Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Maine Branch Bakes Bread

Here you have it. The first-born no-knead bread in the family. We're getting cigars made: "it's a loaf!"

And here, the family inheritance, is Michael's first sourdough starter, rising its way into a fluffy mushroom cloud.

And finally - said sourdough loaf, including starter, leftover squash, and polenta.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I've figured it out

Rabbits eat cabbage, and rabbits breed like, um, rabbits. Thusly, cabbage breed like rabbits.... or something. Anyway, there's a lot of it in the crisper, and everytime I look there seems to be more. I spend far too much time thinking of things to eat that contain cabbage, and I'm not quite ready, as coffeehound proposes, to begin making sauerkraut. Then we would just have a lot of sauerkraut which, being somewhat labor- and time-intensive, I would feel guiltier throwing away than I do regular old cabbage.

So, I made fish tacos, topped with copious amounts of shredded cabbage. These tacos were unbelievably good, better than any I've ever had, and super-easy thanks to The Minimalist's red-fried fish recipe.

I have suffered, in the past, from a fear of frying. When I was younger, and my mother went out of town to visit her parents, my dad would pan-fry steaks at alarmingly high heat. My mother would come home from her visit, look at the grease-splattered stove, hood, ceiling (seriously), and proceed to cry and/or yell. My parents, in fact, both had "secret" foods that they would prepare and eat only when the other was away - pan-fried, extremely rare steaks for my father, hot dogs and tacos for my mother. Both of them tried to make my brother and me complicit in their furtive little culinary exploits, but I was firmly on my mom's side in this matter. Hot dogs and tacos - awesome. Bloody, charred-on-the-surface steaks - disgusting.

To his credit, my father did at times take me on solo outings to fill what everyone in my family referred to, with an affection that at times veered into alarm, as my "hollow leg" - that is, a proven, demonstrated ability to put away enormous quantities of food, relative to my size (very small) and age (very young). For example, as a nine- or ten-year-old I was able to eat, in one sitting, an entire large pepperoni pizza, or two enormous chopped barbeque beef sandwiches with fries + chocolate malt, etc. Occasionally I would throw it all up later, in the middle of the night (not on purpose), but so what? Although I see now, in retrospect, that the "late-night barbeque sandwich event" of 1976 brought these gorge-fests to a screeching halt.

I'm not that way anymore - I haven't been for a long time - and there are no secret foods, here, now. Having someone to cook for is a daily pleasure, and an expression of care, small and incremental. The frying of fish was easy, clean, and the results very, very good. We did not have to clean the ceiling. A head of cabbage was consumed. All was well.

Monday, March 10, 2008

We're deep into the longueurs of the winter box now, and I can't bring myself to post photos, or descriptions, of cabbage + various protein plates. I have, in fact, become somewhat of an expert at cooking cabbage, but I cannot muster the will to expound at length on the process.

So, a pet picture. Here, Tucker works for what is seemingly a treat, but is in reality a prescription dental biscuit.

The Maine branch is apparently working flour variations of The Minimalist's No-Knead bread recipe, albeit with less than exemplary data collection and variable control methodologies. I'm hopeful there will be a post on the topic soon...

Sunday, March 2, 2008

beef bolognese

I made a bolognese sauce from this recipe yesterday. Events conspired against the actual eating of it until this evening, but I think it turned out pretty well. I already have a list of things I'd do differently - let the mirepoix (or, since we're cooking Italian here, soffritto) brown significantly longer, a finer dice on the pancetta - but I think it was a good first effort. I didn't fully tune into the fact that the entire point of the recipe is to really slow down, turn down the heat, and let all the ingredients come together over an extended length of time (four hours, ultimately) until I was a too-frantic hour or more into the process. I did have a momentary crisis of confidence as I was dumping two cups of cheap Carmenere (from the Texaco food mart up the street, no less) into the pot. I believe I actually felt all dead Italian grandmothers around the world spinning in their graves. So yes, next time; a decent Italian red for this recipe.

This is supposed to be a food blog, so before I digress I will note that the hyper-violence in "No Country For Old Men," really interfered with the enjoyment of my Guinness and hot wings. There.

I disliked this movie. I don't really understand what it was supposed to be about, except perhaps some sort of academic exercise in producing a perfect simulacra of a genre movie, only minus the suspense. Was this supposed to be a meditation on the inevitable outcome of a wholly violent society - characters so inured to horror that they are gone mad, or world-weary, or beaten-down, or reduced to mere greed & stubbornness? If so - why make a completely flat-affect film on this topic, then fill it from start to finish with scenes of absolute brutality? What are you doing here, really? Are you trying to inure the audience to this violence? If so, to what end, if this violence is already so fully present in the world?

Also, the instances of violence they chose to show in detail absolutely baffled me. Almost any time an artist resorts to description of dead or dying animals - particularly in a work where dead or dying human bodies abound - they are experiencing a failure of art. There were so many strange choices of this sort, most notably the close-ups of Chigurh cleaning his gunshot wound. Again - why?

I didn't take much note of the Coen brothers' acceptance speech when they picked up Best Picture for this movie at the Academy Awards last week. But as I was leaving the theater today, I remembered one of them saying something like "we've been making movies together since we were little boys," and I thought - exactly, of course you referenced that. This was a little boys' movie. Very cool, very gory, very detailed in the way that little boys at play often are, but childish, simple, and ultimately unable to transcend self-referentiality.