Archives for the month of: November, 2010

Today I am giving thanks for many things, such as my family, friends, and health, for my wonderful apartment and amazing roommates, for college basketball and the internet and dinosaurs (even though they aren’t around anymore). I could keep going, but things would get weird. Anyway, most important for people reading this is that I am thankful that I found a solution to my camera problem!!!

The bad news is that it’s a really craptastic solution, but we’re going to live with that. I am a big fan of webcomics/blogs like Hyperbole and a Half, Natalie Dee, and XKCD. I have ambitiously decided to master the skills of drawing silly things in a basic paint program. So now instead of trying to take pretty pictures of my food that end up looking like piles of trash or perhaps vomit on a plate, I shall draw them on my computer instead.

I drew a picture of a Thanksgiving dinner, just to acclimate myself to this solution. Both drawings are pretty crappy, but I am still learning how to do this, so bear with me. Here you go:

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, EATERS!

I love entertaining. I especially love entertaining now that my apartment is larger than a shoebox (sorry, Easton) and I can do things like have multiple people over for dinner. Having done this a few times now, I have discovered an surprise secondary benefit to having people over for dinner: sometimes they invite you over to their apartment in return.

This exact series of events happened with Nick’s friend Alex, who conveniently lives about four blocks away from us. She joined us for Sunday Family Dinner one weekend when all four of us were crawling out of the same pile of hangover and then very kindly invited Nick, Becca, and me over to her apartment for dinner. So last Friday the three of us from Apartment 320 trekked over to Alex and Jane’s apartment for a scrumptious feast.

They served a huge pile of delicious, succulent chicken from a recipe that Alex just pulled out of her imagination. It involved onions and oranges and some other things that resulted in beautiful, mouthwatering chicken. In addition to the bird, Alex and Jane also served huge platters of sweet potato with yogurt sauce. We may have eaten most of the potato before the chicken was ready, which I instantly regretted because 1) I had less room for chicken and 2) I liked eating them together, but I am nothing if not impulsive, so I suppose it was inevitable.

For dessert, Jane had also prepared a large vat of pumpkin-chocolate-chip cookies, making this the most brilliant cookie idea I have ever heard of. She fired up the oven and threw in the first batch, which were baked for the recommended amount of time and looked and tasted like conventional (and extremely delicious) cookies. At this point I should probably admit that we were pouring wine down our throats the whole time, because by the time we finished the first round, we decided that we absolutely could not wait any longer and had to take out the second batch immediately. This time we got lucky and the resulting product still resembled a cookie, maybe just a little bit softer. However, if you have ever been kind of drunk and forced to wait for cookies, you can probably guess what happened next. We consumed each round faster than the last and still insisted on taking the next batch out of the oven as soon as we finished the previous one. Soon we were shoveling spoonfuls of warm cookie dough into our mouths. Although this was not the most dignified moment of the evening, I will say that the only thing better than Jane’s pumpkin-chocolate-chip cookies is Jane’s cookie dough heated in the oven and eaten with a spoon.

My happy conclusion is that entertaining is one of the best parts of my adult life. I love throwing big parties like our housewarming party on Saturday. I love cooking a simple meal for just a few friends. And then every so often something else wonderful happens like being invited over for a dinner party at a friend’s apartment.

“His life was chiefly made up of dinners, of journeys to and from dinners, of talks about past dinners, and of speculations upon future dinners.”

– Hesketh Pearson, ‘The Smith of Smiths’ (1934)

Editor’s Note: I apologize for the lack of pictures in recent posts. I am getting frustrated with the poor quality of images from my point-and-shoot camera. Will work on using my SLR and actually getting film developed, if anyone will still do that for me.

One of my favorite forms of procrastination involved browsing Ffffound. Ffffound is a great image bookmarking websites. It’s a bunch of images that users find on the web and submit. There are no captions, no explanations, just images and links to their sources. It sounds silly, but I can spend hours flicking through these images.

Recently I’ve seen many images of food and kitchens. I’m so infatuated with some of them that I had to share. In the spirit of the context in which I ffffound (sorry, had to) them, I offer no captions or explanations of why I like these photos. Just enjoy them.

{from Anyone, Girl}

More after the jump.

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I recently moved to a new apartment, and part of moving is getting used to new roommates and exploring a new kitchen. I have spent a lot of time with my new kitchen, particularly baking things like bread and cookies. My roommates are both fantastic. I’ve known Nick since we were 5 years old, so we are pretty used to each other. Becca is a relatively new friend, but she fits in perfectly. The three of us have many things in common, but one of my favorite commonalities is our love of food and cooking. In light of this shared passion, we’ve started Sunday Family Dinners. Each week one of us takes over the kitchen and prepares a meal for everyone. Becca started with fish tacos, Nick made meatballs two ways, and last weekend was finally my turn. Fall always makes me crave butternut squash in any form, so when I saw a recipe for roasted butternut squash in the Times I knew I had to make it. From there I thought backwards to figure out what protein I wanted to serve with my seasonal side dish. Ultimately I decided on a pork roast stuffed with a fruit stuffing.

I had never made a pork roast before, but after I saw my friends’ success with a gigantic turkey, I felt emboldened. That being said, my experience was not without obstacles. My first challenge was frenching the pork loin. I realize that I could have (and probably should have) asked the butcher at the store to do this for me, but I remembered seeing Alton Brown perform this procedure on TV once and he made it look easy. Never mind that he is a celebrity chef, I thought I could do it. What I forgot about is that we currently only have one (not particularly sharp) paring knife and that I actually know nothing about cutting meat. Fortunately in the end, my poor piece of meat looked decent. The cuts weren’t clean, but it looked fairly close to the pictures online.

