I guess if I wanted to eat cleaner I shouldn't have ordered Baking Chez Moi and Flavor Flours and had Amazon deliver them the same day for an extra $5.99. But that's the plan, at least until our trip to Puerto Rico where I plan on drinking a lot of rum drinks. I'm going to call it "March Sadness." It won't stop me from baking--I made two cakes, brownies and savory crackers within the first 36 hours of ownership. What I really need to stop is the random handful of chips, the doughnuts at grand rounds and mindless eating in general. It will dovetail nicely with the ongoing Crossfit Open. Luckily for me (older, new to Crossfit) they have a scaled division this year. As of this writing I am still hanging in the top 50 for women 45-49 years, scaled division, Mid-Atlantic region, but there is plenty of time for folks to submit better scores.
I had almost written off sunchokes after the lackluster Thanksgiving recipe. Paging through my Vedge cookbook I saw this recipe for roasted sunchokes with smoked paprika aioli. I am convinced I have stumbled across the savory equivalent of Nutella--that aioli is the shit! Is it because I used Duke's mayo and not vegan? Was it the hot smoked paprika I substituted? Don't know, don't care. You should make this and put it on everything. Even Sophie, a self-professed mayonnaise-hater, loved it.
Maddy and I cooked the steak au poivre while the sunchokes were roasting. I used a heavy cast-iron skillet, seared on medium high for ~7 min per side, then rested. Deglaze the pan with a splash of brandy/cognac/sherry/bourbon and simmer til the liquid is syrupy. Add a little heavy cream, season to taste. I included some mushrooms I had cooked prior to cooking the steak. This is a great way to make steak when your grill is covered with snow and the roads are too icy to drive to your local steakhouse and you are wondering how people in the Northeast aren't all homicidal after the latest storm. Remember to dial back your pepper grinder after you have used it to crack the pepper you applied to the steak.
This sweater/mini-slanket is way more fun to wear than it was to knit. It's Stella, from Quince & Co.'s "Home" book, and likely not the only knit I will make from this collection of patterns. I finished this hat for a baby our practice delivered over the weekend, and I really need to finish this sweater so I can wear it when we finally have a spring.
We got another 4" of snow over the weekend and then it sleeted/rained. Shoveling the wet, heavy mess was a good workout, and we finally had snowman-quality snow. Sunday was sunny with highs into the upper 40's. I ran in shorts and drank a beer outside after my run. Sophie's Sunday rehearsal was cancelled despite the melting. She will be busy during "hell week" this last few days prior to opening night. She will be eating a lot of pizza. Ian and I will be eating shrimp, lamb and all the other things she hates.
Sophie's Sylveon cosplay for the last day of the convention was "gijinka," a personification of something that isn't human. In her case, an evolution of Evee. She totally nailed it. She made the majority of her costumes months ago, and is already planning for Otakon in July. It will involve a tiny top-hat that Ian bought her at Katsucon. Stay tuned for Ciel, who wears something like this. "Nobody buys cosplay because the quality is really bad." Damn that cheap overseas labor. Looks like my dining room table will be covered in fabric through the summer.
Maddy, Ian and I enjoyed lobster rolls in Sophie's absence (stay tuned for Katsucon post). Harris Teeter was having a sale on lobster tail, and there was no way we were braving the restaurant crowds. I needed a luxe but simple meal that would not addle my post-call brain. I used my friend Jennifer's hot dog bun recipe, and Martha Stewart's lobster roll recipe. I skipped the herbs because I didn't have any and added some finely diced celery. They were delicious, but I wished for more lobster. Still, at about half the cost of a restaurant lobster roll, totally worth it. We drank Red Shoe Diaries, a pisco-based cocktail sanctioned by the February issue of Bon Appetit. Powerful but smooth. After dinner we snacked on Buffalo Wing popcorn--spicy even though I omitted the cayenne. Additionally, it took way less than 10 minutes for me to get that sugar caramelized. Watch it closely! I sent the bulk of it home with Maddy the next day. It simultaneously cures sweet, salty, crunchy cravings and is only slightly less addictive than kettle corn--that heat does build to a point where you need to stop or just drink more beer.
I have a few suggestions that may help snap you out of the midwinter blues:
Kung-pao brussels sprouts: An easy weekday recipe. Skip the initial salting of the sprouts-the soy sauce provides adequate seasoning. A nice change from all the fish-sauce based recipes out there.
Nostalgic mains like shrimp scampi or Rondele chicken: you can substitute grated parmesan for the breadcrumbs in the coating like my mom used to. I used flavored goat cheese crumbles because I couldn't find Rondele.
"The Great British Baking Show": "Chopped" meets "Downton Abbey" minus the drama. No sad backstories, outrageous ingredients or conniving. A total gem. Norm thinks pesto is "exotic" and the hosts pronounce genoise "gen-o-eese" and say things like "stop touching the dough balls" and "self-saucing puds".
