Sunday, February 28, 2010

How Do You Have Your Job?

And why don't I have it?

There are some TV cooks/chefs that I not only dislike, I actually have physical reactions to them.
Plus, I could totally do their jobs better than they do.

*Alright I may not be able to do it better, but I could certainly do it. And I'd be less irritating to watch.

**F*ck it I could totally do this.

Sandra Lee's "Semi-Homemade" show about busy people who can make great meals with 70% pre-made from the store and 30% fresh ingredients.


Her version of "semi-homemade" is to take something totally ready from the store, and add, say, dehydrated ranch dressing mix into it, and calls it done.
And gravy mix. Who actually needs gravy mix? Is making a roux that hard?

And this is an actual recipe of hers for making Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup:


  • 1 store-bought roasted chicken
  • 1 cup diced onions
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup diced carrot
  • 4 (14-ounce) cans low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 (10.75-ounce) cans condensed cream of mushroom soup with roasted garlic
  • 2 teaspoon fines herbs*
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups egg noodles, cooked

  • Directions

    Remove the skin from the chicken and shred the meat from the bone. Put the chicken into a slow cooker along with the onions, celery, and carrots. Stir in broth, mushroom soup, and fines herbs and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook on high setting for 3 to 4 hours or low for 8 to 9 hours.
    When soup is finished, stir in egg noodles. Adjust seasonings and serve.
    *Cook's Note: Fines herbs are a classic blend of herbs that usually consists of chervil, chives, parsley, and tarragon. Fines Herbs can be found pre-blended in the spice section of the grocery store.
At that point why wouldn't you just BUY A CAN OF CHICKEN SOUP!!! You're buying soup to put in a soup, and if you boil a pre-roasted (read: ready to eat) chicken for 3 hrs that is going to be some tired chicken. And if you're cooking it for 3 hrs why not just dice up raw chicken and throw that in?! It will certainly cook in 3-4 hrs!
How does this save time?

Not only all that, but she's dating Andrew Cuomo (NY State Attorney General). She's about five minutes away from being a Stepford Wife. At least in image, if not in actuality.


She also creates these elaborate "tablescapes" which are themed from the chandeliers down to the glasses, plates, spoons, and coordinating linens. Sometimes it looks like Martha Stewart and the Dollar Store got drunk together and threw up on the table. (I'm sure she's done some classier ones, but I have had the joy of only seeing truly awful ones.)
My question is, this person who needs your help adding fresh mozzarella to a frozen pizza (to make it semi-homemade, of course) because they didn't have time to cook from scratch... they had time to go and buy all this themed, coordinating nonsense and set the table that elaborately? And where do they store all this crap when the meal is over? Since there's a different "tablescape" for each meal, do they rent out the neighbor's garage as well? Because surely, if they're so busy, they don't have time to drive to their storage space and find the right boxes of "hideous tablescapes" and then drive home and make dinner. They'd need it closer to hand.


Next on my Putz With A Job I Could Do Better List is Dan Eaton (Cooking at Home on NY1)
"I'm Dan Eaton and I'm glad you're here."
Well Dan, I'm The Rock 'n Roll Gourmet, and god are you a simpering twit. Plus, your recipes are boring in the extreme. Tho I guess w/ a 3 minute time slot, you can't really get elaborate.  He's supposed to have worked in some top kitchens, but I cannot picture this painfully soft-spoken, wheedley voice running a kitchen. It's like he smoked one too many joints and is permanently "chill".

Did you know that ceramics and pottery are a passion of his?
Makes sense, doesn't it?

Next we have Paula Deen.
Now, I know she has had a lot of troubles in her life, and a lot of them (depression, agoraphobia) are things that I have suffered from as well. So I give her major credit for overcoming them all and marrying her second husband Santa/Fishingboat Captain Mike who seems to love her to bits. And also for opening successful dining establishments and so on.
Plus she's just one crazy chick and I'd totally want to hang out with her, because just look at her. The woman knows how to have fun. My one caveat is that I get to control what I'm eating.

When it comes to her cooking... yikes. We all know she is the Queen of Butter (followed closely by Ina Garten and our beloved Julia Child) but she goes even farther with the creamy fatty solids adding copious amounts of mayo and such to her dishes. It's just revolting.
I did not grow up in The South, so there are many things I just do not understand about Southern Cuisine. I do not like okra, or grits, or black-eyed peas, hominy or collard greens... I know I love fried chicken, biscuits, and corn bread, and barbecue, but they are more special occasion foods, rather than regular dietary staples. So I am missing the basic connection to Paula Deen's cooking on that level, and I admit it.
But in my world the ingredient is just "cream."  There should be no cream-of anything. Add a splash of cream to a tomato sauce, the end of a wild mushroom pasta dish, etc.. Cream is a fabulous thing and it enhances many dishes. But the dish itself should not be called Cream Of --- Anything. It's just vile.

