From the previous life, taken around 2000, Bertrand The Turkey showing off as I was interviewing his vegetarian owner/rescuer somewhere outside of Redlands.
That turkey loved me. When puffed up like he is here, showing off, he almost doubled in size. He followed me around and whenever I was still he'd lean up against my leg. His face was very warm. Did you know that turkeys have warm faces? He liked me a lot more than he liked the photog. The owner said in general Bertrand liked women more than men, and also my coat was a color he liked. (For the record, that coat is SALMON. It is NOT PINK.) Photo by Marc Campos.
From three days ago, the Thanksgiving Chicken*** naked and brining in water, kosher salt, vodka and lemon essence, after being coated with the juice of two heads of pressed garlic.
Brine for two days, drain, let set for one full day (that's how you get
a crisp skin), slide even more garlic bulbs between skin and flesh,
slather with butter and olive oil, season however you like provided you
don't use salt, roast per direction of Julia Child.
Bring a book because you're going to be there a while; during the roasting you cannot work on anything else. The only thing that
takes longer than roasting the chicken properly is making its gravy.
(For the record, Child's books and shows taught me how to roast a
chicken. That overly-complicated gravy I invented all by myself. For fried or baked chicken I go with what The Official Mom of BGF Central taught me, but when roasting a dead bird? Do what Julia said.)
The Thanksgiving Chicken has no name because it was picked up pre-dead at the Farmer's Market. Plus, as a general rule it's a bad idea to name food. It complicates things.
Unlike my cakes and cookies, my pies are always ugly (or as I like to call them, 'rustic') but they sure taste good. Unfortunately this is going to be the last good crust around here for a bit until I have free moolah enough again to have the store special order the flour from the South. This means my biscuits are also going to be a little lacking in fluff until then. Don't think I'm not pouting about it, let me tell you.
I made the overly-salted ham shank pole beans in advance, too, but didn't feel like dealing with the camera. Since everything else will be made today, that's it for the preview.
For those who celebrate it, hope today's holiday is a good one for you and yours!
***Don't do turkey around here because I don't like turkey. Never have. When able to set up my own household, one of the first rules was There Will Never Be Turkey.
I found this site while trolling the internet(s) looking for somthing else, and stayed on the site for a good two hours. Up Soul Fusion Kitchen goes on the siderail, and I'll add this one to the visit often pile o' links in the browser. Be sure to click on her flicker page and marvel at the glory of her kitchen! An island! An artisan (I think it's an artistan..it looks like one)! Light and more light! That stove! COUNTERSPACE! That kitchen is huge. I envy. She knows about Surfas! That place is as dangerous to me as a bookstore.
It is good.
I'm totally going to make her Iced Hot Tequila concoction for the summer gathering. Of course I'll have to make a few batches ahead of time to test and tweak...
Which reminds me that some people have asked what the menu was for the fest. I'll write that up for next week.
(Well, besides the fact that the Christmas Bats were a huge hit, even though their heads are too tiny to get proper santa hats on them with the icing...)
I like the part where they go what's in the gravy? And I tell them. And they blink, and they laugh, and they go, no, REALLY. What's in the gravy? And I tell them again. And they go, are you SERIOUS? And I go, does it taste like I'm serious? And they go, that must have taken forever! And I go, yup. And they go, ... can we take some home?
What's in the gravy is half of all the veggies that were roasted with the bird. This works for any fowl, but (in my opinion) it does not work as well for beef type things. Nor does this work with boiled or grilled veggies. It only works with veggies that have been roasted with flesh. It also works with roast pork, if you up the level of strong root veggies to counter the sweetness of the pork drippings.
This time out, what was in the gravy was:
White rose potatoes (you can use red, white rose or Yukon, but NEVER russett for this)
Lemons (thickly sliced)
White basalmic vinegar OR tarragon vinegar OR real sherry vinegar OR concentrated vinegar
White wine, a kind that's not sweet
'Tis my invention. Getting the hang of it can be a little wonky, but everyone I've talked through making this has been able to do it just fine! You can tweak it to your tastes: a friend has done a version with just turnips, garlic and rosemary that is delish. Whatever you choose as your base, here are the steps.
All of the veggies roast with the bird. When it's all cooked, half of the veggies go into a thick-bottomed pot, along with all of the juices.
