Tag Archives: recipes

the sublime maira kalman and my perfect french onion soup

maira kalman 1I made a giant pot of French Onion Soup for this cold, cold weather, and we ate it with the bread soaked in and the cheese bubbling over on top while reading The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman out loud.  This is such a wonderful book.  Ms. Kalman is an illustrator of New Yorker covers who’s children’s books we read years ago before I knew anything about her.  Max Makes a Million has been imprinted on my brain for all eternity, I’m sure, after the number of reads we gave it.  She has such a whimsical, dear, funny, heartbreaking view of the world!  Every contact I have ever had with her work makes me adore her even more.

Principles of Uncertainty is kind of a memoir, a visual journal, a bit philosophical, asking the big questions in the most childlike way, very New York, and it is utterly, utterly charming.  It’s about being moved by the effort that humans make—the often bizarre efforts (funny hats!  superb tassels!) to just plain old walking when we are old and walking has become  a trial—to get through our days.  Life is so hard and yet it is also full of moments of beauty, and joy, and wonderful desserts…do we need to ask the big questions when they seem to be unanswerable?  (Yes.  Maybe.  I don’t know.)maira kalman 2

Highly recommended.  Will crack you open in a sweet, delightful way.

Then, after the soup and the reading , I found a piece of paper where Sophie had written:

When you misplace something you can’t replace, like setting down a a friend, like setting down a piece of yourself, don’t try to be someone you’re not, don’t pretend to have feelings you are not feeling, I try to be my best but I slip up sometimes.  Don’t we all.

…and it took my breath and made me remember when she was ten months old, TEN MONTHS OLD, and she told me about the rain falling on the window and on the flowers outside, and how it was pretty, using sign language, because we did that (it was awesome), and it was so astonishing to realize there were deep thoughts and powerful experiences going on inside that tiny person.  I mean, of course there are, but so often people are opaque, we can forget, and then the curtain draws back for a moment and we see inside each other…

Maira Kalman makes me feel like that.  She is all about seeing those glimpses.

Here is Maira herself, giving a talk about some of her work, simply delightful:

And here is my recipe for sublime French Onion Soup, seriously it is that good.  There are these remnants from when I worked as a cook in my late teens and early twenties, like the few George Winston songs my fingers can still somehow play on the piano.  Mostly I don’t cook now, but sometimes I pull something out like this and my family gawks at me like I’ve started speaking flawless Swahili.  Yes, children, your mother knows how to cook, she just prefers not to….

FrenchOnionSoupSublime French Onion Soup

Thinly THINLY slice several large sweet onions. (Number depends on how much soup you want.  I did 3.)

Melt a half stick of butter in a large, dutch oven or soup pot and stir the onions around in it until they are coated.

Cook these on low-med heat for a while, stirring occasionally.  Maybe 45 minutes.  You want them to caramelize and you want some nice brown crusties to develop on the bottom of the pan, the more the better.  Not black!  Brown.

When the onions are translucent and the bottom of the pan is mucked up with brown, pour a generous cup of wine in and stir, getting all those brown bits off the bottom and dissolved into the wine/onion/butter mix.  I used some cheap marlot.  White wine will work, too.  Add a few minced cloves of garlic and a couple of bay leaves.  Keep stirring until the wine is mostly absorbed.  Some people add a few tablespoons of flour to this step, to make a roux, but I like a more clear broth, so I leave that out.

Add stock, veggie for vegetarians (it will be a little less rich, but still wonderful), or beef if you eat meat.  Enough to cover the onions and then some.  Add a couple of pinches of dried thyme.  Add salt until it tastes good to you.  This will depend on how salty your stock was.  I also like a bit of fresh ground pepper.  Simmer until it starts to smell wonderful.

Dish out onions and broth (which should be a rich brown color) into bowls.  Put in thick slabs of hard-toasted French bread, and grate cheese on top, Mozzarella is lovely, maybe a bit of Parm.  Some people use Gruyere.  Melt under a broiler for a few minutes.

Eat.  Try not to burn your mouth (I always burn my mouth).  It’s amazing.  And not very hard.  Maira, if you are ever in North Carolina, please come over for some of this soup. You would be most welcome.

merry everything!

