Monday, August 30, 2010

On the Road Again

Chez Lula was closed on Wednesday. I had places to go. And go I did. The day was definitely not food-oriented, but some of the high points will still make for fine reading. I’ll include what we ate, just so I don’t lose you.

LA and I started the day with the saltiest breakfast burritos either of us have ever eaten. Thank you, Sonic! But we were off, headed towards the NC Zoological Park in Asheboro. Neither of us had ever been, and we’d both heard fantastic things about the zoo. I can sum up the zoo in three words: plants and butts. In the North America section, we saw pretty much nothing but animal butts. We did get to see otters being fed whole fish and hard-boiled eggs. Otters look like they have thumbs, but the zoo worker and LA both advised me that they do not. I still think they do. The Africa section involved many more animal fronts, as well as a carousel and some ostrich eggs. I guess it was ostrich day—I rode one on the carousel, took a photo of a real one, then I even hatched out of an egg.

Grumpy, tired, and with sore feet, we finally left the zoo. Interesting side note, you cannot get a straw at the zoo, because they are “dangerous to the animals”, but you can get a spoon. Go figure.

We headed back to Asheboro to hit up Biscuitville for LA. Sadly, they were closed by the time we arrived. We got some sweet tea and bad directions, then were off to High Point for the World’s Largest Chest of Drawers. We stopped at Kosta’s Family Restaurant in Archdale, which may not have been the best idea. I did like their macaroni salad, since it wasn’t as sweet as most varieties I’ve eaten. LA still thought it was too sweet. The braised chicken was bland, the barbecue was fine, and the gravy both gave us what Morgan Spurluck delightfully referred to as “the McGurgles”. The waitress seemed afraid of both of us, but we did overhear the best conversation of all time. The woman behind me informed her friends that “I’ve just had my third eye transplant. Well, really just my cornea.” She proceeded to tell them all about her corneas and the long list of ailments from which her husband suffered. As we left, LA asked the waitress how far we were from the World’s Largest Chest of Drawers. She was not familiar with it, but told him she did know about the World’s Largest Chair in Thomasville. Not helpful. (Besides, it’s the World’s Largest Duncan Phyfe Chair. I suppose that makes a difference.)

We did ultimately find and photograph the World’s Largest Chest of Drawers, although the directions we had were wrong and I nearly wrecked the car trying to turn around to get to it. Completely worth it. We continued north to Winston-Salem to our next destination—the Shell station shaped like a shell. After much map consultation, we found the Shell station. Completely worth driving around lost through a not so great neighborhood for five minutes’ worth of photos.

We spent another 45 minutes driving around in all directions before accidentally ending up in Old Salem. We had hoped we would, but we don’t have a stellar record of actually finding our true destinations. Old Salem and Salem College are both interesting and beautiful. I took way too many photos to post here, so I recommend going there post haste to check it out for yourself. If you’re reading this from somewhere other than NC, I’m sure there is an interesting historic site in your area.

By the end of all our shenanigans on the highways and biways of NC, we were…

Saturday, August 28, 2010

That's Just Poppycock!

Every once in awhile, I’ll come across a recipe that looks so delicious, I can’t wait to try it. In this case, I wanted to try it immediately, but dragged my feet a little because I knew it would be a little bit of a pain in the butt. I was right, but it was so worth it!

The September issue of Bon Appetit magazine contains a recipe from Colt & Gray restaurant in Denver. Why couldn’t Colt & Gray have opened when I still lived there? I would’ve been there every night for their bacon and cashew caramel corn. Alas, they were not, and I was left to make it myself.

Bacon and cashew caramel corn? I saw the recipe title and my heart skipped a beat. I read it to LA, and I think his may have skipped a beat, too. Everyone loves caramel corn and everyone loves bacon (except you silly vegetarians who are missing out on the “meat candy”), so how could we not love bacon caramel corn? As far as I’m concerned, the cashews are just filler. The bacon and caramel are the real stars.

I bought all of the necessary ingredients, a bit horrified at the thought of actually having to cook popcorn in a pan. I grew up in the era of microwave popcorn. Now that I don’t have a microwave, I have to go old school. I was justly pleased with myself when the popcorn came out unburned and fully popped. The patron saint of popcorn popping must have been watching over me.

