It's the night before my public tutorial with Martha, and Alysha's here to distract me (and to watch American Idol - hey, isn't that what we were doing the night of Day 1 of this project?).
The soup is a repeat (Winter Squash and Pear) but the garnish is new. I tried something a little different this time with the soup: I roasted both the acorn squash and the Bosc pears, and I used half onion and half shallot for the aromatics sauté. I think the result was quite good! It was somewhat watery, but before pureeing it, I reserved a fair amount of liquid, and I was happy with the ultimate consistency.
Lardons (p. )
Lardons, if you don't already know, are cut up and cooked pieces of bacon. In this case, the bacon is cubed, but in Martha's recipe for Beef and Stout Stew (p. - haven't done it yet), the lardons are cut in rectangles.
Instead of trying to find slab bacon, I asked the Fairway deli counter guy for VERY thickly sliced bacon, and that worked out really well. I cubed it up, threw it in a pan, stirred it a few times over medium heat, and pretty much on schedule ( minutes), they were done.
Have you ever noticed this thing about cooking bacon, particularly sliced bacon? It looks limp and not quite done in the pan, so you cook it for a really long time, and then you take it out, and while it's draining on paper towels, it magically becomes very done? We Blumenkrantzes, like all good Jews, want our bacon extra-crispy, so I always wait for it to get dark, dark brown in the pan, and then I take it out, and I've basically charred it.
So now I know: the perfect moment for me to take bacon out of the pan is when I'm thinking to myself that it needs another few minutes. And these lardons were just perfect: crispy little cubes of salty, smoky, pork goodness, an ideal accompaniment for my rather sweet and simple soup.
Alysha had a little, but I pretty much ate the whole pot myself.
Orange Sorbet (p. )
Knowing that I'd be appearing on Martha's show tomorrow, I got to thinking that it's time I start cooking a little more adventurously, now that I'm entering the final stretch.
And as I reread the sorbet recipe, I knew this was a perfect opportunity to get a little... shall we say... creative. Martha suggests various herbs and spices and other ingredients that one can mix and match to spruce up a sorbet, so I thought I'd experiment.
My orange sorbet is going to get a little spice kick. I just bought a bottle of star anise - it's been coming up on a lot of cooking shows, and I've never cooked with it and was curious. When I smelled the spice, it seemed like it'd be a good fit with orange. Then, I started thinking, what else can I put in there? And here's where I went a little overboard... first, it was a cinnamon stick, then I thought, How about some fresh ginger? And since we're going there, maybe some cloves, and some orange peel, just for good measure? Oy.
I steeped the syrup with all the extra goodies, so the flavor would be relatively pronounced. Then, I strained the syrup, strained the fresh squeezed orange juice, stirred it all together, used the egg test (success this time - no "F" for Martha), churned it, and froze it.
I have to say, it turned out really well! When you get sorbet just right, it manages to have a creaminess to it, even though there's no dairy whatsoever. This sorbet has great consistency and a flavor that reveals itself with each bite.
As Alysha says, at first you think it's going to be just orange-flavored, and then it starts to taste like Christmas.
Yeah, that's exactly what I was aiming for: Christmas.
Until we eat again....