Ravioli, For Jamie

25 June 2011

Stereotypical Italian guy sez: "If you-a like, I can-a show you my penis."

There are few things in life more pleasurable than ravioli.  Amongst those are Jeff Buckley songs, Richard Pryor’s comedy, and, of course, your mother.  My love of food came not from my Ma’s breadcrumb-encrusted chicken, nor from my father’s insistence that I “eat those fucking green beans, or else I’ll make sure that the right son drowns in that river,” but rather from a dish I had while on trip through Italy, when I was seventeen.  There was a law, at the time, which dictated that all buses – one of which I was a passenger of – had to stop every four hours, so that the bus driver could take a break to do mafia stuff and make kissing sounds at pretty girls who happened to pass by.  Luckily for me, this particular tight pants-wearing, chain-smoking, swarthy bus driver chose to take his break at a truck stop which happened to randomly have a cottage next to it.  And this cottage randomly happened to have an old woman assigned to it.  And this old woman randomly happened to know how to make the best spaghetti I’ve ever had.  That has nothing to do with this post, of course, but it is a pretty good story.  Even better when you’ve had a  bottle-and-a-half of scotch, like me.  Stories are fun!

Anyway, as good as that spaghetti was, I need to talk about ravioli.  More to the point, about the best ravioli there ever was.  Picture, if you will, the three best things of all time.  If you pictured brie cheese, pasta, and pancetta, you’d be wrong.  The correct answer is Anne Hathaway, Sinatra, and my abs. You may have a point with brie, pancetta, and pasta, though, so let’s make some fucking ravioli, yes?

Anne Hathaway: so much better than ravioli.

Trade Money For These

Brie Cheese

Semolina Flour

Pancetta

Eggs

Water

Confidence

Combine, Thusly:

So, I’ve got bad news for you.  You’re gonna make a fucking mess out of your kitchen, and probably punch several holes in your walls, and not just because your girlfriend just cheated on you, with me, while I was making the very same pasta recipe that you’re reading about, right now.  Some people make their pasta dough in a stand mixer, but those people also like Kathy Griffin, so fuck them – we’re doing this shit like your 8th grade girlfriend: by hand.  Pile up some flour like you were Tony Montana, and make a well in there.  Into your flavor caldera put in three eggs.  Mix together the eggs and flour until it makes a “cohesive mass,” which is a term I just learned, and will now be the name of my new band.  Kneed the cohesive mass for a while, wrap in plastic, and let it rest for thirty minutes.  In the mean-time, crisp up some pancetta that you overpaid for at Whole Foods.

Punk band sez: "Thank you, Cleveland - We are . . . COHESIVE MASS!!!!! OUR FATHERS THOUGHT OUR FUTURES WOULD BE BETTER SERVED BY CONTINUING OUR PIANO LESSONS!!!!"

Take the dough out of your specially-made pasta rester, and roll it out.  It’s going to take some doing, but carpal tunnel syndrome is worth it for a good dinner.  You don’t have a pasta cutter, so just use a knife to – wait, you have a specially-made pasta rester, but you don’t have a pasta cutter?  That’s a little ridiculous, bro – cut the now 1/8 inch-thick dough into squares.  Onto each square pile a slice of brie and a pinch of Eye-Tie bacon.  Cover the squares to make a little pillow of deliciousness, and throw ’em into some water I forgot to tell you have boiling.  What of the sauce, you ask?  Well, you inquisitive reader, you; I like a brown butter sauce.  To make, you just, you know, brown some fucking butter.  You’re welcome.

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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.

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.

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!

The Stath likes his fish & chips with a healthy dose of malt vinegar and smoldering gaze.  P.S.  You're welcome, ladies (and The Chef's Prerogative's penis.)

The Stath likes his fish & chips with a healthy dose of malt vinegar and smoldering gaze. P.S. You're welcome, ladies (and The Chef's Prerogative's penis.)

When I was a wee lad I, like everyone else on the planet, read the book Angela’s Ashes. For those few among you who haven’t read it (or seen the movie I forgot that I saw, until just now), it tells the story of Angela, a secret agent in MI-6, and follows her through Europe as she exacts revenge for her murdered partner, one bad guy at a time, until she’s finally able to scatter her fallen comrade’s ashes in his hometown of Ankara.  At least that’s what I wish the book was about, because the actual novel was more depressing than an average Cincinnati Bengals season.  A well written book, it nonetheless made me feel sad every time I picked it up – perhaps so sad that I will one day write a harrowing memoir about me reading it, which will no doubt surpass the original in out-and-out depressing subject matter.  One thing the book definitely had going for it, though – aside for Frank McCourt’s writing – was his description of the hunger he and his siblings endured, as well as the attendant joy and sensory overload which accompanied the  occasional sussing-out of a real meal.  In particular, he glowingly describes how he would occasionally have the pleasure of fish & chips, that most iconic of British pub food.  And, man, does that motherfucker make fish & chips sound good.  Listen to this part, after our tiny, hungry, kleptomaniacal hero steals fish & chips from some courageous, passed-out drunk: “[I] thank the drunken man in my mind for drowning the fish and chips in vinegar and smothering them in salt and then I remember that if I die tonight I’m in a state of sin for stealing and I could go straight to hell stuffed with fish and chips but it’s Saturday and the priests [all right, that’s enough]…”  See, aren’t you craving some fish & chips, right now?  And commas?  I don’t know if I’d had fish & chips until I read this book, and I am eternally grateful to it for making the dish sound too irresistible not to try.  In other words, I guess I’m saying that Frank McCourt’s terrible, impoverished childhood was probably worth it.  I’m just glad he could pull himself up by the bootstraps and build enough wealth to finally buy the Los Angeles Dodgers.

