It was brought to my attention that my keeping “emergency butter” in the freezer may not be normal.
Blerg, okay, so, here’s why I’ve been standing back here wringing my hands for a few days:
- I made this kick-ass pie I want to tell you about, and,
- The recipe itself was a nightmare but I don’t want to say anything critical about Rose Levy Beranbaum.
I wanted to make something light but seasonally appropriate for Thanksgiving at a friend’s house, and as any girl in distress would do I called my mom. And by “my mom” I literally mean my mom — really, everyone calls my mom. You should give her a call, she’ll talk you through whatever is going on.
Anyway, she started flipping through Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Pie and Pastry Bible while on the phone with me and suddenly says “Cranberry Chiffon Pie.” GIMME, I shout. So as my mom starts reading the recipe to me, we both come to the same slow and wretched realization: the recipe is written terribly. Horribly! The ingredient list is all over the place, the instructions themselves aren’t intuitive or streamlined, but neither are they conversational and pleasantly meandering like Maida Heatter tends to be. Basically after reading the recipe out loud to me about six times (truly!) we barely thought we got it. We’re still not sure how she claims to have made a meringue for the topping from a single egg white.
But it’s one of those stories I seem to tell with regularity: after some hacking and some tweaking and some outright disregard for anyone’s feelings, I came out the other end with a pie that I’ve already sworn to a dozen people that I will bring again next year.
Leftover cranberry pulp.
And while the assembly of the pie itself isn’t difficult, I warn you in advance that it dirties literally everything in your kitchen. If I hadn’t had a dishwasher I would have been furious. Even still: sort of irritated. A little. Not really. Also, I got to eat this pie.
Those are hibiscus flowers cured in sugar syrup that my friend Marika gave me! ZOMG!
Cranberry Chiffon Pie
i’d like to say this cranberry chiffon pie is greatly inspired by Rose Levy Beranbaum rather than just straight-up ripped off. if you want to compare mine to her original, just know that the primary thing I did was double the filling volume and dispense with the meringue topping and a cranberry juice glaze, because they would have added literally two more fussy extra steps, and we’re already at 4 fussy major steps. TOO MANY STEPS. also be advised that this must be made 24 hours in advance. no last-minute chiffon pie for you.
1 1/2 bags fresh cranberries (about 5 cups)
2/3 cup frozen cran-rasp concentrate OR white grape and raspberry juice concentrate
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
juice of 1/2 lime and 1 small orange or tangerine
1 Tbsp. (***SEE NOTE) granulated unflavored gelatin (vegetarian/kosher gelatin works, too)
4 egg yolks
1/2 C sugar
1 cup milk
4 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 pre-baked walnut-graham pie shell (see below)
***Note about gelatin: the tablespoon makes the preferred texture for me, but be advised that this pie will melt at room temperature. It is a chilled pie. If you’re going to have the pie out of the fridge for longer than it takes to serve it, add an extra teaspoon of gelatin. It won’t stop it from melting, but it will help.
- First, prepare and chill a pie shell. Make a graham-cracker pie crust as instructed on the back of a box of Honey Maid graham cracker meal, but substitute 1/2 cup of the graham meal with finely ground walnuts. Bake, according to instructions, to just lightly toast and set the crust. Place into fridge and allow to chill before starting anything else.
- In a large sauce pan over medium heat, put all the ingredients for the cranberry sauce into the pan and allow to come up to a simmer. The cranberries will begin to pop (not explosively, just gently) and deflate and eventually the mixture will bubble down into a slurry with a thick layer of pink foam on the surface (see the first photo of this post). When it reaches that stage, allow it to simmer for another 5 minutes, then remove from the heat.
- Into a large bowl with a fine sieve placed over the surface, slowly work the cranberry sauce through the sieve, pushing the fruit through as best you can while retaining the tough cranberry skins. You’ll have to periodically scrape the skins off the sieve and set them aside (see the second photo of this post) and eventually you’ll have a little over two cups of nice cranberry puree, about the texture of a thick pea soup, and about a cup of cranberry skin waste. Throw the skins away and set the bowl of sauce in the fridge to chill. Give the sieve a good rinsing but set aside. You’ll need it again.
