December, 2009

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I Wear My Sunglasses At Night

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Random Simon Photograph…
Corey Hart impression the evening before I left Munich:

Sunglasses At Night 1

Coq Au Vin Recipe

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

More domestic silliness, this time on the cooking front. As you know, I love to cook, but living alone means leftovers (I don’t think that I have a single recipe that feeds under 4 people), so I usually make huge things of spaghetti sauce, goulash and/or coq au vin and freeze it. I love my freezer. During the cookie-baking silliness of earlier this month, I didn’t feel like cooking on top of that, so I ate through all my rations (plus a more take-away Chinese food and delivery pizza than I would have liked). Anyway, time to restock.

Coq au Vin
Description: Coq au Vin is a very traditional French meal. It is best served with small potatoes or over rice. This recipe takes a long time to make and you need to have patience. It is a modification of Julia Child’s recipe for coq au vin. This recipe works well in a crock-pot, so it can be made a day in advance and left to simmer for hours. Serves approximately 4-6 people.

Ingredients:
Butter, at least two sticks (no one said this was low fat)
Olive oil
5 medium onions (or Pearl Onions)
3 cups mushrooms (Crimini and Shitake mix are best)
2 cloves garlic
10 strips bacon
1 small can tomato paste
1 cup beef stock
4-5 pounds chicken, in pieces, but still on the bone, skin on
3 cups merlot (you can use whatever wine you like, red or white, but I use merlot, you’re reducing [read: strengthening the taste of] the wine – so don’t use garbage wine)
1 shot cognac
Thyme
Bay leaves
Flour
Salt and pepper

The Onions
Cut onions into quarters, saving the tops and skins. Heat large skillet, with 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil (when melted the butter/olive oil combination should coat the inside of the pan). Add the onions and sauté until onions are brown (lightly caramelized). Add the cup of beef stock, 2 teaspoons thyme and 2 bay leaves. Simmer for approximately 40 minutes. Strain onions from stock, saving both.

The Mushrooms
De-stem 3 cups mushrooms (save the stems) and cut into 1 inch pieces. Crush and dice 2 cloves garlic (save leftover skins as well). Heat large skillet, with 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil (when melted the butter/olive oil combination should coat the inside of the pan). Sauté mushrooms and garlic for approximately 20 minutes, until tender. Remove to from heat and set aside in a bowl.

The Stock
In a sauce pan, combine stock from onions (above), saved pieces from the mushrooms (stems), onion and garlic leftovers (tops, peels, skins), 1 cup water, and 2 crushed garlic cloves. Simmer for about an hour. Strain liquid and discard any remaining large vegetable pieces.

The Chicken
Cut strips of bacon into quarter inch pieces. Heat large skillet, with 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil (when melted the butter/olive oil combination should coat the inside of the pan). Add the bacon and sauté until light brown (if bacon becomes crisp you’ll have “crunchy” bits in your sauce). Remove the bacon to bowl, but save their drippings in pan. Add 1/3 stick of butter and bring bacon grease and butter to boiling. Very carefully add chicken. Brown on both sides, covering pot for each side, for around 15 minutes. If your stove has an open flame be very, very careful doing this and keep baking powder on hand in case the pan catches fire.

Putting it All Together, Part 1
Flambe with the chicken with cognac. Add the merlot, the small can of tomato paste, and the stock made previously. Simmer covered for approximately 45 minutes. Remove chicken from skillet; de-bone the chicken ; add bones to liquid still in the skillet and simmer for approximately 40 minutes. Remove the bones and discard. Strain the stock into a saucepan and skim off the excess fat; Reduce by simmering until thicker.

Putting it All Together, Part 2: making the rue
In a separate saucepan create a rue by melting 6 tablespoons of butter. Add 6 tablespoons of flour, stirring all the time. Add stock bit by bit to rue until paste forms; add rue to stock above in small portions until desired thickness it acquired. Note: This step must be done carefully otherwise the sauce will become lumpy. Note2: Rue thickens when it nears a boil (this occurs when the flour “puffs”). The general rule is to combine cold and hot to avoid lumps (if rue is hot add cold stock). But, if you’re very careful you can add hot stock to a hot rue and get away with it.

Final Preparation
If you are going to serve immediately, combine mushrooms, onions, chicken, and sauce in a large serving bowl and serve right away. If you are going to prepare in a crock-pot, combine all ingredients in the crock-pot and set to low. If preparing a day ahead, combine all above in a container, keep in the refrigerator overnight, and heat the following day in a crock pot set to low. Re-heating by this method takes about 7 hours.

I am of the Superstitious Sort

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

I have this superstition that the place where I live must be spotlessly clean when I ring in the new year, otherwise the new year will have bad luck. I think that this might be just a Kat-superstition, as I haven’t really heard anyone else go on about cleaning frenzies in the last week of the year, but who knows.

Now, as some people in the peanut gallery will attest to, I have not always strictly adhered to the scrubbing of the kitchen floor mantra before the stroke of midnight on December 31, because more often than not, I seem to get pretty sick the last few years of every year. Inevitably, though, when something bad happens in January or March, I find myself thinking that, damn, I should have cleaned the bathroom on the last day of the year. No, I am not kidding.

