Sunday, 2 December 2012 | 29 comments
We have reached the time of year when it’s dark as I leave in the morning and dark when I return home, which, while not depressing in a seasonal affective disorder way, certainly affects my mood. I make my way out to the car in the pre-dawn chill, huddled close and indrawn. The windshield flares with crazy, sparkly frost patterns when Ben switches on the headlights. Sort of chiaroscuro for the soul. (Guaranteed, I won’t feel this romantically about dark mornings come February, so let’s enjoy it while we can.) » Read more «
Tuesday, 20 November 2012 | 17 comments
Last year I was away for Thanksgiving, but this year, Ben and I are hosting family at our home and I could not be more excited. Remember that time I said I liked potlucks? It was a stretch. I like to be in charge of big dinners, there, I said it. If a potluck is a democracy, I can deal with it, but when it comes to my table it’s possible that I prefer a benevolent monarchy. We can all infer what we will about my control tendencies from this, but I am stoked. Let’s talk about the big day. The wonderful Food52 folks invited me over to launch a new feature, “Halfway to Dinner”. A guest blogger will introduce a base ingredient or recipe (such as a pot of beans, a big batch of rice, a roast chicken) and demonstrate creative ways to use it for meals all week long. Writing about good, everyday cooking has become a bit of an obsession lately, so I jumped at the chance. The debut column is about—you guessed it—turkey, so you’ll have some ideas for other ways to use up your leftovers besides the ordinary (albeit good!) turkey-cranberry sandwich. Head over to Food52 to read it.
Friday, 16 November 2012 | 25 comments
Around here there’s been a lot of cooking but not much posting; funny how that happens. I want to talk Thanksgiving with you all, but it’ll have to wait until tomorrow or Monday. Until then, I thought I’d check in with a few photos of what my November’s been like. There have been an unusual amount of turkey encounters to report. 1) Wild: I woke up one damp morning to this enormous flock (21! 21 wild turkeys!) making orp-orp noises in our front yard. 2) Domesticated: I cooked a bird for a project I’m working on; I’ll tell you about it soon.Detritus after Sandy power outages: burnt down candles, oil lamps, dead laptop, abandoned banjo. A praying mantis that we watched grow up through the spring and summer clung to our window screen for a week, her swan song before the first hard frost. I cooked a giant pot of soup (this one) over a fire (unfortunately out of necessity rather than romance; our stove/oven broke AGAIN, I don’t want to talk about it). We had good people over to eat it. We took a whirlwind Midwest roadtrip where the only photos I took were blurry self-timer portraits in a Michigan vineyard. And I baked this cake, except with vanilla sour cream frosting, on an afternoon with exceptionally pretty light.
Can you believe we’re heading into the holidays? Things have been a little distracting for me—I’m starting a new job in December—but I want to be here more often. So, see you soon.
Thursday, 25 October 2012 | 48 comments
There’s a skeleton in my closet—or, more accurately, a recipe box that I’ve kept hidden and unopened in a cupboard since my mom passed away. I moved it from Michigan to DC to Virginia, shuffling it around, unable to sift through the recipes but unwilling to part with it. Earlier this month, emboldened by a chat with a friend (and a couple glasses of wine), I pulled the box down off the shelf. I’m not sure how many of you have lost parents when you were younger, or perhaps simply suddenly, but my still-raw experience—two years ago, as I write this—is that much of those two years has been some heartwrenching variation on: I wish that I had been able to ask what this was about. I wish I could understand. I wish I could talk to mom about this. When my mom died, I was just coming out of a college kid I-know-everything-and-am-more-worldly-than-you phase and beginning to appreciate my parents as people. We didn’t expect my mother to die.
I am full of questions for her, my mother the woman herself, not just in relation to me. What was that lily-scented perfume you only wore on special occasions? Where was this photo taken, the one of you in the red maillot swimsuit and big oversized sunglasses, the one where you’re standing in front of a car with a canoe strapped to the top? What’s so special about this barbecue sauce recipe? Everyday curiosity escalates quickly to something more desperate, for the mere fact that answers are unattainable.
