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

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving, On Another Day

Word games!
     We spent this Thanksgiving with family in Corvallis (we made a great movie while we were there), and while our dinner there was excellent, there are some dishes, and traditions that we couldn't do without, so today I'm going to make Thanksgiving dinner again, a few days late.  We are having our old friends Sam and Elaine over. As we've done for as long as I can remember, the important part of our Thanksgiving feast is not the turkey; it's the side dishes.  For the all-important sides, we've got Mimi's butter-rich dinner rolls, cranberry smash, brussel sprouts cooked in bacon fat, and yams, and for dessert, we've got pumpkin pie.
     Right now, we've got cranberry smash boiling away on the stove, in the oven the pie crust and yams are baking.  Cranberry smash is a very simple dish that has been a family tradition for at least three generations, going on four. The dough for the rolls is almost done rising.  Once we've got the pie filled and back in the oven, we're going to start on the rolls.

     The rolls went ... well.  Usually, Mimi makes them, but it was up to us today, and without Mimi we were bumbling along.  Mimi always makes her rolls crescent shaped, and so we followed suit.  Once we'd spread the dough out in a circle, I started halving the dough, so that we could make the crescent rolls.  We halved all the way to thirty-seconds before we started rolling them.  By the time we'd rolled about a quarter of the rolls, the other rolls had risen enough that they started to grow back together.  So, after tugging re-slicing and tugging a little bit more, we had 32 rolls laid out.  They're certain to taste as good as Mimi's, but they're not as beautiful.
     I just finished peeling the brussel sprouts.  What a bunch of work they were!  When I started on 'em, the sun was still up (though behind clouds), when I finished removing the bad spots and chopping them, it was completely dark outside.  I think Dad started the stuffing while I was chopping brussel sprouts.  The cranberry smash is done, the pie is done, the rolls are rising, the yams and turkey are in the oven, and the brussel sprouts just got thrown into cook with shallots and bacon fat.  Yum.  The stuffing is on the stove, replete with onions, celery, garlic and lots and lots of butter.  The croutons and chicken stock have yet to go in.

     Dinner is taking a little longer than expected, because of the turkey of course.  Hopefully they'll be out in a few minutes though, and then we can throw the rolls in.  While we wait on the last few dinner items, we get to fulfill one of the other Thanksgiving traditions, word games.  Most years, we'll play dictionary (also known as balderdash).  This year though, we've got a new game, called konexi.  You build words in a three-dimensional tower, a sort of Jenga meets Scrabble.  Like camping, it's in-tents.

     Dinner was awesome.  It had every thing we need to feel that the holidays have begun, from butter rich dinner rolls, to cranberry smash and chipotle yams.  For dessert we had the requisite pumpkin pie.  To finish off the evening, we've got more word games.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pork Chops to Brownies, Family Classics

Canadian "Candy"
     It's currently 5 PM, and completely dark outside.  It must be winter here in the Pacific Northwest, because in addition to the darkness, it's raining.  Since it's winter, Cyrus is making a winter time staple for our family, pork chops.  as with the past few dinners, the pork chops are from our 1/4 pig, and are guaranteed to be good.  With the pork chops, we'll be having the all important apple and pasta side-dishes.
    For as long as I can remember, that's the way we've had pork chops, with apples cooked in butter, and buttery, buttery pasta.  Actually, I think I look forward to the apples and the pasta more than the pork chops. Cy is also making squash and baked apples, and earlier in the day, Dad made brownies for dessert.
   The squash is out of the oven now, and Cy is grinding it and the baked apples through a grape juicer to make a casserole-puree.  It's a new recipe, but it should be good.  Since we're are still waiting on the cooked apples, the pork chops haven't been started yet, but they should be en route soon.

     It was an excellent meal, the apples were sweet, moist and buttery as ever, and the pork chops were done quite well.  They were crunchy, and slightly spicy, because the batter Cy used had some cayenne in it.  The casserole-puree was very sweet and dessert-like, because it had been pulped so finely.  For the real dessert, we had Dad's specialty brownies, the ones that look like they've been sculpted from tumultous lava.  A great precursor to Turkey Week.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Vancouver, B.C.

     We spent the (4 day!) weekend with family in Vancouver, B.C., and only just got back a few hours ago.  The trip was awesome, we ate dim sum in Chinatown, and dinner at Vij's sister restaurant Rangoli, and spent one afternoon at the aquarium.  Tonight, though, Cyrus won't be cooking dinner, as we're going to Ken's Artisan Pizza with some in-laws.  And yes, we brought back some smarties for Diane.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Lasagna, Nasturtium Salad, and Bittman Bread. Take Two.

     Yesterday was the OSAA state cross-country championships.  One of the schools that went to the championships was Cleveland High School, and though the girls team got 4th, and the boys team took 6th, I'm excited.  Next year, the girls team will have lost only one of their runners to graduation, and the boys team will have done equally well, bringing back their top two runners (who are twins) for another year.  I'm really excited for cross-country next year.  I'm also excited for dinner tonight, Dad is putting one of his loaves into the oven, the sauce for our lasagna is on the stove, and we've planned to attempt the salad from our hoisin chicken meal (June 27, 2010).  For dessert, we've got a good sized stash of Halloween candy.

     The past few times Dad has made bread, it hasn't quite lived up to the luster of the loaf in that first Mark Bittman tribute dinner.  This time though, he thinks he's figured out what he's doing wrong, and the loaf is progressing well.  The lasagna is nearing it's final assembly, and it's getting dark outside.  That's one of the things about daylight savings time.  I mean, its great that when I woke up at seven this morning, the sun had already started its arc through the sky.  But the payback is that it's completely dark outside by half past 5:00.

     The lasagna has been assembled, and is in the oven for it's hour long bake.  Dad's loaf is ready, and like the first time he has put out a little olive oil and sherry vinegar on a plate.  Is it as good as the first time?  Yes, it is.  The crust is thin and crunchy, though it doesn't detract from the softness of the loaf inside.

This is the author

     The lasagna was excellent.  It was a different recipe than we've used previously, and it was simpler than previous renditions.  The lasagna was packed full of meat (including some of the pork sausage that wasn't put to use last week)  and cheese.  The ricotta/egg mixture wasn't used as much as the other recipe, (which greatly disappointed Mimi) and it had a shorter baking time.  Its too late in the season for the nasturtiums, they didn't have much nectar, and we had to reject a few of the flowers Dad picked because of slug damage and mold.  Lasagna is always a good meal, this time especially.