Spam comments are friendly. They’re weird, but they’re friendly. Certainly better than the weird shit I get from real people, ranging from complaints directed to a specific branch of a multinational corporation or disturbingly specific health issues, or personal attacks. Even the one that just said, ‘ass this is my website ass’ entertained me more than the diarrheic diatribe on…diarrhea. They keep me entertained during my long days, especially when I’ve caught up on work and have little to do but bake gluten-free muffins and dance with animatronic birds.
With an enormous rainstorm and a chilly wind, we’ve finally ushered the oppressively hot summer out and have welcomed in autumn. I forgot how much I missed those good New England fall evenings. My new place is on the top floor of the building, and has an advantageous position both for a pleasant view and smoky winds, coming in from the fields and filling the place with that scent I so missed while abroad.
Last evening, the Bedfellow and I decided to mimic the smoky scents with a dinner reminiscent of that pungency, using an ingredient we picked up at the Fancy Food Show. This is Brooklyn Salsa’s newest creation, a hot mole salsa that speaks more like a sauce. I can’t give it a higher opinion- it’s the best jarred mole I’ve ever tried, with absolutely no fatty or oily texture to speak of, with a smooth, rich flavor redolent with roasted chili peppers, sesame, and chocolate.
The tacos had equal aplomb, coated in crema, queso fresco, avocado slices, and roasted tomatoes. Color me gauche, but I love Hunt’s fire-roasted canned tomatoes. They added a decent depth of flavor without diluting the sauce, and if anything, contributed to the strength of the more roasted flavors.
With those and the aforementioned toppings piled on fresh blue corn tortillas- a pleasant and snappy diversion from the blank white corn canvases, we had ourselves a wonderful autumn meal. Making these vegetarian would likely also be fun, as I can imagine the flavors would translate well to squash or other dense vegetables.
I’m curious to try the other salsas- I’d love to see if they’re as dualistic as dips and sauces as this one was.
Woof. I mean, like, really, woof. Emphasis on the woof part. If you came to the site for the insightful commentary on food, history, charming personal anecdotes about DH and the kids, and artful photography, get the hell out. For the next three years, I’m going to be complaining about Connecticut, law school, gluten, and home decor!
For the remaining three of you, Mom included, you’ll be pleased to know that my roving bachelor lifestyle has allowed me plenty of time to cook and study in equal amounts. It was refreshing to come back from a study session after a beast of a contracts case in anticipation of the meal I’d planned for The Bedfellow and I. I’ve finally finished my first week of law school- just 150 more of them, and I’ll officially be an attorney. Cool, right?
On another note, I’ve been trying to find ways to cook and interact with this new change in diet. As of this moment, I’ve cut approximately 98% of gluten out of my diet. It’s really difficult, but the change is positive and just makes me feel much better than I’ve been feeling. I’ve tried to take a centrist approach to it, in that I’m not eating gluten unless I’m presented with something so incredible, ephemeral, and perfect that the benefits outweigh the risks. Then, I can work around the crippling headache, chills, itchiness, tightness in my skin, sweats, general fatigue, and muscle aches.
As a note, and for clarification, I don’t profess to have any official gluten allergy or celiac’s disease. I have not been diagnosed by a doctor, nor have I made any other significant changes other than realizing the issue at hand- namely, that when I eat gluten, my body feels awful almost immediately after. It’s as simple as that, and I’ve been working to alter my diet to reflect this new need. Don’t think that I’m not trying to resist it, either. I broke the other night and ate a cookie and paid for it in physical ramifications severe enough to force me to lie down for a few hours until they subsided. It’s hellish and strange, but I’m working through it. I won’t stop looking for the best brownie until I’ve exhaustively worked through the long list of gluten-free products. And you’ll still see plenty of gluten-ridden products on the website, but The Bedfellow will be tasting them and relaying her notes to me instead. This isn’t so bad. Hopefully, it will encourage me to make healthier changes, and the ensuing energy and good feelings will help me maintain them.
So, last night, I made us roasted chicken roulades with wasabi goat cheese and tart cherries. The recipe was easy, and came from an abundance of food in my new apartment. (Thanks, Mom and Dad!) I had a little round of chevre from Capri that I was excited to use, and The Bedfellow brought some powdered wasabi over. I pounded the chicken flat, and added the cherries, which I’d roasted with lemon salt and olive oil, to the cheese and stuffed the breasts with it. I roasted them in the juices leftover from the cherries, and topped them with wasabi powder and a little more lemon salt.
