Thursday, February 24, 2011

popcorn heaven

Guys I always freak out when I think there is nothing in the house, but because I am who I am, there is never nothing in the house. For example. there is always popcorn. It took several people teaching me how to pop corn longhand, the stovetop way, to trust the process. And I'm not going to lie, this method has absolutely led to a scorched pot melted onto a polyester carpet in a room billowing with smoke. Maybe even more than once. But it isn't too too complicated, and it certainly is healthier and cheaper to just buy the kernels and pop them on the stove yourself. Plus then you can make this popcorn, which is pretty amazing.

POPCORN (from here)

--popping corn (or plain popped popcorn from the fancy-store)
--cayenne pepper (1/2 t?)
--rosemary (1 t?)
--sugar (2t?)
--salt (1 t?)
--2 T melted butter

Melt the butter. Then pop the corn on the stove. Do you know how to do it? Get a friend to show you. It's not that hard. Coat the bottom of a pan with a thin layer of oil and let two kernels sit in wait over medium heat until...bam!... it's time. Toss in a handful of kernels and put a lid on it. Shake the pot. This is important. Don't check your email or go pee (seems obvious, but...). Sometimes when it seems to lag I lift the lid a little, releasing steam and inciting a new volley of popping kernels. When it is a few seconds between pops, take the popcorn off the stove and dump it into a bowl. Drizzle the butter on top and shake on the spices, shaking the bowl around to coat evenly. Oh yeah. If the bottom of the pot is kind of gunky and hard to clean, try soaking it in vinegar (thanks, Heloise).

I am pretty sure that this popcorn is on the starting lineup of my snack-fantasy-league, and that is coming from someone who has easy access to Trader Joes Lentil Curls and any manner of bougie pita chips. This popcorn, man. It's a contendah. And there is nothing wrong with eating nothing but snacks, especially when you are in rehearsals! for! three! shows! Or when you aren't. Somebody with free time, watch a crappy movie and make this popcorn and raise a fistful southwest in my honor.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Coffee is a more powerful fluid than people think. A man in good health may drink two bottles of wine a day for a long time, and sustain his strength. If he drank that quantity of coffee he would become an imbecile and die of consumption.

thanks folks, i'll be here all week! studying for orals has never been so much fun!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

matzo ball soup

Kind of conflicted about this because, well, my grandmother never made me this soup. This fall I took a class that had a seminar on food and was utterly blown away when another student related basically the same anecdote that I love to tell: she thought that she was learning her family's latke recipe, but actually it had come with the food processor. I really want to believe that much of the foodways I've inherited had love as their basis, but the only thing I really remember my grandmother baking was bran muffins and, well, a bran muffin is a far cry from a cherry pie or even, uh, a babka. And so it was pretty reassuring that it wasn't only me and my classmate feeling let down by our lack of old worldliness-- c.f The Invention of Tradition and Imagined Communities.

So this soup comes from college. Shira taught me to first boil the matzo balls in the soup mix and then plunk them into homemade stock, so that's what I do. A borrowed tradition, if not an invented one.

What this entry really is, though, is an invitation to make stock. Chicken soup makes no sense without homemade stock. Making stock is not only fun and feisty but free. Holy alliteration, Batman! But seriously. The key is keeping vegetable scraps in the freezer in a ziploc bag until you are ready to dump them in a pot and use them. Crazy? Yes. But hopefully you live with chill roommates or at the very least someone who also feels guilty about chucking so many food scraps. Anyway. Keep scraps of onion or celery or potatoes or whatever. Seriously. Whatever. Then cover that mess with water and add salt, pepper, thyme, a bouquet garni, a few cloves of garlic. Simmer for an hour or two. If you happen to have a rotisserie chicken carcass on hand because you happen to be making a dance piece which happens to star 2 rotisserie chickens (I am either a genius or a clown) so much the better. Then just add less veggies but the principle is the same. OK.

Yeah. You made stock. Right? Awesome. I freeze mine in muffin tins to add to all kinds of random stuff. Apparently that's actually one of the major differences between restaurant and home cooking. Actually I think what Bourdain/Ruhlman/whoever said was actually VEAL STOCK, but we have this awesome thing called guilt and veggie stock it is. Oy! Back to work.

