Distasteful places to be: central Florida, Chechnya, Three Mile Island, New York on New Year's Eve... That's why I'm staying in with kale, creamy vegetable chowder, and freshly baked bread.
I've been following the tenets laid forth in Flour Water Salt Yeast, an early Christmas present, and they work. I didn't buy a Banneton proofing basket, opting instead for a blue faux-wicker trinket purchased in Chinatown for $1.75 and lined with a flour-dusted towel. The bread still has a crisp crust and perfect crumb, and a flavor that belies its four aforementioned ingredients; I chalk it up to the multiple temperature adjustments I made to get the dough to exactly 25 degrees Celsius. Thanks for the tip, Ken Forkish!
Maybe, calmed fortified by all this warm food, I'll wander downtown to the harbor for the stroke of midnight*.
Creamy vegetable chowder
Use any root vegetables you like for this; I'd hate to be authoritarian. Roast the cubed vegetables while you're preparing the base to save time. To make a vegan soup, omit the milk; the potatoes will make it creamy.
1 large sweet potato
1 fennel bulb, trimmed
2 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 small onion
3 stalks celery
4 leek fronds
1 cup cooked great Northern beans
2 tbsp flour
vegetable stock (I used a homemade mushroom stock)
salt and pepper
Preheat your oven to 425 F. Peel and cube the parsnip, turnip, carrots, sweet potato, and fennel bulb and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast until browned and tender. Meanwhile, dice the onion and celery and chop the leek fronds, including the white up to 1/2 to 1 inch of the dark green portion. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven and saute the onion, celery, and leek until the vegetables are soft and the onion transluscent. Add 2 tablespoons flour and mix thoroughly; cook on medium-high heat 3 to 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Stir in vegetable stock, 3 to 5 cups depending on how thick you'd like your chowder to be. Add 1 tsp thyme and a bay leaf. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, cooking until the potatoes are very soft. Add half the roasted vegetables and puree until smooth. Stir in the juice of 1/2 lemon, the remaining vegetables, and the beans. Heat through and add milk or additional stock to desired thickness. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve garnished with grated Parmesan and chopped parsley.
*Warning: gastronomic goodwill is liable to evaporate like acetone on a lab bench in the face of slow-moving tourists.
Title credit: Ford Madox Ford