Thursday, June 18, 2015

Is this the little girl I carried?

Isabel, Owen, Julian Assange
Isabel graduated from high school last week. I'm very wistful. We still have Owen, but I've started flashing forward a few years and, you know, things aren't looking good.

For the graduation party, I served chocolate-covered strawberries from the Joy of Cooking.
going for documentation, not art
How do you feel about chocolate-covered strawberries? I love the idea of them, but have decided they're subtly stressful to eat. You never know when you pick one up if it'll be juicy and nectarous or bland and watery because you can't visually assess the fruit under the chocolate. It's part of the fun of eating fruit, studying the dimensions, shape, color, et cetera, and then taking a bite and finding out if you were right, if that really was a good one. You don't get to play this little game with the chocolate-covered strawberry; it's all up to chance. Plus, when you take that bite, the chocolate falls off in shards and if you don't eat quickly, melts on your fingers. Then when you're done you have to find a place to deposit the damp, scraggly stem.

Yep, life is really hard. Chocolate-covered strawberries don't help. Down with chocolate-covered strawberries.
puffy, buttery perfection
David Lebovitz's madeleines are the opposite of stressful to eat. Soft and pillowy, they're subtly calming. I believe I've raved about these lovely little cakes before. I served them warm from the oven to accompany the berries. Impeccable recipe. 

But the most delicious thing I made for the party: brandy alexanders. The picture I took of my brandy alexander is so atrocious I couldn't post it. That's pretty bad because my standards, as we all know, are not high. This is what brandy alexanders look like. Beautiful.

The history of the brandy alexander is murky, but the cocktail seems to have been invented by someone, somewhere, roughly a century ago. It has been much written and sung about ever since and if you've never heard the Feist song, you should fix that. If you've never tasted a brandy alexander, you might think about fixing that as well. This is a rich, suave, complex and utterly delicious concoction.  Recipes vary considerably and the one we made was heavy on the brandy: 2 ounces brandy, 1/2 ounce creme de cacao, 1/2 ounce cream, shake with ice, strain into glass, shave lots of nutmeg on top. I found it a bit stiff and added more cream. Later, I discovered that I was on the right track as most recipes call for equal parts brandy, creme de cacao, and cream. For a perfect brandy alexander I'd go with 2 parts brandy, 1 part creme de cacao, 1 part cream, plenty of nutmeg.

Now I just need to try a pink squirrel, a zombie, and a Singapore sling and I can stop drinking altogether.
Mark bought this for the party. Not half bad.
In other news, I've cooked a number of bland dishes from The Hakka Cookbook and there's not much I want to say about them because bland=pretty boring. As result of all that Hakka food, though, we've ended up with a mountain of leftover white rice so last night I made the ginger fried rice from Genius Recipes by Food52's Kristen Miglore.

trying out a library copy before I buy
This may be the only fried rice recipe in the world that was specifically engineered for people who don't have leftover rice on hand. According to Miglore, freshly cooked rice won't fry properly (it gets clumpy and soggy), but if you follow this "genius" technique, which she credits to Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Mark Bittman, you can get good results anyway. Fry some bits of ginger and garlic until crispy, then reserve. Soften sliced leeks in peanut oil, add your your fresh rice and cook until warmed through. Scoop it into bowls, drizzle with soy sauce and sesame oil, top with a fried egg, and sprinkle with pre-fried bits of garlic and ginger. These provide the crunch your freshly cooked rice lacks.

Genius?

Nah. But a very easy, cheap, and tasty meal. I often have leftover rice and would not make fried rice if I didn't, so the wizardry of this dish is lost on me. But I did really love those pungent, crispy pebbles of garlic and ginger. They'd be a great addition to any fried rice. I'm making this again tonight. Recipe here.

39 comments:

  1. Caroline in SF6/18/15, 8:16 PM

    I totally agree about eating chocolate covered strawberries...but they look so pretty on a platter. Just ordered the Fika cookbook thanks to your reviews; have been on the fence about Genius Recipes. Some reviewers say it's a book for beginners; would you agree?

