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Kitchen Diplomacy by Erulisse (one L)

Author: Erulisse (one L)
Title: Kitchen Diplomacy
Rating: G
Theme: Celebration with Recipe
Elements: Salad and Bread
Beta: None - Any and all errors are mine alone.
Word Count: 2257 fiction plus 3829 recipes

Summary: Aragorn has been crowned and has wed his lady love. The elves who acted as her escort, along with dignitaries from many lands, will be feasted at the first State Dinner before they leave Gondor and return to their own lands. Arwen wants everything to be perfect for her family but is having problems getting the kitchen to understand the concept of uncooked vegetables. Exasperated, she calls upon Aragorn for assistance.

Author’s Notes: Disclaimer: Tolkien built the sand box; I only play with the bucket and shovel that he left for me. No money, profit or non, is made from the publication of this story.



Kitchen Diplomacy


Aragorn had expected there would be some adjustments that he would have to make as well as some cultural differences he would have to take into account once he sat upon the throne. He haowever he had expected those times of give and take to play out over tables at conferences as he and diplomats from various lands pounded out treaties word-by-word and phrase by phrase. Never had he expected the first clash to come from the kitchens, and more specifically instigated by his own gentle Lady.

“Beloved, I really don't know what else to do,” Arwen said with a sigh. The normally serene elf was pacing across the room, her slight form blocking the light from the balcony he sat in front of with rhythmic regularity, her small feet almost wearing a channel into the deep carpeting. Her hands fluttered at her waist, witnesses to her agitation, and her teeth gripped her bottom lip firmly.

Aragorn sighed. Even an old campaigner unfamiliar with the vagaries of females could see that his wife was upset. On the morrow they would be hosting their first State Dinner as King and Queen. The feast was to honor those elves who had accompanied Arwen on her travels from the hidden valley of Imladris to his awaiting arms. The wedding had been perfection but most of those who had attended the festivities and who hailed from foreign lands were still in Minas Tirith. The Citadel was filled to overflowing; even the smaller rooms in the topmost section had been opened and aired out for guests attending the wedding and its many subsequent smaller celebrations. After this formal State Dinner, many of their guests would leave and the city could return to a semblance of normalcy.

The Royal suite of rooms had been a bastion of calm and open space for him without courtiers or guests allowed without invitation. Now his calm had been shattered by one small, slender, almost ethereal elf who was now the Queen of the realm.

“I cannot help you if you do not tell me what is wrong, dearest. Come,” he patted his lap, “sit down and tell me all about it.”

“Oh no you don't!” she said, waving her finger in admonishment. “If I sit in your lap I won't be solving this problem, I'll only be keeping you content for the next hour or two and the kitchen will continue ruining my salads without a second thought or a cross word.”

“Your salads...?”

“Yes, my salads.”

Aragorn threw his wife a bewildered look. Over the years he had traveled the breadth and width of many lands, working as a mercenary and exploring even as far as the lands of strange stars. He knew that they had a cook - a very competent cook - overseeing the kitchens of the Citadel. He failed to understand what his wife had to do with salads.

She huffed. “Salads, Aragorn. Salads! You know...vegetables put together in combination often with an accompanying flavorful sauce or dressing. Salads.
"Vegetables.
"RAW vegetables.
"Raw CHILLED vegetables."

She walked to him and leaned over, gripping the armrests in her hands and putting her face close to his own, a position that he normally would have loved to take as the opening move in a romantic gambit. But the expression on her face did not welcome romance.

She continued. “Raw, chilled vegetables. NOT cooked to within a second of their little green lives. NOT limp and flavorless. NOT buried under a thick sauce, pulling their subtle tastes into a heavy brick of spice. NOT! COOKED!”

She pushed away from him and turned with a visible shudder running down her body, then turned to face him once more. “If we serve overcooked vegetables drowning in a variety of colorful, over-flavored sauces they won't be eaten. At least your guests of honor won't eat them. And aren't the desires of your guests the primary reason for the food choices we have made for this feast?”

“Yes, of course...” he began, but was quickly interrupted by his wife.

“Well then, YOU talk to the cook. She won't listen to me! I've been trying to tell her to tear the vegetables, not cut them. To allow them to mix gently, not stir them. To blend them with finesse, not with force. But I'm getting nowhere and the feast is tomorrow.”

