Having been to a few movies over the past few days, I've been subjected to lots of Coming Soon trailers. This trailer made me pick up the book to see how things turned out. I'm only interested in the ending b/c I'm pretty familiar with the rest of the story...
Click Opera had a post that touched on Harold Pinter's death and linked to this clip that I have now linked to here, showing a young Ian Holm making me want to watch the rest of this movie.
Speaking of watching movies, that's one thing we are doing here in our in-between days. We saw Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire last night because the reviews were so universally positive. The VDuck capsule review is somewhat less positive, something like: unexpected and difficult-to-execute storyline initially succeeds due to startling visuals and affecting child actors, but is ultimately let down by the inevitable predictability of said storyline (there's pretty much only one way it can end) and a gradual de-emphasis of the more "Indian" elements of the story. We give it a 73.
This is the result of Dylan getting overheated while wrestling Cole and then half-taking off his pants and trying to run away from his grandmother and taking a bit of a spill. Pantlessly. Jesus would be proud.
I'm so overloaded with pictures and information right now that I won't be able to do any of these subjects any justice, I'm sure. So, choosing my battles wisely, I'll just highlight the most successful bit of cooking that we've done over the past few days: the Imitation Entenmann's Orange Donut Cake.
When I was little, my dad and I used to love these Orange Donuts made by the then-ubiquitous Entenmann's company. They weren't remotely orange in color, only in flavor: a cakey donut with a sweet drizzle of orange-flavored glaze.
Like so many foods of yesteryear, these donuts are long gone, ditched in favor of sexier product line additions like Glazed Chocolate Pop'ems. So Pitts and I set out to recreate the orange donut of my youth, albeit in a non-donut form factor. This is really good, and very close to what we were looking for, the cake itself is based on a recipe from a very old issue of Southern Living, the icing is a modified donut glaze.
glazed orange pound cake.
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
3 cups sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp milk
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
2 tbsp minced orange zest
1/3 cup butter 2 cups confectioners' sugar 1 1/2 tsp vanilla 4 tbsp orange juice
Cream butter. Gradually add sugar, beating at medium speed of an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Combine flour, cream of tartar, baking powder, and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk and orange juice, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix just until blended after each addition. Stir in flavorings and orange rind.
Pour batter into a greased and floured 10-inch tube pan. Bake at 325F for 1 hour 25 min or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center. Cool cake in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack.
Pictured above: one of the many food-related perks of being the vice-president of sales for a foodservice company is that the people who you work with send you all kinds of great stuff at Xmas. This wooden thing above from La Tienda came in the mail this morning, along with a cookbook:
Someone else sent a chocolate cheesecake, someone else sent a massive thing of dried fruit....we might not even have to cook tomorrow.
I wonder how many other people are further complicating their Christmas cooking by doing ingredient research.
I decided to cook pozole for Christmas Eve a long time ago, for a lot of reasons: it's true Southwestern food, I would be in the Southwest, and it also has a Christmastime significance because it's traditionally eaten on the 24th to "celebrate life's blessings".
This celebration wasn't always a "win-win" for everyone. Here's an interesting tidbit I found on the Google wire:
The story of pozole is obscure, but some believe that the stew originated with the natives of Tonalá, Jalisco. After the arrival of the conquistadores, Tonalá’s legendary queen Cihualpilli threw a banquet in their honor and pozole was served. After the priests found out the secret behind the recipe, a decision was made to change the human flesh for pig's. Pozole spread throughout New Spain with variations in different regions according to local tastes.
Hopefully this holiday's version will be a little lighter on the human casualties.
Like any traditional dish with more than three ingredients, there are a zillion variations on the original pozole recipe based on which victim protein to use, which chiles to use, what kind of dried corn is available, etc.
Since we already had our green chile explosion last week, I thought we'd go the red chile route this time.
Holy shit, I can barely move after my first afternoon/evening of Wii. And, I'm trying to think of ways I could possibly keep playing...you know, what other limbs might I be able to use instead of my now-useless arms. That's the sign of a good game I think.
