How about makin’ whoopie pies instead!
Seeing the delight on the faces of the loved ones who are the fortunate recipients of these all-grown-up Devil Dogs will bring its own special satisfaction. I used a 2003 Gourmet recipe, and so should you.
As I walked to the train yesterday, it occurred to me that the anniversary of my first blog post must be quite near. And so it is – it’s today! When I began, I wasn’t completely sure of the direction I would take, but I’ve come to realize that what I like most to write about is the intersection of food and life. I love to cook, I do love to eat, but it’s when those activities connect with the people and events of my life that the words flow most easily. So here’s how food connected with the Great Snow Storm of October 2011 . . .
Knowing that the forecast called for snow, and wanting to dive into one of the 29 recipes I had dog-eared in Melissa Clark’s In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite, I decided to make Ale-Steamed Mussels with Garlic and Mustard for Saturday’s lunch. As snow fell and leaf-filled trees began to bow under the weight, garlic, thyme, and ale steamed through my apartment. That and a bottle of ale, made a perfect greeting for Dr. S, who had narrowly escaped multiple fender-benders on his trip north. We sat down to a heaping bowl of mussels, a baguette, a salad of arugula, endive, cranberries, almonds, and Bayley Hazen Blue, and bottles of Anchor Brewing Company’s Liberty Pale Ale.
Out of respect for copyright laws, I’m not going to print Melissa’s recipe here, but I will tell you that where she called for 3 cloves of garlic, I used 6. 3/4 c. of ale? How about a bottle, can’t really have too much broth! Shallots? Damn – forgot those at the store, went with half a sweet onion. I figured there wasn’t too much you could do to mess up a mussel recipe. And based on the fact that when lunch was over not a mussel remained and the better part of a baguette had been used to sop up the broth, I’d say there’s at least one person who agrees with me.
After a weekend road trip to visit friends in the nation’s capitol (little did we know the intrigue that was afoot as we strolled past 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on Saturday afternoon), which included the consumption of mussels in a cilantro and coconut milk sauce at Bertha’s; baseball-size crab cakes from Faidleys Seafood; home-roasted salmon followed by berries with a brown sugar, amaretto sour cream sauce; fried artichoke hearts, NY strip steak, and Belgian beer; and finally Sunday-morning eggs Benedict, by our return home on Sunday evening, we were ready for the easy comfort of a big bowl of pasta.
I suggested a recipe my trusty traveling companion had found in The NY Times a few years back – Fettucine with Butter, Peas, and Sage Sauce. Agreement. After a quick stop at the grocery store, dinner was soon in the making. My beau has himself a lovely little herb garden, and the sage is already a good 8″ high, so I had no trouble procuring the requisite 12 leaves, though it was so much fun to pluck them that we went this evening with 20.
When I returned to the kitchen, wine had been poured, water had been put up to boil, and a stick of butter was melting on the stove. The sage was tossed in with the butter to stew a little bit, and I leaned back against the counter to enjoy my wine, while my host measured parmesan, toasted some pine nuts and prepared a salad dressing.
I love cooking. And I love cooking for and with Dr. S. But there is something so very delightful about watching Dr. S. cook for me, for us. I don’t know that I will ever tire of it! (Remind me to tell you about the recent breakfast he prepared out of dinner leftovers. . .) So my contribution to this meal preparation was minimal. Other than picking the aforementioned sage leaves, I tossed the butter sauce onto the pasta, popped it in the oven, and lighted the dining room candles. Here’s what dinner looked like as it went into the oven . . .
And here’s what it looked like on the table . . .
And in case you’d like your own dish of this comforting pasta next Sunday night, here’s the recipe, courtesy of The NY Times, but with our own secret ingredient added at the end!
Fresh Fettucine with Butter, Peas, and Sage Sauce
1/2 c. butter
12 fresh sage leaves (but you can’t go wrong with more)
1 c. frozen petite peas
salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. fresh fettucine
1/4 lb. Parmesan, grated (about 1 1/2 c.)
Optional: J’s secret ingredient – Truffle Salt!!!
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and put the pasta water on. Melt 1/4 c. of the butter in a small saucepan, and add the sage leaves. Cook until they’re crisp – but not burnt! When the butter begins to brown, add the peas and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add 1/4 c. water, cover the saucepan and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Cook the fettucine, drain well and, in an ovenproof dish, toss with the remaining 1/4 c. of butter, 1 c. of the grated Parmesan and the pea and sage mixture. Place in the oven for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan, and, if the idea does not offend you and you are so fortunate as to have it in your pantry, serve with truffle salt on the side!
My apartment smells of toasting cheese – Comté, to be exact – and scallions. In the oven is a loaf of Dorie Greenspan‘s cheese and chive bread, though I’ve taken her bonne idée, substituting scallions for chives and throwing in a handful of toasted walnuts, as well. Cooking this bread is my way of hurrying the start of my weekend, because as I chopped and stirred and now enjoy the warm scents drifting through the apartment, I am thinking of tomorrow night, when this bread will be the accompaniment to a well-deserved glass of Friday-night scotch for an overworked, carbohydrate-loving doctor I know.
Since my daughters were both involved with sleepovers on Friday night – one at our place, one at a friend’s – we pushed our “movie night” off to Saturday this week. We included a stop at the library in our Saturday errands, and picked up “Julie & Julia”. Having read the book, I’d been rather reluctant to watch the film, but multiple friends had insisted I would enjoy it, the girls had actually heard about it from some friends and were therefore gung-ho, and then, of course, it did have the whole Paris connection. In the spirit of our evening’s theme, I chose a couple of recipes from Around My French Table for dinner: pork loin with oranges and broth-braised potatoes. I also decided to see if the girls’ palates were ready to recognize the delights of roasted brussels sprouts.
