I'd been to Safeway and Whole Foods before anyone in the house got up this morning and as soon as I walked in the door I started cutting 6 pounds of beef chuck into 1/4 inch cubes. Energetically at first, and 20 minutes later, resentfully. Chili has a reputation for being easy, casual, no big deal, c’mon over, it’s just chili! but that is not the case when it’s The Homesick Texan chili. I'd forgotten.
As soon as the chili was on the stove, I pulled out my copy of Sweet by Valerie Gordon, a newish baking book I’m infatuated with, and flagged a handful of enticing desserts to consider for tonight’s family dinner/Oscars party. I asked Mark and Owen, “So, which of these should I make: Chasen’s banana shortcake, Bullocks Wilshire coconut cream pie, or Blum’s coffee crunch cake?”
Neither looked up from his computer. I asked again. Neither looked up from his computer..
I said, “Mark? Please answer my question.”
He said, “Yeah, sorry, why don’t you just serve the cookies that are in the cookie tin?”
“That isn’t what I asked you!” Maybe I snapped. You’d have to ask Mark.
“Ok,” he said, still not looking up from the computer. “Read me the choices again?”
Cookies from the tin it is and I'm going to see Tim's Vermeer this afternoon. If there are typos or the links don't work, it's because the movie starts in 17 minutes in another town. Feel free to complain in the comments and I'll fix.
Waiting for the Benton’s bacon to make its way here by mule wagon, I thought I was betwixt and between cookbooks. But yesterday I realized I’d started cooking from Sweet without meaning to and might as well make it “official.”
True to form, I baked the easiest things in the book first. On Friday I baked Gordon’s brownies and on Saturday, her sugar cookies. Both were excellent. Both were also very mundane and fail to capture the essence of this gorgeous and exotic book. I have fattening and ambitious plans for further explorations in the coming week.
This is a really cute story by the husband of the woman who tested all the recipes in Sweet.
To follow up on something I mentioned in passing a while ago, if I had to write a list of 10 dinners that my family loves it would be this:
1. pasta with pesto
2. pasta with vodka sauce
3. pasta with tomato, onion, and butter
4. spaghetti and meatballs
5. spaghetti carbonara
6. mac n' cheese
10. pork dumplings
The dumplings, mac n’ cheese, and pesto recipes are all in my cookbook. The pasta with vodka is a Cook’s Illustrated recipe. The pasta with tomato, onion and butter is a Marcella Hazan classic. Nancy Silverton’s meatballs are the current favorite. Lately I’ve been using The Homesick Texan carnitas recipe. Steaks, burgers, and carbonara -- any old way.
After coming up with that list, I decided to open my recipe binder and revisit dishes I used to make to family acclaim, even if they weren’t obvious contenders for the top ten.
The other night, I served a stir fry of sugar snap peas and Chinese sausage that was very popular around here circa 2001. I tore the recipe out of Gourmet early this millennium and made it repeatedly, pre-blog.
Here’s what we thought in 2014
Jennifer: Not as good as I remembered, but I do love Chinese sausage and sugar snap peas. Also, easy.
Mark: I find Chinese sausages greasy. I’d rather have sausages on pasta than with peas and rice.
Isabel: Sausages are only good by themselves, never with things.
Owen: I liked the sausages.