Tag Archives: Stews

That’s A Wrap

29 Jan

Cling film is out to get me.

Morning Light, Through My Window

Every time I open the drawer where the Saran wrap lives, I break out in a cold sweat. I know there’s going to be a fight, and I know who’s going to win. Hint: It’s never me.

I marvel, absolutely marvel, at the men and women on TV who can wrassle the stuff. I see them in commercials, on cooking shows and sometimes even in sitcoms and movies. They deftly grab the box, open the lid (without cutting themselves), pull the wrap from the roll with a sure hand, and cloak their leftovers in a layer of plasticky protection in one fell swoop. The wrap sticks to itself or to the bowl and never tears. I sit on the couch and seethe with jealousy.

It’s the dirty little secret of my kitchen. I can’t use plastic wrap.

Morning Rain

For a while I was very excited by that press & seal wrap (you know, the stuff that’s really just co-opted lab film). I remember it so fondly from 10th grade Advanced Biology. We’d use it to seal Erlenmeyer flasks full of fun experiments, and to protect Petri dishes from contamination. I embraced the press & seal and it hugged back. But, I can’t use it for everything.

My battle with cling film is decades old, but has recently become more heated. I suspect the plastic wrap has escalated because I won’t let it live in the “wrap & roll condo.” Some of you might have one of these, or remember them from your childhood.

Wrap & Roll Condo

They’re wall-mounted metal containers in which aluminum foil, wax paper and paper towels can live free, independent from their hateful boxes. You just pop the roll into the little cradle and use at will. No flimsy cardboard, no plastic ferrules popping out of place. They’re genius. Why no one makes them any longer is a great mystery to me (just like the song, I got mine on eBay).

I would love to forgo cling film entirely, but it does serve one purpose. It abets my pasta-making mania. On the rare occasion that I remember to pull a piece of the hateful stuff out of the drawer (before I get my hands all covered in flour), it is inevitably blown by a draft into an origami-inspired shape, the one and only time it ever sticks to itself. It forces me to stand at the counter, hands covered in sticky goo, in a desperate race to pull the layers apart before my dough forms a dry crust.

A more reliable scenario, however, is that I forget the wrap entirely. I will have just formed my perfect dough into a perfect little ball when I remember I’ve forgotten the stupid stuff and swear loudly. Not wanting to scatter flour all over the kitchen I try pulling the drawer open with my elbows. Fail. Try rinsing the dough off my hands. Fail. Capitulate, pull the drawer open with my now supremely gooey fingers, fight with the box, fight with the wrap, shower dough all over the cabinets, cut myself on the lid, swear a lot more, get the film off the roll, watch it all stick to itself, fight to pull the layers apart and then finally, wrap the film around the dough, at which point it choses to adhere to all of Murphy’s rules at once, but not to itself.

But, it is the struggle which makes the fruits of victory taste that much sweeter, don’t you think?

Seagulls, Tornado-Batterd Church Roof

Saturday was cold here. Bitterly cold. Stew weather. So we picked up some venison meat at the greenmarket and headed home. I didn’t want to go back out there and didn’t want to send Isaac either, so even though we were out of red cooking wine and had no fresh vegetables in the house, I decided to make do with what was inside, where it was warm. I thought adding some Cynar would add a nice flavor, and, thus inspired settled on a venison and artichoke stew.

Two things got in the way of this plan: 1. I was out of frozen artichokes and 2. I was unprepared for how much of the of the Cynar’s bitterness came through after a bit of cooking. So I improvised. I added sundried tomatoes and honey and jelly to mellow out the liqueur and tossed in whatever was green in the freezer; peas and garbanzos.

Venison Stew with Cynar and Csipetke

While the stew was burbling away in the oven, I made Hungarian dumplings.  The dough was easy enough, but once again,  I had to fight the wrap.  Despite all that, these are fabulous, toothsome, hearty little guys, like spätzle on steroids, and the perfect foil to this profound, mysterious and deeply flavored winter stew.

Mmmmm... Dumplings

While it’s true that the cling film waged a fierce and ruthless battle, I persevered and won the day. It was a personal victory, a victory for men and women everywhere, but most importantly it was a victory for my belly.

Those were some damn fine little dumplings.

Head below the jump for the recipes for Venison Stew with Cynar and Hungarian Dumplings.

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