Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Clam chowder 2.0

Clam chowder, round 2: Remember sometime back when the husband took over the kitchen to make clam chowder and I played sous chef? The recipe, courtesy of Esquire, was good, but not great. At the time, I talked about tweaking it to get it just right. Well, eight months later, no tweaking has occurred, but I did discover a better recipe.

I actually made this sometime in January, just never got around to posting it. This one is courtesy of Tyler Florence and is very, very good, the only complaint I have being that it is ever so slightly on the thick side. Don't get me wrong--I like creamy chowder. But this was maybe a little too.

Also, it made a lot. Too much for two people. We ate it for dinner, we ate it for lunch. And lunch again. And then (my dad will roll over in his grave) I had to throw some out (well, compost. That's better, right?). Clams just don't need to stick around for days on end, and after awhile, we were chowdered out.

Still, this is a keeper, a vast improvement on the Esquire attempt (not a huge surprise that Tyler Florence would come up with a better recipe than the one from the magazine with Mila Kunis wearing a pair of undies on the cover--recipe testing might not be their focus, and home cooks may not be their target audience). With a hunk of sourdough bread, you'd be hard-pressed to find a cozier dinner during these damp, winter months.


Secret geek: Most of my friends (and probably my family) don't know this, but I'm basically addicted to crossword puzzles. Specifically, I do them at night before going to sleep.  

I first got hooked on the New York Times crossword about 12 years ago, when I met the husband. He had already been doing them for years and was quite good.  Rapidly, I began to like doing them as well. It fed my slightly obsessive side, yet also my short attention span. Crosswords are small, and you can do them for a little while, go away, and come back to them (which, incidentally, is the best tip for frustrated puzzlers--put it down and come back later and I guarantee you'll find answers you couldn't before.)

For anyone not familiar with the Times puzzle, they start out easy on Mondays and get progressively harder throughout the week. Saturday is the hardest day. Sundays they run larger puzzles that are about the difficulty of a Thursday. 

The puzzles tend to have clues that are a little less about knowing facts and more about interpretation, especially as the week goes on.  On Mondays, you get things as easy as "Politico Palin." By Wednesday, you're starting to see clues like "Some museum pieces." By Friday, the clues seem downright obscure. If you do the crossword often enough, though, you start to see recurring clues. For example, "Eagle's nest" (aerie) and "Actress Hatcher" (Teri) are strangely popular ones that I now think of as freebies.

I can usually get through Wednesdays and sometimes finish a Thursday, but that's where I drop off. Meanwhile, the husband can nearly always finish Friday and often Saturday. And while I might take a few days to work on a puzzle (at night, you see), he frequently does them all at once. I've seen him complete both Saturdays and Sundays in single sittings.

For some reason, the fact that my crossword growth is stunted in this regard does not bother me. I just accept it, the way I accept that I will never grow taller than 5'7" and will never have anything other than stick-straight hair. I just keep doing them anyway, like a dumb little robot.

As to why I do them before going to sleep, a number of years ago when I had a short bout with insomnia, I started doing puzzles at night, just for something to do. Now, though thankfully I generally sleep quite well, I still like the habit of working a little bit on a crossword before turning out the light. It both requires focus and yet demands that you clear your mind of your real life--work, errands, what's on your to-do list for the next day. It kind of asks your mind to become a blank slate, which, (un)fortunately for me, is pretty easy to accomplish.

I have read over the years that doing crosswords is good for your brain and might even stave off Alzheimer's. This may or may not be true, but I'd personally like to do anything that might decrease my chances of dementia. I mean, wouldn't you?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Blueberry doughnut sugarbombs

Thought I'd send you into the weekend with these little beauties. I made them a few weeks back and have been dreaming longingly of them ever since.

The actual name of the muffins (courtesy of the fabulous Flo Braker) is "Blueberry Muffins with Doughnut Topping." In some ways, this is more accurate--the body of the muffin is pretty standard muffin material--not overly sweet and there's no rising or deep-frying or whatever else actual doughnuts entail. (I wouldn't know because I can't stand doughnuts--one of the very few sweets I find easy to resist).

Little muffin bods aside, though, the topping is pure sugary, buttery goodness, which is the aspect of doughnuts I can get behind. The process is a little obscene--you take the baked muffins, dip the tops in a bowl of melted butter and then roll them in cinnamon, sugar, and cardamom. I was relieved the husband didn't walk in on me doing it. It just seemed...wrong.

In fact, the preponderance of butter made my muffin liners pop off and pull away, as if even they were thinking, This is extreme. We're out.

No prob. I'm just gonna peel you little suckers off anyway to get to the soft purpley underbelly.

Since I'm lazy as hell, I searched the interweb in hopes that someone else had taken the time to type out this recipe and lo and behold, I found it here. Thanks, fellow blogger!

I'm not sure you need all the melted butter for the topping, or even all the sugar mixture: truth be told, I chucked out quite a bit of both, and I was not exercising any restraint. So, you could certainly scale back there if you're interested in, say, staying alive. I may even do so the next time I give these a go, which could be as soon as this weekend.