Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Slow Fall Days in the Kitchen

I was recently asked to do some recipe testing for Shauna and Danny of Gluten Free Girl at  When I was first diagnosed with Celiac Disease I stumbled on Shauna's nearly new website and was swooned, not only by her writing but her attitude. Like myself Shauna embraced the disease considering what she could have, ignoring the idea of deprivation. Her mantra, a tattoo on her wrist "Yes".  Yes to everything. My first gluten-free cooking adventure involved a recipe she posted for lemon olive oil cookies. I must have emailed her a dozen times with questions. Each time, an answer and encouragement which meant a great deal to me. When Shauna published her first book, Gluten Free Girl, I traveled to Chicago for a cooking class and a book signing she was giving. We had dinner together. It was a lovely visit and for what ever reason, I feel a kindred connection to this internet stranger that blogs about living life to the fullest. It seemed so fitting that she would marry a chef, Danny. Now the two of them are living life large, out the pacific Northwest writing a cookbook. When they contact me and asked me to participate in some recipe testing for their new cookbook I was flattered and thrilled.  My assignment, a recipe for meatloaf, meatloaf that called for roasted chicken stock. You'll have to wait for the book to come out next year to see the recipe. 

I love new recipes and I love a dinner party so I invited 6 friends to join me for a fall meatloaf dinner last evening. My work started on Sunday, going to the farmers market to get as much of my ingredients locally as I could. Local, humanly raised steers and chicken for my ground beef and chicken bones to make the stock, vegetables from the market, and herbs from my garden. I hardly needed anything at the grocery store. I spent all day Monday making roasted chicken stock. I sure do need some practice, my stock was a bit gelatinous and cloudy, probably from letting the stock come to a boil which is a big no no! I needed the stock for a rosemary infused glaze. It was worth a days work! I have cups and cups of roasted chicken stock stowed away in the freezer.

The test was on, Tuesday morning I made the glaze which involved three hours of reducing. Again, no recipe here, but let me say when you reduce anything for three hours the result is bound to be remarkable. The glaze turned ordinary meatloaf into company fare! I did spend all day making a remarkable fall feast! Mashed potatoes laced with sour cream, cream cheese and butter, meatloaf adorned in a rosemary perfumed  glaze, roasted carrots and onions tossed in parsley and honey crisp apples dipped in homemade caramel sauce. Over the top! Not to mention a cool crisp sunny evening. Nothing could have improved the evening except our friend Craig who at least got left overs sent home. It was a fun busy three days, lots of work with a great result. I have another recipe to test, this one requires lining a pan with plastic wrap before baking. Anyone out there ever "cook plastic wrap"? I am stymied!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fall Flavor Apple Crostata

Now that looks good! I love the flavors of fall, especially apples. I have a penchant for good apple cider, Pepin Heights Apple Cider in particular.  I have been know to bring my own cider for some of our long stints in Florida. You simply can't find real apple cider in Naples, Florida. I end every evening with a small cup of hot cider. When good apples start hitting the markets the end of September I think of ways to use them as much as possible. Today I decided to tackle one of my favorite fall deserts, gluten-free apple crostata.

Crust for one gluten-free Crostata

1 cup rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup cold butter diced into small pieces
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/4 cup cold water

Filling for one gluten-free apple crostata

1 1/2 pounds of apples (McIntosh, Macoun, or Empire work well)
1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour (I used Bob's)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
4 tablespoons cold butter, diced

For the pastry in a food processor, combine flours, zanthan gum, sugar and salt. Pulse once or twice to blend. Then drop the diced butter over the flour mixture, try to cover all the butter with flour. Pulse multiple times to form course crumbs. Mix the cold water and sour cream together, with the motor running, slowly add the sour cream water and process until the dough comes together.

Turn the dough out and form into a large disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for an hour, no longer.

Put the dough on several sheets of parchment paper and roll the chilled dough into a large circle, 13 - 14 inches across. The parchment will move around, it is tricky to keep it in place to roll the dough!

For the filling, peel, core and quarter the apples, cut each quarter into three chunks. Toss the apples with the orange zest. Cover the rolled out dough with the apples leaving a 1 1/2 inch border.

Combine gluten-free flour, sugar, slat, cinnamon and allspice in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Pour into a bowl and rub with your fingers until it starts holding together. Sprinkle evenly over the apples. Gently fold the border over the apples, pleating to make a circle.

