3.26.2011

Your Hand in Mine


fickle |ˈfikəl|

adjective
changing frequently, esp. as regards one's loyalties, interests, or affection : Web patrons are a notoriously fickle lot, bouncing from one site to another on a whim | the weather is forever fickle.

DERIVATIVES
fickleness noun
fickly |ˈfik(ə)lē| adverb

ORIGIN Old English ficol [deceitful] .


I’ve always known I’m fickle.


persnickety |pərˈsnikətē|

adjective informal
placing too much emphasis on trivial or minor details; fussy : persnickety gardeners | she's very persnickety about her food.
• requiring a particularly precise or careful approach : it's hard to find a film more persnickety and difficult to use than black-and-white infrared.

ORIGIN early 19th cent. (originally Scots): of unknown origin.


I’m also aware that I can be tremendously persnickety.

At times either of these attributes could be considered cute, quirky or even endearing. But as I get older I would say that, more often than not, these qualities are irritating, unnerving and not so attractive. Especially if you’re a food, restaurant or boy I can’t decide if I want or not, or might want, or maybe I won’t want - at any given moment.

Doug knows all too well that prior to dining out – or even last Friday when deciding on a happy hour spot – there is a whole process involved. This process usually begins anywhere from a few hours to a few days before said event.

I just want the choice to be the perfect choice. I want everything to be just right. I don’t want to wish I were anywhere else. Or with anyone else.

I guess I have control issues. And I’m kind of OCD.

Hey, I’ve never claimed to be a walk in the park, you know?

Anyway, there’s all sorts of good stuff, too. But it’s not what I’m thinking about right now.

I’m thinking more about how I can relax. Without pharmaceuticals, mind you. I need to learn how to go with the flow, float with the tide. I need to fucking chill out. I can’t control everything and it doesn’t make any sense to try anyway. It’s exhausting for me and, I imagine, for the people around me. Maybe this is why I’ve been so tired lately.

During these moments I usually I turn to soup. But today I thought I’d give myself more of a challenge. I needed to get a lot more involved in something. I decided to bake. So, earlier, as I was listening to one of my favorite songs, and one that has been in constant rotation of late, Your Hand in Mine by Explosions in the Sky, and reading through some of my favorite blogs, I stumbled upon a particularly tempting recipe from One Perfect Bite. A recipe for Bouchon Bakery’s Nutter Butter Cookies.

I made a scant few modifications here and there, but I’m pretty excited. I baked!

I guess I can grow and change. 


Nutter Butter Cookies

Makes 8 ginormous cookies

Ingredients:

Cookie Dough:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter, preferably Skippy
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons coarsely chopped peanuts
1-1/4 cups quick-cooking oats

Cookie Filling:
8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2) To make cookie dough: In a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and baking soda; set aside. Using an electric mixer, cream together butter and peanut butter. Add sugars and beat at medium speed for 3-4 minutes, scraping down bowl twice. At low speed, add egg and vanilla. Add flour mixture and stir until well mixed, frequently scraping down bowl. Add peanuts (if using) and oats, and mix well. Using an ice cream scoop 2 inches in diameter or an extremely heaping tablespoon, place balls of dough on parchment-lined baking sheets at least three inches apart. Bake until cookies have spread and turned very light golden brown, about 10-14 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool and firm up, 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely before filling.

3) To make filling: Using an electric mixer, cream together butter, peanut butter and confectioners’ sugar until very smooth.

4) To assemble cookies: Spread a thin layer (about 1/8 inch) on underside of a cookie. Sandwich with another cookie. Repeat.

 


3.22.2011

Reading, Tweeting & Eating


I was smack in the middle of a really fun book: Blood, Bones & Butter, by Gabrielle Hamilton. She is the chef/owner of Prune in New York and it is her memoir. While, unfortunately, I have not yet dined at Prune, I was having a blast eating up her words. And, lamentably, it’s been too long since I’ve really delved hungrily into a good book.

