Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

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Blueberry Loaf

July 11, 2010

It’s become a family tradition: we pick blueberries, we make jam, we bake, and life is good. This year is no exception.

I made another Blueberry Pie, which was beautiful. (It disappeared before I had a chance to confirm my suspicions about its flavor, but based on the anecdotal evidence, that was one fine pie!)

We’ve also been making loads and loads of blueberry loaves. I began by making muffins for some friends who were driving cross-country, but we quickly discovered that this recipe makes a mean loaf—caky, moist, studded with blueberries and topped with just the right amount of streusel (read: a lot!). The batch that’s currently making the house smell so very good is #5 in the last week or so. Did I mention that life is good?

Blueberry Loaf
adapted from Epicurious.com

You’ll need:
For batter
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/3 cup whole milk
1 whole large egg
1 large yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh blueberries (12 oz)

For streusel
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
cinnamon to taste (I put in enough to make the streusel change color)

Put oven rack in upper third of oven and preheat to 375°F. Generously spray two loaf pans with nonstick spray.

Melt butter in a small saucepan over moderately low heat, then remove from heat. Whisk in milk, then whisk in whole egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined well. Set aside.

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

Rub together all streusel ingredients in a bowl with your fingertips until crumbly. Set aside.

Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just combined, then gently fold in the blueberries.

Pour batter into loaf pans and top with streusel. Bake until a tester comes out clean. (Start testing after 25 minutes.)

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Cinnamon Rolls!

May 22, 2010

Way back in fifth grade, long before I knew I was interested in food writing, we had to write an essay for English class describing a personal expertise. I wrote about being an expert at loving cinnamon.

In the ensuing years, I’ve dumped McCormick for the freshly-ground Korintje variety from the Spice House, but my passion for cinnamon endures. You may have noticed that it’s a common theme in the recipes I’ve posted here.

So when I saw an episode of “Good Eats” featuring a recipe that didn’t require getting up at the crack of dawn, I began looking for an excuse to try my hand at one of the purest forms of cinnamon adoration: the breakfast baked good. I mean, it’s a hell of a way to start a day, right? The only problem: I’m one person, and the recipe makes a dozen sinful rolls.

A few weekends ago, I had some friends over for the weekend, and I decided that enough is enough. Even though there were only 3 of us, I made the darned cinnamon rolls. A girl can only wait so long! It worked out perfectly–I, the night owl, did the prep the night before, and my friends, who are morning people, took care of the final rise and the actual baking and frosting. Talk about teamwork.

The verdict? They were everything I hoped they would be. Truly things of beauty–and delicious, too. I could have eaten all 12 by myself, but showed uncharacteristic restraint.

I believe the only change we made to the original recipe was to double the cinnamon content. (In my household, a teaspoon means a tablespoon when cinnamon is involved!)

One of these days, I really should see if that essay is with my school papers.

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls
adapted from Alton Brown’s original masterpiece

You’ll need:
Dough:
4 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 large whole egg, room temperature
2 ounces sugar, approximately 1/4 cup
3 ounces butter, melted, approximately 6 tablespoons
6 ounces buttermilk, room temperature
20 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 cups, plus additional for dusting
1 package instant dry yeast, approximately 2 1/4 teaspoons
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
Vegetable oil or cooking spray

Filling:
8 ounces light brown sugar, approximately 1 cup packed
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
Pinch salt
3/4-ounce unsalted butter, melted, approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons

Icing:
2 1/2 ounces cream cheese, softened, approximately 1/4 cup
3 tablespoons milk
5 1/2 ounces powdered sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups

For the dough: in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolks, whole egg, sugar, butter, and buttermilk. Add approximately 2 cups of the flour along with the yeast and salt; whisk until moistened and combined. Remove the whisk attachment and replace with a dough hook. Add all but 3/4 cup of the remaining flour and knead on low speed for 5 minutes. Check the consistency of the dough, add more flour if necessary; the dough should feel soft and moist but not sticky. Knead on low speed 5 minutes more or until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; knead by hand about 30 seconds. Lightly oil a large bowl. Transfer the dough to the bowl, lightly oil the top of the dough, cover and let double in volume, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Mix until well incorporated. Set aside until ready to use.

Butter a 9 by 13-inch glass baking dish. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently shape the dough into a rectangle with the long side nearest you. Roll into an 18 by 12-inch rectangle. Brush the dough with the 3/4-ounce of melted butter, leaving 1/2-inch border along the top edge. Sprinkle the filling mixture over the dough, leaving a 3/4-inch border along the top edge; gently press the filling into the dough. Beginning with the long edge nearest you, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. Firmly pinch the seam to seal and roll the cylinder seam side down. Very gently squeeze the cylinder to create even thickness. Using a serrated knife, slice the cylinder into 1 1/2-inch rolls; yielding 12 rolls. Arrange rolls cut side down in the baking dish; cover tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight or up to 16 hours.

