Sunday, November 29, 2009

Mute Monday: Travel

Dim Sum Sunday, Day 2, Turkey Day!

I must confess, I have never made an entire Thanksgiving dinner in my life. My mother always did it, then my mother-in-law if we went to Louisiana. If we stayed in town, we went to a friend's house. She took care of the turkey, stuffing, and gravy, and had the invitees attend to the various deserts and side dishes. I've always been tasked with bringing the sweet potatoes, either because few people like them (!!) or they are intimidated by the process of making them. Which is silly. Making a delicious, steaming pan of either roasted or souffled sweet potatoes is as easy as ordering out.

This year, we drove up north to my hometown to share Thanksgiving with my stepfather and his neighbors. And, yes, once again I brought sweet potatoes.

Here's how I've always made them:

Serves 10 people (1 large sweet potato will serve 2 people)

5 large sweet potatoes
Grated rind and juice of one medium orange
1/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sour cream (yes, you can use low fat or even non-fat yogurt, but you're not saving yourself much calorie-wise here, so just go with it and worry later)
2 tablespoons bourbon (I always cook with Jim Beam)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

Pre-heat oven to 400º F. Wash potatoes and stab with sharp paring knife a couple times on each side. Place in sturdy heat proof pan and roast in the oven 45 to 60 minutes, or until soft. Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes. Cut in half and let cool completely.

Once potatoes have cooled, scrape out insides into a large bowl. Add all ingredients and whip up with a hand held blender until smooth and fluffy. Scape into 13x9 glass pan and refrigerate until ready to eat. Fifteen minutes before serving, reheat in a 350 degree oven, either plain, or with your choice of topping (I made a praline-like topping of pecans, brown sugar, flour, and butter; sometimes I'll add tiny marshmallows because my sweet tooth knows no bounds.)

In addition, you can make a more savory souffle by adding a cup of cubed smoked ham or bacon, a cup of diced green chile, and a cup of grated cheddar cheese.

As for the weather, we tend to have two kinds of Thanksgivings: those warm enough to sit outside and eat and those that dump a foot of snow. This is what we had this year:

Friday, November 27, 2009

We Interrupt This Holiday Weekend Blog

To make a special announcement.

It's my homie K9's birthday!

I send you hugs and smooches, a wish for peace and prosperity,
and virtual art.
And cake, lots and lots of cake.

Happy Birthday, Grrrrrrrrrrrl!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Dim Sum Sunday, Day 1, Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 2009
8:11 a.m. MST
Weather: sunny and cool.
Mood: Hungry.

I'm valiantly trying not to unwrap one of the containers of peanut brittle I am bringing as gifts to my step father and his neighbors, who are hosting our feastie this year. Dang it, I should have held some back for myself. I have a sweet tooth the size of Alaska and it asserts itself most strongly in the mornings because I am a coffee drinker, too.

Anyway. This peanut brittle? I made it in the microwave. Well, after I burned the first batch. That always happens with any candy-making endeavor on my part, at least until I can make the adjustment between the recipe and my actual equipment (I have the Superman of microwaves and the skinny ass nerd of candy thermometers).

So, yeah. Is there anything worse than the smell of burned sugar? And it's persistent, too; permeates every nook and cranny of the house. Hell, I even smelled it at 1am this morning when we woke up to get Ivan off the bed.

But once I figured out to adjust the times downward, the second batch came out great. Give it a try. Because nothing says, "I love you." or "Thanks a bunch!" than a gift of sweets. Or is that just me?

Moi's Easy Peasy (After You Burn it Once, That Is) Microwave Peanut Brittle

1 cup honey roasted peanuts
1 cup of granulated white sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda

Combine peanuts, sugar, corn syrup, and salt into a large microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 3 minutes. CAREFULLY and with super duper strength oven mitts, remove bowl and stir with a wooden spoon. Return to microwave and zap on high for another 3 minutes. Remove again and stir in 1 tablespoon of the butter. Zap in the micro for another 2 or so minutes, checking after one minute to make sure the mixture is turning a deep golden brown, but NOT BURNING. After the 2 or so minutes are up, remove from microwave and stir in the vanilla and baking soda. QUICKLY scrape out mixture onto a well buttered (or Silpat-covered) heavy duty baking pan under which you have placed a heat resistant mat, and spread out to about 1/4" thickness with a flat metal spatula.

