Simplicity

ImageI thought long and hard about whether or not to write this post. Because, really, braised mushrooms? They seem far too simple, don’t they? And they’re not exactly photogenic, either. In truth, it can sometimes be hard to judge a food’s blog-worthiness, especially when the dish in question is as plain and unpretentious as the humble braised mushroom. But when I found myself making these twice in one week and then making plans to cook them again in a few more days, I knew I couldn’t keep these to myself. These mushrooms are so intensely meaty and savoury and mushroom-y. Which is really to say that they’re transcendently, mind-blowing-ly delicious.

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The key to these mushrooms, like many other good things, is low, slow heat. Caps down in a dry pan over a low flame, you could almost completely forget that you’re making braised mushrooms were it not for the intense mushroom smell that slowly and surely wafts out of the kitchen and straight up into your nostrils.

After 20 minutes or so–and, really, the longer, the better–you add a small amount of butter to the pan. As the butter foams and sizzles, thinly sliced garlic, a pinch of dried thyme and some salt are scattered over top. The whole thing is ready to eat when the garlic browns lightly and the dish becomes almost impossibly fragrant. And if the aroma of savoury, garlicky mushrooms doesn’t do it for you, just wait until you taste them. These mushrooms are, in a phrase, serious business.

Braised Mushrooms

Inspired by As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto. Serve with pork, chicken, or just about any other thing that tastes great with mushrooms.

Serves 3-4 as a side; recipe is easily multiplied

2 lbs crimini mushrooms

1 Tbsp butter

1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced

1 small pinch dried thyme

salt, to taste

1. Place a large skillet over low heat.

2. Clean the mushrooms by wiping away any dirt with a dry paper towel (avoid using water, which sucks away the mushroom flavour). Trim the stems.

3. Place the mushrooms, caps down, the the dry skillet and leave them to cook slowly for at least 10 minutes and up to 25 minutes. As the mushrooms cook, they’ll begin releasing water and shrinking slightly. When the mushrooms have reached the desired brown-ness, flip them over so the caps face up and cook an addition 5 minutes over low heat.

4. Add the butter to the pan and let it melt. Then, add the garlic and cook until lightly golden. Season with thyme and salt, toss together and serve.

Labour of Love

ImageThough I have no children of my own, I love to knit baby clothes. Not only are knitted baby items, and their wearers, always painfully cute, they also satisfy my ego’s need to be able to complete something quickly and easily, especially as I slog away on larger or more complicated projects. It never occurred to me when I first started knitting that I would enjoy making tiny sweaters and socks for small children. For one thing,  I have no desire to have kids of my own. I certainly don’t dislike children, but I’ve known for a long time that being a mother is not something I want for myself. And besides, my reasons for taking up knitting have been mostly selfish. I want to make myself clothing that I like and that fit me well. Now that I have a new niece and another nephew on the way, though, I’m finding myself really enjoying the idea of clothing my new family members in soft, beautiful hand knits that will keep them warm no matter how cold it gets in whatever frosty part of Canada they find themselves in.

ImageThis pullover, my own original design, will shortly make its way to my brother and his wife for their first child together, a little boy whose name starts with an “E” (to be revealed with his birth in the fall). The design is a complete accident born out of necessity. I started out intending to make this cardigan with two balls of Knit Picks Swish DK in the Dove Heather colourway I had in my stash, a beautiful, light heathered grey colour that has become a favorite of mine. I cast on for this sweater before I knew the sex of the baby, figuring that I’d brighten it up with some colourful buttons once I knew whether the baby would be a boy or a girl. I quickly realized that I didn’t have nearly enough yarn to finish the sweater I had original cast on for, but some stash diving revealed two more balls of Swish DK in a beautiful deep red colour (Garnet Heather, in case you’re wondering). With two balls of yarn in the wrong colour, and not wanting to be a suck, I changed my plans and set out to improvise a pullover, and above is the result.

