Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Best of 2011

We are squarely into the new year. Most of the holiday decorations are hibernating again, save the advent garland that graces our mantle. I barely filled it this year but cannot bear to take it down. January is dreary enough, especially so once the poinsettias dry up and the cards are taken down and the supply of holiday cookies is long gone. January is a slow burn of calories and gently fragrant candles. And jazz, as playlists of Christmas carols have given way to Miles, Chet, Art and Cannonball.

There are a few things I'm looking forward to in 2012:

Getting back to some French basics. Thankless work, really, since white beans, duck, frisee and Armangnac-soaked prunes are met with disdain by certain rubes who frequent the Pinch kitchen. Not among them? Bring over some Bordeaux and pull up a chair!

More canning. I've blown thru the six big jars of tomatoes Catherine and I put up this fall. We plan to get a really big box of super ripe Romas and double or triple our efforts this summer. In the meanwhile, I've switched allegiance from Muir Glen Whole Peeled Tomatoes to Muir Glen Whole Peeled Plum Tomatoes. The latter are richer in color and flavor and are a little more dense.

Making fresh pasta. I haven't done it in awhile. I'm planning to make some fabulous fettucini soon. Maybe a carbonara sauce or something mushroomy. Of course the children will beg for the curiosity they call Water Sauce, which is not so much water as it is the World's Best Marinara. Grab some of those MG Plum tomatoes and a food mill and make this sauce, ASAP. It's impossible not to love it. No food mill? Mash the tomatoes with a muddler or pulse them them in a Cuisinart. Just don't put them in a blender. Blenders pulverize delicate tomatoes.

A few culinary highlights of 2011:

Keeping slices of pancetta on hand in the freezer. I bought about 10 slices around Thanksgiving, which was about 6 slices more than I needed. I froze them, separating them with a piece of parchment paper, and have been peeling them off, one at a time, for a little burst of flavor for veggies and soups. I've got my freezer set to a very low temp, but the pancetta is very managable right out of the freezer.

 A new recipe for gingerbread men and houses. At long last, a recipe for a house you'd consider eating! Do beware: this recipe will make enough dough for one small house. Double it if you want to make lots of men or a bigger house.

Making marshmallows with the kids. I couldn't find my old recipe so we followed David's instead. Click here to follow it yourself. I recommend using an 8 or 9-inch square baking pan to form them, as the marshmallows made on the sheet pan are more flat than I like them. I'm also going to go ahead and track down some French sheet gelatin. That powdered stuff smells like the stink on a monkey.

Pinched Chicken Vesuvio and CiabattaEvery once in awhile a new recipe comes into the fold and is an instant hit. These two will be in my repertoire forever.

Here's to healthy cooking and eating in the New Year.

1 comment:

AC said...

Fresh pasta is the rule in our house, thanks to your cousin, the Pasta Queen, who has been cranking it out since she was 4! So get those kitchen helpers busy. Making it has become so routine, eating it never fails to be a special treat.