Comfort Food – Because The Best Revenge For A Cheating Girlfriend Is Getting Fat So No One Else Will Love You
16 November 2008
Believe it or not, folks, but The Chef’s Prerogative has days when he’s down. Days when the truffles aren’t as delectable as they should be. Days when staring at the mirror watching how awesome he is doesn’t seem to cheer him up. Days when the McRib goes away for another interminable hiatus. Sometimes, and I’ll only admit this to you, The Chef’s Prerogative even has days when cooking the same old delicious, unspeakably beautiful fare isn’t enough to bring him out of his funk. It is on days like these that The Chef’s Prerogative calls on his reliable, Scottish amber mistress, to rendezvous with her in a crystal palace. This generally does the trick, as the mood on Black Out Island is always carefree and easygoing. Naturally, the next morning has a way of being all manner of insufferable, but that’s what Jim Beam and coffee is for! On those very special days, however, when it feels like Ms. Glenlivet won’t be able to alleviate my foul mood, I find that comfort food tends to pick up the slack and do precisely what it’s named for. My favorite comfort food combines the tradition of chicken soup, the greatness of puff pastry, and the handsomeness of me making it. Yes, my favorite comfort food is chicken pot pie. If you make it right, it should give you the feeling of being nestled deep in Nigella Lawson’s bosom while the two of you float on a mid-autumn cloud during a Bengals bye week.
I hate to break it to you, but for this dish to reach maximum levels of comfort – I’m talking “sitting in front of a fireplace in a cabin at Vail while Feist sings you a lullaby” comfortable – we’re going to have to make our own chicken stock. While a little intimidating to the average home chef, making one’s own stock is actually about as easy as your sister, though less clingy and annoying. And, after all, you’ll have me to guide you through the process; at least until I see something shiny, at which point, you’re on your own.
Quick note: some people may say that only the top of a pot pie need be covered with puff pastry for it to be complete. These people are not your friends. In fact, these people are undoubtedly evil, and probably secretly want to use your lifeless corpse as a toboggan, on which they can shoosh down a mountain of hopeless souls who are soothed only by the sound of Cerberus’ tortured and tormenting cries. They’re bad people, you see. So let’s put a fucking crust on the top and bottom, shall we?
Exchange Money for the Following:
Celery, Onion, Garlic
Thyme, Bay leaf, Rosemary
To make the stock, you’re going to have to go borrow a big-ass – and aptly named – stock pot from your neighbor (or, if you’re British, your “neighbour.”) While you’re there, see if she has the rest of the ingredients, too, or, alternatively, if she’d like to see your wang. Put a chicken in the pot to make Herbert Hoover happy, and cover with Kabbalah water. Also throw in your cut-up vegetables (carrot, onion, celery, and turnips), along with your herbs and spices (thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, halved garlic clove.) Bring to a boil, then simmer, uncovered, for forty-five minutes. Your only jobs during this time are to skim the surface of oil and other shit, and rock out to Weezer’s blue album while remembering how much better it was to be young. Take the chicken out with your bare hands, and cook down the stock a little more. Strain and remove solids. What you have left over is your chicken stock. Oh, by the way, go ahead and shred the chicken while you’re at it, and we’re all set to make some pot pie.
Go make a special trip to Bed, Bath, and Beyond to get some medium sized ramekins. Once you get home, put the stock pot back over medium heat, and make a roux in that bad boy. Slowly pour in your lovingly-made stock, and simmer for fifteen minutes while you watch an episode of Frisky Dingo. Fold in the onions, chicken, carrots, peas, and celery, add salt and pepper, and keep warm over the heat produced by your melancholy.
Roll out your puff pastry and cover the bottom and sides of your ramekins (incidentally, “ramekin” sounds like a character George Lucas would invent and then subsequently ruin with overbearing CGI, right?). Poke some holes in the bottom, and bake for ten minutes at 350. You had no idea, but you were “blind baking” right there – see how good you are? Awww, who’s a good chef? You are! You are! Once your bottom crusts are done, add in your stew, top with the remaining pastry, brush with egg wash, poke some holes in the top, and bake for twenty minutes. You now have a dish so comforting, so all encompassing in culinary compassion, so exceedingly cloying in its succor, that you’ll forget that your girlfriend was not only cheating on you with your best friend, but also taught your dog to be gay. Bitch.
