Sunday, 10 December 2006

Think Pink!

Think Pink, the Diana Vreeland-esque fashion editor instructs her minions in the opening musical sequence of Funny Face. (Though an unconventional choice, it is probably my favourite Audrey Hepburn movie. What can match the combo of Paris, Fred Astaire and couture? Thanks to Susie Boyt for calling this to mind.) And so, in this instance at least, food follows fashion.

Things began auspiciously last night with a pre-dinner kir. This particular version paired the previous night's indifferent pinot grigio with a teaspoon or so from the beautiful bottle of creme de cassis which I toted back from Paris this summer. Originally designed to disguise the harsh acidity of some southern French white wines, kir is, at least in my kitchen, pressed into service on the (admittedly rare) occasions when there is leftover white wine. (I sometimes also make kirs with the remnants of rough red. The cardinale, so named for the red of the cardinal's coat, is something of a rustic, winter-weather counterpart to the yachts and suntan-evoking kir ordinaire. Its muddy colour, however, is not nearly as lovely as that produced when purpley-pink cassis meets bleached-straw white. As for the more famous royale, it has sadly never featured in my abode.) This raises the question of proportions. In The Cook and the Gardener, Amanda Hesser notes that some Burgundians compose their kirs out of nearly equal measures of wine and liquor. Although I prefer to stick with more austere quantities of cassis, the increasingly beautiful colours do make it difficult to resist shading from a deep salmon pink to light fuchsia and beyond. A taste will convince otherwise. Too much cassis produces something akin to adult Kool-Aid.

Although I didn't know it at the time, the symphony of pink was just beginning. Apres kir, dinner featured stubby, rosy-hued merguez sausages from the Ginger Pig. These were a bit too strong on the chili, but suitably meaty and well-seasoned. The following morning, newspaper read, (pink) grapefruit consumed and a post theme germinating, I discovered that the kitchen held several more useful specimens. The quinces, gently perfuming the corner by the washing machine, could be braised into rosy submission. (Melissa at the Traveler's Lunchbox provided very timely inspiration, cooking whole, unpeeled quinces in a languorous bath of sugar and water.)

The crowning touch came in the form of a box of cranberries. Tonight, I decided, would be the perfect occasion for my abridged, better-late-than-never Thanksgiving dinner. I am not a traditionalist when it comes to food, but proper, simple cranberry sauce--homemade, chunky, not-too-sweet and never, ever from a can--seems difficult to improve upon. At least much. I spent a bit too long looking at sauce and chutney recipes on Epicurious, then, in a rare improvisational mood, came up with this:

12 oz cranberries
finely-grated rind 1/2 orange
heaping 1/2 tsp allspice
several grinds black pepper
1 1/4 cup water, plus the juice of 1/2 orange
just shy of 1/2 cup sugar, a mixture of turbinado and molasses cane sugar
a splash of white wine vinegar (I imagine cider vinegar would work as well)

I combined everything, brought it to a boil and simmered it until thickened, just less than 20 minutes. The result, while certainly not unpleasant, did not altogether vindicate my creative efforts, with the flavours layering rather than harmonising. I'll report if a bit of refrigerator maturation improves matters. In any case, there will be lots of roast chicken, potatoes and parsnips, a bracing endive salad and an award-winning chardonnay from Limoux, none of which, I suspect, will be left for kir tomorrow.

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