Tuesday, August 28, 2007

nothing to do with food, a.k.a. Black Tuesday

today is the day i find out if i lose my job or get strung along for a few more precious weeks/months.

for those of you i work with, meet you later on this afternoon at Madison's for the obligatory drink or two.

what a way to end a nearly 8-year stint at this company!

Friday, August 24, 2007

On wakes and topless dancers

When my mom’s youngest sister passed away a few years ago, my parents hosted a wake at their house in San Francisco. My mom’s family is from the south of France, originally from northern Italy (and most of them now live in California), and they are an animated bunch who like large gatherings of people. Whether it’s a wedding, funeral, baptism, whatever, my mom’s family whoops it up and does it right. I think i assumed that all families were this way, because even in my dad’s family (Mississippi/Alabama/Georgia folks), their tradition of family gatherings, whatever the reason, are always relaxed and food-laden. Life revolves around food. I always assumed that everyone else’s families were the same way. I don’t know how they do things in the rest of the country, but the wakes i’ve been to in the American South are like big parties. There is always a lot of food, and at some point someone will break out the alcohol, and next thing you know (if you didn’t know any better) you’d think you were at a house party and not a wake at all.

So my aunt died, and it sucked. The word “suck” doesn’t nearly do justice to it, but there really is no other way to express how shitty that period of time was, how we all felt.

I flew out to San Francisco for a week to ensure that my mom didn’t lose her mind. It became clear, though, that the only way to get her mind off of the tragic loss of her younger sister was to keep her constantly occupied. So we planned the wake, planned the menu, shopped for it, started cooking days in advance, and enlisted help for it. All the women in the family pitched in. We made more food than i thought anyone would ever get through. A ham, several quiches, salads, casseroles, desserts (i made about 100 cream puffs and a couple of pies), crab cakes, etc (I made the crab cakes, Baltimore-style, because the boy had made them for my aunt at Christmas and she loved them). after the funeral, 100 people showed up to the house. My aunt was a popular, fun-loving woman and had many friends. But when her friends saw all that food, they were shocked. Some even expressed distaste. To them, the thought of eating was sacrilegious, especially at a time like this. But to us, we’ve never known otherwise, especially at a time like this. I mean, you gotta eat. It took some time for people to start wandering into the dining room, and they would do so in twos and threes, in hushed whispers, wondering if it would be okay to pick at a salad leaf or grab a quick cream puff. But suddenly, as if the skies parted, they descended. And within a short period of time, there was no food left. My mom, my sister and i stood around shocked. Where did it all go? Did we even get a bite?

The thing is, you gotta eat, whether or not you’re in a funk like at a wake and think you’re being rude by eating. The body needs it, but more importantly, so does the soul. Afterwards, after all the food was gone and people were still in the house, we all gathered in the family room and related stories. A woman stood up, an old friend no one had seen in 35 years, and related the story of how she got to know my family.

This woman, who i’ll call Sally only because i can’t remember her name to save my life, met my family when she worked for one of my aunts who ran the Frederick’s of Hollywood store located on Market Street in San Francisco back in the 1960s and early 70s. My mom and her two other sisters worked there as well, and my grandmother even helped out.

Now before you start getting all snickery and tee-heeing about this (and trust me i’m right there with you), back in the day Frederick’s of Hollywood had a lot of formal wear. It was kind of like a cheaper Victoria’s Secret. Over time, it’s gotten super cheesy and cheap and hell, and i even browsed the site when i was looking for cheap slutwear for my honeymoon. There are photos showing my mom and her sisters with big bouffant hair wearing extremely revealing floor-length gowns, totally glammed up. This was how they dressed for work. I absolutely love this.

Sally was young and got a job at F of H and it opened a whole new world of glamour for her. And their clientele was mostly made up of local dancers from the burlesque and topless places over on Broadway. Their main client, though, was Carol Doda.

Those of you who have never heard of Carol Doda, well, she’s the one who brought topless dancing to SF. She was (is) an icon. The club where she worked had a huge neon sign of her outside with blinking lights for nipples, and it was still up and blinky until quite recently. Having Carol Doda shop at your store and be on a first name basis with you was a Big Deal.

Anyway, this last part has nothing to do with food, but more to do with what topics are discussed at my family gatherings. Let’s just say that discussing Carol Doda at my aunt’s wake made everyone crack up uncontrollably, and it was exactly the medicine we needed. That and the food brought us together, it helped us heal, and it kept my mom from going nuts.

The two cases of Korbel we blew through didn’t hurt either.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

on egg salad

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Saturday morning, I was sitting at the dining room table doing stuff on the ‘puter (updating the ol’ resumé and sending it out, if you should know) and chatting via gmail with Caprice, when she announced that she’d just eaten some fried eggs.

And then i thought, Gee, i’ve got eggs. I should have eggs too.

I can tell you are sitting on the edge of your seat right about now. No, i didn’t start juggling eggs or anything fun like that. Instead, out of the blue, i decided to make egg salad. I can’t even remember the last time i’d eaten egg salad. It must have been sometime in 1995. Seriously. I had an old boyfriend who ate egg salad every single day. No lie! Except he called it “Shmegg Shmalad” and, of course, thought that this was a riot. I think his name for it is simultaneously a riot and gross. I can’t decide which way to go on that.