Arwen walked around behind him and embraced his shoulders from behind. Whispering in his ear, she said, “So far the cook has managed to ruin more than half of the vegetable greens from the garden and we can't afford to waste any more, else there won't be sufficient amounts left to serve at all. You, my darling husband, must practice your diplomatic skills here. We must serve appropriate salads to our guests.”

He picked one dainty hand up and drawing it to his mouth, kissed it gently. “Your wish is my command, my love. It shall be done. Now...about that bed sitting in the corner looking rather lonely...?”

“And lonely it shall look and continue to look until you have resolved this issue, my love,” was her pert reply as she stood and moved to the corridor door, waiting for him to join her.

Aragorn rose from his chair with a sigh. He knew he would get no peace without going to the kitchen and attempting to aid his Lady-wife. “Come then, my dear heart. Let's off to the kitchens to speak to Cook and make all things right once more.” He took her dainty hand into his large callused one and, tucking it into the corner of his elbow, escorted her out of their rooms and down to the cooking and storage areas.

He waved off the seneschal; he needed no general announcement that he was moving to a different room in his own domicile. However, he did accept two household guards to accompany them, a general precaution that was only sensible with the Citadel crowded with guests from many lands. Entering the kitchen he paused in the doorway, looking at the bustle of activity with a smile. Memories of earlier years hit him along with the smell of baking bread, the sound of voices and the clicking of knives as they chopped fresh condiments on wooden cutting boards. It took just a moment for a wave of shocked silence to stretch from the doorway throughout the kitchen as all eyes turned towards the royal pair.

“Please accept my apologies, Mistress Egverda, but if I might have a moment of your time?” he said into the sudden quiet.

“O' course, y' Highness, m' Lady. If ya'd be pleased to join me in ma office? Would ya like a nice, refreshin' glass of chilled berry tea wid a sprig of mint?”

The Royals nodded as they followed her. She motioned to a scullery girl who quickly moved to take two pewter mugs of tea from the kitchen maid who had just filled them from the vat at the cold cellar door. Just as the couple seated themselves, the mugs were placed on the desk and the young girl quickly left the small room, closing the door behind her.

“Now then, y' Majesties. What can I do fer ya on this fine day?” Mistress Egverda was a consummate professional. Even though she was expected to serve three meals a day to a large number of guests as well as a formal banquet for 300 the next day, she didn't allow her schedule to fluster her. She ran an efficient kitchen with a well-trained staff and knew she would be interrupted only is an emergency.

Aragorn smiled at the Head Cook. “You have come far in the kitchens, Mistress. I still remember your kindnesses to a much younger mercenary who kept late hours yet who always had a meal awaiting him no matter what time Ecthelion released him for the night.”

“Ya were...,” she peered closer at the King.

“Thorongil. Yes, I am he that was known by that name so many years ago.”

“It were a shame when ya left us, Thor...y' Highness. It near broke poor old Ecthelion's heart to realize ya weren't a'coming back to the city.” She sighed and gave a quick shake of her head. “But that in't here nor there. How canna help ya?”

His smile deepened. He knew that her rural accent was usually less obvious unless she was flustered. “I remember your love for your craft. Oft times you would sit opposite me and read through stacks of recipes while I was eating. Many times you would try cooking something new at the small fire and I would hear a soft tune from you when things were going well.”

“Yes…well. Now a ha' a kitchen to run, but it's still a job that a love.”

“I recall a young cook who was fearless – ready to try any recipe once. I remember eating some of the triumphs as well as trying some of the disappointments – many of which went out to feed the pigs instead of being served at the table.”

She laughed. “It were good there weren't too many failures, elsa would have been forbidden from ma experiments. The cost of food was still a cost 'n not ta be wasted.”

“So when did your love of new recipes and new things leave you, Mistress?”

“Leave me? What da ya mean?”

“I know that the foods you were required to serve under the stewardship of Denethor were fairly limited. He rarely entertained, and when he did, it was usually Captains from Gondor and, sometimes, our cousins from Dol Amroth. But life under Denethor has ended and my reign will be far different.”

He stood and walked to the small window that overlooked the kitchen's herb garden. Two younger cooks were between the clumps of herbs, carefully plucking the seasonings needed for the day's foods. Turning to face the two women again, he leaned against the casement and continued. “I plan to entertain fairly often, and my guests will be from numerous lands and possibly from several races. I want their cultures celebrated and their homes acknowledged through the kitchens as well as through discussions at the negotiating table. I do not want them to feel disrespect from Gondor, meaning that the foods served to them must reflect both our own lands as well as their own.”

