Winter has always been my favorite cooking season. (Ask me again, though, in April, when I could use some tomatoes or shell beans after months of earth-toned fare.) It’s partly that the cold makes one feel more inclined to stay in the kitchen all day and partly that filling the belly with warm, good things is my preferred way to keep the cold at bay too. When it’s warm enough for bare legs or hot and sticky enough that the last thing I want to do is move, much less eat or stay in the kitchen all day, cooking takes a big ol’ hit.
The last couple of months of 2007 were spent mostly out at restaurants. That, compounded with a kitchen- and cooking-less vacation — as well in countries where so much wonderful produce kind of makes you want to rush home and get the apron on — has put me back behind the stove. Armed with lots and lots of potatoes.
Inspired by Allan‘s dinner last week, I made a potato-onion gratin. I forgot how easy gratins are. And how creamily, mushily satisfying a potato one is. I improved upon the usual recipe by spreading each potato-onion layer with a little bacon fat (I knew I was collecting it for some reason).
I’ve also been working my way through a southern Indian cookbook. My experience in South Asian cooking has largely come from Madhur Jaffrey and from throwing together spice combinations with ginger and cilantro (much as I do when I’m cooking Thai — er, “Thai”) and yogurt. The randomness of my own concoctions would probably be totally shocking or disgusting to people who actually ate this cuisine growing up. (Probably similar to my feelings about stirfrying + soy sauce = Chinese.) With this book, I thought I’d first try the dishes I’m most familiar with from restaurants.
Pacha sambar, a toovar dal and vegetable soup, uses the typical ingredients of turmeric, fenugreek, and green chiles in the broth as well as an oil garnish with mustard seed, asafetida, and curry leaves.
Masala dosa. This is version 2.0 — I fucked up the first batter but good (following recipes was never my strong suit), but this one seems to have come out okay. The paper dosas they have at restaurants must be some totally different kind of batter. This, apparently, is nearly the same as the batter used for idli, only those are steamed, not pan-fried. And yeah, I know it’s supposed to be folded more like an enchilada, but this seemed to work just fine too (I did it the right way when I cooked off more batter this morning for breakfast). Filled with a spicy potato and onion dry curry (that would be the masala part).