The Vittles of Shame

It is only within certain specific parameters that the following recipe can exist.

First, my life is not like yours.
I submit the entirety of this blog as evidence hereto.

Secondly, my kitchen is not like yours.
I live alone.  I cook constantly.  My counter space is limited, and I have, without making too much of the point, a fractured relationship with many demands of adulthood. Specifically, I mean domestic responsibilities up to and including dishwashing.

Most critically, my food truck is not like yours. Continue reading

Oh. Of COURSE You Don’t Own a Helicopter

Well, aren’t you just… precious.

Your pages are glossy and guided, your cover is padded with embossed lettering, you come in your own box, swaddled in a piece of aubergine tissue paper.  And you have this… way about you.  This… tone. A tone that somehow manages to be simultaneously breezy and yet demanding and utterly, utterly pompous.  It’s the tone the Lord of the Manor uses to remind an impertinent guest where he can park his helicopter.  French bakers employ this tone, as do exiled members of the aristocracy and those claim to have seen REM perform live prior to 1983.

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Carbmageddeon

Like most classical comedies, this begins with a hapless struggle, and ends with a party.

But, for the record, I am not… completely hapless.

I do, admittedly,  hide behind schtick.  I joke about barely being able to dress myself, and fess up to cutting my hands with condiments (this has happened) and having remnants of floor dust that date to the Clinton Administration.  It’s funny. But sometimes my self-deprecation takes on a cynical edge, and I find myself in a Stockholm Syndromey relationship with the universe: hiding within a bubble of sarcasm and corseted into mirthless routine.

The arc of this past year has been my effort to change this.  And, truth is, I do okay. The other truth?  2012 has been the best year I’ve had in at least two decades. I’ve lost enough weight to no longer cringe when I see a mirror or a camera. I saved money and made plans to go to Asia next year.  I’ve been surrounded by friends. I kissed a girl.  I’m driving a little car to a job that lets me buy Valrhona Cocoa. Plus I have dental. And a really good boss.

The key?  I learned something. Life’s challenge does not lie in getting what you want.  That part is easy.  The real trick is figuring out what you want.

Which brings me to pizza.

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Price of Admission

Okay.  This post, even by my standards, is going to be a little bit… strange.  Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Please indulge the following thought-experiment:

Suppose, just suppose, that you and your date have snagged a prime two-top at the city’s buzzy-est new eatery.  The lights are dim, the servers tony, and Chef Jeff’s challenging postmodernist cuisine has delighted the local press.  The Michelin committee has already dispatched secret emissaries to grapple with the menu.

Your server arrives and makes… a highly unusual request.

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Custard Advice for the Modern Gentleman

The method by which a gentleman handles eggs reveals much about him.

Can he grapple with nuance – recognizing that pans should be neither too hot nor too cold?   That there should be some butter but not too much butter?

Does he demonstrate care?  Does he slowly drizzle sugar into egg yolks, and does he fold whites gently without deflating the foam?

Is he observant?   Does he continue whisking his ice cream base until the sugary mixture falls in fully emulsified ribbon-like form, or does he settle for a grainy final product?  Will he notice when the poaching water is too hot?

And, maybe most importantly,  does he show a command of basic, commonsense skills?  Seriously, holding an adult conversation, balancing your checking account and matching your pants to your shoes are no more difficult than boiling water, separating eggs or operating a (*#$ ing kitchen timer.

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I Like Pig Butts and I Cannot Lie

Failure is often very useful.

I have never been one to allow the unique demands of the Jeff Lifestyle to crimp my culinary range.   I don’t begrudge the extra time I spend waiting for the bus, the smaller kitchen or the sink full of dishes.  I can, nearly without exception, cook whatever I want.

That exception has been barbeque.  Until this past Sunday.

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The Semiotics of Shallot Confit

A recipe with digressions…

So. Ethical dilemma.

If you were to take, say, ten shallots. The bigguns.

And chop them. Couple of garlic cloves, too.  Don’t have to get all Robuchonny and follow the grain…. just chop.

And then spread them in a single layer of a roasting pan…

And then, say, if you were to take a 3-4 pound whole chicken,  and prep it according to Ina Garten’s Betty Page Fantasy - smeared with butter, all tied up, and I won’t even mention where the parsley goes…

By the way, you notice that I’ve stopped whining about not being able to roast a chicken? – I found that video.  Just make sure the birdie is at room temp before going into the oven and use a good instant-read thermometer. The skin will be crispy, and both light and dark meat will be juicy without posing an epidemiological risk.

Anyway.  Cook the chicken.

And then after the chicken finishes roasting and resting, the resulting pan juice and roasted shallot is dumped into a container…

Sop up some remaining pan juice with the fresh loaf of ciabatta you’ve baked.

Sidenote: OMFG.

Do you, at this point, technically, have shallot confit?

You’ve got… something.  It’s almost g-force savory, with a sweet richness that seizes your entire mouth almost before you taste it.  And it has these little charred bits that add crunch and hint at darker bitter notes, carried along by just this luscious base of, well, schmaltz.  What’s more, you know it’s shallot- it has that deeper, “redder” flavor, almost like wine, that you would never notice if the stuff was raw.

I don’t know what. to. do. here. Not only do I not know how to fully describe the “put your mouth into an electrical outlet except that it’s completely awesome” kind of taste but I don’t know what to do WITH the stuff and, more to the point, I don’t know what I am going to do when I’ve eventually run out and I somehow rupture my septum myself licking the last little suggestion of greasy goodness inside of my little tupperware container.

I want to take an entire week off from work and lock myself in a kitchen and just figure out what exactly to do with this.  I can use it as a condiment or dress up scrambled eggs or as crepe filling or can add a little to roasted potatoes…

Until then, I’m really just not sure about anything anymore.


Who’s Your Patty?

So that was fun.

This was not a “Raptured into Heaven” burger.  The burger did not teach me Krav Maga, weatherproof my home, breeze through the final level of Diablo II, get me a new job, or straighten things out with my ex-girlfriend.  Things are not about to get real all up in the dining room because I ate this sandwich.

Still, for a homemade burger?  It was pretty amazing.

Photo by Laura Arnold

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