Sunday, November 27, 2005

Upon alighting from my coma...

This is the 1st chance I have had all weekend to sit down and bloggify. Sorry about that.

Thanksgiving was a madhouse. [Pretend I have put the pictures here, but the camera AND the wire thingy are still in the garage...]

I began the cookery process bright and early on Wednesday evening. I took the turkeys out of the brine, patted them dry and put them in their roasting pans inside coolers full of ice. (Sitting atop the ice...this helps the skin become supremely crisp)

I hacked up roast chicken carcasses I had been saving in the freezer and made stock.

I made cranberry sauce from scratch, with fresh cranberries, orange juice and apple juice with just a teeny spritz of lemon for brightness.

I made the cornbread for eating and for the stuffing. OK, technically dressing.

I made sure all my mise en place was actually en place. At midnightish I went to bed.

Bright and early (I think by 8am) I was already axle-deep in the soup and pecan-maple pie, followed by the turkey buttering. People had been advised to arrive at 4ish so as to dine at 5:30ish. Iberics (75% of the attendees here) being what they are, began to arrive around 6ish. My BiL's wife had set out an impressive array of nibbles...a zillion weird cheeses (including some illegal unpasteurized, brie-like ones) from Spain, codfish fritters, Serrano ham (technically no longer illegal), teeny chorizo sausages and roasted pepper strips. This is, I s'pose, to honor the brave settlers to first arrive in these shores...in 1565 at St. Augustine. My BiL's wife (and sister and mother) was having a rough time since last year her dad died the week before Thanksgiving and her grandfather the day after. So I made sure to keep them busy.

We had a Poppy-like oven thing going on. The top oven, which held #1 turkey was going just fine. But oven #2 was a furnace. When set at "Warm" (i.e., under 200F) the thermometer I had placed inside read 350F. So the 2nd turkey would come up to temperature--and exceed it--at a Hell for leather pace. I had to shut off the oven and restart it (on "warm") every 15 minutes, which got old, fast. Still the turkeys ROCKED. One caveat for you who get the free-range, rganic, heritage breed, yadda, yadda, yadda turkeys: The dark meat is actually dark, which is a bit offputting for some people. Just saying. Then the turkeys emerge amid a great big waft of buttery-roasty-herby scent and I set them aside to rest whilst the gravy comes together.

Gravy is no problem, but it's all last minute work. Deglaze the two roasting pans with turkey stock*. Simmer down to a thin glaze, whiz smooth in blender with all the caramelized onion and garlic bits. Tres yum.

Dinner went fine, once the kids could be coaxed off all the playground equipment. People had thirds of turkey and stuffing and the maple-pecan supply dwindled into only one half-pie in no time. Besides all the foodstuff I made, there were trays of mashed potatoes, some cheese/broccoli thing that was OK, a sweet potato casserole that would have been a hit on pie crust, and a salad that had the misfortune of having baby spinach, chickpeas AND tangerine segments.

My niece V. and her cousin F. led the assembly in Grace, and it was kinda cute. It was also kinda 7pm. I hadn't had breakfast OR lunch, so I was positively hollow and I probably was having some bloodsugar delirium thing going on, too.

I got to bed sometime around midnight. How tired were we? So tired Numbah Two Son woke up at 8am. Mind you, he normally wakes up at 5am so that's "whoa" impressive. By the time we were alive, TFBIM was at the mall and wouldn't return until 4pm. So we just hung out and watched Madagascar and the 1st three Harry Potter DVDs. I made a KILLER shepherd's pie wannabe with leftover turkey and stuffing for lunch.

Saturday was a much better day for hitting the mall. NOS had an outing to the something-something Village (which is like Colonial Williamsburg, only it shows how the Spanish settlers in FL lived) and TFBIM went off with my MiL. I took NTS and we shopped a bit (managed to get gifts for both my BiLs and my dad and Poppy's which was in the 75% Off bin with a "take an extra 10% off all ___ brand merchandise" thing going on). Then we hit the Hallmark store where we buy the little ornaments that grace the boys' tree. Then, because we'd be bored at home, we went to see Chicken Little in 2-D. Then we came home.

I was fast asleep by 7:30pm.

-J.

* How nuts am I? I save the carcasses and make stock to freeze for next year.

Posted by Joke at 6:20 AM 8 comments

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Note the time stamp.

I just got home. I am tired. Dog-ass tired, but a good kind of tired. My feet are killing me. I need a shower. I hope this is not a haiku.

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 11:39 PM 3 comments

Thanksgiving 101 - The Gratitude

Get your insulin ready those of you who are at risk, this could get sappy.

Sappy, yes, but sincere...so bugger off.

When we say we are thankful, we usually omit to whom we are in a debt and, as time goes by and the texture of Western Civilization--such as that is--becomes more frayed and coarsened we tend to lose sight of that.

OK.

