Saturday, December 24, 2011


Macaron Snowman
Happy holidays, friends. It's been a good year. We ate well. We laughed hard. Those are the important things around here. I hope that you're all somewhere cozy with people you love and snow on the ground. I've got some merry-making to do, but I'll see you in the new year.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Making do

Caramelized onion and bacon galette
I don't tend to do much cooking when I'm away from home. People seem happy enough to feed me, and I'm a bit particular about where I cook anyway. I'll cook in someone else's kitchen if need be, of course, happily even, but that doesn't mean I won't chide you if your knives are dull or if you don't have any graduated measuring cups. I don't mind improvising, but I don't like surprises. So I tend to leave the cooking to others when I'm only visiting. I hope that's not too prima-donna-ish of me.
I make exceptions, of course, like this caramelized onion and bacon galette. I wasn't going to bother bringing anything to dinner with the extended family this past weekend. My grandmother was taking care of all the important things--the turkey, the stuffing, the pies---and I had been wrapped up in a blanket in front of the TV with a terrible cold for most of the week anyway. But by Saturday morning, I had pretty well recovered, and there were those onions and that bacon to consider--a little something from the very last issue of Gourmet that I'd rediscovered while convalescing.
My thoughts that morning, maybe still somewhat cold-addled, went something like this: a small mountain of onions cooked down until sweet, dark, and jammy! With bacon! And butter! Now, there's a reason to get out of bed! So I got out from under my heap of blankets, made some tea, and nudged my boyfriend toward that mountain of onions that would need chopping.
Now, the recipe as printed is actually for a Zwiebelkuchen, a sort of onion pie of German provenance, traditionally flavoured with bacon and caraway and bundled up in a yeasted crust. But I couldn't quite convince myself to proceed that way. My cold-addled daydreams of onion pie involved buttery, flaky pastry. Nothing less would do. It would happen--with or without a proper pastry blender. So, I turned to an old favourite, a butter-flecked galette dough, and didn't look back.
It paid off. The galette came together like a dream--the jammy onions made lush with sour cream and bacon drippings and baked bubbly and dark, the smoky, salty bacon to balance, all of it nestled in puffed and golden pastry. Not bad at all for having had to make do, I have to say (there were neither graduated measuring cups nor a pastry blender to be found anywhere at my parents' place).

Caramelized Onion and Bacon Galette
Adapted from Gourmet, November 2009 and Smitten Kitchen
Note: Extra filling. I had about a 1/4 cup or so of onion filling leftover that the pastry couldn't quite handle. I was in a bit of a hurry, so I eyed my 12 inches and didn't quite make a proper circle out of the dough. With more care, you might be able to get all of the filling in. If you can't manage it, not to worry. Just scoop the remaining filling into a ramekin and bake it alongside the galette. A few bites that you can set aside just for you. Caraway seeds. In keeping with the Zwiebelkuchen tradition, I think I might add at least a teaspoon of whole caraway seeds to the onions as they cook the next time I make this. I can see the caraway playing well with sweetness of the onions.

For the pastry:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, chilled in the freezer for 30 minutes
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces and chilled again
1/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup ice water
1 egg white + 1 teaspoon water

For the filling:
1/4 pound bacon, finely chopped
3 1/2 pounds onions, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup sour cream
2 large egg yolks
Sea salt
Black pepper

Whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Sprinkle bits of butter over dough and using a pastry blender, cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal, with the biggest pieces of butter the size of tiny peas. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add this to the butter-flour mixture. With your fingertips or a wooden spoon, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Pat the lumps into a ball; do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, cook the bacon over medium-high heat in a wide, heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven until crisp. Then, add the onions, butter, 1 teaspoon of salt, and a few generous grinds of pepper to the pot. Give the onions a good stir to coat them evenly in bacon drippings and butter. Cook covered, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened, 15-20 minutes. Remove the lid and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are deeply golden, another 20-30 minutes. Let cool. Whisk together the sour cream and egg yolks and then stir them into the onion mixture.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. On a floured surface, roll out the dough into a 12-inch round. Lay the dough in the center of a half-sheet and spread the onion mixture over it in an even layer, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border all the way around. Fold the edges of the dough over the filling. Whisk together the egg white and water to make an egg wash. Brush an even layer over the dough. Bake the galette until the crust is golden brown and the filling is dark and bubbly, about 50-60 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

That's where the ice cream comes in

Cereal Milk Ice Cream
I've got deadlines to meet and a plane to catch. The end of an academic quarter is always a hectic time for me. I never start writing my papers quite soon enough. And when I do get started, it means days on end of staring at the same sentences and trying to make something of them. I don't mean to complain, exactly. Writing something, working out a view--it's definitely the most rewarding part of all this. I finally feel like I'm getting somewhere. But all the writing and staring, being holed up in the apartment, it leaves me feeling goofy.
I try to fend it off by seeing other people--you know, human interaction. But most of the people I know are busy writing too. That's where the ice cream comes in. Even if you've got a dissertation to plan out, it's hard to say no when someone invites you over for home-made ice cream.
We ended up churning out a batch of the cereal milk ice cream from--you guessed it--the Milk Bar cookbook. I know, I've gotten a bit obsessive. I swear, I'll move on to something new soon. It's just that with the new ice-cream maker, it was something I had to try. You know, just to compare, figure out what I like best in an ice cream. I've mentioned a couple of ice creams that have come out of this kitchen recently, one custard-based and another that was all heavy cream. Tosi's cereal milk ice cream is different. No need for all that heavy cream, and no need to trouble yourself with tempering egg yolks. Gelatin and glucose are supposed to do the trick instead. I figured I'd find out for myself.
So what is there to say about cereal milk ice cream? It's brilliant but in a kind of understated way--milky, barely sweet, and pleasantly reminiscent of cornflakes--every bit like the milk you might find at the bottom of your cereal bowl once you've had the last bite. Some people leave that milk. Others relish it. If you're one of the latter, this is your ice cream. I wouldn't call it luxurious. Comforting is more like it.
Again, I've said enough already about Christina Tosi and Momofuku Milk Bar. I've declared my love. I just had to say something about this ice cream and snap a few shots with the new camera. I'll be back with something new to swoon over soon. Promise. (I'm packing Lucky Peach No. 2 for the trip home.)
Toasted cornflakes
You can find the recipe for cereal milk here (I'm sorry, but I've probably already posted one too many Milk Bar recipes). Previous Milk Bar madness from around here can be found here (apple-pie layer cake) and here (peanut butter cookies).