The show is not up, but the hard part (painting the wall piece, building the frames for and framing the drawings) is done. I don’t love hanging shows on the day of the opening, but that is often the way it works out happening. I missed out on the big town Halloween event, but it was worth it, and I ended up making dinner too- two whole days earlier than I thought would be possible.
It was super-simple, but oh so good. The first red meat I’ve had in two weeks, and the first wine also. You betcha, gosh darnit, also. And worth the wait. A fat top sirloin, rubbed with salt, pepper, and herbes de Provence, seared hard on both sides in a little butter and then covered, on low, for a couple of minutes more (there was no time to sous-vide it) and served atop our own potatoes steamed and mashed with whole local yogurt, olive oil, parsley, and truffle oil, plus a flourescent green mash of frisée and endive with lots of garlic, lemon, and more truffle oil. I drooled the pan drippings around the plate to finish it.
And the wine… I rummaged through the boxes I liberated from the cellar in Vermont, and happened upon a bottle of 2000 Château Giscours (two, actually.) So to celebrate, I opened one. And a humble yet refined meat and potatoes meal like this never cavorted so sportingly with vinous escort as did this one. I don’t buy Bordeaux any more- my taste has moved on, and the stash will keep us in special occasion bottles for a good time to come- but for sheer grapey, cedary, boisterous steak-humping hedonism, nothing else delivers quite the same level of elegance and impact. This one has the lovely stony Margaux quality, and the tannins are soft but can clearly go for years more. Delicious. I got out the big glasses to amplify every nuance. It’s a 3ème cru, but punching above its weight.
One week to go… if you haven’t donated yet, or recently, remember that besides Obama there are many downticket races across the country where the margins will be tight and the results will make the difference between mere defeat and an abject, total humiliation and repudiation of the policies, politics, and abuses of the last 8 years. This site has excellent information about these races.
Let’s leave the Republican party broke, discredited, and evermore the party of ignorant, hateful God-bothering bigots, doomed to screech from the sidelines while the grownups actually get some work done. C’mon! It’ll be fun, mkay? And watch this video; it’s brilliant, and hysterical.
I’ve been keeping it pretty clean lately, taking a break from red meat, alcohol and other things as required by my occasional shamanic tune-ups. Some of the limitations- especially on soy and all fermented things- make cooking interesting food a challenge. The key has been to go the small-plates route, and let variety compensate for the quieter flavors. And I LOVE multi-course meals. Love them.
First up, the finally-ready duck prosciutto, with perfectly ripe local pears. I trimmed the fat, so it didn’t take months to dry like the last batch, and tweaked the cure a little to make it a tad spicier. It’s insane. The texture, saltiness, depth of flavor- it’s the best yet. Earlier today we gave a few slices to some friends who stopped by and they got really quiet for a few minutes, and then kept looking at the empty plate suggestively.
Next, we had made some teff in the rice cooker last night, and then forgot about it, so I popped out the solidified disc (it sets up just like polenta) and stamped little circles out of it with a cookie cutter then crisped them up in oil. I had a bunch of red, black, and rose-heart daikon radish greens (the radishes are going in the next batch of kimchi) so I cooked them in a little chicken broth with mustard and fenugreek seeds and then puréed and strained them. I caramelized shiitake with garlic and deglazed with more of the chicken broth. They made for nice little layered dishes with good flavor and texture contrasts. Aren’t the radishes pretty? And the way the green sauce is the same color? I totally meant to do that.
Last, adzuki beans cooked slowly with herbs, garlic, beet greens (which are deep red) and tomato paste. I roasted the beets and sliced them with oil and lemon juice for a little side dish, and made a salad of galia endive as well. This approach to eating always leaves me more perfectly full than the one big plate kind of meal, though it dirties the holy hell out of the kitchen. So it kind of evens out, I guess. This coming week is going to be very busy for me; I’m installing a show that includes a large wall piece, so I’ll be in the gallery all week painting. If I make anything other than one-pot wonders or pre-fab copouts I will post them. But otherwise, after the opening we’ve got some eating (and drinking, again, finally) to do. See you then.
I just picked these up today, though they got fired last week. I had a hard time deciding how to glaze them; there’s a big tension between my desire to play with colors and patterns and my desire to have simple dishes that allow the food to shine. This batch is sort of an attempt to split the difference. Some I love, some not so much, but they all inspire me to keep pushing ahead with the ceramics side-project- and there are a couple of designs that I definitely need to make more of.
I went to buy some fish, since I had scallops on the brain, but they had some good ahi, so I got both. The challenge then became how to turn four scallops and a smallish tuna steak into enough dinner for all three of us. I had intended to tea-smoke the scallops in the wok, but when I was ripping out the frost-ravaged basil stalks in the garden, I realized how aromatic they still were despite being completely brown. So I smoked the scallops over dead lime basil stems and flowers for a couple of minutes, or just long enough to completely fill the house with smoke (our hood sucks as badly as our stove.)
I juiced some carrots and red pepper (our nightshades are kaput as well) and reduced the juice with saffron and black pepper. Sautéed diced red pepper, added back in, gave the sauce a nice textural component. I seared the scallops quickly and garnished them with the foam from the juicer plus some chervil and paprika. They did the smoky-sweet-earthy thing really well; I was shooting for the essence of paella, and got pretty close. To really get there, I would add a little shrimp broth to the juice, and sear the scallops in chorizo oil.