What we’re doing right now:

Here’s the recipe from Post Punk Kitchen, a site I ran across on google this morning while looking for gingerbread people options.  The cookies are coming out fabulously, nice and spicy with a chewy, crispy texture.  Yum, yum, nom, nom.  They’re vegan, too, bonus for us, but don’t let that stop you if you’re a-feerd of such things.  These are top notch gingerbread folk, eggs and butter or no.

I hope you’re having a lovely holiday!

i can quit any time I want to — plus the recipe for Perfect Pinto Beans, my favorite meal of all time

Hurm.  I seem to be going through a period of profound lack of ambition in all things.  Skipping yoga.  Wearing my pajamas until noon.  Reading trashy books.  Eating absurd amounts of corn chips.  Hating my current novel with a wimpy tongue-stuck-out-Nnnnnn! but refusing to do anything about it.  Floating on the pond until I prune up.

In light of all this, I thought it was time for a return to one of my all time favorite foods.

This:

Long time blog readers might recall this post, documenting my very first experience of Sriracha Chili Sauce.  On that day, I described my mouth melting off and running down the side of my neck. An aside: did you know that capsaicin, the stuff that makes chilli peppers seem “hot,” is actually causing a kind of neuro-confusion in our mouths?  Turns out capsaicin binds with the receptors in our tongue that are supposed to alert us to temperature—that is, if we’ve put something in our mouths that will actually burn our flesh, like, say, boiling water.  But obviously, you can eat a room-temp, or even chilled Sriracha and it will still seem “hot”… because those tongue receptors get all confused and think that anything that binds to them is talking in the language of temperature.  Silly receptors!  It isn’t hot.  It’s just pretending.

Anyway, I’m so into this stuff, I eat it on everything.  I am the butt of endless jokes in my family because of this, but I don’t care.  Until they found me, um, well, they found me squirting some directly into my mouth from the bottle.  Now the jokes will not end.

But it’s not as bad as it sounds!  I had just taken a bite of nachos, an almost perfect bite of nachos, it just needed a little Sriracha to attain said perfection, and so I, innocently, instinctively, picked up the bottle and added the needed ingredient.  By squirting some into my mouth.  For the perfect bite.

Did you know that, since those receptors I mentioned believe the body is being actually burned, they tell the brain to release endorphins, and pronto, because hey, burns hurt!  Endorphins are neurotransmitters that act like morphine to us, happy drugs, pleasure.  Did you know there is medical grade capsaicin proscribed as a pain killer for just this reason?  Did you know there is a freaking capsaicin patch?  But you can get Sriracha over the counter, so hey.  I’m sticking with what I know.

And there are no bad side-effects.  No withdrawal, people.  This is a feel good train that doesn’t end.

My Granddaddy used to grow hot peppers and make hot pepper jelly.  Then the guys would get together and have informal—but deadly serious—competitions on who had made the hottest jelly, and who could eat it in the most manly way.  Until this one time, it was probably funny later, anyway, this one guy ended up in the hospital, and then the wives shut the whole thing down…  You know how it is.

Okay, I was feeling all bad-ass because I apparently have become numb to Sriracha which I now eat straight from the bottle (just that one time!  those two times!  not very often at all!), but then I saw this list where every chili and hot sauce ever invented in the multi-verse has been rated on the Scoville Scale and dang if Sriracha isn’t fairly low on the list.  Like, about 2500.  This is spicy compared to, say, Texas Pete which rates at around 750.  But compared to “Pain,” an actual sauce you can buy and put on your food if you want to suffer like my Grandaddy, Sriracha is nothing.  “Pain” is rated at 15,000.  But even that is child’s play!  “Widow’s Sauce” is rated at 90,000.  Maybe those aforementioned wives knew what they were about.  And straight habanero peppers?  100,000.  Military grade pepper spray?  2,000,000.  Yeah, let me see you spray that shit on your burrito.

Did you know capsaicin increases metabolism?  Yep, those beads of sweat that pop out on your forehead when you’re eating something really spicy are the result of your body burning calories.  So yeah, you’ll lose weight…but only until you get acclimated to that level of heat.  Then you’ll have to keep upping your Scoville tolerance if you want to keep getting the metabolic effect.  You could just print out the list and work your way up it…

I don’t know, I just can’t see the point anymore of eating something without a little spicy red stuff squirted on top.

Peppers are a fruit, not a vegetable, so at least I’m safe there.  Y’all know how I hate vegetables.