Remove the rolls from the refrigerator and place in an oven that is turned off. Fill a shallow pan 2/3-full of boiling water and set on the rack below the rolls. Close the oven door and let the rolls rise until they look slightly puffy; approximately 30 minutes. Remove the rolls and the shallow pan of water from the oven.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

When the oven is ready, place the rolls on the middle rack and bake until golden brown, or until the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, approximately 30 minutes.

While the rolls are cooling slightly, make the icing by whisking the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer until creamy. Add the milk and whisk until combined. Sift in the powdered sugar, and whisk until smooth. Spread over the rolls and serve immediately.

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Non-Kosher, non-vegetarian cookies

March 30, 2010

Some ideas turn out pretty well, regardless of how twisted they sound at the beginning. Like, for instance, these oatmeal cookies with cinnamon chips plus a hefty dose of this candied bacon. (Credit here must go to my mother, who suggested the cinnamon oatmeal cookies in place of the chocolate chip options I had been considering.)

Aren’t they beautiful? These were for a friend who, upon tasting Candied Bacon Ice Cream, began dancing around my living room. He and his girlfriend were packing up their apartment this weekend, and I thought they might need some fuel. The “Zach has a happy” cookie was born. (Ok, and I really wanted to see if bacon cookies had potential. Turns out, the dancing is not limited to bacon in frozen form.)

I made the following changes to the recipe:

  • First, I omitted a 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar in the cookie dough, because the bacon is sweet.
  • As to the bacon, I unintentionally cooked it a bit less than I would have liked and, in hindsight, I’m glad I did. The fat was still soft and chewy, but it crisped up beautifully when baked with the cookies.
  • To combine bacon and baked good: I chopped the bacon as I would for the ice cream. After I had scooped the cookies onto the baking sheet, I pressed a nice dollop (say, a four-fingered pinch) of bacon bits into each cookie.

I think my cookie scoop is larger than my mother’s, so I’d estimate I had enough bacon for 2-3 dozen cookies. I left a dozen cookies plain for the vegetarians in the crowd. Oddly, the bacon cookies tasted even better the next day than they did straight out of the oven.

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The Best Brownies I’ve Ever Made

February 14, 2010

My brothers’ friends can attest to the fact that I make a lot of brownies when I know there are people around to eat them. I confess, however, that most of the time, they’re Ghiradelli mix, because that’s what my mom keeps in the house.

Guys? I’ll be making a different kind of brownies for you this summer. They’re almost as easy as the mix, and they’re ridiculously fudgy. And, oh yeah, they have a layer of Reese’s Cups baked into them.

Reese’s Brownies
adapted from epicurious and inspired by April Rouleau’s York Peppermint Patty brownies

You’ll need:
7½ oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2¼ sticks butter
3 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3 cups sugar
6 eggs
3 t vanilla extract
⅜ t salt
1½ cups flour
24 Reese’s cups

1. Melt 5 oz bittersweet chocolate, 1 1/2 sticks butter and 2 oz unsweetened chocolate in a double-boiler.
2. Whisk 2 cups sugar, 4 eggs, 2 t vanilla and 1/4 t salt in a large bowl until fluffy.
3. Stir in melted chocolate mixture.
4. Mix in 1 cup flour.
5. Pour into a 13×9″ greased pan.
6. Arrange Reese’s cups over batter, pressing them in slightly.
7. Repeat steps 1-3 with 2 1/2 oz bittersweet chocolate, 6 T butter, 1 oz unsweetened chocolate, 1 cup sugar, 2 eggs, 1 t vanilla, 1/8 t salt.
8. Pour batter over Reese’s cups and spread.
9. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs attached. Start testing after 35 minutes.

Note: These make great cupcakes, too. The amounts described in step 1 will make about 20 standard-sized cupcakes. I put two Reese’s quarters in each cupcake.

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Bisque, Quick

February 12, 2010

Chicago has the sort of winters that make you flee into the arms of the nearest warm, thick soup. As a girl who doesn’t really like peas, beans, or tomato-based soups, I’m always thrilled to find a new recipe for something I might like. Something like Shrimp Bisque.

I was intrigued to find a Shrimp Bisque thickened with rice instead of cream in the New York Times this week, and I just happened to have a big bag of shrimp in my freezer. The result? Delicious, easy, fairly quick–and a one-pot meal!