For the tuna, I was trying for essence of salade Niçoise, but I took more liberties. We were out of eggs, so that part went away. The other problem was that the idea arrived late, after I had already started cooking. In place of potatoes, I steamed red and black radishes and a chioggia beet, then puréed them with the grain/nut/mushroom broth from the other night, plus black olives and tomato paste. I wilted chard and sorrel with garlic and lemon, and dressed some frisée with oil and lemon. The tuna just got a sear with salt and pepper. As with the first dish, next time I do this it will be a winner; this one tasted good, but now I know exactly how to make it perfect. Stay tuned.
After the decadence of the steak frites, we were in the mood for something cleaner. I had a bunch of ideas swirling around, so I got to work and let them take shape around the ingredients at hand. To begin, I wanted to make a simple broth to warm us up at the end of a raw fall day. So I simmered some soba-cha, dried shiitake, and toasted walnuts in water for about an hour. Strained, and with a drip of soy sauce and a garnish of chives and truffle oil, it tasted not a little like beef tea, which is what I was shooting for.
There were mashed sweet potatoes left over from the shepherd’s pies from last week, so I turned them into gnocchi with a little flour and an egg yolk. I sliced an apple, and sautéed it gently with sage leaves, then browned the gnocchi in the same pan. I crumbled the leaves over the plates, and hit them with a little maldon salt. I’ve made this before, in different versions- boiled first, sautéed in duck fat instead of olive oil- and it’s always a winner this time of year. Last year I paired it with duck confit, cranberry-wine reduction, and nettle purée for the “main” course in our insane 11-course Thanksgiving dinner. It’s quick, easy, filling, and delicious.
Next, I cooked some beets sous-vide at 83˚ C for a couple of hours- that’s the magic temp for vegetables, giving them the perfect al dente texture and rich flavor. I served them like sushi on brown rice, with a soy-balsamic sauce and lemon thyme. And to follow, kidney beans that I pressure-cooked with onion, garlic, herbs, tomato paste, spices, and their soaking water. I forgot to take a picture. I do love multi-course meals- even though they tend to dirty a lot more pots- because the variety eliminates fatigue with the same flavors, and I find that I end up feeling more satisfied with less food.
We went to Vermont for one night, which wasn’t enough, but will have to do for the time being. Driving up we got to experience the steepening gradient from still-luminescent foliage in our area to the more austere landscape that latitude and altitude combine to bestow upon the Green Mountains at this time of year. The bases of most mountains still had some color, but it faded up to the browns, greys, and dark greens of bare branches, rocks, and conifers, all of which were overlayed with the purples and oranges of the late afternoon sun. It’s the kind of sight, especially with a sharp edge to the breeze and the shade, that makes one want to light a fire and tuck into some serious comfort food.
After a stop at a good farm stand, and a local market that has good meat, we were well-equipped to do just that. I cut russet potatoes into fries, and set some broccoli to steam. The fries, cooked in two batches twice each, were pretty insane; I had to use a few different oils since I had forgotten to buy any. So I combined canola, hazelnut, and olive, and cooked each batch a little differently, so half were super-crunchy and the other half were still meltingly tender in the middle.
Christine had the idea to caramelize onions as a garnish for the steak, so we did, and then seared up a couple of lovely ribeyes in the same pan with a little added butter. I deglazed it with a little soy sauce and balsamic vinegar and poured that over the meat and onions. Drool. Now normally I would use a splash of red wine for the sauce, but I was not going to part with even a drop of the 1999 Lisini Brunello that I pulled out of the basement; the 99s are gorgeous right now, and I put all the rest (along with other treats) into the car to help get us through the cold months ahead.
Lousy with leftovers, and more than annoyed that I couldn’t take a walk this afternoon- it was another perfect fall day, with an impossible cerulean sky making all the crimson, yellow, and vermillion leaves pop like mad- I cobbled together a two-course fake Indian meal that ended up better than I expected and used up most of the various remnants in the fridge. Besides soup, which is clearly the best leftover vehicle there is, I’m a big fan of frittery things as the new bodies in which to reincarnate past meals. We had lentils that I made for lunch the other day, some of the mustard/kabocha ravioli filling from the TNS post, and a bit of the celeriac/butternut soup from yesterday. I took the lentils and ravioli filling and mashed it all together with an egg yolk, various spices, and a little flour, then formed the paste into little patties and rolled them in panko. Meanwhile, I heated the soup with a few cardamom seeds, 5-spice, and yellow curry, until it thickened, then strained it to get that luxe velvet texture. And that was it: a fritter with soup sauce and a little of the peach-habañero chutney we canned the other week.
Then, some wild Alaskan salmon cooked gently with zucchini from the Plant That Will Not Die, shredded collards, tomato paste, more various spices, and minced lemon peel, then baked as little shepherd’s pies with mashed sweet potatoes on top. And more panko. Because when I remembered that I had some, I pulled it out, and now it’s going on everything. Milo dug the appetizer, but this got him into one of those eating zones where he just focuses on putting it away. He ate two. I would have so loved to pop a Riesling for this, but the only one I have on hand is a 1990, which is too special. Plus, I have to get up early tomorrow.
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.