Monday, February 22, 2010

cottage canoes

chili table
i have been writing this
blog post for two weeks.
yes, two weeks.
at first, i was going to
tell you about every recipe
i made at the super bowl,
because, really, i thought they
were all worth it,
each deserving their own
blog post and story, because
really, each had one.

then, when it became a week
since super bowl sunday,
and still no post, it seemed
absolutely silly to talk about
the super bowl when everyone
else had moved onto
valentine's day and mardi gras.
so, i tried to condense five
recipes into one post -
a not lazy. rustic. first.
but alas, it just didn't work
and five recipes are an awful
lot to tell you about in one

and the more
i thought about it, the more
i wanted to tell you about them,
but the further we were from super bowl
and i felt trapped, because i didn't just
want to jump ahead to another recipe.
it was a terrible circle of
self-loathing and blogging inadequacy.
so tonight when i was driving home from
work, it struck me:
move on, don't look back -
it's just a blog.
so here, i finally got over myself.
i'm giving you brief stories with links,
and a recipe for what i think
was a crowd favorite.
and then, maybe, we can all
just be ok.

last year, i swore that
this year's super bowl would
be much easier on me,

i swore that i would not
spend hours stressing
over what we would eat,
or hours cooking
whatever it is i finally
decide upon and
that i would write
about it all the next day
(well that part wasn't in the post,
but in my head. clearly,
this is where i failed miserably).

looking back,
i guess i'll have to take
one out of three.
and because i think
every recipe is worth sharing,
but it has taken me an unspeakably
long time to tell you about them,
here they are,
one by one.

i decided very quickly that
i wanted to host a mini chili
party, similar to what my mom
used to do when we were growing up:
three or four soups would
simmer on the stove and guests would get
a bowl,
a table full of toppings and
an unlimited pass to the saucepots.

picking the chilies,
were easy, too.
i remembered two that i've made in the past,
both found on epicurious,
one out of bon appetit,
the other, originally, in gourmet.
diced poblano
diced sweet potatoes
the first was vegetarian,
a hodgepodge of
black beans
sweet potatoes
and garlic,
all simmered in a couple cups
of orange juice.
i chopped everything,
save for the sweet potatoes
the night before and when it
was time to make, emptied
each bag into the pot, one by one.
for some reason, this pre-planning
on my part, thrilled me to no end.
while the mixture was good the
night of the super bowl,
i really wish i had prepared it
the night before - it was much
more delicious the next day.
sauce for chicken chili
the second,
equally simple,
featured only,
chicken pulled off a rotisserie bird
and pinto beans.
these are simmered inside a blender sauce of
dried chilies,
stewed tomatoes,
chicken broth,
onion and garlic.
i couldn't find the new mexico dried chilies
called for in the dish. instead, i used simply,
dried green chilies, which worked well,
but i do not know enough about chilies
to be able to tell how how different the
final flavor was.

i knew they would be good.
they were easy.
and they were fast.
cheese, lime and scallions in halved jalapenos
this of course,
gave me plenty of time to focus
on appetizers.
both of which, again, i picked
pretty quickly.
i decided to revisit a snack i'd
made years ago for a barbecue
at larry's, when we were first dating.
i had convinced lauren to come with me -
i was way too afraid to go alone.
and, after stumbling across a recipe for
previously unheard of cottage canoes,
i decided that i would charm
his friends with my cooking.

cottage canoes,
the homemade,
non-fried version of
jalapeno poppers -
named, if i remember correctly,
for their resemblance to the boats
that line the cottage lakes
in canada -
seemed like the perfect way to
win guys over.

instead, i burned my fingers
on the peppers, could not figure out
a good method for stuffing,
or breading,
realized too late that i had to learn
larry's oven to bake them and
then, understood that while lauren
and i were very prompt for the party,
most people would not show up
to this all-day summer bash
for many more hours.

his brother, david,
and i,
ate them ourselves
and we spent a long time
discussing their name.

it had been quite a while since i made
cottage canoes -
i couldn't even remember which
cookbook i had found them in -
but i found a recipe online,
and figured that was all i needed.

i tried my hardest to slice most
of the peppers so that they
each had a stem "handle"
and when i made the cheese
mixture - to which
i added chopped onions,
lime juice and hot sauce,
i let it sit out and
soften so that i could pipe the cheese
into the cavity of the peppers.
i also convinced larry
to be the egg dunker so that
i could quickly pass the wet peppers
through breadcrumbs.
much easier this time around.

these baked much better than i remembered -
the peppers softened into pleasant bites,
the cheese melty and the very thin
breading, there just enough to count.
after a few, lauren noted that eating these
was a game of jalapeno roulette:
some had such little spice that you forgot
they could have heat and the next one
would zap you and then cling
to your tongue for dear life, refusing to
relinquish its burn-your-mouth hold.
we kind of loved it.
ready to serve
was a should-i? or shouldn't-i? add in.
as part of my job,
i sometimes teach children's cooking classes.
a couple months ago,
i had the bright idea that it would be fun
to make soft pretzels with the kids.
the day of, at the end of january,
i was a ball of nerves,
imagining burnt dough,
not cooked dough,
not pretzel-tasting dough,
or worse.
but in the end - thanks to a lot of help -
they came together beautifully.
pretzel bites
so, of course, i thought,
pretzel bites for super bowl.
i can do this, i thought:
you make a yeast dough,
set it aside to rise,
cut into shape,
boil in baking soda-laced water,
then coat with egg,
sprinkle with salt
and bake.
and these? they were easy,
but of course, they had to be
made day of.

so somehow,
in spite of myself,
it was 3pm the day of the super bowl.
i had been cooking since 8:30,
was still in my pajamas,
and my coffee - my coffee that i look
so forward to every morning - sat
mostly untouched.
brown butter and salt rice krispies squares
thank goodness i had made the dessert,
from smitten kitchen, the night before.
(side note: this is the best dessert to make
when you are in a hurry. the entire thing
takes less than 10 minutes to mix together
and everyone will love this sophisticated
version of a childhood treat.)

another year.
another super bowl.
and now, i can switch my focus
back to where it belongs -
the end of february and
the dinners that come with it.
breaded cottage canoes
cottage canoes
adapted from the canadian food network
i don't remember enough to tell you if i made the same recipe both times, but i can tell you one thing for certain: last time i did not tinker with it. this time, i couldn't stop. i just like things to pop with flavor, not just be cheesy. so i increased the scallions and added onions, lime juice, hot sauce and a clove of garlic - all things that i think made a difference in the end.

12 jalapeno peppers, halved
1 1/2 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded (i used the smallest hole on my box grater)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1/2 lime, juiced
10 drops garlic-lime hot sauce
2 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/4 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup breadcrumbs (seasoned, if you want)

heat oven 350˚f. using small spoon, remove seeds and membranes from peppers. place peppers, cut side up, on a flat surface.

in bowl, combine cheese, mayonnaise, worcestershire sauce, lime juice, hot sauce, scallions, onion and garlic; set aside until very soft. transfer to a small plastic bag. twist bag to secure and snip corner. pipe cheese mixture into pepper cavities. using your finger, flatten cheese.

chill peppers at least 1 hour.

dip peppers, one at a time, into beaten egg. let as much egg drip off as possible and then coat with bread crumbs, shaking off excess. place breaded pepper on greased baking sheet. gently coat with cooking spray or olive oil spray.

bake 15-20 minutes, or until peppers are cooked through, the cheese is melted and the tops are just golden brown.

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