begin again

"Praise the lake today, the path
you walked around it. How
even in your stumbling, you
left the bed and basement. Small
steps, every grateful breath.
You slept through the night.
Had dreams full of plants.
Not everything is dead." 
- Anna Meister

It’s been awhile. I’m just going to pretend it hasn’t.

The holidays are always a whirl, especially now that I am out of school and the break is condensed to one short week. Family time, back home in Minnesota, has grown more precious than it used to be and I appreciate how utterly refreshed I feel afterward. I am endlessly grateful for never needing to hide myself around those who clearly love me.

As one could expect, my nose has been buried in cookbooks. There is a subtle poetry to writing about food that I can’t quite articulate, but I know it when I see it. There is an anxiety I feel when I think about this quality in my own writing. I am hoping to cultivate and own it one day.

Lighting and Shrub.JPG

 I laughed too hard at Renee Erickson’s quips all throughout her beauty, A Boat, a Whale, and a Walrus. Funnily enough, I bought her book for a colleague and was sad I didn’t have a copy for myself—my boss, unaware of my predicament, had already purchased me a copy. I voraciously read the entire thing in Minnesota and we made Renee’s orange and bourbon bread pudding for Christmas dessert, whole-heartedly taking her advice to douse each serving with fresh cream. It was heavenly and I find myself reciting my favorite line of hers to everyone: “I’ve never been the type to naturally wake up at the crack of dawn, but my body knows when it is time open a bottle of Rose.” Renee is a gem and I felt like one too after reading her book.

Nigel Slater has also found home in my bookshelf. Notes from the Larder has utterly captivated me. The whole work is honest and simple—I spent weeks lusting after it in my local book store and would pop in every time I was nearby just to read a few more pages. A few weeks ago, I made his apple cider braised chicken with dill and cream for AM. It was a warm comfort that was just intuitive to make. I often question recipes, merging aspects of two or three for a better result, but there were no such moments here. Later, we had some guests over and I whipped together his brown butter, hazelnut, and blackberry cakes in little cocottes. Served with a dollop of vanilla bean ice cream on top, they were a beautiful and easy way to round out a rich meal of vegetable lasagna (America’s Test Kitchen—not an intuitive recipe at all, but one we keep coming back to). I plan to cook with Nigel throughout the year and let myself marinate in his pages and simplicity.


Finally, I got all caught up on my Molly Wizenberg surplus. As you know, dear reader, she is a local influence that reminded me what food blogging should be. Delancey was a treat and I flew through it when I should have been reading for my actual book club. And let it be known that on December 11, 2014, Molly herself favorited my tweet about her book and I swooned. I also may or may not have signed up for a cooking class at The Pantry at Delancey with a friend. We may have to wait until May, but Miya and I will be whipping up a spring roast with the best of them!

I've been playing with lighting solutions too, hence the photos that I don't have recipes for. It's all thanks to my brother, who has a knack for finding practical solutions for problems that feel overwhelming to me--more on that later though!

apple cider chicken

Chicken with potatoes and dill
Taken from Nigel Slater’s Notes from the Larder
Serves four

Musts for this recipe: must use full-fat heavy cream; must let simmer away while you relax in your pajamas; must light a few candles and sip on a glass of wine while said simmering occurs. Suggestions for this recipe: serve on a bed of rice or with a light salad on the side. You may want some crusty bread for sauce soakin’ too.

2 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces
9 oz. crimini mushrooms
1 lb. small potatoes (I used fingerling)
2 c. apple cider
2/3 c. heavy cream
a small bunch of dill

Melt the butter in a Dutch oven and add the oil. When it starts to sizzle, put in the chicken pieces. Season with salt and pepper, then leave to cook over moderate heat until the chicken is pale gold on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Halve or quarter the mushrooms, depending on their size, and add them to the pan. Let them soften, adding a little more butter or oil if necessary. Scrub and halve or quarter the potatoes. Add them to the pan and leave till lightly colored, then pour in the cider. Return the chicken to the pan and bring to a boil. As soon as the liquids, lower the temperature so that it simmers gently. Cover with a lid and leave to cook for thirty minutes or until the chicken is cooked all the way through. Check by pushing a skewer through the thickest part; if the juices run clear, then it is done.

Remove the chicken. There will be a lot of liquid. Turn up the heat and boil to concentrate the flavors, letting the quantity of liquid reduce by about a third. Stir in the cream and the chopped dill, then season to taste. Wait for a minute or two, then remove the heat and serve.