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By toxicfur (Sun Mar 23, 2008 at 04:28:30 PM EST) (all tags)
Ana said I'd probably write a diary about today. So I guess I should.

I cried a lot, but I cooked a damn good meal1.

Details within.

1According to ana, that is. Many, many thanks to BadDoggie for suggestions and a recipe.

I cried because it was Easter and I miss my mom. When I was a kid, Easter wasn't as big a deal as Christmas, but the Easter Bunny would visit and we'd get stuffed animals and lots of candy. We'd have an egg hunt, and my grandmother would worry that we'd not find all of the eggs she hid (that happened on year, and 2 months later, she found an intact dyed boiled egg amongst the pine straw she used as mulch around her bushes). We would have new clothes for Easter Sunday, and I remember wearing terribly girly dresses and new shoes that pinched and laughing at my brothers (while being secretly jealous) because of their little suits and ties.

I cried when we sang 'Jesus Christ is Risen Today,' and I heard my grandmother's voice singing it beside me. I got choked up when, at coffee hour, people asked how I was doing. I did better when I talked to my friend A, who has recently gotten a new guide dog. The previous one has retired, and there are adjustments all around, I think.

Then I tried really hard not to cry when I was making a pie crust and it wouldn't come out just right. There wasn't enough flour on the working surface (my table), and the dough stuck, and then it tore when I picked it up. I tried not to cry, but I did anyway. Sill, the pie got made.

Then I cried a lot when I went to take the dogs for a walk, and I was wearing the wrong socks and Rocky was trying to get into my lap, and then I got the right socks, but I'd lost one of the rubber tips on my earphones for my iPod. It wasn't pretty. I sobbed and raged because I couldn't find the backups. Ana brought me some other earphones, and, even thought they weren't right, I accepted them and went to walk. By the way, I actually have an appointment with a therapist. Not until the 3rd of April, but I have one.

When I got back, I decided it was time to cook. Cooking is one of those activities that is almost pure pleasure for me when I'm not in a hurry or tired. Cooking is a creative release. It uses a different part of my brain than writing and drawing uses, and it's fun. Even when it turns out badly, it's fun.

For Easter, I bought a duckling, some potatoes, some fresh asparagus, and a fennel bulb. "What," I asked BadDoggie on IRC, "would you do with fennel?" Following is the recipe:

Cut the fennel bulb into half-inch slices, rinse, then blanch for 2 minutes. [[ed. note: do not try to grind up outside "leaves" and tops in garbage disposal, or the sink will clog and you will start to cry uncontrollably and your spouse will have to come and fix it because your brain will short-circuit]]. Shock cool. In a skillet, saute finely chopped onion (I used 1/2 of a small onion) in butter and olive oil. Add fennel, some white wine, some tarragon, and some salt and pepper. Cover and reduce heat. Let simmer until the fennel is pretty tender (about 3 minutes). Add some cream, some more salt and pepper (to taste) and let reduce. [[Ed note: I didn't have cream, so I used the 2% milk I had, a tablespoon of butter whisked in at the end, and some garbanzo bean flour dissolved in milk as a thickener -- it turned out fine.]].

I'd never had fennel before, but this was delicious. Of all of the dishes, it had the mildest flavor (as BadDoggie and I had discussed). The blanching and the cream knocked the strongness of the anise flavor down significantly, and it was ideal with the rest of the meal.

The Duckling

Whole Foods has whole, refrigerated ducklings on a regular basis, so I picked up one that was about 4 pounds. I cooked it based on a discussion I remember blixco having about duck-cooking, and the suggestions BadDoggie had when we chatted last night.
2 blood oranges
3 cloves garlic, sliced into bits
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
3 bay leaves
kosher salt

First, I preheated the oven to 375F (190C, about). Then removed the giblets and discarded them, because organ-meats-ewww. Then wash and pat down. Prick the breast all over and pour a kettle-full of boiling water over it.
Zest and juice one of the blood oranges. Rub the outside of the duck with the juice and zest. Sprinkle all over with kosher salt.
Peel and cut in half the other orange. Stuff the bird with the orange halves, the garlic bits, the ginger, and the bay leaves. Put the duck on a rack in a roasting pan (so it won't be sitting in the fat which should render out), and roast for approximately 2 1/2 hours.

