You can’t always get what you wa-ant

But sometimes you can get pretty damned close, which is why when Brooke and Tina requested some sweet potato variant of my previously posted carnival fry, I complied. No, it’s not chili lime, or whatever it was, but it is a bushy tangle of delectability. A culinary Medusa, sexily disheveled on the plate begging you to come use it to your satisfaction, only to go ahead and kill you after sexin’ in the form of turning your arteries to stone.

Ordinarily I feel like the sweet potato is actually very close to the yam in that you consume the sweet potato, and then you yam all over the toilet because it’s repulsive. But lately, I’ve been giving it small shots to win me over. I’ve tried sweet potato chips dusted with brown sugar and found those to be stunning. I ate a sweet potato and brown sugar blob on a burning cinnamon stick at Alinea, and it was spectacular. And I’ve nervously purchased a few, only to watch them menace me from the vegetable bin on my counter until they shrivel. Then I ceremoniously throw them away while feeling guilty about poor children in Africa.

But it’s not like we’re BFF or anything. I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to eat the traditional Thanksgiving offering of sweet potatoes from a can, baked with marshmallows. I wouldn’t tolerate that type of shit from a regular potato. Taters don’t come in cans. That’s just science. The only vegetable I eat from a can–on occasion–is corn. And that’s because I’ll eat corn in pretty much any form you serve it. I lurve corn. I don’t lurve yam. I *yuck* yam.

But, as luck would have it, it appears one CAN fry out the evil in a sweet potato. 375 degree oil is the magic touch to make it edible for me. Not even edible, so much, as completely outstanding.

So Chris and I used the apple corer-peeler device to peel off long strands of sweet potato. I had to have his help/supervision on account of my recent brush with exsanguination trying to move the same device a few days ago. The strands got placed in cool water to wait for my attention.

I had made a slaphazard marinade of Captain Morgan, maple syrup, soy sauce, and cayenne pepper, then stuffed 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs in the brew for several hours. I heated a comal (cast iron plate) in the oven on broil for about 10 minutes, with the oven rack as close to the top of the oven as it would go. The temperature of that comal probably reached 575 degrees. That’s almost as hot as it is outside right now. I slapped the chicken thighs on the smoking comal and let them sizzle away until a crust developed, then flipped them and let them finish cooking until the internal temp reached 155 degrees.

I don’t recommend you do this. The Government says you should get it to 180, at which point I guess the right thing to do is to throw it away because it’ll be rubber. I’ve found 155, then covered in foil for 10 minutes to rest is the way to go for me. I have a superior immune system, like Wolverine. I also can’t get strep throat, allergies or cold sores, and I heal cuts exceptionally fast. It’s a gift. No, I don’t like to call it a superpower, because underneath it all I’m still Kristie from the block, you know? Jiggy.

Anyway, while the chicken were resting, I took the marinade (I know this is also hygenically illegal, but WTF-ever, I run with gangs) and boiled it down by half. I added a bit of ginger and a squeeze of lemon, stirred in some double-Devon butter, and called it a day. I hit that thing with my lil’ silver tasting spoon like 35 times, it was that good. I called Chris into the kitchen away from his computer game, and he didn’t even rush back to it. That’s how good it was. Who knew??

And I steamed some fresh green beans, but nobody cares about that. I just was excited to use my new 12 qt All-Clad steamer. The thing is a BEAST, but so much fun to play with that it comes out even for two servings of green beans.

So onto the plate as follows: pool of splendiferously fucktacular sauce, then bushel of sweet potato fries, then two chicken thighs, then some green beans. In the end, the sweet potato fries in the sweet sauce with the touch of ginger were absolutely perfect. Thank you guys for the suggestion. And the chicken and green beans, well, they provided excellent vehicles for sauce-eating as well.
The only explanation I have for my adoration of this is that I grabbed a special sweet potato. A sweet potato that used to be a regular potato, but had gone over to the dark side, getting all of the talents but resisting any of the evil of a yam.

Have I mentioned I read all of the Twilight books for the first time in the last three days? I’ve had very few doses of reality.

