13 September 2010
The terrible truth is that I will never be a great chef. I won’t open restaurants, I won’t have Frank Bruni faun over my food, and I won’t have the enviable burden of Michelin stars. I haven’t put my name and money on the line and had to back it up with my cooking. I haven’t given heart and soul to the betterment of our culinary history. I haven’t done any of that. But, what is more important, what is pertinent, is that neither have you. We’re all in this together. We all cook. It is what we do to make ourselves, and those around us, feel good. I’m okay with the fact that I’m never going to be a great chef, because I know that what I make makes others happy. I’m comfy with it. We should all be comfy with it. After all, we’re still cooks. We cook because we love. I’ll still endeavor to create great dishes, take pleasure in fresh ingredients, attempt to better myself as a cook, and try to put my bad part in pretty girls. That’s what we can do as cooks. But, luckily for us there are those who have gone to great lengths to manifest their souls on a plate. Those who have – perhaps not literally, but surely figuratively – put their lives on the line. So, who are we, mere cooks, to ignore these culinary giants? Sometimes, we need to go the pros. To those who are preternaturally better at this thing than anyone else. Which is why, for breakfast, you need to speak with my buddy, Jacques Pepin.
If you don’t have Jacques’ book, “The Apprentice,” you need to get that shit, immediately. Jacques, as you can tell by his name, is Mexican. Just kidding, he’s French. It’s the best autobiography of a chef I’ve ever read, mostly because I could read it while sounding out the words in a French accent, in my head. Also, he imparts, as all good chefs should, the recipes he’s learned. One of those recipes happens to be the best breakfast recipe of all time. There’s no bacon or sausage or morning sex in it, but holy balls is it good.
Put it In
Salt and Pepper
Doins’ a Transpirin’
Hard boil some eggs. Split ’em in twain, and remove the yolks. Take the yolks and put them in a bowl with chopped garlic, parsley, a splash of milk, and the ol’ salt and pepper. Mash the mixture up, and divide it into the hollows of the egg whites. Heat some oil in a pan, and put your eggs – stuffed side down – on the heat. Cook for two or three minutes, and you’re good.
Sure, it doesn’t have the heft of an English fry-up, and there ain’t a lot of nitrates, but it’s basically deviled eggs for breakfast, and I hate you if that isn’t up your alley. Now, go make some Oeufs Jeannette; kiss the Swedish supermodel you brought home, last night; and let the gods delight in you culinary mastery. Because, after all, we’re cooks, aren’t we?
26 July 2010
It’s two in the afternoon, and I can’t tell if the incessant pounding is coming from my head or my office door. I put a fresh clip in my .45 and ready myself, just in case the person outside isn’t some poor sap looking to hire a gumshoe with a bad temperament and drinking problem to trail his hussy of a wife. “Come in,” I croak, my voice shaky from a night of drinking and who knows what else. As the giant of a man in a black suit enters, I’m thanking Vishnu I’ve got Reba cocked and ready to spit lead. Where have I seen this guy before? Was it last night? Oh, God, last night. A kaleidoscope of fragmented memories slam against my frontal lobe, like so many of my bullets into bad guys’ heads. I know I was trailing some dame when, as usual, I got side-tracked. Like a drunken Proust, I try to recall what happened. I vaguely remember stepping into some dark, smokey room, and drinking a bourbon. Nothing new there. I remember cheering and activity, all with an underlying sense of danger. I remember the dice in my hand, the bourbon commanding me to continue throwing them. I wonder if I won. As I check my pockets for evidence of my winnings, the giant who’s now taking up most of my office snaps me out of my introspection.
It seems as though the large man needs me to track down some money which belongs to his employers. Some scumbag hightailed it out of their place of business without having paid them their two large. I tell him I’ll track the guy, and their money, down for them, but that it may take a little time. A guy running from men as large as this one don’t generally make themselves easy targets. “You’ve got two days,” he says, apparently not savvy to the process of a private eye, “two grand.” And I thought broads were demanding. “I’ll get the money,” I says to him, I says, “but I’m going to need at least a week – these types of cases don’t just crack themselves in the first day.” We stay in silence for a while, and the migraine continues to pound out a tympani solo on the backs of my eyeballs. “You’ve got two days.” Sensing my incredulity at getting the job done in such short shrift, he describes what they’ll do to the crook if they find him on their own, and needless to say, it ain’t pretty. Unless your version of pretty involves putting someone’s head in a vice. Great; now the perp’s problem is my problem – I don’t find the guy before the deadline, he ends up disappeared. I may hunt these scumbags down for a living, but that just don’t seem right. The Goliath then brings his point home by leveling a snub-nose .38 yours truly, and reiterates: “Two days. Two grand.” Obviously this guy had been to some Toastmasters classes.
After the giant leaves, I rack my racked brain to come up with a plan. Where would one go if one wanted to get out of town with two G’s of debt hanging over his head and “This Thing of Ours” on his trail? The answer seemed obvious: New Orleans. And if I were a guy who had just lost two grand in a bourbon-infused craps game and was on the lam in the Big Easy, I knew where I would be found – in a restaurant.
