Mystery House


Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Mystery Cookbook Adventure category.

The Minnesota Table: Morels!

I so loved The Minnesota Homegrown Cookbook that I was delighted to receive a review copy of the latest offering from Voyageur Press, The Minnesota Table.

Image courtesy of Quayside Publishing Group

It’s a lovely book, one which proves that “Minnesota food” doesn’t have to mean endless recipes for hotdish and bars.  The authors, Shelley N.C. Holl and B.J. Carpenter, have done a splendid job of demonstrating that locally grown food can be prepared in ways that respect the beauty of the ingredients while still managing to be accessible.

These are obviously women who love what they do, and love what the Minnesota landscape has to offer.  (And that’s the least cranky buffalo I’ve ever seen.)

Photograph courtesy of Quayside Publishing Group

Spring was the perfect time for this book to arrive on my desk, since the authors have taken a seasonal approach to the subject, beginning with the foods that appear in Minnesota in April and May:  asparagus, lettuces, lamb, rhubarb, and  — oh lordy — morel mushrooms.

A trip to the Mill City Farmers Market on opening day netted me some.  This was, in theory, easier than searching the forests myself.  In reality, I had to stand in line behind a woman while she carefully selected two pounds of expensive morels from the relatively small box the vendor had.  I was nervous, bouncing on my heels,
positive that she’d snatch all of them before I had a chance to get my mitts into the box.  But the Morel Goddess was with me, and the Two Pounds of Morels Woman at last took her stash of pure gold and left while there were still a few mushrooms remaining.  With morels, sweet asparagus from Loon Organics, and some crusty sourdough bread, I was ready to cook up a truly special dinner.

The best way to bring out the unique and delicious character of morels is to not mess with them too much.  Ms. Carpenter, who developed the recipes for this book, obviously knows that, because in her recipe she left them ungussied-up and simply sauteéd with butter.

You have to wash them first, and this is the only tricky part.  Because of all the folds and crevices, bugs love to hide in morels.  These had ants.  Remember, morels are picked in the forest, people.  They aren’t cultivated in bug-free greenhouses.  So  I researched morel-washing methods online, and found two schools of thought:  careful rinsing, or soaking in salt water.  After attempting to rinse them without breaking off too many important and delicious mushroom bits, I figured out why a brief salt water soak works.  It causes the ants to head for the hills, nicely removing themselves from the morels without your having to do it.  Yes, that makes the morels a bit wetter, but I figured it would be easier to cook out a little extra water than to stand there picking out ants.

After drying the morels, I melted a goodly amount of butter.  Sauteed until the liquid was gone and the mushrooms browned a bit.  Added s & p.

And dished them up with buttered toast and asparagus.

Anyone who’d ask for more than that is just downright greedy.

It was a scrumptious dinner, a perfect tribute to spring in Minnesota, and a good test of an excellent new cookbook.  There are many more recipes worth trying in The Minnesota Table — Crock Pickles, Sour Cream Pumpkin Pie, Apple Cake with Hard Sauce, and a quick recipe for Cassoulet.  (I really have to try the Lake Superior Smoked Whitefish on Hardtack.)  There’s also a great deal to learn.

Remember, this book had two authors.  Ms. Carpenter was in charge of the recipes, and Ms. Holl did a ton of research about food production in the state and wrote some very compelling stories about it.  There’s a great deal to learn here about how Honeycrisp apples were developed, how grass fed beef is raised, how endangered heritage seeds are saved, how to create a modern root cellar or freeze berries, where to find amazing ice cream on the U of M campus, and even a story about the Rutabaga Capitol of the World (which is, if you, like I, didn’t know, Askov, Minnesota).

Truly, I love this book.  The more I dig through it, the more I find that I didn’t know.  If you are at all interested in locally-grown foods, this book is worth having on your shelf, whether or not “local” for you means Minnesota.  Just don’t get in front of me in the morel line.


