Monday, May 18, 2009

Floyd's Chicken

Saturday May 16

Today was dedicated to The Theater - or Theatre - as produced by our own College Conservatory of Music, which is located just next to the Department offices. In fact, we had a matinee at 2:30 (a seat-of-the-pants recreation of the original 1927 college musical Good News, which was fabulous) and then an evening production (Verdi's Falstaff, also great, especially the title role) at 8 PM. So to make things easy, we didn't bother to go home between them, just hung around the office and walked out to Floyd's for dinner.

Floyd's is a great local secret. It's a tiny place, run by an older Lebanese couple for an older Cincinnati clientele. Though it's directly across from student apartments, we kept seeing groups go flip-flopping right past, doubtless headed for leaden sandwiches at Panera, or burgers and beer at Uncle Woody's, or processed meat at Subway. Never realizing that right there at Floyd's they could get THE BEST SPIT-ROASTED CHICKEN IN THE WORLD. Not to mention the best hummus and baba ghanouj in the world, and that includes Israel and Turkey.
You can get the three together - with fresh pita - as a Floyd's special. Holt had that, and Barbara ordered the other half of the chicken. You can be sure, we wiped the plates with pita, and gnawed every little bone clean.

Jean Wellington's Cream Tea - Plus

Friday May 15

There was a triple reason to be in the Department today - Kris was defending her dissertation (which she did ably, advised by Holt), there would be champagne (oh all right, Gruet d'Albuquerque) to celebrate that occasion, and all the stars coincided to make all this occur on the day of Jean Wellington's Annual Cream Tea.
Jean must spend DAYS preparing this, and it is done not just with culinary skill (especially evident in the fluffy scones with cream and jam, about six assorted cakes, bûche d'aucun Noël, giant fresh strawberries, and the perfectly-trimmed tea sandwiches, of cucumber, curried chicken, and smoked salmon) but with the precision of a trained librarian, with each milk and coffee jug precisely labeled with its contents, and the whole wheeled in on a library book cart. All that work - and it took a hungry crew of faculty and grad students about 20 minutes to demolish it all.
So we considered that dinner. And just to keep the protein levels up, around 8 PM we had a few slices of cold roast pork from Saturday and London Broil from Wednesday.

Penne Carbonara with Pancetta

Thursday May 14

A variation on our usual, as we had a slice of actual Eye-talian pancetta to use up, as well as a few rashers of bacon. Served in the garden of loveliness amid the roses.

London Broil with Onion Paprikash and Exploding Potatoes

Wednesday May 13

Holt had preserved a London Broil for Two in the freezer, awaiting Barbara's return. It was thinnish, so we doctored it with some soy and Worcestershire and pan-fried it rather than grilling, using our frequent-flipping technique. It came out perfectly medium rare, and was quite tender when cut thin across the grain.
We still had some sour cream, so we decided to make a sort of an onion paprikash - sautéed onion slivers, dusted well with Pride of Szeged paprika, slathered with sour cream, and kept hot in the pan - as a garnish for baked potatoes.
But about those potatoes. We've done a carefree method of microwaving potatoes before, and it's never been a problem. But this time we tried it with six little Yukon golds rather than two big Idahoes. Despite the fact that we pierced all the skins and moved them around between nukings, on the third go-round, one of the potatoes exploded, showering the inside of the microwave with fluffy stuff. And though it looked like they were all cooked, several still had raw places inside.
So now we know. Yukon golds may be good for both boiling and baking, but they're definitely anti-nuke tubers.

Latkes with Lox and Sour Cream

Tues May 12

Okay, so we just had something similar a few days ago. But that was just a side dish. And we still had lots of Trader Joe's lox that was calling out to be eaten up. Not to mention sour cream. We thought we were going to do something with blintzes, only to discover that we had used up all the goat cheese (Yuppie blintzes? Go figure). So we recalculated, went back to the classic Claudia Roden recipe, and had ourselves a spring latke fress.

Tuna Steaks with Artichoke Olive Tapenade

Monday May 11

Since Barbara came back from Canada with one giant jar of Costco artichoke hearts, and Holt already had another giant jar in the fridge, it was in our interest to use up lots of artichoke hearts. Also, Holt had a hankerin' for tapenade (that's one of those sentences you very rarely hear, except in our house). Very simple: just tossed a bit of garlic into the Robot Coupe, then ladlefuls of artichokes and lots of the pitted (“Warning: May Contain Pits”) Moroccan olives from Dean's, with a shot of lemon juice and zest, all buzzed together. The artichokes served less as a relish than a vedge on their own.

Italian Roast Pork and Vegetables

Saturday May 9

When we inflict ourselves on family for the weekend, we try to bring the materials for cooking dinner for everyone along, cook it up ourselves, serve it to said family, and clean up afterwards. Try it - though home is famously the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in, this will make them actually glad to.
So we brought down a cooler full of vedge - asparagus, red onions, red peppers, carrots, fennel - and a big ol' tenderloin of pork. Marinated the latter in our own basil oil and herbs, and roasted it at fairly high heat, 400º, adding the various vedge in order of hardness. The pork came out to rest, while the asparagus—JoDee had augmented ours with a bunch the size of a wedding bouquet—and the red peppers, which needed a tray of their own, went in at 500º for about ten minutes.
We served out on the screened porch, with the crowing of cockerels and the occasional scream of a peacock (they have interesting neighbors) as rustic accompaniments. A very nice Ste-Michelle rosé went along for those who like that sort of thing, and we do.
Dessert was peerless - JoDee got some fresh strawberries and raspberries. It doesn't get any better than those sweet things, just in their own juices.

