Friday, January 24, 2014

Some conflict, some cooking


These are the good old days, but those were just a little bit better.
I’m not saying this has ever happened in our household, but it must be bracing to start the day with a high decibel fight with your teenaged son during which you threaten to take away all his privileges forever and do so at the top of your lungs, to which he responds by threatening to throw the nice baguette and brie sandwich you just made for his lunch across the room and you can actually see the realization flicker in his eyes that this is the suburban kid’s version of cutting off the nose to spite the face and so he just smacks the sandwich back on the counter really, really hard and storms off to feed the goats.

And I’m guessing that if you’ve had such a morning you might later feel contrite about the yelling, even though you were 100% in the right, because you remember your own mother yelling before you headed off to be lonely and awkward all day at middle school, and even though you’d actively provoked the yelling and she was 100% in the right, it made you feel bleak and terrible, so you decide you’ll go pick the teenager up from school instead of making him trudge home up the hill and you’ll take him to Woody’s for frozen custard where he’ll needle you the whole time about your bad temper and be semi-intentionally irritating in every way he can think of, but you’ll still feel better because at least you’ve reached out with that olive branch, even if all he does is use it later to tease the cat while refusing to practice trombone which will make you want to . . . 

There’s a handful of easy recipes in The A.O.C. Cookbook by Suzanne Goin and I believe I’ve now flagged them all. It appears I’d rather spend an hour identifying and sticking purple Post-it notes on easy recipes than actually cooking. 

The lamb meatballs in spiced tomato sauce is one of those easy recipes. It’s also a really lovely dish -- the meatballs are tender and perfectly spiced and I can’t think of a single criticism. It might be perfect.

The recipe isn’t online and it’s not mine to share, but in brief: ground lamb mixed with cumin, cinnamon, salt, chopped onion, Aleppo pepper, egg yolks, cream, breadcrumbs, parsley. You don’t have to pre-fry the onions or anything annoying like that and Goin tells you exactly how much salt to use, which saves you the trouble of cooking little sample meatballs to figure it out. You brown the meatballs in a skillet, place them in a shallow casserole, cover with a simple tomato sauce, and bake. Top with fresh mint and feta. You can eat these on their own, but I served them with overcooked whole wheat macaroni. Bread, properly cooked pasta, couscous, or rice would also work. It’s one of those solidly great recipes that makes you trust a cookbook and want to explore it further.

Unfortunately, I subsequently made the mistake of opening Goin’s first book, Sunday Suppers at Lucques. A.O.C. contains some intriguing recipes, but Lucques is a barn burner. Page after page of dishes -- Portuguese pork, chorizo and clams; grilled skirt steak with artichoke-potato hash; hazelnut brown butter cake; caramel nut tart; a date milkshake -- that made me want to quit A.O.C. immediately and start cooking from Lucques.

Forbidden, though. One book at a time.




27 comments:

  1. Growing up is so hard, and it is hard on everyone in the house. It is perceptive of you to remember what middle school was like for most of us (horrific), and it will always work in your favor whether you feel it does or not. That was a lovely gesture, whether Owen is capable of appreciating it or not. Those lamb meatballs do sound superb, a repeater. As you say, the other cookbook sounds like it might be more fun since you will not have to make all your groceries from scratch. You won't, will you?

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    1. The other cookbook looks easier. It may not be -- hard to tell. These are both very uncompromising cookbooks.

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  2. Are the clementines to keep the book closed?

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    1. Yeah, the cover won't lie flat or even sort of flat. The whole book is now in pieces.

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  3. That you liked these lamb meatballs makes me think you'd like lahmacun, a Turkish lamb pizza. You'd also be able to use your pizza oven! http://userealbutter.com/2013/12/01/lahmacun-turkish-pizza-recipe/

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    1. I would like that pizza! It's the same flavor profile and it looks great.

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  4. I think you are an excellent and loving mother. I lived in the kind of household where I tried to avoid crossing my mother's path. Once when I was 10, after walking home from school as usual, I dared to interrupt her soap opera on TV by asking how her day had been going. "Fine, until you got home," was her reply. I was actually very well-behaved, because she scared me to death. Luckily she moved out when I was 14. See what an excellent mother you are? And very patient.

    The recipes in A.O.C. would be far beyond my patience, but I'm sure eating at the restaurant must be an amazing experience. Go on, you know you want to make those s'mores. :)

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    1. I do want to make the s'mores!