Bake for 25-30 minutes at 450 degrees, until the crust is golden and apples are tender. Cool at least five minutes before slipping crostata onto a wire rack.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pulled Pork

Or,  Chipotle at home without the burrito. Personally I am partial to pork, especially Mangalista pork a European heritage hog that is loaded with fat and marbled red meat, tasting almost like beef. It is difficult to get here in the midwest and is mostly a product of small scale farmers and breeders who have the space and wherewith all to care for the hog appropriately. I first had Mangalista pork In Budapest. I loved the pork so much in Budapest that I had it every single night for dinner!

This particular pulled pork was not from the great Mangalista but from a bone in shoulder cut I got at Whole Foods. I try to buy local, I try to be responsible about where I get my meat from but it isn't always easy.  Someday I am going to order some Mangalista pork, I am sure there are suppliers on the west coast (I know big carbon footprint!). When I go back to Budapest in January you can be sure I will eat my fair share of pork.  This pulled pork was the most simple meal ever. I covered the meat with a Latin Spice Rub (doubled) and let it sit overnight in the fridge. Then I put the meat in the crockpot and cooked it on low for 12 hours. It fell apart with ease and made for a succulent meal!

Latin Spice Rub

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2  teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

In a small bowl, combine everything well, use immediately, or transfer to a jar with a tight fitting lid. Store away from heat and light for up to 6 months. Makes enough to rub 2 tenderloins, four chops or about a pound of flank like steak. For a shoulder cut double the recipe.

Once the meat was pulled, and after I ate about a fourth of the meat I made a traditional Minnesota church basement casserole, using about half the pork. I froze the rest for another meal. 

Cari's Pulled Pork Casserole

3 cups of cooked white rice
Pulled pork (about half of a shoulder)
1 pint of Cari's canned roasted plum tomatoes
1 pint of Cari's canned black beans
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste
Cheddar Cheese, grated, at least a cup, more if you like

Cook rice and put it in the bottom of a 3 quart oven safe casserole. Put pork on top of rice. Saute onion and garlic in a small amount of oil, season with salt and pepper, add the black beans and cover the pork with the beans. Top with a can of roasted plum tomatoes and sprinkle grated cheddar on top. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbling. ENJOY!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

My Blue Moon

Blue Moon, a full moon that is not timed to the regular monthly pattern, an extra full moon that occurs about every two or three years. Popular usage defines a Blue Moon as the second full moon in a month, but it is actually a little more complicated. It is the third full moon in a season with four full moons. Metaphorically a blue moon is used to describe the rarity of an event, as in “once in a Blue Moon”.

I first became aware of the phenomena of a Blue Moon in July of 1996 when I had a Blue Moon experience during a true seasonal Blue Moon. I was riding my bike to Chicago in the first ever Twin Cities to Chicago Aids Ride, leaving on the eve of a Blue Moon. I had fund raised over $10,000, and was Rider Number 1 in the event. I sat on the boards of several HIV/AIDS service organizations that would benefit from the event. I purchased a used three-speed bike and was off on the adventure and experience of a lifetime. It was nothing short of a Blue Moon experience. The night before we left I took a small, framed print of a young child reaching for the moon, a Kiki Suarez piece, off my wall. I took a sharpie and wrote “My Blue Moon” on the back of the print and wrote a note to Dan Pollata, a gay man who conceived of the Aids Bike Rides, bringing thousands of fundraising dollars to HIV and Aids service organizations. I wrote a note to Dan, telling him that doing this ride was the opportunity of a lifetime for me, colliding with a Blue Moon, a rare event. I tucked the print inside the note.

I love the moon, a full moon, gibbous moon or crescent moon. They all delight me. Most of all I love the Harvest Moon, best enjoyed at a bonfire in Farmington MN. I will miss this quintessential experience this October 4th! I am enthralled with the space program, watching each and every shuttle blast off and return to Earth. I was filled with envy when Christa McAuliffe was chosen to go into space, if only I had been a teacher, it could have been me. I envied what she would see, what she would experience, the perspective of the world I imagined she would return with. A Blue Moon experience to be sure. The envy vanished and I was left with nothing but sadness that cold January morning as Challenger imploded. It was January of 1986; I was working at Helene Curtis, managing their data and telecommunications systems. I was also the programming director for the Midwest Telecommunications Association, a group that met monthly for educational purposes. I got it in my head that I was going to bring John Glenn to one of our spring meetings to talk about technology. It was simple actually; I just called his office, and made the request. The next thing I knew I was introducing him to our organization at the May meeting. He brought Jim Lovell along! A Blue Moon experience.

