"Perhaps the most impressive of all the cookbook blogs are the three devoted to the 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine's "The Gourmet Cookbook" -- all 5¼ pounds and 1,300-odd recipes of it. Befitting this culinary Everest, all three writers are overachievers in their professional lives."

--Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2008
"I should have told you before how much I've been enjoying reading your thoughts. You seem like such a great cook."

--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Roasted Cauliflower with Garlic, and Collard Greens Miniera

It was kind of an odd dinner we had last night, to top off a very sad day. More on that soon, but suffice it to say that not much was going on in the fridge except these incredible veggies from my weekly organic produce box from The Fruitful Basket.

So I settled on two recipes that looked pretty easy--Roasted Cauliflower with Garlic, and Collard Greens Miniera.

The cauliflower recipe had me puzzled a bit because it calls for minced garlic to be tossed with the cauliflower and oil and the whole thing to be roasted in a 425 oven for 25-30 minutes.

Jeez, I thought--that garlic is gonna burn. But then I thought maybe it won't because of some Gourmet magic that will prevent it.

No magic. It burned.

So I've been puzzling over the garlic situation, because it's a great flavor to add to the cauliflower. And I think if I were to try it again I'd use my mini-blender to grind the garlic up with the oil, so that it really clings to the cauliflower, because it was only the garlic that was loose on the tray that burned--there were a few nuggets here and there that stuck to the cauliflower and were yummy.

By the way, I've never eaten cauliflower like this, and it was really tasty--I loved it. I'm not such a fan of steamed cauliflower, but heck, who needs to steam the stuff when you have this option?

Collard greens are another vegetable I'm not so keen on, mostly because the only way I've ever eaten them is cooked for a really long time so that they have the flavor and texture of slightly salty boiled paper.

What a revelation this dish is. Are you trying to get more greens in your diet? Do you love bacon? You will really really love this dish.

It couldn't be simpler. Saute three strips of minced bacon (I used four that were frozen, which actually makes it incredibly easy to slice) until crispy. Then throw in shredded collard greens and stir for one minute. Add a little salt.

That's it!!!!

OK, you might be wondering how to shred collard greens, and no you don't use the grater. Just strip out the big center stem, and stack a few up at a time. Roll them up like a big cigar (or a fatty, if you wish) and slice thinly. It takes a few minutes to go through a bunch, but it's so pretty!

So yes, that's what I had for dinner last night. Roasted cauliflower, sauteed collard greens, and 1.5 extra-dry martinis. And two little tiny containers of French yogurt.

As for the sad day, my boss, Dr. S., died early yesterday morning. New readers, these are the folks I cook for--I'm a private chef in their household. He was 89, and fought the notion of death every single step of the way. More on him in another post--he needs to be properly eulogized.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Cucumber Soup with Wasabi Avocado Cream and Melissa Triumphs Over Technology

Here's the risky thing about deciding not to go out of town (Rockport) to shop. You're stuck with the IGA and what it has to offer, which is limited and eccentric.

Still, I thought, the shopping list for Cucumber Soup with Wasabi Avocado Cream was simple, because I had most of it. I had luscious, ripe avocados from last week's organic produce box, I had wasabi powder and plain yogurt...I had everything, in fact, but three seedless English cucumbers, a lime, and chives. I was a little galled at the thought of buying chives because we have tons at work in the herb garden...but it's such a small list I thought I'd suck it up and shell out 3 or 4 bucks. It's just money, right?

Did the IGA have English cucumbers? Yes they did. One.

Did they have limes? Yes.

Did they have chives? No.

So I bought the one English cucumber and two fat waxed ones, and my lime, and thought hard about chives. Suddenly I remembered that my neighbor Don Rittenburg has a long back yard that abuts ours filled with what he calls "onion grass" and when he mows his lawn it smells like onions.

So I went foraging when I got home. See the sunlight on the other side of those trees? That's where I was going. But I had to climb over this berm type thing:

And there was a whole patch of it, uncut.

Ha. Just call me Euell Gibbons.

