September 2010


Even though summer fruit is impossibly fabulous on its own, I can’t resist the urge to bake with it. And at some point this summer, the notion of plum cake worked its way into my brain—and that idea stuck so firmly that when I finally had a chance to actually make a plum cake, I found that my list of to-be-tried recipes included FOUR different varieties: plum cornmeal cake, plum skillet cake, dimply plum cake, and plum upside-down cake. I may eventually make all of them, but for now I’m completely besotted with the upside-down cake.

Upside up!

It’s just so gooey and caramelly and wonderful. Be forewarned, though—the caramel may well drip everywhere (especially if you’re an idiot and use a springform pan, which is guaranteed to drip everywhere), and unless you want to spend hours cleaning your oven, put a cookie sheet under the cake while it’s baking.  But even though I now have to spend hours cleaning my oven, this cake was worth it.

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I am a sucker for pretty much all things fried. I mean, I even like tomatoes when they’re fried. On any given bar snacks menu, though, it’s the onion rings that will call to me. (Unless there are fried pickles, but that’s another story.) One of the most fantastic aspects of Alabama was the general readiness of restaurants to offer half fries and half onion rings with a hamburger—why don’t all restaurants everywhere do this? I could eat nasty fried onions out of a can all day.  I even love chain-restaurant monstrosities like the Bloomin’ Onion and the Awesome Blossom, which apparently Chili’s has discontinued due to popular outcry over how appallingly awful it is for you.

I’m sorry to have brought up health, though, because this post is to tell you that you can make amazing fried onions yourself and that you should do so immediately.

My new best friends, before they went in my belly. Which I suppose is not a nice thing to do to your friends.

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Periodically I start to wonder about the typology of various kinds of foods—what makes a curry a curry? A chili a chili? A chowder a chowder? (I do occasionally wonder about foods not starting with the letter C, but those are my standbys.)  For example, “curry” can’t be dependent on the presence of curry powder, which is a blend of spices rather than any single one, and it’s not the presence of curry leaves, which I’ve only ever seen in Sri Lankan curries. So I’ve decided that a “curry” is what English speakers call any stew with unfamiliar “ethnic” spices; otherwise it’s hard to figure out why we call both Thai dishes and Indian dishes “curries.” My Unified Theory of Curry fails to explain why we don’t call exotically” spiced Ethiopian stews “curry,” but I’m willing to accept that the theory is not perfect.

If you have an opinion about the Unified Theory of Curry, please let me know. Now I want to talk about chowder.

My life was lacking in chowder for a long time, as I’m not the biggest fan of clams—the most conventional use for a chowder. But then I was exposed to fish chowder and corn chowder, and now the world of chowders is a beautiful, beautiful thing to me. According to the internets, what makes a chowder a chowder, as opposed to just a soup, is that it’s thickened in some way. Potatoes often do the job, but it seems that cream can as well. This corn chowder gets the job done with cream and pureed corn. I’m confident the corn chowder would be perfect on its own, but after a weekend in Tybee I was hankering for some crab, so I did some lily-gilding. I’d recommend that you do the same.

I also recommend, though, that you take pictures of your delicious corn and crab chowder before you start drinking wine, or else this might happen:

Oops.

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