I confer with the 32-ounce daiquiri I’m carrying down Bourbon street, and we agree that even a guy on the lam would want to stuff his face with the best New Orleans has to offer – after all, each meal could be his last. After finishing the dregs of my nuclear-infused concoction, I enter an oyster house to grab however many bivalves I can before some forty-weight gets them in the Gulf. The joint is dark – just the kind of place a guy on the run would grab a bite. I opt for several dozen grilled oysters, and for the time being my spirits are lifted. The smokey oyster is topped with seasoned butter and Romano cheese, and accompanied with New Orleans French rolls. I chase each one with an Abita beer, and after I’m done I search the room for some shady character trying to take his mind off outrunning death with a few oysters and a few more beers; maybe my mark will be as careless as I hope he’ll be. The crowd, however, seems to be a mixture of hard-working locals working hard at not working, and wide-eyed tourists ignoring everything around them. When the waitress returns I make a point of indicating that one of the three dozen oysters I just ate had a hair on it, and that I won’t be paying. After I demand to speak to the manager, I wait until she storms off, then I hightail it out of the joint, getting lost in a sea of people. I set about on the streets of the French Quarter, hoping some dumb luck and even dumber private eye cunning will take me to my perp before the Syndicate catches up to him.
I walk into the unassuming building and sit down at an unassuming bar – just the sort of place a guy trying to not be assumed would be lurking. I tell the bartender to pour me a martini with a bourbon chaser and try to decide on something with which to cover the pit in my stomach. I’m tempted by the boudin noir, but the thought of blood is making mine run cold. I opt for the non-sanguine variety of sausage, and settle into another martini in an attempt to calm my nerves. After years of hunting down scumbags and exacting my own brand of extrajudicial adjudication, I can’t help but wonder why this particular tail is so nerve-racking. What do I care if this perp gets his knees capped by big guys in big suits? Something about it just doesn’t seem fair. Before my introspection has time to burrow further into the horrifying confines of my psyche, the sausage arrives, as simple and unadorned as all good food should be. I squeeze the casing and suck out the pig flesh, liver, rice, and seasonings. It’s earthy and gamey, but smooth and delicious. I follow each bite of sausage with pickles and bread and martini and bourbon and martini and bourbon, until my head is swimming. I ask for the check, pretend to place money in the holder, and stealthily stumble out of the restaurant. Just to make sure no one is trailing me, I duck into one of the ubiquitous daiquiri joints.
It becomes immediately clear that the streets of the French Quarter are meant to be some sort of dare. How else do you explain the fact that in a town where booze is flowing from every building and beverages are all in to-go cups, the sidewalks look like they belong in a post-war Dresden? I extricate myself from the cobblestone minefield and follow the jazz music to an open-air restaurant. I order the crawfish boil, hoping that the spicy broth will snap me into some state of sobriety, especially after the three shots of 151 I ordered upon being seated. The big basket of miniature lobsters is placed in front of me, and before digging in I hunch down to look inconspicuous and scan the room, looking for someone trying to look inconspicuous. The meat of the crawfish is tender and delicious, and the fiery broth and brain sucked from the head sends a message to my body that I need to snap into shape and get back on the trail. I tell the waitress I’m going to step away from the band to make a phone call, which I pretend to do while walking away from the joint.
It’s past midnight, and the crowds and music on Frenchmen have only grown larger and louder, respectively. It seems like each bar I enter has some journeyman jazz musicians playing their asses off. It seems like I’ve drunk all the punch this town has to offer, but no amount of diligent boozing has brought me any closer to the poor bastard who’s got a private dick and the mafia on his tail. I take time out to listen to a rag-time band on the corner, while I order a shrimp po’ boy from a nearby stand. The bread is fresh and dressed according to the standard menu, always letting the perfectly fried shrimp do most of the work. I manage to not get half-a-pound of sandwich on the front of my shirt, and feel like I’ve accomplished something for the day. Just as I’m contemplating the fact that my two-day deadline has technically already come to an end, when in the milling crowd I see two large men who stick out like two very large and threatening thumbs. Before I can wonder if they got to their man before I did, one of them approaches: “You get our money, or were you just down here on vacation?” I explain that New Orleans is a big place and if given the opportunity and a few more days I would no doubt find both the deadbeat and their precious two grand, both of which I was sure were in this city. The two gentlemen answer my request by showing me the handles of the revolvers tucked beneath their fine, tailored jackets. I don’t know why they’re trying to strong-arm me, but I’m persuaded. “Let’s take a walk, we’ve got a car waiting around the corner,” one of them says. Nothing good has ever been waiting around a corner, so I back up and quickly assess my options. Before I know what I’m doing, I yell above the din, “Hey! These two assholes are from BP!!!” Almost instantly, attention, followed by nasty words, get tossed toward the two men. Like a sea of scorned Latinas, the crowd is shrinking in toward them, looking more and more threatening, and I pick this moment to do some shrinking, myself, back through the mob, and drunkenly run as fast as possible in the opposite direction, looking like a Special Olympics sprinter with an inner ear problem.
Sitting in a bar, hours later, listening to some old-timer in a three-piece band sing “Hellhound on my trail,” I can’t help but think I haven’t seen the last of those two enforcers. I also can’t help but think about what I’m going to eat for breakfast in a few hours.