Since i can’t remember as far back as 1995 (too much wine and, uh, other things, will do that to you), i honestly don’t remember what i put in it. How do people make egg salad, anyway? In France, the closest we have is œufs mayonnaise, which is basically a hard-boiled egg cut in half and served with a dollop of mayo, usually homemade. I know, so very exciting. Caprice advised me to make it like a deviled egg (which i love and have been known to eat 5 or 6 in a row while lingering by the buffet table at a party). So in went mayo, mustard (i used both dijon and yellow), salt, pepper, celery seed. I omitted hot sauce, though. Mixed that with chopped up hard-boiled eggs, spread it all on some toast, and called it Lunch.

How does the rest of America make their egg salad, though? Do you put onions/celery/any other veg in it? i’m very curious about this. Because since Saturday i’ve had it twice more and i think i am on a roll here.

Also, how do you boil your eggs? My mom used to (and probably still does) plop eggs in boiling water and let it rip for ages. The eggs inevitably cracked open this way and sometimes leaked out into the water. The way i do it is how i saw Sara Moulton do it once on TV. Put eggs in cold water in a pot on the stove. Bring to just about boiling (you’ll see when it’s about to boil), clamp on a lid, remove from heat, let sit for 17 minutes exactly. After 17 minutes, tumble them into ice water and then start peeling. It makes perfect eggs every time, and they don’t have that weird green ring around the yolks that my mom’s have.

I wonder if that old boyfriend still eats egg salad every day? chances are, yes.

new paint

it never ceases to amaze me at what difference a coat of paint can do for a room. this was especially true of our townhouse in baltimore, where the previous owners had smoked in the house for 25 years. once i started painting the walls, i just couldn't get over the immediate transformation from tired and dull to vibrant and alive. even the fresh white paint that i used in the upstairs hallway made a world of difference.

when we embarked on house hunting in atlanta, we had a small list of criteria, items we were willing to budge on if the other criteria were met. on that list: a fenced yard, off-street parking (preferably a garage), fireplace, large kitchen with pantry. we lucked out when we found this house, because we didn't have to compromise on one single thing. the kitchen in our new home is about three times as large as the one in baltimore was, and has a closet pantry. this may not seem like a big deal to you, but to us it's fantastic. in maryland, our upstairs hallway linen closet doubled as the pantry, so there were many trips up and down the stairs when in the middle of cooking. completely not fun and not practical.

our new house came freshly painted, and even though we'll eventually paint it all to suit our needs, the house was in move-in condition. the kitchen has new white cabinets and large tiles on the floor. the walls are a pale butter yellow. but one wall in particular, the far wall, just screamed for some color. so on friday night, after having experienced an extremely disappointing week at work and needing some alone time, i ventured to Lowe's for some paint chips. the boy picked out the color that night when he got home from work (i made him pick the ones he liked in the nighttime light, and again the next morning), and then i painted the one wall. we haven't yet put back the framed pictures, or really decided if we want to change it up and put something else up or even a bookshelf. but for the time being, i can stand in my kitchen and really enjoy staring at our new blood red cranberry wall.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Late night eating

I haven’t seen 1 am in a really long time. Since i get up before the crack of dawn during the week (usually no later than 5:30 am), i am in bed ridiculously early. Hey, This Girl needs her beauty sleep. It’s hard work looking this good.

But while i sleep, the rest of the house is awake. And eating quite well, as i discovered from some pictures i found on the camera.

This steak came from our last Costco run, where we found a package of filets wrapped in bacon for not a whole lotta money. And they promptly went into our deep freeze in the garage, where we promptly forgot about them until a couple of days ago when i went rooting around in there for whole wheat flour. we have enough meat in there to feed ourselves for a month or so, if we eat meat with every meal. This will come in handy if, lets say, i happen to be sans employment sometime in the near future, as in late next week. (However, I will not dwell on what i cannot control).

This started off as a bacon-wrapped filet, but the boy told me that the bacon fell off, so he kept it to one side of the pan and let it render its baconey goodness while the steak cooked. After that, he threw the bacon away (i know! Blasphemy! But he said it was pale and limp and inedible), but at least the flavors were still in the pan. He was going to just plate the steak, grab a knife and fork and park his butt in front of a DVRed episode of Big Brother, but noticed an open bottle of Two Buck Chuck standing nearby... some of that promptly went into the pan, along with some balsamic vinegar. I’m not sure what else he put in there seasoning-wise, since i was happily envisioning sugarplums dancing in my head at that time.

speaking of sugarplums, i found some at the Super H last weekend. i thought those were a myth, just part of the story, ya know? so i bought some and boy, are they ever good. they're tiny fig-shaped things with really good flavor and not terribly sweet.

