Thursday, January 22, 2009

Just Before It Bursts Into Flames

There's a fearlessness that's required for making a good caramel sauce, a willingness to dance on the line of disaster, a sense of that split second before deliciously dark and bitter becomes 'Help! Fire!'. The photo on the right - that's where the timid stop, if they make it that far. Add the cream at this point and you end up with a namby-pamby pale, overly sweet goo. You might as well just buy a jar of Kraft.

The color you see in the pot is deceptive, it looks darker than it really is. You can test it with a spoon or a twist of paper, but even then, it's not the best way to know. The best way, the exciting way, is to wait for the smoke. Not a faint wisp, but some serious smoke rolling across the boiling sugar. Today the smoke went from a bit to filling the kitchen within a couple of seconds. I poured in the cream and the rich dark smell filled the room. The smoke slowly dissipated (I'd forgotten the new hood has an amazing exhaust system) as I stirred the lump into a smooth sauce. Hours later, when it had cooled enough to taste, Chef pronounced it the best batch I've ever made. He said I'd learned the secret - cook the sugar until about one minute and fortyfive seconds before it bursts into flame. Add the cream to stop the cooking, stir until smooth. Add the other ingredients.
Take your caramel to the bitter edge, wrap it in dark chocolate. Add a few grains of good salt.
Pop it into your mouth, bite through the chocolate shell and let the liquid caramel engulf your senses. Surrender completely.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Onehundred blog entries

I've been procrastinating about writing, because it's my onehundreth post, and I thought it should be about something important. On the other hand, why should this be any less inconsequential than my other posts? So, here's more of the same rambling nonsense.

Thanks to a Solstice bonus (my Chef is pagan too), I ventured into the modern world and bought myself an ipod. Ginger went with me as tech advisor. I find technology so much easier to understand when I just do what Ginger says. The ipod nano (in turquoise blue) has to be one of the most marvelous gadgets ever. iTunes is also really groovy. I downloaded an album by Gabrielle Roth - the songs had the same titles as the cassette tape, but turned out to be completely different songs. I emailed itunes - they are looking into it, and have given me 5 songs worth of credit to make up for the 'disappointment'. So, yay.

I've been playing around on Facebook a lot. Hi, my name is Kate, and I'm a flair-aholic. I have 45 pieces of flair. I'm comfortable talking about my flair. Flair is fun. I like it for the same reason I like getting books through the library website. There's the fun of searching and the thrill of acquisition, at no actual cost. Also, there's the fun of sending flair to friends.

We're having a break from winter here. While much of the country is enduring record-breaking cold, here in Denver it's sunny and mild. Monday started with a snowstorm that tied the city into knots, but by afternoon, the sun was back and the snow was melting. Typical. February will be much colder. It's our coldest month. April tends to be the snowiest. Then May comes, and no one knows from one day to the next what the weather will do. Hopefully the second weekend will be pleasant. Najah and I are going to Beltania 2009 - my first-ever pagan festival.

Lunar Fire will be playing, so the mad dancing will keep us warm no matter how cold the night might be.

At work, we've rearranged the kitchen into its most functional formation ever. It's fantastic.

Valentine's Day is approaching, new confections are being introduced (two infused with a 17th century spice blend that is a reputed aphrodisiac) and we are entered into a fundraiser/competition on February 10th. The event benefits Third Way Center, an organization that helps teens and young adults with emotional problems. This year, we are entering two truffles, the new and exciting Molotov Pineapple, and my very own creation, the Oshun. My intern and I will be running our booth, while Chef joins pastry chefs James Gallo of the Brown Palace Hotel and Keegan Gerhard of Food Network on the judging panel. There is also the People's Choice award, so if you have nothing to do that night, come down to Say It With Chocolate and vote. For Wen Chocolates. Otherwise, just stay home ;).

My resolutions for the new year were be more mindful of what I eat, and to spend less time sitting around. So, to that end I re-enrolled in Ai Chi (it's as if I never left), started a belly dance class, and this morning I did yoga for the first time in I don't know how long. The dvd was filmed on a beach on Maui.....lush green hills in the distance, gently rolling waves, a warm breeze blowing through the trees. I remembered that amazing scent of fragrant plumeria blending with the tang of the ocean......and for a few moments I wanted so desparately to be back there, floating in the sea, watching the fish and the sea turtles. Sometimes I feel so landlocked here. Other times, when I look up at the moutains, I know that I am home.

I have to surrender the computer now. Bevin has a Skype date with Laura. Indonesia seems to be agreeing with Laura, in spite of the rain, the mud, the snakes......

