Thursday, March 25, 2010
Hmm, a bit off there. But the chicken was lovely: parsley (from our loyal little window box), dried thyme, rosemary, salt, pepper, and lemon zest, under the skin, lemon (de-zested) up butt (of chicken). End of the root cellar: potatoes, onions, carrots.
Not the popular Brit TV show, or the popular American TV show, but the popular St. Catharines dive.
John and Lisa, Danny and Ingrid. With six you get the chef's appetizer blitz, mostly Mexican in inspiration: nachos, quesadillas, a salad, gnocchi (not especially Mexican), Canadian French fries (not French-Canadian fries), which Canadians do really well. The food was not especially memorable, in part because it was BYOB night (with a corkage fee going to Corks for Cancer, a horrible name but a nice idea) and in other part because the conversation took complete precedence, veering (somehow) between Welsh childhood, Foucault and archaeology, the Rebecca Riots, Mel Brooks, inter a whole heck of alia. Not to mention the "Jews in Rome" joke. I told you not to mention the "Jews in Rome" joke. So anyways, it seems there was this pope . . .
When you make a load of red gravy, you make a load of red gravy.
And when you (Barbara) have to attend a boring, ah, vital, meeting over lunch and they forget to bring anything but crudites (the spellchecker wants to change this to crudités, but they were definitely crudites), you bring home some pretty peppers. All of which went into in a puttanesca, reminiscent of the only time Barbara can remember Brian cooking (in Rome, molti anni fà, and dam' good, too, or so she says). Sautéed the peppers in a bit of anchovy oil. Then tuna, more anchovies, capers, and at the end, because the whores defy convention, even a bit of grated asiago. The Whorer, the whorer!
The only way to cook asparagus, anymore, is to roast them at 500º with a little olive oil (no salt till the end, because it seems to leech out too much water). So much more flavor than boiled, and Augustus notwithstanding, faster too. It seemed logical that one (ok, not one, me, Holt), could do two thickish pork chops in the same pyrex dish. Didn't really work out that way. 1) The PCs had been frozen, so still a tad too cold in the middle. 2) Even in a searingly hot baking dish, the PCs didn't brown. 3) Even after 15-2o minutes, when the asparagus was done, the PCs weren’t. To confess all, they still looked a dispiriting shade of ecru. So to our (my) eternal shame, time to dirty another pan. Took the PCs out and pan fried them to give color and a bit of crust. Arranged the 'geese nicely on the plates; put the pig back in the hot, hot oven; set the plates on the back burner, where all the heat from the stove leaks out into the kitchen. Made another experiment. The reduced orange juice and oil sauce is so good, we tried it with just a lemon's worth of juice. Nice but didn't ever really emulsify. And not lemony enough. Barbara had the great idea of tossing in the caper, and this (for some reason) really enhanced the lemon. So a nice meal, even though nothing went quite right in the kitchen.
A walk round the neighborhood says it's spring. The snow drops, first crocuses, and even a robin, proclaim it thus. The first of the tender vedge has yet to make its appearance, but a few southern snap peas (US) and affordable asparagus (Mexico) gave us green thoughts, if not a green shade.
So a basic stir fry, peas sliced on the diagonal, a pile of minced ginger, a pile of minced garlic, a mess o' shrimp. No oyster sauce or Chinese wine to hand, so careful adjustments of a dash of soy, a splash of sesame oil, and the last knob of frozen chicken stock.
Top round. Not the tendest cut of all, but if handled gently, as fine a piece of flesh as any in Illyria.
As always the biggest problem is starting the parsnips early and making sure they're down at the bottom in contact with 1) the roasting pan itself, and 2) some fat/liquid. So the roast resembled an archaeological dig with strata of Vedge Bin I (Parsnips), VB II (Carrots), VB III (Kennebec potatoes), IV (Turnips), V (Onions). The beefy inclusion was anointed with olive oil, thyme, salt 'n' peppah, more oil über alles. 450º for 10 minutes, then down to 350º, then back up to 400º, cuz it's taking for ever, then take out the roast at 120º inside, but keep vedge a-going for the sake of a few stray parsnips that have migrated to the upper layers and shoving a few uppity onions down.
(Note to self: even with a smallish beef, start the dam' thing, two and a half hours before dinner. Half an hour for slicing up rude vegetable, but two hours to make sure everything's done just right).
Still a tasty piece of beef with the whole apartment perfumed à la root cellar.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Barbara stands alone in Kitchen Stadium, fearless, clueless. The Chairman reveals the Secret Ingredient. Yes, we still have a hunk of back bacon. In the fridge some baby bok choy brought because they were were green and it's March. Iron Chef Burrell swings into action. Garlic, ginger grated. Bok choy chopped, greens and white bottoms kept separated. Back bacon cut into shreeds (that's the way they spelled it at our favorite Chinese restaurant near Lincoln Center, and it worked for them).
