Friday, January 28, 2022

No Reply at All

There is a calm magic in nighttime snow.  People that don't appreciate the dark elegance of winter are missing out.  Snow changes your hearing and depth perception.  It feels like you are walking in a bubble of time and space all your own.  Like you've been microdosed with a hyper awareness of your body.  The squish of white powder beneath your heavy snow boots, your breathing, and movements are keener.  All the while remembering what it feels like to be an animal in the world, walking in the elements.  At least this is my experience. 

I prowled home as it promised to turn into a bombogenesis overnight or into the next day.  At one point 3 delivery drivers showed up to the same building at once almost causing a wreck as everyone was hunkering down, preparing for the worst, ordering supplies. 

I prepared Homemade Shake and Bake Chicken Thighs with wedge fries and garlicky kale that night.  The next morning I anticipated a glorious snow day off from work.  However, the masterminds in charge failed to give an update on our store opening.  Finally, after most were already due to start, we got a text alert, at first only delaying store opening until noon and then until 3pm, but with a cryptic note saying they needed to hard close by 8pm, which is not a full shift, leaving most unsure what to do.   It's a shame what has become of good leadership.  It's such a rare trait.  All I know is I had decided much earlier to stay and was only tracking the commutes of my coworkers, trying to discourage anyone coming from further out.  Furthermore, I figured whoever came for their kitchen planning appointment was clearly out of their mind.  And wouldn't you know it, a livid Karen did manage to make it in this dangerous storm only to find the doors closed. She showed up at store opening the next day demanding an apology. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

It's So Fine, It's Sunshine, It's the Word, Love

Chicken and Small Potatoes Stew
Sometimes you get on a roll, as I did with these recent chicken stews.  This time with a bag of tiny potatoes, spinach, red bell peppers and corn.  Everything fell into place, as it does occasionally.  Of course I've noticed this with writing before and people talk about being in the zone, or in the presence of the muse, those moments when creativity thrives.  Many believe this is when we step aside and allow the entire force of the natural universe in to guide the pen or in this case, the ladle.  I share a lot of cooking and as you may have noticed, I'm not that great most of the time.  I have my moments.  I love to do it, that's my only true gift.  So when exceptional dishes happen, I don't take credit, only for being smart enough to get out of the way. 
I rolled the chicken legs in seasoned flour and browned, set aside. Then in the oil, cooked the carrots, celery, onions and garlic before adding stock and potatoes, bay leaves and finally kale, sweet corn and roasted red peppers.  The taste of this is so pure that just black pepper and salt is needed, but I mixed a tablespoon of Dijon mustard into a 1/2 cup of yogurt with some of the broth to temper at the end, with a big squeeze of lemon.  Those small additions made the flavors pop so big, simply lovely!

Sunday, January 23, 2022

But Listen to the Colour of Your Dreams

Roasting Pan Dinner with Mexican Rice
So after a solid two years of sheet pan dinners, I wanted to see if it made any difference to roast in a deeper pan allowing the vegetables to preserve some of their natural juices and also to roast items like mushrooms without them getting dried up.  This method teeters between roasting and baking.  There is enough of a flavor and texture difference that its worth changing up now and again. It's much simpler to season and oil in the higher pan as well as build a pool of juices.  

Alison Roman, my current chef crush, said she invented her Dilly Bean Stew recipe first by the name, because it sounded so tasty, she commenced to actualize it. I love that concept for inspiration as I often cook based on thoughts or colors that sound delicious, like reds and oranges and often crave vegetables that offer the vitamins I lack.  

I'm nursing an idea using roasted red bell peppers that I hope to bring into being sometime soon, like Roman.  They are unusually delicious roasted (like most peppers), do not break the bank and provide more vitamin C than an orange.  

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Doctor Robert(a)

I recall back in the 80's when some company began selling fresh Ready-to-Bake pizza. It felt like the invention of the wheel, a fabulous idea!  It wasn't until later, we realized that our ovens didn't get hot enough to truly get that fire roasted crunchy crust going, or the crusty pepperoni unless you broiled it for a few minutes.  But we were much younger than and naive to the world of cuisine.  Pizzas were still unicorns as far as I was concerned.
Now, we're making our own pizza doughs, sauce and creations.  I'm not even sure why this was so much more impressive than frozen at the time.  
 P brought home a ready-to-bake Margharita pizza from a local Brooklyn shop that sells them at Whole Foods.  I doctored it up with turkey pepperoni and more cheese.  Is buying a premade ready-to-bake pizza worth it in 2022?  It's about two thirds the price of a real Not Ray's pizza I could get in the neighborhood.  I had to add my own toppings to call it dinner.  It was tiny but enough for two people.  The pleasure of pulling it out of the oven and serving it piping hot was a big plus.  It came with the sauce, which sometimes is a drag to make even though its stupid easy.  It's a better unprocessed dough than a frozen. Final answer is, yes.  
Any extra little help to live your life right now is warranted, given it doesn't ruin your health, liver or relationship.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

I Want You At the Moment I Feel Blue

Chicken Stew with Potatoes and Green Beans
We're in it now, snow storms, bitter cold temps, and hearty stews.  Nothing quite says winter like a vat of root vegetables in thick broth.  Chicken thighs with russet and Yukon gold potatoes gave this mixed medley it's moxie.  At the end, a little yogurt slurry to add some body and a package of frozen green beans.   
I remember watching in judgement years ago as Semi-homemade host Sandra Lee would bring out all the store bought packets and cans to add to her dishes.  But once in a while, I will add a 1/2 a packet of Ranch mix as I did here to the yogurt, as well as some chicken bouillon.  You have to watch your salt content with these shortcuts but within reason, they are great ideas, as are frozen vegetables.  

