What I’m Cooking: April 2019

What I’m cooking

Probably the most exciting thing I’ve made this spring is a fondue dinner for the handful of friends I could fit around my kitchen table.

Fondue is a family inheritance: my mom used to buy vintage pots and skewers at thrift stores, clean them, and use them to serve a full table when our family was young and her friends and their families came from out of town to visit us. You can feed a lot of people on very little with fondue, she’d say; people fill up on salad and watermelon and side vegetables while they wait for their meat to cook. In the same spirit, I bought one pound of cheese and one pound each of chicken and beef, plus some veggies and gnocchi for the vegetarians. I let my guests bring the rest: bread, apples, strawberries and pound cake for the chocolate dessert fondue. Rather than cooking the main course in peanut oil, as I grew up doing, I made a sort of miso ginger broth (inspired by shabu shabu) and marinated the meat in tangy citrus and herbs to offset the savory broth. Cheese fondue was what it always is for me–a blend of swiss-style cheeses melted into white wine–and true to my mother’s belief, we got so full eating it that we had to go into the basement and play cards to get ready for the brandied melted chocolate.

Otherwise, I’ve just been staying in my usual cooking lanes: making granola, pickling vegetables (pickled mirliton/chayote for my Mardi Gras party was a revelation–so crisp!), baking chicken and salmon for salads, stewing lentils.

I’m a little more excited about what I’ve been drinking. I like to sip a finger of whiskey or gin on the rocks when I wind down in the evenings; I don’t usually add to this, but one day I was pouring myself some Earl Grey tea-infused gin and realized that a splash of vanilla syrup (left over from a sponge cake some time ago) would make it a boozy London Fog. While visiting Lancaster for my gentleman’s birthday, I picked up some black pepper-infused rye whiskey which is lovely on its own… but with a couple of brandy-soaked cherries (brought by a friend for the chocolate fondue), it’s a pared-down Manhattan.
Yes, I will do anything to avoid shaking up an actual cocktail. It’s one of my least favorite kitchen activities.

What I’m looking forward to cooking

In mid-April we’re teetering on the edge of spring: the weather is warmer and rainier, and the flowers are blooming, but the spring vegetables aren’t quite here yet–it’s mostly kale and last fall’s apples at the farmers market. I got very excited and bought a couple pounds of quinces at the end of March–quinces are usually an October-only treat–but those last-picked fruits were so wizened and woody compared to the lush fall bounty that it was very disheartening to chop them up for jam. (The jam, however, was fine; fortified with some of the hothouse strawberries that go on sale just after Valentine’s Day, it made a decent fruit crisp.)

But last week the farmers market near my workplace had asparagus, so I am sure rhubarb isn’t far behind. And then: locally grown strawberries. When the strawberries come in, I’ll slice them up to turn into jam or just to have in the fridge, lightly sugared so they’ll keep longer. I’ll put the sliced-off tops into vodka, leaves and all, and use the resulting infusion in my extremely potent strawberry lemonade at parties.

What I’m writing

Same old song: not too much. I very much enjoyed my first online course in professional writing earlier this spring, but I withdrew from my second spring term class because of the amount of coursework–I am very protective of my free time! But for better or worse, I have enrolled in two creative writing courses next fall.

I deleted my old Tumblr, but I brought over the tiny bit of original writing I posted there: Reading Terminal Market gothic on my bookblog; here, musings on cooking while I was broke and finishing my dissertation.

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