Last Monday evening Maggie and I were sitting in the living room, happily plotting our lazy night in with the pups and our jammies as we were plum tuckered out from a slightly, ahem, indulgent weekend. This conversation was happening through me reading my book and Maggie compulsively Tweeting on her iPhone. It was about 7:30-ish, I’d say.

Then suddenly Maggie nonchalantly asks me to remind her of the name of the book I’m reading. “Blood, Bones & Butter”, I tell her. To which she replied, “So I guess you know about this thing at Lucques tonight?” 

What?

Turns out Suzanne Goin was hosting a dinner in honor of Hamilton’s book with a four-course prix fixe menu, with a copy of the book for $95. Oh yeah, and Gabrielle Hamilton was going to be in the house, dining, drinking, mingling and signing copies for the guests.

Er…

Well and so – after a panicked phone call, a string or two pulled (thanks Matt!), and the two of us paint-over-rust-style getting ready, Maggie and I managed to get to Lucques by 8:15pm for our two saved seats at the bar on that sold-out night.


The restaurant was as full as I had seen it since their annual rib roundup and the menu was simply beautiful. I couldn’t help but notice all of the dishes were not only seasonal (of course), but were all dishes and/or ingredients that had prominence in the book. They were even roasting lambs and potatoes on a spit on the dining patio.

Suzanne Goin and Lamby
Beauty.

We took a few moments to enjoy our wonderful house-made bread and fresh butter, Lucques olives, roasty, oily almonds and coarse salt and our glasses of 2009 Nikolaihof, Gruner Vetliner from Hefeabzug, Austria (selected by Caroline Styne) before our first course arrived. I needed to soak it all in for a moment. I mean, Hell, a mere forty-five minutes ago I was in my jammies in the big, brown chair, curled up with my book. Now I’m sitting in my dearest restaurant (still clutching my book) about to eat gorgeous food in the same room with the author of my book and the chef of my chosen food.


It’s true. I haven’t written much about Suzanne’s restaurants over the years, though I eat at them all regularly and mention her often (just put her name in the search engine of this blog and see). But it’s certainly no secret that she’s kind of my culinary hero.

So let us begin with the Asparagus vinaigrette with Dijon mustard, eggs mimosa and American proscuitto. This dish was served somewhere between room temperature and ever so slightly chilled. The asparagus was perfectly and delicately blanched with a succinct, little snap. The dish was fresh and light and was perfect in waking up the palate, getting it all prepped for what was to come.


And what was to come was the Roast Windrose Farms’ lamb with potatoes from the coals and a salad of English peas, pea shoots, Meyer lemon and chanterelles. Seeing both of these dishes transported me immediately back into the book. The first chapter of the book was all about the ornate lamb roasts Hamilton’s family hosted in her childhood. She described the process with such love and nostalgia that I could almost smell the lamb and feel the chill of the cold water in the stream behind the house while grabbing a cold drink from it’s bed. The pea salad took me instantly to her story of hiding on the floor of her childhood butcher shop having absconded with a handful of the fresh peas the butcher and his family grew – Gabrielle eating them raw, right then and there.


And Suzanne did it all a beautiful and savory justice.


The lamb and potatoes were simply without equal. Faultless.  Suzanne accomplished the perfect, simple – and seminal - potatoes Gabrielle spoke of that changed her world in Greece. The salad, which was reportedly the crowd’s favorite, was also Maggie’s preferred dish as well. And it was sublime. It was refreshing, vibrant, and in contrast to the soft and almost sultry lamb, crisp and bright. The chanterelles added that bit of Earthiness and the Meyer lemon provided the perfect touch of sweet citrus to round it all out.


We paired the lamb, et al with the 2005 Domaine Gallety, Cote du Vivarais from France (also Styne’s pick). We both loved this choice.The wine was big and confident without dominating the food.

And finally we were served the Cornmeal shortcakes with strawberries, mint and crème fråiche. I don’t recall this dish from Blood, Bones & Butter but from Sunday Suppers at Lucques served instead with peaches. Interestingly enough my mom served this dish at our first Dinner at Eight. And it was amazing. Suzanne’s cornmeal shortcakes are heavenly. I, obviously, would have liked to have seen considerably less strawberry goo. With this we opted for a glass of the rosé champagne.


