There's something very satisfying about coming home at the end of a trip. If you've had a great time and you're happy to be headed back home at the end of it, then you know that it was the right length and the right place. If you've had a really great trip, as we did, you come inspired to create new things and to dive right back into the action.
As you can see from the previous posts, we jumped back into the kitchen as soon as we could. Arrived home late on Friday and went to Fairway on Saturday afternoon. We promptly proceeded to spend an embarrassing amount of money there. We hit the store around 4pm, a cardinal sin on the weekend, and it was a zoo. Definitely worth the effort though, as we amassed a wide array of products including the amazing pumpernickel bread that was the base of those gnocchi and ice cream recipes that we posted over the last few days.
Pumpernickel bagels were a staple from my childhood. I never ate them but someone else must have loved them because they were always in the sack of bagels on Sunday morning. I don't remember if the pumpernickel lover was Mom or Uncle Steve or both of them, but that was the most exposure I had to pumpernickel or black bread over the years. Countless Russian tales are woven around black bread and caviar or smoked salmon and I believe the late MFK Fisher wrote an essay on consuming oysters with pumpernickel. Occasionally at catered events we would see it under toppings as hors d'oeuvre. Still, no one I knew ever seemed to actually eat the stuff on purpose. So when Alex threw out the idea of cooking with pumpernickel I was intrigued. I didn't really remember seeing him ever eat pumpernickel either.
The loaves we got from Fairway were amazing. Unfortunately I don't remember who made them, perhaps it was the Fairway label because there is no sticker on the bag. They had a soft pillowy interior and a crisp crackling crust. The bread was pre-sliced making it easy to nick a piece or two or three as time went by. It had a great tangy flavor with nutty undertones and in your face flavors of aromatic rye. The taste sensation lingered on the palate, challenging us both to think of new combinations and textures to frame it's unique characteristics. The ice cream came first, then the gnocchi, and we're working out a cavatelli dough as well. The pumpernickel would make an intriguing stuffing for game meats with dried fruits and dark beer or a savory bread pudding with fat mushrooms and Madeira. Used as an element in black forest cake, the rye flavor in partnership with dark chocolate, stewed cherries and softly whipped cream would be a mysterious twist on the original. Or you could layer the crumbs between sheets of filo and wrap it around a fat chunk of oozing soft cheese, like Brie de Meaux, and saute it quickly in clarified butter so that the crispy coating wraps around a cheese that is melting at the edges but still cool and creamy at the heart.
This what we do, we toss around whatever ideas come into our heads when we discuss a new inspiration. Our lists spin out endlessly during the course of a conversation. We choose the ideas we like best and puzzle out the best way to bring them to fruition. Some days it's an ingredient, some days a dish or a flavor that catches our imagination and sends it soaring through countless kitchens we have known or dreamed of or stumbled upon. We don't shoot down anything, no matter how outlandish it seems at first, unless we both agree it won't work. Then we edit down to actual dishes. That's our system for working out new ideas. What do you do in your kitchens?