0823 Watery Pork Goulash

I’m not exaggerating when I say that I planned my entire day around this meal.  See, I’d planned on making this for dinner on Sunday night – a dish that requires 3 hours in the oven is just not feasible for the average worknight, but is totally doable on a lazy Sunday afternoon.  When Shane texted me mid-day, though, to tell me that he wouldn’t be home in time for dinner, I decided that I would just go into and then leave work a bit early, and we could have a late dinner.

Fast forward to 6:30 or so tonight.  I was using a considerably smaller bone-in pork shoulder, so I pulled it after 2 1/4 hours in the oven, only to discover that there was WAY too much cooking liquid.  WAY too much.  I removed the pork from the pot, cranked up the heat, and reduced the liquid for half an hour before serving.

A brief digression: I like to write in cookbooks.  I find it really helpful to note recipe hacks, total failures, or successful pairings for future cooking.  I also enjoy opening a cookbook and being reminded of that time in 2003 when Dan and Michele came over for dinner and trivia and we drank too much riesling while eating spaghetti with sweet cherry tomatoes.  Or the time in 2004 when I hosted Meat Night and made Lebanese Lemon Chicken and we ate around the low coffee table.  A correct interpretation of my notes could’ve saved a lot of disappointment tonight – however, I read “cover halfway” as referring to the lid and the cook time, not the amount of liquid.  *shakes fist at the sky*

Even with the half-hour of reducing, the broth was insipid, and the pork – lacking the flavor that should’ve been infused by the broth – had already attained that gamey flavor and consistency that I find so off-putting in leftovers.  While Shane adjusted the seasoning on his dish and happily finished it, I ate a few bites and then pushed my plate away.  We left the pot on the burner for another 2 1/2 hours, by which time it started to resemble the photo from the cookbook.  We’ll see if it’s any better in leftovers for dinner tomorrow.

Recipe:
Spicy pork and chilli-pepper goulash from Jamie at Home

  • The recipe specifies to “pour in enough water to just cover the meat”.  Instead, add enough water to cover the meat halfway.  You’re going to be covering the pot, so this will be an adequate amount of cooking liquid for a good, tender braise.
  • The recipe claims to make 4-6 portions, but we’ve halved it both times and easily still made 4-6 portions.
  • You could probably use double the amount of each of the spices, though I’d suggest going easy on doubling the paprika the first time you make this recipe.  And note that it calls for smoked paprika, though I might try a spicier paprika if you have it on hand.
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0822 No-Knead Bread

So you know about the No-Knead Bread, right?  You know the one everyone’s been talking about since 2006?  Stephen made itMegan made it and has a whole photo set to prove it.  Laurie made an incredible-looking loafShana said it’s the only bread she makesThe photos of Carrie‘s bread are amazing.  Rex‘s mom made itSonya made and blogged it.

So why has it taken me four years to try it?  Because honestly, I like kneading.  And I’ve never bothered to move on from Jamie’s basic recipe.  So after 10 minutes of kneading the bagels, it seemed like an opportune time to try a bread that required no kneading.

And then it stuck.  To everything.  To the sides of the bowl.  To the cutting board, no matter how well floured.  Definitely to the towel in which the dough was wrapped.  The recipe said it would make a 1 1/2 pound loaf, but mine weighed in at just over a pound – that’s the amount of dough that stuck.

No-Knead Bread

At no point in the rise, lack of kneading, or transferring from bowl to counter to towel to pot did the dough ever resemble a ball – and so, when it came out of the pot, it was still flat – almost as flat as a focaccia.  Hiding inside, though, was a wonderful texture born of a very, very slow rise.  We’re looking forward to eating it with the pork goulash for dinner tomorrow night.

I’m not sure if I’ll make it again, though.  The timing necessitates weekend baking – or a very late weeknight dinner.  And then there’s the stickiness, though there are work-arounds for that.  What I will try next is the Almost No-Knead variation.  But for now I’ll be spreading butter on my flat little loaf.

Recipe:
No-Knead Bread from Jim Lahey at the Sullivan Street Bakery via Mark Bittman at New York Times – I’m also linking to Smitten Kitchen’s post about this recipe, as the comments are full of useful hacks.

0821 All Girl Bagelfest

Who would’ve thought you could go from this:
How else would you do it?

to this:
Final product!

with really not THAT much effort? OK, it did involve ten minutes of kneading. And also clearing out my fridge so that 2 1/2 dozen bagels could do their thing:
Ready for the pot

2 minutes boiling in the pot, a bit of an egg wash, and some expert decorating before the bagels went into the oven:
"Decorating"

And then we tucked in to a gorgeous brunch – prosciutto and Olivia’s tea-cured salmon, thick slices of tomato and thin ones of cucumber and red onion, cream cheese and two kinds of melon. Mimosas with mango or apricot nectar. Good friends and good conversation. And amazing bagels:

Recipe:
Peter Reinhart’s Bagels from Smitten Kitchen

0820 Big Bowl of Kale

Big bowl of kale

Recipe for a good solo dinner:

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat.  Thinly slice two large cloves of garlic and add to the oil, moving around until golden.  Wash, stem, and shred as much kale as you happen to have in the fridge.  Shake out the excess water, then add to the pan.  If you have a lid that fits – or that kind of fits, or that at least covers your pile of kale – cover the kale and let it sweat a little, removing the lid and moving the kale around every so often.  Eat while reading cookbooks and planning the next week’s meals, then go for ice cream later.

