Category Archives: cooking

Tradition

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3:00 AM and mrpeenee is tucking into some seriously tasty Boston cream pie, made by his own two loving hands.  Those of us familiar with his passion for sweets will not be surprised by the menu, but the hour might seem unlikely.

I have been on a new regime of pain meds for my back which seem to be helping a lot.  Yay. A drawback is I take them 4 times a day and cannot eat 2 hours before or after knocking them back.  That means I can only eat, I don’t know, you do the math. I can’t count that high.  But 3:00 AM is in the safe zone and I take advantage of it.

I had made New Years Eve dinner for our friends and had centered the menu around dishes their families had insisted on as Ne Years traditions.  There are lots of them to choose from.

My American Southern family demands black eyed peas for good luck and cabbage as a symbol of money.  Super Agent Fred’s late husband Paolo was Italian and they go for lentils to suggest abundance and grapes as wealth.  Our friend Jen is Hungarian and the only tradition she brings is to place coins on a window sill to keep money coming in all year.   Seems contradictory since you start with money going out, but what the hell, I have a stack of quarters now hanging around the sill of the door onto the patio.

Since no one not raised in the South will willingly eat black eyed peas, I snuck them into the menu by making a hummus with them instead of chickpeas (which I don’t really like anyway, so no great loss) and lime juice and tahini.  I was concerened everyone would be equally unenthused about cabbage, but a dynamite recipe for stirfry with star anise in it was a big hit.

And then Boston cream pie.  It’s a simple two layer yellow cake with a custard in the middle and then glazed with chcolate ganache.  Ganache is one of those wonder recipes that can be the basis for plenty of greater things.

Ganache is just chocolate melted in cream with a little butter to make it shiny.   You change the proportion of cream to chocolate for what you want to use it for.  Equal amounts of each gives you a thin glaze like I used on the cake.  More chocolate and less cream and you have the basis for truffles.  More cream and less chocolate is chilled and whipped to make mousse.

I was perhaps a tiny bit distracted while I was pouring the glaze over the cake and wound up with it not only pooling in the bottom of the cake dish, but making a big puddle on the counter beneath.  I decided it was Bacchanalian, a glorious excess.  Certainly not just a fucking mess.

I might also have considered the results of a dinner with peas, lentils and cabbage, which result in an aftermath that could move a freight train.  I was going to hang a sign out front saying “For god’s sake, don’t light a match,” but the neighbors are already nosy enough.

And so we’re off to a gassy, but no doubt prosperous New Year, blasting 2016 off into the unlamented past.

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You’re gong to make fart jokes, you need a classy nude to balance things out, and this guy certainly appears balanced.

Turkey. Of Course

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Over the last several years I have come to be the host of Thanksgiving dinners for a regular group of my friends whom I think of as “The Children.”  As in “The Children are coming to dinner.”  Mostly because they are all young enough to actually be my offspring, were I wacky enough to spring off, but also because, as in the case of providing the traditional Thanksgiving, I have somehow morphed into a mother figure. To be more accurate, a grandmother figure.

Four of the Children are out of town this holiday and I was remarking to Super Agent Fred (the only one who would be around) how I was looking forward to taking drugs and sleeping all day instead of cooking.  Fred looked absolutely stricken and protested that he was looking forward to turkey.  And gravy.  And mashed potatoes.  And dressing.

Of course I relented and thus wound up slinging a menu that exactly reproduced what my grannies would have knocked out 80 years ago.  And it was delicious, thank you very much, so I guess I’m glad I did, but the dinner did leave behind a refrigerator full of left overs because it turns out scaling down a celebratory dinner for 10 to one for 2 does not work.  I just don’t know how to make my granny’s cornbread dressing  in a size smaller than what could be described as a vat.  We will be dining on that fucking turkey all week.  Turkey salad, Turkey Tetrazini, turkey sammiches.  OK by me.

Also in other domestic news, the garden always looks sort of shaggy around this time of year.  Most thing suddenly green from the rain finally starting, but also quietly revving up for the burst of flowers spring will have.  The most appealing contradictions are the Australian Tea Trees, brilliant rose and pink and crimson right now.  The two in the picture are about 20 years old and have taken that long to really get established and turn out such show off blooming.  I see them from my bathroom window every time I go pee.  That is not what the average garden planning book would consider, but I’m glad I planted them where I did.