Now, I had to be sneaky about using this so-called onion grass, which means to say I couldn't tell Don (my husband, not my neighbor) where I got it, because he claims that the foraged "chives" give him a stomach ache.

This is due to his deep-rooted suspicion of anything not found in a supermarket. My husband is the guy who, when we were vacationing at Small Point, Maine, really really really did not want to eat the mussels I picked off the rocks for dinner because they hadn't been refrigerated first. Like in an 18-wheeler on its way to the supermarket.

So shhhhhhhhh. Don't tell him. Here are my final ingredients, lined up:

Once they're peeled and seeded, all cukes look pretty much the same. A full blender

reduces to very little liquid!

By far the best component of this recipe is the wasabi avocado cream. Oh my god, people! I could eat bowls of this every day of my life. The only thing I was worried about (and still am) is that I never was quite confident that the wasabi paste got thoroughly incorporated into the avocado and yogurt. It's possible that sometime soon I will bite into a little wasabi ball surprise. I suppose a food processor would eliminate that worry but then you'd be dirtying two appliances and unless you're making buckets of this, what's the point?

Anyway, here's the soup and avocado cream, ensemble:

By the way, if you're going to try this, please follow the directions and use kosher salt, not iodized table salt! If you use the latter, it will be too salty. Or I suppose you could use LESS table salt, but kosher salt is really so much better, honest to god.

Oh, what did my husband think? He took some to work today. If he has a stomach ache I am so busted, but I predict he'll think it was heavenly.


Melissa Triumphs Over Technology!

Little have you readers known that I have been laboring under a handicap with my snazzy Sony Cyber-Shot camera, which is that when I got it I immediately started fooling around with the settings and as a result, for the last half year, every setting except two (Low Light with and without Flash) have given me these weird stop-time movies. I'd press the button and it would give a little chirp and say "Recording". Who wants to record Deviled Crab? It stays on the plate!

Grrr!!! So vexing. And I COULD NOT figure out what I had done wrong, because all those little symbols in the window are completely meaningless to me and I couldn't find the manual.

So I've been having serious photo envy at these other food blogs, and when I complimented Ryan at Nose to Tail at Home on his photos (along with a few whines about my own camera), he suggested I find the manual online. He even offered to do it for me! Ah, chivalry.

Well, if I can pump my own gas I can find my own PDF manual, so I wandered around and found not exactly what I was looking for but enough to get me to understand that I had activated something called "multiburst".

And I turned it off. So now I can take photos on every setting, and even though I still think I'm a lousy photographer at least I can take lousy photos in dark rooms and outside in the sun. Yay me!!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Orange Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting

It's that time of the year, folks. The house at Seameadow is filling up with family in anticipation of the fourth of July.

Now, in years past this meant that for two weeks I would be run off my feet cooking, shopping and cleaning up after anywhere from six to twenty-six people. Me. One person solo.

But THIS year we've got a house full of home health aides too. And these lovely, lovely ladies double as scullery maids and waitresses. I put a dirty whisk in the sink and within ten minutes it's clean and back in its place.

It goes without saying that I show my love by feeding them tasty treats, and we have a mutually beneficial relationship as far as I'm concerned.

What I'm trying to say is that this year more than ever I can focus on just the food. (well, that, and organizing projects for the idle talkers) And this week one of the desserts-for-a-crowd that I focused on was Orange Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting.

I rarely make cupcakes and I'm not sure why. The batter is pretty darn simple, they don't take long to cook, and frosting each individual cake is only a minor pain. In fact, the only trouble I had with this recipe is that I forgot to put the chocolate chips in.

Go without? No way! I just dumped them on top by the teaspoon...

...and mixed them in.

And can I just ask a question? Why, would somebody please tell me, would anybody want to use store-bought canned frosting when you could use chocolate ganache as frosting instead? This is a deep mystery to me.

Trust me, they taste as good as they look.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Cold Curried Coconut and Carrot Soup

I am participating in a 13-week Organic Farmer's Box thing at The Fruitful Basket this summer. What fun, to stop by every Friday and pick up a peach box brimming with organic fruits and vegetables!