What do you think, harmless quirk?  Or dangerous and slippery slope?  The family intervention didn’t work, obviously.  I’m thinking about upping my dosage.  Like maybe a small bottle of “Pain.”

Okay, enough of that, time for the SIMPLEST RECIPE IN THE WORLD.

Maya’s Favorite Bowl of Pinto Beans

1- Soak a pound of dry pinto beans overnight.  Or a couple of days.  Whatever.  Don’t let them sprout.

2- Put the beans in the slow cooker with a bunch of water, a chopped onion, and a dried Ancho Chili.  Maybe add some garlic, if you have the time.  Sometimes I throw in five or six whole cloves, sometimes I bother to chop them up.  A bay leaf is nice, too, but the main thing is that Ancho.

Note: Ancho chilis are not hot.  They just add a lovely flavor to the beans.  A chipotle chili is also a gorgeous smokey flavor, but it’s a little spicier, so probably not for kids.

Important: Do not add any salt whatsoever.  And no tomatoes.  Both of these will cause your beans to stay hard no matter how long you cook them.

3- Cook for a long time.  I don’t know.  Maybe six hours.  But it can be longer if you have to go to work or rotate the tires or save the universe.  Just cook ’em until the beans are as soft as you like them.

Work time: maybe three minutes one day for the soaking.  Maybe five minutes the next day for the dumping of stuff into slow cooker.  I’m telling you people, this stuff is dead easy to make.

Total preparation time including soaking and cooking, a couple of days.

4- Add salt last, after the beans are soft.  They taste DIVINE.  I like them with some cheese grated on top and a spiral of bright red, you guessed it, Sriracha sauce.  I also love them with the world’s best corn bread.  But if I haven’t made that up, a handful of corn chips is nearly as good.

If I could have only one meal for the rest of my life, this would probably be it.  What can I say, I like simple foods. And it’s cheap!  So that’s a plus. As long as I get to take my bottle of Sriracha with me, I’m good.

summer eating: world’s best pesto

A while back, I told y’all about how we set up an herb garden to fulfill my fantasy of stepping out into the yard to pick fresh herbs whenever I damn well felt like it.  I’m here to tell you, this fantasy has come to fruition! (Thank you, Cathy!) Today, I dumped the pasta in to the boiling water, set the timer for ten minutes (so I don’t end up with soggy pasta, or worse, blackened pasta husks burnt to the bottom of a waterless pan because I forgot I was cooking and went to take a bath, no that never really happened, why do you ask?), and thought to myself, “Self, you don’t just want butter on this pasta, you want freshly made pesto!”

Oh my god.  Yes!

“Quick!” I say to Sophie, who loveslovesloves her pesto, “Want to go pick a butt-load of basil for pesto?”

“Yeah!” she says, thrilled to be saved from boring pasta by my brain wave, and she grabs the colander and is out the door.

Here is the state of our herb garden, a couple months after installation.

It isn’t the best, most gorgeous herb garden in the world—observe the weeds—but I think it’s pretty fabulous.  Especially considering I do, essentially, NOTHING to it, except go pick herbs.  We mulched the crap out of them and have ignored them since we planted them.  HERBS ARE FANTASTIC.  The deer even leave them alone (too much with the fancy smells for them).  You really must get yourself one of these.  But see on the right there, the towering, uh, towers of basil as tall as Sophie?  Ka-pow!  Like pure gold, I’m telling ya!

So, back in the kitchen, I gather ingredients and in a minute Sophie arrives with the basil and we rinse it and throw all this stuff into the food processor and boom.  Pesto!  Fragrant, bright green, difficult to not just scoop it out of the processor with our fingers, who needs the pasta, YUM.

It took ten minutes to make, including picking and washing the basil, because remember that timer I set?  It went off, just as we hit the puree button.  With basil in the garden, you are just ten minutes from one of the pinnacles of summer eating goodness.

World’s Best Pesto

2 cups or so of fresh basil leaves.  Wash and dry a bit, pick off the ones with bugs.

1/4 cup parsley

1/4 cup pine nuts, or if those are too expensive, unsalted sunflower seeds

3 or so garlic cloves, minced

1/4 teaspoon salt (adjust as you like)

some fresh ground pepper

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup grated Parmesan and/or Romano cheese

Do the garlic and the salt first.  Then add everything but the cheese and whiz it around.  Then add the cheese last.  You can easily double this recipe, or triple it, but I like to make small batches (it’s so easy to do) because I love it when it is really, really fresh.

