Charlie

The Chinese eat some interesting things. Chicken feet, for example. I’ll say this about chicken feet–having seen the amount of shit a bird can excrete onto my windshield in the time it takes me to exit my car, enter a gas station, purchase a pack of Mentos (The Freshmaker), and return to the car that I “smartly” parked under the tree for shade, I do not personally want to eat the feet of anything that has spent its entire life tromping about in an area where multiple birds are confined for very long periods of time. But maybe that’s just me?

I do have a few favorite Chinese dishes, all of which I assume are primarily American, and that any self-respecting Chinese person would eschew with a firm and delicate-looking hand. Hot and sour soup, white-meat-chicken egg rolls, fried rice that has the pork that is, for God only knows what reason, pink on the edges, violently day-glo orange dippin’ sauce, and beef with garlic sauce, to name a few. One that I’ve heard mentioned multiple times, often being called “authentic Chinese street food,” is something called a “bao.” It’s basically a bun that is filled with meat and then steamed. I think.

I was intrigued. But then I thought to myself, “Self? Do you really want to be supporting a communist government and the widespread baby-exterminator that is melamine formula?” The answer was no. So I made anti-communism bao. You could call them McCarthy rolls, I guess, if you needed a memorable moniker. So I made them with a Greek twist. You know the Greek. Solid, hearty, warm-hearted peoples who live alongside a beautiful ocean far, far away? Spanakopita, Moussaka, other dishes I’m unwilling to eat because they’re all jammed-full of feta cheese. Well, these buns are full of a thick and flavorful Greek braised beef.

What’s that you say? That those are my leftovers from yesterday, stuffed into a culinary idea that I openly ripped off from another continent entirely?!? Shame on you! You’re absolutely right. I have nothing against the Chinese, and am eager to make some authentic bao (provided they only contain parts of the chicken that are condoned by your major American supermarkets, excluding the livers and the gizzard, which I still think is a totally made up word). But I had a lot of leftover Greek braised-ness, and was feeling creative. So we have Greek-style bao. It’s a soft, white roll that is filled with shredded beef and kalamatas, then pinched together at the top and flipped seam-down. They’re baked with a pan of water to create some steam, then deep fried for good measure. I served them with a quick, chunky tzatziki and some carrot sticks that Chris cut ever-so-lovingly.

Another Asian treat that has been molestered past recognition by American merchants is the “Bubble Tea.” It’s any number of cool liquids (smoothie, milky tea, etc.) that has a cache of big tapioca pearls at the bottom like Asian ambassadors to the Caucasian gummi bear. So niiiiice. These were made in a vanilla sugar syrup, then put into a drink of cherry vodka, vanilla rum, and club soda. I made Chris drink it, but it was really, really good. If you have a heavy drinking problem and can tune out overly assertive grain alcohol flavors.
Perfect! There’s something both satisfying and disturbing at how frustrated I was getting at not being able to find a natural and delicious way to incorporate spirits into a childrens’ drink. I won.

We followed it up with a melange of homemade ice creams that have been lolling around our fridge refusing to get jobs and becoming ever more embittered about the sagging economy. Almond, cinnamon schmear, and vanilla bean. Tasty little bastards. And a drizzle of chocolate, for my homies.

We’re still playing with the macro lense, lighting, and depth of field. We currently suck rocks, so bear with me while the photos are erratic in quality (and focus). The lense we got was Canon 50 mm/F2.5 macro something or other. It’s terribly tricky. We’re buying some ego lights this week, and setting up a better stage with a tripod, so I’m guessing within two weeks you’ll have well-lit, steady-handed crappy shots to look at. So that’ll be nice.

Admire


This was just a country fry-up, with eggs, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, and mushrooms all left over from the beef fixins’, but I like the picture. A breakfast like this says “thanks for meeting me at the bar last night and only taking me to third base, since I was too drunk for you to guiltlessly try anything more. Now please–eat and leave, because I don’t remember your name and I’m not 100% sure that I’m comfortable with the quality of your clothing, nor the condition of your underpants.” I like breakfasts with a MESSAGE, you know?

What’s your beef?

