Sunday, August 24, 2003

Phew. This weekend. Friday I had planned on lamb, but it was orientation day at work for the graduate students and the faculty (why the graduate students need more help figuring out how to register than the undergrads do, I do not know, but they do)- the busiest day of the summer. Which meant when I came home I was exhausted and in no mood to think about dinner in any way shape or form. So we came upon the brilliant idea of going to Angeli Caffe, right down the street.

Really, the question is why we didn't go there earlier. It's three feet away, one of Jeff's friends is a waiter there, and it's been pushed by the New York Times and over on egullet. Calamari, pizza with goat cheese, caramelized garlic and sundried tomatoes, and a bottle of wine and all work woes (me) and commute woes (Jeff) were gone.

Saturday was lamb day. Jeff had cereal for breakfast, and I fixed up a leftover chimichanga for my lunch, so between us we had brunch. I made the lamb according to Nigella's recipe for Crispy Lamb from Forever Summer, which is basically fried lamb chops. I was a little unclear as to how to turn a rack of lamb into chops, so I turned to Jacque Pepin's Complete Techniques. my new favorite book in ALL Existence. This book will show you how to truss a chicken AND make cucumber turtles. Cucumber turtles! Anyway, my new boyfriend Jacque showed me the way, and the chops fried up nicely, though I splattered myself a little with hot oil while talking on the phone. Let this be a lesson to you all, don't fry and talk. I served them with a yogurt tahini sauce from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, which you may think wouldn't go with the breadcrumb and parmesan crust, but it worked. It was almost like chicken fried lamb, with tahini sauce instead of cream gravy.

And today. Man. If you told me I could have such wonderful Eggs Benedict in the same day I was as cranky as I was most of the day, I don't know that I would have believed you. This morning we got up and went to the Hollywood Farmer's Market and were both very, very crabby. You would think that this would not be the best time to go home and attempt Eggs Benedict, especially since the last and only other time I tried to make Eggs Benedict, I literally cried in the Hollandaise. I wanted to try Juuuulia's blender Hollandaise, but since Juuuulia says an 8 year old child could make that and that I should learn to make it by hand, I try again. Poaching eggs and making hollandaise were daunting, so I dispatched Jeff to toast the English muffins and place bacon on top of them. (I like real bacon, sue me.)

So I used both the poaching method and hollandaise from Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, a wonderful book that includes, side by side, both of their separate methods for, well, cooking at home. With comments and pictures. It's great. Having no egg poachers, I went with Jacques' method for egg poaching, stealing another technique, boiling the eggs in their shells for 10 seconds first from either The French Chef Cookbook or the Graham Kerr Cookbook, I can't remember (seriously. I joined another cooking book club, hence the new Nigella and all the Jacques, and have instated a temporary cookbook buying moratorium), first. They worked! I poached eggs! Not the world's most beautiful eggs, but poached eggs nonetheless.

And the hollandaise, well. It didn't even look like it was going to think about breaking, and it didn't. It was lemony and gorgeous and one of the best hollandaise sauces I've ever had. I think knowing that I can make Eggs Benedict myself is a dangerous thing.

Feeling magnanimous, I told Jeff I would do all the dishes, something I thought he deserved after the million dish salad. Instead of saying thank you, he grumbled about how many dishes he had done. which led to a whole annoyance with each other that lasted all afternoon. I had thought to make black olive and basil rolls from the Cook and the Gardener AND make pizza dough. The bread dough was tooting along fine, and I was working on the pizza dough when I a)ran out of flour and b) then poured too much of my substituted bread flour into the dough, which knead as I might, did not resemble any pizza dough I'd ever seen. I hiked it to TJ's for more flour, made the dough, baked the bread.. (which turned out quite well, much better than my first baked bread, and which I'll be using for little sandwiches this week.)

And started dinner. Leek and potato soup from Mastering the Art of French Cooking along with corn fritters with aged cheddar (well, gouda) from Deborah Madison's Local Flavors. (Why do I buy a second Deborah Madison cookbook when I'm not bowled over by the first one I have? Book clubs. Damn them.) Actually, the fritters turned out fine, despite my having reservations about corn fritters.

See, this one time, right out of college, I borrowed my roommate's Cooking Light to make corn fritters. The recipe, unlike Deborah Madison's, called for canned or frozen or whatever corn, and then instructed you to puree the batter in a blender, which I didn't have, so I just kind of mashed it all up with a fork, thinking, well, they'll be chunky.

Um. Yeah. Whole corn kernels, hot oil... I made popcorn. Popcorn, exploding all over my then boyfriend's kitchen. And I mean all over- there was popcorn flying at you from all angles, it seemed. A horrible disaster for which I blamed Cooking Light, since they didn't explain WHY you needed to puree the fritters, now did they? And I then boycotted the magazine for years. Anyway. Deborah Madison has you just cut off the tops of the kernels and then extract the milk with the back of your knife, a technique I had seen Jasper White use on Cooking with Master Chefs or whatever not three weeks ago, so that all went well, and there was no popcorn disaster. There was, however, a blender disaster.

So I mash up the potatoes and leek with my potato masher, but want it more pureed. I'm manning the fritters, so I ask Jeff to pour it in the blender and puree a simple (I think) task, as I explain to him which button is for puree.

Then, suddenly, out of nowhere, all hell breaks loose, soup spraying everywhere, Jeff fumbling for the off switch, me thinking the blender is possessed, horrible horrible grinding loud horrible sounds, Jeff yanking the plug out of the wall...

Jeff, in his infinite wisdom, had turned the hard plastic thing that fits into the soft plastic blender top, to lock it in. Well, it fits with the tabbed parts of the hard thing in the slotted parts of the soft thing, and if you turn it the other way- it falls in. Soup will spray everywhere and that little hard thing will get chipped to bits.

So we had potage parmentier au plastique, which I refused to eat, because there were unlocated missing plastic bits. The corn fritters were fine and a filling meal, but I was a bit annoyed, and Jeff was also upset, so we ate in sullen-ness. The plus side is that I have learned my blender is, in fact, really, really powerful.