But what that means is that I have refrigerator full of fruits and vegetables and the responsibility to use them wisely. Well, the fruits go in a snap. It's those veggies!

So the Milanese Salad and the Cold Curried Coconut and Carrot Soup took care of the big, beautiful carrots. Stay tuned for cauliflower and broccoli recipes! (and if you need lettuce, please, just come over and take it out of my refrigerator)

Regular readers will know that I'm sensitive to temperature--that eating ice cream in the winter seems like the height of insanity to me. So cold soups, obviously, need to be made and consumed when it's just boiling outside. And it's been pretty hot up here, so I decided to give this a whirl, especially since there are so many of the cold soups in the book that I haven't made yet.

It's pretty:

Don't forget to put your lid on tight:

By the way, I did not blend this hot--I let the carrots sit overnight to cool down, thus avoiding the terrifying "hot-soup-in-a-blender" experience. The other variation I made to the recipe was to use light coconut milk instead of full-fat. I know I've said this before (in the cheesecake department)--that I like to follow the recipes as written the first time around--but hey folks, I'm 42 and the body just doesn't recover from extravagance like it used to, no matter how many push-ups you do in karate class.

Let me talk a little bit here about flavor. One of the things I noticed in the tasting was that there was a bitter flavor in the back of the throat, and I know for a fact that comes from too much cumin. How do I know this? Because in my freestyle cooking days, when I would throw in a pinch of this and a pinch of that, I tried a meat stew that had that same bitter taste (this was at home, by the way--I didn't inflict this on any paying customers). Hmm, I thought. Maybe it needs more cumin.

No, it didn't. The cumin was the problem, and more of it made it much worse--inedible actually, no matter how I tried to fix it.

So my considered opinion is that there is a little too much curry powder in this soup. I was using a good blend--a new bottle from a reputable company. If I were re-writing it I would either break down the curry mix so that the cumin could be adjusted, or I would write it as 3/4 tablespoon.

The other possibility is that if I had used a full-fat coconut milk, the extra fat would have dulled the cumin's bite.

It was less noticeable after sitting again in the fridge--in fact, I was so busy eating it that I forgot to take a picture in the bowl. Notice the high tide mark!

Oh, and did I eat it cold? No, I did not. Yesterday was one of those clear, dry, lovely days where the temp drops about twenty degrees after the sun sets. So--another good reason to make this soup--it's great hot too.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Milanese Mixed Salad

The head notes for Milanese Mixed Salad say that they (the editors, one presumes?) ate this salad all over town when they went to Milan.

I also have fond memories of a certain type of composed salad we ate as a family just about everywhere we went in Belgium and France, when we lived there in the early eighties. Same colors, same texture, same idea. The only difference was that they kept their veggies seperated--a little mound of shredded carrots, a little mound of what I thought at the time was red cabbage, etc.

This salad pretty much fits the bill for satisfying that memory/taste fulfillment thing. The flavors are a little stronger (I don't remember arugula), but the idea is the same--who needs lettuce to make a salad?

Boy is it pretty.

This recipe is not on Epicurious, but here's the basic idea. Shred carrots, thinly slice raddichio and arugula so that you get equal parts of all three.

Make a basic vinaigrette--white wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss with veggies.

That's it! Tasty, healthy, beautiful.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I need an indexer!

Hi folks!

I'm realizing, the further I get through the book, the more I post and the more I cook and the more I think I've written about something but then can't find it, the more I realize what a crappy indexer I am.

First I was adding every label under the sun to every post, then I was not labeling at all, then I started streamlining them to simple categories. But as more people visit Cooking Gourmet I worry that my disorganized methodology will confuse or put folks off from searching for something tasty that they might want to cook tonight.