A peace offering

Since my last blog (slash political rant) offered nothing culinarily, except perhaps an opinion on Flamin’ Hot Chee-tohs, I thought I’d follow up immediately with a foodie one. Also, this can be seen as a peace offering to my lil’ sis. I may disagree with everything else she believes, but I’m all for treating animals well, just like she is. So I’m offering her a vegetarian meal in return for my ranting allowance. And I don’t want to brag or anything, but it’s a DAMNED good vegetarian meal. Like “Oh my God a leprechaun just found a pot of gold in the back of my mouth near my uvula and got really excited and danced around for a bit before dry humping my tongue” good. I don’t even care if you don’t like mushrooms or you don’t like olives or you don’t like cabbage. You’ll still like this dish. It tastes like absolutely none of its components, but something more wonderful entirely. A whole new beast. Like if Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt conceived a baby, and she birthed it from her size 2 body, and it came out actually looking just like one of her stolen sub-saharan babies. See?

It’s a portobello mushroom (stem and gills removed) drizzled with olive oil and salt and pepper. Then packed with an amalgam of freshly ground bread crumbs (from some leftover whole wheat english muffins I made on Saturday), roasted red peppers (from the jar), sauteed onions and garlic, chopped kalamatas, parsley, shredded provolone, and an egg (all of which were seasoned with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon). The mushrooms then got put on a cookie sheet and baked at 375 until the mushrooms were starting to brown around the edges and the filling had just started to get a crust on the top.

The topping is a fresh tzatziki of Greek yogurt (2%), cucumber, garlic, lemon, and fresh mint.

And the side is a Greek slaw made from celery salt, sugar, lemon, oregano, red wine vinegar, and olive oil. It just got thrown over a bag of the pre-shredded cabbage mix I had leftover.

Chris and I ate until we thought we’d explode, but felt light and airy and happy. Such a low-cal dinner, but so fresh and clean and savory it was unreal. I highly suggest giving this a shot. HIGHLY. Even if you don’t like mushrooms, a portobella is like a little vegetable steak. Chewy and delicious and satisfying, without that mushroom taste. Love at first bite.

Feel free to dump way more tzatziki on the mushroom cap while you eat it. We did.

A political rant and nothing more

I was reading another blog just now, and the author casually mentioned that she’s not sure how her liberal family turned out a republican army person who is currently deployed. This brought me to think of several things. And I’m sharing familial political views here, so I may be a terrible daughter/wife/sister, but I’m willing to remove it if one of them gets legitimately upset by it. Consider that a disclaimer.

I was raised by two republicans, both of whom were army majors, and retired out of the reserves with 20 years under their belts. With the exception of my father’s love for gun ownership/cleaning/collecting, I never heard them SAY anything that sounded socially right-wing. They both seemed totally fine with immigrants, environmental thought, evolution, etc. I never heard them say a word against the people we knew who’d had abortions, and I know for a fact they were okay with homosexuals and homosexual commitment, on account of they let a nice, openly lesbian couple be my childcare providers for quite some time (explaining my love for Stephanie March). If I had to say their reasoning, in a nutshell, it would be that they loved A-Murr-Ka, and thought that republicans loved A-Murr-Ka more, and possibly democrats would get rid of the military.

Then I came along, and was a republican for my formative years and first election, because that’s what my parents were. Also, I really liked the OG Bush, and also was fond of saying Du-kaka. When I turned into an adult, I still loved A-Murr-Ka, but took stock of some big issues. My thoughts on abortion (pro), environment (pro), homosexual marriage (pro), separation of church and state (propropropropro–dinosaurs existed and evolution isn’t mutually exclusive to God), and figured “hey! I might be a democrat!” I was certainly a democrat socially, and the second Bush administration had me legitimately fearing the fuck out of a military under the command of a staunch republican. So why not? If we ever get a fiscally conservative, foreign-policy-competent, socially-liberal president, in either party, I will vote for him or her over and over and over, until my fingers bleed and I run out of false identities.

