12.21.12 New Age (& A Spicy Giveaway)

Age of aquarius 790 xxx
embrace the new
It's the winter solstice today. 12.21.12 is a date that's been the subject of much speculation. Apparently, the ancient Mayans predicted that this day would mark the end of our age— but must this really be interpreted as meaning the end of the world? I choose to believe the highly intriguing theory that this is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius! On this day, our sun and the earth cross the Milky Way galactic plane, an event that occurs once every 26,000 years. The axis of rotation of the Earth does not remain constant but wobbles in the same way that a spinning top does. This wobble has a rotation period of around 26,000 years. For a period of approximately 2,000 years, the earth's rotational axis, or north-south pole, points to a different constellation in the sky, each one corresponding to a sign of the zodiac. After 26,000 years the whole zodiac is traversed. So we are about to transition from the Age of Pisces to the Age of Aquarius. And with it comes greater freedom, equality, cooperation, collaboration and global consciousness. Reason will prevail over emotional reactions. We should prepare for greatness. As an Aquarian, I am elated to be living through this time. I think it calls for a celebration.
Conserve1 790 xxx
conserve your strength
Speaking of celebrating, I wrapped up most of my client work in preparation for the holidays (hooray!!) and spent yesterday in the kitchen, tackling various projects. Some have been on my to-do list for ages, others just piqued my interest of late. In the latter category is this gorgeous conserve by the prolific preserver Mrs Wheelbarrow, featured in this week's New York Times. I had fresh cranberries but no raspberries on hand, so I substituted some summer strawberries I had frozen and it turned out great. I love the toasted pecans adding their richness and crunch to the jammy scarlet berries. It's the perfect thing to serve with your standing rib roast on Christmas.
Nuts 790 xxx
nuts & berries
If you need a good source for pecans, I highly recommend you order them online from Inglewood Farm in Louisiana. It's a family farm and the pecans are organically grown. They are big, plump and delicious, with a wonderful sweet snap to them.
Apricot 790 xxx
You remember those nine pounds of apricots I bought back in January? Well, I finally used almost half of them to make an enormous batch of fruit leather. I put them in my big copper jam pot, added a vanilla bean and loads of minced ginger and cooked it down with a bottle of elderflower cordial I made this past summer. Pureed and spread on parchment, it's dehydrating at this very moment.
Garlic bulb 790 xxx
allium sativum
For weeks and weeks I've had a big tub of duck fat in my fridge, tons of hardneck garlic and a deep desire to make garlic confit. Now it's done and I'm hugely satisfied. I cooked about 40 cloves of garlic at a very, very lazy simmer until meltingly tender, then put them in jars with a bay leaf, a chile de árbol and some sea salt I pounded with herbes de Provence (a gift last year from these dear friends). If you don't know about garlic confit, it's time you did. Sounds fancy, but it's super simple. The garlic softens and mellows as it cooks in the duck fat—or olive oil—and you leave it stored in the same, so it will keep for a few months in the fridge. Spread it on bread, stir it into mashed potatoes, use it in dips, slip it under chicken skin before roasting...there are few things it won't improve.
Reims tin 790 xxx
my gift to you
It was a real day of cooking joy and I think there will be more of those in my future. I so look forward to spending time with loved ones around the table at this time of year. I'd like to spread a little of this good feeling to you, dear readers, by offering a complimentary set of all three spices from La Boîte à Epices, currently offered for sale in the GFL shop: Reims (crystallized honey, ginger and anise); Apollonia (cocoa powder, orange blossom and pepper) and Salvador (pimentón, saffron and seafood essence). These will surely inspire your culinary art well into the new year. Just leave a comment telling me what you dream of cooking these days and I will announce the winner next Friday the 28th.

Have a beautiful weekend! xo 

Garlic Confit with Herb Salt

makes about three 1/2 pints
  • — 6 heads of garlic, cloves peeled
  • — 3 small bay leaves
  • — 3 small red chile, like chiles de àrbol
  • — 2 cups duck fat or good quality olive oil
  • — 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • — 1 1/2 teaspoons herbes de Provence

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan over very low heat. Bring to a very lazy simmer; a bit of scum may rise to the top, which you can skim off with a spoon. Cut a round of parchment paper and lay it on top to help keep the garlic submerged.

