It’s nice to have a man who cooks for me. While I run around, stressing about the job I have, pining for a job I don’t, maintain 3 (three!) blogs and a sad semblance of a social life, I almost always know that I will have a good meal at the end of the day, even when I don't have the energy or desire to make it myself.
This particular meal, however, was a bit of a landmark for me. You see, about three weeks ago I applied for a job I desperately wanted. I thought it was the one, my true love, the job that will get me to London and I would live happily ever after. All the stars were aligned in my favor. Or so I thought. It was web publishing, it was science writing, I personally knew the person who posted the position, it was in London, and I made the mistake of starting to hope.
That was stupid.
I didn’t get the job. It was just between me and one another person and I didn’t get it. To say that I was bummed would be an understatement. I was probably more upset than I should have been. Thirty minutes after getting the phone call which unceremoniously crushed my hopes, I wrote to a lab head at my graduate institution. He had asked me earlier if I would be interested in re-joining his lab for a short term to conduct a set of experiments only I had the expertise to pull off. I gagged, threw up a little in my mouth, and said to myself, “only as a last resort.” And then it was, all of a sudden, time for a last resort. I emailed him and said I would start that following Monday. And I did. And here I am. Back in lab, a place I had sincerely hoped to avoid for the rest of my life. I am the sad loser-ish kid who moves back in with the parents after college, one who didn’t quite make it far enough on their own.
It sounds pathetic and it is, and I felt slightly pathetic (slowly getting over it now, by the way).
Needless to say, I was not much of a party the night after I didn’t get the job. The Texan, that brave (read: naïve) soul, knowing that I was pissy and cranky and decidedly unfun, said that he would come over anyway and make dinner. He came over with pre-made pizza dough from Whole Foods, cornichons, and a block of raclette cheese, determined to a) put up with me and b) re-imagine his favorite starter plate at Eastern Standard, raclette – a bowl of melted cheese with cornichons and fingerling potatoes, served with toasted baguette. When consumed with a beer, it’s in a word – perfect.
Pizza, being one of the Texan’s favorite things to make, seemed a reasonable way to turn raclette into an entrée without flying to Switzerland. He rolled out the pizza dough atop some cornmeal – while I whined – topped it with olive oil, a thick layer of grated raclette, boiled Yukon potatoes, sliced cornichons, a little bit of salt, and tons of freshly cracked pepper. He then popped the pizza into a pre-heated 550F oven until the cheese melted and turned brown on the edges and ridiculously gorgeous (about 10 minutes), while I, also ridiculously gorgeous, blew my nose and wiped my eyes in a completely pathetic manner.
When the pizza was ready, I was still grumpy, but ready to eat. And it was amazing. Raclette, for lack of a better description, smells very barnyardy. Slightly off-putting (if you’re a weeny), but oh so delicious once you taste it. The cheese is creamy, earthy, and very distinctive. It was punctuated by briny pickles and velvety, slightly sweet potatoes, held up by the crunchy chewy crust. It wasn’t much to look at, but wow was it good. I didn’t feel better right away (probably because I was on my sixth beer by the time dinnertime rolled around), but I was getting there.
The next day, I was still upset, but I had a fridge full of left over pizza. A person can only whine so much.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Everyone should have a German in their lives. Those people know food. I recently had the pleasure of having a wonderful German friend cook a wonderful German meal - and not complain when I got in her way to snap tons of photos. She was even kind enough to write out the recipe.
What I present to you today may be one of a handful of vegetarian German recipes in existence – no pig, no cow, not even a lowly chicken thrown into the mix. Don’t mistake it for a healthy meal, however – it is made of equal parts white flour and cheese (are you drooling yet?), and it’s just so good. Spaetzle, little boiled beads of flour and egg, are a perfect winter food, a perfect hangover food, and perfect with beer (I don’t see a contradiction here, do you?). The Germans, they know a little something about all three of these things.
The secret weapon in making this German delight? No, not David Hasselhoff. It’s the spaetzle maker – kind of like a slide set on top of a large bore colander, in the picture at the head of the post. The slide is filled with batter, forcing drops of it though the holes and into boiling water as it is pushed back and forth.
