(or, “how I attempt to fit a month’s worth of blogging into one post”…)
Vintage home goods by Hugh at the Detroit Holiday Food Bazaar
Did I really let the whole month of December go by without posting a single time? I guess that’s what will happen when you decide to plan a big event in early December AND take on a few freelance jobs in addition to attempting to supply the metro area with homemade jam for their gift-giving needs.
The main room at Food Bazaar- the Beau Bien table is at lower left
At the risk of sounding like one of those end-of-year holiday letters, allow me to recap for posterity. I brought the Detroit Holiday Food Bazaar back this year, dubbing it the “2nd annual”, so I guess I’m committed to making it a yearly event now! It was quite a bit bigger than last year’s, with 26 vendors (as opposed to 16) and a much larger venue, in an unfinished space above Cost Plus Wines in Eastern Market. The evening wasn’t without hitches (just ask my friend James), but considering my inexperience with event planning and the “rustic”, on-the-down-low nature of the event, I’d say it was a pretty slamming success. We added more prepared-food vendors as well as some tables (borrowed from Tashmoo- thanks Suzanne & Aaron!) where people could take in the city views from the large front windows. It will be an interesting challenge to see where things go next year- I think the Bazaar has already outgrown something that can be sustained as an underground endeavor, so I’ll likely have to figure out how to proceed “above board” (i.e. pulling permits, etc) while keeping the spirit and purpose of the original event.
A selection of chocolate truffles from Pete’s Chocolates
Naturally fermented pickles by Suddenly Sauer
Incidentally, thanks to my pal Evan over at Gourmet Underground Detroit for the food bazaar photos, since I was too busy running around to take any. If you check out this post, you can see a slideshow with more pics from the bazaar as well as the GUDetroit holiday party. The first image in the slideshow is from a fun little photo shoot we did at our house. Update: I just came across another Food Bazaar slideshow on the Drought Juice website here- nice pics, ladies!
A sampling of our jams
Seeing as how Beau Bien sold out of product at the Food Bazaar, the weeks between 12/9 and Christmas were kept busy scrambling to fill holiday orders. Big ups to my partner Molly who really kept the ship afloat while I was tied up at my desk job! We have big goals for 2012, so stay tuned on that.
A shopper browses Marvin‘s (mostly) food photos at the Bazaar
The past few weeks, my Google reader has been filled to bursting with posts about seasonal treats such as roast goose, gingerbread houses, candied nuts, and all other manner of holiday goodies. I’ve watched and read enviously from the sidelines, wishing that I had the time, energy and wherewithal to make my own festive recipes, let alone have time to blog about them.
Holidays for me as a “single gal” have always been about going somewhere else. None of my family are here in the immediate Detroit area, so Christmas always involves traveling. Since there’s just one of me and several of them, there’s never really an option to host a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal at my house. Perhaps that’s why I never feel fully in the holiday spirit to do things at home, such as put up a tree or lights, make Christmas cookies, or blog about holiday food. Instead of puttering about the kitchen, I’m packing bags and making travel plans.
I’m hoping that will change in 2010- a few days ago on my birthday (Dec. 27), Marvin proposed, and I accepted! We’re going to start looking for a house of our own, and by holiday-time next year we should be all settled in. I am eagerly anticipating all of the firsts, especially our first Christmas in our own home, and I’m sure I’ll be much more motivated to decorate, make goodies, and basically “nest” more so than I have in my bachelorette flat.
This holiday season in particular involved quite a bit of hither-and-thither: Detroit on Christmas eve, East Lansing for Christmas day, and finally, South Carolina. The day after Christmas we got up early and packed up the car for a marathon drive to SC to see my mom. We arrived late on the 26th and drove home New Year’s Day. More details to come, but the highlight of course was my birthday and the proposal. It was somewhat of a comedy of errors- he had told my sisters, one of whom couldn’t keep it to herself (ahem, N,) and told my mom, so everyone knew what was going on and contrived for us to go to the beach with wine, lawn chairs, etc. And then he ended up telling me he had told them, so I didn’t even have the illusion of surprising them! But in the end, it was great to be surrounded by family at such an important and special moment. At dinner, I announced the “news” during grace by saying I was thankful for my “fiancé” (upon hearing the word, the table broke out in a chorus of hoots and hollers), who “has a big mouth but an even bigger heart”. (Hokey, yes, I know!)
I have much more to write about our holiday food (look for a post on Marvin’s mom’s roasted salsa) and travels (we had some great roadfood), but for now I just wanted to share my big news with you and wish you the happiest new year yet! I also want to give a BIG THANK YOU to all of those who participated in the $2-menu challenge- you helped raise $100 for Gleaners! (Since participation was a little on the lean side, I rounded up…) It’s no Menu for Hope, but I’d like to think it was a fruitful exercise and that we raised awareness a little bit. Perhaps we can do something similar in the summer when the farmers’ markets are more bountiful.