My husband is also a major in the military. He is so liberal that he’s almost taking pink puffy paints and drawing anarchy symbols on his BDUs. Here’s a fun story: when Chris’s tech, with whom he shared an office, got in actual trouble for being sexually provocative for having pictures of McDreamy (Patrick Dempsey) on her wall, she was upset and complained to Chris about it. It wasn’t like a nudey picture or anything. So Chris removed them all from her wall, then reposted them on HIS wall. Along with a rainbow. When the commander asked him why he had those pictures, he replied “You’re not allowed to ask, and I’m not allowed to tell.” That is one of my favorite all-time Chris stories. Love him. He would rather eat pieces of his sand-colored air force boots than be deployed.

My brother has most of the same views as I do on social issues. But my brother wasn’t thrilled about the capital gains tax, so he voted thusly. His choice was totally respectable to me, because he had a well-thought-out reason. He is also a marine, but seemingly has figured out that one can be pro-A-Murr-Ka without necessarily supporting the values of the Republican social platform. He would cry himself to sleep at night if he weren’t ALLOWED to be deployed.

My sister…well…she’s only 19. But she holds exactly the opposite view on every single social policy of how I view them. I sometimes cannot believe we had the same upbringing in the same liberal church. I mostly just hope she gets really busy with her schoolwork and forgets to vote, because any attempt to convince her otherwise usually earns me a “Kristie, you need to go listen to ‘Have you forgotten’ by Darryl Worley. And then usually I get off of the phone and am catatonic for a few minutes before shaking my head like a bloodhound and trying to forget that the conversation ever occurred. I love her. She’s smart and pretty and loves animals (won’t even eat them), but we are the political equivalent of mortal enemies from planet Zoron.

So all of those views–all of them–come from a single family. I think of my family, on the whole, as very intellectual and with excellent reasoning capabilities. I like to think that each and every one of us examines our values each time the vote comes along. I pray for that, because it’s what everyone should be doing.

Sadly, I fear that many Americans just don’t think at all. That is the only explanation I can possibly think of for why, when someone in front of me at the local grocery store pays with their food stamp card, they almost always wheel their giant cart out to a beaten, broken vehicle with a McCain/Palin bumper sticker. I mean, hi? Do you not understand the political impact on economics and social policies? Probably not. Now go home and eat your feelings (in the form of Flamin’ Hot Chee-tohs).

And who doesn’t believe in dinosaurs?!?

And how come people are STILL bitching about Obama being elected and hoping for him to fail? I never once hoped that Bush would fail, because even though he was a card-carrying window-licker, I still wanted him to succeed for the sake of the country.

And the next person with a bumper sticker saying “Drill here, drill now, pay less” is going to get rear-ended by a silver Honda civic driven by an irate blonde girl. What a giant, waving flag of jackassery. Nothing on earth inspires more road rage in my person than that sticker. Not even the ones that have fetuses on them.

Flagrant abuse of power

I’ve been eyeballing this gadget for about a year, ever since I canned my apples and had to peel sixteen bazillion (actual number) apples to make apple butter. I had previously tried to do it with the peels on, then food-milling them out, but that was a big fat effing mess, so I went with peeling. And I had to core them. My poor little hands were RAW from the effort. So when I saw this on the Williams Sonoma website, I was enthralled.

But I couldn’t bring myself to drop the cash on it, since it seemed so one-dimensional. Given a gift certificate to A Cook’s Wares, though, I saw it again and it wasn’t even a question. It arrived yesterday, and Chris and I couldn’t wait to take it out for a test drive. I bought some apples, but I loathe out-of-season apples, because regardless of what anyone says, they’re mealy.

I took it out of the box to assemble it, and it looked like this oldy-timey invention, operating on a system of cranks and levers and screws. Naturally, as a child of the computer age, I was endlessly confused. I’m not much for instruction manuals. Chris loves them with his whole heart, and will read them like they’re porn for hours before touching the actual machine they refer to. I will sometimes attempt to use the machine before I’ve even finished unpacking the parts, based on a visual idea of what I think it should look like, and a careful two-second glance at the picture on the front of the box. If, God forbid, it doesn’t work, I’ll almost always resort to a quick Google before I’ll actually open the manual. Because I really just need to know how it works, not to sift through pages of “helpful” instructions like “The Federal Government recommends you do not ingest your blender” or “Do not bathe while holding your toaster oven, especially if it’s plugged in.” And I don’t want to be told to “begin assembly by removing the plastic bubble wrap on the outside of your microwave.” I’m not stupid, just impatient. So I threw screws on the new apple-peeler in a manner that I thought was at least vaguely accurate and they kept falling off. I determined that, at this point, it would be the best idea to just grab an apple and stick it on the prongs and see what happened and where additional parts seemed to be required.

