Sunday, December 28, 2008

O'Hare of the Dog

Dear Mouse, 

Can you believe it was last year this time we started to write A Mouse Bouche? Happy New Years' Eve Eve.

I am reflecting on A Year in Food Bloggery. I've noticed  - maybe you have too?  - that since I"ve dedicated so much time to finding nuggets of culinary interest, some seem to leap out at me when I'm not looking at all. 

As you know, this year being Home for the Holidays was made all the sweeter for me by the fact that I almost didn't make it.  Say it with me now: always fly direct. What would have been a simple, 4-hour flight from Kansas City to NJ became a harrowing journey through the bowels of Traveler's Hell, or, as some know it, Chicago's O'Hare Airport.  My boring half-hour layover became a spine-tingling seven-hour delay, followed by an exciting hour of suspense on board the aircraft, followed by a hilarious cancellation announcement.  

Luckily, at this point,  the Holiday Gods smiled upon me. My dear friend On a White Horse and her partner In Shining Armor (I'm totally using their real names), happened to be in Chicago. They picked me and my instruments up (my clothes were, of course, snug in NJ at this point) and whisked me off to a place with a bed, somewhere, I think it might have been a house, whatever, it was great.

And it is at this point, mad with fatigue and confusion, wedged between a guitar and a stroller, chatting with two (I thought) decidedly non-foodie friends, that I find out that Shining Armor... makes Glogg every year for the holidays. 

As in, the Swedish version of hot mulled wine.  As in, homemade. As in, there is supposed to be an umlaut over the "o" but I can't figure out how to do it. As in,  there are several bottles at her place right now and would I like some?

This, by the way, was completely unsolicited information. What is it with me and the Nordic Peoples this winter??

I am ashamed to say I fell asleep before I could taste it. But she very generously yielded her recipe!!! I think it's an appropriate little New Year's gift to you and all our readers. Happy 2009 everyone!!!

The Boo

Glogg by Shining Armor 

1 bottle red wine
1 pint of brandy (i use merlot and cheap brandy. also you can throw in .5 liter of port if you like a sweeter sip)
10 cardamom pods (crushed), or 1 tsp of crushed powder
2 cinnamon stick (broken down or whole)
orange peel (1 whole orange - i prefer fresh rinds to dried)
1/2 lb of sugar (i like to use brown but either works)
5 cloves (optional),
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup almonds
2 tsp ginger (optional)

put wine and spices into stainless steel or porcelain kettle (other kinds react badly with wine). 
Cover and simmer low. LOW.

Put the sugar in a pan and soak it with half the brandy. medium-low heat and stir until it becomes a clear, golden syrup and sugar has dissolved. simmer for about 15 minutes until the little tiny bubbles become larger burbles. add sugar to wine and cover for about an hour.

taste it along the way for desired blend. add more brandy (which is what i like to do) or port or sugar, etc...

strain spices with a thin cloth....with every cup serve it with new blanched almonds and golden raisins.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Wyoming Solstice

Dear Mouse, 

I already bought your present. Happy Hanukkah!

In other news, I'm in Laramie WY! Here's what I found there:
* altitude sickness (drink water, it goes away after a day)
* bison burgers
* elk chili
* snow, snow, snow
* The Library, a combination brewing company AND drive-thru liquor store. (No I am not kidding). Try the oatmeal stout and play Big Buck Hunter Pro for only $.50 a trek!!!! (I beat the GC five times.)
* Coal Creek Coffee Co., a roomy, unpretentious coffee joint with excellent food, serious coffee in BIG cups (served everywhere in town), and live music. Reminded me of Portland OR.  
* a music-loving population which packed Coal Creek for me despite blizzard conditions
* This spanking new small theatre, on the grounds of the historic Wyoming Territorial Prison. (Now a museum in warmer months).
* This cute B&B, which does have a staying-with-relatives vibe, but really nice ones who insist that you eat the salad fixings in their fridge with the frozen pizza you brought home, and make great granola for breakfast. 
*Oh, and Norwegians. :-) 

I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon in the kitchen with friends of the GC who introduced me to the world of Norwegian desserts. Since my only exposure to food from that part of the world thus far has been Bacon Paste in a Tube (thank you A-Mac), getting in on this family's Christmas cookies was enlightening and delicious. The treats are all variations on waffles (!! I'm sold).  Here's one kind.