But now here's the kicker. Paula Deen, the Queen of Butter herself, made a CHILDREN'S COOKBOOK!!! Two of them! Full of cakes and desserts and stuff. Childhood obesity being on the rise, and she herself not the paramount of toned svelte-itude, and she's getting the kids on the ground floor. Hell in a few years she could be sued for contributing heavily (ha!) to the obesity problem! She should seriously back off that market. She has enough diamonds dripping off her already.
And on that note, I have to question anyone who wears diamonds the size of my eyeballs on both hands while she's cooking. There must be so much gunk trapped in there... shame. Maybe when we go drinking together she'll wash her hands and one will slip off her and onto my hand :)

So that's todays list of Cooking-Show Hosts that piss me off: a Person Who Buys Canned Coup to make a Semi-homemade Soup, a Permanent Stoner, and a Crazy Lady I'd Like to Drink With.

*I have no idea if Dan Eaton has ever even seen a joint. But I went to Wesleyan, so I've seen a few, and I must say his personality fits the profile.

Stay tuned for future installments...
Bobby Flay, I'm lookin' at you.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

"Chuck" has a direct connection to "Awesome"

Ok, random plugging of random TV show.

(You will understand my attempt at humor in the title of this post if you have seen the show.)

If you know Mike or me, you know we love both "Firefly" and the subsequent movie Serenity. In fact, we are fans of most Joss Whedon created entertainment..."Buffy", "Angel", and even the GOD AWFUL "Dollhouse" which sucked solely because of Eliza Douchebag who is such a horrid freaking actress. Great. We get it. You have zero body fat and YET are still really buff. Very admirable. Go be a gymnast and get off my TV screen. (Although, the rest of the cast of "Dollhouse" was fairly awesome, including "Angel's" Fred and "Serenity's" Wash, only as a waaaaaaaaay more interesting character.) Plus I'm a Wesleyan alum, so it's kind of required that I be a fan of Joss Whedon. Hell, his younger brother ran out to get me some Pepto before an Ionesco show I sucked in and that I thought I was going to vomit during, so both brothers get props from me.

Mike and I watched Season 1 of "Chuck" when it first aired, and instantly liked it. And we mostly watched it because Jayne from "Firefly" was playing the same character, only smart and NSA.
"You wanna run this ship?"
"Well... you can't!"
Only this time, he can. Because he's freaking NSA. And he does the Jayne-grunt a lot. Which is fantastic. I've never heard a man who could make so many variations on a grunt. It's truly impressive.

*This is also why we watch "Castle" every week. What can we say? We're suckers for "Firefly" alumni.

So Season 1 was quite good (Hi, his best friend Morgan is such a frightening clone of Seth Green it's kind of astounding they are both in television) and we just Netflix-ed Season 2. The end of which was so fun that I literally did the Flailing Kermit Arms and HURT MYSELF hitting the bowl of popcorn I made for the season finale viewing. I have BRUISES people! It actually has hurt me to type all of these updates since Thursday night. I'm just that much of a spazz/special.

We have only just started watching Season 3 tonight (Snow Day and all...) and other than the fun of Chuck "flashing" on various skills instead of just information, and Armand Assante, they have FINALLY DE-GEEKED CHUCK'S HAIR!!! So hold-out kiddies. The forward-combed nerd-hair will eventually go away when The Asset goes 2.0.

*Amendment - Apparently Mike wanted to start watching this show NOT because of "Jayne" but because it was written by the same guy who did "O.C." and now "Gossip Girl"... I am so ashamed. Tho he giggles like a little girl every time "Jayne"/Adam Baldwin (NOT one of those Baldwins) grunts or insults Chuck in any way. 

So, while there are a number of shows that we enjoy (Lost, Bones, House, How I Met Your Mother (more Wesleyan connections) Castle, Top Gear (which will SO be blogged about soon), Burn Notice...) this is the current one we are really enjoying. Maybe you'll find a reason to discover it too!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Winter Wonderland, Take 2

Snow Day Number TWO, kiddies. I can't remember the last time Mike had one snow day in a school year, let alone two. Rock on February.

Also, I am so sick of the whiney bitches who complain about the snow. Really? Is it so bad? It's not slush, it's not freezing rain, it's not HAIL, and it makes the world pretty for a few hrs. And it came down all light and fluffy. If it's going to be 32 degrees or colder, the least Mother Nature can do is make it pretty and full of fluffy white flakes and make the moisture take some of the bite out of the cold. It's not like any of you have to shovel your own walks, or drive a car.
If you don't like it, move to Boca.

End rant.

Anyway, Mike and I did our little walk in the snow again today, so here are some pics I took this time around.
That is known as a Shit-Out-of-Luck Car.
Awesome sky.