So, despite the lingering flu (I am much better, thank you), I am planning a full on attack with scouring pads and swifter dusters in the next few days. This morning I already moved the bed to make sure the dust-bunnies that were under it were evicted. The fridge must be emptied, the wardrobe/closet must be emptied, organized and refilled, and I have to crawl into the stove (almost literally) to get the burned on sugar from a recent blueberry pie fiasco.

And no, when I am finished, I will not come over to your place and clean. Well, ok, that depends on who you are and how nicely you ask.

Hibernation, Even If Just For Today

Monday, December 28th, 2009

After nine days of Thanksgiving-Jean Wedding Planning (which included far too much drinking)
and…
nine days of Absolute Crazy Christmas Baking (which included far too little sleep) and…
twelve days of International Travel (again with the drinking and lack of sleep) and…
five days of Domestic Travel (which included suffering from the flu) …
All of which… don’t get me wrong… were great, amazing, wonderful (‘cept the flu part) and overall the meaning of the holiday season for me, but…

You have absolutely no idea how much I am looking forward to slacking on my own sofa tonight in my new fleece pajamas with take-out Chinese food and watching the B’s play hockey. No To-Do list (well, I always have a To-Do list, but not one that absolutely has to be done tonight); no deadlines; no cooking; no wrapping.

Bliss.

Photos of the Suletzki Family Christmas Tree

Monday, December 28th, 2009

Christmas Tree 2009
Christmas Tree 2009
Christmas09-05Christmas Tree 2009
Christmas Tree 2009
Christmas Tree 2009
Christmas Tree 2009

There are more up on my Flickr page

The Artistic Talents of a 6-Year-Old

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

In the category of “fun and exciting bits of nostalgia that parents like to find at Christmas time”, here is a lovely little gem: a plate of my artistic talents circa age 6. As you can see, I was not an artistic protégé. [grin] It was one of the draw on piece of paper, mail it in and we’ll turn it into a melamine plate deals.

Artistic Talents of a 6-Year-Old Kat

In case anything needs explaining (and it had to be explained to me so clearly it isn’t self evident), the thing on the right is a flying telephone and the thing on the left is unknown. The earth apparently also has two suns. I am also not sure why the drawing of my grandfather has a fin (perhaps a mermaid impression?). Oh wait, perhaps that is intended to be his arm.

For the record, my drawing skills haven’t progressed much since this plate was made.

Freising on the 4th Sunday of Advent

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

It’s the last weekend here in Munich before I head back to the States, so despite the brutal cold (the common theme of my Munich posts), we decided to head to Freising today, to have a look about at yet another Christmas Market. And the cold really was almost unbearable, especially in the shade. Simon bravely walked the very slippery path up to the Dom however, while Theresa was too bundled up in her buggy to even move (she does look funny in the Winnie-the-Pooh snowsuit). The Dom is lovely, and while hanging out in churches isn’t usually my thing, it was comparatively warm, so we spent a bit of time checking out the Manger-scene. Kudos to both Simon and Theresa for being respectfully quiet.

Familie Eberl in Freising on the 4th Sunday of Advent

Your Clarinet Sounds Like a Dying Frog

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Since I’ve been in my digs here in Munich, every evening — between my “spend the day with one set of people” and “be merry with other people” time — there has been this clarinet player busking outside my window. All good; I have a fondness for buskers, actually.

Two very small dilemmas, however. The first is that this man knows only four or five tunes, max. If that. It might actually just be two songs, because they sort of run into each other in a jumbled mess. It’s not that he is inherently *bad* at playing the clarinet, he’s just not that great either and his repetoire is so limited… It’s like a live-and-in-person (so to speak) ohrwurm.

The second issue, which I suspect why I really don’t like his playing much after 5 days, is that it has been bloody freeeeeezing in Munich since the weekend. I’m used to cold, love it even, but it’s been topping out at -3C / 24F (with after dark lows of -10C / 14F) and you know what, clarinets and freezing temperatures just don’t mix. It isn’t good for the instrument, the man’s fingers or my eardrums.

The Big Picture Year in Review

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Being the photographer-wannabe that I am, I appreciate good photography of most sorts — nature, light-play, architecture and photojournalism being my favorite types. Perhaps this is why I love Boston.com’s The Big Picture so much.

Alan Taylor, the blogger for the Big Picture, doesn’t take the photos, but he has an amazing eye for collecting them. He’s started putting together end of year collections and 2009′s are in three parts over the last three days. Have a look:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Personal favorite of the bunch? These husky eyes. Surreal.

In Town for the Münchner Christkindlmarkt

Monday, December 14th, 2009

I’m visiting in Munich for a few weeks and it started with a very drunken, very exhausting semi-Junggesellinnenabschiedswochenende (brownie points for being able to say that 10x without messing it up) with Jean and Nikki who joined over from London. I don’t think that I have had that much alcohol in a very long time… from scotch to glühwein, helles to Baileys, to these damn good cocktails at the Anna Hotel (where we stayed) … seriously in need of a few days of detox, but it was more glühwein and bubbles today. Oh well, twist my arm.

Anyone fancy a POE before the weekend?

Jean and Nikki enjoying a POE

(insert your favourite Christmas Carol here)