“I fully expect to be feasting with men from Gondor and Dol Amroth, but also with our allies from Rohan and from the far northern parts of this land. I also expect visits from elves of various realms and dwarves from several of their delvings, even some hobbits every now and then. Additionally I plan to open trade and treaty negotiations with several of the peoples who were our recent enemies including the Harad. Each of these groups of people have foods that they love that will need to be prepared in ways different than those methods you are most accustomed to.”

Striding forward two steps, he leaned over the small desk and looked closely at his Master Cook, a distance of no more than a foot between them. “I expect my kitchens to rise to this challenge, Mistress Egverda. I expect that the differences between the people of Gondor and our allies will be celebrated, not buried beneath what would have been appropriate in the past. Are you willing to help me with these needs, to show our friends, allies, and future partners that we are a mighty land which celebrates the similarities as well as the differences between our peoples?”

“Oh! I...I dinna realize. Yes, Sire. I'm your Head Cook, the Mistress of the Kitchens, 'n I will see it done. But...”

“But?”

“But I'm not sure how best ta do this. I ha' na references for foods from these other lands. I ha' na recipes or lists ta know what ta cook for these other peoples.”

“My Lady-wife has indicated that she would enjoy teaching you what you will need to prepare to be able to feast her peoples, those of the Elven Realms. She could begin immediately so that appropriate foods can be served at the Feast tomorrow evening if you would consent to sharing your time with her.”

“O' course, your Highness,” she turned to look at Arwen who was sitting, demurely, in her chair on the other side of the small desk. “Lady, please accept ma apologies for any misunderstandin's we may ha' had. I could na imagine that a Lady o' your breedin' would understand a kitchen or be willin' to teach me. I welcome your help 'n advice.”

Aragorn smiled and moved toward the doorway. “Well then, I will leave you two alone to determine the proper menu and food preparations needed.”

He reached out for the door latch, then paused and turned back to the two women. “Oh, and a word of advice, Mistress Egverda. When you attempt to discover and practice the recipes of Rohan, I strongly recommend that you do NOT ask the White Lady, Faramir's intended, Éowyn. She makes a very competent horsewoman and deadly shield-maiden, but as a cook...dismal barely describes her skills.”

Arwen and Mistress Egverda glanced at each other and smiled. “Well then, Highness, mayhap after I ha' become comfortable with the foods o' that land I might see if she would be interested in cooking lessons so's not ta poison m' Lord Faramir.”

A soft chuckle followed the King as he left the office and began walking through the bustling kitchen.


* * * * * * * * *


I can't just list one recipe for my two favorite foods - Salad and Bread - so I've got four of each for you to try. No "State Banquet" is necessary, just a hearty appetite.


Heirloom Tomato Salad

HS: You can absolutely roast the tomatoes ahead of time if needed. Keep them in a jar covered in oil. Drain before continuing with the recipe.

2 pounds / 1 kg tomatoes ( a mix of small heirlooms & cherry tomatoes), halved
1/4 cup / 60 ml extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar or maple syrup
couple pinches of fine grain sea salt
1/3 cup toasted almond slices
2 tablespoons capers, fried in a bit of oil
6 oz good mozzarella, torn into chunks
a handful of torn lettuce leaves
generous drizzle of lemon olive oil or chive oil*
chive (or herb) flowers or minced chives, to serve

To start, you're going to roast about 1/2 of the tomatoes - as I mention up above, preferably a mix of cherry and heirlooms. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C), and adjust the oven rack to the top third of the oven. Toss the tomatoes you will be roasting gently (but well) in a bowl along with the olive oil, sugar, and salt. Arrange them in a single layer, cut side up, on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, without stirring, until the tomatoes shrink a bit and start to caramelize around the edges, 45 to 60 minutes. Set aside to cool.

When ready to serve, gently toss the roasted and raw tomatoes with a bit of chive or lemon oil, most of the almonds, the capers, the mozzarella, and the lettuce. Taste and season with a bit more salt if needed. Serve topped with the remaining almonds, and any herb flowers you might have.

Serves 4 - 6 as a side.

