For here there be SPOILERS!
As Andrew asks: if this has been going on, with (up until today) no consequences to its perpetrator, what else don't we know about?
Urban light rail -- and a construction site that's been allowed to eliminate a whole block's sidewalk, not even building a protected detour for pedestrians.
Today I was interviewed by Lev Grossman (author of The Magicians) for Time Magazine about Ocean at the End of the Lane. Lev and I have been having a conversation about fantasy since he interviewed me about Stardust in 1998. (Although one time the conversation was a threesome with Joss Whedon.) Lev does not appear to have perceptibly aged in 15 years. I find this suspicious. Also, we were wearing the same boots.
So, let's see.
This comes out tomorrow, designed and made beautiful by Chip Kidd:
Make Good Art (Amazon link. Indiebound link.) It's the anniversary of the original speech:
Neil Gaiman Addresses the University of the Arts Class of 2012 from The University of the Arts (Phl) on Vimeo.I finished signing about 9000 sheets of paper, which will be sent to the printers and bound into 9000 copies of THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE. They look like this. (When I got bored I drew ghosts.)
If you are in the US you can pre-order them from PORTER SQUARE BOOKS: http://www.portersquarebooks.com/pre-or
When I was in Austin in March I recorded the Audiobook of The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It's just been reviewed at Audiophile magazine: http://www.audiofilemagazine.com/dbsearc
"How long have you been 11 for?" That's just one of the mysteries in THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE, where otherworldly things might be strange but aren't in the least impossible. As the 7-year-old protagonist, Neil Gaiman projects all the wonders and terrors of childhood, both ordinary and extraordinary. His neighbors, 11-year-old Lettie, Mrs. Hempstock, and Old Mrs. Hempstock, have rural Sussex accents that get stronger when the things that they love and protect are threatened. Gaiman evokes the comforts of their farm lovingly--good food, a full moon that always shines on the back of the house just so--and they contrast with the coldly emotionless voice of the story's villain. Spooky, beautiful, and magical, OCEAN will stay with listeners for a long time. J.M.D. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award
...which makes me very happy indeed. I'm more nervous about the audiobooks than I am about anything else.
Right. We have a lot of sold-out tour dates. We have some that aren't yet sold out, and if you want to come and hear me talk and ask questions and get a book signed you might want to get your tickets very soon.
NOT SOLD OUT YET: The Publication Day event is June 18th. It's in Brooklyn, at the Howard Gilman Music Hall. This should be really fun and special. Surprise guests, publication day madness, and the special jet lag of an author who did his last event the night before in the UK and got off the plane earlier that afternoon.
Wednesday June 19th NYC - SOLD OUT. I THINK.
Thursday June 20th - Saratoga Springs: NOT SOLD OUT YET (it's a big venue). The pre-signing interview will also be broadcast on NPR. http://www.northshire.com/event/shelf-au
Friday June 21st, Washington DC. ALMOST SOLD OUT - a hundred or so seats left. http://www.politics-prose.com/event/book/n
Saturday June 22nd Decatur GA. SOLD OUT.
Sunday June 23rd Coral Gables (near Miami). It's an afternoon signing - starts at 2 pm. I think it may be my first ever signing in a shul. NOT SOLD OUT YET. http://www.booksandbooks.com/event/neil-g
Monday June 24th Dallas TX. ONLY BALCONY SEATS LEFT. It's at the Dallas Museum of Art. I like the idea of bringing OCEAN home: I finished it and typed the first draft in a Dallas coffee shop. http://dallasmuseumofart.org/Events/Arts
Tuesday June 25th Denver, Tattered Cover. This is one of three stores whose tickets do not go onsale until publication day.
Wednesday June 26th Phoenix Az. ALMOST SOLD OUT. http://www.changinghands.com/neilgaiman
Thursday June 27th. LOS ANGELES. I'll be talking with EW's Geoff Boucher. NOT YET SOLD OUT but selling fast and you may want to get in there, http://livetalksla.org/blog/2013/04/02/j
FRIDAY JUNE 28th SAN FRANCISCO is SOLD OUT
SAT JUNE 29 PORTLAND is SOLD OUT
(Then I teach Clarion West for a week in Seattle, interrupted only by...)
