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The Week (or Two) in Review

Glancing over at my work bookshelf, I see the set of chocolate bars that remain even after I've shared several with co-workers. Work-Jennifer brought by a passel of mostly-Eurochocolates (two Lindt, two Daskalide's, a Ghiradelli, a Valor, a Perugina, and a Witor's) as a thank-you for last-minute help with a client issue a couple of weeks ago. Apparently Trader Joe's has a great deal on a "variety pack" that includes them. I (and my team) have thought they've all been pretty yummy so far; guess we'd better get crackin' on the rest of them. Between the bars and the bottle of 2000 WillaKenzie Pinot Noir that another client team brought me, it's quite the little pantry I'm building here.

It hasn't been a good couple weeks for sharp things. Last week, I was steeling a knife when it slipped and made a nice incision on the back of the knuckle of my left thumb. Ow. Awkward place for a bandage, too. And the second incident... well, more on that later.

Tuesday of last week, I saw Little Miss Sunshine. Great flick. Alan Arkin in particular was awesome, but it was a great ensemble effort. On Wednesday, saw Casino Royale with the work team. There were enjoyable action sequences, which (to me) is mostly what a Bond film should be about. But the story tended to drag a bit in places, and there was some chronological awkwardness which I couldn't see that they had any way to work around.

Wednesday evening, went shopping with V to prepare for the feast the next day. I got my buttons pushed by her mentioning that the stuffing option was going to be Stove Top, and decided that I had to get the ingredients to do it myself (in addition to the other two things I was already going to be making). Helped V get the turkey brining, then went home to make Southern-style cornbread to prepare for the next day's extravaganza of cooking and eating.

Slept in a little later than I should have on Thursday (but what luxury!), which meant that I was a bit late starting the cooking. First to start was the dough for the Parker House rolls, aka "pockets of buttery doom": nevermind the 8 tablespoons that are in the dough (yields 18 rolls), each roll getes a dollop of butter sealed into it, then they all get brushed with yet more melted butter. Yum. Also made the aforementioned stuffing (cornbread and sausage), as well as prep for the creamy garlic and chive mashed potatoes.

Made it over to V's at last, where R1, M, P, and R2 were already enjoying V's new copy of Guitar Hero II. Popped the cork on the bottle of NV Rene Collard Brut that I brought, sampled some of the cheese tray, and got to work on the remainder of the a la minute cooking, with help from P and M. The other two bottles I brough included what I now refer to as the chewy-cherry-chocolate-chunk Syrah (2003 Foxen; a bit over the top, I thought), and a 1994 Zilliken Saarburger Rausch Kabinett, which I knew R2 would like, but it also proved to my other friends that Rieslings don't have to be cloying... that lovely minerality starts to show so well after a decade or so.

The turkey was fab, as were the beans, mac & cheese, pie, cake, and cranberry sauce supplied by the rest of the group. A good time was had by all, including one of R1's students that wasn't home for the holiday and would've been at the mercy of whatever restaurant she could find open on that day. Much work on the Guitar Hero chops for all, that evening.

Spent Friday running useful errands that hadn't been gotten around to otherwise: grocery shopping, cleaning around the house. Also saw Stranger Than Fiction with V (apprently it's been a good week for seeing movies). Fun! Will Ferrell knew well enough not to play it to crazy, and Hoffman was perfect for his role.

On Saturday, worked on the pile in the sink that had accumulated from the Thanksgiving cooking. Was so excited by having clean dishes again that I decided to make bread. Started the biga (sponge) for a loaf of rustic Italian bread.

Sunday, ran more errands and made the bread. One half of the divided dough was made into a batard shape (what I usually use for this dough), the other went into the banneton that I purchsed a few months ago but hadn't used yet. Oh, and here's the other sharp-object tragedy: when I was trying to pull the safety cover (oh, the irony) off of the lame, I neatly sliced the pad of my left thumb. Have I mentioned how sharp those things are? Like, scalpel-sharp. It was bleeding almost before I felt it. Bandage, alcohol on the lame, then back to the bread... rising dough waits for no man.

Both loaves turned out great! I think he diastatic malt powder helps the crust immensely: brown and crisp, with a cool, creamy, irregular crumb. The one from the banneton was slightly nicer, I thought, and very pretty, with the impression of the bent-willow spiral showing in the flour-dusted crust. Will be doing that one again.

Spend Sunday night cleaning up the mess from the breadmaking.

Monday, was so excited by having a clean kitchen again (sensing a pattern?), that I decided to make West-African Chicken Peanut soup! This is a recipe from Gordon, the chef of a cafe at a company that I used to work for. This soup was always a crowd-pleaser; when it was on the menu, one wanted to be sure to get to the cafeteria early to get a share. When we learned that our office was to be shut down, we pleaded with Gordon to share the recipe with us, and he relented. My kitchen still smells a little like curry. Made plenty: after the two bowls I had, there was about a half gallon left; it's as easy to make a lot as it is a little. I ate soup for lunch and dinner for a couple of days, and shared the rest with friends. Finally convinced V to try a bowl of it; and she loved it!

After a busy week at work (and some unexpected car repairs), I'm preparing to head off to Las Vegas to hook up with V, P, K, R, and M for R's birthday and the Mike Doughty/Barenaked Ladies concert. Should be fun, but I'm having to make some effort to get into the Las Vegas party-down spirit, given the fact that it's been a somewhat-stressful couple of weeks, and I feel like I might be coming down with a cold. But I'm a trouper. Just need more caffeine, I think. Or booze. Oh, I know, both: Spanish Coffees! Woo! The legal equivalent of speedballs.

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