I have wistful memories of late night eating, from when i was a student and, prior to that, bartender/front-of-house manager/server for a couple of places in Florida. I watch episdoes of Daniel Boulud’s After Hours and totally wish i was there. of course, my late night eating was never comprised of a several-course gourmet meal. We usually just raided the fridge and threw together what we had, and it would be divine and satiating. Then i’d go to bed stuffed and have workmares all night. Speaking of workmares, one place where i worked had a beer-and-wing special on Wednesday nights (buy a pitcher of beer, get 10 wings free deal). For years, i had workmares that i’d be the only server in the restaurant, every table was full of angry patrons screaming for their wings, brandishing their empty pitchers of beer... i’d run into the kitchen only to see thousands of chicken wings everywhere, all over every flat surface, tumbling out of the fryer in a waterfall of wings, and no one to help expedite or run food. And i’d wake up in a cold sweat. Man, i hated those dreams, because i’d wake up and have to go into work, and would feel tired all shift because i worked in my sleep.

At any rate, i’m glad that the boy is eating well. since i don't see him a whole lot anymore, it's kind of hard to keep an eye on his diet.

above picture taken by the boy

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

On company-provided lunch

So today we have a “team-building” offsite. About 50 of us are going bowling with our VP.

Look, i don’t mind bowling, it can be a lot of fun especially if you’re in the right mood. But nobody is looking forward to this. All offsites i’ve been to have been kind of awkward (except for that one time when we went to Dave & Busters and I got high score at Galaga while Patty played DDR all afternoon). I will, however, put on a good face and try not to be all gauche and shit while i throw my bowling ball into the wrong lane (i’m not exactly gifted at bowling). We shall see if our VP loosens up a bit this afternoon. It should be interesting.

So anyway, we are having lunch provided for us. We had a choice of three:

1. Chili cheese dog, nachos with cheese, corn dog, funnel cake


2. Hamburger, hot dog, french fries or tater tots, cookie


3. Veggie burger, mixed veggies with dip, salad, fries or tater tots, cookie

all three of these options kind of scare me. I decided to play it as safely as i could and went with the vegetarian option (and i am no vegetarian), with tater tots. Because who doesn’t love the almighty tater tot? there’s a decent bar i used to go to way back in the day here in Atlanta called the Highlander, and they serve tater tots. You can’t really go wrong with them.

The chili cheese dog was calling my name, but Oh Man can you imagine the heartburn and subsequent trips to the bathroom? It would not be good. I’d rather do chili cheese dogs at home.

I wish they’d just ordered a bunch of pizzas and called it a day. Pizza is a pretty safe option.

I know i know, i’m grumbling.

And i guess it beats the alternative, which is to stay at work and keep working.

above image from stock.xchng

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Date Night, aka Some of the best food i’ve had out in a long, long time

I don’t normally write about restaurant food because we don’t go out a whole hell of a lot. I also don’t ever want to become one of those bloggers i hear about in NYC who traipse around places dropping their business cards with blog info on it and write up their reviews in a usually pretty nasty and insulting way (I do fall prey to insulting certain people at times, but i won’t apologize for it. yet. And i will absolutely not apologize about insulting Martha Stewart because I had the misfortune of meeting her).

So we don’t go out to eat a whole hell of a lot for three reasons. A) we’re not exactly rolling in dough; B) The boy keeps a different schedule that i do; And C) (and this is going to sound pompous as hell, and maybe it is, but it’s the truth), we generally have a very hard time being genuinely impressed with what’s around.

When we moved back to Atlanta, we lived in one of those high-priced edge-of-ghetto apartments that are all the rage downtown. There were some good restaurants down there, and some bad. Of course, what should happen the minute we move away to the ‘burbs but a whole new crop of good restaurants peek up like mushrooms all over the damn place overnight. We don’t get down to the city together as much anymore (although i’m here day in and day out), so, last Monday, we decided to do Date Night and totally planned on trying out Element, where Richard Blais has now ensconced himself. Turns out they’re closed on Mondays. So instead, we ventured not too far from the house and went to 5 Seasons in Alpharetta.

We’d been told about this place before, for months now. About how great it is, blah blah blah. And we never went. Why?

Because they don’t serve Miller Lite.

They brew their own beer there. and my boy, as wonderful and fantastic as he is, is a Miller Lite purist. It took some goading on Mr. B’s part to get the boy to actually come in there, and that coupled with an OpenTable certificate, away we went.

These pictures were all taken via cameraphone, so i apologize for the grainy blurriness. Grainy blurriness does have a certain charm in some contexts, but not so much with food.

We started off with a couple of small plates, some Japanese black pig ribs and i can’t for the life of me remember what it’s called. Berkshire is another name for the pig. The meat fell off the bones, it was so good. We also had lamb chops served with demi-glace. The lamb chops themselves were perfectly cooked and very delectable, and of course, if you plop a spoonful of demi on a plate it’s going to be that much better. If i had been at home i would have licked the plate clean, so i had an extremely difficult time containing myself. Actually, in retrospect, i’m surprised that i didnt. This has nothing to do with good manners, because i think once i hit a certain age, i grew a sense of je m’en foutisme. So who knows why i didnt just grab the plate and run amok with it.

The boy ordered the American kobe beef and i had duck both ways. I think i’ve had duck far too much this season. It can’t be any good for me. But OH I SHIT YOU NOT this was the best duck i’ve ever had in my entire life. And that’s saying something.