TUESDAY JULY 2 SEATTLE which is SOLD OUT
SATURDAY JULY 6 SANTA ROSA isn't yet sold out. If you're in the Bay Area and you are not happy about how fast San Francisco sold out, you should come to Santa Rosa. http://www.copperfieldsbooks.com/event/n
Also at my request, the event start time has moved earlier in the evening, to 6:30pm as I was worried about how late it would go if it started at 8. (Sorry.)
and then I fly across the country like a speeding teatray and the next time I touch solid ground it's
Sunday July 7th and I'm in Ann Arbor, Mi. It starts at 6pm. it is NOT SOLD OUT -- info at http://www.nicolasbooks.com/event/one-ti
Monday, July 8th, Edina MN. This is the Twin Cities stop, and I am hoping to see lots of the home crowd. Tickets/wristbands etc do not go on sale until publication date, June 18th. http://store-locator.barnesandnoble.com/e
Tuesday July 9th Chicago - this is SOLD OUT I'm afraid.
Wednesday July 10th Nashville TN -- this one is selling well, but it isn't sold out yet. http://www.wmarocks.com/events/detail/ne
Thursday July 11th Lexington KY -- It's at Joseph Beth (a wonderful bookshop). Not sure how close to sold out they are -- Tickets are "Purchase at Joseph-Beth Lexington or via 859-273-2911"
And then I get my first day off! I fly back to Cambridge, I sleep in my own bed for the first time in over a month, and then...
Saturday 13th July I do the last signing of the tour. It's sponsored by Porter Square Books (who are selling the pre-signed books as well) and tickets are going on sale on publication day, June 18th, and can only be picked up locally. Information at http://www.neilgaiman.com/where/details.p
Then there will be three Canadian signings, which have not yet been announced.
And of the UK events coming up in August, the only one that's been announced is:
Tuesday 20th of August, when I'll be in Ely Cathedral. And I think that one is going to be fun.... http://www.toppingbooks.co.uk/events/ely/n
I like puff pastry crusts for meat pies--I like a high crust-to-meat ratio--so I buy it ready-made; making puff pastry is so time-consuming (all that buttering and folding and rolling and resting in the fridge and buttering and folding and rolling and resting in the fridge), and I've actually never gotten great results. Pepperidge Farm makes a really nice ready-made puff pastry; you can find it in the fridge or freezer section in any grocery store (I also did smaller pies using their little round hors'd'ouvres pastry crusts: one with ground beef and one with shredded chicken, which are much quicker than the steak pie). (Here in the UK I use Jus-Rol, but Pepperidge Farm is the way to go in the US.)
I have made a nice hot-water pastry for meat pies, too, but I like puff. All those flaky layers.
So, here's what I do, for a regular 9-inch pie. You'll want to do this either quite early in the day, or the day before, because ideally the filling will be cool when it goes into the crust:
3 lbs stewing beef (if you want, you can buy a chuck roast and cut it into chunks)
1 16-oz can/bottle dark (stout) beer; I prefer Murphy's Irish Stout to Guinness (really, I've used both and for me there's no comparison)
1 onion, chopped fine (if you want; I use onion powder, usually)
In a large frying pan/saucepan/braiser with a good lid, brown the beef in a Tbsp or so of butter, with a tsp of olive or vegetable oil to keep it from scorching. Brown it in batches (I put the browned meat in the upturned lid to save washing dishes).
If you're using chopped onion (I've minced a shallot in there, too, on occasion), add it after the meat is browned and stir it until it's soft. Then add the beef back in, and add a handful or two of
Stir well to make a sort-of roux; this will help thicken the filling later.
Once the flour is cooked (just a minute or two), add salt and pepper; not too much at first, maybe a tsp of salt and half a tsp of pepper?
Then add your herbs etc. I usually use (all of these are dried, as this is a long-simmered dish):
½ tsp or so of:
¼ tsp or so of:
a dash of nutmeg/rub the nutmeg over the microplane grater once or twice
Now add at least a tsp or two of Worcestershire (VERY important!). Sometimes I add a splash of soy, too. If you have some Kitchen Bouquet that's great to add. I also often add a bit of beef stock concentrate, just as a flavor boost.
This next bit depends on how hot your burners run. Mine run very hot--it's hard to get a good low simmer--so I add the entire can of beer (slowly so it doesn't foam over). When I had a burner that ran lower I'd add about ⅔ of it and wait to see if it needed more. So that would be my recommendation unless you have a hard time simmering something low.
Scrape up all the fond (most of it probably came up already with the flour/Worcestershire, and especially if you used diced onion).
Add two or three bay leaves (I use three).
