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I didn’t intend on eating dinner twice last night. Our first dinner — a healthified version of General Tso’s Chicken — certainly sufficed. But life can be surprising at times. Let me explain.

My husband and I had settled into our lazy Sunday night routine of watching Animation Domination on the tube when our doorbell rang. At 8:30 pm. Now, in my idyllic country life, an unexpected visitor would be part of day-to-day life. But we are city folks now. And when the doorbell rings at that time of night with no forewarning, you do what any good urban paranoid does: pretend you’re not home. Never mind the fact that it’s dusk and the car is in the driveway and there are lights on in every room of the house. If we don’t move or say anything, they’ll go away, right?

Not so. The doorbell rang again. I sent my intrepid husband off to investigate. He returned a few moments later with a heretofore unseen cooler and a perplexed look on his face. “The neighbor… He just came by with lobsters.” While I don’t wish to downplay the unusual nature of this occurrence, I should explain that our neighbor has a boat. And goes lobstering in his free time. “He said they were ‘extra’.”

Extra lobsters? I began feeling somewhat perplexed myself.

“Um… so…what do we DO?”

We regarded one another.

“I mean, they’re alive, right?”

We regarded the cooler. Suspiciously.

There was only one thing to do. It was time for second supper. It was also clearly time to call in the big guns. I needed help. I needed Julia Child.

I went upstairs and pulled a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking from my bedside reading pile. I had never cooked lobster before. Julia would show me the way to a perfect meal — of that, I was confident. I flipped through the pages and found three recipes for lobsters. Predictably, I proceeded to perform a terrible impression of Julia’s voice as I started reading off the procedure for killing the mighty crustaceans, punctuating the more graphic parts by brandishing a large chef’s knife. We were about to become murderers.

As my continuing good luck would have it, I had a good assortment of ingredients in my fridge and pantry, having gone grocery shopping that afternoon and still having a plethora of herbs and veggies left over from the previous weekend’s barbecue. Everything I needed was on hand to make Homard aux Aromates [Lobster Steamed in Wine with Herb Sauce]. At 9:30 on a Sunday night, I threw the mirepoix and some wine into a stockpot and got the cooking underway. Once the broth was ready, Mr. M and I steeled ourselves to the task at hand, reached into the cooler with trepidation, and took turns tossing our clawed pets into the pot. We steamed those suckers alive.

We finally feasted on our six lobster halves at 11 pm, toasting our good fortune with Coronas grasped in sticky hands. Was I tired at work today? You betchya. Would I have it any other way? Of course not. Because when life hands you lobsters, you eat them. No matter what the time.

Homard aux Aromates [Lobster Steamed in Wine with Herb Sauce]
my translation of the recipe by Julia Child

To steam lobsters

  • 3 cups dry white wine
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
  • 1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
  • 6 parsley sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped
  • 3 live lobsters

For sauce

  • 1½ tablespoons flour
  • 1½ tablespoons softened butter
  • 1 cup whipping cream (or, in my case, a half cup of 2% milk and a big splash of fat-free fake creamer. Don’t judge. It’s called “making do”.)
  • 4 tablespoons minced parsley

Simmer wine, water, vegetables, herbs and seasonings in a large stock pot for 15 minutes. Bring to a boil and toss in the live lobsters. Cover and boil for 20 minutes. Lobsters should be bright red, and you should be able to pull the feelers on the head out of their sockets fairly easily. Remove lobsters and set aside.

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Discard the bay leaf, peppercorns, and large pieces of parsley. Transfer the remaining mixture to a saucepan, bring to a boil, and reduce to about 2 cups. Meanwhile, blend the flour and butter into a paste with a spoon in a small bowl. Remove the sauce from the heat and whisk in the flour paste. Return to heat and bring to a boil for 15 seconds. Reduce to a simmer and stir in the cream one tablespoon at a time, until it is the consistency of a cream soup. (Or so says Julia. My impression of a cream soup used only half the called for amount of milk. So I stopped there, and my cat got a treat.) Taste; add salt, pepper or a squeeze of lemon to correct the seasoning as needed.