And here you go:

“Mom, stop taking pictures of it, I want to eat it!”

cooking up a mess of oysters

What are these people hanging around in the cold for?

Fresh oysters!

I love how suspicious Sophie looks in that one. But there are several key ingredients to a successful oyster-based gathering in this shot. Oysters, of course. Shucking knives. Shuckers. And, obviously, beer. Lots of beer. A pretty, oyster-proof table is nice, too. My aunt made this one—that is, she made, glazed and fired the tiles, and she welded the metal frame. She’s amazing.

But on with the oysters! Here is what you need to cook them.

What we have here is a big honking piece of steel, in this case, the lid to a fuel oil tank, balanced on top of a hot, hot fire. A nearby hose is a good idea, too. No, there isn’t any fuel oil on it, don’t be silly. They’ve been cooking oysters on this puppy for a decade. All the fuel oil is burnt off by now.

Anyway, you get a mess of oysters from your source, and you hose them off, a lot. Gritty oysters suck. DON’T soak them. If you soak them, they draw in a bunch of water in, and grit along with it, becoming inedible. How dare they! Also, don’t keep your washed oysters in the fridge—too cold. And don’t close the lid on the cooler. Just keep them in there with the ice, and get thee to your oyster cooking apparatus forthwith!

Here we go! Dump them on…

…and cover them with a sopping wet towel. Poor babies, steamed alive for our culinary pleasure. What monsters we are.

It doesn’t take long, maybe five minutes. Just long enough for Super Luc and his side kick Sophie to run off to the trampoline.

Are they done yet? Let’s take a peek….

Ooo, they’re looking good. You want most of them to have opened, but not all, or they’ll be over cooked. I don’t know if you can make out a popped oyster in this photo, but these babies are ready to eat.

A giant grain shovel is useful for getting them off the cooker. Push them on with a long handled rake. Yow, that fire is hot!

Here comes dinner!

Mmmmm…..

Here is a good one, freshly shucked.

Look at this gigantic oyster, holy cow, that’s just gross

Next is the most important part. You stand around, shooting the shit, laughing, drinking your beer, and gobbling delicious salty oysters as fast as you can shuck them. Or as fast as you can get someone to shuck them for you. Don’t cut your hand! And get the next batch on the cooker, these folks are hungry!

Here’s what you end up with.

And don’t worry about the silver and other toxic chemicals the oysters probably sucked out of the polluted waterways as you slurp’em down. Didn’t you know eating oysters is an extreme sport?

Super Luc and Sophie say, Eat Your Oysters! They’ll make you strong! If they don’t, you know, give you food poisoning.

Yum!

triple chocolate pudding goop, or, this way lies madness

I have discovered the most amazing-gooey-triple-chocolate-orgasm recipe in this universe. Maybe all universes. Except for that weird one with all the shrimp. Anyway, this is chocolaty madness in a bowl, impossible to resist, instantly fattening, gross and wonderful, in the way eating cake batter can make you feel sinful in the best possible way. This is NOT some nifty desert to make for a party. This is something to mix up in the middle of the night to ward off depression. Best eaten warm, out of the pot, with a spoon, while talking to your best friend on the phone. It’s kind of like fudge pudding, or maybe liquid brownies, or maybe some kind of gooey, chewy, crispy ice-cream topping. But however you do it, I kid you not: this is the real thing.

Get ready. Get set. Go!

1- Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.

2- Beat together:

2 eggs

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

3- Melt 1 stick of butter (I use the microwave)

4- Add to the melted butter, 2-3 heaping tablespoons of the best cocoa money can buy. Or the cheap stuff. Whatever you’ve got at two in the morning will work.

5- Add the cocoa/butter mixture to the other stuff and mix well.

6- Finally add 1 running over teaspoon of vanilla.

Now, a decision, and the answer will depend on how badly you are suffering. Eat it now, raw? Or wait 50 minutes for it to cook? Some of both? (That’s usually my choice.)

7- Pour whatever batter you can manage to separate yourself from into a loaf pan and place the pan into another pan with an inch of water in it. Then put this whole pan-within-the-pan arrangement into the oven.

It will take 45-50 minutes for the top to reach optimal crunchiness to contrast with the oozing chocolate goo of the middle. Don’t over cook! You want the middle to be gooey, trust me!

