A Simple Breakfast

13 September 2010

Breakfast at Tiffany's is great . . . up until she tells you that you remind her of her father.

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

Eggs
Garlic
Parsley
Milk
Salt and Pepper
Oil
Mustard

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?

A cute hipster-chick wearing a beret isn't necessary for this recipe, but it is advisable.

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Private Eye sez: "Why don't you put the gun down, doll; that look you're giving me is deadly enough. Unless that gun is loaded, in which case, I guess the gun is more deadly."

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.

Private eye sez: "Alright, I'll find your guy; but you've got to tell me what kind of shampoo you use, because your hair is soooo shiny!"

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.

Oysters

Had I been the chef, I would have grilled these oysters with a combination of my icy stare and a phone book to the head.

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.

Boudin

Frat guy sez: "Let's get outta here, brah; it's a total sausage party."

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.

Crawfish Boil

Angry cop sez: "I repeat: put the weapons DOWN!"

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.

Po’ Boy

Actual po' boy sez: "Y'all don't think it's ironic that you can't find one of these for under ten dollars? Aw, shucks." Then that guy from "Goodfellas" showed up and said, "No, I don't think it's ironic. NOW GO GET YA SHINE BOX!"

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.

Saints cheerleader cheerz: "What I liked best about this post was the dichotomy of good and evil, and the archetypal anti-hero bent. Though the convoluted bricolage of the concept was slightly distracting."

"Lo, and then Drew madeth right in New Orleans what Katrina had wrought. And lo, he then raisethed Carlton Banks from the dead, for he wanted to see the "Carlton Dance.' Then Drew threweth another touchdown, just becauseth he could."

Now that the Saints have won the Super Bowl, thus curing New Orleans of all post-Katrina problems, my folks and I are meeting up in the iconic city to take part in that most joyous of occasions, my birthday.  We’re also celebrating my pops’ birthday, which will hopefully distract him, however briefly, from constantly telling me that “the wrong son died in that river.”  We chose New Orleans to celebrate our days of birth because when my pops was a younger man, he killed his first drifter there, and it’s always held a special place in his heart.  Plus, he really, really likes that song “House of the Rising Sun,” by The Animals.  I’ve never been there before, and I’m really excited to totally ignore all the historical sites, local color, and cultural activities, in favor of stuffing my Creole-hole with all the N’Awlins fare I can get my mitts on.  As such, I’ve been scouring Yelp to suss out all the places to go and get some good grub.  Here are the dishes I’m most excited to eat in Chocolate City.  Oh, and that “beads for boobs” thing better be year-round, or I’m going to be seriously pissed off.

No. 5 – Seafood Gumbo

Peter Venkman, after dealing with nefarious okra.

I love seafood.  I love stuff made with a dark roux.  Throw in some hookers with noticeable bruises, and you’ve got a meal made in my dreams.  There are some things I can cook at home and know they’ll be good*.  There are other things, like gumbo, that no matter how hard I try, I cannot make well.  I’m almost positive that this is due to the inclusion of okra.  Okra scares me more than female bosses and that movie Paranormal Activity, combined, and I peed my pants during that movie.  What the fuck is that shit?  Is it a vegetable?  Is it a pepper of some sort?  Why the fuck is it slimy?  Why does my arm hurt when I raise it above my shoulder?  And, as with all things which are hard to do, I simply do not try to make gumbo, anymore.  I very much look forward to getting a big plate of this stuff, which, ostensibly, will not taste like burnt roux, slime, and failure.

No. 4 – Po’ Boy

A sandwich made with fried stuff is like froie gras made with bacon, or sausage made with truffles, or my penis made with my abs.

I love sandwiches.  I love fried things.  Throw in a dog dressed like Hello Kitty, and you’ve got a meal made in my dreams.  Aside from the fact that you sound like a complete fucking idiot when you have to say “Po’ Boy” while ordering one, I am so excited to chow down on one of these bad boys.  The special Louisiana French bread, the dressing, the fried stuff. . .  whoo, boy.  I’m dead serious when I say that I will almost certainly order a fried oyster po’ boy with a side of fried oysters.  I may even get a fried beer to wash it all down with.  Although, even given the etymology of this sandwich, I’m confident I won’t be able to find one for less than ten bucks.  BUT I’M ACTUALLY POOR!!!