I’ve made caramel enough that it doesn’t even phase me, but there’s still a small voice at the back of my head that says “It’s going to crystallize and you’re going to have a bit pot of rock candy.” Take that, little voice in my head—my caramel was perfect!

The hardest part was waiting for the popcorn to cool enough so it wouldn’t burn off my fingerprints. Once it cooled, I couldn’t tear myself away from it. It’s sweet, it’s salty, it’s spicy, it’s the best caramel corn ever. I would describe it as Cracker Jack for adults, but that would be selling the bacon caramel corn short. Even though it will take 3-4 pans, the task of making caramel, and having on the oven in the middle of summer, I still recommend making this popcorn. You’ll never eat Fiddle Faddle again.

For the recipe, click here.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Lunch in Paris

Cooking for someone else is always more fun than cooking for just myself. Besides, when it’s just me, I always end up with a fridge full of leftovers that I don’t eat in time and forget to freeze. The worst part is having to clean out the fridge when I remember the leftovers. I’m still working on a budget, so many of our meals involve some element of leftovers in disguise. Such was the case of the leftover bechamel.

I love bechamel sauce, but I can never get it to come out right. Since it did so for the lasagna, I wanted to make sure I used every last drop of it. My favorite use for new or leftover bechamel? Croque monsieurs. A croque monsieur is basically a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, then topped with bechamel and cheese and broiled, so the top is bubbly and brown. My mouth waters just thinking about it.

I marched myself up to the supermarket to get ham and bread. Can’t really have a ham sandwich without those. Swiss cheese was on sale. Today would be my day! Sandwich fixings obtained, I headed home.

I woke my slumbering roommate by informing him that Chez Lula’s kitchen was open, but only has one seating per meal. If he wanted lunch, he’d better drag his rear out of bed. According to the whiteboard, lunch would be croque monsieurs and a green salad, but I had more leftover magic up my sleeve. I chopped up the leftover “driest potato ever” and fried it with salt and garlic.

Blearied-eyed and on the phone with the NC Employment Security Commission, LA came to the table. He was greeted by a bubbling sandwich, some crispy garlic potatoes, and a green salad. Due to his conversation with “Tomas”, all he could manage for the sandwich was a thumb’s up. But he scarfed it down when the call ended. Creamy, cheesy, hammy, delicious were his descriptors. I overcooked the sandwiches a little, but the dark brown crust was hidden by the bechamel. Lunch was a hit.

Croque monsieur is probably one of my favorite things to eat. You can find it in Paris either with or without the bechamel, but I definitely prefer it with. Otherwise, it’s just a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. To make a good croque monsieur, I use Swiss cheese and Virginia-brand ham (honey ham and that boiled crap both make it taste funny). Also put a little smear of Dijon mustard on the inside of one slice of the bread. One of my former significant others said it wasn’t a real croque monsieur unless it was on a croissant. I think 40 million Frenchmen may disagree. Every recipe I’ve ever seen calls for white bread. But don’t even think of making it on wheat bread. Trying to make this a healthy recipe is really missing the mark.

LA loves to try pretending that he doesn’t like whatever it is that I’ve cooked. He didn’t even bother with this one. He was open in his love for this sandwich. I should probably stop all this cooking…he’ll never move out.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dinner for Two

While the Pigs and Potatoes endeavor doesn’t constitute a total failure, I was shooting for a slightly more impressive dinner using the three leftover spinach and garlic chicken sausages. I still had three containers of figs just waiting in the fridge to go bad, but I wasn’t entirely taken with the idea of a fig and chicken sausage casserole, although a variant of that was mentioned in my beloved Meats cookbook (chicken and peach casserole). The answer was lasagna.

Ok, I’ll admit I didn’t make the entire lasagna from scratch. I had half a box of lasagna noodles, plus a jar of spaghetti sauce that was just taking up precious space in my pantry. I’m sure I could’ve made both, but I did need to get rid of some surplus. Since only LA and I would be eating the lasagna, and neither of us are very good at leftovers, I made it in an 8”X8” pan, rather than the typical 9”X13”. We’d still have more than enough lasagna. My concern wasn’t the quantity, so much as the quality.

