Thursday, July 21, 2011


I hike Dash up on my hip, forearm in line with his thoracic spine, fingers lengthening up his neck and into his hair.

Bust apart 3 heads of garlic. It works well to press down on a bulb with your body weight, one palm on top of the other. It's okay if some of the cloves cling together in bunches of 2 or 3.

His legs dangle all the way down to my knees. Swing. Kick. Kick.

Every now and then a clove will explode in the hot oil and shoot up towards the ceiling. To prevent this, poke a tiny hole in each clove with the tip of a paring knife.

I nuzzle my nose into his hair and say, "I think you grew again. How did this happen?"

Place the unpeeled cloves in a large pot and cover with olive oil. You can add extras like salt, a sprig of thyme, or a rosemary branch. Or not.

Dash sighs. He can't believe he has to explain this growing up thing to me again. "Sleep. Food. Sleep. Food. Sleep. THAT'S how it happens, mama."

Or maybe it's all the garlic. I don't know how to cook without it. My children are composed of garlic.

Place pot on the back burner. Bring to the boil.  Do NOT get your face (or your child's) anywhere near the pot. 
I peel Dash off my body and secure him on a stool. We lean forward and peer into a pot that's cooling on the chopping block.

The oil will sputter, so reduce the heat to low the moment it boils.

"Dashi. What is this?"

"Octopus?" he smiles, very pleased with his joke.
"Nope, crazyhead. Not octopus."

Gently simmer the cloves.

"Hm, mama. Let me think. Is it garlic con-FEE?"

Check on the cloves after 20 minutes (scoop one out with a spoon and pierce it with a paring knife). 

"Dashi. What does confit mean?"


"My love, what if we you cooked YOU in fat?"

"But you love me so much you don't want to get me in confit."

The cloves should be soft all the way through, like plump and oily pillows.

"I think you would be delicious that way."

Cool to room temperature.

"Mama, I would tip the oil on the ground, run, and hide. Maybe outside." 
"Dash, what else can we confit?"

You can suck the cooked garlic right out of the skins.


You can squirt the contents of a few cloves onto grilled bread.

"Yup. Like duck or lamb."

Use the creamy garlic as a base for salad dressing (pestled with anchovy into a paste).

"But, mama, can I shoot the animals first? Can we do that?"

Or mix it with fresh herbs and goat cheese as a topping for lamb chops.


The surrounding oil can be used in almost everything.

Lung capacity breath. I get so pissed off when I talk about guns.  Or I start to cry. 

Drizzle it over pizza. Or make a Garlic Confit, Parsley, and Almond Pesto.

The next breath I take is so deep that it lifts and spreads my collarbones.

The cloves (with skins on) and oil will keep in the fridge for a few weeks. Make sure all the cloves are covered with oil.  

Killing a duck and then eating it for dinner? "Okay, Dash. I'm open to that."

"Okay, mama."


1. Corn, Cherry Tomato, Arugula, and Spinach Salad: Cut two ears of corn off the cob. Halve a handful of cherry tomatoes. Heat a skillet. Add 2 tablespoons of garlic confit oil until hot. Toss in corn, tomatoes, and a pinch of salt.  Add 1 tablespoon sherry wine vinegar and big squeeze of lemon. Stir over high heat for 10 seconds. Pour over a big bowl of baby spinach and arugula. Toss. (Optional addition: circle salad with Bacon-Wrapped Figs Stuffed with Goat Cheese.)

2. Garlic Confit Vinaigrette: Mash two of the confited garlic cloves and one anchovy fillet with a mortar and pestle. Add one chopped shallot. Top with 3 tablespoons of a combination lemon juice, white wine vinegar, and sherry wine vinegar. Macerate for 10 minutes. Whisk in 2 teaspoons of dijon mustard. Drop by drop whisk in 6 tablespoons of olive oil (or a combo of olive oil and garlic confit oil). Taste. Adjust. 

3. Lime Potatoes with Poached Eggs: Preheat oven to 375°F. Peel and quarter 12-16 large yukon gold potatoes. Coat with lots of salt, pepper, lime zest, lime juice, and 4 tablespoons garlic confit oil. Place in a pot with a lid or wrap in tin foil. Throw in a few chunks of butter, the juiced lime bodies and some cloves of the confited garlic. Bake 30-45 minutes (stir and check after 20 minutes so bottom potatoes don't burn). Test with a paring knife for doneness (the knife should slip right in). Remove lime bodies. Serve with poached eggs, grated monterey jack cheese, chopped cilantro, sour cream, and hot sauce.


Break apart a few heads of garlic. It's okay to have bunches of 2 or 3 cloves. Poke a tiny hole in each clove to prevent the cloves from exploding. Place unpeeled cloves in a deep pot and cover with olive oil. Add pinch of salt and herbs if you desire (sprig of thyme or branch of rosemary). Bring to the boil. Reduce heat right away to prevent spattering. Place on the back burner and don't get your face anywhere near the pot. Simmer until garlic is cooked through, soft, and creamy (20-30 minutes). Cool to room temperature. You can keep the cloves (with skins on) and oil for a few weeks in the fridge. Make sure cloves are covered with oil. Add more oil if you need to. Scoop out oil as needed. Squeeze garlic out of the skins as needed.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


"You have to be a crazy person to just sit there and eat caramel sauce right out of the jar," said my grandmother.

Just then we looked up and saw my brother scooping caramel from jar to mouth. To be fair, he was gearing up for a caramel sauce taste test. 