Take a hand chopper/mixer thing (I have no idea what this device is called...mine is one of the items I liberated from Goonan years ago. It's by Braun. You'd recognize it if you saw it, though.) Chop/mix. When it looks like chunky vomit, it's ready.
Put into a blender, swirl on high until it's smoother.
By now it looks like smoother vomit.
Get a big ass bowl. REALLY big. Put an old-school wire strainer in the bowl. Dump in your Eww It Looks Like Vomit in the bowl. With a spatula, stir and press the mass through the strainer and into the bowl. You're done when all has strained through that can, and you're left with a smaller clot of veggie leavings in the strainer.
It's hot. Be careful!
You can also put a cooling grate, the type you would use to put your baked goods on once they come out of the oven, over the bowl and put the strainer on top on that. This reduces the chances of being burned, but it's messier.
You can throw away the leavings. Better would be to put it in the fridge for use making veggie pancakes later!
Take what's in the bowl and put it back into the blender on high until it's very smooth. It no longer looks like vomit.
Meanwhile, that pot? In it drop a bullion cube or two and some white wine. Dissolve the cube in the wine. Turn the flame to a bare simmer. Ghost of flame is what you want, or bad things will happen.
This step you can eliminate. But if you have the time and you feel like it, get a couple of layers of cheesecloth and lay it in the bowl, enough so some of the cloth drapes a little over the lip. Pour the much-smoother gravy into cheesecloth. Strain. You'll have to squeeze a bit. You're done when nothing else comes out. The gravy is really smooth by now.
It's perfectly fine to skip this step. It just means your gravy will be a little thicker is all.
The leavings from this step, throw away. They have no taste.
Put the gravy in the pot, carefully, because you have hot wine in there. Turn the flame up to boil.
Let it boil for about 5 mins, then start tasting and tweaking. This is where you add the wort sauce, the vinegar, usually a bit of salt. When it's adjusted to where you like it, lower the flame to half-mast and reduce.
If you have heavily brined the fowl, you probably won't need to add salt.
You don't have to use vinegar. I like vinegar (have a shelf of nothing but different kinds of vinegar) so it shows up a lot in stuff all the time around here. But keep in mind that if you're using concentrated vinegar, do NOT add salt.
Once it's reduced by 1/3, taste and adjust again. You might want to add another bullion cube here, or more wine.
Once it tastes like you want it to, it's done!
Thing about this is it comes out quite a bit lighter than traditional gravy. If you want dark gravy, reduce more or just put it in a frying pan and slightly burn it. You'll have to adjust once more if you do that. Personally, I tell people not to that, mainly because you run the risk of ruining it all.
Serve and bask in their Awe. (I'm never gonna be a good Jedi. My ego the size of Everest keeps getting in the way.)
Sorry for lack of measurements. I come from the school of Let's Just Put Some Stuff In There And See What Happens. How much you use depends on how much you're making.
I'd never heard of Foster until earlier this year when his book, Atomik Aztex, came to my attention via a project I was involved in. After listening to other people talk about it for a while, I broke down and ordered one. Let us swipe the description from the VV, shall we?
Yeah, his book is like that, only better. Weird as all fuck but highly entertaining and one of the best novels I've read so far this year. His use of violence is astonishing. The last time I saw someone use violence as metaphor & soul with such deft skill was way back when I stumbled across Blood Meridian.
On the one hand, this Redcat event contains the sort of eye-glazing activities that tend to happen when MFA-types get together:
Situated Identities: Locations of Difference 1–2:30 PM
Against the ideology of a universal positionless subjectivity, (how) can writers articulate specifically situated identities?
and Collectivity, Community, Control 3–4:30 PM
Are there forms of collectivity, whether spontaneously self-organizing
or hierarchically formed, that offer alternatives to the dominant
systems of creation and social control?
Allegories of Transformation 12–1:30 PM
What are the conceptual toolboxes of writers who imagine alternative
narratives and alternative worlds, and which devices and allegories of
transformation work best to effect real change?
But on the other hand, you can skip that crap and just go to the readings! Reed and Foster are performing, one on Friday and the other on Saturday. I've seen Reed perform a couple of times and he's worth heading out to see. Can't speak for Foster, but I would be keen on listening to him attempt to read/perform excerpts from that book. It would either be awesome or an absolute disaster! Either way, I'd want to Witness.