They were delicious, filling, and pleasantly spicy. This rambling, of course, is both to let you know that I haven’t overdosed on ramen noodles in a fit of panic with school, and also to announce Cookbook Week, which I’ll be starting next Friday. I have seven cookbooks, and I’ll be cooking a recipe from each, all gluten-free, to share with you and give you thoughts on my results. This one was my own, of course, but my trials and tribulations will be broadcasted as they come.
(Bonus GF Gratify pretzel and smoked almond chicken tenders with hot mustard pic!)
I’m back! I have approximately 200 words and 2 billion citations (CMS, natch) in between me and a shiny, special undergraduate degree, and I can guarantee you those 200 words will literally be the death of me. I am going to die with my hands frozen in the position of typing the word ‘gendered’ as a result of this paper. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing more that I love in God’s beautiful world than writing about feminism, food, gender ambiguity, and psychology, but a girl needs to eat and see the light of day every so often.
A recent adventure to Target yielded this gem of a product, the likes of which can be found in no other place on the internet, including the venerable Ms. Crocker’s website. The package tells me these, along with their frosting, are a Target exclusive. They’re easy to prepare- one stick of butter and an egg and they’re set. Unfortunately, I now know the psychological implications of these additions as a result of reading way too much Freudian psychology comingled with Crocker history. The egg is supposed to satisfy my need to have many, many babies. Thanks, Ernst Dichter!
The mix is classic unicorn cocaine plus sprinkles. There is the option to add frosting, if you want to undergo death by dental assistant.
I like these, but I can’t quite tell why. I think the sweet, vague resemblance to other sweet things- maple syrup, raspberry donut filling, and bubble gum, with the lemony undertones, make them enjoyable cookies, but they don’t distinguish themselves in the same way other aggressively flavored, sweet confections, like Thin Mints or cotton candy itself do. Their texture is almost perfect- grainy, obviously sugar-heavy, and incorporates the unusual addition of corn cereal which gives the cookies a layered, flaky heft, but they crumble so easily in both cooked and uncooked form that they’re difficult to eat.
They’re fun cookies, but on my current fun scale of my life, with ‘finals and uncomfortable family gatherings’ at one end of the spectrum and ‘spontaneous fauxhawks’ at the other end, these rank somewhere in the middle, lumped alongside walking to school and talking to professors. Do I enjoy these activities? I suppose. Would I willingly do them? Rarely. These cookies are just good enough to give to my neighbors- the ones who didn’t egg my front door.
A few weeks ago, I retrieved a shipment of cheese from Yancey’s Fancy (retrieved as UPS and their terrible shipping policies held my cheese random) and received a selection of delicious flavors, one of which was this amazing-looking tandoori gouda.
I knew I wanted to cook something special with it, but I wasn’t sure what would do the flavor justice. Making normal Indian food didn’t seem to fit the bill, and fusing too many flavors together would overwhelm the delicate gouda’s flavor.
A beautifully serendipitous sale on brisket gave me a great idea, though- why not make tandoori brisket cheesesteaks? The cheese is the biggest player, and I’d realized I was overdue for a good sandwich. Realizing I lack the capacity to eat an entire loaf of bread is sobering, but the bliss found at being able to make an enormous sub with baguette and eat it for dinner outside, with Red, was incomparable.
I made the brisket in the slow cooker. I want to eventually do one in the oven, but the oven in this apartment is erratic and tends to dry meat out unless I check it religiously. As I started the brisket at 4AM, I figured I ought to prioritize sleep over meat-checking, so I just popped it in the cooker and took it out at 5PM the next day. The brisket had a dry rub and a wet rub, the former a mixture of tandoori spices, curry powder, salt, pepper, garlic, and chili powder, and the latter, whole-grain honey mustard, honey, and brown sugar. This was all accompanied by a few shakes of hot sauce to balance out the sweeter flavors.