Asia has given us many wonderful things: tentacle porn, ninjas, ninja stars, the song “Heat of the Moment,” and gravure models, among the best. But to my mind, Asia’s greatest export is what I will affectionately and blanketly, in my cultural insensitivity, call “the noodle bowl.” A huge bowl of broth, meat, toppings, and deliciously alkaline noodles is perhaps my favorite food of the moment. This will change as soon as I see a picture of a cheeseburger, but right now, I am on a noodle kick. I’m lucky enough to live in a place with a ton of Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai restaurants, most of which offer some form of a noodle bowl, as well as a side-order of hilariously-translated menu descriptions*. Unfortunately, money spent on noodle bowls is money not available for sponsoring my African orphan, Douglas Asenbach TheChefsPrerogative. As such, I have taken to making heaping bowls of noodles in my home, instead. I’m still in the “Ah, fuck it – let’s just throw everything in there” stage of this recipe’s development, so feel free to experiment on your own and commit seppuku when it all goes wrong.
Wondrous Ingredients of Luck Terrific!
Rice wine vinegar
Whatever else you got
Making Most Happy Foods Wonderful!
Look, I’m no Asian chef, and, as stated, I’ve only recently begun making these things, so cut me some fucking slack if I’m not using nori or naruto or Hello Kitty, or whatever else makes noodle bowls authentic – feel free to put some of your manga on in the background while making this, if it will make you feel better. In fact, I bought David Chang’s wonderful book, Momofuku, for the sole purpose of getting better at this whole “Asian cooking thing,” but, after careful study, I have come to the conclusion that that shit is fucking hard! Seriously, it scares me and makes me want to cry.
Because of the inherent difficulty of making authentic J-cuisine, and the time constraints imposed on me by my almost impossible cosplay schedule, I opt for a simple, yet tasty, noodle bowl, which appeals to both my appetite and inherent affinity for randomly chucking shit in a pot, guided by nothing but a peculiar mix of impulse, intuition, and martinis. That such a mix was also the impetus for landing me in a Oaxacan jail for the past four months bodes well for the final, inevitably perfect, presentation of this dish.
I generally start out by sauteing finely diced shallots, onions, and assorted veggies in peanut oil. I then add mirin and rice wine vinegar, because those are Asian. This is followed by adding shitake mushrooms and a mixture of whatever stock or broth I have in my pantry, as well as soy sauce. Seriously, whatever you got, throw it in – after all, this is generally where I get all “Dr. Frankenstein” on my ramen. For whatever reason, I always feel it necessary to let the mixture reduce a lot, then add more stock, then reduce again. Whenever my impeccable and almost Helios-like culinary intuition kicks in and informs me that the broth is now ready – that any more cooking would ruin it, but any less and it wouldn’t have been complete – I throw in tofu, bok choy, and whatever else I can think of, to finish it off like I was a Korean masseuse at a Japanese massage parlor. Pour the broth over boiled noodles of your choosing, and top with pork shoulder you’ve conveniently roasted to perfection before-hand. On the side, I like to have a bowl of julienned radish and cucumber, some hot sesame oil, and a jar of seasoning I stole from my local Japanese restaurant.
As I’ve been writing this, and simultaneously perusing some ramen-oriented sites on the internet, I have come to the realization that I’m kind of massacring a centuries-old cuisine, and doing to it what Sandra Lee does to all manner of food and table-scapes. But, listen: if you want a proper bowl of ramen (as well as all manner of other delicious Asian treats), go get you some Momofuku from Barnes & Noble, and follow its great recipe. It’s a great book – if not exactly user friendly (seriously, I’m a big fan of ramen, but I don’t know if I want to cook a gallon-and-a-half of broth, dude) – and the author uses the word “fuck” a lot. And, in defense of my horrific and ethnically insensitive “recipe,” this is how Chang describes what he deduced as the ramen recipe of a very popular Tokyo ramen house: (1) Soy sauce placed in bowl, then stock, (2) gigantic helping of noodles, (3) toppings are placed, (4) finished with a touch of stock. So it seems ramen is not about some specific recipe, but rather about the simplicity and quality of its constituent parts; a quality which, like all seemingly simple things, takes millenia to perfect. I’m not saying you and I should give up trying for the perfect, authentic noodle bowl, but I am saying that you’re a white guy who drives a Saab, so maybe just be happy with a reasonable facsimile you can make in your house, without a centuries-old recipe and the patience of Confucius. If, however, you can find a place that serves good pork buns, just give up and go there, instead.
