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6.26.2015

June 26

I am feeling profoundly (or, as my fingers tried to put it, "feely profounding") inarticulate today in the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage. I keep thinking of my uncle Jerry, the first gay person I ever knew, whose death to AIDS in 1988 spurred me to activism as a young kid with moussed bangs and a Silence=Death sweatshirt, and in whose memory June carries one of her middle names. I wonder what he would say today. I'm grateful, relieved, elated, and beyond, that June will grow up in a world that's very different from what I knew in 1980s Oklahoma.

It also feels like a fitting time to reread John Birdsall's whip-smart Lucky Peach piece, "America, Your Food Is So Gay," which was originally published a couple of years ago, I think.

And given that it's a Friday in late June, it would also be a fitting time to make watermelon popsicles.



June would eat popsicles, also known within our house as "popsissles," for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and in truth, I can't argue with that, especially if I exercise my parental privilege to decide what goes into said popsissles.


In this case, I used David Lebovitz's simple and brilliant watermelon sorbetto recipe as a template. It starts with watermelon juice - just watermelon, zizzed in a food processor until liquefies - and then you take a little of that juice and warm it with sugar to make a watermelon simple syrup. [So smart, David! So smart.] That syrup then gets stirred into the remaining watermelon juice, along with lime juice and, if you want, a tiny splash of vodka, to help make the popsicles less ice-y. (I skipped the vodka, because I didn't have any, and if you don't want to use it, don't.) In any case, the mixture was bright and big-flavored, and I was halfway inclined to pour it over a glass of ice and down it. But June's breakfast, lunch, and dinner needs prevailed. We made popsicles.

Happy weekend.


Watermelon Pops
Adapted from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop

These popsicles will only taste as good as the watermelon you start with, so start with a sweet, flavorful one. Oh, and you can omit the vodka, if you want.

A roughly 3-pound (1.5-kg) chunk of watermelon
½ cup (100 grams) sugar
Big pinch of kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice, or to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons vodka (optional)

Cut away and discard the rind of the watermelon, and cut the flesh into cubes. Chuck the cubes into a blender or food processor, and process until liquefied. Pour through a strainer (to remove seeds) into a large measuring cup. You should have about 3 cups (750 ml) of watermelon juice. (If you have more, well, drink up! Or freeze for future use.)

In a small, nonreactive saucepan, warm about ½ cup (125 ml) of the watermelon juice with the sugar and then salt, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat, and stir this syrup into the remaining 2 ½ cups (625 ml) watermelon juice. Mix in the lime juice and vodka, if using. Taste, and add more lime juice, if you want, or more salt. You shouldn’t taste the salt; it’s just there to intensify the watermelon flavor.

Chill the mixture thoroughly - if the watermelon was refrigerator-cold when you started the process, this won't take long - and then pour it into your popsicle mold of choice. (I used this.) If you have more mixture than will fit in your popsicle molds, drink it, or for mini-pops(!) and other fun stuff, freeze it in ice-cube trays.

Yield: about 10 pops

6.13.2015

One Tuesday, late-morning

I come to you today, June 13th, a fine summer’s day on which you probably have no desire to turn on the oven, to talk about roasted chicken. More specifically, I want to talk about Thomas Keller’s Favorite Simple Roast Chicken, which I prefer to call TK’s Hot Buttered Chicken.

I have long been a devotee of the Zuni Cafe recipe for roasted chicken. I imagine many of you feel the same way. Zuni’s recipe, which Judy Rodgers wrote with a rare and reverential thoroughness - may she rest in peace, and may more cookbooks be written like hers - relies on three things: using a small-ish bird, salting it a day ahead, and cooking in a crackling hot oven, first breast-up and then flipped breast-down and then breast-up again. It was the first roasted chicken I ever made, and when I get all the elements right, it is the best roasted chicken I will ever make. However. I forget to salt the bird ahead. Or I put it off, because getting involved with raw chicken takes resolve. Or I don’t plan dinner until the afternoon of, and then it’s too late for advance salting. Or maybe I manage the advance salting, but then I don’t feel like messing with the beast once it’s in the oven - remembering to flip it and flip it again, dodging splatters of hot fat, etc. Roasting a chicken the Zuni way is not hard, but sometimes I want to make easy things easier.