The boy, who doesn’t put up with shit and has no qualms about sending food back, had not one negative thing to say about the entire meal. It was just that damn good. So what did he drink instead of Miller Lite? He started with a Hefeweizen (with a trusty side of Seagrams VO) and once his entrée arrived, switched to the Espresso Black Hole Stout, which matched the beef perfectly. We finished with a couple of Irish coffees and some goat cheesecake and fried ice cream. Okay okay – you can’t go wrong with fried ice cream. Not ultra gourmet, but ultra satisfying. And i think i might try to attempt a goat cheesecake in wee small bites and make it savory, you know, with herbs and have that as an appetizer. I have to sit and think about that. Let it stew in the dark in the back of my brain.

I know why the boy took this picture, and it wasn’t for the glass of champagne. I’d told him i’d post it. and i’m going to tell you right now that i am not that well-endowed. I must have been slumped over.

Monday, August 13, 2007

best description i've ever read for "pork belly confit"

IM conversations with zack this morning.

zack (9:19:04 AM): i was just trying to msg someone to ask about his trip to vegas
zack (9:19:09 AM): and instead of vegas i typed 'bacon'
me (9:19:14 AM): HAHA
me (9:19:23 AM): "how was your trip to bacon?"
me (9:19:34 AM): bacon is the all encompassing Good Stuff
zack (9:19:40 AM): yep
me (9:19:43 AM): bacon ought to run for president
me (9:19:48 AM): bacon rules the world!

"Pork belly confit.
here it is, cut up. note the dijon mustard and the green stuff which transforms it into a healthy dish. after eating this, i promptly went into a fat coma for a day."

me: (9:42:23 AM): hah!
me: (9:42:28 AM): the wee bit o' parsley will do that
me: (9:48:24 AM): so
me: (9:48:28 AM): what does it taste like?
zack (9:48:51 AM): melty delicious fat
zack (9:48:56 AM): really the pieces that have some meat in them are better
zack (9:49:02 AM): and also christmas cookies
zack (9:49:10 AM): they taste like christmas cookies made out of pig fat
me (9:50:06 AM): if you dont mind, i shall have to cut n paste this conversation into my blog. cos describing confit as christmas cookies is just too perverse to keep to myself
zack (9:50:38 AM): you know there is the concept of 'drunkdialing?'
zack (9:50:43 AM): yesterday i was 'drunkfrying'

Saturday, August 11, 2007

braised short ribs

It is supposed to be over 100 F today outside here in Hotlanta, so I’ll be spending yet another day hiding in the air conditioning. I got up early and watered my very dry and thirsty garden. I’m not having much luck this year with the garden. The heat is one thing, but the chipmunks have run off with my mint plant, the little fuckers. In light of that, I don’t feel so badly when I get Mrs. P to go after them. Well, except for that time a couple of months ago when the boy let her out in the middle of the night and she killed an opossum. The boy said she shook it like a British nanny. Guess who had to go out at 3 am and pick up the dead thing with X’s in his eyes? Yours truly. Thank you.

So while I’m updating songs on my ipod on the boy’s computer (and removing the one Rush song and some that I have no idea how they got on there, like Limp Bizkit), I figured I ought to write about the time earlier in the week when it was just as hot outside yet we decided to put the oven on full blast and make good wintery comfort food. To be honest, it was well worth the extra heat in the house.

The short ribs recipe comes from a book we got from an aunt one Christmas. The thing about being married to a chef is that my relatives are always sending cooking-related stuff as gifts. Oh trust me, I’m not complaining; it can be pretty great, like the set of Le Creuset pots we got as a housewarming gift when we bought our house in Maryland. And sometimes people send odd cookbooks, plaques that have the word “France” or something dorky in French on them, or odd trinkets with Eiffel towers and whatnot. So we got this cookbook one year along with a CD of “swinging French jazz”, and we shelved it for a year or so. Then, one day the boy brought it into work as something to read when he had downtime and came across this short ribs recipe, which as it turns out is fucking phenomenal. Of course, I’m biased because I believe that anything that’s braised in an entire bottle of wine is a damn good thing, especially if you can dunk hunks of bread into the sauce and have your eyes roll back into your head because it’s so damn good.

We served this with Dauphinois potatoes, recipe which is loosely based on a couple of sources with some changes by the boy (Bourdain’s Les Halles cookbook and a French cookbook my mom gave me when I moved to Savannah, Les Recettes Faciles de Françoise Bernard.

Braised Short Ribs
From Swinging French Jazz Bistro – Favorite Parisian Bistro Recipes

2 tablsespoons vegetable oil
6 to 8 pounds thick and meaty short ribs (THE RECIPE’S WORDS – NOT MINE!)
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 onions, chopped
6 to 8 shallots, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
¼ cup flour
1 head garlic, halved crosswise
bouquet garni (parsley sprig, thyme sprig, bay leaf, peppercorns, cloves, tied up in cheesecloth)
1 bottle full bodied red wine
½ cup ruby port
4 cups veal stock or beef broth
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large, flameproof casserole or Dutch oven over medium high heat, heat the oil and brown the meat on all sides. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a plate and set aside.

