Food Buzz

Because maybe you do care what I had for lunch...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Laurie Colwin's Halloween dinner

Sylvia mentioned Laurie Colwin's Halloween dinner and I had to look it up. If you've never heard of Laurie Colwin you must check her out. She wrote some charming and affecting novels as well as two books on cooking, Home Cooking and More Home Cooking. This is among my favorite food writing. She's unpretentious yet authoratative, and I desperately wish she hadn't died of cancer long ago.

Naturally, once I looked up the Halloween chapter in More Home Cooking and had to make the meal -- all except the cake. It's a scrumptious meal worth making any time in the fall or winter.

Laurie starts with John Thorne's pumpkin tian in his Simple Cooking. She recommends using delicata squash, her favorite squash and especially sweet. Use about four medium-sized squashes.

Peel, seed, and cut the squash into 1-inch chunks. Shake the chunks in a bag of flour, shaking off the excess flour, and put them into an oiled or buttered shallow baking dish. Scatter the squash with about 1/3 cup good Parmesan; 1 large garlic clove, minced; and pepper to taste. Drizzle the tian with about 1/4 to 1/3 cup best olive oil and put it into a preheated 400-degree oven. The oven must be really hot, or instead of a crispy-topped, melting ("molten," John Thorn says) dish you will end up with a sodden mess--trust me, I have had this happen. Bake the tian for 30 to 40 minutes.

This is amazing. In fact, I now know how to make those divine pumpkin fritters from Franny's I mentioned last week: toss squash in flour and drizzle with just olive oil, then sprinkle hot squash with powdered sugar. I can't wait to try it over the weekend!

Laurie then makes a meatloaf based on one she had at Cadwell's Corner in West Cornwall, Connecticut. Who knows if this place is even still open, but the secret to the meatloaf is soaking "two 1-inch-thick slices of homemade bread (crusts discarded) in 1 cup buttermilk for 20 minutes." Stir this into 2 pounds ground chuck and 2 large eggs.

Laurie seasons her loaf with "1 large garlic clove, minced; 1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard; 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce; and 1 tabelspoon ketchup." She also adds some concentrated tomato/veggie stuff called Ortolina. Bake in a loaf pan at 350 degrees for about 1 hour.

We had used all our buttermilk for pancakes over the weekend, so I soaked my (store-bought) whole-grain bread in another form of cultured milk, plain yogurt thinned with cream. This is a sign of what a degenerate I am, putting cream in something as wholesome as meatloaf. I also didn't have Worcestershire sauce. I thought I did -- doesn't it always come with the apartment's refrigerator? I subbed with soy sauce, completely different and yet similar, somehow. I don't like how sweet ketchup is so I used some leftover pizza sauce, which covered whatever Orolina is as well, or so I like to think. Lane pronounced the meatloaf "the best ever," and I think I have to hand it down to the cream.

The tian and meatloaf are followed by a salad (I made one of just mixed greens and dried currants) and a spiderweb cake. "It is any old cake decorated with orange icing using the fine nib of the cake-decorating kit (the one you write "Happy Birthday" with) in a spiderweb design." She also adds the little plastic spider that comes with the fake cobwebs her daughter made her buy every year.


Anonymous said...

Fabulous! We have tons of butternut squash on hand from a canceled food demo, and I've been wondering what new thing I could do with it. I'll have to have part of the dish sans cheese for me and L.

And meatloaf, ah meatloaf. I haven't made it since the squashy meatloaf of last year, but that's another thing I need to bring back.

hippittee said...

I just love the way you improvise...actually, I like that you admit to it...because I do it as well, and it's nice to see that I'm not alone!

Also, I'll take this opportunity to remind people to exercise their right to vote!