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Cornbread

You might recall that a couple of months ago, Knitcircus editor Jaala and I baked bread together — her mom’s fabulous recipe for challah — in a not-in-the-same-kitchen-online kinda way.  Well, we had so much fun that we decided more baking was called for.  This time, it’s my family’s recipe for cornbread.

I positively adore cornbread.  Can’t get enough of it, and I’ve served it in many different ways.  The other night, it was this:

Smothered in a tomato sauce with all sorts of veggies, and topped with cheese, cilantro and hot sauce.  Unreasonably healthy, yet so good that even the most devoted carnivore I know (the M.E.) loves it. If you want the recipe, it’s in New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant.

And the cornbread?  Here goes.

One True Cornbread
1 c. flour
2 c. cornmeal
2 eggs
3 tsp baking powder
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 c. milk
1 tsp. salt

Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt together.  Beat eggs, add oil and milk.  Stir into dry ingredients, stirring just enough to mix thoroughly.  Pour into well-greased iron skillet and bake at 425 until golden brown.  (This usually takes about 25 minutes.)

A couple of notes:  The “1 c. milk” actually never happens.  I don’t know why the recipe says a cup, because it’s way more than that.  I just start pouring and stirring, and keep pouring until it looks right.

I use a 12″ iron skillet most of the time, but you can also bake this in a cornstick or muffin pan, or whatever shape you like.  It’s fabulous with chili, and it’s an easy bread to throw together right before dinner.


Bourbon Pork Chops

This was one of those recipes that worked, even though it didn’t work.  If you know what I mean.  Great sauce, cooking method that didn’t quite cut it.  I was surprised by that, because this is the first time I’ve tried a recipe from the folks at Cook’s Illustrated that wasn’t completely foolproof.  Ah well.  We all make boo-boos, yes?

All that hoohah about brief cooking times and resting and such really didn’t cook the chops properly.  Dubious, we did it anyway for the sake of trying the recipe, and because we had already marinated the chops and they would have burned if we’d broiled them at that point, because of the sugar in the marinade.

The result:  Delicious sauce, undercooked chops and a lot of carrying on.  This could be done so much more easily.  Next time, no marinating.  We’ll grill or broil the chops, and cook the sauce separately.  I think it will be better that way.  I’m going to post this now and run, lest the wrath of Christopher Kimball descend upon me….


Winter Just Isn’t Winter…

…Without ambrosia.

When the oranges are good and plentiful, I could bury myself in a bowl of this stuff.  I’ve had it, without fail, every winter of my life since I commenced chewing and I can’t imagine getting through the season without it.

This is so simple that even my noncooking friends, the ones who complain the most vociferously about how hard cooking is and how much easier it is to microwave things from packages, can make it:

Cut up oranges and put them in a bowl.  Sprinkle with a little sugar.  Sprinkle with shredded coconut.  Make another layer just like that.  Keep making layers until you run out of oranges and coconut.  Smash it down with a small plate and put it in the fridge overnight.

It’s miraculous, I tell you.  However much you made, it won’t be enough.


Making Challah with Jaala

When Knitcircus editor Jaala Spiro was here recently for the magazine’s blog tour, she mentioned that she’d been a professional baker in an earlier phase of her life.  My ears perked up at that, and I simply had to invite her to come back on a Friday, with a recipe.  Being a woman who understands the potent allure of bread, she didn’t hesitate, and suggested that we bake her mom’s recipe for challah.

I’d never made challah.  How could I resist?  Well, I really couldn’t resist when I got my hands on the recipe.  It’s one of those recipes that makes its goodness obvious with just a reading, before you even pick up a whisk.  In a word:  butter.  Lots of it.

Here’s what Jaala had to say about the recipe:

“As a kid, it was a banner day when we’d walk in from school and smell the Challah in the air. She’d slice it and steam would rise from the soft, flaky bread, and my brother and I would wolf down fat slices with strawberry jam.  Not Jewish by birth, but always an amazing baker, she always made this Challah recipe — I’m guessing she received it from a friend, but not quite sure.

