Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Time To Go, Joe - Crockpot Honey Hoisin Chicken Wings

Sixty-seven degrees this morning and I am FREEZING.  Crazy but true. In my head, I'm the eternal New Yorker, but this old body is definitely Floridian. My house, like the courthouse down the block, faces north, and I've stated before that the sidewalk in front of the courthouse is the coldest spot in Florida. Besides the northern exposure, the placement of the three big buildings that make up Courthouse Square has created a wind tunnel of sorts, capturing the wind, which is chilled because no sun can penetrate there and this icy-cold wind whips around in a continuous circle. Because the Square isn't really square. So add to my list of why I like retirement is not having to walk the block through Antarctica in a suit and heels.  Okay, I never wore a suit or heels, but I always wore a skirt.  And pantyhose. Now I can wear yoga pants, hand knit socks and my mock clogs. Maybe this retirement gig ain't so bad after all.

I've been bitching about Joe Biden over on Facebook. There is no excuse for his cutesy-bullshit of waiting for Hillary to fall to he can swoop in like a vulture to pick up the pieces and carry his party to victory.  First, Hillary is not going to fall. That ship has sailed and Trey Gowdy is going down with it. O Captain, my Captain. Partisan idiot. Secondly, Joe is not going to withstand the battering from the Republican front runner, Donald Trump.  Well, at least The Donald can't rag on Joe about those awful hair plugs he got planted in his scalp for his 1988 run - hair is a touchy topic with Donald, and by the way, his roots are showing and he needs a touch-up. Joe is turning into what my friend Chris calls a cluster f**K; besides, in my mind, there is something very unseemly and damn abnormal in running for President so soon after losing a son. That sort of profound grief has a terrible way of crushing people, and it would be far better for Joe to deal with the worst thing that can happen to a parent  instead of trying to bury it in a grueling campaign and what promises to be a brutal presidency. Vulture culture doesn't suit you, Joe nor does the inevitable conclusion that you were looking for the sympathy vote.When Barack Obama leaves the White House, you need to leave with him.  Ciao, Mr. Vice President. (Since I wrote this, Biden announced his decision not to run. He chose wisely. Thank you, Mr. Vice President.)

Which brings me to the Middle East, in a manner of speaking. To say I am a Zionist is a vast understatement. The bias of a good part of the media (MSNBC comes to mind) and the Obama administration's clumsy attempt to equate Israeli self-defense with Palestinian terrorism are mind-boggling in the depth and breadth of rampant, never-ending anti-Semitism. I support Netanyahu and Israel in doing whatever they have to do to secure their country and keep it safe from terrorists. And if that offends you, unfriend me on Facebook, throw me out of your Google circle, strike my name from your Christmas card list. Am Yisrael Chai - the People of Israel shall live. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Time to switch to a happier, less-controversial topic - have you figured out what Emeril Lagasse, Ina Garten, and Guy Fieri have in common, if it's not Food Network?

Yesterday I overdid, but was still unable to fall asleep so I got out of bed at 1:30 in the morning and cut my hair. Yes, yes, short again and damn glad of it.  I look like a superannuated pixie ... I knew in my heart that my Big Hair days were over, but at this time of my life I felt the need to swim upstream just a bit. I always forget just how thick, wavy-curly-frizzy and unmanageable my hair really is when it has a little length to it. I also forgot just how much weight even a little bit of extra hair adds to my head, giving me headaches.

How does my garden grow? Thanks for asking! Well, my planting plans are going to be put off her another day as my back has started to hurt in all directions and several different ways, and James still has some more work to finish this magnificent project. I'm really stoked about growing my own food, but today is just not the day to put down roots, so to speak. Yesterday, as part of my overdoing I went to Home Depot and snagged a whole bunch of brassica (cruciferous) vegetables, plus some romaine, spinach, and summer squash (it's always summer in Florida, except for the last 2 weeks of January and the first 2 weeks of February. And no snow, not ever. So there.)

The back brou-ha-ha has also put a kibosh on a recipe I put together involving green beans and Thanksgiving. That's all I'm going to say for now except don't start looking for that out-of-date can of cream of mushroom soup in the very furthest corner of your pantry. You won't be needing it.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          But you will need this recipe for wings, which are so good you will be left wondering how you ever lived without them.