 Krumkake are a cone-shaped, thin, crispy waffle. They are feather-light and sweet but not cloying, require a special waffle iron, and make use of almond extract and cardamom (!!), which I'm told  is a really common dessert flavoring in Norway. Live and learn. 

God Jul! (Merry Xmas!)

Tomorrow we head to Kansas City. Up at dawn to make it there in time for ribs. See you at home. 

The Boo.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

All I Want for Christmas

Dear Boo,

In case you're still wondering what to get me for Christmukkah, I thought I'd make it easy on you and enclose my wish list. Not surprisingly, you might sense a theme here.

1) Le Creuset dutch oven.
Yes, they're expensive. But yes, TJ Maxx tends to have sales on this sort of thing. And yes, I've already thought about all this. I don't seem to own any kind of stove-top-to-oven dishes which leaves me crestfallen when I start reading a recipe for beef stew or braised lamb shanks or coq au vin that calls for just such a versatile pot. Also it makes me feel oh so Julia Childlike to bring one of these canary-yellow dishes to the table. I might even develop a faint trace of an accent. If you're lucky.

2) All About Braising, by Molly Stevens.

I've decided you can make up for the fact that you cackle wildly at my nerd-dom every time I mention this title, by buying said book for me. It seems to be all the rage on the blog circuit and I think you'll agree with me that during the winter pretty much all one should eat is something slow-cooked in some kind of sauce with sauteed vegetables. Also there's a recipe for braised celery with breadcrumbs which I am so perplexed by that I must try it. Also, will put to good use my new dutch oven.

3) My boyfriend's new book.So pukka in your plaid shirt, Jamie.

4) Oh Ina.You have never steered me wrong. From your awesome broccoli, to your outrageous brownies, you make me want to kick off my shoes, jump on the jitney, and come blow off some steam with you and Jeffrey. Let's get back to basics.

5) An Immersion blender.

Please don't mention this to the Boyfriend as I will get a good chiding about how we have no space for more kitchen stuff, and if you don't plan on using that AT LEAST once a week, out to the curb it goes, blah blah, yadda yadda, stoppedlisteningtwentyminutesago. Here's the thing. I want one. I don't have a blender. I don't want a blender for the aforementioned spatial issues, and who needs to clean all those parts. Also, what a genius invention--instead of juggling a hot pot and pouring all that soup into a whole other receptacle, one batch at a time, you just stick the little jiggimahoozit into the soup and BAM. Blending has commenced.

6) You may remember from "Things we Like Today" past, that we own two frosty beer mugs. Well, we did. One fell on the floor and cracked in half, spilling out whatever liquid that is between the walls of the glass (the Boyfriend thinks its water. I think it's something far more sinister).
Also one of the two cool Bodum glasses I like to drink wine out of, met a similar fate. It seems we are not meant to have double-paned glass. Maybe you could prove me wrong.

7) A Hess truck.
Every year you promise to make up for the fact that no one took me seriously when I kept asking Santa for one lo these many years ago. I hear there's a new model. With flashing lights.

Thank you. Your milk and cookies will be waiting.


The Mouse

Monday, December 15, 2008

Holiday Fever

"Cross out of thy books/ malevolent looks/Both beauty and youth's decay
And wholly consort/ with mirth and with sport
To drive the cold winter away"
-Anonymous, 18th Century, The Boo's Favorite Carol
(Which She has Sung Loudlye of Layte in the Kitchen, for so as to Express her Holiday Spirit, and Also to Frighten the (Real) Mouse which Lives Behind the Stove)

Dear Mouse,

I am so excited. It's December!!

"Can you believe the Boo abandoned us this year to play the Knitting Factory? Let's punish her by letting her find our whole show online and then not loading properly, no matter how many times she tries to watch."

I am , I hardly need remind you, what you might call the Anti-Grinch. I am more into Xmas than any secular half-Jew has a right to be. Every year, I am as psyched as I was in the days when I steadfastly believed in Mr. Claus past all reason, and wrote the now-famous literary epic, "The Goldberg's Christmas" (
without irony) for our family files. Seriously, I am useless. All I want to do is sing, buy presents, watch cartoon specials, and basically run around in Victorian getup clutching holly branches and shouting "God bless us, Every one!"

That, and, of course, eat stuff.

I feel particularly blessed right now. For one thing, I'm about to pack my bags and leave town for two months, mostly for performing-type work, which is awesome. BUT the best part is that, since I'll be gone just before and just after 12/25, it has been necessary to push some beloved traditions, well, just a bit earlier. ... thereby stretching out the holiday by a few weeks. (Yeah!!)