Now she — and I — make it for our family, and my mom, the kids and I can eat pretty much an entire loaf when they get home from school. Luckily, the recipe makes three loaves, so there’s still plenty left to share at dinner.”

Wolfing is about the most restrained you can be with this bread.

Jaala sent me the recipe and we both set to work.  Here’s what you need (there’s yeast mixed with warm milk in the big bowl in front) :

After mixing up the dough (which is easily accomplished with a bread whisk), you have to knead it.  It looks like this before you wear out your arms:

And this afterwards:

Jaala says that her mom kneads it for 15 minutes.  That’s a lot longer than it sounds, when you’re kneading.  I did it for 13 and declared that to be enough, since Jaala’s mom couldn’t see me all the way from Wisconsin and raise objections.  I actually like kneading — it’s like working with clay — but, ahem, my kneading muscles could be in better shape.  Should I be making bread more often?  Or would all the inevitable eating of bread be counterproductive?  All that is certain is that I clearly do not make bread as often as Jaala’s mom does. Regardless of my two minute deficiency, I thought that the dough looked very pretty when I got done with it.

After the rising and the punching down (my favorite part!), you shape it.  Again, reminiscent of clay, which is always a good thing.  This recipe makes three big loaves, so you cut the dough into nine pieces.

That’s because you’re going to braid it.  Now, I often wear my hair in a braid.  One long braid, straight down my back.  I have no trouble plaiting my own hair, and I can get it nice and even without looking.  But braiding dough that’s right in front of me?  Uh uh.  I have to be reaching behind my head to do it properly.  I had to think about it, and do each one over after messing it up several times.  There should be some special bread board that fits on your back, so that…oh, never mind.

According to the recipe, you can bake this bread either in pans, or more freeform, on a cookie sheet.  I opted for the cookie sheet version.  Otherwise I would have had to look for my bread pans, and that was too much work.  Jaala did hers in pans.  I am very impressed that she knew where her pans were.  Isn’t her bread pretty?

Mine wasn’t too shabby either, I have to say, despite the rather ridiculous scene with the braiding.

Between the two of us, we covered all the bases.  Jaala used poppy seeds (being out of sesame, she told me, which was the preferred seed at her house).  I used sesame, because I had them on hand, and I left one loaf plain because the M.E. is not a big fan of any sort of seeds.

Need I tell you it was delicious?  We devoured as much as we could reasonably get away with that night, put one loaf in the freezer, and delivered the third to my mom, who behaved just like we did with it.  There’s a nubbin left, and I’m thinking French toast this weekend.

Want to make some, after all these photos that are probably making you drool on your keyboard?  Here’s the recipe, with huge gratitude to Jaala and her mom, for sharing it with me…and with you.

Challah

3 pkgs yeast (each package is 2.25 T)
2 C warm milk
4 t salt
1/2 C honey
1 C shortening (I use butter), melted
3 eggs (plus one for the top)
8-9 C all-purpose flour

Melt shortening and allow to cool a bit. Dissolve yeast in milk and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

Add salt, honey, shortening; blend in 3 eggs and 4C flour. Slowly add rest of flour (4-5C) Stir. Knead well (my mom usually does it for 15 minutes).  Place in greased bowl; cover and let rise for 1 hour or until double. Punch down.

Divide dough into thirds, and each third into 3 parts.  Roll into strips; braid (makes three loaves).  Put on greased cookie sheet or in bread pans. Let rise 1/2 hour. Brush tops with beaten egg and top with sesame seeds (Jaala’s note: if your kids won’t eat sesame seeds, leave one plain).
Bake 45 minutes at 325 degrees.

