29 August 2008
Like that first drink of wine after crossing the desert; like embracing your lover after being apart for as long as your heart can bear; competitive football makes its much-needed return this weekend, quenching our feverish, absence-fueled longing and desire. And, unlike your girlfriend, football didn’t cheat on you with its spikey-haired supervisor when it had to go to Dallas for that business trip, last month (fuck you, Diane!). Now, I know that this weekend is “only” college football, and that a lot of the matchups aren’t all that “marquis”; but if that’s your concern, you probably shouldn’t worry about it too much, as your ballet practice and hug-tag competition will probably preclude you from watching much of it, anyway. For those of us who love football in any form (so long as it doesn’t involve Bon Jovi team ownership or Canada, that is), this Saturday allows us the chance to breathe a nice, long sigh of relief, knowing that we are again in the loving arms of our most favorite of pass-times, secure in the knowledge that she won’t abandon us again until the cold, sun-bereft days of February. The pass-time of which I speak is football, of course, but perhaps even more important, includes its corollary: boozing during football.
As Virgil wrote in The Aeneid, “Any man not needing the intoxication of drink during the vexing play of his home team is no man at all, but a God; and such Gods do not exist.” I’m pretty sure ol’ Virge was talking about the importance of getting good and shit-faced during the play of ones favorite football team, because as any fan knows, bad play is downright unbearable while sober. As a Bengals loyalst, I wholeheartedly agree – tying one on not only makes the good times more enjoyable and the bad times endurable, but as football fans, is our God-given right. As such, I have endeavored here to give you a sort of booze syllabus, with which you can approach not only this Saturday’s games but all the glorious dual football-dayed weekends to follow…
Breakfast Booze: Bloody Mary
For the longest time, I had an inexplicable aversion to Bloody Marys. Once I turned twelve, though, my palate changed, and they became a staple of my weekend brunches. A good Bloody Mary should be spicy enough to give your senses a swift kick in the nuts, yet booze-laden enough to say to them, afterwards “I’m sorry baby, you know I love you – come here, give Daddy some kisses.”* In a blender, mix vodka, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish (made from real horses, please), lemon juice, some jalapeno, salt, pepper, blood, Mary, and lemon juice. Pour over ice in a tall glass, and garnish with celery, two olives, and a shot of Bourbon on the side.
Afternoon Hootch: Salty Dog
Holy shit are these fuckers refreshing. Just combine vodka and grapefruit juice over ice – couldn’t be simpler. The good thing about these guys is that they’re light and can be drunk at a good clip without having to worry about your one-way ticket to black-out island being punched. They’re soothing, too: without the aide of Salty Dogs, furniture tossing-related homicides would have been up about 125% in my greater living room area during the soul-destroying 2006 NFL season/BCS championship game.
Chances are, you’re going to need to decompress, a little, after yelling at the T.V. all day (I mean, seriously, how the fuck do you drop that fucking pass?!?!?!). The best way to do this is to nurse a few scotches during the late game, then gracefully fall asleep on your living room floor. The Glenlivet has always been my favorite affordable scotch, but if you’re some kind of high-fallutin’ upper crust type, feel free to drink something more expensive, just to make me feel inferior.
Well, I hope that this booze primer has been helpful, and I also hope that you are as far into your cups as is necessary to numb your senses when your team fumbles on the game-tying drive, with less than two minutes left to play in the game. Cheers!
P.S. Just to keep some semblance of a culinary presence in this post, here’s a recipe which will transform anything in your pantry into food your guests will swear you bought at a gas station: make a quick roux, add cream and grated cheese, and melt over low heat. You now have a cheese sauce you can dip practically anything in: pizza bagels, pizza hot pockets, french bread pizza, even regular pizza. As for me, I like to dip cheese sauce in my cheese sauce. For those of you who may be lactose intolerant, however, you may want to man the fuck up and consider growing a sack – pansy.
*And if you read that line with the voice of Billy Dee Williams in your head, then you’re just the kind of person who’s going to make it in this world, and I want to be your friend.
