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At least I can’t taste the eggs.

14 Jan

I might be the only American alive who hates eggs. Can’t stand them. The concept. The texture. The taste. The smell.

In fact, want to watch me go berserk? Microwave an egg near me. Gah!

So you might therefore find it a bit surprising to learn that I made a quiche on Sunday. I have a recipe for a bacon leek quiche that uses only 2.5 eggs and about a pound of gruyere, so the egg is really more of a binder than the main star, thus making it tolerable. Also, I double the bacon (science be damned!) so it basically becomes a bacon gruyere vehicle.

The catalyst for the quiche was two things: I had thawed a pound of bacon and realized I didn’t have any firm plans for using it (other than just sitting around and gorging myself on it), and the leeks at the farmers market looked amazing this weekend.

(Alan might have disagreed – I made him take a long whiff of them on our walk home, thinking he’d appreciate the fresh earthy smell. “Gross,” he declared. “What? Gross? They smell like green onions,” I told him. “More like green onions and FEET,” he corrected me.)

 

Undeterred, I transformed them into a quiche. My recipe actually yields two quiches, but I knew there was no way I’d eat two, so I halved everything, thinking I’d cook all the leeks, then reserve half of them in the freezer to add the next time I made broth. Only I forgot that was my plan and ended up adding ALL of them to the quiche. So it was a bacon, double-leek quiche.

Even so, I thought it tasted delicious – mainly because I couldn’t taste any eggs. When I served it up to Alan for dinner, I didn’t tell him I’d accidentally doubled the leeks. He took a bite. “Very. Um. Oniony,” he declared.

I waited, seeing if that would be considered a good thing. “Delicious,” he finally concluded. “It’s just not every day that bacon is overpowered by something else.” Agreed.

But it could’ve been worse – he could’ve said it tasted like feet.

Smells like feet.

Eat to live or live to eat?

18 Oct

Image Source: © 2014 pithypants

We all learned a lot about each other’s eating preferences on our trip to Italy. If I had to summarize, here are our dietary tenets…

Mom:

  1. It’s not breakfast unless it involves orange juice and milk.
  2. Every table should include a salt shaker.
  3. There is such a thing as “too much” marinara sauce.
  4. Meat makes it a meal.

Me:

  1. Live to eat.
  2. Salami is like a blood-sugar insurance policy – one slice at every meal keeps things ticking.
  3. There’s no such thing as too much pasta.
  4. If a restaurant has bruschetta, we’re ordering it.

Alicia:

  1. Eat to live.
  2. Black tea, hold the sugar – hot/cold throughout the day.
  3. Have yogurt, will travel.
  4. Coronettos whenever possible.

Further demonstrating how differently we approach food, shortly after returning, my sister shared this link for Soylent. I encourage you to check out the page and see if anything about the concept appeals to you. (Soylent is a food replacement product that provides nutrients via a powder that mixes into a drink.)

The stated benefits are:

  • Time: Prepare multiple meals in minutes – no need to shop for individual ingredients or plan ahead
  • Money: Spend less than $10 per day on food, and less than $4 per meal – get more than a day’s worth of meals for less than the cost of takeout
  • Nutrition: Eat balanced and wholesome – get all of the essential nutrients required to fuel the human body

Sorry. This guy’s value proposition falls apart for me with the first bullet – I enjoy taking time to shop for ingredients and cook dinner. And more important than money or nutrition to me is TASTE. It might be wrong, but I eat for enjoyment, not nutrition. My sister on the other hand…

Granted, all you need to do is look at us to see how our eating philosophies have shaped our bodies. She’s an easy size 4, and I could definitely stand to lose a pound or, um, fifteen. Details.

Finally – because I’m mildly obsessed with Soylent and the fact that this guy thinks enough people are wired like my sister that there’s a market for this product – can we discuss the name? Is it a terrible or brilliant marketing move to name his product after the 1973 sci-fi movie Soylent Green, which is summarized by Wikipedia as “…the investigation into the murder of a wealthy businessman in a dystopian future suffering from pollution, overpopulation, depleted resources, poverty, dying oceans, and all-year humidity due to the greenhouse effect. Much of the population survives on processed food rations, including “soylent green.”

I mean, the plot does seem to be playing out in real life, so I can see where Soylent’s founder drew a connection. The problem, however, is that at the end of the film, you discover that “soylent green” is actually PEOPLE. So here’s guy in 2014, selling an unrecognizable nutritional powder and he’s deliberately named it something that calls to mind cannibalism. Interesting brand strategy.

Which camp are you in? Love to eat or eat for fuel?

Chicken Three Ways

25 Mar
A threesome of chickens.

A threesome of chickens.