A path in a wood... er, park.


I just like this building because it reminds me of France.

It looks like the snow is bending the fence, when in fact the fence is knackered already.

Another tree
Creepy Vampire Bunny Demon on a Leash
Some kind of punk-dog-sphynx

Mike being Mike

Nifty building


Duck & Cover


No, seriously.
I have finally, finallyFINALLY cooked a duck breast to perfection. This makes me over-the-moon happy because it is one of my favorite things to eat and the fact that I could not recreate its tender succulent state in my own home made me positively batty.

Also, when I looked online how to cook duck, there were so very many conflicting versions. Medium high heat, medium heat, medium low heat, only 4 min per side, almost 20 minutes on a side! I decided to split the difference and made up my own way, and as previously stated, it worked to perfection! The key is patience and a low heat, which I suspected, and had confirmed by a chef at Giorgio's. Duck does not do well with a "screaming hot pan" so just keep your hands away from the temperature knob and let it cook on medium-low heat.

Finally, I made this recipe up off the cuff from previous duck dishes I've enjoyed in restaurants, so if I forget portions... just use logic. And I really like duck with a sweet fruit sauce, so if sweet isn't your thing... oh well. But then, this duck was so perfect it didn't even need the sauce. Yum.

So here's how it went down:

Duck w/ Brandied Plum-Cherry Sauce

Step one: turn on some classy opera (or whatever you're in the mood to cook to. Last night, Luci wanted in on dinner.)

Step two: prep carrots. This was simple, if time-consuming to cook. Preheat oven to 400º. I was trying to recreate the roasted carrots I get when I roast a whole chicken, only without the whole chicken part.
So I peeled a few carrots, chopped them into "baby" carrot sizes, and tossed them in a pan (lined w/ foil) & drizzled them w/ a little evoo & salt. Then I threw in a bit of shallot & fresh thyme, and filled the pan with chicken stock to about halfway up the carrot slices. These then roast at 400º for about 45 minutes. They come out super sweet and tender.
Step three: prep your duck. Make sure it comes to room temp before you cook it (this is important with all meat) so it doesn't seize up when it hits the hot pan. Score the skin-side with hash marks, and season both sides. 
Next, turn your pan on medium low heat for the duck, and your sauce pan on medium. Put a bit of evoo in both. While your pan is heating, mince half a shallot (left from the carrots) and one clove of garlic for the sauce. By the time you finish this your pan should be up to temperature and you can put the duck in, skin-side-down. Set your timer for 12-15 min.
Step four: The Sauce. I was cheating and using the end of a jar of Sarabeth's Plum-Cherry preserves for my sauce (Aside: Sandra Lee - THIS is a semi-homemade sauce. Bitch.) Ok so the diced half shallot went into the evoo, and one minced clove of garlic. When that started to soften and cook out (only a minute or two) I added another splash of chicken stock, because I did not want the jam to stick or burn. Then I put the end of the jar of jam in, which was probably about 3-4 tablespoons.

Now the fun part.
Pour about half to 3/4 of a shot of brandy (I had armagnac) into a shot glass, and then pour that into the sauce. (NEVER pour directly from the bottle of booze because it can ignite the whole effing bottle by accident and then your kitchen is on fire. Plus, you're out a whole bottle of booze.) I used a kitchen lighter to ignite the sauce (I can't tilt the pan without tilting out the sauce, myself) and let the alcohol burn off. This took a good 45 seconds or so. I'm sorry I don't have a photo of that, but I was more concerned with keeping an eye on the giant flame in my pan, and keeping it there, rather than reaching for the camera. Once the fire is out, stir again, toss in a little leftover fresh thyme, and finish the sauce with a pat of butter. Put the heat on the lowest setting and keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn.
By now your duck should look like this. And yes that is a little more fresh thyme on top. If your duck does not want to come away from the pan, it means it is not ready yet. But when you get to the 15 min mark, toy with the edges w/ tongs to ease it away, letting the fat run under the sticking skin.
(Note: during the 12-15 min the duck has been cooking and you were making the sauce, you would need to ladle out some of the duck fat from the pan. Place that in a separate bowl, and save it because it will make fabulous potatoes. You can see how much I got here.)
When you flip your duck, it should look nice and golden and crispy on the skin side. I cook it for another 3-4 minutes this way, and then (*here is my key discovery!) put the lid on your pan for another 2 minutes. This assures the duck cooks through evenly. Then remove the duck to a plate, tent with foil, and let it rest 5 min or so before serving, to preserve juices.
Hopefully now your oven is telling you that your carrots are done cooking, and the chicken stock should have just disappeared from the bottom of the pan. (If there was some left, you used a little too much, which would reduce the caramelization of your carrots, but they should still be tender and tasty.)
Divide the breast down the middle for two servings, top with your still-warm brandied-plum-cherry sauce, and dish out your carrots. (I never actually eat the crispy skin due to how fatty the underside is, but you must cook with it, unlike chicken.)