Meat stir-fried first, then white parts, then aromatics, then green bits. The last bit of chicken stock. Then adjustments: a bit of soy, a bit of sesame oil. But what's this? From out of left field, with a memory of "Mustard Greens," a dab of Dijon! Giggles from the Japanese actress.
Votes: Pretty dam' good. Though if, for some bizarre reason, we ever have nothing but back bacon and bok choy as our main ingredients again, we'll add onions.
Strewn's Riesling and Gewürztraminer (2008) which is perfect with Asian food . . . and back bacon.
Barbara went fishing at Zehr's and brought back a vasty trout in her creel. Why have two overly large trouts when you can have one Vasty Trout? Too big for even our big frying pan, so into the oven she went, with sliced onions, drizzled with olive oil, a bouquet garni of parsley and thyme from the window box (long tendrils of parsley reaching to the sun make excellent auto-bondage lashings for the herbs) stuffed into Mr. Fish. A row of lemon slices. 400º for about 20 minutes. A little salad on the side, to be swirled in the fish juice.
Barbara expertly flensed Moby Trout but even the fillets were too large for the plates and had to be sliced in two and overlapped. Holt kept yelling, "From Hell's heart I stab at thee," at every bite, until Capt. Barbara quieted him with a belaying pin.
The wine was the Strewn Terroir Chardonnay, which we had tasted on Sunday. "Barrel Fermented Amalgam": done in half French oak, half American oak. Subtle long finish. Lots of malo-lactic butter, so perfect with the trout.
Despite coming home late (emergency Aristophanes!), we had our hearts set on Red Gravy. Red Gravy is the name the Squiglios (pronounced Squiglios) gave to marinara. That way you know it's authentically Eye-talian (Barbara was raised by a pack of wild Napolitani who found her wondering in the jungle—not wandering, just wondering).
So your basic big ol' baked ziti. Tomatoes, sautéed onions, garlic, oregano, and amazingly a fistful of basil from our little window box of herbs, which has given us a touch of fresh green all winter long and is feeling the first rustles of spring (Christian Sinding—you played it too, you know you did). Then the last of whatever tubular pasta we had, all mixed with whatever scraps of cheese could be grated. Then topped with the rest of said cheese ("cheese"). Yes, it dirtied far more dishes than our Zen ideal (did you include the colander in your subtotal?). Yes, it took longer than it might for a late night. Yes, it was very good. Yes, it was Barbara's night to do all the dishes. Did I mention the colander?
Lococo's has these amazingly tender steaks. We set two thick-sliced New York strips (in NY they call them "Ontario Ecdysiasts") aside. We have no grill, so we just pan-fried them (high at first, then on medium, flipping every 1-2 minutes). Roasted the last of the asparagus in the oven. Topped everything with gorgonzola butter. Soooooooooo good.
Cow. It's what's for dinner.
The last time we went to Strewn Winery, they gave us a reservation for a tasting and tour with guests. Ally and Dave, John and Lisa, Elizabeth and Justin could all make it. So we looked at casks of ice wine lazily bubbling, the truly scary frozen grape crusher, and had a pleasant tasting.
After a slightly bibulous afternoon, something simple was called for: Sprouty Onion Soup. A 10 lb bag of big-ass onions had done us yeoman's (yo! man!) service. But the last four or so giant onions were beginning to put forth tender scions, so it was time to slice 'em all. The absolutely classic FOS (French Onion Soup) calls for beef broth, but we did a version—more subtle, I think—with chicken stock. OK, we had chicken stock, we didn't have any beef stock, so there. But you're missing the point, which is FOS is all about two things. Number three of two is onions. ONE is butter. Two is Slow. Onions Not browned. So four huge sprouty onions sliced thin. Slow cooked in 3/4 of a stick of butter (yup). Salt to help the onions sweat. Then a wineglassful of white wine. Then a small iceberg of chicken stock. A very little pepper. Resist the temptation of garlic. And then, only then, add a couple of sprigs of thyme, to be fished out before serving. One big crouton of the last slice of olive-oil bread broiled with cheese, cut in half.
The 21st annual BUAS Symposium at Brock, all organized by the undergraduates. Good papers on the theme of "The Body," which covers everything.
The post-symposium symposium was held at Fresco's. Everything was exactly as last year. Everything. Including the weird, but not displeasing, combo of deep-fried cream cheese filled crab dumplings (by way of Viet Nam) with various hummuses (? hommoi) by way of Lebanon, and other circum-Mediterranean things.
