Monday, December 31, 2007
Sunday, December 30, 2007
We were in Mediterranean Foods in Omaha buying spices when my husband noticed a large bag of goat meat in the freezer case. I've never cooked goat. I don't know anyone that has cooked goat. I'm now the proud owner of five pounds of goat meat. You'd think that five pounds of meat your wife has no clue how to cook would have been enough, but it's the holidays and well, my husband is generous. My freezer now also contains a rather large leg of mutton. I heard him talking to the shopkeeper and even though he was calling it "lamb" I knew as soon as the discussion turned to "It doesn't smell like it usually does, this is good lamb" that he was talking sheep. That's OK; in fact mutton is hard to find these days so I was really pretty happy to know it was available. Granted, that's a whole lot of mutton, but I can put it to use in potpies, stews, soups and other freezable meals. Maybe I'll just have "mutton day" and do all the cooking at once. Anyone want to come over? (The shopkeeper says it doesn't smell). I'm sure somewhere my grandmother is rolling in the grave that we paid six bucks a pound for mutton (that used to be the cheap stuff) but it is quite a bit of food.
So that was yesterday. Today, I sent him out on a very simple errand to refill the water bottles (we can't drink our well water-actually, we could, the water is safe, but it tastes and smells gross). Super Saver had water refills for 8 cents a gallon. I guess he was overcome by the savings and it went to his head because he also came home with a fully cooked smoked turkey. Yeah, that was a pretty major WTF? Reaction. I think we've bought turkey (of any variety) maybe three or four times in fourteen years and that was usually a few slices from the deli when my dad used to visit. I don't eat it, and as far as I know neither does my husband. I guess we're going to though, seeing how I have a smoked turkey taking up space in my fridge.
It actually did remind me a bit of my dad. He was in the food distribution business and would often "swap" with the other delivery guys. He'd come home with all sorts of strange sausages that my mother had no clue what to do with. I seem to recall a large tray of smoked salmon (something like 5 lbs) and frozen pierogi. Because these guys dealt with restaurants and food services for hotels and offices, the stuff came in very large quantities. I just had a flashback to something like 100 packets of powdered drink mix in weird flavours like root beer and cinnamon.
I guess I'll call the extension office in the morning to see if you can freeze smoked turkey and if the home economist there has any ideas for canning goat-meat stew. I'm open to suggestions if anyone has any.
Mmm, nothin' says "Happy New Year like goat!
Friday, December 28, 2007
"This is a chocolate pie."
Yeah, well hard to argue with the appeal of a chocolate cream pie, and unlike a strawberry Bavarian there isn't really a "season" for chocolate. I looked at the recipe-apparently it won a baking contest in 1999. Once I excluded all the pre-made crust and whipped cream, it sounded like a somewhat interesting recipe-so I went for it.
Instead of a standard piecrust I went for a Pate Brisee. It wasn't my intention to make a free—standing shell, but once I realised it would slide from the pie plate easily, it seemed foolish not to. I don't own flan rings (as I almost never make tarts) though after the success with the pastry, I might need to consider buying some.
You Will Need:
For the Pate Brisee:
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ lb. Unsalted butter cut into small cubes
3 tablespoons vegetable shortening
5 tablespoons + ice water
Place flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Cut in the butter and shortening taking care not to overwork it or warm it too much in your hands. Don't worry about incorporating every last bit of butter evenly.
Add the water and with your hand, blend and gather together into a ball adding more water if needed. The dough should NOT be sticky.
Grab about two tablespoons of the dough at a time and smear, using your hand against a work surface. When all dough is completed, roll into a ball and wrap tightly in plastic. Chill two hours.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees FR.
Roll out dough quickly and place in pie pan (or flan ring if you have one). Flute high on the sides to accommodate the filling.
Prick the bottom with a fork generously. Butter a piece of foil and place it atop the crust and press it into the sides as well. Fill the crust with beans to weight it during baking.
Bake for 8-9 minutes until it is set. Remove the foil and beans and bake an additional 10-15 minutes until done. If you feel confident, slip the crust from the pan and cool it on a rack to keep it from getting soggy. Otherwise, cut your losses and cool it in the pan. The crust must be completely cooled before filling.
For the Pie Filling:
½ cup sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate either chips or very finely chopped squares.