- When the sauce has been given a chance to cool off and is starting to chill (about 30 minutes to an hour) begin making the custard. In a small bowl, place 4 Tbsp of the 1 cup of milk and sprinkle over the gelatin. Set aside. In a small saucepan warm the remaining milk and the sugar together until starting to lightly steam a bit. In a side bowl, whisk together the 4 egg yolks and the now-sort-of solid bit of gelatin and milk. Don’t worry, it’ll whisk together. Into the yolks and gelatin, slowly whisk the warm milk and sugar mixture. When mixed together, place it all back into the saucepan and over medium-low heat, while constantly stirring, bring the custard up to just-below a simmer. It will thicken to the consistency of … well, warm custard. The professional chef test is to take a large spoon of any providence, dip it into the custard, turn the spoon over so the bottom is facing up and run your finger across the back of the spoon, through the custard. If it’s ready, you’ll easily leave a clean swipe through the liquid that does not go away. If it is not ready, the swipe edges will ooze.
- Using the same sieve from before, pour the custard right into the cranberry sauce. Just, right in. Mix them together and replace in the fridge. Place an empty metal or glass bowl into the fridge or freezer for our upcoming whipped cream.
- When the cranberry-custard mix is cooled off again, (again, 30 to 60 minutes), start whipping the cream. In your frosty-cold bowl whip the cream and sugar together to a stiff peak, as stiff as you dare get it without making butter. Working in thirds, very carefully fold the whipped cream into the cranberry-custard mix until just barely incorporated. Pour this whole slurry into the chilled pie crust. You’ll have a little bit of filling left over, depending on the volume of your pie dish, but that’s good news: pour that extra into a small bowl and snack on it later tonight after it sets a little. It’s your cook’s tithe.
- Allow the pie to chill for about 4 or 5 or 6 hours until mostly set, and then cover the surface directly with a piece of plastic wrap. Continue to allow to set undisturbed overnight.
- The next day, decorate as desired with some fresh fruit or mint leaves as a garnish, and serve right after taking from the fridge. Return any uneaten portion immediately to the fridge.
As an American, I didn’t understand until recently that ramen is an edible foodgroup. That wretched dry brick was all I’d had, and even as a salt-hungry and largely tastebud-dead teen I knew that shit was evil. After eating it I’d get a chemical flush all over my face and neck and would often lose sensation in my tongue for a short while. It did not bode well for my desire to be a penniless college student.
Then, I found real ramen. A paragon of noodles. The king of bowl-meals, an ambassador of all things salty and soothing. Hakata ramen, my current obsession, is made with a thick, oily, milky-looking bone-based pork broth. It’s fucking insidious, I warn you now. Traditionally, Hakata ramen should have very thin noodles lacking that trademark kinkiness of other ramens, and I think that’s a good deal of why I like it so much, but if I implied it wasn’t about the broth I’d be misleading you.
The Viking and Frego.
It doesn’t surprise me that Los Angeles is home to several great and totally authentic ramen joints, but what did surprise me is that we moved near one of them: Ramen Jinya.
He accepts your heathen noodles and will spare your village. Today.
I think I’d still prefer a bowl of Shin-Sen-Gumi’s Hakata ramen if handed a bowl of each and asked to choose, but we’re starting to enter Sophie’s Choice territory. Jinya’s pork is superior and the broth is almost a dead ringer – only the noodles break in favor of Shin-Sen-Gumi, and then only because I feel less of an ass ordering them soft (the option is right on the ticket you fill out and hand to the server). But here’s the real issue: Shin-Sen-Gumi is a 45-minute drive away now. Jinya, you have the lead.
The thing where we buy stuff for people. My ideas from last year still stand, but here are some new ones. And by “new ones” I mean stuff I mostly already told you about.
Again, it’s both functional and beautiful, and who doesn’t need a broom? If the idea of a plain broom still strikes you as boring, go and look at her more unusual ones, like the cobweb broom or the turkey wing broom. There’s even a broom for hobbits children, which is a fine idea if you know one of those obsessive compulsive kids.
By far my most favoritest marzipan in the world. I’ve written an ode before, and it still stands.