I love the twilight moon that greets me every morning this time of year, hanging in the deep blue sky. The next real Blue Moon will take place on November 21, 2010, but if you go by the popular definition the next Blue Moon will take place this December on the 2nd and the 31st. As folklore would have it when there is a full Blue Moon, the moon has a face and talks to those in its light. I will be a lucky girl!

I was to have another Blue Moon experience, a 6-week medical mission trip to Northern India, providing basic medical care to Tibetan’s living in exile. My Blue Moon, Dharamsala. I couldn't wait. When my physician told me I could not go, I was heart broken but I put on a brave façade. I tried to wrap my mind around accepting the decision in a matter of fact manner. I spent hours looking for private tours to India that would be safer for my intestinal health. This kept me busy, looking for an alternative, but the sadness situated itself inside me and privately I couldn't shake it. I spent most of my summer morning walks thinking about India, the service work I wanted to do and seeing Little Lhasa. My Blue Moon experience, gone, vanished, never to be had! I struggled with accepting the loss and fantasized about taking the trip. I consumed my self with these thoughts mostly just past dawn, the moon gone and sun coming up. The sun coming up always feels like a defining moment for me. But recently I am out under the twilight moon, an equally defining moment! I am keenly aware of its waxing and waning, the ever-changing phases of the moon. Most mornings I have to pinch myself just so I know it is real, this breath taking sky, dark and deep blue, the moon hanging in the balance, stars bright and the twinkling lights of the Cathedral’s steeple.

I love the drama of the pre-dawn sky, changing every day! Wednesday morning the beautiful conjunction of the waning crescent Moon with Venus made for a photogenic scene in the pre-dawn sky. It makes me gasp and I have overwhelming gratitude for my paternal genes that get me up so early. This morning, a sliver of almost nothing I had to work hard to find the moon, hovering low in the east, just above the horizon, Venus high above, totally different than the morning before. I actually don’t know if it was Venus, I am just guessing. I am not a student of Astronomy and could not identify a Constellation if I tried. I long to see the Beehive Cluster, maybe I have and I don’t even know it. I have a sort of Orson Welles history with the elements of the sky.

When I was young my family spent a week every summer at a rustic resort in the Brained area of MN. The cabin we rented had a television, a real treat since we didn’t have T.V. at home. This particular summer, probably in the mid 1960’s there was some kind of solar eclipse taking place during one of our days at the cabin. I heard about it on the T.V. I was terrified as I learned that looking at the sun during the event might cause blindness. Viewers were told not to look at the sun without some kind of protective wear, or a shoebox contraption with a pinhole for viewing. I had neither so I took cover. While the rest of my family headed for the lake or the golf course I stayed in the cabin, closing the blinds of every window. I took the egg timer from the kitchen and hid in a closet for over an hour. It felt like the end of the world, as I knew it. The rest of my family would loose their vision. I would be the only one still able to see. How would I get everyone home, I didn’t know how to drive? I worried about the next eclipse, how would I be forewarned without a television? I thought the sun and the moon were evil elements of the sky, powerful enough to cause the loss of vision. It would be years before my romance began.

These early autumn mornings have given me pause and reminded me that there is a Blue Moon in every day. Every day brings an event, an experience, or an exchange that is Blue Moon in nature, over the top so to speak. As I have realized the true reality of my life, that each day holds something spectacular, I find the loss of India slightly tempered. It does not matter if it is a true Blue Moon; each moon is my Blue Moon. Each day holds rare moments. I am still grieving the loss of opportunity; especially the opportunity to provide service to Tibetan’s in exile but it feels less huge and less consuming. I don’t know when my sadness will be gone, not a morning goes by that I don’t think about India. But it seems like the idea of a having a Blue Moon every day is compelling enough to revel in what I do have in the quiet of dawn.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Why Bother?

Last evening Tina and I shucked 80 ears of corn. This morning I blanched the corn, removed the kernels from the cob and froze 55 cups of fresh corn. It is a great deal of work indeed, but work I enjoy! One might wonder, why bother to go to all the effort when you can get frozen and canned corn in a grocery store. There are a number of compelling reason.

Most importantly fresh corn simply tastes better. There is no comparison to corn I pull out of my freezer all winter with what is sold in the grocery store. It is also the signature ingredient in one of Tina's favorite soups. I will go to any length to make a stellar bowl of soup.

