This is one of few posts which will feature recipes that are not my own.  Recipe sources will be given in context below.

Autumn won’t officially arrive until the 22nd, but as I’ve always had a bit of a rebellious streak in me, and since my mind is already turning to Autumnal things in early September, and since I and my daughter both have the day off (and my wife being a stay at home mom), today seemed a good day to say farewell to summer and welcome the fall season.  As usual, the weather is stubbornly refusing to participate in our festival – the heat index today is forecast to be 102 – and it will continue to do so until sometime in October, when things will begin to cool off in earnest.  We certainly do not have fall color around here, and so in our house, the onset of Autumn is marked by the arrival of seasonal decorations, music, scents, and foods.

Breakfast

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We started the day off with the best cinnamon rolls that have ever been made in this house, a recipe that we discovered last week on Cook’s Country TV.  From start to finish, these rolls will require 4 hours of your time, but they are well worth every minute.  The dough is soft and melting, the cinnamon filling cooking to a slightly chewy crispiness on the bottom, all accented by the slight tang of cream cheese frosting.

The recipe gives instructions for making the rolls ahead of time, and they will be better if they spend a night in the fridge before you bake them, giving the yeast more time to flavor the dough.  I did, however, find that one hour, the time suggested in the recipe, wasn’t nearly enough time for them to rise sufficiently after taking them out of the fridge.  They had barely come to room temperature after one hour and were only showing the first signs of rising.  I put them in the oven on its proofing setting, and that sped things up considerably.

Lunch:  Goodbye Summer

DSC_0026Absolutely the only thing I like about summer in Houston, with the exception of the 4th of July, is the food, and if there’s a cooking method that belongs to summer, it’s grilling.  Today’s lunch was to be the last truly summery meal of the year, and few things say “summer” more than the mahogany, smoky, toffee exterior of barbecued chicken.

DSC_0016This was yet another recipe from Cook’s Country, one which we watched them prepare last Saturday on PBS, and it’s more a technique than a recipe.  Bullseye original is the recommended sauce for this preparation, and while the recipe gives instructions for doctoring it up to give it more of a homemade flair, being short on time and molasses, I opted to use it as is.  The results were great, and I found myself thinking that perhaps we could make this a couple more times this year.  Today we had it with baked beans, but a tangy, cold, crunchy cole slaw would have accompanied it better.

Appetizers

DSC_0030To tide us over between lunch and dinner, I broke out some olives, a loaf of bread, a bourguignon cheese, some green peppercorns, and some walnuts.  With it, we had a Torrontes Riserva from Finca El Origen.

Dinner: Hello Autumn

DSC_0052Autumn is a time to slow down and take your time, to relax and rest, and many of the foods we begin to eat now and through the winter reflect this.  Tonight we had smothered pork chops, a recipe that has become an Autumn staple at our house.  This is a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, one in which thin pork chops spend the better part of an hour braising in a deep, rich, onion gravy, thickened and flavored by a dark, toasty roux, until they have gone fork tender.  After eating it, you want to do nothing more than relax on the couch with a glass of dry red wine, if not just go straight to bed.

DSC_0048To contrast the rich savory flavors of the chops with their gravy, we had Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Maple, another Cook’s Illustrated recipe.  We needed something to drink with this that would stand up to the dark flavors of long cooked, silky meat, and so we had Finca El Origen’s Malbec.  An inexpensive bottle of wine, but up to the task, if you’re not feeling too particular.

Dessert

By now, we didn’t have much room left, but since today is a day to feast and enjoy, and tomorrow will be back to the normal routine, why not also have dessert?  A rustic apple tart, from Nigel Slater’s Appetite, my favorite cookbook ever.  The point of this dessert isn’t to look pretty.  The point is warm, melting, sweet-tart apples, their sugars gone to a sticky caramel, and tender, buttery crust.

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I played George Winston’s Autumn as we ate, and soaked in the flavors and sounds that I haven’t experienced since last year.  We relaxed, we slowed down, and felt Autumn falling down around us.  Now I’m ready for bed.

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