Helloooo Mr. Refrigerator

I’m not talking about somebody cute who shows up to fix it–whom we might also have dreams and expectations of–I’m talking about The Refrigerator.

There are a lot of people who open up the refrigerator, hoping and betting that food is going to show up on it’s own in there. This is a has-never-happened-and-99% chance-ain’t-never-going-to-happen situation.  I understand this phenomenon, because I have experienced it myself.  The lay it on the table truth is, if you want food in your fridge, you have to either get up close and personal with someone who is going to do it for you, or get yourself to the grocery store. If you’re new to the idea of refrigerator responsibility, go easy so you don’t give up. Buy a box of decent pasta (de cecco) and one of already washed baby spinach leaves. Try a whole new kind of hard cheese and buy yourself one from a Spanish goat or an Umbrian sheep. Find a favorite olive and a few leaves of (uncut) parsley. Peel a clove of garlic and shave a few slivers off of there like in that scene from the Godfather. (I use a half of one for one serving of pasta). Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and reserve some of the cooking water. Drizzle a good olive oil into the bottom of the pan and very slowly cook the pasta slivers. At the first sign of golden, turn off the pan. Give it another good spill of olive oil (or butter if you don’t like your olive oil. Add the spinach–don’t turn the flame back on. (maybe 1 cup of leaves for 2 ounces of dry pasta). Add the pasta. Add a few tablespoons of the pasta’s cooking water, and then toss.
With your vegetable peeler, shower the pasta with plenty of the cheese. Throw in a few olives, toss again, and taste for freshly ground pepper and salt. That should take about 1 minute once the pasta is cooked. And you didn’t even really need the refrigerator.

I’m not going to tell you, yet.

My miracle of a sister came and conquered our world. She left two kids and a husband behind in Napa, and brought along her camera and one, very ready to see snow for the first time in her life, four year old, with brand new (to her) pink snow boots, pink and blue butterfly mittens, and a pink snow jacket with shiny flower motif. We worked for two and a half days, and got 8 hours of tape in two kitchens of two families; one in Queens and one in Manhattan, and I think we have a show.
In one of those kitchens I learned a whole new (to me) way of making chicken which was made with more love than I have ever witnessed. I am not going to tell you how to make it, because when the show is ready, I want you to watch the show.
What I will tell you how to make is the fresh pea puree I am making tonight with seared sea scallop. You know the score when you buy the scallops–look the fishmonger in the eye and ask if they are fresh. Season the scallops lightly with salt and and one grind of pepper. Sear in a hot saute pan in a spill of olive oil, without disturbing or fussing with. You only need one side to be seared. Remove to a fine wire sieve. Wipe out the pan. Add a clove (uncut) of garlic and a sprig of thyme. Cut in a few tablespoons of room temperature butter and get the scallops back in the pan. Over a low heat, spoon the butter from the pan, over the scallops, just for a minute or two, and then the scallops will be done.
Serve alongside a dallop of fresh (or frozen) pea puree: Saute over low to medium heat, 2 shallots and 1 leek OR one small onion with 2 whole cloves of garlic, one sprig of basil and one of mint until completely softened. Add 2 pounds of fresh or frozen peas with a good pinch of salt and a grind of freshly ground pepper. Add about 2 cups of homemade stock and simmer for 5 minutes, uncovered. Remove half of what’s in the pan and puree. Combine with the rest. Taste. Swirl in your best olive oil or a tab of butter and a few torn basil leaves. (If you serve this without the scallops, shower with Parmigiano Reggiano.)

Ooh la la, Ms. Hen!

Sometimes I just don’t feel like going swimming because I can’t stand the thought of taking off all my clothes.
I’ll wade though. Same thing with a chicken. I don’t always want to roast a whole chicken. I’m busy up here–I’m picking out mascara and three toned cover up and some solid, “I am woman” shoes to go to work in–so I bought the half chicken instead. Get the pan hot, add the olive oil and then the half chicken, seasoned with kosher salt, skin side down. Leave it along over medium heat until it is crossed the border of golden brown. Remove from the pan. Add one small onion cut into quarters, 4 whole cloves of garlic cut in half, about a tablespoon of balsamic, and a a good squeeze from half a lemon. Give this another few tablespoons of water and let it come to the boil.
Add a sprig of fresh mint, and a sprig of rosemary. Scrape it all into a small roasting pan that has been coated with olive oil. Set the chicken on top, skin side up. Around the edges add 3 carrots, cut in half and then into 2 inch pieces, and 3 yukon gold, fist sized potatoes, unpeeled and also cut into 2 inch pieces. Toss the vegetables with olive oil, salt and a little freshly ground pepper. Roast at 400 degrees, pouring a few tablespoons of plain water over the chicken every 10 minutes two times, and each time, baste with the pan juices that form once the water goes in. Cook until the potatoes and carrots are tender and the chicken is cooked through. (The juices will run clear when the flesh is stabbed with a small sharp knife between the breast and the thigh.)

Mint Jelly

Ferdinand came home with a note on Friday saying “please send 100 of something to celebrate being 100 days smarter.” The note suggests things like erasers and ribbons. I have 67 paper clips, 2 erasers, no ribbon and Ferd vetoed 100 chic peas. I’m sending in 100 teaspoons of Polaner Real Mint Jelly. I’ll never use it.
I like my lamb straight up–tiny chops grilled over white hot coals for about 3 minutes a side with a little sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Plant some mint and then rip it over peas that have been sauted with shallot and garlic in butter. Teeny weeny roasted potatoes and a raspberry clafoutis for dessert.

Best chili ever

It’s chilly out! Make chili in! (Can you tell I have been practicing having TV thoughts?) This is the only chili for me; I posted it way back when:

December 16, 2006

The Best Chili I ever made (or how to make the people happy)

I ‘m going to give you a chili recipe for your Saturday night crowd to beat the band and make whomever happens to walk in your door tonight and ask for a beer or dinner happier than they have been with just any old chili for a long, long time. I know what I say about not worrying about what other people want to eat, but there are nights when you don’t have time to mess around with your feelings of just needing people to say, “YES!” and “I LOVE THIS.”

This is adapted from Havana Moon. I took out the raisins and the almonds, but if you like the idea, add a little handful of each. I like the raisins and the nuts, but I feel they get in the way of my chili, so I like to offer them as a garnish instead with sour cream, chives, chopped tomato and cheddar cheese.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground chuck
2 cups of chicken broth, beef broth or water
one 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, drained
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup pimiento-stuffed green olives, halved
2 cups cooked black beans
2 cups cooked white rice
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven. Stir in the onion and garlic and cook until soft and caramelized. Add the pork and beef, and cook until browned. Drain off the excess fat.

Add the beef broth and tomatoes, squashing each tomato by hand before adding it. Stir in the vinegar, (raisins), spices, and salt. Bring to a boil; add the beans, reduce the heat and cook 30 minutes, partially covered. Uncover and cook for 30 minutes more. Add the olives and (almonds) and cook an additional 5 minutes.
Serve with the rice. I love a salad of green onions, slivered zucchini, olive oil, lemon, garlic, salt and cilantro with this.

update

I was up for a lot of the night. This morning, make up was not an option, but I decided a shower was a must. Even if you can’t shoot for cute, doesn’t mean you can’t be clean. Before the interview with the two producers, I met Kelie at the Whole Foods Cafe at Union Square. I ordered a small cammomile tea with two bags. When we sat down, I asked Kelie to give me just a moment so that I could do my dollar ninety five spa in a cup. For extreme puffiness, you put a hot cammomile tea bag on each of the eyes for about a minute and a half, or as long as you can stand the awkwardness. Kelie agreed it was a big improvement. The producers weren’t so impressed–not with my refreshed eyes or our project. There are times to agree, pull your head up out of the sand and quit, and there are times to listen, learn and keep working.
I said “we could argue that people like everything about cooking television the way it is just like we could argue that Americans are happier with the flavor of chicken stock cubes rather than homemade stock…
Or, we can offer them different and watch them change the channel to whole new kind of television.

Rib Help

I am no longer cute. If I’m sucking in my stomach and you squint from about 20 feet away, I don’t look so bad, but I am no longer cute. Now I’m “oh, she’s a nice lady–she always has something nice to say to somebody.”
I wouldn’t care except that I am trying to push and shove a television show, so I have to think about things like, am I cute. Which brings me to make-up. I have made a point of not looking in a mirror for about twenty years now–some people give up meat; I gave up looking at myself–and all of a sudden not only do I have to look in the mirror (it’s the only way to put on make-up) but I have to try to improve what’s in the mirror (what else is make-up for?) in order to get me back to at least closer to cute.
I am not a big believer in trying to make something different from what is, but why can’t I think of my face like a piece of pork–a little lipstick and mascara is no different than a big head of garlic and a sprig of rosemary.
The possibility looms of forgetting about the lipstick all together and going to meetings with twigs of rosemary woven into no-hope-hair. (“She smells good–a little bit like pork.”)
I just want you to know that I have big talent in the pork department. A sorry slab of spare ribs last night was transformed into juicy bits of succulence that made the whole class smile. No mirrors necessary.
Start with a hot and heavy pan. Add a splash of olive oil and then add the rack of ribs, (about 3 pounds) salted on both sides, and flattest side down. Don’t touch. Let it sit over a medium flame until it is the color of somebody’s grandmother’s chestnut highboy. Pour the fat from the pan, and give it another spill of olive oil. Add one whole head of garlic, whacked in half horizontally. Let the garlic go a gorgeous golden. Add a few sprigs of rosemary and about 2 cups of savignon blanc. Simmer the wine for about 3 minutes, and pour over the ribs.  Cover tightly with aluminum foil and then make about 5 slashes in the foil with a knife.  Braise the ribs in the oven at 350 degrees, checking that the liquid is always at about a 1/4 inch (add more wine or water if necessary) and to flip, every half hour.

They are done in about 2 1/2.   It was served up with pugliese croutons toasted and seasoned with garlic and salt (and sauteed leeks and mushrooms.) They didn’t care what I looked like. That’s what I’m talking about.