Crockpot Honey Hoisin Chicken Wings

3 pounds chicken wings, separated (I used Perdue frozen wings and briefly rinsed them in warm water)
my seasoning blend (or just use salt and pepper)
1-12 oz. bottle pure clover honey
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 2 very large cloves)
1/2 tablespoon Gourmet Garden ginger paste
2 tablespoons canola oil
several drops of Sriracha sauce

Season the chicken wings on both sides with salt and pepper and set aside.  Spray the inside of your crockpot with olive oil spray. Whisk together the remaining ingredients.

Place half the wings in the bottom of the crockpot, then pour on half of the honey hoisin sauce.  Repeat with the remaining wings and sauce.  Cover the crockpot and cook on low for 4 hours.  Halfway through, carefully stir the wings to reverse the two layers.

Keep in mind that I started with frozen wings, that I did not defrost but I did rinse off the ice. At the 4 hour mark the wings were perfect - tender and cooked all the way through but not coming off the bone. The sauce was well-absorbed, but I wanted to try to glaze the wings, so - I removed them from the crockpot to a low aluminum baking dish (like you would use for lasagna.) I placed them under the broiler with the door open and watched them closely. When the skin became somewhat crispy, I turned them over to broil the other side.

At the same time, I covered the crockpot and turned it to high. Once the sauce started to bubble, I removed the cover so the sauce could reduce. Once it was reduced to where I liked it, I ladled the sauce over the wings. What can I say? Perfect.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Was It Something I Said? - Butternut Squash Bisque

The People Next Door are moving out.  Huh? Didn't they just move in? Yes, but even though they moved in - technically speaking - they were almost never there.  When their Hummer reappeared after a lengthy absence, my mind filed them under "Snowbirds" and I gave the matter little further thought (okay, I was curious - the house has been in one of Kissimmee's First Families for almost 100 years, and I am pretty sure at one time they owned the property my house sits upon.)

Then this morning, Two Men pulled up in their Truck, and headed into the house with stacks of boxes and bubble wrap. Listen, I can see everything from my kitchen window. Well. First, let me state off the bat (baseball reference - Go Mets!!) that I hope they are not leaving because of illness, reversal of fortune, or another Bad Thing. I also hope they are not leaving because they decided they hate living in Kissimmee, because that would be churlish of them.  What's not to love? The vrooming motorcycles, the emergency vehicles screaming down Clyde Street, the (really) odd folks talking to themselves (or maybe to their smartphones) walking to 7-11, grown men on bicycles (I'm not talking Lance Armstrong here), the lady in her wheelchair being walked by her dog, the slightly off neighbor growing okra in her side yard? Maybe it's the ghost with binoculars, peering out the windows of Judge Draper's chambers on the sixth floor of the courthouse at an hour I am certain she is home with her family.  Why does a ghost have to put the lights on at 2 AM?

Since the neighbors are not the talkative type, I guess I will never know.  I'm not the kind of intrusive neighbor who knows all of everyone else's business - actually, I'm a smiling waver, the kind of neighbor who can live in the same house for 12 years and never know the names of any of the other street residents - but the neighbor lady here didn't even wave, and she never smiled. No children or grandchildren, no visitors, no new landscaping. If they are indeed moving, I hope an urban farmer moves in. That could be fun. And heaven knows, I've got a lot of okra recipes ...

I've been thinking a bit about Trey Gowdy. The man got screwed by members of his own party and he didn't even get to enjoy it. Trey Gowdy, the Man with the Impossible Hair, Chairman of the Benghazi Witch Hunt, I mean Committee, made the same mistake Kenneth Starr did all those years ago, trying to bring down a Clinton on the taxpayer's dime. Apparently Trey became so vexed when several GOP congressman stated that Trey's precious Committee was formed for the purpose of tanking Hillary Clinton's poll numbers that he told them to "shut up." Oops. Very unprofessional. He might as well have tweeted them to STFU, like a kid might do. Makes him look foolish, and who knows how they will react? The one time I told my mother to shut up - I was 22 - she did exactly what I said, and then would not talk to me for a month.  It was only when she realized I had gotten a new job and was moving to my own apartment that she broke silence. Silence has fallen for Trey Gowdy and his Impossible Hair - can you say "Madam President?"