Cook, without browning, until the garlic is tender, about 30 minutes. Cool.

Pound together the sea salt and herbes de Provence with a mortar and pestle. Set aside.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic, bay leaves and chiles to glass jars. Sprinkle a teaspoon of the herb salt on top of each. Pour the cooking fat or oil over to cover, seal the jars and refrigerate. Will keep for up to 4 months.

Download recipe  Download Recipe


I think I'd like to start with this garlic confit. It sounds amazing!
Julia on December 21, 2012 at 7:46 am —
Oh, you can do that in your sleep, Miss Dispense-With-An-Entire-Hog!!
laura on December 21, 2012 at 8:28 am —
hmmmmm, so many cooking dreams and I'm determined to make the time to savor them with dear friends this year. What will be on our plates over the following days (not all together, mind you, food combination has its rules!): involtini of duck breast with parmesan and truffled duck liver filling with a hint of orange zest, california roll sushi, delicate handmade ravioli stuffed with mussels.....Those are the savory courses, but I also feel ready to tackle the famous "perfect" chocolate chip cookie recipe which ran in the NYtimes a few years back. Of course, i'm just one of many passionate epicureans in the house, so only time will tell how this holiday will evolve ....buon apetito & wishing you a peaceful holiday!
Kristina on December 21, 2012 at 7:55 am —
Kristina, an invitation to dinner at your house must be highly coveted among your friends. I envy them!
laura on December 21, 2012 at 8:30 am —
I dream of cooking the wild boar defrosting in my fridge. mmmmm
Elina on December 21, 2012 at 9:31 am —
The one time I made wild boar it was super dry, so I'd love to know your secret...
laura on December 21, 2012 at 10:56 pm —
Sugar and Spice, and everything nice... I'm looking forward to cooking for the holidays, and having the house filled up with the warm spicy smell of food from my "home" countries (France and Sweden): duck confit in the oven on a bed of root vegetables (celeriac, carrots, fingerlings, parsnip, dried cranberries, herbes de Provence) sweet & strong mustard glazed ham with simmered red cabbage (apples, onion, balsamic vinegar, soy, honey) ...and of course my great grandmother's Swedish extra thin ginger snaps (just perfect with some Swedish warm spice wine: Glögg)
Filippa on December 21, 2012 at 1:05 pm —
Sounds positively divine. I am planning to attempt some gløgg this year as well!
laura on December 21, 2012 at 10:54 pm —
I just made and canned for gifts some cranberry rum sauce. So I think a roasted local organic turkey is next on my cooking list, with lots of friends over to share in January. Kind of a Thanksgiving redux, but without family and long distance travel, yet still great times and memory rejoicing.
Jack Barnett on December 21, 2012 at 3:56 pm —
You've definitely got the right idea there, Jack—enjoy!
laura on December 21, 2012 at 10:55 pm —
Recently acquiring Ma'amoul cookie molds, I've been surrounded by rose water, pistachio, and semolina flour. I dream of brussel sprouts loaded with creek silt, cast iron heat and lemon; paired with cardamom garlic minced lamb, and perfectly toasted slices of olive oil-drenched rye bread.
Renata on December 21, 2012 at 8:12 pm —
Wow, such poetry - creek silt! I got some cannelé molds that I'm excited to use. Renata, your menu is inspiring.
laura on December 21, 2012 at 10:57 pm —
I've got my eyes on the tamale prize. Want to make a mess of them and freeze them. When the moment presents....and my Greek friend and I want to see what comes of an attempt to make a Turkish dessert called kazandibi, and now there is garlic confit to consider...I think you'd better move to the Berkshires.
janet on December 21, 2012 at 9:44 pm —
Yo, the singular of tamales is tamal. I see I am needed in the Berkshires.
laura on December 21, 2012 at 10:58 pm —
I have serious copper jam pot envy. And I've added garlic confit to my list of condiments to make this week! What a wonderful idea.
The Wimpy Vegetarian on December 22, 2012 at 1:09 am —
You can always put that copper jam pot on your Christmas list, Susan!
laura on December 22, 2012 at 8:51 am —
