Monday, January 25, 2010

Crock Pot Soups

My hard drive is at least temporarily fixed. I had to reset it to factory settings, which wasn't fun and cost me my archived e-mails and bookmarks!

I love my crock pot. I don't use it nearly often enough, but when I do, I really appreciate having it.

This weekend was supposed to be chillier than last week (which was in the upper 40s). That sounds like time for ham and bean soup for dinner!

Normally I do my soups on the stove, but this time I did in the crock pot -- mostly because I am busily working on the paleography of a 14th century manuscript. So I wanted to be able to ignore the soup until I got hungry.

The soup turned out wonderfully. I soaked the beans for 24 hours because I put them in Friday night and then discovered a social commitment for Saturday. So they didn't go in the pot until Saturday night. I cooked them overnight on low with a country ham bone and some ham. The next morning I turned them to high and added mushrooms, carrots, and celery. Silly me, I forgot the onions. It turned out wonderfully!

The beans were firm and meaty, the ham melted in my mouth, and the veggies were cooked through, but not mushy. I'm looking forward to dinner tonight: leftover soup!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hard drive fail

I may miss posting the next couple of weeks -- I am having computer problems that look mysteriously like a hard drive failure (on a one year old computer!). I hope to be posting from an alternate computer, but that will likely mean that my posts won't always be Monday evening.


Monday, January 11, 2010

Partial fail

I will post later this week. We went on a trip this weekend that WIPED me out. Right now, I plan to sit on a heating pad and take good pain meds.

Monday, January 4, 2010


It's hard to believe that I started this journal just after Christmas last year. In that year, I've talked about a lot of different topics: baking, wine, soups - whatever I've felt like talking about. And you readers have, for the most part, been very supportive.

I haven't accomplished everything I wanted yet. I wanted to do more experimental cooking, playing with higher levels of cuisine. I've found that I'm spending a lot of time trying to get the most out of recipes I'm accustomed to making, perfecting them, sharing them. And it's been good.

I received a new book for Christmas this year: Cooking: the Quintessential Art by Hervé This and Pierre Gagnaire. The authors talk about what makes cooking art, what is the difference between an artisan and an artist in the kitchen. At the end of each chapter are some thought experiments, intended to help the reader break out of established ways of thinking about food. All in all, it's a book I enjoyed reading cover to cover; it really made me think about cooking, especially how I approached cooking. I don't agree with some of its suggestions about what makes cooking an art or a cook an artist.

I use several approaches toward deciding what I want to cook. Sometimes, I want to focus on a flavor, whether is a spice/combination, a vegetable, a specific meat, etc. I try to find a way to highlight that flavor and make stand out. That flavor may not be a food that I'm cooking; I've built many meals around a specific wine I want to sample.

Other times, I want to see what I can do with a technique. Some of the techniques are ones I've never tried before. I occasionally apply techniques in new ways just to see what happens. I've had failures and I've had successes. I've learned from each and every one.

During the next year, I plan to include some of the thought experiments from Cooking: the Quintessential Art in my blog, whether I find the outcome a success or failure. I may need to tweak some of the experiments based on ingredients I have available (for example, I haven't found squab locally yet). So keep an eye out for these posts!