Too bad I can't go to either reading as I'm booked, but with hope someone else around town will and report back! It's cheap to attend, even factoring in the There's No Such Thing As Free Parking In LA effect. If you park across the street instead of in the monstrosity where the Redcat is located you can save a few bucks. And if you remember to look down and do not raise your head again until you're inside, you can save yourself from being assaulted by Hideous. Everybody wins!
Update! My friend (she doesn't yet have a BGF Codename) zipped by the office during the break, grabbed the house key and planned to read a bit and nap before I showed up after work to feed her and throw her out of the house in time for her to make the evening performances and me to finish the next stage of cooking for tomorrow night's guests. Unfortunately for her, when I got home I immediately began running my mouth while whipping up dinner, so she didn't get around to the resting bit.
She was surprised that the event is not a hands-on writing workshop but more along the lines of people sitting around almost sort of talking about writing in ways that are not actually useful at all. She'd never been to a CalArts/MFA writing thing before. Neither have I, but I've heard enough about them to know to avoid them and show up only for the performance bits. Which is pretty much how I approach any MFA writing thing. Sometimes I'll show up in time for the wine/cheese part, just so I can listen to the MFA crowd gossip. (Gossip is information that has yet to be confirmed, just another data stream that can come in handy when least expected.)
Anywho, she was on a tight schedule, so fast food was important.
Thanks to my Mom, the Official Founding Mentor of BGF Central and my general love of eating and experimentation, I'm pretty good at Food On The Fly. This spinach pesto I learned from Goonan years ago, back when she demonstrated how pasta is something people can acually make as I stood in her kitchen wide-eyed with awe. Up until then I knew how to do 1,001 things with hamhocks, but the thought that pasta as something one could make from scratch was shocking. Pasta was always something I figured emerged from a factory somewhere and people got for .89 a bag at Publix. Thanks to Goonan, I often put my insomnia to good use making pasta for the week. I've also been experimenting with making pasta from rice flour and bean curd, but that's not going well...
You don't have to make your own pasta for this. The grocery store angel hair is fine.
Get some spinach, some basil, some garlic, some sweet or white onions, some pine nuts, some olive oil, some white basalmic vinegar (my tweak...I am incapable of not slightly altering any recipe), a bit of sea or kosher or regular salt, some angel hair pasta and some really good olive oil. Get a blender and a pan.
Wash all the green stuff. Crush half of the garlic in a press. If you don't have a press - and why don't you for goodness sake? - crush it with a coffee cup. Lighly toast the pine nuts in the dry pan. You don't have to toast the nuts, but it adds a nice undertone when you do.
Set the pasta to boil. When it's halfway there, oil in pan, toss in half the garlic, the onions (which you have sliced) and the spinach. Fry until wilted. This should not take more than 5 mins.
Drain the pasta. Put some fresh olive oil and basalmic vinegar into a blender. Add the stuff from the pan, the basil, the nuts, and the rest of the garlic. Flip that sucker on. Blend until smooth. Turn it off, dip in a finger or spoon, taste and adjust. I tend to add more salt or more vinegar at this point. In radical moods, I add an anchovy. Blend again for a couple of seconds.
Plate up the pasta, add the pesto and serve! If you have parmesean cheese around, grate a few slices on top. Once you get the hang of this you can throw down a meal within 15 mins of walking into the house after work. Truly!
You'll notice there's no measurements. This is not the sort ot thing that requires measurements. How much you need depends on how many you're cooking for and your (or your guest's) personal taste. If you're making it for yourself or one other person, you'll only need one bunch of spinach and a bit of basil - unless you like a LOT of basil. If you're making it for a bunch of people, you'll need more of everything. Personally, I like massive amounts of garlic, lots of basil and more of the white basalmic than olive oil. Other tastes vary. What's great about this recipe is you can have your guest taste it and adjust accordingly.
And now I'm off to finish the upside-down apple tart pie crust.
Hmmm....I have just noticed that my post from within the past couple of weeks about the Genius Grants and Suzan Lori-Parks' upcoming series of plays at the Redcat & elsewhere has vanished into the ether. Now I'm wondering if I just imagined writing it. Sometimes that happens when I am stumbling over the edge of stress and completely zone out.
The problem with waiting for the cream cheese to come to room temperature is that you might accidentally eat half of the anchovies (whole, firm and rock salted, not from a tin) while editing, and by the time you realize this the point of softened cream cheese is moot because you no longer have enough anchovies to complete the dish.
