News from the Yummy Front
Why You Should Envy Me (Number 57 in a series)
...and how was your day?
I was quite fortunate this weekend in that there was a large migration of shrimp, and my sister's husband took me a-shrimpin'. Normally noncommercial shrimpersons have a head start on shrimp and also there are some areas which are closed to commercial shrimping. (THERE IS NOTHING LIKE IMPOSSIBLY FRESH SHELLFISH. In fact, the taste and texture of fresh, never-done-froze shrimp is a close sibling to Maine lobster.) So I caught a fair few and proceeded to make--envy me!--the following:
6 T EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil, for you who are maladjusted, I like Carbonell)
½ medium Spanish onion, diced as fine as your patience will allow
1 dead-ripe tomato, skinned, seeded and diced tiny
6 large garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
¼ t Spanish smoked paprika (pimentón, for this I prefer the medium or the mild...the hot stuff kinda clashes)
¼ lb. sea scallops
¼ lb. shrimp, peeled, heads (if available) & shells reserved
3 cups seafood stock (made from shrimp shells, etc.)
1 ½ cups clam juice (bottled is okay)
1 pinch saffron threads, lightly heated and then ground to a powder (powdered is oooookay, but get it FRESH)
1 cup Valencia rice (the bomba or calasparra are ideal, but you can even use arborio in a pinch), unwashed
½ lb. clams, cleaned (soak w. cornmeal to expel grit and dirt)
½ lb. mussels, cleaned
2 lemons, cut in wedges for garnish
1. Place 4 T of the EVOO in a 12½"-14" paella pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add tomato and garlic. Season with salt and the paprika, and cook gently, stirring nonstop, until the tomato water has cooked out and the mixture (sofrito in Spanish) has caramelized to a dark but not brick-y color and is very thick. This takes 15 to 20 minutes; if the sofrito starts to brown, add a few tablespoons of water to deglaze.
2. Shove the sofrito to the outer rim of the pan. Add another T of EVOO to the pan over medium-high heat. Add scallops and shrimp to the middle of the pan. Sear nicely on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes. Set the seafood aside and reserve.
3. Place the remaining EVOO in a stockpot set over medium-high heat. Brown the shrimp shells (and heads) until toasty, about 5 minutes. Add the fish stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain the broth, discarding the shells, and return the stock to the pot. At a simmer add the clam juice and saffron. Taste for salt, adding more if necessary; it should be salted but not salty. Cover loosely with the lid.
4. Place the paella pan with the sofrito over medium-high heat. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly to combine it with the sofrito, until the rice is translucent, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour in 4 cups of simmering stock and stir to even the rice throughout the pan. Bring to a strong simmer, but don't stir the rice once the water bubbles.
5. Keep simmering well, shaking--but not stirring--the contents whenever necessary to distribute and cook things as evenly as possible. After 5 minutes, add the clams to the pan, sort-of burying them into the rice. When the rice begins just peek out over the liquid (another 5 minutes or so), add the mussels in a way similar to the clams. Reduce the heat to medium low or low so the liquid barely simmers. After 5 minutes, add scallops and shrimp, but don't press them too hard into the rice. Continue to cook until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is al dente, about 5 minutes more.
Taste a grain just below the top layer of rice. If the liquid is absorbed but the rice is too firm, add a bit more hot broth or water to the pan and cook a few minutes more. The rice usually cooks in about 20 minutes total.
6. If you want, check the bottom of the pan for socarrat/socorrat (the yummy caramelized crust of rice that sometimes happens at the bottom of the paella); you'll feel it on the bottom of the pan if there is any. If there is none, increase the heat to medium-high and cook until the bottom of the rice starts to caramelize, in about 2 min. When the rice crackles, remove the pan from the heat immediately.
7. If you're satisfied with the crust (and you may not even like that), remove the pan from the heat, and cover the pan with a clean towel. Let the paella rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Uncover, and serve with lemon wedges.
TIP: You'll get an even better stock if you use more shrimp shells. Reserve the shrimp shells from something else you've done and for another dish and freeze them to use here.
This will feed a happy 4-6 people, 6-8 if there have been lots of tapas to go around first.