Thomas Keller’s chicken recipe has been floating around for more than a decade, but I first tried it only last month, after two different friends in two different cities happened to mention it to me within a week of one another. Both are energetic cooks, not likely to balk at a complicated recipe, so when they recommended something so straightforward, so lazy, even, I went out and bought a chicken.


Like Rodgers, Keller calls for a small-ish bird, two to three pounds, and he too cranks up the oven. But he salts the chicken just before cooking, and once it’s cooking, he leaves it alone. And when it’s done, he slathers the meat with butter and serves it forth, with Dijon mustard* on the side. Slathers it with butter and serves it with mustard! SLATHERS IT WITH BUTTER! SERVES IT WITH MUSTARD! I will make TK’s Hot Buttered Chicken.


I’m rarely at home for lunch, and if I am, I’m a sandwich-or-leftovers-lunch cook. I am not a hot-lunch cook. But one Tuesday, late-morning - because Tuesday is my Sunday - I salted a chicken, TK-style, and put it in the oven. While it quietly roasted - so independent, this chicken! - I managed to yank up a bunch of weeds in the yard-slash-jungle out front, and June played in the car, her favorite activity, flicking switches and turning nobs and stealing the emergency animal crackers I keep in the glove compartment, eating half of three of them, and hiding the remains in the console. When the timer went off, we went inside, and I carved and buttered the chicken. I steamed some broccoli and squeezed a lemon over it, and we sat down to lunch.

The chicken was golden and taut-skinned, juicy and glistening. June picked at it, because that’s what she's doing this week - toddlers! Always doing toddler things! I scooped mustard onto my plate, and we sat and talked, eating and not eating**, and one of us sang, because when you’re not eating, you sing. I wiped up the last smear of butter with a fingertip, cleared our plates, and then Tuesday was already halfway over, easy, and there were leftovers for tomorrow.

* Any mention of mustard always reminds me of this. And while we’re on the topic of Karl Lagerfeld, this this THIS.

** Talking, and not talking...


TK's Hot Buttered Chicken
Adapted from Thomas Keller, Bouchon, and Epicurious

One 2- to 3-pound chicken, at room temperature for an hour or so, if possible
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper (optional)
2 teaspoons minced thyme (optional)
Unsalted butter
Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Dry the chicken very well with paper towels, inside and out. Salt and pepper the cavity, then truss the bird with twine. Trussing is not hard, and you really can wing it - or you can watch the videos here, or elsewhere on the Web. In any case, the idea is that the wings and legs stay close to the body, and the meaty part of the drumsticks cover the top of the breast and keep it from drying out. I am not a pro trusser, but as long as I tie the legs together and keep them tucked up tight, I figure I’m fine.

Now, salt the chicken. Thomas Keller likes to "rain" the salt over the bird, so that it has a nice uniform coating that will result in a crisp, salty, flavorful skin. He uses about 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. I didn’t measure mine. You should use enough that, when it’s cooked, you should still be able to make out the salt baked onto the crisp skin. Season to taste with pepper, if you want. I don’t usually pepper my roasted chickens.

Place the chicken breast-up in a sauté pan or roasting pan. Slide it into the oven. Keller says to leave it alone — no basting, no added fat. Roast it until a thermometer stuck in the meatiest part of the thigh registers 165°F, 40 to 60 minutes. (I use a Thermapen: not cheap, but a little bit life-changing.) Remove it from the oven, and add the thyme, if using, to the pan. Spoon the juices and thyme over the chicken, and let it rest for 15 minutes on a cutting board.

Remove the twine. Carve or cut into pieces, however you like. The preparation is not meant to be fancy. Slather the still-hot meat with butter. Serve with mustard on the side.

Yield: enough for 2 to 4 people


6.02.2015

Here was an opportunity

One evening last week, my friend Sarah sent me a sudden text that said only, "Yotam Ottolenghi. Carrot and Mung Bean Salad from Plenty More. Just do it!" These kinds of vital communications are why humans need one another: so that we know what to eat next.

