Happy 2008

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I don’t mind messing with tradition on New Year’s Eve by staying in and avoiding crowds, but you’ll never catch me shirking my duty on New Year’s Day — for if I don’t have black-eyed peas and some form of greens to ring in the new year, disaster will surely fall upon the Roth household. And so we filled ourselves to the gills with creamy black-eyed peas for luck and spicy collard greens to attract money into our lives. Maybe it doesn’t work, but boy, are they tasty. And since they seemed to be crying out for some kind of plain protein, I added a poached chicken breast topped with a mustard sauce I made by mixing together Dijon, maple syrup, whiskey, a few drops of Worcestershire sauce and cayenne pepper.

As always, I used the black-eyed peas recipe from The Prudhomme Family Cookbook, and this time followed it to the letter by making my own pork stock. I think it added a depth of flavor to the dish that plain chicken broth just can’t, but if you don’t want to go to the trouble of making it yourself, it isn’t necessary. How, pray tell, did I make this stock? Well, I preheated my oven to 350 degrees and roasted one quartered onion, three lightly crushed garlic cloves, some pork short ribs, and a few split pig’s feet until they were golden brown. The smell was heavenly, even if the sight was decidedly less so:

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Once the meat and veggies were roasted to perfection, I put the feet and ribs into a stock pot, added four cups of chicken stock, and additional water to cover the meat by an inch or so. After they simmered for about an hour, I added the roasted onion and garlic along with one stalk of celery and continued to simmer it for another hour. I set the ribs aside for later use (still trying to decide what to do with them, in fact), strained the broth, and refrigerated it overnight to more easily dispose of the fat. Because these beans have puh-lenty enough fat in them as it is if you use the full half pound of bacon suggested in the recipe.

They start out so healthy and with such potential, though:

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But then you add the bacon, and — oh, yeah! — ANOTHER form of pork. This would be tasso — an intensely spiced, smoked bit of pork used for seasoning:

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Did you observe any New Year’s Day culinary traditions, dear reader? Here’s wishing you all the luck, good fortune, and prosperity your life can hold. Cheers to a great 2008!

recipes after the jump

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My new wonton technique is unstoppable

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Happy 2008, everyone! Keeping with our tradition, Gil and I stayed in for a movie marathon last night rather than endure the crowds in the city and the loooong drive home. This year’s feature: The Lord of the Rings trilogy. (No, really, it was his idea. Something about the big screen HDTV, battle scenes, I dunno. I wasn’t going to argue.) We started late and only got up to about the 45-minute mark of The Two Towers, but it’s a rainy day, so I’m sure we’ll finish what we started before nightfall.

With hours of Middle Earth fun ahead of us, I wanted to make something festive for dinner that wouldn’t require too much time in the kitchen, and after my success with two recipes from Simple Chinese Cooking, I turned to its pages again for inspiration. The shrimp dumplings practically leaped off the page and demanded an audition, so I obliged, despite the potential for disaster — eviscerated dumplings churning in a pot of boiling water isn’t as appetizing as you might think. But Kylie Kwong’s step-by-step photo illustrations of dumpling assembly made the technique seem easy enough, and it really was.

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Oops, looks like a bit of shrimp got away from me there. We’ll just ignore that.

Didn’t affect the outcome, at least:

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Awww … they couldn’t be cuter if they were a pile of puppies frolicking on the cutting board. Hairier and much less sanitary, yes, but definitely not cuter.

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Wonton regiment 24 reporting for duty!

And you may find this hard to believe (I certainly did), but not one dumpling burst in the boiling water! That’s a success rate I haven’t come near with homemade ravioli, so I think there’s something to Ms. Kwong’s techniques. Hmmm, maybe I’ll start making “tortellini” instead — sneaky, sneaky.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, Gil and I have to get back to our movie research; he has a theory that Ed Wood was resurrected to direct Orlando Bloom in this trilogy, and I’m having trouble disproving it.

If I latke you, and you latke me …

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As we are a dual-faith household, I thought it’d be nice to give Gil, if not equal play, at least a nod in the midst of my Advent posts. So after my stunning and unexpected victory over my nemesis the oven fry recently, I grew bold and decided to tackle the latke this weekend, even keeping it as traditional as possible! That’s right — no bacon grease, no smoked paprika or roasted garlic to liven things up. Nope, just potatoes, onions, egg, a little whole wheat flour (no matzo meal at our local grocery, sorry), salt and pepper, and olive oil for frying.

Bow down to the latke queen! These were completely delicious — crispy on the outside, still soft on the inside, oniony, and not oily at all. It probably helps that I didn’t fry them in nearly as much oil as most recipes call for, but most of them seemed a lot like suggestions, anyway, so I tweaked. We ate them with the usual suspects — sour cream and applesauce — and then took a nap. I hear that part’s traditional, too.

I think I still prefer the fries, but these will definitely get play at least yearly at Hanukkah.

A slog, some fog, and a wonderful dog

cookie1a.jpgI worked longer than the expected four hours Wednesday, but less my typical nine, which threw a wrench into Gil’s big plans for holiday baking. He went all Woody Allen on me: “Can I leave the butter out on the counter long enough to pick you up at the train station? Will it meeeelt? Should I keep it in the fridge until we get home and start the whole process later? I don’t want to poiiiison anyone.” I don’t know a LOT about baking, but I figured that unless our kitchen counter spontaneously combusted, the butter couldn’t possibly get too soft for a standard cookie recipe. So he stopped the handwringing long enough to make the trek to Fair Lawn, then came home and baked his famous chocolate chip cookies Wednesday night. They garnered the expected “oohs” and “aahs” at our potluck Thanksgiving dinner, as well as knowing winks that I’ve managed to turn him into a baker. “Ha!” I say thee, “Ha!” I provided the recipe, but he didn’t learn baking from me, since I usually make with the burning.

Oh, and speaking of burning … !

Wouldn’tcha know it? I learned a wonderful lesson yesterday — never walk away from food that is browning under the broiler:

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Hmmm … what’s that smell? Did the heater kick on? I should get back into the kitchen, but how will I find my way through this thick, dark fog?

Despair’s icy fingers clutched at my heart as I mentally inventoried the pantry for something else to bring to dinner in an hour: Maybe they’d like a couple of salt-roasted potatoes with roasted sardines and mustard? Perhaps a bag of frozen corn and whipped cream? Oh, I know! An open jar of pre-grated bottarga! Maybe they haven’t had the good stuff and would find this oddly endearing!

But fortune sometimes favors the stupid and I got lucky, people! The Brussels sprouts were easily salvaged by scraping off the thick layer of breadcrumbs I thought to add to the recipe at the last minute. People declared them heavenly (take that, you hater!) and I don’t think they were all just being polite — at least not the host, who’s a brutally straight shooter if ever I met one. She’d let me have it in a heartbeat if they weren’t up to snuff.

But no pictures of food, as I’m the most unobtrusive food blogger you’ll ever meet. Instead, I present images of the world’s most adorable dog, Dash, guaranteed to make your heart melt:

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Dash loves his belly rubs after a hard day of tug-o-war, and Mark (upper right) & Gil (lower right) were only too happy to oblige.

I hope your Thanksgivings were filled with heavenly dishes and belly rubs of your own.