Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Stock Hypocrisy & Baguette Challenge Victors

You know how I said that home-made broth annoyed me? It wasn’t exactly what I said, but, well… I was close. I too am guilty of sometimes- okay, regularly- snottily turning my nose up at some bit of food I deem inferior, but what bugs me is when a seeeerious cook implies that people who use canned broth are philistines. I am, in many ways, a philistine, but I don't think that using canned broth is what makes me one. Anyway, I do usually use canned broth. Home-made is lovely, but it is also time-consuming and dirties more pans (which then need to be cleaned) than opening a can or unwrapping a little cube, and I don’t find making broth soothing or relaxing the way some people seem to (which, since I scalded myself thoroughly while straining some not too long ago, I think is understandable). I have noted before, that if I love you, and you seem like you need it, I might gear up and make soup complete with broth made from scratch.

Curly’s fever soared to 104 on Saturday night before subsiding. I was very worried, and if there was anyone who seemed like she needed some fortifying home-made goodness, it was Curly. So, with some help from my husband, I made home-made stock on Sunday (or Saturday. I’m not actually sure. My memories of the weekend are a worried, unsleeping blur), partly since, at the doctor’s instruction, I am still being careful with Curly’s diet (and also: for a normally sparky, often close to annoyingly loud kid she is still worrisomely subdued), but also because sometimes I literally cook off my worry. And when I posted yesterday about the many things that annoy me? We had a dinner of… chicken orzo soup, with a home-made broth. Hypocrite, thy name is Meg.

It would be difficult to articulate how good that soup was (maybe because it was well-seasoned with hypocrisy?). It was a plain, simple broth. I pre-cooked the orzo, and then it sat in the broth for a while (the kids and I were finishing up a book, and also, we were all waiting by the phone a bit for word on the nephew’s arm), and it went so far past al dente that it was somehow wonderfully comforting instead of gross. And to serve, I squeezed just the tiniest bit of lemon in, and sprinkled just a thin, gauzy layer of grated parmesan over the top that melted and vanished instantly, much like snow striking still-warm pavement. I would have cooked the broth with my carefully hoarded parmesan rind, but my parmesan rinds keep vanishing (I think certain husbands may be throwing them out. Honey, clothes with labels ending in "i" usually require dry cleaning, and parmesan rinds do not get thrown away). Regardless, it was immensely soothing. My boy, who is not notorious for eating large amounts, came back for seconds. I wished I could somehow get some to my nephew in Pennsylvania, laid up as he is with a thoroughly broken arm.


In other, less hypocritical news: the baguette challenge was a tie between Bakery Nouveau and, to my surprise (although I like it, and buy it regularly, I hadn't expected a loaf that is fairly ubiquitous in Seattle grocery stores to do so well), the Grand Central Baking Company’s rustic baguette. My husband completely indulged me on my desire for a blind tasting, and sliced the baguettes and put them on numbered plates. We put a blanket down on the living room rug and had ourselves a Sunday night picnic while watching Muppet Treasure Island.The kids were delighted, and it was quite nice for us, too.

The kids and I are already talking about the next round, in which the victors of the last challenge will attempt to hold their title against some or all of the following bakeries baguettes: Columbia City, Tall Grass (is it tallgrass or Tall Grass? I forget all the time), Café Besalu (unless it turns out they get their baguettes from next door, at the Tall Grass Bakery), and maybe Macrina. Those of you who live in Seattle will realize, instantly, that I am going to have to have at least two people getting the baguettes for the next round, since although Café Besalu and Tall Grass Bakery are right next to one another, none of these bakeries are remotely near one another. However, I have a hockey tournament east of the mountains this weekend (and am hoping those eastern WA hockey chicks will not apply their sticks to me too vigorously), and somewhere between 11 and 18 people due to sit at our table for Thanksgiving (and I am not thinking about menus, but... about how I might finish up the paint work in my dining room, and where I might find a switchplate that would look good with it), so round 2 will have to wait.

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