2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
3 oz. Cream cheese, cubed and softened at room temperature
1-½ cups heavy whipping cream
1-teaspoon vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan, mix the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Slowly whisk in the milk. Add the chocolate and stir until dissolved. Cook over medium heat until mixture boils. Keep whisking to keep it from burning and cook one minute longer until thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in the cream cheese and whisk until completely smooth. Transfer to a bowl and cover on surface with plastic wrap. Chill until cool-about 1 hour.
In a large bowl, whip the cream until soft peaks form. Stir in vanilla. Remove 1 cup for topping. Fold the rest of the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture taking care to incorporate it evenly. Spoon into prepared crust. Top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Chill at least six hours before serving.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Danny: (looking through cookbook) Will you make this?
Mummy:(looking at photographs he's pointing at) A strawberry Bavarian?
Danny: Yes. (Repeating, thoughtfully) a strawberry Bavarian.
Mummy: I don't think you'd like it.
Danny: Danny would like it.
Mummy: (looking at recipe) It calls for three cups of fresh strawberries-they're awfully expensive this time of year.
Danny: (pouting) Strawberry Bavarian?
Mummy: And six egg yolks, and a cup of heavy cream.
Danny: A strawberry Bavarian is very pink.
Mummy: I don't own a charlotte mould.
Danny: Papa will buy one.
(About two hours later, Danny comes up to me in the kitchen carrying a different cookbook. He plops it on the floor and opens it to a photograph of …you guessed it…a strawberry Bavarian).
Danny: This one only needs one cup of strawberries and cream.
Mummy: Really, well that might be more do-able, let me see….wait a minute, you can't read!
Never underestimate a dessert-obsessed three year old.
Monday, December 24, 2007
Peace On Earth.
You Can't Catch Me, I'm The Gingerbread Man!
Friday, December 21, 2007
Thursday, December 20, 2007
get cookies for breakfast on your birthday).
We gave him the tractor early, before his papa left for work, and it was pretty much as I expected-equal time playing with the box it came in. Sigh. He's never going to let me throw that box away.
The tractor cookies provided quite a bit of after-party entertainment to play with at the table.
Happy Birthday Danny (or as he now insists I call him, "Big Dan.")
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Monday, December 17, 2007
Sunday, December 16, 2007
"It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year"...
Really, it is.
So I ventured out today (no, no, I'm not foolish enough to drive myself, I recruited my husband and son to chauffeur me about) which was pleasant enough until I remembered (about 45 minutes into it) that I really wasn't feeling my best and gosh, don't they really keep it excessively warm inside these public spaces?
Know what's amusing? The grocery store ten days before Christmas when everyone suddenly decides they're going to bake-including those who don't know which end of a spoon to stir with. It was fun, sort of like Filene's Basement the day after Thanksgiving. All the pushing and shoving and elbows trying to make certain they grab all the confectioner's sugar that can be carried away in their little Christmas sweater adorned arms. I saw some really embellished sweaters/sweatshirts on display today. I always wanted a pair of Christmas earrings that looked like ornaments, or lights but never have gone ahead and bought a pair. I'm probably a few years off from the Christmas sweater/sweatshirt, but I have been known to put my hair in a roller set, or worse, a braid-so who knows, maybe I'm getting older than I think.
Anyway (I do tend to tell very long, pointless stories, don't I?) the baking aisle was madness, and being sort of fragile these days and too much of a pacifist to consider getting into the whole grocery-carriage-derby scene, I pulled over to the side and let the puss drain away. Sorry, that was gross. That's what my husband used to call it when he'd let the first train go by that was overly full and take the second, less crowded. The first one became known as the puss drainer. What was I talking about...oh yeah, the baking aisle at Hy-Vee.
Right. What's remarkable is watching the things people actually buy. Part of me, the mum probably, wants to grab them by their bejewelled sweatshirts and plead with them to not purchase the frosting in the aerosol can. Ditto the pre-melted fake chocolate in a cup for dipping. I want to invite them over for a cup of coffee and a baking lesson. I'm tempted to scribble down a frosting recipe and slip it in their carriages. I want to warn them that it won't work and will just frustrate them worse than making the melted chocolate on the stove top (or the microwave for heaven's sake). I didn't, but good golly, I really wanted to. Pre-made frosting with those awful screw-on tips is sort of the baking equivalent to hair colouring-you don't get professional results buying it in a place that sells alcohol, motor oil and diapers. Drugstore hair colouring keeps colourists in business, and pre-made frosting and royal icing from a tin or tube in the grocer keeps the local bakery thriving. They don't work-at least not the way you want them to. Do you really want your cookies to be the orange roots, or green tinged adventure with Sun-In? I didn't think so.