27 August 2008
I’ve never been to New Orleans before, but the people on my T.V. tell me that it’s a magical land of booze, jazz, and boobies-on-demand. Recently devastated by George W. Bush’s indifference to black people, and the hurricane it brought about, New Orleans has since made a complete recovery. According to every show on ESPN during the 2006 NFL season, this recovery was due solely to the fact that the Saints made an improbable run all the way to the NFC championship game, after having gone only 3-13 the previous season (not many people know this but, according to sources I just made up, had they managed to win the Super Bowl, New Orleans would have replaced Washington, D.C., as our nation’s capital, and Disney would have been contractually obligated to make no less than fourteen moves about their “triumphant victory over adversity, which united not just a team and a city, but an entire nation.”) Unfortunately, Reggie Bush is more interested in scoring with the big easy than he is in scoring touchdowns for The Big Easy, and the Saints suck again. Oh, well, why worry about that when there’s etouffee to cook?
As the life-size poster of him on the wall above my bed can attest, Harry Connick, Jr., is the first thing many people think of when they think of New Orleans (after Mardi Gras, the Mannings, and dumb legal systems, of course.) Well, these people must hate food, because it is her native dishes which, in my mind, make New Orleans such a special place. From crawfish to boudin to even more crawfish, creole cuisine is as delicious as I am drunk right now. Many will tell you that gumbo is the best of the dishes; others, jambalaya (which I spelled correctly on the first try, thankyouverymuch.) What many people don’t know, however, is that after exhaustive research consisting of me thinking about it for roughly thirty seconds, I have come to the controversial, yet accurate, conclusion that these dishes are precisely the same. As a registered scientist and internet-trained philatelist, I was able to observe that both dishes consist of meat and broth-like stuff and rice and maybe some other stuff, too. Now, if you’re a boring person who likes to eat boring, interchangeable, ubiquitous dishes like these, you can go ahead and cook your ersatz fare. People like Avril Lavigne and myself, however, who love to rage against the machine, would much prefer to cook etouffee, the dark horse of Cajun cooking, instead. What makes etouffee different, you ask? The fact that I’ve made etouffee before, and not the other two, of course (See? Completely different!) Etouffee utilizes a “roux*” to achieve a thick, rich consistency. The roux takes a long time to cook, and is very delicate, so it’s important that you drink a shit-load of booze while you’re tending to it. That’s why etouffee is so awesome. That’s also why I cook etouffee every night.
Sausage, seafood, or some combo thereof
To make your roux, throw equal parts butter and flour in a cast-iron skillet, and cook over low heat. You now, technically, have a roux, but unless you’re a Union cook, you ain’t done yet. In fact, the secret to good etouffee is cooking the roux for a long-ass time, until it achieves a rich, complex flavor, and a peanut butter hue (trust me, though: adding actual peanut butter is not a viable time-saver.) Once you’ve got your roux, throw in some diced onion, celery, and bell pepper (which, like the menages-a-trois I had with those El-Al stewardesses last weekend, is called a “holy trinity”), and saute for a while. Toss in your Cajun seasoning, any beer you have left, some chicken stock, and a live alligator for authenticity, and bring to a boil. Add your meat and/or seafood, and let simmer. When done, serve over some rice and wonder why you didn’t just order some Chinese food, in the first place, because this dish looks a lot like the Number 34 at the Happy Fun Time China Food Palace, right down the street.
Actually, a wonderful accompaniment to etouffee is a nice basket of warm buttermilk biscuits, but I don’t feel like telling you how to make that shit, right now, so just have someone make a run to KFC about twenty minutes before dinner, to buy some. Have them pick up a bucket of extra crispy and some of them snacker sandwiches, too, for when you inevitably burn your roux and ruin the dish.
*Or, “freedom paste,” as it was briefly known after the 2003 commencement of the Iraq war.
20 August 2008
If you’re like me – and judging by your masculine calves and cleft chin, you are – then you love seafood. Whether it’s fish, scallops, crab, or clams, seafood is a go-to dish when I’m looking for something delicious to make, while simultaneously fooling myself into thinking that I’m eating healthily, no matter how much butter I put on that piece of lobster. Seafood is always a crowd-pleaser, and when I cook for others, I make them sick far less often than I do with pork or poultry (there’s no such thing as chicken sashimi? Who knew?). Perhaps it’s because I spent my formative years on a yacht, voyaging around the globe with nothing but my joie-de-vivre attitude and adorable sailor suit, but seafood has always been a favorite of mine (I really fucking like seafood, if you’re not picking up what I’m putting down.) The other night I decided to break out one of my all-time favorite seafood dishes: linguine alle vognole. Appropriately, the name of this dish, literally translated, means: “If you make this dish for your next-door neighbor’s cute friend – you know, the redhead with the nice gams – she’ll totally let you touch her in the bad place, after she’s loosened up with a few glasses of wine.”