The chicken sausages were Target’s Archer Farms brand. LA felt they were the only bright spot of Pigs and Potatoes, so I assumed they would be good in the lasagna. I also like a bit of creaminess in my lasagna. This called for a bechamel (white) sauce. Luckily my milk still had a few days of life left in it, which saved me a trip to the supermarket in the rain. Bulking up the lasagna was the job of some wilting spinach I also had sitting in the fridge. I could saute that and add it as a layer. At least it would go with the sausages.

Finally came assembly. I chopped up the chicken sausage (I didn’t really want big pieces of it), added it with the standard ricotta/egg mixture, plus my jarred sauce. The spinach was the next layer. The final layer was bechamel and a heavy covering of mozzarella. I would like to take a moment to toot my own horn as well. I never measure when I make a bechamel. I just dump everything in and hope for the best, which I never get. My bechamel is always too thick and often tasteless. Today it came out perfectly. I was quite proud of myself.

I wrote up the evening’s menu on the dry erase board stuck to my fridge: figs, prosciutto, and goat cheese in phyllo tartlet shells; chicken and spinach lasagna; and oatmeal raisin cookies. I could pretend it was a real restaurant (Chez Lula).

We paid minimal attention to the fig and prosciutto tartlets. The golden, bubbling mass in the oven was our primary interest. I doled out “manly”-sized portions to both of us, and we dug in. LA made what I thought was the “I don’t like it” face. He finally admitted that he liked it but wanted to come up with a description more involved than “It’s good”. He finally came up with “It’s so good it makes me want to eat it on both sides of my mouth, even though I know I can’t.” I’d forgotten about his broken tooth. He ate the creamy top layer first, although I was saving this for the last. I always save the best part of my meal for the last bite. Neither of us finished the gigantic portion, even though we gave it our best efforts. LA was saving room for an oatmeal raisin cookie. I was sparing my self from a sense of gluttonous shame.

Before the cookies had even cooled, LA was sneaking one. “Best oatmeal cookie I’ve ever had.” Considering the dough has been in my freezer forever and I don’t even know where I got the recipe anymore, I was very pleased. I had sprinkled them with a little Fleur de Sel before baking, to give them a salty bite to offset the sweetness. I thought the touch added something. Based on the way in which LA inhaled three, I don’t think he had a chance to notice the salt. The inhalation of the three was compliment enough.

We’ve had two dinner services at Chez Lula: a potato stuffed with a sausage and a full 3-course meal involving lasagna. The second was definitely the more popular. I’m already planning future meals. Chez Lula is back in business and hopping, even if it’s only for two people.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Misadventures of the Clueless Tourists

LA and I are the goingest people I know. We travel almost as much as Pope John Paul II, although, sadly, we don't have a Popemobile. Occasionally we have a plan, but usually the plan sort of craps out somewhere on the highway and we end up miles and hours from our destination.  Some people may call it "lost", but we like to see it as an adventure.

I informed LA to put on his fancy pants and get ready to go to lunch at the 3rd best truck stop in America (or maybe in North Carolina, I couldn't remember which the sign had said). We drove north and didn't see anything which even resembled the 15th best truck stop in America. We kept going. We passed Salisbury. We passed the exit for Winston-Salem. LA said we may as well just go to his dad's house for lunch. In Virginia. I accepted defeat and turned around at a gas station in Lexington. We bought Cheerwine cake to stave off hunger. Two asides: I love Cheerwine cake, and Bryan, the cashier at Judy's Food Mart, was great. He told us all about the new scented Silly Bandz they'd gotten in. After agreeing on the friendliness of the people of Lexington, we settled on lunch in Winston-Salem.

Back south we went, figuring we could just have lunch in Atlanta if all else failed. The exit for Winston-Salem was closed! Now where are we supposed to have lunch? I saw the sign for the Historic Spencer Shops and NC Transportation Museum, then cut across two lanes of traffic to get off the highway.

We ended up at Our Place Cafe in Historic Spencer Shops. LA wanted to sit outside. He would later regret it. The waitress was very friendly, even explaining to us the renovations to the apartments upstairs. My patty melt was delightful. LA's enjoyment of his turkey club ended when a fly journeyed in and back out of his mouth. He was the one who picked outside.

