There are few things that I love more than things stuffed into dough. Pierogies of course but also dim sum delicacies, ravioli, blini, empanadas, crepes, tamales, calzone, samosas. I could go on for days. Once, I told a friend that I had a great idea for a cookbook – Dumplings of the World! I passionately explained, bright eyed and gesturing wildly, that every culture had a dumpling of some sort, a delicious filling or tidbit encased in a moist dough and baked, boiled or fried to perfection. Dumplings are universally wonderful and feed the world! He smiled, bemused, then turned around and pulled this off the shelf. Dammit. I still think it’s a great idea; so what if someone beat me to it?
Archive for the ‘main courses’ Category
This time of year, New Years resolutions or not, I yearn for things that are warm, cozy and comforting. Big fuzzy blankets. Fleece jackets. Warming cups of tea and spicy hot chocolate. Meals that feed your soul like pot pies, hearty soups and long simmered things in heavy pots pushed to a back burner that make the house smell divine. A few months back, I invited some friends over for lunch, just as the weather was starting turn and made such a thing. It was wonderful.
Many cultures start January 1st with various rituals meant to bring luck and good fortune in the coming year. It’s no surprise that my favorite of these traditions involve what some consider to be lucky foods. The Italians have their lentils, usually served with a delicious sausage called cotechino. The lentils round shape represent coins, signifying wealth in the New Year. Many think that eating pork is lucky with the pig symbolizing progress and the rich fat content signifying wealth and prosperity. The Chinese enjoy very long noodles to ensure a long life usually with shrimp, whose curve is said to resemble the hunched back of an elderly person. The Spanish eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight for luck, each grape representing a month of the year. It’s not as easy as you’d think. Round foods are also common as the shape is said to signify a complete cycle or a complete year. And hey, if I can eat my way into some good fortune in the New Year, then why not?
I’ve been a little busy of late, traipsing around the French countryside the last few weeks but before I left, I had friends over for a really great Sunday lunch. A little over a month ago, July 15th in fact, it was Bastille Day. Admittedly not one of the bigger holidays in the States, but it holds a special place in my heart. Last year, on Bastille Day, I exactly where I’m sitting at this very moment: at the kitchen table of my friend Kate’s lovely home in Southwest France.
I was in a bit of a funk at the start of the year as I came off the frenetic holiday season. My ever-intuitive friend Caroline invited me over for dinner, correctly assessing that I needed a little lift. When you cook for a living, having someone else prepare a meal for you is a gift, a wonderful pleasure to be savored. I don’t care what it is – hot dogs off the grill or fine French cuisine – as long as I don’t have to make it. The mark of a true friend is knowing when you need this.
Posted in appetizers/first courses, breakfast items, holidays, main courses, tagged corned beef potato pancakes, irish dishes, irish potato pancakes, irish recipes, potato cakes on March 16, 2012 | Leave a Comment »
I have a real love and genuine appreciation for classic diners. Nothing is more magnificent than watching a true hash slinger in their element during a breakfast (or late night) rush. Poetry in motion, my friends. I read somewhere that a famous chef once said he’d take a breakfast cook from a Waffle House over a new culinary grad any day and I believe it. I would too – those guys know their $*@%. When you’re in the weeds and the line is going down in flames, THAT is the guy you want to have your back, not some princess. It makes me a little sad that there are fewer and fewer true diners anymore. Trendy brunch places that serve dessert pancakes and sous vide eggs are on the uptick and that’s a shame. There is nothing better than classic buttermilk pancakes cooked on a well-seasoned flat top, slicked with sausage grease and the stray green pepper from someone’s Denver omelette. A happy sigh escapes at the mere thought.
I spent quite a bit of time this summer in France, and I really enjoyed the ritual of lunch. It’s no surprise really, that I warmed to this concept immediately. Family and friends gather together, usually on Sundays, for a long enjoyable meal full of delicious food, great company, conversation and wine. The food is plentiful and the wine flows freely, in our case, a large amount of lovely rose. It was summer in the French countryside after all. I was just trying to blend in. With a squeal of delight, I vowed to institute similar lunches as soon as I got home.
Every so often, especially as the weather gets a little chilly, I take a fancy to warm, filling kind of things and a potpie is one of my favorites. I adore a good chicken potpie. Hell, who am I kidding? I’ve been known to eat a few bad ones here and there. They fit the bill; all comforting, creamy and delicious. My mom made a mean potpie when I was a kid – fresh cooked chicken and vegetables, napped in a lovely creamy sauce with a soft but crunchy biscuit top. Sure it was a Bisquick top but that doesn’t matter. It was delicious all the same. (We’re Polish. We don’t come from a biscuit culture.) I make one every so often when the urge strikes but sometimes it takes more time than I have so it’s nice to have one or two stashed in the freezer.
I just returned, oh a week or so ago, from a long trip to Thailand. It was fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. Everything about the country is wonderful and beautiful – the terrain, the people and oh god, the food. I cannot say enough about the food. It was damn near impossible to get a bad meal. Everything, and I mean everything from fancy hotels to local restaurants to street carts was amazing. But I have this thing; this sort of food A.D.D. Sometimes when I travel for a long time I need to mix it up, need to have something a little different no matter how good the local cuisine. It happened after a few weeks in Italy (a rather interesting foray into Chinese.) It happened again after some time in France (a happy trial of African food.) There was that interesting meal in Spain, again Chinese and rather porky. I’ve even a little ashamed to admit popping into a McDonald’s once or twice for a salty crunchy fry fix (Gah!) And it happened in Thailand. With Mexican. Oh yeah, I went there.
In general, I don’t eat a lot of process food but when I do, oh boy, do I. I’m an all or nothing kinda gal. For instance, I have a deep secret love for Velveeta. I know – gross – but nothing makes a better grilled cheese sandwich. Really. And I have an intense love for hot dogs, specifically good kosher beef hot dogs and particularly, Chicago style dogs. For a long time, I’ve had a self-imposed one-hot-dog-a-month rule forged when I used to work next door to an awesome stand. I was eating a few too many there for a while, hence the need for the rule. Boiled, steamed, fried, grilled, charred, bacon wrapped, chili topped, dragged through the garden. Love ‘em all. Love those bagel dogs too – hot dogs wrapped in bagel dough. Hey, don’t judge! We all have our flaws. These are mine.