It enables me to support a local farmer. Tina picks the corn up every year from a family farm in Northfield, MN. When she got home last evening and we dumped the corn from two burlap bags and stared shucking I noticed the kernels seems slightly small, the ears just under ripe. I mentioned this to Tina just as the phone rang. It was farmer John calling, concerned about our purchase as it had been picked that very afternoon from the wrong rows in the field. He felt awful, knowing the corn wasn't at its best. We could return it, we could keep it and get our money back, whatever it took to make good on the purchase. It was just less than I expected, however it was  acceptable, we would keep the corn, he would keep his money and Tina would return the burlap bags tomorrow. Now I am certain unless your buying from a local family farm no one is going to call you to tell say your corn was picked from the wrong rows, please bring it back.

It is economical! 80 ears cost us $20.00, that is  .25¢ an ear. I got 55 cups of corn,  .36¢ a cup. You can't beat that in the store.

I freeze the corn in three cup vacuum sealed bags. You can can corn but according to "Putting Food By" the flavor holds up better in freezing. Besides, I needed a little break from canning today.

I love fresh corn, simply sautéed in butter with salt and pepper. Tina, she likes Cheddar Corn Chowder. In fact, I won her over with my first pot of this soup which she was skeptical about trying. It is a hearty soup and is really best at the end of summer with fresh corn. We enjoy it all winter long thanks to the freezing!

Cheddar Corn Chowder

8 ounces bacon, chopped
1/8 cup olive oil, or less
3 cups yellow onions, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup rice flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
6 cups hot chicken broth
3 cups medium diced red potatoes, (don't peel)
5 -6 cups corn kernels
1 cup cream, half and half or milk depending on how rich you want the soup, I use cream
1/2 pound sharp white cheddar cheese, grated

In a stockpot, cook bacon in olive oil until crisp. Remove the bacon, reserving the fat. Turn heat down and add the butter. Sauté onions about 10 minutes. Stir in rice flour, salt, pepper and turmeric and cook for three minutes stirring the roux constantly. Slowly add the hot chicken stock. Add potatoes, bring to a boil and simmer 15 minutes until the potatoes are tender. If your using fresh corn remove the kernels from the cob and blanch for 3 minutes before adding to the soup. Add the corn to the soup, then add the cream, half and half or milk. Add grated cheese in handfuls allowing to melt. To serve garnish with bacon.

For a vegetarian version eliminate the bacon and use vegetable broth.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Back to School Traditions

I love routine and tradition, things I can count on. We have plenty of traditions around here. In fact, Tina often says, "Now this is not going to become a tradition so don't get your mind wrapped around the next time." I can create a routine or tradition after having just one of something.  We should have a bonfire every time . . . We should go to such-and- such a place every . . . We should have crab cakes every . . . I declare just about everything a tradition.

But back to school traditions, they are real and they are steeped in 10 years of history with this academic I love so much. I celebrate the return to the classroom for many reason but mostly because I am so darn proud of Tina and the work she does. It isn't that I look forward to the end of our blissful summers together because I don't.  I know she doesn't look forward to it with quite the same enthusiasm as I do so I like to make it special.

So on that day when Tina and her colleagues return to the class room, committed to bringing excellence to the discipline of mathematics,  I send dozens of homemade scones down to the faculty and staff at St. Olaf. Just a little something to get their day started. I take a break from my rigorous canning routine and I bake for an entire day. Always on the list are cinnamon scones which are a favorite, blueberry scones which are labor intensive and a pain to make but they are Tina's favorite. I decided to make a white chocolate chunk with dried apricot and toasted walnuts this year as well. The emails start coming as soon as Tina puts the goodies in the work room and they continue all day long so I know they are appreciated. 

Our second tradition around returning to school is a special meal sometime during the first week. Of course I would prefer that it always be the opening day of classes, or some other consistent day, after all it is a tradition. But week one is chaotic and unpredictable and I can't count on the consistency. So, some time during week one I make one of our favorite meals, Scandinavian Meatballs, a smorgasbord classic!