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Using a strong chef’s knife, split the lobsters in two lengthwise, trying not to crush the shell. Remove the sacks in the head as well as the intestines. You can also remove the coral and “green matter” (also known as the tomalley) if you wish. I had no idea what “coral,” was, but figured it out pretty quickly after I cut into my first female lobster. (It’s all that funny-looking pink stuff in the photo below.) Since Mr. M & I are not lobster connoisseurs, I opted to clean out everything except the meat.

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Arrange the lobsters in a serving dish, and pour the sauce over the top. Gussy up with parsley and lemons if you wish. Serve with plenty of napkins.

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TeaI know it was a bittersweet time…but that is part of the life process. Are these the times that try men’s souls? Well not really. They become interruptions of our daily routine. We adapt to the change and life goes on. Sometimes it opens up opportunities and challenges us to do something we wouldn’t ordinarily do. Like write lots of letters which we don’t do enough of due to the telephone or e-mail.

It’s good for us to get shaken up a bit. We begin to think in terms we wouldn’t have otherwise. Like the time we sent you a turkey in Norway, or the visit we arranged while you were there. Or the trip Noni & I took to visit Heather & Bonnie in England and Joe Martell in Italy. These are the times we stash in our memories and are all brought about because of changes we have no control over. So life is what you make of it. It can be good, bad, sad, or boring. But as Sarah quotes Mae West as saying: ‘Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.’

~ Leonard Luigi Farina, Oct 3rd, 1927 – May 29th, 2013

Len Farina was my first best friend. If you had pulled me aside at the ripe old age of three and asked me who my best friends were, I would have responded without hesitation: Bapa and Barney. From a three-year old perspective, being lumped in with the family dog is high praise indeed.

Len had an uncanny ability to connect with people of all ages, from his young grandchildren to the Keene State graduates working in the local diner alongside his peers drinking coffees at the counter, to his beloved mother-in-law. Len was the epitome of an extrovert. People are what mattered most to him, what drove him, what excited him. He delighted children with a variety of string-figures, spoke earnestly with any adult who would listen about his impassioned views on business, computers and the insurance industry, and doled out Lindt chocolates to anyone with a sweet tooth. He was equipped at all times with an arsenal of jokes — usually of the bad-pun variety — always eager to coax a smile from even the most unwilling victims of his sense of humor.

A gregarious man, there was nothing more exciting for Len than the prospect of a gathering, from holidays and parties to baked bean suppers at the lake to a simple lunch at Timoleon’s. The anticipation of a rolicking good time was almost unbearable for him, leaving him in a state of restless preparedness, ready to take action. For months leading up to any major event, he would start circulating Excel files, faxes, and letters — creating charts, coming up with coded acronyms and block-lettered lists and menus. There was truly never too much of a good thing for Len when it came to meeting new friends and celebrating the old.

I was blessed to experience the unabashed love and fierce pride he had for all of his family. A sentimental man, he was always the first to tear up at any of our musical performances, and freely expressed his admiration in writing afterwards. He would often speak fondly of his own family from Italy — passing along life lessons he learned from his father Luigi and culinary traditions inherited from his mother Adelinda. His appetite also knew no bounds. A provider and teacher at heart, he could not have been more at ease than when showing an unsuspecting house guest how to make pasta, or displaying the fine art of pizzelle making before passing off the heavy iron to a more muscular young man in the room to complete the job.

Len Farina was my first music teacher. Inspired by his own example, I was a curious student of music and more from a young age. Like his children before me, I learned about music seated beside him on the piano bench, turning pages of sheet music and happily obliging his requests for vocal accompaniment. He could effortlessly switch between leading my sister and I in singing “You Are My Sunshine” on the piano and flawlessly executing the Widor Toccata on the organ. An avid lover of music, Len donated his talents behind the organ here at St. James, the piano at Lions Club drama productions, and most infamously of all, propped up underneath the weight of his accordion, abusing his tolerant wife’s ears with a rousing rendition of “Lady of Spain.”