First, I am thankful to God for ALL of the following:

  • My wife, who has put up with me for 12.5 years even though I make her roll her eyes twice an hour, and shake her head at least thrice daily
  • My boys, for whom I'd walk through fire
  • My health, because one day I'll be 112 and drooling
  • My job and my clients, even the ones who are a PITA
  • The opportunities I have been given, including the ones I was too dense to seize
  • Being forgiven for the stupid and mean things--out of character, I assure you--I have done and, more frequently, said.
  • My normal relatives, because the contrast is so sharp between them and the majority
  • My country, because I couldn't enjoy these blessings this fully anywhere else
  • Those who fought (and often died), in the military and otherwise, and faced unspeakable horror and hardship so that my sons might not have to...it's an incalculable debt which I can only acknowledge but not repay.
  • The people at St. T's. who are doing yeoperson's work in trying to keep me on the straight and narrow.
  • My pals, starting with my blog-pals SL, BB, the other BB and Gina, TremTrig, M2, CC and even Ancient Nick. My cyber pals who have put up with me since my Usenet days: Jujube (Poppy rightly notes I should acknowledge Jujube's schlepping down to SoFla for JokeFest) and Badger. And Poppy, who is as wonderful a pal as anyone has the slightest right to expect. Anyone who delights in telling people "we met on the Internet!" and going into the story with perverse zeal deserves more public accolades than I can manage at 5:something a.m.; the least I could do is put her on my short list of people who get a bone marrow donation AND the super-exclusive Christmas Card "A-list." There is nobody better with whom to close down restaurants.
  • Having survived hurricanes and earthquakes with minimal damage.
  • Being given the gifts I have.
  • Being a foodie.

So that is my thankful list, sappy but sincere.

Thus endeth the lesson.

-Joke


Posted by Joke at 5:35 AM 8 comments

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Feed me, Seymour

OK,

I have just gotten the total of R.s.v.p.-ers for Thanksgiving. Fortyeight. Adults. Innumerable children (I'm guesstimating 20). All of whom I shall (I hope and pray!) dazzle with my foodieness.

This is the batterie de cuisine* (see? I'm not at all Francophobic!) and stuff I am gathering for this day:

3 roasting pans & v-racks
2 instant-read thermometers
2 oven/grill thermometers
1 remote "alarm" thermometer
1 knife roll
2 turkey lifters
4 pie pans
4 Pyrex measuring cups (1 in each size)
3 turkeys
3 lb. cornbread
2 lb. pecans
2 lb. onions
2 heads garlic
1 lb. "bulk" breakfast sausage (medium)
1 lb. dehydrated cranberries
1 lb. lemons
1 large bunch each of sage, thyme and marjoram
1 flat of eggs
5 lb. flour
1 case 2002 Rosenblum "Contra Costa" Zinfandel
½ case Samuel Adams Cranberry Lambic
5 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes
2 lb. cremini mushrooms

Damn, I love this Holiday!

-J.

* Rejoice, shareholders of Williams-Sonoma!

Posted by Joke at 8:59 AM 9 comments

Monday, November 21, 2005

Like that 12 Days of Christmas Song, Only Not Like That

Swiped from Badge via Poppy:

8 Firsts.
First Best Friend: George, which lasted from kindergarten until 7th grade.
First Kiss: Priscilla H. in 6th grade, as the result of some manipulation on my part of a bout of Spin The Bottle. Yes. I rigged the game. Sue me.
First Screen Name: My initials plus the year I was born.
First Pet: Black cocker spaniel named , creatively enough, Blackie.
First Piercing: We're still waiting on that one.
First Crush: Priscilla H. in fourth grade. Yes, I know how to wait them out.
First CD: 1812 Overture by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. I didn't even have a CD player then (they cost about $1000 in those days). My first LP was Talking Heads Life During Wartime, I was in 8th grade, I think.
First Car: 1976 Alfa Romeo GTV. Ironically this is the forebear of my current ride of choice.

7 Lasts.
Last alcoholic beverage: Sam Adams, last night with dinnah.
Last Car Ride: About half an hour ago, from office to house.
Last Kiss: This morning when I left. But that was ony a pop kiss, which may not be in the spirit of the question...like I care.
Last Movie Seen: Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire.
Last Phone Call: Today, from my lawyer about fighting that damned ticket.
Last CD played: Rev. Horton Heat's 24.

6 Have You Evers.
Have You Ever Dated One Of Your Best Friends: No.
Have You Ever Broken the Law: If the Customs people are reading this and wondering about my trip to Italy...no.
Have You Ever Been Arrested: No.
Have You Ever Skinny Dipped: Yes.
Have You Ever Been in love: Yes.

5 Things.
5 Things You're Wearing: navy herringbone suit, cobalt & white striped shirt, a solid plum tie, suspenders, socks and shoes.
5 Things You Did Yesterday: drank tea, blogged, shopped online, went to Mass, came up with a great knockoff of a salad I had tasted in California.
5 Things You Can't Live Without: sons, wife, solitude, humor, beverages
5 places You've Been: The Montreal Expo, The Valley of the Fallen in Spain, St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, Alan Flusser's in NYC and in the inner corridors of the Old Executive Office Building.

What happened to #4?

3 People To Whom You Can Tell *Almost* Anything (in no particular order).
1. My long suffering wife
2. Poppy (the overlap isn't perfect)
3. The guy on the other side of the screen in the confessional.

2 Choices.
1. Black or White: black (white formalwear is for pimps)
2. Hot or Cold: hot (in weather and in level of spiciness)

Where the Hell is #1?

-J.

Posted by Joke at 12:08 PM 4 comments

Thanksgiving 101 - The Stuffing/Dressing

OK, here it is. This will stuff one turkey, so get your calculators out if'n you need to stuff 2 or 3.

Pecan-Sausage Stuffing

1 lb stale sourdough or cornbread cut into ½" cubes (I like cornbread)
1 lb. bulk breakfast sausage, hot, medium or mild (I like hot, but everyone yells at me. If your butcher makes this fresh, so much the better)
1 large Spanish onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ lb. button mushrooms sliced ¼" thick
¼ lb. pecan halves
1 cup half-and-half (whole milk or evaporated milk work also)
1½ cups chicken or turkey stock (if you use store bought get the kind that packed aseptically AND is low sodium, but even at "low sodium" you will probably not need to salt the stuffing.)
Coarse (sea/Kosher) salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

In a large pot over medium heat, brown the sausage and then pour off about half the drippings. Add the onion, garlic and mushrooms and cook, breaking up the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until the meat browns and is cooked through and the onions are translucent, say 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and fold in the bread cubes, pecans and half-and-half. Stir in the stock until the mixture is moistened to your liking. Season with salt and pepper. DO NOT let cool before stuffing into the cavity of the turkey, unless you have a thing for pathogens.