I’m back from the holidays. I mean this in the most literal sense of the word, as in “I’m back from our holiday trip in Colorado,” as well as in the figurative sense of “every moment spent in Colorado is like walking in a winter wonderland with roasting chestnuts, Lexus sedans with big, red bows, reindeer coming up and snuggling you while you sip spiked hot chocolate by a roaring fire, compared with every moment in Texas being like sitting on Santa’s lap only to find out he’s actually a smelly homeless burglar who has, incidentally, developed an erection that is poking you, and when he asks you what you want for Christmas, he interrupts you with a burp that reeks of $5 whiskey to tell you that you get jack and shit and the end is near.” So it’s been great to be back!

Honestly, though, our trip was awesome. Colorado is every bit as beautiful as I had remembered it being. It seems stupid, since I’ve only been gone for six months, but I was really afraid that I had built it up in my head, and I would arrive to find that, sure, it was pretty, but it certainly wasn’t the birthplace of hope and love surrounded by purple mountains fruiting excitedly all over the plains. Not so! Why, I could see plains being fruited on from the plane before we even landed. Not that I was in much shape to see anything, given the pre-flight “snack” I consume in mass quantities before I so much as view a picture of an airplane, let alone board one:
Sure, I’m shamelessly bragging about our new macro lense and showing off the clarity of a picture I just took out of this book (even though it’s shaky because I was holding it without a tripod): I don’t know why he lets me do this. He’s very indulgent.

The point is, I have to get fuuuuuuuuuuucked up to get on a plane. And still, I’m a wreck. I had THREE klonopin and an ambien on the flight back, which is technically enough to knock out the San Diego Chargers, and was still coherent enough to be shaking my leg and burrowing my head into Chris’s chest, asking if we might die. I also think I may have made some frivolous religious promises to God that I can’t remember. That makes me nervous.

But we got there, had some really great family time, and enjoyed the visual beauty of a place that is in actual possession of sheer GOBS of beauty, like someone dipped a paintbrush in a bucket of awesome and splatter-painted the whole state, allowing excess beauty to just kind of dribble down the canvas and pool in certain EVEN MORE attractive places (like Vail). Sadly, this frivolous use of awesome meant that the artist ran out completely by the time he got down to places like Pueblo, meaning he had to hope that by using a frame covered in pictures of coyotes wearing bandanas (New Mexico) that nobody would notice the oversight. It was great.

Let the record state that running at altitude is NOT GREAT, and it felt like someone had set a small-but-tenacious fire in the place where my throat attaches to my chest. It’s funny, because you never run out of breath, but that FIRE. It BURNS. Lactic acid in the lungs, I’ve been told. We spent our first morning in 10 degree weather running at altitude in shorts. Because we’re from Colorado, dammit, not some sissified Texans. Ah, memories.

We had two Christmases and a wedding shower, so I’ll spend the rest of the week debuting the toys I got. Also, while the following pics were taken before we unpacked the macro-lense, keep an eye out for macro pics in future posts. They should make a difference.

So today I will share my gorgeous blue Le Creuset dutch oven, and how much goodness it is capable of producing in the hands of someone who has never owned a dutch oven. The thing gets SO DAMNED HOT, so I just heated some olive oil in it, then seared the soul out of a half-dozen beef country ribs. The crust on those suckers, and on the bottom of the pan, was enough to bring a grown-ass man to tears. Or almost. I certainly was moved. I added a bottle of red wine, some all-purpose greek seasoning, a container of kalamata olives, some cherry tomatoes, quartered button mushrooms, a sliced red onion, and a pinch of minced garlic. I closed the lid, stuck it in the oven, and waited for it to waft magic throughout the house. And so it did. The smells were so potently delicious that it was hard to concentrate on anything else, so I just kind of sat and waited. Chris made some Israeli couscous to throw it over, and after about 4 hours of braising, the meat shredded just by me looking at it, and kind of started mosh-pitting with the thick and flavorful liquid at the bottom of the pot.

I would happily write a book called “Braised Beef for the Soul,” and it would kick the crap out of “Chicken Soup,” I’ll tell you that for free.

Lies, all lies….

