feeling critical today

the fuss goes on and on about black swan... but should the question be not "who did the costumes" or "who did the dancing" but "why did someone who basically spent 90% of the film in a stunned pout get an oscar for acting?" really, there was not a lot of acting going on there. or a lot of anything really. the whole jekyll/hyde dual nature schtick has been done so many times, there needs to be something spectacular happening in order to justify doing it again. this film, mind you, had more crotch-grabbing than most. it had a lot, actually. no one could keep their hands off of natalie's portman, including natalie portman.

i tend to find darren aronofsky a little too in love with his own cleverness and "depth" though.

it did pass the bechdel test, at least. i suppose there's that. and it's nice to see that winona got some work again finally.


looks aren't everything

ok, i have tried to make the rillettes look pretty in a picture.

i said i tried. but boy is it yum. this recipe is a combination of a few i found, with added duck fat and the tea-soked prunes was from a pate recipe i saw somewhere.

rabbit rillettes

4 prunes
5 oz steaming hot tea
1 lb rabbit shoulder (a bony but cheap & flavourful cut)
3 oz rendered duck fat
a clove of garlic
2 bay leaves
a bouquet garni of parsley and rosemary
2 cups water
1 cup white wine
salt and pepper

pour the tea over the prunes and allow to soak for an hour.

put everything in a small covered braiser or casserole dish.

put in the oven for three hours at 300f.

take out of the oven, allow to cool to a reasonable temperature. remove the bouquet garni and bay leaves. pull the meat off the bones, discarding the bones. pull the meat into fine shreds (or pound in a mortar if you are so inclined), incorporating the cooking liquid. season to taste with salt and pepper. put in a small crock and chill overnight to let the flavours blend.

allow to come to room temperature before eating with fresh bread. i make a lazy person's baguette by using the classic new york times no-knead recipe, only instead of leaving it in a lump on the counter after the first 14-hour rise, roll it into two logs and put them in a baguette tray to rise. some time before sticking in the oven for about 25 minutes at 425F, cut a few slits in the top.


a small piece of cake

oh my. i don't know why i was worried, because madeleines are a (small, shell-like) piece of cake to make. i ended up going with the larousse recipe, partly because the lebovitz didn't seem like it would make lots (none of the recipes included info on the final output) and also because my computer, which lurks around the dinner table generally, had been put away in expectation of guests. i did incorporate the lebovitz tweaks that i remembered, namely beating the eggs and sugar together first, and chilling the batter and mold. i still have some batter in the fridge actually, and since lebovitz says to chill for "up to twelve hours" i should be good to bake some more.

here are the three remaining madeleines which have yet to be gobbled, reclining in the last rays of the afternoon sun:

and a snap of the fabled "hump" which some worry is difficult to attain:

(i love that photo; makes it look fairly majestic i think.)

and while we're at it, a snap of some pretty flowers and mostly-gone chocolate gateau a l'ocean:

the rillettes were not so pretty to look at, but super yum to eat on home-made bread as well as being super easy. and trout remoulade is always delish. all in all a success i'd say!


4 large eggs (i did not weigh them, but will hazard a guess that's about 9 oz)
9 oz sugar
9 oz soft flour (aka cake or pastry flour - not self-rising)
9 oz unsalted butter, melted
pinch salt
zest of a lemon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

grease and flour a madeline mold, chill.

beat the eggs and sugar together until tripled in volume.

gradually add flour and fold in gently with spatula.

gradually add melted butter and flavourings and fold in gently with a spatula.

chill batter for an hour or two. pre-heat oven to 425F.

spoon dollops of batter into molds. it will be thick, it's almost like making a drop cookie. the temptation is to overfill the molds, but you don't need much more than a tablespoon.

bake for about 10 or 15 minutes. allow to cool in the mold on a rack before trying to slide them out. it is so much easier to get them out once they've cooled. i find the best way to get them out of the mold is to press gently with both of my thumbs against the flat end of the madeleine, and slide it along the same direction as the grooves of the shell.

makes about 3 dozen.



so this is the weekend i thought i'd get a little french. tg's father has returned from cape town via maputo, lusaka, and dubai, so we are having a little get-together that is totally non-france-related, but if i'm doing the hosting and the cooking, it is only fair that i get to choose! so we are having poached trout (easy) with remoulade sauce (easy), a couple of salads, some cheese (my beloved bresse bleu among others), olives, baguette, and gateau chocolat a la ocean.

all of which i have done before. but the new things i am keen to try are rabbit rillettes (i love nothing more than the rillettes of rabbit with pistachios and prunes at chez bernard in st-sauveur-des-monts) and madeleines. the rillettes seems fairly straight forward: pop the ingredients in a braiser for a few hours, then mash a bit (modern recipes say to pull apart the meat with a fork, the larousse gastronomique insists it must be punded in a mortar). but madeleines are meant to be tricky.

larousse is typically vague on technique. they offer two versions, commercy and plain, with the commercy recipe adding lemon zest and baking soda but containing less butter. basically, the gastronomique says to put everything but the butter in a bowl, "work with a spatula until smooth," then add the butter. one crucial difference between commercy and plain? one is baked "in a very slow oven," the other at 375F.