Wait. Before you think I’m dramatically changing the focus on this blog and have a sexual interest in poultry, let me explain…

Tonight I’m giving thanks for having some culinary skills. I think my life would be infinitely less rich if I didn’t know how to cook. I may not have won Top Chef (yet!), but I do know my way around a kitchen. I routinely surprise myself with the meals I can construct on the fly with random ingredients in my fridge.

The meal that prompted my most recent pat on the back was this: A chicken roasted from scratch (thank you, 40×40!) served with the most amazing roasted asparagus… then plucked and used to construct… white bean and sausage cassoulet… and garlic penne with chicken and asparagus. A week of meals, all created in less than an hour (if you ignore the hands-off cooking time).

Friends who are intimidated by the kitchen often ask how I learned. Here’s my answer: I had a good role model. My mom didn’t teach me to cook – or instruct me on specific recipes – but she has modeled a few things for me:

  1. Be curious. She often flips through cookbooks or magazines and earmarks pages for things she wants to try. She doesn’t always make them, but they add to her knowledge base.
  2. Don’t be intimidated. Cooking isn’t exactly a mystery when you’re driving off a recipe. Someone else is giving you explicit instructions – so as long as you can read and follow directions, you can basically cook anything. This might explain why – after being impressed by Chicken Divan at a “Brunch with Bach” (the gold standard for our community’s quarterly cultural events) – my Mom found a recipe and tried her hand at it. It rocked.
  3. Improvise. I don’t think I can open any of my mom’s cookbooks without finding recipes that include her handwritten notes of modifications she’s made – either based on what she had on hand, or the family’s preferences. I think her experimental notes would earn an approving nod from scientists.
  4. Take risks. I can’t remember the specific risks my mom took, but I DO remember the occasional meal hurled straight into our compost bucket – which tells me she was pushing her limit. It also makes me realize I’m doing something right when I spend four hours trying to create crunchy spiced nuts and then end up having to write-off an $8 bag of walnuts because it’s all stuck to my wooden spoon.
  5. Pay attention. You’ll start to realize what works well together – and develop your own library of what to combine when you need to add a pinch of something to get the flavor just right. This makes you confident and nimble – and able to create your own recipes.
  6. Love food. If you enjoy eating, cooking isn’t a chore – it’s an adventure.

So that’s my gratitude for the day – knowing how to cook, and having had a great role model to inspire me. Thanks, Mom!

Now if you’re interested in the most amazing asparagus ever, comment and I’ll share it. Warning: It involves a wee bit copious amounts of bacon butter.

Image Source: http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/35dv15

Did someone call me chicken?

7 Jan

Image Source: http://www.disneymike.com/blog/whole_chicken.jpg

Since everyone just made New Year’s Resolutions and is constantly posting about their progress on Facebook (good job – you joined a gym!) I’m going to share a progress update from MY mini-bucket list for the year, which I kicked off on my birthday back in October.

One of the items was to roast a whole chicken. I know, especially for someone who cooks as much (and I’d like to think as well) as I do, roasting a bird should be old hat. Yet despite the fact that I routinely make roasts, when I made my list I had never dealt with an entire bird.

Two reasons: CAVITY and GIBLETS.

Just thinking about a chicken’s “cavity” reminds me of the metaphor Chris Farley trotted out in Tommy Boy: I can get a good look at a T-bone by sticking my head up a bull’s ass, but I’d rather take a butcher’s word for it.

You understand now, right?

Image Source: Maxine from HallmarkSomething about watching my hand disappear into a chicken, unsure if “giblets” await, makes me a bit queasy. Maybe I’d be more comfortable with a turkey, where I could open that sucker up and get a good look before losing my elbow to it?

And the word GIBLETS? That just implies that you aren’t even dealing with real anatomical parts – it’s more like a bag of mystery parts that have no real anatomical names. As in: This grab-bag contains one ovary, half a liver, four inches of intestines, a spleen-ish looking item and what might be a fallopian tube.

Now that I think about it, maybe I’m scarred from the Thanksgiving when I was in college and the house of guys living next door to us invited my roommates and me over for dinner. The meal itself was great, but I still remember opening our back door that morning to find what we thought was a severed penis on our stoop. (It was during the height of Lorena Bobbitt and in my defense, none of us knew what a turkey neck looked like.)

In any case, I bit the bullet and decided to make a chicken for our New Year’s Eve dinner this year. I thought it would be nice to ring in the year with one more item crossed off my bucket list. As it turns out, I got lucky with the bird – it was organic and the giblets were already removed so the cavity was as clean and smooth and vacant as the Capitol Rotunda on Christmas Day.

That hurdle crossed, I got to the fun part: seasoning the bird. The Thanksgiving turkey that my friend Lisa had made was so addictive that I decided to take a page from her book and prep my chicken with bacon butter.

