Close Enough For Jazz

A while back I did a thing with red snapper and red pepper juice, so seeing snapper in the store today I figured I’d try a variation with some carrot juice thrown in. And then I remembered the blue potatoes. In back there are cubes of caramelized turnip with onion, to the right the potatoes mashed with Greek yogurt, all around is the pepper-carrot juice reduction, and on top of the crispy fish is the foam that the juicer invariably leaves on top of the catch bowl. It tasted good; honestly I phoned in the presentation because I don’t feel good (again.) This winter is a freaking chore.

Hurried Curry

Wanting something vegetable-based, and given what was in the fridge, I turned as so often before to Indian ideas. Vegetarian food is so often much more interesting with South or East Asian techniques (although dear Italy still offers pretty stiff competition.) Thus was born another tofu curry, with a little milk and half a baked sweet potato to thicken it, as well as carrot, leek, onion, and our own frozen peas. I turned some lavash into a serviceable substitute for garlic nan by brushing it with butter and chopped garlic then broiling it for a couple of minutes. Rejuvenated brown rice completed the meal. Less than 20 minutes from start finish, and pretty tasty besides. We opened our last Dr. Loosen riesling, which did exactly what it was supposed to do.

40-something

For Liz’s birthday this year, a much mellower gathering than last time, and everyone brought something. My contribution was this multi-layer crêpe tart with mushroom duxelles between the crêpes and truffle butter brushed on top. You can’t really tell in the picture, but it was really nice and layery once cut. Other dishes included braised radicchio, ceviche of halibut, baked wild salmon, pastis-flambéed shrimp, salad, and some other things I’m forgetting now. Dessert was an insane vegan chocolate tart with mint-cashew cream and another, more literally insane chocolate cake that had a strong herbal aroma. Wines included a 2003 Peter Michael chard, a 2000 Kistler chard, a 2001 Pignan, and a 2003 Pintia, that even now, days later, is really tannic and has a profoundly port-like nose. I forgot to write down which vineyards the chards were from.

Breakfast for Dinner

We’ve had this wretched flu all week, and are only just climbing out from under it, so this was a meal worthy of such a hangover. (My Father is English, and when I was living there spent a memorable weekend in Sheffield- late-night Dalek imitation with trash cans was involved- with friends where we soothed throbbing heads with eggs, beans, chips, toast, mushy peas and pints of tea.) I had the foresight to soak pinto beans in the morning, and get them on the stove about two hours before dinner. With salt pork, onion, BBQ sauce, ketchup, vinegar, herbs and water, they bubbled while I baked sweet potatoes- chips being far too ambitious- braised kale, and fried eggs. Tomorrow we might start eating like healthy people again.

Pizza, Quickly

Christine’s favorite: onion, olive, garlic, caper, and fresh mozzarella. The other one was pesto and dried tomato. The dough only had 2 hours to rise but it came out all right- still miles better than any purchased alternative. Half white/half whole wheat seems to work pretty well.

Good Gravy

This is totally standard roast chicken, roasted roots (carrot, sweet potato, parsnip, onion, garlic, fingerlings, rosemary) and brown rice. Taking it to a special level of extreme deliciousness was the gravy; to the roux that the pan drippings made, carving juices, then minced preserved lemon and a big dollop of pesto. It transformed everything it touched. We had our very last 2001 Domaine la Millière CDP. I will miss them; for 20 bucks it was a terrific wine.

Überburger

So the other week, trying to find high-end provisions for the fancy dinner, on a whim I turned into this place on an ugly stretch of an ugly main road because the sign says caviar and I figured they might also have truffles. Bingo. Now the truffles were not fresh, but in a jar, but they sure did the job. And in addition, they had the elk, foie gras, and a bunch of other stuff including U.S. Kobe beef (only ground, lamentably, but good for the wallet.) So I got a couple of Kobe burgers to see if they were any good; grinding such great meat seemed silly, but they weren’t very expensive, so what the hell.

So out of the freezer they come, and into a pan. On the adjacent burner, fingerling potatoes in smoked duck fat with garlic and rosemary. Next to that, shredded kale in a steamer. Once flipped, gruyère added to melt on the meat. Bread toasted. The suspense was palpable. Cheese melted? Check. Center pink? Check. Mustard, ketchup, and our new batch of gorgeous fuchsia kimchi (half red, half green cabbage.) Gentle pressure on top slice to compact and ooze the toppings. Bite. Chew. Smile. Damn good- very beefy. And smoky fatty spuds, and sweet silky-crunchy kale. And a 2002 Novy Page-Nord syrah, which is really not at all our taste any more, but it’s a good burger wine, and C likes ‘em big & fruity, like Tom Cruise. Worth the hype? Who knows, but it was a superior burger.

Bistro Fare

Again, the leftovers spoke, supplemented by Gruyère from the store and thus was dinner made. First, a couple of onions, nicely caramelized, were transformed as if by magic into some pretty fab soup with the addition of the rest of the beef broth I made for the 10-grain risotto. I cut the marrow into pieces and threw that in, too. Now I know this is supposed to be subsequently baked in a little dedicated onion soup crock, and I still have a couple of my Mom’s ancient ones, but they’re in the city. You’re also not supposed to put bone marrow in it, either, but I’m crazy like that.

In addition, we had some sole left, so I steamed a bunch of fingerling potatoes and then mashed them together with the fish and the rest of the parsnips, plus a little cream. With grated parm on top, into the oven while I steamed a big bowl of kale and tossed it with oil and balsamic. Then, from the oven, voilà: brandade of sorts. Again, not so traditional, and do I mind? Not so much.

Matchy Matchy

Often color is my jumping-off point for figuring out what to make for dinner; it’s my training, and a big part of what I do professionally. So Christine’s purchase of some sole combined with the braised cabbage already in the fridge (and the desire to try a variation on the cornmeal crust from last week) all led to this. Parsnips are incredibly sweet right now- one of the blessings of winter- so I steamed a few and mashed them silly with a dribble of cream and some white truffle “cream” (really a purée with olive oil and other mushrooms, but delicious.) The result was a dish harmonious to both eye and mouth. Even more harmonious, including some pretty funky overtones, was a 1978 Geoffroy Gevrey-Chambertin “Clos Prieur” that seemed a little tired (it might be the last of those bargain Burgs from the summer) but over time developed that astonishing darker fruit nose and layer upon layer of subtle, elegant perfumes- some very faint- that once again show what wine meant for aging does with some age. It was well worth the cooked bottles to have some that were this good.

Bird Food

I liked the 10-grain “risotto” from the other night, so I tried a different version. Since I had grabbed some beef bones at Fleisher’s recently, I roasted them and then made a simple stock (saving the marrow for something else.) Cooked like risotto, with parsnip added for sweetness and contrast, the variety of grains all cooked at different rates; some disintegrated into creamy starch, while others stayed intact and remained al dente. The result was a wonderful texture and rich, sweet, meaty flavor. I finished it with a bit of grated parmesan, and topped it with some leftover black truffle from the Friday feast. This dish was kind of a high-end take on those suet bells crusted with seeds that you put out for the birds in winter, and a pretty great match with a 2002 Savigny-les-Beaune “La Dominode” 1er cru by Bruno Clair.

* the 10 grains are millet, rye, winter wheat, oats, triticale, barley, spelt, corn, flax, and vetch. (Local, organic, and stone ground.)

Yours Truly



I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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