And so, I’ve well and truly slacked. At least in the food department. Well, at least in the Bittman project part of the food department. This year’s back-to-school experience of the frantic race-over-uneven-pavement-while-juggling-eggs-and-firecrackers was enhanced by the addition of navigating the cloudy, jagged-edged seas of the academic job market for the first time. Three weeks in, and I’m starting to collect myself a little, realizing how much work this takes, and that I have to grab my free moments when they present themselves, not whenever I want them to happen. And while by no means is my hiatus replaced by my regular schedule of the summer, I am slowly adjusting in a way that leaves me just enough time to be with you here tonight. Well, that and N.’s kind insistence that he tackle the current sink full of dishes. Don’t hold your breath for my next post, but here’s a snack, if you will, to tide things over?
Two Bittman recipes for you, then, and a brief assessment of each. Oh, and an apology: since it has been several weeks since I made either of these, even my rough estimate ingredient quantities have long since flown my mind, to be replaced by such niceties as why Beowulf never had a male heir, how many pages my 33 students will produce together during the next week, and how I can make my 54 page first dissertation chapter into a 20 page writing sample.
Brussels sprouts are one of those near-universal vegetables no one seems to like. They are bitter and, when boiled, smelly, and can only be saved when eaten in combination with copious quantities of cream or sugared vinegar. Or, as it turns out, raw with lemon, cheese, and cured pork. I used prosciutto instead of bacon, baking it for fifteen minutes or so on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, and the effect was fabulous. The prosciutto snapped into sharp fragments of pink shrapnel, and so the textual combination of the dish was amazing. The sprout shreds (I did use my food processing slicer, and it worked perfectly) were crunchy and crisp but thin and light, like miniature tufts of coleslaw. The cheese was chewy and grainy, and the prosciutto was crisp and flavorful, filing my mouth with saliva that the tart astringency of the lemon-honey vinaigrette I made just barely dried away. This would be a great replacement for the heaviness of coleslaw, and is a near perfect quartet of ingredients. Chopped salted walnuts or roasted, soy sauce drenched shiitake mushrooms might be a vegetarian-friendly replacement for the prosciutto or bacon, but I wouldn’t dare replace the cheese with anything. It was far too perfect a nutty saltiness against the green resistance of the baby cabbages themselves.
83. Onion-Rosemary Skillet Bread: In a 12-inch cast iron pan, sauté half a large, thinly sliced red onion in about ¼ cup olive oil until soft and beginning to color. Combine a cup of whole wheat flour with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon rosemary leaves; add 1 ½ cups water and whisk until smooth. Pour the batter into the hot skillet and bake in a 450-degree oven until the flatbread is crisp on the edges and releases easily from the pan, about 30 to 40 minutes.
Since I got my cast iron skillet (a birthday gift that was purchased using last year’s Christmas present [don’t ask, it confuses me too]), I’ve been looking for recipes that let me use it as much as possible. Though I am having trouble getting used to the whole well-seasoned thing (no soap? Really?!), I adore the quick, crusty brown sear it imparts to anything you dump into it. The appeal of making bread in this stove-to-oven vessel was too strong to pass up.
The challenge? I bought a 10-inch skillet, and my math skills are weak for anything more complicated than halving or doubling a recipe.
I did a pretty good job too, with two exceptions: the onions and the oil. As a consequence, we ended up with a very onion-y bread that was also quite greasy. Additionally, I was impatient in trying to emancipate my funny little bread from the pan, which resulted in some severe aesthetic imperfections (by which I mean, the whole thing broke up and we ate it in chunks rather than cutting slices).
Still, it was really tasty. I’ve never tasted fry bread, but I suspect this is probably similar. The onion and rosemary worked well together, and the crunchy exterior of the bread was a delightful texture. No leavening, no sweetening, and no rise time, just bread for dinner in less than an hour? And out of a cast iron skillet? We’ll be having this one again, and I intend to get the measurements right this time.