Stromondo is so finely milled that it is creamy like caramel — I’ve really never found anything else like it, anywhere. It was unavailable for most of this year for some horrible, terrible reason, but it’s back! It is currently unavailable online, as it often is, but when it shows up you should nab it. It’s pricey, but I think that’s what part of what makes it a good gift for someone who likes to bake. Or likes to eat things that are delicious.
I walked by this vegetable basket at IKEA and stopped dead in my tracks. You can’t see from the photo, but the details are spot-on. The mushrooms are the best, they really look like shiitakes, and there’s a head of garlic hidden in there too. The leek has little root bits and the outer lettuce leaves detach. All of this and a sturdy little corduroy basket for $8. Yep, eight bucks. I got the veggies for my niece, as well as the equally awesome breakfast set, which was only FIVE DOLLARS. But here’s the thing: you don’t need to know a kid to get these. I think the vegetables or the fruit set would look rad in a nice crystal or wooden bowl in the middle of a dining table for adults. Mike the Viking thinks the breakfast set would look great sewn onto a hat and formally put in a request for one.
The bummer is that they are not currently available for sale online, so if you don’t live near an IKEA you’re out of luck.
4. Uh, Something I Just Now Realized I Can’t Tell You About:
Because I’m getting it for my sister. Hi Layla! Phew, that was close. Also: don’t let your daughter see item #3.
But the reminder is: it was for good damn reason. The chai is by far the best I’ve had, and their microgrinding process for making “instant” chai is unparalleled. If you know someone who likes chai already, this is a no-brainer. If they are avid tea drinkers, it’s still a no-brainer. If they’ve never even tried chai, now’s the time to start them on it. Tell Tipu’s that Anger Burger sent you in the comment field when you order and they’ll refund a small percentage of your payment and try the discount code “chailove” “blackchaifriday”. (Thanks Maven!).
Again – appears to not be available online, so sorry to everyone not near an IKEA. But for those who are, and in particular, those who have poor counter surfaces, you are in some serious luck. At $10 each, I’m not even sure you can buy the pine they’re made of for cheaper at the lumber store.
The boards have a moat/drain on one side and a lip on one edge, but that’s not why I got them for myself. As you can see, when flipped over they make for a $20 instant farmhouse-style counter top. The lip catches on the tile edges and hold them more or less in place, and after several soakings in mineral oil the wood is gorgeous and practically waterproof.
It’s probably for the best that you can’t order them online, because when I went to buy these it took me almost 10 minutes to find two that matched in color. The range of tones and colors was astounding – some boards were almost white, some were almost black, some were even-colored all over, and few, like mine, were a pleasant mix of shades. They are also HEAVY and hoisting the boards around while I searched for matches was a total pain in the ass.
Do you know someone with tile or otherwise unsuitable kitchen counters? LÄMPLIG to the rescue. And you – you’re a good friend.
What about the rest of you? Any great ideas? Things you can’t live without? Because I’ve got a few family members I can’t think of gifts for, and it’s killing me. KILLING ME. It’s not really killing me, but I’m a little distraught over it.
For the first time in my adult life, I live in a house with an automatic dishwasher. I’ve been around them plenty – my mom has one, though to her consternation I rarely use it. I tend to still be at the sink, hand-washing whatever cup or plate I’d just used. Poor rental apartment habits die hard.
Hilariously uptight-looking accidental staging. I swear.
I’m not kidding when I say that this was the easiest Thanksgiving dinner I’ve ever done, and in no small part because of how diligently I washed up as I went. I don’t mean to paint a picture of myself as a slob, but I did work in professional kitchens long enough to develop weird and unpleasant habits such as wiping shit off counters and onto the floor, waiting to wash up until every single dish is dirty, and wiping my hands across my thighs (where there is now no longer an apron – whoops).
Oh, why did I make Thanksgiving dinner already? Mostly because we’re not celebrating with our families and we happened to have guests in town (such as Sean Frego, who took some of these lovely photos for me). Also, we don’t really jive with that whole “Pilgrims and Indians are Buddies” thing. The Viking wants to celebrate it for what is a more familiar cultural heritage to him: taking things that aren’t yours.