Eventually, Chris suggested that I make a minor adjustment to my technique (reversing it completely), and it worked a treat. We ate the apple, and then stared at the machine. It wanted to DO something. I grabbed a potato, and we found two completely awesome uses for it:

Super-thin carnival fries that were spun off in one continuous piece, fried, and topped with a parmesan-garlic sprinkle. De-friggin-licious.

Then I had an idea that would appall the American Heart Association so much that, if they’d seen it, I’d be shot on sight. A spiral sliced potato, deep fried, and strung through with a piece of deep fried bacon. And served with BBQ sauce, obviously.

It brought tears to my eyes. Our new machine is the coolest thing we’ve ever played with, I’m pretty sure. We look forward to deep frying apples, making candied lemon, and possibly doing this potato again, only threading it with a hot dog while it fries and just dipping the whole thing in ketchup. Gross? Sure. Delicious? Almost certainly. Ooooh…I just thought of another one. Stuff the potato with a bratwurst, deep fry, top with sauerkraut and spicy brown mustard, and eat with a dark German beer.

Thai me up and call me Sally

Asian market is my favorite. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Yesterday, I went to the one up the street and meandered around for a while, looking at strange food and impulsively hocking pieces of it into my basket. There are no carts at Asian market, only baskets with wire handles. And since all the food is either a) canned or b) heavy-ass rice, it digs little grooves into your palms while you shop. Doesn’t stop me from wandering through all the aisles, fascinated.

Asian market also always smells like dried shrimp and raw tilefish. It’s pretty foul, but it’s the essence of Asian market, so you kind of just get used to it and appreciate it for what it is. When I went yesterday, there were about 5 Asian people (I believe Korean, though I could be wrong and am too ashamed to my ignorance to ask), and they were stocking shelves, bartering in an ancient language that I didn’t recognize or understand, and milling around looking at cans of some of the craziest foodstuffs I’ve ever seen. Miley Cyrus and Rihanna blared in the background, which surprised me only a little. I’ve seen pictures of 10 year old girls in Japan wearing shirts that say random phrases like “Sex Panda Fireman,” so I think as long as it’s recognized as “pop-culture American” it’s at least a little stylish. Just like wearing anything “Hello, Kitty” in the US means that you’re Artistic and Free Thinking.

As I wandered, I noticed that people were periodically peeking around the corner of the aisles at me. I guess that’s not hard to explain, given that I was about 14 feet taller than anyone else in the store, and also erring on the side of albinism. But they gave me the freedom to search around, trying to read Japanese labels, scrunching up my nose at crazy-gross things when nobody was looking, etc. Like when I saw the corn-cheese ice cream. I ACTUALLY vomited in my mouth a little when I saw that. There are three people who could put something called “corn-cheese ice cream” in front of me and stand some chance of me trying it. Ferran Adria, Grant Achatz, and Morimoto. That’s it. Everyone else? No way in hell. And even with them, I’d balk.

What I ended up getting was a slew of nonsensical ingredients that I was curious about. I got some giant black pearl tapioca (for Boba Tea), roasted rice powder, galangal, lychee ice cream, several aseptic packages of tofu, rice punch (a Korean drink that has pieces of rice floating in it), some corn cereal that had a smiling rabbit on the front, duck flavored ramen noodles, tapioca in coconut milk, melon flavored agar jelly, lemongrass, strawberry Mochi (little japanese ice cream balls wrapped in a rice paper of some ilk), dried red peppers, boba straws, matcha tea powder with dried milk, Japanese strawberry starburst-y chews, black fungus (not ‘cuz I’m curious, ‘cuz I’m out), and God knows what else.