Presto!! A fantastic meal, perfectly cooked, juicy, and melting in your mouth.

Did I mention that I am SO FREAKING PROUD OF MYSELF?!?!?

But a funny side-note of humility:
Mike was working late last night and did not get home until 7:30PM, so I was already cooking. And that damned jar of Sarabeth's preserves would not open. I tried running it under hot water, using a gripper thing, and making every stupid face while trying to twist the top off, but whatever old jam was stuck in the lid was just not going to budge for me. So... I walked across the hall to my neighbors and asked the husband/dad-of-two there to open it. Happily for me (so I didn't feel like a total wuss), he struggled as well, and had to run it under the tap twice before he could get it open. But, much as I'd like to deny it, sometimes you just need a guy to open a stubborn jar.
I'm going to have to make them something in thanks.

As it has dropped another 16 inches of snow on NYC today, I need to wrap this up so we can go and play in Riverside Park. So go forth and play, and master duck in your own kitchen!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

For the Pork-Impaired

Ok, while I cannot help my vegetarian friends until they help themselves, I thought maybe I could at least help out those who (for whatever reason) do not eat pork. (But really, none of these alternatives will taste as fabulous as the original pork product... at least not in my view. But, I shall try to enlighten a bit.)

The traditional "prosciutto crudo" is the more familiar form, being dried cured leg of pork, but there is also "prosciutto cotto" which is slightly cooked as well. While "prosciutto" is the Italian word for ham, (as opposed to "maiale" which is pig or pork) it does not have to be made from pork. It can be made from lamb, goat, duck, or beef as well. You just have to look a little harder.
The lamb is called "prosciutto d'agnello".
A beef option would be "bresaola". (I believe this is a dried, cured, top round type cut.)
And of course, the most readily available option would be turkey bacon, which you can find at just about any supermarket, but that is more of a bacon-swap than a cured-pork swap. They do have different qualities, but in a pinch, you could probably make it work. (You just won't find it in my house.)

Just keep in mind that, since this is a cured product, it intensifies the flavor, so make sure whatever you use comes from an animal you like to eat anyway. (I love duck, but I have had some duck prosciutto that was the nastiest thing... ugh.)
But in my humble opinion, nothing beats traditional pork prosciutto. It's light, delicate, salty, a little chewy... but if you put it in the oven to crisp you have a FANTASTIC crispy topping for pastas, salads, garnish, or just a snack for yourself! In my world, and in the words of Homer Simpson, the pig is a "wonderful, magical animal" that provides oh-so-many tasty options.

So some websites you could look into ordering other options from (maybe)...

This store sells lamb prosciutto: in Washington state.

More info on Italian cured meats here:

This is my favorite UWS place to get freshly sliced anything (but mostly pork) product:

Good luck, you crazy, foolish folk.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I Feel Like Chicken Tonight!

I am assuming that if you're reading this, you are with me on the whole Anti-Canned-Soup-As-Marinade thing. I do not cook with cans of Cream Of Anything, because it's disgusting. You are fooling yourself if you think otherwise. If you want to cook chicken with a mushroom and white wine cream sauce, use real mushrooms, real stock, white wine, fresh herbs, and finish w/ cream. Do not use a can of gelatinous gray goo.

(Remember, I'm a foodie. I'm all for cooking on a budget, but I draw my lines where I choose. And I draw them at gray condensed soup.)

Also assuming you're not using this slightly less creepy jar of sauce/topping, which only may be slightly less creepy due to it's amusing nostalgia factor (I've never tasted it, but that effing commercial will be in your brain for years. YEARS!!!)

Anyhoo, tonight was yet another night w/ yet another order of bulk chicken breasts arriving this afternoon (bulk from a butcher, family-style. Not creepy odd-shape bulk in a sack.) and my regular go-to of fresh thyme, shallot & lemon finish was just not going to cut it.
Delicious, yes. But getting seriously redundant.

An obvious cure for the same old chicken dinner? Wrap those bad boys in some PROSCIUTTO!!!!
Everything is better with bacon. We all know this to be true. (Vegetarians can whine but if you've ever tasted it, you know you're a lyin' fool. Bajir, I know you feel me on this.) While bacon is fattier and fabulous in many, many, many ways, my cheat for that is to use prosciutto, or any other country's cured pork slices. So, wrap a boneless, skinless chicken breast in a slice of prosciutto and sauté both sides until browned and juicy. (You could get extra fancy, butterflying the breasts first and stuffing with any number of cheeses & greens, but tonight was simplicity.) This time I just accompanied with some baby carrots I roasted in the oven w/ some chicken broth & thyme (to recreate the roast-chicken effect) and called it done. And it was goooooooooooooooooooood!!!
 Sadly the above photo was stolen from some other website to give you an idea of what it looks like, finished product, because I KEEP FORGETTING TO TAKE PICTURES WHEN I COOK!!!!  I just want to get to the eating part. I shall endeavor to do better in the future. But in the mean time,
Buon Appetito!