*To make chive oil, use a food processor to puree 1/4 cup chopped chives with 1/2 cup / 120 ml good olive oil. Stir in another 1/4 cup finely chopped chives by hand. Season with sea salt to taste.
Prep time: 10 min - Cook time: 60 min


Summer Green Bean Salad Recipe

I call for all green beans here, but if memory serves me correctly the Contigo version had a wonderful mix of Romano, haricot vert, and standard green beans. I think you'd want to cook each type of bean separately to make sure the thinner ones don't over cook. I'd also encourage you to dress the salad a bit more heavily than what you see in the photo - I always worry about over-dressing things before taking a photo, and now that I'm looking at the shot, the beans up there are looking a tab bit naked.

3/4 pound green beans, stems pinched off
1 teaspoon finely chopped chives
1/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon minced shallots
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons heavy cream
scant 1/4 teaspoon salt
tiny pinch of freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon honey (optional)
a handful of frisee or little gem hearts
a handful of small cherry tomatoes, each cut in half
1/2 cup hazelnuts, smashed and toasted

Start by making the dressing. Whisk together the chives, thyme, shallots, lemon juice, heavy cream, salt and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil with a fork, stirring until everything comes together. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Sometimes my lemon dressings have a puckery edge to them, and when that happens I just whisk in just a touch of honey to counterbalance the sour. Set aside.

In the meantime, bring two quarts of water to a boil. Salt generously and stir in the green beans. Cook for about 1 1/2 minutes. Just until the beans brighten up and soften a touch, I go a bit beyond "al dente" here for this salad. Quickly drain them and run under cold water to stop the cooking.

In a large bowl toss the green beans with the frisee, about 1/2 of the hazelnuts, with a big splash of the dressing. Toss well. Taste, and add more dressing, salt or pepper at this point. Toss again if needed. Add the tomatoes and toss very gently.

You can turn this out onto a platter or plate individually topped with the remaining hazelnuts.
Serves about 4.

Prep time: 10 min - Cook time: 10 min


Whiskey & Wheat Berry Salad Recipe

1 pound wheat berries, cooked*
3/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup whiskey
1 tablespoon natural cane sugar (or brown sugar)
5 ounces goat cheese
1 1/2 teaspoon adobo sauce (from a can of chipotle peppers)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
zest of one lemon
fine grain sea salt
1 cup pinenuts, toasted
3 big handfuls of lettuce, spinach, or arugula
scant 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves (or other chopped herbs)

Cook the wheat berries and set aside.

Place the raisins in a small bowl, add the whiskey and sugar, and let soak for a couple hours (or overnight). When the raisins are done soaking, drain off (and save) the leftover whiskey. You'll use it in the dressing.

Mash the goat cheese with the adobo sauce until it is well incorporated and set aside.
Make the dressing by whisking the olive oil, lemon juice and zest, 3 tablespoons of the whiskey (leftover from soaking the raisins), and a couple pinches of salt. Whisk well and set aside.
Just before serving, in a large bowl, gently toss the wheat berries, raisins, pine nuts, lettuce and a few more pinches of salt. Sprinkle with goat cheese and oregano, toss once or twice and serve.

Makes a party or potluck-sized salad.

*To cook wheat berries: Combine the pound of wheat berries with about 8 1/2 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of salt in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, covered, until plump and chewy (and a few of the berries split open), about an hour or so. The berries will stay al dente, and the only way to be sure they're done is to taste a few. Drain and set aside.


Vegan Caesar Salad Recipe

HS notes: If you don't have time to roast the garlic for the croutons, you can use raw - the flavor will be more pronounced, with less depth and mellowness. Feel free to use your favorite multi-grain bread for the croutons. If a salad like this is going to be a main meal for me, I make it topped with something like smoked tofu, something with some protein (for staying power) but use your imagination. If your dressing is too thick just thin it with a bit of warm water.

Caesar dressing:

1/3 cup slivered or sliced almonds
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
3/4 cup silken tofu
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 heaping tablespoon capers
4 teaspoons caper brine
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
Salt

Croutons:

1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves roasted garlic
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 medium size loaf French or Italian bread (little less than 1 pound), stale and torn or sliced into bite-sized pieces
1/4 teaspoon salt

Salad:

1 large head romaing lettuce, chopped
Freshly cracked black pepper
Handful or two of spinach and/or arugula, torn into bite-sized pieces (optional)

Prepare the dressing: Pulse the sliced almonds in a food processor or blender until crumbly. Empty the ground almonds into an airtight container that you'll be using to store the finished dressing. Blend the garlic, tofu, and oil in the food processor or belnder until creamy. Add the lemon juice, capers, caper brine, sugar, and mustard powder, and pulse until blended. Adjust the salt and lemon juice to taste. Put into the container with the ground almonds and whisk to combine. Cover and allow the dressing to chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of 30 minutes, optimally 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