*An actual description from a small noodle joint I recently visited: Kink pork noodle soup to the last drop drink, became one of the ingredients, and balanced a “taste of Santoka” also say one cup. The image of a sophisticated finish to taste both beautiful slender women. Koume icon is decorated with chocolate in the middle of the bowl is topped with only noodles shiora. I like the noodles and beautiful, slender women, but I’m a little disquieted by the thought of that chocolate in my ramen.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, and welcome to The Chef’s Prerogative’s Holiday Extravaganza. Come on in, take a load off, and allow me to do all the cooking – after all, no one thought to bring a casserole or anything. It’s my pleasure to cook for you, the ones I love. And because no one showed up to culinary school graduation, it will be an opportunity to show everyone what I’ve learned these last four years. We’re having a beautiful turkey that’s been brined and cooked with an herbed butter; dressing made from Aunt June’s recipe that for some reason calls for oysters; my own special stuffing for the bird; and, of course, mountains of mashed potatoes and luscious layers of gravy made from the turkey drippings. Except for cousin Lauren, the vegan, who will be having oats and hay outside. Just kidding, Lauren. But seriously, get out. Wow, this scotch is great – is this 18-year-old? Today is a very special day. A day for us to give thanks. Thanks for family, thanks for friends, thanks for the fact that Uncle Mike could pull enough strings to get those embezzlement charges knocked down to a misdemeanor. I’d personally like to thank all of you for your unwavering antipathy in regards to the personal journey I’ve been on for the last four years while attending culinary school – Dad’s always told me I was nothing special, and your collective aversion to all things remotely resembling praise or support has really kept me humble. And with that, I’m going to retire to the kitchen to get a refill and check on the bird. There’s a cheese plate and some hors d’oeuvres if anyone but Lauren is interested.
Thanks for helping out, Dave; I appreciate you tasting everything to make sure it’s palatable. I’m sure no one will care that you stuck your fingers in the dressing. No, I don’t think anyone will mind that I’m drinking right from the bottle – plus, then when people ask me how many scotches I’ve had, I can honestly say “two.” Hey! You know what we need? We need some football – someone turn on the Lion’s game – Billy, go turn it to Fox. No, don’t worry, the Steelers aren’t playing, so your daddy won’t start hitting you or yelling at mommy if they lose. God, I forgot how good Sauvignon blanc was. Thanks for asking, Aunt Sue; I actually used a “dry brine,” which allows the osmosis of the juices to osmosisize into the meat of the turkey – osmosis is delicious. I’m also rubbing butter on the skin, much like Christopher rubs lotion on the skin of ladyboys whenever he visits Thailand. Oh, what? It’s not like it was a secret, Chris – I’m just tryin’ to have a little fun. Oh, man, I almost forgot – Dave, get me that bottle of Wild Turkey. See? I’m drinking Wild Turkey while roasting a turkey! “Bottle” is a weird word, isn’t it? Bottle. Booooootle. Weird. Dave, who is that redhead in the black top? Not to be vulgar, or anything, but I wanna stalk her like a big bull cat and fuck her sick. What?!?! First or second cousin? Nevermind, it doesn’t matter.
Man, can you guys smell that aroma? No, seriously, can you guys – because I seem to have lost my sense of smell when my face went numb. Anywho, it’s time to start the stuffing. Someone get me a loaf of bread and some drinks. Now that I think about it, the bread should be a few days old, so we’re kind of screwed. Although, our turkey’s been in the oven for two hours already, so it’s too late to stuff it, anyway. What do you mean the turkey’s still in the fridge?!?! Aunt Pat, I told you to put the thing in the oven! What do you mean you just got here?!?! Then who did I tell to do that? Shit. On the bright side, now we have time to stuff the bird! I knew I left that thing in the fridge for a reason. I’m going to take my knife – it’s important that it’s really sharp – and cube the bread. As you can see, I’ve cut off the tip off my finger, which, in culinary school, is known as the “Belgian method.” Dave, can you get me a bandage and some rubbing alcohol to drink. Thanks. Now that that’s taken care of, we add some sautéed onion, crisped bacon, and chicken stock. I’m going to need someone to go ahead and saute some onions, crisp some bacon, and make stock. Where’s everyone going? You’re going to miss out on some great jokes about the Jews. Whatever. Jesus, James, I know you’re hungry, but thanks to Aunt Pat, I’m only just now putting the chicken in the oven. I haven’t not had too much to drinking. Maybe you are. If you had a drinks to loosen up, every once in a while, maybe Mary wouldn’t have slept with that tennis pro that I introduced her to. Anyway, I’m going to start on the mashed potatoes. After the potatoes are boiled in boiling water, we put them through this device, which is called a “ricer.” Don’t tell that to grandpa, though, or he’ll have a Korean War flashback, and start calling Terry’s boyfriend a gook. It’s bad enough he had to meet Sarah’s new boyfriend, Tyrone.
Don’t worry about why I’m on the floor, mom, I was just looking for my contact and decided to take a quick nap while the room was spinning. But we just had a talk about my drinking last Thanksgiving. Speaking of which, I should have another tipple. Mmmm, this hard cider is delicious. Alright, so we’ve got our potatoes in a bowl, our turkey in an oven I’m just now noticing is not on, and our stuffing is still in its constituent pieces all over the kitchen. Obviously, someone has steered this meal off course, and I’m not pointing fingers, or anything, but that person is obviously Aunt Pat. Obviously. But that’s okay, because my culinary education has taughted me to be improv… improvishing… improvi-sation-ally inclined. Someone see if the turkey will fit in the microwave. Yes, you can, dad – it will be fine. I don’t need a nap; I took one last night for, like, eight hours. Does anyone have any model airplane glue on them, by any chance? Okay, I’ve made an executive decision: we’re having ham and cheese sandwiches for dinner. Where are you all going?!?! Listen, just give me four hours to roast this chicken and make the stuffing and potatoes and vegetables and – oh, shit, I forgot to buy the vegetables at the store. Come on, guys, it will be okay… alright, fine. Go to the country club for dinner, see what I care. I know who my real family is. I’ll see you for Kwanzaa, Tyrone!
