I hope everyone has had a wonderful turn into the new year. We’re holed up in the Catskill mountains, surrounded by snow and enjoying some time in the kitchen. The last few days have been very blogger-inspired, with a chocolate and whisky cake from Orangette, an artichoke pie from Kalofagas, and an olive and ham loaf from Stacey Snacks — all quite good.
Whiskey-Soaked Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake, from Orangette (this is really good, but for full disclosure I’ll note that I’ll be reducing the level of bourbon next time!)
Artichoke Pie, from Kalofagas (I halved the recipe to fit in a loaf pan, and added bacon)
I also did an experimental dish, which I want to continue to refine, where I butterflied open a pork tenderloin into as thin and wide a piece as I could, sauted a “stuffing” of napa cabbage (market was out of savoy cabbage), onion, chestnuts and thyme, rolled and tied it all up, and broiled it. It was quite good, but I need to hone the recipe before posting. I was actually reminded of this flavor combination by a twitter from Kelly at Sass & Veracity.
My 2008 Favorites
Constables Larder is a very young effort, only starting last summer, but I am like many in taking stock at this time of year to look backwards and forwards. I find it funny that a lot of people are turning to their blog stats to post their “best of 2008”. A blog is typically a very personal effort, and so I would much rather see a list of the author’s favorites, rather than those of the audience (although both can be interesting). In that spirit of editorial discretion, or egotistical self-indulgence depending on your perspective, here are a few of my favorites from the year:
1. From Provence to the Catskills: this was a huge feast we threw, including a marvelous Alice Waters pork braise, as part of the inaugural Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 blog event, which is now a monthly series. (Foodbuzz has enabled me to get to know so many interesting food bloggers, and I look forward to watching the site’s evolution)
4. Gigantes with Tomato and Fennel: this is a dish I constantly order in Greek restaurants, and thanks to Peter at Kalofagas (who I had the distinct pleasure of meeting when he visited New York City), I was finally given a reference point to make a version of the dish myself
5. Shepherd’s Pie: this is an old staple dish of mine (and one of the most popular posts on this blog), but what really made this fun was the dynamic of blogosphere mutual inspiration and idea sharing. After seeing the post, Kali Orexi made this Greek-inspired version, which inspired me to go in a middle eastern direction.
6. Summer bean salad: just looking at that picture (middle right, above) makes me miss summer, with the produce so fresh and everything light and delicious! This salad, inspired by Susan’s salad series at Food Blogga, was a perfect meal unto itself on a hot day.
7. Peasant bean stew: Stacey teases me mercilessly about the number of bean dishes on this blog, but it is true that in 2008 I really took to cooking legumes in a big way. I’ve always loved them at restaurants, but rarely found recipes in cookbooks that really worked for me. In 2008, I set out on my own exploration of this ingredient, enjoying the discovery of Rancho Gordo among other things, and had a number of successes, such as this cassoulet-inspired dish.
8. Eggplant, zucchini and basil gratin: it was probably hard for this dish not to be successful, since it had fresh vegetables and gobs of cheese and olive oil, but the richness didn’t overwhelm. It was great, satisfying comfort food and vegetarian at that — and while Lisl and I remain carnivores, we continue to try to limit the amount of meat we are consuming (less quantity, higher quality)
9. Lentil soup with tarragon and pesto: 2008 was a year for improving my knowledge in certain categories, including beans, braises, and soups, and I made good progress. I was very happy with this soup and the use of pesto, part of a Hay Hay Donna Day theme, as a pistou.
10. Corn fritters with jalapeno dipping sauce: this was another non-fancy dish that just absolutely hit the spot, and which I discovered via the Wednesday Chef. The dipping sauce, a combination of jalapenos, rice vinegar, garlic and sugar, was killer. Truly happiness food.
Here’s to a great 2009. Come March, when Munchkin #2 is expected to make his arrival, things should get interesting. 🙂