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Archive for February, 2008

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Sunshine, flowers, light, please.

It’s quiet times around here at G3. I don’t know about you, but I’m in the midst of a case of winter blues that I know I will shake, but maybe not this week. Or next . . . but such is life in Ann Arbor in February. I’m really ready for the farmers’ market to be back in swing, ready to have an appetite for something other than soup or stew, ready to see green and blue and yellow instead of the requisite gray and brown and white. Ready to put away scarves and gloves and wear something else on my feet besides boots. (The news that the city council voted against everyday wines/everyday cook in favor of the public golf course for the available liquor license does not lift the spirits. Nor does the news that Leopold Brothers is closing shop and moving to Denver. Ann Arbor is becoming a little less like the place I want to live every day.)

Sigh. Inspiration, motivation: where are you? I can’t say I’m subsisting solely on ramen, but I’ve taken more than my share of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to work for lunch these days. Dinners have been straightforward, comfort-food affairs, some of which I’ve been satisfied with: linguine with clams, chicken soup with matzo balls, some mussels with fennel, cream and white wine. Last week I made spaghetti with a very nice bolognese for my dear friend Claire, who seems still to live in Ann Arbor, but her jet-setting ways are making me doubt it. But nothing is really wowing me right now, and why should I share all that just-so-so-ness with you all here?

There are signs this is starting to turn around. I think I need to spend more Saturdays like the one just passed — enjoying brunch at a friend’s house, while we compared methods for poaching eggs, concocted plans for dinner parties, and reminisced about our favorite spots in New York and Brooklyn. He let me in on an idea for a cocktail he’s inventing, and I happily sat and listened and photographed. Slowly, inspiration came into view:

Pots of homemade jam.
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Ginger scones.

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Eggs benedict – my favorite brunch dish in the world.

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More sunshine, more light. It’s on its way.

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May you find inspiration, too.

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A while back, I wrote about the need for some dishes that are a bit season and location independent. The kind of dish you can make with what’s around, without scurrying out to the store in search of, oh, fresh mustard greens or a nice piece of flank steak or some obscure liquor of which one will use a tablespoon or two a year. Just to name a few things I find myself wandering around town looking for when really, you know, I should be doing some work. Or, even better, getting some exercise.

In that spirit, I urge you to consider the cheese souffle. Its ingredients are mostly staples, it’s warming and delicious and makes you feel a little fancy on a weeknight, and (this is where you should really start paying attention) it’s really easy but will make you appear oh so accomplished. Just imagine the admiring glances you’ll draw at work when you casually mention “I think I’ll go whip up some souffle for dinner.”

You probably don’t believe me and won’t until you try it yourself. I have to admit it was not always a casual act for me to toss off souffle. There was an experiment in my early cooking days that came out something like a cheese pancake. And then there was an attempt about five years ago which was more like a cheese tire. A flat cheese tire. My family dutifully ate it and then John sent me to his mother’s first edition of Craig Clairborne’s New York Times Cookbook. That and the Kitchenaid stand mixer changed everything. Trust me and trust Craig. Try it.

A few caveats though. This is one recipe where it is particularly helpful to prep everything before you start. I’m a little sloppy about this usually, but you can get a bit harried trying to move smoothly from one step to another if you have to break away to separate eggs or grate cheese. Also, this recipe does generate more than a few dirty dishes. But those you cook for will be so grateful that they’ll be delighted to wash up.

Cheese Souffle

1/4 cup flour

1 1/2 cups milk

Salt

Worcestershire sauce

Cayenne pepper

1/2 lb. Cheddar cheese, finely grated

4 eggs, separated (you may want to consider John’s method of separating with bare hands; I was sort of grossed out at first, but it’s so darn efficient I’ve been won over. Hardly ever a speck of yolk in those whites)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

In a saucepan, melt the butter over low heat and add the flour; stir with a wire whisk until blended. Meanwhile, bring the milk to a boil and add all at once to the butter-flour mixture, stirring vigorously with the whisk. Season to taste with the salt, Worcestershire sauce and cayenne pepper.

Turn off the heat and let the mixture a cool a little. Add the cheese and stir until melted. Beat in the egg yolks one at time. This all takes just a minute or two.

Beat the egg whites until the stand in soft peaks. I know that you can do this with a hand mixer or even a whisk. I’ve done that. But with all due respect to slow cooking, there’s nothing quite like tossing the whites in the stand mixer, turning it on and walking away for three or four minutes. You come back, you’ve got nice soft peaks. Voila.

Cut and fold the egg whites into the cheese mixture. If you make the cheese sauce in a reasonably deep straight-sided skillet, you can do this right in the pan and eliminate one dish at least. Turn into an eight cup souffle dish (I spray mine with some cooking spray) and bake thirty to forty-five minutes.

Recipe says that it serves four to six. Not around here.

Coincidentally and without conferring, Shana produced her first souffle ever the very same day I made this one. I think hers beats mine for looks. I’m very impressed.

Despite my current cheese souffle hubris, I’ve yet to master the chocolate souffle, even after repeated attempts. I’ve produced a series of fairly tasty chocolate bricks. It keeps me humble. And gives me goals.

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You’ve heard about this before from us: our friends at Everyday Cook in Kerrytown need your support in their effort to obtain the city’s available liquor license.

The vote is scheduled for this Monday, February 4th, and it would help very much to have a large show of support at the City Council meeting.

To recap: Everyday Cook has been selected as the top local business to be considered for the city’s available liquor license. Your public support has been instrumental in getting us this far. The end is in sight, and it’s time to rally the troops one last time. Because this is not a done deal by any means, a large showing might be just what it takes.

Monday, Feb. 4 at 7 pm
City Hall – 2nd Floor. 100 N. Fifth Ave.

A liquor license would allow us to offer:
* Beer and wine with our lunches
* Wine classes
* Wine tastings
* A wine tasting room that would feature the work of
local artists and musicians.
*Supper clubs
*Donations of fifty cents on every glass of wine sold to local
non-profit organizations
*And more

We had thought that there would be the opportunity for supporters to speak on our behalf prior to the vote, but now we understand that won’t be the case. But, still, we feel a large showing will resonate with the council.

Many thanks for your continuing support, and we look forward to seeing you at the City Council meeting on February 4th.

From the folks in the kitchen and behind the counters at Everyday Cook
and Everyday Wines.

The ladies of Gastronomical Three enjoyed a fabulous lunch there just last Friday, and here are a few wine pairings that owner Mary Campbell suggested that would go well if the restaurant were able to serve wine. These meals were already amazing in their own right. Just imagine how much more exquisite they’d be with these pairings. Please come out on Monday night and lend your support!

Monkfish in Salsa Romesco over Paella Rice
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Red: Arcs Grenache/Tempranillo 2005 (Spain, Terra Alta)
White: Muga Rioja Blanco (Spain, Rioja)

Pan Roasted Pork Chops and Herbed Flageolet with Quince Pear Compote
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Red: Ottone Barbera 2005 (Italy, Piedmont)
White: Alain Brumont Gros Mansang/Sauvignon Blanc 2006 (France, Cotes de Gascogne)

Butternut Squash Risotto
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White: Bigi Orvieto Classico Amabile 2006 (the Amabile designation reflects just a tiny tiny hint of sweetness in this Orvieto) (Italy, Orvieto)
Red: Fratelli de Nicola Dolcetto d’Alba Superiore 2003 (Italy, Piedmont)

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