Don't bat those clumpy lashes at ME!

I have fallen victim once more.

Don't deny that the same hasn't happened to you. You click a link or read a comparison in a magazine and suddenly you feel the need to trash your old, faithful, standby product and go out and get this newer, fancier one that promises to make lashes longer and darker, lips plumper and softer, skin completely devoid of enlarged pores and freckles, and is THE BEST according to whoever was paid to say it.

* I will never believe makeup commercials that use models under the age of 24 for their fine-line reduction creams. Bite me bitches.

So this time it was my mascara. Every few years I cave and go out and buy something that is supposed to make them look just FABULOUS with the wave of, literally, a wand. And every time I am let down and go back to my old standby.

Let me explain something: when I was younger and not allowed to wear more than some concealer and maybe a tinted lip balm, I was allowed to wear mascara. And it made me feel lovely. Even behind my glasses, if I has mascara on, I felt pretty. So, I put a lot of stock in which one I use now.

But, this time I was lured by a written comparison and "user reactions" and not one of those celebrity commercials that make me SO ANGRY because not only are they wearing false eyelashes in the commercials, they are probably also computer-edited to make them seem even glossier. A person would have glare in their eyes constantly if they actually had lashes like that! Not to mention limiting your range of sight.
So, I stopped at the Walgreens on my way home and picked up a tube of Rimmel London Sexy Curves Waterproof.
I should have known better.
The new trend of plastic applicators (instead of the older bristles) boggles me because everything clumps and goes on funky, and this one was worse because it's pathetic excuse for plastic bristles were so short they didn't even begin to wrap around my lashes, let alone find them all. Now I just have to wait out the day to see if it also adds the insult of flaking onto my face as well.
Also, it smelled kind of odd, tho that dissipated after a minute or two.

Since I know you're dying to know, my personal go-to mascara is Maybelline's Full & Soft in waterproof. (The non-waterproof does flake little black dots on your cheeks during the course of a day, so be sure to buy the silver tube, not the navy.) It stays on, and more importantly to me (esp when I was wearing contacts) it kept my lashes soft and supple, and I didn't tear them out of my eyes trying to remove the stuff.

But like a cat that hasn't realized a candle will singe its whiskers every time it investigates, I am asking for suggestions one last time, since this tube is clearly going in the trash, and I need to go back out and buy some new stuff anyway...

*Note: yes, I use an eyelash curler every day, so even when I don't slap on mascara, I have that much going for me. I swear by that as my #1 beauty necessity along with a pale moisturizing lip gloss.
Continue your thoughts...

Monday, February 22, 2010

Soup Crock(le) Debacle


Thanks to my awesome friend Jenn, I have discovered that Le Creuset DOES in fact make various colors of soup crock. Now the only problem is which one to pick???

Here is the aforementioned boring brown we all know:

And his stubby, pint-sized friend:
There is just nothing appetizing about that. Not to mention the strange knobby handle that also makes it looks like a teapot with enhancement issues.

So really, the question I pose to all of you is this: What color?



Or should I hold out for them to also come out in the newest shades of pale "Lilac" and the darker purple "Cassis" which I can only find a picture of here.

But then look at how cute this is!
This could actually be the answer to my problem! Or is it too big for single-serving soup? What the hell is a mini cocotte?

I also found these as possibly in the running, but they did a bait and switch on me because they were shown in a pretty pale blue w/ navy trim, but then I could only find them in this cream w/ black, or brown.
This lovely item is the Paula Deen Low Country Soup bowl.


Run far away.


Since that was quite scary, and I didn't mean to do that to you, I shall end with these adorable little numbers, also from Le Creuset.

My, what adorable little berries you have!

Get your mind out of the gutter!

They are supposed to be bakeware but I can only imagine using them as containers of various jams served in some quaint country breakfast setting complete with scones and crumpets and Devonshire cream.

I just love the squat little blueberry, tho!!! (and just realized he reminds me of Boo from Super Mario only he's missing his face and giant tongue...)

While I am considering waiting on the Cassis soup bowl because I am such a sucker for most things purple, I would honestly like to know how people would vote. So scroll back to the top of this blog post and vote in that little box on the right! And someone explain to me what a cocotte is because when I looked it up online it said,
1. (Cookery) a small fireproof dish in which individual portions of food are cooked and served
2. a prostitute or promiscuous woman

Well thank you, I guessed at definition #1 because it was made by Le Creuset, and #2 shut your mouth I'm a married woman!

