's feminine, so very tender and feminine. Not only that but scaloppine (spelled however in American) piccata winds up as a entrée in the Department of Redundancy Department's menu, since a piccata ("poked with a pike") is just a smaller, thicker, and slightly scrappier piece of veal (etc.) than the noble scaloppa, scaloppine.

**Don’t talk to me about spelling or transliteration or I'll give you such a zetz!

Soothing Chicken Soup

Tuesday 28 October
Another trip to Antipastos yielded veal scaloppine, and a frozen stewing hen. But the big old bird was first up, since Holt had a touch of a stomach bug and needed the life-giving qualities that only chicken soup affords. The butcher had band-sawed the giganto chicken into quarters, and one half went into the pot to soak and defrost for a couple of hours, while the other went into the freezer to await a rainy day.

Then a low, low simmer for three hours or so, with onions, carrots, celery, celery tops, thyme sprigs, peppercorns, and bay leaves. We both got up from our books periodically and pushed things about for no particular reason. Then about hour four, we pulled the chicken out, pulled the meat off, cubed it up, tossed it all back, and added some potatoes in little dice. Fished out the skin and bones, added more salt. Mighty soooooothing soooooooop.

Pork Chops with Brussels Sprouts

Monday 27 October
Barbara had a late lecture, and then lots of questions at the end, so it turned into a late, LATE lecture. So: cute little Brussels sprouts from the farmers' market, pre-roasted, cut side down in olive oil, at 450º, for about 20 minutes, then given a shot of lemon juice. The thick center-cut pork chops were trickier. Dusted with ground fennel seed and salt, they went into a hot pan to be seared, then into the hot oven. But they went from visibly pink near the bone to a tad overdone almost instantly. We mights shoulda waited for them to rest, but as I said, Barbara had a late, LATE lecture, and we just couldn't.

Steelhead Trout

Sunday 26 October
. . . which turn out to be just rainbow trout that go out to sea. So another new fish, which wasn't.
Still they were gigunda fillets. Did them in a quick sear, then basil, wine, and a healthy squeeze of lemon. Also fried little zukes with a shot of garlic. Too much to finish, so we secreted some (not secreted but secreted) for trout and apple salad later.

Hot sausage and cold slaw

Saturday 25 October
Back together for some hot sausage fun. And wipe that smile off your face . . . and don't fidget while I talk to you . . .
So some rather fierce* sausages from Antipastos tamed with the coolth of the rest of the red cabbage slaw. We tossed the last of the little potatoes into the sausage fat and wine to sop up some of that fiery goodness.

*said in a Christian Siriano voice.

Xochitl / chicken wings

The day sign xochitl, in the Codex Magliabechiano.

Friday 24 October
HOLT had to deliver a paper in Philadelphia about Sappho (lots of bad plays, one good opera). He missed getting to see Brian, but had a great dinner out with the rest of the panel. After a brief Bataan march in search of drinks, we stumbled across Xochitl (pronounce "so-cheet" or so they claim)*, which Holt had read a rave review of in Gourmet. Well deserved too, and that's not just the freshly made classic margaritas talkin'.

We started with the guacamole, made table side in a big ol' mortar and pestle. Apparently they have many variations, but we stuck with the classic there too.
There were fine tostadas piled with a ceviche of shrimp, octopus and spanish mackerel. For the main: very tender duck breast in a mole blanco (almonds).
There was also a really nice Spanish white whose name escapes me now. That is the margaritas.

BARBARA, on the other hand, had to stay at home and sulk. She was rummaged in the freezer for anything that looked dinnerlike, and came up with a small portion of Buffalo chicken wings - luckily, from Antipastos, so they were at least made of chicken. She ate them with a glass of cheap white wine in front of the TV, watching "Style by Jury" or some such cable popcorn.

*xōchitl IPA: /ʃoːtʃitɬ/: Nahuatl 'flower'; also the name of the queen of Tolan, who is accredited with inventing tequila (more or less).

Osso buco II

Thursday 23 October
Told you it was better the next (or the next-next) day.
Served the other two ossos bucos (ossibuchi, what have you) with nice little cakes made of the left-over parsnip mash and the left-over sweet potato mash (from Fanny). Bread 'em and pat 'em and mark them with a B.
Very nice with the Vinho do Poeta.

Penne, zucchini, salami, and cream

Wednesday 22 October
A classic.
We had scored a secret cache of 'Merican cream the last time we crept over the border.

Osso buco

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Antipastos had these lovely osso buco.*
The dish is from Milan but now popular everywhere. We've had them in a lot of restaurants but never done them at home. The one thing that most recipes won't tell you is that osso buco comes with a thick membrane encircling the meat, which looks as if a plastic bag had been fused to the muscle. DO NOT TAKE THIS OFF. It holds the meat on the bone and, after cooking for the requisite bazillion hours, just peels off. If the butcher has taken it off, you have to tie the meat back on with string (hence the instructions in many a book).

The preparation is simple. Here's the basics from Epicurious adapted:

4 pounds (1.8 kg) veal shanks, cut in 1 1/2-inch ( 4 cm) slices
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 onions, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 bottle (375 ml) dry white wine
a 14.5-ounce (435 g) can plum tomatoes, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped

Brown the veals on both sides. No need to do veal bondage. No need to remove from pan. Add the vedge and brown that.
Deglaze with the wine. Add the tomatoes. Add the garlic at this point (so it's just a background). And following a good hint: toss in one (and only one) anchovy fillet (which increases the woodsy notes).
Cook stovetop for a minimum of 3 hours, adding more wine/water/etc. if it sticks.
Lots of recipes fart around with veal stock (fine), brown sauce (totally unnecessary), demiglace (a waste), tomato paste (a disaster), or do it in the oven (which is nice if it's a cold day, but watch the liquid levels).

Like any stoo, even better the next day.

You can add the gremolata if you want, but I've never really thought it added much. Instead, we thought it needed a bland thing to make it stand out, so we served an osso buco apiece on a pile of wonderful parsnips mashed in milk.
Dreamy and creamy.
This needs a big, big, wine. We tried the Megalomaniac Bravado. Lovely but not as meaty as the Sonofabitch.

*Usually treated as a single word in Italian: ossobuco and though the plural of osso is ossa, the plural is ossibuchi (and not as you'd expect †ossa buche). Old Latin neuters in -um tend to show up as masculine -o, but have a feminine plur. in -a: uovo, but due uova. For you keeping score at home.