Photos: lamppost in Savannah; old church in Bluffton, SC; the beach at Hilton Head where the proposal took place
I understand what it’s like to have your birthday fall close to a holiday and feel a little bummed out when people are too busy to get together, or out of town, or whatever. So when my friend Sarah, whose birthday was Dec. 19, invited me out to meet them for drinks that night, I wanted to do something to make it a little bit special. They were having a holiday/birthday party the following night for her and her husband Steve (whose birthday falls on Christmas- I guess I shouldn’t complain!), but I wanted to do something that was “just for her” rather than lumped in with everything else. I told Steve I would bring a cake; the only problem was that we had had a HUGE snowstorm and the prospect of going out to the store for supplies was not an option with the time-frame I had. I keep my pantry fairly well stocked with baking supplies, but every recipe I looked at seemed to have one ingredient I lacked, until I came upon a recipe for a “pudding cake”. I’m sure you’ve had one of these at some point: it’s a cake with a thick, brownie-like batter topped with a liquid “sauce”; as the cake bakes, the batter rises to the top, leaving a chocolate sauce on the bottom to be spooned over the cake. (They’re often made in individual ramekins and turned out on a plate to serve, so that the sauce tops the cake, but that would have been trickier to transport.) The cake isn’t the prettiest thing, but eaten with a scoop of ice cream it’s pretty tasty.
Homely Hot Fudge Pudding Cake (adapted from Birthday Cakes: Recipes & Memories from Celebrated Bakers)
1 1/2 cups strong black coffee, cooled (feel free to use decaf if serving to kids!)
1/3 cup cocoa powder (see note)
1/3 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
1/3 cup white sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda
6 tbs butter (= 1 1/2 sticks)
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, broken into pieces
1/3 cup milk
1 tbs vanilla extract
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup unbleached white flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
Note: The original recipe called for Dutch process cocoa (such as Droste), but all I had was regular, so I made adjustments. If you happen to have Dutch process cocoa on hand, by all means use it- just omit the baking soda altogether and up the baking powder in the batter to 2 tsp.
Adjust your oven rack to the lower third of your oven and preheat oven to 325F. Lightly grease an 8″ square or round glass or ceramic baking dish (it should be at least 3-4″ deep; see photos).
For the topping: mix together the cocoa, baking powder and two kinds of sugar in a bowl; mix well to eliminate lumps in the brown sugar. Set aside.
For the batter: Put the butter and chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and cook on low power for a couple minutes. As it starts to melt, take it out and stir it periodically until the mixture is fully melted. (Alternately, you can melt it on the stove by placing the bowl in a pan of simmering water, but I find the microwave much easier as long as you take care not to let it get too hot.) Stir in the cocoa powder, whisking out any lumps, and set aside to cool.
Combine the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder; set aside. In a larger bowl, combine the milk, sugar, vanilla and egg. I do this in my stand mixer but a regular whisk or hand-held mixer works fine. Next, add the cooled chocolate/butter mixture. Stir to incorporate, then slowly add the flour mixture and mix until everything looks smooth. Put this batter in your baking dish, smoothing it so that the surface is fairly even. Sprinkle the cocoa/sugar mixture evenly over the top, then gently pour the coffee on top. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the cake starts pulling away from the edges of the pan; do not overbake. Serve warm, with vanilla or coffee-flavored ice cream.
Marvin was out of town at a photography seminar in New York on his birthday, so I offered to have a birthday dinner ready for him the evening of his return. “Sounds good”, he said. “But don’t feel like you have to do anything fancy. Even something simple like macaroni & cheese would be fine.” He then paused, adding, “Well, you could throw some prosciutto in it!” I think the idea was that mac and cheese would be less hassle than, say, a meat-based main dish, but the mess in my kitchen today belies the supposed simplicity of the endeavor. But, hey, I’m game to cook just about anything, especially for a birthday. Ask and you shall receive!
I decided to stick with the southern/comfort food theme, so I made a big pot of collard greens in the traditional style and baked a spaghetti squash (courtesy of Jim Diamond’s garden). I packed it all in the car along with a bottle of 2006 Benton Lane Pinot Noir and headed over to Hamtramck.
Unfortunately for Marvin, I still have yet to get a camera and had to enlist him to take photographs before he got to dig in. Thanks for being a sport, hon! My first question re: the mac & cheese was, “Is it as good as Slows? (You Detroiters know what I’m talking about… their mac & cheese is a gold standard.)