I'm pretty sure baseball was the culprit. The upside is that I can now bat and throw left-handed without looking too much like a you-know-what. Is it Insensitivity Week here or something? I've been downright boorish of late. Actually, I kind of wish it was Insensitivity Week at the moment...
Maybe the best part of Wii so far is Mii, the part where you get to make the characters that you'll use when you're playing games. And of course you make ones that look like everyone you know, cause it's funny. And when you play something like baseball, they all show up on your team...etc. etc. etc. Here's Mara playing the vibraphone in Wii Music.
Geek. Should I mention that the Wii is not for me, but for the twins? At least that's what my Dad is telling my Mom.
I apologize for the scattershot brevity of recent posts, I'm not spending much time at the computer. And my parents' ADSL modem seems to have died so this post is being brought to you courtesy of a neighbor's hijacked wireless.
Today was a complex day. Up at 5am, still working out some lingering jetlag issues I guess. Eventually managed a brief but hearty workout, then off to, ahem, The Mall for a few hours.
My time here these days is so much easier when I just Go With It and do wrong things. Like go to Starbucks at the mall, where after two double espressos I somehow told my mother jokingly that she didn't have many Christmases left, which was funny for about 3 seconds until we started thinking about it. Merry Christmas!
Then I went guitar shopping for a few hours, which was frustrating in the extreme. I've found the guitar I should buy, but can't bring myself to. It's like I've met a girl who is perfect in every way from a personality perspective, but I'm not attracted to her physically at all. In my unevolved high school days I might have even been embarrassed to introduce her to my friends. She is the Dean Resonator Chrome G:
You see what I'm saying. It's chrome, like a car bumper. It's ornate, like a Mexican gangster. It's not exactly my style, in the way that a rhinestoned leather bodysuit would not be my style. But it's the only guitar of its type that does everything I want for less than the cost of a small car.
Oh, right: food. Eventually we had a salad for dinner: radicchio, escarole, Bibb, bacon, candied almonds, old-ass Cheddar, strawberries, tomatoes, chives. With a balsamic vinaigrette. Shockingly harmonious.
Japanese Mero (Monkfish) Sweet Potato and Jalapeño Gnocchi, Snow Peas, Beet Sprouts, Honey Lavender Glaze
The charcuterie plate was disappointingly uneven (pastrami good, torchon OK, roulade bland bland bland), and the "ketchup" with the beef reminded exactly of Ragu brand spaghetti sauce (Pitts and I both said "Ragu" at the same time). Vinegar, anyone? Or call it something else, blatjang or whatever would change my expectations enough for this to not be weird. Something like a tomato or prune chutney would've been more interesting here.
Other than that, the beef and monkfish were both unusual and delicious, we cleaned our plates. I'd go back.
Time is whizzing by here. There's barely time to enjoy things like having one of my nephews pee in my face this morning.
This startling breach of family etiquette occurred during my maiden voyage into the art of assisting a 3-year old boy in the bathroom. Allow me to share a tip: just because he's sitting down to pee doesn't mean that the laser-like stream of associated pee goes into the toilet, in fact it's rather the opposite. And the big, fun question is: what split-second maneuver will you execute to interrupt this surprisingly energetic spray of nephew piss? I chose something that might be termed Manual Deflection.
Yes, it's a regular sitcom over here. When I'm not watching the hideous trainwreck of Celebrity Rehab that is.
Same old story: just getting acclimated to the usual unusuals. Went to Food City today and bought a couple of things you don't see just anywhere, including the alien yellow aji amarillo salsa pictured above and below (photos unPhotoshopped), and the frozen vat of roasted green chiles straight from New Mexico at the bottom.
There's more, too, but I'm tired tired tired. It'll keep....
Oi, mates. Just had me a day of travel that reminds me why my dear parents never come and visit me...it's hell on one's ass. 24 hours from start to finish it was, and my ass can tell you about every one of those hours (insert joke here about my ass's speaking voice).
Many of those hours were spent sampling or in some cases actually watching movies, the one tiny perk of international travel on Delta Air Lines these days. Allow me to provide some capsule reviews for you:
The Dark Knight: Better than the first time I saw it (probably due to more realistic expectations), but Christian Bale's voice is still ridiculous and the last half hour is an embarrassingly unwatchable mess.
