Normally my days off are spent doing some serious cooking. But I woke up this morning riddled with allergies and a general exhaustion (most likely from the allergies I suffer from the Kentucky Bluegrass across the street).
So after a morning of nearly zero productivity, I finally decided to make bread.
Making bread, like making pasta, is good for the soul. It clears the brain, it clears the bad karma, it cleanses the soul.
It requires you to care for the yeast and bread [sponge] like a fertilized egg. With the right care and conditions it grows into a beautiful piece of artwork.
As the rain came down in furious sheets outside (and plenty of lightening and thunder that scared my poor furry baby), I warmed the water to the right temp and added the yeast and sugar…then I carried it out to the coffee table to watch it bloom…I did not want to miss the moment when it was perfect for adding flour.
As the afternoon droned on and the rain continued, I turned on the tv only to be hit with our President announcing that the current gun background check bill had been denied. I also realized that I could not get enough to eat (over a two hour period of time I ate two Italian sausages, a cup of crab salad, and half a carton of ice cream).
I went back to making bread….
As I did I could not help but to feel that making bread, on this dark and rainy afternoon was more of a deep cleaning then just therapy for the brain, a clearing of the karma and cleansing of the soul.
I felt more relaxed and less worried about life’s small problems then I had earlier.
After several hours (I do on occasion have yeast issues…today being one of them, I suspect the moisture in the air had something to do with it), the bread was ready to be placed in the oven and bake.
The second the bread hit the oven, I felt a sigh of relief come out and the tension in my shoulders melt away. At this point, I had tended the bread as best as I could and if it was not going to bake right, there was nothing more I could do to save it.
Later, as I sliced the warm bread and poured myself a glass of chardonnay, I realized that maybe the rain, the bread and the wine were my own private “communion.” A way to cleanse my tired soul….
As details emerged yesterday about the Boston bombing and the type of bomb used, I had a great deal of friends inquire as to whether or not I owned or used a pressure cooker.
I believe I shocked them with my answer.
No…I do not use a pressure cooker and no…I do not own one.
When I was a personal chef 6 years ago, I belonged to an association of personal chefs and I know many of them used pressure cookers to complete their task.
I, however, was a different type of personal chef. I did not come in and cook weekly meals for families but cheffed private events such as cocktail parties, small dinner parties, intimate dinners for two, bbq’s, etc. I was not under the same time constraints as my fellow chefs to complete large quantities of foods in 8 hours or less. I know pressure cookers served them well but in my arena, I simply had no need.
So when I responded to the question on whether I had one or not, I followed my “no” with this reasoning: I enjoy the cooking process and everything about it. I enjoy the time it takes to make lasagna or beef burgundy or hand crank pasta. I believe cooking is not something that should be done under pressure.
This is not to say that I have not wondered how they worked or have not had interest in trying one out one time, but in general as whole, my style of cooking does not call for one. In fact, even using a Crockpot is a stretch for me at times because [to me] it just cooks food to the point of death (although my last ham was cooked in one over night and turned out rather good).
As a chef, recipe developer and avid foodie, my philosophy is really about taking the time to get to know your ingredients, taking the time to enjoy the smells and the color and the process. Taking each step at a time to appreciate the transformation food takes from raw ingredient to completed dish and internalizing this process as a form of therapy or meditation is you will.
I can have a horrible day at work, where nothing seems to go right, kitchen crashed, cooks called off, cranky servers…and I can come home and lose myself in making a simple supper. I can have a bad week and spend my day off cooking and creating and feel nothing but peace and tranquility.
So no, I do not have a pressure cooker. I do not use a pressure cooker nor do I advocate its use…especially now that it has hit the spot light for its use in mass carnage.
Outside of an occasional cartoon where a tardy husband comes home and gets hit over the head with a fry pan, stainless steel pans have never caused harm to anyone.
Today is Sunday. After a morning in the trenches of breakfast heaven, I appreciate the silence of my tiny apartment, my cat, and being surrounded by the comfort of my cookbooks. The clattering of dishes becomes the ticking of the mantle clock. The constant voices of my linemen become the purring of my cat.
I wait all week for these few hours I can come home to an empty house and just create and write.
This afternoon my muse for creativity will be two New York Strip steaks and I could not be more excited. Accompanying these steaks will be glazed pearl onions and roasted potatoes.
What will your muse be in the kitchen today?
1 lb. large macaroni noodles
2 Tbsp. butter
1 cup chopped onion
2 Tbsp. flour
3 cups milk
16 oz. shredded Swiss cheese
8 oz. Brie with the bloomy rind shaved off, and cut into pieces
8 oz. cream cheese cut into pieces
3/4 Tbsp. red pepper flakes (more for added heat)
1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
1 pkg. Aidelle’s pineapple and bacon sausage
salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350. Bring a stock pot of salted water to boil. Cook noodles until slightly under the al dente mark. Drain and return to stockpot.
2. While noodles are cooking, melt butter in a large sauce pan. Add chopped onions and cook until translucent. Add flour until a very thick roux is created.
3. Add milk, turn up the heat to high and bring the milk to a low boil, stirring to incorporate the roux and thicken the milk slightly. Turn heat down to medium.
4. Add Swiss and stir. Add Brie and stir again. Then add the cream cheese and stir until the chunks of cream cheese have dissolved slightly. Add red pepper flakes. Turn off burner and allow to rest for a couple of minutes while the sausage is cooking.
5. Microwave the sausage for 2 minutes, just enough to warm them. Remove from microwave and cut them into small pieces.
Assemble: Pour cheese mixture into stockpot with noodles. It will look rather lumps and coagulated when it goes in but will smooth out when you stir the mixture. Add sausage and stir again. Pour into a large casserole dish and cover with foil. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
Remove from oven and top with panko bread crumbs. Return macaroni to oven , uncovered, and bake for another 20 minutes.
8 slices bacon
28 slices of French bread (baguette)
14 oz. Imitation lobster meat, roughly chopped
3/4 c. mayonnaise
3 Tsp. Adobo sauce/chipotles
1 1/2 Tsp. minced garlic
2 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice (one large lemon)
1 Tsp. tarragon vinegar
2 Tsp. Madras curry powder
1 medium shallot finely chopped
1 cup finely shredded Abergele apricot and ginger cheese
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Cook bacon in oven until it reaches a warm deep tan color, about 15 minutes.
2. At the same time the bacon is cooking, place baguettes on a cookie sheet and bake until toasted. Remove from oven and set aside.
3. While the bacon and baguette are cooking, mix together the next eight ingredients in a large bowl.
4. When bacon is done, set aside to cool.
5. Top each baguette with a spoonful of lobster mixture. Finely chop bacon and drizzle over baguettes. Top with Abergele cheese and return to oven for five minutes until the cheese has melted and the lobster mixture has started to “glaze” slightly.
Makes 28 appetizers
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