Monday, February 11, 2013

French toast, grilled cheese, rice pudding

I ask gently if the homework has been started and then I request that the homework be started and a little while later sternly command that the homework be started and after that slyly suggest that maybe we can watch The Walking Dead if the homework is started and shortly thereafter I bark that the homework has to be started right this second and pour a glass of wine and wish I kept bourbon in the house, which is exactly why I don't.

The "mean schoolmistress" phase of parenthood. That's what I'm calling this. Or maybe "shrill schoolmarm."

Cooking pulled ahead of blogging again. I'll try to catch up quickly right now and get back into a reasonable rhythm later in the week.

I'm cooking from Smitten Kitchen. This will be a short interlude as there aren't many dishes I want to cook from the book. Deb Perelman is all about maximally delicious food, beautifully photographed, but her idea of maximally delicious food is very different from mine. She loves savory pastries and eggs -- in frittatas, baked, on latkes, deviled, mashed into salad -- and hearty breakfast casseroles and breakfast in general more than I do. Black bean stew poured on toast. Heavy baked pasta dishes. Dense cakes. Everything seems very dense.

Elizabeth Spiridakis in the Tournament of Cookbooks criticizes the dark photographs and maybe that's at play too.

I'm trying to keep an open mind. I've heard good things from friends.

I made Owen go through and write an "O" on every Smitten Kitchen dish he would like to eat. I'm focusing on those. So far we have eaten:

linguine with cauliflower pesto You blitz raw cauliflower in the food processor until it forms couscous-like crumbs (Perelman's image and very helpful.) Put this in a big bowl while you blitz almonds, herbs, cheese, capers, and sun-dried tomatoes in the processor until reduced to crumbs as well. Mix with the cauliflower. Add olive oil and some vinegar. Serve on pasta. I thought this was a knockout. Owen ate 2 helpings and then said it was "only ok." Would I make this again? You bet. Will I? Possibly. Recipe is here.

emmentaler on rye with sweet and sour red onions You saute red onions until jammy, pile them on rye bread, top with Swiss cheese, cook in a skillet. I expected to die of happiness when I bit into this sandwich, but I'm still here, typing and yelling at my son to practice trombone. I make a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches and always use cheddar or pepper jack. While I like to think I'm open to change the emmentaler didn't work for me. It tasted flat and wan. Would I make these sandwiches again? No.

vinegary slaw with cucumbers and dill Very tasty for a salad that contains no fat. Crunchy and refreshing. Where you usually add oil or mayonnaise, she has you add cold water. Would I make this again? Sure. Will I? Unlikely. I like my usual cole slaw recipe better.

cinnamon french toast The custard didn't cover enough of the bread and this "casserole" was dry, overly crispy. The picture on Smitten's web site sure looks pillowy and delicious. Maybe I did something wrong? I can't imagine what. Would I make this again? Only to figure out what I might have done wrong. Will I? Almost surely not.

gingerbread spice Dutch baby A flat, eggy, brown pancake. Smitten: "not puffed, but rumpled like a bed sheet. The edges are a little crisp. The center is something you'll daydream about later in the day." No one in this house daydreamed about the gingerbread spice Dutch baby later in the day. Again, I might have done something wrong, though I can't imagine what. Would I make this again? No.

more "Nevada desert" than "bedsheet"
tres leches rice pudding This, I am happy to report, we loved. You cook rice until tender then mix with a can of evaporated milk, a can of condensed milk, a can of coconut milk, and one egg. Cook until thick, stodgy, and dense. Chill and top with whipped cream. The recipe is here. Would I make this again? Absolutely. Will I? Likely.

Forgive typos. I have to go make some broccoli rabe panini. Full report tomorrow.


  1. I love Deb's blog and I really, really wanted to like her book, but I didn't find a single thing in it that I wanted to make.

  2. I think the photo of the dutch baby is really good, but it doesn't look like any dutch baby I've ever made or had.

  3. I bought the book also and find I'm not very excited by it either. But I did make the red velvet cake, which calls for 2 cups of red wine and a good amount of cocoa (as opposed to the usual red food coloring and whisper of cocoa), and I have to say it was probably the best chocolate cake I've ever eaten. I was happy to have it around for a few days to enjoy, which is saying a lot because I don't especially like chocolate cake. Not surprisingly, though, it is a bit, um, dense.

  4. I know this is off subject, but have you noticed how mature Owen's palate is for his age? I would never have guessed he would pick a cauliflower or slaw recipe! You should pause during your shrill schoolmarm moment and feel proud that you have influenced him so much in this area. You have educated his palate! I wish I had some great advice for this phase of parenting. Sadly, I do not. I was also a shrill schoolmarm during the oppositional/defiant stage. I am not surprised that you are not in love with this cookbook. She seems to cook comfort food, which I love, but I do not think you do.

  5. It's interesting to hear your reviews of these recipes. I am in love with the Smitten Kitchen website, but the book does not seem to be fairing well lately. It had been on my "must-get" list, but now I'm not so sure.

  6. I made the French toast twice, and both times, the parts that stuck out of hte custard were dry and no one ate them. Also, I found the toasting with cinnamon fussy. I may try it again, whisking the cinnamon in with the eggs, and making sure all toast is covered.

  7. Your first paragraph fits my life perfectly! I completely understand!

  8. Great post! Keep on him. Nagging works! As does withholding Walking Dead/Call of Duty/Freerunning privileges. As for Emmentaler, it IS wan. Whenever I see emmentaler I automatically substitute gruyere, every time and without question.

  9. I have never made a bad recipe from smitten kitchen, so I asked for the book for Christmas. I received it, looked at about the first quarter, exclaimed how delicious it looked, set it down, and haven't picked it up since. For whatever that's worth.

  10. Did you see today's tournament entry? One freaking recipe per book? SERIOUSLY? What a total waste. They really need to raise their reviewer standards.

  11. I tried Smitten kitchen recipes and .. they sucked. stopped reading her blog. sorry.;(