Sunday, March 22, 2009

Dinner with friends, and a simple breakfast

Last night we had good friends over for dinner. It's been very wintery up on the top of the hill where we live, with wind whipping over Twin Peaks and rattling our little flat. We've been cranking up the heat and piling on sweaters. So, pot roast seemed like a good idea.

As with most recipes, I turn to Marcella Hazan. I like her Pot Roast of Beef Braised in Red Wine. It's reliable, and it manages to seem both elegant and rustic. I served it with mashed potatoes (which always get the short end of the stick when I'm cooking--this was proved true again last night when the cream and butter boiled over and I ended up haphazardly mashing them in the pot they boiled in in a rush to the finish) and roasted asparagus--the cheating cook's vegetable, because it is so easy and everyone seems to like it.

The pot roast turned deep brown from the initial searing, then got velvety and sweet from three hours of slow braising. As has become my habit, I added a few things to Marcella's recipe (sacrilege, but not only does she not call for any sizeable vegetables, but she calls for miniscule measurements of them, such as 1 1/2 T. chopped tomatoes. Yes, tablespoons.) I got some good carrots at the farmer's market and the husband put in a request for pearl onions. Impossibly cute and delicious, he reminded me. I agreed, so long as I could use the frozen and pre-peeled ones. I am not about to go blind for some pearl onions, painstakingly marking the little x in the root and struggling to get a grip on their slippery little skins.

But the star of the evening if I do say so was the dessert, a delicate apple crostata. Braeburn and Fuji apples (I know, not traditional, but that's what I picked) tucked into a golden and flakey crust, with a sparkly sugary shine on top. The secret to this delicious pastry is that the dough is very short, resulting in a very tender crust. Served with vanilla bean ice cream, this launched the four of us into a temporary coma.

As you'll see, I'm trying out something new here, food photography. I'm a borderline terrible photographer so bear with me. So far what I understand is that you need light, not too much background crap, and it's imperative that you get weirdly close to the food.

This morning I woke up surprisingly refreshed, after sleeping deeply and undisturbed for a good eight plus hours. It is so great to wake up on a Sunday and have no plans but coffee and The New York Times. And, currant scones.

Later tonight: roast chicken and freakishly large Brussels sprouts.


  1. 1) Braeburn is my all-time favorite apple. 2) Fresh pearl onions are a fool's errand. 3) What's it like to read a newspaper?

  2. my parents made that same pot roast for a dinner party last month and it got rave reviews. also - orangette has a great recipe for an apple tart. i made it for thanksgiving - looks a lot like yours. the crust used some apple cider vinegar. it was flaky and divine :) love the blog! so fun to catch up on four months in one sitting!