Comfort and bitterness

To say I’m unhappy with the results of Monday’s election would be a vast understatement. This isn’t the sort of blog where we’re going to dwell on that sort of thing, but suffice to say that this post is about two simultaneous feelings I’ve been having: bitterness and the need for comfort.

First the comfort:

If roast chicken doesn’t really require a recipe, then this is especially the case with chicken soup, right?  Sure, but since I was threatened with divorce–in the very pages of this blog no less, dear readers!–if I didn’t post about my chicken soup, here it is.   The recipe mainly comes from a cookbook Anna received for her birthday entitled, Cooking with Italian Grandmothers: Recipes and Stories from Tuscany to Sicily, by Jessica Theroux.  As the title suggests, the author travelled around the various regions of Italy, and met and learned to cook with Italian grandmothers. She talks about them, their lives, where they live, and gives us a sampling of their cooking.  We’ve tried a number of recipes from the book–gnocci, roasted rabbit, a rabbit sauce made from those leftovers, a sumptious chocolate and orange tart–and they’ve all been excellent.  But does chicken soup really require a recipe?  Well, maybe…

Whenever we roast chickens, we save the carcasses and stick them in the freezer, and when I make wings I chop off the wingtips and freeze those because nobody wants to eat those anyway, and they’re great for stocks. So we had a freezer full of chicken bits when I attempted this.  The quality of your stock is going to make or break this recipe.  I didn’t do anything special with mine, but I did arguably overreduce it so it ended up quite thick with a nice gelatinous quality to it that worked really well and turned this into a far more robust soup than I had anticipated.  The book has a recipe for stock that I didn’t look at before making mine, but kind of wish that I did since it calls for lemon juice that in conjunction with a long simmer “pulls the minerals out from the chicken’s bones, delivering them into the broth.”  I imagine that it would also contribute a refreshing lightness and acidity to the broth.  I will have to try this next time.

This broth, strained, and then simmered with garlic and then finished by poaching eggs in it made one of the most delicious chicken soups I’ve ever made.  It was so rich and flavourful and considering that it is basically just broth with an egg in it, was surprisingly filling.  We ate it as an appetizer, but served with some nice bread, or with some pasta in it, it would easily be enough for a full meal.

Chicken Soup with Poached Eggs and Herbs
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

6 cups chicken (preferably bone) broth, lightly salted
3 cloves peeled, whole garlic, finely chopped, or 1 shoot green garlic, finely chopped
4-6 eggs
2 tablespoons chopped marjoram or parsley, or a mixture of both
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

Bring the chicken broth to a boil and add the garlic. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Season to taste; if you used whole garlic cloves, remove them from the broth at this point. Crack the eggs into ramekins or small bowls, and while the broth is at a low simmer add 1 egg at a time to the pot. I find that stirring the broth gently between adding each egg helps to keep the yolk and white united.

Once all the eggs have been added, place the lid on just slightly ajar; be sure the flame is low, otherwise the broth could boil over, disrupting the eggs. If you prefer runny yolks, cook for 3 minutes total. If you like your egg yolks solid, cook for 5 to 6 minutes total.

To serve, spoon an egg into each bowl and ladle the broth over. Garnish with freshly chopped herbs, salt, and black pepper.

And now the bitterness:

While waiting for the CBC’s election night coverage to begin, I racked my IPA into a secondary fermenter.  Like the election results, this beer is bitter.  Unlike them, however, this beer will not only be easy to swallow, but positively enjoyable as well.  I’m really looking forward to bottling this one.  Here I am taking a reading of the beer.  It’s currently at 1.010 gravity (for you non-beer nerds, gravity basically measures the amount of sugar in the liquid.  As the beer ferments the sugars are converted to alcohol and you can calculate the alcoholic strength of the beer based on the difference between the starting and finishing gravity).  My starting gravity was a little lower than I had expected: I was aiming for 1.060, but got 1.054.  The beer is at 5.74% abv right now, which is a little low for the style, but certainly close enough.  It also smells and tastes delicious.  The body is maybe a little bit light, but it’s hard to properly judge that before it’s carbonated.  I’m pleased with it so far.

I threw about an ounce of Centennial leaf hops in the secondary fermentor to give it more aroma.  I’m almost regretting brewing a small batch of this because I don’t think it’s going to staying around the house for long once it’s ready to drink.

I’m planning on brewing a mild this weekend, so stay tuned for more on that.

On Surviving Passover and Kitchen Sink Frittata

Passover is hitting me especially hard this year. While Graeme and I enjoyed a luxurious and delicious seder at my parents’ house on Monday evening by Tuesday morning, I was already craving all the delicious carbohydrates that I had only just begun depriving myself of. This was not helped by the fact that that very first Passover morning brought me the newest issue of Bon Appetit in the mail, which seemed intent on personally taunting me with this cover:

source

Really, Bon Appetit? Really? How could you do this to me? I felt so betrayed.

Unleavened dramatics aside, each year I find that the trickiest thing about Passover is trying not to OD on various combos of heavy meat and potatoes (as well as the excessive doses of Passover cakes and cookies that my mother inevitably sends me home from her seder with). While I love me some meat and potatoes, 8 days of only that will get to even me. Last year, the discovery that quinoa is, miraculously, kosher for Passover is what saved us. This year, we are trying to be more mindful about balancing light with heavy meals in general, with some quinoa, mussels, and salad-y goodness complementing all of the brisket, chopped liver, tongue and gefilte fish.

Which brings us to frittata, which is a meal that Graeme and I seem to consistently pull out every time we are feeling overwhelmed by recent rich and heavy eating. It is our go-to “we’ve had guests in town and been out to eat every night for 2 weeks” meal, our “we just came back from New York where we ate fried chicken and tacos every day” meal, and now, our “Passover is seriously getting to me” meal. Graeme whipped some up for lunch today, using whatever we had sitting in the fridge, which is another thing that we love about frittata–it is awesome for using up random foods that don’t have much time left in this world.

In a great twist of irony, the stuff we had to use up in our fridge was… meat and potatoes. Or more specifically, ham and new potatoes. Yes, I forgo chametz, but love my cloven hooves. It is a Passover tradition in our household. There is no recipe necessary for such a simple concoction as frittata. Graeme started by boiling the new potatoes, and sauteing some shallots, celery and ham on medium heat in our small cast iron pan. He then added the potatoes and some goat cheese, and then stirred in half a dozen beaten eggs and seasoned it all. He finished cooking the mixture in a 400F oven for about 15 minutes. We ate it with salad greens, strawberries and a honey/balsamic vinaigrette.

It was nice to eat something hearty but still relatively light, even if it was meat and potatoes. I did not feel like someone had dropped lead into my stomach. My digestive system was thankful for the break, so that it could prepare itself to get back in the game tomorrow night: roast chicken night.

Happy Pesach!