What I'm cooking or what I'm dreaming of cooking? For I certainly am cooking a lot, umm well, baking a lot, lately. This year we are spending Christmas with my inlaws and I was told not to bring anything which is very frusturating since cooking is part of Christmas for me. So I decided to bake them some goodies as gifts. While it seems very common in the US to give cookies aways left right and center here it is not so...Cookies are therefore highly appreciated. Maybe I bit off more then I can chew...major baking projects with a three-month old can be...challenging!! So right now I'm dreaming of very fast and easy treats. Um, not what I chose to do... Plus in the midst of all this sugar...all I really want is something umami-ish!! So as I roll out hundreds of cookies I dream of tajines, stews, soups with hunks of fresh bread and sweet and sour mandarin chicken! : ) Life.
alwayshungry on December 22, 2012 at 2:15 pm —
Congrats on the new baby! And good luck with all that baking!
laura on December 22, 2012 at 3:51 pm —
I'm dreaming of cooking a large pot of fragrant lamb stew but what I'll be cooking on Tuesday is a very small cold water lobster tail and mixed baby potatoes and home frozen asparagus. We are very cold and snowy here and I like staying home and reading on Christmas Day after spending Christmas Eve with friends. PS - or watching more BBC gardening videos - I'll send a link via email.
Karen on December 23, 2012 at 2:41 pm —
Both meals sound delicious, Karen! We're planning to go light on Christmas day with bouillabaisse after the excesses of our dinner with friends on Christmas Eve.
laura on December 23, 2012 at 5:08 pm —
I dreamed of cooking a lamb roast with preserved lemons, olives, dates and spices from Armenia I have.. alas I did not get to cook for this holiday, most unfortunate (of course, I baked up a storm).. so, I am still dreaming of my meal and will do so for a few friends sometime in January. I absolutely need to make garlic confit! I've been dreaming of doing so since my garlic came in last summer... and now you've inspired me, yet again! Have a lovely New Year Laura!
tamika on December 26, 2012 at 1:20 pm —
I'm sure there was no shortage of activity in your kitchen, Tamika - but that lamb does sound delicious! It's destined to happen in 2013...
laura on December 26, 2012 at 1:24 pm —
I tackled my most recent dream yesterday with my first ever Turducken. It's delicious and was well received by all. Only wish I had some of that fat for your garlic confit. Gonna do a seafood boil for New Year's I think.
Davetta on December 26, 2012 at 4:54 pm —
Wow, seriously ambitious! Seafood boil sounds divine.
laura on December 26, 2012 at 5:02 pm —
Thank you. It was a DIY from internet video watching project. No one I know has had or made it before. I found someone who had and he was kind enough to answer me on Christmas. I got his message when I sat down to eat, but he offered some great advice. If I do it again I will have the birds de-boned professionally. That was the hardest part. Looked a lot easier on the videos. I love to have seafood for the New Year, shrimp, lobster, and maybe scallops this year.
Davetta on December 26, 2012 at 6:03 pm —
Yes, we're having smoked salmon, oysters and maybe some caviar. Happy 2013!
laura on December 26, 2012 at 10:26 pm —
I think I have gotten gingerbread out of my system now...at least baking them...now I just dream of steaming hot cups of tea and eating them. Right about now I am dreaming of cooking orange marmalade or something with grapefruits and preserving as many Meyer Lemons as I can find. Oh, for a friend in California who would just mail me a box from her yard. Happy dreams of bounty. xo Love, S
Suzi Banks Baum on December 26, 2012 at 9:18 pm —
Talk to Janet. She has a connection!
laura on December 26, 2012 at 10:26 pm —
Laura, you and yours are always welcome...so next time you swing by the peninsula.... : ) baci
Kristina on December 27, 2012 at 10:13 am —
I want to cook my grandmother's raviolis, which filled (literally) every holiday when I was growing up.
pam on December 27, 2012 at 6:29 pm —
These days it's candy for me. In the process of beginning a small confection business and am constantly struck with new flavor combinations. And for our family, I think I'll be working on learning to make my own Asian dumplings - gyoza and hum bao to start. Happy holidays to all!
Sara on December 27, 2012 at 6:48 pm —
Having baked my way through 5lbs of butter this month- I have packed up the baking cabinet, put away the mixer and am dreaming of the spicy- sweet-salty taste of DUCK. Perhaps a rice recipe that can fly on the wings of these wonderful blends would carry me into 2013 with a big smile. Cheers to that!
Rosie on December 27, 2012 at 7:36 pm —