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The view from the toilet.

Ambrosiatic

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10787 I’m sure those of you of a certain age will share with mrpeenee a sort-of fond recollection of a delicacy called “Ambrosia.”  It was a staple of Southern potlucks and funerals (which are often indistinguishable from each other,) but my impression of it implies that it was a universal of 50’s women’s magazines as well.  It was nothing but fruit cocktail jazzed up with whipped cream and marshmallows.  Dainty little miniatures ones, but of course.  All of which was perfectly fine by me, irresistible, in fact, but it also included shredded coconut, which I despise.

I would try pick it out, a sysiphian task which enraged my saintly mother.  I would plead for her to make it without the coconut, whining at top volume, but she refused.  “It’s not ambrosia without the coconut,” she insisted, holding fast to the scared rituals of Ladies’ Home Journal.  I was never convinced and really, if a seven year old sissy finds your logic spurious, why even bother?

Somehow, of late, I was seized with the desire to recreate the forbidden masterpiece, sans fucking coconut.  I was pretty sure I had some genetic disposition to whip it up without a recipe, but I foolishly went online just to make sure.  There I found a fascinating (or horrifying.  Depends.) version that included cream cheese and Jello.  The directions pretty much consisted of “Stir everything together.”  And so I did.

Even in the midst of slopping away, some vague remnant of good sense whispered “this is going to be dreadful.”  I am a cook who has made fabulous mango soufflés without a recipe, knocked out a pate de mason that required two weeks of effort, and stared down Julia Childs’ most insane ideas without blinking, but here I was recreating a dish that I think they use for half-wit girl scouts to earn their “cooking” badge.

In the end, yes, it was absolutely dreadful.  Sweet and gloppy and undistinguished, it was, nevertheless, exactly what my little inner first grader had always longed for and it vividly brought to mind my mother and Aunt LaVerne in their stretch pants and bouffants.

ambrosia

I assume I will put it down the garbage disposal tomorrow.

Everbody’s a Critic

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Whilst cooking up a big pot of lentils tonight (because I am apparently a lesbian,) I was overtaken with the urge to burst into a rendition of Boogie Fever (because I am actually a fifty-something gay man.)  Who knows why?  These things are beyond a mere mortal’s ken.  More annoying was my cat’s annoying reaction.  He turned tail and bolted from the room, before I even got to the first chorus and way before I started shaking my groove thang.  Bitch.  We’ll see how tough he is on Friday when I take him down to get his claws clipped.

Also irritating is the reappearance of the dread Blogger’s Comments Spam.  I had eliminated the requirement for word verification from my commentors because I like comments and I wanted to make placing them as easy as possible.  But now that They have found me again (Here’s the comment from earlier today: We [url=http://www.onlinecraps.gd]free casino bonus[/url] be suffering with a corpulent library of unqualifiedly free casino games for you to challenge opportunely here in your browser. Whether you pine for to practice a table encounter strategy or scarcely sample exposed a occasional late slots before playing for legitimate filthy lucre, we procure you covered. These are the rigid uniform games that you can with at veritable online casinos and you can play them all representing free.   Uh, thanks.) I need to go back in and crank the security level back up to Def Con Orange.

Also, I think I saw Wade Neff, porn mega star and all round hairy guy, at my coffee place this afternoon.  And I downloaded an app to play Yahtzee on my phone.

So, all in all, not a bad day.

We Give Thanks for So Many Things

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In case you missed it, Thursday was Thanksgiving.

before
after

Let’s just move on, but not before offering up sincere and deep thanks to Diane von Austinburg (who blew in town just for the cooking) and Secret Agent Fred, both of whom were great help.

In more up-to-the-moment news, we are sharing in the general slavering over tonight’s trainwreck that is the Liz and Dick movie starring Lindsay Lohan.  A great many reports confirm that it seems destined to challenge Plan 9 from Outer Space‘s long held title as the worst movie ever made.  The New York Time’s review actually said that it wasn’t “terrible enough.”  That’s right, they were complaining it was insufficiently crappy.  Wow.  That’s just greedy.  Anyway, come 9:00 PM West Coast time, count on the inhabitants of Chez Peenee to be in our jim jams, thrilling to this epic.