Thank you, Jaala, for visiting again with your wonderful recipe!  I can’t wait for our next adventure.  Oh yes, there will be another one…


Saffron Rice with Butternut Squash

No arborio in the house, so I couldn’t make it into risotto.  But these things were involved, and it all turned out quite delicious:  onion cooked in butter and olive oil, rice, chicken broth, saffron, bacon, parmesan cheese and roasted butternut squash.  This deserves to be made again, and soon!


Spaghetti Carbonara

Sometimes cooking is the most fun when you have the least to work with.  I love it when my planned trip to the grocery store is a day or two away, supplies are perilously low, and I have to scavenge in the pantry.  It’s a challenge to make something great for dinner, and you know I love a challenge.

So. The fridge was down to some scraps of leftovers, our usual assortment of several thousand different condiments, and, well, maybe a few root vegetables.  But there’s always parmesano reggiano.  Always pasta.  And always, always some form of bacon in the freezer.  Add an egg or two, and even my limited mathematic abilities come up with carbonara.

Lorenza’s Pasta, by Lorenza de Medici, was the book I pulled from the shelf.  I would so love to be named de Medici, wouldn’t you?  I mean, people really would just get the hell out of the way.  And yes, she is related to those Medicis.  Nevertheless, I do not fear her cookbooks.  They’re quite good.  And pretty to boot.

Pasta alla carbonara is a simple dish, and one, like many classics, which is surrounded by a complicated and contradictory mythology.  Who knows where the recipe really came from?  I haven’t got a clue, although given my love of arcana and conspiracy theories, it would be wonderful to think that it was created by a member of the secretive Carbonari.  No, I didn’t make that up.  Click the link.

Better to make it than to overthink it, I say.  Aside from pasta — and a long, thin, squiggly shape like spaghetti probably works best — here’s what you need:

Fry the garlic — peeled, but not cut — in a little olive oil, until it turns golden brown.  Then you toss out the garlic.  I know, I know.  I love garlic.  But really, it’s okay this time.

Then cook the bacon in the same oil.  Ms. de Medici’s recipe calls for pancetta, but I didn’t have any so I substituted slab bacon.  It was fabulous.

Beat the egg in a bowl (one egg for every two people), and throw in some salt and pepper and grated parmesan.  Again, the recipe called for a mix of parmesan and romano, but I only had parmesan.  We were entirely happy without the romano.

This is one of those “make darn sure everything’s ready before you do the final step” recipes.  So while the bacon’s cooking, set the table, open wine, wrangle any errant family members and get anything else you plan on eating set to go, because the last steps move fast and carbonara has to be eaten right away.

Once you’ve gotten the rest of the household off the internet, you can cook the spaghetti.  Reserve a little bit of the cooking water before you strain it:  about 1/4 cup if you’re cooking half a pound (for two people) or 1/2 cup if you’re cooking a pound (for four).  Put the drained pasta, and that little bit of water, in the pan with the bacon and stir it around and cook it just for a minute or two.  It will very nicely deglaze the pan and pick up all the bacony goodness that’s stuck to the bottom.  Makes pan scrubbing easier later on, too.

Now.  This is the fun part.  Take the pan off the heat.  I laid out a towel on my counter and put it there.  Quick like a bunny, stir in the egg and cheese mixture, and keep stirring like crazy until the pasta is completely coated.  The egg shouldn’t scramble, it should just coat the strands of pasta so that they look nicely glazed.

Serve it up (still moving at quick bunny speed), and eat.  This was so good, it made me wish that every night was didn’t-get-to-the-store night!


Another Grilled Cheese Experiment

“Well, many’s the long night I’ve dreamed of cheese — toasted, mostly . . .”
— Robert Louis Stevenson, in Treasure Island

I do seem to have a thing about toasted sandwiches.  And toasted-sandwich-making contraptions.  There’s the panini maker that my in-laws gave me for Christmas a year ago:

Two Toastites:

Buried somewhere in the basement storage room is a sandwich press that’s designed to be used on a stovetop burner, and now, because my brother always gives me very, very cool gifts, I have this:

I’m in love.