I know, I promised you another blog today about food. But then my wedding shoes came in the mail, and I am really excited about them and want to show you. So I’m going to.

But first! A hearty breakfast to keep your spirits up-

A bunch of 1/8″ dice potatoes, deep fried twice and dusted with buttermilk ranch powder, crumbled, deep-fried bacon, and jack cheese stuffed into button mushroom caps and cooked in sizzling-hot cast iron. OMFG. So good. I’m dead serious, give it a shot. I put them on a bed of bacon, just for visual appeal and the fact that we eat a shitload of bacon.

I also put together a clementine/cranberry/vanilla preserves that I think is just GORGEOUS before cooking. The colors, they burn…
The end result got swirled through vanilla yogurt and served with the ‘shrooms and some itty-bitty buckwheat pancakes. I’ve determined I don’t like buckwheat, unless it’s all up in some soba.

Food having been taken care of, let’s admire my shoes. Custom made Nike Shox running shoes, designed by a fairly drunk Kristie, that are absolutely the perfect color to complement my dress. If you want to see my dress, you can go to my “wedding blog” that I have completely lost interest in because it was all boring and appropriate for extended family. And how much more can you say about wedding? Ugh. So, the shoes!


I know, right?

Go. Now.

Okay, I need your help. I swear to GOD that I will post some actual food tonight, since I’ve been a slack-ass, but first I need a favor. My brother did a food “blog” for his education class, and it’s um….HILARIOUS. Not in a “what a great joke” way, but in a “this blog is a joke” way. It’s not his fault, as he’s a very talented writer (and teacher), but rather the fault of the assignment–“Make a blog. Now.” What blog about teaching is going to be anything other than either a) a series of rants about how poorly teachers are paid, despite being a group of adults who will spend a LOT of time alone with your children, and you’d think weeding out those of us who are comfortable living on a diet of MilkDuds and Ramen noodles would be a priority, but that’s not the case or b)a series of banal “you can do it,” and “a child’s mind is our biggest resource!” phrases.

Anyway, you should go comment. Try to make it interesting for his teacher to read when she grades it. God. I am SUCH a good sister.

And not really a total slack ass, since I’ve been busy lately:
-guarding my class assignments with my teeth bared like a junkyard dog to keep a certain classmate from stealing my work (again)
-fighting the urge to suck my thumb and rock back and forth every time chef yells at me
-making dinners that consist entirely of lebanon balogna and hunks of supermarket cheese
-sleeping
-trying unsuccessfully to find time to exercise
-and getting MRIs taken of my elbow, since it’s still gay

Plus, I have been on typing restriction because I have a really ugly case of carpal tunnel syndrome. I know, I know. I thought it was just a “disease” made up by fat secretaries who were tired of sitting at their cubicle typing, and wanted to be sitting at home collecting checks for paid leave, but couldn’t entice any of the office workers (including the janitor) to do anything that could be vaguely construed as sexual harassment. No, no! Apparently it’s a real dysfunction that happens to real unfat people who refuse to do secretarial work of any kind. Like me. So I have been wearing this hard brace on my wrist when I’m not at school. I call it my “whacking hand” since the brace is solid enough to do some damage when I hit people (Chris). The good news is that provided I stop typing at the kitchen table for hours on end, while sitting on a chair that was designed for a much shorter table, causing me to reach well above the natural order of things to hit the keys, it should get better very soon. And then back to the table! Because ergonomics are only for fat secretaries who sit in cubicles typing. Now I’m just going to sit here and wait for the janitor to come sexually harass me. Not because I want to stop typing, but because I want to START employing the whacking hand.

Merry Kristiemas


Christmas time in our house gets pretty bizarro. First, there’s the sheer number of ugly-ass Christmas ornaments passed down by our various families from the depression era (when they sent out a bulletin saying “By order of the United States Government, we are rationing everything attractive and/or delicious, so you can only eat beets and cabbage, and your ornaments have to be made from discarded hobo underpants, and look like the undead”).

