Saturday, December 11, 2010

fall in the air

It's funny how fast the new seasons arrive sometimes.  Rather than a gradual slide from summer into fall, one day suddenly feels—or smells—subtly different than the ones before.  Sure, there are still holdouts, days that are trying to be summery, but there's no mistaking the fact that those days don't quite feel like actual summer (or Indian Summer, as the case is here).  Once October hit this year, it just felt like time for fall food.
In our case, that meant lots of new dishes with mushrooms.  We had figured out prior to one of our trips earlier in the year that I, unlike my sister Bethany, am not allergic to mushrooms.  So I had to make up for some lost time and get to know them properly.

On October 2, we began our streak of mushroom dishes with a Jamie Oliver Mushroom Risotto from Jamie at Home.

mushroom risotto

Steve got to use some of the dried porcinis that we had purchased at the Fatted Calf during our Napa trip in August, as well as some assorted fresh mushrooms from Far West Fungi in the Ferry Building.  The results were quite good, but even the little bit of parsley on top wasn't for me.  Next time, we use thyme.  (It's better for puns anyway.)

The following week, we selected a recipe from the French Laundry Cookbook: Roulade of Pekin Duck Breast with Creamed Sweet White Corn and Morel Mushroom Sauce.

duck roulade

I think Steve had a little trouble wrapping the swiss chard around the duck breast without it falling apart, but it came out well enough that I was able to find an angle that worked for the picture.  I liked the duck/corn/mushroom combination a lot, although I preferred the lobster/foie/fig from the previous month.

Moving on to week 35, we did one more mushroom dish, this one also with corn.  It was from Michael Symon's book, Live to Cook: Sweet Corn and Wild Mushroom Soup.
sweet corn & mushroom soup

In this case, the herb used was thyme, so it worked just fine for me.  And since Michael Symon is all about the pork, there was some bacon on top to complement the corn and mushrooms.  Again, it was a very good dish, but I didn't go wild over it.  Maybe it was the lack of cheese...

That was not a problem the next week.  We chose a Michael Symon recipe from the Wisconsin cheese website.

bacon mac

Bacon Mac & Cheese sounded like a winner, and it was.  Steve did not use Wisconsin gruyere, but it was just as good with the Swiss(?) gruyere that our neighborhood store carries.  I'm not usually one for adulterating my macaroni & cheese with anything meaty; however, the bacon, rosemary, and chives really worked for me.
The downside of the recipe was that the cheese sauce separated when reheated for lunch the next day.  I got stringy cheese with my macaroni and a whole lot of oil at the bottom of the bowl, most of which I poured off.  Steve, being the smart guy that he is, has fixed that problem the last couple times we've had this by making a bechamel sauce instead.  Not only does the cheese sauce stay together better in the leftovers, it's also healthier since it substitutes regular milk for some of the heavy cream.  Maybe Steve will post the revised recipe on his blog one day.  (hint hint.)

Rounding out October was Halloween.  It wasn't terribly cold, but it still seemed a good day for a dinner of soup.  Steve and I looked at our bookmarked recipes and landed on Jamie Oliver's Superb Squash Soup with the Best Parmesan Croutons.  We found it on his website, but it also happens to be from the Jamie at Home cookbook.
squash soup

As it turned out, I thought the butternut squash soup was indeed superb.  Steve considered putting in a splash of cream, but it didn't really need it.  I remembered the butternut squash soup we had had at DB Bistro Moderne in NY last January, and that had been almost all puree, according to our server.  This was pretty similar, and it was great with just the drizzle of olive oil we put on top.  Still, if/when we make it again, I might like to try some of the garnishes that were on the DB Bistro version: caramelized onions, pumpkin seeds, a little Italian parsley, cherries or a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.  It might not even need special croutons with a few of those garnishes to break up the sameness of the soup.  I imagine a little bread would still be good on the side, though.
Well, that takes care of another month!  It also takes care of the last vestiges of natural light in the evenings.  By the last two weeks of October, it was getting rather difficult to get pictures of dinner before the light was gone—and that was before daylight savings time ended.  Since I don't have a set-up for artificial lighting, we've now shifted to weekend lunches for most of our food project photos.


  1. Everything looks delicious! Nice pictures, Emily.

  2. Woah. I got a food coma just by reading this post. Nice pictures!