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Someone's Bitter

Snow, you bitter mistress, where did you come from?  You were nowhere to be seen at three this morning.  Now it's absurdly early, and not only are you falling, but you've already laid a base coat on the ground.

Delta calls.  Flight is cancelled tomorrow.  Snow in Atlanta too?  She isn't just bitter, she's freaking pissed.  I remember Atlanta as a place where I could go swimming, and while still in the pool, my hair be completely dried out by the sun, which would leave a disgusting, sticky chlorine residue behind.  Never thought they'd get snowed out.

An extra day at home will be appreciated.  Can't remember the last Monday I was in town.  Good thing is, at the risk of having leftovers, I can cook tonight.  Just have to figure out what.

This would be a good day for one of those one pot meals- one of those things people call 'comfort food.'  Not exactly my specialty, especially in this region, but I want something filling, that just sits in my stomach warm.  I want to be able to feel that sensation long after the meal.

No time for hippie substitutes or even white meat.  Need fat- need sausage.  It's a great ingredient that leaves delectable bits behind that will greatly enhance everything else in the pot.  Sausage goes great with fennel-  most Italian sausages are seasoned with fennel seeds.  Dried cranberries always contribute to a wonderful wintry mix.  Get a carbohydrate in the pot and I'm done.

A whole jicama.

Still need something with crunch to compliment the meal.  Orange jicama salad has crunch.  Orange also goes great with fennel, and has plenty of vitamin C to ward off whatever the cold may bring.

With a menu planned I throw on my jacket to go shopping.  At the same time, Buckley starts throwing a fit.  What's wrong Buckley?  Don't know what a hee-kah-mah is?  The answer is simple!  It's a Mexican potato.  Has a rough inedible peel, but has the texture and light taste of a water chestnut.  Always a good choice for salads. 

The answer is satisfactory.  Buckley calms, and retires to his log home.

The market trip goes smoothly.  All ingredients are easily gathered, look surprisingly good for the time of year.

I get back home, and immediately go to work on the jicama.  Jicama is fairly bland on its own, but can pick up the flavors of other ingredients over time.  Bayless has a wonderful dish at his restaurant that is comprised of jicama, pineapple, thick cream, and cayenne.  I tried to remake it on my own, but such a simple dish came out terrible.  The ingredients need time to get to know each other first. 

After getting through the brown skin, be sure to remove the next paler layer.

Peel the jicama and cut into thin strips, like match sticks.  Make a mixture of citrus, similar to a ceviche.  Lightly salt, and after [at least] an hour, the jicama will be sweet and able to contribute something useful to society.

When it's time to eat, all I'll have to do is cut orange segments and garnish.  Easy finish.

Now it's time to get my one pot out.  I add enough oil to coat the bottom and set the burner to four, also known as medium.  First the diced shallot goes in.  Then a pound of sausage cut into one inch pieces.  Once the good stuff starts to brown and release some of the 'f' word, I add the sliced fennel bulb.  A tablespoon of sambal and cumin [each] also find their way in.

Sausage couscous with fennel and dried cranberries.

10 minutes go by and I have a beautiful pot of brown goodness.  It's comfort food, it doesn't have to look sexy or make the palette ponder.  It has to be on a plate and taste great

I pour a couple cups of chicken stock in and bring to a simmer for a few minutes.  Add the dried cranberries, and get ready for the most difficult part of the dish.

Time to integrate couscous.  I pour a cup in, stir, cover, turn the heat completely off, and walk away.  That's it.  After 15 minutes it'll be perfect.

It takes a leap of faith, but couscous is cooked with nothing but residual heat and steam.  This means, no peeking, no tasting, no nothing until it's been 15 minutes.  Just believe in the couscous.  If shouldn't be mushy, but if it's undercooked, add a small amount of boiling water to the pot and recover.

While the couscous is busy in the private party, I prepare the orange segments for the jicama salad.  Any orange would do, but I went with blood oranges because they're seasonal and by far the best tasting orange.  Healthier too.

I plate the couscous with a side of salad and jump on the couch- the best location for lazy winter meals.  The couscous feels warm going down.  There are bites of heat, some of anise, plenty of sausage, and periodically those of sweetness.  The salad is bright, refreshing, and crunchy.  And for a brief moment, the snow doesn't seem so bad.

Sausage couscous with fennel and dried cranberries and orange jicama salad.

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Reader Comments (3)

You are so funny....and so creative. I am more than ready for winter to take a hike.

March 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJoie de vivre

I live in California and we have had nice warm sunny weather lately. I don't say this to brag, I say it because despite the weather here, your post (and your writing skills) made me feel the chill. GREG

March 6, 2009 | Unregistered Commentergreg

Ahhhh nice read this morning...I too am ready for the spring! Like the combination, and wish I had thought of writing how the 'plate is not so pretty with comfort food', when I get trashed for my photography all the time. I have a 'hatter' that visits my site and has commented I cook 'jail house' food by way of photos...Nice to see you have quality audience by way of Joie and Greg! Your post deserve good attention from people who really recognize your talents...

March 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChef E

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