Thursday, December 20, 2007

Raw milk and browned butter

In an end-of-the-year fit of organization, I'm cleaning out my email inbox and finding purpose for languishing but interesting bits of information. Kathryn sent me these two articles, a few months apart, united by a common theme. Cow.

The first article was about raw milk. I've been thinking about raw milk lately because when I was planning for the holiday tea, I discovered that the only true way to make clotted cream is with raw whole milk.

Article: The Udder Truth
Summarizing quote: "In the end, it seems, raw milk is a lot more complicated than the FDA and the AMA would have consumers believe. Like sushi, raw milk is a nutritionally rich food that can be contaminated if it's not fresh and prepared in an immaculate, sterile environment."

The second article was about browned butter. I've been seeing browned butter crop up in a lot more new recipes this year, and I'm a pretty big fan of the nutty, rich flavor. My favorite sole meuniere (thanks Cooks Illustrated) recipe calls for it, as does this brown sugar cookie recipe (thanks again, guys) I've become addicted to this year.

Article: Liquid Gold
Summarizing quote: "Brown butter, I quickly figured out, made everything taste better."

Monday, December 17, 2007

Raclette party

Finally, after years of talking about buying a raclette machine, Kathryn and I made the plunge and got one! You can see it in the middle of the table in this photo (thanks Ross, for the photo). The idea is that since no one actually needs a raclette machine on hand at all times (even Swiss shepherds), we can share it.

Its first party was in (low-key) honor of Alexa and A.J.'s upcoming journey to South America. May cheese smooth their travels. I think it's an old Armenian saying.

We did it up. Swiss and French racelette plus a bit of emmenthal in case anyone didn't like raclette (the vegans brought their own cheese with the label that boasts, "It melts!"), three kinds of baby potatoes (white, red, and purple), veggies for the grill top, charcuterie, fresh pepper, parsley. The giant coffee table came in handy (10 people fit around it).

Ah raclette, we'll be seeing more of you this winter. And on the flip side of the grill is a crepe surface! This thing truly brings the party.
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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Hosting a holiday tea

The photo has nothing to do with the post, except that it was one of the only photos I took during the holiday tea I hosted this past Sunday. I totally meant to take food photos, but ended up with only this one of Alexis (in the hat) and Nico (with the ears).

Holiday tea has been a tradition in my family for more than a decade. I think we must have started because my grandma loves tea, and though as a family we're not great with tradition, we've managed to stick to it for all these years. Originally, we went to the Compass Rose tea room, but that was replaced with Michael Minna, so we moved around for a few years, trying out different tea rooms, and eventually settling on Lovejoy's in Noe Valley.

But this year, we completely forgot to make reservations. So I decided to host it myself. I'd been wanting to try out some recipes that I was thinking about using for Kathryn's bridal shower next spring (which will also be a tea), and it would be a good excuse to use, for the first time, the china we inherited from Joel's grandmother.

So I did it up. I made a rich, sticky sherry cake (I'll post the recipe later this week), mendiants (here's a recipe, though I was using the one from Alice Medrich's Bittersweet, a cookbook that I got for free and have found frustrating to navigate), and scones, plus ham salad (from a recipe that Joel's mom gave me), salmon with dill marscapone and chive butter, and cucumber with tarragon butter tea sandwiches, all on decadent Acme Pain de Mie bread.

I also tackled clotted cream two ways. First, I bought one of those absurdly expensive $8 jars of imported clotted cream, but it was so disappointing that I didn't eat more than a bite. Slightly better was the fake clotted cream I made. Last year, I tried out the Alton Brown clotted cream recipe, which involves straining cream through cheesecloth, and it was a bust. This year, I opted for a recipe that tried to approximate the flavor of clotted cream with other ingredients. I had relative success with the first recipe here, which calls for heavy cream, sour cream, and a bit of powdered sugar. And Kathryn brought some homemade organic strawberry jam we made last summer in Placerville. Go team.

Then it was just a matter of ironing the tablecloth (thanks Kathryn!), setting the table, finding a hat (black and white with a bit of netting), and boiling water. I served a really yummy vanilla red tea from Mariage Freres, a Darjeeling, a black-and-green blend my mom brought over, and a passionfruit tea from India.
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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Throwing pizza dough

And I caught it, too! Uncle Paul would be so proud.
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