Friday, January 2, 2009

And into 2009 we go; some 2008 favorites

::: Constables Larder has moved to http://constableslarder.com :::

I hope everyone has had a wonderful turn into the new year. We're holed up in the Catskill mountains, surrounded by snow and enjoying some time in the kitchen. The last few days have been very blogger-inspired, with a chocolate and whisky cake from Orangette, an artichoke pie from Kalofagas, and an olive and ham loaf from Stacey Snacks -- all quite good.

chocolate cake
Whiskey-Soaked Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake, from Orangette (this is really good, but for full disclosure I'll note that I'll be reducing the level of bourbon next time!)

artichoke pie
Artichoke Pie, from Kalofagas (I halved the recipe to fit in a loaf pan, and added bacon)

I also did an experimental dish, which I want to continue to refine, where I butterflied open a pork tenderloin into as thin and wide a piece as I could, sauted a "stuffing" of napa cabbage (market was out of savoy cabbage), onion, chestnuts and thyme, rolled and tied it all up, and broiled it. It was quite good, but I need to hone the recipe before posting. I was actually reminded of this flavor combination by a twitter from Kelly at Sass & Veracity.

pork-tenderloin


My 2008 Favorites

2008 roundup

Constables Larder is a very young effort, only starting last summer, but I am like many in taking stock at this time of year to look backwards and forwards. I find it funny that a lot of people are turning to their blog stats to post their "best of 2008". A blog is typically a very personal effort, and so I would much rather see a list of the author's favorites, rather than those of the audience (although both can be interesting). In that spirit of editorial discretion, or egotistical self-indulgence depending on your perspective, here are a few of my favorites from the year:

1. From Provence to the Catskills: this was a huge feast we threw, including a marvelous Alice Waters pork braise, as part of the inaugural Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 blog event, which is now a monthly series. (Foodbuzz has enabled me to get to know so many interesting food bloggers, and I look forward to watching the site's evolution)

2. Chard leaves stuffed with risotto: this is a recipe from Mark Bittman in the NY Times that is ever so simple, but had to have been one of my most satisfying meals of the year

3. Moqueca de Peixe: a Brazillian recipe for cooking fish that I discovered via Saveur - it is now my favorite recipe for fish (I also did a nice riff on this for chicken)

4. Gigantes with Tomato and Fennel: this is a dish I constantly order in Greek restaurants, and thanks to Peter at Kalofagas (who I had the distinct pleasure of meeting when he visited New York City), I was finally given a reference point to make a version of the dish myself

5. Shepherd's Pie: this is an old staple dish of mine (and one of the most popular posts on this blog), but what really made this fun was the dynamic of blogosphere mutual inspiration and idea sharing. After seeing the post, Kali Orexi made this Greek-inspired version, which inspired me to go in a middle eastern direction.

6. Summer bean salad: just looking at that picture (middle right, above) makes me miss summer, with the produce so fresh and everything light and delicious! This salad, inspired by Susan's salad series at Food Blogga, was a perfect meal unto itself on a hot day.

7. Peasant bean stew: Stacey teases me mercilessly about the number of bean dishes on this blog, but it is true that in 2008 I really took to cooking legumes in a big way. I've always loved them at restaurants, but rarely found recipes in cookbooks that really worked for me. In 2008, I set out on my own exploration of this ingredient, enjoying the discovery of Rancho Gordo among other things, and had a number of successes, such as this cassoulet-inspired dish.

8. Eggplant, zucchini and basil gratin: it was probably hard for this dish not to be successful, since it had fresh vegetables and gobs of cheese and olive oil, but the richness didn't overwhelm. It was great, satisfying comfort food and vegetarian at that -- and while Lisl and I remain carnivores, we continue to try to limit the amount of meat we are consuming (less quantity, higher quality)

9. Lentil soup with tarragon and pesto: 2008 was a year for improving my knowledge in certain categories, including beans, braises, and soups, and I made good progress. I was very happy with this soup and the use of pesto, part of a Hay Hay Donna Day theme, as a pistou.