You may also put this in a casserole and bake at 350F for about 20-30 minutes. If you like a crisp top layer don't cover it with foil, if you like it moist, cover it. If you like it in-between, cover it for the first 10-15 minutes, then unwrap.

Figure this serves 8 to 10.

Posted by Joke at 8:44 AM 2 comments

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Playlist for an online-ish day

Today has been a mostly lazy Sunday which is, mostly, ideal. Spent it bloghopping, emailing, writing a few pieces for that menswear site (and revising a few others) and loitering on eBay*.

All the while I have put my HT server on "random" and this is teensy sliver of what I have been listening to:

Mind Over Matter - EG Daily
Bright Lights, Big City - Donald Fagen
Killing Moon - Echo and the Bunnymen
Punk Rock Girl - Dead Milkmen
What'll I Do? - Linda Ronstadt
They Can't Take That Away From Me - Michael Feinstein
With Catlike Tread - Pirates of Penzance
Desperado - The Eagles
In The Wee, Wee Hours - Chuck Berry
The Promise - When In Rome
People Get Ready - Jeff Beck w. Rod Stewart
Race With The Devil - Stray Cats
How Great Thou Art - Elvis Presley
Bolero - Maurice Ravel
For Your Love - The Yardbirds
Roadrunner - Bo Diddley
I Ain't Drunk, I'm Just Drinkin' - Albert Collins
Matchbox - Carl Perkins
Union Of The Snake - Duran Duran
Stormy Monday - T-Bone Walker
Master And Servant - Depeche Mode
Boom Boom Out Go The Lights - Pat Travers
Crossroads - Cream
When Smokey Sings - ABC
3 Minute Hero - The Specials
The Impression That I Get - The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
The Blues Before And After - The Smithereens
Dead Man's Party - Oingo Boingo
I Can't Quit You - Willie Dixon
Folsom Prison Blues - The Reverend Horton Heat
Catch A Falling Star - Forever Plaid

-Joke

* OMG, I have 56 different searches saved on eBay.

Posted by Joke at 6:16 PM 2 comments

More miscellanea

The word "miscellanea" reminds me of a bit of verse by Dorothy Parker:

"Life is an endless cycle of song,
a medley of extemporanea,
and love is a thing that can never go wrong,
and I am Marie of Roumania."

No, I have no idea why she spelled it Roumania.

Yesterday I was given the following surprises:
1- Another 8 people will be coming to Thanksgiving Dinnah
2- I will be cooking 3 (not 2) turkeys.

This means, dear reader, one of the dual ovens will be taken up with the assorted side dishes other people are bringing (sweet potato thing with the marshmallows, some corn thing with eggs and corn syrup, etc.). This further means I will be cooking, for the first time ever, rotisserie/grilled turkey in the NC-17 (not QUITE the porno grill, but good enough) grill. I've never brought a rosary to the kitchen, but now strikes me as the way to go...along with generous tumblerfuls of red Zinfandel.

So I went to my hoity-toity grocery store and ordered the three turkeys (13-14lb. range) for pickup Tuesday morning. Let's see how it goes.

The catalog overload continues apace. In the last week, we've gotten Holday Season catalogs from many companies--many of which have sent before--such as Red Envelope, Frontgate (purveyors of porno grills), Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Nordstrom, N-M, S5A, Mayor's Jewelers, Tiffany & Co. (4 so far since Halloween! But the last one we got was the big fat one), Lands' End, LL Bean, Brooks Brothers, Lillian Vernon (ZZzzzzzzzzzz), Toys R Us, K-B toys, Hammacher-Schlemmer, Sharper Image, Reed & Barton, Lenox, Lego, Tourneau, Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, Crate and Barrel (which carries neither), Williams-Sonoma, Chef's, Sur La Table, Griot's Garage, eBay(!) and lots and lots from "gift basket" companies. Regarding the latter, if I wanted to give people indifferent cheddar biscuits and dubious "wine and cheese spread" I'd get them at the grocery store and use one of TFBIM's eleventy gazillion baskets and some of her twelvity bales of raffia, thus saving 90%.

Still haven't seen Chicken Little in 3D.

Had a dream in 3D, though...only in my dream I couldn't find those red and blue glasses and so the dream was fuzzy and red/blue at the edges.

Why all of a sudden, are people's toes being photographed all over the blogosphere? Or has this been going on forever and I've been too self-absorbed to notice?

I'm pondering posting my "Letter To Santa Claus" here.

Whatever happened to those old Hanna Barbera cartoons? Y'know...Wally Gator, Snagglepuss, Huckleberry Hound, etc.? Not that I miss 'em, but I am curious.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 7:46 AM 3 comments

Saturday, November 19, 2005

5am, so that's, like an IMPROVEMENT, right?

Some miscellaneous thoughts, a grab bag if you will.

Saw HP4 yesterday afternoon with Numbah One Son. We sprinted right after school so I was able to get tickets with no problem.

Capsule review: The book was better (duh), but this was pretty good. I liked how they were able to condense a HUGE book into "only" 150 minutes. A lot of elements were summarily dispensed with and it was rather clever how the loose ends were tied up neatly. It was a nicer film to look at than HP3 (with its grainy, washed-out look) but some aspects still bother me. The kids wearing "regular" clothes is gonna look VERY dated when we revisit this film in, say, 2015.