But go vote and tell me what color covered in bubbling browning cheese would make you happiest when served my Fabulous French Onion Soup!

A French Connection

I have a new cooking goal.

I am finally going to make French Onion Soup. And I don't mean onions and beef broth. I mean multiple kinds of wine and brandy and slow cooking and MOUNDS upon MOUNDS of cheese melted on top. The question is whose recipe to choose? Some use beef stock, some chicken. Some white wine, some red. Some use 3 kinds of booze so who cares what kind of broth you start out with (Hello, Barefoot Contessa... you may just win. But I don't know where I'd find veal stock...) Then there's the fail-safe Julia Child option, but when she cooks with Jacques Pepin he does the opposite of what she does, and she goes along with it! HOW TO CHOOOOOOSE?!?!?!?
 If anyone out there reading this has a favorite recipe, by all means pass it along/put in your vote.

I have always loved French Onion Soup growing up, but I hated the onions. (Again, I am weird. But my mom is allergic to garlic, so instead she used onions in everything she cooked. So I think I just developed an aversion early on. And now I compensate by putting garlic in everything I legitimately can. Go figure.) I still hate the onions. Really all I wanted as a kid was the broth and the big slab of melted cheese on top, and that remains what I want. If I order it as delivery from a local French place (complete with wads of melted cheese on slab of bread, so legit), I take a fork and sift out large amounts of the onions so I can better enjoy the broth. It's just SO GOOD!

*Side note: when I make chicken parm, I could care less about the chicken. All I really want is the melted mozzarella in warm tomato sauce. I only eat the chicken so there is some excuse of health/protein in my meal. So there is a pattern to my oddness.

Here's a question: Why are all onion soup crocks that fugly range of brown? Where are the Le Creuset crocks in their new eggplant color, or warm red, apple green, etc? Why does brown soup have to come in a brown crock?
Someone look into this! Or fix it!
It distresses me.

Ideally I would wait for the next snowfall for a perfect backdrop in which to make a steaming pot of onion soup, but I can't count on the weather to oblige me, so I guess I'll put it out there that I shall attempt this by the end of March. I just need the following things:

- Non-fugly soup crocks in which to serve/melt the all-important cheese topping
- Narrow down which recipe to use
- Sexy sexy goggles to wear while I am chopping that many onions

The flaw in my plan is that Mike does not like onion soup. But I cook things to his liking all the time, and it's his loss that he doesn't like onion soup, so, screw it.
More for me.

So, dear reader(s), I honestly ask for your two cents. Vote on a non-ugly soup crock if you can find one. And vote for your favorite recipe so I can figure out which to use. (However, if your recipe calls for pumpernickel bread as the crouton, you can just stop now. Blech!)
Maybe if I get enough suggestions I can put one of those swanky polls on my blog with links and people can vote for real!
So sift through your cook books and get back to me.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand... GO!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

I Woke Up Drunk

But I did so looking fabulous. Or, Corrie and I looked fabulous before we headed out for the night that lead to me waking up drunk. See:

So last night I went out to see Caitlin Krisko & The Broadcast play at The Blue Note. They were, as usual, excellent to witness. Caitlin has a fantastic voice (that I envy) and her control is something I can only aspire to. And the songs make you groove along before you even realize you're swaying.
So go check them out!

The only drawback to this was that they went on around 12:30AM... and then there's the drinking, and the waiting-for-the-after-party drinking, and the after-party drinking, and the very late cab ride home... I think I went to bed around 5:30AM. (The best is I wrote a drunken email to a friend saying I might not make this evening's entertainment because, "it's 4:98AM and I just got home." Did you know they added 40 more minutes to every hour? Because apparently when you're drunk everything rounds to 100.)
 I cannot even begin to remember the last time I went to bed at that hour.
No really. I cannot remember.
I woke up some time around noon and got out of bed, only to discover I was still drunk. Or at least still buzzed. It amused Mike that I kept saying, "I think I'm still drunk!" but I couldn't figure out what to do with myself. So eventually I decided I should probably go back to bed for a few hours.

This time when I woke up I was fairly sure I was sober again, but I'm not entirely sure now that I look back, considering the first thing I did was order spring rolls and miso soup online. Really, this spring roll thing is becoming an addiction. I think I need an intervention. I've ordered them from two differently places 4 times in the past week and a half.

