Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I can't remember if I've mentioned our anniversary yet, or if I've been too obsessed with autumn (I love autumn!) to mention it. But our anniversary happened during Shane's last work shift. He arranged work so that he was in town on our anniversary and we got to have lunch together. It was lovely.
But now that Shane's actually home and we didn't have to rush through things, I wanted to do something a little bit more special than just a lunch date. Shane and I aren't particularly romantic a lot of the time and while it works for us, sometimes I feel like we don't take enough time to celebrate us. Anniversaries are nice simply because it's a time to remember that being a couple is different from any other relationship, and to celebrate all that you've accomplished. After all, I've known of couples that have dated, married, and divorced in less time than Shane and I have been together. (Scary, huh?) Relationships are hard and it's no small feat to be in a healthy relationship with another person for years.
Shane made a lovely, romantic meal at Valentine's Day so I said that I wanted to take care of this one. Just as he did to me, I made him hang out in the bedroom relaxing. (I read, he played video games.) And then I ran around like a crazy person trying to get dinner and dessert ready. I called it a jazz riff on Valentine's Day, since I sort of made what Shane had, only different. Salad from the garden (lettuce and carrots), cajun chicken fettucini alfredo (with cherry tomatoes from the garden), and personal-sized heart-shaped blueberry pies (with some of the berries I picked--trust me, it's a noticeable taste difference). I forgot just how much work it is to put all of that together at once, although miraculously the timing came out just great. I was pulling the pies out of the oven just as Shane came into the dining room.
And, well, things didn't turn out perfectly. I wish I could have drawn a curtain over the disaster that was our kitchen to block it out. I broke one of our champagne flutes. Not a big deal, they're from a four-pack that I bought at a discount store in Seattle years ago, for New Year's. We're down to 2 now.
This was also my first time making any kind of alfredo sauce and let me tell you, it's not easy. I couldn't find my chicken stock in the depths of the chest freezer so I used some of the dry champagne to deglaze the pan. (Champagne left over from our wedding. We kept meaning to do a mimosa Sunday or something but never did.) Then I didn't let the alcohol burn off enough so it curdled the half-and-half that I poured in. After I put in the cheese the whole sauce didn't thicken up as much as I wanted (even though I put in, like, 3 cups of cheese--parmesan, asiago, and fontina--I went a little cheese crazy!) so I added a touch of flour to thicken it.
I also used the cast iron skillet, which added some color to the sauce. Whoops! But you know what? It tasted great. I half expected Shane to comment on the texture of the sauce but he just said it tasted great. Whew! I'm sure he noticed that something was off, but I told him I'd never made anything like this before (and he'd heard me running around the kitchen like a crazy person) so he said nothing.
The pies I apparently over-filled so the sides were bursting with oozing blueberry yumminess. However, the crust was pretty much perfect. The secret to a tender yet flaky crust, as my mom (and apparently, Alton Brown) always said is to have very cold fat and water. Doesn't matter what the fat is--my mom uses Crisco, I use butter, my aunt uses lard--it needs to be cold. The water should be ice water, and add just a bit at a time. The dough should just come together but still be a bit crumbly. Don't over-mix it (instead of looking totally uniform there should be small, faint streaks of flour and butter visible) and keep it cold until you're ready to roll it out. (Also, don't get overzealous and make the crust hours before you're ready to make the pie--it'll dry out and be tough to roll. Not that I know this from experience or anything....)
For the next fancy thing we do, I need to remember that local blueberries will stain everything they touch a deep purple. Including teeth and lips. So we finished the meal laughing at each other for having blue mouths.
It might seem a bit silly, but we both got all dressed up (I even did my hair and put on makeup!) to sit and eat in our own dining room. But it made things just that much more special, marked the evening out as not like the rest. And even though things didn't turn out just as I'd imagined them (of course I had visions of calmly making a perfect meal rather than getting stressed and feeling overwhelmed and having things turn out just a bit less than perfect) somehow the whole evening turned out perfectly. My brother had cleared out of the apartment for the afternoon and evening to go watch football, so we had plenty of time for just the two of us...and the pets. But even having them watch us bemusedly just gave us something else to laugh about.
I can't wait to see what all our future anniversaries are like.


  1. Our anniversary was recently too, it's both humbling and inspiring to take some time out to reflect on our relationships....

    For the alfredo sauce, if you make another version in the future, I'd highly reccomend starting with a roux (butter and onion/garlic (herbs too?) saute, then mix in as much flour as the butter will hold... then add milk and herbs and cheese). You can do it with olive oil too, I have anyway, but it doesn't work as good :-) I'm always amazed at how much better it works to thicken sauces and chowders than adding flour at the end to thicken. With a roux I find it takes half as much flour for twice as much thickness or more!

    I talked to my mom, who used to cook with no wheat - and she says that for breads and things, barley works much better when its fresh ground (with a kitchen flour mill as it goes into the mixing bowl) than buying it as flour. Less heavyness and such.

    For scones and bannock, you can use nearly 100% barley.

    And! my plan for this winter! Crepes! There was a chef who came up recently and did a 3 day local foods cooking class that she took, and he did this barley crepe stuffed with something amazing, and then dropped it kind of like a dumpling in onion soup. Apparently it was amazing.
    But when she mentioned about that, I remembered eating at a sit -down creperie in Aix-en-Provence years ago, and had a barley crepe with spinach and cheeses for the meal, and then a brandied pear crepe for dessert (I think the dessert crepe was with white flour)... Crepes can be so versatile for meals... and mom says that for using 100% you can follow a standard crepe recipe. Just when it says to let it sit for 20 minutes or whatnot, let it sit for an hour.

    Did you see the article on barley in the news-miner?

    1. I did not see that article. Thanks for all the good info on barley. I'm learning to use it. For one thing, adding oats to a bread recipe seems to suck up the extra moisture I've noticed. And what's not to love about oats? I have been using the barley flour in my scones recipe a lot and I think I just use a bit less milk (I don't actually measure it, though, so I'm not sure).
      I probably would have gone for a roux myself but I was trying to follow that specific recipe for the alfredo. I'll have to mess around with it to find what works best for me. And as Shane pointed out, using a different pan will help some too.
      Mmmm...crepes sound wonderful. Thanks for the idea!