Shrimp Bisque
adapted from the New York Times

You’ll need:
1 pound medium or large uncooked shrimp, shelled and deveined, shells reserved
6 T butter
1 1/2 t kosher salt
2/3 cup plus 2 T dry white wine
6 cups water
3 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
3 celery ribs, chopped
3 large leeks, white and light green parts only, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 fennel bulb, chopped
2 large shallots, chopped
2 small onions, chopped
1/4 cup long-grain rice
2 T tomato paste
juice of 1 lemon

In a large pot over high heat, cook shrimp shells in 1 T butter and 1/4 t salt, stirring frequently, until lightly browned in spots. Add wine and boil until most of the liquid has evaporated. (Right about now, your kitchen will smell pretty incredible.) Add water, thyme and bay leaf and simmer, uncovered for 15 minutes or until everything else is chopped and prepped. Mine went a bit longer. Strain shrimp stock into a bowl, pressing on shells before discarding them.

In same pot, melt 2 T butter with 1/4 t salt. Add shrimp and sauté until they are pink, 2 to 4 minutes depending on size. Using a slotted spoon, put the shrimp in with the stock.

Add remaining 3 T butter to pot along with celery, leeks, garlic, fennel, shallots and onions and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the rice, tomato paste and remaining salt and sauté for 2 additional minutes.

Add shrimp stock, being careful to keep the shrimp in the other bowl, and simmer, covered, until rice is tender (20 minutes).

Cut shrimp into chunks and add to bisque. Purée using your preferred method. I used an immersion blender, and thus I ended up with a slightly chunky bisque with the consistency of applesauce. A real blender might yield a smoother soup.

See, doesn’t it look like applesauce? Return the soup to the pot, if you used a blender, and stir in the lemon juice. At this point, I couldn’t tell there was any acid in it. I was tempted to throw in some extra salt and white pepper, but I didn’t. Good thing, too–the next day, the soup was perfect: shrimpy, warm and comforting.

I’ll definitely be making this one again.

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Back to Baking!

January 6, 2010

I apologize for the lengthy hiatus! I am now a diploma-bearing freelancer. Very exciting!

I’ve been baking up a storm lately, and it is so much fun! I feel like I haven’t really baked in years, but I know that can’t be true.

First I whipped up more than a gross of Krispies (like a very vanilla-y chocolate chip cookie, but with Crunch bar bits and Rice Krispies instead of chocolate chips). This took a few days, but I got into a rhythm and it went by very quickly. I think I like baking because of the rhythm: just follow the instructions and all will be well. (Ok, the end result might have a tiny bit to do with my attraction to baking over cooking.)

Since I sent all those cookies out, I’ve been feeling the itch to bake again. Plus, I found cinnamon chips for sale at the grocery store, and I just have to try those! My mother finally consented to once again having baked goods in the house.

So right now the kitchen smells delicious. I took my old standby oatmeal chocolate chip cookie and made two substitutions:
1. cinnamon chips for chocolate. Generally speaking, I never EVER substitute for chocolate, but I’m a cinnamon fiend. Plus, I want to find out if these cinnamon chips are worth stocking up on.
2. pumpkin pie spice from the Spice House for cinnamon. My mother’s house usually contains a ridiculous amount of cinnamon, but not so today!

The verdict? They’re ridiculously tasty–chewy and spicy!

Vanishing Oatmeal Cinnamon Cookies
adapted from an adaptation of the Quaker Oats box classic

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice, preferably from The Spice House
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 package cinnamon chips

1. Blend flour, baking soda, spices and salt and set aside.
2. Beat together butter and sugars until creamy.
3. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.
4. Add dry ingredients and mix well.
5. Stir in oats and chips.
6. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
7. Bake at 350º 13-15 minutes or until golden brown.
8. Eat!

The only problem? I was told to make a small quantity, and now I’ve got 4 1/2 dozen cookies on my hands.

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3.14

July 25, 2009

Sorry–I just couldn’t resist. The thing is, I’ve been on a pie kick lately.

It all began last week, when my family picked what can only be described as a surplus of blueberries. After the jam-making and the eating-with-yogurt, my mother found yet another 10 pounds of the persistent little blue buggers in the car. Clearly, something had to be done.

I had never tasted a blueberry pie, but I figured that if something was good enough for Bette Midler to pen a song, it was worth trying. Enter Blueberry Pie with Cornmeal Crust and Lemon Cream from this month’s Bon Appétit.

After a close call with some mealworms in a decades-old bag of cornmeal, I opted to use a simple butter and shortening crust instead. The result? Heavenly. The lemon cream was absolutely marvelous, and I had no idea it was so easy to make lemon curd! That pie lasted maybe 4 minutes at a dinner party that night.

