Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Day Feast: Choucroute Garnie

There's an old Southern tradition of eating black eyed peas and cabbage on New Year's Day to ensure health and prosperity in the coming year.  Some say it dates back to the times of the Pharaohs while others claim it was a meal created out of necessity when Southern towns were under siege during the Civil War.  I must confess that I never was a huge fan of this meal finding it bland and boring, but as I've become an adult, I've learned to appreciate beans and especially cabbage for their potential for inexpensive and delicious meals.  My mother always served it up with cornbread, which was usually the best part it for me.  Something must have worked though, because I've always been blessed with good health, and I've always had a roof over my head and a bed to sleep in!

ColoRouge from MouCo Cheese

Monastery style cheeses are among my favorites.  When I buy cheese for myself, I inevitably gravitate toward one of them. Even if I'm just snacking on something at work, there really isn't another type of cheese that I find more satisfying.  This family of cheese includes those that have been washed or smeared with brine, wine, beer, or spirits while they are maturing.  You might hear them referred to casually as the "stinky" cheeses although not all of them are stinky.  It's just that there are a few which can get pretty funky like Burgundy's Epoisses and new-comer, Grayson, from Meadow Creek made ironically by the Feete Family of Galax, Va.  If you like this style of funky, earthy cheese, you're bound to enjoy MouCo's ColoRouge for its subtlety in the grand scheme of Monastery cheeses, and even if you don't like stinky cheese, it offers enough delicious creaminess to please even the pickiest eater.

Eastern Standard and Biere de Miel

A few nights ago, I treated myself to a lovely dinner at Eastern Standard here in Boston after a day at the movies.  I haven't been there in some time, and I happened to be in the neighborhood, so I figured I would stop in a have a bite to eat. As usual, the bar area was packed, so I chose a quieter table away from the crowd off to the side in a booth.  I'm glad to see that they are doing a fantastic bar business even on a Monday night!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Scrambled Eggs with Truffle

Eggs are one of the most underestimated foods in the entire lexicon of culinary delights.  The great Madeleine Kamman used the first hundred or so pages of her famous book, Making of a Cook, to give instruction on the many ways an egg can be used, and it's also said that the number of folds in a chef's toque is determined by the number of ways he/she can cook an egg.  When they're prepared correctly, they can be fantastic, but if they're cooked poorly, they often have a rubbery texture and a sulfur taste and smell.

Three Holiday Movies Reviewed

I did it!  I took myself to the movies... three times in fact. I almost never go because I hate waiting in lines, I hate crowded theaters, and I really hate discourteous movie-goers.  Why is it that someone always has the need to run a commentary on everything going on in the movie while everyone in the theater is trying to watch? In any case, for the most part, my movie experiences were good ones this time around. The movies I saw created enough incentive for me to get out and see them in the theater.  The three blockbuster titles were: The Princess and the Frog, Avatar, and Sherlock Holmes.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Julia Child: The Way to Cook DVD Set

For Christmas, I received enough cooking DVD's to keep me busy for a very long time.  Among them was a re-release from Knopf called The Way to Cook by Julia Child.  I'm already a pretty huge fan of Julia Child but watching these has solidified my admiration for her as a teacher. They were first published on VHS in 1985 and are a collection of short 5 to 15 minutes segments on the basics of French cooking.  I find Mastering the Art of French Cooking a little overwhelming because the instructions are so specific and the recipes take pages of text and hours to interpret.  Even though Julia's original publication is a milestone achievement for American cooking, I use it more as a reference than a practical manual in the kitchen.

Samuel Barber's Cave of the Heart

When I did my masters degree at the New England Conservatory, I took a class called "Writing About Music" taught by one of my favorite teachers of all time, Helen Greenwald.  I discovered with her help that I really enjoyed writing and perhaps to some degree that's what spurred this blog.  The point of the class was to learn how to write about music in a scholarly style and to learn how to use a library and the Internet for research.  For my "big" paper, I chose the life and works of Samuel Barber, in particular Vanessa, a much neglected opera written towards the end of his life.

Mulled Wine

My quest for mulled wine began a week or so ago when one of my Facebook friends posted a status update searching for a recipe for it. I'd never made it before, and I didn't want to be left out on what I felt was a challenge, so I went to the Internet and started doing some reading on the subject.  It's enjoyed the world over, but particularly in cold mountainous climate.  I have a feeling that traditionally, after the harvest, a certain percentage of wine usually went bad because folks didn't have a good understanding of fermentation science.  It's not unusual even today for a fermentation to stop for no good reason, but because we have a better understanding of how this process works, there are methods for aiding a "stuck" fermentation.  It seems that the industrious winemakers would take their lemons and simply turn them into lemonade or mulled wine in this case.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Confit Turkey Legs

This is an idea that I got from a friend at work.  Turkey is inexpensive this time of year since grocery stores are trying to get rid of it.  You can usually pick up the drumsticks for less than $2 a pound.  I like to roast the meat and then you can use the bones for stock to turn into soup or to enrich sauces for other dishes.  Serve with a mustard mayonnaise. I like to spike mine with a little pesto and thin it out with a touch of apple cider vinegar for extra zip.  It's delicious and a fabulous way to feed a hungry crowd at a party.  You can set the meat out on a platter and listen to everyone ooh and aah over how fantastic it is!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Red Beans and Rice Majastueux

Christmas at the Majestic was a fantastic affair.  Since I had to work at the restaurant on Christmas Eve, I wasn't able to spend Christmas Day with family in Louisiana, so I decided to bring Louisiana to Boston for myself and my friends.  Company started arriving around 4:30 and the party continued through the evening and into the wee hours of the morning.  It was wonderful to be around so many people that I love.  I was especially delighted to see some friends that I hadn't seen in about seven years.  What a fantastic holiday treat!