Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Forget it, Jake, it's February

Are you my Benton's bacon?
I’ll briefly rouse myself from February doldrums to link to the first round of the 2014 Piglet in which Suzanne Goin's A.O.C. Cookbook trounced Balaboosta by Einat Admony. Judge Sam Sifton, fellow lover of low-hanging fruit, was, like me, won over by Suzanne Goin's easyish lamb meatballs

I told you they were good! I wish someone would plagiarize the recipe so I could link you to it.

I spent some time with the losing Balaboosta a few weeks ago at the library and, like Sifton, found the recipes almost aggressively unappealing. A chopped salad of canned beans, canned corn, and canned fried onions (or something like that) convinced me not to check it out. In judging a cookbook there's no substitute for actually trying the recipes, but Sifton is correct that the author first needs to persuade you that you want to.

Poor Balaboosta. I don't like criticizing a book I haven't cooked from. I'll probably have to check it out now as penance.

Since the last post I've "officially" started cooking from Goin's Sunday Suppers at Lucques which, like its sister volume, A.O.C., is full of composite dishes that require significant chunks of time and special ingredients. This hasn't deterred me from making a few inroads. I haven't written about them, though, because here's something else that requires significant chunks of time and special ingredients: writing blog posts. By special ingredients I mean "interesting material," obviously. When a writer is in high spirits she can do a lot with bland ingredients, but it's February, guys, and I'm not at my best in February. Sort of like a deciduous fruit tree. 

A roundup dishes I've made from Lucques over the last few days will illustrate the lack of interesting material:

-Goin's winter squash risotto with radicchio was superb. The radicchio cut the monotonous sweetness of the risotto nicely. But if there was anything fresh to say about winter squash risotto, I couldn't think of it. 

-Goin's winter squash soup with candied pepitas was also lovely. I was hoping the candied pepitas (pumpkin seeds) would give me a new angle on squash soup, but when I was about to candy the pepitas to sprinkle on the soup I realized I didn't have any pepitas. Is there anything duller than prose about winter squash soup? Not a blog post.

-Dark, coarse, and full of molasses, Goin's chocolate stout cake is a type of cake I personally dislike. Harsh. Blackish. The problem is me, not the cake and I didn't want to write about that. I did, however, love the Guinness ice cream that Goin suggests as an accompaniment. Rich, mellow, slightly slushy, delicious. If you've ever struggled to imagine what Doc’s beer milkshake in Cannery Row tasted like, make the ice cream. It will help. (Note: she only uses 1/3 cup sugar in the recipe as printed in the book and I'd go with that.) This could have been a blog post. A short one.

-Over the weekend I was all set to make Goin's leg of lamb with chorizo stuffing, romesco potaotes, and black olives, but the 40-minute trip to the Mexican market to pick up chorizo never happened. The piece of lamb I'd bought started to get old and I ended up making a Joy of Cooking lamb curry. I'm not sure why I didn't use a recipe from one of my Indian cookbooks. Probably because I suspected they'd call for curry leaves or some spice I didn't have in the house. The Joy lamb curry was unbelievably bland -- not worth writing about, reading about, or eating. 

As you can see, I'm wallowing in Lucques without a lot of verve. As with the chocolate stout cake, the problem is me, not the book. I'm telling you, it's February.

Meanwhile, a batch of David Chang’s cabbage kimchi ferments in the refrigerator and my order of Benton's bacon (a favorite Chang ingredient) is waiting to be filled. Although they charged my credit card on January 22, the Benton's web site now indicates the delay is 5 weeks, which takes us into March. I don't love March, but it's better than February. That had better be some good bacon.

25 comments:

  1. Once again, showing my ignorance, I had never heard of Benton's bacon, and I lived in the mountains of NC for 16 years. I really must stick my head up occasionally, I guess. I am looking forward to your blog post about that bacon. I, too, am in the doldrums of February, but it is mostly due to horrible weather (I live in the SE) and darkness, what seems like perpetual darkness. I know now without a doubt that I could not live in Alaska.