No. 3 – Oysters

YOU'RE BLOCKING THE OYSTER!

God, do I love oysters.  I’m not joking when I say that, if I lived in a place where they were affordable, I would eat them every day.  I am joking when I say, “What’s brown and sticky?  A stick!”  I like to joke.  Seriously, though, outside of uni, no one, single bite in the food world  seems to capture the taste of the ocean like fresh oysters.  That’s why oysters are so phenomenally fucking awesome: they taste like an entire geographic region – the entire, beautiful ocean.  This just doesn’t occur anywhere else in the culinary universe: “Here, taste this cactus – it tastes just like the sand and unrelenting heat of the desert!  Here, taste this mushroom – it tastes just like the trees and serial killer dumping grounds of the forest!”  Not only do oysters pack this amazing flavor-punch, but they also involve eating with your hands, which is the hallmark of most of my favorite foods**.

No. 2 – Muffuletta

"Uh, that's great, but can I get some fried stuff in that?"

If I were to go outside of individual dishes, and judge foods like I judge ethnic groups, sandwiches are Persians – my favorite***.  They’re inherently layered with symbiotic, yet diverse layers of flavors and textures, and – of course – you eat them with your hands.  I’ve made muffulettas before but, I don’t know, they always seem to be lacking.  I don’t know if it was the store-bought giardeniera, the store-bought meat, or the store-bought, processed cheese, but something about them just didn’t seem homemade.  If you don’t know, a muffuletta is not just a word I’m getting tired of typing out, but also a giant sandwich made with a large round of Sicilian bread; giardeniera of olives, vegetables and peppers; Italian meats; and provolone.  Because the muffuletta is so closely associated with New Orleans, I’m truly hoping that two or more locals will get into a fist fight arguing over which muffuletta shop is the best.  I’m also hoping I get to wrastle a gator, but I digress.

No. 1 – Crawfish Boil

Little did they know that when they agreed to seal the detente with a handshake, the armistice would be irrevocably, if ironically, broken before it started.

True story: I have been actively seeking out crawfish for almost two years, so that I can have a crawfish boil at my house.  They’re never, ever available, so I just have to boil dozens of the smallest lobsters I can find, instead.  The reason I’m so hellbent on finding crawfish – and the reason a crawfish boil is number one on my list – is because of the nature of the act of eating them.  You see, I’m not one to sit down to one big plate of food; no matter how good it is, it tends to get a little boring, and I’m always done too quickly.  I immensely enjoy the act of eating, and I like to draw out that act as long as possible.  Take perhaps my favorite meal, crab legs: you have to crack the shell, get a little meat, dip it in butter, then consume.  You repeat this at least 124 times before you’re finished, thus meaning you just spent two hours eating.  Mission: Fucking Accomplished.  The same gastro-math goes with crab boils.  There’s hardly any meat in those little bastards, and you have to work to get at what little delicious morsels there are.  I’m aiming for at least a solid four hours of active eating when I finally get ready to settle into one of these bad boys.  Plus, the crawfish’s motto is “Pinch the tail, suck the head.”  I didn’t even realize that when I chose it as the quote to go along with my senior yearbook photo***.

Hello Kitty Dog sez: "I guess, at some level, I always knew I was different from the other dogs."

_____________________
*Meth
**You should see me eat spaghetti!
***Wait . . . what?
****Now go get out there and watch the draft, if for no other reason than to see the Bengals trade up to get Tim Tebow (Gruden’s take: THIS GUY; now this guy is a leader!).

"FREEBIRD!!!!"

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.

I'd watch yourself, kitty. That's all cute and funny, but in this economic climate, you're just an enticement to a cheap meal. See how I avoided the obvious and stereotypical "some Asians eat dogs and cats" joke? That's some good and responsible blog jokin', right there.

Wondrous Ingredients of Luck Terrific!

Noodles
Rice wine vinegar
Mirin
Ginger
Peanut oil
Shallot
Meat
Veggies
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.

My cell-mate, Juan, taught me a lot about life, philosophy, and how to stab a guy to death using a shiv fashioned out of an old newspaper and spit.

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.

