The beautiful thing

about being on your own is that you can eat what you want. You want a hardboiled egg and leftover Halloween candy for dinner? That’s okay. You want to eat popcorn until your lips swell? Nobody’s going to say boo diddly.
Ferdinand pays no attention to my plate, so he doesn’t notice that he has chicken soup with a side of vegetables and fruit while I’m eating cheddar cubes and peanuts in the shell with corn chips.
The truth is, I’ve been cleaning out the fridge. I had leftover risotto cakes three times in a row. I ate boiled beets wrapped in lettuce w/pignoli and parmesan and a Friendly’s style plate of sliders and cottage cheese and the remains of a tomato. It’s not food you want to serve to your husband but fulfills the martyr in you. The refrigerator is now empty.
I feel fully qualified to drive covered wagons. Ferdinand will wave me on.
Thank God Jonathan is home tomorrow.

Risotto cakes

It’s raining and grey but the dog and I decided to double loop the park anyway. Jonathan has left for England and we didn’t want to face going back to the house without him. It’s as empty as an echo. I have had 3 cups of tea and 3 digestive biscuits covered in chocolate. I have done the dishes and looked at the laundry, I have planned menus for work and watched the clock. For lunch I made mushroom risotto cakes with Wednesday’s risotto and a salad of blood building braised beets, avocado, shallot and lettuce. Press the risotto only as much as it takes to get it to stick together, dust with flour and let the butter go quiet in the pan before you add the cakes.

When all you have is the shirt

If you are walking down a road with what you can carry on your back it’s not the best time for stilettos.
Saute an onion in olive oil. Drop in a sprig of thyme, a sprig of parsley, an inch of orange zest and a clove. Season with sea salt
and a grind of pepper until you can taste the onion. Until the onion steps up to meet you.
Add a peeled chopped potato and let it stick to the pot.
Add a few peeled chopped beets and give them a stir. If you have a chicken stock use that. If you don’t, add water just to cover.
Let it simmer until everything is tender and together. Taste it again for salt and pepper.
If you want to change into your heels, give it spoon of something creamy like creme fraiche to sit on the top with a crouton.
Or keep your boots on and serve a slab of ricotta salata on the side w/green olives, planks of orange, red onion and bitter lettuce.

Put the chicken in a new suit

One of the reasons I don’t look in the mirror is because it’s always the same face, and I can tell you what, it doesn’t improve the more I look at it.
A chicken is different.
It is possible to feel exactly the same when I look at a chicken, but there’s help for a chicken.
Put the chicken on a plane (in your mind.)

France: Coq au vin, all bouquet garni, bacon and red wine–you could start with a dressed frisee salad w/ ever so slightly melted goat cheese from the Loire on top of slivers of crotons
Austria: Chicken and beer, which is great for using up that heavy stuff that is delicious, but hard to drink too much of. Really good with a side of slaw
Down South: soak it in buttermilk and onions, dip it in egg and flour and fry it up. Greens and cabbage sauteed with onion and a smoked turkey wing and a little mac and cheese on the side
Italy: flatten it out and roast it under a brick and serve with with potatoes, fried sage and garlic or sear it and stew it with tomatoes, olives and anchovies.
Mexico: Chicken and tortilla soup–who doesn’t like a zesty tomato-ey chicken broth w/gorgeous bits of chicken, cilantro leaf, potato, beans and cheese&tortillas and avocado on top?
India: Chicken curry–so good simmered in coconut milk w/fresh ginger, cardamom pods, a cinnamon stick, onion and chile and served with rice.

Or put a hat on and some white gloves and serve croquettes with buttery peas and leeks.

Or if you are feeling like the air is being sucked out of you and you need to sit down after reading all that, just turn the oven to 375 degrees, salt the chicken inside and out, give it a grind of pepper, and throw it in the oven with an onion. Pour a quarter cup of water over it two times while it’s cooking, and you’ll have something to make a sandwich with. While you wait for it to come out of the oven: you can watch how to make chicken and beer for a laugh.

chicken with beer

Dancing on the job

There are some things that I’m not necessarily proud of that I can’t resist.
Sugar is a big one.
Helpful driving hints when I’m in the passenger seat.
Helpful homework hints if I’m in shouting distance when I’ve been asked not to participate.
Dancing to Mariah Carey’s Dreamlover when it comes on in the the grocery store.
Googling what comes up for Chef Faye and Chopped. None of it is pretty–not my love for cheap now&laters or that I care what the three people who blog about cable television on the internet have to say about me and the Far, Far Out Episode.
You would think after all these years of cooking for a living, of getting work because people like my food–no one hires anybody to cook for a pity party–that I wouldn’t worry about what someone has to say who may have no idea of the difference between a reality television show and the reality of really cooking.
But the truth is I do. Tenth grade comes right back up in my face–some girl cuts my shoes with a word I can’t even fully hear because she’s not talking to me–and it doesn’t matter that I can laugh and keep on walking; her song is playing in my head like a broken record. And then what. You can’t stay home from school. You can’t not wear shoes.
Which is a good thing.
Because I have work to do.

