Last Wednesday, we went to the dentist. We thought that the getting there was the very exciting part, seeing as 6" of snow dropped on our driveway, that morning. Capped with a nice 1/2" ice crust. We were due at quarter-past nine. We straggled in at almost-ten. But as it turned out, the early a.m. snow-shoveling paled by comparison to this: the news that Someone has a loose tooth.
You have no idea.
Imagine: you're the third of three, a freshly-minted Six (!!), and halfway through Kindergarten. You've a brother who's lost every last tooth one should lose. Another brother who requires both hands to count goners. And a class full of friends who, for months, have been sporting gaps of all shapes and sizes: single-wide, double-wide, top, bottom, both.
And then, you.
You've been watching.
To no avail.
Maybe it was pure coincidence. Maybe, the power of suggestion. Maybe it was the mere act of turning six, which took place two days after said appointment. Maybe my cupcakes were tougher than I knew? Or maybe, more likely, it was sheer force of will, plus non-stop poking and probing and prodding. Anyway, we entered the dentist's office, all teeth firmly place, but by the week's end? We were well and deep into Loose Tooth Land.
Turns out it's a spacious place. We reside there, to this day.
She cautions against eating rice, or mashed potatoes, or cauliflower, or any other white thing, "in case it falls out right now." Apples are being cut into matchsticks, for strategic molar-delivery. Or, better, booted altogether, in favor of soft cossety sauce. We discuss the merits of soup vs. sausages, how hard to toast toast, how to navigate lettuce. Yogurt and grits are in high demand. Hard tack and whole pears, not so much.
We dream of losing a tooth at school, of scoring a much-coveted plastic tooth necklace. It is The Accessory, in Kindergarten. Sought by many, achieved by few.
Plans are being laid for After, for when the tiny white culprit finally surrenders. For straw-foods galore: milk! smoothies! water! And wending said straw through the new (not-yet) gap. For making the absolute most of the nothing. She already knows it's a transient glory.
Tooth pillows are being ceremoniously handed down, from older, wiser siblings with bigger, forever teeth. War stories are being traded around the table, of teeth left behind in bagels, apples, Montréal. We recall the fortnight Max lost three teeth like a tree loses leaves, come September, one-two-three! And we'd thought he was done. Imagine our surprise.
Anecdotes abound. Advice, also.
"When your tooth gets really, really loose," Henry suggests to his wide-eyed sister, "you should paint."
"Because when I lost my first tooth, I was painting." (Ummm...) "Just be sure to use red." (Cue wider eyes.)
It's specious, and sweet, and so very much the stuff of subsequent siblings. I love this about multiple littles mediums, the way they bestow life lessons, hard-earned wisdom. Harvest their long years and ample living to teach the up-and-comers the ins-and-outs of this life.
When I can't, one morning, hear Zoe in the car's far back, I unthinkingly reach for the radio dial. Mirth ensues (a.k.a. extreme eye rolling + MOM!). Followed by bad jokes about Bluetooth. About adjusting one's children via wi-fi. About spanking-new teeth including spanking-new software to enable remote-control kiddos. (Now there's a patent.)
Our car is too old to have Bluetooth, but that's entirely beside the point. Tooth talk's the point. It's everywhere.
As it should be.
Because, between the ongoing arctic chill—which last week involved army-crawling atop the snow a full hour, screaming at lung-top, "SAVE THE PRECIOUS ICE!!!!!!"; between the puppy party preparations—she would prefer the real licky deal, but settled for frosting in lieu of fur; between the Miss Maggie assembly—If you don't know Alicia's most excellent bunny, she's a ridiculous joy to make and to give—and delivery; there is this excellent daily drama. The hourly updates. The open-ended anticipation. The inalienable weirdness of a key piece of hardware, just, you know, falling away.
And a new and improved model, right on its heels. It's really something.
Which is how I've been feeling quite often, lately, about that smudge-colored pot, down there. It doesn't look like much, does it? (Cosmetics clearly aren't my strong-suit.)
But flavor is, and boy oh boy, does that little pot have flavor in spades. Flavor, of course, takes effort, and time, and endless chopping, and patient caramelizing, and sometimes pricey equipment, and possibly post-modernist technique. Or, browned butter plus pomegranate molasses. Yes. That might do it. For, like, ever.
PEOPLE: BROWNED BUTTER + POMEGRANATE MOLASSES!!!!!!!!!! I'm pretty sure there should be Public Service Announcement. Press releases. Powerpoint presentations. A pot on every stove, anyway. (Dear Herbert Hoover: WAY better than chicken.) Though chicken, too, would take kindly to its company. Indeed, almost anything would. It's like that. Pearls for any plate.
Last December, I came across this Sunset mention of Black Cod with Pomegranate Browned Butter. It was a glorious-sounding, restaurant-worthy dish, complete with red wine reductions and parsnip purée and mushrooms and herbs and wine pairings. My kitchen, my life, don't do these things. Certainly, not altogether.
But the notion of pomegranate's sweet-tart intensity caught up in browned butter's unabashed savor wouldn't let me alone. And the memory of this balsamic-browned butter's ease and excellence kept goading me on. So I tweaked and trimmed and drilled the idea down to slapdash, ten-minute, two-ingredient simple. Brown a good knob of butter until tawny and flecked with amber and intoxicating. Add half as much pomegranate molasses, treacled and sharp and grand straight off the spoon. Whisk with vigor, or better, blitz with a stick-blender, for a cheater's emulsion. Drizzle on anything and everything in sight, excepting the children. Or not.
