Friday, October 23, 2009

Now It Can Be Revealed...

Christmas came early yesterday. When I went to the mailbox, I found a package of "One for the Books" cocktail napkins. Now it can be revealed. My husband and I are hosting a "One for the Books" dinner party to raise money for John Jermain Library.

The book we chose is Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human. In this surprisingly entertaining treatise, Harvard anthrophologist Richard Wrangham argues that cooking meat and vegetables over fire hastened evolution, by freeing early humans from having to spend up to eight hours a day chewing raw food. With time their hands, our ancestors could do things like invent the wheel, figure out how to plant seeds, and paint on the walls of caves. Wrangham presents plenty of scientific evidence from numerous university studies, but as compelling is the evidence he gathers on his own. At one point, he describes this casual get-together: "An informal experiment in which friends and I chewed raw goat meat suggested that the added leaves give traction. When we chewed thigh muscle together with a mature avocado leaf, the bolus of chewed meat was reduced faster than when we chewed with no added leaf. Australopithecines probably used similar practices when they caught gazelle fawns or other small animals." Although I'd love to meet him, I'm glad I'm not eating at his house tomorrow night!

ANYWAY...I am busy today with shopping and some cooking. Before I had breakfast, I made the dough for some cheddar cheese and mustard seed icebox biscuits, adapted from an old Gourmet recipe, which I'll bake tomorrow afternoon:

Cheddar Cheese Icebox Biscuits
Makes about 56 biscuits

8 tablespoons (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon dry mustard
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1. Combine the butter, cheese, egg yolk, Dijon mustard, dry mustard, mustard seeds, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium-low, scraping down the sides of the bowl several times as necessary.
2. Add the flour and continue to beat until the mixture comes together into a ball of dough.
3. Overturn the dough onto a work surface and roll it into a 14-inch log. Wrap the log in plastic and refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice the dough into 1/4-inch-thick rounds and place the rounds on the baking sheet. Bake until the biscuits are dry and golden on their undersides, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the biscuits to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with the remaining dough until you've sliced and baked all of the biscuits.

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