TND – Color me Unimpressed

February 9, 2012

When I was little we lived in a sequence of places that were nowhere particularly near Virginia. This is only relevant because Virginia was where my grandmother lived, and my mother and I used to spend a month visiting with her every summer. I loved the month we spent in Richmond, among other things it has left me with a lifelong appreciation for heat and humidity which pretty much nobody else I know shares. What I didn’t love was the process of getting there, which was long and tedious. I imagine it was even longer and more tedious for my mother who had to play the responsible adult in that scenario as opposed to being the bored 7 – 9 – 12 – 14 year old whose biggest responsibility was trying to sleep on the plane, picking at the food, and not being too much of a pill about traveling for 24 hours straight.

One of the ways my mother combated travel ennui was with a ‘Wheel’s Off Kit’ (idea, I believe, courtesy of my godmother who used it on her children for similar long haul flights). The contents of a Wheel’s Off Kit varied depending on what continent we were on when my mother was putting it together, how old I was at the time, and how long a flight we were anticipating. Usually it contained some variation on one or two small game (Uno was awesome for the plane), a book of puzzles, a small toy, and some kind of candy. It was presented to me the night before we departed wrapped in a firmly sealed opaque bag to be packed away in my carryon luggage, and in no circumstances to be opened before the wheels of the plane left the ground. In the case of the really long haul flights from Hong Kong to New York via Tokyo, the relevant airplane wheels were the ones on the plane from Tokyo to New York.

Now that I’m a (theoretically) responsible adult, I no longer get Wheel’s Off Kits. So, rather than anticipating the opening of an intriguingly bumpy sealed Wheel’s Off Kit, I have developed a strict airport ritual to help me bide my time while I wait at the departure gate.

1 – I am not allowed to start my book until the plane is in the air. This is mostly for fear that I will run out of book before I run out of flight. Let’s just say I don’t cope well when I run out of reading material and leave it at that.

2 – After I clear security I buy a New York Times and a cup of coffee to read at the gate while I wait for boarding to start. It’s the only time I ever buy a hard copy of a newspaper and I spend the entire time I read it thinking how inconvenient newspapers are to read offline.

3 – When I buy the NYT I also pick up a food magazine to read on the plane between boarding and take off. And, the rule is that I am not allowed to skip around glancing at the pictures and skimming the recipes. I have to read it cover to cover, in order, and read even the recipes I know I’m never going to make.

This year I picked up the most recent issues of both Food & Wine and Saveur to read. I enjoyed both magazines enough that when I got back from my Christmas vacation I went online and subscribed to both of them (to supplement the Bon Appetit and Cook’s Illustrated that I already get, because apparently there can never be too many iterations of glossy food porn on my coffee table). I subscribed in early January, with the expectation of the March issue being the first hard copy that would arrive on my doorstep. To date – as I expected – I have not yet received the first issue of either magazine.

Given that I have yet to receive the first issue of my subscription to either magazine, imagine my surprise when I got a renewal notification from Saveur in the mail last Friday. I understand the exigencies of maintaining a subscriber base, and I am perfectly comfortable with the judicious use of the delete button in my email, and the recycle bin outside my front door, however getting a request to resubscribe to a magazine I haven’t actually received yet is just tacky.

It irritated me enough that I actually emailed the Customer Care Department at Saveur and suggested that this particular sequence of events was likely to make me less, not more, inclined to renew when my subscription came due. The email I got back from them this morning is a stunning example of a failure of customer service.

“We received your order on January 25, 2012. It takes approximately 8-10 weeks to start receiving your magazines. Your subscription starts with the March 2012 issue and will expire issue 01 of 2014.”

If you think about the sequence of events outlined in that email what it means is that I placed an order on January 9th. It took them two and half weeks to process the order (January 25th). And then, the first thing they did after processing the order – a solid month before I am due to receive my first issue (March) – was to send out a subscription renewal request, which arrived on my doorstep on February 3rd.

The thing that really irks me about all of this is that it would have taken so little from them to assuage my irritation. All I was really looking for was an acknowledgment that perhaps they should have waited until I had at least gotten at least the first issue of their magazine before pressuring me to renew. On the other hand, the timeline suggests that this isn’t a glitch in their system so much as a deliberate company policy. Apart from being generally tacky, the problem with this policy is that the avariciousness that it betrays pretty much guarantees that I won’t resubscribe. I know I’m just one subscriber, but the way the print industry is going these days they can’t really afford to alienate any subscribers.