Pineapple Express: Basically the same as every other Apatow movie with Seth Rogan, plus violence and physical comedy, which is not the awesomest recipe. Some pretty funny bits, though.
Tropic Thunder: The most entertaining movie I watched on my flights, largely due to Robert Downey Jr.'s portrayal of an Australian method actor playing a black soldier. Not exactly funny, but fucked up enough to be watchable.
Wanted: Bull. Shit. Isn't Angelina Jolie too skinny these days? And Morgan Freeman should take a break for a while. Or cut his hair. Or play a white dude. Something.
The Hulk: Surprisingly affecting. I found myself identifying with the whole "Days Without Incident" thing.
Mamma Mia: I wanted to watch some of it because it seems like such an awful idea for a movie, but couldn't bear the thought of other passengers looking over at me and seeing it on my screen. I know, grow some balls.
Henry Poole is Here: Poor Luke Wilson.
Baby Mama: Infantile, and that's not even a pun.
Hellboy II: Liked the first one, could not give two shits about the plot for this one, no matter how hard I tried. I only gave it 15 minutes though.
Get Smart: I turned this on because of Steve Carell, and because I used to watch Get Smart when I was little. But I didn't even make it to the point where Anne Hathaway showed up to ruin my memories of 99, so that's good I guess.
Hancock: Jason Bateman is a funny dude, and this is one of the smarter superhero movies I've seen, but I'm kind of done with Will Smith. We need some new mainstream black actors, pronto.
And there you have it! And it only took me 12 hours to watch 11 movies.
So, recently it's been an unstated and pretty unofficial policy to not blog about home-cooked meals that I myself have not participated in the making of. There are a multitude of reasons for this, and it's a completely inconsistent policy due to this multitude.
My reason for mentioning this is that Friday night J-Kim made a perfect frittata from Marcella's big book, and it should totally be blogged about here.
But I also don't have time at the moment, because I'm packing to go to America. And shipping orders, and making potatoes for my just-back-from-Antwerp mooperbird, and etc. and etc. and etc.
Jesus, I had my first Top Chef dream last night. No, Padma wasn't involved. And I don't know exactly what the challenge was. But listen to what I was making: pasta with chicken, a basic cheese pizza, and unadorned broccoli. Thus committing at least 14 simultaneous violations of the Smart Things To Do On Top Chef code.
And of course, nothing worked (yeah, one of those dreams): I only had enough pasta for like 4 of the 10 servings I was supposed to plate; my broccoli was that terrible greenish-gray overcooked color, and my pizza was as greasy and artificial-looking as Pizza Hut. Meanwhile, everyone else was making Dungeness crab gelée and emulsified swan feet.
Oh right, and below is the recipe for the life-saving coconut cookies that Mara made last night to replace the inedible dango (the "dough" for which is pictured above).
coconut tea cookies.
125g butter 90g raw sugar 1 egg 100g shredded coconut 125g flour pinch of salt powdered sugar for rolling out
Soften butter at room temperature and cream it with the sugar until fluffy, add beaten egg in, and mix well.
Sift flour and salt together and fold into creamed butter. Add shredded coconut and knead into dough, adding enough flour to make dough non-sticky and manageable. Place dough in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap for like an hour or so to chill.
When you're ready to roll the cookies out, take a portion of the dough out of the fridge, roll it out flat on a cutting board dusted with powdered sugar, and cut the cookies out into whatever shape you like, placing them on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Put the tray in the oven and bake at 175C for 6 minutes...they're very thin so you have to watch them carefully.
1) Letting someone else take pictures with your camera is like letting someone else play your guitar. It becomes painfully obvious that if you are plagued by technical shortcomings, your instrument is not the problem: you are the problem.
This of course has never happened to me on guitar, don't be silly, but Klary smoked my ass with my own camera last night (hurray for idiomatic speech!)...these photos are hers. Thanks Klary! And sorry again for forgetting about the sake.
2) Cooking a stock for 8 hours from butcher's bones does not always result in a more "authentic" stock...perhaps a bouillon cube would've sufficed. Then again, what did it really cost me? Four euros. And actually it wasn't even my money. Thanks Andy!