Did you seriously think you were getting out of here without a picture of a Gravure model? I may not know how to cook things of a Japanese nature, but I sure as hell know how to masturbate to them.

_____________
*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.

Oh, sure, they all look happy now, but wait until they find out that Sarah is dating a black guy.

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.

I wish that was a real grizzly bear behind her.  Although, she almost had me when I read the sign as "Go Vag for Turkey."  I don't even know what that means, but I'm turned on.

I wish that was a real grizzly bear behind her. Although, she almost had me when I read the sign as "Go Vag for Turkey." I don't even know what that means, but it turned me on.

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.

Cousins just means that you have that much more in common.

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.

Curmudgeonly Grandpa passive-aggresively sez: "No dark meat for me, please."

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!

The Duke sez: "Happy Thanksgiving, Pilgrims." Get it? Because of the Pilgrims?

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.

For Puritans, the Pilgrims were sexy as hell.

Little known fact: although Puritan in religious belief, The Pilgrims were sexy as hell.

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.

The Awful Truth

16 October 2009

The best part is that while your dough is in the oven, you have time to watch an episode of Sex and the City!  I'm a "Samantha!"  Who want's cooooosmoooossss?

The BEST part is that while your dish is in the oven, you have time to watch an episode of Sex and the City! I'm totally a "Samantha!" Who want's cosmoooos?

I have a terrible and earth-shattering confession to make.  Worse than the disclosure that Letterman has been nailing interns (and, fingers crossed, Rupert); worse than when I involuntarily stabbed at the “scan” button on my friend’s radio when a Katy Perry song came on, thus outing me as a fan of her irresistible, pop-laden hooks; worse, even, than when I told an ex-girlfriend that I slept with her mother.  And even worse than when I told that same ex-girlfriend that after I slept with her mother, I murdered her and framed the father for it.  Man, I’m kind of a fucking scumbag.  Perhaps made more so by the fact that I now…  have begun to enjoy . . . baking.  Oh, God, it wasn’t real to me until I wrote it out.  I feel sick.  Fucking baking.  Apparently, I’m a sixty year old woman – and also, somehow, a huge homo.  Great, now I’ve got to start giving blow jobs.  Oh, well, “silver lining,” and all that.  After attempting to make bread, last year, and finding it more difficult that sitting through an episode of Semi-Homemade without cutting myself, I threw my stand mixer at a hobo and retired my AP flower by portioning it in little baggies and selling ersatz eight-balls to unsuspecting middle-schoolers.  I was done, and it felt better than being amorously hugged by Danielle, down there.

25 cents is a damn good price, espescially when you account for inflation.  In my pants (you know, from my boner.)

25 cents is a damn good price for hugs, especially when you account for inflation. In my pants, that is (you know, from my boner.)

I was perfectly content with my pots and pans and direct heat and not having to let my ingredients take four rest periods before cooking them.  I loved the imprecise nature of the measurements, and the accompanying ability to improvise.  And nothing thrilled me more than the omnipresent danger of maybe, just maybe, giving someone the salmonella.  But then, like the beginning of so many a troublesome adventure, I got a hankerin’ for some soft pretzels.  Being of an aggressively lazy nature, I nixed the idea of going to the mall to pick up some Wetzel’s, and that Super Pretzel bullshit they sell in the supermarket is, well, bullshit.  So I went off to the trusty internet to get a recipe, and ten minutes later I was still masturbating to sapphic erotica.  Ten minutes after that, though, I was prepping my mise en place, measuring ingredients, and making my dough.  Half-way through the process, I started to feel something strange and disquieting, though not entirely unpleasant.  It was kind of like having sex with a, shall we delicately say “zaftig,” slut, and realizing “Sure she’s really big, but it’s still sex!”  I actually liked baking.  And, because it was yours truly doing the baking, those pretzels were fucking delicious.  From that day forward I was fiening like a junkie turning tricks in men’s rooms to get my next fix.  Bread, more pretzels, more bread – you name it – as long as it was either bread or pretzels, I was baking that shit.  And now, you’re going to be doing the same thing, you lucky bastard, you – Here are two of my favorite baked goods.

Soft Pretzels

Tattoo Guy knows that if there's one thing that will help you get over the crushing realization that you just ran over a puppy with your Kia, it's fresh-baked pretzels.

