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19 December 2006

recipe testing by candlelight


recipe testing by candlelight, originally uploaded by shaunaforce.

"Sweetie, how many quarts does that stockpot hold?"
He ferrets around in the kitchen for that lovely pot that Brandon bought for us at Goodwill, the holder of many sumptuous soups these past few months. He turns it over and looks at the bottom. He knows from the feel of it, but he wants to check to make sure.
"Six quarts," he says as he walks toward me again. I type it down, then go back to adjust something I wrote earlier. He settles down beside me again, and we go back to it.

Busy, so busy. These past few days have been a delicious whirlwind. On Thursday night, Seattle and environs suffered a vicious windstorm that knocked hundreds of thousands of people out of power and heat. Awakened at 1:30 in the morning by a low electrical hum in my body, I lay in bed in the darkness, the Chef asleep beside me, then clutched the bed as the gust of wind rattled the house side to side. I felt like a kid again, when I was awoken in the darkness by a small earthquake. A Southern California kid, I stayed awake only long enough to suss out the magnitude. If it felt small enough, I fell asleep again in the midst of it. But this windstorm felt like something different.

We were supremely lucky. Our little neighborhood of Seattle was relatively unscathed. High on a hill and mostly lovely homes, our little corner of the world lacked the dense tree covering that make this area heartbreakingly beautiful. We didn't lose power — we found out later that our street was the dividing line. Every street east of us was out of power, all day long. We felt guilty for missing our internet for a few hours.

Better yet — and a little bit guilt-inducing — the neighborhood of the Chef's restaurant was out of power for two full days. An enormous fir tree crashed over the fence of the rich people's golf course, slammed on electrical lines, and destroyed a line of electrical poles. On a normal day, this would have been repaired by the end of the afternoon. But with nearly a million people out of power (and some still tonight, for the fifth night in a row, in freezing temperatures), that neighborhood by the lake just didn't take precedence.

The Chef didn't have to work for two days. That, plus our normal weekend (Sunday and Monday) meant four days together. What did we do? Well, lots of lovely activities, of course. But mostly, we worked on recipes.

It's a good busy, because it involves sitting on the couch with the laptop on my knees and the Chef's head on my lap, as we work out recipes for great macaroni and cheese or cream of mushroom soup. We pop up to taste onions sautéed to the point of softness or smell fresh-cut ginger and compare it to the dried stuff, or fill a tablespoon with kosher salt to see how much 1/8 of a cup is. And then we return to the computer, giggling at the joy of this. We're a real team.

I liked the food I made before I met the Chef. Friends and family raved about the recipes when I made them. However, there simply is no comparison to the first drafts I originally printed on this website and the finished recipes that will be in the book. Not only that, but a full third of the recipes will be for meals the Chef has made for us at nearly midnight, after a full day's work. We have invented dishes and combined flavors and imagined worlds in which everyone can eat this well, and gluten-free.

As my brother said to me, laughing, last month, "How exactly did you think you were going to write this book before you met him?" I don't know, now. It feels meant to be. We both feel it. We are blessedly happy, and we want to give it all back as great food for anyone who wants to read the book. (And the next one.)

The Chef has all the skillfull techniques from the training at his culinary school, and the eighteen years of working at splendid restaurants around the country and in Seattle. But I know how to take those techniques, his nearly two decades of dedicated muscle memory, and turn them into sensory images that any cook can understand.

These are going to be kick-ass recipes.

How about beef tenderloin with crispy polenta, fried avocadoes, and a poblano-sour cream sauce? All gluten-free, of course.

Chestnut honey ice cream? Baked goat cheese with chervil, parsley, and tarragon? Bouillabaisse? Chicken enchiladas with homemade corn tortillas? Sorghum bread? Potato leek soup?

There will be about 85 recipes from which to choose.

The photograph you see above is the dinner we had on Friday night. Unlike most in Seattle, we didn't have to eat by candlelight. We chose it. On our new plates, the roast chicken with lemon I have talked about on this site many times, the roasted cauliflower with smoked paprika and Mayan cocoa powder, a tender quinoa made with chicken stock, and all of it with a red wine sauce. Over on the saucers, a mixed green salad with a golden balsamic vinaigrette and soft goat cheese.

As a friend of mine said recently, "Shauna, you sure are spoiled." I know. I know. We both feel blessed. And like I said, we want to give that back, as much as possible.