Ding! The oven bell goes off. Thank the Diva of Chocolate and all her Attending Goddesses!

But now, the hardest part. Waiting for it to cool enough to eat. Don’t burn your mouth! I will not be held responsible for burned mouths!

Okay, prepare for your eyes to bug out of your head on that first bite. Put a clean bowl nearby to catch them. Go ahead and order a larger size of pants, so that they have time to arrive by the time you are scraping the pot clean with your fingernails. Don’t be like me and start sucking it off my children’s dirty shirt fronts on the way to the laundry basket, because that’s just gross. But do prepare for losing your mind. If you like chocolate. And if you don’t like chocolate, I don’t want to know. Some kinds of perversity are just too far.

And no, I don’t have a photo. Taking a picture would require that I have some of this stuff sitting around that I am not currently eating. Not possible. And besides, this isn’t about presentation. It’s about need. Now, go forth. Triple chocolate orgasms await you.

best damned cornbread on the planet

A friend of mine recently joked with me that it was pretty hilarious that I have a ‘recipes’ section of my blog when I don’t cook.

And what’s that supposed to mean? I cook! I mean, I CAN cook. Hey, I’ve done my time in the food service industry! Line cook, stove cook, short order cook, prep cook. Two years after high school I supported myself feeding the masses at various of the local eateries. I’ll never forget spending my Sunday mornings separating 64 eggs to make two gallons of really freaking good, if I do say so myself, Hollandaise Sauce for the brunch crowd at one of my cook jobs. I had to stand on a stool to whisk because the double boiler was higher than my head. We had buttons made that read “Subversive Brunch” and “Fuck Brunch” because the shift was so slammed, we wanted fewer patrons. We joked about running out of the kitchen yelling “Roaches!” to try to thin the crowd. You know, I don’t think the owners knew about that.

Anyway, so, you know, maybe I don’t cook much now because I’ve used up all my cooking already. Have you thought of that? Maybe we only get so many “Person’s Fed” allotted to us at birth, and I’ve already nearly filled my quota. Maybe I’m pacing myself for the rest of my life.

And anyway, I just made the best damned corn bread you’re ever going to eat. And I’m going to write how I did it on my blog in my recipes section. So there. And you better be nice to me or you can’t have any. You know who you are.

Fluffy, sweet, yellow, and marvelous with the butter and honey dripping down your fingers and straight—zoom!—to your thighs. You can’t be a southern girl if you don’t know how to make cornbread.

Best Damned Cornbread on the Planet

1 1/2 cups buttermilk, yogurt, or plain milk with a splash of lemon in it (Ours came from Fancy the goat. Thanks Fancy!)

1 stick of butter

2 eggs (ours came from Coco the chicken. Thanks Coco!)

1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar, depending on how sweet you like it

1 cup yellow cornmeal, the coarse grind makes it chewier, the fine grind makes it fluffier

1 cup flour

1 tsp baking soda

Okay, you want an iron skillet for this. I don’t know why this works so well, but if you want that crispy outside and the ultra-tender inside, you just have to get out the skillet, the one that weighs about ten pounds and can’t be lifted with just one hand, at least not by me with my skinny-ass wrists. All right, you take your skillet and you throw it in the oven (I mean, don’t THROW it or you’ll bust your oven. Duh.) Put the oven on 400 degrees. Oh, and put the stick of butter in the skillet while the oven is getting hot. That way, the butter is melting while you do the other stuff.

Other stuff: mix buttermilk, eggs, sugar and salt with a whisk. Pour in the melted butter (leave a bit in the pan for anti-sticking purposes). Don’t get burned when you pour the melted butter from that heavy pan! Ask someone with super-strength to help. Okay, whisk like hell, then dump in the cornmeal and the baking soda and whisk again until the batter is nicely smooth.

Now pour the whole mess of it into the iron skillet and put it back in the oven for about 25 minutes. When it’s done it will be as golden as the sun and the crispy edges will pull away from the sides of the pan in the essence of cornbread nirvana. Slice into wedges and eat. I love mine eaten with chili on a cold day. The leftovers get scarfed at breakfast the next morning with the aforementioned honey and butter. Yum.