Anyway, if you've got a lot of free time and you like doing that sort of precise categorization, let me know and I'll add you as a "team member" so you can sort out the labels. I'll be eternally grateful. I'll also invite you to our big fois gras terrine party when we get to it.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Char Siu and Chow Fun with Chinese Barbecued Pork and Snow Peas

The whole time I was making both Char Siu and Chow Fun, I was pretty much convinced that I was doing it wrong. In fact, I was thinking about not posting at all about them because I didn't think I had quite captured the essence of these recipes.

Asian food is where I feel at a disadvantage with no photos to emulate. I'm not a photo-cookbook gal, but that's because most everything I cook is Western and I can visualize it easily.

Let's start with the Char Siu. In case your Chinese isn't up to snuff, I think that translates to "barbecued pork". If you were to go to Chinatown (I think I go once a year for dim sum in Boston) you might see these but they'd be scary bright red.

The recipe is pretty straightforward--marinate in tasty stuff, roast over water pan while basting. I just wasn't sure if I had cut the pork right--the recipe says to cut the shoulder along the grain into long strips 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide. This is where my anxiety started. The pork shoulder was about an inch tall--did that mean to cut it up into, say, 8 blocks of pork an inch tall and an inch and a half wide? (all the while I'm turning the pork this way and that, figuring out which way the grain went). Could that be considered a "strip"? I didn't think so.

Anyway, I went with my first notion, and after marinating and roasting it looked like this:

At this point I could see that the smaller pieces definitely looked better--crisper and more saucy--and I was regretting my earlier cutting decision. And I'll confess--those small pieces didn't make it very far out of the oven before they went into my mouth. Mmm.

Well, on to the Chow Fun. By the way, I have to stop for a moment and tell you that usually if I see a recipe embedded in a recipe, it's a deal-breaker. Like, a long list of ingredients, with one (or more!) being something like this: tomato sauce (page 117). So Chow Fun lists the char sui as an embedded recipe, but the char siu looked so easy I went along. Well, also there's the whole "I"m cooking the entire book thing".

Anyway, here are some things I discovered while I was shopping for the Chow Fun. You can't buy peanut oil anymore. Where has it gone?? Another thing I discovered: Stop n Shop, for some idiotic reason, stocks dried rice noodles in the fresh pasta section. Why? Why?

Being unfamiliar with these ingredients, I didn't cotton on to this fact until I was at home, saying Hmmm, these don't feel that pliable. No, I had to soak them in hot water. More anxiety. Would it be right? Also, this stuff is the equivalent of angel hair pasta, maybe even thinner. Would THAT be ok?

I have a lovely deep wide flat pan that is perfect for stir-fries. And even though I suck at shopping and cutting the ingredients for Chinese food (obviously) I am opinionated enough to tell you that unless you have a stove that looks like this:

...there's no point in cooking with a wok. Why? Because the idea of a wok is that there is even HOT temperature on the bottom AND the sides. Notice how all those woks are sitting in nest-type things? That's what they do. The older ones (I'm told) just had holes in the top of the stoves and the rounded bottoms were exposed to fire below.

Can you duplicate this on your little flat-top stove? No, you cannot. Can you buy an expensive stove to replicate a Chinese restaurant kitchen stove? Yes, you can.

But it would be much less expensive for you to buy a wide, flat-bottomed pan that will heat evenly, that will fit YOUR stove. The snow peas will not sneer at you, I promise.

On with the cooking. It's standard stir-fry stuff--hot pan, cook ingredients in order of density, add sauce at end.

Hm. Now here I had some issues. The sauce (which was supposed to be complemented shortly thereafter by a cornstarch mix) was instantly absorbed by the rice noodles. Sluuuuuuurp! So, I left the cornstarch out--nothing to thicken up!

Here was the final dinner bowl:

Tasty? God yes. Did I wake up at 5 am starving? Yes, I did, but that's ok. And the next time I see fresh rice noodles--wherever I am (they must be somewhere)--I will snatch them up so I can try this again.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Gratin Dauphinois

Readers, I have to admit I was a little nervous making Gratin Dauphinois, because I think this is the potato dish Teena was telling me about when she said she first heard from Ruth Reichl. In a nutshell, Teena hated it, and Ruth left a distressed comment. Teena (who had cooked it in some other shape pan besides a gratin dish) agreed to try this Reichl family recipe again, with more satisfactory results.

What if I hated it too? Would RR, one of my personal heroes since I read Tender At the Bone, be sad and leave me a distressed comment too? Perish the thought--I would rather not post on it at all!

Fear not. I decided to try this when my second cooking client, Catharine, asked me for scalloped potatoes. This looked quick, user friendly, and yummy--with a bonus being that the half and half made it slightly less rich than the usual heavy cream associated with these dishes. A food processor with a slicer blade made the potato-slicing a snap.

Here's the dish before it went into the oven:

and after it came out:

OK. Now, I know that doesn't look like the most amazing gourmet food in the world but MAN is it good! Talk about total comfort--it hits all the buttons. And I especially loved that it is streamlined for the ease of the cook--you heat the potatoes right in the pan with the half and half, garlic, salt and pepper--and when it's just boiling, dump them (ok, pour carefully) into your buttered dish. Grated Gruyere and a little nutmeg and you're good to go, baby.

Ballymaloe Irish Stew

I'm sorry. Darina Allen makes me cranky.

Don't get me wrong. I'm sure she's a lovely person and that we would hit it off just fine. And wouldn't I love to go to her cooking school in Ireland! My employers took their five adult children there for a family reunion/holiday and they had a fabulous time.

It's her cookbooks that make me nuts. Her list of ingredients are essentially what she has available to her, in her garden, on her farm, at her local market on and the wharves. And they're pretty specific.

So I applaud Gourmet for trying to translate this Ballymaloe Irish Stew into something using supermarket ingredients, but folks, I have to admit to being baffled, and I don't know if the glitch is in the original recipe or the translation.

The first step is to render the fat from the shoulder chops. So far so good.

The second step is to sear the chops, then set aside. OK, but there are still bones in those chops--far from chunks of stew meat.

Third step: toss your carrots and boiling onions in the pan with the lamb fat. No problem and I approve.

Fourth: layer the stew in a stew pot. Lamb, carrots and onions, lamb, potatoes. I like the idea of layering but am still baffled by the chops going in whole with the bones. Finally I decided to cut the bones out and leave the chops as close to whole as possible. Maybe in the cooking, I'm thinking, the meat sort of falls apart.

Fifth: deglaze the pan with 2.5 cups of stock. Yay for deglazing, but....2.5 cups only comes about halfway up through the stew ingredients. Maybe, I'm thinking, the ingredients release juices that contribute to the stock...but carrots and potatoes aren't really that juicy, are they?

Sixth--cook in oven or simmer gently stovetop. I went the stovetop route.

Seventh--get the broth out (tipping the pot gently doesn't really work--I had to resort to a colander), make a roux, and thicken your stock. Fine. But it's still only about 2 cups of liquid. Which really only just clings to the meat and veg.

Now, I'm making this stew for one of my cooking clients (to be delivered today), and although my husband and son would happily eat this as is, I need to produce an actual
liquidy stew for her. My seat-of-the-pants improv (the one that allows me not to go back to the store) is to thaw out some turkey gravy and thin it a bit with canned beef stock and sherry. I'll also be cutting that meat up into stew-sized chunks.

Should you feel like giving this recipe a whirl (and you'd have to have the book as it's not on Epicurious) I'd suggest doubling the amount of broth, and boning/trimming/chunking the shoulder chops.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Gourmet Bloggers Meet in Three-Dimensional Space!

Regular readers will know that Cooking Gourmet was featured in the Wall Street Journal not too long ago in an article about "cook-through" bloggers--folks who are cooking through an entire cookbook, and writing about it. The Gourmet Cookbook was referred to as a "culinary Everest" and we three intrepid, mountain-climbing bloggers as overachievers (I prefer "task-oriented") with the most impressive blogs of all.

We three meaning Teena Gerhardt (post-doc math prof at Indiana Universtiy), Kevin Casey (grad student in neuroscience at McGill) and yours truly.

I check in on Teena and Kevin's blogs from time to time, and I noticed that Teena had been cooking a lot of her recipes lately from Somerville, MA. Folks, that's 40 minutes from my house.

So I wrote and suggested we meet halfway for coffee. Great idea! said Teena.

Yes, I brought the cookbook with me. Yes, I know I'm a geek.

Readers, we had a blast. We spent two hours leafing through the book, exclaiming over some recipes (we both loved La Brea Tar Pit Chicken Wings--what's wrong with you, Matty?), and encouraging each other over others. I rhapsodized over the Grapefruit and Coconut Angel Pie. Teena assured me that even though it seems like a complete waste of time to make honey candy, crush it, then melt it in butter for the Ricotta Hotcakes--it was totally worth it.

We had similar problems with some recipes. We both had inexplicable weeping issues with the Lemon Meringue Pie--both our plates filled up with water and had to be drained.

I liked somethings Teena didn't--Orange Buttercream Frosting and Candied Grapefruit Peel. (Make the peel for old people, I advised her. They love stuff like that.)(That's not to say that I'm old, though I am older than Teena, by more than I was expecting!)

We both knew the book like the back of our hands, flipping through the pages with assurance to find recipes we were referring to.

We talked about our respective challenges: I am surrounded by people who hate coconut, so have to chose my coconut moments carefully. Teena is in Indiana during most of the year, where the seafood selection is poor at best. My eaters at work are elderly, and I have to stay away from recipes that involve hot peppers. Teena is kind of finicky (no bitter greens! anise--yucky!) but fortunately her partner is "a garbage disposal" so nothing goes to waste.

We discussed some of the pricey recipes. Morels are in season now, I told her. I saw them at the Fruitful Basket for $36/lb. but they're light! We flipped to the recipe to see how much it called for. Oh. A pound.

That's nothing, said Teena, as she flipped to the recipe for Fois Gras Terrine. I looked up online how much the fois gras would cost for this--$200.

Maybe we can get Gourmet to underwrite it, I suggested. She is, I imagine, paying off hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans. Kevin probably is too, or will be soon.

Or maybe, she said, we three could get together and make it.

As our final recipe, I said. A celebration.

Readers, stay tuned. It might be five years from now, but that will be a grand party.

Strawberry Margarita Ice Pops and a thing or two about tequila

Readers, this is what I learned while I was gathering the ingredients for Strawberry Margarita Ice Pops: white tequila is what you want for mixing in with food or drink.

"What about Cuervo Gold?" I asked the friendly fellow at Cork n Cask.

"You could use it," he said, "but the only difference is coloring."


Reader, if you're like me, you probably have the notion that Cuervo Gold is some kind of good tequila. Marketing, says my friend at the liquor store. Do you know how Cuervo Gold is transported to the United States from Mexico?

That's right. Tanker truck.

"Oh yeah," says my friend, "The Mexicans laugh at us about Cuervo. You know what else they laugh at us about? Corona. Because it's so bad we have to put a lime in it."

Then he points me to the good stuff. I mean, topping $60/little bottle good stuff. And he bemoans the fact that people use it in margaritas, because it's wasted there-- it's meant for sipping neat, or maybe with an ice cube.

Friends, I don't drink Corona (ever) or margaritas (rarely) so I don't have any reason to change my ways (at least not in this regard--we can talk some other time about my unnatural obsession with Planter's chocolate-covered almonds). But if you are in the habit of showing off at bars by ordering margaritas with the good stuff in it--stop it right now and save yourself some bucks. Would you mix Dom Perignon with OJ to make mimosas? No.

If you drink Coronas, I'm sorry, there's no help for you. (I'm kidding! Jeesh.)

OK, on with the ice pops.

My major anxiety about this recipe was finding popsicle molds. On Cape Ann we don't really have department stores, or kitchen stores, just a lot of little stores with odds and ends. The one I thought most likely, Crackerjacks, I wouldn't be around during opening hours.