I've also been thinking about Donald Trump, another Man with Impossible Hair. I like the way he needles certain other Republican candidates until they lose their composure and snap back at him. He's just about sent Jeb Bush over the cliff with his attack on Jeb's brother, the man that stole the title of "Worst President Ever" from Jimmy Carter.

I've also been thinking about men's ties, sharks, gators and bears (oh my!), my fall garden, and Joe Biden. That's at least two, maybe more, other blog posts, but stay tuned and ask yourself this: what do Emeril Lagasse, Ina Garten and Guy Fieri have in common? I'll give you a clue - it's not Food Network.

Yes, roses. Soon.

Stay safe, stay warm, stay happy.

And now, from my weekend of cooking, Butternut Squash Bisque. This came out of my head (and I guess my heart) and I was very happy with the results.

Butternut Squash Bisque

4 tablespoons butter
1 very large sweet onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 very large clove garlic, minced
kosher salt
black pepper
light brown sugar
3 carrots, sliced very thin
1 butternut squash, about 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 pounds, seeded, peeled, cut into small cubes
ground sage
ground coriander
1 bay leaf
2 Knorr chicken bouillon cubes
6 cups of water
2 Russet potatoes, peeled, cut into small cubes
1 Gala apple, peeled and cubed
heavy cream

Melt the butter in a large, deep pot. Add the onion, celery, garlic, salt, pepper, and light brown sugar.  Cook on medium until the vegetables are getting soft. Add the carrot and continue to cook until the onions show sign of caramelization; take your time with this step.

Now add the butternut squash and stir with the other vegetables to cook for a few minutes.  Add the ground sage, coriander and bay leaf, and stir to distribute evenly.  Break up the bouillon cubes, and add to the pot.  Pour in the water. Bring the contents of the pot to a boil, then lower to simmer and cover the pot.  Cook for 15 minutes. Stir in the potatoes and apple; bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer, cover and cook another 15 -20 minutes or until the potatoes are very tender.

Turn off the heat and remove the bay leaf. With an immersion blender, blend the soup until it is smooth. Taste and adjust your seasoning; I needed more salt and ground sage but your mileage may vary. Now add the heavy cream, a tablespoon at a time, until the bisque is to your taste. Some people like a whole lot of cream in their soup, but I'm not one of them.  Also, too much cream will mask the delicate butternut flavor.  Use your judgment; choose wisely.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Accidental Aromatherapy - Cheatin' Cheese and Macaroni

As expected, it was a rough morning, due in no less part to the pounding in my chest.  The palpitations have not been this bad for a very long time - years, in fact - and I see a visit to the doctor in my future. The problem is that I've had enough of doctors to last me a lifetime, and I am no more interested in getting back on that particular treadmill than I am in running the New York Marathon.  I know it's my heart, because after struggling to get up to retrieve the Inderal, and having to lie down after taking it, within 15 minutes the worst of the pounding stops. Hum. Well, I'll think about that tomorrow.

Today, if I do nothing else, I am going to prepare the kasha varnishkes. Actually, I've already done something else - popped the defrosted pork loin roast in the oven - so I definitely have to do the kasha. I've been having kasha cravings, and those cannot be denied. This is one of those dishes I grew up with, totally Ashkenazic Brooklyn Jewish cooking, and I make it just as my grandmother did, because she rocked this dish.

I also rearranged some of the other ingredients I bought to do one thing but am now going to do another. So besides the kasha varnishkes, without the mushrooms I had originally planned on, I am going to try an Emerilized version of green bean casserole, with those mushrooms, but without the prosciutto I was going to wrap around green bean bundles. The prosciutto is instead draped over the pork loin, which was already well-seasoned with Jamaican Jolt seasoning prior to my freezing it back in January. All I can say is that my kitchen smells good and is going to smell even better in a few minutes when the onions hit the hot oil.

Speaking of good smells, I had some aromatherapy today and it was quite relaxing. Now, I like essential oils, my favorites being lavender and ylang-ylang, but I am here to tell you that the best aromatherapy is no further than your herb garden. Oh, you don't have an herb garden? You might want to rethink that - you can grow them in pots on a window sill, unless you have a cat. Cats love herbs, and not just catnip. Cats knock over potted plants, just because they can.