Down the block is Bucky's Produce. Not to be missed! Handwritten signs throughout inform you that Bucky's has the most expensive produce in town. They may need to take a marketing seminar. Apparently, if you can find it cheaper somewhere else, that's your problem. LA left with a knitted donut pin cushion, and I with a recipe booklet called Southern Pot Pourri. The booklet was 10 cents, but she threw it in for free because of the donut purchase. I was less interested in the recipes than in the racially stereotypical stick figures on the cover.

Includes a suggested menu called "The Germans are Coming"

We bid adieu to Mr. and Mrs. Bucky and ventured back the the NC Transportation Museum. For those of you who say there's nowhere to take your kids, you should stop your bellyaching and head to Spencer. I'm no train fanatic, but the museum is great! For starters, it's free, which always adds to a museum's greatness. For $6, you get a highly informative and fun ride on an old locomotive. LA had never ridden a train before, so that made the trip even better. We saw the Wright Brothers' plane, old cars, and flight attendant uniforms from the 1960s. From the "gift station", I obtained the dining car menus for lunch and dinner from 1976. I talked LA out of buying the engineer's hat. We also learned a lot about trains. (Did you know that, when a train comes to a crossing, it blows its whistle two long times, a short time, and another long? And that all train whistle signals are standardized throughout the US and Canada? I live near a train crossing and have verified Point #1. And now you've learned something, too.)

Sadly, there are no photographic records of this journey.  LA and I both forgot our cameras.  We didn't think we'd need photos of the truck stop.  Next time, we'll take the cameras.  We've learned our lesson: we will never end up where we actually planned to go.  But the day ended up even better for it.  Had we found the 3rd best truck stop in America, LA wouldn't have had the pleasure of his first train ride, and I wouldn't have had the pleasure of seeing him eat a fly.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Pigs and Potatoes

With LA back in my guest room, I now have a captive audience/guinea pig for some experimental recipes. I have a number of them in mind, but I decided to start slow. I'd found a wonderful-sounding recipe in the classic cookbook Favorite Recipes from Southern Kitchens: Meats.  What's not to love about a book called Meats?

The recipe? Pigs and Potatoes. This recipe has everything that I look for: catchy title, short ingredient list, easy instructions, and the promise of an unusual dining experience. The ingredients called for are simply baking potatoes and sausages. The instructions were easier said than done: bore a hole in each potato with an apple corer and jam a sausage link into the hole. Bake until done.

Sounds easy enough. We picked our potatoes, ensuring maximum girth for the hole-boring. Next came the sausages. Spinach and garlic chicken sausages sounded tasty.

Breakfast sausages would be about the same diameter as the holes created by the apple corer. The chicken sausages were not. With a lot of elbow grease and laughter (and a little squirting from the sausages, I finally got the sausages into the potatoes and into the oven (at 425 degrees F for 45 minutes).

The smell that filled the house had us eagerly awaiting the ring of the timer. The potatoes were finally done and we dug in. The sausages were very good. Redolent of garlic, light-tasting, and not at all greasy. Surprisingly, though, the flavor of the sausage didn't permeate the potato. Not even a little. LA liked the sausage, but added, "This is the driest potato I have ever eaten." I rationalized it by saying that a normal baked potato would have butter and sour cream to help out with the dryness. LA wasn't buying it.

Beigest meal ever.

I haven't given up on Pigs and Potatoes. We'll be having it regularly until I can make it edible. Next time will be with Mexican chorizo. I say a greasy sausage will make for a better potato. LA prefers the word "moist". Either way, I see a lot of Pigs and Potatoes in our future.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Pumpkin and Spice and Everything Nice

I'm not normally a huge proponent of Walmart (although I am there at least three timer per week), but I am advising everyone to put down whatever you are doing and head there right away.

My nearest Walmart has been undergoing "renovations" for two months now. As far as I can tell, "renovations" actually means "moving everything around on a daily basis so that I can never find what I'm looking for". The one constant is the candle aisle.

I often stop to smell all the candles, hoping for one, just one, that smells so good that I can't live without it. I finally found it.

Walmart's Mainstays brand Pumpkin Spice candle is my New Favorite Thing. The smell envelopes my entire living room and makes me feel as though I'm living in a pumpkin pie. And the small one is just $1! Plus, it comes in a jar, so it's portable and you don't even need a candleholder.