Let harden and cool, about 30-45 minutes. Then, place a clean tea towel over the mixture and, using a hammer or rubber mallet, lightly tap the mixture until you break it into bite-sized pieces. Wrap up nicely and take to all your holiday parties. Your friends will thank you, as will their dentists.

To see what everyone else is cooking up this holiday, drop on by
Shamu's Karmic Kitchen from now until this Sunday!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Here We Are Now Entertain Us

Did any of y'all see Adam Lambert's performance on the American Music Awards show the other night? Yeah. Boxer and I have been talking about how the performance wasn't shocking so much as it
was . . . kind of dumb. And most certainly poorly executed.

Adam may think he has license to operate in the shadow of Bowie and Bolan, Ferry and Mercury, Tyler and Plant, but what he doesn't understand is that those fellas weren't just about spectacle. That along with pushing the sexual envelope, they were also astounding musicians with the gift of great vocals. If Señor Lambert were smart, he'd concentrate on honing that voice of his instead of grappling with concepts that are at this point out of his reach. Because right now, he doesn't even have the ability to operate in Madonna's shadow.

Anyway, all this hoo-hah over Adam got me thinking about which men in rock and roll have delivered the most bang for our buck in terms of vocals. Here's my list. The top ten greatest rock and roll vocal performances, male:

10. Roger Daltrey, Who, "Who Are You?"
9. Lane Staley, Alice in Chains, "Man in the Box"
8. Paul Rodgers, Bad Company, "Bad Company"
7. Freddy Mercury, Queen, "Under Pressure"
6. Maynard James Keenan, Tool, "Sober"
5. Lou Reed, "Busload of Faith"
4. Eddie Vedder, Pearl Jam, "Jeremy"
3. Kurt Cobain, Nirvana, "You Know You're Right"
2. Chris Cornell, Soundgarden, "Outshined"

And the number one, all time greatest rock vocal performance:

Who would you put on your list?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Culinary THROW DOWN: Where There's Smoke . . .

There's usually, what, fire? Someone having a snit fit over your cigarette? An engine crashing on along some dirty back road at 2am after the bars have closed? All those things, but with a barbecue pit and a six-pack of Bud thrown in?

Hey, don't look at me. It was Chef Troll's idea for this culinary challenge. And, as usual, we had some spectacular as well as some downright side splitting entries. We had a few MIAs - Karl and Fishy and Kym, to name a few. Boo. And also K9, but that's because her Innernets went down (the Beginning of the End?) and she couldn't participate. Well, I'm going to assume that she would have participated. In that K9 way that she has . . .

Anyhoo. Here's who pitched up with their recipes and/or commentary:

Boxer: It is important to know this about my homie Boxer. Homie don't cook. Homie pours vodka into a lovely hand blown martini glass, pops a few hors d'œuvres presented to her by other people, and then proceeds to tell very funny dinnertime stories. She writes them, too. Her entry for this go-round was a hilarious yet at the same time very informative (banana cake with bacon buttercream!!) restaurant review of Top Chef contestant Kevin Gillespie's Woodfire Grill in the ATL. Major points for once again thinking outside the box(er).

Sandcastle Mama: 'Tis a dangerous thing, making Moi laugh during the holidays. Every year at this time I pack on a little something I like to call Moi's Festive Season Five. As in pounds. As in, I eat everything in sight because it is all so good and yet because I refuse to carry two sizes of clothing in my closet, I have to also strategically stuff myself into my jeans and hide the Plumber Pant effect with a BoHo blouse and sweater coat. Or two. Still, it's a precarious stuff, so don't make me laugh too hard or move too fast, or I'll bust those seams and be forced to wear my running pants all season. Sandcastle Mama, she busted some seams with this hilarious entree that should inspire everyone to grow up to be a redneck if it means being this funny and having this much fun.

The Mighty Buzz: I call him this because the man is the culinary equivalent of the U.S. mail. Come hell or high water, snow, rain, sleet, or wind, Republitards or Demobrats, the man doth indeed seems to never veer from his singular duty of getting dinner on the table for his family each and every night. Now I know how he does it: Bourbon. This dish scores major points for its use. One of these days, we're all going to show up at Buzz's house with a car trunk full of groceries and cook for him.

