Monday, March 30, 2015

What to Do With All That Orange Peel


Remember how I said I like wintertime oranges...every time I peel one, I want to save the rind for orangette. Yummy, sweet, tart-with-just-a-hint-of-bitterness orangette, a.k.a candied orange peel.

I taught a few girls a class on knife skills last week (and promptly cut my finger for the first time in EONS not 24 hours later, but that is another story for another time. My fingernail took more of the damage than I did, but STILL. Embarrassing...I digress.), and one of the things I showed them how to do is to "supreme" an orange, cutting the sections away from the membrane of the fruit. That left me with a bowl full of orange rinds and led me to a short little lecture on how I don't like to waste things in the kitchen...So I took all that orange goodness home and within an hour's time of cooking (with another few hours of drying), I had these little orange gems of GOOD.

Readers, I give you....orangette.

Peel oranges, removing all flesh, but leaving white pith. Cut orange peels into 1/4-inch wide strips.

Place rinds in saucepan. Cover with cold water and bring to boil. Drain. Repeat this two more times.

Leave drained rinds in saucepan. Add 4 cups sugar, 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to simmer and cook 45 minutes. 

Use slotted spoon to remove rinds, letting syrup drain back into saucepan, and place rinds into sugar. 

Toss until coated, then place rinds onto cooling rack for 4 to 5 hours. Store in sugar in airtight container in refrigerator (especially if you live in a humid climate...)

If you really want to gild the lily, dip half of each candied peel into melted dark chocolate. Let excess chocolate drain back into melted chocolate and place dipped peel onto wax or parchment paper. Cool until chocolate is hardened.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

10 Delicious Things to Eat (Or Drink) for Less Than $10

Simple Pleasures: Shortbread

Two days ago, I walked into an office and spied a bowl filled with wintergreen Lifesaver mints, each in its own little wrapper. The scent hit me before I finished signing in at the visitor's book. I snagged one and went off on my merry way to see an art show. I snagged another on my way out...take two, they're small, I said to myself. I had not had a wintergreen lifesaver in ages. I remembered ducking into dark closets to chew these candies, mouths wide open, so whatever friend ducked into that closet with me could see the sparks. "Your turn now!" I don't know why that happens, and I don't care. I like that it happens. And I love me some wintergreen Lifesavers. Which got me thinking...what other of life's little food pleasures can be had for less than $10.

Here's my list...give me yours...

1. Wintergreen Lifesavers--see intro!

2. Shortbread. You can sometimes buy just little packages of two fingers of Walker's Pure Butter Shortbread. This is perfect dessert--I call shortbread butter and sugar held together by juuuuust enough flour.

3. A glass of red wine on a cool evening, a glass of good white on a hot summer's evening. I would rather have one glass of wine a day than all the sweets in the world. Just one. It is about savoring, good company, relaxing and ever such a little bit of a buzz. I like a glass of wine.

4. Good coffee in the morning. I prefer my own espresso with hot milk, my own little cafe au lait home--so much that I've been know to pack the espresso machine (an old, very basic Krups model) for vacations. Good coffee, whether at home or out, is kind of like the glass of wine. Time to relax, savor, make conversation, enjoy.

5. One plain croissant, baked dark, not overproofed and all fluffy. I like plain, what can I say. Like shortbread, this is just pure goodness. Sometimes I like a little marmalade on that croissant, too...but not often...

6. Good, true bread (I sense a trend), like the bread at Tartine in San Francisco. So know, I have not actually VISITED Tartine, but I've worked on the bread at home from the book, and I knew Chad when he was a youngster doing his culinary school rotation in Philadelphia, Pa. I would happily spend every cent of that $10 on a loaf of this bread.

7. Mamoun's Falafel in NYC (and in Connecticut...)--This is one of those things I crave. More than 20 years have passed since I lived a short walk from Mamoun's, but when I get to Manhattan, I still try to get to there.