Len Farina was also my first employer. As an eight year old girl, my sister and I were offered the chance to rid the lawn up in Harrisville of dandelions for a price of 5 cents a blossom. I’m not sure he expected us to pick 500, but he was proud of our hard work. Pride in a job well-done was apparent in everything he did. He was known throughout this community for the business he created in 1972: Business Systems Inc, a payroll firm now operated by his daughter here in Keene. He ran his business based on the desire to help others and on the principles of efficiency, accuracy and adherence to an old-school work ethic passed down to him by his father (a successful businessman in his own right). He was so proud of his father and strove to do him proud in return, working many late evenings under the watchful eye of his father’s oil portrait hanging above his desk.

I believe in my heart of hearts that Len not only did Luigi proud, he did all of us whom he encountered proud. His enduring legacy of love for family, service to those in need, and the ability to connect to everyone he met with music, laughter and merriment is testimony to a life well lived. His example encourages all of us to take the opportunity to challenge ourselves, to work with pride, to love with free abandon and always to explore, learn, and share.

In closing, I’d like to leave you with a few words of comfort from Len himself, written to me on the occasion of my paternal grandmother’s passing:

Life is for the living, and we must all carry on even though we may stumble or fall. What is important is that you stay the course. Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid.

I debated — as many hobbyist writers have as well, I presume — on whether or not to write about the past week here in Boston. What value can I add to the barrage of media coverage, personal stories, images, video, op-ed pieces and political posturing that has held us hostage over the past 6 days? But we all have a story to tell, and each one is personal.

I started working in Copley Square back in 1996, before I even graduated from college. By my calculation that puts me at somewhere around 33,000 hours logged in and around the small stretch of Boylston Street between Dartmouth Street and Berkeley Street — not including the extra hours spent working overtime, enjoying meals at local restaurants, and spilling out into the streets after drinks with friends. During that time, I’ve lived in no less than 16 different apartments, from Back Bay to Somerville, from Mission Hill to Allston/Brighton, from Jamaica Plain to Quincy, and finally, in the second half of my 30s, settling for a commuter life here in Walpole.

The attack on the Boston Marathon was undeniably personal. When all else changed, when the rug was pulled out from under my feet (as is wont to happen at various times in your life), I relied on the familiar routine of getting up each morning, putting on my proverbial pants one leg at a time, and heading to Copley Square for work. My doctor and dentist, dry cleaner and long-abandoned gym are there. My farmer’s market, my beloved wine, cheese, and fine foods store — there. My solace — there.

Having gone to work on many a Marathon Monday and being all too familiar with the general annoyance of street closings and throngs of out-of-towners that it will bring, I opted this year to take advantage of my new-found ability to work from home. At 3:10 on Monday afternoon, I was nose-deep in my laptop, sitting next to my husband when he snapped me out of my work trance and pointed at the TV. A bomb had exploded in the heart of Copley Square, just yards away from the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon. Within minutes, my phone was ringing, text messages were coming in: “Please tell me you were working from home today…”

Being safe in Walpole, I took to the virtual streets of social media, where crowds of onlookers were gathering on Facebook and Twitter feeds. The bombing images looped over and over in the background on the TV. “I’m safe,” I posted. I liked incoming statuses of other local friends also reporting their safety. I cried.

This was personal. One of my closest friends and Copley Square compatriots was working in the Prudential Mall building, whose entrance was not far away from the second blast. The building went on lockdown, and he stayed there, no TV to update him, until 6 o’clock that night. Confusion and chaos were prevalent alongside the heroism that also ensued.

My work building, situated between Arlington and Berkeley Streets, was closed the next day. I worked from home again, unable to concentrate, head reeling with incomprehension. It remains inconceivable to me days later that this happened in my tiny corner of the earth.

On Wednesday, we all returned to the office — but not to normal. I reached out to friends at other buildings in the area and made plans for lunch. A reaffirming meal with friends and a 2-month old baby was what I needed to soothe my soul. We opted for comfort food at Joe’s American Bar & Grill, on the corner of Newbury and Exeter Streets; when we asked for the check at the end of a long lunch, we were told all meals that day were on the house. I was simultaneously filled with unspeakable sadness and inexpressible gratitude.

Thursday came and went in an uneasy holding pattern, and I longed for the media and the throngs of people around my building to go away. I wandered over to the makeshift memorial to the victims 2 doors down from my office and silently paid my respects. I planned a vacation day for Friday, simply to sleep in, process and try to breathe again. It was not to be.

