I agonized — let me tell you — about what to call this recipe. First, in my head, it was a pumpkin pot pie. But that sounded too much like a plain old pumpkin pie; or like a pot pie with little chunks of pumpkin floating around. Not appetizing. Then it was a poultry pot pumpkin. That, I thought, was cleverer. But it was unclear to the folks on whom I tested it what the pot meant, given that we don’t live in Colorado or Washington State. I went back and forth until Sarah finally told me: why don’t you give it a descriptive — not cutesy — title? Your readers will appreciate it, and the fairies at Google who decide how to rank pages will appreciate it too. So I did. And it’s what you see above.
But no matter what this dish is called, here’s the important part: there’s lots of stuff floating around on the Internet about what to cook for Thanksgiving. I’ve posted here, in fact, about how one might go about roasting a turkey, making squash side dishes, and even pumpkin mousse. But what’s really important in this season of too much food is not what you do on the day itself, but — clearly — how you handle the leftovers.
Is your old model caramelized onion tart starting to feel long in the tooth? Do you bring it to parties only to have your friends and family give it a big ho hum? Well I’m here to tell you, folks, that the new and improved Twice Cooked onion tart is here to save the day, taking your allium game from old to new.
That’s right. Just in time for your Thanksgiving feast, we’ve upgraded our caramelized onion tart from one featuring Manchego cheese and a few Walnuts to one bursting with bacon, Brussels sprouts, and a cheddar so sharp that it will make the back of your tongue convulse with joy (your Cheddar may vary).
Here in the United States, today is voting day. Today is the day that many states decide on new governors, some on new senators, and all of them on new representatives. Voting is the most important duty and the greatest privilege of citizenship in the United States. And the stakes this year cannot be overstated. So if you have not yet gotten to the polls: go now!
Kind of, sort of, you may consider this a follow-up to my previous post about the rhetoric and logic of why people ferment. Two of the folks who I’ve interviewed for this project — one a very old friend, and one a fairly recent one — both had some very interesting observations about why they make pickles, and why other people do too. To a certain degree, they engage with some of the reasons bloggers lay out for pickling — fermentation as tradition, environmental consciousness, health, etc. — but when I said before that those rhetorical moves are far from comprehensive — well — I think you’ll see what I mean. Just read.
If you’re wondering where I’ve been (dear readers!), the answer is otherwise occupied. The past two weeks have been overflowing with grading, and more grading, and a plethora of projects that spread their tendrils like a delicate blue-cheese penicillium into every crack and crevice of my free time. At least one of those projects is food related, however, and based on some research I’ve done for it, here is one observation.
There are a few standard rhetorical moves that food bloggers — including myself — make when introducing lacto-fermentation to their audience:
- The broad call to history and tradition: “This is a technique as old as time itself, that has sustained humanity through its harshest winters when it would otherwise have starved. I want you to feel — FEEL — that connection, people.”
- The call to family history: “This is a wholesome food, and I know it’s wholesome because it’s something that my great grandmother would have eaten with relish.”
- The call to ethnic heritage: “My family is from Lithuania, so when I think of sauerkraut, I think of old men in suspenders, up to their elbows in cabbage, smoking cigars on the porch on Sunday afternoon.”
- The health claim: “I’m no doctor, I’ll admit, but after eating these peachy fermented green beans for a month, the knot in my back unclenched and my singing voice improved!”
- The moral claim: “By doing this, we’re saving the environment and sparing our children from a gut bereft of beneficial bacteria. Won’t somebody please think of the children?”
- The foodie claim: “Michael Pollan / Sandor Katz / Sally Fallon / whoever else all but demand that we ferment!”
- The disclaimer: “I know that this sauerkraut looks funky. But it tastes fun-KAY!” Or: “I swear guys, lacto-fermentation won’t kill you.”
The thing about all of these moves is that while they have their place and while, in a limited way, they describe some of the reasons we ferment, they are not comprehensive. It turns out that folks practice lacto-fermentation for all kinds of reasons. And while health, morality, or tradition may play some role, practical concerns — like the question of what to do when your neighbor gives you a bale of kale — are at least as important. It seems only right that deliciousness and the thrifty thrill of a homemade salty snack often win the day over loftier ideals.
There’s no particular judgment here. Like I said, I have engaged in many of these rhetorical moves, and I stand by the idea (for example) that lacto-fermentation is worth doing because it connects us to our common humanity. But I can’t eat common humanity, whereas I’ve got a great big inviting jar of pickled turnips waiting right over there.
Klingon gagh, no doubt, is the iconic food of the modern Star Trek canon. Whether it’s on The Next Generation or Deep Space Nine, whenever a group of Klingon warriors congregate together to share a meal and sing a song, there are two things of which you can always be assured: first, that there will be loud calls, in mixed tones of anger and levity, for another barrel of blood wine; and second, that there will be the relished consumption of gagh.
According to Memory Alpha the great wiki repository of all things Star Trek canon, gagh is a Klingon delicacy made from serpent worms. Although most Klingons preferred it live, it could also be served stewed or cold.
My intention, I have to admit, was not to make a pear-apple crisp. This was meant to be a tart. It was meant to be neatly sliced wedges of fruit lined up in a pretty pattern, forming concentric spiraling circles, embedded in an ever-so-slightly sweetened mascarpone base, inside the most delicate of shortcrust pastry shells.
I had imagined it — obviously — maybe a little bit too vividly. It would have been glorious.
These eclairs were pastries of necessity, people. With almost four dozen eggs haunting my fridge, I really had no choice but to act rashly. But the thing with making eclairs for no particular occasion is that they can only be done in batches of two dozen. And with only three or four people to devour them — that’s a high per capita rate of pastry cream.
I cannot — alas — give you a recipe. It isn’t mine to give. But if you’re interested, I would highly recommend investing in a copy of Pastry: Savory & Sweet by Michel Roux. It is short, cheap, and has lots of pictures. But despite those things, I have not seen a better book for making elegant pastries at home.
Just when I thought I was out, the mead keeps pulling me back in.
It was less than a month ago, now, that I bottled last year’s strawberry melomel. With Sarah’s invaluable help, there was a flurry of sanitizing and syphoning, filling, corking, cleaning, and trundling boxes of bottles down into the basement.
The strawberry mead came out just right: pale pink, with a definite and delicious fruit flavor, and a hint of oxidation that adds toffee complexity at the back end of every sip. It will need to age for a year or two. It’s still a little hot, alcoholically speaking. But I’m pleased. No doubt — one of the better meads I’ve made.
I went out to Mood’s Farm in rural New Jersey with friends Linda and Keli, we spent really only a couple of hours picking, and the result — which is what you see above — is over 45 pounds of berries. That’s fifteen pounds for each of us. Or — actually — enough berries to make a pie for me, and then the rest for Linda and Keli who made several different kinds of jelly and jam (and I think liqueur), and gave me jars of preserved things in return for my efforts.
It’s a good idea, people, to have friends who are enthusiastic about canning. And it’s even better to have canning-happy friends who are always on the lookout for economical fruit, and grateful to have an extra hand in getting it. My pantry, dear readers, is stocked.