Archive | Cooking RSS feed for this section

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

Red, white and blood?

8 Jul
"Do you think I need to go to the Emergency Room?"

“Do you think I need to go to the Emergency Room?”

I mentioned in my last post that our Fourth of July became a bit of an adventure when Alan came for me at the community pool, squeezing his finger as blood flowed down his hand.

(You’re WELCOME, fellow residents, who previously only wondered if children had peed in the pool.) 

He opened with, “I don’t think it’s anything major…” but the fact that he’d walked down to find me meant that he actually did think it could be major and wanted a second opinion – or a driver to take him to the ER.

I quickly gathered my items and followed him back to his place. We examined his finger under running water, and every time he stopped cutting off circulation to his finger, blood gushed out in time with his heartbeat.

Some people might be squeamish, but we’re both pragmatic. I hated to even ask the question. “Do you think you should go to the emergency room?”

Alan took a deep breath. I knew what he was thinking. We hate the emergency room and will go to great lengths to avoid it because it’s inefficient and generally requires a minimum of a six-hour time commitment. And on a heavy drinking holiday like the Fourth? It’d probably be overflowing with dumb drunk injuries and mean an overnight.

“I’m actually not sure,” Alan concluded.

So we talked it out. We should go to the ER if we couldn’t stop the bleeding. Or if it seemed infected. Otherwise, there was nothing to be gained, we reasoned. After all, he’d shaved his entire fingertip off, so it’s not like there were “edges” that could be stitched together. Short of grafting skin to the area, the doctors wouldn’t be able to do anything we couldn’t do at home.

Plus, we had two fat rib-eyes ready to throw on the grill. If there had been any doubt about our ER avoidance plan, this factor effectively killed it.

Later in the evening, as I tidied up the kitchen, I spotted a number of paper towels in the trashcan from the earlier drama. At the top of the pile was a cocktail napkin with Amtrak’s logo on it in blue, surrounded by red blood drops. “You should carry that on your next trip to New York and stumble off the train with it in your hand, commenting, ‘Hell of a ride…’ to anyone you see.”

Alan shook his head. “Actually,” I reconsidered, “It looks rather patriotic, what with the red, white and blue motif. You certainly know how to honor Independence Day!”

“Well,” Alan said, “As Jefferson said, ‘The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots.'”

Good point.

Just not sure Jefferson envisioned combat taking place with potato peelers.

Nice save, New York!

25 May

I was in New York this week to launch a new website at Internet Week. Except the website doesn’t exactly exist yet, so I guess I was just in New York.

Meanwhile, Alan was taking a week’s vacation in Michigan to celebrate his birthday. And I would’ve been with him, celebrating and vacationing, had I not been launching a non-existent website in New York.

Does that make any sense? No, it doesn’t.

Which is why I was a bit of a sourpuss when I boarded the train on Sunday for New York.

Alas, great city that she is, New York was prepared to provide some redemption.

I’ll admit, it didn’t seem that way at first – when I stepped out of Penn Station, there was a steady drizzle. I was soaked by the time I arrived at my hotel in Chelsea. After helping set up our space at the event, I had a list of things I wanted to do that afternoon (a “Me Party” of sorts, as my sister calls it) to treat myself to a mini-break before diving back into work.

On my list:

  • Check out the Highline
  • Walk up to the Green Flea Market
  • Scout out the new food hall at the Plaza
  • Hit the TKTS booth and snag a seat at a show that evening

All of that was scrapped when I realized I was not only drenched, but didn’t have proper clothes for zipping around a wet city. I contemplated crawling in bed and indulging in a pity party, but instead, I texted my old roommate, David, from Capitol Hill, whom I hadn’t seen in four years and who lives in Manhattan.

Lady Fortune was with me, because he promptly wrote back and offered to meet at a restaurant near my hotel. An hour later, we were hugging at Markt, David appearing to have come straight from a duck hunt: he was wearing jeans, Wellies, a button down shirt and a quilted vest. It was very Dick Cheney. And he’s one of my few friends who would consider that a compliment.

