Food is all those substances which, submitted to the action of the stomach, can be assimilated or changed into life by digestion, and can thus repair the losses which the human body suffers through the act of living.
-The Phsysiology of Taste, Brillat-Savarin
So yeah, let’s have that potluck.
It turns out I’m quite the procrastinator, even when it comes to things I’m really excited about. Probably more so about things I’m totally nervous about. Shocking, I know.
My plan for months – especially since that potluck in Tofino – was to have one here and invite all of you. As my mom used to say – immediately, if not sooner. (Generally this phrase was used in reference to our getting some chore done that should have been done eons ago.)
I didn’t want to interrupt anyone’s long weekend, plus I had this silent auction dinner. Next Saturday night, it turns out, I’ve committed to judging a salsa contest. I’m not sure I could duck out of the potluck for a couple hours without anyone noticing. Also: Mike might kill me.
The weekend after – which according to my calendar is the first week of JUNE – I’ll be in Texas. Yes. I’m going on a business trip, for a conference. How grown-up am I?
The weekend after that we’re all going to be in California. (Guess what? We’re taking the boys to Disneyland. Still doesn’t seem quite real, but the tickets are booked!) The weekend after that I’m cooking for Will Shatner. (Yes, that Will Shatner.) And then it’s the last weekend of June. The end of school, beginning of summer. EEK. And I don’t want to wait that long.
Also, the apple tree in our backyard is beginning to bloom. I love it when it’s in bloom – the branches loaded with pink flowers distracts from the thawing dog poo. And so it looks like next Saturday must be the day, but perhaps maybe in the afternoon, so I can go judge salsas at 8? I know it won’t work for all of you, but I’m hoping some of you will come, even though it’ll be too light out for patio lights.
Wait, before I get into logistics, I want to tell you about these eccles cakes.
They’re not really cakes per se – they’re crisp, sugary squares or rounds puff pastry filled with currants and brown sugar – better, I think, than any Danish. I made them recently because I needed comfort food, I really did, and they remind me of my mom. I’m not sure why these stand out above other things she’d bring home from the grocery store when I was a kid – they weren’t even all that, arriving in hard plastic clamshells from the bakery with the texture of refrigerated store-bought puff pastry that coated the inside of your mouth. Maybe it’s just because she loved them too. I’ve since decided that if I’m going to eat things like pastries, they’re going to be the very best I can find – and these are near mind-blowing when made at home and eaten warm from the baking sheet.
I’m not suggesting you set about making puff pastry from scratch, although I don’t discourage it – but these particular eccles cakes were made with half a package of store-bought puff pastry, and took about five minutes to put together. And look at them! Like crispy-chewy butter tart sandwiches, these are. I’ll make some next weekend, just to prove it to you.
The great thing about puff pastry is its foolproofness – no matter what you do to it, it will bake up golden and crispy and if it’s imperfectly cut, rustic-looking. Some eccles cakes are round, and others are square, some are made with candied citron and cinnamon along with the currants – feel free to add either or both, but I’m a bit of an eccles cake purist, myself.
1/2 package frozen puff pastry, thawed
1/2 cup currants
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 Tbsp. butter, softened
pinch cinnamon (optional)
1 egg, lightly beaten
coarse sugar, for sprinkling (optional)
On a lightly floured surface, roll the puff pastry out to a large rectangle or square big enough that the pastry is about 1/4-inch thick.
Preheat the oven to 375F. Mix together the currants, brown sugar and butter and spread over one half of the pastry. Or mix the butter and sugar, spread it over the pastry and sprinkle with currants. It doesn’t much matter.
Fold the pastry over to cover the filling and roll gently with the rolling pin almost until the currants poke through the surface. Cut into squares or rectangles (any size you like) with a sharp knife and transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush with egg, cut a few slits in the top of each with a sharp knife (be careful not to go all the way through) and sprinkle with coarse sugar.
Bake for about 20 minutes, until golden. Try to share.
So – the potluck. If you seriously want to come, I’ll get into details after the jump…
I have no idea how to do this, so I’m just going to put it out there. Let’s have a potluck, at my house, next Saturday afternoon. Say 3 pm? I’d love you to come. I live in Ramsay, beside Inglewood. Why don’t we do it this way – I’m a little iffy about posting all the info about where I live and inviting a free-for-all, so if you’d like to come, leave a comment here and I’ll email you – or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll give you the details! How does that sound?
OK, now I’m excited! What to wear? What to make?