Fernleaf Dill

Onion Chives

Lemon Thyme

Crush a leaf between your fingers and inhale (it's okay to inhale here). Some herbs, like rosemary, don't even need to be crushed for you to catch that wonderful aroma.  And truly, the scent of your favorite herb is wonderfully pleasing to mind and body. Even if you don't cook much, you should grow herbs.

Purple Basil

Garden Sage


Spearmint, my favorite

Spicy Globe Basil

Here's another recipe from this weekend's cooking marathon:

Cheatin' Cheese and Macaroni

2 tablespoons butter
16 oz. box large elbows
16 oz. whole milk ricotta
6 oz. crumbled feta
1 cup sour cream

2 jars Ragu Double Cheddar sauce
1 cup heavy cream, divided
1 1/2 cup extra sharp cheddar
1 1/2 cup mozzarella
2 cups pepper jack

1 1/2 cups French's French Fried Onions
2 tablespoons butter

This is an easier version of my Frankenchikaroni. It does not have the buffalo chicken nuggets, but it does have a very rich, very cheesy, velvetty almost fluffy sauce, and the large elbow pasta does it justice.  There is no roux nor Velveeta, but you will have to take a deep breath and purchase two bottles of Ragu cheese sauce. Relax, it's pretty good. I kept the French's onion topping because Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and well, those are French's French fried onions and some of us eat them straight from their container because they are that good. And naughty.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put 2 tablespoons of butter in a deep aluminum pan and put the pan into the preheating oven to melt the butter. Cook the elbow macaroni according to package directions, rinse and drain well.  In a large bowl, combine the cooked macaroni with the feta, ricotta and sour cream. Set aside.

Pour the cheese sauce into a medium saucepan. Add half of the heavy cream to each sauce bottle, put the lids on, and shake well.  Pour the contents of the bottles into the saucepan.  Bring up the heat; add the shredded cheddar, pepper jack, and mozzarella cheeses and stir until melted. Combine the macaroni and the cheese sauce, and scoop into the buttered pan.

Generously top the macaroni with the fried onions and pour the melted butter over the onions. Bake in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until the onions are uniformly well-browned.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Lamb Neck and Beer Cheese Dinner Rolls

Saturday - So I woke up ridiculously early, and prepared macaroni and cheese for breakfast. Just kidding about the breakfast part, but that Cheatin' Cheese and Macaroni is cooling on the counter.  It's a bit strange not having Rob up and about (and setting up my coffee) (and tasting the corn muffins) (and giving treats to the mongrel horde). My boys have a long day ahead of them in Bradenton, plus plans to try a Pennsylvania Dutch restaurant for dinner.  I'll expect a full report, preferably with pictures. So I have time to work through my to-do list, provided my back stops hurting like it's being broken in half.

I am looking forward to spending some quality among the begonias, tulip bulbs, and herbs.  I don't want to give myself a kinehora, but I think I have those life-sucking aphids under control. Take that, you fuzzy insect-larva lifeform.

James and Linda are supposed to be here later today to finish the garden, and then comes the really big planting project.  I'm already getting compliments on the porch plantings from lawyers, neighbors, Robert's accounting clients, and any number of passing strangers.

So I really got into the cooking, and while I didn't hit everything on my list, I did make some major inroads. Besides the early morning cheese and mac, I worked out a recipe for butternut squash bisque and if I say so myself, it was very successful. I also put up a crockpot of something I'm calling Crockpot Honey and Hoisin Chicken Wings.  These came out so good, I want to stand out on the corner and pass out samples to passing motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians (we get all kinds of travelers down this way.) Since I only made 3 pounds, that's not happening, but I did think about it.

The rest of the cooking is for tomorrow, because I really need to do some gardening and I'm running out of energy. More importantly, let's hope I don't run out of Advil. The pain is persistent, but I'm not dead yet. Although after today, I might be. I cooked, I gardened, I cleaned. Why? Well, the boys were in Bradenton and when I'm alone, I don't watch TV.  I can't sit still, so I keep getting up to do something. I transplanted all the remaining plants except for the begonias, and only stopped because I ran out of potting soil. I broke three more nails. I watered, I swept the porch. I had to take breaks to duck inside, sit in front of the fan, and take Advil and Zantac.  Was it worth it? I think so:

Still, I know, just like I know the words to the Star-Spangled Banner and Kirk's soliloquy at the  beginning of every Star Trek, that tomorrow is going to suck like nobody's business. There is no middle ground with fibromyalgia.