See? I can too cook.

homemade baileys

I’m a sucker for alcoholic drinks that are essentially chocolate milk for grown-ups. One time, this bartender in a fancy Italian restaurant made me a drink that was like eating an excellent chocolate truffle—damn, I wish I knew how he did that. Sigh. Anyway, in search of repeating that divine beverage, I found Baileys, which is pretty great, but not the drinkable truffle drink. (I think it had Frangelica in it, plus a bunch of other stuff. Anyone have any leads on genius, Italian bartenders?)

But did you know how expensive Baileys is? Holy cow, it’s like $30 bucks a bottle! Sheesh!

In Baileys rebound, I tried a bottle of Carolans, but rejected it. I mean, it tastes pretty good at first, but then leaves this weird, chemical residue in my mouth, yuck. I pawned it off on my unsuspecting cousin, who is, um, probably reading this right now. Oh, Hi, Tracie! How ya doing?

Okay, moving right along. In deference to our current economic crisis, I decided to try to make my own Baileys. How hard can it be? Here is a recipe I found on-line, and then tweaked a little:

Homemade Baileys for Cheapskates

1 cup light cream (organic half-n-half worked well)

14 oz sweetened condensed milk (this was like heroin for me when I was a kid. a can of condensed milk and a spoon, and they would have to drop me off at detox)

1 2/3 cup Irish Whiskey (I used Bushmills)

1 tsp instant coffee ( I didn’t have any, so I used Kahlua)

2 Tbs melted chocolate (you could use Hershey’s style syrup, but why go for the cheap stuff, when you’ve got some of the good stuff on hand?)

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp almond

Mix it all in a blender for 30-60 seconds and then let it sit in the fridge for a couple of days.

Of course, I tried some right out of the blender and was quite disappointed. Turns out I don’t like alcoholic chocolate milk after all—maybe there is some other component to the fancy, sweet, drink experience that only that Italian bartender knew.

But, then again, maybe not, because, Lo! I tried my concoction again the next day and it had improved immensely. And the day after that, it had become quite lovely! Delightful, in fact! And I doubt I will find out how good it might taste after waiting a week because it will probably all be gone! Ahem. No, I am not a lush. Much. I’d like to do a side-by-side with real Baileys, but again, I may run out of the moonshine version before I manage to go to the ABC store and plunk down my $30 bucks.

If I do, I’ll be sure to report my findings.

mayonnaise, food of the gods

I saw Tom Robbins speak one time–what a cool guy!–and though much of the evening has faded, I do remember him declaring mayonnaise the food of the gods. I have to agree. And since, lately, our chickens have far outpaced us in terms of egg production vs. egg consumption (I think there are about 40 eggs in the fridge right now, we’ve two dozen to give away this afternoon!), I’ve been trying to think up new ways to use them. So, today, when I wanted a chicken sandwich for lunch and found only a jar of Reduced-Fat mayo, purchased by my husband–WHAT was he thinking?!–I decided to make some of my own mayonnaise with some of our chicken eggs.

As an aside, my husband has the kind of sense of humor that goes through periods where the predominant audience response (the audience in question being me) is not laughter, so much, as this kind of long suffering, “Oh, Brother.” I was making this facial expression so much, at one point, that I was starting to fear getting “Oh, Brother” wrinkles. A moment’s consideration found the solution. Instead of making the “Oh, Brother” face, I would just say “One” and that would be the wrinkle-saving code hence forth. “One” was quickly followed by “Two,” code for “I’d rather shoot myself,” and “Three,” code for “I don’t have TIME to explain what is wrong with that [fill in the blank, such as, say, a sweater vest, or repotting plants on the sofa].” It’ such a time saver! Reduced-fat mayo got a “One,” a “Two, AND a “Three.” See? No exasperation wrinkles! When I’m eighty I’ll look like I lived a blissful, relaxed existence.

Okay, back to the mayo. It’s so easy! And here is the reason you should make your own, even if you don’t have a surplus egg problem. You have to beat the crap out of it with a whisk, using way more calories then you would merely opening a jar, thus obliterating all guilt from one’s mayo. Isn’t that cool?