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  5. my g'daughter (who is 6 going on 30) watched a Bill Nye Science Guy video in school on thursday and had been making baking soda fizz and foam ever since with wine, vinegar, water(not), lemon juice, milk. etc. We have had bowls of baking soda gunk all over the kitchen on thursday nite. Friday morning around 630 am she decided to start all over again. When I said "NOOOOO" she pitched the biggest fit and then threw the glass cereal bowl at the glass coffee table....Neither she...nor me..nor her 5yr old brother could believe she actually did this. Needless to say the bowl didn't survive the "experiment". After everything was cleaned up she was sitting on the couch, with her head drooped down totally shocked that she shattered one of "HER" favorite cereal bowls. All I could say later was "geez why didn't I take a picture of the whole mess" Could have been a teaching moment of how to control your tantrums. This morning she is very depressed that her bowl is in the garbage. And requested French Toast please Baba...Cause cereal is out of the question now.

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    1. There is something about this story, the picture of her stunned and sitting on the couch. It sounds like she learned her lesson, poor thing. Tempers are scary.

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  6. Once or twice I've had the presence of mind to pull out my iPhone and surreptitiously video my daughter when she has picked a fight and is raging at me. It is satisfying to replay it later and reassure myself that I was the reasonable one. I don't show it to HER, mind you. This very morning we had a tiny set-to over a Christmas song.

    If the Lucques brown butter hazelnut cake is similar to mine (and I think it is), it is my favorite cake in the world. It elicits comments like, "I don't usually like sweets, but…." And if you make it with almond meal instead (which you can buy at Trader Joe's), it goes really well with prune-almond ice cream! But the hazelnut version is the most wonderful, I admit.

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    1. We're in the process of putting old videos on the computer, and I've found a few of just what you've thought of doing. The tantrum videos of my 2-5 year old son (he's age 9 now) are really hard to watch, but it reminds me that as tough a kid as he is to parent now, it is nothing compared to then. I'd like him to see one, but I don't know if he will, and I won't force it (or I'd get a 9yo tantrum.) So, yes, you should record.

      And, same kid was so grumpy while being "forced" to empty the dishwasher that he broke his favorite "You are special today" plate. I watched him melt and didn't say a word as I handed him the broom.

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    2. Kristin -- a Christmas song? I'm trying to imagine that. I will make the hazelnut cake. Every night: prune almond ice cream. There's an interesting armagnac prune-caramel sauce that Goin puts on her apple crostata. I can't quite visualize how it comes together so might have to make it.
      My Kids' Mom -- If I'm not misremembering, there was a This American Life where a father tape recorded his teenaged son when he was stoned and behaving badly. When the son heard the tapes and how stupid he sounded, he turned his life around. I've never thought of video recording a tantrum, maybe because once a tantrum starts I overreact and can't think straight and wouldn't want to see my own behavior? Recording a fight is definitely something my mother would have done if she'd had the technology.

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    3. Christmas song: There's a Hawaiian Christmas song from the forties or fifties that I had stuck in my head so badly a few weeks ago that I was chanting it mentally in my fitful awake-in-the-middle-of-the-night time. It was relentless and awful. This morning Emily started singing it and I covered my ears and yelped for her to stop, explaining why, and she just kept singing it, following her usual protocol of not taking me very seriously. I snapped at her. As for the caramel sauce, I used to make one with caramelized sugar, prune juice, and armagnac (well, brandy, really) and it was great. (I miss plated desserts.)

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    4. P.S. Why do people think they hate prunes?

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    5. I love prunes, but the name is a problem. And who can say "dried plums" with a straight face?

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    6. Growing up, I took an audio tape of my mom raging at my dad about how how he had put the Christmas tree up crooked. My mom later heard my sister and I giggling at it and took a listen. It really suprised her and she tried harder to control her temper after that.

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  7. I've been enjoying your blog...Last nite - actually fell asleep a couple times finally had to give it up around 2am. I know..I know ---it's not even a murder mystery. Go figure.
    I had to start at the beginning. I'm deep in the throws of the pig ear salad.
    I just have a few questions.
    ...How much is this costing you?
    ...Are you a favorite at the pizza delivery outlet when things do terribly wrong and it's 730 and everyone is hungry?
    ...Poor Owen---I have visions of him fading away. The boy doesn't seem to eat anything. Or does he have a secret stash of breakfast cereal he scarfs down when no one is looking for dinner?

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    1. I'm very flattered you are reading back so far. The pig's ear salad was the nadir and I still feel bad for tricking Owen. Now that you mention it, he does eat a lot of cereal! The blog doesn't cost me anything except time. Maybe I cook more extravagantly than I did before I started it, but not much more. No, it's really the time.

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  8. No...I meant the food must be costly.
    And is it just an American thing or what? Or is it just me, but what's with the desserts most nights anyway. The only dessert that comes out of this kitchen is at xmas, t'giving and easter family dinners for 20+. Otherwise dessert is ice-cream if there's any in the freezer and if anyone thinks of it. I don't know anyone that has so many desserts after dinner.

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    1. I love dessert. I wish I could find a way to make it even more often.

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