Looking forward to the Piglet and season 3 of "House of Cards." And snow. We have been robbed of the white stuff that makes winter worthwhile.
I spent last weekend with Maddy at her new apartment. In a misplaced but well-meaning attempt at thrift she had purchased a stovetop percolator ($3) and googled instructions for use ("you will need coarsely ground coffee, a heat source, and total disrespect for the bean"). Remembering the days when this blue Kitchenaid stand mixer was the most expensive thing I owned besides my car, I promptly bought her a French press. Her boyfriend John thanked me profusely. Since he is the coffee drinker in the household he was the sole victim of the percolator brew which somehow managed to be simultaneously bitter and watery.
I also brought her some extra baking pans, ramen, palm sugar and Korean drinking vinegar. And, after hearing that she had flipped pancakes with tongs that morning, a spatula.
I think you only need three dishes to call it a hat trick, and this month's issue has been a gold mine. I am already making a second round of charred broccoli with peanuts. You can find nutritional yeast at most Whole Foods or natural grocery stores. When you aren't making this recipe it makes a good popcorn topping. Pictured below is chickpeas and chard with poached eggs. I duded it up with some avocado and fresh pasta. I selfishly took the more beautiful egg for my plate. I substituted kale for the Swiss chard and I made my own baharat. That spice hoarding has finally paid off. Needless to say, I am resubscribed and got Maddy a gift subscription for only $5.
Tomorrow I will be getting some black radishes in the CSA--I am disappointed to hear they are white inside and have a "spicy bite." I think I accidentally ordered a double share. Maybe it's time for some kimchi.
The never ending CSA box was inspiration for several meals this week. Why did I double the parsnips and portobello shares? I feel better about that decision after finding recipes that aren't of the "roast vegetable" variety. Even though these parsnip biscuits are no match for my now go-to recipe, they are an innovative way to use up a parsnip or two. I served them with some posole that I rescued from the deep freezer. The remainder became parsnip gnocchi. Dirt Candy's ridiculously complex recipe for the restaurant dish can be found here--just follow the directions for the parsnip gnocchi. Full disclosure, I did not roast them with the other root vegetables--just the shallots and onions. Be careful when adding the flour to form the gnocchi--the dough remained fairly sticky. I let them hang out in the refrigerator overnight after I did the boiling part (carefully lubricated with olive oil). The next night for dinner I sautéed with a little butter and olive oil to brown a bit on each side. I removed them to a plate and kept warm while I reduced some heavy cream in the sauté pan with fresh nutmeg and black pepper. They were delicious enough to warrant another box of parsnips. The portobellos became portobello frites--one of those dishes where you truly "don't miss the meat." Here is a pro-tip for you, and an hallelujah moment for anybody who has been on a quest for the perfect "oven fry." Proceed with the frites as directed in the recipe up to the point where you have cut them into wedges. Crank oven temp to 425 F and liberally oil two sheet pans with olive oil. Slide the potato wedges through the oil, turning to coat both sides. Don't be shy with salt and pepper. Cook ~10-15 min. until browned on one side , then flip and brown the other side. Don't crowd the sheets; the potatoes will steam instead of browning. This also worked well with some waxy potatoes, just a little different texturally but still crispy on the outside. I subbed sherry for the red wine in the portobello sauce and added a little heavy cream--an improvement in my estimation.
Strangely light work week allowed for a lot of cooking, starting with this recipe from Bon Appetit for Freekeh Paella with Clams and Almond Aioli. Sophie, of course, went clam-less, but if it were up to me I would have doubled the clams or perhaps added some shrimp. I did double the chorizo. I initially goofed and bought fresh chorizo which will be repurposed in breakfast tacos, and I used cracked freekeh which cooks in about half the time. The amount of freekeh could probably be reduced if you don't double the protein. The almond aioli was absolutely delicious. I would make it again and serve as a straight up dip--albeit not as creamy a an egg-based aioli. It would be a stellar accompaniment to moules-frites as well.
A shout out to the PescaDeli who observed me waiting to buy clams and chorizo and allowed me to enter 15 min prior to opening time, and to Fresh Baguette who provided my al fresco coffee and croissant. I biked over after Crossfit and sat outside at a sunny table enjoying coffee and pastry and pretending I was in the French Alps.
Mitarashi dango is a Japanese sweet dumpling that Sophie and friends purchase ($4/dozen dumplings) frequently. We have been meaning to make them at home, and this past weekend we did. Every recipe on the internet assured us that the proper consistency for the dough was "soft, like an earlobe." Katakuriko is cornstarch. Sophie was concerned that we didn't make the sauce thick enough, but between the 5 of us we ate the entire batch. If you have a hankering for a slightly sweet dough ball that will make you feel bloated and full for hours, look no further. The traditional accompaniment is green tea--to help maintain consciousness.