So is Ron/Fred&George looking like they wanted to be in a remake of The Partridge Family. Given the time constraints, they weren't able to explore the Barty Crouch, Jr. thing as much as I would have wished, but whatever. I felt ripped-off at not seeing the Quidditch World Cup and the casting of Krum was WAY off. I'm also not thrilled with Michael Gambon's Dumbledore who looks like a 98 year old bearded lady hippie in her nightgown. It was a bit awkward to explain to my 8 y.o. son what "Piss off" means. But I liked how the Cedric angle was played (Cedric's dad comes off a LOT better than in the book). Not as bloody as I feared but VERY intense for kids. A little girl behind us spent the last 30 minutes in what seemed to be near-total psychological breakdown.

And Hermione Granger looked exactly like the sort of girl who would have shattered my heart when I was 16. (And kinda looks like the one who did.)

I give it 3 outa 4.

Then we came back home scrubbed quickly, decanted the offspring at grandparents and headed off for a lovely dinnah--I'll leave it to you to determine if I had more wine than I ought have--and civilized entertainment.

I can't get the song "Dancing In Berlin" out of my head, which had nothing to do with this evening's civilized entertainment.

Tomorrow I order the turkeys for Thanksgiving (2 12-14 pounders, Bell and Evans) for pickup on Tuesday. I promise the stuffing/dressing recipe. WARNING: If you like your stuffing/dressing with an edge of sweetness, you won't like this one, so save time and start bitching and moaning now, before the crowds do. I like my stuffing/dressing to be relentlessly savory (since others will be bringing that sweet potato thing with the marshmallows and some corn thing with added corn syrup, etc.) and yes, it involves making cornbread (southern-style, not northern-style) from scratch, which I'll probably start doing on Monday.

You will not see anything of me on Thursday, since I will be up starting at 6am and cooking the whole damned day through until dinner, late. (It's an Iberic thing, don't ask.)

Spent a good chunk of the morning on the phone with the lovely and gracious Poppy which is fun of which I avail myself entirely too little. If all works well, we shall get good and sick of seeing each other by mid-January by which point we will (God willing, knock wood, etc.) have loitered together for days on end thrice. Which is pretty impressive since they live something like 87 states away. We don't see childhood pals who live across the county line even remotely as often. Hell, TFBIM doesn't see her very bestest friend nearly as often and she lives 3 miles away. But that's what makes it a cool sort of friendship, never mind that EVERYONE gets along beautifully. And this is not being able to go to WDW together, which would have been even more serious fun. (Our kids' Spring Breaks don't coincide this year, and it looks like our kids will have their Spring Break truncated as a result of all the hurricane fun we have had.)

Poppy and I go off to one section and say the most appallingly obnoxious stuff, which tickles us, while TFBIM and TSMSM go off to another and converse like a teenagers-on-a-first-date Norman Rockwell painting. Poppy insists her husband is a bit shy and not that talkative, but my wife, quite literally, doesn't believe a shred of that. Poppy and I call them "The Adulterers." To top it off, our kids (Numbah One Son is a couple of months younger than Poppy's daughter--er, Poppette?) get along GREAT. To the extent that when Poppy and TSMSM had to attend a wedding in Key West, we babysat for the weekend. Try THAT with just anybody you met on the Internet.

After hanging out with TFBIM's pals, getting to spend not-inconsiderable-time with Poppy et Cie. is like coming in from a sweltering summer afternoon into an cool and refreshing room. So that's good.

Now I wanna see Chicken Little in 3D.

Oh, and for those of you who remember that far back, I am down 12 of the 15 lb. I wanted to drop, without much strain, either. This speaks well of trying to do it gradually and sustainably. And to do it during my busy season is even more encouraging. In fact, I think I may go on past the original 15 planned and see if I can get back to the shape I was in when I first issued offspring. It's been years since I saw my abs, and I miss those guys.

Can someone explain why it only rains on weekends?

From The Lah-dee-dah Dept.: I think I get to go to a Consular Ball in Feb. (Feb.? March?) which means white tie. Got word from a contact at the Spanish Consulate (which is about a mile from my house).

I have to go buy wine for Thanksgiving. Beaujolais Nouveau is seasonally convenient but red Zinfandel (is there any other kind?) is the thing. And Samuel Adams Cranberry Lambic beer.
















I think want this watch, but I am not sure if I want it with the tourbillon or plain-faced.

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 5:03 AM 10 comments

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Thanksgiving 101 - The Pie

OK, OK, OK. Alright already, sheesh.

Maple-Pecan Pie

Shell:
1¼ cups all-purpose flour, and some for dusting (I like King Arthur, but Pillsbury Unbleached is good also)
2 generous Tbsp. sugar
2 fat pinches of salt
1¼ stick butter (8+2 Tbsp.) sliced into as many pats as your patience allows. If you are REALLY hardcore, you can replace the ¼ stick w. 2 Tbsp. lard. Either way after cutting the fats small, chill again.
1 egg, separated (beat the white lightly w. enough ice water to make ¼cup; beat the yolk with ¼tsp. of water to make an egg wash)

Put sugar and salt into food processor and whiz until powdered. Add flour and pulse. Add butter (and lard...avoid anything hydrogenated) and pulse until it looks like a coarse cornmeal about 10-15 seconds. Mix in egg white (be VERY careful if you use the food processor, you can end up w. some tough crust...if you are unsure, dump everything into a bowl and use a spatula) until you get a dough. Flatten dough into a rough disk, dust with flour and chill at least an hour.

