"Those who forget the pasta are condemned to reheat it." ~Unknown

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Gilded Meal

     On Saturday morning as I went over my recipe choices. I wanted to find some squid ink to make fresh squid ink pasta. We called around but couldn't find any.  Dad pointed out to me that Mark Bittman, A.K.A. The Minimalist, was picking his twenty-five favorite recipes out of the thousands he has printed before he retired.  So I got onto the computer, went to NYT.com and decided I should make this Sunday Dinner from that list of twenty-five recipes.  In the end I picked four recipes to make.  Yesterday, Dad and I started the no-knead bread and set it out to rise.  At the grocery store this morning we bought, in addition to the chicken (chicken under a brick) and pomelo (fennel and celery salad), tofu and a bar of chocolate.  Not even Sherlock Holmes would be able to tell you those would be going into the same meal.
      When I pulled the chicken out of it's bag, I realized we had a bit of a problem.  Like the chicken's spine, and collar bones.  After a little butchering I was able to season the chicken, which after it's operation was left split in half down the middle.
       It just came to my attention that, in a dinner in which the meat cleaver and poultry shears have come out of their drawers the mandolin will be coming out for the salad (insert suspenseful music here).  My thumb cowers.  The bread just came out of the oven, it is beautiful.  The loaf is perfectly round, light brown and rises into a small little mountain peak on top with a dusting of snowy flour.  The bottom is flat and is covered in wheat bran.  If I didn't know better I'd tell you it was a bakery loaf.      The chicken has gone onto the stove top for a quick searing before it goes into the oven, just like the potatoes anna.  Speaking of the potatoes anna, the fennel salad is, unlike it's other mandolin counterpart, vegetarian.  No fingertips to speak of!  I'm breathing a sigh of relief for Dad. (Dad has forbidden kids from using the mandolin.) Dad's been using the apple peeler to peel thin, curly slices from the multitude of partially used parmesan blocks in our fridge. This really pulls the celery, fennel and citrus together.
The whole kitchen smells amazing, with the intermingling notes of fresh bread, pomelo, chicken and the garlic rosemary rub.  The chocolate-tofu dessert in the fridge is almost done setting. (Dad is attempting to forbid anyone from mentioning that tofu is an ingredient of the chocolate pudding.)

      The chicken will be done soon, it just came out of the oven.  We then removed the tinfoil wrapped brick used to weigh down the skillet on top of the chicken, flipped the chicken and put it back into the oven.  Dad is slicing the bread and giving us all some to dip in this new olive oil we got from the Oregon Olive Mill, the bread and olive oil were astonishingly good.  Dinner is served.

      That was amazing.  In the salad, the pomelo was wondrous, and you could taste the parmesan, which had wrapped itself around the celery and fennel.  The chicken was wonderful, flat and crispy.  The rub was interestingly hidden beneath the chicken flavors but it poked through and you could sure smell it.  And the bread.  Oh wow.  It was phenomenal. It was very crusty, and the inside was fluffy and warm - absolutely incredible.

      I haven't even told about the mousse yet.  For dessert we had a chocolate mousse with tofu in it.  I have two things to say: 1) Dad must have skipped the tofu step while I was out of the room and 2) The only difference between it and the chocolate mousse you can get at a restaurant was the fact that it was served in a small plastic bowl vs. a tall glass.  In other words it was jaw-dropping.  That is until your mouth closed and it melted on your tongue.  That brick we used on the chicken is still sitting on the counter, wrapped in gilded foil.  Like the brick, this was a gilded meal.
      The recipes we used tonight, and others from the minimalist are  linked here. They are really simple and really good. You have to try them out!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Processed and Fried and Glazed

