Thursday, February 4, 2010

Scary Things in Ma's Kitchen

So I've noticed that there are many things in my kitchen lately that seem perfectly normal to those who reside in this house, but might seem a bit odd to outsiders. These thoughts have been fermenting in the back of my brain all week; but the straw that broke the camel's back was Nimue's choice of an anchovy fillet for dessert tonight.

Why an anchovy? For reasons now forgotten, we've had a running joke of offering up peanut butter and anchovy sandwiches when food is summarily rejected by the small for no good reason, when food is requested at odd times, or just when the mood strikes. When Nimue asked for dessert tonight, fruit was rejected and I had nothing else to offer. My normal standby of slapping leftover strawberry buttercream on graham crackers is forbidden this week. Upon investigating the fridge, we found an ancient tin of anchovies in the back. I offered one up and Nimue enthusiastically said "Yes! I don't know what they taste like." She gamely ate a bite and started to utter a positive comment about the salty oiliness of the beast until the flavor fully sank in and she sheepishly admitted that it perhaps wasn't really what she had in mind for dessert. Needless to say, the cat got the rest of it.

Scary thing #1: Months-old opened tin of Anchovies. Most useful for mashing up and putting in pasta sauces, stews, or the like to add flavor complexity.

Scary thing #2: Fresh Strawberry Buttercream leftover from Nimue's birthday in August. It's not going to go bad due to the sheer amount of sugar in it, and it still tastes like fresh berries.

Perhaps I'm primed for odd things happening in the kitchen because of Scary Thing #3: Sourdough Starter bubbling away on the counter. I finally got around to trying to make this about a week ago, and took the simple approach of leaving some flour and water out on the counter for several days (see brief instructions here). It started to bubble, then smelled a bit cheese-like, then picked up the distinct sour aroma I was hoping for, all without turning funny colors. I declare success on capturing the wild yeast!

Not being the type to just throw out the material one has to remove from the starter, I've been adding it to the other bread dough festering in the back of the fridge for this week's bread, and then I used some to make what seems to me to be a purely primal bread made purely of starter, flour, water, and a little bit of salt. The first attempt was truly dense and weapon-like (if you read Terry Pratchett, think Dwarf Bread), but the second batch provided three tasty, slightly sour mini-batards which we used as dessert last night. The aroma is definitely heading in the right direction as it ages and I may eventually add some yeast and other things to it, but for now am content to continue feeding wild yeast bread experiments to my happy household guinea pigs (aka Chad and Nim). I have a notion to add some flour to the discarded bit and make flatbreads on the stove the next time I feed the starter.

Almost knocked over Scary Thing #4: Red Wine Sludge while I was making lunch this afternoon. Red Wine Sludge is the reduced dregs of bottles not finished, deemed not very good, leftover from camping trips, or otherwise forgotten. I keep it in a jar next to the stove and add new wine whenever I run across it; if the jar gets full, the whole mess gets thrown in a pot on the stove and reduced until it does fit in the jar. A most useful substance for deglazing and adding complexity to simple pan sauces.

Scary Things #6-infinity: We've been on a major campaign to use up all the old (i.e. more than a few months) things in the freezer. Lately it's been apricot cobbler (apricots rescued from the malicious squirrels in our tree last summer), mushroom soup, turkey enchiladas, pasta, and soup (meals #7-9 from the Christmas turkey), wild blackberry pie (from berries that my mom brought down two visits ago), and many many many lunches for me made up of frozen containers of whosi-what's-it leftovers that get tossed into the freezer whenever we head out of town for a weekend.

This weekend will hopefully bring about a few new pets in the kitchen, as I have some goat milk waiting to be cheesified and Chad has the next batch of beer brewing ingredients weighing on his conscience. Good projects for us, as they only require an initial burst of cooking enthusiasm and then can happily fester away into final form on their own, leaving us free to go ride our bikes. We can come back and eat leftovers out of the freezer. Only the best leftovers, of course!

1 comment:

eileen said...

Remind me to be extra-beware whenever I eat at your house again! Scary ingredients, indeed!

Love, Mama