I have to say that I’m really pleased with how this little sweater turned out! Because I am still very much an imperfect knitter, there are a few small mistakes and things I might find a way to do differently in the future. Unfortunately, I didn’t take great notes when I was working on this, so I won’t be able to share a pattern (assuming there is any interest in seeing a pattern, that is) anytime soon. But I can point out the new things I got to try out in making this sweater, like the applied i-cord edging around the collar and my very first foray into stranded colour work. In any case, this sweater is soft and warm and, very importantly, machine washable (you’re welcome, Duncan & Jessica!). 

Oh, and, uh, did I mention that I’m participating in the Summer Sweater Knit Along? Well, I am. 

ImageFeast your eyes on my version of Veera Välimäki’s Still Light Tunic, which is about 50% away from completion. It’s taking a while because of the fine gauge of the yarn I’m using, but I’m confident that it’ll be ready to wear when it starts to get cold. Is it crazy to be knitting a sweater in the summer? Maybe. But I know for certain that I won’t regret having knit this in the summer heat once I’m wearing it in the cool of the fall. And, besides, it’s nice to have a head start on this year’s sweater knitting. I’ve got big knitting plans for when the weather gets cold, people!

What are your fall/winter knitting plans this year?

Egg Breakfast

Oeufs en cocotte

At breakfast, more than any other meal time, I am a creature of habit. When the weather is warm, I want nothing more than tea, toast with jam or peanut butter, and fruit. I sometimes swap my toast for oatmeal when the air turns cold but, mainly, I stick with my standard morning meal. Oh, sure, I’ve strayed from this formula before. I went through a pretty serious granola phase a few years ago, and I’ve been known to include a small pot of yogurt with breakfast. For the most part, though, I like to keep it simple: tea, toast, fruit, done.

When the weekend rolls around, though, I’m usually ready to cut loose. Pancakes! Muffins! Scones! I’ve even been known to devote an entire weekend’s work to a single morning of croissants (worth it, by the way, but not for every weekend). And, because I’m very lucky, I can usually look forward to a beautiful breakfast of over easy eggs with bacon and hash browns when I return from my Sunday morning spin class, once Keith rouses himself. When I’m making the eggs, though, I like to make ’em fancy.

Oeufs en cocotte raw

Enter les oeufs en cocotte, a quick, delicious and satisfyingly impressive egg dish. The process for making these couldn’t be simpler, too.  The ingredients–eggs, creme fraiche and smoked salmon–are thrown together haphazardly into a ramekin and baked in a bain marie for about the same amount of time as it takes to have a leisurely shower and get dressed. With some light seasoning and a small amount of garnish, the result is a restaurant-worthy dish that will have you feeling proud of yourself for skipping the lines and doing it yourself.

Using a bain marie might seem like a fussy and time consuming way to cook eggs, but it’s really no more time consuming than assembling the dish while boiling some water. It’s certainly not more challenging than greasing a frying pan, and it takes only a few minutes longer than frying or scrambling eggs. And, of course, the results speak for themselves. The egg whites stay tender, the salmon firms up a bit, and the deliciously runny yolks mix with the creme fraiche to make a sort of rich and tangy dipping sauce. It’s the perfect egg dish for dipping and scooping with toast. And you remember how much I love toast…

Les Oeufs en Cocotte

Serves 1; recipe is easily multiplied

2 eggs

1 tablespoon creme fraiche (substitute Greek yogurt or full fat sour cream if creme fraiche isn’t available)

1 slice cold smoked salmon

salt and pepper

1 tsp dill, roughly chopped

1.  Preheat the oven to ˚350 C. Boil a small pot of water and set aside.

2. Lightly grease a ramekin with a small amount of oil or butter. Line the bottom of the ramekin with the smoked salmon, then add the eggs, taking care not to break the yolks, and the creme fraiche.

3. Prepare the bain marie: place the ramekin in a larger oven safe container, like a cake pan, and add the boiled water (which shouldn’t be boiling anymore but should still be very hot) until it reaches about halfway up the sides of the ramekin.

4. Being careful not to spill any of the boiling water in the ramekin, place the bain marie in the middle rack of the preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, depending on your oven. You’ll know they’re finished when the whites are just opaque and jiggle slightly when moved.

5. Season lightly with salt and pepper (not too much–the smoked salmon gives off plenty of seasoning). Garnish with dill and serve with buttered toast.