Yesterday, as the latest in Philadelphia’s series of serious winter storms began littering us with heavy, wet snow mixed in with pellets of ice and freezing rain — just about at the moment it became apparent that I wouldn’t be going outdoors, except perhaps with an oversized shovel — it occurred to me: I have on hand most of the ingredients belonging to several of my go-to V-Day culinary treats. But for none of those treats do I have all.
For chocolate mousse, for example, I am currently in possession of the eggs and the chocolate. But there is no cream to be found anywhere among my stores. For baked custard, I have saffron on hand, and (again) the eggs. But I’m all out of milk. For cake I lack frosting fixings, and for cookies chocolate chips. And I’d gladly whip up a mess of decadent French toast — a favorite of Sarah’s, and totally Valentine’s appropriate — except that in the absence of bread or dairy, what’s left might better be called an omelet.
Split pea soup has a slightly unfortunate place in the landscape of American popular culture. Especially, I think, for fans of classic horror. Just to mention it in the same paragraph as Linda Blair or Jason Miller is enough to evoke the scene in The Exorcist. It’s enough for us to recall — with a vivid, sickening churn of the stomach — that moment when Father Karras challenges the poor, possessed Regan.
If that’s true, Karras insists, if my mother really is in hell, and you’re really the Devil, you must know her maiden name. What is it? What is it?
He steps forward to drive home his point, and Blair’s response comes in the form of liquid. A green, gloppy, almost laughably gross bucketful, complete with a splattering sound effect.
I had thought, this year, that I might post a recipe that would be appropriate for the big game, the pigskin classic, the Super Bowl. It is, after all, one of the great calendar customs of the United States, in which folks come together to mark the passing of the winter with symbolically complex entertainment, the company of friends and family, and the life-affirming (if somewhat unhealthy) consumption of many of our native foods. It’s one of the great folk festivals, like the Palio in Siena, where the community as a whole bands temporarily into factions that compete against one another, but where that competition is ultimately about reaffirming our unity.
I explained all this to Sarah, and this is what she said: Clearly — you know nothing about football, or the Super Bowl. Not at all. So if you’re going to do this, you had better ask the advice of the Internet.
This is a recipe that I’ve been meaning to share for months. I had planned, in fact, to include it in my post about Madeira wine and the sea back in November. But then that post got too long with all its history and its drinking recommendations. And then the research involved in it tired me out on delicious nautical wines for a while. And then one thing led to another and — oh, look at that! — it’s almost February.
But please don’t take my tardiness on the Madeira braised chicken front to mean that I don’t absolutely adore it. That would be the exact opposite of the truth. And if you were to pass over this recipe just because it was a long time coming, it would make me — personally — very sad for you. Because this is, I think, the single best chicken recipe I’ve posted here at Twice Cooked.
My kitchen sometimes seems to have a problem of over-abundance. It’s not a bad problem to have, you understand. It’s much better than the other thing. But in part because of where my produce comes from — CSAs, farmers’ markets, Sarah’s garden, and the like — I have a kind of limited control over what comes into the house. Which means that fairly often, I end up with strange surfeits or even stranger imbalances.
Six pounds of cabbage and no onions, you say? For me — not an uncommon occurrence.
This is a problem, I seem to recall, that I wrote about last summer when the issue of the day was squash. Zucchini has notoriously high yields anyway, I think I said. And by the height of the season — just about the time it’s no longer novel — there’s so much of it around that farmers are selling it for next to nothing, and you’re forced to resort to leaving midnight care packages on your neighbor’s steps just to keep your own stock under control.
We’re cutting it awfully close to the wire, here, for making a New Years themed blog post. But I wanted to share this one in particular before the calendar turned.
The thing with this recipe, and with black eyed peas in general, is that they’re good luck when eaten during that liminal space as we step from one year to the next. The thrust of the tradition is that they represent coins and prosperity. And that our eating them represents incoming cash.
Pumpkin pie, dear readers, is one of my favorite autumn treats. But suspect squash purée, excavated from a sealed tin can labelled with a happy turkey, or a beaming grandmotherly face, or some other graphic designed to distract from the disturbing vagueness and small print of the tin’s actual ingredient list is a thing I find somewhat less agreeable. I’ve mentioned here before that dairy — like sweetened condensed milk — that is designed to be stored at room temperature disturbs me. And pumpkin glop is another one of those things that fits into the same general category in my mind.
Luckily, there is a way to produce squash purée that does not involve a can opener. And while it admittedly takes more time, it is hardly an arduous task.
As you consider this turkey breast roulade, I’d like you to think about two possible scenarios.
First: you’re having a small Thanksgiving. Maybe the budget is a little tight this year — maybe you got hit by the recent government shutdown — and the idea of flying to another state, and contending with a hotel, and managing the maintenance of hypothetical progeny is more than you can bear. And so you invite four or five friends, similarly stranded, to your house to share a meal, a couple of bottles of off-dry riesling, and — if you’re absolutely nothing like me — the gladiatorial rumble of two matched teams playing at American football.
It’s a comfortable Thanksgiving. Not elaborate, but enough.
So here’s the good-news / bad-news situation. Which should — by this point — sound like a pretty familiar situation to folks reading along at home.
The bad news is that once again, for the third year out of the last five, I’m not hosting Thanksgiving. I used to insist that Thanksgiving was my holiday. I used to beg, plead, and cajole family and friends to schlep out to Philadelphia from California, or Missouri, or wherever else to come eat turkey and dressing, pie, bread, and even curry — whether they wanted to or not. I insisted that you simply must make an appearance! It’s Sarah’s and my anniversary, and it we would be terribly offended if you stayed away. And then I had a grand old time cooking like a crazy person and sometimes confounding Thanksgiving expectations.
A thing called caramelized pork bits may, at first blush, seem a bit off the beaten path. But it makes perfect sense if you understand how it came about.
It used to be, occasionally, that I would pop out here with a recipe that was meant to be a weeknight dinner. I would make fried rice, or pasta with collards, or macaroni and cheese — stuff that could be thrown together, all filling and comforting, in something less than an hour from start to finish. It was the pickling that initially distracted me from making those kinds of posts (and so many others, too). And then — as Sarah likes to tell me — I got sidetracked from the whole project of making any kind of entrées for the blog at all.