Okay if you know me well, you are at this moment saying, “But she hates cats!” And yes, I do.  But Hello Kitty doesn’t count.  Hello Kitty isn’t really a cat.  She’s just Hello Kitty.  She’s all about the pink and cute and weird, and I like that.  Perhaps this is yet another sign that I should be living in Japan where nobody would think it’s odd that I think fish makes a fine breakfast, but that’s another story.  In this story, I’ve got me a Hello Kitty sandwich maker, and I’m pretty darned excited about it.  I mean, there’s a little light on her bow that turns on when you plug her in.  What’s not to like about that?

So of course I had to see if Hello Kitty could make a good grilled cheese sandwich.  We got all the ingredients ready.  (That little green blob on the right is a roasted Hatch chile.)

And fired up Hello Kitty.

Here’s another action shot:

I am pleased to report that Hello Kitty gets good and hot and will definitely cook a sandwich.  However, it seems that she prefers petite sandwiches.  The more sizable one that we stuffed in there (designed to be shared by the two of us) cooked and got nice and melty, but didn’t get crisp on the outside.  We figured it was just a bit too big.  So when it was almost done, we finished it in a pan on the stove.

Yum.  Clearly not the work of a food stylist, but delicious.  Hard to beat green chile grilled cheese with some of this summer’s tomato soup for lunch.  What sort of sandwich should I try next in Hello Kitty, do you think?


Are You Ready for the New Year?


Jam Today: An Interview with Tod Davies

Somehow, I stumbled upon a reference to Jam Today, a new book about food and cooking by Tod Davies.  Ms. Davies, also the publisher at Exterminating Angel Press (I love that name), kindly sent me a review copy, and the minute I’d opened it and read the first two pages, I was back at my computer, asking if she’d be kind enough to grant me an interview.  It’s quite an irresistible book, and it approaches cooking in the way that many of us actually do it — not the way somebody else thinks we’re supposed to do it.  I’m delighted that Tod Davies agreed to visit the Mystery House, because she’s got all sorts of interesting things to say.  Read on…

T: Tod, would you please share a bit about your background with the Mystery House readers who may not know you?

TD: Gosh, where to start with  that one? Born and raised in San Francisco, which should immediately tell you a lot, given that (except for New Orleans), it’s the most food obsessed town in the nation, if not the world (well, okay, there’s Paris…).  I started out as the kind of customer Trader Joe originally said he was looking for: English graduate student with a lot of taste and not much money.  That’s pretty much me now, too — after a lot of time spent doing…well, doing whatever.  Food radio show producer and host, independent film producer, screenwriter, cocktail waitress, English teacher, dog walker…among other things. Married to Alex Cox, who is terrific fun, as well as being a tolerant vegetarian.  Now running Exterminating Angel Press, an independent press (i.e. small press) that focuses on any material that questions dominant cultural stories and suggests alternatives.

T: What prompted you to write a book about the way you cook?  (I won’t call it strictly a cookbook, because it’s more than that.)

TD: I love writing about stuff I love…and I seriously love everyday life.  It always outrages me that everyday life doesn’t get the emphasis it deserves in the culture — and the alternative doesn’t seem to me to be working.  One of the biggest pleasures I have in my everyday life is FOOD. And whatever is a pleasure I hope everyone else is having, too. Actually, this is a political thing for me, too.  Everyone should have something good to eat and the leisure to enjoy it and share it with others.  The idea that a few people should have a glut of stuff, while the majority run harder and harder to get by is something that is obviously wrong. Drives me mad.

T: I love that your focus is on treasuring the life you have, the food you have, the company you have.  That seems to me to be what Thanksgiving is really about.  Food and food, memories, of course, are absolutely key.  Why are food and cooking so important to you?