Roll out dough on a floured surface until you end up with a 13" circle. CAREFULLY drape over a 9" pie plate (I like those glass Pyrex ones), but a nonstick tart pan works also. Trim the edges even and then flute the edges as you see fit (forks, your kids' fingerprints...whatever). Freeze the raw shell for an hour. Take out enough foil to cover the shell completely and poke it all over with a fork. Take out shell and poke THAT also. Wrap and put back in freezer while you preheat oven to 400F. Take out shell and put pie weights over the foil (I use large steel BBs). Bake in the center rack for about 15 minutes, remove foil bake an additional ten, glaze with the egg wash and bake off for one more minute until it's all golden and pretty. Keep warm.

Filling

½ stick of butter cut into 1" chunks
½ cup sugar (superfine is ideal, but regular works fine)
¼ tsp. salt (if you use a coarse salt, make sure you get it down to a fine grain)
3 eggs (large)
1 cup maple syrup (I like the Grade B from Vermont Sugarworks, but you can use Grade A amber...make sure you are using 100% pure maple syrup, not some "pancake syrup" dreck.)
6 oz (about a cup-and-a-half) pecans, crushed coarsely

Preheat oven to 275F. Over a double boiler melt butter; remove the top vessel and then stir in sugar and salt. Beat in eggs fully and THEN beat in syrup. Return to double boiler configuration and stir briskly until the whole thing is nice and glossy. Remove again and stir in pecan bits. Pour into shell and bake about 55 minutes, until the center jiggles SLIGHTLY. Remove and cool completely.

This pie is the perfect balance between firm and lush with a yielding but not squishy texture. Above all else, there is none of that vile corn syrup.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 1:57 PM 5 comments

So it's 4 a.m., so what?

TO THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE AWAITING A BLOG ENTRY ON PIE, THIS AIN'T IT. YOU MAY WISH TO CHECK BACK LATER. THANK YOU.
-The Management

Yes, I have insomnia. I've always had it. It used to "piss me off something fierce*" when I was a kid, because all I'd do is stare at the ceiling for HOURS. I eventually smuggled a flashlight and would read until I finally got sleepy.

But now I'm the dad, and so, I do as I bloody well feel like. In this case that involves blogging at 4am. Blogging at 4am rarely deals with weighty issues (which I generally avoid, at least on this blog) and you're lucky if I manage to sling out a semi-coherent stream-of-consciousness. Ya done been warned.

First is a mild sort of rant. As I go bloghopping I find someone who writes a comment and while the comment is just, y'know, meh, the profile pic looks interesting. So I click it and go to that person's profile and then I click "View Full Size" only full-size is still the same damned postage stamp size thing. WTF?

Also, I have to profess envy/admiration for BB's (bof'em!) agility with a digital camera. This takes a greater level of preparation and readiness than I am able to muster on short notice. And when I do decide to get all photo-bloggy, I have to gather the subject matter and assemble it and futz around with the flash settings and angles and then look for the USB wire thingy that may or may not be at the office or in my wife's car or wherever. So if I say I got Donald Duck Comics issue #155 on eBay, most of the time you have to take it on faith I did.

But the mailperson, insofar as delivered material goes, was nice to me. Today's haul included sale flyers for Bloomingdale's, Macy's and Tuesday Morning, plus catalogs for Hallmark, S5A, W-S, PB (what? again?), some wine-and-cheese-gift-basket company, some "Holiday Gourmet Food Gift" company (prominently featuring sodium benzoate), a Christmas card reorder thing from Crane's** and, most importantly, The Rosengarten Report (THE foodie newsletter) and two of my three fave UK magazines: AutoItalia and Italia! which have amazingly minimal overlap.

I have also developed an odd fascination with the TV show Drawn Together, which is a Comedy Central parody of ALL animation genres and of reality shows, especially the VH1/MTV-flavored ones. The humor is, typically, broad and it's a show I won't miss when it's off the air, but for now it's something fun to watch when I remember and I am near a TV set when it's time for it to come on.

And Thanksgiving is nearly here! Yay! That means I have one more ill-timed spasm of work (11/29-12/5) and then I can start slacking off as a more-or-less SAHD*** until mid-April.

Okay! G'night Internet!

-J.

* Which sounds like something you'd complain about to your urologist, but still.
** Only those on our A-list merit Crane's, so while the cost per card is steep, the total outlay is verrrrrry reasonable.
*** My slow season coincides with TFBIM's tax season, so I take over.

Posted by Joke at 3:54 AM 2 comments

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Tuxedo Dysfunction

To enlighten y'all further on the multiple blasphemies masquerading as a tuxedo these days:

This poor bastard is wearing almost every sin rolled into one abominable ensemble. THREE buttons (only supposed to have one if it's single-breasted), notch lapel like a "regular" business suit and a long tie. Hell, even his shirt doesn't fit properly. The lapel thing applies also to double-breasted tuxedos, although in those cases there is a lot more leeway with buttons.


This other outfit is a lot more correct. Notice the lapels are peaked and only has one button to discreetly show the cummerbund (or vest). We'll disregard the unfortunate colors of the tie/cummerbund.

I hope this settles everything.

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 1:48 PM 4 comments

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Red, you say?

Easy enough.

Behold, the 1985 Alfa Romeo GTV-6 Callaway. One of 35 ever built and one of only five factory prototypes. (This is the very car tested by Car and Driver, Road & Track, Autoweek, etc.) Car and Driver said: The Alfa's stock[...]engine has been transformed into a hyperthyroid state by the addition of twin turbochargers and intercoolers. The resulting [horsepower] can hurl the Alfa from 0 to 60 mph in a mere 5.4 seconds and slingshot it through the quarter-mile in 13.6 seconds at 98 mph. Top speed is limited to 160 mph by the 6300-rpm redline , though the engine will willingly pull well past that figure. That's enough performance to let the Alfa keep pace with some of the quickest cars in the country. (Like, say, every Ferrari, Maserati and Porsche.)

