I know absolutely nothing about football, nothing!, except that the 49ers made it to the Superbowl this year, and that, alone, is cause for celebration! Whoo hooooo!!!
Sorry, I get a little carried away when my home team is beating everyone else’s butt. But seriously though, I have never watched a football game in my life. Really. (People always sound so surprised when I tell them this.) I don’t understand the point (not in a philosophical team-sport sense; I really don’t know how points are scored), and it’s not fast-paced enough to grip me. Also, and this is going to sound really shallow, football player bodies are just not attractive to me, at all.
I have, however, been to Superbowl parties, and they are always the same: beer guzzling (kegs!), out-of-control testosterone levels, and tables loaded with man-food. Burp. Excuse me.
I’m gussying it up this year, dammit, and here’s how: French cheese puffs, a.k.a. gougères.
I realize gougères lie in the realm of snobbish foods and are therefore completely and utterly not suited for football-watching. But once shed of their French-sounding name and associations with champagne and other high-falutin’ wines, they are not precious at all, this iteration especially. We’re talking cheese, we’re talking meat (MEAT), we’re talking a buttery carb-y matrix to hold it all together.
Plus, they’re really good. Fresh out of the oven, there’s nothing I like better than splitting one of these puffs open with a fork, watching the steam escape, and biting into the still soft and gooey dough.
I would choose a gougère over a 5-foot-long sub (are these for real?) any day.
Take that, men.
Of course, I’m not exactly sure where I’ll be celebrating the Superbowl this year. I suspect a few of us will gather at Finnerty’s in the East Village, the one and only Bay Area bar where I wish I’d watched the World Series a few months ago. I really don’t care about the outcome of the game. I just love the opportunity to surround myself with the Bay Area vibe.
If there’s anything I am paranoid about, it’s catching a cold. For a long time, a friend kept passing on to me horrible mutant colds that her niece passed on to her from daycare. Which I would then pass on to Chris. It was a vicious cycle.
I finally wisened up to the fact. I mean, after the third time, as I lay splayed out across the couch half-delirious and shivering, Chris in the next room in pretty much the same condition, I had to admit the obvious: my friend was a germ magnet.
But I didn’t have to be! And it started with establishing defensive measures: washing my hands as soon as I got home and washing my hands before eating, for instance. I also started wiping down handles and doorknobs, holding my breath after someone around me sneezed, and cancelling plans with potentially sick friends.
And if Chris shows any symptoms of anything, he’s banished from my presence. “Get out of here!” I’ll say, after his fourth sneeze in a row. (I sneeze in three’s myself, so anything up to that point is generally okay.)
I’m not a terrible partner, honest. You just can’t fathom how many times Chris and I have transmitted colds to each other.
“I might be sick!” I warn him when he leans down to kiss me.
“Oh, who cares?” he’ll say, believing himself invincible for that one moment. The next thing he knows, he’s sick. And glaring daggers at me from his position on the couch, swaddled in blankets and surrounded by used tissues (which I remove with tweezers. Just kidding.)
So imagine my reaction when Chris informed me on Saturday morning that he thought he might be getting sick. “Oh, I’m sorry,” I said sympathetically, as I slowly sidled away from him. Later, after he failed to put into action Sick Protocol (i.e. distancing himself from me), I got mad and yelled at him for being inconsiderate.
Afterwards, I felt bad. So I made him some soup.
It was a wise decision, I think, because soup is a magical cure-all to all ailments: the cold, hangovers, physical cold. Especially when harissa, the most magical of condiments, is mixed in. It imparts the perfect amount of heat to clear sinuses, warm up internal organs (or so I imagine), and cause the sweat glands to kick into action. The stuff is good for colds.
As for taste, I was a bit dubious about this soup initially. With only, what, four ingredients, you wouldn’t imagine that there’d be much complexity. Sure, carrots have a distinctive flavor, but is it enough to act as the backbone to this recipe? The vegetable for which this soup is named after? Why yes, they are, but only if you use good-quality chicken stock, and the aforementioned harissa. With them, you’ve got a possibly-sick, soup-despising man slurping the stuff up like it’s liquefied pizza (his favorite food). That is the sign of a successful recipe. Another sign: the man’s not sick after all. You see? Soup cures everything. Correction: spicy carrot soup cures everything.
I realized yesterday that our living room is just about about the size of the island in Chris’s aunt’s kitchen. Granted, her kitchen is super-sized, but that still tells you something, doesn’t it?
Currently, a huge piece of surface material is taking up about a quarter of the total space, smack in the middle of it all. It makes getting around the apartment challenging. You have to shimmy around it, but mind the wires!, because you might trip like I did this morning, knocking over a speaker that had been playing Lykke Li. (I don’t think it’s broken.)
Chris likes to joke that the entire apartment has become my studio, and he’s not kidding. Lining one wall are foamboards and reflectors and all kinds of surfaces. Lining the opposite wall are stacks of bowls, plates, jars, glassware, silverware, pots, pans, and other props. It’s a delicate situation.
The kitchen is no exception, both in the fact that it’s tiny (I’ve touched on this before), and that I treat it as an extension of my studio. Open any drawer and you’ll discover the tricks of my trade: a rolling pin balanced precariously atop a couple mortars, pestles off to the side, an entire drawerful of random shiny gizmo-gadgets: biscuit cutters, the candy thermometer, a milk frother. And watch out if you want to grab a baking sheet: you’ll have to dig through a mountain of metallica, maneuvering your hand through tiny crevices and odd corners.
Oh, the life of a food blogger.
The truth is, despite having all this stuff lying around, I still find myself gravitating towards simple recipes, today’s being no exception. I like using ingredients that are in season (well, I guess that’s true of many of us), and I like being able to really taste their essence.
Maybe that makes me lazy. Or maybe it makes me a faux-Alice Waters in training? I’ll let you decide.
To tell you the truth, being newly open to baking with citruses and all, I had planned on preparing something a little more ambitious for today. In my head, I envisioned perfect mini tarts filled with silky caramel and topped with this blood orange curd, glistening of course. I really intended to stun you all away with my baking prowess.
But: a) and mostly importantly, I have no baking prowess, and b) there are bills to pay (also very important, come to think of it), so I let my intentions dwindle into this blood orange curd, which ended up being a real treat.
I’m with Kate on this one. The word ‘curd’ just doesn’t do it for me. It rhymes with ‘turd’ for one thing, and ugh, the tongue seems to linger on that ‘r,’ drawing it out so it sounds like you’re insulting someone.
Anyway, as you can see, the citrus obsession continues. (Amy! I’m filling your plate with more citrus!) Please don’t let its name detract from what it is, because that would be doing a great disservice to this recipe.
Though the butter and egg yolk have the effect of mellowing out the acidity of the orange, the citrus flavor really comes through. I like how blood oranges aren’t super sweet; it really helps keep the sweetness factor in check. And I like how the curd is creamy, like a buttery jam. It tastes really good on plain toast (in particular, it pairs really well with this poppy seed bread we have in the house).
I was surprised with how the color turned out, because the juice was such a vivid coral, but again, mellowing occurred and the pinkish-red turned into a pretty pastel orange. Don’t you love lovely-looking food?
Other ways in which to use your curd (ugh, that sounds so dirty):
In other words, you can pretty much do whatever you feel like with the stuff. So go, go and make your blood orange caramel tarts, see if I care!