In the same pan, sauté the carrots, celery, onions, and shallots for 5 to 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Stir in the tomato paste. Sprinkle with flour and cook 3 to 4 minutes longer, stirring to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the meat, garlic, bouquet garni, wine and port. Increase heat to high and cook to reduce the liquid by half. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Cover and bake in the preheated oven for 3 hours or until the meat is fork tender.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a serving dish and cover with foil to keep warm. Strain the sauce through a fine-meshed sieve and return it to the pan. Cook over high heat to reduce the sauce to a nice gravylike consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the short ribs and serve.

Gratin Dauphinois

(I’m actually going to copy out Bourdain’s recipe and have my changes in parenthesis)

8 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into ¼ inch slices (we use Russet because the boy likes them better)
2 cups heavy cream (I didn’t have enough cream, so I added whole milk and half and half. You’ll be fine)
5 garlic cloves, slightly crushed
1 sprig of thyme
1 sprig of rosemary
1 sprig of parsley
salt and white pepper
a really little bit of nutmeg, like no more than a pinch I would say
1 tablespoon of butter
4 ounces of grated Gruyère cheese (you can use Swiss, because Gruyère is damn expensive here. We used Comté, because I found some at Costco for a song, and we use more than called for)
(Sauté up a Vidalia or other sweet onion that has been sliced thinly in some butter and olive oil. When those are all nicely browned and caramelized, set to the side until needed).

Spay-shul equipment

Large pot
Large ovenproof gratin dish

Preheat the oven to 350 F. put the potatoes in the large pot and add the cream, 4 of the garlic cloves, and the herbs. Season with salt, white pepper, and nutmeg. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. After 10 minutes of simmering, remove from the heat and discard the garlic and herbs (it’s no big deal if you can’t fish out all the garlic pieces – mine disintegrate pretty much).

Use the remaining garlic clove to rub around the inside of the gratin dish. Butter the inside of the gratin dish as well so that it is evenly coated. Transfer the potatoes and cream to the gratin dish and sprinkle the top with Gruyere cheese. (we do this in layers – add some potatoes and cream, some cheese evenly, and some of the sautéed onion – continue until all the potatoes are in, then grate some more cheese on top, because, why not?). cook in the oven for 40 minutes, or until the mixture is brown and bubbling. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Friday, August 10, 2007

on curing pig

my buddy zack has thrown himself into Grand Adventures in Curing. the picture below shows 30 pounds of bacon, 240 pounds of ham, which zack says "took my whole counter, kitchen island and half my stove to lay out". he and patty have named them things like Livia and Caligula.

i'll totally take some of this off their hands. i haven't quite developed the sense of adventure for curing yet... but i'm very impressed with zack's gung-ho-ness with the whole endeavor. and i can't wait to taste the end results!

as Hillshire Farms says, Go Meat!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

on salmon and scary movies

While spending far too much money at Costco this weekend, we picked up a big ass piece of wild salmon. The wild salmon packages were sitting right next to the farm raised salmon packages, and the difference in color was astounding. It also wasn’t that much more expensive than the farm raised, which was nice for a change.

one of the boy’s jobs while in culinary school was at an upscale seafood restaurant in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, so it’s safe to say he can cook pretty much any fish put in front of him and make it taste fantastic. This is kind of funny in a way, because he doesn’t eat fish. It’s just not “his thing”. He knows what it’s supposed to taste like, look like, how to buy it, how to cook the hell out of it, and he even owns several cookbooks devoted to the subject which I’ll find in the bathroom and on his bedside table. It took me a long time to understand that a lot of people have “things”, where they don’t eat a certain food because it either doesn’t agree with them or doesn’t interest them or even taste good to them. Growing up, my brother, sister and I didn’t have a choice. We ate what my parents cooked and there was no discussion about it. I remember my brother not being terribly fond of some vegetables and trying to hide them in his napkin or pass them on to me. Me, I ate everything. And then when I was a wee little kid we moved to France, where I ate all kinds of back end of animal and weird veg and just got used to it I guess. it didn’t occur to me that other parents either don’t feed their kids the same thing they’re eating for dinner or just have limited exposure to some foods.

So anyway, to make a long story short, I like fish and the boy knows it, and he enjoys cooking it for me. So we picked up this fantastic looking huge ass salmon fillet and I anticipated he’d make it so that I’d have some tasty lunches this week., but he got sidetracked with reformatting the hard drive on his computer.

However, he did pick out a recipe for me before he headed out to work, and I loosely followed it last night. You can’t really go wrong with a nice piece of salmon drizzled with a bacon and wine sauce. Pig and fish together, you know it baby.

Recipe courtesy of Gordon Ramsay, “In the heat of the kitchen”. The prosciutto-wrapped monkfish recipe is well worth buying the book.

Pan fried salmon in a red wine sauce

4 thick cut salmon fillets, about 5 oz apiece
2 carrots, peeled
3 ½ tablespoons butter
½ cup chicken stock
4 to 5 tablespoons olive oil
7 oz washed baby spinach
salt and pepper

olive oil
4 oz diced Canadian bacon
1 large shallot, minced
2 fat garlic cloves, chopped
1 sprig thyme
1 sprig rosemary
bay leaf
3 tablespoons port
½ cup red wine
1 ¾ cup fish stock
2 cups chicken stock

Score the skin of the salmon and season it with salt and pepper.