Lifesaving bitches at attention in case the Virginia Woolfe scenes overcome mrpeenee.

A Movable Feast

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Don’t mind me sweetie, I’m cooking, Thanksgiving dinner to be precise, and you know how slightly psycho I get when in my hash-slinging modus. It’s true, the total kitchen bitch. Fortunately I am here all alone so no one has to put up with my shrieking and cursing. Even Saki has been exiled to one of the bedrooms upstairs, aka Cat Jail.
We’re leaving tomorrow to drive down the coast to Big Sur for a few days and since I suspect the kitchen in the cabin we’ve rented is rudimentary, I thought it would be smart to get the cooking out of the way. Plus I don’t want to share my madness with the friends I’m going with.
So now I’ve roasted a boneless turkey breast with a French garnish under the skin


My recreation of my grandmother’s cornbread dressing, because I am as big a Southern girl at heart as Paula Dean.


Speaking of the Queen of Grease Refinement, I also have gravy. But of course. Smooth as silk, but much, much tastier.


The beautiful, beautiful Cranberry Apricot Ginger Chutney.


And Vicodin.

The vicodin is especially handy since I clumsily tangled with the handle of the roasting pan while getting it out of the oven. Ouchywow.
We had a planning meeting last weekend for this trip and I have to say, I’m looking forward to it immensely. Food, hanging around, card games, maybe hiking, if I’m not too lazy, woo to the hoo, in short, even if we aren’t able to share it with Diane von Austinburg. Rats.
Although we will technicaly be at the beach, I do not expect any of this.

Tragic, I know.

China Doll

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I forgot to mention in my News You Can Use from Vermont bit below that Super Agent Fred (proving his absolute superness) boosted a small set of china from the house for me. Let me hasten to add there was more than plenty of other dishware to cover the loss, and perhaps “boosted” is too harsh a term to use. Let us think of it as “taking an advance on his inheritance.”

They’re the sixties space age pattern on the right, just the thing to set the heart of an aged queen survivor of that era, such as I, to racing.
Of course, I needed absolutely no more china, groovy or otherwise. R Man loved to give me dishes for Christmas and birthday presents and I have been working the thrift store kitchen section for thrity years, so we gots plenty. Not that that has ever stopped me.

The good stuff. Lots o’ good stuff.

The everyday stuff. Cause every day, my posse drops by and I need ten soup plates. Oh wait, that’s right. I never need ten soup plates. And I have no posse.

The overflow. Some of it, anyway.

In fact, I was back at it this very afternoon. Diane von Austinburg, Fred, some other friends and I are planning a big Thanksgiving in cabins down in Big Sur, the beautiful, rugged coast south of here. Diane and I have suffered through cooking in rental kitchens often enough we agreed it would be a good idea to stock up on various pots and pans, dishes and silverware in advance to take down with us and then just abandon there for future renters to bless us for.
We’ve all been there, I assume. Kitchens stocked with the filters from espresso machines, the implements to cut hardboiled eggs into perfect little slices, asparagus steamers, but no timers, or pots with lids, or decent knives. So I trotted off to the big thrift store on Valencia Street to begin the hunt.
And what a thrill it was to have a focus and not feel vaguely ridiculous about bringing home yet another bowl. My three rules are 1) nothing can cost more than $1.50, 2) it has to be a Useful Size (whatever that is,) and 3) it can’t be chipped. That’s the real sticking point. Even if something started out in pristine condition a very short time out in the war zone that is a thrift store rack leave all these poor dishes looking like they have lost a rough fight.
For years, I have resisted the siren lure of plain white china with gold rims knowing that the gilt never lasts long in dishwasher combat. This then is my big chance, cause what do I care if the gold wears off? All it has to do is last through a couple of dinners and then it’s “So long sucker.”
Of course in the middle of my “Just buying for a one way trip to Big Sur” I ran across a most charming little Staffordshire bowl and a Wedgewood salad plate, $1.50 each. What was I going to do, pass them up? I don’t think so. Turns out I am, after all, a big ole china queen.
I also snagged a small-ish box for the chargers and cables and other electronica ephemera that are running over the basket they currently reside in, but Saki has laid claim to it.

Cats: utilizing their inherent cuteness in service to some diabolical plot they are then too lazy to execute.

mrpeenee Sweepstakes

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Diane von Austinburg, god love her, blew back into town last week to support us through the trials of Thanksgiving. Believe me when I tell you we were giving plenty thanks for her, not the least was for her delicious butternut squash bread pudding.


Of course we hit the very best thrift stores.

Alas, we scored ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, except a pair of charming little saucers, one of which I promptly broke.
We did unearth this bizarre oddity.


Diane has urged me to throw it into a competition here. The best guess what it might be wins. The prize: I will personally go back to Thrift Town and if it’s still there (chances seem good,) I’ll snap it up and send it to the winner.
Hoo Hoo.
Second place will win houseboy Vantius Olivier.

To save time I have already declared myself as second place winner. Thank you.

Adventures in the Kitchen

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It’s been a whirlwind of cooking around the ol’ Chez today. A lovely, rare warm day that we didn’t want to waste by being productive, so we just laid around, sluglike. Wandering through the kitchen, though, I noticed some pears our friend John had brought over were at the very peak and demanding to be dealt with. What else can you do with insolent pears except poach them?


Scouring the bar only turned up the dreg ends of a bottle of white wine and one of brandy.

Further, more determined digging turned up an odd bottle of Kirschwasser (cherry brandy) and a tall skinny one of pear liqueur. How do these wind up in one’s cupboards? I promise you, I never went out shopping for a bottle of pear liqueur in my life. And yet, this afternoon it certainly turned out to be handy.
I’m pretty sure there are no recipes that include the directions “Root around in your liquor cabinet until you find enough of anything to cover the pears and then go to town.” Ha. A little cinnamon, a little nutmeg and voila, deliciousness.

Sloppy, but yummy plates.

We’re having friends for lunch on Sunday, which is also supposed to be hot, so I’ve made vichyssoise, a dish I can cook, but never spell. It’s just potatoes and leeks with cream, and I went a tad bit long on the leeks, but it seems to be terribly tasty.
What is it with leeks anyway? I often cook with them, but every time, I act like we have just met. “Perhaps these attractive vegetables will not be filled with grit and dirt and a quick rinse will suffice in cleaning them,” I think. Fooled again. So tomorrow we will sit down to a lovely luncheon of potato and leek and cream and dirt soup.
Mmm.
Random houseboy.

In Which mrpeenee Learns Not to Eat a Dead Cow.

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This is not me, it’s just a picture I found. Bitch.

That pervasive low, moaning sound? That is not Nicole Kidman attempting to “act.” That is mrpeenee reacting to his barbecue bacchanal yesterday. Lord honey, I spent all night last night like a beached whale, wondering if pulling my spleen out would be worth it if it just made a little interior room.

It was not my fault. In the first place, that barbecue was good, and I speak as a Texas boy who knows from good seared cow flesh. And good barbecue out here, in the land of precious food stuffs is painfully rare. What could I do? In the second place, when faced with a platter of ribs, I instinctively react the same as I did when I was teenager in the swamps outside of Houston: I tuck in. Voraciously.
Of course, eating as one did when one was a skinny 16 year old turns out to not be all that great an idea (I always got the three meat combo platter with a side chopped beef sandwich. I never understood why anyone didn’t, there are three meats there, why deny yourself? And nobody said a sandwich wasn’t a side. Duh.)
I was lying in bed, dully resigned to dying of a potato salad and brisket overdose. My only concern was that if my previously expressed wish of being cremated were carried out, the resulting grease fire could have taken out the west side of San Francisco. That’s just me, always thinking of others, even as my enormous intake made the bed slats creak underneath me.
Ooh, also, we had homemade (by me) brownies with ice cream and homemade (also by me) hot fudge sauce. So, ok, maybe it was my fault, but maybe it was all worth it.