I recall with affection as if suddenly drenched with a bucket of lucid memory how we gorged upon the gorgeous gougères atop Royal Gorge, she and I, and she said to me way up there, it's a bit scary you know, "Jellybean, these are a lot better straight out of the oven" and I said, "You're right. Looks aren't everything. These are much better hot." On impulse she tossed the whole lot over the edge flying like litter tumbling through the air to the Arkansas River far below even though this is Colorado, and oh, how we laughed as we watched them float off as little battered boats 1250 feet below, now tiny dots. So, they're good for boats too and good for a laugh.

I had to do something with this family pack of chicken breasts. One of them I kept removing chunks from to test and eat as they braised slowly for hours. Raisins and pecans were impulse. They were both right there in jars.

Standard pâte à choux, or Patty shoes as we say, simplest of all the shoes.

They are very good by themselves.
And the shredded chicken with hot chile peppers is very good too.

But they are not good together.

Bean and chard soup

Bean soup with Swiss chard. 

I realized my last batch like this with bacon turned out a lot better by the addition of scant sugar. It changed everything. Sugar changed the beans and chard from dull to bright, from plain thud and serious to child-like precocious. A small amount makes a big difference.

Buckhorn Exchange, Denver's oldest restaurant, has the best bean soup I've ever tasted. It's worth going just for that but it's not all you'll want once you get there. So well liked that the owner graciously and generously offer their recipe so you can make it at home.

When you go there, you must order this if only for a taste.

Oh goodness. I just realized they cook everything for eight hours. 

No to that.

It's very simple. The only flavoring is, 
* ham
* chicken broth
* onion
* liquid smoke
* salt/pepper, duh, there's always that.

So, a very simple recipe and that is why it is so satisfying. There are no carrots in there trying to add color or sneaking in vegetables, or perhaps sweetness, no celery that would complete a mirepoix,  no corn, no chiles, no tomato, no garlic, no bay, no coriander, no cilantro, no oregano, no turmeric, nothing exotic, nothing unusual, none of the customary suspects. 

Why do they use ham and chicken broth? For substance. For a base. They didn't have a ham bone for every batch of bean soup like we do. If they had more ham then they'd use it, but they don't so they use the next best thing, a substitute, something blank that will contribute substance but won't interfere with intrusive flavor. 

But we have a very good ham bone. A couple in fact. A ham joint. We have something they don't. Good as their bean soup is, and it is very good, ours will be better because ours will be loaded with substance, all that marrow, all that aspic, far more than their chicken broth can provide. Plus we'll have even more ham besides. And with chicken broth there is a broad range with their substance. The best most substantial I can have is my own chicken broth, the best I can buy is frozen, and nearby but that is not available to everyone. The next best is in cartons and the worst is in tins, and the worst of the worst in cubes, but this recipe does not specify what type of chicken broth to add other than 1 oz suggesting a chicken broth paste as chefs sometimes use. 

Why cook beans for eight hours? They're dry and they take long to soak. They will absorb the flavors in the liquid as they swell and cook.

We soak and swell our beans before starting. Soaking beans is the pre-start. They're soaked overnight in water and triple their bulk.

Our ham bone is pressure cooked on high to force out the marrow into the water. This is done within half an hour.

Our soaked beans cook with everything except chard under low pressure. The bones cook again with the beans so all the flavors get shoved into each other, by pressure the flavors exchange. This time low pressure.

The pressure pot opened again and the Swiss chard added to the pot. Heated a third time to lowest of pressures then turned off. This pressure pot uses much less electricity altogether, and heck of a lot less when compared with eight hours of bean cooking. The chard hardly cooks at all, but it does cook under brief pressure. Now it is done, completed and commingled within an hour and as if it had cooked a third of a day. 

*1/2 bag white beans (this bone could have flavored enough for 5 LBS or more beans)
* large onion diced
* 2 smashed garlic cloves, diced
* bay leaves
* 1 teaspoon sugar
* 1/3 teaspoon chile flakes
* 1/2 teaspoon cumin

This version is not a particularly beany soup. Here, beans share the glory with Swiss chard and especially with the honey baked ham. This soup is trifecta of soaring glory testament to bean cooperation, of bean-chard-ham symtriosis, and not one-dimensional homey bean goodness. 

Scratch breakfast, double yolk egg, ham, chicken poblano, potato and masa polenta

Scrapped together breakfast, ham, near the end of it chipping pieces away from the bone, potato and masa from yesterday this time as potato/masa polenta, half a poblano chile with chicken breast. 

Deep fried potato and masa sticks

One part masa harina (treated corn meal), one part hot water, mixes instantly.

The potato riced. 

Even layer of mixed riced potato and masa smashed flatly.

Chicken breast with roasted poblano, Spanish rice

What? If I knew it was 50% less fat then I wouldn't have bought it. 

Dark and white chocolate chip cookies


Have you ever seen cookies made by just dumping things in?

Dumping is a form of measuring.

And following cellular memory like a child down a park lane is the same thing as adhering to printed recipe.

I was munching on these two bags of chips in the pantry like a mouse and I thought, you know what, I better use these chocolate chips for something before they're gone. That's why the bags are so wrinkly.  

I pinched some salt from a box and sprinkled it in the dough but didn't show it. You know, when you have a lot of sugar like this then you must have some salt in there too or else it turns out too one-dimensionally saccharine. Salt gives the whole thing a boost.

Baking soda does more than make things rise when mixed with an acid. It keeps baked things soft. For softer cookies then more baking soda. For crisper cookies such as to dip in milk, coffee, Ovaltine, what have you, then less baking soda. It is not used as a leaven  for this cookie, there is no coacting acid for that, rather, baking soda is used to adjust pH and to affect the behavior of flour and browning. Try a little bit of dough without baking soda and see the difference between them for yourself. The difference is not apparent until completely cooled.

This time I creamed the sugar into the egg instead of into the butter, then added softened butter to that. The result of doing this out of order from printed recipes, while adding flour in increments was the softest cookie dough I ever stirred. I kept adding flour and it kept being soft and luxurious until the dough stiffened but it was a little bit sad having to keep going bit by bit to make such beautiful silky dough more dry stiff and coarse. 

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