Colder weather urges cooking in a way that summer’s insouciant plenitude cannot rival. Now that we’re down to about a third of the garden, it’s all roots and greens out there (though bolstered immeasurably in the kitchen by the deep benches of pantry and freezer). Their flavor—the sheer information, the resolution and detail in each bite of humble leaf or root, sweetened by frosts and elevated to center stage by the departure of the tender competition—presents targets both easy and challenging. Easy, because a fat fall turnip needs little embellishing to glow, and challenging because families are wont to clamor for novelty when it comes to dinner.
Apart from a couple of gloriously warm days, winter’s death throes have been pretty assertively shitty. On Monday, the first day of sugaring, the sun felt warm enough that I was able to work outside for a few hours as I tended the fire and kept an eye on the sap’s progress so Danny could mix a record inside. The fire needs stoking every twenty minutes to maintain a rolling boil; that’s not a long enough interval for him to sink into his magic studio reverie, but it’s easy for me to get up from the laptop and throw a few logs in between sentences. And I obviously have my author photo taken care of, so there’s that.
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.
And not the computer, neither. I know it’s Sunday, but I just discovered a trove of pictures on the camera that I had completely forgot about, and I thought of you, poor readers, frantically anticipating my next post with the impatient fervor of Ree Drummond praying for Paula Deen to stroke out on national television. So I wrote this because I feel your pain.
I don’t normally cook pork loin, because it has no fat and is expensive. But I had a hankering recently to make lomo/lonzino, and when I saw a nice one for not too much I bought it.
Sorry, sourced it. I forgot myself there for a minute.
Most of it sat in a cure for a few days, and I’m going to hang it tomorrow. The rest of it became dinner, and I came up with a rather neat way to avoid overcooking a lean cut such as this, which can turn to cardboard misery in a matter of minutes if you’re not careful, wasting all that money you spent.
Even though there’s some snow on the ground, it’s rapidly melting as the March sun beats down upon it with increasing vigor. I was going to shoot a bunch of pictures of all the green goodness that’s popping up all over, but those will have to wait for a bit. Meantime, though, a post about my favorite of all the wild spring edibles.
Paneer is one of the easiest cheeses to make at home, and it’s superbly rewarding because A) there’s almost no waiting and B) if you live, say, in an area that has no good South Asian restaurants, you can make yourself a steaming bowl of saag paneer whenever the urge strikes. And you can make a lot of it, because as we all know Indian food is even better the next morning for breakfast.
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.
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.
This is not normally how I eat, but man is it enjoyable every now and then to tuck into an immaculately cooked hunk of grass-fed sirloin. A nearby market has begun carrying beef from a farm across the river, about 20 miles away, which is actually run by a vegetarian who cares so deeply for animals that she raises ones that carnivores can eat in good conscience. With the family out for the evening, I indulged.