Category Archives: Basics

Butchering 101

chicks and dumpsI’ve been eyeing the Chicken & Dumplings recipe since I bought this cookbook. Who doesn’t love chicken and dumplings?! Gwyneth promises right away it’s the “homiest” dish in the book, so I saved it for an especially cold day. My main apprehension was that the first step is to cut apart a whole chicken, something I have never attempted. But, if Gwyneth has already convinced me to kill things, cutting apart something dead should be no problem, right?  Continue reading

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Filed under Basics, Main Courses

Gazpacho Party!

When your mom yells at you via a blog comment to cook more, you know you’re doing something wrong. Added to that is the fact that summer has suddenly come to an end, and the realization that I neglected to make gazpacho all season. Plus, I had a party to go to this weekend. So, for all these reasons: Gazpacho was made on Saturday night. Continue reading

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Filed under Basics, Soups

The Great Bacon Taste-Off

This weekend’s experiment in duck bacon was not nearly the monumental experience I had hoped for, after over a month of agonizing over the difficulties of obtaining the ingredient. It was like losing my virginity, but only after receiving a numbing shot of Novocain straight to my penis. (Yikes, probably best to just stop reading here, Grandma.) I couldn’t even be sure I knew what duck bacon tasted like, as the only sample I got was mixed in with a pot of other ingredients.

So a bacon taste-test was in order! This stuff is so expensive and hard-to-find? Let’s see how it matches up to other kinds of bacon, more readily accessible but therefore less special. To see how it stacked up, read on. Continue reading

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Filed under Basics, Gwyneth Miscellania

You Might as Well Just Skip This Post

This isn’t going to be exciting. And if that opening line doesn’t draw you in, I don’t know WHAT will. I did some cooking last night, but I wanted something easy, that I could have as leftovers for a few lunches this week. So I made White Bean Soup, and it was fine, and that is that. I guess I’ll give you more details, but, I’m not joking, this is going to be pretty dull. You’ve been warned. Continue reading

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Filed under Basics, Soups

Homemade Sort-of-Sriracha

And we’re back! Over Memorial Day weekend, I managed to knock out three recipes, so stay tuned for lots of cooking posts. Today, however, we’re starting with a simple one: Lee’s Homemade Sriracha. This was actually the recipe I was most intrigued by when I first paged through the cookbook (oh, how innocent and naive I was back then), and I had been eagerly awaiting my chance to try it out. Well, Friday was that day. WAS THE WAIT WORTH IT? Read on! Continue reading

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Mac & Cheese & Birthdays

Looking into various options for duck yesterday had me nervously eyeing my bank account, so I wanted to cook something cheap and easy for dinner. Paging through the cookbook, I realized Gwyneth’s Macaroni & Cheese recipe included mascarpone, which I had a tub of sitting in the fridge from my ravioli disaster. I have no idea what else to do with mascarpone, so this seemed like kismet.

Gwyneth offers up four different ways to cook your Mac & Cheese, but they’re not that different. I mean, three of the four “variations” are just adding a different cheese. Not that exciting. But we’re not going for exciting today; we’re going for CHEAP. I decided to mix two of her “variations,” which she suggest go well together – adding mozzarella, and adding her Basic Tomato Sauce. Which means I’m actually accomplishing two recipes! I really feel like I’m cheating here. Continue reading

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Filed under Basics, Holidays, Pasta

The Essential Ingredients; Or, What Have I Done?

Gwyneth starts with the basics, so that is where we’ll start: Establishing a well-stocked kitchen. Let’s ignore the introductory page, in which she explains how her favorite creative culinary moments arise when coming home from work with no time to go shopping (it must have been the servants’ day off). Moving right along, the list is revealing, and it gets the average reader off to a shaky start. This is a book you read with one eye on your bank account. According to The Atlantic, it would take at least $450 to stock my kitchen with her “essential” ingredients, as well as an additional $1,300 minimum to acquire all the “essential tools.” So, now Gwyneth and I are off to a bad start.

Now, I actually happen to have some of the essential ingredients on hand, which is a welcome surprise. Olive oil? Check! (Although mine isn’t imported from Spain. Ho hum.) But there are four more “essential” oils I’m missing, including toasted sesame and safflower. And that’s just the “oils” section. Moving down the list, I can check off Dijon mustard, garlic, and a few random spices (I’m missing — of course — saffron). There are at least 40 other ingredients I’m missing that Gwyneth recommends I have on hand, and they range from the totally normal (ice cream, baking powder, almonds) to the obnoxious (four different kinds of flour, something called “Bragg Liquid Aminos”) to the stomach-churning (one word: Vegenaise — regular mayo is “fine and works,” Gwyneth huffs). Again, Gwyneth and I aren’t starting off well.

We then get a few actual recipes, for stocks and simple sauces, all of which will appear in later recipes, so I won’t delve into any of them yet. But let’s just say I’m dreading making the fish stock, which requires four lobsters. Or, for that matter, the four other dishes that require lobster. To give Gwyneth some credit, though, I am very much looking forward to attempting homemade Sriracha.

And then we get to the “essential tools.” Vitamix Blender? A minimum of $450. Le Creuset Dutch oven? At least $200. Jamie Oliver Flavour Shaker? At least $30. And I don’t even know what the point of that thing is. This is where I start sweating. And this list doesn’t even include items from later recipes, which call for paella burners and pans, or the pizza recipe in which Gwyneth recommends installing a wood-burning pizza oven in your garden. (Somehow, I am actually not joking about that! Who is this woman?!)

My favorite pre-recipe section, however, is by FAR the chart in which Gwyneth provides you with alternatives to some of the health-food ingredients she recommends. This is the most enjoyable example of Gwyneth’s complete lack of experience in the real world, and she parodies herself better than I could ever do. For example, did you know that when you don’t have almond or hemp milk on hand, something called “cow’s milk” (also known as MILK) will suffice? Or when you’re out of duck or tempeh bacon, common “pork bacon” will do in a pinch!

Am I delaying by heavily analyzing these pre-recipe pages of the book? Absolutely. Because one thing has become abundantly clear, the more I look into this cookbook. While Julie Powell’s project was all about time management, and learning classic techniques, and actually becoming a better cook, the Danny/Gwyneth Project is about one thing, and one thing only: Money.

Good thing I got my tax return yesterday. The cooking starts this weekend.

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Filed under Basics