Side Dishes

I already talked about the fennel, which was delicious with the duck, but I also used some of the rendered duck fat to roast potatoes (salt, pepper, and dried thyme).

And I roasted asparagus with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette sauce. Roast 3 cloves garlic, mash in a mortar & pestle. Add a teaspoon or so of Coleman's prepared mustard. Add balsamic vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. Whisk in olive oil. When the asparagus is nearly done, drizzle balsamic vinaigrette over asparagus, toss, and finish roasting.

I roast garlic on a bed of kosher salt and drizzle the cloves with olive oil. I use that salt for the rest of the dishes I'm making.

I actually really enjoyed dinner. I haven't cried since I served dinner and watched Ana really seem to enjoy the food. I usually enjoy cooking far more than eating, but I was pleasantly surprised by just how tasty and flavorful everything was. Bonus: it only took about 2.5 hours from starting to serving. +1 would cook again.

And, of course, Ana's pie is incredible. It's a rhubarb-cranberry pie, and I can taste the cloves. The pie crust wasn't as much of a disaster as I'd feared (the hippie crisco I got at Whole Foods should not have been refrigerated before use, and then there was the whole sticking and tearing issue). It's delicious.

< Nobody Raise your Voices | We're gonna have a good time >
Apparently.... | 21 comments (21 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
A+++ would eat again. by ana (4.00 / 1) #1 Sun Mar 23, 2008 at 04:42:52 PM EST
Beats the heck out of the Waldorf Salad without which, the Easters of my childhood would not have happened.

Seriously, objectively, the meal was fabulous. And I'm glad you like my pies. Thanks for making the crust. It's much better that way than coming out of a box.

And hey, roast duck... what's not to like? And we've admired the fennels at Whole Foods so often, we just had to try one. Glad it turned out to be so yummy. And roast asparagus... oh my.

I'm really lucky, and blessed, to have found you.

"And this ... is a piece of Synergy." --Kellnerin

I'm glad you enjoyed it. by toxicfur (2.00 / 0) #2 Sun Mar 23, 2008 at 04:45:51 PM EST
It's nice to have a willing audience for my experimentation. Much, much better than just cooking for myself.

Also, Waldorf salad? It was never a part of my Easters growing up. Deviled eggs, boiled ham, lots of vegetables. But never Waldorf salad.
If you don't get a Bonnie, my universe will not make sense. --blixco

[ Parent ]
blasphemy! by sasquatchan (2.00 / 0) #13 Mon Mar 24, 2008 at 04:28:48 AM EST
Nothing beats the waldorf salad. Unless it's jello with canned mixed-fruit in it, sandwiching a cool-whip layer. No idea what it's called. We called it jello frou frou.

Err. Hmm. I thought it was called watergate salad, seems google tells me there's both waldorf and watergate. I meant the watergate one -- green fluffy thing. Waldorf salad is just gross.

[ Parent ]
Blasphemer! by BadDoggie (2.00 / 0) #21 Tue Mar 25, 2008 at 03:07:28 AM EST
Waldorf Salad was a staple of my formative years and one of the first dishes I ever prepared completely on my own. I was allowed to cut the apples and celery with a rather sharp knife even at an age when my father still insisted on cutting up the steak or pork chop on my dinner plate. Apples and mayonnaise do belong together.

If you're not a blasphemer, heathen and totally uncouth Neanderthal, the only other explanation I can come up with is that you must've had a bogus version made with Kraft Miracle Shit or some other inferior oil-based white spread rather than the One True Hellman's/Best Foods Mayonnaise.


OMG WE'RE FUCKED! -- duxup ?

