Brown Butter Pancakes

Ahh, blog fail.  February was nuts, y’all.

[Appropriate and clever transition]

When Joy the Baker posted a recipe for brown butter pancakes, I bookmarked it immediately, because brown butter and pancakes are probably two of my favorite culinary concepts.  I dragged my feet on making them, though, because my expectations were low.  As much as I love brown butter, I find that its nuances usually fade into the cacophony of the final dish; and I thought three measly tablespoons of it would be undetectable.  I was completely wrong.  It turns out that something as simple as these pancakes–just flour and eggs and buttermilk, no more, no less–is the perfect backdrop for brown butter.  The nutty rich wonderfulness came through beautifully.  The difference in taste wasn’t extreme, but the smell…oh, the smell.  I’m still daydreaming about that smell.

Eggs Basin Street

A few weeks ago, my love affair with New Orleans got a little deeper when I experienced lunch at Commander’s Palace, one of the city’s Creole institutions.  Of course I was overjoyed when one of my group members lent me his Commander’s cookbook.  Paging through it, the first thing that really jumped out at me was the Eggs Basin Street. It’s a high-class spin on red beans and rice.  You take leftover rice, self-rising flour, eggs, and milk, and make rice fritters.  Then you top them with poached or fried eggs and New Orleans-style red beans.

I finally made this yesterday, and it’s good.  Set-your-fork-down-between-bites-to-savor-it good.  Smile-because-you-get-to-eat-the-leftovers-all-week good.  I will have to keep it in mind for the far-off day when I have people over for brunch in my fabulous grown-up apartment.

Kale Salad with Apples

My running partner recently introduced me to kale, and boy, am I glad.  I started off gently, with braised kale, and then I went all in and made a big bowl of kale salad.  Now I’m on my second in as many weeks.  I took inspiration from two recipes, using the breadcrumbs and pecorino from this one, and the sliced apples from this one.  Both recipes use a very lemon-heavy dressing, and I can see why.  The aggressive flavor of the kale is overcome by the yet-more-feisty lemon, and the whole thing relaxes a little, like a cat that was trying to bite your eyebrow but gives up and sits on your lap instead.  As the other, better, bloggers mentioned, this salad keeps well in the fridge, so it’s ideal brown-bag lunch food, particularly with some leftover chicken on top.

Vanilla Frozen Yogurt

I made the vanilla fro-yo from The Perfect Scoop for the French dinner last week (along with this cake, lest you think I was being un-francophilic).  I meant to post about it, but then I blinked, and it was Sunday again.  But it’s too good to skip entirely.  People, you need to know about this yogurt.  So, I’m going to go with, “Yeah, what she said.”

Poulet à l’ail, et autres plats

This all started when I found out one of my roommates actually saw Dinner for Schmucks. Paid money for it, in fact.  I was shocked and horrified; and I insisted, angrily, that they watch Le dîner de cons, the far-superior French original.  Of course, I can’t do anything halfway, so a little Netflixing among roommates became a themed evening complete with a dîner français, a couple of bottles of Bordeaux, and a French-speaking guest.

I was very pleased with how everything turned out.  The chicken recipe was from Provencal Light, It’s a variation on last week’s “French chicken in a pot,” with three heads of garlic instead of the usual aromatics.  It lived up to expectations, which is to say, it was moist and tender and smelled like Gilroy.  (Mmmmm.)  Apparently it’s customary to squeeze the roasted garlic onto slices of toast, so of course I made the KAF no-knead bread.  I broke in my new mandoline with Julia Child’s gratin dauphinois, which  tasted far richer than a dish consisting of sliced potatoes with a cup of skim milk and a few dabs of duck fat has any right to taste.  For the vegetables, I made the CI minestrone (a little bland, honestly).

The real victory here wasn’t the potatoes, or the chicken; it was the grace with which it all came together.  On a day when I left the lab at 4 PM, no less. Normally, in the last hour before a dinner party, I am running around the house like a headless chicken.  But this time, I continued the trend I started with Falafel Party, and turned out some competent hostessin’.  The day before, I made the soup and the cake (post to follow), and assembled the gratin.  The morning of, I churned the fro-yo and baked the bread.  Et voilà, my kitchen, my kitchen five minutes before half the party arrived.  Look how clean it is!  There’s the usual dinner mess, platters and spoons and whatnot, but note the lack of a dirty dishes, dirty dishtowels, and general chaos.  Note, also, the glass of wine in the lower left-hand corner of the frame, which I was sipping as I gave the soup a last stir.  It was a lot of work in advance, but it was totally worth it to be able to relax and enjoy my Sunday night fully.

French Chicken in a Pot

I’ll open with a kitchen confession: I consistently fail at cooking whole chickens.  Cakes from scratch?  Check.  Homemade doughnuts?  Been there, done that.  But roast chicken is my kryptonite.  Never golden brown no matter how forcefully I pat it dry, always over- or under-cooked…it gets me every time.  But now…I have the upper hand.  I still need to master roast chicken eventually, but for the foreseeable future, every whole chicken that comes into my kitchen is meeting the same fate.

I came across this CI recipe a while ago, and it caught my attention.  It proposed trading golden brown skin (the hallmark of dry roasting) for moist, juicy meat (the hallmark of a good braise).  I generally remove the skin anyway–I’d rather save my empty calories for brownies–so this seemed like a good deal to me.  The general idea is as simple as can be.  You brown the bird on both sides in a Dutch oven, just enough to generate a little fond for the jus.  Then you toss in some aromatics, cover with aluminum foil and a sturdy lid, and pop the whole thing in a low oven for about an hour.  The juices that render out become the braising fluid.

I followed the instructions, and the result was, quite possibly, the best chicken I’ve ever put in my mouth.  I barely had to carve, the legs popped off when I touched them.  (And that’s good because I’m about as bad at carving as I am at roasting.)  And the jus–criminy, the jus!  Nothing fancy, no shallots, no stock, just the braising liquid, de-greased and reduced a little; and easily the tastiest jus I’ve ever produced.

(It is a fair bit of grease that comes out: I photographed for your edification.)

 

Roast Pork Tenderloin

Sunday’s pork tenderloin…isn’t it purty?  Nothing to report here, really; just a piece of lean meant, browned in a skillet and roasted until done-ish.  (Which is to say, much pinker than the USDA recommends.)  I used cinnamon and allspice in the rub along with salt and pepper, not to flavor the pork so much as perk up the forthcoming pan sauce.