There's also a long-standing issue I've had with NY Chinese food. The little place in Warren, NJ that I went to all the time with my family remains the standard by which I judge all take-out Chinese. They always had the best spring rolls, filled with real pork and shrimp and vegetables. (I CANNOT STAND the under-fried, soggy, greasy rolls filled with just shredded cabbage and black pepper that seem to be the universal cheap answer. They are disgusting.) Hunan's mushu was always tasty, and ginger chicken w/ green beans, and real solid chunks of chicken in their Sesame Chicken... I always know how it's going to taste (good) and it doesn't let me down. (If my brother is reading this, he is shaking his head in shame at his sister's delight in the Hunan Tea Garden. Well, it's a childhood connection and it's what I like. So :-P nyeah.) 

Ok I think the hangover is kicking in because I'm rambling on about Chinese food in NJ and losing my point.

The point is there are two places I have discovered tasty Spring Rolls around my apartment. One is a Thai restaurant that recently revamped, and now fills their rolls with whole huge pieces of shrimp and chicken and glass noodles, and they come very crispy and tasty. The other is an Asian-mix-muddle-mash-up that has a Spring Roll filled with duck and shiitake mushrooms. Also very tasty.

And I need to stop making my meals consist of just Spring Rolls and miso soup. It's like thinking you can eat the giant slab of cake because you're drinking a diet soda (also disgusting). It does not, in fact, balance out. It is just a sneaky fried food masquerading as an innocent appetizer/side. Someone get me some lean protein and a salad, STAT!!!

And maybe a mimosa...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Waxing Nostalgic

I really miss dorm life.

Ok, no, I do not miss teeny twin beds covered in plastic or living in 9 square feet or sharing my bathroom w/ another 9 girls and 10 boys (showering was interesting to say the least, what with drafts and people taller than 5' 11" seeing over dividers), but I miss living in that community.  No, I do not want to live in a hippie commune, or any other such weird-ass place. I don't even want to live in the suburbs. I actually want to live in Italy where I can only see neighbors in the distance past a vineyard and some cypress trees... but that's a different dream.
   My fantasy when I was graduating from college was that all my friends and I who were already planning to move to NYC, would all move within 5 square blocks of one another, if not the same building, so we could all get together all the time with minimal effort. Possibly still wearing pajamas like that last-ditch run to MoCon before they closed the doors for breakfast on weekends. My dream kind of came true, in the sense that about half a dozen of my friends all lived within 3 blocks of each other in Brooklyn when we all graduated. Unfortunately, I was living in a lovely Gramercy neighborhood in Manhattan that was nowhere near my friends.  (I know, another tiny violin...)
   As time passed, my friends married or upgraded their homes and so moved around a bit, but they are all still basically within 3 subway stops of each other in Brooklyn. I however, married and moved farther away. We could technically have stayed in the same apartment, except the rent became too high. So we moved to the west side, uptown, for the express trains to the Bronx for Mike's teaching job. And I no longer had the excuse of "I'm right off Union Square!" to entice my friends to visit. Even having cable wasn't enough to draw a crowd very often (tho I did host a viewing of the finale of Sex & the City which was widely attended...  tho I saw the movie alone on cable. Full circle I guess.)
  Basically I just really miss having friends close by. Now everyone has day jobs (like ya do) and you can't pop by at 11:30 for a study break, or call because you're watching a silly BBC show and you wanted to share with a friend because it makes you happy and want to connect, because people have to get up and can't skip their 8AM Art History class anymore. Now everything is scheduling and trains and "I have a meeting" or whatever grown-up crap constantly gets in the way. And frankly it sucks.
   I often wish I were back in college, but only if I were 19 again. Because I am well aware that I could not pull it off now. Not just the fact that I'd be the random 30-year-old (albeit one who can pass for 25 without too much trouble) at the house party on Fountain. I also know I can't pull all-nighters anymore, and writing 3 term papers in 2 days is just no longer in the cards for me. But I miss the oblivious happiness. Sure, lots of bad shit went down while I was in college, but even major illnesses and funerals couldn't cloud my general happiness of where I was and what I was doing. Hell I didn't even really notice that I'd put on 20lbs since I arrived Freshman year. I was just happy. And there is a part of me that pines for that easy joy. And really that easy connection with people. I was in the same boat as 3,000 other people, and really we could start a conversation at any time about any thing. Now things are much more complicated, and everyone is moving in their own directions. And I no longer live down the hall, or within a mile, or within five miles of anyone I know. And it sucks.
  I never really had any negative feelings toward Brooklyn except that it remains far away. And the only thing I worry about is transportation. My local line is CONSTANTLY under construction, especially on weekends, and so we are always trying to get home from random stops. When I go to see a friend off the F train, I invariably end up doubling back via the G to what should be an F stop because of rerouting and I just panic I'm going to make the wrong connection. Otherwise it's just the 2 running local and the added 40 minutes to the ride.
  But somehow living where I do has separated me from the everyday with the people I know. I'm the alien living somewhere else, so I'm not convenient for impromptu hangouts or bad-tv watching that also serves as bonding hangout time. I may as well live in NJ for how far I am (but thankfully I am not that freaking far, as those trains cost more and cut off at 1AM. Lame.)
  So, I miss Hewitt 8 Well-Being-Accidental Placement and making huge ∆K∑  football brothers nervous about peeing just because there was a girl around (Nico!). And hanging out on the all-boys hall of Hewitt 10 building human pyramids and learning from Bill Cosby to "Tell 'em, tell 'em No."And I miss annoyingly loud Bruce being blared by a roommate in A1 Steak-sauce and sharing a kitchen w/ 9 other people. I do not miss rooming with inconsiderate models who let doors slam between their inner room and mine in WestCo when I'm sleeping... but I miss living within a few square miles of 3,000 people I mostly know or recognize. It was a great feeling. It was a great time in my life.