8. Plain, old-fashioned doughnuts. I bet cro-nuts are awesome. Really, I do. But I don't like to wait in lines for food. There is this one Shoprite supermarket in Stanford, Connecticut. It's on Route 1. The best. plain. old-fashioned. doughnut. anywhere. Not the puffy glazed doughnuts, but the ones that get fried to a golden color, then dipped in a glaze. I almost always eat a doughnut when I visit my sister in Connecticut...and I pretty much do NOT eat doughnuts any other time

9. Okay, you can't get these anymore, but if you are reading maybe you can give me a good substitute. Best's Kosher Hotdogs. I do NOT know why these are not made any more..bought out, sold, whatever. But why?! So if you are wondering why someone who cooks for a living loves hot dogs, it is that I love a GOOD hot dog. And man, Best's were...the best. I haven't eaten a hot dog in years, but if you showed up with a Best's, I would invite you to sit down and we'd enjoy that hot dog.

10. Wintertime oranges. I had to do something healthy! I have to say when I get an orange in January, February and March, and it is so perfect, so juicy...just so orangey...well, I count that as a good few minutes spent savoring. It could be that I have had a few incredible oranges in the past week, so I am craving them anyway. But man, when an orange is good, it's great.

What ten innerness

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Citrus Overload

I grab the small ball of sunshine, a clementine, then I grab another. Take two, they're small. The peel is lumpy, dimpled. I know it is like a too-big coat, space left between the outer layer and the inner core, the sweet, juicy fruit that needs this oversized protection.

But that is why I love clementines, too. All that space means that ill-fitting cloak is easy to rip off, and I want little effort standing between me and my citrus wedges.

I peel both clementines in a few seconds, the sounds of the peel ripping similar to tearing paper. As I peel, I make sure to crush some of the skin, sending little jets of citrus oil into the air, a tangy, slightly bitter and sweet smell, all at the same time. It is a bright scent that belongs only to these fruits and comes during the darkest of winter months as a little reward.

I break the globes of fruit into individual sections, all laid out in front of me now. I pop one section at a time into my mouth, not chewing at first, but mashing the fruit, getting at the juice first, then chewing to enjoy the sweet and slightly tart flavors.

Winter can be a very very good time.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Painting My Food...

I've been threatening this for a while, now I'm doing it--for a month, I'm painting daily (well, I hope I keep the daily part going), and the subject is food...whatever photo tickles my fancy, I'm going to paint in watercolors.

Here are a few, and if you want to follow along, visit My Year of Watercolor.






Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Pink Fluff..Homemade Marshmallows




I have been threatening to make homemade marshmallows for ages. Finally saw peppermint marshmallows I cannot resist. And I ask you this, too: why ever buy fluff again (some of you may ask why Ever buy it at all. It is obvious you have not known and loved the great fluffernutter sandwich. I digress.)


These were simple..well, if you don't count me boiling the syrup over and fretting that the tablespoon or two I lost to the stovetop would alter the chemistry enough that I would not have marshmallows at all, just goop. It didn't. But use a deep saucepan. When the stuff starts to boil, no amount of blowing on the surface of the boiling mixture (a known and well-used method in restaurant kitchens, no joke) kept it from overflowing. That's okay. I needed something to clean up while I whipped the concoction of gelatin and sugar syrup to fluff.

I followed Alton Brown's recipe, using peppermint extract instead of vanilla. I swirled red food coloring through it all, too. ( note to self: a few drops will do!) I may gild the lily and add chocolate to the top, as one person did..but that sounds like work.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Why I Write...

A fellow blogger, Van Waffle, who generously did a guest post here at Babette Feasts a while back, posed the challenge to some bloggers to write about why we write. Van's essay is here, a truly thoughtful piece about what writing has brought to his world and his life.

For me, I think it is simpler. I write partly because I can. I always knew I was a good writer through school. An award-winning essay got me a trip as an exchange student to South America, where I made friends I have to this day, people I call family in Montevideo, Uruguay. I placed out of writing classes in college. I turned in decent essays.

And then I stopped writing. I took a job where I could find one (in retail). It required no writing. Then I took a job when I wanted to move to New York City--I worked in a bank with people who seemed a lot more intelligent than I was. Am. I didn't write that much there, but what I did write, I relished. To this day, one of the best things I did there, totally for me, was attend a business writing seminar hosted by a crusty older man, someone who really knew how to write. Anyone who had that guy as a teacher would have been lucky. Attending that class made me realize I really was as good a writer as I thought.