We parked ourselves at the bar, ordered a bottle of wine, some mussels and a crock of French onion soup, and shrugged off the rain.

As we neared the end of our meal, David looked past me and said, “I think that is Chef Todd English sitting next to you.”

Interestingly, that name would have meant nothing to me only four hours earlier, but in researching restaurants in NYC, I’d noted that Todd English was something of a celebrity.

“No way,” I told David. “I can’t believe you would recognize a CHEF. Who does that?” (Actually, Alan would also do that because he watches the Food Network, but I don’t have a television, so I’m a bit clueless.)

“I’m pretty sure,” he said, doing a Google image search on his phone. “Doesn’t he look like Chef Todd English?”

I verified that the photo looked like the guy next to me, nodding. Then said, “You keep saying his name like it’s officially three words: Chef Todd English. Just call him Chef. Or Todd. Or Chef English. But not all three. Right?”

David shot virtual daggers at me, leaning forward with an eyebrow raised to say, “Chef Todd English?”

Which prompted the guy next to me to look up and say, “That’s me.”

Which prompted me to say, “Oh my gosh. I didn’t even know who you were until a few hours ago.”

Which is a discreet way to say, “Please don’t even begin to pretend you’re the shit.”

Mr. English didn’t seem to know what to make of being both recognized for and denied his celebrity status simultaneously. But I’ve never let an opportunity go to waste, so I decided it was a good time to interview him.

Even though I knew nothing other than that he was the brain behind the Plaza’s Food Hall I’d intended to visit, I rambled off a series of questions.

Here’s a loose one-way transcript of the wine-fueled interview:

I would imagine being a chef is weird, like being an author.

People know your work and respect you, but you’re not easily recognized so you don’t have to mess with the trappings of celebrity.

Do you find that to be true?

<Answer that you can probably find on Wikipedia>

 

Do you like it?

<Answer that you can probably find on Wikipedia>

 

How would you change things if you could in this regard?

<Answer that you can probably find on Wikipedia>

 

Clearly we just recognized you.

Does that irritate you when you’re just trying to have a beer?

<Don’t need to look at Wikipedia to find the answer>

 

Wait – why are you just sitting here drinking a beer?

<Probably NOT available on Wikipedia>

 

You’re waiting on your girlfriend?

Do you need to go pick her up?

<Still not available on Wikipedia, but his cell phone indicates YES>

 

Don’t let us keep you.

But I will keep asking questions until you get tired of us and leave.

How did you get into cooking?

<Answer that you can probably find on Wikipedia>

 

Were you an only child?

<Answer that you can probably find on Wikipedia>

 

Why can’t your sister cook?

<Answer was probably on Wikipedia until his sister edited it>

 

Is she envious of your success?

<Sister probably isn’t even mentioned on Wikipedia after she’s done editing it>

 

Do you miss playing baseball?

<Answer that you can probably find on Wikipedia>

 

Was it a rotator cuff that sidelined you?

<Answer that you can probably find on Wikipedia>

 

Did you have surgery?

<Answer that you can probably find on Wikipedia>

 

Don’t you need to go meet your girlfriend?

<Yes. End of Twenty Questions.>

 

As it turns out, he’s a nice guy. Especially for someone with three names.

Good save, New York.

(And thanks for brightening my day, David. Next time, though, I expect you to take me here. Though I’m not a fan of ladders.)

Even the pig would like more direction.

14 May

Image Source: icanhascheezburger.com

The Recipe:

Perfect No-Mess Bacon: Place bacon slices on cookie sheet. Put cookie sheet in cold oven and set temp to 400. Walk away. Come back in 17-20 minutes to perfectly cooked bacon.

My Comment On This Recipe:

Hey Chef! Is your name Hannibal Lector? Have you seen what a cold oven does with bacon in 17-20 minutes? I’ll tell you: JACK. SHIT. 

That’s right: Nothing. 

Sorry if I seem irrationally upset. That’s probably because when the timer went off, I jumped from my chair – which is not easy because it is a RECLINER – chanting, “Who has no-mess bacon? I do! I do!” as if I were a cheerleader for the Lakers. (A Laker Girl, if you will.)