I was skeptical about the mung beans: I know they’re used to great effect in many cuisines, I know, I know, but a certain aura of patchouli and tie dye hangs over them. Still, I was willing to reconsider. I took down my copy of Plenty More from the top of the refrigerator, where my favorite and most-used cookbooks live. (Hey: another time when I mentioned this fridge-top collection, one of you asked if I would consider writing a post about the books I keep there. Does that still interest you? I’d forgotten about that request until now, but really, I’d be very happy to do it. Update: I am an idiot. I forgot about this post on Serious Eats! That said, the top of the fridge looks quite different today, with new books coming out, and I would be happy to tell you about it.) I turned the book over and flipped to the index, looked up the page number (169) for the recipe, and proceeded to thumb backward toward it, but I overshot the mark and found myself on page 163 instead, looking at a recipe for Honey-Roasted Carrots with Tahini Yogurt.

I paused long enough to skim through the ingredients. I had everything, as it happened, including a fresh bag of carrots and a newly opened container of tahini left over from another recipe and now waiting to be finished. I am famous within the four walls of my house for buying tahini, using approximately two tablespoons, and then entombing the remainder at the back of the fridge for a couple of years. Here was an opportunity to do something different. The mung beans could wait. (They’re still waiting, and waiting, and waaaaaaaaiting...)


You do not need me to tell you how smart, how good, and how necessary Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty More is. Plenty was seminal, and I think Plenty More is even more important. This particular recipe reminds me a lot of Casa Moro’s Warm Butternut and Chickpea Salad with Tahini, but maybe better. Ottolenghi uses carrots instead of squash and, instead of allspice, freshly toasted coriander and cumin seeds. His spicing feels more special as a result, more fragrant and beguiling, and the carrots get sticky-slick with honey, and the yogurt in the tahini sauce gives it both lightness and heft. To be totally honest, Ottolenghi did call for a little too much coriander for me - coriander seed, like marjoram, can start to taste the way potpourri smells - so I scaled it back when I typed up the recipe below, and I think it’s just right. Next time, I might add chickpeas and red onion, à la Casa Moro, and make a great thing greater.


In any case, I made it for lunch on a day when I had the house all to myself - and had celebrated having the house all to myself by eating a gigantic slice of cinnamon-custard twist from Larsen's for breakfast - and it was exactly what I wanted. It’s more than the sum of its parts, by far: one of those things that you can zap together without a trip to the grocery store and, afterward, makes you feel like putting on the Chariots of Fire theme and taking a victory lap around the table. That night, Brandon and I ate the leftover carrots and sauce with hot Italian sausages and a cucumber salad, and he liked the tahini-yogurt sauce so much that, after we’d eaten all the carrots, he went to the cupboard, took down a box of Triscuits, and used the crackers to scoop up the last of the sauce from his plate and then the jar I’d made it in.


Honey-and-Spice Roasted Carrots with Tahini Yogurt
Adapted from Plenty More

This recipe halves easily, and I’ll bet it also doubles well. And if you use a scale to measure the ingredients by weight, it comes together very, very fast. Oh, and though the original version calls for Greek yogurt, I prefer regular plain yogurt, so that’s what I keep around, and it worked just fine.

To toast the coriander and cumin seeds, put a small skillet over medium heat, add the seeds (only one type at a time; they’ll probably toast at different rates), and stay nearby, shaking the pan occasionally. They’re ready when they smell fragrant. Remove them from the heat immediately, and crush them coarsely in a mortar and pestle or under the side of a knife. Repeat with the other type of seeds.

For yogurt sauce:
Scant 3 tablespoons (40 grams) tahini, such as Joyva brand
2/3 cup (130 grams) plain whole-milk yogurt or Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 garlic clove, crushed
Generous pinch of kosher salt, such as Diamond Crystal brand

For carrots:
Scant 3 tablespoons (60 grams) honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons coriander seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
1 ½ teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
Leaves from 2 sprigs fresh thyme, or a generous pinch of dried thyme
3 pounds (1.3 kilograms) carrots, peeled and cut into index-finger-sized batons
1 ½ tablespoons cilantro leaves, chopped or not
Kosher salt
Black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425°F, and line a large rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper.

Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl, and whisk well. Set aside while you roast the carrots.

Combine the honey, oil, coriander and cumin seeds, and thyme in a large bowl. Add 1 teaspoon kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Whisk as well as you can; the honey might make it pretty goopy. Add the carrots, and mix until well coated. (I found it easiest to do this with my hands, since the honey wanted to clump instead of coat the carrots.) Dump the carrots onto the prepared sheet pan, and arrange them evenly in a single layer. Roast, stirring gently once or twice, until they are cooked through and glazed, 30 to 40 minutes.