So skip that over-priced sushi place you were thinking about going to tonight, or that other over-priced sushi place you were going to make reservations at – we’re making linguine with clams! Hooooorrrraaaaaaayyyyyy!!!!!!
Purchase the following:
Little neck clams (but they don’t have necks, at all – so confusing!)
Cook, as such:
Salt some water, bring it to a boil, and throw in your linguine. In a pan, cook the pancetta until it’s nice and crisp. Eat the pancetta. Make more pancetta, remove, and crumble. In that same pan, lightly saute some garlic. Throw some wine in there (and your tummy), put in the clams, and cover. You’ll need to cook the clams for a few minutes, until they open up. You can also get them to open up by buying them a couple of bourbons, but I hope you like hearing about ungrateful kids and nagging wives, because those fuckers can really bend your ear. Once the clams are ready, check your pasta for doneness. Here’s a trick: check to see if your pasta is done by throwing one of the noodles against a wall or cabinet – this lets the others know that you’re not a chef to be fucked with, and that they’d better start getting good and al dente, unless they want to start getting good and dead. Right before you add your pasta, finish your sauce by throwing in a nice, big dollop of butter to get it smooth and silky (this is basically the culinary equivalent of the happy ending, only without all the shame and immediate regret.) Take the pasta directly from the water to the pan*, and toss around to coat. Add in some parsley and the pancetta, and transfer to that gay-ass platter you got at Bed, Bath & Beyond with your 20%-off coupon, but never get to use. Voila – linguine alle vongole. Mangiare!
*Listen, kids; your mother and I need to have a talk with you. You really don’t need to drain your pasta in a colander. Just pick it up with tongs and throw it right in the sauce. Pasta water is a good thing – maybe the best of things. And under no circumstances should you ever rinse your pasta. Rinsing pasta is for Canadians, losers, and douchebags – which is to say that rinsing pasta is for Canadians.
16 August 2008
As everyone knows, Leonardo Da Vinci first created Risotto in 1491, right before he discovered America, in a helicopter he invented. And thank God he did because, otherwise, I would have had nothing to eat last weekend, and I would have probably been living in some other country, maybe even Canada. CANADA!!!!! I would have had to watch something called “hockey,” and when I ordered bacon, would have received nothing but ham. Also, they would have made me be nice to people, and Michael Moore tells me I wouldn’t have been able to shoot anyone. Not shoot anyone?!?!? I ordered bacon, and they gave me ham!!! Fucking ham!!!!!!! Thank God for Leonardo DiVinci. I don’t care if he did help hide Jesus’ love child and try to kill Tom Hanks; he’s A-OK in my book. And don’t think for a moment that I don’t actually have “a book.”
Some people have an aversion to risotto because they think that it’s really hard to make. These people are stupid, and should be punched a lot, really hard. Not only is risotto fairly easy to make, but it’s also delicious, will always offer to be the designated driver, talks to the ugly girl while you hit on her hot friend, and acts as a vaccine against various forms of African viral infections. And, after all, you don’t want to get the Ebola, do you? That wasn’t a rhetorical question; I really need to know for my survey. Anywho, here’s how to make a really good risotto:
Arborio rice (cultivated by swarthy Italian peasants)
Chicken stock (cultivated from formerly swarthy chickens)
Garlic (which has been used to slay one or more vampires)
Shallots (just plain, old shallots)
Scotch (preferably aged at least as much as that college intern at your office you’re thinking about trying to bone. I mean, come on, look at the way she flirts)
Commence with the cookin‘:
Drink a bottle of scotch in one, long belt. Vomit. Take out a pot with thick sides and bottom (you know, the one that looks like Serena Williams, only without the hideous tennis attire and bad sportsmanship.) Chuck the shallots and minced garlic in with some butter and olive oil. I forgot to mention this, but you’re going to need some butter and olive oil. Anyway, cook that stuff over low heat, until tender and transparent. If it starts to brown, turn it down. I just rhymed the hell out of that and it made me feel special. Seriously, though, if you’re already over-cooking the shallots and garlic, you should just throw in the goddamn towel right now, because there’s no way you’re not burning the rice. If, however, you’re not a totally retarded idiot in the kitchen and can manage to saute effectively, you can move on to step two. Now, everyone who’s not Rachel Ray, do the following: put some rice in the pot and stir so that it’s coated with oil and butter. Put in enough stock to cover and stir until it’s almost all absorbed. Add stock. Stir. Add stock. Stir. Add stock. Stir. Add stock. Stir. Add stir. Stock. Ha! Gotcha! At some point, you’re going to want to taste this to see if it sucks or not. It probably will, because it’s you that’s cooking it and not me. Also, it will suck because you’ve been adding room-temperature stock because I forgot to tell you to have that shit in another pot on some heat. Whoops. Either way, the risotto has been releasing its starches, creating its own succulent, creamy rice gravy. I don’t know why, but “succulent, creamy rice gravy” sounds dirty. Maybe that says more about me than it does the inherent connotation of that phrase. Regardless, when the risotto finally tastes good and has an al dente texture, add some salt, pepper, Parmesan, and, if you’re a huge homo, nutmeg.