Tennessee Pulled Pork

Friday May 8

Drove south to see the Parker clan in Smyrna (locally pronounced "SMEAR-na") near Nashville. Our nerves were jangled by a shattering thunderstorm as we drove through Louisville, so it was a relief to be welcomed with some southern comfort for dinner: pulled pork and barbeque chicken wings. Adorned with some extra barbeque sauce, it can't be beat. A little homemade dressing on the side, optional. No vegetables, and no one cared.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Chicken and Asparagus Spring Sophisticated

Thursday 7 May

Barbara had been in the garden all day long, grubbing and planting and pruning and encouraging. Holt came home and had an inspiration based on the garden tarragon: chicken breasts stuffed with butter and herbs under the skin (sort of Kiev: so Orange Revolution Chicken?), roasted in the oven, with fresh, plump asparagus from the Lisianthus Lady at Findlay Markey; and then tarragon cream, made from the pan juices and shallots, flamed with a bit of raki, and sopped in cream; and boiled pink potatoes to soak some of it up. We ate out on the terrace, and it was IDYLLIC.

¡Cinco de Mayo!

Tuesday 5 May

The Cheap People at Findlay Market were selling things called "sweet green peppers," but Holt (the New Mexican) recognized that they were really Poblanos. So chiles rellenos were the best option for the upcoming Cinco de Mayo. Holt stuffed them with goat cheese, colby, and herbs, rolled them in egg and seasoned cornmeal, and fried them up. The accompanying salsa was tomato, onion, cilantro, and lime. Arriba!
Holt also took the opportunity to make that ciabatta bread that everyone likes so much at the Dept. of Redundancy Dept. at.

Potato galettes and Potage au Cresson

Wednesday 6 May

A two-course meal: the first was the potato galettes with nova lox, sour cream and chives (with chive blossoms) from the garden, same as we made them back in Canada, for a little protein.

Before settling down to a second course, a potage au cresson, served classically cold like a vichyssoise; marbled with cream as usual.

Steak and Cuke relish

Monday 4 May

Another giant, thick T-bone, anointed with soy sauce and a little mustard, grilled and frequently flipped. Served alongside was a relish Holt had been thinking of: finely chopped cucumber, red onion, feta cheese, with a little lemon juice and oil. Somewhere between a salsa and a Greek salad. Which is exactly where we'd want to be.

Rapini Rotini

Sunday 3 May

As we looked over the first green things coming up in the garden, Holt pointed out the radicchio, the puntarelle, and the arugula. "That's not arugula," said Barbara. We were going to call poison control, but Holt had nibbled on it and survived, so we let it be. Later she took a closer look, and after an internet image search, the mystery plant turned out to be - broccoli raab/rapini. Why this popped up in the patch where chard and turnips were supposed to be wintering, we'll never know, but it's all brassica, I guess.

Never ones to let a useful weed go to waste, we harvested the 6 or 7 plants and picked all leaves and buds off the stems (don't let anybody fool you, those tough stems are NOT edible). Then, while the pasta water boiled, we treated them like Chinese greens but with Italian flavors: heated olive oil in the pan and broke up 3-4 anchovy fillets in it, added some chopped garlic, stir-fried the buds first, and then the rough-chopped leaves; then some chicken broth in the pan, and cover to steam until tender. When it was done, we tossed the greens with the pasta (rotini, because you want a shape that will hold the greens apart rather than let it fall into a clump) and showered with lots of grated romano.

Spring Soup

Saturday 2 May

Oh, the joy of a normal Saturday morning: being together, getting up late, having coffee on the couch, listening to CarTalk, and then driving to Findlay Market for a browse and greet. Among the gleanings were some wondrous fava beans at Madison's and even some baby basil plants from Nancy, so we chose to make Spring Vegetable Soup.

Onions instead of leeks again, and small red potatoes instead of green beans; but now some real basil. As it cooked, we picked some mint, made juleps, and watched the Kentucky Derby. If there's no long-tailed filly running (as the Divine Miss Williams hopes) we choose horses by names or appearances. Neither of us saw Mine That Bird coming, but we should have gone with Calvin Borel, which sounds just like Burrell. Still, the soup was marvelous.

Tuna Steaks with Sorrel Vegetables

Friday 1 May
Tuna Steaks with Sorrel Vegetables
These were the frozen 'ahi tuna steaks from Trader Joe's, simply defrosted and pan-fried quickly, so that they were still quite rare in the middle; anything more tastes like rope. As a bed for them, Holt made his not-the-Troisgros-brothers'-sorrel sauce, which is really a vegetable - or vegetables.

Sausage and Mash

Thursday 30 April

Though it's probably illegal, Barbara drove home with a package of slowly thawing Antipasto's veal sausage in the cooler. So it made a nice simple home-again dinner the next day, with the usual onions fried alongside and some Yukon-gold mash.

Return of the Prodigal

Wednesday 29 April 2009

Reunited and it feels so good...
Barbara drove south like a bat out of Canada, and arrived home just in time for dinner - or maybe it's just that Holt was waiting dinner for whenever she arrived. A celebratory bottle of champagne (okay, Spanish cava, but a nice one) as we prepared the meal. Holt had slain the fatted calf - or had the butcher do it - and threw an enormous Porterhouse steak on the grill. A special bottle of St. Emilion. With it, we had a grand salad of fresh-picked garden radicchio and romaine. Ooh, it's good to be home.