Here’s the recipe if you want to make chicken that’s like crack. In a food processor, combine until it’s a smooth paste:

    • Fresh thyme
    • Fresh rosemary
    • Fresh sage
    • 3 cloves of garlic
    • Cooked bacon (I used six strips of center-cut)
    • 3 T. Butter (room temp)

Anywhere I could work the skin loose, I slid in a thin layer of this butter. Then I rubbed the entire outside with it before salting and peppering. I stuck half a lemon and a whole bulb of garlic in the (once-scary but now benign) cavity, then criss-crossed the legs and tied them in place like a proper lady to make sure nothing slid out during the roasting. Then I stuck the whole thing on a roasting rack on top of sliced onions.

While it was cooking, I made myself a toasted roll – and spread it with bacon butter. Then I made mashed potatoes – and added some bacon butter. And when it came time to sauté the green beans? You guessed it.

Basically, the entire meal was an ode to bacon butter.

I wish I would’ve taken a photo of the final result for this post because it did Norman Rockwell proud. I mean, that bird was golden and glowing and tasted as fantastic as it looked. I just can’t believe it took me almost half a lifetime to attempt it.

Now if only I can find a restaurant that makes bacon butter sushi…

If I weigh a thousand pounds…

14 Oct

Image Source: uselesshumor.com

…the next time you see me, it’s probably because my garbage disposal is broken.

I know, the correlation seems a bit weak initially, but when you step back, you’ll realize: a broken garbage disposal means a kitchen sink that won’t work, which means that a dishwasher won’t work, which means there’s no cooking until the garbage disposal is fixed, which means there’s a week of eating out until it is repaired, which is why I’ll soon need to shop for muumuus.

For the most part, I don’t put much down the disposal. I usually just run it when I rinse out my sink. As a result, it’s one of those “appliances” I’ve given little thought – until it broke.

Image Source: http://themetapicture.com/every-time-i-use-the-garbage-disposal/Now it seems like my life revolves around that disposal, because any time I dirty a dish, I have to wash it in my bathroom sink. Gross.

As someone who maintains her own version of a kosher kitchen (ie. items that touch cat food don’t touch human food; the cat is not allowed to lick anything that will ever hold human food; napkins don’t get washed with other laundry; etc.) it’s been a bit disturbing to rinse dishes while eyeing a toilet. Trust me when I say there’s been a lot of disinfecting going on.

It started last Tuesday as I prepped dinner: crab cakes with sauteed spinach. All was good, until I rinsed the sink, ran the disposal, and it simply made a “clunk” noise as the circuit breaker tripped. I reset it and tried again: with no luck.

About this time, Alan showed up. “We have a problem,” I said, greeting him at the door. I’m sure those are the exact words he likes to hear after spending a 12-hour day navigating the strong personalities at a high profile law firm. To his credit, after surveying the situation, he asked for a baster and began removing the standing water from my sink. (Pretty much a saint.)

Unfortunately, that’s about as much progress as we made that night, and I found myself wiping out the dinner dishes with paper towels so I could wash them in my bathroom sink without putting any food debris down that drain.

The next day I posted to Facebook, asking for recommendations of a plumber/electrician who could diagnose a faulty disposal and repair it. (Only in DC would one of the responses be from a friend nominating her husband, a furloughed NASA astrophysicist with a bit of time on his hands!)

Within 24 hours, I had an electrician out checking the circuit. Turns out, it wasn’t the problem – the disposal was. Since I would have to wait almost another week before a plumber could come out to replace it, Alan and I decided to attempt it ourselves.

Alan’s done this procedure before – more than once – so it seemed like a no-brainer… Until he had everything disconnected and went to unscrew the cuffs that attached the disposal to the sink. To say they were stuck is like saying Paula Dean likes butter. I’m pretty sure they had fused together, bound by a unique DC combination of lead and lyme.

Alan tried everything. Double wrenches, pliers, hammer, screwdriver. There was lots of pounding and lots of swearing. I sat by, googling to see if other people had struggled with this phase of the project. Turns out, we weren’t alone. And in many cases, the solution involved CUTTING the metal ring out. Needless to say, I don’t have the tools for that.

Finally, after futzing with it for over an hour, we decided to wait and let the plumber sort it out. The only issue was that with the pipes and hoses disconnected, it now smelled like a compost pile under my sink. So I stuffed paper towels in all the openings, sprayed some Mrs. Meyers lavender disinfectant everywhere, and left an open box of baking soda siting there.

Oh, and I put a grocery bag over the faucet to remind myself not to accidentally run water. Which is a surprisingly difficult habit to break.

So now we wait for the plumber, and I kick myself for not executing the brilliant invention idea I came up with almost a year ago: a bathtub garbage disposal.

Although, with my luck, it would’ve also broken and I’d not only be washing dishes in my bathroom sink, but also be reduced to giving myself sponge baths. Guess I’ll count my blessings.

Image Source: http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1180315/thumbs/o-BUNNY-BATH-SINK-facebook.jpg