Monday, January 23, 2012

Gourmet = Fun Winter Dining

That's it.  I reached the point of winter this weekend when going to the supermarket irritates me.  Cold weather people--basically anyone who reads this blog outside of California, and right now I'm jealous of my friends on the West Coast--you must know what I'm talking about.  The fruit choices have dwindled down to apples, bananas, and oranges.  I get some mangoes and berries thrown in for good measure here, but they're ridiculously expensive and sometimes don't even really taste like anything.  And know I just really love good root vegetables, but I'm pretty sick of looking at parsnips and beets.  After weeks of feeling uninspired in the kitchen, I think I finally broke through with some good recipes for the week.  Hint, I'll be using lots of cabbage and kale.

However, that isn't what I really wanted to talk about today.  What I really wanted to share was my amazing experience with Gourmet (not pronounced gor-may, no it's gur-met, as in, "I met up with some people last night and had a really good time with good food and conversation and cute kitties and smiling babies."  Like that.  That's how you pronounce it.)  Wikipedia's entry on it only gives me the activity, "gourmetten," so technically I guess we were gourmett-ing.  I think some people here also call it a raclette. Any way you slice it,  you enter into the fondue/Korean gogigui /Japanese teppanyaki territory.  You sit down at the table laden with raw ingredients and go to town cooking on the stone cook-top or in the little pans underneath.  This is the second time I've done it, and I just love it.  It is, to be honest, slightly more difficult with a squirming baby, but it's still manageable.
The ingredients don't have to be too terribly exciting, and let's be straight here, in January in the Netherlands there aren't too many exciting ingredients to find at your local supermarket.  But that is why Gourmet is so awesome.  It's the whole experience of cooking all your own little dishes while you sit around and talk that makes for such a nice evening.  My favorites to make were omelets and rösti in the pans.  Our host told us that his family always did this on New Year's Eve when he was growing up to fill up a lot of time for the long evening leading up to midnight.  Niek's family did this on Second Christmas Day with his grandparents.  If you want to try this, and I say do, I recommend the following:
1) Plan this with people you actually like talking to.  The food does take some time to cook, so there is a big chunk of time you have to fill with something other than eating.
2) Have a good ventilation system in your home.  While the meat and veggies on the cook-top smell amazing, they let off a lot of steam and grease. 
3) Following #2, don't wear anything that needs to be dry-cleaned.  No matter what, you will leave smelling a bit like the fryer at a fast food restaurant.  If you know this ahead of time and just embrace it, it becomes a non-issue.
Very confused kitty.  "What?  People come in mini-size?"  Note the diaper bag in the car seat to keep the cat from thinking it was a new bed for him.
Nothing like a nice evening of tabletop grilling to lift me out of my funk.  And the sun is shining today, and there are no gale force winds at the moment.  What nice ways to break up the winter blues.


  1. Raclette is a kind of cheese, used in fondue or baked like Brie. I don't have a name for that device or cooking on it!

    I'll never forget my (ex)-sister-in-law telling of growing up in England after WW II, eating only cabbage and turnips as fresh produce for years. "I will never eat either of them again!" she claimed.

    I have two persimmons ripening on my counter. One hachiya, one fuyu(?). Everything else is frozen.

    1. The Raclette thing...I had seen that it was a kind of cheese, but the Dutch also use it as a term for the cooktop thingy. Maybe because they melt cheese on it too? No idea.

      My grandpa was stationed in England during the war and apparently was served brussels sprouts for every meal. Once he returned home, he never at another one. I suppose I shouldn't gripe so much about my produce choices.

      Persimmons: I had a persimmon tree in my backyard in L.A. *sigh*