I used a Trader Joe’s pre-brined turkey this year at the suggestion of my mom, and I was not disappointed. It was the moistest breast meat I’ve ever had, truly. The downside of not brining it yourself is that you can’t customize the flavor, but I don’t really care. I just stuffed a whole lawnmower bag of herbs, orange halves and onions up in that bird and it worked out great.
The Thing That Lurks could not have been lurkier. A carcass! In our den! You guys! The tension level was high.
The Viking was also on high alert. Turkey dinner is pretty much his 100% favorite meal ever, no exaggerating. Our favorite late-late-night dive here in Los Angeles serves “Thanksgiving Dinner Everyday” on their menu year-round, and I’ve lost track of how many times he’s ordered it. It’s nice to be able to throw a plate of that down to distract him while I try and escape.
Still, there’s something about wrastlin’ a 17-lb corpse into the oven and then hacking it off the bones later that feels nice. Even if all the boys mysteriously disappear and can’t hear you when it’s time to clean up afterward.
I used to hate scrambled eggs, and for that I blame everyone who ever tried to feed me eggs when I was a kid, except for my parents, who knew better than to give me anything but eggs over easy. Do you know what I’m talking about? I can’t tell you how many times I’d go over to a friend’s house and get served a big spoonful of this dry, crumbly horror they called scrambled eggs. And their parents wondered why the kids needed a quart of ketchup to get them down.
It’s awesome how I blew out the eggs so badly in this photo that you can’t even see them.
I don’t know anything about Gordon Ramsay at all other than A) he’s known for yelling and B) he has some TV shows. I’ve literally never seen an episode. And I don’t remember how I came across this a few years ago, but I watched this video of him making scrambled eggs and it changed everything:
The rules are easy.
- Don’t season the eggs before cooking. I end up not salting them at all, though I admit to peppering them early on.
- Don’t beat them before cooking. Drop them into the pot whole.
- Add a forbidden quantity of butter. Seriously: about one tablespoon per every two eggs.
- Place over medium heat, removing from the heat every minute or so while continuously stirring with a heat-proof spatula. The liquid will first turn opaque while still thin, and then begin to thicken fairly smoothly after a few minutes. Never stop stirring.
- When it becomes the texture of lightly lumpy, thick pancake batter, you can remove the pan from the heat, but keep stirring. The eggs are cooked through and safe to eat at this stage, but it’s up to you how thick you want them to get. If you want them fairly firm (still tasty), then just set a lid on the pan and walk away while you make your toast. Give one more stir before serving. If you want them smooth and creamy, keep stirring and even, as Ramsay does, add a spoonful of sour cream or cream cheese and stir through.
The result is very creamy, eggy and luxurious, though I’m still not used to the version of Sunday that eats and likes scrambled eggs. I’m also still not used to the version of Sunday that actually takes the garbage out when it gets full, but I guess that’s what it means to be a grown-up. Also: I followed this breakfast with a Dr. Pepper and a box of Junior Mints. True story.
Salmon hash is what I end up making when I fry potatoes. We’re lucky enough to have a stash of home-smoked salmon from the Viking’s side of the family, but I’m aware that not everyone has a Scandinavian larder at their disposal. In times of lean I’ve made the hash with leftover cooked salmon, though even fresh salmon works – chop it up roughly, throw it in with the mustard sauce and let it cook through.
this serves two but doubles easily. don’t be afraid of the mustard sauce – you really can’t taste the mustard, but it adds a much-needed sharpness to an otherwise monotone flavor profile. i also can’t recommend fresh herbs enough. if you grow only one plant (even inside your kitchen) it should be a little pot with a rosemary plant on one side, and a thyme plant on the other. they will serve you well.
1 lb. Yukon Gold or other yellow potato, diced into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 sweet yellow onion, diced small
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 lb. smoked or leftover cooked salmon, or raw salmon, chopped roughly
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp half & half or cream
2 Tbsp good mustard, your choice
2 Tbsp fresh rosemary or dill, or both
1 spring onion, chopped fine, or some chives, chopped fine
- In a large non-stick skillet, melt butter and oil over medium heat. Add the onion and potato and a little salt and pepper, allowing to brown and cook for about 20-25 minutes. This means you need to stir occasionally, but not so often that you never give anything a chance to brown and crust nicely.
