by The Baker
[Jason]: A pie for the end of school and the start of summer. This recipe makes me want to chill out with a slice of Ace of Cake’s new EP, The Bakery.
Blueberry Pie with Sweet Corn Ice Cream Continue reading
by The Baker
Mango Chutney Truffle
120 grams cream
25 grams glucose
120 grams milk chocolate, chopped
150 grams dark chocolate, chopped
25 grams butter, room temperature
100 grams mango chutney, chopped
1. Heat cream and glucose in a small saucepan over medium heat. Put both chocolates into a small bowl. When steam begins to rise from the cream, pour mixture over the chopped chocolate.
2. Let mixture sit for 30 seconds, then stir with a rubber spatula (do not use a whisk–you do not want to incorporate air into the ganache).
3. Add the butter, stir to combine, then fold in the chutney. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature overnight.
4. Form the ganache into balls (easiest method is to use a small ice cream scoop) and roll in confectioner’s sugar.
Having a spare hour or two in the afternoon, I decided to braise a whole pork shoulder for dinner. Although I run a lot, I could count on the help of a few friends—six to be precise—to finish off the beast. Pork shoulder is intrinsically delicious (oh fat, oh crispy skin, so the ode proceeds), cheap ($1.99 a pound!), and extremely easy to cook. In fact, I left the shoulder in the oven for two hours unsupervised during my evening class. No harm done. It does, however, require time, and time’s attendant, patience, for a proper preparation. Do not undertake a pork shoulder roast lightly: it is not a dish to be trifled with. Continue reading
by The Baker
Goat Cheese Brownies
10 tablespoons cold goat butter, cubed
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces chèvre
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter and flour a 9×13-inch baking dish.
2. In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, beat the butter, chèvre and sugar on medium speed for 5 minutes.
3. Add the melted chocolate and beat to incorporate. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the whole egg and the egg yolks one at a time. Add the vanilla and mix to incorporate.
4. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture. Pour into the dish and bake for 25 minutes. Allow brownies to cool to room temperature before cutting.
In St. Louis, late summer is menopausal. Temperatures drop to sunny California 70s before ricocheting back to the high 90s. One minute Mother Nature turns the thermostat down to 68, the next she’s stripping down to skivvies in a suburban bedroom. Tuesday I’m cannonballing into a blue backyard swimming pool, Wednesday I’m running through the first wisps of fall leaves. Living with a golden age Gaia isn’t easy; I want autumn in full force, not just the barest teases of calm. Continue reading
After I watched Smoke Signals for the first time, I sat in the dark and thought about Thomas Builds-the-Fire’s breakfast story:
Hey Victor! I remember the time your father took me to Denny’s, and I had the Grand Slam Breakfast. Two eggs, two pancakes, a glass of milk, and of course my favorite, the bacon. Some days, it’s a good day to die. And some days, it’s a good day to have breakfast. Continue reading
Have you ever handled a leg—felt the femur’s heft, massaged its sagging muscles, pushed a gentle, probing finger into its ligamental hosiery? Nothing tastes like fresh—really fresh, freshly killed—leg, preferably eaten in December with holiday trimmings. In this Jewish house, St. Nick came in August. Last Tuesday, I dismantled my Christmas lamp with a hacksaw—sliced that leg above the knee and tore the knobbly head off the iliofemoral ligament. After wiping down the attic dust and spending a suitable time admiring its injection-molded geometry, I rubbed on brown sugar, salt, mustard, and black pepper. It rested in the refrigerator while I played “In Your Own Sweet Way,” missing more than a few notes. Ever since I broke my wrist and three fingers, my left hand hasn’t worked properly. I know the score and, with a mighty will, urge the numb thumb to slip under that tedious middle finger. Despite my constant efforts, I always stumble through the colonies of notes swarming around the bass stave. Such huge chords frustrate average hands, let alone my deformed left. While my Christmas leg marinated and developed a double deckle crust, I flopped my hands against the score, and then, when I felt suitably tired from the pointless effort, built a hickory fire in the smoker.