When it was done, I shredded it. It was my original objective to slice it, but it was just too tender! I popped the pan in the oven to get a bit of a crispy crust on it before assembling the sandwiches. After sauteeing some peppers and onions with a little olive oil, I was ready. Tandoori mayo, meat, veggies, and cheese went atop the bread, and the whole thing went into the oven for about 20 minutes at 350 to melt the cheese. Once finished, I drizzled the sandwiches with some of the sauce leftover from cooking and we ate them.
And of course, nothing is better than a tandoori cheesesteak, except a tandoori cheesesteak omelet in the morning. It was a really fun way to get creative with my sandwiches! I have a few more cheeses from Yancey’s to try — strawberry chardonnay and maple bacon are two that I’m itching to cook with. What should I make?
Autumn in Paris: Not exactly like those old Bunuel films you watched as a child. That’s my running tagline and I’m sticking to it. Parisian Seasonal Tourist Board, here I come! Imagine a classic, smoky New England autumn. Now, remove 75% of the leaves, replace the woodfire smoke permeating the air with cigarette smoke (admittedly comforting in its own right) and make it rain, baby. Literally. Luckily, I have plenty to occupy my time with, including, but not limited to, perusing museum exhibits solely devoted to the sex lives of wild animals, creating playlists about said museum exhibit, and making weird French toast with my guiltiest French pleasure, Harry’s white bread.
Seriously, Harry’s is like a food diaper. It may be part polymer. It soaks up sauces, liquids, butter, you name it- and never loses its shape or wilts underneath the pressure of the many condiments I subject it to. It is perfect for French toast, and pretty much everything else. Lacking the ingredients to make anything else, I turned my sights toward French toast- as well as the leftover bag of Earl Grey I had after getting sick last week. I made this as a lazy Tuesday breakfast after eating dinner with my fellow exchange friend, Optimus Prime, and will go to bed with dreams of brown butter, infused with the smell of spices throughout my apartment.
Earl Grey French Toast
Ingredients (serves 4)
12 slices of thick, squishy white bread
1 cup of whole milk
The zest of one lemon
3 bags of Earl Grey tea
1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, vanilla bean, nutmeg, and sea salt. Set aside and prepare your milk, setting it up to boil in a saucepan on the stove. Once the milk is boiled, put the lemon zest and tea bags in. Let it steep for 15-30 minutes.
2. Once the milk is cool, beat with the egg mixture. Pour over bread and let soak until completely absorbed. In a large pan on the stove, melt two tablespoons of butter until sizzling.
I am not the most observant Jew. Case in point, posting about Franco-prepared pork on Yom Kippur, albeit two days after I actually made it, still makes me look like a halfhearted Sasha Baron Cohen progeny. Even if I told you I was fasting today, my flagrant offense of everything Jewish ever makes it pale in comparison. Still, it goes without saying that when steaks run up to $24/pound and when frozen chicken breasts swallow the bulk of your birthday money, seeing a 2 lb. pork shoulder for 4 Euro means that you put your money where your mouth is and eat like a queen for four days. Hence, Carnitas Francaises.
Two pounds, four Euro. And to think that all that I had to do was roll up my sleeves and hack at this sucker with a serrated knife like my life depended on it. After trimming and removing the skin and most of the fat and filleting the meat from the bone, I ended up with roughly 1.25 lbs of tender meat. I knew I wanted to make carnitas on the stovetop, and I also knew that I wanted to have a spicy, but distinctly French flavor profile, so I made a spice blend that incorporated all of those components.
The result, after three hours of simmering and twenty minutes of frying and chopping, was transcendental. Roddy, here’s that Franco-Mexican fusion we spoke of. Sheer, tender delight in miniscule shreds accompanied by a quick gastrique. I had every plan to make this into tacos, buy or make tortillas and eat it over the period of a few days, but its allure ensured that that never came to fruition. I ate it plain, slathered with its spicy, fruity sauce, on baguette, on white bread, but never on tortilla. However, there will be another time for this, that much I am sure of.
Ingredients (serves 4)
1 2lb. bone-in pork shoulder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon of garlic powder/1 clove of chopped garlic
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 tablespoon of parsley
1/4 cup of red wine (I used Bergerac AOC)
1. Trim, debone, and cut the pork shoulder into small pieces, roughly 3-4 inches long. Heat a pot with roughly 3 cups of water on the stove on high.