24 November 2009
In an effort to keep your voracious appetite for my culinary musings satisfied, I’ve decided to start a new feature on this blog, cleverly titled “Amuse Boosh!“. It features mini-diatribes which will be published in-between my usual long-ass diatribes. You’re very welcome. That’ll be ten bucks.
As cavalier as I am about so many things (crime scene clean-up, lying on my resume, being a royalist supporter of King Charles I during the English Civil War), there is one arena in life in which I am steadfastly fastidious. When it comes to cleanliness while cooking poultry, I conduct my culinary processes like a epidemiologist at the WHO. This is mostly due to my crippling and relentless fear of contracting salmonella, which, as we already know, makes your insides melt and your genitalia spontaneously combust. In general, I view raw poultry like Dustin Hoffman viewed those African Ebola sufferers in the movie Outbreak. I don’t know where this paralyzing fear of poultry comes from, but it probably has something to do with the fact that I was once attacked by a flock of birds, narrowly escaping just in time to save my girlfriend, Tippi Hedren.
It is with this trepidation and white-hot fear that I approach my Thanksgiving preparation. This year’s turkey, “Betty,” is currently in the fridge, hopefully benefiting from a dry brine. Forgetting, for a moment, the fact that brines are inherently wet, I’m hoping that the application of a nice miasma of kosher salt kick-starts the osmosis process, or whatever the fuck, and will eventually bring about a moist, tender bird, without a hint of gut-rending enterobacteria.
On a related note: what asshole decided turkey should be the traditional thanksgiving meal? The pilgrims had fucking lobster, you know; we couldn’t have done that? Societal norms couldn’t dictate a nice surf & turf? Trust me, I’d be much happier giving thanks with a nice steak that took ten minutes to cook and didn’t dry out to the consistency of balsa wood. Anyway, here’s to hoping Betty – and all our departed sacrificial turkeys – turn out juicy, delicious, and with a generous side of tons of scotch.
28 August 2009
“Lo, and the Lord said unto the faithful, ‘The football is good, and thou shalt have it.’ But, unto his children he spake a caveat, ‘Ye, the football shall be watchethed, but only by he who eateth a bunch of wings and puncheth thine walls when his starting quarterback injureths himself and is lost for the majority of the season.”
I, for one, would like to take a moment to thank our Lord for the return of our most favorite of pastimes and drinking excuses. In His honor, I will worship at the alter of my local bar, and genuflect by watching the heinous play of my wayward Bengals. Also, I’ll drink a shit-load of bloody Marys. For those of us who have looked forward to the first week of football, the excitement is almost too much to handle. Last season, I was so excited that I was passed-out next to a dead hooker before half time. In an effort to help you get the most out of the first time in seven months you’ve cared about something, I’ve decided to put together an itinerary. Note: all times are PST; because games start at 10 a.m., we get to drink a lot earlier than all you Quakers, out there.
3:oo a.m. – Wake up. Practice tantric masturbation for three hours to center yourself. Orgasm pure energy.
6:00 a.m. – Make a pitcher of margaritas [FN 1]. Put on your “Get Pumped” mix CD to get pumped in a manner commensurate with the occasion. Mine consists of fourteen straight tracks of “I Don’t Know Much (But I Know I Love You)” by Aaron Neville. Drink the pitcher of margaritas. Shit, while your at it, make a margarita pizza [FN 2].
7:30 a.m. – You’re going to want to warm up your rage muscles, because even though it’s the first week, you’re inevitably going to see something in their play which convinces you that your favorite team is going to have a shitty season. Such as, “they’re from Detroit.” I like to do ten minutes of yelling exercises, followed by three sets of wall punches.
8:30 a.m. – Make your lucky breakfast of two soft-boiled eggs with toasted, buttered, French bread soldiers [FN 3.] Sure, this lucky breakfast hasn’t worked in terms of bringing you happiness during the football season, but – hey! – you’ve never gotten Ebola after eating it, so it must be doing something right.
9:00 a.m. – Generally, this is the time of day when you’re going to start getting the shakes and hyperventilating, in anticipation of kick-off. The best way to calm these sensations? You guessed it: drinking mescal and huffing model airplane glue. Another way to calm yourself is to set a terrible towel on fire. And a Steelers fan.
9:30 a.m. – bang hot chicks.
9:45 a.m. – [If you happen to be on the East Coast – or follow a team other than those that generally start their games at 1:00 EST – good for you! You get to start drinking now, and will be able to get drunk, throw up, nap, and start drinking again, all before your particular kick-off. Hooray, you! ] Begin your pilgrimage to the sports bar (unless you have Dish Network, in which case, fuck you and your Sunday Ticket.) I suggest leaving a trail of cigarettes, so you can find your way home after the game.
10:00 a.m. – Ohboyohboyohboyohboyohboyohboy. Order second bloody mary.
10:01 a.m. – Well, it’s official: the Bengals are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. If you listen closely, you can hear Mike Brown being inept while counting his money and blindly piloting my favorite football team towards yet another unyielding maelstrom of suck.
10:02 a.m. – Order your third bloody Mary since getting to the bar. Also order nachos. And wings. And artichoke dip. And a breakfast burrito.