My husband woke me up from a deep if exhausted sleep at 8am on Friday morning. “They knocked over a 7-11 and killed a police officer and one of the guys is dead and they hijacked a car and the T has been shut down and there’s a massive manhunt in Watertown,” he breathlessly informed me.

Watertown. Where my sister works, my cousin lives, coworkers live, the woman who married us lives. Back to Facebook, back to TV, back to calls and texts and Twitter feeds. The city was on lockdown. Photos circulated, and my brain awkwardly repeated Russian names in my head, trying to master their pronunciation, trying to understand something incomprehensible and foreign. A friend from the post-college years struggled with the realization that one of the suspects was a sparring partner who had broken his eye socket a few years earlier. I performed a neurotic circuit of newscasts, Facebook, and the boston.com live blog feed over and over again for hours on end, juggling phone, laptop and TV until my eyes burned and hunger pangs grew in my stomach.

I was afraid. Afraid for those I loved, afraid for my city, afraid for the state of the world, and afraid that normalcy was a thing of the past. And so I watched the news for 14 hours straight yesterday, trying to ignore the curious tightening of the neck, chest and arms that those of us with nervous dispositions are prone to.

Is it reasonable to have experienced such fear?

I don’t know anymore.

As hour 13 drew nigh and the suspect was cornered in a boat a street over from where our family friend and wedding officiant lives, I received second-hand updates from one of my college friends, a Boston police officer on the scene. Our friend was in her car leaving the area as the shots began. The suspect was now bleeding out, I was informed. When it was finally over, the city erupted in exhausted pent-up relief and once again took to the streets, in a display not unlike the triumph of the Red Sox in 2004. We celebrated our officers, our city, and our freedom.

Here’s the important thing, though. My personal experience is in no way unique. We ALL had a cousin down the road, a friend in law enforcement, classmates and colleagues who missed the explosion by five minutes and a twist of fate. This week was made up of threads from the fabric of every part of the Boston experience: the gathering of athletes from across the world to participate in the marathon, including members of our own running community of every age and from every walk of life; the selflessness, skill and dedication of our world-class doctors, surgeons and nurses; businessmen, students, and “townies” alike affected across the various locales where the drama unfolded, from the business district of Copley Square to the venerated Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus, to the working-class Watertown neighborhood; the visit from President Obama, speeches at the interfaith service offering comfort from the president, our mayor, governor, congressmen — and the typical political commentary that followed; the tireless dedication of our law-enforcement professionals, showcasing cooperation across all representative bodies and the citizens themselves; the pride of our professional sports teams and their fans, who honored the victims in the most moving ways, cancelled games so as not to pull resources from the police, and whose logos were repurposed in countless new icons of Boston pride.

The week also memorialized the cross-section of Bostonians affected by this tragedy, heartbreakingly represented by the four victims: our youth — Martin Richard, an 8-year old boy from the uniquely proud Boston neighborhood of Dorchester; our locals — Krystle Campbell, a hard-working 29-year old waitress with a big smile and quick wit from the metropolitan suburb of Arlington; our students and foreign nationals — Lingzi Lu, a 23-year old Chinese national living in Boston to attend graduate school at one of our world-class educational facilities; and our officers — Sean Collier, the 26-year old MIT police officer, killed in the line of duty during the terrible manhunt that ensued.

The fact is, though I may curse Boston every year as we shake off the mantle of yet another tough winter, my heart is inextricably tied to this locale. As someone who is wary of change, it’s been a hard pill for me to swallow that important people may come and go from our lives, our routines change, we age (as do our loved ones), jobs and store fronts come and go…and yet the ever-fluid city stands as my constant. I moved to Boston a full 20 years ago this September, and it’s been my solace in times of need; its streets have welcomed me, calmed me, protected me, throughout the ups and downs of my life since I showed up here as a fresh-faced 18-year old student. It’s taught me of an unwavering loyalty and faith that manifests itself in the absurdly tenacious 87-year belief that next year is the year. I could not be prouder to report that our faith HAS been rewarded, and my city continues to stand strong. In its darkest hour, my city still comforts me, still makes my heart sing, and yes, still protects me. This is the resilience of Boston.

