Wow. It’s 2015. Happy belated New Year, everybody. It seems — somewhat unintentionally — that I have taken a hiatus from making posts here. I must have needed a break I guess. Which is odd because I certainly didn’t take a break from cooking. The end of 2015 saw a flurry of cooking for Chanukkah — soul-food Chanukkah dinner for 22 — and then a flurry of soups — squash and chicken all around — and then yet another flurry for New Year’s Eve.
But regardless: I’m back. And I’m ready to cook. And I’m ready to write. And though I don’t really — as a rule — make New Years resolutions, I’m back with a couple of New Years resolutions for the blog.
What kind of Christmas cookies am I making this year? Lots of them. That’s what kind. Thirteen dozen cookies so far, and six dozen left to make.
There aren’t any recipes here. But this year’s baking bounty includes gingersnaps and orange cardamom shortbread. The gingersnaps are from Chez Panisse, via David Lebovitz, and are my most favorite gingersnaps in the world. And the orange-cardamom shortbread is homegrown, available here, and may be my very favorite winter cookies hands down.
Bake and enjoy! I can’t send you all cookies, alas. But by making them yourselves, you all get the added bonus of rescenting your house with the not-too-saccharine smell of holiday cheer!
Up until now, I’ve been silent here at Twice Cooked about the Michael Brown shooting, Eric Garner, and the two shameful grand jury decisions that have allowed their killings to go unexamined because the perpetrators wear blue and the victims are brown. In part, that silence is a practical matter: the same confluence of life stuff that has reduced my posting frequency about food has eradicated my ability to post about politics. And in part, that silence is because I don’t feel I have anything new to add to the conversation: police violence is well inside my sphere of horror, but far outside the sphere of issues to which I can claim any kind of knowledge, firsthand, scholarly, or otherwise.
But this morning, I think that may have changed. I think that I can indeed add something useful. Last week, the United Nations Committee Against Torture released a report about abuse in the United States. It covers many of the usual suspects for this sort of report: Guantanamo, prisoners’ rights, and the death penalty. But there is also a section about police brutality that is specific and relevant here.
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.