"Bacon is the candy of meat."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

If they could see us now....

It is my recollection that in the days of yore, not to put too fine a point on it, Passover desserts sucked. My grandmother really did a bang-up job with the sponge cake, but even at its best it had a funny matzah-y texture and flavor that wouldn't let you forget it was basically an imitation of a good cake. The only other thing you could rely on getting were those weird fruit slice candies, and though I always have loved gummy fruit-flavored things, those always seemed a little off to me too.

But now we live in the era of flourless chocolate tortes and so forth, and the Passover desserts are actually getting good. You may recall this post last year. This year I made the matzah crack again, only I let the caramel cook for longer than the recipe calls for, so it has a richer flavor. I topped it with melted semisweet chocolate chips, a sprinkling of fleur de sel, and some toasted slivered almonds. It's GOOOOOD. Sticky and good.

Also to file under sticky and good, last night I made these French Almond Macaroons recently published in the Times accompanying an article about a new wave kosher chef. They're very elegant and light, with a chewy center, and that lovely, almost perfumey, almond scent. I didn't do a very good job of making them prettily round, but other than spooning the batter out more neatly, they're very easy to make. I think they'll be very good with the ice cream I made over the weekend, which is roasted strawberry with a hint of balsamic vinegar and port.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Definitely on the To-Do List

So I am one of those people who enjoys a page-a-day calendar in the office. Usually I get Dilbert or Why Do Men Have Nipples, or something like that, in the hope that I might get a little chuckle as I scrawl phone messages all over it. But this year I got Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything calendar, which is really a collection of recipe cards from the book and a box to store them in. The last two cards look fantastic, and I'm definitely going to make them. The first is Chicken, Provencal-Style, which sounds nice and browned with a sauce including anchovies, garlic, tomato, olives, and thyme. The other is for Fettuccine with Spinach, Butter and Cream, and which sounds basically like the heavenly marriage of pasta with cream sauce and creamed spinach.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Recent eats

1. I am currently stuffed full of good tapas and sangria from an Argentinian place in Huntington. Good food, good company. I love the Argentinians -- they truly appreciate the meats.

2. My latest One Cookbook A Week project led to the discovery of crack in the form of food -- spicy curry sweet potato chips. I made two sweet potatoes' worth (aided tremendously by the mandoline that Pam got me as a wedding shower gift!) and added spice in the form of hot paprika. They're a little labor-intensive, but worth every bit. Spicy, salty, sweet, crunchy, slightly caramelized. Mr. Gateau and I put them away in minutes, accompanied by drinks on the deck. Mine was, embarrassingly, an amaretto sour, which I really enjoy with spicy foods.

3. How much do I love that the latest Top Chef challenge was won by the maker of maple-miso-glazed bacon. Genius! Even if the winning chef is rather an uninflected c-word, frankly.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Haschich Not Included

In my Cookbook A Week project I was a little frightened to discover that The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook was up this week. If you've never read it, you're probably under the misapprehension that it's all crazy hippie recipes for pot brownies. It's true that Miss Toklas did include a friend's recipe for "Haschich Fudge" in her (terrifying*) section on friends' recipes, but the book is devoted to wonderful stories of life with Gertrude Stein and their circle of artist friends in France during and after war rationing, and amazing, classic French cooking, with Miss Toklas's often brilliant asides.** Recipes are interleaved with stories, and it's just a terrific read.

But I'd never though to try to cook from it, and now I was going to have to brave it. It's not just the rich and sometimes unavailable ingredients that threw me (endless butter, truffles, frogs' legs, hare's blood) but the recipes often call for outdated cuts of meat and kitchen equipment, and measurements are often vague, such as having you add a soupspoon or glassful of something.

It came down to two recipes, really -- one for rolled slices of beef filled with a paste of anchovies, garlic, onion, and parsely, browned in butter, and cooked in veal stock and then cream (to be served with "Gourmet's Potatoes" which called for tons of butter and truffles) or "Godmother's Chicken" which required not just one but two whole sticks of butter. I went with the latter, but did not make "Potatoes Smothered in Butter" to go with it. That was a good call, because even the one stick of butter was over the top. This butter is mashed with chopped tarragon and chicken bouillon, then stuffed in the chicken, which is sewn up and skewered and then simmered in stock. Once removed from the pot and drained of its cavity juices and butter, all of that and the cooking liquid is reduced and then ANOTHER stick of butter is added, plus Madeira, nutmeg, cayenne, and lemon juice. This is a lush, juicy, delicious chicken dish, not that exciting to look at, but easy to make and delicious.

*The friends section is terrifying in that various posh friends submit recipes for things like Aspic Salad, made with a can of Campbell's tomato soup, a package of Philadelphia cream cheese, gelatine, Miracle Whip, and chopped vegetables, all suspended in a ring mould.

**The book contains the second-greatest footnote in literary history (the first being Freud's footnote about men pissing on fires in Civilization and its Discontents). In a recipe entitled "Gigot de la Clinque," a leg of mutton is marinated for days and injected at regular intervals with a mixture of orange juice and cognac, delivered by syringe. For the uninitiated, Miss Toklas drops the following footnote:
Note. A marinade is a bath of wine, herbs, oil, vegetables, vinegars and so on, in which fish or meat destined for particular dishes repose for specified periods of time and acquire virtue.