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Monthly Archives: November 2011

Wow. Where did November go? It seems like only yesterday that I was posting about the autumn foliage at the beginning of the month. That’s all been replaced by a decidedly grayer, duller backdrop of bare branches- but the Advent decorations are coming up and adding a cheeriness to it all.

This month flew by. Since the last time I posted, I began actual object-based research at the museum (more on that in another post), sent a few applications for funding off into the ether and became a legal guest-resident of Germany. The last bit was probably the most gratifying of the three: it’s the only thing that feels like it had a tangible result.

The grant applications and revision process for the first chapter have been tough. It feels like not much has happened since last year in terms of “results.” You others in my boat know what I’m talking about- you start thinking: wow, a year has passed and somehow I have more unresolved questions- no, let’s call them major methodological and practical issues- than I had before.

Cesar’s probably heard the most of my daily complaints, and thanks to him for being patient. He also finished a major research paper this month, a study of annotation habits in e-readers, and is coming away from DePaul with a Masters’. Cheers to that!

I’m getting very excited about coming back to Chicago for another check-in and it being the holiday season and all, doing some serious, non-dissertation-related activities like cooking. Speaking of cooking: I made this apple popover almost three weeks ago and am just getting around to posting it. For that, I’m definitely not proud. This blog was supposed to take a more active role here in Berlin, and it seems to have fallen by the wayside during all the mental chaos of the last month. I think I know what my new years’ resolution is going to be already….

Notes: For this recipe, I used Boskoop apples from Neue Brandenburger Äpfel (at Winterfeldtmarkt in the row of vendors furthest to the west of the square). These were the ones the lady recommended me for baking, and they did admirably. You can use any firm apple on the sour side. You don’t want to use one that’s already sweet or mushy, as they will take on both of those qualities during baking anyway. The recipe I used called for 1/4 cup sugar and 2 apples for the “filling.” I thought it was a touch too sweet. I upped the apples and decreased the sugar.

Giant Apple Popover (Recipe adapted from The San Francisco Chronicle Cookbook)

Ingredients

3 baking apples (e.g. Boskoop, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious)

4 tbs unsalted butter

3 tbs sugar

1/8 tsp cinnamon

1 tbs fresh lemon juice

(For the batter)

2 eggs

1 cup milk at room temp

1 tbs melted butter

2 tbs brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

Directions

Core, peel and cut the apples into 1/4-inch slices

Melt the 4 tbs of butter in a saucepan. If you have cast iron, use that and you can put it straight in the oven later. Sauté the apples with the sugar and cinnamon until just soft. Turn off the heat, add the lemon juice and stir. Let this mixture sit for around 20 minutes to cool.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

To make the batter, whisk together the eggs, milk, butter, sugar and vanilla in a bowl until evenly mixed. Add the flour and salt and beat until very smooth and consistent.

If you aren’t using a cast-iron skillet, transfer the apple mixture into a pie pan. Pour the batter directly over the apple mixture. Put this in the oven and bake for 20 minutes at 425.

Then, reduce the heat to 350 and bake until the popover is golden brown, probably around 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the popover cool in the oven for another 10 minutes or so. Don’t open the door during this time.

Serve with strong, black coffee

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Fall has definitely fallen in Berlin. Leaves are coming off the trees in droves and by the time I leave the museum at 5:00, the sun has set.

It’s just as well that the skies are getting cloudier by the day around here, because November is going to be intense. I come back to Chicago on December 6 and I’m determined to not let dissertation-related activities encroach on my holiday time this year. That means I had to sit down yesterday with the old iCal and start doing some serious scheduling. It’s scary how fast those little squares began to fill up with activities like: “Dissertation writing: conclude first chapter.”

By the way, if any of you out there have tips on how to schedule dissertation writing on a calendar, let me know. I suppose I could just devote a certain amount of time per day to it and leave it at that, but I like having some concrete deadlines along the way. I have a feeling the key to doing this successfully is setting realistic goals- that is not my strongest point.

November, at least, provides a good excuse to make some of my favorite types of foods: stews and soups. As produce is starting to become more root-oriented and the nights are getting colder, one craves a good, hot broth. Also, anything that involves a stock means that those Sunday afternoons spent at my desk will at least be punctuated by checking water levels and skimming, and nothing improves my mood more than stirring something around that tastes good.

The following recipe is one that I’m really pleased with. It’s a version of chicken soup, but it’s really more about the root vegetables than the chicken. I only used two chicken legs (drumsticks plus thighs) in comparison to around double the volume of root vegetables. I added bulgar for flavor and texture, and took this soup from something plain to something memorable. I’ll definitely be making this again before November is over.

Notes: you can use any root vegetable combination you want. I had potatoes, kohlrabi and turnips on hand, so that’s what I used. The same goes for the stock. I bought a bundle of old greens and roots sold for the purpose of making stocks. Included were leeks and celery root, which I will be including in my stocks from now on. For the stock, I also used the leaves of a bunch of carrots I bought. In the end, I forgot to add the carrots to the soup, but the leaves worked wonders. Finally, choose the coarsest, darkest bulgar you can find. You need a coarse and flavorful bulgur to stand up to the broth.

Chicken Soup with Root Vegetables and Bulgur

Ingredients

1 large leek

1 large yellow onion

1/2 large celery root, with some stalks and leaves if possible

1-2 carrots, with leaves

4-5 cloves garlic, whole with skins removed

2 tbs olive oil

Several sprigs of thyme

10 pepper corns, or ground pepper to taste

Salt to taste

For the soup:

Two chicken legs (drumsticks and thighs), with bones

1 kohlrabi bulb

3 large golden potatoes

1 white turnip

1 cup coarse, brown bulgur

2.5 quarts of water

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Directions:

Begin by making the stock. Coarsely chop the onion, celery root, leek and carrots. Trim off any greens that come with these roots and set them aside for later.

Heat the 2 tbs of olive oil in a large stew pot. Sauté the onions, leek celery root and carrots until they begin to brown. Add the two chicken legs and brown them. Then add the garlic, thyme, pepper and any tender leaves from the celery root and carrots and sauté until fragrant. Pour around 10 cups (2.5 quarts) of water to the pot. Bring this to a boil and then turn the heat to low, letting the stock simmer.

After about 45 minutes, remove the chicken pieces. This will prevent the meat from becoming too tough. Let these cool for a while and when cool enough to handle, shred the meat off and set aside for later.

Add the bones back to the stock and let it simmer for another hour or so, for a total of around 2.5 hours total. If the water level has decreased substantially, you can add some more. After 2.5 hours has passed, strain the stock and discard the solids. The liquid should be colorful but doesn’t need to be too dark.

Next, peel the root vegetables for the soup and dice them into chunks (in this case, the kohlrabi, turnip and potatoes).

Bring the strained stock to a lazy boil and add the root vegetables, cooking until fork tender. Add the shredded chicken and bulgur, cooking until the chicken is heated through and the bulgur is just soft, around 10 minutes.

Taste and adjust salt and pepper as necessary. Just before serving, add the lemon juice to the pot and give it a stir. This soup is excellent with dense bread and butter.