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.
This should come as a surprise to no one who has ever been there, but I’m going to say it anyway: hands down, New Orleans in my favorite food town in the United States. It exists at the cultural convergence of French, Italian, and down home Southern foodways. It draws on the best of Creole, Cajun, and Caribbean cuisine. In the past ten years, it has developed a strong link to Southeast Asia. And all of that while sitting on top of some of the best seafood on the continent.
It’s hard not to love New Orleans cooking, and when Sarah and I were down there last month — roadtripping and visiting my (too often neglected) family — we both fell in love with the food all over again. The fine dining, of course, is great. But we mostly went to in the other direction: po’ boy shops for fried oyster sandwiches (dressed); Mandina’s for trout almandines, sherried turtle soup, and crab parts buried in garlic and butter; into the French Quarter for raw oysters; and then out into (as far as I could figure) the middle of nowhere for some of the best phở I’ve ever eaten.
Tempering chocolate used to drive me crazy. There were several years there where I’d make chocolate dipped shortbread to send around to friends and family as gifts for the holidays. I would grit my teeth, pull out my electronic thermometer, marble slab, and heating pad, then fuss with getting my chocolate up to 130F, then down to 88F, then back up — just a hair of a hair, mind you — to the point of liquidity.
Achieving and maintaining those precise temperatures required constant vigilance. It always made a huge mess. And half the time, despite my best efforts, I missed my marks anyway, and my chocolate-dipped treats turned out streaky and waxy and gross, and totally unfit for service in yuletide care packages — or anywhere else.
I had no idea that such a thing as a Pal’s Sudden Service existed, but apparently, they sell hamburgers, chili dogs, and sweet tea all over Tennessee. I did not — alas — get a chance to eat at one of their establishments. But the delightfully campy exterior of this specimen in Greeneville tickled my sense of Americana. And when next I’m passing through the neighborhood, if I think I can stomach a dose of fast food, I might just stop.
Welcome, dear readers, to the new new new Twice Cooked.
This seems to happen just about once per year, here. I get progressively more peeved with the clutter and crud that builds up around the edges of the site, and when I can stand it no longer, I go into a fit of web-coding berserker rage, bulldoze the whole thing, and install something cleaner, faster, and (I hope) a little better both to read and maintain.
Life, alas, handed me some lemons last week.
It is difficult for me to overstate just how disruptive it has been to have been without a working oven for a week and more. Oh, in part the disruption has been about the blog. Every summer treat I might want to show you all — from tarts and quiches, to simple roasted vegetables, to fine and fancy eclairs — all requires an insulated box full of fire to transform raw ingredients into food.
There is no originality at all in this, but as part of a quick experiment, I’ve taken a stereo card from the 19th century, and turned it into an animated GIF. I really like the effect. It looks very much like a photo in three dimensions. And seeing as how it’s the Fourth of July and all, the stereo card I cut up is both taken by a famous American, and of a famous American.
So without further ado: Walt Whitman, by Matthew Brady.
The file turned out to be a tiny bit large. And for that I am very, very sorry.
To all of you for whom it is relevant — I’d like to wish you a happy Fourth of July. I have no recipe for you (alas!). But I do have a (sort of) food-related quotation from one of my favorite American authors: Herman Melville. Just by way of warning, it is from Typee, his first novel, which indulges in an unfortunate appetite for the exotification of the “savage” other. But Melville is capable of such impressive turns of phrase that it is worth tolerating this shortcoming in order to share in his clear delight in language. So:
Their very name is a frightful one; for the word ‘Typee’ in the Marquesan dialect signifies a lover of human flesh. It is rather singular that the title should have been bestowed upon them exclusively, inasmuch as the natives of all this group are irreclaimable cannibals. The name may, perhaps, have been given to denote the peculiar ferocity of this clan, and to convey a special stigma along with it.
These same Typees enjoy a prodigious notoriety all over the islands. The natives of Nukuheva would frequently recount in pantomime to our ship’s company their terrible feats, and would show the marks of wounds they had received in desperate encounters with them…. It was quite amusing, too, to see with what earnestness they disclaimed all cannibal propensities on their own part, while they denounced their enemies — the Typees — as inveterate gourmandizers of human flesh; but this is a peculiarity to which I shall hereafter have occasion to allude.
I sincerely hope that whatever culinary issues you face today, one of them is not a propensity for the inveterate gourmandizing of human flesh. But I do hope that the phrase, at least, will stick in your mind.