24 November 2009

An Unlikely Introduction

To be remembered, you must make it so. At a party, when introducing yourself, just giving a name won’t cut it. Attached to the name must be a story, something memorable, a play on words or a twist of phrase. So goes the advice a communications professor suggested to her class years ago, a bit of detail never to grow stale or be forgotten, although it might need to be dusted off from time to time, having spent too many months untouched in the back of the mind’s cupboard behind jars of brighter, newly opened delectables. Easy to incorporate into any dish, easy to digest. Which isn’t to say that jar gathering dust is difficult to swallow. Not in the least. It’s just easier to grab something closer, to avert the hand at the last minute and avoid the new face necessitating the storied introduction. Even if it might taste really, really good. Even if might awaken, if it might demand.

I like to visualize the act of memory-making as the first steps in creating the world you inhabit, in suggesting all that fine film of perception that surrounds a Self. This introduction is the entry point for the Other. Some common ground where neither extreme of oneself is revealed just yet, rather, an entryway is presented where seven halls beckon to be wandered, doors to be used as hiding places, windows to be peered through. And I like to think that if it were to have a taste—the whole kitten concept—it would hit the spot where savory turns to sweet, gooey to crusty, blackened to golden to honey-colored. It would taste like apple pie with cheddar crust.
So hello, welcome. Please explore our hallways, use our windows as a lens through which to see your own landscape, take comfort behind the doors standing ajar and don’t hesitate to open closed ones. From the Intemperies raging outside to the one’s baking in the oven to those bubbling on the stovetop, take a seat and take a breath and take a bite.

With Jane, who might take a seat among the loveliest of ladies—and a spot in my heart as dear friend—I take credit for what follows in this space. Look to her definition of Intemperies, which reminds me that even without all the exotic spices, the sumptuous linens and the gilded teacups to hold that silken crème, life right now can be just as rich as life over in dark Parisian corners or bluish Scandinavian mornings, fluid Florentine museums or writhing Bombay avenues.

But for now, some aged white cheddar and slippery, un-spiced apples to entice that ephemera from where it sleeps on blustery November nights.

Apple Pie with White Cheddar Crust
From Gourmet, September 2009

For the crust:

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ {2 1/2 cups} lb extra-sharp white cheddar, coarsely grated
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into ½ -inch pieces
¼ cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into ½ -inch pieces
6 to 8 tablespoons ice water
1 tablespoon milk

For the Apples:

1 ½ lb Gala apples {3 medium}
1 ½ lb Granny Smith apples {3 medium}
2/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into bits

Equipment: 9-inch pie plate

Make the crust:

Toss flour, salt and cheese in a large bowl or pulse in a food processor. Blend in butter and shortening with a pastry blender, processor or fingers. Stop when you have pea-sized lumps. Drizzle 6 Tbsp water over the flour mixture and toss lightly to combine and dampen mixture.
If dough doesn't hold together at this time, add 1 Tbsp of water at a time. Do not overwork.

Divide dough in half, making two disks and wrapping them in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Make the filling:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees and place a foil-lined baking sheet under rack where pie will rest.

Peel and core apples, slicing them about 1/4 in thick. Toss well with the sugar, flour, lemon juice and salt.

Roll out one piece of dough into a 13-inch round on a lightly floured surface. Fit into the pie plate and roll the remaining dough into an 11-inch round. Pour the apple filling into the pie shell and dot with butter. Cover with the second pastry and trim edges leaving a bit of dough to pinch together all around the circumference. Brush top crust lightly with milk and cut 5, one inch long vents.

Bake on the foil-lined sheet for 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake for another 40 minutes, until the crust is golden and filling is bubbling. Cool 2-3 hours before serving.

It's lovely with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream, which cuts the cheddar with a cooling sweet.

19 November 2009


Finally.  I've done it.  My curious fixation for blogs began a few years ago when I happened upon the eloquent and highly-relatable musings of Molly Wizenberg on her beautiful blog, Orangette .  While reading the stories Molly shares with her vast, anonymous world of readers, I realized that I may have just found what it was I had been searching for; that is, a way to combine two seemingly contrasting passions, the crafts of cuisine and writing, into an outlet of energy and emotion that allows me to explore more deeply the very things my life revolves around.

This is not to say I am any expert in either.  I struggle with finding a voice in my more creative writing that seems genuine; let me loose on an academic paper and I'll knock your socks off.  And I am certainly no Alice Waters.  I've made pancakes and left out the flour (and believe me, this is not an isolated incident).

Nonetheless, I have been yearning for a space where I can cultivate these interests of mine in the hopes of connecting with or inspiring others, much like the multitudes of foodie bloggers out there have done for me.  It is my firm belief that what we eat sustains our bodies and enriches our minds and hearts, and there should be so much joy in the preparation of meals, and certainly in the sharing of our food.

I have been lucky enough to encounter like-minded individuals in my life that share these fundamental values of food and writing and happiness, and upon forming a bond with my dear friend Veronica, Intempéries was born.  Our goal is to share stories about our daily lives that inspire us, especially in our culinary ventures, while focusing on dishes that are seasonal and, more often than not, local.

Intempéries is a french word for "bad weather," but as Veronica explained to me, the term can be used to refer to those surely surreal moments in time when it seems like the weather is a bit schizophrenic, emulating the four seasons all at once.  In the context of a blog centered around food, I took this as a way to incorporate a multitude of ingredients in a food-geek cop-out.  However, I think a much more poignant view is thinking of our lives as a bit intempéries themselves.  Life can be glorious, depressing, raucous, and downright crummy all at once.  No matter what, though, it is always beautiful, always worthwhile.  I could drop a bottle of wine on my foot, followed by a can of coconut milk on the exact spot (like I did a few days ago), let my soup boil over and scald, and forget to put in those spices that make it all the more sexy, but... somehow, it is still delicious and oh-so-worth it.

I am so looking forward to this shared venture with Veronica and the rest of you.  Do bear with us while we get the blog going and designed to our liking... we're even delusional and excited enough to believe we can learn html code for it!