Friday, November 30, 2007

Feeding the children

Sometimes I play Mother and feed the 'children' at work. Today a chocolate cake with a whisky frosting. I blush: it's cake out of a box. And then the frosting was icing sugar, good cocoa and 12 year old Scotch. Ha! The cake was timely, apparently, as some of the children didn't want to play together and had to be bribed.
When I was very little I had a friend - "friend" - named Charne - stress on the e, like "ay" Human (where is she now)? She came to play for a few weeks in a row, on what day of the week, I forget. But my mom would buy chocolate boxcake for us and supervise the mixing and baking, and soon we would eat the results. One day my mom forgot the boxcake. Like a good hostess I fessed up to Charne immediately at the front door, whence her mother had walked her from their car. No cake today, I said. Charne turned on her heel, with her mom holding her hand, took the long walk back up the garden path, through the doors in the wall, and out of my playdate life.
I've been feeding my friends ever since.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

My diet

Well, I can't find it. Somewhere in MFK Fisher's The Art of Eating is her story about, I think, the gourmand Brillat-Savarin's prescription for himself when he felt he had over-indulged. Ever since I read it I have used it, once in a very long while (in smaller quantities), when I feel jaded, and tired of food in general.
He would stay at home, open a bottle of red wine, and drink it off with the accompaniment of a loaf of bread and some good cheese.

A cleansing diet if you will.

Mine is:

wholegrain baguette from Sahadi's
aged Lancashire cheese
Mrs Ball's chutney
and a glass, or two, of red

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Momofuku review

Momofuku in the East Village opened a larger space a couple of doors up from the old, noisy, hot, exciting one. Chris took me to lunch today and we discovered that: the prices are the same, some of the bowls are smaller, there was less broth in the pork ramen...We didn't have a seat in front of the kitchen so couldn't see the baby octopus being murdered and then squashed flat on the griddle...

...but the hot spice spoon was very pretty

The $10 pork buns were bloody delicious: creamy with long, slow-cooked, fat-riddled pork belly and crunchy with vinegared cucumber, soft and comforting inside the steamed buns that must resemble the white bosom of Pierre's awful wife in War and Peace...

The broth for the ramen was still very good but there was considerably less of it. T-t-t.

Oh dear. Baby poop, said Chris looking at it. Catsick, I volunteered. Then we got the giggles.

But eat it we did. Beef tongue. With the offending sauce. No, no, no. I must send them the fluffy mustard sauce recipe. And tongue does not have to look like this. It can look good. And worse, the part that really should have been, well, peeled, for lack of a better word, had not been peeled. Oh yum, said Chris, the tongue is tasting me back...

Verdict: it's too expensive for what it is. But what is done well is done very well. Like the buns. And the broth.

His pumpkin pie softserve to go.

And it went.

Click the links for additional visits to Momofuku and Ssam. 

And Ssam...

How we get there

I miss my bike...Dear Father Christmas (I'm South African, that's what we say): if you exist, could I please have a bike? A vintage bike. Preferably with no gears and brakes in the pedal. And a basket. For my onions.

I rarely travel home at rush hour. My usual ride-time is 6 or 7pm by which time the crowds have thinned considerably. This, soon after 5 o'clock, looks considerably more civilized than it felt. All we needed was the addition of salt and olive oil.

Google not, lest ye be Googled...

These fell in the windstorm we had last night. I have been admiring them on the branch for days in the park on Congress and Clinton and today, carpet. Beautiful things.

Cyber-ubiquity is something...All at once we are everywhere. If it hasnt been blogged, it hasn't happened. A client [hello Client...] found me here sometime in the last few days and suddenly I find myself wondering, What on earth must they think?

Mais, c'est moi. And my French lessons are coming along nicely. Merci, Prof!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Late Fall

Congress Street yesterday.

A gingko on Forsyth Street beside the soccer fields.

And my guilty pleasure today...ginger ale and Scotch

Nada mas...

