I took my Mac to the Apple store recently because I was notified that its serial number was one marked as having a hard drive that could potentially fail. I dropped it off, a new hard drive was installed free of charge by the next day, and I was able to restore all the data I had conveniently backed up on an external hard drive. It sounds like not much effort was made on my part to get things back up and running, but I spent the better part of several days organizing what was in my files, reviewing my ridiculous number of photographs, and making sure I had them backed up in several different places. As much as I could tell the young man behind the counter at the Genius Bar that, yes, I’ve got everything backed up, I still worried.
I think the first time I saw Julia Child was on an episode of Martha Stewart more than 15 years ago. That’s tantamount to sacrilege if you love food as much as I do and I’ve had to think about why I never knew about her. Her television show ran for a decade beginning in 1963, and that was about the time my family moved to Spain. We had no television for the four years we lived there. And once we returned to the States mesmerized by the general idea of television, we were busy watching reruns of shows we’d never seen — most of which were situation comedies.
Now that I think of it, I did watch Graham Kerr, The Galloping Gourmet, so maybe it the culprit was our less than stellar reception in the pre-cable television days. Who knows, but it wasn’t until I was much older and wanting to put together a multiple course dinner for six with wine pairings (I knew almost nothing about wine) that I bought both volumes of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and began to decipher its then unfamiliar recipe structure. I was fascinated by just how many ways a basic recipe could become something completely different with a few adjustments.
Years passed before I really had the opportunity to get to know Julia — I tackled her French Bread recipe and have had nothing but admiration for her since.
In celebration of her 100th birthday, I chose a recipe from Volume Two of Mastering the Art of French Cooking: “Bouillabaisse de Poulet” (Chicken Poached in White Wine with Provencal Vegetables, Herbs, and Flavorings) which included a “Pistou” (Herb, Cheese, and Garlic Finish).
If you enjoy flavorful chicken served in an amazing light sauce, you will love this classic recipe.
Here’s to Julia on her 100th birthday!
You may recall I purchased an entire pig last December and split it with a good friend. We each ended up with 100 lbs. of fresh, locally loved and raised, lean pork and have been busy enjoying every bit of its truly incredible flavor. So where are my posts about this first time ever foray into purchasing locally raised meat? Outside of my initial experience making a Chilie-Brined Fresh Whole Ham, I haven’t written about any of it.
Call me lazy. Go ahead.
But you know I’ve been avoiding sitting here to avoid thinking about food in general, so I hope that helps explain my lack of motivation. I’ve been keeping myself busy with spring cleaning by reorganizing my kitchen and sorting though dishes and things I rarely use so I can donate them along with the several bags of clothes I’ve weeded from my closet that no longer fit. I’ve saved one pair of slacks so I might hold them up at some point and take a picture, showing just how far I’ve come so far, but I’m not quite ready for that. I’ll get there. I will. Soon.
In the meantime, I can’t put off writing any longer because the recipes are piling up waiting to be shared, and there’s no better place to begin than with a cut of pork I’ve prepared many times: the shoulder. That would be from the front portion of the pig as opposed to the rear where the “ham” comes from. Although most shoulders are purchased sectioned into either what’s often called a picnic roast and a Boston Butt (which seems confusing considering the cut is from the opposite end of the animal), I happened to have the entire shoulder — about 10 lbs. of pork.
The shoulder is much more fatty than the ham, so cooking it slowly over very low heat allows all that fat to melt into the meat, creating amazingly tender pork perfect for pulling. I’ve prepared a much smaller cut from the shoulder using a slow cooker to make one type of pulled pork for sandwiches, braised it on the stove top in this recipe with Guinness and dried cherries, or in the oven using lots of garlic and chardonnay for this recipe, and have often used the indirect heat method on the grill — especially in warm weather when I don’t want the house to heat up. This time, we slow roasted it in the oven over a nine hour period of time until it was dark and crispy on the outside, and fall apart tender inside when two forks are inserted and pulled away from one another.
Not much is better if you love pork.
