Monday, February 28, 2011

February's Last Day: Spring's First Buds

February 28, 2011.

On a strange weather day, with warmish temps early but blustery winds and storming by late afternoon, I managed to find my way to the sideyard to refill the bird feeders. And after the miserable drudgery of the abnormally cold winter, I have to admit that I got pretty giddy upon spotting new buds on the Bradford pear tree. Spring is coming. Spring is on its way.

My hatred of the cold is well-known by those who have to spend time around me, and its negative effects on me especially in the kitchen have already been documented. But the advent of spring also means we're getting closer all the time to the outside joys of life in the Roediger House, like cookouts and movie nights and coffee on the front porch.

I'm ready.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Meal No. 229: Peanut Butter Bacon Burgers

After a mostly-gorgeous and very warm (mid- to upper 70s) Sunday, the dinner to sit down to this evening was my second pass at peanut butter bacon burgers. This is an experiment in combining interesting flavors that was inspired by a menu item found at Yo Mama's in the French Quarter in New Orleans.

I pretty much did tonight what I did last November the first time I tackled this:
  • ground my own peanut butter
  • ground my own beef, using a mix of sirloin tip and beef shortribs
  • toasted the buns
  • made special steakhouse sauce

Recipe and Instructions based on Cook's Illustrated, No. 93 (July/August 2008), p. 10.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Meal No. 228: Grilled Tuna with Red Wine Vinegar and Rosemary Dijon Vinaigrette

My original ideas for dinner tonight involved either halibut or lamb shanks, and I was unable to find either of those when I did my Saturday shopping this afternoon. After standing stupidly in the fresh meat and seafood section at the Harris Teeter for a while, I finally settled on wild-caught yellowfin tuna medallions. But I came home with no clear idea about what I'd do with them. I was bound and determined, though, to cook something that I'd never made before.

The tuna medallions ended up on the grill.

But they were not alone. They'd been coated in a red wine vinegar and rosemary dijon mustard vinaigrette. Note: I've never grilled tuna before.

Also brand-new to me was quinoa as a side dish. I also turned to regular favorite Fordhook lima beans.

There was plenty of vinaigrette to also top the grilled tuna and quinoa with. This was an unquestionably fantastic meal. I'm pretty proud of myself.

Cook's Illustrated, No. 104, May-June 2010, p. 12-13.

Friday, February 25, 2011

N(P)ew Bench for the Porch

The current space used by 6th & Vine for its storage is soon to be renovated as part of the expansion of nearby Finnegan's Wake, and so Kathleen Barnes (the owner) needed some things to be gone. That's how I lucked out and got the bench pictured above, which is the perfect length to sit in front of the front parlour bays on the downstairs porch. I spent the better part of Valentine's Day afternoon, when the weather was unseasonably gorgeous, removing a kazillion staples and the fabric covering that was attached to much of the bench, and now it awaits weather-treating and a bit of sanding on the rough spots. It's sturdy but light enough for two to move it wherever a given event might most require it.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Squirrel Goes to Seed

I'm guilty of neglecting the bird feeders of late, and they were all quite empty. But getting outside on Valentine's Day in the beautiful sunshine included a chance to rectify this wrong. I dumped out some extra seed on the wall capper at the end of the driveway's retaining wall, and it earned me a fan.

I especially like that the handy-dandy zoom on my new camera could actually catch the flying seed as this little fella busily stuffed his face, as pictured below.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream

Because I wanted to have some ice cream in reserve, I decided to make some extra strong-brewed coffee when I was making tiramisu recently, and used it to whip up a container of Vietnamese coffee ice cream.

I do believe this is the best batch of this that I've made. I could not stop sampling it while it was freezing and setting up.

"Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream," by David Lebovitz. In The Perfect Scoop. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press (2007), p. 35.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Winter Lament: Running from Hot to Cold

Warm weather: good. Cold weather: bad. Yesterday, I sat right up there on that south side of the front porch of the house, enjoying the sunshine and reading a book and watching the birds. It was around 72 degrees at 4 pm.

A little more than six hours later, I was driving in 28-degree weather on a sleet-covered Interstate 81 hoping to arrive safely at my hotel in Winchester, where I am working this week.

Or not. This winter weather that I ran into led to a closure of Frederick County Schools on Tuesday, leaving me stranded in my hotel with a day to kill. I guess this is the nature of the beast, but boy-howdy, I wish I could have predicted there'd be no school and still be enjoying the pleasures and comforts of the Roediger House! Especially since when I don't work, I don't get paid, of course.