10. Corn fritters with jalapeno dipping sauce: this was another non-fancy dish that just absolutely hit the spot, and which I discovered via the Wednesday Chef. The dipping sauce, a combination of jalapenos, rice vinegar, garlic and sugar, was killer. Truly happiness food.

Here's to a great 2009. Come March, when Munchkin #2 is expected to make his arrival, things should get interesting. :-)

18 comments:

Stacey Snacks said...

I promise not to tease you about beans in 2009 (as much!).
My favorites from Constables' Larder would have to be your shepherds pie, I just look at the photos and drool!
Also your gorgeous 24/24/24 dinner for foodbuzz, most impressive! and all the beautiful comfort food you and Lisl prepare w/ great photos and comprehensive recipes to go with!
Glad we got the chance to meet via blogging!
Hey, where's the photos of the olive gruyere loaf?
Happy 2009!

Giff said...

I had a few photos that didn't quite make it in, such as the photo of the olive loaf here: http://flickr.com/photos/giffconstable/3161563112/

and the dog munching on sticks in the snow:
http://flickr.com/photos/giffconstable/3160609752/

kat said...

Happy New Year! I'm so glad to have found you guys this year

MeetaK said...

Giff I am really glad that I stumbled across your blog in 2008 and I really look forward to all your delicious creations in 2009! Lovely faves!

Giff said...

Stacey: teasing is always welcome :) especially since I probably won't be dropping my fascination
with legumes anytime soon!

Kat and Meeta: it has been a real pleasure "meeting" you through your blogs!

Judy@nofearentertaining said...

Yummmm! These round ups are killing me!!! I can't wait to try that chard stuffed with risotto! Can't wait to see what you have for me in 2009! It's gonna be a great year!

kellypea said...

Nice list here. I chose not to look at my stats to make my decisions. I figured it was my reflection so stats had nothing to do with it. I loved your Shephards's pie and have oogled it several times since wanting to make it here. It was a favorite on our trip to Wales & England. Just lovely. I'll let you know when I get it done. Happy New Year to you both! I'm so jealous of your locale...

Peter M said...

Giff, it was a pleasure to meet you while in NYC and we will hang some more on my next visit.

Thanks for mentioning two of my dishes and I hope you show more of your artichoke pie experience.

The stuffed pork stands out for me and I think the Napa suits it better than Savoy, which can just melt away.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I'm still waiting to get some time on my hands to make your lentil soup. I love the recipe.

It's funny you mentioned the Bundt cake. I didn't blog about it, but I made that cake too for New Year's Eve. It was a huge hit. While I didn't blog about it, I will probably be blogging about what I'll be doing with all of the leftover bourbon!

Maria said...

That's a beautiful round up Giff. I truly hope we can swap and inspire a whole lot more!
Looks like you enjoyed some great dishes in the Catskills. I've got a few recipes from fellow bloggers I want to cook up soon.
Here's to a happy and healthy New Year and many more deliciously divine and divinely delicious posts!

Cynthia said...

A most enticing round-up. Looking forward to more in 2009!

Sprocket said...

Thanks for the roundup--I've really enjoyed reading your blog this year. Happy New Year and best to L and A. Veronica :)

ps--trying the shep. pie tonight

Navita said...

Hmm..never tried architoke...
n the 'drunken' bundt looks so inviting...loll

hi first time here.
u have a great place n u write well.

wud love to hve u swing by my lil place sometime.:)

Marc @ NoRecipes said...

That rolled tenderloin looks great! And I have to say that your top 10 list makes a lot more sense than mine since you're probably the most qualified to compile the list since you've prepared the dishes personally. The other problem with using stats is that the majority of posts in my top 10 were Stumbled, so that definitely skewed the numbers in favor of a few posts. Happy New Year!

Vij said...

Hiya
This is my first time here. You have a lovely space.
Happy new year girlie!

Do visit my blog.
Cheers
Vij

kellypea said...

I didn't use my stats for my end of year reflection, either. It's more about learning and perhaps bringing back to focus something others missed to give it attention again. Plus, the bad photo thing continues to be the bane of my existence in the kitchen. I'm working on it. Love the collage of your faves.

Joie de vivre said...

A great roundup. Is it still okay to wish you a happy new year?

Maggie said...

Great recap of the year!