[ Parent ]
pie crust by LilFlightTest (4.00 / 1) #3 Sun Mar 23, 2008 at 05:25:16 PM EST
i'm good with pie crust (Thanksgiving often sees me making pie for the family stuff, because I make good ones), and one thing i always do is roll it out between two sheets of plastic wrap. then peel off the top, lift it with the bottom one, and flop it over into the pie pan. you can then press it into the pan either before or after you remove the second sheet of plastic. you still need a little flour on your surface for when the edges creep out of the plastic, but overall it's a lot less messy and you're a lot less prone to stickage.
if de-virgination results in me being able to birth hammerhead sharks, SIGN ME UP!!! --misslake
this works really well by notafurry (4.00 / 1) #4 Sun Mar 23, 2008 at 08:22:25 PM EST
no shift key, baby on left arm.

when you want a really light, flaky crust, it needs to be cold and dry. this means the butter isn't melted (in fact, i freeze it) and there isn't a lot of other moisture in my crust.

So rolling it out in plastic this way is about the only way to make it work - that and lots of repairs of the crust with "patches" and pinches. pain in the ass but worth it.

[ Parent ]
i don't think by LilFlightTest (4.00 / 1) #6 Sun Mar 23, 2008 at 11:39:20 PM EST
i've ever used butter in a crust. i follow the recipe in my original edition betty crocker cookbook, which actually calls for shortening. when done right, that's pretty damn flaky (and i don't really ever have to make crust repairs, which is good). some people might tell me that makes for a boring pie, but it's always worked well for me (and i haven't received any complaints). i'd be interested in your crust recipe, though.
if de-virgination results in me being able to birth hammerhead sharks, SIGN ME UP!!! --misslake
[ Parent ]
And in return? ;) by notafurry (4.00 / 2) #15 Mon Mar 24, 2008 at 05:15:09 AM EST
Pics? Who do you think I am, greyrat?

Makes 2 9" crusts (top and bottom for an apple pie, for example)

Mix in a large bowl:
2 c flour (wheat or white work - white will be a smoother crust)
1 tsp salt
1 TB sugar

Then cut in using a dough blender:

6 TB frozen butter
6 TB cold shortening (can substitute more butter)
ice water - dash a few drops at a time in by hand until dough forms a crumbly ball

Wrap the ball in plastic wrap, and refrigerate or freeze for at least 10 minutes before rolling out. (I normally refrigerate, I freeze if I had to work it too much and the butter has softened)

Note: margarine is evil. Always, but especially for this recipe. Good, sweet cream, unsalted butter is the only option; it's a pie, not a diet food.

The trick to the frozen butter (might work on toxicfur's hippy shortening, too) is to run it through a blender, food processor, or cheese grater. No, I'm not kidding. You don't actually want it to combine with the dry ingredients - you just want it mixed thoroughly. Let it combine in the pie plate in the oven. (I've been known to use frozen butter to do this, then taken the pile of butter crumbs and frozen them again. You DO NOT want that butter melted or combined before it goes in the oven!)

This recipe, with that process, never fails to turn out a light, buttery, many-layered pastry crust. Perfect for fruit pies - I like a denser crust for meringues and creme pies, graham cracker for cheesecakes and such.

[ Parent ]
ooh. by toxicfur (2.00 / 0) #17 Mon Mar 24, 2008 at 05:22:09 AM EST
Thanks for posting this. The theory of pie crust is something I've not encountered before -- baking is, to me, just sort of magic. Follow the directions, say the right incantations, approach with the right energy, and it all works. Sometimes. And with varying degrees of success.
If you don't get a Bonnie, my universe will not make sense. --blixco
[ Parent ]
you get pics by LilFlightTest (4.00 / 1) #20 Mon Mar 24, 2008 at 05:43:35 PM EST
but totally random ones.
if de-virgination results in me being able to birth hammerhead sharks, SIGN ME UP!!! --misslake
[ Parent ]
Cold butter, cold shortening... by toxicfur (2.00 / 0) #9 Mon Mar 24, 2008 at 02:20:51 AM EST
is what my recipe calls for. Also, ice water (just enough so the dough forms a ball). It makes a really nice, rich, flaky crust. Unfortunately, the non-hydrogenated hippie shortening I got was like a rock when I took it out of the refrigerator, so I had to let it come almost to room temp before I could get it to combine with the flour. How do you get frozen butter to combine?
If you don't get a Bonnie, my universe will not make sense. --blixco
[ Parent ]
See cousin by notafurry (4.00 / 1) #16 Mon Mar 24, 2008 at 05:18:21 AM EST
But the short answer is, you don't. The butter combines in the oven, not in the mixing dough. My last apple pie (on Pie Day, of course!) had one of my coworkers counting layers - 6 on the bottom, 10 on the top. With crusts that were rolled out 1/8" thick.