- While the potatoes and onions are cooking, chop the herbs and put them in a small bowl. Add the cream and mustard and stir to form a smooth sauce. Keep some chopped herbs and onion aside, too, to sprinkle over the top when you serve it.
- If the potatoes are tender and cooked through, add the salmon and the mustard sauce and stir through. Continue to cook, turning down to medium-low, for about 10 more minutes. The sauce will disappear into the salmon and the potatoes. Check for seasoning and adjust.
- Serve with either poached or radical scrambled eggs. See above.
For my birthday this year my dad got me a Kindle – it’s an extravagant gift and one that I would have never bought for myself, but I suppose those make the best presents, yes? I still have conflicted feelings about ebooks in general, but it turns out that for the act of really sitting down and reading, I enjoy the Kindle very much. Sure there are things I’d change¹ about it, but I can say that about everything from the state I’m residing in to the cup of tea I’m drinking².
But also this: I haven’t yet gotten up the balls to jailbreak it enough to hack the screensavers, which are far and away totally benign with the exception of each time I wonder why in Satan’s name Chris Kattan is on my Kindle:
¹“Locations” really irk me, but if you don’t know what I’m talking about, then it’s not worth trying to explain. And I don’t have a better suggestion, other than wanting the option of making the location counter disappear.
² It’s cold. I’d like to change this to: it’s warm.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake.”
Is something you shouldn’t have to snap at your inanimate cake. Unless said cake is inedibly dry and you wasted almost a pound of butter and some of your most precious passionfruit curd on it.
I was watching a TV program a few days ago and a character bit into this huge slice of a plain cake filled with raspberry jam and what appeared to be firm white frosting. I vaguely recalled him asking for a “slice of Victoria.” A frantic search online turned up the obvious: Victoria Sponge! So pretty! And so filled with whipped cream, which is good, but not what the guy on the TV appeared to eat. A little further Google-fu revealed that maybe his was filled with clotted cream, which is normally served with scones, basically just butter and obviously I love it like normal people love their children.
No one was surprised that I set out to make this for myself pretty much immediately. Even the Viking then patiently waited for his slice.
I threw in half of my viciously hoarded stash of passionfruit curd, as well. Because I’m a MORON. I should have tasted the cake first, but I say this with an urgent need for understanding: the cake seemed great. The batter was delicious, the cake rose and colored beautifully, it was springy and soft when I touched it to assemble it — nothing at all alerted me to the coming horror.
In lieu of clotted cream and for the sake of getting the cake into my piehole faster, I whipped up some heavy cream with a little Neufchâtel cheese to try and emulate the buttery, almost cheesy quality of clotted cream, and slapped that heap together. And cut myself a big ol’ slice and served some to the Viking and his friends. Who then – very sweetly, I might add – silently attempted to masticate it python-like while I took a big bite and then said, “Oh, for fuck’s sake.”
Because it sucked, you guys. It was inedible. It was the saddest, driest cake I’ve ever tried to convince myself was just “British” or “needs more jam”. I threw the entire fucker out and no one stopped me.
The saddest part is that I still want a slice of Victoria Sponge. Just, not that thing that emerged from my own kitchen. That thing can go to hell.
And I’m not talking about the Viking….
My Crohn’s disease manifests primarily as pain (thanks, biology!) and the inability to digest fiber, but for some strange reason, my body doesn’t mind corn. Mike the Viking has literally slapped raw broccoli out of my hand before as it made its way to my mouth, but that might just be because he hates vegetables’ fucking guts¹ and not because he was worried about me. Also I was drunk and someone parked me near the crudites, which was a disaster.
Anyway, the mystery: corn skins pass by undetected. It’s strange but true, and I don’t argue with it. I eat as much corn as I am able and pretend that I am normal people.
And here’s an anecdote that does actually pertain to this recipe, but also is my favorite anecdote ever. It’s the story of how I knew I’d be best friends with my best friend, Leesa Leva, aka the Purveyor of Fuckery. So, the short version is that she and I were still in that awkward stage where we weren’t sure how good of friends we were yet. I don’t make friends easily (OH STOP) – neither does she as it would turn out — and because it seemed too-good-to-be-true² at this early stage, I wasn’t yet sure I could be myself with her.