12 Books, 12 Months

It’s on!  Since 6 people have expressed interest, I think we have a quorum.  After some discussion with Shane, here are the rules:

12 Books, 12 Months Challenge

  • Pick 12 titles from your To Read Pile.  These should be titles you currently own in whatever format you prefer.
  • Acquisition of other formats or translations is permitted.  So, if you have a paperback but want to read on your Kindle, you can get a Kindle copy.  If you have a library copy but want to buy your own, that’s kosher.  Heck, if you own a copy and want to check another out from the library, I’m not gonna stop you.
  • Post your list in your public space of choice by September 1, 2010.  If you prefer not to post, you can just leave a comment with your list.
  • Read all 12 titles between now and September 5, 2011.  Might as well tack on an extra long weekend at the end for cramming.
  • When you finish a title on your list, post about it in your public space of choice.  If you prefer not to post, you can just leave a comment with your review.
  • Once a month, I’ll post a round-up of the reviews posted from that month so that we all know what everyone else has read.

My list:

  1. Boris Akunin – The Winter Queen
    I don’t remember how I came to have this one on my wishlist, but it looks interesting, and I don’t read enough fiction.
  2. Mikhail Bulgakov – The Master and the Margarita
    We each brought a copy of this to our collection, but I don’t know that either of us have read it.
  3. Lawrence Durrell – Reflections on a Marine Venus
    Durrell’s prose is intoxicating, and I’ve been intending to read more of his work since ~2003.
  4. William Least Heat-Moon – Blue Highways
    I loved River-Horse, and would like to read more of his work.
  5. Henry Miller – Tropic of Cancer
    I’ve owned and intended to read this book since college.  By my calculations, that means I have moved it at least 12 times.
  6. Barack Obama – Dreams from My Father
    I meant to read this in advance of the 2008 election. Now we’re 2 years into the Obama presidency…
  7. Michael Pollan – The Omnivore’s Dilemma
    Because every other foodie person on the planet has read it, but it put me to sleep.
  8. J.R.R. Tolkein – The Hobbit
    I’ve read Lord of the Rings, but not The Hobbit.  It’s time.
  9. Anne Tyler – The Accidental Tourist
    Need to confirm that I actually own this one. The movie based on the book was nominated for Best Picture, not that that means it’ll be a good book.
  10. David Foster Wallace – Infinite Jest
    I missed Infinite Summer. This is also one of Shane’s favorite – if not THE favorite – books. No more excuses. See also: The Omnivore’s Dilemma.
  11. Duncan Watts – Six Degrees
    I picked this up my first year of grad school because Duncan Watts’s research is interesting and also he is dreamy.
  12. E.B. White – The Points of My Compass
    My good intentions for this book date back to my first attempt at organizing a book club.

What are YOU going to read?

0819 Garden-Fresh Snack Dinner

Snack Dinner
Shane’s favorite grapes, which I included in our wedding vows because it was important to me to remember. Golden beets from our garden and the market plus a couple of huge sweet garlic cloves, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic, then wrapped in tinfoil and roasted at 375 for about an hour. Green beans from the market, but Szechuan pickled by me.

Snack Dinner
Sopressata. Sharon Hollow goat cheese with garlic and Tellicherry pepper, a $5 impulse buy. The last of a loaf of Italian bread, and a handful of tiny cherry tomatoes that sprung up by surprise in our garden.

Snack Dinner
Green beans from our garden, quickly blanched. Cucumber and radish freezer pickles, also from our garden.

Snack Dinner
All in all, a glorious spread.

Virtual Book Club Challenge

One of the things I really enjoy about Goodreads is getting regular emails about the things my friends are reading.  (No offense, LibraryThingers – Goodreads is just what clicked for me.)  I’ve also been enjoying the long-form reviews over at letters and sodas.  In a recent post, Heather linked to Emily’s Attacking the TBR Tome Challenge – basically, a challenge to pick 20 books off your To Be Read pile or shelf or list and commit to reading them in the next year.

This got me to thinking about our failed attempt at a DC book club and various other virtual book clubs I’ve attempted to organize or participate in – which led me to wonder if a virtual book club where everyone committed to reading something that THEY wanted to read might work better.  Here’s roughly how I imagine it working – drawing heavily from Emily’s previously posted challenge:

  1. 12 months, 12 books from the To Read pile.  The pile can be physical or electronic.
  2. All titles should be ones you already own in your format of choice.
  3. Your titles are selected in advance, and posted on your blog, Facebook, Goodreads or LibraryThing or your book site of choice, by an arbitrary date to be determined.  If you don’t do any of these, email me with your list, and I can include it in a round-up of participants.
  4. Upon finishing each book, you post a review – long or short.  If you don’t blog or do Facebook, etc, find your own way of notifying the world that you’ve just read something and you loved/hated it.
  5. At the end of 12 months, we rejoice in our shared good fortune.

So who’s with me?