10:30 a.m. – I tend to be a pretty reticent football viewer while I’m at the bar, but I’m not averse to standard, perfunctory conversation every once in a while. It’s important to know, however, that if you’re engaged in conversation with someone while the game’s going on, there’s a good chance you may be interrupted by the other person when someth- OH, MY GOD, HOW THE FUCK COULD YOU DROP THAT FUCKING PASS! CATCH SOMETHING, YOU FUCKING MONGOLOID!!!
1:00 p.m. – Well, the morning game is over, and you have several options open to you: (1) you can stay at the bar and continue to try and woo that cute bartender (I think his name is Dave); (2) you can emerge from your cavern of iniquity, scratchy-throated and heartbroken, to voyage home and nap the nap of the valiant; or (3) if you’re a Steelers fan, you can, you know, eat babies, or whatever it is you sick fucks do. I generally opt for the nap…
1:30 p.m. – …But not before making a traditional post-game snack of chile con queso. Melt shredded cheddar and Velveeta in a double boiler, then add in some cream, onion, peppers, and whatever else your shriveled, defeated heart can dream up. Slow down your afternoon drinking by nursing 18 Modelo Negros. Weep softly. Nap.
5:00 p.m. – Tune in to Football Night in America to watch an hour and fifteen minutes of Brett Favre coverage. Get out your punchin’ fist one more time.
9:00 p.m. – It’s been a long day, so you’re going to want to pack it in a little early. Stake yourself out a nice, comfortable spot next to the toilet. And, hey, no worries about work tomorrow, because when you call in sick, you won’t be lying. Plus, it will give you all day to drink before Monday Night Football. God, I love this sport [FN 4].
FN 1. As such: 1.5 parts good tequila, 1 part lime juice, 1/2 part Cointreau (or Triple Sec.) Rim the glass (not in the sexy way) with salt, and pour over ice.
FN 2. As such: Awww, you know how to do this, already, you chef, you.
FN 3. As such: boil water, drop in the eggs, remove from the heat, then let steep for 7 minutes (for XL eggs, 5 or 6 for smaller ones.) Remove eggs and run under cold water. Cut off the tops and dip toasted matchstick-sized segments of french bread into that luscious volcano of cholesterol.
FN 4. Apologies for the lack of culinary excellence in this post, as well as for it being so Bengals-centric. Speaking of the Bengals, please be sure to take a moment to join the revolution. If not for me, do it for Karen, here…
“Dinner was always a big thing in the joint. We had a pasta course and then meat or fish. Paulie did the prep work. He was doing a year for contempt and he had a system for doing garlic. He used a razor and he sliced it so thin it used to liquefy in the pan with a little oil. Vinnie was in charge of the tomato sauce. I felt he put in too many onions, but it was a good sauce, anyway. Johnny Dio did the meat. He didn’t have a broiler, so we did everything in pans. He smelled up the joint something awful, and the hacks used to die. Everybody else in the joint was doing real time, all mixed together, living like pigs.”
-Ray Liotta, as Henry Hill, in Goodfellas
“I cut myself slicing the garlic like how the bad man told me to, and now I have a owie.”
–The Chef’s Prerogative, after cutting his finger with a razor blade
Perhaps it’s because I’m a de facto Italian, but the cooking of my make-believe homeland has always struck me as being about more than just food. One can’t overlook the copious amounts of meats, cheeses, and pastas, naturally; but Italian food, to me, seems to be about something more than just what’s on the plate. I’m not going to wax too rhapsodic about the communal and celebratory nature of Italian feasts, but let’s just say that Italian feasts offer a respite for the soul from the burdensome weight foisted upon it by a cruel and despotic reality, allowing it to blossom into its true and evanescent nature, nurtured by food, family, and friends, and imbuing in its very nature that which heaven and joy have imparted at their union in that most sacred and special of places, through no less than a repast fit for Gods, but befitting of we mere mortals. Also, it tastes good.
When I have people over for a night of greaseball Italian fun, you can bet your sweet, mocha ass I’m putting out a plate of antipasti, I’m wearing my badass gold chain, and I’m sure as hell not skimping on the Chianti that I make make in my bathtub (it tastes like going blind!). After the guests arrive, I usher everyone into the kitchen with me, to help out and to help themselves to whatever sous chef Bruno hasn’t eaten off the table. “But is there Frank Sinatra on, TCP?” Hooo, boy – not only is there Frank Sinatra on, but as an added attraction, I’m singing along to “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” like I was at the fuckin’ Copa! Shit, if you’re lucky enough to find yourself in my charming little apartment during Eye-tie dinner time, I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s more than a little reminiscent of the Bacchanals in ancient Rome (mostly because everyone’s throwing up, afterwards.) In other words, cooking a big Italian meal for friends and family is, perhaps, the best and most enjoyable use for a kitchen man has yet had the good fortune to devise. Here’s how you can achieve such a raucous, wondrous night in your own home, right after you buy a fuckin’ cool track suit.
