Lateness often confounds my grand schemes and forces me to scramble, resulting in dinners that are far from my original intention but serviceable nonetheless. As always, freezer, pantry, and leftovers provide the difference between decent and awful.
In this instance, I grabbed some boudin noir from the freezer. While they were thawing, I threw some scarlet runner beans in the pressure cooker with leeks, onions, garlic, burdock, carrot, herbs, and some smoked chicken stock. Once that got all hissy, I cubed and caramelized some parsnip in a pan with just oil, adding a bit of salt when the pieces were nice and brown on the outside and soft in the middle. I cooked the sausages in a pan until they were done- the deep purple gone a lovely mahogany- and then sautéed bok choy with garlic in the sausage pan, deglazing with white wine. Last I toasted stale chunks of homemade bread with some oil and spices to make croutons, thereby shoehorning some grain into this pretty nutritious cacophony.
The key really was in taking the time to treat the ingredients differently; had I thrown it all together it would have been OK, but having the various things each done à point made for much more pleasurable eating. My original plan involved breaking this down into even more component parts, and giving them a wider variety of treatments, but I had an hour and so this was it. One of these days I’m going to do a better job of time management, especially as it pertains to dinner. Probably next year. Yeah, that’s it.
A couple of nights later, similarly beset with haste, I grabbed the two uncooked boudins that remained and cut them up into small pieces, giving those a sautée with diced bacon from the end of a hunk. I just can’t say enough good things about having slab after slab of homemade bacon in the freezer. To the meaty goodness I added some leftover sweet potato purée, leftover brown rice, and leftover collards cooked with grated turnips and bonito flakes that Chris had made when they came over on the intervening evening. (We made chicken-fried quail with biscuits and gravy and cranberry sauce).
I seasoned the hot mess and rolled it up in blanched collard leaves that I had stripped the stems off so they’d roll up nicely. And thus, stuffed cabbage remixed with the available. I baked them in a roughly 50/50 mixture of pork stock and buttermilk, using a few extra collard leaves as a lid.
That liquid reduced wonderfully, absorbing all sorts of complex leafy, meaty flavors and adding richness and acidity in equal measure. This was the very essence of peasant food- a complete meal, made from bits and pieces- but with all of those pieces being of the highest possible quality.
I can’t remember what I opened with this- I think it was an ’03 Jaboulet Vacqueyras- but we had an instructive wine duo with the Southern meal the night before. Chris brought a 2000 Sean Thackrey Aquila Sangiovese, and I pulled out a 1999 Ciacci Piccolomini Brunello so we could study the differences between old and new world Sangiovese. Starting off with the Aquila, it was a big glass of smiles; once his wines get to this age, the fruit and the funk are kind of tied in intensity, so there’s a nice balance. But moving on the Brunello was a revelation- it was like a fine cigar dipped in pussy and black cherries and tar and smoked postcoitally in a magnificent horse barn with a view of the vineyards. Returning, the Aquila was a little like Cherry Coke. Not necessarily in a bad way, but it just showed the degree to which Italy is and will always be California’s unattainable wet dream. And I say this as an avowed lover of Thackrey’s wines.