Thursday, May 28, 2009

Jellied Eels, Pickled Wild Shallots, picnicking to the sounds of brass bands and BISCOTTI

There's a dearth of pictures on this post. And to be honest, I'm writing it out of guilt. Unabashed, full tilt guilt. Haven't posted in over 7 weeks. And it's not like I haven't been eating.

I finally tried jellied eels. And to put it mildly, I love them. Gross to some, mildly interesting to others and an obsession to a small niche group in London's East End, I was really amazed at how "like nothing else" they tasted. People compare to pickled herring but I would wholeheartedly disagree. No jellied eels taste like, well, jellied eels. Lovely with some toast heavily buttered with french butter, or english jersey butter.

There's a man at the Swiss Cottage Farmer's Market who hawks all things brined, pickled and salted from the middle eastern food lexicon. Every time I pass him he spikes these three things onto a toothpick: 1) his own pickled wild shallots 2) his own oven dried tomatoes in oil with wild oregano 3) his own young smooth cream cheese consistency feta. No barrel aging here, soft, smooth and mild as can be. I always yield. I always buy some and pore over it with rye crackers until my tummy can stand no more pickle.

We joined some friends this bank holiday weekend for a picnic in the Heath just by the Golders' Hill Bandstand where a brass band set up. We sipped gorgeous champagne, lovely chardonnay and some thick, chewy bordeaux while they played through the Disney song book. Nothing could sully our fun as we gorged our way though some lovely, lovely cheeses (my favorite was Stichelton, a very old, authentic recipe for Stilton that uses unpasteurized milk to gorgeous results) and smoked fishies and other delicious goodies like semolina cake.

And this brings me all the way back around to posting a recipe.
I made the biscotti I've been making for over a decade now, almost 2 decades (wow, that makes me feel OLD). And I decided for all the times I've typed it out, I should just post it here...
So here it is:
The best damned biscotti

2 cups sugar
1 cup melted sweet cream butter
1/4 cup pastis or anisette
3 T bourbon or brandy
2 T each: fennel seeds, anise seeds
6 large eggs
2 cups pistachios (filberts or almonds are nice, too)
Combine in large mixing bowl, then add in three batches:
5 1/2 cups unbleached white flour with 1 T baking powder

ASSEMBLY: 1 egg plus 1/4 water for egg wash

Transfer dough to another bowl lined with Saran wrap, cover and let chill at least 3 hours. I usually make the dough the night before, otherwise the baking goes late into the night.

Remove dough from bowl and divide into 6-8 pieces. Roll each piece out on a lightly dusted board into a log 2" in diameter. On an ungreased baking sheet, place two logs lengthwise several inches apart. Press the tops down just a bit and brush with a little egg wash. If you haven't enough sheet pans to assemble and bake all dough at once, return the unused dough to the fridge, as it works best chilled.

Bake for 20 minutes at 375. If baking more than one sheet pan at a time, place them in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and switch after the first 10 minutes. Do not let the logs bake beyond a pale golden brown. Remove from oven and cool (baked logs can be carefully removed from sheet pan and transferred to cooling rack if the pans are needed for the rest of the dough). Reduce temperature to 275. Cut each log at a 45 degree angle into cookies. Lay them flat on sheet pans. Bake again for 30 minutes, turn over and bake 25-30 minutes again. For a much drier cookie, leave sheet pans in oven overnight with the pilot light on.

This recipe yields 6-7 dozen cookies.

I really should add some pics. I may do that soon...
Dine in, eat out, have fun.