Blame it on the fact that I’m writing a novel where the three main characters experience the world through food: I can’t stop cooking. Last night I made butter cookies at 10pm. Granted, I wanted something sweet but had nothing in the apartment and didn’t want to schlep to the market four blocks away, primarily because I’m cheap but also because I was all cozy at home in my jammies. I looked in the fridge, looked in the pantry, looked in Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food. Realized I had everything I needed to make a simple little cookie: butter, sugar, vanilla, lemon (juice & zest), milk, salt, flour. That’s it. Creamed the butter and sugar til it turned the palest yellow, the sort of yellow you want to paint your walls with, then added in the other liquid ingredients plus the salt. I used fleur de sel, smashed up to fine grains, just because I figured there were so few ingredients in these cookies each component should sing. I folded in the flour in batches, just til it was incorporated, then rolled the dough into three logs and refrigerated them until they were chilled enough to cut into little disks with a knife. This means you only cook as many cookies as you want at that time–the rest you just leave, in dough form, in the fridge. This also means I wasn’t cooking the cookies til 1am, as the dough wasn’t ready til then. I decided to gild the lily and glaze them with a little lemon icing. Confectioners sugar, cream, lemon zest and vanilla. That’s it. Nice complement to the tang of the cookie.
The cookies are really good. They are very short, which means you taste the cooked butter throughout. Gives them an almost granular texture, but not in a gross freezer burnt ice cream kind of a way. And with all of that lemon zest in the cookie, its taste puckers the tongue while simultaneously delivering the sugar it craves. Which leaves you desiring more even as you eat them.
For lunch I’ve been eating an old salad standby: shaved fennel, shaved apple, shaved Parmesan, toasted walnuts and a little dressing. It makes up for the cookies, I hope. For dinner tonight I stuck with fennel and apple, but changed the preparation. I cut a Granny Smith apple into chunks, and cut half a fennel bulb into 1/4 inch rings. I also cut a chicken apple sausage into disks. I melted some butter in a saucepan and added the apple chunks to it. I sauteed the apples til they caramelized a little, adding a little lemon juice so they wouldn’t oxidize. Then I threw in the fennel. The fennel and apple sucked up all of the butter–fast–and I really didn’t want to add more fat to the dish, so I tossed in about 1/4 cup of the Miller Genuine Draft I was enjoying, thinking, hey, Germans always pair beer with sausage, maybe this will work. I let the fennel and apples absorb the liquid, then added a splash of apple cider vinegar. Worrying I might have made things too tart I also added a teaspoon of honey. I salted, peppered, then added the sausage. Cooked it all together til it was all heated through, then did one more round of apple cider vinegar and honey, to add a nice glaze to the whole dish. Finished with a little more butter.
Dear Reader: I did not expect this one-dish slapdash beer-y meal to be so delicious but it was, it was! The apple chunks were tender but not mealy, and the butter/honey/apple vinegar flavor highlighted the apple’s own natural sweetness. The fennel added that great anise-y crunch, and the chicken apple sausage was just very satisfying in an “I don’t get enough protein” kind of a way, and also tasted great with the little bit of honey glazing it. Weird meal, I guess, but I’m gonna fix it again. And so is one of the characters in my book.