Take, for example, the Winter Solstice dinner I usually host for you & sundry folks at my house, round 12/21. On that date this year, I will be in Laramie, playing here & here , watching the GC in this, and lighting birthday candles in one of the tiny travel menorahs our mother bought that one time. SO what is there to do but observe it twice!

Early Fest #1: (One Week Before) Winter Solstice
Two members of our festive group were available on 12/14, and when I say festive I mean that I said "bring wine" and they EACH brought three bottles. EACH. For three of us. Which may account for the fact that I do NOT have photos to share, but I DO have a giant ceramic head filled with jellybeans (yay early gift exchange!). I also have a recipe to share that is quick and warming and may use up some Thanksgiving swag lying around. Witness: I had a can of pumpkin, some cans of chicken broth, and a butternut squash sitting forlornly in my fruit bowl. In about 20 minutes (after prep) I had Fast & Easy Winter Squash Soup.

OK yes it is from yet another Ina Garten recipe but with one key difference. You do not, do NOT need a blender, or for Lord's sake, a "food mill" (i see that in recipes all the time and just picture, like, a little edible house) to make this. Just reach in there with your wisk at the end, and mash up the incredibly tender squash until your desired consistency. I like the rough, textured result. 2 C chopped onion, a can and a half of chicken broth, can of pumpkin, 1.5 lbs butternut (peeled/chopped),1/2 C cream, salt & pepper. Saute chopped onion 10 min in a little oil & butter, add everything else except cream, cook/simmer for 20 min, covered. Uncover, remove from heat, add cream, mash with wisk. That's it. Maybe a little chopped sage on top. Make at the end of a shopping day.

Early Fest #2: Traditional Post-Xmas Bloody Mary Gift Exchange w/A-Mac, Pre-Xmas
I love this annual meal/gift exchange that you and I have with our friend A-Mac, who happens to be the mixologist responsible for the best Bloody Marys I have ever had. It usually takes place around 12th night, at her place. But this year, come that date, I'll be slapping my way through Alice Cooper's "School's Out" on a rented bass in Louisville, Kentucky. The solution? An early gift-exchange breakfast on 12/15.

We went to Alias because of its reputation for fabulous brunch and a whole menu of Bloodys that maybe would make up for the loss of the usual (as if). The "Hair of Mary", I noticed, has a double shot of vodka. Crazy! Still feeling the champagne-and-jellybean fest of the night before, I opted instead for the much more sensible option of two regular Bloody Marys.
That celery is pickled. (And you would be too.)

Bottom line, I think you agree, is that, although perfectly acceptable, the brunch is nothing to write home about. Unless, like A-Mac, you order this:

Cheese Grits & Greens. Heavenly.

Though I was glad we ordered the "KY Sausage", if only to reassure ourselves:

I'm looking forward to visiting their state.

So I leave in two days!! I'll see you at home. Expect much bloggage from the Wild West (spoiler alert: the GC has already mentioned ELK).

I'll leave you with this piece of divine hilarity I got to experience the other night in person. The unbeatable Fiona Walsh at the Irish Arts Center, as 'The Armchair Chef''. There but for the grace of god...

The Boo

Sunday, December 7, 2008

For the Love of a Sunchoke

Dear Boo,

The rumors are true. I'm in love. Sure, he's a little funny looking. His figure's kind of knobby and a little bulbous. He looks tough, but don't be fooled--he's got thin skin. And he's always dirty. But it's all part of the delicious package. A little sweet, a little crunchy. Different from the others but can fit right in at the dinner table with the usual company. Sigh. I'm a lucky girl.

We met the other week at the Greenmarket. I was strolling through looking for something, but I wasn't sure what. These guys caught my eye, what with their splashy looks....

but I needed more. At the Ask a Chef table, I heard the name and fell. "Sunchokes", they breathed. "Jerusalem artichokes. They're delicious roasted. Or raw in a salad. Mild artichoke flavor...." I hightailed it over to the table and bought myself a bounty of these bizarre looking fellas.

At home I peeled the skins off (you don't really need to, except that it seemed easier to me than scrubbing each one, and the outer skin is a little rough), and sliced the chokes into about 1/4 of an inch thick pieces. It was hard not to eat as I sliced as they have such an addictive crunch and a milky smooth artichokey flavor with a little sweetness. I can imagine them in a yummy summery salad maybe kind of like this one.