TD: Food and Cooking are key to finding out who I am, what I truly desire, and what my loved ones truly desire. In cooking with what I’ve got, and with as much joy as possible, I’m looking into how much I really need…  It drives me crazy that people who literally have everything are miserable, and don’t have any excess joy in their lives to give them the energy to set about making the people around them happy as well.  They actually don’t know what makes them happy…if you’re not happy, why not? You’ve got to start making yourselves and your loved ones happy and then use that as a base to work to make the community a happier place.  And this all revolves around food for me (that San Francisco thing gives the clue again, I think!)

T: What is it about having good things to eat that makes a real difference in our world?

TD: We really need to listen to our bodies.  There’s a huge amount of consumption revolving around unnecessary things, things that just make you unhappy and crave more stuff — what are the basic things we need? Food.  Love.  Warmth. Community. When you sit with something good to eat (not something expensive to eat, or complicated to eat, or rare…something that’s just GOOD, like good bread and cheese), you are literally communing with your body and the world that made it; you’re a part of it, not separated from it.  It’s that separation that makes us miserable.  And then we keep trying to have experiences and acquire more and more stuff to get rid of that misery.  But when we do this, we’re going about it the wrong way, in my opinion. We’re going against what we should be doing.  Which is just accept that we’re human, and that we’re imperfect, and that everyone else is too…but that we’re all in this together.  Time to have another meal!

T: Are you cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year?  What’s on the menu?

TD: Not sure if I’m cooking this year; it depends on if the family can make it up our way as they have the last couple of years.  But the short answer is, if I do cook, since I have a teenage niece and nephew who (all parents here will relate) can eat more than your average zoo population in a remarkably short period of time, I’ll cook A LOT.  Either a brined turkey raised by Dawn the Egg Lady up the road (last year my nephew said about that one, “Aha! So this is what Turkey is supposed to taste like!”), or a shoulder of lamb roasted with a lot of garlic (I like shoulder better than leg because I think it’s got a great flavor and it costs less…).  Definitely Extra Rich Potatoes, which are made by mashing enormous amounts of potatoes with enormous amounts of butter, sour cream or cream, and crushed garlic, then baked…that’s a favorite with the teenagers (as well as my potato loving vegetarian husband).  We eat the potato skins baked with butter and tabasco, kind of like potato chips, as an appetizer — I just keep ’em coming.  Then there are always baked stuffed Portobello mushrooms.  And my niece’s favorite, grated carrots cooked in cream and nutmeg for a long time, until they’re caramelized around the edges.

One year, I am pleased to say, when my nephew was asked if he wanted to go for a day hike the day after Thanksgiving, he said, “And miss that soup Aunt Tod’s got on the  stove? No way! ”  I regarded that as a particular badge of honor.

T: I would, too!  Jam Today may be the only book I’ve seen that acknowledges that we aren’t always cooking with ingredients that are at their peak, that often our goal is to make good use of whatever’s about to go bad in the fridge.  You seem to have a special affection for ingredients that are past their prime.  Why?

TD: Because I hate waste, I guess, and anything I save from waste, while making an occasion for happiness, makes me feel like I’m winning out over entropy! I cannot stand how people throw stuff out, stuff that’s perfectly good.  We just seem to have gotten into this weird mind set where everything has to be perfect, or at least appear to be perfect, or have it cause lots of anxiety.  This is not sustainable!  Life is not perfect!  Repeat after me!  Life is wonderful — it’s a blast — but it is NOT PERFECT.

The other day I was cut to the heart watching a grocery store manager throw out a perfectly good wedge of expensive blue cheese.  I gave a sort of strangled gggllrrffggggghhhh of protest, and he said, “We don’t know how long it’s been without refrigeration.”  I said, “Listen, people eat blue cheese that’s been sitting out for TWO HUNDRED YEARS!” But he just looked at me like I was crazy.  Meanwhile, the fish I bought from that market that was supposedly fresh that day wasn’t…it was at least a day older than fresh, as I found out to my chagrin when I got home. However, it wasn’t actually bad.  So I just cooked it with mashed potatoes and garlic and made fish pie…it was fine that way.  But it did make me reflect on how screwed up the priorities of that particular market were.