Road and Track said: A supercar worthy of the Fangio and Nuvolari tradition.
Road and Track also said: A fire breathing dragon.

It is, easily, the very reddest thing I own. I love this car.

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 5:38 PM 9 comments

Monday, November 14, 2005

For BabelBabe

1- You're welcome

2- Here is the recipe for a KILLER (i.e. not overrich, not leaden, not too sweet) buttercream frosting:

Vanilla Bourbon Buttercream
1¼ sticks unsalted butter, softened to pliability (Get whichever butter is freshest--with the expiration date furthest out--if possible get the organic one, BUT NOT CULTURED BUTTER.)
1 vanilla bean, split open
1½ cups sugar
1 three-fingered pinch of Kosher or sea salt (fine crystal if possible)
1/2 tsp bourbon (or rum or even vanilla extract, if you want a serious vanilla hit...just make sure it has a little alcohol, because ethanol carries the flavor compounds of vanilla better than anything else)
1 Tbsp heavy cream, cold (avoid the ultra-pasteurized stuff if at all possible...and you may want to have a little bit extra on standby if you want the frosting a bit fluffier)

Get your Kitchen-Aid's whisk attachment installed and cream the butter at medium-high (say 6 or 8, depending on the stiffness of the butter) until smooth, figure less than half a minute. Scrape out the vanilla seeds into butter and mix completely (same speed) for a few more seconds.

Put your sugar, salt and empty vanilla bean (good ones run $2 a pop, so waste not, want not) into a food processor and whiz it up until you achieve a beige talcum. Strain out any stray hunks of bean (you can save them for other uses) and marvel at your Vanilla Powdered sugar (conveniently without any cornstarch).

Add the sugar to and butter and mix at medium-low (4 on my machine) until the powdery nature of the sugar disappears, scrape the sides of bowl and cream at medium (6) until mixture is fully combined. Scrape again, add the bourbon (or rum or framboise or kirchwasser or Kahlua or vanilla extract or...) and heavy cream. Crank it up gradually (unless you wanna wear the cream) to about "8" and mix until fluffy and pale, which will be about 3.5 to 4.5 minutes. (You may wanna pause to scrape the sides of the bowl every now and again).

If for some reason you are still using one of those old fashioned eggbeater thingies, double the mixing time, figure one-and-a-half-times if you are using a regular hand mixer. This is a particularly good frosting for any chocolate cakes.

Done!

-J.

Posted by Joke at 12:09 PM 16 comments

A preemptive strike on Seasonal Rants

Now that the holiday season is nearly at our throats, I took a careful look at my formalwear inventory. I started to notice my main formal workhorse, my tuxedo/evening suit is starting, after 12+ years of faithful (and embarrassingly active) duty, to give up the ghost. It will probably see me through the next year's worth of black tie events, but I really must start thinking of its replacement. So off I went to look.

Well, seems teh fashion pundits are right. The world of black tie has certainly devolved rapidly. First, I went to the Polo site, something of a default for me. Well, there's trouble in paradise. My current formal armor is a "Polo Purple Label" (Polo silhouette, but MTM) DB, peak lapel affair with forward pleated trousers which even feature a particularly neat watch pocket. I wanted something, if not exactly the same, of a similar spirit. Well, good luck to me.

First, the demimonde of formalwear is scrofulous with
}shudder{
notch-lapel abominations. Even Polo features it exclusively (!) on its website, compounding the sin by having adopted its Rob-Petrie-would-be-proud "Polo II" silhouette. Brooks Brothers is also among the sartorial traitors featuring only this notched excresence, but to make it rougher on themselves for when Judgment Day arrives, they feature not just the 1-button notched insult, but the 3-button miscarriage. If I wanted to look like Eminem's nephew at the prom, I sure as Hell wouldn't think to go to Brooks Brothers.

Ben Silver hedges its bets by having all three styles, acquiescing to the semi-lumpenprole zeitgeist infecting formalwear, but at least offering a pretty nice Aquascutum (in addition to its own house brand) peak SB job as halfway decent atonement. Jos. A. Bank, being something of a first cousin to Brooks Bros., offers both of the nauseating notch alternatives BB does, but like Ben Silver, atones by offering a pretty OK shawl SB and a decent peak DB. The pleated trousers are a bit too pimpitudinous (three pleats, too shallow and rearward) for my taste, though. (BB doesn't even SHOW their pleated trousers; in the picture which supposedly features it on the site, the mannequin has its jacket on...a bad omen.)

Paul Stuart, Dunhill and Oxxford have nothing on their sites. The Purple Label side of Polo.com was equally barren. This all seems like I will have to expend a not inconsiderable amount of shoe leather to physically inspect my current options. The least illogical option would entail flying up to NYC (where Oxxford, PS, RL and AF are all congregated) and that would solve the matter, only that, um, to be perfectly frank, I'm not all that crazy about NYC. Chicago is a good option, since it has Oxxford, PS and RL--where I have an "in"--but no AF. (Back when AF was affiliated with Saks, he'd do trunk shows at the major S5A stores. A couple of years back I had a golden opportunity when he was down at the Palm Beach S5A, but non-buyer's remorse is a useless emotion.)

The Palm Beach RL flagship has a full-on tailoring dept. But I am still unsure of whether I prefer the RLPL, AF or Oxxford silhouettes (and my memory of the PS silhouette is sufficiently dim to be useless). Lastly, I am generally disposed to the peak DB style, but have been thinking recently of a SB shawl. The problem being that with a shawl (assuming you can find one with a full enough lapel...ha!) a buttonniere buttonhole looks somehow...off, and it doesn't show a wing collar shirt to best advantage.