2. Mix the spices together and toss to coat the pork. When the water is boiling, put in the pork and lower the heat to a simmer. Let the pork cook for 2-3 hours uncovered, or until all the water is evaporated.
3. When the water has evaporated, the pork will start to caramelize and fry in its own fat. After the pork is brown, remove it and let the bottom of the pan continue to brown. Pour in the wine and deglaze for a few minutes until reduced and toss in the pork again, allowing the wine to cover the meat. Remove the pork and shred.
Habanero Raspberry Bergerac Sauce
Ingredients (serves 4)
2 tablespoons habanero hot sauce, or 2 chopped habanero peppers
1/4 cup of red wine (I used Bergerac AOC)
1/3 cup fresh raspberries or raspberry jam
1. Let all ingredients simmer in a saucepan until reduced and thick. Stir frequently. Keep in a sealed container for up to 4 days.
I thought I’d give you a glimpse into my diet here- it’s a little different than what I’m used to back home, but still delicious! My goal has been to try a new cheese every time I need it at the grocery store, and with the low prices and wide selection, that’s not difficult to achieve.
In addition to eating cheese, I get a fresh baguette or loaf of bread from the bakery down the street each morning. There are two of them- the trick is picking the one that doesn’t publicly humiliate a patron who, say, asks for “un” baguette at six in the morning instead of “une” baguette and has, “Oh, ewe ‘ood like wahn baguette, laydee?!” scathingly screeched at her. Needless to say, I go to the other one, the one that gives bread and doesn’t ask questions. And I always ask for “une” baguette.
With that delicious bread, I make sandwiches, accompanied by fresh fruit and coffee. And this is usually how my day begins.
For lunch, I have been sticking to basic dishes with plenty of leftovers, like pasta and this failed attempt at crepes above, as well as my latest all-purpose sandwich combining my favorite things (hot sauce, fresh raspberries, eggs, meat, and cheese) that ends up costing around $1.40 if I’m careful.
What can I say? I’m glamorous and smart.
My cheese selection has varied, but I’m most partial to mild, soft cheeses, like this Basque Tomme Noir and gooey Petit Munster.
However, when I have a big lunch, I usually go all-out and have a lot of protein and of course, potatoes on the side. This was from a visit to a delicious farm- I met all of the animals, and then I ate them. Roasted duck with bacon and house potatoes.
And despite my love for all icy beverages, I’ve developed a taste for tea, especially Kusmi’s offerings and the famous French tea house, Mariage Freres, whose haunting bourbon vanilla tea starts or ends a day with finesse.
Berthillon? Don’t mind if I do. There’s always room for dessert. This wasn’t the authentic Berthillon- their original location was closed for renovation when I went, but there are plenty of licensed Berthillon retailers to satisfy your creamy cravings. None of that knockoff stuff! This was a sweet, fresh cone of gianduja, with chunks of orange rind and nut, and salted caramel. So there’s a week in the life- can’t wait to show you more of what I’ve been cooking!
When we picked our housing for Paris, it was obvious that I was going to live in an apartment. I didn’t want to live in a dormitory for another semester, and although I wanted to get out and meet French people, I wasn’t too keen on living with a host family. What I was looking forward to, however, was the possibility of cooking and shopping for my own groceries. You’ve seen a selection of some of the things I’ve seen in grocery stores (with more to come!) so I thought it would be fun to show you what I’ve actually been cooking as well.
Buying groceries in Europe is very different from getting them in the US. Things that are typically imported into the States that are thus, more expensive, are less expensive in France due to their ease of manufacture and varied selection of items that do not have to be processed and distributed to transport overseas. This includes wine, cheese, cured meats, and bread. One can easily spend about 10 Euros, or roughly $13, on items that would add up to around $20-25 USD if purchased in stores. Recently, a 6 Euro purchase netted me a large baguette, a 250 gram wedge of fresh Brie, two 150 gram cartons of chopped bacon, and a half-bottle of Pays d’Oc red wine. This can be a very prosperous system if you do it correctly. Avoiding American brands, packaged, frozen goods (which I’ve found to be priced the most disproportionately) and fresh juices can help you stretch your Euro.