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Questions and Soup

Re: 2008 survey
What were your favorite purchase(s)?
I just got an 8 gig Ipod Nano (thanks for your help Ginger!), but that will have to wait for 2009's list, because I bought it Sunday.
2008 - definitely the slow-cooker. Paired with the immersion blender we already had, it's a culinary tour-de-force. Ah, the immersion blender.....when a recipe calls for putting soups or sauces through a blender or foodprocessor in small batches - ha ha! No! Just put your trusty immersion blender into the pot, turn it on, and puree away. No mess, no drips, no extra dishes.
Last night's creation has been dubbed 'stuff what we done got' soup. Lentils, tomato, onion, garlic, leftover butternut squash, a shake of lemongrass curry, a heaping pinch of aleppo pepper, a few allspice berries, salt, pepper, a pinch of ginger, and three rather sad looking bay leaves. (note to self - stop household from buying bay leaf at the grocery store. go to savory spice instead). After simmering away for eight hours, it was broth with veg floating in it. After meeting the immersion blender......thick & creamy, with a few chunks left for textural interest.
It was good. And nutritious. And filling. Lentils are good that way.
What did you purchase that cost $500 or more?
Car repairs. Twice. My car is a '95, it has about 140,000 miles on it. When it goes, I'll be riding the bus.
What sporting events did you attend?
A Rockies game, with my friend Najah. The beer was good (Blue Moon Harvest Ale), the food was fun, people watching was excellent, and we watched the full moon rise over the stadium. Oh, and the Rockies lost. Big time.
Get married or divorced?
Have we met?
Change your hairstyle?
Constantly. Right now I have an intense red, short, anime sort of thing going on......but I miss my barettes, so I may grow it back out.
What were your favorite moment(s) of 2008
Reconnecting with old friends, making new ones, solo vacations, horseback riding up (and down!) a very steep mountain, going to the same parks often enough to see the changes as the year went by,playing dressup at Samhain and a masquerade ball.
What's something you learned about yourself?
That taking risks is usually not fatal.
What was your status by Valentine's Day?
Exhausted. Truffle production was hellacious, because Valentine's is a last-minute sort of holiday. It always seems to take people by surprise......
What concerts/shows did you go to?
Lunar Fire - techno-tribal-rap with belly dancers, fire twirlers, lights on strings and fabulous masks and costumes. It was awesome :) Also, my sister's play and the Santaland Diaries.
What are you wishing for in 2009?
Tougher sentencing for parole violators, Stan. And world peace.
Seriously, I want to get rid of my useless hang-ups and inhibitions, and do more with my stifled creativity.
Been naughty or nice?

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Forgive me blog, for I have sinned. It's been eleven days since my last entry. I could blame it on working crazy hours, but the truth is I'm in a place of having nothing to say. Nothing worthwhile, anyway. Just a litany of aches and distractions that punctuate a vast sea of swirling thoughts that resist capture and examination.
I'm on a weeklong break from work, and am forcing myself to rest. It doesn't come naturally, my left brain keeps coming up with a list of tasks that my right brain, being preoccupied with dreams and tarot and fairy tales and wondering what nox invictus means refuses to do, resulting in a rather foggy state of being in which nothing seems to get accomplished and my trains of thought all get derailed.
There are little sparks here and there. I'm not depressed, it's more of a suspension, being caught in a push-pull that prevents movement.
I'm wondering how well a Monday through Friday schedule will work out; there are definite advantages, but the downside is losing a day to myself. I miss that already.
Last night I dreamt that I was living back home with my family. I felt trapped, and kept rearranging my room in an attempt to get a sense of personal space. I was also going to work. We finally had a kitchen, but there was an explosion of red frosting which was a huge mess to clean up.
I'm on vacation, but I still wake up around 5am, and am unable to make myself go back to sleep, or even just rest quietly, as my Mom used to say.
Yesterday I saw The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a movie about wonder and time and loss and windows of opportunity and following your star and it made me think of all the things I haven't done and the chances I didn't take and I was feeling a deep sadness. Toward the end, a character who had tried and failed to swim the English Channel in her youth tried again at the age of 68. Tried and succeeded. And my sadness lessened.
It did what the best movies do - take you into another world in which you can meet yourself in a new way.

nox invictus : night unconquerable
The online translator is very helpful in a limited way. It doesn't tell you what the phrase means, and a search was fruitless, just links to myspace, gamers, some poetry, and a herpetological society. It tells you that nox is night, or Nox, the primordial goddess of night, and that invictus means unconquered, unconquerable, or invincible.

Enough rambling for now. Coffee awaits.