That’s your basic risotto, and you can add anything you want to it. Just make sure that your additions are cooked separately and added to the risotto after it’s done. It goes without saying that bacon is awesome in risotto, as are asparagus, herbs, mushrooms, and endangered condor. But, if you want to stick to the classic risotto you just made, grate some parm on that bitch, sprinkle on some herbage, cure cancer, win a million dollars, bring peace to the middle east, teach people how to correctly use the word “literally,” and, finally, enjoy.
9 August 2008
“I don’t know about you fuckers, but I could go for about a pound of bacon, right now. Seriously, the first person to fry some of that shit up gets to be secretary of lap-dances. And none of that ‘Canadian bacon’ jazz, either – that shit is just ham, and everybody fucking knows it. Let’s have some bacon, then go get sake-bombs at that new sushi place down the street. In the meantime, I am rockin’ the shit outta this top hat.”
-Abraham Lincoln, in his 1861 address to his generals at Antietam
As any true, red-blooded American knows, the best and most appropriate thing one can eat, at any given time, is bacon. I happen to be a very red-blooded American, therefore I fucking love bacon. I’m also a blue-blood, though, so I’m not sure where that leaves us. In any event, bacon can be consumed in many ways: in sandwiches and co-mingled with salads, on top of burgers and underneath more bacon, wrapped around shrimp or swaddling a steak, from sea to shining sea, amen. My favorite method of bacon consumption, however, is in a carbonara sauce. My first dalliance with carbonara came during college, when I would daily get a chicken carbonara sub from Quizno’s, which I would subsequently violate with my penis, before finally consuming, in a ritual as old as time. The bacon-laden sauce was almost overwhelming, and pretty soon I was turning tricks in public restrooms just to get money for my next fix. Also, I liked turning tricks. After that cock-tease of a whore cashier at Quizno’s got her restraining order against me, however, I was forced to find other ways to feed my habit. I turned to my kitchen, and penne alla carbonara became my go-to meal for smoky, bacon-y goodness.
A carbonara sauce, if you are unaware and stupid, is made from egg yolks, cream, Parmesan cheese, and glorious, wonderful bacon. If it were physically possible to consume the excitement of a child on Christmas morning, it would taste remarkably like a carbonara sauce. You can put it on anything, and that thing becomes great. Except for the movie Crash, of course – nothing’s going to make that fucker tolerable. But such is the case for pedestrian ol’ pasta. So, here’s how to make a penne alla carbonara that would be sure to get you laid, were it not for the fact that, after eating it, you’re going to be passed out for roughly four hours in a food coma. During which time, you’ll dream about bacon yachts and penne jet-skis floating on a sea of carbonara sauce; and spiders, too, because spiders ruin all my good dreams. I hate spiders.
Get this crap:
Throw in some more bacon, just because you deserve it
Paper towels (you’re out of them)
Do this junk:
Throw the pasta in some boiling, salted water. I prefer penne, as opposed to farfale or tagliatelli, mostly because I don’t know what those other two are. While the pasta is cooking, put on Sinatra’s Songs for Swingin’ Lovers and croon along with the Chairman. Drink a pint glass full of Jameson’s and shot glass of Guinness, just to mix it up a bit. I forgot to mention this, but you should be wearing nothing but an apron, just as I picture you in my dreams. In another pan, cook the bacon or pancetta, but hopefully both, and remove to drain. Into your mouth. In that same pan, throw in your broccoli rabe (or broccoli Fred, or whatever your particular broccoli is named), and cook until it’s a little tender and taking on some color (not too much, though; if it starts smoking Kools, you know you’ve over-cooked it). In a bowl, combine an egg yolk, cream, Parmesan, and crumbled-up bacon.