This morning, after my husband left the house, I picked up the remote and turned off the barrage. For the first time in a week, my house is silent. The couch where I camped out all day yesterday on high-alert holds me again, but this time in quiet repose. A peace has descended. And in this silence, I can hear myself think for the first time. My heart swells, my eyes fill with tears, and I’m filled with love for my town. We have prevailed.

This recipe is part of the “Celebratory Goose Dinner” miniseries. For the complete menu, timetable, and printable shopping list, see the introductory post.

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THIS. It certainly wasn’t the most difficult recipe I made for the meal, but I’m pretty sure it overshadowed all the other food we ate that night. It most certainly overshadowed the apple crostata, which is a recipe I hold in high regard in and of itself. Frankly, this ice cream is downright amazing. The brown butter and brown sugar give what, at first glance, should be a fairly simple ice cream a complexity of taste beyond its humble ingredient list. Think cake batter ice cream meets caramel ice cream meets vanilla bean ice cream. Creamy ice cream. If you make just one recipe out of this menu, this is the one.

This is the final recipe in the goose dinner miniseries — I hope you enjoyed your meal!

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Brown Butter Ice Cream
adapted from Heather Christo Cooks (great recipes on this site — check it out)

  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • 2½ cups heavy cream
  •  ½ cup whole milk
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  •  ½ vanilla bean

Melt the butter in a frying pan and continue cooking it over low heat until the butter browns and small dark brown bits accumulate in the bottom of the pan, stirring regularly. Mix the cream, milk and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Using a paring knife, make a slit down the long side of the vanilla bean half, and open to reveal the seeds inside. Carefully scrape the seeds into the saucepan with your paring knife (video here), then toss the empty pod into the saucepan as well. Bring cream mixture to a simmer.

In a stand mixture fitted with the whisk attachment, mix the egg yolks, brown sugar, and salt until fluffy. Whisk in the brown butter a little bit at a time; then slowly whisk in the cream mixture. Return the mixture to the sauce pan and cook over low heat until mixture thickens and forms a custard (it should coat the back of a wooden spoon). Pour mixture into a bowl and refrigerate until chilled (or overnight in my case).

Run custard through your ice cream maker according to your user’s manual. Remove to a freezer-safe container and freeze until hardened, 4 hours or more.

Tips from The Hungry Crafter:

  • If you’ve never browned butter before, don’t let that intimidate you — neither had I. I was afraid of burning it, so I didn’t brown it as much as I could have (see previous pic), but the depth of flavor that my amber butter imparted was astounding nonetheless. Do use a heavy pan, though — my enameled cast iron worked brilliantly. 
  • The original recipe called for vanilla bean paste, but not having any on hand, I substituted a combination of vanilla extract and whole vanilla bean. Potentially a bit fussier my way, but anything that avoids another trip to the store is the unfussy path in my world.

Apple Crostata

This recipe is part of the “Celebratory Goose Dinner” miniseries. For the complete menu, timetable, and printable shopping list, see the introductory post.

Apple crostata

In my world, the true hallmark of a good recipe is one that gets made more than once. With so many exciting new recipes to try amidst the sea of cookbooks, magazines and Pinterest links I’ve surrounded myself with, it seems a shame to repeat a recipe if it isn’t a family classic or one of Mr. M’s favorites. After all, while it would be foolhardy to try a new Italian meatball recipe (this one is the ONE), it would likewise be wasteful to limit yourself to a single pie when so many options abound!

Yet I’ve made this recipe not once, not twice, but three times now since I first discovered the recipe fifteen months ago. That’s high praise. My favorite part is the crust: delicious and — stay with me here — easy. Yup, easy pie crust. If Julia Child can embrace the food processor, then so can I, with no shame. Let me explain…

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I love baking, but tend more toward the cake/brownie/gooey/quickbread/cookie end of the spectrum. Pies and pastry, meringue and custards…well, they’re generally not very chocolately, so what good are they? I may fuss with appetizers and enjoy gourmet treats, but I want my desserts rich, fudgy, and messy. I suppose this makes me fairly American.

Not all menus can support such rich desserts, however, and the goose dinner menu falls squarely in that category. So what does any red, white and blue-blooded American eat for dessert if there’s no chocolate? Apple pie, of course.