david lebovitz, on the other hand, cooks them even hotter and makes a big fuss about chilling the molds and chilling the batter and insists that added leavening is sacrilege - all the lightness comes from whipping the eggs and sugar together first. sort of the opposite of the gastronomique; i can't imagine "working with a spatula" would get a terrific amount of air into anything. and as the "plain" recipe looks a lot like a pound cake batter, i imagine they would be quite stodgy.

the other big difference is that the gastronomique recipes make between 2 and 5 times as many madeleines, at a guess.

i think for this weekend i will stick with the hand-holding lebovitz (but perhaps doubling the quantities), and mess with the gastronomique recipes on a less momentous occasion. the gastronomique may not be terrifically user-friendly, but any encyclopedia that offers a 5-page section entitled "restaurants of bygone days" will always have a place on my shelf.



a couple of pics of the the love bug-inspired sweater as modelled by the fellow who requested it. i tried to get him to pose in a way that showed off the sweater while smiling at the same time; didn't really work out though.

filmcraft tutorial on top-down saddle-shoulder sweaters coming soon!



camera and card and card reader all in the same spot!

the love bug-inspired sweater is finished and blocking at home right now. harry is so excited! he actually asked to wear it to school yesterday morning. soon, soon i promise the top-down saddle-shoulder tutorial.

and just for fun, the long-ago-finished, only-recently-blocked saroyan scarf. this is made for my cousin, out of handspun from her sister. i was thinking i'd make one for myself too - it's such a pretty pattern! - but after blocking it (4 pins to a leaf) i don't know if i can stand to do it all again.


oh dear

i was about to post a happy "look i'm almost done this sweater" post and went to take a photo with my lovely camera (a christmas gift no less) when i discovered something a bit horrible! i've been meaning to make some sort of case or cozy for it as it likes to turn itself on in my handbag, but haven't gotten round to it. now i've discovered something else it likes to do on its own - open the battery/memory card compartment and eject everything. the batteries were floating around in my handbag, but the memory card is missing! this is not right! oh boo.

well time to get to work on the camera cozy i guess. my plan is something double-knit that looks a little like this:


gf-cf and other food fun

is there anyone left who can eat absolutely anything? besides me, i mean. my sister is vegan, my son is allergic to oats, my husband is allergic to oats and eggplants.

a kid in our neighbourhood just started a gf-cf diet after being diagnosed on the autistic spectrum, so i've been thinking about recipes he could enjoy (almond milk ice cream springs instantly to mind) and yesterday was a co-worker's birthday, so i got to try one of them out. she's not gf-cf, but has food sensitivities including cows' milk, wheat/gluten, tree nuts, citrus fruits, and other things i can't remember right now.

this lovely chocolate cake is rich and moist and flourless, and shockingly easy to make. the original recipe calls for butter, but i made it with earth balance vegan margarine and it worked perfectly and tasted delish! i also threw in a pinch of vanilla salt - salt is an essential addition to most things made with vegan margarine, because it doesn't have the saltiness of butter or margarine with whey. and salt intensifies flavours wonderfully.

there is a story behind this recipe that i don't properly remember - something about a fishmonger in a small french village that was also renowned for selling this cake, and then had an extramarital affair with someone, and the cuckolded spouse got revenge by giving the recipe to all in the town so no one needed to go to the fishmonger for cake anymore. or something.

gateau au chocolat a la ocean

8 oz bittersweet chocolate
8 oz butter or margarine
6 eggs
3 oz white sugar

melt together the chocolate and fat. allow to cool.

beat the eggs with the sugar until very fluffy (n.b. i made this once or twice before whisking by hand, and doing so is utterly deadly. last night i used the kitchen aid whisk, and beat the eggs to four times their quantity with no effort at all! it did take a longish while to get there, though)

fold the melted chocolate gently into the eggs.

pour into a 9" springform pan lined with waxed paper, bake at 325F or 350F for 30 or 40 minutes (the original recipe said 35 for 20 minutes, but that has never worked for me! it also didn't specify what size springform pan, maybe 350F for 20 minutes works for a larger size?) until the top looks a little dry and it is no longer super wiggly.

the cake starts out high, but sinks as it cools into a dense, rich cake.



i was looking at some doctor who-related things upon discovering that we'll be seeing some new eps starting this friday and i started thinking about the silly old sweater-vest that sylvester mccoy (the seventh doctor) used to wear. "i should knit one for harry," i thought, "before he is too old to hate me for it." and then i realised... i probably have enough of the right colours in scraps of briggs & little (depending on how much leftover yellow wo i have, that will be the kicker).

so... should i? if i can do it from scraps? or will the kiddo kill me for it?


forget what i said

in my last sewing through the decades challenge post - this fur-trimmed coat is the one i covet!

maybe what i should do is pick patterns covering the decade from 1929 to 1939? or something? the later thirties don't do much for me - once the war started, it all got too pragmatic - but the 1920s often fail to excite in the way i feel they ought to.