Here’s how you do it. You take an egg yolk. You add a tablespoon of lemon juice, and a 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Whisk. Then, sloooowly, drop by drop, you add about 1/2-3/4 cup of oil. Something bland, like peanut. All of these proportions are changeable, depending on your preferences for the final mayo flavor. Some people add a little cayenne, or mustard, or vinegar (as part of the lemon juice measurement). Each drop of oil gets whisked into the eggs, creating an emulsion. Make sure each drop of oil is totally absorbed before adding the next. Once you get a good flow, you can kind of trickle in the oil, so it isn’t as slow as I’m making it sound. The above quantities take about ten minutes to mix. And then you get this:

Those are Sophie’s toes in the background. “Mommy, why are you taking a picture of the mayo? I thought you were going to make us a chicken sandwich?” Ahem. Our mayo is really yellow because our chickens eat lots of grass and bugs, creating extremely colorful yolks. Also, I think the store bought stuff uses the egg whites as well, which dilutes the yellow color. After it’s all mixed, you can keep it in the fridge for a couple of weeks. This is this cute jar that the Nuttella comes in (okay, not Nutella but some all-natural version that I get at Whole Foods). I am totally addicted to Nuttella on my toast in the morning. I mean, if you can have chocolate for breakfast, why have anything else?

The flavor of home made mayonnaise is really surprising, bright and fresh. It’s hard to describe why fresh food tastes better until you’ve had some. One of the huge benefits of having a micro-farm is milk and eggs that were in the goat and chicken, respectively, that morning. Now that’s fresh! Anyway, my chicken sandwich was fabulous. In case you were wondering.

how to make chevre

Making cheese is always about separating the curd from the whey. –The Cheese Nun

Chevre is a white, creamy cheese made from goat milk. It can be sharp, perfect with herbs on a cracker, or it can be mild, with less salt, like a bright cream cheese, or a dessert cheese. The steps are extremely similar to making queso blanco: get the milk at the right temp, add some stuff that makes the milk separate into curds and whey, then pour through cheese cloth and hang up to drain. As the Cheese Nun says, the steps in making soft cheeses are always basically the same. Getting a different cheese is all in the details. (Did you know they have man-made cheese aging caves in France that have been in continuous use for a thousand years??? The Cheese Nun has the scoop.)

Here’s what you need:

Half a gallon of goat milk (whole and raw is what we used), 1/8 teaspoon chevre direct set culture, and 1/5 of one drop of rennet. Maybe some salt, unless you want it as a dessert cheese. You also need a stainless steel pot with a lid, a thermometer, and a stainless steel skimmer or slotted spoon.

If the milk is from the fridge, you will want to warm it up to 72 degrees. If the milk is from the goat, you can just pour it into your pot. Unless you’re worried about pasteurization, which some people are. So far, I’m all about raw milk. If I get rushed to the emergency room, you’ll know why.

Okay, so once you get the milk to 72 degrees, you add your chevre culture. Basically, there are all these complicated steps to making a mother culture in ice cube trays, warming this and freezing that–or you can just pay a little more and get the direct set kind which you add directly to the milk. Which do you think I did? Right.

Okay, you dump that stuff in and then you dump in your 1/5 drop of rennet–

–wait a minute, you say, how the heck do you get one fifth of a drop? Well, it’s easy. You put five tablespoons of water in a cup, add one drop of rennet, mix well, and then get one tablespoon of the water and mix it into the milk.

You stir the rennet in through your skimmer, which Sophie tried to get a picture of here. You want the rennet as evenly distributed as possible, and you want to use the absolute minimum amount, lest one’s cheese get rubbery. So if you get rubbery cheese, use less next time.

And that’s it for a while. Put the lid on your pot, put it somewhere warmish, around 75 degrees, and ignore it for sixteen hours or so. Live life. Have a party. Whatever. Just don’t disturb your cheese. Here is what that part looks like:

Okay. You come back and peek in the pot and yuck, what a mess of coagulated milk you have, floating in a mass of greenish liquid. Gross. Still, you ladle that stuff (or pour it, if it isn’t too thick) into your cheese cloth lined colander.

Tie it up like so, hang it from somewhere, and wait five hours more while it drains.

We used the kitchen sink again, which I don’t really recommend because it meant we couldn’t really use the sink all afternoon, so the dishes kept piling up and by the time it was time to eat the cheese, our microscopically small kitchen had disappeared under the weight of them. I had to do some major cropping in the final product photo which is here:

Poof! Chevre! Doesn’t that sound cosmopolitan and rustic all at the same time? What kind of goaty magic is it that performs this slight of hand? Well, anyway, it’s really, really good. We salted it and ate it for breakfast with peach jam on toast. Yum! Thank you Fancy (that would be our currently lactating goat) for the milk!