We had our first official snowfall on Tuesday--3-4" of rush hour powder. Thankfully I was not scheduled to work. I had to walk the bike home from Crossfit due to the road conditions. Sophie spent the day sledding, and I shoveled snow and made cinnamon rolls using this recipe I found on the back of the pearl sugar box:
Swedish Cinnamon Rolls
2 envelopes dry yeast
2 cups milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
6 cups flour (I used a 50/50 mix of white whole wheat and all purpose)
4 TBS softened butter
1 cup sugar mixed with 1 TBS ground cinnamon
1 egg, beaten
Melt butter. Add milk and heat til lukewarm. Put yeast in a large mixing bowl and whisk in butter/milk mixture. Add sugar, salt, and half the flour. Continue working in the flour, kneading til smooth and elastic. Place in a warm location and allow to rise ~40 minutes. Divide dough in half, rolling each piece into a square ~1/3" thick. Spread with softened butter and cinnamon sugar. Roll into a log and cut each log into 12 pieces. Place onto a greased baking sheet and allow to rise for ~20 min. Preheat oven to 425F. Brush buns with egg and sprinkle with pearl sugar. Bake until golden brown ~20-30 min.
These were super delicious fresh out of the oven and only slightly less delicious a day later. I made Ian take most of them to work. A photo is here.
Luckily there will be a box of produce on my doorstep tomorrow morning that I paid way too much money for to allow it to go to waste. We are members of From the Farmer, a delivery service that allows you to customize your products (i.e. please, no more kale). I also discovered Tessemae's dressings--a Maryland product that is blessedly sugar-free and truly the best "store-bought" dressing I've ever tasted.
Bon Appetit magazine has really come through for me this week with recipes like "Weekday Porchetta," Vadouvan roasted carrots, and energy bars. For the energy bars I just combined dried apricots and cranberries in the food processor with a little honey and water until I had a thickish paste, then mixed in sesame seeds and pepitas--seasoned with a little cinnamon and salt. Press into a greased pan, bake at 350F for 20 min. Cool completely and cut into bars. I am thinking that I just need to renew that subscription. No crazy resolutions here, just hoping for inspiration to keep me in the kitchen and off the sofa surfing for another series to binge watch.
For those times you don't want a beer and don't want to muddle or dash--I highly recommend the Bittermilk cocktail mixer compounds. They won our family Old Fashioned blind taste off over Thanksgiving, and I just discovered the existence of all the other flavors on their website along with recipes. The Jack Rudy bourbon cherries elevate even the non-alcoholic beverage--Sophie enjoyed recently without intoxication. The Owl's Brew I am reserving judgement as I thought the coconut flavor (not pictured) a wee bit too sweet.
My new favorite TV show is Transparent, and having binge-watched the entire season this past week I am thankful that season two is slated to air in 2015. I read "Station Eleven" and watched "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes", both cautionary post-apocalyptic tales that make one glad for electricity and modern medicine.
I have renewed love for Bon Appetit magazine, and should just re-subscribe. I had written a nice paragraph about all the recipes I have made from the January issue, but the internet ate it. You will have to wait to hear about my "weekday porchetta."
We went to a "miniatures" art exhibit yesterday at the Strathmore. Disappointingly, it was not tiny foods/dollhouse furnishings, but we were agog at some of the teeny paintings (some no bigger than a postage stamp). We all coveted the tiny "Crib" an "enviresponsible shelter" for people who have $60,000 to drop on a structure without a damn bathroom! Post museum, we had a snack and drinks at Denizen's Brewing Company--the beer garden has great summer potential.
Welcome 2015--ushered in with punch and the company of a few good friends. I got Ian "Death & Co." for Christmas, and in a bizarre twist on New Year's Resolutions we have decided to make every one of the 500 recipes therein. Just kidding. We would have to build a bigger bar. The "Evil Dead Punch" contained 4 different alcohols, not to mention the simple syrups/bitters/juices. Once we collected all the ingredients, it was surprisingly easy to mix and enjoy.
The book is a valuable reference and explains the ingredients instead of assuming you know your Bonal Gentian-Quina from a Cocchi Americano. I did substitute Bulleit rye (instead of infusing Old Overholt with chamomile) and made a perfectly drinkable La Dolce Vita (rye-St. Germaine-Campari). It made the IKEA furniture construction nearly painless and scored one for the "try new things" resolution.
Here's the simple recipe for filling your house with holiday joy and your belly with goodness:
Cheese Fondue (serves 4 people dinner as main course with leftovers)
2 cups dry white wine
1.5 to 2 lb. grated cheese (I use Gruyere, Emmental, Appenzeller)--I spent a lot of money on cheese but rationalized it's dinner for 4 people and then some.
