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Almost that time of year again…

December 21st, 2009

We’re deep in cookie baking, tree decorating, house cleaning and all the other fun stuff that surrounds this time of year, not too much time to cook fancy things, but I did have time here and there to make some fun stuff. This will be more of a photo album kind of post, I’ll get back to Ad Hoc ad Home and other books soon though!

While at Whole Foods recently I stumbled over some Oregon Black Truffles. I had never heard of such a thing and the price wasn’t too outlandish, so I got me some. Packed in a small clam shell box with arborio rice. I was gonna post a picture, but they did not come out, just imagine little pieces of charcoal on rice :-) They have wonderful aroma, though taste is very faint, you need add quite a bit to taste them. Last time I had black truffles from Italy is years ago, don’t really have a reference anymore, but while these are good, I’d not run out to buy them again. We had some on “perfect scrambled eggs” made like Gordon Ramsey does here:

I served them on toasted multi grain bread with some fresh wild arugula salad:

Scrambled eggs on toast with black truffles and arugula salad

Scrambled eggs on toast with black truffles and arugula salad

Recently we watched Julie and Julia, fun movie and Meryl Streep is fantastic as Julia Child. Probably because that movie is out, PBS had a two hour special with some of “the best” Julia Child episodes, one of which was the omelet making one. Her book Mastering the Art of French Cooking has several pages with pictures on how to make this, I never quite got it though and hesitated to try. After watching her and seeing how easy it really seems to be, I made two 3 egg omelets today, grated some more of the truffles on top and added some parsley, just like Julia would have done :-) You know what? It’s really easy to make these in a non stick pan, I was surprised. You can see the episode (for now at least) at the link below:

Here’s how ours turned out:

3 egg omelette with black truffles and parsley

3 egg omelette with black truffles and parsley

Now, on to some meat! While shopping at Whole Foods recently I saw some fantastic pork shoulder roasts at the meat counter. About as picture perfect as I can imagine one, so I just had to get one:

Pork shoulder roast

Pork shoulder roast

I decided to cook this one in my Big Green Egg again, low and slow, spiced with salt, pepper, and cumin seeds, just like I make nice Bavarian pork roasts. Here it is, ready to roll:

Ready to roast!

Ready to roast!

To go along with it I caramelized some red and yellow onions and made some Semmelknödel, Bavarian dumplings made from bread and other stuff. These actually were from a package, I have yet to walk down the road of made from scratch Bavarian bread or potato dumplings. I also marinated some red and white radishes in a vinaigrette as a side salad. The roast came out perfect, I took it off the BGE once internal temp was about 140 degree and let it rest for a good 20 min or so. The meat was tender and juicy and succulent, one of the best pieces of pork I’ve come across in a while! And it was quite cheap, I think the entire roast cost about $12 and we had dinner 3 times from it!

I only have pictures of the first two, one with the dumplings, onions (where I added the drippings from the drip pan in the BGE and the juices from the cutting board) and some arugula salad. Later in the week I cut a big slize, fried it in the pan until a nice crust developed no the cut sides and sliced it. Meat was warm, tender, and had not cooked any further. This time we had some nice potatoes and yes, arugula salad. I just love that stuff!

Pork shoulder roast with Semmelknödel, caramelized onions and radish salad

Pork shoulder roast with Semmelknödel, caramelized onions and radish salad

Leftover pork shoulder roast, seared, sliced, and served with potato and arugula salad

Leftover pork shoulder roast, seared, sliced, and served with potato and arugula salad

Well, since then we had two sing fests at the kid’s schools and all kinds of other stuff going on, and I had to get things ready for cookie baking time! One thing we need for what’s here wrongfully called gingerbread cookies – Lebkuchen – is candied lemon rind. We used to buy this at Safeway, a jar full of oddly green or yellow colored tastes like nothing somethings. Last year Safeway ran out before I got to them, so we had to make them ourselves. And they are so much better that way, they’re not even the same thing! And so easy: peel a lemon with a knife, including the white pith, put into a pot with water, bring to a boil, drain and repeat two more times. That takes care of the bitterness of the pith. Then you weigh it, add the same amount of sugar and some water, bring to a boil and simmer for about an hour, until translucent. Skim out, put on drying rack for two or three days, sprinkle with sugar and there you are. A delicacy, not only for baking, but all by itself too! Dip in chocolate for a real treat :-)

Some pictures of the process and the product:

To peel a lemon, cut in half, slice rind off with sharp knife. Then sqeeze out juice and freeze or use otherwise.

To peel a lemon, cut in half, slice rind off with sharp knife. Then sqeeze out juice and freeze or use otherwise.

Simmering in sugar syrup

Simmering in sugar syrup

Candied lemon (and tangerine rind, the orange ones) on the drying rack

Candied lemon (and tangerine rind, the orange ones) on the drying rack

And that’s it for this post, the next update will have lots of cookie pictures (though no recipes, family secrets! Well, maybe some, we’ll see) and a little side step about Italian meat balls made from scratch in a moment of temporary insanity :-)

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