Thursday, September 24, 2015

He's here!

I'm popping up to say hello, and as a mama of TWO!

Charles Gardner Hanger, our very own Charlie boy, was born one week late on September 4. He was 9 lbs, 21.5 inches, and is all kinds of awesome. Hazel - and her parents - are smitten.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The perfect good news dinner party dish

Let's backtrack. Again. (One day I'll write this blog in real time again, promise.)

In January we invited our dear friends over for dinner. They didn't know it, but it was a total setup. Not only were we planning to surprise them with the news that we were pregnant again, but we planned to really surprise them by asking if they'd be Hazel's godparents. Clearly, a damn good dinner was necessary.

Even though I've owned the Momofuku cookbook for years, I've always flipped right past David Chang's bo ssam recipe. This NYT Cooking piece, though, got my attention, which links back to this longer piece. A "recipe to win the dinner party sweepstakes?" Okay then!

The magic of this meal is that it's not at all difficult to put together. It's timely, yes - you'll need to plan in advance so the pork can sit overnight. But compared with lots of the "oh, this is simple!" recipes that I try to throw together when company is over, forgetting that I actually want to be able to converse with company instead of cook up until we're seated, this recipe is tailor-made for being able to enjoy your guests. And honestly? One of the best meals we've cooked all year.

We toasted Baby Dos. LG and B said yes to our big question. We all squealed and hugged and cried. And then we almost died at the deliciousness of the food. Make this dish for your next good news dinner, and then you'll have even more to toast.

Momofuku's Bo Ssam
Serves 6-8


1 whole bone-in pork butt or picnic ham (8 to 10 pounds)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon kosher salt
7 tablespoons brown sugar

2 ½ cups thinly sliced scallions, both green and white parts
½ cup peeled, minced fresh ginger
¼ cup neutral oil (like grapeseed)
1 ½ teaspoons light soy sauce
1 scant teaspoon sherry vinegar
½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

(DC peeps - you can find your ssamjang, kochujang and kimchi at the Korean stand inside Eastern Market! The owner makes it herself.)
2 tablespoons fermented bean-and-chili paste (ssamjang, available in many Asian markets, and online)
1 tablespoon chili paste (kochujang, available in many Asian markets, and online)
½ cup sherry vinegar
½ cup neutral oil (like grapeseed)

2 cups plain white rice, cooked
3 heads bibb lettuce, leaves separated, washed and dried
1 dozen or more fresh oysters(optional)
Kimchi (available in many Asian markets, and online)

Place the pork in a large, shallow bowl. Mix the white sugar and 1 cup of the salt together in another bowl, then rub the mixture all over the meat. Cover it with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, or overnight.

When you're ready to cook, heat oven to 300. Remove pork from refrigerator and discard any juices. Place the pork in a roasting pan and set in the oven and cook for approximately 6 hours, or until it collapses, yielding easily to the tines of a fork. (After the first hour, baste hourly with pan juices.) At this point, you may remove the meat from the oven and allow it to rest for up to an hour.
Meanwhile, make the ginger-scallion sauce. In a large bowl, combine the scallions with the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and taste, adding salt if needed.

Make the ssam sauce. In a medium bowl, combine the chili pastes with the vinegar and oil, and mix well.

Prepare rice, wash lettuce and, if using, shuck the oysters. Put kimchi and sauces into serving bowls.

When your accompaniments are prepared and you are ready to serve the food, turn oven to 500. In a small bowl, stir together the remaining tablespoon of salt with the brown sugar. Rub this mixture all over the cooked pork. Place in oven for approximately 10 to 15 minutes, or until a dark caramel crust has developed on the meat. Serve hot, with the accompaniments.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

This crazy beautiful thing that happened

Flashback: the week of Christmas, 2014. Work drama per usual, running around like mad, getting ready for work while mentally compiling the list of gifts to finish wrapping and the final things to do before driving to NC for the holiday. A pregnancy test, just taken, was tallying its result. Not that the chances were great it'd be positive - after three years and seemingly endless interventions to get pregnant with Hazel, this was the very first month we were officially trying to have #2. So there I was again, temping and charting, even though we both admitted to each other that the sound of my basal body thermometer's beeps in the morning gave us PTSD reactions. I figured I'd rather know the result alone in our house than during the rest of the week's craziness, when we'd be spending two days in NC followed by two days in CT. By the time I started showering I'd actually sort of forgotten about the test, my mind was so full of things to do that day. I reached for the body wash and happened to look over. My heart nearly leapt out of my chest. Was that...? Surely that isn't...? 