For dinner, I was cooking my old standby, corn chowder. It’s a simple recipe that involves a lot of cans, so I tend to not make it for guests. Too simple. Still, for some reason I was making it and when everything was together in a pot I left the kitchen and then returned a while later to find Leesa skulking around and looking oddly alarmed. In a rush, she told me that she was sure the chowder was still going to be delicious, but she wanted me to know that the window must have been open and something had blown into the soup, but she got it out and it would be fine.
She showed me the offending debris that she’d fished out of the soup. It was the bay leaves.
How can you not love her? You can’t not love her.
So, the chowder. Many years ago I used to cut raw kernels from fresh corn to make the soup. As the years progressed I discovered that no one could tell the difference between fresh corn and canned or frozen corn, and furthermore, it seemed better when I used at least one can of creamed corn (which contains no cream, but does contain a boggling quantity of food starch). This recipe began as something respectable and has evolved into something Sandra Lee would commend. How did this happen? I don’t know, but people seem to like it, it costs about $5 to make a big ol’ pot of it, and the hardest part is safely opening cans of corn.
I really like to eat it with super-soft white bread, for which this recipe can absolutely 100% not be beat: King Arthur Flour’s soft white dinner rolls. It makes a lot, but freeze one half after par-baking (read down in the recipe’s comments for details) and you’ve got dinner rolls for another day.
Corn Chowder with Debris
here’s a weird fact about myself: I don’t like potatoes in my chowder. I find them bland and mealy at best, and prefer to not encounter them. if you like potatoes, add them with the milk and cook them down until they are soft, probably 15 – 25 minutes depending on how large you cut them and what variety you use. this recipe is also kick-fucking-ass with the addition of about a cup of flaked smoked salmon stirred in right before serving, or even finely chopped, crispy bacon. if you like dark greens, add washed and chopped kale at the same time you add the broth. basically what I’m saying is: this is a great base for any number of personalizations. or, it’s good plain. either way.
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely diced or run through a press
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 Tbsp. flour
1 14oz. can chicken or vegetable broth
2 14oz. cans creamed corn (I truly prefer S&W)
salt and pepper to taste
3 bay leaves
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme (optional)
1 small can (8oz?) evaporated milk - not condensed!
1 cup instant potato flakes
- Heat a large soup pot over medium-high and add the butter and oil. When the butter is melted, add the onion and saute until translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Keep stirring it, but it’s okay if the onions brown a little. Add the garlic and stir to warm through.
- Lower heat to medium, add the flour and stir thoroughly to make a thick paste of everything. Cook 3 minutes, continuously stirring to keep the flour from sticking. We’re cooking the ‘raw’ taste of the flour out. The onion-and-flour paste may color a little, and that’s okay.
- Stirring quickly all the while, slowly pour in the broth and stirstirstir to keep the flour from lumping. If it makes you feel better, use a whisk for this part. Add the two cans of creamed corn, stir to combine, and then add the bay leaves, the thyme and salt and pepper to taste.
- When the mixture comes to a simmer, lower the heat until it just barely bubbles and allow to cook for 15 minutes to marry the flavors together. Stir regularly, as the soup will try and stick because of the outrageous amount of food starch. I know it all seems gloppy at this point, but that’s why we are now:
- Adding the can of evaporated milk. Why evaporated? It’s a stronger milk flavor and very unlikely to “break” or curdle if you have the heat too high. Also, it’s another can. We’re collecting cans at this point in the recipe. Bring the chowder back to a simmer and add the cup of instant potato flakes. Allow to cook for another 15 minutes.
- And we’re done. Adjust seasonings for taste (it will probably need more salt) and add a little water if it’s way too thick for you.
- Haul all those cans out to the recycling bin.
¹ Actually not true, but for Odin’s sake, don’t tell any of the other Vikings.
² At this point we’d already gone to a scifi convention together, where we’d met and flirted with Icheb and got to see a not-well James Doohan before he died. That bond can never be broken between women.