A yearlong hiatus, huh?
Since the last time I wrote here, a year ago, I’ve finished the Bachelor’s degree in Physics that I started eight long years ago before interrupting my studies to take a trip to Iraq. I’ve started a new job, while studying full-time towards a graduate degree. I’ve cooked nearly every night, and I’ve brewed almost 200 gallons of beer (most of it good). I’ve been too busy to write, but not too busy to cook.
I figure that Thanksgiving is as good a time as any to get back into the swing of blogging. After all, I’ll have plenty of late nights with which to stay caught up once the baby arrives! Oh yeah, that was the other thing that happened since last I wrote…
We also started a food coop with two other couples among our friends. We make enough to feed six, with leftovers, and deliver it to their houses once a week. We’ve been going for about a month, and it’s been a lot of fun so far. I think the trick is to find other people who are also excited about food. We’re going to start group blogging that venture, of course, and you can find it here: This Ain’t Your Mother’s Food Coop!
This Thanksgiving was the first in a while for which we did not do a majority of the cooking. We still made our “classics”: the Balsamic-glazed Brussels Sprouts and stuffing with mushrooms and plenty of herbs. We have another 28-pound turkey in the fridge to cook later this weekend, and a pot of chili to keep my friends and me warm as we brew a collection of holiday beers tomorrow.
Life is good.
There’s a little shop within a shop in Seattle’s famous Pike’s Market. Bavarian Meats is run by two German ladies who look like they just stepped out of The Sound of Music. They sell all sorts of, well, meat, and plenty more besides. Sauerkraut, red cabbage sauerkraut, spiced sauerkraut, curry ketchup…
I picked up a half pound of excellent bacon there, as well as 2 bones worth of Kasseler rippchen. Kasseler is a bone-in pork chop that has been smoked and cured. As I paid for the meat, the owner asked my fiance if we “vood like a veener on vich to neeble vhile you valk?”. It took Beth repeating it for me to understand, at which point I accepted my sample weiner. I went on my way a little more charmed.
Sauerkraut is easy and satisfying to make at home. Like the preserved lemons in the last post, all sauerkraut really takes is time. I’ll put up a recipe shortly- right now I’m going to give you something to do with it.
I make a lot of stocks and sauces in the fall. Fresh vegetables, a cool house, and freezer with room all say “make stock!” to me. Ok, the freezer never has room, but that doesn’t stop me. I grew up in a large household, and I remember helping my dad make broth from the leftover bones of roast chicken and turkey. These days, I pick up bone-in chicken breasts on $1/pound sales and fillet them myself, saving the bones and scraps for stock. Suck it, co-op.
I always start with a traditional base of browned carrots, onions and celery which a foodie might call “mirepoix”. I always hated cookbooks and cooks who call food by foreign names for no other reason than to sound fancy. You are not in France. Your dish is called “Eggplants and Zucchini”, not “Augberines et Courgette”. I find lawyers have a similar tendency, although “ex post facto” does sound quite a bit more interesting than “after the fact”.
Anyway. If I have spare time I might roast the veggies and chicken bones in the oven for an hour or so- it adds flavor, but it’s not necessary. I try to keep tasty kitchen scraps around for when I make stock- hard cheese rinds like Manchego or Parmesan go into the freezer, as do fresh herb stems like thyme or tarragon. There’s no “secret” to great stock. Don’t over season it- stock exists to be a base for the flavors of whatever you make with it, not to act as the last refuge of your kosher salt crystals.
Add everything to a pot and fill with water. I usually try to fill my 2 1/2 gallon pot about halfway with bones, scraps and veggies before filling it with water. Simmer the stock for a couple hours and set it aside to cool. I like to strain mine through wire mesh, then pick bits of meat off the bones for chicken noodle soup or chicken pot pie later. I freeze the stock in muffin trays. Once they freeze,dip the base of the tray in hot water. The cubes release easily, and you are left with easy-to-use half- cup stock blocks.