Serve the carrots warm or at room temperature, with a good spoonful of sauce on top or smeared on the plate underneath them. Scatter with cilantro.

Yield: 4 servings

5.22.2015

May 22

About eight months after we opened Delancey, a customer named Eric Peterson sent an e-mail to Brandon, and the subject line read, I want to make pizza at Delancey!


Eric was working at a local pizza place, but he wanted to learn another approach - to learn the chemistry behind good dough, how to make sauce from scratch, how to manage a wood-burning oven. His five-year plan was to open a small wood-fired pizza restaurant in Leavenworth, a mountain town roughly two hours east of Seattle, and he was ready to put in the time to learn what he needed to know.

I called his references and wound up talking to an older guy with whom Eric had once worked at a ski shop, I think, and mostly what I remember is that this guy all but yelled into the phone, SNATCH HIM UP. So we did. We hired Eric, and he cooked next to Brandon for a year and a half, making dough and stretching pizzas and finding his way around the fire, until late 2011, when he headed east over the pass, as he had always planned, to open his Idlewild Pizza. And it is killer.


And this coming Monday, Memorial Day, I get the great pleasure of doing a talk and signing for Delancey - which comes out in paperback on Tuesday! - there, at Idlewild. If you're going to be in the area, or even remotely in the area, please come visit. I'll be there from 3 to 5 pm, and there will be wine and, of course, pizza.

Or, if you can't make that, maybe you can stop by A Book for All Seasons between 1 and 2 pm, because I'll be doing a little signing there first.

I love Leavenworth and the mountains around it, in the summertime especially, and I'm thrilled to have the book as an excuse to get back over there.  Hope to see you - and either way, happy almost-Memorial Day.




P.S. I should note that the above photos were taken at Delancey, not at Idlewild. I don't have any pictures from Idlewild, though, hey, I could fix that this weekend.

P.P.S. San Francisco! I'll be in your town next week, on Saturday, May 30. See you at Omnivore Books at 3 pm?

P.P.P.S. This week's This American Life is so smart, so heavy, and so important.

5.14.2015

Yes yes yes

Last November, I got an e-mail from a fourth grade public school teacher in Sitka, Alaska, inviting me and Brandon to be part of a classroom project he was planning. The project would be called the Perfect Pizza, and it would go like this: the students would spend some time studying pizza and writing about pizza, and along the way, we’d chat with them once or twice via Skype about what makes great pizza great. As the culminating event of the project, Brandon and I would come to Sitka in the flesh, ta daaaa, where we would make pizza with the students (Brandon), talk writing with the students (me), and give a reading at the local library (me). We of course said yes right away, yes yes YES.




We went to Sitka a couple of weeks ago, at the end of April. We were there from a Sunday evening to a Wednesday evening, hardly enough time to get a feel for a new place - neither of us had been to Sitka, or anywhere else in Alaska - but our hosts and the organizers of our trip, Chris and Tiffany Bryner, were such generous guides that I came away with a real affection for the town, and with a few tips for those of you who are considering a trip up that way.



Sitka is an island near the southeastern tip of Alaska, just north of British Columbia. The topography of Sitka felt familiar to me, because like Seattle, there’s a lot of water, and beyond the water there are mountains, although the mountains near Sitka are much nearer, seemingly arm’s reach away. Sitka also feels immediately more rugged, wetter and palpably wilder. In our first twenty-four hours, we spotted eight bald eagles and walked past some fresh-ish bear droppings on a trail, and I saw my first raven and then about three dozen more after that. Because of Sitka, I get to use the word droppings for the first time on this blog. Ring the bells!



Sitka has a population of only 9,000 or so, which makes it roughly one-quarter the size of our neighborhood in Seattle. But it has a terrific bookstore in Old Harbor Books, complete with a kids’ reading nook where June and I could have spent all day. Behind the bookstore is the Backdoor Cafe, where we warmed up with some curried pea soup. I’m still thinking about the raspberry crumble bar I bought there, and I probably will be for a while. A few doors up the street, I bought handmade soap scented with Sitka spruce at WinterSong Soap Company. At the Larkspur Cafe, we had our first black cod tips, a small, rich, silky strip of fish taken from between the jaw and the collar. June isn’t usually into fish, but she wound up stealing most of mine. It was cute, and also not at all cute. But then a friend of Tiffany’s saved the day by showing up with a frozen package of black cod tips for us to take back to Seattle. (!)