The advertising kills me. The slogan on my rice punch says “Korean taste. Better taste.” The corn cereal with the smiling rabbit says “A rabbit called DAFUNE RABBIT- How rabbit feels?” Then at the bottom, where another smiling rabbit is holding a giant piece of what I think is corn cereal, it says HAPPY BOLO! On the back, in the English explanation of ingredients, it says “Egg Boro biscuit” “Happy Boro!”

Here’s what I can’t figure out. Do they automatically change the American words on the front to be “Bolo” instead of “Boro” because they’ve determined that all of our “r” sounds are spelled with an “L”? Is it a joke over there, kind of like the reverse is over here? Hmmmmm….

I went to one of those dirty tupperware parties where they try to sell you vibrators (at the home of one of Chris’s coworkers…awkward) and there were smiley faces on the frenulum of the you-know-whats. I was informed, by smiling tupperware-dildo saleswoman, that the smiley faces are because in Japan it is illegal to produce adult toys. To get around this, they put smiley faces on them, and call them toys. This feels like it would be a no-brainer for the Japanese government to catch, but I guess governments are the same, world around. I don’t know how comfortable I would be having carnal relations with a smiling penis, but I suppose it might be a nice welcoming gesture. Like, “he seems friendly enough! Let him in!” I couldn’t bring myself to purchase any of them.

Anyway, the point of this post is that I made a completely ridonkulous vegetarian curry last night (Thai), and I made my own curry paste for the first time, instead of just buying the suspect little jars from the Asian market. Although panang curry paste is a thing of beauty, as long as I ignore the words “shrimp paste” on the ingredient list. Here are the things that were in my curry paste: Cilantro, galangal (Thai ginger, kind of), lime zest and juice, fresh lemongrass, shallot, garlic, serrano, red chile and cumin. I put them in my lil’ food processor until they were a paste, adding a touch of veg oil, salt, fish sauce (not vegetarian, I know) to help loosen it up a bit.

A word about fish sauce. Gross, I know. Totally gross. But if your Thai and Vietnamese foods don’t taste the same as they do in restaurants, it’s almost certainly because you’re not adding fish sauce. It doesn’t taste like fish, and I avoid smelling it because I’m afraid I’d never touch it again, but it adds an incredible depth of flavor and authenticity. There is no replacement. Period. Same goes for Oyster sauce in Chinese cooking. You can’t replace it, and you need it. If it helps, think about Worcestershire sauce, which is flavored primarily with anchovies, but doesn’t taste like fish at all. Fish sauce is also made with anchovies, so there you go. If you’re a vegetarian, they make vegetarian fish sauce that is supposedly similar enough to get by.

Then I made the curry itself, which was rife with colorful vegetables. Here are some vegetables that went in, along with very firm tofu (sorry, they don’t have tempeh at either Super Target or HEB, so I have to wait until my next trip to WhoFo or Central Market), and a touch of vegetable stock. I steamed the vegetables individually first, so they’d each be the exact level of doneness I wanted them to be, instead of praying they cook evenly in a curry. Then I stir-fried the paste in hot oil, adding the coconut milk and vegetable stock and allowed it to cook down by about half. I cubed the tofu, after pressing it to release any extra water, and tossed it in first. After a few minutes of flavor absorption, in went the veggies and out came a completely nutritious, delicious curry. It was so authentic in flavor and texture, and the whole thing was teeming with healthogens (measures of health that attack the fatness center).

We ended up full, but not heavy, with a creamy flavor in the mouth that lingered pleasantly. And then we ate lychee ice cream, and gave thanks that it didn’t have any cheese in it.

Just Ducky

What is my DEAL lately with the duck? I can’t get enough of it. I think I got bored with my traditional meats (chicken, beef, pork), and it’s not like that’s motivation enough to see me trotting back to my house from the market carrying a scaly dead halibut or anything. I’ve got a firm line there. So duck it is, and we’re really enjoying it.