We are not Scandinavian. I don't eat pickled herring, nor do I wear colorful Norwegian sweaters. I am not sure how we even got this meal on the table to begin with but I guess it is fitting since St. Olaf was founded by Norwegian immigrants. St. Olaf celebrates its Norwegian history in style especially at Christmas time when the famed music department puts on its annual concert. We have never gone but I understand it is a sea of those Scandinavian winter sweaters with the traditional Selburose in colors most of us never knew existed. I do however beg each of Tina's colleagues for the two highly coveted tickets they each get to the concert. It is a tradition to give two tickets to my sister every year for her birthday. We usually score about 6 tickets and give all of them away. People apparently give very big amounts of cash for a ticket to the concert. This year we are going to go, and I can assure you, it won't become a tradition.

Here is the recipe for the Swedish Meatballs as we call them around here.

1 cup minced onion
4 tablespoons butter, divided
2 1/2 pounds of meat loaf mixture (ground beef, pork and veal)
1 cup fresh bread crumbs (I used boxed Orgran all purpose gluten-free crumbs)
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups half and half
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dill weed, divided
1/4 teaspoon each ground pepper, ground nutmeg, ground allspice and ground cardamom
1/3 cup rice flour
21 ounces beef broth (gluten-free)
1 cup heavy cream

Spray a 10 X 15 inch jelly roll pan with no stick cooking spray. Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a skillet, cook onion in 1 tablespoon butter until soft. In a large bowl combine onion, meat loaf mixture, crumbs, eggs, 1/2 teaspoon dill and other spices,  half and half and salt. It will be very soft. Shape into golf size balls, or any size you like, if you do golf size you will get about 26. Arrange on coated jelly roll pan. Bake until cooked through and lightly browned, 14-18 minutes.

Meanwhile melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet or pot. Stir in flour to make a roux, stir and cook for 2-3 minutes. Gradually add hot beef broth. I add about 1/3 cup at a time, fully incorporating before adding more and working slowly to create a smooth, thick sauce. Rice flour will behave slightly differently than wheat flour in a roux but it will work! Add dill and stir in heavy cream slowly, simmer 5 minutes.

Scrape meatballs and browned bits into the gravy; stir to combine. Spoon into a 3-quart casserole. Refrigerate, covered several hours or overnight.  To serve, heat oven to 350 degrees and bake until heated through about 45 minutes. If you don't make a head of time, reduce cooking time to 30 minutes.

Serve over gluten-free noodles or rice.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Putting Food By

Food in jars! Canning. Preserving. Putting food by for later. Canning simply resinates inside me. It speaks to my very core and satisfies me in a way few things do. I am called to the hard, long hours it involves in the kitchen. I love the connection to the bounty of food in the fall. Of course it appeals to my attraction to excess and, it keeps us prepared. Besides, I like to hibernate for which canning is essential.

We are prepared around here. I am not exactly sure how that happened but it started with Tina's appointment to the Bird Flu Committee at St. Olaf. A group who's purpose was to develop policy and a disaster plan for the campus in the event of a health care calamity. I actually wasn't paying attention, potential health care catastrophes don't get my attention. I barely noticed that cases of gloves and N95 masks were showing up on our door step, I barely noticed that water and food were getting stowed away in a closet with the gloves and masks.  When the very large generator arrived, I took notice. It reminded me of the make shift "bomb shelter" my father assembled in our basement and hearing my parents chatter about the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis in the early '60's. Had I married my father? But when we lost power for hours I realized that having a generator and being prepared paid off. The only thing missing from the closet is some Tamiflu.

Seriously, canning prepares me for the long winter months when I don't want to go out into the dark and the cold. When I just want to stay home, build a fire and realize that I actually have everything I need to whip up a great dinner because I prepared and canned. There is nothing like cracking the lid on a quart size bell jar and getting a whiff of fresh tomato or roasted red pepper. I can enough tomatoes, roasted tomatoes and roasted red pepper to last a year with plenty to give away. We use the tomatoes and peppers in just about any winter dinner imaginable, including many of my Indian dishes I like so much. 

I didn't always can. My mother didn't can, although we did have emergency food in that basement bomb shelter. My grandparents didn't can. I didn't know anyone who canned, it seems a bit old fashion and out of style. Few friends even knew what canning was. 