Indeed, I first made a batch to accompany roasted carrots, which we blasted to soften for said loose tooth. Zoë, not normally a roasted carrot fan, took to dipping one after another (after another) into a small bowl of the stuff. "It's like caramel", she said. "For CARROTS!" Hear, hear. Caramel for carrots with an attitude, nutty, edgy, salty, sweet, gloriously tart, deviously rich. Very, very, very nice. Then, on a whim, I drizzled some over the slow-roasted salmon we were eating alongside. For the record?
Browned Butter + Pomegranate Molasses + Slow-Roasted Salmon = Where Have You Been All My Life?
(For you mathematical types.)
Since then, I've whizzed up several pots, drizzling it over whatever's on hand. Warm roasted beets? Oh, yes. Roasted cabbage? Not bad at all. Roasted parsnips? Fred and Ginger. A bit of braised beef? Oh, hel-lo. And also, and often, these sliced, roasted wedges of acorn squash, which are their own fun.
About these acorns: I typically bake my acorns whole or halved, content to scoop soft sweet flesh from the shell, end of story. But several months back, somewhere or other, I saw mention of eating acorns, skin and all.
Intrigued, and mostly disbelieving, but bolstered by my delicata forays, I grabbed a plump squash, halved it, seeded it, and sliced each half into 1" end parens. It was simpler than I expected, much, an acorn being fairly slight on substance (unlike some other *cough* butternut *cough* behemoths). Oiled and salted and roasted half an hour, it emerged from the oven a spectacle, caramelized ruffles of deep orange squash, intensely sweet, admirably intact. And that skin? A revelation. Not just edible, but an asset, a wink of toothsome against all that tender.
Pile the ruffles high, anoint them with tricked-up brown butter, and call it a day, and a fine one, at that. Or if you're like me, and you now keep a bowl of sesame'd hazelnuts on hand, always: fling away. This is totally unecessary, and complete lily-gilding, and entirely crunch-nutty wonderful. I won't tell. And please, oh please, although it's not pictured, don't forget the salmon? The combination of fall-apart fish aswim in caramelized-swaggery zing is really, really something.
Though the same could be said of pomegrante browned butter, dribbled over grilled eggplant and mint. Just a sneaking suspicion. I've not yet tried it. Or softly poached eggs. Or scallops! Or cod!! On second thought, just go forth and drizzle.
Pomegranate Browned Butter Drizzle
inspired by Sunset
Pomegranate molasses is available at most well-stocked supermarkets, and here.
Emulsion notes. Like most things oil and water (here: butter, molasses), a bit of noodging's needed to convince both parties to play, nicely. Whisking will get you a temporarily-together sauce, good for eating immediately. If you'd like a bit more plump and vigor, give it a whizz with a stick (or stand) blender. Established rules exist for proper emulsions in the canon of fancy French cookery (see: beurre blanc), and if you'd like to achieve true butter/vinegar détente, by all means, go old-school. After browning, chill your butter. Add it by tiny bits. Go slow. Whisk fast. Keep the butter cold, cold, cold. Fait attention! Me, I'm neither fancy nor French, but a hack. A hack armed with a stick-blender. As it does with lemon curd, lime curd, and cheater's hollandaise, the blender breaks down the butter pretty-well-mostly, and makes for a sauce that suits me just fine.
6 Tbs. salted butter
3-4 Tbs. pomegranate molasses
Brown the butter in a small, light-colored pan or skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally (stainless steel is fine; black non-stick, not so good). Browning butter will first melt, then foam and sizzle, then burble quietly, before the milk solids turn color. When the butter is amber and smells nutty and fantastic (about 5 minutes), it is done. Whisk in the pomegranate molasses, starting with the 3 Tablespoons, and cook over medium for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat. Test, and add more molasses, to taste. If not using immediately, or for a more homogenous sauce, blitz briefly with a stick blender, 30 seconds, to emulsify.
You'll need only half this amount for the squash, below. Pomegranate browned butter keeps beautifully, refrigerated, for 5-7 days. To use, reheat gently on the stove, just to melt, then whisk or blitz again, to emulsify.
Roasted Acorn Squash Slices
1 large acorn squash, organic if possible
3 Tbs. olive oil
1 tsp, rounded, kosher salt + more to taste
Preheat oven to 450°, and place a rack on the lowest level. Line a sheet pan with parchment. Wash the acorn squash well, then halve, and remove seeds and strings. Place squash cut-side down on a cutting board, and cut into 1" slices. Repeat with other half. Arrange slices in a single layer on sheet pan, then drizzle with oil and salt. Toss with fingers to coat squash with oil, then place on the low rack. Roast 15 minutes, or until bottoms are caramelizing in areas. Remove tray from oven, and using a metal spatula, flip slices, noodging edge slices toward the middle and middles slices toward the corners. Return tray to oven and roast another 10-15 minutes, or until squash is caramelized on both sides, tender, fragrant and candy-sweet.
Serve immediately, drizzled with pomegranate browned butter and/or hazelnut sesame smash and/or no utensils, save fingers.