Monthly Archive for January 2011
I’m a big believer in a homemade pie crust. Pate brisee, in fact, is one of my favorite phrases to say aloud. Try it: pate brisee. Pate brisee! PATE BRISEE. See? And it’s not just that. It’s the magic that is made of butter, plus flour, plus salt, plus water, plus heat. That magic is flaky and rich, and is a wonderfully accommodating receptacle for all kinds of delicious. Apples, peeled and chunked, cinnamon-spiked and saucy, for instance. Or, for another, dizzying trails of pecans atop a super-sweet, salt-cut chocolate base. And don’t forget the classic: a silky, burnt orange pumpkin custard.
I’ll happily try to convince anyone who’ll listen that the homemade pie crust is nowhere near as tricky a feat as some will have you believe. Sure—it takes a couple tries to get the hang of it. Mainly, you need to learn not to have too heavy or too light a hand when it comes to adding water to the flour-butter-salt base. And it helps tremendously to work very quickly and to keep your ingredients cold. Beyond that, I swear, pate brisee (pate brisee, pate brisee, pate brisee—sorry (but not really)) is a snap. Not to mention incredibly worth it.
One of my favorite posts to date deals with a subject near to my heart: bars. You know—the type of cookie that is baked in a single layer and then sliced into bars. Not squares. Not bites. Not (worst of all) surprises. But, bars. Pronounced, preferably, in a strong Minnesota accent—the kind you’re most likely to hear in the northerly reaches of the state, which also happen to be locations where, in my experience, such bars are ubiquitous. Say, Hibbing or Grand Marais or Grand Rapids or Duluth. I was born in the last of these towns and have family that lives near the second and third. Which is to say that I am kind of expert on the charm of the Minnesota accent. And, of course, I am also an avowed fan of the bar.
For all of this love of bars (the cookie kind, that is—the off-sale establishments in the aforementioned towns are the subject of another post), you may be surprised to learn that I’ve never made lemon bars, a classic version of the bar by any measure. And, while it’s likely that I’ve at least eaten a lemon bar in the past (perhaps at a potluck, or maybe a post-church coffee hour?), if I did, I don’t remember doing so.
And then, after all that fun in Austin, 2011 got down to business. You know, the business of work, and the gym, and taking out the trash, and loads of laundry, and rides on the El. The business, in other words, of life. Throw in a woolen sweater, some heavy boots and a set of chapped lips and the picture is more accurate, or timely at least—the business of life in January. And, while I know it’s customary to complain these heart-of-winter days away—wishing fervently for longer days and stronger sunshine and delicate, un-knobbly, in-season produce that grew above ground—I can’t help but appreciate the return of normalcy.
There’s a delicious comfort in it.
Happy new year, friends. I’m a little late, I know—five days to be exact. My excuse is that I was ringing in 2011 with a long weekend in Austin. But I’m here now, ready for 2011—and ready, too, to tell you about Austin.
Vacations, I think, tend to fall into two camps. There are the trips to places where you could never imagine living, which makes you love the place all the more, for all the ways it’s different from where you do live, for how truly away you feel when you’re there. And then there are the trips to places where you feel instantly at home, where you’re sure you’d live a happy life, which allows you to relax and leads you to do the same kinds of things you’d do at home, like grocery shopping and neighborhood wandering and sofa lounging.