What a night. I was able to say hi to Suzanne, get a hug in, met and briefly chatted with Gabrielle and a few of her friends. I ate the food I was reading. I ate the food I love. I got my book signed by the author.  All in my favorite restaurant. Yes. It’s true.

I finished the book just last night. A week after the dinner. Suzanne’s food lingers on my palate and Gabrielle’s words linger on my mind.

I feel happy. 

                      

3.10.2011

Sliding Doors


I am at a new intersection presently. The landscape is changing. And soon I need to either turn right or I need to turn left. It’s hard when I’ve been going straight for so long.

This makes me think of the concept of Alternate History. Alternate History is a genre of fiction that was identified in the early 1950s that involves cross-time travel between alternate histories or psychic awareness of the existence of "our" universe by the people in another; or ordinary voyaging uptime (into the past) or downtime (into the future) that results in history splitting into two or more time-lines. Or, to put it simply, What If?

Remember Sliding Doors? I love that movie. I actually own it on DVD (but let’s not run around telling everyone that).

So, here I am. Left or right? I can’t keep going straight forever or I’ll run myself right into the ocean. I’ll float away. Last night I tried so hard to turn left. I really did. But I couldn’t. And, I fear, as a result that particular road may be too far behind me now to be able to reverse all the way back to. I should probably turn right, anyway. Hell, I know I should turn right.

Suddenly I realize the idiocy in Rush’s lyric, "If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice." Oh, Geddy, I still love you.

What if I just turn on my signal and imply I’m turning right? Does that mean I still have to turn? I wish there was a Sliding Doors-type of thing that I could watch in this trajectory. I would really like to see how both roads look. Where they lead.

But clearly that’s not an option.

In an oddly symbiotic fashion, I cannot commit to what on earth I want to make for dinner tonight. Michael Motorcycle is coming over and I don’t have a clue whether to go the route of tilapia or pork tenderloin. These options are as different as right or left and, now, at 6pm I, as yet, don’t have a clue.

So, I guess, for now,  I’ll keep going straight and make a soup. This is a beautiful and complex soup filled with the beauties Mr. Motorcycle and I picked up at the farmers’ market this past Sunday morning: parsnips, heirloom carrots, baby potatoes, garlic, an onion, raw cream, and bacon. 

As for which way I'll turn, in addition to the tilapia vs. pork tenderloin mystery - I'lll keep you posted. 

Until then, maybe I'll watch Back to the Future.



Creamy Roasted Parsnip-Carrot Soup with Crispy Bacon and Potatoes


Serves 6-8

Ingredients

3 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup chopped heirloom carrots
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon grated garlic
10 cups chicken stock
3 pounds parsnips, peeled and diced
1/4 to 1/2 cup raw cream
6 ounces raw bacon, chopped
1/2 pound baby, new potatoes, quartered, boiled in chicken stock and divided
Salt and pepper

 
Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Scatter the parsnips and carrots on a baking sheet with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast until semi-tender, approximately 15-20 minutes.

Melt the butter in a 6-quart stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion. Season with salt and pepper. Saute until the onion is soft, about 4 minutes. Add parsnips, carrots, half of the potatoes, bay leaf and garlic.

Add the stock and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, until everything is very soft, about 1 hour. Remove soup from heat and allow to cool a little. Discard bay leaf.

Using an immersion blender, carefully puree soup until smooth. Stir in cream. Season with salt and pepper.

In a small saute pan, over medium heat, render bacon until crispy. Remove the bacon and drain on paper towels. Sautee the remaining potatoes in bacon fat until crispy and brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer potatoes to paper towel lined plate when done. Season with salt.

To serve, ladle the soup into serving bowls. Garnish with the crispy potatoes and bacon. 

