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A Civilized Solitude
To quote Bette Midler, I have my standards; they’re low, but I have them. Covid 19 may have enforced our isolation, but I’ll be damned if I give up my civilized half hour or so with a glass or two of wine (or a cocktail if the bartender is up to it) and a few horses doovers (hors d’oeuvres). There is a nice sense of civility to having prepared something to eat, setting the table, and then sitting down with a glass of something divine and hors d’oeuvres. One of my favorite scenes in the film Amelie, is the sequence shot through her window. She sets her placemat at a table, lays the utensils needed in an orderly fashion and pours something into a glass, then sits down in solitude to enjoy her aperitif and dinner. No Netflix or scarfing down fried rice from a takeout container over the kitchen sink — ah, mais non. With the fact in mind that we aren’t clinking glasses with friends, this third edition of Winter Horses Doovers presents three I discovered and kept throughout the varying periods of lockdown and hibernation. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you two crackers and a dip!
Victoria Sackett, KD’s sharp-pencilled editor, and I both came late to the sourdough frenzy engendered by the lockdowns of 2020. But here we are with our jars of starter threatening to bubble over, and neither of us can bear to just pour the necessary discard down the drain. (Victoria’s jars of starter are multiplying like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice scene from Fantasia). Here is an excellent alternate solution in the form of a savory cracker for hors d’oeuvres that keeps well in any sealed container and does not have to be reheated in the oven to crisp up. It is inspired by a recipe from a website Love And Olive Oil: I found that rolling the dough was much easier than pushing it through a pasta machine as the writer suggested. You can bake it as one sheet and then break it apart like our Lavash recipe from Peter Reinhart. That said, however, I love my multi-wheeled pastry cutter, so I roll out the dough thinly on a Silpat and then use this nifty tool to make crackers. It’s a snap to pick up the sheet with the neatly divided dough and place it on a half sheet and slide it into the oven. When baked, the divisions come apart easily. Try this cracker also with the unctuous avocado and chili dip from Munir Mahmud. Cin-Cin.
- 1 cup (200gr) sourdough discard
- 1/2 cup (60gr) white all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (60gr) whole wheat flour or spelt flour
- 3 tablespoons (32gr) rye or buckwheat flour
- 3 tablespoons (32gr) extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- Fleur de sel or Maldon Sea Salt for sprinkling
- In a bowl, combine the starter with the flours, olive oil, herbs and salt.
- Knead on a lightly floured surface until the dough comes together in a smooth ball.
- Wrap tightly in cling film or cover securely in a bowl before refrigerating for at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.
- When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350F.
- Cut the dough in half (cover the unused piece) and roll out on a Silpat - if you have to use a bit of flour as you roll, that is okay - until it is as thin as a flour tortilla.
- At this point you can simply transfer the Silpat to a half sheet pan or you can use a pastry cutter and make rectangles or squares or a cookie cutter for cut-out shapes.
- Spray or brush lightly with water and sprinkle with fleur de sel or Maldon salt flakes.
- Slide your sheets into the oven, and bake for about 12-15 minutes - they should be at least tan but I prefer them to be a bit darker - turn the sheets half-way through the baking time.
- Allow to cool on a rack. The crackers will separate easily if you have used a pastry wheel. Store them in an airtight container - they will last a week.
Here We Go Again
I know, I know, the following recipes are from yet another Alas Out Of Print Book (otherwise known as AOOP) – The Best OF Gourmet, this one published in 1992. The first is a different type of cracker from the one above. It has a bit of crunch from the cornmeal, and it needs to be baked until the edges are really golden brown. I always reheat left-over ones in the oven to recrisp them. Sometimes I top them with poppy seeds and some flaked sea salt before baking. This dip, produced in a few minutes in your blender or processor. is perfect for one or two, and the batch provides more when you finally get to open your doors to your friends. It freezes pretty well too, just in case you need to have more on hand to celebrate with your vaccinated besties. I usually divide the dip into small containers holding a quarter or third cup and then freeze. I have tried doing something similar with smoked salmon but its popular lightly briny flavor gets lost in the other ingredients. Smoked trout is a bit more assertive. Save the smoked salmon for sliced dark bread and butter.
- 2/3 cup (107gr)yellow or white cornmeal
- 1/3 cup (45gr) white all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon fine granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons double acting baking powder
- 1/3 cup (79ml) cold water
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) unsalted butter melted and cooled
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup (235gr) grated sharp Cheddar cheese
- Preheat oven to 350F (175C) and prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats.
- In a blender or food processor, mix the cornmeal, flour, salt, sugar and baking powder.
- Then add the egg, water and cooled melted butter and mix again
- Sprinkle in the grated cheese and then pulse a few times until just mixed in.
- Either with a large pastry bag with a plain tip or with two large spoons, drop mounds onto baking sheets about 2 inches apart.
- Flatten each mound into a flat circle with an offset spatula ( or the back of a spoon.)
- You can sprinkle flaked salt and poppy seeds or caraway seeds at this point before baking.
- Bake 15-20 minutes- you want deep golden edges on the crackers
- I use India Tree Caster Sugar as it blends in better to the batter than the larger granulated sugar crystals.
- 1/2 lb (227gr) smoked trout fillets, skin pulled off
- 1/2 cup (118ml) full fat Greek style yoghurt
- 1/2 cup (118ml) homemade or good quality mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
- 1 tablespoon minced red or white onion
- In a food processor or blender, puree the trout with the yoghurt, mayonnaise, lemon juice, minced dill, onion and salt and pepper to taste.
- This can be made a day ahead and kept in a covered container in the refrigerator.
- You can freeze in small containers and then allow to come to room temperature.
After owning one of the best cooking stores in the US for 47 years, Nancy Pollard writes a blog about food in all its aspects – recipes, film, books, travel, superior sources and food related issues.