In Chicago, with Christine’s Mom, Aunt, & Uncle, a smaller gathering called for a more modest meal and thus turkey was not on the menu. Instead we had a roasted pork loin, stuck with garlic, and a cranberry/red wine reduction with ginger and lemon, and mushrooms cooked in the pan drippings then flamed with cognac to finish. Along with this lovely roast, which had brined all day and was really juicy and flavorful, we had roasted roots (carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips, onions, red and yellow beets, celery root, garlic, and apples) and puréed roasted red kuri and kabocha squash, plus kale and Arlette’s roasted asparagus. We began with Susana Balbo’s Torrontes, then moved on to a 2000 Carver Sutro petite sirah which is finally hitting its stride.
For dessert we had a pear tart I made earlier in the day (with a passion fruit/clementine/cointreau/honey glaze) and Arlette’s chocolate cake. A good simple Thanksgiving- not a big blowout, but better for the quality of people and food, and the space to enjoy both.
Fresh from a shopping trip to Chinatown in the city, all the new treats inspired this inaccurate but damn tasty dinner upon my return. It’s hard to find gai lan and long beans anywhere else, so I loaded up on them, as well as baby bok choy. The long beans sautéed in the last of the pork belly, then had garlic, sambal oelek, rice wine and ponzu added to finish. The gai lan tossed with tons of garlic and ginger finished with rice wine and the last of our soy sauce (I wish I had bought some more on my trip; it’s so much cheaper down there.) We had two kinds of dumplings: shu mai with a filling of puréed lotus root, black beans, and umeboshi paste, and gyoza filled with shredded bok choy, carrot, and onion. I fried the gyoza and steamed the shu mai, and the dippng sauce was ponzu with some heat added.
Sometimes we get lucky, and my evening survey of the fridge immediately suggests a plan. This was one of those times. We liked to order malai kofta from our local Indian place back in Brooklyn, and I saw the makings of a mutant variation in the remnants of recent meals. So, for the balls, leftover steamed Brussels sprouts, parsnips, and cauliflower puréed along with brown rice and sweet potatoes as well as onion that I cooked fresh with oil, various seeds, and a thumb of ginger all went in the food processor along with half an egg an a bit of flour. These fried in a pan to firm them up, then went into a mixture of black beans, coconut milk, tomato paste, eggplant, spinach and spices which I stick-blended into a gorgeous thick sauce. Garnished with cilantro and lime, it tasted pretty authentic considering it was made of scraps and I have no idea how it’s actually made.
I’ve always been a fan, especially in colder months, of keeping a pot of soup going day after day by adding leftovers or new ingredients to it every day or two (reheating it fully every time) so that it remains a work in progress- hitting certain plateaus of completeness but then undergoing slight or radical changes based on the nature of what gets added and subtracted. This particular version had its genesis back in the lamb shanks, and the leftover stew (plus quinoa and black radish) on subsequent nights had cabbage, kale, tortellini, pesto, chicken broth, and ultimately the rice and beans from 2 nights ago added to it. Milo had the penultimate bowl for breakfast this morning.
The rice and beans from 2 nights ago: pork belly (and INSANE mole-flavored sausage from Salumi that Andrew sent me as part of a birthday sampler from Seattle) rendered, then onion, celery, and carrot, plus cumin seeds and powder, then soaked black beans plus their liquid bubbled for 3 hours until al dente and perfect. Served on brown rice with grape tomato salsa, avocado, and “Margaritas” made from strawberry wine that Mike brought on Friday, orange-infused Scotch from Mary, tequila and lime juice.
3 couples came to dinner the night before my birthday, so I bought a bunch of good things and figured out how to put them together. I knew I wanted slow-cooked lamb shoulder, so that morning I put a 4-pound beauty into a big pot with the usual aromatics plus lemon, cumin, kombu, dried porcini, wine, soy, and vinegar and, once bubbling, put it in the oven for about 8 hours at 225˚. Then I strained the liquid, pulled the meat apart, and put it into a smaller pot with just enough of the liquid to cover and simmered it on the back of the stove for another 2 hours until it was time to eat it.
The first course was smoked trout that I made earlier, made as before into little soufflans but with the recipe tweaked a bit due to an egg shortage. They went with sautéed local oyster and shiitake mushrooms, shredded kale quickly tossed in a pan with oil and lemon, and a chopped radicchio/butter/wine sauce poured over all of it.
Next the lamb, on whipped parsnips with yogurt and truffle oil, and Danny’s roasted vegetables, with a dab of mint/rosemary/garlic chive pesto on top. And then pear tart, along with amazing local blue cheese and a Montbazillac that, for the money, is a worthy substitute for sauternes without breaking the bank.
An unbelievably beautiful day today; I spent some of it moving rhododendrons to make room for the garden, which is tilled and awaiting a fence. I went shoppping too, to get things for tomorrow’s dinner, and I picked up some wild salmon among other things. Crusted with sesame seeds, and seared, it sat on mashed sweet potatoes and kale sautéed with a bit of pancetta and garlic. Just right for the cool evening; the richness of the pork fat brought this dish firmly into fall despite its inherent lightness, especially without a sauce. A 2000 Joblot Givry “Cellier aux Moines” bonded nicely with the fall themes, including that magic leaf-must smell.
Tonight, in honor of the rain, good hearty fare that hit all those exalted kid-food notes while still being refined and healthy. Instead of breading and frying the slices, I usually bake them with a little oil and salt, or sautée them so they’re soft. Grilled is best, because then you get the amazing alchemy that fire works on eggplant combined with the whole bubbly cheese and tomato sauce context, but the rain tonight precluded grilling. I did add layers of spinach as well, and the mozzarella was the real deal, the herbs were fresh from outside, and a little truffle salt really amped up the tang of parmigiano reggiano. Another rich, earthy, and affordable 2001 Domaine La Millière worked with the spectrum of simple flavors that intertwined so satisfyingly; there’s a magical sweetness that results from the baking of tomato and mozzarella.
We’ve been enjoying the combination of cauliflower and tofu in a coconut-based curry, so I revisited it, but this time the sauce had the rest of the kabocha and gravy added to thicken and deepen it. Broccoli, peas, and a nice mix of seeds and pastes rounded out the flavors. It’s important to let this kind of thing simmer a bit to really reduce and marry the flavors; it also greatly benefits from having the already-deepened leftovers added since they have so much to offer already.
Sort of Moroccan, with a Southern twist: a whole chicken slowly stewed with lemons, olives, cumin, ras el hanout, onion, celery, carrot, sweet potatoes and herbs until it was falling-apart tender, then all solids removed to bowl & board while the liquid thickened with some flour to make a fantastic gravy. Meanwhile baby spinach wilted with garlic and more lemon, and gave a nice tangy counterpoint to the rich sauce. A Pleiades XIV couldn’t have worked better with the dish; it matched the acid of the lemons, and the sweet spices, and even the tangy spinach. This one really worked on all levels.
Noah and Deanna came up for a night, so we had crispy tofu in a pungent peanut sauce (PB, sesame oil, vinegar, lime, umeboshi paste) as well as faux BBQ tempeh (molasses, ketchup, tamarind, vinegars, hot sauce) rice, roasted kabocha, and the last of the red cabbage from rib night. We drank a 2003 Turley Keig vineyard zin and a 2003 Siduri 2003 Sonatera vineyard pinot noir.