Cover and let simmer 2½ - 3 hours. I like the meat VERY tender; you may want to stop simmering sooner, but as with any stew beef recipe you'll want to give it at least a couple of hours. Check it every once in a while to see how the liquid level is doing. When it's done, taste it and adjust the seasonings. Remember that the pastry crust is rather bland, so it's okay for the meat to be a little more highly flavored.
At some point during the cooking, preheat your oven to 400° F and thaw one of the pastry sheets. You want it to still be cold, but not frozen hard. Personally, I just sort of push and manipulate it with my hands to fit it into the pie dish; you may want to roll it out, but I've made this at least a hundred times over the years so no longer bother with all of that. I just plop it into the dish, push it into the edges, and trim the excess (which I then squeeze into the parts where it isn't covering the rim of the dish). A good way to keep it from shrinking too much is to fold the tiniest bit over the rim of the pie dish. It will still shrink some but that won't matter too much.
Some people only use a top crust. IMO that's not a pie, that's beef stew with a pastry lid. (Like I said, I am a pastry girl and like a high crust-meat ratio.)
Anyway. Shove that bottom crust into the oven and bake it about fifteen minutes (or according to package directions, but don't give it the full time, just most of it). This will help keep the bottom crust from getting too soggy. Again, you'll want to do this fairly early on, because ideally this bottom crust will be cool when you add the filling. (I have often added hot filling to hot crust, and it's fine if you just don't have time to let it all cool etc.--it won't ruin the pie or anything--but it really is nicer if you can let it all cool, both for a less-soggy crust and a thicker filling.)
Once the meat is done, let it sit uncovered for a while, stirring occasionally. It will thicken as it stands. It'll still be a bit liquidy, FYI, but it won't be AS liquidy. Take out the top crust when the package tells you to, in terms of how far in advance.
I have a little Le Creuset pie bird. They're very inexpensive, and good/kind of fun to have, but they're not necessary. If you have one, plunk it into the center of the bottom crust and add the filling around it. If not, just add the filling. I recommend spooning the filling into the crust, because you can control the liquid level better. Honestly, you probably only want like ¼ cup of the liquid in there.
The top crust is easier than the bottom crust, and again, I just trim the ends off and plunk it on there. Also again, make sure it's still quite cold! Otherwise it won't rise and flake as nicely. If you have a pie bird, fit the center around the bird's beak and cut a few more vent slices in the top crust. If you don't, make an X in the very center and reflect back the points so you have a little hole, and cut some vents--I usually do four vents, which makes it look pretty. The vents also really help the top crust puff and flake up.
Pop the pie into a 400° F oven. Set your timer for ten minutes. Take a look at the ten minute mark; is it browning? It's not uncommon for the edges to puff and brown before the center (which will look sunken and bumpy as it "melts" over the meat before puffing up), so there's nothing wrong if it's doing that but at some point you may want to cover the edges with foil to keep them from burning. Also at that ten-minute point, give it a turn to help even cooking.
Check it again at twenty minutes. If the top crust isn't fully puffed and golden, give it another turn and another five-ten minutes. This really depends on your oven and even stuff like humidity etc. Usually my pies take about twenty-five - thirty minutes for the top crust to be all nice and flaky/puffy.
Let the pie sit five minutes or so before cutting (longer if you can, up to about fifteen).
You can use the leftover cooking liquid to make gravy, but keep in mind how highly flavored that liquid probably is; you'll want to add water and simmer it down. Sometimes I use gravy mix and add a few Tbsp of that liquid to that, because I'm lazy and because at that point I've got my big burner going with potatoes to mash and at least one smaller burner with vegetables, and there's not room for the big braiser I did the meat in, too. But that's up to you.
This is just as good as leftovers, and really, you can easily make the meat the day before and just assemble the pie as usual. I've actually put the filled bottom crust into the fridge before when dinner plans suddenly changed, and just popped the top crust on and cooked it the next day, and that worked great, too.
You can add whatever seasonings you want, of course. Sometimes I add a bit of mustard powder. Whatever you like. I stick to the savory herbs, because that's what I like. And I really don't recommend garlic in this; I'm not sure why but it just always tastes weird to me to have garlic in here. But hey, give it a try if you like.
Sorry if these are a tad disjointed; again, I've made this so many times I don't really even have to think anymore about what I'm doing. But that's the basic recipe/method, and again, one of my absolute favorite dinners and something we all like and have a lot. So I'd love to hear what you think!
Stacia's latest book is Chasing Magic. Buy one. Better still, buy a dozen. They make excellent gifts.
Cooking With Light (Recipe Index)