We source our duck from Hudson Valley, on account of they’re a)free-range for real and b) effing delicious. Our recent shipment included another tub of duck fat, 12 duck legs for confit (which I HAVE to start today…note to self), and (much like that hooker in Total Recall) three plump breasts. Maaaaybe there was also a roll of black truffle butter in that package. I’m so weak in the face of truffle butter.

And cherries, oh the cherries. I love when cherries are in season, and the grocery stores pack the shelves with giant bags of juicy red orbs for $2.99/lb. I once ate a full pound of them at once. Actually, this isn’t the first time this happened. My parents took me on a cruise to Norway (I think) when I was 4 years old, and I liked the cherries so much that the chef sent out a big bowl of them. I ate them all and then barfed ruby-red all over the ship. Sweet.

Finally, asparagus is still lingering at the tail end of its yearly heyday. I will tell you that up until this year, I did not eat asparagus. I may have already told you this. It’s because when I was small my parents and grandparents told me it makes your “pee stink.” Grrrooooosssssss. So I was a-feared of it. But cooked correctly it’s a thing of beauty. Cooked incorrectly it’s a thing of absolute mealy horror.

So last night we rolled out a duck breast rubbed with cayenne pepper and brown sugar, then sauteed until the fatty skin was crisped up. It lay over a bed of red wine risotto that I personally stirred myself. Usually Chris stirs the risotto because I don’t have the attention span to stir for that long. Some asparagus in melted truffle butter graced the back of the plate, and the fond from the duck, after the fat was poured off, became a rich reduction of red wine and good balsamic that simmered with fresh cherries.

Help us all, how can one dish have that many flavors of awesome. All complementary, all powerful, and all in season. Yowza.

Breasts and thighs

There’s kind of a neverending debate in my head about when I should or should not substitute chicken thigh meat for chicken breast meat. Overall, chicken thigh is a hella better deal. It’s juicier, more tender, more flavorful, and way, way cheaper. I don’t usually mind spending money on a delicious cut of meat. I’ve got some duck breasts in the fridge that will speak to that. But chicken breasts are usually so MEH. I have never been super fond of them. My aversion may hearken back to my high school boyfriend (and the first part of college) who was like Mr. Bodybuilder Wannabe Guy. He read a lot of Body For Life, tried to get me to lift heavy things, believed that 20 minutes of cardio was the ONLY POSSIBLE INCREMENT, and seemed to think that “baked” boneless skinless chicken the size of a deck of cards, brown rice, and green vegetables (seasoned with Butter Buds) was a perfectly reasonable dinner. He used to make it for me, and I’d have to act all grateful even though EW.

So I don’t use a whole whompin’ lot of them in my cooking. But a roasted chicken breast with the skin and bone still intact can yield some pretty fantastic results. Today’s offering was a trio of breasts cavorting around in fresh cilantro pesto, roasted atop a bed of poblano peppers, red onions, plum tomato wedges, and squirted with a lime twist.



On a plate

In a burrito

I didn’t leave the chicken to fend for itself in that cavernous burrito, though. I loaded it up with black beans I had sauteed with duck fat and onions. Yes. Duck fat. And beans. Try it. I installed a next-door neighbor of a salad of romaine and olives, which would be grade-school, except for the dressing. I threw on a vinaigrette that was flavored with honey, lime, and more cilantro, among other things. One of my favorites, and kind of a blatant rip-off of a vinaigrette they have at Costa Vida in Colorado. They have this sweet pork salad with cilantro vinaigrette that would make you cry all over your plate with unbridled joy. But the burrito–I didn’t want it to get all cold in the night, with nobody to love it, so I smothered it in melted queso asadero, avocado sour cream, and a fresh mango salsa.

Sometimes, I think about the mango and I get really sad that it’s so underappreciated. I mean, it’s so delicious and juicy and musky and versatile. But then I think about how much I hate coring and peeling them, and I’m like “screw you, mango.”

Wedding pics

This has nothing to do with food, except that our caterer was AWESOME, and I only got a single bite of my beautiful cake, which still fills me with strong and bitter emotion every time I think of it…but I thought I’d post a few of the wedding pics for those of you who are in any way interested. If not? I’ll post something food-related later today. I can see you’re skeptical, so I’ll pinkie-swear.