And then I still didn't write much.

I got married. I changed careers and worked in a professional kitchen as a chef. I loved that job. I sure didn't write there, but...once again, I was good at what I did. Really good. I moved up fast. It's a tough job, not for everyone, but I still remember it as about the most fun I ever had in a job.

Then I had one child..then another. I didn't take much time off, ending up working in catering, still meeting great people, but putting in about 40 hours in 3 days, sometimes 4 days, all in the evenings or all day Saturday and Sunday. Catering was pretty backbreaking work. Some of the glow was off the cooking gig.

And then we moved to another city in another region. When I thought I was ready to get back into the kitchen, I got offers of starting as the salad maker. Again. I had proved myself in the one of the top restaurants in the country, moving all the way up to expediting, and they still wanted me to make salads. I finally landed a job as a pastry chef with a shift of 11 p.m to 7 a.m. If I thought catering was a grind, this was a grind and a half. All of the work and none of the fun. And I was pregnant with child number three.

I came home exhausted and just decided I needed a job where I could make money and stay home.

So I decided to write. I got out books titled "How to Write and Sell Magazine Articles" and followed the instructions. And I started to sell work. Bit by bit. Writing has sustained me with a modest income, allowing me to be around for my kids and fulfill some need to do something I'm good at doing.

No, it's not writing the great American novel, although I'm determined to write that someday, too. It's a job. It's a craft. A craft I am trying to hone all the time. I can pick out fun blog posts, poignant posts, even, I am sorry to say, boring ones. It's not all great, but I'm trying to get better. When I do get inspired I write a personal essay here and there. Those are fun, too.

But there is more. The blank page or screen is, indeed, a place for me to write down heartaches, sadnesses, angers...the therapeutic letter to some bonehead, written with venom and brilliant turns of phrases, written so I can get it ALL off my chest...and then take a deep breath, delete that note and compose a calm, professional and reasoned reply to said bonehead.

I think the day my brother died and in the days after, I wrote a lot in his memory. I wrote a poem, I wrote a haiku and finally this small essay, which I repost every May 20. Those helped. A tiny bit.

I write because I can. And I am glad I can.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

My Twist on Marcella's Lemon Chicken.


I first wrote about this recipe last fall after making it a few times. Since then, the recipe has evolved to suit the tastes of our house... It has become a go-to favorite here ever since. I've made it countless times, changing it up just a bit...but finally, this is the end result. Many thanks to Marcella for the first iteration of this recipe, her chicken fricassee with lemon and egg from Essentials of Italian Cooking. Now here's the more plebeian version...I cannot believe I don't have a photo for you. We must eat it too quickly for me to get something...I promise one is coming.

Babette's Adaptation of Chicken with Lemon and Egg from Marcella
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Salt and pepper
1 cup beef stock or bouillon (I use Better than Bouillon)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 egg yolks

1. Use large cast-iron skillet. Add butter, melting over medium high heat. Add onion and cook until softened.
2. Push onion to side of skillet. Pat chicken thighs dry with paper towel. Add to skillet in single layer and reduce heat to medium. Allow to brown well on each side, at least 5 minutes per side. Salt and pepper chicken.
3. Add beef stock, scraping bottom of skillet to get up any good browned bits. Reduce heat so liquid is at very slow VERY SLOW simmer. Cover, leaving lid slightly ajar. Cook this slowly 45 minutes, turning chicken thighs in stock every now and then.
4. After 45 minutes, uncover. You should have just enough liquid to cover the bottom of the skillet.
5. Whisk lemon juice together with egg yolks. Remove skillet from heat and quickly stir lemon juice/yolk mixture into skillet, turning to coat chicken thighs. Work quickly to keep egg yolks from "cooking"--the juice/yolk mixture should combine with the remaining stock to make a silky, thickened sauce.
6. Turn chicken thighs and sauce onto warm platter and serve immediately. Serve with something like orzo to get every last drop of sauce from this dish.

Serves 6 to 8