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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Day Three of Three

I spent much of Saturday, Sunday, and Monday making mole. I'd never even attempted it before, but I've been craving the cheap, good Mexican food I used to get in Hell's Kitchen (at La Paloma, a little burrito shop at Ninth Avenue and 45th Street, and at two taquerias over on Tenth Avenue in the 40s, if anyone's keeping track), much of which featured surprisingly decent mole rojo, so I thought I'd give it a shot. I picked a recipe from Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen, guajalote en mole teloloapense, braised turkey in Teloloapan red mole (use Amazon's search feature to find the recipe if you too would like to wear out your blender and sieve and permanently stain a few utensils bright orange).

I love making Mexican food like this because there are so many weird cooking techniques I'm not used to. For example, most of the ingredients for the mole were fried in a half inch of lard before being ground up and strained: you fry the dried chiles (after first taking out and saving the seeds to grind with the other spices), nuts, pepitas, garlic, onion, tomatoes, tomatillos, bread, corn tortillas, even the raisins were fried (the raisins puffed up and turned golden brown as they cooked, then reverted to normal raisin shape and color as they cooled). The spice mixture I started out with (Saturday) smelled like nothing I'd ever smelled before: sesame seeds, avocado leaf, bay leaves, cinnamon, black pepper, thyme, oregano, cloves, and grated avocado pit, which indeed turned bright fluorescent orange when it oxidized.

Sunday: Here are all the fried nuts, seeds, bread, and spices before they were pulverized in a blender.

Monday: I made classic white rice from the Bayless book, which was great too: you sauté the rice in oil with onion, then add salt and water, bring to a boil, cover and bake until it's done, then fluff it up and fold in cilantro.

The recipe specifies anchos and guajillos, but I just used all the chiles I had (a few chiles de arbol for heat, a bag of pasilla, and a bag of New Mexico chiles—if I'm remembering correctly), plus another half-pound of unidentified ones from Kroger (I think they were anchos and guajillos, actually). Monday morning the sauce was seeming a little bitter, but it had mellowed and become more subtle by suppertime. Before I stuck the turkey in the sauce in a large Dutch oven, I scooped out about six cups of mole and put it in containers to freeze; it'll be nice to have it on hand to braise chicken or whatever, or make enchiladas. So all the work—I mean, play—yielded a nice huge Monday-night supper, plus the main part of a few more meals. Not so bad.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Invisible Zipper

The elder Chalmerses are going out tomorrow night; that is, we'll be out in public after dark. I kind of want to wear something nice, so this morning I started making a skirt. I'd finished it—hand-sewn hem and all—by the time the bug woke up from her morning nap at 10:30. (I'll probably redo the hem so it isn't so obvious, and maybe shorten it an inch or so, but for now it's basically done.) I used McCall's 3341, a very simple A-line pattern I'd used many times before—it's easy to change the shape of the bottom, add flounces or ruffles, make it longer or shorter, add a waistband, add vent(s), whatever. This one is in a charcoal two-way knit; it fits snugly at the top and kind of swings at the bottom.

One time I went to buy a zipper in the Garment District in New York and could only find invisible ones, not the regular ones. I asked the old Russian guy if he had any regular ones, and he said nobody uses them anymore and told me I should ask the girls in my sewing circle to show me how to insert an invisible zipper. I said I wasn't in a sewing circle and I didn't have an invisible-zipper presser foot anyway. He sighed loudly, then proceeded to teach me how to do it with a regular presser foot. I've now done this a dozen times or so, and though I don't claim to be an expert zipper installer I thought I'd give a little tutorial here, because nine times out of ten the zipper comes out looking great—that is, you can't see it. So here we go. (I hope you can make out what's going on in the pictures. I tried to get them as clear as possible, but it was difficult with black on charcoal, and the moiré effect I kept getting with the wrong side of the knit material.)

Do not sew the garment opening closed as you would when inserting a regular zipper; leave it open. Open the zipper, lay it out face down, and press the teeth flat (toward the center) with a warm iron. You should be able to see two rows of stitching right next to the edge of the teeth.

Pin the right side of the zipper to the right side of the garment opening, with the top of the tape at the top of the opening and the teeth at the 5/8-inch seam line.

Using a regular presser foot, sew the zipper to the garment, stitching as close to the teeth as you can without piercing them.

Stop when the foot rams into the slider. Backtack and cut the thread.

Pin the other side of the zipper to the other side of the garment opening, right sides together.

Sew it just like you sewed the first side (this time it'll be going under the presser foot backwards, but that's okay).

Stop when the foot hits the slider, backtack, cut thread.

Close the zipper. Pin the rest of the garment seam, right sides together, below the zipper, letting the bottoms of the zipper tape stick out the seam so they don't get caught.

Here's where it gets a little tricky. Place the presser foot as close as possible to the backtacking at the end of where you sewed the zipper onto the lefthand (when it's inside out) garment piece. Set the needle to the farthest position to the right. Sew the seam.

Press the seam open and the zipper flat. I didn't have to do it this time, but you may have to take a few stitches by hand to close up the space between where you sewed the zipper on and where you started the rest of the seam.

Turn the garment right side out and press. Invisible zipper installed.