Sunday, February 26, 2006

IMBB French Regional Cooking

I decided to make Quiche Lorraine. It's well known (and maybe even a cliche?), but I'd never made it, and I'd never made a quiche at all. Here's something I copied off Food Time Line:
"Quiche. A French [dish]...most prominent in Lorraine... The version now well known, which includes bacon (and sometimes cheese) in the filling, was originally a variant known as quich au lard. Whereas the original could be eaten on meatless days, this variant--now known around the world as quiche Lorraine--could not. Nonetheless, a quiche Lorraine is perceived as something with only a slight meat content. This may account for the reputation it acquired in some English-speaking countries, where it only became familiar in the latter part of the 20th century, as a dish not suitable for "he-men" or " real men." (from the Oxford Companion to Food)
I made a relatively organic quiche--Organic Valley milk and half and half and Organic Valley butter in the crust. I decided to add cheese, even though a very traditional rendition wouldn't. My swiss cheese was merely domestic, but my bacon was made by the owners of The Sausage Shoppe, a great place in my neighborhood where they make their own bacon and sausage, and without nitrates.
I used my mother's pie crust recipe, except using all butter instead of half butter/ half Crisco (I won't include it, since any good piecrust recipe would be fine); and the New Joy of Cooking's quiche recipe (I browsed around on the internet and several cookbooks and came to the conclusion that all the Quiche Lorraine recipes were practically identical, except when they started adding distinctly nontraditional ingredients).

Quiche Lorraine
1 recipe pie crust
5 strips bacon
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk, creme fraiche, cream or combination
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
pinch of nutmeg
You have to blind-bake the pie shell, something else I'd never done before. I used dried beans to weight it down, baked it for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, shook the beans out (unexpectedly difficult since they stuck a little), and baked it for 5 minutes more.
Cook the bacon until crisp and crumble, then sprinkle on the crust. Here I also added grated swiss cheese (about 1/8 cup), and a couple of tablespoons of sauteed onion (on the grounds that onion and cheese improve everything).
Whisk the eggs and milk mixture together with the seasonings. (I used a combination of cream, half and half, sour cream, and 2% milk, with milk predominating, to use up the ends of some things.)
Then pour this into the pie shell, trying not to disarrange the bacon, etc. Bake until the filling is set, from 25 to 35 minutes, at 375 degrees.
It came out pretty well, although not quite beautiful. I didn't expect the bacon and grated cheese to rise up and swirl around so vigorously when I poured the egg/milk mixture (and I poured it very carefully!), so the top was speckled. I'd never made any kind of custard pie before, so I hovered over my oven, which tends to run a little hot. It took almost the full time, and came out with just the right amount of wiggle.
Beauty or not, it tasted wonderful, served with steamed brussel sprouts and a Wolfberger Gewurtztramminer. (I wasn't wild about the Gewurtztramminer, which seemed to have a metallic aftertaste; but I've never had any sort of Gewurtztramminer before, so I'm not sure how they're supposed to taste.)

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

chocolate, caramel, and salt

My sister and I went to the West Point Market in Akron, Ohio, on President's Day. We don't live in Akron--we live 28.57 miles away--which is far for grocery shopping. Instead, we treat it as a destination, a jaunt, a trip into the fantasy land of grocery shopping, and we only do it about once every two months.

It's worth the 28.57 mile drive (which we while away discussing our children, our writing, our students), because they have lovely produce, interesting canned or jarred items, fabulous prepared food, and the best selection of chocolate that I know about in the Cleveland area. (If there's a better, please let me know.)

They also have a small selection of Fran's Chocolates, made by the talented Fran Bigelow in Seattle, and in particular they have her salted caramels, the Smoked Salt Caramels above, as well as Grey Salt. Her amazing caramels have made me rethink my chocolate-is-the-only-possible-candy position. They're creamy in their caramelness, piquantly chocolate, with some salty crunchiness going on. My only problem with them is that there are only 6 of them in their package.