But it was. Holy crap, it was positive.

Talk about surreal. So much effort the first time that we didn't dare wait a second longer than necessary to try for #2, in case we were in for another three-year journey of outrageously costly medical hell. So no, we didn't dare wait... but that didn't mean we really had hope, either.

We told our families right away, later that week, toasting to our Christmas miracle. We were cautiously optimistic that everything would be okay at that first ultrasound. Having had sad news at a previous ultrasound, we steeled ourselves for the worst. We told ourselves that even if this pregnancy wasn't viable, at least we knew we could get pregnant on our own - that simple knowledge felt absolutely revolutionary to us, after all we'd been through. Everything looked great, though. A tiny little bean with a great heartbeat. Each time we checked in, that bean grew bigger and was doing more tricks. Sucking a thumb, spinning around, kicking. A happy camper with a due date of August 28.

We knew from the start that we'd find out the sex. I'm too much of a planner to wait to know - I need the information yesterday. I didn't have an instinct one way or another this time, but found myself thinking more about a boy than a girl as time went on. At the end of February those boy thoughts panned out - our bean (whom we'd taken to calling "Dos") was a he! A little brother for Hazel - too, too good.

Two kids has been our number for a long time, and knowing that #2 is a boy helps cement that thought for us. We'll be a family of four, with a boy and a girl 21.5 months apart. Life is going to be crazy and wonderful and beautiful, and when I stop to catch my breath and consider that, I can't stop smiling.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

This year.

I've been trying to write this post for a month. It's hard to find much time lately. But on the plus side, here I am, actually writing it, not letting it fall to the wayside like so many fun recipes, posts about life events, posts about silly things, posts like Hazel's birth story. (For the record, she is 14 months old now... oops.)

This is a resolution post. See, I have lots of goals for this year, lots of little things and lots of "that would be nice" things and some other biggies, too. But as 2014 turned to 2015, the one that stuck in my head the most was that this year more than anything, I need to recapture my creativity. I am lucky beyond belief to be a mom to little H, to be married to someone who still floors me and delights me more than I can possibly express, and to be a successful professional who, although more harried than not these days, is able to find some personal value in her career. I'm so lucky to have all of that and to be able to live comfortably. I know how many are struggling today to get by, which is to say, I don't want to sound like an entitled snob complaining without seeing her privilege. I am lucky and I know it.


I desperately miss my creative outlets. I miss writing. I miss making things for fun - rooms, parties, dinners, moments. Like every other mom on the planet, my time is squeezed more than ever, and for the best of reasons. Every day is a balancing act and every week is an absolute juggle. I've always been happy with that pace - I'm the first to squirm if there's not enough to do. But to do the important things well - to be a good mom and a good partner and a good colleague who manages not to cave into work stress but instead to navigate my team around it - I've dropped this world here, which has always been my special place, just for me. It was a survival decision and it was the right one, given those other biggies being juggled, but that doesn't mean it isn't difficult.

Tonight I was (virtually) home alone - Hazel asleep early with a cold, T at a coffee shop studying for a certification exam, and I cooked, just for me. I made a simple soup - nothing to write home about, although isn't a fresh, simple soup one of the most underrated meals there is? - and the experience was glorious. Cooking slowly, just for me. No timetable, no hungry companions, no recipe. That's the same me who misses this space.

I feel like I'm arriving at a crossroads and an inherent conflict that may well come to pass this year. I carry a level of stress with my day job that is not sustainable for the long haul. There is an end in sight, thankfully, although things will get worse before they get better. But then what? Is that the moment I've been waiting for, when I can recalibrate and bring back some of my interior world? Or will that moment instead be a real break, when I know I've crossed the (long, long, long-awaited) finish line, and I decide to do something entirely different with my life, something that will always give me the ability to maintain a little more interior space?

I don't know. And I'm not there yet, so I don't need to know. But this is coming for me, for 2015. It will either be a turning point or a new agreement with myself. But somehow, some way, I need more words, more air, more light, more spark.

To be continued...

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