   Instead I sit in my lovely faraway home and think and write, but mostly think, and wonder what I would change about the direction my life took. And the answer is that I really wouldn't change much of anything. But that doesn't change the fact that sometimes you want to be able to just say "hi" without setting it up days in advance.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Thirtieth Birthday Rundown

Sorry for being MIA on the posting front. I am not, in fact, nursing some mega hangover or mourning the passing of my 20's in some dark corner. Rather, Mike is on his February break from teaching and we have been sitting on the couch watching marathons of Chuck-Season 2, and other mindless tv and video game entertainments. I spent over an hour uploading pictures on Facebook from my birthday party and was then too tired to blog at all. I shall now try to update:

The day started with lunch with my parents at a local French place, and some delicious Onion Soup was had, complete with the required gooey melted cheesy topping. I also had a massive mesclun salad in preparation for a rich dinner sans veggies. Bundled safely back into their car by around 3:30, the 'rents got home safely long before the first flake fell.

On to dinner:
Apparently I have walked past Scarpetta many times (including this past Saturday) without ever knowing it was there. Well, now I do, and aside from the snooty woman running the front of house, it was a pleasant evening. The prosecco at the bar was lovely, and their 15-page wine list runs from $34-$800, so you can find things that won't destroy your dining budget.

Ooh, and before I forget, the promised photos of me in my fabulous new party dress:

The food.
The food was quite good, but some dishes were lacking that extra element that has sent me into paroxysms of joy at other places. I started with the Sea Scallop (yes. one sea scallop.) with porcini mushrooms and a sunchoke-sauce they pour over the top at table. The scallop was cooked perfectly, but I thought it was missing something. Maybe the mushrooms hadn't developed enough flavor, I don't know, but I hoped for something with more depth.
Mike started with a puree of Chestnut Soup with marrow dumplings, of which I was not offered a bite, and which was all gone at the end, so it must have been good.

We both had the Ash-Spiced Venison Loin for our main course, which came with polenta-bacon dumplings and a dried cherry & cabbage bed. Now, I love venison, and you rarely see it on menus, so I always jump at the chance to have it. (Really, I love all gamey meats. Bring on the Bambi & Thumper, Donald or Daffy, or one of the many Disney singing birds of the forrest. I love 'em all.) Unfortunately, I discovered that "Ash-Spice" just tastes like they dropped the loin in the bottom of the fire pit and had to dig it out before serving. Mike liked the "earthy" aspect it gave his venison. I had to cut away the edges to eat the (perfectly cooked) inside of the meat. Oh well. Lesson learned.

Also, my brother picked a red that went beautifully with the Sicilian-Spiced Duck Breast I was given a bite of, as well as the Foie Gras Ravioli, but did not really go with our Ash-venison, so that was disappointing. (The ravioli, however, was to die for and I would sell one of my ovaries to have some more RIGHT NOW! But as it was actually a plate of 25 of the suckers (shockingly generous for the type of establishment) and I would have eaten all of them myself, and then my dress would have exploded off of me... it's a good thing that I did not actually order it for myself.)

<--My birthday evening's sommelier ... are we an awesome gene-pool or what?

We finished with various desserts and a wonderful frizzante red from Northern Italy (that I will soon have stocked in my own wine collection) and I got to make a wish:
 Believe it or not, I did not order a dessert on my birthday (made up for later by Page Trish & Mike behind the bar at Dusk who brought chocolate cupcakes!). So I got this little plate of cookies with a lit candle and I made a wish and got the waiter to take the obligatory "birthday dinner" photo. Which I am not including here. Instead I shall post the "you know your party was a success" photo from later in the evening.

All told I had a wonderful 30th birthday. And the snow didn't start to stick to the ground until long after I was in bed, so we survived that part as well.  Thank you to all who attended, or sent me a note, or in any way contributed to celebrating my entry into a new decade.

And for those who caught various planes, plagues & viruses within 24 hrs of the night, you so owe me belated drinks/cheese/hang-out time. I am available for dates starting next week.  :)