Faced with the end of the week, bottom of the vedge drawer, what to do? But the Farmers' Market had had some nice asparagus (1.69 a lb.), so an idea emerged. We parboiled a mess of potatoes (Kennebecs, long keepers), cut into juliennes. Then add the asparagus, also sliced into slivers. To a frying pan full (or a frying-pan-ful) of the real peameal bacon, likewise cut into little tranches, with some onions, in oil. Added the now-ready potatoes and asparagus, a shot of thyme, salt, then the genius part: after everything was nicely browned on a side and tossed about, we added the last of the (smuggled) cream. The tender potatoes absorbed it all, the starch held it all lightly together. This, though totally seat of the pants, was fabulous—the sort of serendipitous improv that you'd want to recreate, but deliberately this time (or thyme).
Friday, March 12, 2010
A haul of baby artichokes, so they went in (neatly trimmed and halved) into a long simmered all vegetable stew of whatever you got in the vedge bins.
So kinna like this:
- 12 fresh artichokes
- 2-3 carrots, cut in thick slices
- 3-4 potatoes, cut in chunks
- 2-3 green onions, coarsely chopped (or 1 onion, finely chopped)
- 3/4 cup of olive oil
- 1 stalk of celery, finely sliced
- lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons of sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon of pepper
- 1 - 1 1/2 cups of water
Clean the artichokes: snap off the leaves without remorse until you have just the pale colored heart.
Rub the artichoke hearts with lemon as soon as each is cleaned and place immediately in a bowl of cold water with half the lemon juice (to prevent them from turning black) and set aside until ready to use.
In a soup pot, lightly sauté the onions in the oil until they soften. Add carrots and potatoes and continue to sauté for a few minutes more. Add the artichoke hearts, dill, celery, salt, and pepper, and stir. Mix the remaining lemon juice with 1/2 cup of water and flour until smooth, and pour into the pot, stirring until well mixed in. Add the remaining water to cover the vegetables, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and cook over low heat for about one hour until potatoes and carrots are done.
Despite Vatican II and the Pope becoming C of E and prop'ly married and a Good Thing, Friday is still Fish Day most everywhere. Zahr's had barramundi, which the kid at the counter had never heard of. We had (in OZ).
So, garlic chips: ultra thin slices of garlic (not even a benringer, just knife), fried till brown. Then the fish and zucchini in the garlicy oil. All sprinkled with sea salt.
Our anniversary dinner at La Scala, a neighbourhood boite, and one of the first places we ate at in St. Kits.
Carrot and beet soup.
Cozze alla marinara.
Rosemary pork chop, with smashed yam.
For sweeties: cheesecake with strawberry, panna cotta, and each other.
Chopped the leaves and buds (no stems or seeds, man) and sautéed with olive oil from the anchovy can, then minced garlic, then the half can of anchovies. Steamed with a little chicken broth, tossed with the fusilli, and dressed with olive oil and grated romano cheese.
After Holt's talk and Barbara's AIA Council meeting, Lillian and Timothy guided (and drove) us out to Darya, apparently Orange County's best Persian restaurant.
We started with an unknown chardonnay and continued to an unknown red - both okay, considering that the Dariush Persian wine was $119 a bottle.
Appetizers of dolemeh (dolmades) and boraneh eggplant dip, on a playing-card pack of thin breads.
Mains: Baghali Polo (basmati rice mixed with dill and lima beans, with savory tender lamb-shank and broth to pour on it). And Fesenjon (chicken with fried walnut/pomegranate sauce on Basmati rice).
. . . or as we say in Latin. "II."
Okay, we not only ate at the hotel restaurant, we ate there twice in a row, this time with our friend and colleague Amy (hi, Amy!). But in Anaheim, if you find good food within walking distance, you stick with it.
This time, a meaty meal, though with fishy starters: an okay crabcake, and a pristine shrimp cocktail where the giant shrimp were poached in citrus juice and you could subtly taste it - and the cocktail sauce was still the classic ketchup and horseradish that we treasure.
Followed by a GIANT 6-rib half rack of lamb, coated in breadcrumbs - the meat was perfect, though the breadcrumbs were a bit limp except for one spot where the mustard flavor came through. And a big-ass 22-ounce porterhouse, which was again au point, and meatily marvelous. Each had a little mushroom and onion. A big red Antinori to accompany.
And our nice server from the day before, David, comped us a celestial grand marnier soufflé for dessert. Thanks, David!