My brother declared the one on the right "funky, dank, and luscious." It was the all-around winner.
It's fine to eat caramel by itself. But don't make your final judgements until the sauce has mingled with vanilla ice cream. 
And go a little darker with it than you think you should. The caramel you might like encased in bittersweet  chocolate is different from what works drizzled over vanilla ice cream. It's all about the contrast between the creamy and the burned.

Makes enough to fill a recycled Bonne Maman jar.

3/4 cup heavy cream
1/3 stick salted butter
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
1/3 vanilla bean, halved and seeds scraped out

Measure out heavy cream and butter and set aside. Place sugar and water in a medium-sized saucepan. Swirl (by the pot handle) around until all the sugar is wet. Add more water if you need to. Place over medium heat. Don't walk away. Swirl around (by the pot handle) if it's not caramelizing evenly. Cook until it's almost at desired color (Grade B maple syrup or darker). Remove from heat and pour in the heavy cream. Careful. It will rise up and spatter. Whisk until combined. Add the butter. Cool for 20 minutes and then whisk in vanilla bean seeds. Store scraped vanilla bean in the caramel. It will keep for a few weeks in the fridge.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Ice cream camp, chemistry class, and pastry school. All rolled into one. That was our June.
"Bella," I asked, "do you think it's possible to get sick of ice cream?"

Her eyes widened in horror. "What? WHAT are you talking about?"

She is my little addict. 

And the taste tester.
"Mama," said Dash, "we have to caramelize ALL the sugar next time so it's stronger."

Meet the recipe tester.
I'm Julie McCoy AND the fucking dishwasher. 
(photo by bella)
But I'm not complaining. Really.

And now I give you 18 steps, warnings, tips, links, emotional reactions, general observations, and LOTS of unsolicited advice about parenting and the making of ice cream (caramel in particular).

1. In a bowl, whisk together egg yolks, half and half, and salt. Be brave with the salt. The caramel needs it.

2. Measure out your heavy cream and set it aside. This is the fat that you're going to pour into the caramelized sugar. This is not a time for lowfat substitutions. Half and half or whole milk will curdle.

3. If you're a kid in my kitchen and you're not being safe around caramel, I will swear at you, grab you, or push you out of the way. Sugar doesn't even start to caramelize until around 330° F. Just remember that scary temperature. 330°F.
4. Danger aside, don't let the technical aspects of caramel scare you. In a deep pot, coat the sugar with a big splash of water (water gives you a bit more control). Swirl (by the pot handle) over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the water evaporates. It will boil, thicken, and start to change color. Swirl it a bit more if it's not caramelizing evenly. The burning sugar will smell woody, smoky, sweet. It's ready when it's the shade of Grade B maple syrup (or the color of my Ikea Stockholm coffee table). It will continue to darken even after you remove it from the heat.

5. Carefully pour in the heavy cream.

6. And then stand back.

7. Hitting caramelized sugar with heavy cream brings about quite a reaction. The mixture will rise up, almost overflowing. And then (big relief) it will start to settle back down into a calmer (but still confused) ocean of sugar, curds, and whey. Whisk it vigorously and it will unite into a creamy golden syrup.
8. At this point, Dash has been known to squeal, "Mama, this caramel is un-be-leeeeeeeevable." Caramel makes me feel this way too. It's one of those transformations that astonishes every time. The smell, the heat, the color.

9.  SLOWLY pour the caramel into the egg mixture. This allows the eggs to adjust to the change in temperature without getting stressed out.

10. Pour the mixture back into the original caramel pot (so as not to waste any little drips or drops). 

11. Set aside your whisk and bring out a wooden spoon. Place back on medium heat. And start stirring.

12. Don't walk away.  Or you will have caramel-flavored scrambled eggs.

13. Watch, feel, and smell for the shift in viscosity.

14. As you stir, the thin custard will slap against the sides of the pot like waves against the side of a boat. As it thickens, the gliding spoon will cause the custard to rise up and settle back down without much of a splash. The whirlpools will slow down. 

15. To confirm that it's done, do the drag-your-finger-across-the-back-of-the-wooden-spoon test. It's ready when your finger leaves a lovely lingering trail.

16. Pour the custard through a fine strainer and place in an ice water bath. 
17.  Cool the custard in the fridge for a few hours. Pour the custard into an electric machine. Or hand churn it. Or do David Leibowitz's no-machine method. Whatever works. Scrape finished ice cream into a chilled bowl.

18. Phew.
 "Mama, did you know we're masters of making ice cream?"

"Well, Dashi. We're trying."

Over.  And over. And over. And over again.

feeds 1-6 people

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups half and half
6 egg yolks
big big pinch of salt
a little less than 2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

Measure out heavy cream and set aside.

Whisk together half and half, yolks, and salt. Set aside.

Prepare a water bath. Place fine strainer over a medium-sized bowl. Immerse bottom of medium bowl in a large bowl filled with ice and water.

Place sugar and water in a medium-sized saucepan. Swirl around until all the sugar is wet. Add more water if you need to. Place over medium heat. Don't walk away. Swirl around a bit if it's not caramelizing evenly. Cook until it's almost at desired color (Grade B maple syrup). Remove from heat and carefully pour in the heavy cream. Whisk until it comes together. You might need to place it back on the heat for a minute to dissolve the caramel.

Very slowly whisk the caramel mixture into the egg mixture. Pour combined mixture back into the caramel pan.

Cook on low heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon until it thickens slightly. It's done when you drag your finger across the back of the wooden spoon and it leaves a trail that stays.

Pour mixture through the fine strainer into the bowl that's over the ice bath. Leave bowl over the ice bath until it's cool. Stir every 10 minutes or so. Place sarah wrap on top surface of custard to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate custard for several hours. Freeze ice cream according to manufacturer's directions. Freeze for a few hours before serving.