Dinner Last Week

Last week got away from me somehow. I’m not entirely sure where the time went, but while Dinner made it to the table, nothing made it to the blog about Dinner.

Balsamic Lemon Chicken
Mustard Roasted Potatoes
Apple Sauce
Green Beans

Balsamic Lemon Chicken

Recipe previously given: Summer Lovin’ Happened So Fast

Mustard Roasted Potatoes
(serves somewhere between 6 and 10 people depending on appetite)

I liked these, but would make them with amendments next time. I was concerned that they would come out unbearably mustardy, which they don’t at all. In fact I think you could stand to intensify the mustard flavor, maybe by using part whole grain Dijon mustard (which tends to be fairly mild) and part a smooth or spicy Dijon mustard (which tends to have a more intense flavor). I would also up the amount of lemon zest I used, but that may be because I’m on a lemon kick at the moment and want to spike everything with a lemony kick.

That said, these roasted up beautifully with crispy exteriors and tender light interiors. I was worried that the mustard seeds in the grainy mustard would burn, but they didn’t. My only caveat is that Gourmet seems to think that 3 lb of potatoes will serve 10 people, to which I can only say that they’ve clearly never fed Dinner. I made about 4 lb of potatoes and served six, and could possibly have stretched that to seven or eight if absolutely necessary.

½ cup grainy Dijon Mustard
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp butter, melted
2 Tbsp lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp lemon zest (I’d use more next time)
1 tsp kosher salt
3 lb mixed red and white potatoes, cut into ¾” wedges

Preheat your oven to 425.

Whisk together the first seven ingredients. Add the potatoes. Season generously with pepper and then toss with the mustard mixture.

Oil two rimmed baking sheets and then spread dressed potatoes on them, leaving any excess mustard mixture behind in the bowl.

Roast for 20 minutes, then toss the potatoes, making sure that a different edge of the potato is side down on the baking sheet. Roast for another 25 minutes until crispy outside and tender inside.

Apple Sauce

Recipe previously given: Bangers ‘n’ Mash

Dinner This Week

Pork Chops
Twice Baked Potatoes
Roasted Broccoli
Roasted Pear Chutney

Pork Chops

Recipe previously given: In Which I Fail At Birthdays, but Am Graciously Forgiven

Twice Baked Potatoes

Recipe previously given: Curried Fruit & the Internet

Roasted Broccoli

Recipe previously given: It Could Always Be Worse

Roasted Pear Chutney
(makes 2-3 cups – I doubled it, served 6 and had about 2 cups leftover)

I was a little dubious about this when I put it in the fridge on Monday night. It was good, but not quite what I was expecting from a chutney. By Tuesday night, when the flavors had had time to marry and mellow, it was all I could do not to sit down with the bowl and a spoon and forget the rest of dinner.

As a note, this will never become a thick gooey chutney, but it does tighten up a little as it sits in the fridge. It’s a little fiddly to make, but absolutely worth the time.

2 ripe Bosc pears, peeled and cut in half
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup + 1 Tbsp sugar
¾ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cloves
Vegetable oil
¼ cup maple syrup
1 small red onion, very roughly chopped (you want largish pieces)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
3 Tbsp raisins
3 Tbsp golden raisins*
½ cup white wine vinegar
1 tsp hot red pepper flakes
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 cup diced mango

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking pan with a double layer of foil (see the picture at the top of this week’s menu for evidence as to why this is such a good idea). Lightly oil the foil.

In the pan toss the pears with the lemon juice, 1 Tbsp sugar, cinnamon, and cloves. Arrange the pears so that they are cut side down, and brush the tops with a little vegetable oil. Roast until caramelized and tender, about 40 to 50 minutes depending on the degree of ripeness. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

While the pears are roasting, bring the remaining ingredients to a boil in a nonreactive saucepan. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Core the now cooled pears (trimming off any parts that seem more burned than caramelized), and cut into a ½” dice. Add the pears to the onion mixture. Stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 day before serving.

* I think this would also be good with dried cranberries or dried cherries.



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  5. Tried the Mustard roasted potatoes. I made them with your suggested changes; i.e., some plain Dijon and extra lemon rind/juice. They were excellent, however they did “burn”. They did not taste burned and they were excellent. But the mustard seeds were black. Maybe it is the regular Dijon that “burns”?

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