[ Parent ]
Good idea! by toxicfur (2.00 / 0) #8 Mon Mar 24, 2008 at 02:17:29 AM EST
I've seen pastry cloths, but you flour those as well. Making a pie crust is a messy proposition, and Rocky really thinks he wants the dough. Unfortunately, he's tall enough that he could get it if he wanted it, so I really have to watch him. Thanks for the tip -- making our own pie crusts is a relatively new endeavor for us.
If you don't get a Bonnie, my universe will not make sense. --blixco
[ Parent ]
make him wait by LilFlightTest (4.00 / 1) #19 Mon Mar 24, 2008 at 05:35:17 PM EST
if he behaves while you roll it out, he gets the little edges leftover. also, you would not believe how much chickens like pie crust.
if de-virgination results in me being able to birth hammerhead sharks, SIGN ME UP!!! --misslake
[ Parent ]
Glad it worked out by BadDoggie (4.00 / 2) #5 Sun Mar 23, 2008 at 11:04:19 PM EST
I may do a very similar thing to a duck in my freezer soon, though I'll cook it at a lower temperature for a lotlonger. I've been doing a lot of experiments with low-temp meat cooking: it only needs to get to around 165°F/74°C which is easy enough to do with a 190°F/90°C oven. I turn on the broiler for the last 15 minutes or so to crisp bird skin or pig fat. The slow cooking gets rid of a lot more fat and also leaves meat of all kinds super tender. The downside is that even when cooked the meat may be very red.

Should I start posting some of my successful "15 in 15" recipes (max 15 ingredients, max 15 minutes of kitchen work)? Stuffed boneless pork chop with capellini Alfredo perhaps?


OMG WE'RE FUCKED! -- duxup ?

Yes, you should. by toxicfur (4.00 / 1) #7 Mon Mar 24, 2008 at 02:15:38 AM EST
I've enjoyed the couple of recipes of yours that I've tried, and I'd definitely try more. In fact, your "easy Thai" set of instructions you posted long ago in one of my diaries is something I do a couple of times a month, generally. The fennel was delicious.

I considered cooking the duck longer at a lower temperature, but I got a later start than I'd intended. The dogs (and me) needing a walk was more important.
If you don't get a Bonnie, my universe will not make sense. --blixco

[ Parent ]
So the wife clogs up the disposall, cries by wiredog (2.00 / 0) #10 Mon Mar 24, 2008 at 02:35:19 AM EST
and the husband comes to the rescue. How sweet.

That, on top of everything else? I think I'm going into sugar shock here.


Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

Hee! by toxicfur (2.00 / 0) #11 Mon Mar 24, 2008 at 02:39:42 AM EST
What bothered me more than anything else is that I had to ask for help because I just couldn't see what to do next when the sink got clogged. I'm supposed to be able to fix stuff, especially stuff that I break. Granted, my last plumbing adventure didn't exactly leave me with a lot of confidence.
If you don't get a Bonnie, my universe will not make sense. --blixco
[ Parent ]
Huggies. by Pasofol (4.00 / 1) #12 Mon Mar 24, 2008 at 03:45:38 AM EST
Don't worry about the crying, it's a grieving release and probably a lot better than other forms.

The dinner does sound great, too bad the teleportation thing over the net doesn't work yet.

Fennel makes a great soup by sasquatchan (4.00 / 1) #14 Mon Mar 24, 2008 at 04:30:13 AM EST
very tasty.. Google has some recipes, but if it's on a menu, I get a cup/bowl. Roasted, and/or one with truffle oil is especially tasty..

Radio church by iGrrrl (4.00 / 1) #18 Mon Mar 24, 2008 at 06:15:15 AM EST
I listened to the service on WBUR, trying not to cry at the opening organ strains.

Meal sounds good.

"Beautiful wine, talking of scattered everythings"
(and thanks to Scrymarch)

Apparently.... | 21 comments (21 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback