Sunday, October 04, 2009

Not quite so many nooks and crannies

Make an eggy yeast dough and let it rise. Cut, as for biscuits.
Cook in a skillet, as for pancakes, except without butter and for about five times as long.
The discs of dough rise straight up, like the cylindrical towers on a storybook castle. Cool. Split with a fork, toast, butter, top with jam.
I have no brief with Thomas's, but homemade english muffins are tastier, less flimsy, less cottony, albeit also less craggy. Overall, better. But how much better? I don't buy english muffins very often so I probably won't make these very often, but it was fun, as always, to see the mystique of another supermarket staple evaporate, and so quickly.

We had old friends over for dinner the other night. It seems like yesterday that they were new friends, but suddenly they're old friends. I braised beef short ribs a la Mexicana from Rick Bayless's Mexico, One Plate at a Time, a dish that showcased the unholy alliance of poblano chiles, white onions, and tomatoes. I'm putting a black mark in the book beside this recipe for the faintly kidney-like flavor created by those ingredients. I only ate kidneys once, eleven years ago, in Ireland, and that sufficed for all eternity. 

Here's Bayless on the dish: "Red white and green -- joyous colors on the national flag of Mexico. Red tomato, white onion and green chile -- awesome, amicable flavors on the plates of Mexico."

I don't agree with him, but he's such a cheery guy.

Here's another Bayless effusion: "Mexico is a hunble country that's been kept together, in great part, by rice pudding."

Wild overstatement, but sweet.

I served Bayless's rice pudding, an easy stovetop dish flavored with cinnamon and orange rind, and dotted with raisins. At the end of his recipe, where most cookbook writers would coldly command you to "serve immediately," Bayless writes: "A wonderful, warm treat awaits." 

The pudding was warm, but too soupy to be quite wonderful. (The soupiness may have been my fault; although I followed his instructions to the letter, I believe I misinterpreted.) In any case, I can't bring myself to photograph food when there are people around. Even old friends. 

It is coming on time for a new cookbook. I was truly devastated by yesterday's news from Conde Nast, and I think I have to do a Gourmet cookbook. But which one? The old leather maroon Gourmets with the gold lettering? Or the fat, shiny yellow one from a few years ago? Or the brand new one Ruth Reichl was pimping on Forum the other day? Or something else entirely? Suggestions? 


  1. I use Alton Brown's recipe for english muffins, and they are divine! I eat ALOT of english muffins(rather than bagels), and I am ruined for store-bought.
    I was shocked and dismayed to read about the coming demise of Gourmet. It was the first cooking magazine that I ever subscribed to, and has remained my favorite to this day. There are others that I like very much, but Gourmet is the one I look forward to most every month. The day the last issue arrives will be a very sad one indeed.

  2. Oh, I will try the Alton Brown recipe! His granola was amazing. I am motivated to experiment.

  3. In high school, I made english muffins for a yeast bread 4-H project. I remember them being really yummy but, like you predict will be true for yourself, haven't made them again in the last 15 years.

  4. Also did Alton Brown's recipe several times: superb results.

    As for the Gourmet book; go for the old ones; I am truly curious about the Old Vienna cookbook but I am afraid that it may cause your family's health to deteriorate quite rapidly.


  5. Gourmet Today! in honor of ruth and the rest of them. I really love the yellow gourmet one, i've made great things from it, so i'm expecting gourmet today is going to be great too.

  6. so odd that your ribs tasted like kidneys?! I do flank steak with those ingredients all the time, and as fat I as know there's no kidney taste. Huh.

    I want homemade english muffins!

  7. It could have been the meat that had that kidney flavor, though that idea is even more upsetting. I really love poblanos, tomatoes and onion separately so it's strange what happened with the melange.

  8. I had homemade english muffins on Cape Cod this spring and they were amazing; if Alton's are good I'll give them a try. I also like his granola bar recipe - didn't know he had a regular old granola recipe but if he does I'll try it too. Thanks for the ideas!

  9. Never even thought to make homemade english muffins; good call!

    What about one of the Gourmet Book Club books, like Rustic Fruit Desserts?

  10. Alton Brown recipe users/anyone who knows: can I substitute lard for the shortening?

  11. The new yellow Gourmet is my current stand-by cooking reference. I think it's recipes are just right -- not too fancy, not too bland, with just the right amount of direction. (Can't say this about Cooks, Joy of C, Bittman or New Basics all of which took turns as my general reference and failed b/c either too fancy, too bland, too many or too few directions.)

  12. I never subscribed to Gourmet, but I was a subscriber to Cookie, Wondertime, House & Garden and Domino, all of which are now gone.

  13. I have the yellow Gourmet cookbook but I much prefer to use the recipes from the magazine--even though they're the same. I have a Gourmet magazine collection that goes several years back and I love flipping through the back issues. In the magazine, you get the fabulous photography. Gourmet had the best food photography hands-down. The colors, the models, the food, everything was so gorgeous. Tipsy: I can loan you my magazine collection...