Cruise Control

Christine’s Mom arrived this evening for the week, and I spent some of the day trying to get ahead of the Thanksgiving to-do list. I made barbecue sauce, blended it with 1% agar, and froze it so tomorrow it can go in the fridge to begin clarifying via syneresis (this is a method whereby a liquid is gravity-strained through a protein mesh in the fridge, thus making it clear but keeping all of the flavor; it works with gelatin, too, but supposedly agar takes less time. We shall see.) Milo and I also ground about 5 pounds of pork shoulder and fat with a heap of garlic, herbs, and spices into a mixture which will furnish us with both an elegant terrine (with brandied figs and pistachios) for Thursday as well as a humble pasta sauce for Wednesday night.

Milo and I also trudged out into the garden to get some things for dinner. Since it actually broke freezing today, I can’t complain, but it wasn’t exactly balmy. We dug potatoes, and picked a variety of greens to make mash- frisée, endive, radicchio, and mustard. He reminded me to pick lots of endive, just like every other 4-year-old in America would, because everyone knows that’s the best green for mash.

That’s ice on the potatoes; I had to beat these out of the Earth and trim some mushy parts off because they weren’t deep enough to be properly insulated against the hard freezes. Mulch? What? We combined the potatoes with our last little kabocha squash and a sweet potato to make a nice tuberous medley for roasting with garlic cloves and woody herbs. I will never cease to be amazed by the powers of the waxy coating that winter squash develop; this was taken seconds after cutting the top off of a squash that was cut about two months ago and has been sitting around, outside and then in, since then:

I salted a good chicken, sprinkled a little 5-spice and ras-el-hanout on it, and put it in the oven with the veggies about an hour before their ETA. (Not the Basque separatists.) Once the bird came out- right on time, as they walked through the door- I made a gravy with the drippings plus garlic scape pesto and a little of the fish broth from the fridge. For those of you who haven’t done it yet, ADD PESTO TO YOUR CHICKEN GRAVY.

Another totally simple, traditional meal, elevated by the extraordinary freshness of the ingredients plus a bad-ass gravy and seriously tangy mash that tied it all together from both ends of the spectrum- albeit with a substantial assist from a Pleiades XV. I thought these were gone, but my recent archaeology in Vermont revealed a hitherto unknown stash of a few fifteens so I brought them home. The XVI is better, no doubt, and there will be no future bottlings, but this one has charm to spare in a rounder, fatter, more conventionally Californian style.

3 comments to Cruise Control

  • cook eat FRET

    see if i had milo to help, i’d get much more done.

    my food is like super simple compared to yours. your simple only has about 12 ingredients more than mine.

    and yes, i always feel a little ignorant. like ra-sel hanout. i know i could google it, but i’m not gonna…

    beautiful plate of food
    no dount about that part

  • Heather

    Dammit I’m always a step behind! I swear I told you I was making kabocha tartlette with 5-spice ice cream before I finished my own blogging and came over here. Besides, I’m prolly going to use my 7-spice anyway. That’s like, 2 more spices.

    Again, I hope hope hope I end up with a kid like Milo. Have fun with the MiL this week.

  • Jen of A2eatwrite

    I love the pesto in the gravy idea… that rocks.

    You are so much more versed in the chemistry of cooking than I.

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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