But I needed a little winter warmth. So I threw them in a hot pan with some olive oil and tossed and waited, resisting the urge to pop one in my mouth, risking burnt fingers and all. Since I wanted them to get a little soft before they crisped up, I poured in a bit (maybe 1/4 cup) of chicken broth and let them simmer away. A few minutes later, I threw in some chopped fresh rosemary, some salt and pepper, and then when they looked irresistibly browned and beautiful, I pulled it off the stove and squeezed half a lemon over the chokes and a sprinkling of parmesan.

The verdict? Love. Pure, unadulterated adoration. Imagine if a potato (heaven, perfection, reason to live), and an artichoke (second runner up for perfect vegetable) made sweet sweet love and were blessed with a little one (perhaps I've gone too far. talk about food porn...) who possessed the best of both parent's qualities. And then you ate that thing. Disturbing implications aside, you'd be pretty happy. As was I.

So happy in fact, that I ate way too many and suffered because of it. Take heed.
For Thanksgiving, one of my assignments was a vegetable and so I thought I'd spread the gospel of the Sunchoke. Since I was working with bigger quantities here, it seemed easier to roast them with some olive oil and s&p. Which I did. at 400. While the chokes were in the oven, I got some olive oil and a bit of butter warm in a pan on the stove. To that I added some chopped rosemary (3 T?), and about 1/3-1/2 Cup of breadcrumbs, with some garlic and salt and pepper, and a handful of parmesan. Just before it was all toasted and yummy, I added lemon juice. When the chokes came out of the oven, I tossed them with the breadcrumb mixture. Not that these veggies need much enhancement, but if you're gonna do something, I say try this. The flavor combination was sooooo yummy, and a perfect alternative to potatoes as a different kind of side dish.
The next time you're at the Greenmarket, maybe try venturing outside of your carrot-focused comfort zone and explore some other root family folks. Roasted or sauteed, they're good people.

Love to you and my man 'Choke,


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I am So Totally Over my Salad Spinner

Dear Mouse,

I just needed to get that off my chest.

I have, like, three of them for some reason, all of them missing various pieces, and it's just like an edge-of-the-sink, splashy leafy circus every time I use them. No cupboard or vessel can hold them; they bounce out every time you open one, onto the floor, it's downright dangerous. And in the end, you have sort-of dry lettuce that is sort-of still dirty. Anyway, lettuce is not in season now, which brings me to my point.

I'm almost done with the book you lent me, Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which I love. Her year-long saga of farming, local eating and generally revising her family's relationsip with food has been hilarious and inspiring.

I've noticed that the approach of XmasUkahStice has brought with it the usual spate of Food Terrorist Literature: the magazine articles, soft news stories, and subway ads about holiday excess reminding us that in this time of togetherness and celebration our Diet Alert should be raised to Fat Orange.

As an antidote to this time of Calorie Phobia, I'd like to offer a quote from Kingsolver's "November/December" chapter. It says everything I'd like to say back.

"For most people everywhere, surely, food anchors holiday traditions. I probably spent some years denying the good in that, mostly subconsciously - devoutly refusing the Thanksgiving pie, accepting the stigma my culture has attached to celebrating food ( ...) We are supposed to pretend if we are strong-willed that food is not all that important. Eat now and pay later, we're warned. Stand on the scale, roll your eyes, and on New Year's Day resolve to become a moral person again.

But most of America's excess pounds were not gained on national holidays.
(..) Good people eat. So do bad people, skinny people, fat people, tall and short ones. Heaven help us, we will never master photosynthesis. Planning complex, beautiful meals, and investing one's heart and time in their preparation is the opposite of self-indulgence. Kitchen-based family gatherings are process-oriented, cooperative, and in the best of worlds, nourishing and soulful. ... I have given and received some of life's most important hugs with oven-mitt pot holders on both hands. "

In gratitude for friends, family, creative endeavors both in and out of the kitchen, and a big pot-holder hug to all.

Love, The Boo

P.S. Online, I found a lettuce-hygiene product called the 'Spin n Stor'. From the instructions:

"Just put your freshly washed greens into the bag, hold the top closed, spin it around overhead in a big arc for maximum force (Argee suggests about a dozen times), and the water drains out through little slots at the end of the bag into a reservoir."

Spin it around overhead in a big arc for maximum force.

Oh, ok.
In a New York apartment?

Love (again), The Boo