T: So many people are fearful of cooking without recipes, but your approach to food is to have fun with it, make what pleases you, and not get freaked out.  Have you always cooked that way?

TD: Pretty much, except for the not getting freaked out part. I always get freaked out, no matter what I’m doing — it’s my temperament.  My feeling is that being freaked out is just the human condition.  So I try not to get too freaked out about it.

T: You sometimes solve ingredient acquisition problems by making things yourself, like figuring out how to make your own salt cod.  I love that approach — it’s so easy to get drawn up in believing that everything has to come in a package from the store, that manufacturers know more than we do.  One of the saddest things I can think of is the persistent notion that real cooking is too hard for regular folks with busy lives.  What do you think people gain by learning to make things on their own?

TD: Now THIS is the key.  We gain autonomy.  We gain our own independence. We build our own reserves of self reliance, and we’re better friends, parents, lovers, neighbors as a result.  This I really truly believe. Why should we have others providing for us what we most basically need? It’s a weird concept.  I really think it’s the sign of an unhealthy culture that we value and give prestige to all the societal jobs that don’t perform any basic functions.  I mean, if you can’t take care of yourself, if you need unhappy minimum wage earners to do it for you, what does that say about you and the culture?

T: What’s the object in your kitchen that you treasure the most?

TD: My marble mortar and pestle.  I love pounding the hell out of garlic and parsley. Also my Japanese ceramic knife. I love CHOPPING the hell out of garlic and parsley, too.

T: Mystery House readers will want to know:  Do you knit?

TD: No, but I really think I should learn.  My Macanese grandmother had a knitting machine that’s in a closet somewhere. I can still remember her working that machine, chain smoking, and listening to two different ball games on the radio at the same time.  She had obviously acculturated.

T: In addition to being an author, you’re a publisher.  What’s next for you?  Do you have another book of your own in the works?

TD: Next year is our Fairy Tale year, since Fairy Tales are the most basic stories we tell ourselves.  Like food, fairy tales get a bum rap…they get treated like they’re of no real importance, when they are of major, bedrock importance to the culture.  Right now, I’m puzzling over an odd book I’ve had sent to me by…well, it appears to be from another world, but that can’t be right.  We’re still trying to trace how it got to us. It appears to be a fairy tale that’s been analyzed by an academic in another world who’s discovered…well, I’m still working on it.

T: Thank you very much, Tod, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Of course I had to try one of her recipes.  They’re thoughtful and interesting and conversational, just like the book.  So, in a continuation of last week’s cheese theme, I thought that Tod’s recipe for The Best Macaroni and Cheese might be the ticket.

Was it the best?  Well, of course I didn’t have all the mac & cheeses of the world side by side, to test them.  (A girl can dream.)  But I’d have to say yes.  It’s pretty darn spectacular.  Very cheesy and creamy, with a nice mustardy tang.  I added (quite a bit) more than the suggested amount of Tabasco sauce since we thought mac & cheese with a burn might be good.  And it was.

I need a food stylist around here, really I do.

We loved this dish, and of all the mac & cheese recipes I’ve tried over the last few years, this is the one that’s going on the short list.  Not hard to make, very decadent, and very delicious.  Check out the book to get the recipe — it’s a great read, full of good food stories.  (And I really, really wish I lived next door to Dawn the Egg Lady!)  I’m trying another recipe from it this week:  Potatoes with Chiles made with teeny, tiny potatoes and some of my roasted Hatch chiles, ‘cause that’s what I’ve got…and you know, it’s fun to dive in the freezer and get creative.

Jam Today could have been titled Thanksgiving Everyday, because it makes you think about what it means to treasure what you have and who you have it with.  All the time.  Not reserving such thoughts for one special day of the year.

Okay now, y’all, go do up the holiday like you mean it.  Happy Thanksgiving!