Share Our Strength Close-out, and an Alinea Casserole (oh yeah, I went there)
First things first; the numbers are in: you donated $19,656 to Share Our Strength. THANK YOU! I am humbled by your generosity, and incredibly grateful for your support of this cause. You know, there's so much talk in the news these days about the need for civil discourse in politics coupled with a plea for toning down the caustic rhetoric in Washington, and I'm here to tell you -- as someone who works in the trenches -- that things in the political arena are the same as ever, and actually starting to get worse. But what you guys did? It makes me really hopeful about humanity in general, not to mention reaffirms my belief that great people do great things and THAT is what makes this world go around. Seriously, thank you. I'm honored to know you all.
All the winners of the giveaways have been notified, confirmed, and their goodies are on the way.
Everyone give a big round of applause (and a jealous side-eye, because I know you want to) to Tom Norwood, the winner of dinner for four at Alinea. Tom and his fiancée are taking two of their friends to dinner, and I can't wait to hear all about it.
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Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas wrote a(nother) book. It's called Life, on the Line, and it's due out March 3rd. You can pre-order it on Amazon, and you can check out the website for the book, which has some great photos, interviews, and excerpts from some of the chapters. I can't wait for you to read it when it comes out. I'll be giving away a few copies here on the site in March, so stay tuned.
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Earlier I mentioned how not civil politics is these days. I've lived and worked in Washington for nearly a quarter-century, and this is the most contentious, testy, frustrating, and head-banging-against-desk-ing it's ever been. My clients are fantastic, and working with them is intensely rewarding. However, the climate in which we have to work is so much more challenging and vexing than it's ever been -- this applies to both sides of the aisle -- and at the end of every single day, I'm exhausted.
To top it off, it's January... which is a hard food month for me. I love comfort food, but I'm tired of soup. I love root vegetables, but if I see another potato, turnip, beet, or squash, I'm going to scream. I really, really miss my January favorites pre-celiac: grilled-cheese sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, and lasagne. Yes, I can make all these things with gluten-free ingredients, but trust me: they don't and will never taste as good as the real thing.
So, a week or so ago, to get myself out of this work and food funk, I gloomily and grumpily opened the Alinea cookbook to the next recipe I'd planned to do for the blog: Salsify, smoked salmon, dill, caper.
Here are the components of the dish: salsify, olive oil, picholine olives, bread crumbs, parsley, lemon, smoked salmon, capers, ginger, red onion, garlic, dill, radish. There's a lot of powder making, dehydrating, emulsifying... things I already know how to do, so I knew it wouldn't be difficult to make this dish exactly as it is in the book.
And yet, I couldn't do it. I wasn't feeling it. I wanted something different. Something with many of those ingredients, but not. that. dish. And to make matters worse, I've been turned off by smoked salmon lately. It's too overpowering, and I just don't enjoy the flavor of it anymore. That might change, of course, but for right now, the last thing I wanted was to eat smoked salmon.
So, I opened the fridge, freezer, and pantry, and pulled out salsify, olive oil, picholine olives, gluten-free bread crumbs, parsley, lemon, capers, red onion, garlic, dill, and radishes. Then, I saw a bag of wild rice on the shelf. And leftover Vasterbotten cheese from the Noma dish I made in the cheese drawer in the fidge. And a whole chicken in the freezer. And all of a sudden, it hit me: I was going to make a casserole.
My friend, David Hagedorn, wrote about his newfound love and acceptance of casseroles in a recent Washington Post piece, and I saved that article because I wanted to try some of his ideas. So, I quickly scanned his recipes to figure out my ratios, and started chopping, sauteeing, roasting, and baking, and lo, a casserole was born:
I'm not much for proper recipe writing, so here's a rundown of what I did:
Into a mixing bowl went:
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 C cooked wild rice
Half a red onion, diced and caramelized
Roasted chicken pulled off the bone (white and dark meat), chopped/shredded
8 salsifies, peeled, sliced, roasted w/ olive oil and salt
Small handful of capers
10 Picholine olives, pitted and chopped
Fresh parsley, chopped
Fresh dill, chopped
A Vasterbotten cheese sauce (butter and rice flour for the roux, then the cheese and some milk)
Salt and pepper to taste
I folded all the ingredients together, then gently pressed them into the casserole dish, topping them with butter-soaked gluten-free tortilla bread crumbs.
Baked it in a 375F-degree oven for about 20-25 minutes.
I put some fresh dill and a squeeze of lemon atop my serving before digging in.
It completely and totally hit the spot, and cheered me up rather unexpectedly. I'm glad I went with chicken instead of smoked salmon, and think you could maybe even make this with canned salmon (old school!) or maybe some fresh arctic char as the protein and it would be really good.
I've since taken all the leftovers and put them in single-serving containers in the freezer. That way, when I leave early in the morning for a marathon day of meetings, I can move a container of it from the freezer to the fridge to thaw, and then when I get home, warm it in the oven while I take the dog out for a quick walk when I get home.
Wait. What did I just say about a dog?
Some of you might remember Jake. I still miss that little guy.
But last week, a new little guy found his way into my home.
Meet Dexter (we call him Dex, or Dexy, because helllooooo, Dexy's Midnight Runners):
So, to recap:
You guys are awesome.
I adapted a recipe from one of the world's greatest restaurants and turned it into a freakin' casserole.
My dog is cute.