Hit Bottom? Keep Digging.

I have been extraordinarily busy of late, with a show opening next week and an article due before I go to hang it and then swan around the opening looking artistic and important and the like. And this on top of the usual day-to-day, which seems only to get thicker and more obnoxious with the passage of time. The to-do list is metastasizing into a beast that will not be tamed. Anyone looking for an internship as my personal assistant is encouraged to apply; it may not be the sexiest position available but I promise that at least half of the things I throw at you will be good to eat.

As a direct result, dinner has been a parade of phoned-in (sorry, telecommuted) half-assery that has formed, in its way, an elegantly descending spiral. It’s easy to wax elitist about the virtues of having a garden and a chest freezer and doing all this yuppie neo-peasant growing and preserving of things, but at the end of the day most of the motivation behind it is so that there’s a bunch of decent stuff lying around that can be cajoled into a respectable dinner with no forethought or planning whatsoever. The emphasis is still on respectable, though.

So the bounty of the pre-freeze fall garden is in full effect, meaning that making the rounds offers a sound roster of leaves and roots (and some flowers, still; see an impending post) from which to fabricate a dinner of great savor but little actual thought or work. And isn’t that what it’s all about, most of the time? Those smoked chickens? From the fun party last weekend? Those got their THIRD go-round with the highly efficient stripping of every available scrap of edible flesh from the bones that I had thoughtfully stashed back in the fridge after simmering them to make stock after we ate all the main cuts fresh out of the smoker. It’s at times like this that I’m glad to be the descendant of starving peasants. They’d be proud of me, and also shake their heads because not having to do this sort of thing was a principal reason that they emigrated in the first place. That, and Nazis.

So that chicken meat and a whole bunch of gardeny goodness (rutabaga, daikon, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, collards, fennel, onion, carrot, potato, celery, parsley, leek, shallot, garlic, rosemary, marjoram, thyme, and sage plus peas from the freezer) all had a quick sautée in more of the duck fat left from confit-making followed by a simmer after I shook in some flour and then added wine and water to make a thick liquid in which simmering could reasonably occur. Once all bubbly, and after I busted out a portion of pie crust (once again, my Grandmother’s version is the BEST IN THE WORLD) I put it all in a baking dish, topped it with dough, and put it in the oven to bubble some more under the buttery blanket.

Can you say fuck yeah? Sure you can. Mister Rogers wants you to. Almost entirely homegrown vegetables, this dish nonetheless managed to hit smoky, savory comfort food notes with aplomb, panache, and other fancy-sounding nouns. Best of all, there are leftovers. Keeping perfect stride with the abject yet noble poverty of this meal, a bottle of 2006 Domaine Charvin’s bargain offering: the “À Côté” vin de pays principauté d’Orange. For 15 bucks, this is as refined and stanky a glass of Southern Rhône as I have ever enjoyed the hell out of. A blend of Grenache and Merlot, it’s drinking so far above its price point that it’s like found money. A wine for our times.

4 comments to Hit Bottom? Keep Digging.

  • El

    Waxing elitist again, this time about leftovers?

    Hey, slapping a crust, even a half-assed one not up to your grandma’s snuff, on anything is a fine way to be. But more to the point: where’s your show, and what is it of, 2d stuff? 3d?

  • If this is what you do when you’re busy and pressed for time, well…and yes, where is the show?

  • I can say “fuck yeah.” I love pot pies.

    I’ll check out that wine. I love me some grenache.

  • Peter

    El: I make my Grandmother’s crust perfectly every time. It’s the rest of it that was half-assed.

    Julia (and El): Newport, RI.

    Blanche: Sure you do. That’s special.

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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