The demise of the Ham meant the birth of the Soup.

Hambones seem mythic to me. Southern. With pedigrees literary and long. I knew in theory what to do with a hambone but this was my first. Usually I leave it politely with its pickin's at its destination address. This time I stole it back. What does this say about me? That I've finally wised up? I giveth and I taketh away? That what vestige of manners I had left has been robbed by life in the big city? I was hungry?

Actually, I just wanted this soup.

Informed by lessons now forgotten in books read and internalized and possibly on my shelf, I went shopping. I bought kale for the first time in my life. Dark green, iron-rich-looking stuff, and it reminded me of a single plant I'd seen on the Bosphorus (beside it, I mean) in a back garden near a restaurant to which Bevan had taken me to eat on a cold day in a Turkish winter.

I knew I wanted white beans because of the classic pairing of beans and dark leafy greens I've absorbed via eating out and reading. A plateful at the River Cafe in London was good if lukewarm some years ago.

I thought I knew that collard greens (another mystery to me) take a long time to cook so decided to treat the kale the same way. So:

1 bunch of kale, washed
4 garlic cloves chopped finely
1 onion chopped finely
1 shallot, etc
1 Tbsp red chile flakes
6 thin rashers pancetta, in strips
1 hambone with about a cup of pickin's
2 cups white wine
juice of a lime

I put the bunch of kale in a stock pot in which some (1 Tbsp?) olive oil had been heating. I tossed in four finely chopped garlic cloves and clapped the lid on for the ensuing steam to help the leaves wilt. I stirred quite a lot to prevent scorching. I also added half a cup of water since the stirring threatened not to work. In the meantime I cleaned what was left from the hambone and divided it into apartheid-like heaps fat and meat. I got rid of the fat (that would be the whites being pushed into the sea?). After five minutes or so the kale had wilted and I added an entire tablespoon of red chile flakes. Then pancetta strips and a chopped onion and shallot (one should do this first, I suppose, before the kale, but I forgot, being distracted by the novelty of the frilly greens). Then the hambone and meat and the wine. Cooked it off for a minute and then added water to cover the bone. Juice of one lime. This lot cooked for an hour, uncovered, on simmer and then I added the well-rinsed can of big white beans I'd bought. Cans are exciting! I don't know much about them.

In a little saucepan I made a roux of 2 Tbps butter and about 3 Tbsp flour and cooked it over medium-low heat for five minutes. Then added hot liquid from the soup, stirring madly to prevent lumps. Then added that back to the stockpot to thicken slightly.

Another half hour, some salt and pepper and limejuice added and we were ready. Spooned it into big bowl and grated a bit of Parmesan over it, since I'd now decided it was Italian...

Friday, November 23, 2007

This little pig went wee, wee, wee...

...all the way to the Flatiron District, to Eric and Mimi's Thanksgiving dinner.

Part the Second

So. To recap: we left the pig in a blanket

...and under a coat.

The next morning, Thanksgiving Day, I unwrapped him. The liquid was still so hot I could not keep a finger in it without burning.

I lifted him out and he looked pretty much the same as when he'd gone in. But he was not.

Very carefully I cut away the skin, leaving a good layer of fat. Where the fat was much thicker, I shaved it off.

Then I scored the fat lightly with my knife, to make diamond shapes. Don't cut down to the meat or it will peel away during baking.

At each intersection of scorelines I put in a clove.

I mixed 8 tablespoons of brown sugar with two of powdered (dry) mustard...

...and I patted it firmly all over the scored fat. Then stuck it in a 350' oven for about 40 minutes with some ladlesful of the cooking liquid from its pot. Every ten minutes or so I opened the oven and patted some more of the sugar mixture over the pig, as it tends to slide off in the heat as it melts and caramelizes.

The finished pig.

But wait!

I reduced the leftover juices in its roasting pan and spooned them over as a last glazing.

Then put it in cab with myself and drove to Manhattan, smelling like Thanksgiving.

It was eaten up.