Buy a box of matzo ball mix. Or matzo meal + salt + pepper + dried parsley. Ain't no thing. Mix according to directions, which is basically 2T oil (or schmaltz, if you are in the old country or made that stock recently) beaten with 2 eggs plus all that dry stuff. Plus 2 T stock if you aren't using the mix-- in which case you'll plop these guys straight into your good delicious stock and, well, it might get cloudy or lack that MSG pop on the finish or something less good. I don't know. I'm sticking the college method.

Let the dough rest in the fridge for 15 minutes while you boil the crappy soup mix (at half strength) and heat up the real stock. Shape the dough into golfball-ish balls and polop in the boiling soupmixywater. Simmer for 20 minutes WITH THE LID ON NO PEEKING. Then transfer them to bowls and ladle the real deal stock on top. Oh yeah. You will be feeling better in no time, MayoClinic says so and everything.

hot rum toddy

Dear Hot Rum Toddy,

Listen. I know we didn't meet under the best of circumstances. I never get sick: I honestly thought that the sore throat was from singing along too enthusiastically to Ke$ha in the car but a few days went by and I started to suspect that maybe this was more than windows-down-freeway-belting-hoarseness. And even after I realized I too might be included in the ranks of the winter sniffly, I have to admit you weren't my first thought. I hate rum and those meyer lemons were destined for better things, like a (second? yes) olive oil cake. The last time I had a hot rum toddy I think it was actually a whisky toddy and it was too lukewarm and too strong and I secretly held my nose as I drank it to be cordial at a party. Such smiling-on-the-outside wincing-on-the-inside treatment has been historically reserved for things like homemade grappa. That's right, rum toddy, I had lumped you in with "things that someone's grandpa made so you better drink it to be polite." What I mean to say is I'm sorry, because right now you are making the difference between sleeping and not sleeping and are delicious besides. You are the perfect winter drink and bewitchingly Dickensian and maybe even restorative besides. Be mine?


1 shot spiced rum
1/2 a regular lemon or 1 meyer lemon, squeezed
a spoonful of honey or maple syrup
hot water to fill mug

Monday, February 7, 2011

avocado fries

I love the superbowl because it is a whole holiday devoted to snacks. I actually watched the game yesterday, but that was kind of incidental to my love of beer and dips. Ha! And after several aforementioned beers found myself EXPLAINING THE RULES to someone who didn't understand field goals. Not sure if that proves that I am a hilarious con artist or was secretly listening all those times I was on the receiving end of the same conversation.

I have to say, the classy-trashy-snack-quotient was a little low at this party. So these avocado fries, while no taquitos and totally coals to Newcastle in the "fats" department, fit the bill. Also because I joined a CSA and-- while I feel downright beatific, if sick of doing dishes-- don't have a say over what veggies cross my path. Like avocados, which are slightly chancey in the mouth-hives department as guacamole.

A little googling later, fried avocados from just down the road at La Jolla Shores. I would say "small world", but really it's like "small world in which avocados are foisted on you and you need to come up with recipes for them" which is basically a statement bougie enough for only La Jolla.

from Sunset Magazine from George's at the Cove

+2 avocados, pitted and peeled and sliced into fry shapes
+ a handful of flour
+ salt
+ pepper
+ oil for frying
(classy edition: 1 beaten egg, panko flakes)

-- Dredge your avocados in flour, salt, pepper. Maybe some garlic powder or chili powder? I never really eat avocado so the plain taste is exciting enough in my world. If you are going to be all "ew, fried avocados are sooo bland" like all the commenters on maybe you should spice them up a little.
-- If you want to really do it up right, then dip them in egg and coat in breadcrumbs. I don't usually have panko/breadcrumbs/such things in my house, plus my "getting fry coatings to stick" skills are pretty limited, so I just skipped it.
-- Heat up about an inch of oil in a frying pan. If you have a fry thermometer, you want about 375. If you don't, you want it "really hot."
--Fry slices for about a minute until golden brown and crispy-on-the-outside-looking.
--Serve while hot