31 August 2011

Finnish Pulla

Finland.  It was a land of mystery.

Before 2009, this country made me think of:  Snow.  Marimekko.  Double vowels.  Lapland.  The Flying Finn.

Then Bacalhau Boy and I had a two week honeymoon there.  Christmas 2009 was spent mainly above the arctic circle meeting the real Santa Claus, dogsledding, snowmobiling, steaming in saunas, watching the sun set at 3 pm, and spending one night in a bed (and room) made entirely out of ice.

The Ice Hotel: carved entirely out of snow and ice.  Amazing.  Also: one night was enough.
I don't know why, but I have been getting nostalgic for Finland lately.  Perhaps it is getting to be that time of summer when an ice bed and some cozy soft sweaters sound appealing.  Or perhaps it is because I have a natural tendency to be all sentimental and nostalgic without provocation. Either way, this weekend I decided to try my hand at some homemade Finnish Pulla.

Chicken Biryani

The King of Chickens.  O Rei dos Frangos.

Portugal has no shortage of kings, it seems, despite the absence of a monarchy.  In a sleepy old neighborhood called Moscavide, near our apartment, there is a King of Chicken.  Walking around Cascais a couple months ago, BB and I saw a rival King of Chicken enthroned there.  And there is even a King of Chicken chain, whose kingdom is vast and moderately priced.

So, when I was perusing my Bittman Bible, How to Cook, and I came upon Chicken Biryani, the "prince of chickens"-- how could I resist trying out some new royalty?

09 August 2011

Corn Muffins

Saturday mornings have a special magic, don't they?  I vividly remember sitting on the living room floor as a little girl, eating cereal and watching Jem and the Holograms.  Truly truly truly outrageous! Oh, and Pee Wee's Playhouse-- the fabulous Miss Yvonne rocked my 10-year old heart with her poofy skirts and poofier hair. But my all-time favorite treat actually came in between the shows, in the form of Schoolhouse Rock.  Conjunction Junction may deserve the credit and/or blame for making me an English major.

07 August 2011

Portuguese Surf n' Turf: Clams and Chouriço

Legend has it this dish was invented in Portugal during the Inquisition as a particularly diabolical taste test for non-Christians.  Between the shellfish and the pork it broke dietary laws for Muslims and Jews, so in Lisbon in 1552 you had best not decline the offer of this dish with an "I'm not hungry, thanks."

On the other hand, this dramatic and dark story smacks of urban legend to such a degree it leaves me 87% dubious.  And Snopes says nothing on the matter.

Therefore I prefer to think this pairing of clams and chouriço emerged in a more likely way: because little bits of this and that and the other can be combined economically to make a more substantial dish than any one item on its own.  Indeed, all the ingredients here are fairly common, cheap, and complement each other in a fulfilling rustic way.  Summery but hearty.