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    Replies
    1. No, you could not live in Alaska and neither could I. I went there once in winter -- to Fairbanks -- and when I got off the plane it was midnight and -47 degrees. I will never forget that vicious, vicious cold and how hard it was just to walk the short distance from the terminal to the rental car.

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  2. February this year sucks. SUCKS. I'm so sick of February. I don't remember the last time I was so perpetually friggin cold ALL THE TIME. I can't take it anymore. I hate getting out of bed, I hate leaving the house (which requires warming up the car first). It's sooooo dry also. The only saving grace is that's its so sunny, and with all this snow it's blinding. We better have a fabulous summer to compensate for this dredful winter. That's all I'm saying.

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    Replies
    1. It seems like different parts of the country have been having their very different, not-so-great Februaries. We are in a drought!

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  3. I've tried Benton's bacon at Momofuku and found it unbearably salty (and I'm not one who usually finds things unbearably salty). I much prefer Hobbs bacon, available at Whole Foods in the SF area:
    http://www.sfgate.com/magazine/article/Hobbs-Sure-Cure-3059282.php

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    Replies
    1. Oh no, that's disappointing. I will keep an eye out for Hobbs and give it a try next time I see it.

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  4. Each year, on the last day of February, I feel....a sense of accomplishment and relief just for making it through this god-awful month.

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  5. I was about to congratulate you on loving those meatballs, since I, like you, have been suspecting I was on the verge of starting to dislike lamb, but then I read further and there was that bland curry. (I used to love lamb best of all, and I still love it, but there's something slightly funky about it that I'm starting to notice. Sometimes not.) The lamb and chorizo sounds interesting. I don't think I've had sheep and pig together before. So sorry you are 40 minutes from a Mexican bodega. I could walk to twenty of them from my house!

    I WISH we were having February weather down here in Los Angeles. It's 80 degrees and sunny every day, and those Amber-alert freeway signs have been beseeching us to conserve water. My peach tree is already finished blossoming.

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    Replies
    1. Do you think the lamb has changed, or is it us?
      I'm so jealous of your Mexican markets! The ethnic section at Safeway just doesn't do the job.

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  6. Why does everybody hate February so much? At least there's a light at the end of the tunnel of February (March). January is the month that really sucks. It's one big hangover of a month. It's dark, cold, and goes on waaaaay longer than any month should. I think February only seems bad because we've already had to put up with January.

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    Replies
    1. You are probably right, January wears us down and some of us wrongly blame February, which is just a puny little month.

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  7. I recommend the deviled chicken thighs and braised leeks. That dish is firing on all cylinders and no hard to find ingredients.

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  8. Isn't it almost "ski week" break time in Marin? Also the Spanish Table in Strawberry has good chorizo unless Mexican style was called for in that recipe. I used to make a batch from Diana Kennedy and keep it in the freezer.

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  9. It has a lot in the book that the previous CGI could not deal with. The fake spider in the 90 version was pretty lame; however, in the book, was scary as hell, as king described it.

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  10. http://www.keyingredient.ca/recipes/1095395035/lamb-meatballs-with-spiced-tomato-sauce-mint-and-feta/

    I don't know about lamb changing....but pork sure has. I used to love pork. Now I only suffer through the bacon. Well suffer is a bad word. After all it's bacon. The pork producers better not change that too. I don't know what the meat producers have done....but they have all RUINED our meat. It's all crap lately. I've been grinding my own hamburger for years. I can't stand the smell of hamburger in packages either raw or while it is cooking. I don't think I've ever not ground up my own pork. And bbq season is coming...and I can't stand the meat available lately. I live in cattle country too. One of these days I'm going to have to buy and whole cow and pig from a supplier that I actually believe is a good producer. Other than that. I've lost the taste for meat it seems. Boo Hoo

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