The only downside is that my New Favorite Thing is causing me to crave autumn and all the things that come with it. Like pumpkin pie. Until autumn officially arrives, I'll just be burning my pumpkin spice candle.

If you aren't a big fan of pumpkin pie (God forbid!), they have other scents too, like hazelnut, Cinnabon, and something involving cotton.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Magical Fig

Two weeks ago, I noticed a woman at the farmers' market inquiring about the contents of a basket. The vendor replied, "They're figs", at which point I shouted, "You just made my day!"

Fig season is my most anticipated. I eagerly await the appearance of the little nuggets of deliciousness each fall. Figs taste like nothing else, and I can't get enough.

Due to the smart dealing of one farmer, I returned home today with four containers of figs. For lunch, LA and I had figs with prosciutto, goat cheese, and black pepper honey. After dinner, I had more figs with goat cheese and honey. I still have three containers left.

Tonight will be spent scouring cookbooks for new and interesting ways to cook figs. Or I could just eat the rest of the figs straight from the containers. That's the most likely scenario.

If you've never had figs before, now is your chance. If you decide to pass on them, that's okay, too. I'll just eat enough for both of us.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

An Average American Weeknight Supper

Actual telephone conversation:
Me: Sorry it's loud--I'm making dinner.
LA: What are you making?
Me: Broccoli and Brie risotto with chicken.
LA: Oh.  Sounds good.

LA pointed out that this isn't a normal conversation between average Americans.  I realized some years ago that a normal meal for me really isn't that normal.

I had some leftover pesto, plus cream in the fridge and a chicken breast in the freezer, so I thought dinner might be spaghetti with chicken and pesto cream sauce.  But, alas, no spaghetti, and it was raining, so walking up to the supermarket was out of the question.  I had lasagna noodles, but wasn't really feeling it.  And I'll be the first to admit that I'm all thumbs when it comes to making fresh pasta.  A quick inventory revealed arborio rice, frozen broccoli, and some left over Brie from God-knows-when.

I didn't grown up eating risotto.  I grew up on tater tot casseroles and Hamburger Helper.  My first encounter with risotto was in my own kitchen, when I tried a recipe for lemon and leek risotto, from a vegetarian cookbook I'd just purchased.  The risotto was very al dente, but the guests were polite enough to eat it all.  A short time later, I had risotto in a restaurant.  I was hooked.  I was also determined to become a risotto master.  I'm not even close, but risotto has still become one of my stand-bys.  I use it as a base for whatever is handy, and I have yet to be disappointed.  Whether or not it my risotto meets the authentic Italian standards may be up for debate, but it's definitely not average American.

Food for thought:  What kind of person tells her family members that her spouse has died when he really hasn't?  On that note, I'd like to give a shout out to Uncle Bill, who, despite reports to the contrary, didn't meet his maker a year ago.  Good to have you back, Uncle Bill!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Where's Lula?

My recent posting hiatus can be attributed to two separate, but somewhat related, occurrences.  First occurrence: I got a virus on my laptop.  Yes, a virus.  Please don't send me emails and comments asking if I'm really sure it's a virus.  LA verified it for me as well.  I can turn on my laptop and that's about it.  Money being tight, I've had to put off getting it looked at or fixed.  My sole method of posting at this time is by library visit.  I've become a regular.

The second occurrence is directly related to the first.  With my laptop out of commission, I couldn't spend my days surfing the web, watching TV (since I don't have a TV, my laptop plays this role), instant messaging people, what have you.  This gave me a lot of down time, in which I looked around my house and realized just how much I hated my kitchen.  Time to take matters into my own hands.

For one week, my intrepid sidekick LA and I painted the kitchen, including the cabinets.  We disagreed over whether or not spraypainting the cabinets would be a good idea.  Good idea or otherwise, we did it.  Then realized the cabinets were sucking up all the paint.  With our do-rags on, high from the spray paint fumes, we returned to our nearest home improvement store to buy a gallon of paint.  In a can.  They didn't appreciate our singing or our questions, such as "Can you make this white even whiter?" or "What do you have that will get paint off linoleum...and my feet?"  By the time we got through with the cabinets, we were so tired of painting that we said to hell with painting the cabinet doors.  They're still lying on my living room floor.  The beauty of a lack of cabinet doors is that everything is super easy to get to.