Saturday, March 12, 2005
...and now, a public service announcement
Riffing on (or, more likely, ripping off) my pal Badger's most recent blog entry, I have decided to let the world know my foolproof way to get excused from jury duty. Naturally all jurisdictions differ, but my system will work. It just may work further up (or down) the chain in your case. I came upon this by accident, so you know.
Normally, I like jury duty. I look upon it as a chance to nail someone awful and remove him (or her) from society for a good stretch. It's been my experience the defendant is invariably VERY guilty and I want to make sure any possible enuretic on the jury is neutralized. I suppose sometimes an innocent is brought up on charges, but, frankly, I've never witnessed such a thing. Besides, people who say "The bitch needed killing" really deserve something penal. Sometimes, of course, the case is a civil one, and I am predisposed to let the plaintiff bugger off. Once again, I am sure there's a defendant somewhere who has designed a food processor with the express purpose of disemboweling any and all users, but again, I've never met him.
The problem is that as my professional life gets more and more hectic, I can't afford the hit to my practice that being out of commission would entail. I do the Republic a far better service by being a force in the engine of economic growth than by doing my 12 Angry Men gig.
The way it works in FL is that you're called up and you must sit in the jury pool room for 3 days (unless you're selected for possible service in a trial) after which you're excused and cannot be called up for 3 years. This is my method:
I show up to the jury room with two indispensable things: Investor's Business Daily and The Wall Street Journal. When I'm picked to go to a courtroom I make sure the attorneys (defense in a criminal trial, plaintiff in a civil trial) see these publications tucked under my arm. The trick is to get one of the attorneys to dismiss you. If they just say "Oh, we have enough people, thanks!" that doesn't work. They must excuse YOU, at which point you're free to go.
Why it works:
The WSJ and IBD newspapers are pretty far up the newspaper food chain, so they mark you as someone who reads and devours information pretty seriously. Nobody reads them for lifestyle news or to keep up with the fluffier news of the day, as might be the case with the local newspaper. They also have a pretty clear editorial voice, one which is in pretty sharp contrast to most other newspapers. This means the attorneys (defense in a criminal trial, plaintiff in a civil trial) will be VERY nervous to have you in a jury box, because they think you are a troglodyte like I am, just aching for the opportunity to sock it to their client. Between TFBIM and I, we've been called to jury duty 12+ times and this trick has yet to fail us.
And a subscription to these newspapers (strictly optional in your case) is a business expense.
Thursday, March 10, 2005
Exiles on Flu Street
The flu has struck our house. Well, more likely the inhabitants, but you get the idea. Naturally, Numbah Two Son hasn't gotten anything, because he's got antibodies the size of oysters. NTS is a really, really, really trying sort of patient, so this is pretty providential stuff. I've been spared thus far, mostly because I generally refuse to socialize with people to whom I cannot relate via email. Numbah One Son got it full-bore, but he is a pretty lovely patient except for when he coughs and things happen which would make William Friedkin queasy.
The one who took it for the team has been TFBIM.
As impossibly wonderful as she is, my beloved is not the sort of person who leads a life of what you might call "vigorous healthfulness." She considers stress to be a perfectly valid form of aerobic exercise and therefore is often seen in the throes of that Stress High. This is a particularly excellent time to engage in competitive stress endeavors, it being tax season. Of course, compounding the above is a lack of sleep (in her case, fewer than 9 hours/night qualifies as insomnia), her penchant for socializing with people at her clients' (including those ravaged by the Flu Of The Month).
So, when the flu struck her, it waylaid her most mightily. She came back from picking up NTS from school, mumbled something and went to our room and fell asleep. She woke up at 7:20am the next morning and resumed her mumbling, only now her voice (and, indeed, her aspect) was that of one suffering the very last stages of Bubonic Plague. I did the husbandly thing and brought her every medicine I could imagine and water and squeezed out some orange juice (which--I speculate--she studiously avoids, on the grounds it's neither meat nor chocolate and may contain dangerous chemicals known as "vitamins" and/or "minerals").
Therefore I had to accomplish the nursing of the household (easier in NOS's case, because I can threaten him with grounding or spanking or something) followed by dressing NTS, getting dressed myself (hoping NTS hasn't set the home theatre on fire or something), feeding the both of us some breakfast...
[My impression of NTS at breakfast:
NTS: Milk! I want MILK! ::pause:: I want cereal...CEREAL!
Me: Which cereal?