Yesterday's recipes:
Lamb Neck in Barbecue Sauce

1 1/4 pounds of lamb neck
garlic pepper (McCormick's)
barbecue sauce (Sweet Baby Ray's)

I did this in the convection oven, so first I set in on 350 degrees, which the oven resets to 325. I put the lamb in an aluminum baking dish, sprinkled the side on top with garlic pepper and put it in the oven for 15 minutes.  Then I turned each piece over, seasoned that side, and returned it to the oven for another 15 minutes.  At that point I had to accept the fact that this lamb, which had looked deceptively tender in its package, was still on the tough side, so I squirted some barbecue sauce over it and covered the pan with aluminum foil.  I lowered the temperature to 300 degrees, which my oven interpreted as 275, and let the lamb cook low and slow for an hour and a half, or maybe it was two hours. The lamb was tender enough for the dentally-challenged, so I moved it to a plastic container and spooned some of the barbecue sauce over the pieces.  The trick here is to avoid as much of the fat as possible, which you can do with a teaspoon.  This is delicious and I'm not sharing with the boys.

By the way, the lamb neck was about one-third the per pound price of the round bone shoulder chops. I've always loved lamb neck, especially when it is cooked along with lamb shanks in my mother-in-law's recipe for lamb shanks and rice. This accidental new version is pretty damn good too, but off course there is no lamb rice.  We love the lamb rice.

Beer and Cheese Dinner Rolls

This is my riff on Bubba's Beer Biscuits, Bubba being Paula Deen's baby brother. I'm not repeating that whole scandal.  I am sorry that Uncle Bubba's Oyster House has been closed. Great food. Damn.

Anyway, this is ridiculously easy. The rolls - they actually look like muffins - are going to be crumbly when eaten, but they're worth a few crumbs. While the originals are served with honey butter, these should be eaten with butter, just butter.

4 cups Bisquick
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter
12 oz. bottle beer (I used Sam Adam's Boston Lager)
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, plus more for top
garlic pepper
parsley flakes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and prepare a muffin tin with no-stick spray (I use the butter flavor for this).  Mix all of the ingredients, in the order given, and stir until thoroughly combined. Scoop into the prepare muffin tins and sprinkle some more cheese on top of each. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Cool in the tin for about 10 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack or serve immediately with lots of butter. I called these dinner rolls because of the savory spices, but Rob likes them for breakfast.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Day The Blog Stood Still - Pan Fried Cod with Sofrito Verde

Friday - So let me tell you about Thursday, the Day The Blog Stood Still.  Because I overdid on Wednesday, the Great God of Invisible Pain punished me severely. I could hear him in my head, cackling with evil joy. Or maybe that was the dog snoring. My head hurt, my eyes hurts, that part of my digestive system that used to be my stomach hurt with those stabbing pains I really dread.
I collect memes about fibromyalgia and chronic pain, and got a good laugh when I found these:

(Well, maybe "good laugh" is too cheerful a description of my reaction. "Wryly bitter" might be more accurate. At least I now understood why I've been dressing in size 12 pants when I normally wear size 6, my favorite denim shirt which happens to be size 22, and a 40DDD bra from the bad old days when my bustline commanded its own zip code. Sometimes it really hurts to wear clothing, and while some people do shop in Walmart less than appropriately covered, I'm not one of them.)

When I finally stumbled downstairs, I could not eat nor drink coffee. If not for the fact that I had to return books to the library, I would have crawled back upstairs and cried. But I did have to go out, so I pulled my big straw hat low so no one would recognize me and headed first to Wawa. Being able to gas up my car for $23 cheered me up somewhat, and I headed across the street to the Walmart garden department to try to find the parsley, lavender and habanero peppers I needed to finish my porch planting. No parsley - what the hell is that about? - and no lavender, but the peppers were there and best of all, okra plants, nice ones.  I grabbed four. Paid for them too. Although it is getting late in the season for okra and the Home Depot in St. Cloud had been okra-less the day before (which worried me, I cannot lie) here in Zone 9a or 9b or wherever I live, okra can be planted in the fall.  If you can find it.