Spaetzle can be browned in butter and served as a side dish to just about anything. Alternatively, the spaetzle can play the starring, entrée role when layered with ridiculous amounts of cheese and topped with fried onions, German lasagna style (if it's not against the law to call it that).
The following is a visual guide to the making of your very own German delight, provided you have a spaetzle maker handy. If this doesn't make you want to run out and befriend a German with kitchen access, nothing will.
German spaetzle lasagna
Pan fry roughly chopped onions in olive oil until deeply browned. Keep warm. Have a medium-sized pot of salted water boiling.
Count on 100 grams of all purpose flour combined with 1 egg per serving (My lovely hostess combined 300g flour with 3 eggs... I think). One cup is ~125 grams, so you can use it as a general guide for the amount of flour you need.
- Combine flour, egg(s), and salt in a bowl.
At this point, the spaetzle can be gussied up quite a bit. My lovely hostess defrosted and squeezed dry a package of spinach and mixed it in with the batter, under the pretense of off-setting the dietary nightmare that is two pounds of melted cheese layered with white flour and egg. Not that I complained, mind you. I asked for seconds. I can imagine a grating of nutmeg being really nice in there, or maybe even some mushed up peas, for a German-British fusion sort of thing… if that’s not against the law.
Mix the flour and eggs (+ additives of choice) and add enough water such that the batter drops slowly from a spoon in a thick ribbon – sorry that I can’t be more specific as I was just a spectator to this wonderful event. I can tell you that the batter is quite liquid.
- Place the dough in the spaetzle maker set over a boiling pot of salted water.
- Move the spaetzle slide back and forth over the grid, effectively “grating” the batter into the water. See the beads dropping into the water? Maybe? Stir to prevent the batter beads from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- The spaetzle are ready when they float to the top. Remove spaetzle as they are ready with a slotted spoon and transfer to a dish.
- Layer spaetzle with big handfuls of grated Emmental and Gruyere cheeses – the heat of the spaetzle melts the cheese.
- Top with browned onions.
- To serve, scoop all the way from the bottom of the dish, and have fun battling the strings of melted cheese. Yum. Consume with copious amounts of red wine and a salad on the side. Note: salad is optional.
Monday, January 12, 2009
Ugh, sweet lord, I have missed blogging. I really have. The last few months kicked my butt kind of completely. I applied for jobs which I did not get, ended my internship working on things in which I had no background nor education (and succeeding, shockingly, despite my own predictions of complete and profound failure), and avoided pondering my impending unemployment by running away to Rome, then Austin, then Philadelphia. Now I am back, unemployed (did I mention that I have no job?), with all the time in the world to blog and a back log of about a million pictures and stories that I had neither the time nor the physical and emotional energy to record before now. So here I go.
In the middle of all the work, and the job search, and the impending darkness of the 9-month long Boston winter, my little social circle suffered a terrible loss – one of my closest friends and inspiration for numerous blog posts on this very blog – left me, cold-heartedly, for three years in Paris. I am happy for her and all her baguettes and crepes, obviously I am happy for her. Meh. I am just sad for me.
Before she left me for Parisian cheese and wine (and can you blame her, really) we had one last hurrah at my place, a going away party with lots of friends, lots of booze, and of course, lots of food, close to Halloween. A momentous departure demanded a momentous dish. The Texan and I pulled off one of the more spectacular things that has ever come out of my oven – a whole pumpkin (picked with my own two hand at the same farm as the apples), hollowed out and stuffed with alternating layers of baguette, Gruyere, heavy cream and a tint of nutmeg, baked until the cheese and cream liquefied into a fondue, the pumpkin softened to a puree, the skin blackened and blistered.
The melted cheese and cream soaked bread, piled onto a plate next to a scoop of baked pumpkin flesh made for a picture perfect (and dramatic) way to bid good-bye (a temporary good-bye) to someone you love.
The recipe here.
Happy Birthday, Melissa! I miss you very much and am jealous, daily, of the newly Parisian you. And happy for you, of course.