February 2009: Around the House

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February 2009: Around the House

Worthy of your best clock

We love this old mantelpiece we spotted at Partridge & Grace—it’s got a massive feel that would bring gravitas to any room. Display only your most flattering family photos on this baby.

Not your mother’s how-to

Are you “sophisticated froufrou”? “Rustic zen”? Whatever, baby, come on in. Open up Domino: The Book of Decorating and you’ll find yourself wandering through a mansion of fresh, gorgeous interior design, full of tips for the taking. Written by the editors of Domino magazine, this tome takes decorating of all persuasions and breaks it down to the basics with class and loads of panache.—Lucy Zhou

Best seats in the house

Michaux Hood, a partner in Charmed Designworks, went on a hunt for the best locally available dining chairs. Though she mourned the loss of Ethan Allen, Under the Roof and La Différence from local storefronts, she nonetheless managed to find three great choices that’ll bring something special to your table.

 

 

Chair with fiber-rush seat from E.A. Clore, Inc. in Madison
“I have a set of Clore chairs that came from my grandparent’s home,” explains Michaux. “These chairs have been in constant use for family dinners and gatherings for half a century and are going strong. From a design perspective, you can’t beat simple, comfortable, and still functionally stylish after 50 years.” She also gives this chair green points because the seats can be replaced and are made from a renewable resource.

Arts & Crafts-style chair from Bassett
Jarrod Hood, Michaux’s husband, helped her choose this one, pointing out that “there is a reason that Arts & Crafts style has maintained its vitality in building and furniture design.” Michaux concurs: “The slim rails are elegant yet supportive, and the simple curve of the top contrasts pleasingly. Overall it’s a functional piece, doing its job without whining for extra attention. Good job, chair.”


Wooden and leather barstool from World Market

Michaux says she loves barstools added to less formal dining spaces because they mix up seating options and make conversation livelier. “I’m a fool for leather’s durability and comfort, a great choice for a high-use breakfast bar,” she says, adding “Yes, I know it’s hard to clean, but I’m O.K. with slightly stained leather. In a kitchen area I can see the leather blending nicely with stone or concrete countertops.”

Preferred stock

VEGETABLE SOUP

5 lbs. red potatoes, chopped
6-7 large carrots, chopped
6-7 large onions, chopped
2 bunches celery, chopped
1/2 lb. button mushrooms
1/2 lb. butter
7 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups soy sauce
2 large cans (6 lbs., 6 oz. ea.) crushed tomatoes, not drained
3 Tbs. tomato paste
3 gallons vegetable stock, water, or chicken stock (if you’re not making it vegetarian)
5 Tbs. fresh chopped tarragon
4 Tbs. fresh chopped thyme
3 Tbs. fresh chopped basil
2 Tbs. fresh chopped oregano

Melt butter in large soup pot and add garlic and onions. Sauté until onions start to soften, then add potatoes. Sauté a couple of minutes, then throw in carrots and celery. Sauté another couple of minutes, then add mushrooms. Sauté until all the vegetables start to soften up, then add soy sauce, tomatoes, tomato paste, and stock or water. Simmer until everything is tender. Just before serving, stir in fresh herbs.

Nothing cheers the soul like soup. And nothing cheers the thrifty soul like a pot of soup that cleans out the vegetable odds and ends, and wrings nutrition from last night’s baked chicken bones while providing a week’s worth of hot, healthy lunches. 

Making your own stock isn’t hard. During the warmer months, store vegetable trimmings in the freezer as they accrue throughout the year; leek ends, fennel fronds, corn cobs, mushroom stems, apple cores, celery leaves. In a separate pile, stash beef, pork, chicken and lamb bones—you can even save hard cheese rinds (like Parmigiano). When cold weather comes, pull from your frozen arsenal and fill a large, stainless steel stockpot with cold water, some bay leaves, peppercorns, garlic cloves, and quartered onion.

If your bones still have meat on ’em, consider roasting the bones to add flavor and to draw out the collagen and gelatin that make broth so nutritious and fortifying. Simmer this broth for as long as you can, just below a boil, and then line a colander with cheesecloth to strain the broth into a container. The broth can then be frozen, refrigerated for up to three days, or used immediately for your choice of soup.
 
Over time, you will develop the ability to think in terms of “themes” for your soup; a cheese-scented veggie broth would be ideal for potato and cheddar soup, or a rustic Minestrone garnished with Parmigiano. Beef broth is the traditional base for French onion soup, or a hearty white bean and kale stew. One universal rule of soupmaking: Soup always gets better with age, so go ahead and get it on the stove.—Lisa Reeder

Stovetop vessel

Just as a watched pot will not boil, so too a small pot will not yield soup for a week. If you don’t have a large, stainless steel stockpot, consider investing in one instead of buying pricey premade broths. To determine your ideal size, measure the diameter of the largest burner on your stove and look for something just slightly larger than that; the pot height depends upon your height, because you’ll want to be able to keep an eye on the simmering liquid without pulling out the step stool.

A big stockpot, like this one from The Happy Cook, will serve you well at soup time and other times.

A stockpot is also useful for boiling pasta water in quantity, washing vegetables, and cooking lobsters—and if you’re into canning, find a pot that will fit the necessary apparatus down inside and double your capacity! For soup and stock production, you will also want a lid that fits the pot, a sturdy long-handled spoon, and several freezer-safe, lidded storage containers.—L.R.
 

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