Printable Recipe

3.02.2011

Son of a Gun - It's Rated ARGH! (Insert pirate hook here)


I really wanted to steer away from the restaurants for a while and get back to the recipes/stories/metaphors tangled up in my world. But, I was fortunate enough to hit up Son of a Gun on only their second night open and I was on a date doing it. And so, all the news that’s fit to print, right?

I spent almost all of last week and the last weekend in super nesting mode. I think I went out one night. But I wasn’t really cooking anything too exciting either. I actually wasn’t feeling great. But I told myself, and Mr. Michael Motorcycle (named!), that I would definitely be ready to go out for a nice dinner Monday night. I was bandying about the idea of hitting Salt’s Cure or Animal. Then I ended up having lunch with Jill, that very day, at Salt’s Cure (I can’t help it!), and then I remembered, Animal?!, Hells bells! Son of a Gun opened just last night!

And there you go.

It’s been long awaited, but those two, super cute chefs behind Animal, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo done did it. And I so love that they opened on Oscar night. Their newest, Son of a Gun, occupying the old Cynthia’s space on Third Street, is seafood-centric, with a head-to-toe nautical themed interior. There are 55 seats, half of which – the leather banquets -  are open for reservations and the other half – a long, communal table, running down the middle of the room, are reserved for walk-ins. We marched right up to the bar, however. We sat next to the goldfish.


I tried to wait for the perfect moment, but I’ve never been good at patience or timing – so, Mr. Motorcycle had to hear my pirate joke before he even got a glass of wine down. I think he was humoring me, as he did, in fact, laugh. But let’s face it, I am the worst joke deliverer ever. And my jokes are stuck in 5th grade. So, points for the boy...

Okay.


So we each ordered a glass of 2008 Erbaluce, La Torrazza, Carema ($13), against the better judgement of our server. She was right and Mr. Motorcycle noticed it immediately: While being a very drinkable wine, this does not have enough snap to hang with the oceanic fare we had selected. This fare was the Smoked Mahi Fish Dip, Celery, Radish, Crackers ($9), and the Fluke, Raita, Oro Blanco, Pineapple, Mint ($15). These two dishes were fun to have side by side as one was very pedestrian in concept and one was tremendously refined. The mahi dip was fresh and crisp and served along side buttery Ritz-esque crackers. I felt like I was sitting on the pier. The fluke was delicate and complex. This dish took one’s palate on a bit of a trajectory from soft and supple, to rich and creamy, to citrusy and and, bam!, a bit of heat. I felt like I was on the, um, very fancy pier?

Side note: I love that their plates are Heath.


At this point we decided to commit to a bottle of 2007 Bourgogne Aligoté, Domaine Rollin ($38). We tasted it and it seemed a bit more befitting for the evening.

Next up was the Alligator Schnitzel, Heart of Palm, Orange ($13) and the dish I was the very most excited about: Linguine and Clams, Uni Aglio-Olio, Breadcrumbs ($16). Here things take a slight twist. But only very.


The schnitzel was fun, but not anything exceptional, nor something the caliber I expect to see from these boys. I’m thinking maybe the breading could use a little something? It was simply, not very interesting. And I want my alligator to be interesting!


The pasta was good. It was cooked beautifully and I loved the addition of the breadcrumbs for the texture. I really did like this dish but, If you can believe it, it was a skosh too salty for me. Translation: really salty.

We finished up with the Fried Chicken Sandwich, Spicy B&B Pickle Slaw, Rooster Aioli ($11), on the behest of our super great bartender. This sandwich was excellent! Perhaps one of the best chicken sammies I've had to date, actually. I wish we ordered it earlier so we could have inhaled it, but we were pretty full at this point. Mr. Motorcycle took it home to have for lunch the next day.


I like this place. A lot. I will like it more as wrinkles get unwrinkled, but mostly when it gets all warm and sunshiney out. You know, when we want to be on that pier. Eating awesome seafood in an awesome spot. And they're open late!

Oh, and hey guys, I really want a soup on the menu.

Son of a Gun Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Son Of A Gun in Los Angeles on Fooddigger