Yesterday, I was in search of things to nurture, comfort and sooth and for me, cooking and baking are my sources of succor. What better way to lift up the spirit then a nourishing dish like the gratin dauphinois or a potato gratin. This variation, there are dozens of them, is simple. I rubbed my gratin dish with a split garlic clove, I layered the sliced potatoes with a layer of grated Swiss cheese and at each layer I seasoned with salt, pepper and nutmeg and I added the crushed garlic clove that I had rubbed the pan with, waste not, want not. I doused the potatoes with about a cup of heavy cream and I baked it for a little over an hour at 350. The house smelled so nice and homey with the aroma of nuttiness from the Swiss cheese, I could also smell the potatoes steaming in the heavy cream, you can tell the difference from potatoes cooked in cream from the aroma of fried potatoes in oil. I prefer the sweetness and richness of the cream induced aroma, it exudes comfort for me. The gratin is an amalgam of textures and flavors, all complimentary but important contrasts as well, giving the gratin its tasty nuance. My gratin did its intended job, it was a nice piece of comfort taken from a culinary tradition so very dear to me, the French home cooking tradition. It reminded us of eating with our family at our uncle’s, our aunt’s or our cousin’s tables sharing stories and laughter.
I have found over the years that gardening, writing, baking and cooking have all become ways that I channel away my anxieties and angst. There are times when I don’t even know why I feel anxious, but I do and instead of wondering as to the why of it; I focus instead of using either gardening or cooking to physically work out those negative feelings before they take a hold of my psyche and it works for me.
Today since it was raining, I turned to my kitchen and decided to make a frittata with what I had in the pantry and the refrigerator. Onions, garlic and chives when it as usual, but this time I wanted to use up the baby red potatoes, so I diced them up to sauté them and I had a flash of inspiration, why not sauté the potatoes in duck fat that I had in the freezer, potatoes taste wonderfully when sautéed in duck fat, so they should be a tasty addition to my frittata. I added a nice helping of crumbled goat cheese because my son liked it so much in the last one that I had made and I put it in the oven and voila.
Later on tonight I will assemble the Vietnamese soup with all of the herbs; mint, scallions and cilantro chopped and the bean thread noodles, the shredded chicken and the tiny shrimp. The kitchen has smelled very comforting these past two days, tomorrow I may bake something such as an apple tart, I’ll see how I feel tomorrow morning.
I wish that technology would advance to the point where we can share aromas as well as visuals in our blogs. My kitchen smells really nice right now, just like Sunday dinner. I made roast beef and a gratin of potatoes for our son for the week so that he has something nourishing to eat. I can do the tough love and not cook anything, but the only person being punished by this is myself, fretting about our son’s diet. And to be honest about it, everyone knows by now that I love cooking anyway so why not just do it. It isn’t as if I am depriving our son of exploring his inner chef, he has made it very loud and clear, he hasn’t any inclination to cook now or anytime in the future.
Roast beef is good hot or cold, I made a little jus from the drippings so he can do with that as he pleases and the gratin is easily heated up in the microwave. I can guarantee that Jack will be sitting right next to our son as he eats, begging for something, anything and if our son decides not to share, I bet that Jack will be sniffing the floor all around where our son sat; praying for the tiniest sliver of food that might have escaped from the plate or our son’s mouth. He really is a miniature Hoover vacuum masquerading as a dog, dedicated to inhaling all things edible wherever they may be; on the floor, in the cushions on the seats of chairs; it’s his mission to find it and eat it.
You have to appreciate a lady when she promises you rhubarb from her garden with a copy of her recipe for rhubarb chutney and the very next day, she delivers said rhubarb and recipe. Bonnie is a peach! I will have to make her recipe so that I can tell her at next month’s French club meeting that it was yummy. I should try to make something else and deliver her some of whatever I come up with. While she was at the door, I was in the process of peeling potatoes because I decided to make a gratin Dauphinois or gratin of potato. It has been the perfect weather for baking and roasting things because it’s either drizzling, cloudy or sunny at a cool 69 degrees. I am not complaining, I love the roasting and the baking, I am only getting concerned for my plants because there is such a thing as too much rain and they can drown. Tomorrow they are predicting between 3 and 5 inches of rain, the grass in the park behind my house is flooded already, tomorrow won’t be pretty for the water logged meadow. Theoretically the next time we are due for sun will be on Saturday. My plants and I will be looking forward to Saturday. I do have to say that this spring has been really great in one aspect, I haven’t been plagued by May flies at all, between the rain and the wind, they were nowhere to be found this season. Hooray for that!
I was outside today taking care of the pool and the water situation and for some unknown reason I felt compelled to check to see if I had any wild strawberries growing and lo and behold, this is so exciting, I had at least three wild strawberries growing. It doesn’t take much to get me excited about nature. I’m even allergic to strawberries, but it doesn’t matter, I have organic strawberries growing in my garden around the pool. How good is that?
After I was done with the pool and my picture taking, I decided to make a potato, chive and garlic frittata. I think that frittata has become one of my favorite things to make, it is so easy and so delicious with minimal ingredients. I diced up four medium potatoes and sautéed them until they were golden and took them out of the pan and onto a paper towel. I preheated the oven to 350 and minced garlic which got thrown into an oven proof pan with olive oil. While that was on the heat, I cracked and whisked seven eggs together , added salt and pepper and threw them into the pan with the garlic. I added sliced chives that I got from my garden and then I added the sautéed potatoes. When the eggs were set on the bottom, I put the pan in the oven for about five minutes and I inverted the frittata onto a plate.
I made broccoli for myself, sautéed with garlic and olive oil, salt and pepper. I love broccoli, it’s filling and delicious.