To make sauce, heat a large wide pan until really hot, then add olive oil and quickly sauté the bacon for 1 to 2 minutes until browned. Add the shallots along with the garlic and herbs and cook until softened and caramelized, about 7 minutes. deglaze with the port, then add the wine and cook until reduced by 2/3rds. Pour in the two stocks and add pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and simmer, uncovered, until reduced by half, about 20 minutes. Strain through a sieve, pressing with the back of a ladle. Set aside.

For the carrot julienne, cut the carrots into long, thin slices, then into thin sticks. Heat half the butter in a pan and sauté the carrots for a minute or so. Add the chicken stock and a little seasoning. Simmer, uncovered, for about 3 minutes until the liquid is totally reduced and the carrots are glazed. Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and the remaining butter in a pan and sauté the spinach for a minute or two, until just wilted. Remove from the heat and season, keep warm.

To cook the salmon fillets, heat a nonstick frying pan until hot and add 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil. Pan fry the salmon, skin side down for 3 minutes. Flip over and cook the other side for 1 to 2 minutes. The flesh should be lightly springy when pressed; season lightly.

To serve, reheat the sauce. Place a mound of spinach in the center of each warmed plate an pour the sauce over it. lay a salmon fillet , skin side up, on top and finish with a little pile of carrot julienne. Drizzle a little olive oil around the sauce, if desired, and serve immediately.

Okay so I didn’t have the proper veg on hand. I did have some asparagus and broccolini, so I roasted those with some olive oil, sea salt, and pepper for a few minutes. i also used regular bacon, because that's what we had in the fridge. and fish stock? i'm a regular home cook and i dont have that handy, so i just used all chicken stock.

The sauce will take you forever and a day to make, but the salmon will take less than 10 minutes. The salmon by itself is just great, so if you’re looking for a Basic How To Cook Salmon 101 recipe, this is it. My sauce ended up a bit thin, but I saved it and will continue to reduce it tonight when I get home (I was running out of time last night). and as you can tell, all those years in art school really did me well, don't ya think? i have no food presentation skills. sigh.

Side note. The boy mentioned in passing that I ought to watch the Democratic Presidential Debate last night while eating dinner, which I thought was odd that he’d say that seeing as I don’t like watching politics while eating for fear of heartburn and stomach ache. He’s a joker, that kid. His sarcasm was lost on me. Not to be dissuaded, I got through 45 seconds of the debate before I realized that it was a load of absolute bunk, so what did I do? I put on The Exorcism of Emily Rose and proceeded to freak my shit out. I have this “thing” with scary movies. I love them and watch them yet I know later on in the night I’ll be awake and scared out of my gourd. But the worst thing of all to me are religiously-themed scary movies, because I grew up Catholic and that shit is BELIEVABLE to us. I have some friends who are either agnostic or atheist who just don’t get it and laugh out loud at The Exorcist. Let me tell you right here and now that The Exorcist is not funny. And we are not allowed to watch it in our house. So why did I think that Emily Rose would be any different? Because I’m a dumbass, that’s why. I stopped watching about 20 minutes before the end, right after Emily/Demon jumps out the bedroom window and runs to the barn. Damn, even typing that I got goosebumps. I ought to have known better.

Dear boy, you are absolutely not allowed to watch that movie. EVER.

Oh, but the fish was great.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

the theme for the week is....

in keeping with the theme of the week, which i discovered quite by accident yesterday, i TOTALLY WANT THIS.

maybe for christmas?

i think it was meant to be. it was the first item i saw on mighty goods today.

although, to be honest, i've never been a fan of the word "slut". i prefer "harlot".

the week of forgetfulness

I’m supposed to be blogging about Date Night, but i’m still waiting on the boy to send me the pics we took of dinner, which are on his phone.

I’m also supposed to be blogging about short ribs and gratin dauphinoise, which we had for dinner two nights ago, pictures that i actually have right here on this very computer; but i left the short ribs recipe at home. Because after one glass of Cava, one glass of red Zinfandel, and one Irish coffee, i kind of forgot to grab the book with the recipe in it and plop it in my backpack last night.

OOH but i could blog about cookies!

See, while the rum raisin ice cream was sitting in the fridge prior to freezing, i wondered what kind of cookie would make the ultimate ice cream sandwich with that particular ice cream. And i came up with two answers. 1) none, and 2) oatmeal raisin. But i just made oatmeal raisin cookies, and wasn’t in the mood to make them again. I had all the ingredients on hand for the Barefoot Contessa’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk cookies, so i made those instead.

1/2 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 extra-large eggs at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup good smooth peanut butter
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound good semisweet chocolate chunks

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time.
Add the vanilla and peanut butter, and mix. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and add to the batter, mixing only until combined. Fold in the chocolate chunks.

Drop the dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, using either a 1-3/4-inch ice cream scoop or a rounded tablespoon. Dampen your hands, flatten the dough lightly, then press the tines of a wet fork in both directions. Bake for exactly 17 minutes (the cookies will seem underdone). Do not overbake. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly on the pan, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Now, Ms. Garten says that this makes 36 to 40 cookies, but she must be making itty bitty tiny ones. I use a regular ice cream scoop and make big cookies, and average around 24 cookies per batch.