In all the Sunday dinners there have been a few were a lot of the cooking fell upon Dad because Cy or I were sick or injured. There was of course the time I cut my finger off, (technically it was a finger amputation). Then there was also the time when Cy was making fish and chips and got really sick. Since it was such a good meal, and Cy didn't get to experience it with us, he's going to make fish and chips again.
Last night, Dad, Cy and I went to see The Green Hornet in 3D. This was the second 3D movie I'd seen (Avatar) and the second 3D movie that has thoroughly disappointed me. During the previews, they used the 3D to great effect, a snowball fight with the snowballs coming into the theater, a ticker tape parade falling all around us. Then the movie started. And the 3D ended. This drove me insane! In both Avatar and The Green Hornet, there were scenes were missiles were fired on screen, then exploded, onscreen. If they could do all sorts of cool stuff in the previews, why couldn't those missiles transcend the screen and explode around us? Just a quick note to Hollywood: 3D is boring if the only 3D part is the previews and credits.
Dad just dumped the fries into the frier, the bubbles exploded around them, steam boiled up to the ceiling. Now that's 3D.
After I prepared the Tartar sauce I turned around to see Dad opening a package of halibut from my trip to Alaska this summer. I'm not sure if these particular fillets are from the fish I saw get caught, but I do know that no matter the halibut, this is a worthy fate for such a great fish. Even the smaller halibut that we let go was an amazing fish, to think that a small halibut that didn't fight much gave me a run for my money is amazing and a testament to the power of the sea.

Dad made a bit of a cooking error, he placed the battered halibut into the basket while it wasn't submerged, the batter dripped down through the holes in the pot then got fried solid. He and Cy had to scrape the halibut and solid batter off the basket, leaving us an appetizer.
Dad claims he is now frying head cheese, which must be full of water because it's got more Snap, Crackle and Pop than Rice Krispies. Don't believe him.
The fries are now going in for their second frying, they are so good! Dinner is served.

That was excellent. The chips were as good as if not better than the chips you can get at any of the McMenamin's restaurants around Oregon, and the fish was amazing. It tasted as good as the same-afternoon caught just butchered halibut cheeks smothered in butter and onions on a beach in Alaska. The point is they were really good.

I'm hearing rumors of donuts for dessert. The donuts were amazing. Light and feathery, with a light cinnamon covering and a small outer crunch, glazed in processed corn syrup. Oh man. Processed and fried and then glazed in corn syrup, those donuts were about as bad from a health standpoint as it gets. But darn they were good!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Tender Rooster

A whole year of Sunday dinners has come and gone. Without realizing it Cy's dinner last week was our 53rd Dinner (it might have been the 52nd). And the first year passes with no fanfare whatsoever. It's been a memorable year for sure. Ravioli; propane explosions, grilled pizza, hoisin chicken, the Fourth of July, Alaska, Camp Namanu, sushi, lasagna, Cy's appendicitis, and finally my thumb, (which is nearly done healing) It's been quite a memorable year. In fact it doesn't really feel like a year at all. Wasn't it just yesterday that we took that walk along MLK as the ricotta sat at home? It feels like only a matter of hours ago when Lil and Lucy and Cy built their forts in the front yard. And has it really been two weeks since I gave myself a level one finger amputation? Where does the time go? It feels like it's only been a day-maybe two-and yet... Where does the time go?

For dinner tonight I'm going to make Philippine-style chicken adobo and baby bok choy, the recipe came from last weeks New York Times Magazine. The chicken spent the last few hours marinading and is now on the stove.

The Bok Choy is being sautéed and the chicken just went into the oven under the broiler. We pulled the bay leaves and chiles out of the sauce and put some rice onto the stove. The chicken got taken out of the broiler and is a beautiful golden brown color. The steam rolling off the bok choy and adobo sauce is amazing, water, in the form of a gas, just floating free through the air, flavor condensing. Now, we're just waiting on the rice.
It was good. Mom, Dad and Mimi seemed to really like, though Cy and I weren't so intrigued. The Bok choy was muy calor and the chicken was rich but vinegary. So vinegary in fact, a rooster would have been tender.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Breakfast For Dinner

On Christmas morning a few weeks ago we had pancakes for breakfast. They weren't just normal pancakes however. They were gingerbread pancakes. At first I thought Mom had just burned the pancakes. All of them. On both sides. And the edges. I sat down at the table and saw syrup and butter, and sour cream. Weird. Really weird. The recipe includes molasses, cloves, cinnamon, ginger and thumb. Did I say thumb?
After last weeks accident, my thumb is doing a lot better. If you look at the picture of my severed thumb piece from last week's post, you can see three distinct layers -- the clear uppermost skin, a layer of blood vessels, and a deeper layer of tissue. On Monday morning the deepest layer of skin had completely healed. On Wednesday the layer of blood vessels magically reappeared in the morning. By Saturday morning, the uppermost layer of skin didn't give the appearance of having healed at all. However, when I took the band-aid off that night to air it out, the blood layer had become cloudy and was beginning to disappear. My thumb is definitely asymmetrical now, but otherwise it should be back to normal soon.
Oops! Cy just realized he made a grave mistake. He made a double batch of dry ingredients but a single batch of the wet ingredients. Dad left the sizzling bacon to assist in whipping together an extra batch of wet ingredients. The ingredients are completely mixed together and Dad gave me a bacon appetizer. The gingerbread pancakes are on the griddle and are swelling up nicely. It's almost time to flip them. I can't wait.