While the dressing is chilling, prepare the croutons: Preheat the oven to 400F. Combine the olive oil, roasted garlic, and lemon juice in a large bowl. With a fork or immersion blender, mash orblend the mixture until creamy. Add the torn bread and toss to coat each piece with the oil mixture. Spread onto a rimmed baking sheet, sprinkle with salt, if desired, and bake for 12 to 14 minutes until golden brown. Toss the croutons twice during the baking process. Remove from the oven and cool the croutons on the baking sheet.

To assemble the salad, place in a large bowl 2 to 3 cups of lettuce/greens per individual serving (amount depending on whether it's a side or an entree). Ladle on 1/3 cup of the dressing (or more or less to taste), and use kitchen tongs to toss the greens and coat them with dressing. Add the warm croutons, toss again, and transfer to a serving dish. Sprinkle with a little freshly cracked pepper. If not serving right away, warm croutons in 300F oven for 5 to 8 minutes before adding to the salad.

Serves 4 to 6 as a side, 2 to 3 as a main.


AMERICAN SANDWICH BREAD
yield: One 9-inch loaf

prep time: 1 hour 45 minutes

cook time: 45 minutes

total time: 2 hours 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

3¾ cups (18¾ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup warm whole milk (about 110 degrees)
1/3 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons honey
1 envelope (about 2¼ teaspoons) instant yeast

DIRECTIONS:

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and heat the oven to 200 degrees. Once the oven temperature reaches 200 degrees, maintain the heat for 10 minutes, then turn off the oven.

2. Mix 3½ cups of the flour and the salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix the milk, water, butter, honey, and yeast in a 4-cup liquid measuring cup. Turn the machine to low and slowly add the liquid. When the dough comes together, increase the speed to medium and mix until the dough is smooth and satiny, stopping the machine two or three times to scrape dough from hook, if necessary, about 10 minutes. (After 5 minutes of kneading, if the dough is still sticking to the sides of the bowl, add flour, 1 tablespoon at a time and up to ¼ cup total, until the dough is no longer sticky.) Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface; knead to form a smooth, round ball, about 15 seconds.

3. Place the dough in a very lightly oiled large bowl, rubbing the dough around the bowl to coat lightly. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the warmed oven until the dough doubles in size, 40 to 50 minutes.

4. Gently press the dough into a rectangle 1 inch thick and no longer than 9 inches. WIth a long side facing you, roll the dough firmly into a cylinder, pressing with your fingers to make sure the dough sticks to itself. Turn the dough seam-side up and pinch it closed. Place the dough seam-side down in a greased 9 by 5-inch loaf pan and press it gently so it touches all four sides of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap; set aside in a warm spot until the dough almost doubles in size, 20 to 30 minutes.

5. Keep one oven rack at the lowest position and place the other at the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place an empty baking pan on the bottom rack. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour the boiling water into the empty pan on the bottom rack at set the loaf onto the middle rack. Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted at an angle from the short end just above the pan rim into the center of the loaf read 195 degrees, 40 to 50 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan, transfer to a wire rack, and cool to room temperature. Slice and serve.

Note: This recipe uses a standing electric mixer. You can hand-knead the dough, but we found it's easy to add too much flour during this stage, resulting in a somewhat tougher loaf. To promote a crisp crust,we found it best to place a loaf pan filled with boiling water in the oven as the bread bakes.


HONEY-OATMEAL SANDWICH BREAD
yield: One (1) 9x5-inch loaf

prep time: 20 minutes (active), 2½ hours (inactive)

cook time: 45 minutes

total time: 1 hour 10 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

1¼ cups (10 ounces) boiling water
1 cup (3½ ounces) old-fashioned rolled oats
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
1½ teaspoons salt
¼ cup (3 ounces) honey
1 cup (4 ounces) whole wheat flour
1-2/3 cups (7 ounces) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (1 ounce) nonfat dry milk
2 teaspoons instant yeast

DIRECTIONS:

1. Place the boiling water, oats, butter, salt and honey into a medium bowl, stir, and let the mixture cool to lukewarm.

2. Mix the remaining dough ingredients with the oat mixture, and knead - by hand, mixer or bread machine - until you've made a soft, smooth dough. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover it, and let it rise for 1 hour; the dough should be doubled in bulk.