Primo – Antipasti
Antipasti (Italian for “you can a-now commence-a the stuffing of-a you face”) is most commonly served as an appetizer platter of meats, olives, marinated vegetables, and Cheeses. There are really no rules when it comes to preparing your platter, but keep in mind that your wife probably isn’t going to let you get away with describing the three pounds of sausage on your plate as “an appetizer.” The key to a good antipasti plate, much like making your college seem more inclusive by photo-shopping a black dude and an Asian chick onto the cover of your admissions brochure, is diversity. By “diversity,” I mean, of course, “an ass-load of prosciutto and half a shit-ton of cheese.” The simple fact is that prosciutto, in my opinion, goes so far in its succulence as to push in on bacon’s territory (if only slightly) as king of the delicious pork applications. If I ever learn that kids in Italy get prosciutto and cheese sandwiches packed in their school lunch bags, I’m going to be seriously pissed off. Although, when I picture an Italian kid at recess, I see him smoking an imported Marlboro Red, drinking a glass of wine, and making kissing noises at the girls, so I guess it kind of fits. Fits like a glove made out of stereotypes.
Primo – Pasta
Unlike that pasta bowl you just ordered from Domino’s, the pasta course in a traditional Italian meal probably won’t feature a ton of meat, seafood, or poultry (nor unlimited breadsticks, I’m being told.) And, while you may view the pasta, itself, as a mere conveyance with which to get that cream sauce from the plate to your glutton-hole, Italians take pride in the intrinsic deliciousness of the noodle. I try to make my pasta from scratch as often as possible, but with me being lazy and that shit being hard, I’m often wont to opt for the dried stuff, instead. For the vast majority of home cooks, this is a better option than getting out your stand mixer, coating your entire kitchen with flour, watching the Reds’ season implode, and punching walls and pets when you realize that you did all that work for nothing (it’s kind of a metaphor for life, in that way.) Because Italian feasts generally equal the caloric intake of an entire African nation – approximately 10,000 calories (sorry, Africa) – I like to make the pasta course fairly light. Make a simple sauce of crushed San Marzanos, garlic, bay leaf, oregano, thyme, parsley, and salt and pepper. And, as always, kids, just put a little sauce in a pan and toss in the pasta with a little of the water. Serve with bread you painstakingly bought at Ralph’s.
Secondo – Meat or Fish
Now that you’ve already eaten a full dinner, it’s time for the main course! Generally speaking, the main course in an Italian dinner is comprised of cigarettes and tight pants, but for our purposes we’ll focus on the more traditional option of meat or fish (or meat stuffed with fish, if you’re having dinner at John Madden’s house and actually think this joke is funny.) Sausage, game, poultry, or even more prosciutto is great, and all, but I’m a big fan of roasting a whole fish for this course. This is mostly due to the fact that it makes me look like an honest-to-goodness chef, but also because I like the idea of serving my guests something that features pin bones (because at least one of them, at some point, will spill wine on my floor, that’s why.) The great thing about roasting a whole fish is that it’s easy and allows for lots of freedom in terms of seasoning, type of fish, and lying about how you caught the thing yourself. Take a fish and place it in foil. Add oil, a drizzle of white wine, salt and pepper, and lemon. Stuff the cavity with herbs of your choosing, you sick bastard. Make four slits half-way to the bone, cover with foil, making a large packet, and bake at 450 for 35 to 45 minutes. Bangzo! You’ve now got a nice, whole fish that you can serve family style. And because we’re talking about Italian food, here, you have full license to make some inane and unfunny reference to “sleeping with the fishes,” just like I did up there, because we’re totally the only ones who thought of that.
Dolce – Conclusion
By now you know that I don’t do desserts (unless they’re dressed provocatively and promise to leave afterward), so I’ll just use this section to wrap up the post. Big, Italian dinners are a great way to get together with friends and family, and have them eat all your food and never thank you for cooking, even though you spent $150 at Whole Foods, and stood in front of the stove all day, which wasn’t all that comfortable, because it was hot last weekend, and I don’t have air conditioning, and, also, I think the cat I adopted is probably crazy and bites me when I try to pet her, which really doesn’t have anything to do with anything, but fuck it, I’m on a roll.
So, anyway, grab your friends and family, put some gel in that hair, talk with your hands, lose your temper because someone looked at you wrong, and make some Guido magic in your very own home. And, remember, nothing goes better with Italian food than aggressively oggling pretty girls and telling them “Eh-oh, if you like dat sausage, hon, I got sumthin’ ovah heah you really gonna like,” while grabbing your crotch. P.S. If that doesn’t get you laid, nothing will. Mangiare!
30 June 2009
As you may know, I love breakfast with the intensity of a million nuclear bombs exploding on the surface of the sun while Iron Maiden rocks out by playing The Number of the Beast from a stage made of battle axes on nearby Mercury. I think the simplicity and deliciousness of fried eggs, bacon, and toast may represent my favorite meal of all time (along with all my other favorite meals of all time, of course.) Throw in some heavily-poured Greyhounds, a touch of hash browns, and maybe even a little morning sex in the kitchen, and you’ve got yourself a hell of a way to start the day. Unfortunately, the lucky lady lowering her standards to give you that morning sex may not view breakfast the same way you do. Where you see sausage, she may see a fruit salad. Where you see grits, she may see a blueberry muffin. And where you may see a perfect excuse to pair eggs, potatoes, and butter in a food prayer answered, she may see you making her pancakes, because she didn’t let you pee on her last night for nothing. I don’t know why, but some nefarious and surreptitious group has infiltrated our once nitrate and cholesterol-laden meal and made it an ersatz dessert, replete with powdered sugar and tiny chocolate chips of shame. I’m sorry, but I just can’t abide by such grotesquery.