LA in a fog of spray paint.  It's a wonder we didn't die.
Once the cabinets were done, it was time to paint the walls.  On LA's advice, I had chosen "Carrot" from the paint strip.  I think "Cheeto" may have been a more appropriate name.  The first coat that went on was ghastly.  What was I thinking to paint my kitchen the color of a Cheeto?  By the time the second coat dried, I was convinced I'd made the right decision.  LA even agreed. 

Was it worth it?  While I still have to scrub the spray paint off the kitchen floor, the rest of the kitchen looks amazing.  It's so happy and welcoming.  I actually want to cook now.  So look forward to hearing more about my culinary adventures, since I will be spending far more time in the kitchen.

The doors will be painted and added at a later date.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Have Your Cake and Wear It, Too

I love food.  I love big, tacky jewelry.  I love when I can combine the two.  Ok, I'm not the one doing the combining.  A certain Handsome Savage dabbles in jewelry design.  Just one of his many talents.  While I often provide him with cooking advice and samples, I receive handicrafts in return.  His newest jewelry adventure involves rings made out of tiny household products:  toilet paper, trays of beer, and, my favorite, foods.  Just yesterday, I became the proud owner of a cake ring.  A ring with a cakeplate and a big sparkly pink cake.  Everyone loves cake.  It makes people happy.  The same Handsome Savage is even having a cake tattooed on his arm as we speak.  Now I can look down whenever I am feeling sad and be cheered up by my happy cake ring.  It's fantastic.

If you are interested in your own piece of original household-item or food-related jewelry, you can contact LA by visiting the above link to his blog or following the link from the menu on the left.  If that is too much work for you, let me know what you'd like and I'll pass it on.  An Etsy boutique is also in the works.  Be the first on your block to wear an authentic Handsome Savage beer tray ring!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

It's Not Pronounced Kweesh

Every time I hear the word "quiche", I think of the dinner scene in Sixteen Candles.  The whole family is eating quiche, and Long Duck Dong asks how you spell it.  Grandpa Fred replies, "You don't spell it, son.  You eat it!" 

I, for one, don't spell it.  I do eat it.  I think quiche is great:  scrambled eggs, delicious add-ins, and a pie crust.  What could be better?  I know that quiche became ubiquitous in the 1970's, and the flavorless, rubbery versions ruined it for everyone.  But for me, quiche never died and has no need to make a comeback.  I've been eating it all along.

I briefly worked as the pastry cook in a Charlotte restaurant and was responsible for making the quiches, as they would offer a "quiche du jour".  In case you didn't know, "quiche du jour" is French for "quiche made out of whatever is left over in the cooler and needs to be used up before it goes bad".  I never eat quiche in a restaurant.  At home is a different story. 

Quiche recipes abound in books and on the internet, many claiming to be the "ultimate" or "best".  Thomas Keller, who is a genius, has a recipe for quiche in his book Bouchon.  He says that it's not really a quiche unless the crust is at least 2".  Julia Child says the crust needs to be at least 1 1/2".  Both suggest using a flan ring.  Chef Keller also requires processing the eggs in a blender to make the quiche extra fluffy and not eating the quiche until the next day, when you cut out a slice and reheat it in the oven.  I'm sure his version is delicious.  And a lot of effort.  Plus, I'd have to buy a 2" flan ring.

I do not claim for my version of a quiche to be the ultimate.  I'll leave that to Chef Keller's 2" flufferated version.  If I'm being lazy (as usual) and don't wish to make a pie crust, I'll buy either a full-size frozen pie crust or a refrigerated pie crust that I can cut into smaller sizes.  I blind-bake it (with no filling) for 5-10 minutes, just to get it to set.  I find whatever is in the fridge that I want to add to my quiche and prepare that.  Finally, I mix 3 large eggs with one cup of liquid, be it milk, cream, half-and-half, whatever.  Put the add-ins in the crust, pour over the custard, then bake until it's done (350 degrees F for about 40-45 minutes).  Easy peasy.  (If you're even lazier than I am, most supermarkets sell quiche custard in the frozen section.  Just pour in the crust and you're done.)  If you get heavy-handed with your add-ins and have custard left over, make another quiche or whip up some scrambled eggs for breakfast tomorrow.