He said it was just as good, only not as spicy as theirs. I’m happy with that feedback, considering it was my first attempt! The Pinot Noir, from Oregon’s Willamette Valley (our favorite region for domestic Pinot) was light and peppery and went well with the richness of the cheese and the smokiness of the collards. While we ate, we watched “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”… (Fortunately, the fact that it was the “Who pooped the bed” episode did not seem to affect Marvin’s appetite, as he had seconds.)
After a suitable pause for digestion, I dished up dessert. I had decided to make an espresso granita (see below), since I figured we wouldn’t have room for much more than that after the pasta. Again, I made him photograph his food before blowing out the candle and eating it. Thanks hon. I hope you enjoyed your birthday meal as much as I enjoyed making it!
Decadent Birthday Macaroni & Cheese (adapted from The Balthazar Cookbook)
1 16-oz package pasta (I like to use shells)
9 oz grated gruyère cheese (3 cups)
3 oz grated parmesan (1 cup)- NOT from a can!
4 oz unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
5 cups whole milk, warmed in the microwave or on the stove
4 oz thinly sliced prosciutto (obviously optional for the vegetarians)
1 whole shallot (or substitute 1 small onion)
cooking oil (vegetable or olive)
dry mustard powder, white pepper, and nutmeg (preferably freshly ground)
1/3 cup breadcrumbs (optional)
Directions: Preheat oven to 400. Put a large pot of heavily salted water on to boil for the pasta. Finely mince the shallot or onion. Cut the prosciutto slices in half lengthwise and then crosswise into thin strips (a kitchen scissors works great if you have one). Warm a little oil in a small skillet and sauté the shallot for a minute or two; then add the prosciutto. Cook until the shallot has softened and the prosciutto is beginning to get crispy. Set aside. If you’re using breadcrumbs, sauté them in some butter until they’re golden brown and set aside as well.
When your pasta water comes to a rapid boil, put in the noodles and cook for 1-2 minutes less than the package indicates (the pasta will finish cooking in the oven). Drain, toss with about a tablespoon of butter or oil, and set aside.
While your pasta’s cooking, get going on your béchamel sauce: Melt the 4 oz of butter in a medium saucepan (large enough to hold all the milk and still leave room to stir). When it’s melted, gradually whisk in the flour with a wire wisk, making sure it doesn’t get lumpy or burn. Cook this roux for a few minutes to develop a nice nutty flavor and get rid of the raw flour taste. Slowly add the milk, whisking so as to avoid lumps. When all the milk has been incorporated, cook the sauce a couple more minutes to thicken it, until it just reaches a boil. Add 2 cups of the gruyère and all of the parmesan, stirring until the cheese is melted. At this point you can add your seasonings. I didn’t specify quantities because I feel it’s a matter of taste, but try 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, about 1 tsp dry mustard powder, 1/2 teaspoon white pepper and several grinds of nutmeg. Add stuff a little at a time and taste as you go!! (Believe me, sticking your finger in cheese sauce to taste it is no chore.)
When you’ve got your sauce sufficiently seasoned, mix in the pasta and prosciutto, if using, and put in a large baking dish such as a lasagna pan. Bake uncovered for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the remaining gruyère cheese on top (and breadcrumbs, if using). Bake an additional 10 minutes or until the cheese is golden. Be careful not to overbake, as the cheese can separate and become greasy. Serves 4-6 (or one hungry birthday boy who wants leftovers).
Espresso Granita with Chocolate Whipped Cream
This is about as easy to make as desserts come, but make sure to start early in the day (or even the day before) to make sure it has time to freeze properly.
For the Granita:
3 cups espresso or triple-strength brewed coffee
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup ice water
For the Chocolate Whipped Cream:
1 small container heavy whipping cream (1/2 pint, or about 1 cup)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
Directions: in a small bowl or glass measuring cup, stir the 2/3 cup sugar into the hot coffee, making sure it gets completely dissolved. (If you like things a little less sweet, you may want to use less than the full 2/3cup; if you’re not sure, just taste as you go.) Add the ice water and put in the fridge until cool. If you have some sort of metal container it will cool faster, but otherwise just put it in a shallow plastic container with a lid and, once it’s cooled, put in the freezer. Take it out after 2-3 hours; it should be mostly frozen. Put it in the blender for a couple minutes- it will turn pale and creamy. Pour it back into the container to freeze for another couple hours and then repeat the blending process, putting it back in the freezer again to set.
To make the chocolate whipped cream, pour the cream into a bowl and add 1 tsp sugar. Whip with an electric mixer until soft and billowy, adding the cocoa powder towards the end. Make sure not to overbeat, or the whipped cream will develop a heavy, dense texture. If it is not sweet enough for your taste, you can add a little more sugar. Ditto for the cocoa powder if it doesn’t taste chocolatey enough, but you’re going for something pretty light so don’t overdo it.
Serve the granita in dessert cups with a dollop of whipped cream and a few chocolate-covered espresso beans for garnish, if you have any on hand.