Monday, January 17, 2022

I Need a Fix Cause I'm Going Down

Queso Dip
Strange thing about words, like if you never called cheese, queso, it's a weird time to start at this particular time in life.  But calling this cheese dip doesn't quite convey the depth of flavors that include green chiles, onions, garlic, jalapenos, etc.  This as an easy, no roux base or evaporated milk recipe.  I missed out on this delicacy for much of my adult life somehow.  Sometimes you make dishes more mystical in your mind, so never bother to try them, like eggplant or plantains.  It wasn't until recent years that I attempted to make a queso dip.  I remember getting queso fundito at Mezcal's on Atlantic Ave here in Brooklyn years ago and it blew my little socks off.  That was less a sauce then a true cheese and chorizo melt served piping hot out of the oven, in a cast iron dish and my preferred preparation.  
One time I tried duplicating the restaurant's way for a party, and the cheese seized up on me.  The taste was out of this world, but the hardened cheese made it impossible to serve. I secretely ate ginormous bites out of in the privacy of my kitchen that night and refused to give up on saving it for too long before finally throwing the brick in the garbage.  Today, I would have saved it and chunked it out for eggs or shaved it only salads.  Although I love the silkiness of a creamy dip, I don't want odd thickeners to taint the taste of the cheese.  This was really good for a quickie but for authentic cheese lovers, I would go with this recipe that invites cheese's only true pal, beer, to soften and just one tablespoon of flour mixed with the cheese to thicken. 

This was one of those nights after a long run of multiple retail shifts, surviving in a world void of anything too interesting for too long and just needing a break from that reality before I began believing that's who I really am. 

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Don't Let Me Down

Loaded Baked Potatoes Two Ways
Two ways and neither was just right. Your hands don't do what your mind tell them to always.  Like in this case, I only wanted to top one potato with pesto, the other with a Ranched up yogurt and then before I knew it I'd nervously snowed green onions on the whole lot.  The look of a finished dish is as important as the taste.  I get nervous to plate when I haven't worked it all out in my head beforehand.  But a bigger sin is to allow food to grow cold, so I hustle to serve it.  This is when mistakes are made.  
Ground turkey, tomatoes, Feta, Brussels sprouts and sweet onions baked on a tray beforehand for one potato.  The other I topped with mushrooms and spinach sauteed in good olive oil and a ton of garlic cloves.  If nothing else, hopefully this inspires you to get topping your potato with desired choices.  

Preparing baked potatoes is ritualistic.  Splitting it down the middle, then fluffing it's soft white innards before swirling in a pat of butter, then seasoning with salt and pepper like powdering a baby's behind. It was right then, I knew I should have mixed in the yogurt but I didn't, and that got me flustered.  Another example of not being capable in the instant it is required.  Ensuring all the party-goers on top were properly rationed became the priority.  Its always helpful to serve a tiny bar of extra garnishes, lest ye be left alone with the sprawling spud's remains.  None of this matters all that much in the end, but it is still surprising how despite best intentions, you can still get it all wrong. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

It's Been a Long, Cold Lonely Winter

Morning Impossible Omelette
Morning's are impossible, like this fake meat in my eggs.  We fall asleep every night, (another equally freakish, alien wonder that we just accept) and then suddenly, we pop out of this temporary hibernation, whilst the sun is also rising. Just as the coffee maker starts dripping at the click of a switch, we also begin talking and moving around seconds after this miracle occurs.  Soon we're doing, like reading or dressing with no self awareness of how strange the process looks.  If there were cameras in the bedroom, it might be fascinating to watch this rising, the moments right before our eyes open, as a reminder that science as amazing as it is, doesn't hold a candle to this incredible daily happening, that we can perform, simply by being born.   It's poetic and magical, a phenomenal occurrence.  

Granted, some days, it doesn't feel so amazing.  Your mind fills with dread and negativity, upon awaking or your body feels lifeless and sickly.  You don't welcome the light into the room, but think to close the curtains and stay in the safeness of darkness.  My mom passed on this day 4 years ago and I won't know what she was thinking before her last breath because she struggled so long with dementia, but my nieces made sure she was surrounded by love and music, so I like to think she felt content.  It's a cosmic handout that we never know when it's over.  It will just end as miraculously as it began.  But death should remind us all to be grateful even for the bad days, because they were spent above ground, giving us more time to figure out what the hell we're doing here.   
Breaking the food fast, helps with any reluctance to enter a new day.  Most of the time we eat cereal or a bar but on those days when you awake ravenous, it's great to eat a 3-egg omelet with mushrooms and spinach, pesto and cheese,  In this case, some impossible meat was added, with fried potatoes on the side.