I wish I could report that the pork loin was a hit, but alas I cannot. I had high hopes, given how beautiful it both looked and smelled as it cooked.
Orange zest, scallions, and cardamom flavored the sauce, but somehow the pork left us all a little unmoved. It was just okay, not something I can see myself cooking again. And though I thought the brussels sprouts just grand, my daughters were left cold. The more apropos word would actually be “offended.” Thank goodness for the fingerling potatoes and raspberry chocolate chip ice cream that followed later, else my children would have gone to bed hungry.
The movie helped to make up for the disappointing dinner, as well. We loved the “Julia” scenes! The glimpses of Paris – restaurants, markets, streets scenes – flamed the anticipation that has been building in our home. The girls declared that we must visit Shakespeare and Company and E. Dehillerin. Greta decided it’s time to get serious about learning some French phrases, and spent an hour or so with one of our French textbooks today. And I found myself captured once again, as I was when I read Julia’s biography, by the story of her life with Paul in Paris and beyond. The two of them exploring together, eating, cooking, hosting dinner parties, making Valentine cards in the bathtub, and sweet toasts to one another. He loving her boisterous quirkiness, and she doting on him, and both endlessly encouraging and supportive of one another throughout their lives. Of course, one can never know the truth of another couple’s relationship, but from what I’ve read, it certainly seems to have been a romance and partnership worthy of admiration.
Let me leave you with this poem, written by Paul Child on the occasion of Julia’s birthday, August 15, 1961:
O Julia, Julia, cook and nifty wench,
Whose unsurpassed quenelles and hot souffles,
Whose English, Norse and German, and whose French,
Are all beyond my piteous powers to praise —
Whose sweetly rounded bottom and whose legs,
Whose gracious face, whose nature temperate,
Are only equalled by her scrambled eggs:
Accept from me, your ever-loving mate,
This acclamation shaped in fourteen lines
Whose inner truth belies its outer sight;
For never were there foods, nor were there wines
Whose flavor equals yours for sheer delight.
O luscious dish! O gustatory pleasure!
You satisfy my taste buds beyond measure.
Confession: I am one of those cooks who is a bit territorial in the kitchen. Some of it stems from the fact that my kitchens have always been quite small and therefore difficult spaces in which to operate with more than one person. But I’ll admit it, I also have a bit of a control issue in the kitchen. I am an oldest child, and true to my birth order, do tend to believe that if I want something done properly, it’s generally best to do it myself. (My sister would say “yes, you’re a know-it-all.”) A number of recent events, however, have begun to move me in a new and surprising direction.
First was the “dinner is served” experience, though I believe things began to brew at the cheese counter on the evening of that salad and cheese dinner. Next, the joint effort that resulted in the (largely) successful recreation of Effie Ophelia’s roasted carrot and fennel salad. And then there was the double play of Christmas Eve.
I had decided to make spaghetti with Littleneck clams for our Christmas Eve lunch. Dr. S was joining us, as my daughters had made an expressed request to spend some time with him, having had only a brief introduction to him one Saturday evening.
While he and the girls wrapped presents in the living room, I went about my business in the kitchen. All was going well until I dug my spoon under the pile of Littlenecks, into the bottom of the pot to ladle out some broth. To my horror, the broth was a deep and troubling gray, almost black. I looked at the clams I had just spooned onto a dish of spaghetti and saw that one of them was filled with black mud, which had now spilled onto the spaghetti. My cries of distress brought Dr. S to the kitchen. After a peek in the pot, and a moment of thought, he asked if I had a gravy separator. I did. While he poured the broth into the separator, I began to heat some oil and garlic, adding white wine and bottled clam juice, as a substitute sauce. My level-headed friend suggested we stick the clams in a low oven to keep them warm in the meantime.
While the broth never did clear, it was an excellent idea and may well have worked if we had had more time. Though not exactly the meal I had planned, the lunch was a success in the more important ways.
After the Christmas Eve Mass, my children left to spend the rest of the evening with their father and his family, and Dr. S and I headed to the home of good friends for a pre-dinner glass of wine.
Our menu for the evening was the same as my friend, Julie, had planned for her family – Ina Garten’s Seafood Gratin. While having our drink, Julie shared her frustration about how much prep time had been required.
“What? I read that it takes only 20 minutes!”
“Ha! It took forEVER to reduce that sauce! And have you julienned the vegetables yet? If you haven’t, you can forget about eating before 10.”
Well, as it happens, my physician had actually exercised his knife skills while the girls and I were at Mass. But Julie is an experienced and good cook, so if this recipe had given her grief, there was reason to be concerned.
Once back in my apartment, we headed immediately for the kitchen. I began to clean the shrimp and prepare the scallops while Dr. S sautéed the leeks and carrots, started the sauce and picked through the lobster meat. I chopped herbs then moved onto blanching the seafood while Dr. S melted butter and prepared the herbed breadcrumb topping. While I reduced the sauce, the doctor sliced endive and whipped up a salad dressing. Within 35 minutes we were sliding the casserole dish into the oven. We sent Julie a text message 25 minutes later to let her know we were sitting down to dinner!
In my tiny railroad-style kitchen we had gracefully made this Christmas Eve dinner together. And I had felt neither the need nor desire to provide my new kitchen companion with any instruction other than the next step in the recipe.
I think I could kinda love sharing my kitchen.