I also didnt have semi-sweet chocolate chunks on hand, so i used a combination of milk chocolate chunks and a big hunk of semi sweet that i carved up haphazardly.

And another thing. I chill the dough for at least 15 to 20 minutes before doling out scoops of it and putting in the oven. The peanut butter makes the dough very soft and i’m afraid that if i don’t chill the dough then the cookies will come out all flat as cow patties.

And incidentally, i broke not one but two Pyrex spatula handles while stirring this dough. I broke one a few months ago, paid to ship it to the manufacturer, had them ship me a new one gratis, only to have it and another break again within 25 seconds of each other. I am not going through all that shipping to the manufacturer again, because i don’t live anywhere near a post office and it’s a hassle to mail any kind of package from our house. I don’t get it, since the dough is quite supple. I could understand it if i was mixing cement, but cement is not what comes to mind when mixing up this smooshy peanut buttery dough of goodness.

So, they don’t go with rum raisin ice cream, but they do go very well with a tall cold glass of milk.

Totally off topic:

Funniest thing i’ve heard on tv recently, courtesy of Victoria Beckham:
“I can’t wait for Thanksgiving. When is that? Do you know what they do in America? They take pretzels and mash them up and stuff them in the turkey’s bum”.

Oh my god, why did they cancel her reality show? The boy and i are totally enamored of her. She’s the cutest thing in the whole wide world.

The top picture of cookies is a bit "off" because i was fucking around in Photoshop while lurking on a conference call and kind of got carried away with the filters.

Monday, August 6, 2007

so totally not food related

sorry, i've been having a lot of these "not food related" posts, and seeing as this is supposed to be a food blog, well yeah. i tend to go off on tangents every once in a while.

but oh my god. they're remaking escape from new york. and i couldnt keep the groaning and eye rolling all to myself, i had to share.


i wonder who will play the lead role?

i hope that the music will be good.

a quick hello to KPJ

happy birthday karen!

if i still lived in baltimore, i'd make you a cake.

but... i don't. instead, i'll post a pic of one i made a long time ago. i know, it's not the same thing, but you know.

French Tart

Sunday, August 5, 2007

on rum raisin ice cream

I have a love affair with rum raisin ice cream.

My cousin Amy introduced me to it (she was technically my step-second-cousin, my mom’s cousin’s stepdaughter who was from Wisconsin Rapids). Soon after my mom’s cousin married her American husband, he brought his daughter over to visit them at their villa in the South of France. She was a year older than me, but man did she look 25 or what? I was 15 at the time and was very awkward, very immature in both looks and personality, and I was in awe of this 16 year old chick who not only had the bod but the attitude of a 25 year old. I idolized her.

ice cream vendors along the beach resort where my mom’s family live sell rum raisin ice cream. Amy got hooked on it, so, of course, I did too. And every time I went for a visit to family, I always had it. it’s the only place in the world where I ever saw it, so I developed a long-standing romantic idea of it.

I guess I’m going to get a lot of shit for saying I ate the hell out of some rum raisin ice cream when I was a teenager, because lets face it. it does have rum (just a little), but if you’re eating cone after cone of it on a hot summer day, yeah, you’ll get a buzz, especially for a lightweight 15 year old. But this is France. At that age, one is able to order drinks in a bar. Life and mentality is different in Europe. French kids don’t look forward to the weekend kegger because they just got back from lunch at the Tex-Mex place around the corner from school on rue de Ponthieu and downed two long island ice teas before Math class. I love Math (although I was never any good at it) and it’s even more fascinating after two long island ice teas.

So anyway, to make a long story short, I was so very pleased when I saw David Lebovitz has a recipe for rum raisin ice cream in The Perfect Scoop. and if you've got an ice cream maker collecting dust in your closet and you don't own this book yet, you really ought to do yourself a favor and go out and buy it.

I followed the recipe exactly, though with a few minor changes. Namely, I don’t have dark rum in the house. So I used a mixture of Nassau Royale, Captain Morgan’s, and 151. and I will tell you right now that you will have to use more raisins than he calls for because I kept picking at them all day. Those little babies get so hydrated with rum, and they are the Best. Thing. Ever. Every time I walked by the dish, I’d pick one or two out. J was over, and I made him taste one, but he made a face and said, “I don’t like rum”. Well I don’t like rum either, in the way that I’m not doing shots of it because that’s just gross. but rum soaked fruit? ho yeah. But the charm of it all was lost on him. Boys. Sheesh.

While the ice cream was freezing, I couldn’t keep my spoon out of it. it’s honestly the best ice cream I’ve ever had, ever ever ever. So yeah, i have romanticized it and idealized it in my own head, so I don’t expect this to be everyone’s idea of the best ice cream ever. To me, this ice cream is just as good as sex. YES! I have a container of sex in my freezer!

Again, I’m not sure of the copyright laws of this, and I’m probably breaking every rule. But I mean well, I mean, I just told you that this ice cream is as good as sex, so you know you’re going to want to try it, right? I just hope you love it as much as I do.

recipe removed because i'm starting to feel badly about having posted it.

P.S. you really have to like raisins to actually enjoy this ice cream. if you don't like raisins, then you just won't get it.