Breakfast is supposed to be about eggs, first of all, bacon a close second, and potatoes and toast rounding out the quadrangle of deliciousness to be consumed in the a.m. Other local variations are acceptable – and even encouraged – as long as they look they were cooked in a kitchen at Denny’s. Having something sweet at eight in the morning is, frankly, gross; unless you’re talking about cuddle time with me, that is. I don’t like pancakes, I hate french toast, and muffins make me want to strangle a puppy even more than I already do – which is a fucking lot. Regardless of my particular (and unassailable) tastes, there comes a time in all of our lives when we will have to suck it up, make some batter, and griddle-up some flapjacks with stuff in them. “Why?” you ask? Because, otherwise, all the pretty girls will leave us. After all, pretty girls fucking loooove sweet shit for breakfast. In fact, you might even say that they “eat it up,” if you were to insist on being totally hilarious about the matter. I don’t like it, you don’t like it, nobody but the pretty girls like it, but we’ve got to do our part, here, if only on behalf of our enormous, glorious penises. And, just so you don’t go making shitty-ass breakfast desserts for that hot piece you roofied last night, I’ve got a handy guide for your morning-afters.
Pancakes have “cake” right there in the name, so it’s no surprise that I hate them worse than you now hate that Chinese symbol you had tattooed on your bicep ten years ago. Sure, you lather ’em up with butter before you eat them, but you also have to pour on liquefied sugar to make them palatable, which is the mark of all inferior foodstuffs. Plus, one time when I was a kid, I was forced to eat an order of pancakes that, looking back on it, tasted like the guy behind the dumpster in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. Seriously, they tasted like nightmares. But, again, my opinion doesn’t count – nor should it – when I’m cheferating for some beautiful blond baby. If our ladies are willing to put up with our inane ramblings, our regretful manners, and the attendant jealousy that comes with dating such heartbreakingly beautiful men, then the least we can do is make them some gross breakfast food.
I wasn’t aware that I was the world’s greatest pancake maker until I made them for the first time, a few weeks ago. The irony is not lost on me (note: this is not “irony”.) And, while I’m willing to impart my pancake-making techniques, you must promise me that you’ll cook them while clutching a rose between your teeth, just like I dreamt about you last night. For the batter, mix flour, salt, sugar, yogurt, baking soda, club soda, and eggs. Mix, without over-mixing, and spoon out a couple of table spoons on a buttered-up nonstick pan. Flip when little bubbles appear, and cook a few minutes more. Feel free to add blueberries, strawberries, chocolate chips, or nuts, because this is America, dammit!
Like most things French, the eponymous breakfast dish is deceiving. “I like bread,” I think to myself. “I like cream and eggs, too – what could go wrong?” A lot, you damned inquisitive psyche. Namely, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. Seriously, folks, if you want bread pudding for breakfast, just say so. There’s no need to beat around the bush about it. I mean, you don’t see me trying to justify my 8:00 a.m. greyhound drinking by telling my guest that it’s healthy because it’s almost 20% juice, do you? Of course you do, you Helios-like semi-Deity, because that’s exactly what I do. Then I start yelling, and pose the following: “What, I slave over a hot stove all morning, after registered scientisting all week, but I can’t have a morning cocktail? Is it so bad that I want to take the edge off, first thing in the morning? Don’t forget, I had to wake up right next to a living, breathing reminder of how God-awful my life has become – I think the least you can do is forgive a little nip to ease me into the day. What are you, my fucking parole officer? Did you let that guy you were fucking behind my back have a morning cocktail? Did he get to have a mimosa or two? Or were you guys too busy, you know, FUCKING BEHIND MY BACK?!?! Jesus Christ! My mother was right, I should never have started dating a girl from my AA meeting.” Anyway, dunk thick-sliced brioche or challah in a shallow dish filled with milk, vanilla, cinnamon, eggs, and sugar, on both sides. Cook on a griddle until it looks like French toast. Seriously, can you believe that bitch back there?
I’m admittedly spit-balling, here, but I think this shit’ll work. Take the above pancake recipe (note that I’ve left out all measurements to make it less confusing – you’re welcome) but instead of using sugar, don’t use sugar. Take half the yogurt and mix with some sour cream. Add some parm, cooked bacon, and scallions. Griddle that bitch up. Now you can have a nice homogeneous meal with your sexy counterpart, even if only on a macro level. Either that, or you could just go with my other alternative: TCP’s Big Plate of Bacon.
In spite of all that delicious angst back there, I love cooking breakfast for other people in the morning. Not only does it give me the aforementioned excuse of drinking heavily at an otherwise socially-unacceptable time, but it also affords me the opportunity of making my favorite meal of the day for my favorite people. After all, if you’re at my house at 8:30 a.m., you’re either a favored guest, a hooker I’ve locked up, or are currently stealing my television because my reclusive nature makes it seem as though I’ve been on vacation for the past week. In the case of the former most example, cooking something good to start someones day off is as satisfying as this sentence is cheesy and sentimental. In closing, pancakes are gross.