We took a walk one cloudy morning along the seawalk to Sitka National Historical Park, where I took the more wooded photos in this post. In the woods, the deerheart were coming in so thickly that, in some areas, you could hardly see the soil, and the trees had so many layers of lichen and moss and more moss that they seemed to be turning slowly into Muppets.



We didn’t have time to get out on a boat, though we wanted to. I had hoped to see a humpback whale, but it was the wrong time of year. But at dusk on the evening of my reading, we went out onto the seawalk across from the library, and every few seconds a tiny fish would leap out of the water of the harbor, snatch a bug in mid-air, and plink back under the surface. We also visited the Alaska Raptor Center, where I met this very small owl and had a moment of spiritual communion with this other owl and realized that I, having also nursed a low-grade obsession with great blue herons for several years, have finally become a real, full-on Bird Person. I surrender.


In Sitka, everything seems to happen at or around the library. On our first night in town, Tiffany took me to a poetry reading there in celebration of National Poetry Month. The poets ranged in age from maybe 8 to maybe 75, and their work was so good. It’s been a long time since I read poetry regularly, or even felt connected to the idea of poetry, but the morning after the reading, I found myself thinking about three poems that I loved as a teenager. There’s something about poetry that reverberates differently from prose. Just thinking back to those poems, even remembering only a line or two, I felt for that instant like the exact same person I was when I first read them, twenty years ago, sitting on the floor of my bedroom in my parents’ house in Oklahoma. Surely somebody must be able to explain how poetry does that. Or maybe it’s better if no one can.



On our last afternoon, the sun came out - in Sitka, as in Seattle, when the sun comes out, everyone throws down everything and rushes outside - so before heading to the airport, we drove to the south parking area of Halibut Point State Park and walked down to the beach behind it. At low tide, the island there, called Magic Island by locals, is connected to the beach, and you can walk out onto it. If it’s clear enough, you might be able to see Mount Edgecumbe, a dormant volcano, in the distance. In any case, Magic Island lives up to its name.



I owe a great debt of thanks to everyone who made our visit possible: to the the half-dozen small businesses that generously donated our meals, to Kettleson Memorial Library and Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary, and to the families that loaned us their car, car seats, stroller, apartment, you name it. To Chris, Tiffany, and Shewa, who put it all together, and to Chris’s whip-smart fourth grade class: we’ll be back. x

P.S. If you find yourself in Sitka during the summer, keep an eye out for Chris and his Bunna Bike Coffee.

P.P.S. This cat’s out of the bag. YEEEEEOOOOWWW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

5.07.2015

May 7

One Tuesday evening in March, I went somewhat accidentally to the town of Edison, Washington, and bought a pack of graham crackers. Two weeks later, I drove back deliberately, 75 miles each way, just to buy more.


Thanks to Renee Bourgault and her wonderful Breadfarm, I got to tell the story, and share the recipe, on (the newly redesigned! fancy!) Saveur.com.

P.S. MAKE THOSE GRAHAM CRACKERS IMMEDIATELY.

5.03.2015

You win

When I moved to Seattle, I lived a gray shingled apartment building on Northeast 67th Street, a speedy bus ride to the UW, where I had just started school. My apartment had deep-pile carpet the color of weak tea and a floodlit view of a parking lot, but it was mine, mine mine mine mine mine mine mine. Even getting a utilities bill was exhilarating: it was in my name! I bought cheap produce at the stand a few blocks east, found a good Thai curry place a few blocks to the west, and got takeout from an Indian restaurant down the street. I started this blog in that apartment in 2004, and I lived there when I met Brandon in 2005. At some point around then, before he moved to Seattle in 2006 and we packed up my stuff and hauled it to the Ballard duplex we’d rented, somebody told me about a restaurant nearby called Eva. It was small, well-regarded, a polished neighborhood place with a menu closely tied to the seasons, the kind of menu that used kale before any of us knew the word, let alone dreamed of uniting it with the word chip. I was still a student, and most days, I couldn’t afford a restaurant like that. But somebody told me that Eva had a spectacular young pastry chef, a woman named Dana Cree, so I saved up, or maybe I waited until my mother came to town, and I went.


