This predates Christmas, and thus was photographed without a flash, but it was a pretty good dinner and warrants a quick mention. Kind of a mishmash, it nonetheless managed to be both seasonally resonant and really fucking good to eat. Which you look for in a dinner.
I was sick for Christmas; beginning the day before I was laid up and useless in bed, unable to festivate or jollify or even merrytize. I did, however, watch an ungodly amount of Doctor Who and produce a near-equal amount of phlegm—at the same time, mind you, which made me feel like one of the slimy, rubbery alien villains that make the show so kitschtastic. While I was busy being a Slime Lord, all the preparations and cooking fell to my better half, who really distinguished herself, especially with the cooking, since that’s not something she is called upon to do very often.
Leftover soup extraordinaire: Stock from (Asian-inflected) chicken wing and (Mediterranean-inflected) lamb chop bones plus lots…
If for no other reason, agreeing to be a part of this contest has meant that you all get at least one post per month to enjoy since I’m not really feeling the blog right now and with a broken flash and darkness falling so early decent photography that coincides with actual dinner time is not possible. Having said that, though, this dish would deserve a post even if there were no such contest. I made cassoulet before my trip to France, and did a decent job of it, but Kate showed me her method and it drove home the importance of having all the component parts be as immaculately sourced as possible. I know she has a cassoulet app coming out soon, so pay attention to her Twitter feed and jump on that when it drops. The fact that her technique has continued to evolve is proof that this is a dish that warrants many repetitions and refinements in your own kitchen. This version was made mostly with lamb, since that’s what they sent me. Cassoulet is superbly adaptable to what you have on hand.
For the December Chronogram I visited a class at Vassar College (where I almost went,…
Consistent with the tradition in this house, there was no turkey for Thanksgiving. Turkey is boring and hard to cook well unless you take it apart. We did, however, have Milo’s awesome Lego turkey as part of the centerpiece. Also keeping with tradition around here, the meal was a seven-course exploration of whatever perfervid visions had swum into my insomniac mind during the preceding week. It’s funny; I was listening to the radio as I made the dough for the foie gras oreos—one such idea—and the guest was saying something like “The key to a stress-free Thanksgiving is never to cook something new for the first time when people are coming over.” I think that takes all the fun out of it; three out of the seven courses were things I just made up and figured wouldn’t suck.
This soup is one of the great peasant dishes of all time, I think, transforming a bunch of humble roots into a profoundly satisfying bowl of complex and nourishing pleasure. It’s fun to imagine the first starving farmer who had nothing but a bag of onions, some stale bread, and a heel of cheese and came up with this miracle of frugal virtuosity. Some good beef stock obviously helps, but it’s not necessary. Before I returned to carnivory, I made this using mushroom stock and it was a beautiful thing.
It’s always a joy to find sushi-grade tuna, especially out here in the sticks where the seafood is not renowned for its freshness. I do love raw fish, even though large pelagic species like tuna contain more and more mercury, courtesy of coal-fired power plants, making it less and less safe to eat with any regularity. Since canned tuna is thus more or less absent from our diet, the occasional indulgence in some number one ahi can be justified. But since it’s chilly, and cold food is not indicated for such conditions, I put a little spin on it to make it seasonally appropriate, and followed it with a real winner of an accidental discovery.
For the second entry in the Charleston Wine and Food Festival contest thingy, the Rappahannock River Oysters company sent me a box with a big bag each of their oysters and clams. I had been thinking about what to do with them for a while, and worked out a couple of ideas that I was excited to try. Then, of course, Sandy hit, taking our electricity for most of a week, so I had to modify both recipes to require only the stove top and grill.