I didn't have to go too far afield (I was worried about a run down the line to Target) because, in a dusty display on top of an end-cap ice cream freezer at Crosby's, were 4-packs of plastic molds--an ingenuous design with a short straw built into the "hilt".

Making them was a snap, and congratulations whoever did the measurements on this recipe because it filled 8 molds perfectly--not an extra drop! Although I doubled it so I could make twelve, and I did have a lot left over on the second batch. Don't worry, it didn't go to waste.

Now. Regular readers of this blog may remember that at Christmas time I had some difficulty with a cranberry mold because I impetuously ran it under scalding water to loosen it up and ended up with a partial mold and a lot of melted cranberry juice.

You would think I would learn from my mistakes, wouldn't you?

Apparently not.

After one or two passes under water at the sink didn't loosen these up, I ran them under hot water, and then all kinds of things happened. The straw-stick holder thingys came out. Of all of them. So I had to dig the pops out with a butter knife into bowls where it was sort of like a very soft sorbet.

But they were pretty! And tasty--my book group loved them. I got all kinds of advice on how to not melt your popsicles (plain old tap water will eventually do it) and I see on epicurious that some readers left them to thaw for a bit.

Next time.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Fish Stock

Fish Stock is one of those basic recipes stuck in the back of any cookbook that you almost never get around to making because you a) don't want to follow their recipe, you want to do it your way b) maybe you don't quite have access to the ingredients (and then see a)

For me and this fish stock, it was all about b. It calls for a fish rack, which should be easy to find in the fishing capital of the universe, but I just never felt like wandering down to the docks and asking those big burly men if I could have some of that garbage they're about to tote away.

But--enter my friend Pat Scida, who likes to fish, and has been promising me for TWO YEARS that he would bring me a fish rack. Finally he remembered this past week and not only did I get a lovely bag full of bones and fish heads, but some nice, icy cold haddock fillets to boot.

So on the way to work I stopped at the market and got the other stuff--a fennel bulb, lemons, parsley--and made it this morning.

Folks, this is good stuff. Lemon juice and white wine add a little bit of tang to the natural salty, fishy goodness of the broth. I can't wait to use it a million different ways.

I will confess that I had intended to make Pike Quenelles with White Wine and Mushroom Sauce, but it just seemed too fussy and heavy for this hot humid weather. Watermelon! Cold soups! Wine Coolers! (well. not at work)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream

At first, I was worried about this ice cream because I couldn't find my favorite bittersweet chocolate (Ghiradelli). I had to settle for Hershey's Special Dark. And I don't care what Cook's Illustrated has to say on the matter, it is not the best.

Then, I was worried because the ice cream mix tasted like cake batter. Really, really good cake batter. This was in a semi-frozen state.

Then, I was worried because it seemed too rich. But you know what? There is no dish too rich for me that I think it can't be solved by accompanying it with this:

So tonight, when this ice cream was in its fully frozen state, I was curious to see how it tasted.

Friends, I had a revelatory insight. Temperature is part of the ice cream experience.

Now, I know that probably seems like a no-brainer to you ice-cream lovers, but I (ambivalent ice-cream eater) never looked at it that way. Yes, moving chunks of cold material around in your mouth, and having the flavor released s-l-o-w-l-y as it melts really adds to the experience.

Need more proof? Consider the words of my son, avowed chocolate ice cream hater:

"Up until this exact point, 9:19 PM,Sunday, June 1, 2008 A.D., I hated chocolate ice-cream almost as much as:

Paris Hilton
George Bush
Pop Music
Family Guy
Everyone From "Focus On The Family"
Pat Robertson
Vanilla Ice-cream
Milli Vanilli
Nirvana (The band, not the state of mind)

However--I am glad to say that when I take over the world as Supreme Guitar God I will be eating this ice cream. Delicious, Delicious."

I can hear you now. Melissa, rich food is not your only reason to turn to booze. No, no--I'm counting on the Supreme Guitar God of the Universe to support me in my aged decline. And if it all works out I'll make him Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream every night.