The power is back on after three days, which is most welcome, and there are plenty more houses all over the area who still have a while to wait; I drove around some yesterday and it’s a huge mess, with trees hanging off of lines on street after street. I had to drive under several just to get to the pottery. It’s hard to find a bridge or culvert that wasn’t overtopped with rushing water; there’s dirt and gravel across the roads in many places and brown mud four feet high in the bushes in others. Our little taste of the storm’s power was this, which happened at about 7:00 Sunday morning:
Month: August 2011
Before I get carried away with whatever the hell I’m going to write about, you should all head over to Diana’s to read my guest post about my Grandmother’s best of all time pie crust and make it for yourselves. It’s fast, easy, and is guaranteed to kick the ass of whatever recipe you’re using now.
So what am I going to write about? Well, I was going to write about something from a while ago because it tasted good and the pictures are pretty, but instead I’ll cover tonight’s dinner while it’s still fresh in my mind. It also tasted good and you can let me know if you think the pictures are sufficiently attractive.
A quick update for anybody who was interested in my spruce post: I left a bunch of the intact tips in a bowl, figuring that they’d dry out on their own and then I’d grind them to powder. But after months, they still retained a springy resistance to breaking up into fine dust, even under the stern ministrations of the surikogi. So recently, since I had some things going in the sous vide machine, which I normally cap with a cookie sheet for heat retention, I stripped the needles off the stems and sprinkled them on the hot metal as I had done with the first batch that ground up nice and fine. Within an hour or so, these too had become brittle and powdered easily, so I dumped them all in the suribachi and Milo and I took turns turning them into powder for the spice jar.
So this month’s binding project got me thinking about the head terrine I made with Rich a couple of years ago, and how I wanted to try it again with my new knowledge and aim it at a specific goal: bánh mì entirely from scratch. It’s one of the great sandwiches of the world, and since it’s a bastard offspring of French colonialism with many established variants, it’s ideally suited to remixing and tinkering. Ironically, it was my new level of comfort with baking bread that actually spurred me to choose this project; head cheese by itself is not something I would make just to have around since it takes a fair amount of work to yield something that to me is less sensually delightful than a good pâté. But in combination with crusty bread, roast pork, mayo, and pickles, it attains greatness. And since I had all those things on hand–all lovingly homemade–I knew these were going to be winners.
This time of year is so bountiful that it can easily become a full-time job just trying to wring every useful calorie out of all the food that’s exploding on our modest plot. I have the pickles under control, but there’s a ton of drying to do and I haven’t even gotten started on the fruit. The upside is that all I have to do is walk out into the garden to get all the inspiration I need for dinner every single evening. And the other regular kitchen activities like baking, curing, and making yogurt provide everything else one could need to round out the meal.
My Grandfather was an engineer. As such, he liked to describe the world with equations, and to apply those principles and laws that govern the behavior of materials to human society as well. Sometimes they made for a good fit: one of his favorite social formulas was I/E, that the ratio of a person’s intelligence to their ego was the principal determining variable in their success. I think about that one regularly.
He was a brilliant engineer, but also a largely self-taught immigrant from a very poor hamlet in Poland whose Father, my Great-Grandfather–who died when I was ten–was a Rabbi, a scribe (he repaired Torahs) and a brick maker. That knowledge of kilns turned out to be inheritable; my Grandfather was a great ceramic engineer, my Mother was a potter, and here I am making my own plates out of clay. As a cook, he knew his limits and hewed closely to them so that his results rarely varied from excellent; he was the grill and smoker man, and he made the pickles. Beyond that, he didn’t cook. He did garden enthusiastically, but other than the cucumbers, the bounty was entirely my Grandmother’s domain. The cucumbers, though, were his. And his passion for turning them into hands down the best dill pickles I have ever eaten was a formative influence on my culinary development.
On Saturday we had a wonderful birthday party for a dear friend. There was much good food, and some pretty epic wines. Caught up as I was in first the making and then the enjoying of the food, I didn’t take a single picture. This has been pretty common lately; I’ve been ignoring the requirements that this blog imposes upon some of my meals and just, you know, making, eating, and enjoying them with family and friends. It makes for a more relaxed and well-lived life, but of course it’s anathema to the vicarious internet experiencing of the same events by others. And I’m OK with that.
In this month’s Chronogram I review some books by local authors: three cookbooks, the Fleisher’s book, and a memoir about earning a degree at the CIA in Hyde Park.
Also, unrelated to the article but impossible not to
boast post about, behold the single most beautiful loaf of bread I have ever made:
I know, right? Need some more?