Monday, March 17, 2008

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Glance at Our Life

Today is the last day of the caribou season.

It is also the day that I discovered that my town has a day spa.

Oh, all the excitement!

Friday, March 14, 2008

One celebration amongst the infinite reasons to celebrate pies

Today is (π)-Day!

Such a day merits celebration.

And I can't think of a better way to celebrate than by posting one of my favorite pictures, that just happens to capture one of my favorite memories of the person (a favorite) who called me up this evening to let me know that today is Pi-Day.

This picture was taken during this person's Thansgiving visit to our hovel on stilts. It was a great visit. I believe the Fates also found it so - and that's why they gifted us with the perfect weather for a snowmachine trek, complete with one of the more beautiful tundra sunsets that I have ever been privileged to witness.

But the celebrations don't stop there.

I'd like to further celebrate Pi Day by posting one of my favorite pie-baking recipes: Dave's Crumb Topping. If you were to look on page 147 of Pie, written by Ken Haedrich, you'd find merely a quick reference to "crumb topping" for a fresh raspberry pie. But this particular crumb topping is so much more delicious than such a humble reference might indicate. This crumb topping is so delicious, in fact, that we've taken to applying it to all of our apple and cranberry pies. Indeed, all of our apple pies now bear this topping.

Let's be honest here. Such a delicious pie topping deserves more honour than a mere reference, no? Well, we certainly think so. As a first step in making sure that this crumb topping gets its merited honour, we've taken the liberty of renaming this crumb topping in honor of one of our favorite people. Coincidentally, this is the favorite person that was our house guest the first time we tried it. As an additional coincidence, this is the same person we remember each subsequent time that we've enjoyed it. And, if all that wasn't coincidence enough, this is also the same person that I described in the very first paragraphs of this post.

Oh, I do love how life so often works out to be one fun series of coincidences.

Dave's Crumb Topping
(from Pie, and enough for one pie)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter

Mr. Haedrich advocates that you use chilled butter, cut into quarter inch pieces. And then he instructs you to combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a food processor. Then he advises you to scatter the butter over the dry mixture and pulse the mixture until it resembles fine crumbs. Then he notes that you should put the crumbs into a large bowl and gently rub between your fingers to make large, buttery crumbs, which you would refrigerate until you are ready to scatter them over the unbaked pie.

If you can, you should probably follow his instructions. I would. But, alas, I don't. I use a "hasty" variation of Mr. Haedrich's instructions. In my hasty version, I mix up the dry ingredients in a cereal bowl. Then I dump in a stick of room-temperature butter and mix&rub the concoction with my fingers until it makes large, buttery crumbs. I usually do this right before I put the pie in the oven, and I only use my right hand. Once the crumbs are ready, and still using my right hand, I scatter them across the unbaked pie. And then, with my left (and unbuttered) hand, I open the oven and put the pie inside.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

K300 Sponsors Race

Today was the Kuskokwim-300 Sponsors Race.

More to come.
With regard to other races, I find myself constantly checking the race boards for updates on the Mackey/King race to Nome. Neither of these mushers should ever be under-estimated. I can only imagine the strategizing that is going on between Unalakleet and Shaktoolik right now.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Playing in the Sun

We are well past 10 hours a day of sunlight.

We may even be past 11 hours!

J. is out with a friend, in the sunlight, looking for caribou. I believe they went out towards Kwethluk. I stayed home. I had lots of plans for the day - some reading (I'm currently reading A Team of Rivals), a little cleaning, a little blogging, maybe even some cooking! But the sun, and the balmy 35 degrees above, were all too tempting...

.... I ended up spending most of the day outside, playing with the dogs.

A neighbor and her puppy joined in the fun, and Puck found himself in a surfeit of ball-catching glee. She threw, and threw, and threw the ball for him. Sometimes she'd run around, holding the ball, giggling as Puck chased her. Then she'd throw the ball again. And again. And again.

It was, without a doubt, a slice of Puck's personal utopia.

There might have been one thing that Puck would have changed about the day. It turns out that the neighbor's puppy preferred chasing Puck, to chasing the ball. But Puck managed to tolerate the puppy's exuberant attention so long as the puppy's owner kept tossing the ball for Puck.

Clyde, who is sadly not allowed off-leash because he tends to take-off in search of discarded fish parts, alternated between watching Puck-chase-the-ball-while-the-puppy-chased-Puck and chewing on sticks. I'm sure he would have preferred running free and wolfing down the fish heads and fish skins that he always seems to find around the neighborhood, but I think he still managed to have quite a good time.

I'm fairly certain, in fact, it was a fine, fine day for everyone.

When the sun finally set, I came inside and started a cast-iron pot of Arroz con Pollo for J. to dig into when he returned. I will spare you my attempts to take a picture of this skillet of Arroz con Pollo, but not my opinion that it is quite tasty.

Arroz con Pollo
adapted from a recipe printed in The Cast-Iron Skillet Cookbook (oh, I do love this cookbook!) by Sharon Kramis, and her daughter Julie Kramis Hearne

2 tablespoons butter
1 large fryer chicken, cut-up (I used chicken pieces instead - boneless thighs and legs)
2 onions, coarsely chopped
2 green peppers, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, diced
1 celery, diced
1 cup white wine
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can whole tomatoes
3 cups chicken stock
1 tsp paprika
Pinch of saffron
Bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups uncooked long-grain white rice
Juice of 1 lemon (I keep forgetting this, so it probably optional)

Melt the butter, and cook the chicken until lightly browned on all sides. Transfer the chicken to a plate. Add the onions, garlic, carrots, celery, and peppers. (I tend to add things as I finish chopping them up, and so this is also the order that I chop.) Cook this for about 10 minutes, stirring occassionally. Add the wine and deglaze. Stir in the chicken stock, tomatoes, paprika, saffron, bay leaf, salt and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the rice. Add the chicken back to the pan, submerging it as much as possible. Bring to a simmer. The recipe calls for cooking it slowly over a low- to medium-heat fire, for approximately 45 minutes. (I plopped on the cast-iron lid and put it into the oven at 300 degrees, for the length of a dvd. The recipe also calls for occassionally turning gently and turning the pot to move the rice, but not stirring it. I sort of did that.) Season to taste with additional salt, pepper, and lemon juice and serve. (As I mentioned above, I completely forgot the lemon - a shame, as I had actually made a trip to the A.C. specifically to buy a lemon for this purpose. And, instead of serving it right away, I kept it in a very low oven until I went to bed. And then, just before going to bed, I placed it on the table, together with a plate, silverware and a note to J. to stick it in our extra fridge - i.e. our arctic entry - after he is finished eating.)

p.s. I'm serious about Clyde and his fish-finding prowess. The other day, that canine hooligan managed to dig a fish skin out of a snow bank. I don't know how he does it. One moment he was walking along beside me, the next moment he was halfway finished ploughing through a huge snow bank to unearth a hidden fish skin. But he does it, and so quickly, and smoothly, that I can only conclude that Clyde keeps a mental inventory of every discarded fish piece within a 500 foot radius and, at any given moment on any given walk, is ready to take advantage of any given distraction by the person holding the leash to dive in and eat it.