Then there’s the Honey Caramel Peach Pie with Sour-Cream Ice Cream. I’m not sure which part of that intrigued me first, but as soon as I saw it, I started a countdown until Michigan peach season–coincidentally, today.

Though picking peaches proved to be a bust thanks to some misleading online information and a grumpy peach saleslady at the orchard, we found some amazing peaches at Paul’s in New Buffalo. (By “amazing” I mean that they smelled good enough to stop shoppers in their tracks as they walked by.) So, problem solved.

Again, I used my standby pie crust, and the resulting pie was fabulous, if a bit soggy. The ice cream tasted oddly like frozen yogurt when I made it last night; I found it somewhat amusing that so many unhealthy ingredients could come together to make something that tasted virtuous and, well, not as good as I hoped. As it turns out, the ice cream was waiting for the pie. I don’t think either component would have been as good without the other.

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Fabulous, Slightly Weird Ice Cream

June 21, 2009

Some combinations of words invoke salivation–for instance, chocolate and covered make a fine pair. I discovered a few weeks ago that at least one word combination can both stimulate the appetite and confuse the intellect: “candied bacon ice cream.” I know what you’re thinking, but please don’t close the window. Hear me out. It’ll be worth your while.

At the time, I was looking for a new ice cream recipe on the website of the fabulous David Lebovitz. I ended up making an apple pie flavor instead, but I vowed to try the bacon confection sometime this summer. “Sometime” was ultimately defined as “yesterday and today.” As it turns out, candied bacon ice cream is absolutely divine.

The custard base tastes kind of like what my mom dunks french toast in before frying it up. It churns up into a rich and creamy ice cream base, with more body than eggless ice creams. Then there’s the bacon–oh, the bacon. I can’t believe I’ve never candied bacon before. What a revelation. In our household, the dogs usually get to lick the bacon drippings from the foil. Not this time–I went through our house delivering spoons of the smoky-sweet drippings to all of the humans. Thank goodness for opposable thumbs. The dogs were SOL.

I knew the bacon was something special, but the finished product really knocked my socks off. The flavors take turns very politely: first the sweetness and the cinnamon hit you. Then you taste the salt of the bacon and finally you’re left with a smoky, chewy mouthful of bacon, with just a hint of sweet crunch from the candy layer. (I think I’m going to up the crunch-factor in future iterations of this recipe; my brother said the bacon was too chewy.)

Trust me on this one. If you have access to ice cream making facilities–even if you have to use the old jar with a marble technique–try it. I’ve adapted Mr. Lebovitz’s recipe slightly because, despite my endless respect for his mad ice cream skillz, I am fundamentally incapable of following a recipe (or knitting pattern) as written. The original recipe is here. Make sure you check out the rest of his site while you’re there; it’s wonderful.

Candied Bacon Ice Cream
For the candied bacon:
5 strips bacon (thin-cut is best)
1/4 cup light brown sugar (roughly)

For the ice cream custard:
3 tablespoons (45g) salted butter
¾ cup (packed) brown sugar (170g), light or dark (you can use either)
2¾ (675ml) cup half-and-half
5 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I used a high quality Korintje cinnamon, and it made a noticeable difference)

1. To candy the bacon, preheat the oven to 400F (200C).

2. Put the strips of bacon on a rack over a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or aluminum foil, shiny side down.

3. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over each strip of bacon.

bacon sprinkled with brown sugar

4. Bake for 6-8 minutes, or until bacon looks like this.

bacon halfway cooked and ready to be flipped

Flip the bacon strips over, dragging each one through the dark, syrupy liquid that’s collected on the baking sheet in the process. Continue to bake until as dark as mahogany. Remove from oven and cool the strips on a wire rack.
candied bacon

5. Once crisp and cool, chop into little pieces, about the size of grains of rice.
(Bacon bits can be stored in an airtight container and chilled for a day or so, or stored in the freezer a few weeks ahead.)

6. To make the ice cream custard, melt the butter in a heavy, medium-size saucepan. Stir in the brown sugar and half of the half-and-half. Pour the remaining half-and-half into a bowl set in an ice bath and set a mesh strainer over the top.

7. In a separate bowl, stir together the egg yolks, then gradually add some of the warm brown sugar mixture to them, whisking the yolks constantly as you pour. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan.

8. Cook over low to moderate heat, constantly stirring and scraping the bottom with a heatproof spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula. (This step took around 10 minutes.)