Second, Chris has this holdover relic from his academy days called “The Bachelor Tree.” I think it was $19.99 at Walgreens back in 2000, which was clearly overpriced. It’s an artificial evergreen that is about 4.5′ tall, but is called a 6′ tree because of the 1.5′ green stick that juts straight up in the air. It’s mangled and sheds plastic green needles, and it’s got either spiderwebs or cotton on it…I can’t really tell. He won’t get rid of it until we’re married.

My answer to this has been “The Bachelorette Tree,” which is a 3′ tall hot pink tinsel tree with aggressively pink lights built in. It looks like the exact tree a transvestite midget would see if they closed their little over-made-up, midgety eyes and wished really hard for the perfect Christmas tree. Terrifying.

A white owl made of real feathers, which looks just like Hedwig from Harry Potter, tops the big tree. It’s a long story that involves Notre Dame and pigeon noises, but I’ll spare you the details. The bachelorette tree is now topped by a chipmunk made of broom straw. Good stuff.

The two trees would be bickering constantly, in the way that bachelors and bachelorettes do when they’re not frantically humping, so I brought home a mediator:

I brought this home a few days ago actually, and put it in Chris’s office behind his desk. I waited, ever so patiently, for him to discover it on his own. He was carrying a stack of textbooks to his office, so I followed. He opened the door, froze, then THREW his stack of textbooks at our president elect, letting out an almighty shriek. I started to laugh so hard I was nearly peeing in my pants, naturally. Chris got pretty defensive and told me that the scream and throwing of items was a “very masculine defensive technique.” Allllllriiiight….so I guess we see a whole lot of very masculine defensive techniques coming from very breast-intensive co-eds in cliched horror movies, too.

I’m a hypocrite, though. About, oh…twice a day, I walk into the room, see him hanging out by the Christmas trees wearing his Broncos santa hat, and I get completely startled. No defensive gestures, though. I guess I’m just a big wuss. So far he’s kept the peace nicely, so I’m letting him stay. There was a brief moment of panic where I was like, “I hope this doesn’t get construed as a false idol,” but then I figured that nobody is going to confuse cardboard presidents for false idols any time soon.

In other news, Chris’s departmental Christmas party was last night, and I got to make a dessert for the potluck (with Chris being my Doctor Sous). I went with a four layer chocolate cake, filled and covered with cinnamon toast flavored buttercream (I swear to God, it’s the best thing I’ve ever tasted, frosting wise), and festooned with a melted-vanilla-tootsie-roll snowman and Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips. The chips also made a trail to our gingerbread shanty.
How come gingerbread houses are so damned difficult to construct?!? It shouldn’t be THAT hard. And they get so hard and unpalatable. Eh. It was cute. I also like to think that the snowman will keep out any probing city coding officials, who would immediately condemn our shanty if they got close enough to see how it was constructed (or the elves, brewing peppermint meth in the little gingerbread bathtub).

Wedding Night Sexin’

Hahahaha. Fooled you. While this post isn’t about having intercourse on the eve of one’s nuptuals (let’s face it, most of us were or will be too drunk to figure out how to shed a wedding dress quickly enough to maintain our own attention span, let alone our groom’s, who has likely polished off a fifth of rum under the mistaken idea that his wedding was ACTUALLY a great opportunity to catch up with old college buddies whom he hasn’t seen for years than to spend time with his new wife, who he probably sees every day and frankly he’s tired of her incessant squawking…) No, this post is not about consummating a relationship. It’s about consommating a relationship. And I have. And it was goooooooood.

Consomme is a very elaborately clarified broth or stock that has gone from being cloudy and delicious to being completely clear and the same amount of delicious except for now your kitchen looks like it was transported directly out of the aftermath of hurricane Katrina and installed in your home as a living museum to those who might forget that terrible day. Kind of like the Alamo which I avoid like it’s genital herpes.

It seems that I don’t like to be reminded of other peoples’ suffering, given that I probably can’t do much about it unless I can somehow feed the soldiers of the Alamo for just 33 cents a day so they don’t have to live in a shack with Sally Struthers. Which is why I have had my picture taken in front of the Alamo, but have never laid eyes on it. I’ve almost gotten into traffic accidents avoiding looking at the Alamo, but I like to think it’ll be worth it when I can say I lived in Texas for 2 full years and never once saw that stupid monument that they textually rape me with on a daily basis–Alamo liquors, Alamodome, Alamo Heights, Alamotorhome…k, that last one was made up, but it’s probably out there somewhere. Probably in Alabama.