This is my favorite picture of my hair, right after it was done. Very Goldilocks. Ignore the lipstick-application, please.

The boys had their photo shoot before the actual wedding, which is why my husband still looks kind of concerned. He’s the one on the left. See? Sexy, but concerned.

This is a good picture of the chapel while we were up there saying our vows. It looks so empty! I think it’s because it seats 1200 people, and I don’t know anywhere near that many people. Not even if I started randomly sending out friend requests on facebook. Sad.

This is us with my childhood pastor at the front of the church after the ceremony. She’s fantastic, and managed to work our dear, lush-like love of wine into her sermon. Bless her heart.

The family. My mom’s sooooooo tiny. We carried her to the ceremony in a cat carrier. And that’s Erik, my guest blogger. And the lil’ sister, Laurel. Good folk.

On the way out of the chapel, one of my Nikes came untied. I’ve heard this is a common problem among brides. Fortunately, my adorable husband was there to tie it for me, since I couldn’t see my feet. It was like being pregnant, only less birth-y.

This is the whole bridal party, attractive little buggers. My girls are Bex, KL, and Laurel. Chris is dude-ing around with his brother Tim, Barcus, and my brother Erik. And then there’s us in the middle. You can see part of the awesome USAFA chapel in the background.

Beepbeep. There was some concern from the bridal party that Chris and I were going to ACTUALLY hijack the golf cart. But we didn’t, not wanting to consummate our nuptuals in jail.

My photographer LUUUUUUUUURVED this picture. He said it was “spicy” and no I’m not joking. Spicy.

And food is sometimes spicy. See? We’ve come full circle.

Catering without pandering

I was really excited to do my first post-culinary-school “pro-gig” this weekend. Nothing huge, but a solid 35-person crowd at a music recital. There were to be hors d’oeurves, cheeses, and a selection of desserts, and they were to be served before the recital, as well as between the performances, as well as after the performances. I think, for the most part, that it’s wise to bribe people with food during art exhibitions of any kind. I don’t say this because art isn’t important, just that people are more apt to pay attention to things if they’re also being fed.

I’m really fortunate that the group of people I work for give me license to do whatever the hell I want, within a few guidelines. Most work at the hospital with Chris, and have limited culinary preferences. My guidelines for this function were “I like Asian food” and “I don’t like ham. Or squash.” Mmmmkay. That’s fair. I came up with a menu that I thought would be tasty. It may have been a little bit far-reached for some of the macaroni-loving crowd, but it’s good to expand horizons a little bit. Maybe to realize that Asian food doesn’t just mean Ramen noodles and PF Chang’s. How to work a cheese course into an Asian menu? Kind of a tricky question. Asians are lactose intolerant. And the request for desserts was “carrot cake. And that chocolate cake you made that one time.” That chocolate cake was actually an opera torte, which is an insane amount of work. I had done it in school, with the support of a crazy, old French pastry chef. And neither carrot cake nor opera torte are in any way Asian.

So my solution, with approval from the client, was to do a cheese/meat/melon platter before the recital, then 4 Asian items at the intermissions, then the completely unrelated dessert at the end. At least the lack of synchronicity was broken up by Mozart on the French horn. So, here goes:

1st–smoked gouda, Grafton cheddar, roasted garlic crackers, chianti-cured salami, and fresh assorted melons (they’re in season and they’re FABULOUS). My arrival at this decision was made mostly by the fact that I used to eat the HELL out of smoked gouda, salami, and roasted garlic triscuits when I was single. It was multiple meals out of any given day. No accompaniments necessary.

2nd–chilled cucumber-curry soup shots (pictured above) and filo-wrapped chicken sesame “egg rolls” with an apricot dipping sauce. The cucumber soup is one of my favs because it has about 4 calories per bowl and is delicious. The filo-wrapped chicken was a holdover from our garde manger class at school, when someone else made it and I thought it looked interesting, but didn’t eat any of it because I was busy starving myself for my wedding dress.