3. Lightly grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan. Gently deflate the dough - it'll be sticky, so oil your hands - and shape it into a 9-inch log. Place it in the prepared pan. Cover it gently with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow it to rise until it has crowned 1½ inches over the rim of the pan, about 1 to 1½ hours. Near the end of the bread's rising time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

4. Uncover and bake the bread for about 45 minutes, tenting it with foil after 20 minutes to prevent over-browning. The bread is done when it's golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 190 degrees F. Remove it from the oven, and after a minute or so turn it out onto a rack. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with additional oats. Cool the bread completely before cutting it.


ITALIAN BREAD
yield: 1 large loaf

prep time: 30 minutes (active) 2 hours (inactive)

cook time: 45 minutes

total time: 3 hours 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups lukewarm water (~100°F)
1 package active dry yeast
5 to 5¾ cups bread flour
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2½ teaspoons salt
1 egg white, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

DIRECTIONS:

1. Stir the yeast into ½ cup of the warm water. Let proof as you measure out the dry ingredients.

2. Combine 5 cups flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the yeast mixture, remaining water and olive oil. Using a dough hook attachment, mix on lowest speed of electric mixer (stir setting on a KitchenAid) until a dough starts to form, adding more flour as needed. Knead on low speed (2 on a KitchenAid) for 7 minutes. Transfer dough to lightly floured surface and need by hand for 1 to 2 minutes, or until a smooth, firm, elastic dough is formed.

3. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and spray the dough with a thin coating of cooking spray. Wrap the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to proof in a warm, draft-free place for 1½ hours or until doubled in size.

4. Remove the plastic wrap, punch down and flatten the rounded dough with the heel of your hand. Roll the dough up tightly, sealing the seam well after each roll. The dough should be elongated and oval-shaped, with tapered and rounded (not pointed) ends.

5. Preheat the oven lined with a baking stone or unglazed quarry tiles to 425°F.

6. Place the dough on a baker's peel heavily dusted with flour, or alternately on an inverted baking sheet. Allow the dough to proof, loosely covered with a floured canvas cloth, for 30 minutes, or until doubled in size.

7. Brush the dough with the egg white and sprinkle the sesame seeds over the top. Using a razor blade or sharp knife, slash the dough lengthwise about 1/4-inch deep, keeping the blade at a 45 degree angle.

8. Spray the dough generously with water from a water bottle and place in the oven on the baking stone. Immediately close the oven and bake for 3 minutes. Open the oven door and spray the dough again with the water bottle. Close the oven door and bake for an additional 3 minutes before spraying the dough for a third time (the spraying of the dough will ensure a crisp golden brown crust).

9. Bake the dough for a total of 45 minutes, or until a hollow thud is heard when tapping the bottom of the bread. Allow the bread to cool before slicing.


POTATO ROSEMARY BREAD
yield: Two 1-pound loaves or 18 dinner rolls

prep time: 2 hours (active) 15 hours (inactive)

cook time: 35 to 45 minutes

total time: 3 hours

INGREDIENTS:

For the Bread:
1¼ cups (7 ounces) biga (recipe follows)
3 cups plus 2 Tablespoons (14 ounces) unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
1½ teaspoons (.38 ounce) salt
¼ teaspoon (.03 ounce) black pepper, coarsely ground (optional)
1¼ teaspoons (.14 ounce) instant yeast
1 cup (6 ounces) mashed potatoes
1 Tablespoon (.5 ounce) olive oil
2 Tablespoons (.25 ounce) coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
¾ cup plus 2 Tablespoons to 1 cup (7 to 8 ounces) water, at room temperature (or warm if the potatoes are cold)
4 Tablespoons (1 ounce) coarsely chopped roasted garlic (optional)
Semolina flour or cornmeal for dusting
Olive oil for brushing on top

For the Biga:

2½ cups (11.25 ounces) unbleached bread flour
½ teaspoon (.055 ounce) instant yeast
¾ cup plus 2 Tablespoons to 1 cup (7 to 8 ounces) water, at room temperature)

DIRECTIONS:

1. Make the biga: Stir together the flour and yeast in a 4-quart bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). Add ¾ cup plus 2 Tablespoons of water, stirring until everything comes together and makes a coarse ball (or mix on low speed for 1 minute with the paddle attachment). Adjust the flour or water, according to need, so that the dough is neither too sticky nor too stiff. (It is better to err on the sticky side, as you can adjust easier during kneading. It is harder to add water once the dough firms up.)
Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for 4 to 6 minutes (or mix on medium speed with the dough hook for 4 minutes), or until the dough is soft and pliable, tacky but not sticky. The internal temperature should be 77° to 81°F.
Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for 2 to 4 hours, or until it nearly doubles in size.
Remove the dough from the bowl, knead it lightly to degas, and return it to the bowl, covering the bowl with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in the refrigerator overnight. You can keep this in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or freeze it in an airtight plastic bag for up to 3 months.