Feel free to add anything.

Thus endeth my ramble.

-Joke

P.S. Ignore the timestamp, I actually started this at 4ish a.m. between bursts of NyQuil-fueled torpor.

Posted by Joke at 11:41 AM 5 comments

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Joke's Book Club

The Genius in the Design by Jake Morrissey (no relation--I think--to that ever-so-chipper guy from The Smiths). A must read for art geeks, architecture geeks, Baroque geeks and Italophile geeks...I score 2 of 4 of the above.

The story of the feud between Bernini and Borromini is interesting, engaging and annoyingly timeless. Only these days feuds are between cultural nanoweights like Lindsay Lohan and Hilary Duff. But still, this is not the fault of Bernini, Borromini or Jake Morrissey, who I am sure is sick of hearing people ask him about "Girlfriend in a Coma" instead of Bernini and Borromini.

All that notwithstanding, there is a lot of intrigue and access to emotion in this book, in spite of the fact the book often slows down to supply you with relevant facts. Still, this is one of those books where you'll recognize the personality subtypes and, once you have done so, you'll find yourself yelling at them at times.

The Monarch Notes of the Cliffs Notes is that while both men were undoubtedly blessed with ridicuous amounts of genius, Bernini was connected and compounded that advantage by being charming and socially adept, while Borromini was totally devoid of any useful connections, but he compensated for it by being brusque, rude and alienating.

If you love Rome (and I do), this book belongs on your wish list.

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 6:03 PM 5 comments

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Gre-e-e-e-e-eat.

Well, I'm sick.

I'm not sure if I am sick still or sick again. On or about the time of Hurricane Wilma, I came down with a nasty cold. Sore throat, fever, sinus hedache, the usual. Over the last few week I was pretty much 98%...I still had some chest congestion I tried to cough away, with mixed success. Then yesterday, outa the clear blue, in the middle of doing some work stuff (on my day off, because that way I could make up a lot of ground lost to the power outage) >BAM!< I sense I'm running a fever. Never got over, say, 100F and no other symptoms have surfaced. But it's quite enough to piss me off handsomely. My CPA/RN (don't ask) wife got good and fed up and slung Amoxcillin at me. That and an ibuprofen/aspirin/acetaminophen (sp?) cocktail has me in working fettle.

So I may be like Badger on her second day of whatever her Unclaimed Malady may be, for some time. You have been warned.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 6:48 AM 5 comments

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Now I am really, REALLY mad.

Y'know, it's one thing when the semi-sentient question my politics or philistines scoff at the supreme achievement in potato fluffiness. But today, I was handed the straw that turned the camel quadraplegic...

Warning: Unfettered profanity may follow.

I got a fucking traffic ticket. For allegedly running a stop sign. I am so livid I could spit. I had to sit there and meekly listen to the cop. This was in a speed trap and I was making aright turn off a 4-way stop immediately after the guy opposite me made a left, so I was following closely. The cop was busy monitoring the speed trap and COULD NOT HAVE SEEN clearly. So he made me pull over and handed me a ticket. The fine? $200, plus three points plus whatever my insurance is hiked.

So I am going to fight this. If it costs me $1K, I am going to fight this.

I am angrier than if Ralph Nader was made dictator of the world.

Pissedoffedly,

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 8:01 PM 7 comments

Still working on the video, but until then...

...here are some vidcaps of my TOTALLY SUCCESSFUL heretical potatoes.

Naturally, I had to scale the recipe down to a family-of-four size.
The dairy contingent and its assistant.
Check out the serious glistening action. Spackle-ish potatoes do NOT glisten. (This is after they had cooled a while, when they should have been really solid like concrete if the naysayers were right.

Which, of course, they weren't.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 7:31 AM 5 comments

Monday, November 07, 2005

I just KNOW you guys think I'm crazy...

...so I'll just have to prove how right I am. Tomorrow I will prepare my Heretical Potatoes and I will video the whole damned thing. Then I will find a way to post the vid. files for the world to see how right I am.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 2:57 PM 5 comments

It's the Holiday Season already...how you can tell

People,

TodayI go home for my well deserved lunch break and I notice my mailbox straining at the seams. It was 99% catalogs. Today I received teh Holiday Season catalogs for:

  • LL Bean
  • Lands' End
  • Brooks Brothers
  • Tiffany & Co.
  • Neiman-Marcus
  • Crate & Barrel
  • Restoration Hardware
  • Bombay Company
  • Pottery Barn
  • Z Gallerie
  • Macy's
  • Bloomingdale's and
  • Williams-Sonoma

I am amazed. Wasn't it Halloween--more-or-less--yesterday?

-J.


Posted by Joke at 1:27 PM 2 comments

Thanksgiving 101 - The Potatoes or...Make Me Write Bad Checks

Come Thanksgiving, there are, at the average table, enough starches to make Dr. Atkins spin like a lathe in his grave. Biscuits, corn, cornbread, sweet potatoes (and/or yams) and rolls are just a partial list of the starched attendees. But here is my starch of choice.

WARNING: CULINARY HERESIES FOLLOW

Whipped Yukon Gold Potatoes

4 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, UNpeeled
1 cup buttermilk
½ cup sour cream or sour half-and-half (sometimes sold as "Light Sour Cream")
8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter
1½ - 2 cups cream (you can use evaporated skim milk, it will still be pretty good)
¼ tsp. baking powder
1-2 scallions or 8-10 chives (green parts only, sliced t-h-i-n-l-y on the diagonal)
Salt and freshly ground (ideally white) pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot two-thirds full of water to a boil over high heat. Add the potatoes and cook until tender, about 30 minutes. (You can pre-zap 'em in the microwave) Drain the potatoes in a colander and let them steam dry about 5 minutes.