Okay, here’s where you’re going to fuck this thing up. Take the pasta right from the pot to your broccoli pan and toss it around a little. Add some pasta water and take it off the heat (you don’t want to scramble the eggs in the next step. Or do you???). Add in the carbonara mixture, while tossing.
You, my friend, now have a good, old-fashioned penne alla carbonara. For an extra treat, grab some crusty bread and eat your meal in front of those Asian tourists you keep chained-up in your basement. Man, are they hungry!
6 August 2008
Man, who doesn’t like a good pizza? If you answered “nobody,” then you’re a person who doesn’t know what a rhetorical question is. If, however, you understood that I was implying with my question that everyone loves pizza, then congratulations: you probably don’t have Down Syndrome.
I decided to make pizza, on a whim, last Sunday morning while at Whole Foods. You see, while I was there I happened to notice this mind-blowingly beautiful woman shopping, and she had a really tight outfit on. I assumed that she had just come from yoga, or pilates, or my dreams, or something, and her body was unforgettable. I’m talking a legitimate Vegas Ten, here, and her outfit only served to make her even more ridiculously sexy. Seriously, you know how some prudy people might say disapproving things like “she was wearing a top that left nothing to the imagination”? Well these people’s imaginations must be Amish, because it was the very fact that this outfit was practically painted-on which made my imagination go fucking nuts. Trust me, there were things going on in my brain which would have made Larry Flynt blush. Anyway, that really had nothing to do with the reason I wanted to make pizza, but, seriously, you should have seen this dame. Woof!
I decided to make a traditional Margherita pizza, just like they make on the Pallazzo Valla De La Luna di Vincenzo Gattallantana in Sorento*. The beauty of the Margherita pizza is in the simplicity of its ingredients: dough, mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes. Sounds easy, right? If you said “yes,” then you still don’t get the whole “rhetorical question” thing. Also, if that’s what you think, smarty pants, then why don’t you just go make the damn thing yourself? For everyone else who’s not an ungrateful jerk-face, here’s how you can have a little piece of Italy, right in you own home (minus all the vespas and chest hair, of course):
Procure the following ingredients, good sir:
San Marzano tomatoes
Good olive oil
Kosher salt (if you don’t have the kosher variety, just use what you’ve got, only read from the Torah while adding it. Don’t have a Torah? Good luck in hell.)
I said “basil,” right? Okay, good
You’re going to have to go to Whole Foods to get the dough, because I don’t feel like telling you how to make that shit, right now. Plus, while you’re there you’ll probably see hot chicks shopping after their pilates class. Go ahead and pick yourself up a frozen pizza, too, because even though it’s simple, you’re probably going to find some way to fuck this recipe up.
Get your oven really hot. I suggest putting on some Nina Simone and gently kissing its neck. Stretch the dough out to whatever size pizza you want. Don’t be a fancy-pants jerk, though, and throw it around like they do on the T.V. – you’re not nearly ethnic enough for that. Drink the bottle of Chianti. And by “bottle of Chianti” I, of course, mean “four bottles of Charles Shaw Merlot.” Crush the tomatoes just like your seventh-grade girlfriend did to your heart, and spread them around the dough. Sprinkle with salt. Chiffonade the basil and sprinkle over the tomatoes. Look up what “chiffonade” means. Throw on some slices of mozzarella, and put the whole she-bang in the oven. If you have a pizza stone, way to go; you probably think you’re better than me, don’t you. Well, fuck off, Mr. Williams-Sonoma Catalog Man. For those of us who don’t have disposable income to spend on a slab of rock, cook the pizza on a baking sheet until the cheese starts to bubble, then take it out and immediately bite into it. Ha! Oh, man, did you just burn your mouth! That suuuucks. Why did you do that?!?!? I can’t believe you just did that! What an idiot! Anyway, drizzle on some olive oil, cut the pizza into tetrahedronal slices, and enjoy.
“But what about the Cheese Nips and pickles you told us to buy?” Well, I own stock in Kraft Foods, kids, and Daddy needs some dividend checks to pay off his bookies. It’s pretty hard to cook with your thumbs broke. Trust me.
*May or may not exist. Mostly not.
3 August 2008
Thank you, sweet, merciful, tap-dancing Christ: Football is finally back. -Ish. Today’s Hall of Fame Game marks not only the first outing of the ’08/’09 season, but also the end of having to cut myself every Sunday in order to distract from the emotional devastation caused by the lack of NFL games. This is kind of how I feel right now: