Oh, how I have missed it. Also, can you tell I got a new camera, complete with very good lens? Such creamy goodness, such low light capability. I’m likely to start making bloggings again, now that I have some ambient candlepower to work with at dinner time.
I had a request for fish and chips, which I make occasionally, and since the day was dreary and cold fried food seemed a fitting repast. I don’t do this sort of thing often, since frying is a pain in my ass and makes a big mess (in addition to being unhealthy). On the plus side, it tastes good and best of all it allows me to pour oil all over my table when I take pictures of the finished dinner. You know, for ambiance.
Today—after what felt like at least a month of fetid, slug-covered, swelteringly humid torpor, interrupted by days of rain that only augmented the ambient moisture—dawned dry, clear, and breezy. I wasted no time, rushing out to attend to the neglected garden, mustering hours of energy despite a shitty, insomnia-dented night of inadequate sleep. There’s a lot going on, not least of which is the full arrival of what I like to call the “round food.” No longer are leaves the bulk of each day’s harvest; they’re shrinking into the minority as the roots and fruits gain girth by the day. Yesterday saw the first new potatoes of the year, roasted along with a spatchcocked chicken, taking advantage of a cooler evening to use the oven (and bake some much-needed bread). Today, thanks to a basket piled high with the various thinnings, cullings, and eager grabbings that attended my earnest horticultural ministrations, dinner comprised a perfect, seamless conclusion to the most pleasant summer day of the year so far.
I haven’t had much time for posting lately, so it’s fitting that this meal took very few minutes to make. Just like this post!
One of the best things about eating animals (ethically raised ones, that is) actually takes place days after the eating, when their bones, carcasses, and sometimes extra cooking liquid become transformed into stock. Homemade stock, whether from raw or cooked bones (or my favorite, a combination) is the single most useful culinary tool you can have on hand. And because it is infinitely variable, sometimes somewhat randomly by the cooked flavors and/or combinations of multiple meals’ worth of bones, it can make every meal uniquely memorable.
One of the vendors at our farmers’ market—which happily began this week—carries the sustainably farmed fish from across the river. (I wrote about it here). It’s a far cry from living near the ocean, but it works well in a pinch and is always super-fresh. And whole fish are inspiring in ways that cuts usually are not, especially when it comes to grand presentations. Don’t you just love that fried eye?
A trip to the market yesterday for some fish yielded a couple dozen beautiful mahogany clams and, at the behest of the child, a lobster. He loves to peer into the tank and tell the fish guy which one he wants. The clams were twelve cents each, which is wonderful, so I was OK with shelling out (get it?) about thirteen bucks for a lobster we could all share. And the chowder I had decided to make as soon as I saw the clams would welcome the addition of lobster to make it a fancier Sunday dinner.
There are plenty of arguments in favor of gardening, and they’re all important. Exercise, connecting with nature, saving money, controlling your food supply, eating food at the pinnacle of freshness, learning to ferment to handle the surplus, and so on. It’s not like I need to make the argument. But for me there is one overarching reason that trumps all the others combined: inspiration.
Shrimp and saffron are a magical combination. Flowers and shellfish have an affinity in general; I remember Grant Achatz telling me that it was one of his favorite combinations when I praised his dish of scallops, lilac, and lavender during our meal at Alinea in 2009. Now that flowers are beginning to appear, this is a combination I plan on exploring further in the coming months. Read the Post Shrimp And Grits