Imagine my disappointment at opening the oven door to find what looked a pile of cellulite limply staring back at me – puckered, greasy, white and raw. (Actually, now that I write that, it reminds me of my last bike ride. I couldn’t walk for days. And neither, sir, can that bacon. And it hasn’t even SEEN a bike seat.)

I’d hate to see your recipe for french fries: Put lard in the fryer. Drop whole potato in. Turn on skillet. Go take a nap. It will chop itself. 

Seriously. How did this even come up as the TOP result for “oven-cooked bacon?”

You suck more than the suckling pig that is sliced and raw in my oven. That is all.

Update:

Because I may or may not be the love-child of Anthony Boudain + Rachel Ray, I ended up extending the cooking time and dialing down the heat until the bacon was cooked properly. Turned out great – no thanks to the recipe.

Second Update:

That “no mess” part? Also needs to be revisited.

Thanks to a small hole in the tin foil lining the cookie sheet, I managed to drizzle a solid stream of bacon grease from my oven to the trash can. Have you ever buffed your floor with bacon grease? I don’t recommend it.

On the plus-side, my floors are now very shiny and my home smells like bacon.

Maybe I should start a cooking show.

Here’s how you win Top Chef.

15 Aug

Full disclosure: this post won’t actually tell you how to win Top Chef. But it might make you feel like a better cook after comparing your culinary skills to mine. Continue at your discretion.

I love to cook and I think I’m pretty good at it, but lately I’ve been copping out. You might have noticed that I’ve been posting less frequently and that the quality of the posts is, um, lacking.

It’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that my eyes have been crossed with work since May. Lest you think I’m exaggerating: my OCD self has been tracking my work time in a spreadsheet and I’m putting in 60-80 hrs/wk. And (this is for you, Alan) I’m not even a lawyer! 

Bottom-line: I’ve been compromising on things I normally pride myself on: culinary feats, housekeeping, bill-balancing… grooming.

Before you get all judgmental on my ass: When you start working at 6am and stop at 10pm, it really doesn’t matter if you shower, because the fragrance you’re wearing is Crazy. And your outfit is Porky Pig. (Which means a shirt without pants, in case you missed that lesson.)

[Deep breath.]

Looks like pizza? Tastes like ass.

So back to cooking. I feel like I could write a cookbook for lazy chefs everywhere. Here’s a list of the top three meals I can make in under 15 minutes while hosting a conference call. Consider this my gift to you:

  • Toaster Pizzas! Kind of like the crappy Triscuit Pizza your friend’s mom tried to serve you in the 80’s when microwaves required lab goggles and a lead vest. But infinitely more awesome. Recipe: one English Muffin, pizza sauce, cheese, salami. Pop it in the toaster over and 10 minutes later… amazement!
  • Mexican Fiesta! Go ahead and mock me because it’s processed, but it’s better than appetizers in half the restaurants in this town. (If by “restaurant” you think I mean “bar happy hour spread.”) Recipe: one box Trader Joe’s mini beef tacos, one package Avocado’s Number Guacamole, also from Trader Joe’s. Pop tacos in the toaster oven. Accompany with one scoop of guacamole. Demolish.
  • Bastardized Wiener-Schnitzel! So this might actually qualify as cooking, but it’s shameful because there aren’t any veggies on the plate. Recipe: bread a pork chop with panko and parmesan. Boil spaetzel in a separate pot for 13 minutes while you fry the pork chop in olive oil. Once done, in the same pan: melt butter, white wine, capers, lemon juice, mushrooms and a tablespoon of good mustard. Dump sauce over drained noodles, throw the whole thing on top of the pork chop. Eat two of them and mentally don your lederhausen. Yodle.

Yes, there are more. So many more, I can’t continue listing them without shame. But if you’re curious, I recommend adding the following staples to your grocery list: kielbasa, gruyere, tomatoes, figs, bleu cheese, pesto, toilet paper.

Because it might taste good, but it’s rarely pretty.