***
Q: What would you like to say really to those people on the internet?

A: I don’t dance on the job–except when it doesn’t interfere.

Believe

I have this theory that if I wait long enough, Ferdinand is going to be moved to clean his room. That could be true, but the problem is I interrupt before he gets a chance to prove himself. By the time toys, clothes go missing–swallowed whole by the room–and my technique of sweeping a path past his bed to his bathroom is no longer effective because of the height of dust and debris on either side, I have lost my commitment to waiting.
The beautiful thing is, he appreciates it when I clean. Yesterday he came home from school and sat on his bed looking at his shelves for half an hour. He couldn’t believe all the new, old stuff he had and how good it looked not in a heap.
I also have this theory that if I wait long enough, I’m going to take a dance class.
It’s fantastic what we can lead ourselves to believe.
Last night I made Ferdinand buttered perogies from Greenpoint with a side of a hotdog and broccoli. You can cook the whole thing in one pot.
If I had been hungry I would have had mine with bits of sauteed onion and bacon, but I believed I wasn’t; about twenty minutes later I had a half a bag of Pirate Booty, some chocolate chip cookies and an apple.

How Faye Delicious did what she did, on Chopped

Just in case you get a basket full of Canadian bacon, jarred red peppers, tomatillos and powdered pitiful chicken soup and twenty minutes to figure out what to do with it, I’m going to throw you some props.

1. Take two minutes to come up with a plan. Keep it simple, and stick to it. Keep the dancing to a minimum.

I wanted to bring out the best of the ingredients and make them leap. Sauteing the bacon intensifies it’s smoky flavor and warms up the fat, which helps with mouth appeal. I added a tiny bit of finely chopped onion to the saute and warmed through the pepper with it as well. I used a corn tortilla for the base, which to me always tastes better if it’s grilled or fried. I drizzled my pan with a olive oil, and got each side a gorgeous golden brown. I piled a little heap of my bacon and peppers on the tortilla and to give the bit some creaminess, I went for mascarpone to spoon on top. Mascarpone on its own is a beautiful thing, but ham and roasted red pepper are already smooth, back of the tongue flavors. I needed zip. I added a teeny weeny bit of lemon zest, salt and pepper to the mascarpone, and gave it a crown of a little chopped fresh parsley, and tiny slivers of raw red onion, to give that final zing ZING.
I didn’t want the chicken soup powder, the flavor egg or those nasty noodles on my plate and it showed. I tried my darndest to stir it into a sort of chicken soup risotto to help with the texture and added lemon juice and olive oil to soften the saltiness of it. I got it into my cockamamie head that I had to use the whole thing and so I did. Don’t you make the same mistake. Open the trash can and drop it right on in.
One of my favorite sauces in the whole wide world is avocado and tomatillo sauce with fresh lime and salt. Soooo good. BUT THERE WERE NO AVOCADOS. That took me a minute. I decided to make a little cold tomatillo soup instead. I added a whisper of garlic, chive I think, lime juice, a drop of olive oil and the teeniest bit of mascarpone because it was there and I love it and how could it hurt? It tasted absolutely delicious–who knew. And put me in the next round.

I don’t recommend opening a basket that has squab in it. Close it up. Ask for another one. I know there are people who like squab and I’m not one of them.
If you over cook squab, it gets a livery taste, which I hate and if you undercook it, well you’re serving raw poultry which I don’t believe in.
Which brings me back to mascarpone. I’ll be the first one to tell you that I overused the mascarpone if I were thinking in terms of serving everything in one menu. I wasn’t thinking that. I was thinking round one is over, and we are now in round two.
One of my favorite ways of making Mr. squab’s cousin chicken, is to stuff it with mascarpone, rosemary, garlic and lemon zest (s&p). You season the bird first with a little salt and pepper, and then sear it really well in a hot and heavy pan. Once it’s cooled down enough to touch it, you shove the mascarpone mix under the skin and then put it in the oven at 400 degrees. When the flesh is just done with being pink, take it out. So that’s what I did with the squab.
I made a quick saute of radicchio and green leaf lettuce with olive oil, a whole and uncut garlic clove and a sprig of parsley, and pan fried a piece of beautiful bread to set underneath. I layered the squab on top, pouring the juices from the pan on the bird and then for a classic finish, I made a gremolata with the Far Far.

As a refresher: cactus pear and green apple salad with lemon and fresh mint, chive, salt, pepper, and a spill of olive oil.

2. Compete to win, but if you don’t win don’t worry. There is always another meal.

Wait

Before anyone else was reducing, reusing and recycling, my mother was the queen. We hung plastic bags on the line to dry along with paper coffee filters. We had dolls made from Carl Henry’s worn out corduroys, clothes with a checkered past, furniture gleaned from dumps and curbs, pillows made from skirts, rugs from hotel ruins and bread from the Pepperidge Thrift Store. Our lunch bags were full sized and meant for groceries. We composted, we tied together bundles of newspapers, collected bottles and saved all scraps of wrapping paper and ribbon. I have tiny pink foil squares from chocolate hearts that my mother gave me in junior high–just in case I needed them.
The trick when your mother dies is how to repurpose the whole kit and kaboodle.
I can make contact cases from leftover lip balms and Ferdinand takes his lunch to school in a toiletries bag that’s too big for what goes with me when I travel (toothbrush.)
I can make pot pies from yesterday’s chicken. I can make bread puddings from old croissants and soup with meatballs or salad greens. I turned my yard into a garden and apples into candlesticks. But how to change the seams of how it was to how it is, I don’t see.
Without my mother life is a language that I don’t speak yet.
I will wait, and it will come to me.
And I will cook. It’s in there somewhere.
For my mother, the vegetarian with lungs of a lion, I will make roast tofu slices, soaked in soy and scallion and chili sauce, toss them with buckwheat noodles, and take advantage of the heat leftover in the oven for cookies.

I’m on Chopped!!

The first time I was on television it was the Ranger Andy Show. I was eight and I happened to be a pro at pushing found objects into plaster of paris that had a blanket of sand underneath.
I smiled for the camera, and told the art teacher on there with me, that she wasn’t doing it quite right. I think it may have stunted my television career. Until now.
I still have the same problem of minding other’s people’s business–shoving my self between an unripe melon and a shopper about to buy it or giving my two cents on just how I feel about jarred garlic, but they didn’t care, and asked me anyway to be on Food Network’s “Chopped.”

The main requirement was you have to love to cook.

I cook for a living because I love it so much that it can make me cry just thinking about it.

I love the way a piece of basil tastes that’s grown in the dirt of Genoa and what it does when it hits creamy pine nuts, I love fish so fresh you swear you saw it’s eyes blink with the best olive oil the world has to offer and a sprig of rosemary, I love chocolate made by people who live and breathe to make good chocolate, I love the first shoots of asparagus that show themselves like planted random pencils in the Spring, I love to see my son press his nose and inch from the soup because he can’t get enough of it, I love hearing people laugh around a table of grilled steaks and roasted potatoes. I love to hear grandmas argue about the best way to make a sauce. I love the way people give to each other when they share their food.

“Chopped” is a wild and wacky way of doing it for TV land, but we’re sharing our food all the same. I worked like the dickens to follow direction and mind my own business. See for yourself.
“Chopped” is on tonight at 10pm EST and can I just say, “Yes I do recommend dancing while you cook.”

What I’m going to be eating while I watch:
beautiful cheese and crusty bread (fat grounds you)
relish board (the crunch is good for the nerves)
hot chocolate shots (puts u in the mood to boogy)

tell me what you’re having for dinner tonight. I’ll be on the “original dinnerlist” on Dinnerlist I want to know

Bring it on back

If you were wondering why you might be sweating or looking for a second breakfast so you don’t have to leave the table, it’s because January is a first day of the rest of your life.
The nerves can do a number.

Which is why I hold on to the eighties like a baby holds onto it’s mother’s neck. I wear my hair long, my jeans skinny, and listen to music that I would never admit to.
I ate a whole lot of candy in the eighties, but candy doesn’t fly when it’s lunchtime and you’re the cook.

Today at work: lentils w/a Tuscan soffritto, seared scallops the size of a large sand dollar, w/ fried sage, garlic and butter, marinated chicken w/ thyme, parsley, shallot, lemon zest and dijon,
spinach w/ wild mushrooms, a salad of arugula leaves, zucchini slabs as skinny as I could cut them, tiny dice of raw shallot, toasted pignoli and golden raisins with olive oil and lemon, and because there were loads of blueberries left over from breakfast, blueberry crumble w/ a side of fresh cream.

What the cook ate: mini Krackel bars and diet 7 up.