I had a pretty torrid affair with spruce this spring, and there are still a couple of containers of dried but unused tips lurking around in the corners of the kitchen as I write. I’ve used it to cure meat, flavor sauces, and dehydrated and ground it to make a spice. The spruce vinegars smell absolutely heavenly, though they’re not ready yet. But this summer I may have found something as profound and versatile that threatens to usurp the hallowed number one spot that spruce has so far nobly and justly occupied in the “fragrant garnish/condiment/stealth aromatic” category for 2011.
Month: July 2011
The heat has finally broken. We had 24 hours of good hard rain and lovely cool air, and yesterday I took advantage of a beautiful morning to get into the garden and rip out a bunch of bolted stuff to make room for the fall plantings. I also pulled all the garlic and shallots, and they’re drying on the porch along with lots of coriander seeds. No sooner had I gotten the last of the fall seeds in–carrots, turnips, radishes, burdock, lots of greens–then I heard rumbling and the sky got very dark. Grabbing the seeds, I made it inside just before the skies opened up with a truly impressive deluge.
When I was out procuring short ribs for the ill-fated hot dogs, I also stumbled upon some local lamb breast. I got four hunks of it for $8, which ranks as one of the better scores in recent memory. It can be pleasurable indeed to covet the cheap cuts, and guiltlessly filling one’s basket with meat is a major reason why. I’m especially glad I found these when I did, because the unmitigated hedonistic triumph of the lamb bacon–smoked at the same time as the dogs–really took the sting out of the beef debacle. Lamb bacon is seriously wonderful, and highly useful in a wide variety of culinary contexts.
Over the course of the last couple of years, I’ve been baking bread pretty regularly. Thanks to Andrew, who set me up with a recipe, sourdough starter, banneton, dough whisk, and bench scraper, I had no excuse but to make bread. And over time, I got pretty good at it; by accident and on purpose I modified his recipe and tried all sorts of things with it. And now I feel comfortable sharing what I’ve learned with all of you. The master dough that I’ve developed can become almost anything with proper handling: I have used this dough to make bread (all kinds of shapes), pizza, bagels, pita, and rolls. They’re all exemplary, and very easy to make.
I love hot dogs. In my youth, they were the Holy Grail of junk food, since we were only allowed to get them for summer cookout parties or eat them at other peoples’ houses. Every now and then, my Grandfather would make me some real Frankfurters from the Kosher deli: bunless, fatter than dogs, and with skin that I peeled off uneasily, they tasted right but the context was all wrong. I would murder hot dogs in high school when they were on the lunch menu, and once wandered Central Park with a friend eating a dog at every stand we passed. I think we had eaten seven each by the time we made it the Met to look at some paintings. Now, much later, they’re something that all three of us agree are a tasty treat, and we buy a pack of good organic ones every month or so. So making them from scratch for this month’s Charcutepalooza seemed like a no-brainer.
As I settle into a routine here at Bachelor Central, I finally treated myself to the sort of caveman meal that my wife assumes I pretty much always eat when they’re away. It’s not true, of course; lately I’ve been eating bread and cheese and salads, with nibblings of chorizo thrown in for balance. But today saw a bunch of errands run, and a long-neglected repair project finally crossed off the list, so my reward was taking myself in to dinner for a thoroughly decadent treat.
The chorizo from last month is finally ready for eating as is. I’ve used a couple for cooking while they were still soft in the middle, but now they’re firm all the way through. I celebrated by making the sort of lunch that I would happily eat every day, and which neatly encapsulates my motivation for spending all the time that I do making all this food from scratch: pleasure.
Back from Chicago, this evening I revelled in a bunch of fat, beautiful roots from the garden. New potatoes, chioggia beets, carrots of many colors, and turnips, plus foraged black trumpet mushrooms, peas, herbs, wine, vinegar, and salt. I ate it straight out of the pan, standing over the stove, so you will get no picture. But it tasted very good, and I am happy to be home, even if I miss my family who stayed behind for another week. While there, we had some good food, so this post will recap the 4th cookout and a couple of fine bottles we enjoyed at some friends’ house. Because you all care so much about my vacation, and you’re right to.