Wednesday, March 27, 2013

You're with Stupid Now

I baked the potato bread from April Bloomfield's Girl and Her Pig on Sunday. It rose into a magnificent mound of pale dough and then collapsed in the oven to resemble a deflated football and despite sounding hollow when tapped on the bottom, was almost floppy when baked, with a soft crust. Sliced, it was flecked with potato skins and there were whole seams of mashed potato, as you may be able to see with your magnifying glass:

Bloomfield says of the dough: "It's okay to have a few odd lumps of potato."

Did I allow too many odd lumps of potato?

Having said all that, this was a bread you keep eating because it's so tender and salty and delicious, like a good dinner roll. You couldn't make a proper sandwich with it as the loaf was very flat and the slices resembled biscotti and were too floppy to hold anything anyway. I'm pretty sure this isn't how the bread turns out when Bloomfield makes it and whether the fault is in the recipe or my execution I will never know because I'm not going to pursue this bread.

Moving right along, I'm going to be honest with you (as when am I not?) and announce that I resent Nancy Silverton's Sandwich Book. Fiercely. First of all, the leftover leg of lamb sandwich that calls for roasting a leg of lamb. I will not be making that sandwich.

Second, the wastefulness. Monday, I made her grilled cheese sandwiches with marinated onions. Marinating the onions in oil and vinegar softens and mellows them and they marry well with the Gruyere and this was altogether a better sandwich than the Smitten Kitchen grilled cheese with jammy onions. Except Silverton has you marinate twice as many onions, maybe even 3 times as many onions, as you can use on those sandwiches. Now I have a big bowl of marinated onions in the refrigerator and if I was a chef I would find a way to feed them to paying customers, but I'm not a chef and they're just one more thing I have to worry about using or worry about wasting.

Third, the carelessness. Feel free to call me a moron like my husband did. Alright, he didn't actually call me a moron, but when I explained why there was no dinner when he got home last night, he looked at me like he does when I spend 10 minutes trying to turn on the TV with the remote.

I was going to make Silverton's portobello, braised endive, and teleme sandwiches. You start by preheating the oven to 400 degrees F then putting halved endives in a baking dish with some cream, stock, herbs, and salt. Then you put the mushrooms in another dish (or two -- these mushrooms were giant) with oil and balsamic vinegar. Cover your dishes tightly with plastic wrap and cover the plastic wrap with foil and bake for 30-40 minutes. At the end of this time, you remove the foil and make holes in the plastic wrap to vent steam and bake the vegetables some more.

I did think as I stretched plastic wrap over the endives and mushrooms that I'd never put plastic wrap in the oven before and wouldn't it melt? I scanned the recipe for mention of fancy, heavy-duty chef's plastic wrap, but there was none and you never know what miracles those scientists have worked with plastic in the last 20 years. I had other things on my mind and forged ahead.

You know what happened, of course. Because you are smart! After 40 minutes, I lifted the foil and the plastic wrap had vanished. Closer examination revealed thin, wrinkled clumps of plastic stuck to the dish and atop the vegetables and I tried to pluck these out so we could eat the endives and mushrooms. Then I decided against it. I'm trying to be less cavalier about eating plastic.

I just now read the warning on the box of Safeway plastic wrap and feel even stupider.

But Silverton should have specified! We're not all brainiacs.

This morning I got up and realized I have to cook a ham bone for 2 hours and then parboil kale, saute just the kale stems with onion and garlic, pick the meat off the ham bone, cook the greens in the ham broth for 30 minutes and then I will have one of the components ready for Silverton's long-cooked greens, poached egg, and fontina cheese sandwiches tonight.

I may not last long with this book.

My friend Hilary turned me on to a blog that I find crazy, tough, funny, and sometimes very useful. You might agree. This is it. ((Note: She has written some posts that I don't care for AT ALL, like this one, which was just brought to my attention by my friend Mary.)


  1. I am confused--did she mean for you to remove the plastic wrap before foiling and never say so?

  2. Here are the instructions: "Cover tightly with plastic wrap and then foil, and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil, puncture the plastic to allow the steam to escape, and then remove the plastic. . . "

  3. This cookbook is making me stabby, and I don't even own it.

    This: "First of all, the leftover leg of lamb sandwich that calls for roasting a leg of lamb."

    No. Just no.

    I'm so glad we have you to bravely march through these books so we don't have to. Walk good*, friend.

    *I just learned that "Walk good" is a Jamaican phrase that means, basically, happy trails or safe travels. I love it a ridiculous amount.

  4. I have read through most of Nancy Silverton's cookbooks and have read a few articles about her, mainly from food magazines. For some reason, I dislike her tone and the tremendous effort most of her recipes seem to take. I have tried a couple of easier recipes, but those dishes haven't inspired me to spend more time and money on the more complicated ones. I will not be disappointed if you move on to another book.

  5. This is probably why I haven't made anything out of this book (except the cookies). A lot of effort for sandwiches.

    No need to call yourself a moron. You should be able to trust Silverton. I made a chocolate caramel recipe once that called for pouring boiling hot caramel into a plastic wrap lined tin. Despite my doubts about whether it would work, it actually did and the plastic didn't melt.

  6. I'd be irritated too. This means she didn't test the recipes before publication. Why didn't she just have you poke holes in the foil after 30 minutes?

  7. In my universe sandwiches are supposed to be easy.
    Surely there are a few Homesick Texan recipes still to try instead!

  8. The instructions were pretty specific about the plastic - I would have done the exact same thing.

    Re: Penelope Trunk I read her blog for years and she's one person I unsubscribed from and told her why. Her blog and personality are pretty amazing, but her posts increasingly became about staying in an abusive relationship and the advantages of homeschooling, so her writing became less relevant to me.

  9. Okay, I like some of her stuff about homeschooling, but thanks, no Botox and no plastic surgery. That's kind of insane. I am not interested in being married to the kind of man who thinks I'd look better Botoxed.

    The lamb sandwich sounds good, but only if I already have lamb left over.

  10. One book I read last summer, oh shoot, I wish I remembered...I'll look at my goodreads and get back to you--the author said the most useful thing she learned in her job in a restaurant was that plastic wrap can go in the oven. She referred to it giddily a few times but I never got the nerve. I suspect you are right and it's commercial stuff only.

    Also: I always triple the SK marinated onions because I love them SO MUCH on anything. Salad, sandwich, baked potato (almost herringlike with sour cream on a baked potato). I am not creative about using things, really, ever, but those are an item for which I make an exception.

    And I love Penelope, though when she is out in left field, she is in the parking lot.

    Eating for Beginners, by Melanie Rehak. She was the one besotted with Saran in the kitchen. I would be too if I thought it would work.

  11. I love to cook and am willing to expend a fair amount of time and energy in the kitchen for a b'stilla or a crochembouche, but my concept of a sandwich is some food item or other that you slap between two pieces of good bread. If it's dry you spread mayo on it. If it's bland or mushy you put pickles or lettuce on it. You don't spend all day and dirty ten pots in service to a sandwich!

  12. That's terrible. She should have had someone test the recipe with regular plastic wrap. I'm sure you could have used just tightly wrapped foil. I have met Nancy Silverton a few times, and I no longer idolize her. She is a great cook, to be sure, but in person she is cool and imperious. It's no wonder her recipes are high-handed like that. (Sorry, that was an ad hominem attack.) The one book of hers I recommend wholeheartedly is The Breads of La Brea Bakery, but only if you are quite serious about bread.

  13. I do like her pastries book. The creme fraiche coffee cake is the only coffee cake I'll make and the sbrisolona (with orange flower water) isn't bad either!

  14. I think it's time to set this book next to that World Book encyclopedia set and forget about it. Yikes!

    Also, I can't help mentioning that the specific post that your friend Mary pointed out on that abhorrent blog was so disgusting to me that I don't think I can look at it for another moment. =(

    Is it the weekend yet?

  15. That kind of error in a cookbook is really poor. It shouldn't happen. Now you can trust your instincts again! And move on to another cookbook. Perhaps a casserole cookbook to support your one dish habit?
    As to the seemingly endless stream of advice for women these days, I am weary of it. I consider myself a feminist from 70's who likes the dialogue, but the advice is always in error for someone. The whole point of feminism removing obstacles and empowering women to make their own choices. What works for one woman will not work for everyone. Circumstances and desires differ. As long as it doesn't hurt anyone, we should respect individual choices. Feminism is not a competition to see who is right!

  16. For lumpless potato bread, dissolve WARM mashed potatoes in about a cup of the water used to boil them.

    Yeast loves the addition of potatoes and the dough will look "flabby" because the gluten is further developed. You will need to add more flour than usual while kneading to work it into the usual texture for proofing. Otherwise, yes, it will collapse exactly as you described. But correctly made, a potato dough will have more oven spring than any other dough.

  17. Silverton's book on bread is exceptionally good. I am not crazy about her other stuff, especially the gimmicky recipes using cans and jars.


  18. Hi Tipsy!
    Big fan of your blog and book here. I, too, am fascinated by Penelope Trunk lately, and am especially intrigued by her take on generational differences. I keep looking at my kids and wondering if they will indeed have all of those Gen Z traits she outlines. Probably so. Anyway, I really wish you would try cooking from Diana Henry's cookbook, Plenty. It is one of my favorites these days, and I'd love your take on it. Here is a sample, delicious recipe to try, Turkish Lentils and Carrots. Sounds boring, but it's so good.

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