December 28, 2010
This is the perfect post-Christmas breakfast – or dinner – and the best way I know to use up the final, precious bits of a great rib roast.
<li>Prime Rib Hash:
<li>What you need before you start: a couple of small whole potatoes that are already cooked (any kind of potato will do, either baked or boiled), cut into small cubes. About 2 cups of cold roast beef, cut into tiny cubes. A small onion, diced. Some aromatics, and a half cup of cream (Half and Half will do; heavy is better). Three or four eggs.
Cook the potatoes in a well-oiled skillet for about 10 minutes, stirring about from time to time until they have turned golden. Add the onions and cook until they become translucent and the potatoes begin to crisp, another 10 minutes or so. Add the beef and a few aromatics if you like – I sometimes add a bit of thyme, or parsley, occasionally a clove or two of garlic, perhaps a small scraping of nutmeg. If I’m in the mood, I’ll throw in a few flakes of hot chile pepper as well. Season with salt and pepper and cook for another 5 minutes or so, until the beef gives up its fat and begins to send its scent into the air.
Pour in the cream, listen to it sizzle, stir it about and then press the hash into the skillet with a spatula. Raise the heat beneath the pan and cook, turning occasionally until the cream has vanished into the hash, forming a wonderfully crisp crust. This will take about 8 minutes. Top each of three or four servings with its own softly fried egg.
December 25, 2010
1. The best parties involve a certain amount of serendipity. Don't be so organized that everything's done when the guests arrive. Let people pitch in and help in the kitchen. It’s a great ice-breaker.
2. The guest list is important. If everyone knows everyone else, the conversation can be dull. And if nobody knows anybody else, it can be awkward. Gather a comfortable group of people who are easy with each other, mix in a few new friends, and watch the party take off.
3. Don't serve soup or any kind of first course that means jumping up while everyone is seated to prepare the main course. Put out lots of nibbley things to begin with – pate, cheese, salume, nuts, homemade crackers, some kind of vegetable dip. Or make something hot that people can stand in the kitchen eating right from the oven, like a quiche or boureks. Bring the salad to toss at the table, so when you sit down for the main course you won't have to get up again until dessert. It just makes the evening easier.
December 24, 2010
A Promise for the Future:
The best thing about January? The coming of the Kishus.
Alice Waters introduced me to these tiny tangerines, which carry a little sunshine into the cold winter world. I can’t think of anything more fun than bringing out a handful (yes they’re that tiny) and watching a child’s delight in the sweet juicy fruit.
The season is very short – just a few weeks in January – but you can sign up to be alerted when they start shipping. If you’re wracking your brain for a last minute gift, this is a wonderful one. It’s a few weeks away, but your friends will thank you each time they peel a tangerine and experience that deep, golden flavor.
And speaking of tangerines – if you’ve never read MFK Fisher on the pleasures of tangerine sections left to grow fat on the radiator and then chilled on a snowy ledge, here is an excerpt:
“…It was then that I discovered little dried sections of tangerine. My pleasure in them is subtle and voluptuous and quite inexplicable. I can only write how they are prepared.
In the morning, in the soft sultry chamber, sit in the window peeling tangerines, three or four. Peel them gently; do not bruise them, as you watch soldiers pour past and past the corner and over the canal towards the watched Rhine. Separate each plump little pregnant crescent. If you find the Kiss, the secret section, save it for Al.
Listen to the chambermaid thumping up the pillows, and murmur encouragement to her thick Alsatian tales of l'intérieure. That is Paris, the interior, Paris or anywhere west of Strasbourg or maybe the Vosges. While she mutters of seduction and French bicyclists who ride more than wheels, tear delicately from the soft pile of sections each velvet string. You know those white pulpy strings that hold tangerines into their skins? Tear them off. Be careful.
Take yesterday's paper (when we were in Strasbourg L'Ami du Peuple was best, because when it got hot the ink stayed on it) and spread it on top of the radiator. The maid has gone, of course – it might be hard to ignore her belligerent Alsatian glare of astonishment.
After you have put the pieces of tangerine on the paper on the hot radiator, it is best to forget about them. Al comes home, you go to a long noon dinner in the brown dining-room, afterwards maybe you have a little nip of quetsch from the bottle on the armoire. Finally he goes. You are sorry, but –
On the radiator the sections of tangerines have grown even plumper, hot and full. You carry them to the window, pull it open, and leave them for a few minutes on the packed snow of the sill. They are ready.
All afternoon you can sit, then, looking down on the corner. Afternoon papers are delivered to the kiosk. Children come home from school just as three lovely whores mince smartly into the pension's chic tearoom. A basketful of Dutch tulips stations itself by the tram-stop, ready to tempt tired clerks at six o'clock. Finally the soldiers stump back from the Rhine. It is dark.
The sections of the tangerine are gone, and I cannot tell you why they are so magical. Perhaps it is that little shell, thin as one layer of enamel on a Chinese bowl, that crackles so tinily, so ultimately under your teeth. Or the rush of cold pulp just after it. Or the perfume. I cannot tell.
There must be someone, though, who understands what I mean. Probably everyone does, because of his own secret eatings."
December 23, 2010
A Share in a CSA:
Snow showers, gray sky, frozen world. It must be this weather that has me dreaming of summer, longing for green things to start springing from the earth.
I’ve been thinking that if someone gave me a share in a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), as a Christmas present, it would make me incredibly happy. It would be a reminder that spring really will come, that the world will once again be fruitful. And more than that, it would give me a warm feeling to know that I was joining forces with a local farmer; not just buying his vegetables, but becoming a small partner, participating in whatever the coming year might bring – good or bad – in the way of harvest.
The CSA movement keeps growing; I’m now a member of a chicken CSA, as well as a vegetable one. These days you can find meat and fish CSAs too. How do you find a local one? Put your zipcode into the link above, and your local CSAs will come up. (It’s not perfect; if someone knows a more up to date data base, please leave a comment.)
December 22, 2010
Home Made Bread Crumbs:
A couple of years ago Kempy Minifie, who was running Gourmet’s test kitchen, gave me a container filled with homemade bread crumbs for Christmas. “This,” I thought to myself, “is a really dopey present. I can make my own crumbs any time I want them.” But I took them home and stored them in my freezer anyway.
One day, about a month later, I reached in and found they were gone: I had used them all up. I instantly made some more, and since then my freezer has never been without a supply of good crisp, oily, crumbs. They’re as essential as chicken stock, a wonderful fall-back ingredient that adds flavor and texture to many dishes. I use them on pasta, in casseroles, to top vegetables. I’d be grateful to anyone who offered me some.
And they’re easy to make.
Cut a good loaf of stale bread into cubes and grind it into crumbs in a blender or a food processor. (A blender is better; it gives you a more uniform texture). If your bread is not stale enough to crumb, you can dry the cubes out in a 200 degree oven for about 15 minutes before grinding.
Spread the crumbs onto a baking sheet and toast in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes until they are crisp and golden. Drizzle with olive oil (about a quarter cup for every 2 cups of crumbs), season with salt and allow to cool completely before putting into containers.
These will keep in the freezer almost indefinitely. Just stick them in the microwave for a few seconds to take the chill off.