And so the cream cheese goes back into the fridge. You have to jot ANCHOVIES on a post-it and stick it on the front door so in the morning you remember you have to spend lunch hour tomorrow zipping down to Hipster Land where the market containing the dreamy anchovies is located.
Happily, there is still a little bit of raspberry sorbet in the freezer to take away the pain of your idiocy. All is right with the world.
What happens when you forgot you're out of milk and so have to make the cornbread using heavy whipping cream is that the cornbread comes out a little loose, but ooooooooooooo so light and creamy and tasty! The experiments shall now commence on how to keep the cream, but bring back a little bit of firmness.
Me: Boy, what I tell you about calling first? Minister of Information: What is this? Me: None of your business. MoI: It's warm. Me: Just took it out of the oven. Don't touch it. MoI: It smells so niiiiiice. And it's so pretty and sticky. Me: For the record, I can hit you from here. Back the fuck away from it, Tonto. MoI: (Makes whiny, puppy sounds.) Me: Stop it. Stop! FINE. It's sort of a lemon pound cake, but laced with lemon cherries and baked in a bed of pineapple chunks, brown sugar and unsalted butter. MoI: I thought the pickup was Friday? Me: It was. This one's mine. MoI: You made an entire cake for yourself? You are so selfish! Me: Were we or were we not recently discussing the problem of my ass?? This is my SOLUTION. MoI: I need to save you from yourself. Me: Put down that knife or THE BEAT DOWN COMMENCES. MoI: Do it and I'll report you as a hate crime. Me: I'm going to document this. "Dear LAPD; When I kicked this homosexual's ass, it was because he showed up unnanounced and then tried to take my cake that I invented. So he brought it upon himself. Sincerely, Angry Black Woman." MoI: Mmmm. Can you make me one? Me: Didn't I JUST make you a, um, what did I just make you? I know it was something... MoI: Let me just take half of this one while you're thinking about it. Me: Why do you always show up when there's food? MoI: Why do you always cook big on Sunday afternoons? Me: There's French vanilla in the 'fridge. Put some on that while it's still warm.
Really. Some of the recipies I've come up with were first dreamed. The latest is what kept me in bed past the alarm last Sunday.
Phyllo dough. Shaped by baking in muffin/cupcake tins? Somehow cupcake tins are involved. Butter butter butter some honey butter. A filling that is some sort of custard or yogurt base with fresh fruit chunks. But there was something else in the base that was fruity, a puree, maybe? A sense of nuttiness. It has crown tips.
It was REALLY good. I did not want to wake up.
If the yogurt/custard thing stands, that means this is something done in two stages, first the phyllo cups and then the filler. So it's an assembled piece, not a all-in-one piece. The cups would have to be completely cooled before the filling goes in. This would probably have to be something made right before being served because otherwise the phyllo would lose its delightful crunchy.
I'll try the yogurt approach first because it does not involve separating 50 million eggs or the risk of going through all that work just to end up with sweet scrambled eggs. I'll use the traditional yogurt dip approach (let drip through coffee filters and cheesecloth in the fridge for a few days until thickened) but instead of going savory with garlic, three kinds of pepper and the like, I'll try mashed mandarin oranges, olive oil and angel sugar. Maybe a little bit of dill? Or maybe basil is better. If that doesn't work, I'll try again with a fruit compote or jam. I think whatever I use for the fruity vibe in the base will determine what fresh fruit chunks get mixed in.
The phyllo cups might be tricky...My experience is that it tends to burn very quickly no matter what you do...that's why when I do the cigars I stand in front of the oven with a timer....two seconds over the time and it's ruined. So do I bake the cups low and long, or do I do them in a hot flash? Many experiments lay ahead.
We'll see what happens! Might not work. The thing about dreamt recipies is they don't always work in the harsh realm of the real world kitchen.
(Of COURSE I am far too clever and/or lazy to even attempt to make phyllo from scratch. That's not even part of the conversation.)
Food always makes me feel better. Cooking food always makes me feel Super Better. The washing of the dishes part is problematic, but the gathering of the implements, the mixing and tasting, the making of the mess, and the tweaking are all just fab.
Besides sulking over the decision of our elected leaders to ignore the spirit and letter of America with their appalling vote last Thursday, I had another reason to get down in the kitchen. I realized that if I want to alter Mr. Magic's alarming habit of camping out at In 'n Out as soon as he gets off the plane from an assignment, it is incumbent on me to provide an alternative. That this hit during my traditional Post-con Refusal To Leave The House For Any Reason Except More Cigs means it all worked out perfectly.