You'll notice in the picture that two of them are gone, and if the picture was better, you'd see that the end of the package is a little bent. This is because my sister and I mangled the package to get out some caramels to eat on the way home. Next time we'll take our Swiss Army knives.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

the bliss of the cheese sandwich

Here is my cheese sandwich post. The cheese sandwich avalanche is in response to an article by Pete Wells in Food and Wine, where he wrote about food blogs, saying some interesting and insightful things, but also committed the (writerly) crime of quoting out of context. I'm a little late with my sandwich (official Cheese Sandwich Day was 2/16) but I firmly believe there's always room for cheese.
This is a mundane cheese sandwich: Jarlsberg on whole wheat bread, adorned with yellow mustard, and fortified with onion slices and spinach leaves. Its ordinariness is redeemed (for me) by its historical associations: it was one of my favorite sandwiches as a child, and eaten on many historic occasions, often out of my lunch box, sometimes made for me by my mother (now dead: sentimental association), and sometimes by me (see chapter on Cooking, My Apprenticeship in).
The historic sandwich was always on white bread, because that's what we ate then, and didn't have spinach, which we knew only in the form of frozen blocks that could be cooked in an inch of water in a Revereware saucepan. Note: green onions were sometimes substituted for onion slices.
For a masterly wrap-up, see Kalyn's Kitchen.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

post it recipes

I have a great love of post-its, and use them for everything, including writing down recipes on the fly. Sometimes it's someone telling me what went into the amazing squash and cheese and pasta casserole at a party, and sometimes it's something on the internet that I don't want to take time to write down properly.
This is OK if I'm making whatever it is right away, so that my shorthand is fresh in my mind. But if the post-it sits around for a while the meaning of it starts to drain away, and when I unearth it weeks later it's become an un-recipe.
For instance, this nice orange post-it I just found under a stack of computer disks. It says, mysteriously:
Sesame oil
Gr onions
Ch broth? 1 cup
Sherry, if
Soy sauce
No name for this dish, if it is one, and no indication of whence it came. No amounts except for the 1 cup. No instructions. This is the kind of thing that makes me think I should have a cooking notebook, wherein I place all my recipes and ideas, etc.
But I have sorry experience with my gardening notebook, which is religiously kept every spring, with lists of seeds ordered, and starts out noting what things are blooming when, and what I planted in the square of ground in the front yard that unthaws before anything else. This goes on until about May 25, when the planting gets intense and I forget all about the notebook until the next spring, when I resolve anew to keep it all summer long, and so forth.
It's tempting to assemble these ingredients and see if anything suggests itself. If it weren't for the peas, it might be a marinade?With more broth, a soup? Sherry if annoyed? If desperate? I'll never know.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

blog swap

Yesterday I made Orangette's Tamarind Soup with Chickpeas, Chard and Spices for dinner. Dinner was a compromise: I wanted to make something new and brilliantly interesting, and D wanted something comforting that he'd had a thousand times before. The final menu was hamburgers made with ground venison, topped with cheddar cheese and grilled onions on sourdough rolls, and the Tamarind Soup, each of us making our chosen recipe. I changed Orangette's recipe a little, not to be difficult, but because I didn't have quite everything and didn't want to go out (it was snowing): I substituted broccoli for zuccini and kale for chard, and I made a bit less of it because I only had 2 cans of chickpeas.
It turned out very well, although frankly not so glamorous looking as the original. You know how sometimes wonderful tasting food is just kind of brown and mushy looking? This was one of those times. Orangette's picture is much more beautiful, and I recommend you click on the recipe link above and take a look at it.
This soup was also the occasion for the first use of my new immersion blender. I got it for Christmas, but I felt shy about using it, or maybe afraid. I'm not the most technologically minded person in the world. But it worked like a charm, as advertised, without splattering and after only a minimal look at the directions. I'm thinking milkshake next.
PS: the hamburgers were very good, too.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

what I had for lunch yesterday

Which is, of course, the most boring thing in the world, even to me. But I feel the urge to confess the depths to which I sank.
Half a chocolate bar
A bag of Lay's from the vending machine
6 leftover peanuts from a former vending machine purchase
A bag of Cheese-Its, also vending machine
A blueberry muffin from the snack bar in the Peter B. Lewis building, where my afternoon class is. I put cream cheese on it, pretending that this insignificant smear of protein would make it healthier. The muffin was one of ones that are really more like cake, too.
I just discussed this with my daughter, and we agreed that if we don't pack a lunch, we don't eat well at work. Yes, there are restaurants and coffee places that offer a more varied and healthy menu, but somehow when I get hungry and I'm in the middle of something I convince myself that I can't take the time to walk two blocks and get a salad or some soup. So it's down to the vending machine which lurks in the back hallway of my office building, down the back stairs, smoothing my dollar bills so that their bent corners won't make the machine spit them out. "Just getting a snack," I say if I meet someone there, laughing falsely.
So, a small resolve: to pack my lunch; to possibly buy one of those nifty Tupperware thermos mugs; to eat some real food in my office.
The photo, by the way, is from Quantum Diaries, an on-line chronicle that follows physicists doing the World Year of Physics. I'm not sure what that is, but I do like having this visible proof that physicists are no more immune to junk food than English teachers.