The second challenge was stuffing my piece of pig. The recipe says to use a long-handled wooden spoon to stuff the meat, as if the loin is a giant mouth, impatient to consume the stuffing. This is not the case. Even though I made the appropriate cuts in both ends and shoved my hands inside to make sure the hole went all the way through, it was a big, gory mess trying to get the stuffing inside the pork. I tried the wooden spoon, a tablespoon, my fingers, a chopstick, etc., but I still had limited success. Ultimately, only the middle two pieces of the finished roast were stuffing-poor, but I’m still curious as to how to stuff it properly.

The last challenge was by far the most irritating. I finally had my meat prepared. I happily popped it in the oven and plopped myself on the couch for a short break. Not five minutes later, our smoke alarm starts going off. Anticipating the disgruntled attitude of this smoke alarm, I hopped on a stool and searched for the battery. After all, it is often better to be proactive. However, I ripped out the battery and the thing continued to wail in my ear. Nick was running around opening windows, Becca was fanning the alarm from below, I was getting more and more cranky. For about twenty minutes we took turns holding a plastic bag around the offending appliance until Nick finally got it to shut up. Eventually a maintenance man came to solve our problem: rip the smoke alarm out of the ceiling and sign a waiver stating that we agreed to this solution. Perhaps not the safest option, but definitely the most quiet.

Finally, we were able to sit down in silence and eat the meal. I was nervous that the meat would be underdone or overdone or otherwise inedible, but I must have had beginners’ luck because it came out PERFECTLY. This leads me to believe that the recipe is idiot-proof and I encourage everyone to try it, because it was delicious. The squash was a great side dish for the pork, and the vinegar in the squash dressing was a perfect compliment to the meal. I love my new apartment and I love my new roommates. Sunday Family Dinners couldn’t make me happier.

Sadly I don’t have pictures because I don’t have a fancy camera that takes pretty pictures (actually I do, it’s just not digital), but check out the recipes after the jump.
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“With enough butter, anything is good.” – Julia Child

If you have read almost any other post on this blog, you know that I love buter. So I was pleased to see this article in the Wall Street Journal last week about the rise of artisanal butters, particularly in fine restaurants in China. If you open just about any French cookbook, you will inevitably come across some sort of warning about how butter, flour, milk, etc. from the United States is not the same as the stuff in France. While I often find this sort of preaching about the superiority of French ingredients annoying, I can’t help admitting that they have a point.

I have very strong feelings about butter. I love eating it. I hate when restaurants serve butter too cold; it shouldn’t be difficult to spread. And, at the risk of sounding like a snob, I am feverishly fascinated by tasting different kinds of butter. I will not pretend that I have an over-developed palate that can taste the “terroir” of butters of different origins, but I do find it an interesting experiment. I couldn’t tell you exactly why, but different butters DO taste different, and I want to taste them all.

A butter list seems a bit excessive in the same vein of a bottled water list, but, like food-blogger Celine Flamain says in the WSJ piece, “The cuisine of a chef reflects his personality, and that holds true even of small details like what butter he chooses to serve. Chefs should look to promote small traditional and artisanal producers.” And I am always looking for ways to promote the consumption of butter.

{read the WSJ article}

I usually just eat my food, but sometimes people come up with other creative uses for it. For example, Ami Goodheart of SOTO Productions brought together fifteen designers and six models to create this stunning series of food-clothing photos. My favorite is this artichoke dress, but check out Behance’s post for the rest of the creations.

{images from Behance}

Thanksgiving dinner has to be one of the best meals of the year: the mountains of food, the copious amounts of wine, the trips home to see family. But as wonderful as all those things are, I often find myself thankful for my friends on this particular day of reflection. With similar thoughts in mind, my friend Alice and her roommate Meg came up with a brilliant plan to host an early Thanksgiving dinner so we could celebrate the holiday with our friends.

(Image courtesy of Nick Northrup)

So this past Saturday I woke up, made some cranberry sauce, and hauled myself out to Bushwick. Guests brought a variety of cheeses, crackers, and wines, some much better than others (I brought a few bottles of Asti Spumante, which Alice promptly guzzled). We encountered the very real and daunting fear that we would become too full on cheese and not have enough room for the actual dinner, but being the motivated and ambitious individuals we are, we somehow persevered.

The chosen bird, fondly referred to as Hugo, was delicious. Meg, Alice, and Rob slaved over Hugo the whole day, carefully dressing him, stuffing him, and basting him. Once finished, the spread was impressive: turkey, stuffing, tomato potatoes (ask Rob, I prefer to lather my potatoes in butter and cream), cranberry sauce, kale salad, sweet potato casserole, yams, and possibly other delicious dishes that I then forgot during my subsequent food coma.

After dinner the night unraveled into a wine- and gravy-soaked bacchanal, but I remain impressed by dinner. Growing up, I always assumed that at some point between college and the real world, I would suddenly inherit Adult Knowledge. Things like using a real estate broker or building a stock portfolio or, in this case, making an entire Thanksgiving dinner. Over the past two years, I have realized that becoming an adult is a much different kind of process. You don’t take a class to learn how to make Thanksgiving dinner. One day you just have to wake up and do it. Although this particular dinner was a group effort (that I personally did not put that much effort into, if we’re being honest), it was still a more delicious meal knowing that we made it ourselves. When I go home in a few weeks, my parents’ turkey will taste even better because I’ll be at home and it will actually be Thanksgiving and, well, it was cooked by my family. All the same, I applaud Alice and Meg for being delightful hostesses who took the plunge and gave us our first taste of Thanksgiving adulthood.