But…crust. Pie crusts are notoriously finicky. If your family is anything like mine, usually one or two folks take on the role of designated family pie maker, and the rest of us are off the hook. Who wants to deal with the fuss? And while I’ll take a cue from Julia and embrace the food processor, I will NOT take a cue from a certain unnamed family member who recommends using Pillsbury dough. (Clearly not one of the designated pie makers). 

So there’s got to be something special about a pie recipe that begs a novice to make it three times. The appeal is twofold: First, the dough is whizzed together in the food processor. Hard for the butter to start melting if you aren’t even touching it with your hands, and there’s no fussing with pastry cutters and forks. 

Second, as you probably picked up on from the title, this isn’t truly a pie, it’s a crostata. A rustic crostata. If “cozy” is the real estate market code-word for “sardine can,” then “rustic” is the gourmand’s short hand for “sloppy.” As for “crostata?” One crust, no pan. One less crust to mess up. No crimping, no blind baking… Now, that’s my kind of pie! And yes, it tastes most excellent as well.

Apple Crostata
Recipe from Mitchell Kaldrovich of Sea Glass in Cape Elizabeth, ME, via Bon Appetit

Crust

  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into ½” cubes

Filling

  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of fine sea salt
  • 2½ pounds Golden Delicious apples (about 5 large), peeled, halved, cored, cut into ¼”-thick slices (about 7 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons raw sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup or agave syrup
For crust:
Place flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor; pulse to blend. Add butter; pulse just until coarse meal forms. Add ¼ cup ice water; pulse until dough forms clumps, adding more ice water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry. Gather dough into a ball; flatten into a disk. Wrap dough in plastic and chill 1 hour. NoteCrust can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled. Allow to stand at room temperature for 15 minutes to soften slightly before rolling out.
 
For crostata:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place a large sheet of parchment paper on a work surface. Roll out dough disk on parchment paper to 15″ round (some of dough will extend over edges of paper). Whisk sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl. Add apples and lemon juice to bowl with sugar mixture; toss to coat apples evenly. Transfer apples to crust, mounding in center and leaving a 3″ plain border. Scrape out any juices from bowl and drizzle over apples.
 
Fold crust edges up over outer edges of filling, crimping dough and folding and pleating as needed to fit. Slide crostata and parchment onto a large baking sheet. Crack egg into a small bowl. Using a fork, beat egg just to blend. Brush crust edges with beaten egg, then sprinkle crust with raw sugar.
Place crostata in oven and bake until juices in center are thick and bubbling, about 1 hour. Let cool for 5 minutes. Run a long, thin knife or offset spatula around edges of crostata to loosen from paper and to prevent it from sticking to the paper. Transfer baking sheet with crostata to a wire rack. Brush apples generously with maple syrup, or drizzle with agave syrup. Let crostata cool. Serve warm with Brown Butter Ice Cream.

This recipe is part of the “Celebratory Goose Dinner” miniseries. For the complete menu, timetable, and printable shopping list, see the introductory post.

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When I was growing up, Parker House Rolls were a family classic. This was long before I moved to Boston and understood the regional significance of these rolls; all I knew was that whenever someone said these three words, people got excited.

I suppose the taste didn’t make that big of an impression on me at the time. Some of that “bland New England food,” I dismissed them in favor of the bold flavors of Italian sausage with fennel, acidic tomato sauces and herb-stuffed artichokes with plenty of butter. While rolls in general were an afterthought to me, when pressed, I fell whole-heartedly in the camp of Parker House Rolls’ arch-nemesis and number one competitor at the dinner table, the sweet and sexy Hungarian Rolls.

Both roll recipes are a bit of work, in their own way. Yeast breads both, Parker House Rolls need to be rolled out and cut with a biscuit cutter before being brushed with butter and folded, while Hungarian Rolls need to be divided, hand-rolled, and dipped in sugar and butter before being arranged monkey-bread style in a tube pan with a hefty sprinkling of raisins between each layer.

So when I saw a recipe for Parker House Rolls in a recent issue of Bon Appetit that skipped the use of a biscuit cutter in favor of a rectangular tiled formation in a pan, I was intrigued. It had been years since I had eaten these rolls, and I was preparing a menu with strong colonial influences, after all.

