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Happy New Year and Roast Goose

Goose 1

Happy New Year! How did you spend the holiday? I’ve been laying a bit low — a pregnancy complication (now hopefully resolved) kept me off my feet (and out of the kitchen) the week before Christmas, and then sciatica (extremely painful lower back and hip pain, unfortunately not uncommon in pregnancy) hit right before New Year’s.

By the time New Year’s Eve rolled around, I was ready to get back into the kitchen.

We’ve given up on going out New Year’s Eve — spending a fortune so that we can fight traffic (remember, we live in Pasadena, which tends to be a zoo on New Year’s Eve), stay up late and drink inferior champagne with strangers sounds like less and less fun as the years pass. Instead, we cook a celebratory meal and eat it at home. With good champagne (this year replaced by Q ginger ale, which was quite good, but not, alas, champagne) and family.

And this year, I decided to roast a goose. I had never had goose before, and most of the people I surveyed hadn’t either. But I was curious, and I love duck, which I figured was similar, so I thought I’d spend the exorbitant money for a special New Year’s Eve dinner. I used a Julia Child recipe similar to this one

It turned out pretty well.
Goose 2

Goose turned out to be a lot like duck, but with darker meat, a stronger flavor, and more fat. The skin is crisp, the meat was flavorful and tender. We all enjoyed it (even the Nuni) but because it’s so rich, we ate small portions. We ate our fill, and there was enough goose for probably 3 more adults. (My mother is turning it into cassoulet).

I decided to cook it using Julia Child’s method, which was really a steam, followed by a braise, followed by a brief roast. The result was that most of the fat was rendered out (and eagerly collected by me.) Some is safely in my refrigerator, but some was siphoned off to make the most glorious roasted potatoes imaginable. The goose was good, but the potatoes were UNBELIEVABLE. It’s worth roasting a goose just to get the fat to roast potatoes in.

Potatoes

(Recipe here.)

We set the table with our wedding china,

NYE 3

and dressed for the occasion.

NYE 2

Agnes of Dog must have some retriever in her, because the scent of roasting water fowl made her want to join the party more than usual.

NYE

We ate shrimp and celery remoulade (my dad’s special recipe — we all miss him especially right now), goose, potatoes and salad, and chocolate mousse for dessert. We toasted East Coast New Year’s, and then it was off to bed.

East Coast New Year’s is a perk of living in California.

The next morning we weren’t overtired, or hung over (I suppose I can attribute that to the ginger ale). We woke up to a glorious day (Pasadena always puts on a show for the Rose Parade. Makes the tourists want to move here), went to church, and then ate a lucky New Year’s Day brunch out on the patio. (It was 75 degrees and sunny).

NYD Brunch

Greens (symbolizing prosperity – that’s Tuscan kale, sauteed in olive oil and garlic), poached eggs on toast, Irish Bacon (pork is lucky because pigs move forward), and tiny yellow tomatoes that looked like gold coins or sunshine. (Nothing says yellow tomatoes are lucky, but look at them — how could they not be?)
We spent the rest of the day being low key, and doing things we hope to do in the coming year — read, spend family time – we even had a date night.

I hope 2012 brings you and yours luck, prosperity and happiness. Happy New Year.

Finding Fall in Southern California

Apple Picking 1

The first time I ever went apple picking was my senior year of college. Ken had his car on campus that year — a little blue Ford Festiva, that had been spray painted, and had no air conditioning or radio. We were celebrating one year of dating, still shiny and happy and young and new, and decided to head off into the wilds of Connecticut to pick apples. I wore my appropriate apple picking attire — a red and green gingham shirt, and we discovered the joys of fresh air in an orchard, of plucking apples off the tree, of cold pressed cider and hot apple cider donuts.

After that first year, we went every year we lived in the Northeast. When we lived in New York, we borrowed my father in law’s car, or rented one (we could barely fit ourselves in our tiny Manhattan studio — where were we going to park a car?), and hit New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut to get out of the city and load up on apples. Apple picking was never about the apples — they’re readily available at the Greenmarket after all — but about simple entertainment, fresh air, getting out of the city. And donuts. Don’t forget the donuts.

Apple Picking 15

When we moved to Los Angeles six years ago, I thought my apple picking days were through. Our climate is too warm to have apple orchards — we can pick oranges in our own back yard, but the autumnal fest was lost to me. Until this year. We piled into the little blue car (now, so many years later, a Prius, with air conditioning and an iphone connection), with the Nuni in tow and headed into the mountains, into the “mile high” town of Oak Glen. Nestled in the San Bernardino mountains just east of Redlands, Oak Glen boast six or seven apple orchards, and the crowds that go with them.
Continue reading Finding Fall in Southern California

Trip Recap, Part 2 — Rainy London and Dinner at the Harwood Arms

I realize this is the world’s slowest trip recap, but I took all of my photos in RAW, which means I have to convert them to upload them, and OHMYGOD SHOOT ME if I ever do that again. Still, I wanted to share with you a few special moments in London, including an AMAZING meal.