You're going to love these recipes, if you buy this book. They are going to be Chef-tested, and every one of them gluten-free.

And while he has been working today at the now-opened restaurant, I'm working on the last chapters, eight hours in a row.

The manuscript is due two weeks from today. I'm going to make it. The draft will be imperfect, of course. What isn't? That's why I have an editor, after all. But I'm proud of it. It's unusual — and near impossible — to be required to write an entire manuscript in four months. I can. I have.

And the first week of January, I am going to sleep like a baby!

14 Comments:

At 8:27 PM, Anonymous Stacie said...

When do you expect the book to be published?!? I was so excited to see your blog advertised on Food Network. My son is gluten intolerant and wheat and egg allergic (not sure if he has celiac disease, yet) and my aunt has celiac's. I can't wait to bake for them! Thanks, Shauna.

 
At 11:40 PM, Anonymous beastmomma said...

The new plates look great. I am glad that the Chef came into your life to help you test recipes. Looking forward to your book publication.

 
At 11:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

all i have to say about your site is:

- i wish i was gluten free so i had an excuse to buy all the flours to make every recipe on here!

-your love between u and chef is the most beautiful thing i have ever seen

-i have been on your site for the last hour and a half even though i have finals for grad school and this site is so good i dont even care

-i want your cookbook now!

-if i ever make it to seattle impromptu bistro will be #1 on my list!

thanks for the welcome distraction!

stephanie

 
At 4:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I look forward to buying a copy. I knew you could git er dun! GO SHAUNA!

 
At 9:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your book will be simply divine. Can't even wait.

 
At 9:51 AM, Blogger Maiden of the Sea said...

Ah what a beautiful dinner! My family lives in Washington State and my Mom's been out of power (in Easton, Wa) for what seems like a week now, so I'm glad you guys didn't lose power.

Sign me up for some roasted cauliflower, Chestnut Honey Ice Cream, baked goats cheese, Sorghum bread... Ah, recipe titles. They're like poetry. ;)

Remind us again what the title of your cookbook will be... And I've been gently suggesting to DH that we ought to go to the Chef's restaurant the next time we're in Seattle...

 
At 10:29 AM, Blogger Seattle Tall Poppy said...

Hey there Shauna. I'm so glad you didn't loose power during the storm...and suffer any impact to the progress on your book. YAY! You're on the homestretch now....

As for me, yes, this is day 6 with no power...schleping myself from friend's houses. A shower in my own home sounds divine right now. I cleaned out my fridge and freezer and threw everything away...including all the lovely stocks I'd just made. At this point, I can't wait for things to return to normal and cook again.

Being displaced makes me so much more appreciative...and grateful for the smallest things. And I have a new appreciation for those impacted in much worse conditions. At least when the power comes back on, I have a home to return to.

Glad to hear you and the chef are safe and sound.

 
At 10:56 AM, Anonymous Excelsior said...

Love makes me want to spread the joy - of even the most mundane things - to everyone. It sounds like it does you, too.

 
At 12:59 PM, Anonymous Phyllis said...

I am looking forward to your book. My, adorable husband of almost 25 years is going to be suprised when new meals start going on the table.

 
At 2:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi shauna,

been a fan of your lovely blog for ages; really excited about your upcoming book - those recipes sound so good.

my (wheat-intolerant) sister has been asking for a wheat-free/gluten-free recipe book for christmas, but I haven't found any I like, so think I will tell her she can wait until yours is out for next year's xmas present(or maybe even for a birthday in may?????)

glad to hear you're feeling better. seasons greetings to you and the chef!

 
At 11:21 AM, Blogger Nicola said...

YES!

 
At 4:54 PM, Blogger Mike Eberhart said...

I am nearly salivating at all the recipes that you named in your testing-list today. Wow! What an epicurean adventure you had. Happy Holidays, and congrats on keeping that manuscript flowing.

 
At 9:10 AM, Blogger GrewUpRural said...

I can't wait for this book to reach the stores. Your recipes always sound and look sooo good. I can't wait to try them!

 
At 10:01 PM, Blogger Freckled Face Mama said...

This is so beautiful. You guys are so in love and then you show photos of your food and I am in love. I am so happy for you two. It used to bring me great joy just to read your stories and recipes but now you share your newly discovered love for your soul mate and I can't help but make your blog a daily read!

 

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