Jessica is not just a great cook and foodie, she's married to a professional chef and co-authors the fantastic series of culinary-themed Gourmet Girl mysteries.
Lucky for us, the paperback edition of her latest Gourmet Girl adventure, FED UP, hits stores shelves this week! Huzzah! And her new hardcover, COOK THE BOOKS, is coming in March. And now, here's the Goumet Girl herself,
~ Cleo Coyle
The Leftovers. Blech, right? Visions of overcooked pasta, dried out casseroles, soggy salad, and congealed fish dancing in your head? Yeah, me, too. Usually. Unless it’s a hearty soup that has doubled its flavor overnight (as many good soups do!), then I usually dread leftovers. But, aside from soup, I have two exceptions to this attitude: Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Both days we go to my parents’ house and my mother puts together a fantastic meal with the things I’ve demanded be served. (I’m a brat.) My favorites are the main meat dish (usually a crown roast of pork or a decadent prime rib), a cheese and cream laden scalloped potato dish, her absolutely perfect green salad, a cheese course, and finally her ultra-rich chocolate sauce on vanilla ice cream. And each holiday I gorge myself silly. But even before the actual meal I am already anticipating what leftovers I’ll be bringing home. Look, there’s only so much even I can eat in one sitting, but give me a few days and I can really pack it in.
So the meat dish, the potatoes, and the expensive sampling of cheeses are all perfectly delicious treats for the few days after the holiday. I just don’t run around paying a small fortune for delicacies throughout the year and so, believe me, I take advantage of free food when I can get it. The joys of being an only (gluttonous) child.
I will admit in the privacy of this blog that I had a particularly selfish moment this season when it was unclear if three of our guests would be joining us at Christmas dinner… and my first thought was, More leftovers! That’s awful. I know that. I’m a terrible person and I’ll work on being less vile in 2010.
But as apparent punishment for my greedy thoughts, my anxiety about remembering to take my fair share of leftovers seemed to have depleted some of my brain cells, because I screwed up at Thanksgiving. And at Christmas. Big time.
I spent the day after Thanksgiving salivating at the thought of reheating the pork roast and the gooey potatoes for dinner. The way the cheesy potatoes’ sauce would run across the plate and coat the meat…. Ahhhh, it would be bliss! But as I began rooting through the fridge, I could not find the meat. I found side dishes, and chocolate sauce, and the potatoes…. But no meat. I swear that I had heart palpitations as I called my husband at work, hoping beyond hope that he’d stashed the leftovers in some secure part of the fridge. I must be blind with hunger and not seeing what was surely right in front of me, right? No luck. I called my mother who located MY pork in HER fridge. Seriously, people, my emotional upset at this error was no laughing matter. What the heck was I supposed to have with my potatoes now? I could practically taste what I was missing, but even my hallucinating skills were not vaguely satisfying.
Okay, I resolved, this hideous leftover failure on my part will NOT happen at Christmas. But, yeah. It did. Mom had assembled a particularly noteworthy cheese selection this year. Epoisse (which is one of the smelliest, gooiest, richest cheeses out there), St. Andre (to die for!), Explorateur (another triple-cream delight), a smooth, spreadable blue, a firm goat’s milk, and a few others that I’ve blocked out because the memory is too painful. But by the time we got to the cheese course at the end of the meal, I was stuffed and didn’t eat nearly my share. No worries: there would be plenty of leftovers. I never pay that kind of money for a multitude of cheeses just to keep around my house, so this would be a treat. God, the next few days were sure to be lovely.
And you know what I did? I helped clean up the table, divided up all the goods, wrapped up little packages, and promptly forgot the cheese! All of it. Not one little hint of Epoisse for me. Again, the emotional trauma that ensued the next day was not pretty. There were the usual frantic calls to my husband and mother. And the usual tragic result.
I’ve been craving cheese since December 27th and so used New Year’s Eve as an excuse to spend an ungodly sum of money at the supermarket and throw together a meat and cheese plate. I was in a huge rush on the 31st and basically ran through the supermarket at top speed, haphazardly throwing things into my basket. I won’t tell you what I spent, but I’m not proud of myself. And the kicker is that the supermarket selection pales in comparison to what one could find at a specialty shop. Again, a rather ordinary selection was probably appropriate punishment for my selfish approach to leftovers. But our gourmet-ish plate of munchies was still lovely, although not viable competition for my mother’s.
So my New Year’s resolution for 2010 is to never again forget valuable leftovers. Never!
Here is the salad that my mother makes on a regular basis. It’s very simple but sometimes a light, uncluttered bowl is heaven. You won’t need all the dressing here, but it will keep for ages. Feel free to play around with ingredient amounts… I happen to like a really spicy dressing so I sometimes add more mustard, and I’m a mint fanatic so I also use a ton of that. But adjust as you like!
1 cup olive oil (a light/medium blend)
1 Tablespoon good quality Dijon mustard
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 good squeeze fresh lemon juice (don’t you dare try and use that junk that comes out of a plastic lemon!)
Salt and pepper, to taste (Be generous. An under-seasoned salad is a waste.)
Mix all together and let stand at least ½ hour before using. Refrigerate leftovers.
1-2 heads Boston/Baby Bibb lettuce, thoroughly washed (unless you enjoy grit.)
¼ thinly sliced red onion
½ cup fresh tomatoes (in the winter I like grape tomatoes, cut in half)
1/3 cup good feta (Trader Joe’s carries a delicious kind that comes in a white and blue container… I forget the name, but it is wonderful.)
1 small handful chopped fresh mint
1 small handful Calamata olives
That’s it! Toss with the dressing and you’re set!
In book news, the fourth Gourmet Girl mystery, FED UP, is out in paperback on January 4th. I love this book because there is both a baby shower and wedding in it, and who doesn’t love those scenes, right? I also throw out a juicy cliffhanger at the end… But don’t worry, COOK THE BOOKS comes out in March and I promise I take care of it then.
I’m also blogging with my pal Michele Scott at Adventuresnwriting. Or rather, I occasionally blog there when I think of it. Mostly I write about stupid things like Levi Johnston’s photo shoot, Lady Gaga’s outfits, or inform the public about very insightful things my kid has said. (BTW, his most recent eye-rolling statement was that the parents from Cheaper By the Dozen “must have had a lot of sex!”) So I suppose I should resolve to blog more. I’ll work on it. And Michele is generally better behaved than I am, so we balance each other out. She and I also have a Food Fiction newsletter that we send out every few months with recipes, book news, contests, and wonderful guests. We’d love to have you sign up, so stop by our site and enter your email address in the form!