I decided to bring down my Christmas lamp from the attic and cook it, because my wife finally died and I saw no reason to maintain an unhealthy attachment. She gave it to me for our first anniversary. Although I grew up excessively Jewish, we decided to raise the kids—since in these relationships, some unknown quantity of “kids” invariably dwells just over next year’s horizon line—atheist. During the holidays, we would celebrate Christmas, the most atheistic option. At the time—we were both in our late twenties and ready to buy this home (and its half-acre backyard)—we gave up our once fervid revolutionary aspirations and consigned those Marxist sentiments to momentary ironies and behind-the-back sniggers. By celebrating Christmas, we could give our “kids” a normal holiday season and still gift the corporate warlords with an ironic middle finger salute. For the anniversary of our first Christmas, she gave me a studio replica of the leg lamp. You know, the fishnetted woman’s leg fashioned into a light fixture that Ralphie’s dad treasures in A Christmas Story. I loved A Christmas Story and fantasized about Ralphie’s life after Christmas. When my wife left, I put the lamp in the attic and didn’t look at it until she died. Continue reading
My thoughts (or more precisely, ramblings) on the role of food photography in the “home made” movement follow. I argue that food photography that privileges the “beautiful” over the “meaningful” discourages participation in the movement. In effect, emphasizing the aesthetics of the image instead of the image’s meaningfulness as a representation of life erects a barrier between the “non-foodie” and the kitchen. We only do the contemporary food movement a disservice by fetishizing the image of home cooked food at the expense of the narratives behind the image. Much of my argument is conducted in an academic, abstruse, and (slightly, I would like to think) pretentious style. If you read the last few sentences, you get the gist of my argument—feel free to skip to the pictures at the end, which my brother took of me preparing striped bass, cavatelli with dill pesto, and rainbow chard. Obviously though, I’d prefer if you read the body of my ramblings before moving to the images.
Food photography is a drug: it ensnares the senses, enraptures the mind, magnifies an impossible experience into an inflated realm of potentiality. Addictive and destructive, contemporary food photography functions as an opiate, lulling the public into complacency. Satisfaction with a fantasy world leads to complacency; individuality renders down into a transparent, massless anathema of hedonistic visual pleasure.
The pleasure of cooking in the home is spiritual; all other and alternative forms of gratification derive from home cooking’s spiritual satisfactions. Providing for the self, and by extension, the family, provides primarily for the physical: cooking produces nourishment, the essential nutrition that supports everyday existence. Nevertheless, it is widely recognized that the family members may obtain nourishment from numerous sites outside the home. In fact, the demise of the “family dinner” over the past three decades—beginning with the displacement of food from the dinner table to the couch (and its attendant television) and concluding with the complete obliteration of structured family mealtimes—demonstrates the fragility of the kitchen as a site of physical nourishment. The kitchen actually provides no unique physical nourishment—the manifest purpose of food, its nutrition, remains independent from its manifest site of production. Yet, the physical nourishment of home cooking contains other forms of nourishment too—specifically, the spiritual nourishment alluded to above. Continue reading
Where have the days of bland vegetables gone? Have they receded into the memories of baby boomers, left to simmer until grayed and withered? Contemporary vegetable cookery—the use of fat, sweeteners, and salt to intensify vegetable flavors—overcompensates for the perceived deficits of its forebearers. As an outgrowth of the comfort food and stoner food movements, contemporary vegetable cookery embraces the unhealthy, the bombastic, and the overstated—in effect, it denies the traditional concept of “vegetable” in the American culinary canon. Whereas the humble vegetable was once relegated to a corner of the dinner plate, pushed aside in favor of steaks and roast chicken, “contorni” now occupy a privileged place in Manhattan’s top shelf Italian restaurants. Kids ask for kale chips instead of Lays (dusted with sea salt and chili, of course), and “eat your vegetables” is often met with furiously chewing mouths. A balance does exist, however, between the grossly exaggerated and the bland: the tasteful use of seasoning to magnify, not caricature; to complicate and make delicious, not to lampoon in burlesque.
Brussels sprouts occupy a lower position in the vegetable hierarchy than even broccoli. While children can be coaxed to try a floret, the much maligned sprout requires coercion. One faddish take on Brussels sprouts solves this problem without force feeding: just add prosciutto, pancetta, speck, or sopressata—any sort of cured meat contributes fat, salt, and porky exclamation points. The more, the better. Caramelizing those sprouts and dressing with a piquant olive oil increases the deliciousness factor by several orders of magnitude. Oftentimes though, this technique overshoots the mark, resulting in an overwhelming mess of greasy sausage and burnt Brussels sprouts. Continue reading
Wet snow falls violently, tumbling onto sprouting bulbs and buds with indifference. Cruel and beautiful, spring snow masks a growing world in white quietude, paralyzing birth in mid-motion. Like a forbidden love that arrests youth in its flower, snow in March is a melodrama of the unreclaimable—the season that has passed beyond recollection.
On Monday, such a snow blanketed St. Louis, surprising early risers who wandered out for the morning paper and came back inside with soaked slippers. For dinner, we had planned a spring meal: lamb chops, lima beans, and carrots. Set against such a provocative backdrop, the meal prophesied a season still buried beneath an unforgiving edifice of ice.