A note on the liquid used in making the custards.  I recently received a frantic call from a certain Handsome Savage regarding the liquid.  Here's the conversation:

LA:  Can I use water instead of milk for the liquid?
Me:  You can, but it will be gross.  Remember the omelet at Libby's that you didn't like because you said the eggs had been watered down?  It will taste like that.
LA:  Ok.  I'll talk to you later.  I need to go buy milk.

Your quiche, and anything you make, will only be as good as what goes into it.  Garbage in, garbage out.  It's worth repeating.  Quiche's return to the mainstage is tenuous, at best.  I'd like to see it stick around, so no crappy quiches, please.  It's better to go without than ruin it for everyone.

Monday, August 2, 2010

We All Scream for Ice Cream

Kannapolis seems to think that summer is over.  We ended a "beach music festival", complete with fireworks, to mark the end of summer.  On July 31.  I don't necessarily buy into their theory that summer ends when July does.  In Colorado, August brings fresh, juicy, ripe peaches.  Here, in NC, the season begins a little earlier.  Peaches have been showing up in the market for a couple weeks, but they just keep getting better.  As you all know, I'm a bit lazy, and standing over the sink to eat a drippy peach is a little too much work.  I like to find alternate ways to eat peaches.  One of the very best is peach ice cream.

I'm sure I could find plenty of peach-flavored ice cream at the supermarket, but I'm talking real ice cream with real peaches in it.  Where the peach flavor comes from the fruit itself and not from some lab on the New Jersey Turnpike.  To be sure, I knew that I'd have to make my own.

Making ice cream is a lot easier than most people imagine, especially with the advent of the electric ice cream machine.  I got one for Christmas several years ago.  While I don't use the machine frequently, I do use it often enough to be glad I've got it.  The most difficult part is remembering to keep the canister in the freezer.  Now that my freezer is reasonably empty (thank you, Early Escapades!), I keep the canister in there at all times.  When I decide it's time to make ice cream, I can do it right then.  No advance planning required!

Peach ice cream is also a good option (as is peach cobbler) to use up some of those peaches just sitting around, getting a little overripe.  But don't use any that are way past their prime.  Remember, garbage in, garbage out.  I picked up some blemished peaches for this purpose.  They're cheaper and just as good in ice cream.  Another bonus of homemade ice cream is that it tastes almost nothing like purchased ice cream.  Unless you love the insipid taste of store-bought, generic ice cream.  Then homemade may not be for you.  But I love it.  Maybe it's because I can taste the love in it.  Love tastes better than something made in some lab on the New Jersey Turnpike (there's that phrase again).  This way, I've got summer in the freezer until I decide that summer's over.

Peach Ice Cream
Adapted from Baking at Home with the Culinary Institute of America
Makes about 1 1/2 quarts

2 cups heavy cream
2 cups milk
2 cups sugar (divided use)
6 large egg yolks
1 tbsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1 lb ripe peaches
2 tbsp sugar

Prepare an ice bath:  place ice cubes and cold water in a large bowl.

Combine cream, milk, and 1 1/2 cups sugar in a heavy, nonreactive saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly.  Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks with the remaining 1/2 cup sugar until it thickens and turns pale yellow, about 2 minutes.  Gradually add about 1/3 of the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture, whisking constantly.  Pour the tempered egg mixture back into the saucepan.  Cook over low heat until the custard coats the back of a spoon (about 180 degrees F), stirring constantly.  Pour the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl.  Place the bowl in the ice bath.  Add the vanilla.  Stir the custard every few minutes until cool.  Refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to overnight. 

Peel and pit the peaches, then cut into slices or chunks.  Sprinkle with the sugar and refrigerate for a few hours.  After the peaches have macerated, puree half.  Crush the other half into smaller pieces.

Freeze the chilled custard in an ice-cream machine according to manufacturer's instructions.  Towards the end of the freezing, slowly mix in the puree and the peach pieces.  Pack the ice cream into containers and freeze 2-3 hours before serving.