NTS: Trix. ::pause:: Thank you.]
...then schlepping out to take NTS to school and doing all of my errands plus TFBIM's.
The point of all this is that I am tired. Not sleepy, mind you, just tired. I desperately ache to flop down and read my new Cook's Illustrated and Forza and I Am Charlotte Simmons.
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
What to do, what to do?
Being me, while cartainly an interesting state of affairs, is not without peril and vexation. Those who know me are fully aware I am not a standard-issue sort of husband. Many people like to comment to my beloved, semi-enviously, how utterly wonderful it is to have a husband that can do the SAHD thing when needed, or who cooks and shops for groceries.
She of course, smiles politely, knowing what she knows. What she knows is that I'm an unalloyed PITA. The downside of having a husband who's wired into the whole running of the home thing is that while most wifely decisions would pass through the husbandly radar with nary a blip, TFBIM's must undergo--at best--the gauntlet of my curiosity. From my perspective, the downside is that sometimes my wife will do things that leave me scratching my head.
Sometimes she'll buy some sort of garden thing, as she did this weekend, and I have to register my displeasure.
TFBIM: I got this garden statue of this cupid sitting on a bench...do you like it?
Me: It looks like Billy Barty wearing a wig and a loincloth.
TFBIM: [glowering] You're impossible.
Even more impressive is when I tell her not to do X, she does X and then X proves itself to be everything I said it was, and worse. I am now at a level of maturity where I can more-or-less control my impulse to issue "See? I told you." Like, f'rinstance, the boys' train table or pinball machine, both of which cost oodles of cash, take up prodigious amounts of valuable playroom space and have been played with a combined thrice. In three years.
No prophet is with honor in his own land, Scripture says.
Saturday, March 05, 2005
An opera pump in a birkenstock world
I am someone who, at least for the purposes of this blog, likes to keep his opinions on the weighty issues of the day under the surface. After all, about 40% of my pals fervently disagree with me on most things and 90% disagree strenuously on some things. So, as dear to my heart as these things may be, I don't use this blog as a soapbox to vent my spleen on the matter of tax reform, the gold standard, The Things Kids Do These Days, going to church, etc.
However, sometimes events happen that, given the mission statement of this blog, simply demand description and dissemination.
Astute readers will also know I am a serious foodie. In that capacity, I am very fortunate to be quite close to a VERY nice supermarket (similar to the now bought out Bread & Circus stores in Bahstahn) that carries things like free-range veal, organic/heirloom produce, etc. But sometimes they will be out of stock of something. In this case I was out of whole wheat pastry flour. I could have ordered it from King Arthur Flour, but spending $8 on shipping for $3.25 of flour seemed ridiculous, to say nothing of the 7 day wait.
So I went to one of those organic/sustainable chains that happens to be within a reasonable drive from my house. The evening was clear and cool, my car was running in excellent fettle and traffic was invariably light. So off I went.
What strikes me about these places, beyond the vegan cat food (because that's the way to keep a carnivorous animal healthy) and all the old VW microbuses seemingly held together against the likelihood of rusting apart by bumperstickers of the "Legalize it!"/"Question Authority" vein, is the crowd which provides such emporia their custom. These folks are the sort who look as if they would tar and feather Ben AND Jerry for not having enough one legged Chicano transsexuals on their Board of Directors. Of course, the feathers would have to come from free-range poultry and the tar sustainably made from recycled oil spilled by people who likewise deserve to suffer the same fate as Ben and Jerry.
There were a good deal of men in (I assume) their late 50s and early 60s, who sported shiny pates and grey ponytails, on the principle, I'm guessing, that one does not prune a dead tree. One particular specimen, with a faded Che Guevara t-shirt (his safety would be a far dodgier thing in a different part of Miami), was not only bald and grey and ponytailed...but what little remained of his tonsorial glory was corn-rowed. Fight the power indeed...but first, some prune juice.
Lots of the women there were clad in black, devoid of the slightest hint of makeup and with hair that bespoke a disdain for conditioner, it being clearly a tool of the patriarchal hegemony that subjugates us all, including corn-rowed septuagenarian communists.