Tattoo Guy knows that if there's one thing that will help you get over the crushing realization that you just ran over a litter of puppies with your Kia, it's fresh-baked pretzels.

Why, oh why, do they not have more places to get soft pretzels?  Dominoes has bread bowls with pasta in them; Jack in the Box has nachos made out of tacos, for Christ’s sake; I can get sushi delivered to my house; and we can send guys to the moon; but I’ve gotta schlep my ass to Auntie Anne’s to get a fucking pretzel?  Fuck that noise.  If I’m going to the mall, it’s to pick up some chicks after their AP Chemistry class lets out, which is why I’m not allowed to go to the mall any more.  Fascists.  Oh, well, though, because making soft pretzels actually ain’t that hard, and the results are pretty close to those of the mall variety.  You’ll have to go to 7-11 to get some neon orange cheese sauce, but that’s a small price to pay.

There are a lot of recipes out there for good soft pretzels, and most of them follow the same general outline: bloom yeast in warm water, add salt, brown sugar, flower, and some type of fat, and mix until a smooth dough is formed.  Let rise for an hour, make pretzel shapes, boil briefly in water with baking soda, then bake.  As for the type of fat to use, I generally use an ass-load of melted butter, but that’s just because I’m awesome; you can also use eggs or milk (you know, if you’re all out of butter and all the grocery stores in your town are closed so you can’t buy more butter.)

Buttermilk Biscuits

I'm sure that by "Orange Juice" they meant "Giant Pitcher of Martinis," and by "Biscuits" they meant "Tons and Tons of Bacon."

I'm sure that by "Orange Juice" they meant "Giant Pitcher of Martinis," and by "Biscuits" they meant "Tons and Tons of Bacon."

As a kid, I was never really into biscuits (in large part because they weren’t Nintendo or BMX bikes or my dad’s old Playboys.)  It wasn’t until I started cooking, myself, that I realized that I hadn’t been a big fan of the biscuit because I had never really had good biscuits.  It’s no wonder, either, considering how difficult it is to make them so they turn out moist, tender, and flaky.  But fear not, you beautiful, vile sluts, because I’m here to help (along with a recipe I stole from Alton Brown.)  Two keys to keep in mind when making the dough – keep the fats very cold and, as France has taught us, over-working is never a good thing.  Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Into the dry ingredients, massage in shortening and butter until it looks kind of like crumbs, then pour in the buttermilk and mix until it just comes together.  Fold it a couple of times and pat out into a sheet about an inch thick, and cut into rounds.  Throw them bad boys into a 450-degree oven, and then start in on your breakfast.  Speaking of which…

Bonus Recipe!!!  Ham And Eggs With Biscuits and Red-Eye Gravy!!!

Pictured: a visual representation of the awesomeness of Bonus Recipes.

Pictured: a visual representation of the awesomeness of Bonus Recipes.

I couldn’t let you people get out of this post without writing about actual cooking, now could I.  Especially because I only know how to bake two things well, and that doesn’t necessarily make a good, in-depth post.  While your biscuits are in the oven and on their way to drying out because you left them in there too long, throw a ham steak in a large skillet with a little vegetable oil, and cook until brown and a little crispy.  Remove the ham and add a few tablespoons of coffee to the drippings in the pan, along with a touch of sugar, a little water, salt, and a lot of pepper.  Scrape up the ham bits and reduce.  Unlike other gravy, this is going to be very thin, but rest assured that it will pack a delicious punch.  Top the ham with a fried egg, add two buttered biscuits, and top with the gravy.

Now go grab your stand mixer, some flour, some yeast, slip into a sundress, put on some heels, and go bake yourself something!  As long as it’s not cake, because, as we all know, cake is gross.

Merciful God Sez: "It's okay, my son; I know it's been difficult, but for the next five months, you don't have to talk to your family.  Don't come crying to me if the Steelers win the Super Bowl, again, though.  They answer to the other guy."

Merciful God Sez: "It's okay, my son; I know it's been difficult, but for the next five months, you can stop talking to your family and cultivating meaningful relationships. Don't come crying to me if the Steelers win the Super Bowl, again, though. They answer to the other guy."