2. Remove the biga from the refrigerator 1 hour before you plan to make the bread. Cut it into about 10 small pieces with a pastry scraper or serrated knife. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let sit for 1 hour to take off the chill.

3. Stir together the flour, salt, black pepper, and yeast into a 4-quart mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). Add the biga pieces, mashed potatoes, oil, rosemary, and ¾ cup plus 2 Tablespoons water. Stir with a large spoon (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment) for 1 minute, or until the ingredients form a ball. Add more water, if necessary, or more flour, if the dough is too sticky.

4. Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin to knead (or mix on medium speed with the dough hook). Knead for approximately 10 minutes (or 6 minutes by machine), adding more flour if needed, until the dough is soft and supple, tacky but not sticky. It should pass the windowpane test and register 77° to 81°F. Flatten the dough and spread the roasted garlic over the top. Gather the dough into a ball and knead it by hand for 1 minute (you will probably have to dust it with flour first to absorb the moisture from the garlic). Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

5. Ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

6. Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it into 2 equal pieces for loaves, or 18 equal pieces (about 2 ounces each) for dinner rolls. Shape each of the larger pieces into a boule, or shape the smaller pieces into rolls. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment (use 2 pans for rolls) and dust lightly with semolina flour or cornmeal. Place the dough on the parchment, separating the pieces so that they will not touch, even after they rise. Mist the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap.

7. Proof at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours (depending on the size of the pieces), or until the dough doubles in size.

8. Preheat the oven to 400°F with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Remove the plastic from the dough and lightly brush the breads or rolls with olive oil. You do not need to score these breads, but you can if you prefer.

9. Place the pan(s) in the oven. Bake the loaves for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking. The loaves will take 35 to 45 minutes total to bake. Bake the rolls for 10 minutes, rotate the pans, and then bake for 10 minutes longer. The loaves and rolls will be a rich golden brown all around, and the internal temperature should register at least 195°F. The loaves should make a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom. If the loaves or rolls are fully colored but seem too soft, turn off the oven and let them bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes to firm up.

10. Remove the finished loaves or rolls from the oven and cool on a rack for at least 1 hour for loaves and 20 minutes for rolls before serving.

Comments

( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
dreamflower02
Sep. 18th, 2013 02:25 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed seeing Arwen fighting for her culinary traditions in Gondor, and her husband's diplomacy in seeing it done!

But what a bounty of delicious sounding recipes! I still have a ton of cherry tomatoes and green beans from the garden, so I see at least two I'd like to try soon. And those bread recipes!

Tell me, do you think that the bread recipes could be done in the bread machine? I usually use the "dough only" cycle, so I'd be baking in the oven, but I do like to use the machine for the preparation.
blslarner
Sep. 18th, 2013 03:25 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'd definitely use the "dough" setting on my bread machine to prepare these breads! The bread machine seems to mix them so much more evenly than kneading them on my butcher's block table!
engarian
Sep. 18th, 2013 06:21 pm (UTC)
To be honest, I don't have a bread machine, I knead by hand. But I assume that Larner would know since she seems to be familiar with the machinery involved :-)

Thanks for the kind words on Aragorn's diplomatic mission to the downstairs of the Citadel.

- Erulisse (one L)
blslarner
Sep. 18th, 2013 03:23 pm (UTC)
Definitely he's had the chance to practice his diplomatic skills, and he has done so so very well! Heh! Excellent, and love Cook's voice!
engarian
Sep. 18th, 2013 06:23 pm (UTC)
Oh thank you! I wasn't sure about her dialect, worked it through several times to be sure I caught it all and may still have missed a word or two. But I loved telling this tale about Aragorn's first official diplomatic mission :-)

- Erulisse (one L)
someplacetobe
Sep. 18th, 2013 06:00 pm (UTC)
Well done Aragorn! Really nicely done!
engarian
Sep. 18th, 2013 06:23 pm (UTC)
Thank you so very much!

