Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving potpourri

This is my hundredth post! So I'm going to take pictures of everything I've made today, which I was going to do anyway. I've made Thanksgiving Day food before, but not my own turkey. And it's the first T-day without any of my family, so I decided to make the most of it.

A few days ago, I finally went out and bought a baguette pan. Turns out, baguettes actually hold their shape if you do them properly! I was thrilled - they're so beautiful. They'll be for the holiday artichoke-crab dip, our appetizer.

My favorite thing was how they rose (sank?) through the little holes at the bottom, creating this effect:

So neat, and slightly bizarre.

I just used the simple French boule recipe I always fall back on: 5 cups flour, 2 cups warm water, let it autolyse at least fifteen minutes, mix in 1 serving of yeast (2.24 tsps for me) and salt (I eyeball it. And I have eyeballed too much before...). A little kneading (with olive-oil hands, don't use excess flour), and you're off on the first rise. (2-4 hours). Punch back, then let rise in whatever baking dish/pan you're going to use, another 2 hours or so. I bake it at 450 for 15 minutes, spraying the oven with water, then another 15-20 at 350.

More soon! First, it's the Turkey Trot. In the 30 degree weather.


Holy crap the Turkey Trot was freezing. But John and I ran it like champs.

Then we got peppermint mochas, and came home to pancetta-sage butter up the turkey.

Malia was telling me about taking the turkey out to rest for an hour, and because the breast dries out so quickly, keeping it colder with ice cube packs - she heard it on NPR or something, so I thought I'd try it. I'm not certain I'll be able to tell the difference without tasting a non-ice-cubed turkey in comparison, but I like that I did it.

It's all slimy with the pancetta-sage butter, from this recipe. And a happy organic, free-range turkey. I think it had a good life. Until now, I suppose. But at least it was more content than most.

You can see the lovely stalk of brussels sprouts in the back. Those go with shallots, which I need to prep. And the stuffing, and the artichoke-crap dip.


A success, all of it, with the exception of the turkey stock I was making from the carcass after the meal, because I got distracted by leveling up a new Horde character in WoW, with John & his Reno buddies. When I came back downstairs (2 hours later), there was hardly anything left in the pot except bones.

But the meal was great - I wish I'd taken a picture of the cake before cutting into it, since it was the best of the 3 years of 4-layer pumpkin cake yet. And Malia was RIGHT about the icing the turkey breast; the meat was the most tender I've ever had, but of course I didn't remember pictures until after it was cut open. Kick ass gravy, good brussels sprouts with shallots and vinegar and a little sugar, John's Grandma's strawberry cream salad, and then this recipe for stuffing. I made a loaf of bread for it yesterday, a split-tin white loaf, and while the stuffing was full of lovely herbs and a huge head of Swiss Chard, I'm not certain I'll make it again. It got slightly dried out, (yes, I should have checked it), and I'm not sure I liked the Swiss Chard in it. But the many herbs were lovely.

There's no reason to buy cranberry sauce, not when it's so jellied and molded and full of sugar and preservatives. It takes 30 minutes to make your own, full of cloves and cinnamon and honey and a little brown sugar - lovely.

And the best cake ever. I changed up the recipe this time - less powdered sugar, more pumpkin liquor, and real whip cream instead of cool whip. And it was to die for.

Then we watched Miyazaki's Ponyo, which had a terrible number of ridiculous lines for a Miyazaki movie, and so I quietly excused myself and cleaned the kitchen instead. Then games, more wine, and bed. It's been a delightful day, made even better by an email about one of my stories being considered for an anthology. I'm going to cross my fingers and hope it works out.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

It's that time of year...

...for goal-making! Among other things. Because it's almost the end of the year, and because I'm inspired by fellow Lightspeed colleague Christie's post on goals to ramble about my own. Because I can't remember having any specific goals last year, writing-wise, other than the general 'get shit published.' Plenty of life-goals, a few I accomplished, a few I didn't (no half-marathon yet), and here we are.

But first, a bread bowl with broccoli cheese soup, because I like food and pictures.

This wasn't the pretty serving picture, this was the picture I took after I grabbed John's food away from him in a panic because I'd forgotten the picture. He'd already mixed in the cheese and smoked paprika, which you can see on the bread, but it still looked better than mine, which was broken apart and messy since I'd torn into it like some crazed animal.

The soup was terrific - amazing, in fact, and now I want to go get the leftovers I brought to work. I used this recipe, proceeded to add more cheddar, just the basic French bread recipe I usually make with any kind of pasta or soup. But the bowl-sized shapes were going flat with each rise, and so I gave up and cheated by just forming the bread around a small ramikan placed upside down on a baking sheet. It did the trick, as you can see.

I'm having a blast planning out Thanksgiving dinner, too - all I need is some pancetta, for the pancetta-sage turkey, and because this is Oklahoma, I have to actually go to a butcher's. (But then it shall taste better, so I'm not complaining too much...)

Goals! That's where I was. Let's see. This year saw the publication of "Light Stones" and "Becoming Normal," both of which made me very happy, and especially the latter, given its pro status. I spent about 6 weeks cleaning on Stone Lake for a friend to read, and he gave me so many things to work on - all good and necessary things, mostly structure-related - and I'm not certain I'm good enough to fix them. One day, and hopefully soon, because it's a damn good book.

But I also wrote 4 brand new stories, and completed "Child of Fortune," worked on two different (new) novels, spent a lot of time with Lightspeed, and did a lot of critiquing, mostly for the Fragments. It hasn't been a huge year, but I think it's been an important one - I learned a lot of basics, mostly in short story structuring, what works, what doesn't, and when someone's advice for your story isn't the right advice for your story.

Hmmm, this doesn't seem to be about goals any more - it's what I have and haven't done. And while I want to write things like 'finish Harvester with a solid structure' and '6 shorts or more in 2011, at reasonable lengths versus upwards of 8k like in 2010', I wonder if there's a reason I haven't been able to make myself writing goals for the last few years. Probably because the writing itself is in charge, as are the stories - they take me where they want, and they write themselves out when they want. The only stories I've tried to push through for whatever reason have been painfully sluggish and awkward and unwieldy and ugly. And not fun.

Maybe my horizons need to be broad, so anything's possible. I like that a lot.