The container of bones, a more or less permanent denizen of the fridge, was particularly full recently; I had grilled a couple of chickens on a lovely afternoon when some friends came over and there were also two beef bones from a decadent ribeye dinner a few evenings prior. There aren’t a lot of bones that make better stock than grilled chicken, and the addition of some deep beefiness to that flavor was too tempting to resist. I needed to make ramen.
When your kid loves yogurt, making it at home makes a lot of sense. When your kid loves Greek yogurt, straining it makes for a more or less inexhaustible supply of tangy whey; the yield is roughly 50/50 so our weekly gallon of yogurt makes a half of each. There’s always some stock around too, either in fridge or freezer, so between that and the whey I never want for rich liquids with or in which to cook dinner.
This meal was a collaboration between Milo and me; lately he’s been making dinner on Fridays (with varying amounts of help) and this time around the inspiration came from his coining of the word gordolini. Since gordo is Spanish for fat, it seemed logical to use Spanish flavors in both filling and sauce, so that is what we did.
As regular readers know, I’m a fan of from-scratch standards (often sandwiches, for some reason) as an ideal format for drilling down into the essence of food while following it up the supply chain as far as possible. It helps me understand cooking better. More often than not it also tastes really fucking good, so there’s also that. In this instance, to celebrate the ninth anniversary of our fun summer wedding (we had the legal one the previous December while my Mother was still alive), I prepared what was by any measure a simple meal. But it technically took seven months to make it.
It’s always interesting how the addition or subtraction of a couple of flavors can radically alter the character of a dish. In this case, what could easily have been a fine bowl of rigatoni alle vongole instead became, with a bit of modification, a superlative Spanish treat.
With this crazy non-winter, besides the stirring in the garden all the wild edibles are rousing themselves bright and early. Besides the wild garlic–a perennial favorite, and every bit as good as its over-hyped and over-harvested cousin the ramp–garlic mustard is getting a vigorous start all around the house. Since it’s ubiquitous, invasive, and extremely tasty (it’s one of my absolute favorite wild greens) there is a multi-faceted pleasure in its consumption that encompasses ease, righteousness, and hedonism.
Like a lot of people, I often default to a protein on a starch with a vegetable or two on the side when time is tight and I don’t have the brain space for improvising. But sometimes a brief moment of reflection can inspire use of the same ingredients to make something much more interesting and crowd-pleasing.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, centering as it does around food. I usually take a day or three off leading up to it and cook my ass off, often making ten or so courses for whoever comes to visit. It’s my chance to stretch out and try some ideas that require special ingredients or techniques, and to make the best food I possibly can, in sequential courses, using my own ceramics, and try to nail all the details and timing for each dish. It’s also a holiday that’s relatively free of crass commercialism–although that appears to be crumbling in the face of earlier and earlier riot-inducing sales–but these things are easily avoided by not having TV and choosing not to shop in the days that follow the big meal. I think it should be about the food and the company, period. The timing also neatly coincided with the last Charcutepalooza challenge, which was more of a dare: show off, using any and everything we’ve done so far.
So I did. Eight courses, each of which contained some quantity of homemade charcuterie.
We’re having a pretty stellar fall so far, with a high percentage of clear, warm days that make being outside a profound experience. It’s all I can do these days not to just bail on whatever work I need to do and just hike up into the mountains for hours at a time. Another benefit to this most beautiful and fleeting time is the fact that one can fire up the oven with no discomfort at all. And that of course allows one to dust off all the comfort food cravings that lay dormant in the heat.
On Saturday I cooked dinner for about 80 people. It was a fundraiser, and it went pretty well. The food was well received, it seems, and in typical fashion I made way too much of it. So the fridge has been packed to the gills, brimming with giant, awkward vessels of chickpea tagine, braised cabbage, and polenta for a few days now, and I’ve been working through it as imaginatively as I can. Sunday night, for example, we had a couple of friends over (they’ve been cleaning out their flood-totalled house and clearly needed a home-cooked meal) and I grilled a hunk of lamb, reheating all of the above for sides and grilling the firm slabs of polenta for good measure. I also made a wonderful mash out of frisée, walnuts, garlic, and oil, plus again as much basil pesto that needed eating.
And it was good. But imaginative? Not so much. For whatever reason, though, today I had an idea that did qualify, and which enabled me to consolidate the cabbage into a much smaller container. The fridge is almost back to normal and we ate well.