It's not that I've not cooked recently: it's more than I haven't done many of the kind of project that seemed to merit a post by itself. So, here's a mixed bag of recent endeavors.
A Piece of My Grind
One thing that I've been wanting to get into is making my own sausage. However, my first experience was less than a total success. A couple of weekends ago, I used the lessons I'd learned the first time (and my food processor instead of my stand mixer's grinding attachment) to try again. I ground some beef for a chili-like substance and pork shoulder to make breakfast sausage patties. The keys proved to be to get the meat cubes good and cold (by putting them in the freezer until quite firm but not frozen), to use some added fat (fatback is what I used) in the sausage, and to use the 'pulse' button on the food processor to carefully judge the grind desired. The beef (which I ground more coarsely) worked really nicely in the chili, and the breakfast sausage was really good with the dried thyme, dried sage, allspice, and maple syrup.
Crusty the Beginner, Part 2
I recently signed up to be a volunteer recipe tester for a cookbook publisher. (I qualified for this honor by passing a rigorous demonstration of my ability to type my e-mail address.) Last weekend I tested a recipe for an easy pie crust (details are confidential), and the company included a recipe for French Silk pie filling. The pie was good, and my neighbor lady thought it was delicious. But the filling was a LOT of work, much more so than the crust, and involved a long period of beating a custard in a makeshift double boiler with an electric beater. I really would have enjoyed some additional flavor, perhaps some cinnamon or some chili powder. And, since neither my neighbor lady nor I need much chocolate pie and I didn't want to carry it to work, I threw most of it out. I don't regret this: I got the experience, which is what I most wanted.
After my success making flour tortillas, I decided to try a recipe I found that used whole wheat flour and vegetable oil instead of lard. I also decided to invest in a very inexpensive tortilla press. Between lacking some tortilla technique and maybe needing to tweak the recipe, I didn't get quite the results I wanted. But I did want you to know that I'm working on it.
Chill Out, Dough
I've been a little worried about how I could continue baking bread with the arrival of summer. My area of the world is not exactly tropical, but it does get hot and humid, and my kitchen is at the opposite end of my apartment from my window air conditioner. I've been concerned that if I assembled a dough in the morning when I got up, it would often be too late in the day to run my oven by the time the rising periods were done. So I wanted to follow up on the notes in a couple of recipes I've seen that one of the rises could occur in the refrigerator.
So I made a dough last night, put it in a bowl, covered it in plastic, and stuck it in my refrigerator to see if I got any rise. This morning I found that my dough had more than doubled and outgrown its covering of plastic wrap and I had a crusted-over area to remove. But, even with getting a later start than I'd have like, my bread was out of the oven by around noon and was good. Next time, I'm going to try doing the first rise the night before and do the in-the-pan rising in the refrigerator.
I want to wish you, from my heart, a happy Mother's Day. Whether you are a mother to a PWD, a mother who is a PWD, or just a PWD who's sometimes been called a real mother, I appreciate you and hope you're having a great day. I know that parenthood can be very difficult and that some people have trouble finding much joy in it. I also believe that we make it very difficult for mothers in our culture: between the advertisers ("Choosy Mothers Choose JIF!") and the zealots that are all too ready to tell you how to raise your child, I don't have to be a parent myself to recognize that it can be very tough.
Thank you for all you do.