The food, might I interject, is ALWAYS impeccable and the employees (even if they had the tragic fate of being the children of those who went--or claimed they went--to Woodstock, thereby being saddled with names like Jared, Caitlin and I shit-thee-not Tapestry) are unfailingly curteous and helpful, even to an obviously capitalist tool like me. So I grab my flour, a few other impulse buys and I head out to the register.
The register is another interesting variation on the supermarket experience. They have the usual gum and candy and magazines, but the gum is made from Indonesian chicle trees grown sustainably, the chocolate bars are made from cacao harvested in a way that protects the habitat of some semi-threatened species in the Amazon Basin from offshore drilling (without explaining why drillers want to cut down cacao trees) and the magazines have names like Modern Chakra, to say nothing of frightful bilge like the Utne Reader.
You may ask yourself how this sort of store differs from the usual gourmet emporium. The differences are slight (not in the clientele, where the gulf is vast), but it can be summed up in the Label Manifesto. At the gourmet store the chocolate milk powder tells you the story of the cacao from the moment of harvest, through the roasting, conching and packaging (regaling you all the while with the complete excellentness of it all, such as the micro-climate, the precision of the roast and the choice of cacao varietals), whereas in the earth-mother store the label will tell you about the plight of indigenous Elbonians and how buying THIS chocolate bar will help preserve the emu population.
You see, the gourmet place showers its patrons with specificity of origin, whereas the earth-mother store provides a surfeit of specificity of intent. The gourmet shop asks that each morsel be an epoch-shattering delight, while the "crunchy" place wants to respect you.
And they both charge $8 for a gallon of milk.
This is the sort of phone call I get from my father at 6:45am.
Mind you when the phone rings anytime before, say, 8am, with my parents' number in the Caller ID, the first thought I get is: Very Terrible News At Best (Your Aunt Aurora died, your mother has spontaneously burst into flames, your dad's spleen fell out and we can't find it...that sorta thing). But no, it was my dad. If my dad talks to TFBIM (whom he adores and idolizes) he is sweetness and light, when he talks to me he usually starts in the middle of a sentence.
Dad: I need your help.
Me: With what? Is everything OK?
Dad: I want to program my remote control to work on the receiver?
Me: [thinking darkly to myself] I liked it better when I thought your spleen fell out. Huh? What?
Dad: This remote control doesn't work on the receiver...how do I make it do that?
Me: [thinking darkly still] RTFM! Dad, I don't know. I never program my remotes to do anything. I like one remote for one unit.
Dad: What? You have like 6 different units!
Me: Well, 5.
Dad: You should program all those into a single remote control.
Me: But I don't want to. It's easier for me to grab the remote that goes with the Toshiba when I want to adjust the Toshiba, or the Pioneer for the Pioneer, or...
Dad: Hey! My receiver is a Pioneer!
Me: I know Dad, I bought for you.
Dad: So come over and program this remote, since you know about Pioneer.
Me: But I don't know jack about programming your remote control.
Dad: It's all here in the manual! Can't you manage that?
Me: If you have the manual, why do you need me?
Dad: ...and this way you can learn how to program your own remotes.
Me: But I don't want to.
Dad: Why the Hell not?
Me: Why do you?
Dad: You know how your mother gets.
Must be something in the water these days, ask Badger.
All those who know me even halfway well, will readily attest I am an unsurpassed champion of capitalism and the free market and all that. However, I must say that just because I think the market economy is, unquestionably, the cat's ass, doesn't mean I enjoy participating in it.
Sure, the filthy lucre I manage to wrench from the tattered purses of the proletariat certainly buys me myriad goodies. But actually doing the wrenching (with one or another client ably representing the starving proletariat) is, to not put too fine a point on it, a colossal pain in the tender bits of the anatomy.
I'll give you an example:
One of my clients has a real estate project he wishes to undertake. He asks me if some of my other clients/contacts might be interested in participating in this project. He wants 35% of the asking price of property as down payment, to be made possible by equity investors whom I'd refer. If they like it and agree, I get 10% of the down payment (i.e., 3.5% of the project cost) up front AND 5% of the sale price when the property is sold in a couple of years. He also says he has the remaining 65%, via bank financing.
Gee, that sure sounds swell. Until he asks me if this other client (who earns, quite literally, more per week than my house is worth) would be interested in financing the project, since he might agree to slightly more favorable terms. OK, I schedule the meeting and work up the numbers and after 90 minutes of back and forth he doesn't care to finance the deal BUT wants to invest in it.