1. Julia's roast chicken. That would be the great Julia Child, whom I was greatly honored and humbled to meet and (sort of) cook for a few years ago. The (sort of) part of that story is long, and yes, it involves my previous profession. Perhaps I'll tell it here one day. I use her basic roast chicken recipe, tweaking it with the addition of 10-15 garlic buds stuck under the skin, and eliminating the carrots. I use green apples instead to get the sweet tone. Also I add a lot more pepper, onions and turnips. I like savory chicken. Usually when I cook anything with a skin I peel off the cooked skin, salt it and deep fry it as a special treat for myself. Deep fried halibut skin is my favorite. But as this chicken is an attempt to wean someone off of double-doubles, the skin remains safely on the chicken, mocking me. All of the veggies - onions, celery, yukon golds, mushrooms, turnips and green apples - I did the usual with. Mash it up, boil it down with wine and strain it several times until it turns into a tasty killer gravy. (That's something I came up with years ago. It takes FOREVER but it's worth it.) The toughest part about Julia's roast chicken is the Baste Every 10 Minutes thing. It sounds excessive, but if you don't do it the difference is vast. For one, the bird is GORGEOUS. It also turns out very moist. So I just sprawl on the kitchen floor for two hours and read. This time I went back and forth between "Eyewitness Auschwitz" by Filip Muller and "The Magnificent Activist: The Writings of Thomas Wentworth Higginson."
2. Two gallons of Jamaica. Pronounced ha-MY-kah. God bless my Mexican brethren for introducing me to this drink. However, I use an ancient Egyptian recipe as base. When I first learned of Jamaica, I of course hit the Internet(s) and discovered this drink has been around since the pyramids. I have tried and tweaked several different versions of this drink and find the Egyptian one the simplest to make and the Most Tasty. Perhaps I'll make a batch to bring down to the San Diego faire.
3. A tomato tart. Using the tomatoes my neighbors gave me from their Garden of Eden. All my tomatoes died after one season. So did the herbs, the daises and the corn. The collard greens are doing fine, but collards are like roaches. I made an extra tart for them.
4. A fig fold-over. I don't really have a name for this. It's something I made up because there's two fig trees in the yard so I had to come up with something or be buried in wasted figs. Think of it as fig ravioli. This time I put a little bit of cinnamon and nutmeg in the pastry. It came out okay. Something's still off, but I'm not sure what. I think next time I'll wrap the puff in banana leaves, put it in the coals and see what happens.
5. Mom's mac & cheese. Duh. With my special addition of jalapeno paste.
6. Russian tea cookies. Which I am not sharing.
7. Ho-Ho Cake. You know what a Hostess Ho-Ho is? Well, I use one of Martha's chocolate cake recipes, then cut it in half, scoop out some of the insides and fill the trench with homemade whipped cream and thickened homemade chocolate frosting. Then I put the top back on and seal it with grenache, which I also make from scratch. I started this Friday night because, like The Greatest Sugar Cookies In The Known Universe(tm) it takes a couple of days to make. This cake was picked up on Sunday afternoon by the person who requested it. He's trying to lure a woman who has a chocolate jones. The Ho-Ho Cake will definitely get her that much closer to his bed, provided the boy has enough sense to keep his mouth shut about where it came from. Later he can tell her. But now? That would be a Bad Idea.
8. Mango salad. This is a recipe I got from the Long Tail Kitty cookbook Lark Pien put out a couple of years ago. It's mangoes, onions and jalapeno. My tweak is to eliminate the corn, up the jalapeno and use rice vinegar in addition to lime juice. Dee-lish! Also all gobbled up by Sunday night, so I'll have to make some more.
9. Dangerously Smashed Potatoes. Yukon golds and russets with butter, heavy whipping cream, more butter and sharp cheddar cheese. Lord have mercy on my soul.
And that's what I did with my weekend. I was going to make a blueberry fruit salad since one of the stalls at the Farmer's Market had big tubs of blueberries on sale for $1.25 each, and the fruit guy who sets up on a corner along Buckingham had four pound bags of cherries for $5 each, but I just ate the blueberries instead. I put the cherries in the freezer for a treat when winter hits.
Maybe I'll just take a little bit of the skin off the bottom. He'll never notice...