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.

Soft-Boiled Egg sez: "OH, MY GOD - WHAT'S IN MY HEAD?!?!  OH, NOOOO!  I CAN SEE MY BRAINS!!!  AVENGE ME!!!"

Soft-Boiled Egg sez: "OH, MY GOD - WHAT'S IN MY HEAD?!?! OH, NOOOO!!! I CAN SEE MY BRAINS!!! AVENGE ME, BACON, AVENGE ME!!!"

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…

And remember, fellas: much like with strippers, the bartender will not fuck you.  Unless, of course, you tip a gracious 12% and do that sexy move where you like the hot wing sauce off of the front of your Phillip Rivers jersey.

And, remember, fellas: much like with strippers, the bartender will not fuck you. Unless, of course, you tip a gracious 12% and do that sexy move where you lick the spilled hot wing sauce directly off the front of your Phillip Rivers jersey.

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…

If she had rap-sheet and a bad attitude, we'd be looking at Mike Brown's new defensive end.  And, because it's obligatory at this point: "I'd defensive HER end."

If she had an arrest record, questionable work ethic, and bad attitude, we'd be looking at Mike Brown's new defensive end. And, because it's obligatory at this point: "I'd defensive HER end."

The Goodfellas cast are watching you masturbate.

The Goodfellas cast is watching you masturbate.

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

This guy's anti-pasti.  Get it?  Huh? What? Huh? Fuck you!

This guy's anti pasti. Get it? Huh? What? Huh? Fuck you!

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

The Chinese may have invented pasta, but the Italians were the ones to put pancetta and cheese in it.  Advantage: Italia.  How could you not think of that, China?!?!

The Chinese may have invented pasta, but the Italians were the ones to put pancetta and cheese in it. Advantage: Italia. How could you not think of that, China?!?!

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

The Fishes.  Luca Brasi Sleeps With Them.

The Fishes. Luca Brasi Sleeps With Them.

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

La Dolce Vita

This is Anita Ekberg, from Fellini's La Dolce Vita. She's from Sweden, a place that doesn't have any food, let alone Italian food, but I'm not going to let that insignificant fact preclude her inclusion in this post. I'm nothing if not a champion of diversity. And boobs.

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.

Oh, sure, she looks cute and all in her little basket, but I can assure you that, in reality, she's a hate machine built out of claws and fangs.

Oh, sure, she looks cute and all in her little basket, but I can assure you that, in reality, she's a hate machine built out of claws and fangs.

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!

Forelorn Pancake senses my disapproval.

Forlorn Pancake senses my disapproval.

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.

Bruce singz: "I will eat your baaaaacccOOOOOONNNNNNN!!!!  YEAH!!!"

Bruce singz: "I will eat your baaaaacccOOOOOONNNNNNN!!!! YEAH!!!" Then every building within a two-block radius was destroyed from the sonic vibrations caroming off his leather pants.

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

And this kid grew up to be Hitler.  And to think, the signs were there all the time.

And this kid grew up to be Hitler. The signs were there all the time.

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 made the mistake of looking for an image of "Dumpster Guy," as mentioned above.  Unfortunately, my brain is now weeping and vomitting, simultaneously.  I didn't have the heart to post that shit, so you get these two topical dames.

I made the mistake of looking for an image of "Dumpster Guy," as mentioned above. Consequently, my brain is now weeping and vomiting, simultaneously. I didn't have the heart to post that shit, so you get these two topical dames, instead. P.S. I know you're tempted to google "dumpster guy," but, like most things with Google Images, don't fucking do it.

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!

French Toast

French maids are much better than French toast, though their tactic of attempting to negotiate with dust, rather than just clean it up, remains woefully ineffective.

French maids are much better than French toast, though their tactic of attempting to negotiate with dust, rather than just cleaning it up, remains woefully ineffective.

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?

Savory Pancakes

I fucking take back everything I said about pancakes - this shit looks AMAZING.  Although, you could put a runny-yolked egg on top of a dead cat and I'd probably think it looked delicious.

I fucking take back everything I said about pancakes - this shit looks AMAZING. Although, you could put a runny-yolked egg on top of a dead cat and I'd probably think it looked delicious. Just as delicious as it tasted.

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.