Well, we already have investors out the yin-yang. So now I have to find a diplomatic way to tell this client to bugger off (circumstances eventually came to our rescue) AND make sure the financing comes through so that my other clients who invested don't lose the eleventy jillion dollars deposited. Oh, and the bank is in Naples, FL. Oh, and Numbah One Son has a school thing today and I'll be the only dad missing it.
Envy me yet?
So I call the guy desiring to invest and tell him that there isn't time for him to do his VERY thorough due diligence (which is true) and that I don't have the gall to do something as unfair and improper as to put even the appearance of pressure on him. He is grateful and we'll keep him in mind for future projects.
But I still have to schlep out across the peninsula in a raging downpour and meet with a banker and pitch this thing all over again. Then, financing seemingly achieved I have to haul ass to Miami because TFBIM has one in her endless series of conferences to attend and I need to be in full-on SAHD mode.
With the lads thrashing the place, I decide to make sushi (assorted veggie-ish hosomaki) and teriyaki shrimp/mushroom skewers. Only TFBIM decides to loiter post-conference at happy hour with her fellow conferees (a group, incidentally, about whom I am generally not amiably predisposed) and instead of arriving 6ish, she arrives 8:45ish.
To assuage my feelings of grave annoyance, I went shopping and managed to get a load--on SALE!--of some stuff for our home that TFBIM should like well enough, but which I adore:
1- For the dining room: This dining table (which, without leaves is the size our current table with both leaves), with these chairs
2- For the home theatre: This chair and matching sofa, and 3 of these these tables
3- For the living room: Two of these lamps, to replace the faux chinois ones from Bombay Company, which really don't work with the Kinda Sorta Arts & Crafts thing we have going on in the living room.
Yes, I am tired and yes I am cranky.
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
It's all in HOW you say things.
I'll repost my "I never" list I swiped from Poppy. Note how different it becomes with changed or added emphasis.
I’ve Never Crashed A Friend’s Car
I’ve Never Been To Japan
I’ve Never Done Cocaine
I’ve Never Been Fired
I’ve Never Been Arrested
I’ve Never Celebrated New Years In Time Square
I’ve Never Had A Crush On A Teacher or Professor
I’ve Never Slept With A Co-Worker
I’ve Never Cut Myself On Purpose
I’ve Never Posed Nude
I’ve Never Been Divorced
I’ve Never Gotten Someone Drunk Just To Have Sex With Her
I’ve Never Killed Anyone
I’ve Never Received Scars From My Sex Partner
I’ve Never Thrown Up In A Bar
I’ve Never Taken a Hallucinogenic Drug
I’ve Never Purposely Set A Part Of Myself On Fire
I’ve Never Flashed Anyone
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
Better late than never
This is what I made that drove Badger up the wall. The [Mini] Chocolate Souffle' Cakes:
1 c. sifted whole wheat pastry or cake (a.k.a. "Graham") flour (this makes it nice for SoBe Diet types)
½ c. cocoa powder, preferably "dutched" or "Dutch-process" (Believe it or else, Hershey's Dutch Process is the best, followed by Droste)
½ t. salt
1½ c. light brown sugar (I think this is an apparent dealbreaker for diehard SoBe Diet types--who might wish to stop reading at this point--although it works out to 0.0625 of a cup, i.e. one tablespoon, per serving.)
¼ c. butter (i.e., ½ stick)
¼ c. buttermilk
2 large eggs (or one egg + two egg whites)
2 t. vanilla extract
1- Preheat oven to 325F.
2- Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray and then dust with flour, or better yet use the new baking sprays which combine the two.
3- Separate the eggs, reserve the egg whites
4- Cream the butter with the sugar
5- Mix all remaining dry ingredients
6- Mix remaining wet ingredients
7- Combine the wet ingredients with creamed butter, then add dry ingredients
8- Whip the whites to medium peaks
9- Fold the egg whites in with the mixture
10- Spoon into muffin tin (fill only about halfway)
11- Bake at 325 for about 30 minutes. Carefully invert and cut off any rough parts off the (now) bottom. Dust with powdered sugar.
Makes 24 (at 98 cal. each!)
Why You Should Envy Me (Number 57 in a series)
...and how was your day?
...and how was your day?