Those were great. You bit in to the gingerbread and tasted gingerbread mixed with pumpkin pie, then you got a wonderful bright lemon kick as you swallowed. Those were a lot better than the ones we had on Christmas morning and the bacon was perfect. For breakfast for dinner those were perfect.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

I'd Give My Right Thumb To Make Food This Good

We spent last week with Family in Kentucky. One night for dinner we went to our Uncle Clark's house for dinner (and of course to play a few board games). The main course was bacon wrapped, avocado stuffed, duck breasts. But the show stopper was a side dish called potatoes Anna. Mandolin sliced potatoes covered in butter and baked. The potato slices on top became crusty, almost as if they were potato chips.
While we waited in the Houston Airport for our flight back to Portland on New Year's Eve, eating sandwiches that Grandma had packed for us, Mom mentioned how much how much she'd like to have beef stew. So tonight that is what we'll be eating, potatoes Anna and beef stew.
Cy's practicing his trumpet in earnest right now because he hasn't practiced all week. We're cubing the beef and removing fat from it right now. If Cy plays a note that's much higher I doubt I'll be able to hear it. Underneath Cy's trumpet one can just barely hear the beef sizzling and popping, sounds wonderful. We just added a portobello mushroom to the pot. Mushrooms are strange stuff. They're not animal, not plant, not minerals either. Current research on mushrooms shows that the caps and stems are not the mushroom itself, but merely the mushrooms spore-bearing fruit. Mushrooms, like animals, are incapable of photosynthesising. One type of mushroom appears only in areas destroyed by wildfires, the theory is that this mushroom's mycelium (the tree to a mushroom's apple) coexists in a positive parasitic relationship with the trees. When the tree's die, the mycelium thrusts out it's spores in earnest as it will die soon too. But really all that is known for sure about mushrooms is they're not plants or animals.

We forgot to buy beef broth. Dad ran up to QFC to get some leaving the stew sitting there, onions dyed purple from the wine. Dad just got back with the broth. I poured it in along with the meat and a pair of bay leaves. Despite being watered down that broth is such a deep purple. It's The purple of the cloaks worn by ancient phoenicians, or those of the sails on the yachts of ancient Egypt's ruling family. It's a really deep purple.
Now the stew is going into the oven for an hour-and-a-half.

We are now going slice the potatoes for our potatoes anna with the mandolin. I'm a little scared about finger removal but I'll be fine.

Or not. I wasn't even done with the first potato either. I sliced the tip of my thumb off. It didn't hurt at first but then the pain came welling up. I went to show it to Mom and she thought I was trying to trick her. I didn't want to take my hand off the paper towels because I thought the blood would run down my arm. It took about 3 minutes to convince Mom it was real. Dad picked the tip of my thumb up; it was hanging from the edge of the blade. Dad finished all of the cooking from then on. I sat on the couch flipping between the food network, the Blazers game and the Seahawks game. My right thumb wrapped in an inch worth of paper towels and clean cloth rags until the bleeding died down. Apparently what happened was a "Level One finger amputation" Which means I need to take a few pictures for bragging rights, put a Band-aid on it, and suck it up. If your wondering what the pictures are they're of one of the plates, the potatoes anna, and my severed chunk of finger next to the piece of the mandolins instruction booklet telling you, "never let your finger touch the blade."
I'll make Dad take over to talk about the food:
The stew was excellent. Thick, rich broth and chock full of hearty vegetables -- parsnips, carrots, potatoes and kale. The potatoes anna were super tasty too. It was like a potato chip casserole. Crunchy and buttery. A great winter meal. Looks like Tucker is not going to be able to be a hitchhiker though.