Monthly Archives: October 2007

Now All We Need Is A Flock

There has been much yearning these last few weeks at stately IPB Manor for shepherd’s pie. It all started when Katebits mentioned it on TWC in an offhanded comment about how comfy fall hockey is, and ever since this innocent aside I have been obsessed with the thought of eating it. Finally today, at long last, I had a convergence of energy after work, no Devils game on TV, and nothing from the farm on the brink of rotting that demanded being cooked right now, and I was able to set to it.

Shepherd’s pie, in the pan

I’ve never made a shepherd’s pie before, but for some reason I was not even remotely nervous about making this up myself. I may have mentioned here before — but cannot stress enough — that I am a total weenie about doing things without recipes, but I guess the concept of a shepherd’s pie is easy enough even for me to handle. I started things off with my root vegetables, turnips and a rutabaga from the farm (it has been a crazy good year for rutabaga) and some regular store carrots, all chopped to a state of chunky uniformity, and sauteed until pretty well soft. I tossed in some salt, thyme and fresh ground pepper while they were at it. Once they were done I spread them in a deep baking dish, then started rendering off a few slices of chopped bacon, in the same pan, and then tossed in some diced onion and celery, letting them get nice and soft too. (As an aside, for the first time in five years my farm gave us celery. I’ve never had farm-fresh celery before, and it completely blew my mind. It’s supposed to be pretty tricky to grow, but I’m kind of tempted to give it a shot next year, just because it’s like a completely different vegetable compared to what you get from the grocery store.) So, when the bacon was crispy and the celery and onions soft, I scooped them out of the pan over the root veggies, and then tossed some relatively finely cubed pork loin into the pan with some salt, pepper, thyme and dried sage. When the pork was browned and delish, it got scooped into the baking pan, and I made a quick pan gravy in the fry pan with the drippings, some leftover homemade chicken stock and more sage. The gravy got poured down on the contents of the baking pan, and then I slapped the mountains of mashed potatoes I had leftover from last night’s dinner on top and baked the whole thing for about a half an hour, until the potatoes were browning up a little and the whole kit and caboodle was warmed through.

It ended up being a fair deal of work for a weeknight, just from the perspective that there were a lot of steps — I’m normally a lot lazier than this when I get home from work. But it was well worth the effort, and well worth the wait, because it was ridiculously delicious. Hearty, rich, full of veggie goodness and bacony badness: basically, all you could ask for in a dinner. Those shepherds really know how to live, don’t they?

Baa

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Filed under Hearty Meals, Repurposed

IPB Gets Comfy

Ahhhh, Fall — the time of year when a young woman’s fancy turn to thoughts of comfort food. We spent all week eagerly anticipating our traditional Saturday pasta dinner (what, did you think we maintain our girlish physiques by avoiding starches?) because this week I’d put homemade macaroni and cheese on the docket. I use a recipe from this little pamphlet-y cookbook whose name escapes me (it might be something as wildly unexpected as Mac & Cheese), and it never turns out the same way twice. The general gist, though, is simple: a white sauce with whole milk, some sauteed onions and a bit of garlic, lots of butter, three types of cheese, nutmeg and paprika. This week’s version had two types of cheddar (an aged Vermont one and an organic one from Wisconsin), some Monterey Jack (I prefer dry jack, but Boomer picked up normal jack while shopping for me), and Asiago. I like to put orecchiette in this instead of elbow shaped noodles just because I like how chewy De Cecco’s orecchiette stay after baking. The whole process is extremely straightforward, with the most difficult step being not dropping the whole nutmeg into the sauce while grating it. Once the sauce and noodles are combined, top the whole thing in a baking dish with slices of tomato, bread crumbs (I had some leftover mild sourdough in the freezer from some soup earlier this week) and some dried thyme and bake until browned and bubbling.

Mac & Cheese

With a smooth, autumnal glass of red wine, this is a knockout of a dinner, perfect for a chilly night of hockey. Granted, the Devils made this kind of stick in our throats before the night was over, but that wasn’t the fault of the food.

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Filed under Carbo Loading, Hearty Meals

Fall. Finally.

After a last-gasp furnace-blast of weather from summer, finally the season succumbed and Fall is upon us. To celebrate this momentous event, I decided to make my trusty chicken and barley soup. The recipe for this originally comes from The Daily Soup Cookbook, and is pretty straightforward; it’s one of my staples, a rare meal I can make without the recipe open in front of me, and it’s crazy good.