UPDATE: OK, I had a cup of this broth for lunch today, and it's definitely a league or two beyond bouillon. "Like pork tea" someone said, and it is.
3) If, two hours before dinner, your dessert is a massive, gross failure, it's perfectly OK to run to the store and get the ingredients to hack together the replacement which you probably should've been serving in the first place. Thanks, sceem! Nice save. Unfortch I don't have any great pictures of The Emergency Dessert, so you'll just have to imagine it: green tea ice cream with homemade coconut sugar cookies....highly chompable. DidI already say "Thanks, sceem"?
4) And Happy Birthday to my dear mother, who turns 40 years old today. XOXOXO! Thanks Pitts.
This is just here for my reference, it's not an actual post. And that is not an actual hillbilly pictured below.
OK, but I do have some questions about this stock thing. There seems to be a certain amount of nebulosity around the issue of salting one's pork bone broth. I've added konbu (see photos below) and that didn't do it.
Southernoise Gluttony has a passionate set of posts about tonkotsu ramen and he seems to prefer his tonkotsu seasoned with salt.
The dog video posted earlier uses a dashi/konbu stock and a soy sauce infusion to get there.
I remain uncertain.
But here's my final decision on how to cook the yakibuta.
pork bone stock.
9 liters water 3kg of pork bones 1 biggish piece of konbu 1 big carrot 3 onions 2 apples 1 bunch scallions 1 head of garlic 2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger, peeled
Boil bones for 10 minutes in enough water to cover, then drain bones and discard water. Then, add ingredients above to a large pot and boil for 8 hours, removing konbu after the first 30 minutes.
chashu marinade for pork.
1 cup of soy sauce 1 cup sake 1/2 cup raw sugar 1 cup dashi stock a thumb sized piece of ginger, sliced
Goddamn am I getting old. I almost started this post with the phrase, "People from my generation..." which is something that none but the most prematurely aged young person would say. Another clue: I was starting this post with that hideous fragment because I was trying to limit myself to a subject about which I could knowledgably speak: my generation. Implying (accurately) that I have no idea what's going on with "kids today" and their eating habits.
Let me rewind (another telling detail..."young people" don't rewind, nor do they probably even have any idea what it is) for a moment: this post is about college food. When I was in college all those years ago (where's my cane?), the number one Staple Dorm Room Food was instant ramen noodles.
How could they not be, really, at $0.18 a package and no cooking skills required. One meal of ramen per day, one meal of Kraft Mac 'n' Cheese, and a bologna or peanut butter sandwich somewhere in there, and that put your daily food cost at somewhere around 50 cents (and your sodium intake at about 5 grams), enabling you to walk 2 miles to Vinyl Fever on Saturday and blow 14 dollars on used CDs.
Fast forward (now listen here, sonny...): we now know how to cook. We now have an interest in what food is actually supposed to taste like. We now weirdly refer to ourselves in the first-person plural. We now understand that sometimes, instead of traveling halfway around the world to experience a different culture, it's possible to have a taste of that experience by authentically cooking some of that culture's food. Or at least it's possible to justify an expensive and time-consuming cooking project with this sort of pseudo-noble rhetoric.
Which brings me to this weekend's project: tonkotsu ramen. Andy spent a few weeks in Japan last month, and came home raving about this soup like a man possessed. Every time I've seen him over the past couple of weeks, he would either begin or end our conversation by saying "tonkotsu ramen" and wiggling his eyebrows motivationally.
So we're going to give it a try this weekend. The first step is a very long-cooked broth made from pork bones and a piece of seaweed. Here's the eGullet thread for everyone's edification. And here's a recipe that looks quite promising. And here's a cooking video with a dog:
Heading to Phoenix in 10 days or so, unbelievably. Below, me mum and the late Otto in the backyard, and to the right, the grill upon which I shall cook every day while I'm there.
I haven't really had time to think about my plans while there other than trying to retain my svelter-than-normal figure and make some pozole for Christmas Eve, but if I think of anything, I'll put it right here.