Aunty Belle: Speaking of bourbon. Doesn't this concoction just scream, "Aunty"? I have her pictured in my head, oh-so elegantly dressed in something fabulous by Oscar de La Renta, her flowing blonde hair pinned up in a demure chignon, carefully crafting a cauldron of Flaming Café Brûlot for ten of her smartly chosen dinner guests, all without once spilling a drop on her patent snakeskin pumps. And then proceeding to get elegantly tipsy and finally revealing, once and for all, everything that goes on behind closed doors at the U.N.

La Diva Cucina: La Diva, she packs a mighty punch in that petite, stiletto-heeled body of hers and that punch is all culinary. Between her blog and Shamu's Karmic Kitchen, I'm a gonna put on an EXTRA five pounds this year and be forced to wear Gunny Sax and flats and then I will be the laughing stock of my neighborhood, but yes, I will be happy. Happy, I tell you. This entry for Tortilla Soup with Duck made my day. Not because I'm going to jump up into the kitchen to make it any time soon (y'all, I made crab bisque and biscochitos this week and so have done my time for now), but because it is loaded with something I like to call Tremendous Mouth Feel. Oh, stop it. I'm talking about the perfect amalgamation of fats used in this recipe.

Chef Troll: Another mouthwatering soup (okay, chowder). I know I've asked this before, but now I DEMAND an answer: why is Troll still single when he cooks with this much thought, preparation, and skill? He should be a sheik with fifty bazillion wives, only not one of those cranky-ass Arab sheiks, but a Progressive Sheik for the New Millennium, who sends his wives off to weekly shopping sprees at Bergdorfs and then oohs and aahs appreciatively at all the Louboutins they bring home and as a reward for their exceptional good taste, cooks them glorious five course dinners followed by sumptuous deserts and after dinner booze, and then lets them stay up all night and watch Housewives of Atlanta without nary a grumble.


Where was I?

Oh, yeah, I need to declare a winner.

Alrighty then, let's not beat around the bush here. La Diva, chica? You had Moi at the home-fired chicharonnes, and for that, dahlink, you WIN! Grab yourself that Stuffed Golden Chef logo off of Troll's site and wear it with pride.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Culinary THROW DOWN: Fire!

It's been two weeks since Troll announced the topic for today's Culinary Throw Down and I haven't been able to get this out of my head since.

So, anyway.

Here's my Fi-wah Recipe:

No, not just ice cream. Moi's Red Chile Chocolate Ice Cream. What? You scared of a little fire with that ice? Don't be. It's delicious and the perfect way to end a festive holiday meal.

Makes 8 1/2 cup servings:

5 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons red chile powder, preferably from Chimayo chiles

Place the chocolate in a food processor and chop until fine (or chop by hand on a large cutting board with a very sharp chef's knife). Combine chocolate with milk and cream in a heavy duty saucepan over medium heat and cook until the mixture almost boils and all chocolate is melted, about 5-10 minutes. Stir often to prevent from boiling, sticking, or scorching.

Reduce heat to low.

Beat egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla in a small bowl until light yellow and smooth, 1-2 minutes. Beat in cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, and red chile powder until incorporated. Add a quarter cup of the hot chocolate/milk/cream mixture to the egg yolk mixture in a slow, thin stream and whisk until combined. Then, gradually and in a very thin stream, add the eggs yolks to the chocolate/milk/cream mixture, whisking quickly the entire time to prevent the egg mixture from curdling.

Turn the heat to medium low and cook mixture, stirring continually, about five minutes or until mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Do not let boil.

Remove from heat and cool completely, either overnight in the refrigerator or buy placing saucepan in an ice bath, stirring occasionally until mixture is thoroughly chilled.

Once mixture is chilled, pour into the freezer bowl of an ice cream maker (I recommend this one by Cuisinart – I've had mine for 10 years and it's the best), turn machine on and let run until mixture is thickened, about 25-30 minutes. Scrape into a freezer safe container and place in freezer until firm, about 2 hours.

Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and a cookie of your choice. I like mine with Biscochitos, but any cookie will do.