And although you’ll be tempted to eat it all by itself like we did late one evening just to try it, it makes the most amazing pulled pork sandwiches when you have just the right slaw to go with it.
I’ve been working on our patio for a few months now trying to make it more functional and enjoyable. It’s a narrow area that wraps along two sides of our house and much different than the half-acre of hillside we tended at our former house. At first, the idea of having so much less to manage outside was attractive because we were busy with our jobs and moving closer to the ocean and a beautiful seaside community that would inspire us to get out more and enjoy weekends full of sun and fun. But I’m a gardener — I always have been. And as much as the weather is often quite gorgeous here, I’m content to spend time outside digging in the dirt. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been very easy for the past few years.
A former owner had planters installed on the patio and made less than smart choices about what was planted in them, so now, several are completely root bound. Old flagstone capping has loosened from the planter walls, much of it cracked or broken completely. The fence, although beloved by my cats for its great scratching post qualities, was more a termite high rise. Tearing it down took little thought.
I’ve always kept pots of annuals and herbs, and for the first time two years ago, began growing tomatoes in pots. About a year ago, I put together a small herb box as well. This year, one of the tomato pots has become a salad greens pot. It may not seem like much, but I can tell you the snails would be quite upset if I ever got rid of the little herb box. And this year, they’ve truly enjoyed picking out all but one variety of salad green from the new pot. Who knew snails had such discriminating palates — erm — radula?
Even though my patio is small by suburban yard standards here, I could squeeze the few things I enjoy harvesting in an even smaller space such as a balcony if I had to. In other words, it doesn’t take much to grow a few of your own veggies and or herbs. I’d enjoy planting even more among the roses and succulents I’m currently planting in the newly filled, capped, and painted planters, but until those plants are established, adding anything edible to them isn’t advisable and may never be. Hence, the pots I have are a great idea because I can move them around according to the seasons and sunlight.
My tomato plants are sporting grape-sized fruit, but the idea frying tiny green tomatoes isn’t as appealing to me as plucking some of the salad greens, a few leaves of the perennial bloody sorrel that continues to thrive, some wild arugula, and purple basil.
Perfect for a wrap with a bit of left over chicken and, if the patio was finished, a nice lunch outside with a good book. All in due time.
Are you a gardener? Do you have an outside space to relax in when the weather is pleasant?
Something happened to our Sunday dinners this busy season. They’re usually what I manage to hang on to after watching our weeknight dinners dissipate one by one from thoughtful, healthy salads and planned entrees, to a quick forage through the wilted inhabitants of my veggie bin for something to saute with rice or pasta. Throw in some garlic and it’s dinner, right? Hardly, but it can be eaten in a bowl, sometimes as late as 9:30 p.m. while we’re huddled in our dimly lit family room in front of a recorded show and making weary attempts at questioning one another about the day.
It’s no wonder that looking forward to uninterrupted time in the kitchen draws my attention to the weekend where the result is pleasant time together over a meal that is special — read: is served on a plate at a reasonable hour. The idea of “special” seems to be part of a process to me; a recipe catches my eye and lingers on the periphery of the minutiae that accumulates in my head, and somehow I manage to remember the main ingredient while on one of my less than stellarly organized grocery shopping trips. The remembered ingredient is then wedged into my freezer, which just might contain the very same ingredient somewhere in its depths, as a reminder that Sunday dinner is a possibility. Hopefully, this classifies me as an optimist.
Time goes by. Other ingredients are collected in other stop-after-work trips to the store for the cat food or laundry detergent I forgot on the previous trip, and because those ingredients are often perishable, they become part of a different meal (see above). It’s a vicious cycle.
Finally, the day arrives as it does each year. Busy season ends, and glimmers of a normal life surface. The long-awaited day in the kitchen and meal are planned and the big question looms: Will it have been worth the wait?
(And this has nothing to do, of course, with the fact that Chef Voltaggio not only took the time to comment on my effort, but put a shout-out about my speck in the food universe on his site, Voltaggio Brothers in “Food Writing.”)
A gracious and hearty thanks to Michael Voltaggio!