9. Strain the custard into the half-and-half, stirring over the ice bath, until cool. Whisk in vanilla and cinnamon.

10. Refrigerate the mixture. Once thoroughly chilled, freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Add the bacon bits during the last moment of churning, or stir them in when you remove the ice cream from the machine.
folding the bacon into the ice cream

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Out of the frying pan…

March 3, 2009

As you might imagine, I am pretty adventurous in the kitchen. I’ll try just about anything, with one exception. My family has something of a bad history with deep frying. I’ve only seen it done twice, and both times I felt much as if I was in the presence of a loaded gun–the situation seemed inherently dangerous.

Then some of my foodie friends sent me a box of Café du Monde beignet mix. I decided to invite people over and make them for the Top Chef finale. That way at the very least there would be witnesses to explain to the police just how I managed to make a massive fireball using only common household ingredients. To make matters worse, my cats are actually stupid enough to accidentally get too close to the fryer.

After doing some research (read: calling my mother), I borrowed an electric skillet and took several precautions. I removed everything flammable from the area immediately around my stove, set up the electric skillet on the stovetop and built a tall wall around the pan with aluminum foil. I made sure the fire extinguisher was within easy reach, just in case, took a deep breath and rolled out the beignets.

rolling out dough

After all of the preparation and, well, paranoia, actually frying was oddly easy. The dough browned and puffed in an almost magical way. The oil behaved itself. The fire extinguisher was completely superfluous–not that I’m complaining, mind! The cats stayed away from the area completely. Obviously, there is some inherent danger to cooking with 370º oil, but fortunately nothing happened.

in fryer

draining

Nothing, that is, except the creation of delicious beignets. I think I might add some spices to the dough next time, just to see what happens.

finished with sugar

finished closeup

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There’s roux for you, and here’s some for me…

November 19, 2008

My reading habits saved me from utter culinary disaster today.

It’s probably no surprise that I really like to cook for people.  So when my French Club discovered that going out for fondue would be expensive, I blithely said, “Oh, I can make fondue.  I’ve done it before.”

I was unfazed when the responses started pouring in.  New members wanted to come to our fondue meeting.  They wanted to bring native French speakers as guests.  I’m a firm believer in “the more, the merrier” entertaining, so when the total head count grew to numbers I could not fit in my apartment, I  accepted my mother’s proffered big kitchen and planned a more expansive menu.

I would serve a beef broth fondue with mushrooms.  I would also do three — no, that’s a bit much — two cheese fondues: a cheddar and a Provençale.  (The Provençale is based upon my favorite dish at one of my favorite restaurants in Aix.  I still don’t know why they told me what was in it, but because they did I am doomed to eternally fail to replicate it.)  Dessert would be a no-brainer: a double-recipe of my mother’s ganache, which makes a splendid chocolate fondue.

And I had about 36 hours to pull it all together.

Despite my careful preparation, things started to go downhill almost as soon as the guests arrived.

I served the beef fondue first.  Despite the best efforts of Sterno, it stubbornly refused to return to the nice, rolling boil it had obligingly reached mere moments before.  I had 17 hungry, hopeful people sitting around my mother’s table not cooking beef as they watched broth not boil.  Uh-oh.

Springing into action, I threw the prepared ingredients for the Provençale into a pot: two cheeses, capers, cornichons, tomato paste, herbes de provence and healthy doses of both millk and white wine.  The Provençale responded to my desperate enthusiasm by turning into cheese soup.  No amount of begging, prayer or stealthily-added cornstarch seemed to have any effect on its viscosity.  After a while, one of the newcomers told me to go eat while she stirred.  I refused to admit defeat and moved on to the cheddar fondue while she hopefully but warily stirred the Provençale sludge.

As I added flour to the melted butter in a new pot, I was briefly amused that the cheddar recipe called for equal amounts of each.  I added milk and let it heat up.  It wasn’t until the mixture began to thicken that I found myself thinking of Michael Ruhlman.

One of my brother’s friends had highly recommended “The Making of a Chef,” which I greatly enjoyed reading on a recent trip.  Mr. Ruhlman spends a fair amount of the book debating the proper color a roux should attain to make a superior stock.

I realized with a jolt that I had just made a roux, of all things.  Roux — thickening agent — ah ha!  The thing I so desperately needed was bubbling benignly in my mother’s wok.  I tried to explain my discovery in French as I poured the hopeless Provençale mass into the foundation of the cheddar fondue.

To my shock, it thickened.  Thickened!  Not into a proper stringy fondue but into a reasonable facsimile thereof.  I put it on the table, people ate it, I quickly made the cheddar fondue and joined them.  We had a lovely evening.

Note to self: fondue without roux leads to rue.  That Ophelia chick knew what she was talking about.

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