Dana was doing a series of throwback desserts, I think - if I’m getting this wrong, and I’m almost certainly getting it wrong, I hope she will tell me - and I seem to remember having a sexed-up homemade Ding Dong, and maybe a chocolate rice pudding with caramelized Rice Krispies on top, and a butterscotch pudding, dark and rightly salted. Dana’s food was playful and intelligent, irresistible, impeccable, each flavor and thing in its best possible form. We followed her to Poppy, where you can still, and should, get her Nutter-Butter Squares* (crispy! creamy! crackly!), and then she moved to Chicago, lucky Chicago, where she is now pastry chef at Blackbird. This year, for the second year in a row, she’s a nominee for Outstanding Pastry Chef in the James Beard Awards.

Also: she has a great rhubarb compote recipe.





Nine years ago, Dana had a blog**, and on that blog, she posted what she called Orange Rhubarb Compote, or what I call Dana’s Rhubarb Compote. It’s simple, and it’s perfect, and every spring, almost a decade later, it’s still the rhubarb recipe that I think of first.


I’ve already got plenty of rhubarb recipes, and you probably do, too. A lot of days, I think the best thing you can do with rhubarb is roast it, period. All the other days, though, I think of Dana’s rhubarb compote, cooked on the stovetop until it’s thick, spiked with orange liqueur and softened with butter. It comes together in twenty minutes and keeps for a week, easy. And though there’s booze in there, it’s not boozy; the orange liqueur is there to support the rhubarb flavor, to underline it, amplify it, join in the chorus. The butter, for its part, is also there to quietly support, smoothing the rough edges from the rhubarb and giving it a subtle, welcome roundness. Dana’s rhubarb compote might be my very favorite thing to stir into a morning bowl of plain yogurt, less sweet and softer than my second favorite, jam. You could also serve it with shortcakes and whipped cream, as a sauce for ice cream, spooned into pavlova, slathered on pancakes or waffles or French toast, or - my friend Matthew’s idea - on top of a toasted English muffin spread with mascarpone. In general, I like it icy cold from the fridge, though June prefers it warm from the saucepan. Any way, you win.

*Update: Tim at Lottie + Doof just changed the world by posting this recipe. HOT DAMN. Check it out.
**Another update: as a commenter pointed out, Dana still has a blog, a newer one. Thank you for catching that, Dave! Here it is.


Dana’s Rhubarb Compote
Adapted from Dana Cree

Over the years, I’ve tweaked this recipe slightly. Her version suggests halving the rhubarb stalks lengthwise before slicing, so you wind up with 1-cm cubes; I get lazy and just cut the stalks crosswise into chunks. The chunks are still small enough that some break down during cooking, while others just get soft and plump, making for a variation in texture that I like very much. As for sugar, Dana’s version uses ¾ cup sugar for 1 pound rhubarb, but I’ve come to prefer mine with slightly less, roughly a scant 2/3 cup. I know that ¾ cup, or even 2/3 cup, might sound like a lot, but the rhubarb can take it. You could use less, sure, but keep in mind that the sugar also helps thicken the rhubarb’s juices and give the compote its body, so if you cut back too much, the texture will be different. The most recent time I made it, I doubled the recipe and used 1 ¼ cups of sugar, just FYI.

1 pound (455 grams) rhubarb stalks, trimmed and sliced into ¾-inch chunks
½ to ¾ cup (100 to 150 grams) sugar
2 Tbsp. (28 grams) unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. orange liqueur, such as Cointreau, Grand Marnier, and the like

In a medium bowl, toss the rhubarb with the sugar. Set it aside while you melt the butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the rhubarb, the sugar, and the orange liqueur. Allow to cook, undisturbed, for about 2 minutes, until the rhubarb begins to release its juices. Then gently stir, and continue to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb is very juicy and those juices begin to thicken. The compote is ready when the rhubarb is tender and beginning to fall apart and the juices look thick, about 10 to 15 minutes. This is a cook-it-until-it-looks-right-to-you situation: trust your judgement.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and serve cold, cool, or warm.

Yield: maybe 1 pint? I always forget to measure.