I'm including this picture of Sohpie Howard because she comes from the land of fish & chips.  I'm also including it because I think it serves as a reminder of how disgusting the fur industry is.  The sexy, sexy fur industry.

I'm including this picture of Sophie Howard because, well, you ladies got The Stath, up there. I'm also including it because I think it serves as a reminder of how disgusting the fur industry is. The sexy, sexy fur industry.

I was recently looking at a map (of the world, no less) and discovered that true fish & chips are located very far away from me.  The British pubs around my neighborhood make delicious versions, sure, but it’s just not the same unless your meal is interrupted by some Man U fan hitting you in the face because he takes your blue jeans as a sign that you’re a Chelsea supporter.  I think those are soccer teams – did I do that right?  Good fish & chips, though, does not require a first-class ticket on a Virgin Airlines flight, a stay at the Savoy, or thinking Eddie Izzard is funny.  No, fish & chips can be made right in your very own home, after you’ve drunk eight pints of Guinness and four shots of Bushmill’s.  So let’s get to it, mate, an’ cook some chips, yeah?

Stuff To Put In Your Lorrie

Oil
Cod pieces (or, “cod fillets,” if you don’t want to be hilarious about it)
Flour
Spices
Potatoes
Other stuff I’ll list once I think you’re ready to read it

Fish

Fresh Fish!  Fresh Fish!  Fresh Fish!
Fresh Fish! Fresh Fish! Fresh Fish!
Cod has been the go-to fish for this meal ever since they signed an exclusivity contract with the dish in 1924.  I’m glad they did, because cod is a perfect counter-part to the richness of the batter and chips.  It’s light and flavourful, and more flaky than me when I promise that I’ll totally go see that play with you.  But the cod is only one part of what makes this meal great.  Like most things that are awesome, the best part comes from the batter.  In our case, the batter is made from flour, baking soda, salt, pepper, and glorious, wonderful beer.  Dredge the fish in the flour, dip in the batter, then gently submerge in a pot full of oil (heated to 160 degrees, Celsius.)  remove to drain while you’re finishing your chips and thinking how maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if the English had won the Revolutionary War, after all.  Sorry, General Washington!

Chips

Not pictured: jokes that aren't unfunny and obvious.  Also not pictured: not using double negatives.

Not pictured: jokes that aren't unfunny and obvious. Also not pictured: not using double negatives.

Oh, french fries, your temperamental nature reminds me of a woman.  Or a cat.  Or of a half-woman-half-cat vindictive beast, that I would still probably have sex with, even though I knew what I was getting myself into.  Why you seem to burn at a temperature just five degrees higher than that at which you’d cook perfectly vexes even the most patient of chefs.  That you are so delicious makes us forgive (and devour) you.  The bottom line is this: I could write a long instruction manual about how to make great fries from scratch, but I just don’t think it would do you any good.  Much like making a ten-foot putt to save par or staging a political or military coup in a country hostile to America’s pecuniary interests, making fries is much more about feel than academics.  For our purposes, cut your fries thicker than you think you should, fry them once at a low temperature, then let them rest while you fry your cod.  Cook them once more at a high temperature, remove to drain, and sprinkle with salt.
Heny Kissinger sez: "Coup?  What coup?  I have no idea what you're talking about.  Those chips sound good, though."

Heny Kissinger sez: "Coup? What coup? I have no idea what you're talking about. Those chips sound good, though."

Our Harrowing Conclusion
I would tell you to serve your fish & chips on a newspaper, in the traditional fashion, but because those don’t exist anymore, I guess you’ll have to serve it on your laptop while you display the online version of your favorite daily.  And, like the young Frank McCourt would say: “Oy, mate – serve ya fish & chips wit a noice helpin’ ‘a salt and mawlt vinega’.”  I like a side of tartar sauce, as well, but that’s mostly because I’m a fan of Eurasian ethnic groups.  However you serve your fish & chips, enjoy.  Then punch anyone in the face who dares to say that British cuisine is gross.  Unless they’re talking about haggis, in which case they may or may not be wrong.
New sous-chef, Ella Chairman Meow Who Dey, sez: "All your pants are belong to me.  Did I hear someone mention fish?"

New sous-chef, Ella Chairman Meow Who Dey, sez: "All your pants are belong to me. Did I hear someone mention fish?"