That's right, dear friends. Only a few days back in St. Catharines, and we have to go the annual meetings held for some bizarre reason in Anaheim.
(Hey, kids, wanna go to Disneyland? Yaayyyy! How about four days of a conference of classicists and archaeologists first in a hotel in the middle of absolutely nothing except Disneyland? Booooooo!)
A surprisingly good and subtle meal. Markham sauvignon blanc. Bread with a mound of goat cheese and butter with dried cherries and tomato. Seared diver scallops - big ones! - with wild mushrooms and pea purée. A tower of chopped lobster, with avocado from the local avocado avenue. For mains, a wonderful cioppino with clammy rich broth, crisp croutons, and lots of lobster claw meat, mussels, prawns, scallop, and Chilean seabass (Patagonian toothfish, to you). And a perfectly done Scottish salmon on more perfectly done spinach, a couple of caramelized pineapple slices, and a drizzle of pomegranate sauce.
Holt had frozen two containers of smoked duck gelée from Canadian thanksgiving, and cooked them today into the simplest and most elegant risotto - just a little onion to start with, but no cheese or anything to mask the lovely smoky flavor.
Afterwards, a romaine salad with some artichoke hearts, olives, finely chopped sundried tomato in oil, dressed with sherry vinegar and the wonderful olive oil that our niece Joanna brought us from Spain - the ecological extra-extra-virgin Nuñez de Prado. It had a slight lemony olive flavor of its own, and was perfect on this salad.
Wine: Four Vines naked chardonnay
Just as described last time but without the garlic - we were out. More onions instead, and we used four frozen cubes of garden cilantro from summer.
And we actually drank beer with it, once Holt warmed up from his walk outdoors.
New Year's Eve Soletimboccas
Thursday 31 December
The folded kind, using little soles folded over a slice of lox, then dipped in breadcrumbs and fried. When they were done, deglazed the pan with wine and added cream and two cubes of garden tarragon that Barbara had chopped with oil and frozen.
Big old Steak with Horseradish Cream
Wednesday 30 December
Rubbed the steak with Worcestershire, and dusted it with ground herbs. Then a quick deglaze + horseradish + cream. Romaine salad with pseudo-Caesar dressing and oven croutons on the side.
Tuesday 29 December
Gotta use up that bacon.
Venison Medallions with Sweet Cherry Sauce and Mashed Turnips
Monday 28 December
David's venison as a Christmas gift. Bacon in the sauce, with Marsala, and a tub of frozen stoned (dude!) cherries, which one of the Tytus Fellows had left in the Classics Dept. communal fridge. Cream in Turnips.
Penne with Asparagus and Lemon Cream
Sunday 27 December
Back to Cincinnati, so a simple dish on arrival.
Boxing Day Shepherd's Pie
Saturday 26 December
Venison-steward's Pie? for 20 or so. Made with David's V-burger, a chopped bagful of tiny carrots, some sweet onions, a small can of tomato sauce, and lots of fresh sage, plus dried rosemary, oregano, and allspice. Topped with mashed potatoes, and served with a romaine salad and croutons made with Holt's breadwreath.
Friday 25 December
Dinner was two turkeys, brined, barded with bacon, and cooked for hours in the outdoor smoker. They were tender and savory. There was also sausage dressing, corn pudding, mashed potatoes, cream gravy with sage, two kinds of cranberry sauce, green beans with country ham, onions, and almonds, yeast rolls, and a strange sort of broccoli salad with white dressing and raisins (not my favorite, but many liked it). And this is NOTHING compared to the three buffetsfull of desserts that are lined up. Holt baked two kinds of biscotti (cappuccino, and cranberry and pistachio for the red and green colors) and a Kentucky nutcake to bring down. There are family candy specialties, like homemade caramels and Martha Washingtons and something called puppy chow that's amazingly sweet, every kind of brittle and even homemade marshmallows. There were pumpkin pies and pecan pies and fudge pies. After an afternoon dinner, a couple of slices of these, covered with whipped cream, around 9 PM, went down fine.
Becky's Famous Gnocchi
Thursday 24 December
With spinach and sausage, now a Christmas tradition. So tasty. Along with Holt's tomato and spinach bread wreath—two Italian breads (from Carol Fields), one green one red, braided into challah-oid circle, and a salad.
JoLinn's Mexican Feast
Wednesday 23 December
Drive down to TN. We're welcomed by warming tortilla soup, guacamole, spicy dip, salsa and chips - for seventeen people.
Pork Scallopine with artichokes
Tuesday 22 December
Return to Cincinnati. Digging stuff out of the freezer.
It's wonderful to be able to use a two-person-size packet of lovely pork medallions.