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    1. I'm not sure about this book. I have cooked a lot of the recipes before (Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce, the Good to the Grain chocolate chip cookies, the hummus, and more) and I think it might be too elementary for someone who has cooked a lot. I'm trying the brisket recipe tonight and then I'll take it back to the library and will check it out again when I get back from vacation. I wouldn't buy it without at least looking through it. For a beginner cook? This would be great.

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  2. Congratulations and condolences -- I can only imagine how hard it must be to think of her leaving!

    I am definitely NOT a fan of chocolate covered strawberries. The chocolate always makes the berries taste sour and thin and the berries always make the chocolate taste waxy. Blech. But they are a beautiful, festive thing at a party.

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    1. You could not have expressed this better. My thoughts about chocolate covered strawberries exactly.

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    2. Oh good! I'm not alone. They also seem so glamorous.

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  3. Congrats on launching Isabel. Owen looks like he is offering a stiff warning to the camera for the years ahead. Lovely offspring - no on chocolate dipped strawberries after so many 70's brunches. XOXOXOXOH

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    1. Owen has that expression in every single photo we took and it's not an expression you ever see on his face any time else.

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  4. My daughter graduated from high school this year too. She's our only, and I'm definitely in the thick of some kind of existential crisis, so I feel for you.

    Congratulations to Isabel!

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    1. It's a big transition for the parent. Bigger in some ways than it is for the child -- and more bittersweet.

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  5. Oh man, my dirty little secret is that I love Pink Squirrels! If you like almond, you should definitely try one.

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    1. I asked a bartender the other day what he would do if someone ordered a pink squirrel. He said, "I would have no idea what to do. I've never heard of it." I think when I try one, it will probably be at home. (I LOVE almond.)

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  6. I feel you on the empty nest trauma. The first year was really rough. I had no idea what to do with myself.

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    1. But it got better and easier? Any tips?

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  7. I feel you on the empty nest trauma. The first year was really rough. I had no idea what to do with myself.

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  8. Congrats to Isabel! I was going to tell you that the genius recipe you should make is Atlantic Beach pie, but then it turns out that it's not in the book. But you should still make it: http://food52.com/recipes/29939-bill-smith-s-atlantic-beach-pie We had some in a restaurant and only got one piece and then fought over it to the last crumb. It turns out, it's very easy to make (3 ingredients in the filling!) and there are saltines in the crust--who knew! It won't ease the onset of empty nest syndrome, but if you like lemon, you will enjoy it anyway.

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    1. I used to make this when I worked at my last job! So mind-bogglingly sublime! It's really just a key lime pie, only made with lemon or a combo instead of just lime, and with a saltine crust instead of a graham crust. I topped it with a huge cloud of lightly sweetened and vanilla-ed whipped cream.

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    2. Thank you! I'll try this for sure.

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  9. As you know, I'm way ahead of you on the empty nest front. But having my daughters out of the house has been kind of nice! It's a lot less work, for one thing (obviously, not when we have the step kids staying with us.) I don't have to come up with a meal plan every night, there's a fairly good chance that the kitchen will stay clean for more than a few hours, and I enjoy spending time with Harman. I still see a lot of my girls--especially Katherine, who lives pretty close.

    I hope you'll be as surprised as I was at how un-traumatic it will be sending your girl off to college.

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    1. I hope you are right! Both kids were gone for a few days this last week and it was actually really nice. Mark and I have a lot of fun together when they're gone, which bodes well.

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  10. My older son is a junior. So I am not going to read this post ever again. It's too scary.

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    1. Senior year. That's an experience. Good luck!

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  11. Yes EXACTLY on your assessment of chocolate-covered strawberries! My sweet husband bought me a huge box of them for Mother's Day and they were all enormous and delicious but the biggest darn mess to eat. We had nearly the exact same conversation about them as you wrote above.

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    1. What a sweet gift, even if it didn't turn out to be a total success.

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  12. I would like young Jeremy Irons to offer me a brandy alexander...

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    1. Have you seen the movie "Damage?" Irons at his most dangerous and dreamy!

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    2. Yes, many years ago I saw Damage. A friend and I actually nick-named someone "Damage" because of his self-destructiveness that reminded us of the movie. We used that name so routinely (behind his back) that to this day, I still think of him as "Damage" and have to pause for a second to remember his real name.

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