But I wanted the recipe to be even easier. Enter my best friend the bread machine. I’m happy to say that my machine adaptation worked out perfectly, and that these are truly a cinch to make. More happily still, I’m pleased to report that the taste has made quite an impression on my adult taste buds, and most certainly have shrugged off the label of “bland.” While lovely served warm with butter and dipped in gravy alongside a hearty feast, I find these rolls truly shine the next morning when you steal down to the kitchen for a few leftovers slathered with butter and jam.

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Easy Bread Machine Parker House Rolls
from Fannie Farmer via Bon Appetit, adapted for use with a bread machine by The Hungry Crafter

  • 1 cup whole milk, warmed
  •  ¼ cup vegetable shortening (i.e. Crisco)
  • 1 room-temperature large egg, lightly beaten with fork
  • 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast
  •  ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • Maldon sea salt (optional)

Place the first six ingredients in your bread machine pan in the order listed (important!). Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the yeast. Insert pan into bread machine and run the dough cycle.

When dough cycle is complete, preheat oven to 350°F and melt the butter in the microwave. Lightly brush a 13×9-inch metal baking dish with some melted butter. Remove dough to work surface, punch down, and divide into 4 equal pieces. Working with 1 piece at a time, roll out on a lightly floured surface into a 12×6-inch rectangle.

Cut lengthwise into three 2-inch-wide strips; cut each crosswise into three 4×2-inch rectangles. Brush half of each (about 2×2-inch) with melted butter; fold unbuttered side over, allowing ¼-inch overhang. Place flat in 1 corner of prepared baking dish, folded edge against short side of dish. Add remaining rolls, shingling to form 1 long row. Repeat with remaining dough for 4 rows. Brush with melted butter, loosely cover with plastic, and chill for 30 minutes or up to 6 hours. Bake rolls until golden and puffed, about 25 minutes. Brush with butter; sprinkle with sea salt. Serve warm.

This recipe is part of the “Celebratory Goose Dinner” miniseries. For the complete menu, timetable, and printable shopping list, see the introductory post.

WInter Squash

This recipe was another stand out in the menu (I confess, while eating leftovers, I stopped to send my friend the following text message: “I want to marry this squash.”) I’ve expressed my admiration for local chef Barbara Lynch previously, and this latest dish only furthered my respect for her.

It’s a flexible recipe, so you can use whatever squash is fresh and available — in my case, I was limited to butternut and acorn. As I mentioned in the launch post, there are two versions of this recipe circulating the web; the one I used was fairly lacking in comparison to the one I’ve posted below. Had I used this one, it would have been clearer that I should have proceeded to keep the acorn squash unpeeled and in wedges, not cubes. My presentation was a bit lacking, but in a simpler menu, I’d be sure to really dress up the plate. As it was, I was so busy pulling together the gravy, carving the turkey and carting items out to the table that I forgot to put on the maple syrup! I will rectify this next time. And there will be a next time for sure. Enjoy!

Roasted Winter Squash with Maple Syrup and Sage Cream
from Barbara Lynch

  • 1 buttercup or kabocha squash (about 2 pounds) — peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch wedges
  • 1 butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  •  ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  •  ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 acorn squash (about 1½ pounds) — halved, seeded and cut into 1-inch wedges (with skin)
  • 1 delicata squash (about 1 pound), cut into 1-inch rings (with skin)
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 20 sage leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Baby watercress and shaved pecorino cheese, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350°F (Also OK to roast at 375°F for a shorter period of time). In a large bowl, toss the buttercup and butternut squash with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the squash out on a large rimmed nonstick baking sheet. Add the acorn and delicata squash to the large bowl. Toss with the remaining 2 tablespoons each of olive oil and brown sugar and season with salt and pepper. Spread the squash out on another large rimmed baking sheet. Roast the squash for 45 minutes to an hour, turning once, until tender and lightly caramelized in spots. Arrange the squash on a large platter and drizzle with the maple syrup.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer with the sage and cook over moderate heat for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes, then add the butter and season lightly with salt and pepper. Strain the cream into a heatproof cup. Drizzle it over the roasted squash, garnish with the baby watercress and pecorino and serve.

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