A snowy Saturday. (Surprise! That’s five in a row if anyone is counting.) The installers came to put in the new window. I cooked. Because, well, that seems to be what I do these days. I cook to write and write and cook and then write some more.
First, a velvety chicken stock from a leftover rotisserie carcass. Wings, skin, half an onion, 3 sliced garlic cloves. Boil till velvety. I had no celery, so used celery salt, which worked just fine. I did have some fresh whole mixed peppercorns, red and white and black, and they’re great in everything.
(Scribbling, as I cooked, on a yellow notepad for MIP. Wiping hands on chile pepper apron bought in Santa Fe for Valentine’s Day last year. Splashes of stock smear the ink a little, but I can still read it.)
Next up, the creme anglais or custard for the apple galette that was meant to be my main event. CR will eat custard by itself, and his mother sends packets of dry custard that’s really not bad, but I wanted to give it a try from scratch. Confession: I’d never used real vanilla bean before, and it was so interesting! What a delight to discover those teeny specks in vanilla flavored things are seeds! I loved the smell of it, and the stickiness. And I’ve never met an egg I didn’t want to separate, so that was fun too. When I finished it, stirring as instructed, over a pot of ice water, I carried a spoonful up to CR and his eyes widened satisfyingly. "That’s good!"
Since the guys were not finished, I decided to make the pastry for the galette, too. Here is another confession: I love cutting butter into flour with a pastry cutter. It’s such a satisfying job. I love adding ice water, too, and using my granite rolling pin, which stays so cold. (A friend of mine gave me the rolling pin when I was divorcing. It was a joke, but it’s fantastic, one of my favorite things. If I had to leave my kitchen with five things, it would be in the box.) This dough recipe uses apple cider vinegar, and I loved the way it smelled.
The window was finished (oh, happy day–it’s beautiful) and I went upstairs to write. Last night, I made some new charts and noticed some things I hadn’t realized about the main idea. I made a work list of things that need doing, which things must be rewritten now and which can wait until the end of the rough draft. A scene suddenly appeared ripe–as if the Girls sent up a whole script–so I wrote it, and it didn’t even have anything to do with food. A motivation appeared, rooted in something much darker than I knew.
I ended up with eight solid pages in about an hour and a half, plus one of the tough scenes rewritten.
Then I ran and went back to cooking. The chicken/corn chowder simmering while I sliced apples and thought of a book I’m reading: Tomato Blessings and Radish Teachings, by Edward Espe Brown. Cooking as an exercise in mindfulness: when you wash the rice, wash the rice. I sliced the apples and measured flour and stirred the soup and tasted a pinch of dough, a misshappen piece of apple, admired the falls of peel from the scraper. I tried to get the peels off in a single curl, but didn’t succeed .
We ate the chowder. I strongly considered starting with the pie, it was so beautiful. We resisted, but not for long. We ate it warm.
That crust, glistening with sugar, was flaky and perfect. The surprise dazzle of oranges in the apples instead of lemon made the flavors explode in our mouths. We ate tiny bites, admiring. Stopping. Looking. Tasting again. Those apples. That crust. The custard with its teeny seeds of vanilla (a wee bit too much, methinks, cut it back a little next time). Outside, the wind battered the trees again, and snow is falling again, but here inside, we had hot soup and warm pie and cold custard, made from scratch, and really a person could not ask for much more.
Buy this cookbook: DESSERTS THAT HAVE KILLED BETTER MEN THAN ME by Jeremy Jackson. I cooked and wrote like a madwoman over the chocolate torte last week, too.