1 large clove garlic, peeled and crushed
2 TBS. cornstarch mixed with one TBS. cold water to form a slurry
Dippers: we used bread, broccoli and apples--tiny potatoes have been a hit in the past as well
Bring wine to a simmer in fondue pot along with the garlic. Gradually stir in the cheese a handful at a time until melted. Add the cornstarch slurry and cook until thickened, about 5 min. Do not boil. Adjust consistency with more wine as needed....for the fondue or the cook.
Thanks to the hospitality of our section chief, the "office" holiday party had a decidedly bucolic feel this year. Having spent time with her and her alpaca, it came as no surprise to see her farmstead brimming with happy chickens, pigs and goats. She has plans for a cow and a calf next year, and when her currently pregnant goats give birth they will be in the most competent of hands. We collected eggs, fed the goats, scratched the pigs and enjoyed the country living the way that only people who don't actually live in the country can.
There was plenty of food and holiday cheer, sorely needed after a year of significant change in our department. The midwifery service continues to grow, and one of my partners missed the party, exhausted after catching 5 babies the previous day (4 of them in the span of ~1 hour)!
I caught my last two babies of 2014 yesterday, gorgeous baby boys with a combined weight of nearly 18 lb. Tonight Ian and I will celebrate our 18th anniversary at Little Serow, and we have more fondue lined up for New Year's Eve. Then it's all kale all the time until February.
We only have a few more years to cement the Christmas traditions into our children's memory banks, so we continue to pull out all the stops. Sophie still writes a list, with an increasing slant towards manga and video games; I still fill their stockings, and we always have monkey bread, grapefruit and bacon 'n' eggs. Sophie and Ian's eggs are cooked into submission, and Maddy has finally joined the properly cooked egg bandwagon. People are allowed to pick at the monkey bread, but nobody is forced to eat a full meal prior to present time.
2014 is the second year I have knit a hat for the first Christmas baby delivered by my practice, and it's a tradition I will continue. Gratifying to knit for a tiny person. This year it was the elfin hat pattern from Purlbee, ingeniously constructed from yarn I already had in my stash.
This year we celebrated a few days early so Maddy can spend Christmas day with her dad, and travel to Asheville for the Lindy Focus on the 26th. Her big present will be a trip to Ikea to outfit her new apartment with furnishings. There was the requisite picture of the girls in front of the tree. We were insistent on Makoa's presence because we aren't sure she will be around for Christmas #18. Cooper with his fat, sleek self has lives to spare.
I'm hoping this is the first annual cool Target t-shirt holiday photo session. It was taken in the courtyard of the National Portrait Gallery, a climate-controlled oasis in the center of one of my favorite museums. Every time we visit, I kick myself for not going more often.
Even though I made a killer breakfast with another round of biscuits, we still had room to eat an obscene amount of tiny doughnuts at the Downtown Holiday Market. Why buy 12 doughnuts for $5 when you can get 30 for $9? My resident physics and engineering graduate students did the math, it was a no-brainer.
Every year we make too many desserts, but usually they are all worth eating. This year my mother-in-law's apple crisp and the black-bottom peanut pie were the only two we should have made. The mincemeat tart was cloyingly sweet, and the pumpkin bread pudding not sweet enough. We salvaged the bread pudding quite nicely as a breakfast item topped with maple syrup. The mince pie......I just threw half of it away. The peanut pie recipe is here. Be forewarned, the crust recipe made nearly double the amount needed. I just multiplied the filling by 1.5 and made two pies--one 8" and one 9". According to Marcus Samuelsson, the pie's creator, it reminds him of a Snicker's bar. Instant family favorite, definitely in the rotation.
Here's a picture of us before we got down to business. The star of the show was the bacon shallot gravy. It improved everything it came in contact with. For the sake of all that is holy, you do not need to make 5 lb. of sweet potatoes. I'm talking to you, 2015 Ginny. But definitely use Chinese 5 spice and pistachios in the topping. Also, try not to buy your ham at Costco, unless you have plans for all the leftovers. Feeding ham to your family every day for a week is not a "plan."
Maddy and John made an excellent horseradish cream to accompany the roast--it involved heavy cream, Greek yogurt, scallions and lots of freshly grated horseradish. It will be repeated. Per Maddy's request we did Momofuku cauliflower and the meringue topped sweet potatoes. Unlikely to make it onto next year's roster were the roasted sunchokes with balsamic and rosemary. Tasty, not outstanding, and potentially using valuable stomach real estate that you should fill with mashed potatoes instead.
Speaking of mashed potatoes--Yukon golds, more butter than cream, plenty of salt. That is all.
Sam was right about a salad. Nobody needs it, and nobody should eat raw parsnips even if they are thinly shaved. Not a keeper.