At 7 am this morning, looking out my hotel window in Winchester:

Which means there will be no afternoon enjoying Daily Grind coffee on the Loudoun Street mall, as was the case late one lovely fall afternoon back in October:

Monday, February 21, 2011

Meal No. 227: Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps

A mid-afternoon meal and a new experience:

These are Asian chicken lettuce wraps, stealing from a recipe that purports to imitate what might be ordered at P.F. Chang's.

I think this just might hold me for the duration of this gorgeous, sunny 75-degree day in Winston-Salem.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Meal No. 226: Kung Pao Chicken

My undergraduate years were spent at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and halfway through my time there, a position in student government brought me into contact with a man named Al Calarco. At the time, Al was the associate director of University Housing. I was already well involved in Avery Dorm government, but I had not yet come across Al. It took trying to resolve the hardship parking issues that resident advisors felt they were facing to bring us into contact with one another.

After some 20 years with UNC, Al took a position with the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, and he and I managed to reconnect once we were both living in the Triad area together. Tonight was (I think) his third time at the Roediger House, so he saw it before the renovation and now for a second time since the addition was completed.

The dinner menu this evening: stir fry, with a version of or take on kung pao chicken, with an extra dose of spiciness. Which made the dessert of Emeril's chocolate cream pie that much more soothing to the palate.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Meal No. 225: Pipetizer Casserole

What a great Saturday night, spent casually with friends over good food. I don't think it's exactly a rut yet, but this day just called for another pan of Pipetizer Casserole.

I managed to make it even cheesier, I think, without keeping it from being worth a second and even third trip to the casserole dish to reload the plate.

It was a night where I'm reminded of why I wanted the kitchen to be designed like this: easy space for entertaining and a place to while a way several hours in good company.

There was barely room for it by the end of the evening, but we all managed to choke down a bit of Emermil's chocolate cream pie. Once again, I could not finish my whole piece.

"Pipetizer Casserole" is an adaptation of "Tailgate Casserole," from The Big Book of Casseroles, by Maryana Vollstedt. San Francisco: Chronicle Books (2000), p. 120.

"Emeril's Chocolate Cream Pie," by Emeril Lagasse (2007). Featured on The website.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Meal No. 224: Pasta Carbonara

After a couple of days on the road working down in Richmond County, which allows me to get home sometimes even before 5 o'clock, I was ready for a home-cooked meal without a lot of muss and fuss. And that could be made with on-hand or staple ingredients, because I didn't want to waste the beautiful late afternoon with a trip to the Teeter.

So tonight's dinner was mixed rotini pasta carbonara, with bacon bits and (this time) red onion. I keep making the carbonara sauce a bit too thick, but that doesn't keep it from being delicious.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Desserts This Week: Tiramisu

The special dessert I made (for the first time) to go with the Valentine's Day ribeyes was good old Italian-fashion tiramisu.

I guess this is a reminder for me that this is not a dessert I feel all that drawn to anyway, and it was just sort of okay to me.

The brandy in the espresso that the ladyfingers were soaked in was rather pronounced in the outcome, I might add.

[Tiramisu recipe from the March 2011 Food Network Magazine, p. 130-131]

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Desserts This Week: Glazed Apple Cream Pie

Last night's pork medallions dinner might have been all that was needed, but I also reached into that very same Pillsbury Classic Cookbooks magazine to put together a dessert for the evening.

This is glazed apple cream pie, as it looked after coming out of the oven but before I had added the glaze on top.

And this is what was left after suppertime, and it was hard to stop at just half of this rascal. There were happy tummies and satisfied smiles all 'round the table.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Meal No. 223: Pork Medallions in Dijon Cream Sauce

Last night's dinner involved reaching into one of my older recipes in order to prepare a meal suitable to the occasion: it was Carrie Lawrence's first visit to the Roediger House since all the renovation and addition work has been done. Plus, it's just been too long since the house was graced with the pleasure of her company, and it was a fun night.

After living five years at the University of Virginia in one of the spartan and historic East Range rooms, which means I had no cooking facilities and simply ate a heckuva lot of turkey sandwiches, I ended up with a tremendous backlog of unfulfilled cooking desires. My dear sweet mother, Allison Jones, gets credit for another one of those thoughtful gestures to help me out: she started me a subscription to some simple recipe magazines. The first one she got me was the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest issue of the Pillsbury Classic Cookbooks magazine. One of the finalist entries was Pork Medallions with a dijon mushroom cream sauce.