I start with a giant heap of mirepoix elements, onions, celery and carrots. I chop the celery and carrots pretty coarsely, and since I think carrots are nature’s candy, I put way more of them in than the original recipe asks for. For this pot of soup I used an entire pound of them. So then I sweat the veggies out in a huge pot, seasoned liberally with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, and then I remove them from the pot and drop in my boneless, skinless chicken breast, which has been cut into little pieces. Since I love making enough soup for leftovers, I used almost 2 1/4 pounds of chicken. Once the chicken is browned up nicely, I add the veggies back to the pot and 8-10 cups of chicken stock (I make my own stock, but low-sodium chicken broth works fine here too). Once it comes to a boil, I dump in boatloads of barley. Seriously, tons of it. I don’t measure, but it’s probably about 2 or 3 cups of it, since I like this to be more a porridge than a soup. When I’m using homemade stock, this generally needs some serious seasoning at this point, so I give it a hearty dose of more black pepper and either kosher salt, or, if I’m feeling fancy, sea salt to taste. I let it come back to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat to a nice, low simmer and let it go at it for about an hour, stirring from time to time, until the barley is cooked through. Then I top the pot off with a healthy splash of vermouth and some chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, make sure it’s all up to temperature again, and then I gorge myself.

For this pot of soup, I decided I wanted to go the extra step and make some buttermilk biscuits to go with it. I love buttermilk biscuits, and I often forget how quick and easy they are to make; five extra minutes of work wins me major brownie points with Boomer and Pookie!

Biscuits

So, plated up, this was the most comfy comfort food on earth: butter-slathered biscuits, hot out of the oven, and a big bowl of barley, chicken, carrots and celery and a little broth. (My favorite thing about this soup is that the leftovers are essentially a barley risotto — the barley soaks up all the broth overnight, so it’s a neat, easy thing to take to work for lunch.)

Yum! Soup!

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Filed under Hearty Meals

IPB Toasts

We are champagne/prosecco/sparkling wine gals here at IPB Manor. If a drink has fruit and one of those three beverages mixed together, we’re happy people. Our Christmas morning tradition is to have mimosas while opening presents, and we could spend all summer sitting back and guzzling prosecco lemonades. So when the Devils season opener rolled around, we decided a straight-up champagne toast would never do. Instead, we opted for Black Velvets.

Black Velvets

It’s safe to say that I no longer want mimosas with my Christmas presents. I want Black Velvets. Now, champagne, as we all know, is good. So is Guinness. But when you combine the two? The whole is so much greater than the sum of its parts. Holy crap, but these were good. Rich, smooth, filling your entire palette, with soft, rounded edges. Just. So. Good. Too bad the Devils didn’t pick up any inspiration from them.

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Filed under Drinky-Drinky

La Maison du Hockey

Box of chocolats

A few years ago I took a class at work taught by one of the executive chefs for the catering company that runs my employer’s cafeteria. It was all about making chocolates. The chef at one point off-handedly suggested everyone try the truffles from La Maison du Chocolat at some point in their lives. I considered this, filed the information away, and then kind of forgot about it until many months later, when we were looking for some special, extravagant way to celebrate the eagerly-anticipated start of the 2006 NHL playoffs. “I know!” I announced, as the thought came to me like a bolt out of the blue, “Let’s order some fancy chocolates!”

It should be noted that we had, immediately after I took that fateful chocolates class, sent a box of these mixed truffles to our chocoholic grandmother, who reported back that she didn’t much care for them because they weren’t “normal” enough for her. So we were a little wary when the gorgeous brown box arrived on our doorstep — how not normal could they be? It turns out they are extravagantly not normal. Profoundly not normal. Mind-blowingly not normal.

Because they are the most delicious foodstuff on Earth.

You can read more about what infusions come in this box of magical deliciousness at La Maison du Chocolat’s website; it’s hard to say which is my favorite. Is it the liquidy, caramelized butter one, so smooth, silky, rich and exquisite that it seems insulting to call it a candy? Or is it the frothy coffee mousse? Maybe it’s the three-citrus ganache wafer, with the uncommon and staggering grapefruit-chocolate combination? Or the tea-flavored ganache, which breaks from the ubiquity of banal Earl Grey infusions by adding a smoky hint of Lapsang Suochon to compliment the dark chocolate couverture? Or maybe it’s the straight-up plain chocolate ganache, because seriously, the chocolate itself, even without the genius infusions and flavorings, is probably the purest embodiment of “delicious” in the entire edible cannon. Then you add to that things like cinnamon, honey or fennel infusions, hazelnut and almond concoctions that make us actually like nuts in our chocolate, or the gianduja praline that redefines the concept of smoothness. And you end up with a box of pure heaven.

We now commemorate the three major hockey holidays with a box of these: Opening Night, the All-Star Break and the start of the Playoffs. (For Christmas we order a box of the champagne truffles, but that’s a different story altogether.) We’re kind of becoming old hands at this assortment now, and don’t have to have the “guided eats” we used to, where we’d get out the little “what these chocolates all are” pamphlet that comes in the box and work our way through the flavors together. But while we might be more familiar with it now, and perhaps a little better-versed in which truffle has which flavor waiting inside it, we are by no means taking them for granted. Because really, what sight is sweeter than this: a platter of fine chocolates and a fresh schedule for a new, full hockey season?
Chocolates and schedule

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Filed under Worth Selling Your Soul For