Anyway, the consomme. It was really a lot of work. First, I had to create a chicken stock, which I did by browning chicken parts in the oven, then simmering them with a mirepoix and a sachet d’epice (google it–I have to pretty much every time I make it, so you should too) until it was ready to become gelatinous. Then, I had to cool it and take off the fat iceberg (I just coined the term, you like?), and then bring it back to 100 degrees F. Then, and this is really just repulsive, I had to stir in a substance not unlike the dry land version of chum. It was pulverized raw chicken, egg whites, more friggin’ mirepoix, tomato puree, salt, and a touch of white wine and let it simmer at 140 degrees F until the crap I had just stirred in formed what is called a “raft” and floated to the surface looking for all the world like Swamp Thing if Swamp Thing had also had a serious case of cystic acne. Poor dear.
Then I had to burn the fuck out of an onion ON PURPOSE and stick it under the raft for “color.” Quaint.

Eventually, I got to pull out all of the stock from underneath the raft (this cost me three gold coins) and admire its clarity.
All of the particulate matter had gotten stuck to the coagulated, denatured protein in the raft. It’s pretty interesting science, and effective, no-doubt, but good GOD. I ask you! I made little custard royale rounds to float on top, which then deposited a couple of little tiny chunky shards into the bottom, mocking me and pissing me off.

I made up some egg roll cigars so that Chris wouldn’t feel as jilted by the fact that he was getting broth for supper like Oliver Twist (May I have some moooore, Miss?). The consomme was like very good stock. But who drinks very good stock? You MAKE THINGS with very good stock. It’s what we commonly refer to as “an ingredient.” So, as the heathen that I am, rather than making a gorgeous consomme-glace and drizzling it on my naked breasts as I rightly should have, I made hot and sour soup and sesame rice cakes for dinner the next night, using the consomme as the broth. And that soup? DAMNED GOOD.

A montage

I stayed home today to study for my personal trainer certification exam tomorrow morning, and to get an MRI for my elbow, which didn’t end up happening since the hospital is full of stalling, lazy slags (not you, honey). I’ve been studying for all damned day. Muscle locations and medical contraindications, and designing programs, and calculating body fat percentages, and memorizing the laws of physics. Ugh. I can tell I’m getting burned out, since the last question in my workbook asked “Joe is a smoker who needs to lose weight for medical reasons, but is unwilling to quit smoking. How can you get him on a beginning health regimin?” and I answered “Call him names, punch the cigarette out of his mouth, and give him a low-intensity program for wussies to keep him busy until he dies.” So I’m taking a break. Here are some fun photos from the last two days to keep you happy:Mao has apparently taken the same approach to Christmas as I typically do. He’s embraced the one corner of the house that houses a)a rosemary “tree”, b)some shiny presents, c)the white wine chiller, and d)being the center of attention. Oh, and e) Cuisinart in general. Notice how his tail frames the word? He could advertise for them

Willie catches a quick nap with Mr. Cottontail after a VERY DEMANDING play date with Mr. Squirrel. Poor, poor Willie!

I now have sneaky photographic proof of Chris feeding the elusive Madeleine Meowbright (Maddie) a root beer float off of his own spoon. I’m recording it in case he tries to deny his love for her again. She’s a total princess, and doesn’t really like people. Kind of like her momma, actually.

I made this last night because I had to practice some knife cuts. See how geometric it is? This one’s for you, Mike and Tina Pan-seared tofu triangles glazed in Thai sweet chili sauce, served with buttered rice, a sweet, rice vinegar soaked carrot brunoise and cucumber julienne salad, and a looming scepter of fried wonton in the back. Tasty, light, healthy. Like I like my men, yeeoooow!

Chris very generously offered to make dinner on Thursday. He even adorned it to make it more palatable. Frozen pizza and Bailey’s…mmmmmmmmm? Ain’t he cute?