Friday, August 3, 2007

dissappointing lunch

i realize that there are some things which you ought not to buy from trader joe's, although a good portion of their products are usually pretty great most of the time. but what not to get is the frozen marinated ahi tuna steaks.

because damn, what a letdown. it is almost inedible. no, in fact, i'm throwing it away cos it's just that bad. damn good thing i brought along a side of grilled veggies.

it's just been one of those days. must be the phase of the moon.

OH - and totally unrelated, but you know, it's just been that kind of day. IM conversation:

patty (10:58:47 AM): sunchokes give me very noisy gas
me (11:00:46 AM): fermented black beans are like corn. they show up in your poop.

WOO champagne lunch! and napping.

oh man. i just can't seem to wake up today to save my life. i have no excuse either, because i took a 1 1/2 hour nap when i got home yesterday (fell-face-first-onto-bed-and-didn't-budge kind of nap, and had pillow impressions on my face for a good hour after i woke up). and i slept fine last night. what gives? dont like this.

at least it's friday.

posting a picture of WOO Champagne Lunch!, which i've decided will be the first of many more to come. us girls from work went to Taurus for lunch yesterday to celebrate Patty's Fancy New Job which starts on Monday (Yay Patty!), and we did indulge in a glass of Cava or two. but we did the unpardonable; patty and i ordered the "special", and as everyone knows, one should not order the "special". Nonie's crab salad looked most excellent, and next time i ought to get that.

productivity was at an all time low after i got back. it's a damn good thing i kicked ass on work earlier in the day.

must go find a way to ingest coffee intravenously, because i've got 4 meetings today and all i want to do is fall face first onto my keyboard and snore.

UPDATE: one of the bad things about being this tired is that my fucking vertigo is back in full swing. so moral of the story is, good sleep = no vertigo. not enough sleep = asscrap load of vertigo.


Thursday, August 2, 2007

totally unrelated to food

so i updated my ipod the other day with some songs i found floating out there on the innernets... and one song which i put on there was supposed to be U2's October. at least, that's what the title said. it is not. instead, it is Bastille Day by Rush.

what's sad is that i actually recognized the song, and i was never nor am i now a Rush fan. but a friend of mine in high school was (Brad Maze, wherever you are out there, you suck).

here i was all happy listening to U2 on shuffle, and now i'm stuck with this kind of sucky song in my head.

i'm writing this down, you see, so that i will remember to remove said sucky song from my ipod when i get home later. and for those of you who like Rush, i apologize if i have offended you.

okay. go about your business. will think of something witty to write that's actually food related. or maybe i won't.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

more food bondage

Continuing with Medieval Torture Week, i bring you pork tenderloin. Yes, yet another bone/rolled/tied pork tenderloin.

What can i say; we like the almighty pig in our house.

The boy started this during the day on Monday when i was still at work, and later complained that he would have taken pictures of the work in progress but couldn't find the camera. That’s because it was in my backpack with me, at work, because i needed it for no good reason at all, since i didn’t even blog on Monday.

He asked me how my tying skills were, which i replied, “Okay”. which is really the truth. Nobody taught me how to tie up food the right way; i just do it my own way, and i normally use about twice as much twine as necessary and wrap the thing up like a Christmas package. The boy was so amused by my handiwork that he took pictures of me tying the hell out of some pork.

The above picture doesn’t actually do my backassward skills the justice they deserve. These pork tenderloins look mighty fancy and properly tied, but if you take a good look at the one in the background, you can see miles of twine down the length of the tenderloin, looking rather spine-like. Here’s another look (and Bonus Action Shot!)

The boy veered off from our normal stuffing recipes and found one via Food Network Canada. We don’t get Food Network Canada down here in the good ol’ American South, but i do wonder if our Northern friends are just as annoyed with the lack of quality shows in their version of FN. Do you guys get the new show featuring the super-annoying finger-snapping Latino chick with the German name? i never thought it possible, but she shows more boob than Ms. Di Laurentiis. I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, but when she started snapping her fingers at the camera, i wigged out. the channel was promptly changed. Anyhoo – the boy likes watching License to Grill, which is on the Discovery Home Channel here, and found the host’s recipes on FN Canada.

Spicy Jalapeño Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

I will say – this recipe was a big hit. If you’re not into spicy food, please don’t even bother trying it out, although i urge you to start challenging your palate by slowly incorporating heat into your life. The boy used some of the jalapeños from our yard plus some odd hot pepper or two from a variety pack bought at Publix. And i believe he also must have doubled the recipe, seeing as we had two pork tenderloins and the recipe calls for just one. But the flavors are fresh and bright; and i know i’m going to fumble a bit trying to describe this, but the food matched the weather. it’s been 90ish degrees here with 90ish percent humidity, and the combination of fresh herby flavors plus the mix of hot peppers not only woke up our taste buds but just went well with the weather. Meh, i’ve described that poorly. But i’m hoping you catch my drift.

It’s kind of like on a bad rainy day all you want is mashed potatoes because only mashed potatoes will do.

(Sigh. I could never be a professional writer).

We served this with the Grilled Corn with Chipotle-Maple Glaze that Rob Rainford also makes on that same show, along with some cole slaw. I dont think the boy followed any particular recipe for the cole slaw, just kind of tossed in a bunch of things and gave it a stir.