I never did get the lavender, but one quick stop at the Home Depot in Kissimmee, and I scored parsley - two flat leaf, two curly - plus a spearmint and a globe basil.  By now, I was wearing down so I dropped off the books without going into the library and went straight home to where Rob was waiting to unload my car, bless him.  No transplanting.  I watered my new acquisitions, killed a few aphids, and called it a day.  No cooking.

Can I just show off the fabulous job James and Linda have been doing, creating the raised garden? The pictures don't do it justice. Besides looking great and creating a more user-friendly planting bed, it solved the problem of the excess rain water dripping off the edge of the roof.  Last season, the constant pounding from the water damaged almost all of the plants in the front row, except for okra and tomato. This set-up prevents that by absorbing the force of the water, and also stops the soil from being washed away. I had the basic idea, but it was James who figured out how to do it. I am really looking forward to putting in my garden.

Today I received the news that the State of Florida has officially declined my application for disability retirement.  No surprise there - both of my doctors were frankly terrified to state in writing that I was permanently disabled. My therapist stated quite strongly that I could not go back to work, now or ever, and one of my doctors went so far as to say I might be able to return to work in a year or two, but that wasn't enough. I will be spending some time deciding how to deal with this newest development, but at least I'm not freaking out. I am more concerned about the chest pains I woke up with.  I took my Inderal and I took a Zantac. One or the other will do the job.

Rob and Cory are headed to Bradenton for a special martial arts event, and will be staying over one night while I keep an eye on the furry kids. I know you're not supposed to put such things out there on social media, but there is always a day delay in publication, which means by the time anyone reads this, my boys will be wrapping up and getting ready to head home. Besides, I've got a nifty new security system and if I walk one short block, I can see the Kissimmee Police Department.

Because the house is virtually empty, I ran around like a lunatic doing Stuff. Went to Lowe's, went to Publix, pushed a mop around certain parts of my dining room floor, organized my fridge, packed up food for Mom and Dad, threw some lamb neck in the oven (literally), and made my Amazing Corn Muffins.

For one brief, crazy moment I considered doing the dishes, but I got over that pretty quickly. I've stood on my feet too long as is, and I'm feeling the burn. I hope I don't pay for this spurt of energy tomorrow, but that is the usual pattern, damn it all to hell.

It's been a little while since I gave you a straightforward recipe; if you like fish, you will enjoy this. I made it the other day, took nice photos, and then promptly forgot  about it.  Fibro Chef does it again.

Pan- Fried Cod with Sofrito Verde

4 pieces of cod fillet (if frozen, defrosted overnight in the refrigerator) 1/2 to 1 inch thick
Crystal hot sauce
Goya Masarepa (precooked yellow cornmeal)
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
Canola oil for cooking
Sofrito Dona Lola (green sofrito from the refrigerated case)
Cotija Cheese

Rinse the fillet pieces under cool water and pat dry.  In a baking dish, mix about 1/2 cup milk with a small amount of the hot sauce.  Place the fish into the milk and soak about 15 minutes, turning occasionally.

Using a dinner plate, or whatever you like to use for a breading station, combine the cornmeal with the spice rub, salt, and pepper.

Heat about a half inch of oil over medium high heat in a large nonstick skillet. Coat one of the fillets with the cornmeal, turning for all sides, then place it, top side down, in the hot oil.  Repeat with the remaining fillets.  Cook 4 to 5 minutes until golden brown, then carefully turn all of the fillets. Cook this side as before.

Depending on the thickness of the fillet, it may be done, but chances are it will need another minute or two, which you can do in a 350 degree oven. Spoon some of the sofrito on each fillet, and sprinkle the cheese over that.  Place in the oven just for a minute or two. Do not overcook the fish.  Serve immediately.