As I stood aside watching the chaos, a woman who had also stepped aside looked over at me, my cart piled with bags of flour, sugar and yeast.
"Looks like someones doing her Christmas baking." She said cheerfully.
(Somewhat taken by surprise) "No...I finished mine last weekend, this is just the regular baking."
And the, because I didn't already sound like enough of an arrogant food snob, I added:
"Except for the mincemeat, which I stir on Mondays and add another dram of brandy. Otherwise, I'm done."
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Friday, December 14, 2007
You do however, need to be careful of cross-contamination. Disposable cutting boards are wonderful, as are toss-away towels and bleach water solutions. Use your brain-set aside all the utensils used to prepare poultry and then wash them in very hot soapy water-immediately. Don't simply set them aside or you'll forget what's been used for what. Scour your sink and counter when finished. Really, you ought to do that anyway, as we've recently seen spinach can be as dangerously diseased as a turkey.
Hate to sound like an old fuddy-duddy wagging a finger and lecturing-but use your heads.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Monday, December 10, 2007
Sunday, December 09, 2007
Saturday, December 08, 2007
Suddenly, the people who decide what everything from our dish soap to floor wax should smell like have decided that there's just something fresh and clean and wonderful to the acidic/decomposing smell of cucumber. You know, like a compost heap. No, lavender or rose or even the tried and true pine wasn't enough for these people-now everything has to smell like the inside of the truck my father delivered barrels of pickles in-without the benefit of garlic and dill.
I know what you're thinking-but really my aversion isn't from having grown up around pickles, as I rather like the way pickling spice overwhelms the smell of cucumber. No, don't blame the old man. If anyone should bear blame for my cucumber aversion, it is my mother-and a cold salad dish she called, Farmer's Chop Suey. Not that she'd ever been anywhere near a farm, unless you can count Hickory Farms.
For the uninitiated, Farmer's Chop Suey consists of chopped-up cucumbers, radishes, and scallions mixed with cottage cheese and sour cream. I suppose it could be good made with full-fat cottage cheese and sour cream-but that never happened at our house. Instead, the lower-fat cottage cheese would get watery and the whole thing would begin to separate by the time she plopped it down at the table like some culinary triumph. All that chopping and dicing, and stirring!
OK, so you're thinking, "One serving of that doesn't sound that bad", which is true. Unfortunately, we'd be eating it for days. This salad was usually served alongside her salmon patties which had precious little salmon in them but plenty of dry breadcrumbs and dried parsley. Sometimes the Farmer's Chop Suey worked best to soften the patties up a bit...so they could be swallowed.
Still, cucumbers I'm afraid are everywhere, stinking up every public and private space one enters these days. Like the spiced potpourris of the 80's and 90's, the crap is inescapable. It is so bad, that I opened a magazine last week only to be hit by the disgusting (and really, kind of unlikely) combination of lime, vetivier and cucumber coming off of a fragrance advertisement. I ripped the offending insert from the magazine and tossed it, but the scent lingers on the pages still-weeks after. I'll likely need to pitch the magazine.
Cucumber is a useless vegetable anyway, unless you pickle it in brine-and even that's questionable. It doesn't add anything to salads that I can tell and I'm sure I'm not the first person to have their mouth itch and burn after eating it. Why? Why cucumbers? Am I missing something that the whole rest of the world appreciates? Is there any actual good use for them?
I still remember my horror as a teenager after permitting my best friend to place slices of cucumbers on my eyelids to soothe puffiness (and really, at sixteen just how much eye puffiness do you have? Certainly not enough to require the application of raw vegetables to your face). It wasn't "soothing." It burned. Oh my God in heaven, it burned like a burning, burning burning piece of veg burning the delicate (albeit allegedly puffy) skin of my eyelids. People, let me share some wisdom-vegetables are for eating. You don't want to put that stuff of your face, let alone your eyes. Yeah, yeah, "natural" I get it, but in the words of that great American example of the ravages of LSD on a person, Grace Slick:
"Poison oak is a natural plant, why don't you put some in your food? Natural food makes you slow and stupid."
-a thought to which I can only add:
"And it doesn't belong on your eyes, in your dish soap, or floor cleaner.