29 August, 2006

corn, crab, politics and simple things

Have I given you my corn chowder recipe? I think I did, but I'll go back and check. One thing I'm going to try to learn this upcoming year, well two things, one is to write better, more precise recipes. The other is to find a way to present them on the blog that is easier to get and more appealing, like maybe a hot link to a separate page that will include a photo of the completed dish. We'll see.

In any case, this summer has been about corn. I just love sweet corn, and not the scary kind that finds itself mixed in baked potatoes in England. I'm sorry, that is just WRONG. No, the kind I mean is picked up from the Starchaks' farm stand on Main Street in Southbury, Connecticut, driven directly home to be shucked on the back step (always throw the husks over the back fence; I love to have a fence to throw things over), then boiled for precisely three minutes, and raced to the table and salted, and eaten without holders. I can easily eat four ears, no problem. However, after an entire summer of corn on the cob, my family was objecting to the monotony. So in addition to the corn chowder, I came up with a recipe that takes into account the awful possibility that some ears of corn will not live up to the billing I have just given them. They will be, inexplicably, tough. Or not juicy. Or starchy. The kind of corn that, were you to encounter it on the side of a lame plate of surf and turf at Red Lobster, you would simply treat as the kind of aberration it is: clearly there to provide the illusion of a vegetable but not in any way expecting to be actually ingested.

So if this happens, what is an unhappy cook to do? Well, rather than slog through and eat it anyway because it's there, and you bought it and cooked it, simply say goodbye to the sorry ears and put them aside. Finish the rest of your lovely meal and do not dwell on the disappointment. There's always another trip to Starchaks' tomorrow. Meanwhile, save it for the next meal you prepare, especially if it's a nice meaty one like steak, pork chops, or as last night, a roasted leg of lamb rubbed with a mixture of chopped rosemary, garlic, lime juice and olive oil. While the lamb is roasting, here is what you do:

Scalloped Corn, or How to Turn a Failure Into a Success
(serves four easily)

6 ears cooked corn
four cloves garlic, chopped fine
half pint light cream
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
3 tbsps melted butter
1/2 cup grated pecorino or parmesan cheese

Spray a nice casserole dish (I used a pretty oval Pyrex one) with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle the garlic over the bottom of the dish. Cut the kernels off the ears of corn (be sure to gather up the few racy kernels who will fly off onto the counter top) and sprinkle them onto the garlic, taking care to separate the long rows should they stick together. Pour the cream over all the kernels evenly, then toss the bread crumbs in the melted butter and fluff them up. Spread evenly over the corn and then sprinkle the cheese over all. The casserole can bake for the final half hour of the roast lamb, and will be ready to make the perfect accompaniment for a juice, garlicky bite.

Then there's the perennial question, what to do with a really high-quality 1-pound can of crabmeat, the kind that comes in the refrigerator section of the fish department? Or alternatively you could order it along with your lobsters from Dave Thomas in Islesford, don't think it isn't possible. Anyway, say you bought it intending to make crabcakes and then you got back from the Hamptons where you had just had crabcakes. Well, here's what you can make, in two seconds:

Simple Crab Salad

(serves four)

1-pound can crabmeat, refrigerated
1/4 cup red onion, chopped fine
3/4 cup mayonnaise
juice of half a lemon or lime
salt and pepper
half an avocado, sliced lengthwise
1 really good heirloom tomato, cut in bite-sized pieces, or a handful of grape tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
pinch paprika
four slices buttered toast

Mix the crabmeat, onion, mayo, and juide together, folding gingerly so as not to break up the yummy long pieces of crab claw. Then salt and pepper to taste. DO NOT eat it all at this stage. Taste just a LITTLE. Then put on a large plate, mounded in the center. Surround with tomato bites, and fan the avocado slices on top of the crab. Sprinkle with paprika. Serve with buttered toast.

I'm thinking about all this summer food, and all our fun this summer in general, to take my mind off Leaving Anxiety. Yes, I who can find something to be anxious about under all circumstances, am worrying about leaving. It's a bit stressful getting the house in order should someone want to rent it this fall and winter. So we're packing away clothes, linens, etc., so as to make it count as furnished, but not personal. Then of course there's the ever-present unwillingness to leave the three Js behind. I cannot imagine how much Jane will change over the year until we get back in July. Already she can say "up above" when she couldn't six weeks ago, and it will probably be a matter of only days before "the world so high" follows.

Also I must admit to a certain don't-wanna-fly creeping back into my reconstructed heart, which was doing so well about flying on our way here. But even someone not as self-centered as I might be forgiven for a bit of anxiety when my life entails moving from Target Number One to Target Number Two or the reverse, depending on your point of view and airport of departure. One of the funniest moments of the summer, in a completely sick way, was when Rollie stopped to chat after scything the meadow to the side of the house. It was the day when all the nonsense broke about what liquids you could and couldn't take on board and how we had all just narrowly avoided whatever dreadful thing happening on the way from London to here, and generally announcing the incipient Armageddon. Rollie put some grass between his teeth and whistled. "When's John expected?" I sighed and said, "He's flying back from London tomorrow morning." Short silence. Then Rollie grunted. "You HOPE."

Well that's just icky! I can join the thousands of generations of parents before me and moan that I really don't like the world we're bringing our child into. Europe has such a different perspective on the world than America has, and such a sadly negative view of much that is American. It's so hard to know what to think, but one example of the huge isolation of the United States these days came up when I was talking to a friend at the pool about the airport situation. "It's just going to lead to worse profiling than we had in the past," she worried. And I mentioned the awful case of a family in London whose home was broken into by dozens of armed special force police officers, shouting and ordering people to the ground, all based on what turned out to be completely baseless threat information. The story was top news in Europe for days, as the mistake was discovered, the family's ruined lives paraded in front of the news media, the police and government forced to apologize. And you know what? The story never broke here at all. I guess that's a combination of our lack of interest in stories not directly related to America, and a reluctance to dwell on mistakes. Watching television here is interesting: the media seem to want us all really scared, but not very specifically! A strange mixture of how right we must be because we're Americans, but how target-number-one we are because everyone else in the world thinks we're wrong. Such an unhappy situation. It will be helpful to get back to London and realize that of course we can go back and forth and the world doesn't end.

In the meantime, though, I'll concentrate on Avery's little face, pressed up against her dad's. Because you see, he DID come home.

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