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Wednesday, 3 October 2012 | 46 comments
Some of you send me nice notes that say you’re jealous of my life in the country. No offense, everyone, but it’s not as romantic as you think. I don’t live in the kind of “country” that’s 20 quaint minutes outside of a hip, progressive town. I live in the kind of country where the closest town has a 7-11 but not a grocery store. There is no Trader Joe’s in a 50-mile radius. My internet comes from a satellite, and let me tell you, it takes a long time to stream YouTube when your internet is getting beamed down from space (approximately 1-2 days per music video, which is really unfortunate for Ben’s Gotye addiction).There are lots of ways that rural living is lionized that really just aren’t true. Raising chickens is not one of them. Raising chickens is absolutely as wonderful as you think it is. By all accounts, I got chicks and raised them in the name of having fresh eggs. “They’re livestock,” I would tell people firmly. “Not pets.” The thing about these silly birds, though, is that they’re kind of sweet, have a lot of personality, and eat your kitchen scraps. They have this fascinating society that you can just sit back and watch. I loved them for the first five months they were in my life even without the eggs. They were worth keeping around already. Then BAM, they started paying their rent. It’s difficult to fathom, that we’ve bred these animals that ovulate near-every day, spontaneously. They do it without complaint (although one of them sings a little song whenever she lays an egg, strutting and bragging a little). When the first hens started laying, I didn’t know what to do with myself. It was the best day of my summer. I cracked one of the small, pale brown pullet eggs into a ramekin to show anyone within spitting distance how bright the yolk was and how tall it stood up from the albumen.
More started coming. We were getting three eggs per day, all shades of tan and ochre. And then! Then, one day, Ben approached me with his hands cupped around something. He opened them, and nestled there were two perfect blue-green eggs. I flipped a sh*t. I even knew it was coming, but that didn’t stop me from freaking out. And the beautiful eggs that taste so good keep rolling in. So you can see where I’m coming from, maybe? Maybe you want to throw my chickens a party, too? I wouldn’t blame you.
Nowadays, with a few dozen eggs in the fridge at all times, I turn pretty frequently to a humble standby: the fried egg sandwich. This is the type of food I can eat when I don’t know what I want to eat; the kind of food I can make on autopilot and be incredibly satisfied when I’m finished with it, always. My sandwiches are typically open faced: toasted bread–fried egg–a little salty cheese–maybe some hot sauce. They are good that way and I didn’t really need to mess with them, until I paged through the egg section in Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors on the lookout for egg-using-up recipes. (One does not, it turns out, make a very big dent in one’s egg supply by eating occasional fried egg sandwiches.)
Deborah’s fried egg with sizzling vinegar is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Which is to say, it is delicious, especially if you’re me and instead of being born with a sweet tooth, you were born with something along the lines of an “acid” tooth. After frying your egg, you swirl some vinegar in with a little extra butter in the same skillet and then pour it, still sizzling, over the top of your egg. I’ve been throwing my egg on top of greens and toast, and letting the vinegary butter sauce dress the greens, too.
Fried egg in sizzling vinegar
Adapted just barely from Deborah Madison’s book, Local Flavors
I like this egg served on top of toast with some baby greens, letting the sauce and yolk dress the greens. If you go this route, toast your bread as you cook the egg and have your greens at the ready, as the process goes quickly.
You will need
2 teaspoons unsalted butter, divided
1 fresh hen or duck egg
2-4 tablespoons red wine wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar (add more or less vinegar to taste; I like it to be quite vinegar-y to cut through the rich yolk)
In a small skillet, melt one teaspoon of the butter. Fry your egg as you normally do. Remove the egg from the skillet and give it a sprinkle of salt and a couple grinds of pepper.
Melt the remaining teaspoon of butter. When it has stopped foaming, add the vinegar and a few pinches of salt, swirling the skillet to mix. It will sizzle and bubble up. When the butter and vinegar have mixed and the sauce has reduced just a bit, remove the skillet from the heat. Immediately pour the buttery sauce over the egg and serve.