- Erulisse (one L)
shirebound
Sep. 18th, 2013 07:20 pm (UTC)
"I recall a young cook who was fearless"

What a marvelously diplomatic way to urge the cook into more creative ways of thought. Everything sounds quite delicious.
engarian
Sep. 18th, 2013 08:48 pm (UTC)
I loved writing this. As I told Aearwen, I just sat at my keyboard and Aragorn started telling me about the Salad Wars that started his rule. It was hilarious to listen to him and I hope that sense of humor came out in the text above.

Eat hearty, my dear!

- Erulisse (one L)
alfirineth
Sep. 18th, 2013 09:06 pm (UTC)
What a wonderful story--and the recipes sound delicious. I look forward to trying some of them.

I could feel for both the cook and Arwen, both of them coming from completely different directions, and both feeling that they were right. I wonder if the tradition got started in Gondor (many eons before :)) to cook everything so much because of a great many someones getting sick from e. coli or perhaps because the king or steward at the time couldn't stand the taste of something raw and it just snowballed from there. :) It makes for a fun story regardless. Aragorn certainly had his distinctive voice, amusing and fun. I liked him trying to smooth things over with the cook and keep his wife happy.
engarian
Sep. 18th, 2013 10:43 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for such a nice review. I'm not sure why things fell into a habit of overcooking, perhaps lack of fresh food, age of diners, or lack of encouragement to try new things. I feel that the elves would be more likely to use cooking with more specificity - cooking their deer parts, but not the accompaniments.

I'm delighted that you found my character's voices distinct. I think getting that unique dialog is one of the most difficult things for an author to accomplish. You just made my day!

- Erulisse (one L)
lindahoyland
Sep. 18th, 2013 11:25 pm (UTC)
This was just delightful!I loved it that the cook remembered Thorongil,
engarian
Sep. 18th, 2013 11:28 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much, Linda! I know that Thorongil was very popular and imagined that he would have had a chance to get to know the lesser kitchen staff at the odd hours that a mercenary would keep. I'm totally thrilled that you enjoyed my little tale.

- Erulisse (one L)
lindahoyland
Sep. 18th, 2013 11:45 pm (UTC)
I would love to see more Aragorn and Arwen or Throngil stories from you. Maybe a prequel when he meets the cook?
engarian
Sep. 19th, 2013 12:53 am (UTC)
If I get a bit caught up, I might just try to do one of these for you. Maybe as a late birthday fic :-)

- Erulisse (one L)
lindahoyland
Sep. 19th, 2013 02:05 am (UTC)
I would love that if you get time.
engarian
Sep. 19th, 2013 02:28 pm (UTC)
It's in the works and turning out to be quite interesting. I should have it for you within a few days (and a few revisions since I always must revise).

- Erulisse (one L)
rs9
Sep. 18th, 2013 11:55 pm (UTC)
I totaly, totally, LOVE this! I agree with Linda! More Aragorn and Arwen stories. I love Thorongil too!

And I will definitely try these yummy recipes.
engarian
Sep. 19th, 2013 12:54 am (UTC)
Thank you so very much, and thanks for adding me as your friend also. I love my cyber friends - many of them have become personal friends over the years and I cherish them.

I'm absolutely delighted that you enjoyed my diplomacy over a leaf of lettuce :-)

- Erulisse (one L)
hhimring
Sep. 19th, 2013 06:49 am (UTC)
Hail, Elessar, champion and defender of salads! And quite right, too!
You can already see that Egverda is going to find things so much more fun as she starts experimenting again!
engarian
Sep. 19th, 2013 02:27 pm (UTC)
I think she'll really enjoy her time in the kitchen. At Linda's request, I'm working on a prequel to this for her - Thorongil and Egverda in their earlier days. It's turning out rather fun too, although less humorous than this.

Kitchen diplomacy indeed :-) Thanks for your comments!

- Erulisse (one L)
ellynn_ithilwen
Sep. 26th, 2013 10:18 am (UTC)
Aragorn showed great diplomatic skills. :) Well done!
engarian
Sep. 26th, 2013 10:48 am (UTC)
Thanks so much! I think he had to, and probably he would rather have been fighting a hoarde of orcs than have to get between two women. But he is a courageous man (LOL) and managed to rise to the occasion.

- Erulisse (one L)
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )

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