3rd–spicy beef satay with peanut dipping sauce (‘cuz DUH) and a Thai salad made from bean threads, cucumbers, carrots, and, in this case, crushed macadamia. I dressed it with a sweet chili sauce, a condiment I love into teensy pieces and with which I would happily dress my cereal if it weren’t weird to do so.

4th–opera torte and two carrot cakes with cream cheese frosting.

People ate the FUCK out of the stuff. Honestly. I had made mini-quesadillas and fruit kebabs for the kids’ table, but then the kids parents (wisely) left them at home. What I saw was a group of Texas-sized adults wander over to the kids’ table and begin eating the quesadillas and fruit kebabs. Without it being announced, as the other dishes were. I swear to you. Only in this state. Everything got eaten, save about two of each, which I squirreled away for the host and his wife to eat later.

What I hadn’t banked on was that people would be surrounding the open plan kitchen watching me while listening to music. So rather than have the privacy to be a little bit frantic and possibly screw something up, I was under scrutiny of a throng of people the entire time and had to look composed and, more importantly, not spill chili sauce on my sundress. About 2.5 courses in I said “clip this noise” and poured myself a glass of wine. A few sips of a local chardonnay and I chilled out quite a bit. Enough to tolerate the Russian piano lady who kept talking about borscht and loudly asking me why I wasn’t fat and how much chefs make.

I gave out my phone number to some people who asked, so this may even drum up some business. The only thing is that I still feel, for all intents and purposes, like a little girl playing “chef” in her Little Tykes kitchen. It’s very difficult for me to imagine that the food I’m making is in any way professionally presentable. That’s for the REAL chefs. Currently it’s working out great. People seem impressed and rave about the food. But I’m still worried that any moment they’re see through the facade and be like “THAT’S not a chef! That’s just Kristie.”

Rollin’ with the homies

Weddings are awesome. Have I told you that? We’re still getting to use new and fun kitchen gadgets and serving items that we either got from people directly, or used their money to buy. And we almost finished addressing thank you notes, which took a long-ass time on account of I never made a central database with peoples’ addresses, meaning each and every one had to be sought out of various emails, cards, and (on more occasions than I’m comfortable admitting) I’m pretty excited to get rid of the stress of having those looming. Every day I’ve gotten more anxious, like “what if they think I didn’t appreciate their handmade pottery?” It’s like a tiny guilt potluck in my heart.

Hard to feel guilty when you get to use such incredibly cool machines like the Kitchenaid pasta roller. This one came without a card attached, leading us to try and use the process of elimination on who gave us presents and who was missing from the gift list. But then you don’t want to ask somebody “did you get me this” when maybe they hadn’t gotten a gift and it’ll get all awkward. I think we’ve figured it out, via our friend Max saying, “I think I remember someone buying it while I was at the store with them” and us figuring out who he was at the store with. And I still could be wrong.

The pasta roller, though. It defies traditional pasta-making, which I’ve done my fair share of but always thought was rather laborious for pasta that worked, but honestly I preferred the texture of dried. Culinary sin? Probably. But I like the slippery, neat al dente finish to dried pasta. Fresh has kind of a chewy quality that, while delicious, doesn’t work so well for spaghetti. The pasta roller has changed all this. Something about kneading it quickly through the “1” setting changes the texture in a way hand-crank rollers can’t. Or maybe I’m pseudo-stoned from lack of sleep (THANK YOU neighbor’s barking dog!).

Our first test run of the machine was a simple saffron fettucine. I made the dough in the Kitchenaid itself (we have a brand new cobalt blue machine, so whichever family member wants to call dibs on my lovely old white one may certainly do so at any time). Basically I just steeped a pinch of saffron in warm water, then added the whole thing to a simple conglomeration of flour, egg, salt, and a touch of water. Perfect.

The pasta was flavorful, texturally perfect, and didn’t look half-bad either. We’ll be seeing a lot more homemade pasta in the house, I think, now that I don’t have to pump my arm until a tricep falls out just to get the sheets rolled. Speaking of triceps, I have to run to my sadistic Booty Camp class. Fridays are a bitch. Later!