Until I learned the recipe for today’s entry, I always assumed that beef jerky was cultivated from unicorn tenderloin, marinated in puppy dog kisses, and dehydrated in a machine which derived as its energy source the hopes and dreams of small children. Actually, it wouldn’t surprise me if this was still the case, because beef jerky is delicious. In fact, after careful scientific processes performed in a manner commensurate with my position as a Registered Scientist, I have come to the scientific conclusion that, scientifically speaking, beef jerky is, for all scientific intents and scientific purposes, “the bees’ knees.” For most people, beef jerky is an afterthought, purchased on a trip to the convenience store or while in line at le supermarche. I, on the other hand, not only make sure to note on my grocery list that I need beef jerky, but also indicate which brand I should buy – such is my devotion to the dehydrated delicacy. But not only are there so many brands from which to choose, but so many styles, as well! How is one to pick the jerky which will fit not only the palate, but the unique circumstances, of the purchaser? Well, my curious culinarian, allow me to be your Virgil as we map out the varied terrain of the jerky landscape… But first, allow me to quickly travel a divergent path, and show you how to make your own beef jerky.
Slice some flank steak into thin strips (freezing the meat prior to slicing helps), then marinate for several hours in a mixture of HP sauce, liquid smoke, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, honey, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. To dehydrate, simply bungee three or four air conditioning filters onto a box fan, having placed your marinated strips in the grooves. Place the fan at an angle, and blast away for about 12 hours. Boom! Beef jerky. But, if you’re suffering from the jerky DT’s and need a fix right away, let’s discuss your options:
Jack Link’s Beef Jerky
Jack Links offers an ass-load of jerky products and I’m pretty sure I’ve tried them all. In one sitting. And, inasmuch as I enjoy jerky of all kinds, Jack Links may represent the worst of the protein pantheon that is beef jerky. Sure, the buffalo wing nuggets are good, and the prime rib strips satisfying, but there’s just something…off about the texture and marinade. It’s like watching Funny Girl after you learned that Barbara Streisand was born with male genitalia. You still dance around to it dressed in your mom’s clothes, but something about it just wasn’t as great as it had been.
Frank’s Red Hot Beef Jerky
The beef is dry and sinewy and somewhat difficult to chew, and, quite frankly with Stephen A. Smith, I think this stuff is made partly out of notebook paper. That having been said, I fucking love this shit. Not because of the beef, mind you, but rather, because it’s marinated in Frank’s Red Hot. Frank’s, for those of you who don’t know because you’ve never been to college, is the best thing ever. Seriously, go ask God. I put Frank’s on everything, and believe me when I tell you that the strippers are getting sick of it. The whole reason that the beef here tastes so bad, I’m convinced, is because if they had put their wonderful hot sauce over something that was already delicious on its own, well, that would almost be too much for mankind to handle. It would create some sort of time/space/deliciousness paradox, from which nothing could escape.
Whole Foods Organic Beef Jerky
“Organic” is apparently a term of art when used in conjunction with beef jerky. Normally, “organic” implies natural ingredients. When coupled with jerky, however, it seems to mean “made from old belts.” Stick to eggs and lettuce, “organic;” I like my jerky with a plentiful patina of pesticides (and alliteration!).
I don’t know why I was surprised when this shit actually tasted like salmon, but I was. Not only that, but I was a little offended, too. I think I had secretly wanted salmon jerky to taste just like the regular beef kind. And Emmy Rossum. That the various animals I donated this to wouldn’t eat it, either, should speak volumes. The stupid thing is that I bought this shit twice. It’s as though it became a matter of principle, or something, that I get through a whole bag. And, while I almost took it the distance both times, it remains Salmon Jerky: 2, TCP: 0. Actually, I’m going to lay down a quick ground rule: jerky should only be consumed if it’s made from beef. Turkey, chicken, tuna, soy, or whatever else kind of jerky there may be, should never enter your mouth. Well, okay… maybe I’m being a bit harsh. Here’s an exception: if you happen to travel back in time to the eighties and meet a Weird Science-era Kelly LeBrock, and she will only sleep with you if you eat some jerky made of fish, then I guess it’s okay to do so. Anything short of this, though, and you’re running afoul of good taste.
The Best Jerky Ever
The best jerky I’ve ever had is, without a doubt, the kind you find sold loose in plastic bins at little mom and pop stores throughout rural America, God bless ‘er. If you’re not a fan of viral infections, however, a great store-bought runner-up is Hickory’s Best. HB is paper thin yet flavorful, sinewy yet moist, erudite yet accessible. Sold in an inconspicuous-looking, one-pound clear plastic bag, Hickory’s Best will make you wonder why we bother with non-dried meat in the first place. It will also make you wonder why, when you vomit after eating a whole bag in less than an hour, it feels like Satan himself is trying to claw his way out of your stomach via your esophagus.