It started three years ago when I told my friend Theresa I was interested in learning how to can. Next thing I knew I was in her kitchen in Stillwater, her parents, avid canners, had come down from Wilmar Mn to teach the two of us the art of canning. We spent the entire day in the kitchen. Theresa's parents showed us how to use a water bath canner and  a pressure canner. We canned tomatoes, salsa, marinara and beans. We worked from the crack of dawn until dusk. I left, not at all sure I could do it alone. I remained terrified of botulism and spoilage. I had read Putting Food By, cover to cover several times. A few days later I got up early and headed to the Minneapolis Farmer's Market. A serious storm erupted like a volcano as I placed two cases of tomatoes in my car. When I got home, it was still dark, the storm continued through the morning.  I began a methodical process of canning, reading the directions out of my book, sentence by sentence, over and over, one step at a time. 10 hours later I had 7 beautiful cans of tomatoes. I could not have been more proud. I loved the ping, the sound of the jars sealing on the counter top. I loved tapping the lids. I loved admiring the contents of the jars. I was hooked.

From then on I became very serious about putting food by for winter. A colleague of Tina's gifted me a pressure canner. Phillis and her husband had canned together for years. They had a vegetable garden and in the fall they preserved the bounty of their garden canning. But Phillis' husband had passed away and she was no longer interested in canning. Her 22 quart Mirro pressure canner, was mine if I wanted it. Phillis could not have given her pressure canner to a more grateful, appreciative canner. Not a batch gets put up in the canner without my thinking about Phillis, her husband, her garden, her losses and her grief.

I really do spend all of September getting ready to hibernate. There are daily trips to the farmers market, cases of tomatoes and peppers that become sealed in bell jars. Food in jars. I love looking at the jars. I am not a perfectionist, to the contrary, my cans would never make the State Fair showcase but I think they are beautiful. I am captivated by the State Fair canning showcase, especially the paper thin pickles stacked ever so neatly, spears of asparagus making a perfect concentric circle, peaches identical in size suspended in pristine syrup. I am sloppy, not in technique but in placement. I don't really care how the food stacks up. I just want lots and lots of food in jars lining my pantry. I have struggled with excess all my life in one way or another, drinking too much, eating to much, running to much. So this preparing for hibernation does not stop with jars of food. I shuck, blanch and remove the kernels of 70 ears of corn to freeze. I make and freeze  over 20 cups of pesto from my basil plants. I can chutney and corn relish and this year I want to make my own ketchup. 

It is my favorite time of year, the cool crisp mornings, my days filled with utter satisfaction as the cans start mounting and the days grow short and the bonfires start earlier. I couldn't be happier. I long for September all year. Here now, I will savor every day. I remain ever so grateful to have this time. I do not take a moment of it for granted, knowing full well that few people have the kind of time I do, to spend doing as I like. And for that I will share my bounty with as may as possible, as often as possible. You are welcome to my canned goods, you are welcomed to my kitchen to watch or participate. It goes on all month long.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Julia Child's Chocolate Moose

We finally saw Julie and Julia Monday evening. Since I am much better critic of food than movies I'll stick to what I am good at, the dinner we had before the movie.

Coq au Vin. I rarely say never. Never ever! Never ever again. I should have stuck with my gut and made Beef Bourguignon.  Red wine and beef, they go together and create a divine gravy. Chicken and red wine??? Admittedly, I have not had a sip of wine in 20 years but trust me I had my share back in the day and just don't care for the paring of a deep robust red wine with chicken, especially to create a sauce. I should have listened to the loud voice in my head that kept saying this just doesn't read well. 

Charlie and Tina, they enjoyed the very ugly, almost purple looking dish. It did look just like all the pictures I pulled up on line but I stand by my opinion, it just doesn't look or sound good. O.K. so I didn't actually have a rooster but I did get a very good, local chicken from the St. Paul farmers market so it wasn't the chicken. And I did get really good, meaty mushrooms and spent more than I usually do on a bottle of wine. I followed the directions as best I could but there were gaps and leaps and confusion so I had to punt every so often. I am a good cook, capable of deciphering bad directions, capable of making it up as I go along but I didn't veer that far off.

We had a lovely cucumber salad, a Julia Child recipe I selected especially since Charlie likes cucumbers and it was easy to put together. 

The crown jewel of course was the Julia Child Chocolate Moose which was worth every minute of the over two hours it took to make. It was a complicated enough recipe that required my complete attention, multiple, delicate steps. I was so proud when I was done that I delivered enough for our neighbors to enjoy as well. 

As for the movie it was fun, not as good as I expected, but good. Julia Child's enthusiasm and excitement about finally getting a publisher was initially heartwarming. After learning that she apparently had nothing good to say about Julie Powell, well, I was dumbfounded. She of all people should have understood this woman's joy and experience of her book. It must have been very sad for Powell not to get a word of encouragement from Julia Child. I know she was elderly but come on!