Follow up from today’s post…

It appears it’s been listed both ways, but while One Republic is from Colorado (elaborate gang-like hand gesture here), but honestly…do you want to tell this gloriously oiled up black man (a.k.a. Timbaland) that he didn’t sing that song? Because I’m pretty sure he could eat the entire band of Old Republic, then poop them out, and they wouldn’t even CHANGE SHAPE. They might even still be wearing their emotional pants.

Timbaland

You know that song, by Timbaland? The one that croons all moodily about how it’s “too late to ‘pologize” (I have NEVER heard the “a” in “apologize” pronounced once in the song. Maybe it was ALSO too late to use all the syllables in a given word?)? Well, maybe I should sing it to New Chef, because he stopped me outside before I walked into school this morning to apologize for our confrontation yesterday. He’s actually very fortunate that he was given an opportunity to speak at all, since he stopped me outside, while I was by myself, in the dark, and my reaction in those instances is usually shank first, find out the assailant’s identity second. But my reflexes were dulled by the fact that it was, for all intents and purposes, the middle of the night still. Anyway, the point is that he apologized. He said “what I said was true, but I shouldn’t have said it the way I did, and I’m sorry.” Whatever. I accepted it, apologized for being a baby, and went inside. Because I am a P-U-S-S-Y, and avoid confrontation at all costs. I know, I know, it doesn’t fit with my personality. That doesn’t make it not true.

Today went well, other than that, except for the part where my soup wasn’t quite salty enough for him . Also, my chicken glace didn’t turn into a glace at all, and was basically just concentrated chicken stock, but I knew that before I walked over to his grading desk. We were out of time, and enough water didn’t evaporate in the allotted time. I prefaced it with a “Here’s my concentrated stock, Chef. As you can see, it’s definitely not glace. I’ll manage my time better next time.” See how much of a peace offering that was? He wasn’t very mean about it, but I think that’s because while he was giving the demonstration in the kitchen, my nose burst into spontaneous hemorrhaging for no reason, pouring blood onto my white coat without warning or provocation. I’ve never in my life gotten a bloody nose without bashing my nose first, so I blame it on stress, or possibly sharp little molecules of evil that fly out of his pores while he’s speaking. Eh.

I’m making a turkey glace right now on my stove to make sure I actually can do it given enough time, and am not just a total glace failure (wrist-slitting offense, I’m certain). I haven’t started anything for dinner yet, having run up a hill for a while after school instead of going to the grocery store. I’m pretty much turkeyed-out from all the Thanksgiving leftovers. Plus, I think the leftover turkey has probably crossed over from “hot young thang” to “leopard-print-wearing cougar.”

I turned out a mac and cheese that was so good I have left all of my modesty with the babysitter for the next few sentences so I can laud myself for being a mac and cheese genius. There are worse things to be a genius of, you know. Don’t you judge me! I had a peppercorn pecorino, a wedge of Wensleydale cranberry cheese, a leftover hunk of fontinella, some parm, and a container of leftover MAGIC in my fridge. I made a quick bechamel, tossed in my shredded cheese, some hunks of leftover turkey, and poured it over whole wheat fusilli into a baking dish. The top got covered in breadcrumbs from a stale half-loaf of leftover rosemary bread, and it went into the oven until I had to take it out just in case the nobel prize people stopped by unannounced to recognize my macaroni genius.

Oh, and then an arborio “jambalaya” (don’t argue, it’s possible) made with a basic trinity, canned tomatoes from this summer’s crop, a jalapeno, some assertive cajun spices, chunks of leftover turkey, and some sliced up turkey sausage for fun. I mostly ate the sausage, because I luuuuuurve turkey sausage (kielbasa kind). The green beans were just steamed and then tossed with butter, lemon juice, and garlic. And sea salt. MMMMMmmmmmmmm.

Almost forgot–Tuesdays with Dorie this week was Linzer Sables. Tasty little ground-almond sandwich cookies that I filled with an apple-orange jam. Good stuff, especially after a liberal dusting of confectioner’s sugar.

—Two Hours Later—

My glace is awesome! And my dog is helping with Christmas by stealing things!