When last we spoke, we had just begun our day in London with a lovely visit to Borough Market. And then it started to rain. And rain. And rain. Undaunted, we pressed on, hopping a routemaster bus to Trafalgar Square, and heading up Regent’s Crescent.

London
Continue reading Trip Recap, Part 2 — Rainy London and Dinner at the Harwood Arms

Almost Wordless Wednesday – Garden Update

First tomatoes!

Produce

Someone could barely wait for me to take the picture before she grabbed the tomato and proceeded to devour it:

Produce 2

The Care and Keeping of Strawberries

Springtime is strawberry season! And even though the strawberries aren’t quite there yet (the heavy rains we’ve had in California have really impacted the flavor), that hasn’t stopped me from buying and eating pounds of them — I’ve loved them since I was a baby. For your reading pleasure, below are 10 things you may not know about my favorite fruit.

Strawberries

1. Strawberries are grown in every state in the US, but 88% of the strawberries sold in the United States are grown in California.
2. The best strawberries come from Harry’s Berries, in Oxnard. Don’t believe me? My cousin works for Thomas Keller, and she told me that Chef Keller orders Harry’s Berries for his New York restaurant.
3. Strawberries carry a heavy pesticide load, so look for organic berries, or pesticide free (Harry’s aren’t organic, but they do grow without pesticides)
4. The best way to eat strawberries is straight out of the basket and slightly sun warmed until your fingers are stained pink from the juice.
5. The second best way to eat strawberries is dipped in creme fraiche and turbinado sugar. Strawberry shortcake and pavlova tie for third.
6. If you have some supermarket strawberries that are less than perfectly red and sweet, slice them up and toss them with a little balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. This enhances the color and the flavor.
7. The best way to store strawberries is in a sealed glass jar. They’ll last at room temperature for a couple of extra days, and in your refrigerator for over a week. However, though they maintain their texture and don’t spoil, the flavor does dissipate.
8. The fragrance and flavor of strawberries depends on a balance of acid and sweetness. When you cook strawberries, they yield a lot of juice, lose some color, and lose a lot of that acid which makes the flavor so balanced. Always add some acid in the form of lemon juice or vinegar when you’re cooking strawberries, but most of the best strawberry dishes use raw strawberries.
9. If your strawberries have mushy spots and you don’t really want to eat them, slice them up and throw them in a jar with some sugar and top with rum, vodka or brandy. The alcohol and sugar will preserve the berries in the refrigerator almost indefinitely, and the resulting concoction is fabulous over ice cream, yogurt, or eaten straight out of the jar with a spoon.
10. Homemade strawberry jam is absolutely divine. I like to add some balsamic vinegar to balance the sweetness (wrinkle your nose, but the flavors are so complementary you won’t even know it’s there) and a little black pepper for some floral warmth (the Italians eat strawberries with balsamic and black pepper. Try it!). You also get that June Cleaver Americana satisfaction of putting up your own jam. I promise that you’ll never go back to Smucker’s again.

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/amusebouches/5613931241/” title=”Strawberry Jam by Savour Fare, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5144/5613931241_a514460bd8_b.jpg” width=”860″ height=”1024″ alt=”Strawberry Jam”></a>

Strawberry Jam with Balsamic and Black Pepper
 
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Ingredients
  • 3 lbs whole strawberries, hulled (if you like a smoother texture, you can chop or slice the berries. I happen to like big sweet slugs of strawberry in my jammy syrup.)
  • ¾ lb granulated sugar
  • 4 T balsamic vinegar
  • ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 packets commercial liquid pectin
Instructions
  1. Combine sugar and berries in a large pot and heat over a medium high flame, stirring frequently.
  2. Add pectin according to the package instructions.
  3. Skim off foam as it rises to the top.
  4. Test for set (after about 15-20 minutes) by dropping a spoonful on a cold dish and seeing if it holds together to your satisfaction -- I like a soft set, but others like a firmer set. If you like a very firm jam, you might want to use 2 packets of pectin. If it's not set, keep cooking and stirring, and test periodically until it is.
  5. When the jam has set, ladle into hot, sterilized jars. Leave ¼ inch space between the top of the jar and the lid.
  6. Close lids tightly, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. (Make sure the jars are completely submerged in the boiling water). Let cool, and remove rings for storage (if you remove the rings, you'll know if a jar has lost its seal and needs to be eaten immediately or thrown away. ) Jam is a pretty low-risk canning operation, due to all the sugar and the acid, both of which act as preservatives.
Notes
I didn't use the pectin in the pictured jam, so my jam is a bit runnier than I'd ordinarily make. It tastes divine though, and is perfectly acceptable on toast with a little ricotta, on yogurt, on a spoon ...