26 December 2005

Chanukah Dinner

extreme meat closeup
Originally uploaded by deepfry.
Last night, April joined me from Bend for a Very Special Chanukah Dinner, which featured three fatty, meaty, starchy dishes and one bottle of wine.

Pictured is the somewhat obscene Extreme Meat Closeup of the brisket which was such a crap piece of meat that it needed about two hours longer of cooking than required. Luckily, the cranberry sauce, ketchup and onion soup mix helped to pull it through.

I also made, for what was oddly the first time ever, chicken matzah ball soup. i think that i had been avoiding it for so many years because my mom's is just so perfect. but it's chanukah, and a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. though my matzah balls weren't quite as massive as hers, i think i did a great job. they were more like matzah footballs than perfect spheres, but they tasted good -- even better after sitting for a night, which means that next time i'll make them a day in advance. as for the broht, of course, it had to be salted, but that's part of the tradition of the soup.
the vegetables were wonderfully mushy and, unlike my mom, i shredded some of the chicken and included it in the soup -- trying to set out on my own and be my own person and whatnot. her's, a clear broth with no chicken bits, is rather fantastic, but i thought it would be fun to include the meat. it also means i'm not left with a ton of cooked chicken sitting around. i thought it added a nice touch.

our third item was potato pancakes that we, shhhh!!!, make from a mix! i just wasn't filled with the potato shredding spirit. it was okay...my homemade version is, of course, much better. but at least we managed to set off the smoke detector which is the #1 sign of successful latkes.

and now, having just had above items for leftovers, i'm about to pass out and immediately finish this up so i can go take a nap.

happy chanukah!

12 December 2005

boiling cheesey and fizzy water

boiling cheesey and fizzy water
Originally uploaded by deepfry.
This weekend, I gathered with some buddies in a wood-panelled apartment for a fondue party. The theme, Apr├Ęs Ski, seemed fitting for a cold winter night in an apartment with a wood stove, loft bedroom and, again, wood panelling. We all put on our finest heavy sweaters, got out our fattiest foods and stuffed ourselves.

Fondue was the feature of the night. When I was younger, I thought that fondue was the epitome of style and sophistication. Geja's Cafe, in Chicago, put any other upscale dining to shame. I also have vague recollections of making "pizza fondue" in a cooking class I took in 4th grade. At any rate, I've always had a special place in my heart for fondue, as do, I'm sure, most people with parents who got married in the Seventies...I think my parents have at least three fondue sets in the basement. Not that we ever used the fondue sets and yet my mother was entirely unwilling to part with even one last time I asked. How could I not romanticize something that she never uses yet clings so dearly to?

I scored with the fondue, finding a "fondue cheese kit" at the grocery store that mixed emmentaler and gruyere with truffle oil. Along with the fondue, we had a charcuterie plate, a vegetable plate, roasted garlic and the piece de resistance, puppy chow. where fondue brought a little Seventies style class to the evening, the puppy chow brought a little Midwestern flair. Made with Rice Chex, chocolate, peanut butter, butter and powdered sugar, it's best served in a ziplock bag except that the bag hinders access by more than one person at a time, hence our decision to use the bowl. It is impossible to stop eating puppy chow, or "Muddy Buddies", as they like to call it at Chex.com.

I know, you're looking at the picture and thinking, "No way. That stuff looks nasty. One bite maybe, just to be friendly, but that's it. I'd much rather enjoy a homemade cream puff and some cheese fondue." but you are so so wrong. anyways, i could go on, but you have the recipe...try it out. especially if you live somewhere cold. i promise you won't be disappointed.

Chanukah Hostess channeling Maccabees

My brother is, gasp!, dating a non-Jew, as we both, for whatever reason, have always done. Except for that Rachael girl he dated for a few weeks his sophomore year of college...oh, and I once dated a 1/2 Jew who was culturally about as WASPy as they come. At any rate, my mother has accepted, albeit with reservation, our dating patterns until this year when my brother's girlfriend ordered him a Christmas stocking!!! My mom responded in kind, sending heaps of Chanukah decorations to Laura, to put up with the Christmas stocking. Lucky me, I benefit from this holiday decorating one -ups-manship. I found this beautiful Chanukah Hostess Set waiting for me when I came home last Thursday. The Hostess Set, including a hot mit, a pot holder and a (non-pictured) towel, also came with a sparkly strand of stars and a slightly stale frosted Star of David cookie from Sunset, the grocery store that caters to the largely Jewish suburbs from which I hail.

I think it's all quite lovely, though the screen print on the towel suggests a lack of truly absorbent powers. And yet, didn't the Jews doubt that the oil found when they reclaimed the Temple would burn for more than one night? Perhaps this screen print towel will be my modern day miracle of, um, absorption. Yes, just as the oil burned for eight days, so will my Chanukah Hostess towel persevere (much like the Maccabees), wiping up all liquids that come before it.

Anyways, here I am, drawing upon the combined powers of the Maccabees and the cornbeef bagel sandwich from Manny's. Intimidating, aren't I?

05 December 2005

cabbage soup

Originally uploaded by deepfry.
tonight i made Abby Mandel's Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup (with tempeh instead of sausage). some may argue that for one person to consume this entire pot of soup (over the course of a week probably) is highly problematic in that deep cleansing kind of way. but i tell ya, i'm obsessed with the stuff. it's so so good! yes, most people with whom i discussed my plans of cabbage soup dinner either sneered, scoffed or stomped away but i see this as nothing more than an anti-midwest bias. this hearty eastern european-influenced midwestern cuisine (it is, after all, from Mandel's excellent "Celebrating the Midwestern Table") is healthy, filling and a cinch to make. Dice an onion, a carrot, a head of cabbage, add some stock, some stewed tomatoes, a few spices and cook on the stovetop for 1/2 an hour. in the meantime, read the paper, work on a final exam (ahem), catch a rerun of seinfeld, pick your nails, make dessert, whatever. it's perfect!