A few days ago, I picked up some ingredients that I knew I could cook in large quantities and hack around throughout the week if I had leftovers. So with some leftover white beans sauteed in bacon and thyme, wine, bread, and cheese. I made these B4 Burgers in Paris. They’re easy to make, very tasty, and can be customized to suit any flavor palate or combination.
B4 Burgers in Paris
Ingredients (makes 6 patties)
1 can of white beans, drained
1/2 stale baguette, crumbled
1/4 cup of red wine
1/4 cup of chopped bacon, cooked and drained
1 teaspoon of thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1. Form the patties by soaking the bread crumbs in the red wine and thyme until soft. Mix in beans and bacon until fully incorporated. Shape into patties and chill for 30 minutes to twelve hours in the fridge.
2. When ready to cook, start heating oil. Season patties with salt and pepper and fry on medium-high until golden brown on each side, roughly five minutes per side. When finished, remove patties, pour out oil and deglaze pan with red wine, reducing to a thick syrup.
3. Drain patties on paper towels and serve with brie on top. Spoon red wine glaze over the top and eat alone or with bread.
Suffice to say, I’ve been doing a lot of reading up on French customs and culture before I leave. I’ve been to Paris before, but never for this long and not on my own, and I want to acclimate myself as quickly as I can to avoid being the ugly American in the supermarket, pawing through the canned goods in search of Doritos. Many of the ways of living are out of convenience and basic mannerisms. I’m still reeling from the fact that in all of Paris, there are only six membership-based health clubs that I can find. Wherever shall I tone my pecs and strengthen my abs, I say? The bulk of changes should be easy to adjust to, with the exception of one killer Achilles’ heel that seems to come up on every site: peanut butter and chocolate.
According to my research, the French aversion to peanut butter comes from a combination of respect for an already refined product, chocolate truffles, as well as a natural apprehension against fattening, caloric products like the PB&J. Nutella, seen as a snack on its own versus a condiment in a many-layered ‘wich, is in another class entirely outside of chocolates you’d find in a shop. That being said, it was this classic combination that inspired me to think of a few other things that might be harder to find outside of the US, one of them being the iconic s’mores flavors.
So I’ve been whittling down the days that I have left (9!!) enjoying some of the classically American flavor profiles I know and love. I was sent the new Frosting Combinations from Duncan Hines a month or two ago and decided to give them a whirl with some cupcakes this evening. The frosting comes in a container slightly larger than most canned frosting with ample room for stirring in the flavor powder, available in 11 varieties. I went for the slightly tamer chocolate marshmallow, but bubblegum and chocolate mint are also available. The base is gummy and sticky, with a texture similar to Elmer’s glue, a dull sheen, and a pasty, powdery aftertaste. Again, also strangely similar to Elmer’s glue. It’s not flavorless, it’s mildly vanilla tasting and smelling, so inevitably, whatever you make will have undertones of vanilla frosting. If that’s a bad or a good thing, I’m not sure.
The flavor packets are sparse, but pungent. Chocolate marshmallow was intensely scented, smelling not of chocolate or sugar, but of dirt, black tea, and plant matter. Definitely not what you’d expect out of a frosting enhancement. I can’t say that the base flavor of the frosting was drastically enhanced by the powder one way or another. It vaguely resembled chocolate and marshmallows in the same way that knockoff Coach bags resemble the real thing. Both smell strange and are slightly sticky and are fairly far removed from their original inspiration. It also takes a lot of elbow grease to mix this. Three minutes into stirring, the frosting was still granulated and streaked. Five minutes later, it was brown and shiny and smelled like baking cocoa.
You can see here that my cupcake-making quest was successful. What you can’t see is that the inevitable passage of time, in this photo, approximately sixteen seconds, wrenched these cupcakes from the land of Twee, Adorable Things on Pinterest to Hashtag Blobby Baking Failures. Even after 45 minutes cooling and a stint in the fridge, the frosting slip-slid off these cupcakes both naked and anchored by graham cracker crumbs, into a sad pile on the counter. The flavor was muted in comparison to the cupcakes, the toppings, and the counter it sat on, and had all the edgy appeal of a 3PM television premiere on TNT. I didn’t like it. I think the ratios are off, and while the idea is in the right place, the intensity and accuracy of the flavors isn’t enough to make me want to try this again. You’re probably better off tinting plain frosting with extracts and natural coloring.