My ethno-geneological makeup is predominantly British, but because I’ve seen The Godfather over two hundred times, like to blatantly ogle and cajole pretty girls, and have hit someone in the face with a chair just because they looked at me wrong, I’m pretty that makes me at least 95% Italian. Add in the fact that my truly Italian friend and I used to drive past Sam Giancana’s house in Cicero, and I’m practically a made man, to boot. Hell, I’ve actually been to the Old Country a couple of times, too, and have even dated a girl from Palermo who, I’m pretty sure, is going to unexpectedly stab me sometime in the future. She’s probably planning it right now – that’s just how blatantly Italian my predilections are. But these predilections aren’t merely limited to my hot temper, slicked-back hair, and fuckin’ cool track suit. No, they go beyond the aesthetic and barrel full-bore into the culinary. I love reading old Italian cookbooks, picking the brains of elderly Italian family chefs, and adore watching Giada Di Laurentiis’ rack cook up a nice ravioli on the Food Network. You’ll always know you’re at a Chef’s Prerogative party as soon as you see the veritable feast of Italian meats, cheeses, wines, and roofies in your drink. And, even though I love a good lasagna or cannoli, my favorite Italian meal is the Sunday feast of spaghetti and meatballs with homemade gravy. It’s simple, sure, but then again so is “put penis in vagina, remove, repeat.”
What I like most about this time-intensive meal is that you can drink a lot while making it. Your friends and family would be wont to worry if they caught you chillin’ on the couch at ten in the morning, nursing a scotch, watching a Scrubs marathon on Comedy Central. Nurse that scotch while patiently stirring a rich gravy at ten in the morning, however, and. . . well, they’re still likely to worry, but fuck them, because you’re the chef, Goddamit. In all seriousness, there’s nothing better than gathering all your friends and family around you in the kitchen, putting on Ol’ Blue Eyes’ Live At The Sands, opening several bottles of Chianti, and telling every one how they’ve let you down, each in their own special way. It’s truly magical.
A quick note on this meal: I’m generally one to cook lighter, more traditional, seafood-based Italian cuisine; but I’ll be honest with you – every once in a while I just get a hankering for some red-checkered table cloth, Bayonne-type Guido shit. I make sure that my gravy has tons of meat, that my meatballs are big and rich, and that my gun is well concealed. I also like to have a bunch of courses, just like they do in It-lee, but I don’t feel like writing a long post today, so go look it up. Also, Your soundtrack is going to need lots of Louie Prima, Dino, and The Chairman. For added authenticity, invite some crazy Italian broads over and have them threaten to cut you if you cheat on them. Anyway, on to the cookin’, you fuckin’ mook.
Buy dis shit, you rat bastahd:
Pork, Lamb, Beef
San Marzano peeled tomatoes
Basil, salt, pepper
Parmigiano-Reggiano, Peocrino Romano
Bread crumbs (non-seasoned)
Cook, You Motherless Fucking Mutt
Let’s start out with the sauce: sweat onions and garlic in some olive oil. Throw in the tomatoes and tomato paste. Oh, shit – actually, brown the sausage before you sweat the onions. Okay, so then just season and let it simmer. Also, I like to put just a little dried oregano in there, as well, and while I do, I like to say the word “oregano” in a British accent and pronounce it “Oh-ray-gone-o.” I don’t know why I do this. In a bowl, combine your three meats with two eggs, bread crumbs, parsley, onions, your cheeses, minced garlic, some olive oil, and a touch of water. Mix that shit up and roll into balls the size of my testicles. If you’re not sure how big that is, just go ask your mother. Brown those in some oil, then throw ’em in the sauce.
After cooking your sauce for several hours, peel yourself up from the kitchen floor, finish that fifth bottle of wine, and start the pasta. I normally make my own pasta, but I’m way better at this than you are, so go ahead and just stick with the boxed kind (I prefer the thick spaghetti.) Once you get it al dente, toss with some of the pasta water and gravy in a hot pan. Plate with a few meatballs, some fresh parsley, and an ass-load of cheese. Sit down with your gathered friends and family and discuss how, while you may have your differences, you can all agree that a good meal can be transcendent, that blood truly is thicker than water, and that the city of Pittsburgh can go eat a big bag of dicks.