The fish was delicious, but I didn't care for the sofrito and cotija.  Everyone else liked it that way, however, so use your own judgment.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Cooking the Big Bird - Turkey Rebel

Wednesday - Arrgh.  I had just typed up three pithy paragraphs on preparing turkey and then lost them through my own stupidity. I was side-tracked by thinking that another reason retirement is so nice is not having to do weekend duty anymore, and pressed the wrong damn key.  (The worst part of weekend duty was not getting midnight phone calls from Orlando PIs, nor having to review badly-written petitions that had somehow passed the muster of dilatory supervisors, nor having to wake up at some obscene hour to drive to the Orange County Juvenile Courthouse, nor having to go through a really stupid security screening that would embarrass Homeland Security - no, the worst part was having to deal with strange and cranky judges who knew shit about Chapter 39 or the Rules of Juvenile Procedure and were terrified that their next bench assignment was going to be 2 years in dependency court in Osceola County, and who still hated HRS even though we changed the name in 1996 and privatized the whole frakking agency in the early 2000s.)

Back to the turkey - yes indeed, this bird is giving me a New York salute.  This morning, tired of turkey-regulatory bullshit, I decided to do it my way.  First of all, I rinsed that bird under cool water, just as I have been doing since Thanksgiving morning of 1974. In case you missed it, the government is now telling us NOT to rinse poultry before cooking it. Something about cross-contamination. So I rinsed the turkey, patted it dry, washed my hands in very hot, soapy water 20 or 100 times during the process, and when it was all over I wiped my counter tops with bleach spray.  Just like I've always done, and nobody has died yet from eating one of my turkeys.  No way am I going to shove a Dirty Bird in my oven and then serve it to people I love.  Besides, who trusts the government when it comes to germs?  Ebola, anybody?

The government and Alton Brown have also ordered us NOT to stuff our turkeys. Sorry Alton, but fuck that noise. I like stuffing in my turkey.  I also like dressing outside of my turkey. It's all about choice. I really don't want the government or the CDC or Food Network or Michelle Obama telling me what I can and can't do with my family's food.  Leave it to our government to ignore the needs of our veterans but legislate the joy out of Thanksgiving. So I not only rinsed the bird, I stuffed it. And I broke all those silly rules about "stuff it lightly because the stuffing will expand" and crammed in as much as I wanted, in the body cavity, the neck, the spaces between the leg and the breast. I like my stuffing smashed because that's the way my mother made it, and her stuffing was always the best part of the meal.  (Incidentally, I reheated that stuffing I prepared yesterday in the microwave, tasted and re-seasoned it, and stuffed the bird with nice warm stuffing, then immediately put it in the oven.  Cold stuffing, cold turkey, we'd be waiting until next Christmas.)

But wait - I went totally off the chain, and did not truss the birdie. I did not tuck the wings under the back. I don't care if the turkey doesn't look perfect - I want crispy skin all over, and besides, Norman Rockwell isn't coming to dinner.  I never present a whole turkey to company - "picture perfect" moment my ass - and chances are, I roasted, rested, and carved it the day before, reheating it under foil after a good splash of chicken stock to keep it moist.  

So this turkey has been scrubbed, overstuffed, and left to sprawl out, legs and wings akimbo, like a randy streetwalker.  It's in the convection oven at 350 degrees, covered with foil to give it a chance to heat all the way through before the skin-crisping begins. And there you have it, a turkey rebel. With a headache, a backache, and a Bad Attitude. After 4 hours, and a nice long rest to cool down (the turkey, not me.)

The bad attitude didn't last, however, because I got to spend some time in my Happy Place today, playing in the dirt. That was after the appointment with my therapist and the side trip to Trader Joe's in Dr. Phillips. While I was in Trader Joe's that stabbing pain started up, which did not stop me from buying 5 or 6 different cheeses, prosciutto, chocolate covered marshmallows, and that cookie butter my niece Rachel had been raving about. It did, however, suck every bit of joy out of the experience, and I was throwing Zantac down my throat as soon as I got back to the car.

I did some more transplanting, and then baked some beer cheese dinner muffins, and so totally overdid that there was no blog published on Thursday. I was too tired and too achy to finish the writing and add the photos regarding my Wednesday. I also woke up with one of the worst headaches I've had in a while and had to take some Advil before I could even get out of bed at what was frankly a slothful hour.

Fibromyalgia - can't live with it, can't kill anything to stop it.