Sunday, November 29, 2015

Of Course There Was Pie

This is the dessert that turned out well, a cranberry-currant pie with cognac, based on David Lebovitz's Cranberry Raisin Pie recipe. I used currants instead of cranberries, and soaked them in the juice of two oranges instead of water, and didn't squeeze out the extra liquid because there wasn't a lot of it, and I wanted the orange flavor. I used cognac instead of the orange liqueur, from a small bottle shaped like the Eiffel Tower that I got in the duty-free shop at Charles de Gaulle, la dernière goutte de ma vie française, hélas. And instead of the cup of sugar, I drizzled in a tablespoon of raw honey that I'd gotten at the farmer's market on Wednesday. Oh, and I only had gluten-free pie crust for the bottom, so had to put a sheet of foil over the top of the pie during the last half of the baking so it didn't dry out. I liked it. I also had some of Mom's green tomato mincemeat pie, but couldn't taste Ben's pumpkin pie or his double-crusted apple pie, both of which got buried under avalanches of whipped cream when Morgan and Leah served themselves. And there was ice cream and coconut-based whipped topping as well, plus eggnog and maple syrup for the French toast this morning, and all in all I had more sugar this weekend than I think I ate in the entire month of October, when I started my elimination diet. Which I am going back to, for the most part, and so no more desserts (or at least not in that quantity), any time soon. I'll make that cranberry-currant pie again, though. Just as soon as I go back to France for more cognac.

The Other Side Of The Mountains

It was a frosty morning in Portland when we left on Thursday morning to head east over the Cascades, but once we got to Sunriver it was a new level of frosty, down below zero most nights and not much higher the rest of the time. Beautiful, though - clear and blue, with the ice crystals that formed overnight on the treetops dusting down in a rain of glittering sparks throughout the day. Mom and I went on a walk with Daisy the dog on Friday afternoon while everyone else was out watching football. We walked on the road that loops past and over the canal off the Deschutes River, which itself loops back and forth across the flat high desert. Daisy bounded off through the drifts, body-surfing in the powder. The skiing was probably amazing on Mt Bachelor this weekend.

Sunriver itself is not a place I'm familiar with, although I did get over there once the spring before I left for France. And Mom reminded me that we went there once when we lived in Ashland, where we learned to cross-country ski. Other than that I never really went farther east than Breitenbush, mostly, although Bend is only about 3 hours away from Portland. It was nice crunching around in the snow, though, and I wouldn't mind visiting more often in the winter.

Yesterday we visited a great thrift store where I finally found a dress black Ralph Lauren skirt that I can wear for work and a pair of Eddie Bauer fleece-lined boots, plus a nice scarf and two bowls for the kitchen, all for under 40 dollars. John scored with a merino wool sweater and another in cashmere for half that. If it weren't 3 hours away I would shop at that thrift store every week. Then we went to the craft fair at the Sunriver Resort, and took a short walk along the path by the golf course, where Daisy tore around madly some more, enjoying the snow.

Mom had prepared Thanksgiving dinner, with ham that John had smoked himself, and a grilled ling cod that they caught off the coast at Gold Beach, plus green beans and rice salad and carrots and homemade cranberry mustard. Friday I put in about 6 hours of freelance work in the morning, and then baked two desserts after Mom and I got back from our walk. One turned out very oddly - that was the experimental recipe I'd had in mind, and reminded me of why I don't bake more often. Too much measuring. The other turned out well, though. More freelance work that evening while Kate and Ben and Morgan taught Mom how to play Texas Hold'em, and Leah chatted to her boyfriend on Skype. After a late lunch at a local restaurant on Saturday, we were content to graze on leftovers last night, and had just enough to make sack lunches for our respective drives home to Carpenterville (Mom and John), Corvallis (Morgan), and Portland.

The roads were much less icy on the drive back, and it was a quicker drive. It got warmer as we went west, and by the time we came over the crest of the mountains it was up above freezing again, though I was glad enough to turn the heat on in the house before I unpacked, and I don't have my bedroom window cracked open as I generally do, to get the fresh air. It's a little too fresh out there right now. Though perhaps I should go out and enjoy the clear cold skies while they're here - the weather will change tomorrow, and instead of sun we'll be back to rain for the foreseeable future. But I'm grateful for the good weather over Thanksgiving, and the chance to share it with my family again. Now if only Ian and Corey and Vanessa could have been there ...

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Canard Rôti

I'd already planned on roasting a chicken for this week's meals ($2.99/lb for the organic fryers at New Seasons) but when we walked by the Cerigioli Gardens stand at the Montavilla Farmers Market this morning and saw the sign reading "fresh duck," Quyen and I both swerved over and asked to see what they had. The vendor opened the cooler lid and we stepped back in shock at the monster poultry lurking inside. But then he said those were the turkeys, and pulled out a smaller bird from underneath.

The chicken was roasted as planned, but early enough in the day that I could let it cool and take it apart into legs in one container and the breast meat in another, covered with the juices from the pan to keep it moist. The carrots that roasted underneath the chicken and the two heads of garlic I put in the pan are ready to add in at lunch or dinner. Quyen and I ate the hot salty roasted chicken skin from the breast; I put the carcass into the freezer for stock.

The duck roasted at 425F for 50 minutes on top of celery stalks, then I flipped it over and roasted it for another 50 minutes. We were supposed to wait 15 minutes before carving it but only made it to 10 before tearing into the meat, which looked overcooked to the eye but ended up being amazingly tender, even the legs. Quyen's making soup out of the bones, which is pretty much all that was left. It was a very good dinner.

fresh watercress in mustard vinaigrette | wild rice blend cooked and mixed with sauteed chard, shallots, and fish sauce

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Escaping The Office

Although I'm still waking up before sunrise, at least it's lighter when I leave the house. But the sun doesn't really come up from behind the Cascades until I'm caught in the canyon of the downtown buildings, and sometimes the only sunlight I see all day comes reflected in off the tall glass towers on the other side of the street. Because I leave early to avoid the worst of the morning commute (no escaping the crowd in the afternoon, I'm afraid), I'm generally done eating lunch before noon, which means my hour-long break can be devoted to getting outside, especially in search of the sun.

Two blocks north by five blocks east equals ten minutes to the greenway along the Willamette, and the loop from the west side up to the Burnside Bridge, over to the Eastbank Esplanade, and back via the Hawthorne Bridge takes just under sixty minutes if I'm not constantly stopping to take pictures. Which I generally am, but sometimes a relaxing stroll with artistic intentions is just as refreshing as a brisk aerobic circuit at the water's edge, and while I didn't get my heart rate up that day, I've got pictures to put up on this blog, in what is turning out to be my bimonthly "coucou, je suis toujours là" post.