I reached back into the vault to bring that one out for last night's meal. It turned out pretty well, methinks, and was made all the better with feta-stuffed bell pepper slices, company mashed potatoes, and green beans.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Meal No. 222: Grilled Ribeye Steak

After the gorgeous day here in Winston-Salem today, it put me in the mood and mind to do a bit of grilling tonight. I'd picked up some ribeyes on special at the Harris Teeter, along with sweet potato and asparagus, and it made for a fine dinner on this casual Valentine's Day Monday.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Meal No. 221: Chicken Fajita Pizza

Using a recipe from the very first Pillsbury Classic Cookbooks magazine I received (March 2001, p. 23), tonight I made Chicken Fajita Pizza, using a King Arthur Flour semolina wheat pizza crust mix, while watching the final episode of the second season of the original Star Trek series.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Meal No. 220: Coquilles St. Jacques

I reached for the Julia Child cookbook again tonight, and the evening's meal was found on p. 216-218 of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I. Officially, the dish is called Coquilles St. Jacques à la Parisienne.

Above is a shot from the final step of the prep, where I'm adding some panko to it to help absorb up some of the extra butter I decided to put on the top. Below, the dishes as they waited to go under the broiler:

And the final result: a darned fine meal. Everything was really good, especially with a Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale on the side (not pictured).

Friday, February 11, 2011

Meal No. 219: Rotini Alfredo

I drove in from Nelson County today and got home around 5:45, which means there was time to actually whip up some dinner. And I needed to do so using available ingredients, because I had no interest in also heading back out to make a grocery run. That led me to a pretty easy but good recipe for Alfredo sauce, which I served with rotini pasta instead of fettucini.

There's a lot to be said for the lack of mess when one eats rotini instead of long slender slimy pieces of coated pasta.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Fractured Drywall in the Kitchen

I think it's pretty well documented in this here blog that I love the addition to the house, especially with its new and gracious kitchen space, in which I like to spend so much time. It is also well-documented that the months since the completion of the construction project have seen quite a few problems surface. Some of these are minor, of course. But some relate to significant issues in the construction with wide-ranging subsequent problems.

For instance, my general contractor discovered that a center support beam under the addition had dropped down, which did much to account for the many places that there are drywall separations in the corner joints of several rooms, and for the alignment (or mis-alignment) of some doors, and for the cracked grout and popped up tiles in bathrooms. (I don't think it accounts for the opened seams between hardwood flooring planks, which seems to surface in winter and disappear in warmer months...that problem is back again in these days of cold harsh January and February.)

Separation at corner joints of drywall is one thing, but it seems to be a different order or magnitude when you can see that the drywall is actually splitting and fracturing, as I noticed beside the kitchen door that leads into the back hallway. (There is also a seam opening in the wall on the hallway side of this door.) So is this further sign that there is settling and mis-alignment with the construction?

I should note that that door is back to not properly closing; the latch does not align with the wall plate anymore. My general contractor, Peter R. LaRoque of Mocksville, NC, has already done one repair on this door (as well as some others) but something continues to shift.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Emeril's Chocolate Cream Pie

Let me tell you what kind of dessert you missed at the Roediger House Monday night by not being there for the simple biscuits and gravy dinner.

The credit for the pie pictured here goes to Emeril is one of his from the Food Network website. I got a good start on it and had planned to serve it for dessert Sunday night, but I didn't get it quite made. Part of the problem was following the directions for the crust, which just didn't work out, and I abandoned it for the store-bought Oreo crust shown here.

Creamy, rich, and filling...and deliciously and sinfully chocolate-ty. I even did some home-made whipped cream to top it, which may be close to a first for me.

I was not able to finish my slice.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Meal No. 218: Biscuits & Gravy

Another meal that I've now made all of three times ever in my life...

This is the good southern breakfast of biscuits and sausage gravy, made with the guidance of The Joy of Cooking. I wanted to make a quick supper yesterday before having to drive up to Charlottesville, and I already had the sausage on hand.

And while I do enjoy trying to whip up some good biscuits from scratch, these tasty buggers were courtesy of Pillsbury's wonderful bag of frozen biscuits, that are ready in 25-28 minutes and, to me, cannot really be beat.