Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The pause that refreshes?

I fell behind.
In fact, nothing needed refreshing. The pause happened because living/cooking/eating/plotting got so far ahead of posting that catching up started to feel impossible. Weeks went by. The hole got deeper. The only solution is to do the most cursory catch up, forget the rest, and move on like I never missed a beat.

Cursory catch up:

1. I wrote a story on antique pie recipes. I've wondered about those mysterious old pie recipes for decades and now I don't have to anymore -- and neither do you! -- because I baked enough obscure vintage pies to learn that recipes go extinct for a reason. Well, usually. In case you don't want to read the whole story, Jefferson Davis pie is delicious, dark, and raisiny, though you really have to love both highly spiced Christmas puddings and the gooey part of pecan pie to appreciate it. Butterscotch meringue pie is also excellent, though you really have to love both butter and sugar to appreciate it. Since that includes almost everyone, I made the butterscotch pie again for Thanksgiving and my sister and I agreed that it was the best pie of the night.

2. I wrote a story about berries, which I turned in last week when no berry except the cranberry is in season. It was challenging to describe the exquisite appeal of a Hood strawberry or an Idaho huckleberry when I've never seen or tasted either, but I've always suspected I could write fiction. We'll see whether the editor agrees. I became fixated on berries while writing the story and was inspired to bake a red raspberry pie for Thanksgiving. This was my husband's favorite pie and while it was very tasty, it was no butterscotch meringue. I used frozen berries because Janie Hibler said it was ok and she wrote the book on berries
No one was hooked.
3. I also turned in a story about the Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook.  I'll spare you the big think on Milk Bar until the story runs. If it runs. I will just say that the Milk Bar crack pie  was the least popular of the Thanksgiving pies and that Milk Bar's Saltine panna cotta is revolting.
inedible
4. In addition to the aforementioned pies, Isabel and I baked rhubarb pie, lemon chess, chocolate cream, pecan, and pumpkin. Various wags referred to the rhubarb pie as "celery pie" because the rhubarb, which came from our garden, was green. Do you like the word wags? I hope not because I will probably never use it again.
celery pie 
5. That's about it for Thanksgiving, but I made the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook S'more cake for Owen's birthday party. It consists of graham cracker-flavored layers sandwiched with milk chocolate ganache and iced with meringue. Predictably, the boys were in awe of the cake's billowy bakery shop beauty and that counts for a lot. It was a fine cake, but after the first day, no one ate any. If you cut a cake and no one touches it for five days, this is not a cake you should make again. A great cake is always in play.

Why wasn't this cake great? I can't really put my finger on it, but the pieces just didn't quite work together. It was less than the sum of its parts.
great looking, not great
7. However, every last floret of Smitten's broccoli slaw vanished within 24 hours. The recipe is on her site and you should make it. More than the sum of its parts.

8.  November is a hard time in America to concentrate on the cuisine of Southeast Asia, but I've tried. The tender greens salad from Burma is a wonderful melange of blanched pea shoots, fried garlic fried shallots, roasted peanuts, and lime juice. The recipe is here. The grapefruit salad was less harmonious, but with some tweaking could be great. The sweet tart chicken was very plain, and the beef stew with shallots was tasty. I may take a hiatus from Burma, as the next few weeks just don't feel Burmese.

9.  Tomorrow I am going to British Columbia on magazine business for a few days. If you have any restaurant suggestions in either Victoria or Richmond, please send them my way.

15 comments:

  1. I'm so glad you are back. I had about stopped checking to see if you had a post. What about A. Weil's book True Food?

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  2. Mmm, red raspberry pie sounds the most appealing of the whole lot, as I'm not a custard/baked milk fan -- so I can see why the crack pie was not a favorite. Anyway! I too have a cookbook suggestion for you: Maricel Presilla's Gran Cocina Latina. It's an extremely comprehensive cookbook of Latin American cooking. It might be a fun change from South East Asia. Plus, it's got an entire chapter on empanadas and another on tamales alone (and she has a recipe for pineapple vinegar which reminded me of your Diana Kennedy fermentation experiments). Just a thought.

    Have a great trip!

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  3. welcome back. Is there a link to the butterscotch meringue pie? thanks!

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  4. Anonymous 1 -- I don't have that book; it looks like it would make us all very healthy. Do you have experience with it?
    Lee -- I've been wondering about that book. I will probably buy it at some point, but Isabel has already said I should cook from either Nigella Lawson or Zuni Cafe next. I told her she could pick. I owe her.
    Anonymous -- I fixed it. Sorry about that.

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  5. That's alot of pies! Do you eat anything else for Thanksgiving? I always eat so much appetizers and dinner, I can never fit pie.

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  6. In the case of antique recipes I don"t think it is possible to duplicate the conditions of deprivation that would have made something taste "so good". Also, in the case of rhubarb there's being in season, it's a spring thing.
    Love your book! Love your blog!
    Thanks so much!

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  7. I am up to my waist in persimmon pulp, that's my excuse for not blogging....and I had a giant roast beef sandwich at a Jewish deli yesterday because all the Thanksgiving leftovers are gone. You, on the other hand, have been extremely productive! I will take that panna cotta off my to do list. Too bad about Owen's birthday cake, it seemed like it took a lot of time. Have fun in BC!

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  8. I learned to make butterscotch pie from my MIL, and it is quite a pie! I don't know anyone that doesn't like it, but it is very rich. Red raspberry pie sounds the opposite, but very good! I agree about the broccoli slaw from Smitten. It was gobbled up at my house, too. I have really missed your posts, but I assumed you were busy. I will have to read your articles. I always enjoy them so much. In light of recent Cook's Illustrated discussions, have you considered one of their cookbooks? Have a great trip.

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  9. Victoria restaurant suggestions:

    Ulla - http://www.ulla.ca/
    Brasserie l'Ecole - http://www.lecole.ca/

    Devour - http://www.devour.ca/

    Pints at one of the many microbreweries:
    Canoe - www.canoebrewpub.com/
    Spinnaker's - www.spinnakers.com/
    Swann's - http://swanshotel.com/brew-pub/brew-pub-home


    Loads of great Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese too, although you're just as well off in Richmond for that (and I suspect at home too).

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  10. Is the red raspberry a double crust pie? Firm, gelled filling?

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  11. Victoria dining suggestion - rebar modern food - great food - and a great cookbook too!

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  12. Vijs in Vancouver. Best restaurant ever. Be there at 5:30pm, get a spot. Walk around the neighborhood waiting for a table. Be sure to have a drink and appetizers (free) at the back bar. If you don't have time for long and drawn out, though, go to the owner's restaurant next door - Rangoli. More casual, food is still great.

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  13. For a flash to the past go to The Dutch Bakery in Victoria.
    http://thedutchbakery.com/

    Too bad Red Fish Blue Fish is closed until February.

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  14. Glad to learn that I am not the only one who dislikes Milk Bar desserts. I just don't get it. Everything is so overly sweet.

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  15. Read your article on vintage pies and had to bake the butterscotch meringue for Thanksgiving. It was a huge hit and in fact made one of the older southern gentlemen at dinner a little misty eyed. When he was growing it was a staple at Thanksgiving, but he hadn't had it in years and didn't think anyone made them anymore.

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