Normally, the pedestrian step at this point is to cut them in equatorial halves and pass the potatoes through a potato ricer into the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Put we are going to do something VERY heretical. You have to take me on faith at this point, so if you're the tiniest bit cowardly, bail out NOW. OK, let the potatoes cool a bit and then peel and cut*.

Throw the potatoes (you may have to do this in batches, so watch your proportions!!) into a food processor. EVERY cookbook on God's green earth will tell you this way lies madness. They will tell you this is heretical and they will tell you you will wind up with spackle. Ignore them. Add the sour cream, butter**, baking powder, salt and white pepper, and process the potatoes until smooth. This will be VERY dense and exactly what you do not wish to serve. Here comes the master stroke, ready?

With the processor running, slowly dribble in the cream (fine, the evaporated milk) and then the buttermilk*** until you get the consistency you like. The potatoes will have miraculously turned into the fluffiest damned things you have ever seen...you'd think it was a soufflé or a mousse of some sort. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper, garnish with scallion or chive bits. Serve immediately. If you will keep these warm for a bit in, say, an oven, you may want them a TEENY bit runnier than you'd like, since the warming process will dry and firm them to your desired standards.

-J.

P.S. The reasons why the food processor turns potatoes to spackle are twofold:

1- The blades action shears open a great many starch cells (which tend to bind when they cool) and
2- most people use russet/Idaho potatoes which are extra-starchy to begin with. The idea for this is a riff on Joel Robuchon -- who has more Michelin stars than anyone, and HE ought to know -- who used to do this same thing, only his dairy component was straight butter, cut into bits (it eventually worked out to something like 1 lb. butter for every 2 lb. of potato). Yes, caloric.

* If you cut before cooking the water will gelatinize the starch in the potatoes and you WILL wind up with spackle.
** The fat in these dairy ingredients will help isolate a number of starch cells in the potatoes, to minimize the spackle effect.
*** The buttermilk's acid will react with the baking powder to provide "fluff".

Posted by Joke at 8:46 AM 5 comments

Hooray?

Today will be my 1st "real" day at work since 10/21. I've kept up with the URGENT stuff via laptop-fueled email. But there will be a cubic ton of housekeeping to do.

Not so sure how I feel about that.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 6:06 AM 2 comments

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Kudos and brickbats

Dear Internet,

I must let the world know of my complete and thorough glee at the change back from Daylight "Savings" Time to Standard Time. I hate DST with a fierce, purple passion. It all stems back to having an 8pm bedtime and the sun be, like, RIGHT out there with daylight and all that. Which I thought was bullshit. I mean, it's DAYLIGHT. So ever since then I have held a grudge against DST.

Arizona--home of Barry Goldwater--is one of those throwback, troglodyte states (maybe the only one) that refuses to cave in to the low IQ zeitgeist, and doesn't fall back and, more importantly, spring forward. It's now good and dark at 7pm down heah in Paradise and that's just how I like it, dammit.

Now we have to get ready to go to a birthday party of a friend's daughter (Poppy met 'em all in WDW) which leads me to a rant on kid's parties on Sunday. Sunday is the day I like to set aside for the express purpose of a) reading quietly, b) doing the full detail to my car and/or c) doing nothing at all. Why people insist on crashing my Sundays thus, I'll never fathom.

Whatever.

Anyway, last night I managed to plagiarize, very successfully, the Chinois Chicken salad I had while lunching at the Wolfgang Puck Café at one of our leading airports. Very, very nice...and quick and easy. I appreciate anything that tastes clean and fresh like that. So that was good.

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 7:25 AM 2 comments

Saturday, November 05, 2005

No, I'm a social user...I could quit any time I wanted to.

Addictions you say?

Pick one.

[Photo pending my getting the wire thingy]

The suspenders?

[Photo pending my getting the wire thingy]

Ties?

[Photo pending my getting the wire thingy]

Cookbooks?

[Photo pending my getting the wire thingy]

Shirts?

[Photo pending my getting the wire thingy]

DVDs? (Check out the rest of the a/v gear, soon to be updated)

[Photo pending my getting the wire thingy]

Knives? (Kitchen, not one of those Rambo-meets-D&D collections)

[Photo pending my getting the wire thingy]

Watches?

[Photo pending my getting the wire thingy]

Shoes?

[Photo pending my getting the wire thingy]

Disney tchotchkes?

[Photo pending my getting the wire thingy]

Spirituous liquors? (Take that Susan B. Anthony, Carrie Nation & Elizabeth Cady Stanton)

[Photo pending my getting the wire thingy]

Magazines? (missing are 4x as many magazines, stored in "deep freeze")

[Photo pending my getting the wire thingy]

Fountain pens?

I wish Blogger had some sort of polling mechanism, so I could find out to what, if anything, I've become addicted.

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 6:04 AM 5 comments

Friday, November 04, 2005

How your 8 year-old scares the snot outa you

Last night, Numbah One Son tells me he's starting his Christmas List. Fine. And he starts reading out loud as he writes. Distracting, but...whatever. Until he says something that froze my blood. Now, if'n I were a progressive parent--and it is manifest I am not--my blood would be frozen by a number of things he could have said: GI Joe, Guns, Snail darter barbecuing kit, build-your-own compound kit, etc.

Me: What did you say?
NOS: Huh?
Me: I said "What did you say?"
NOS: I said I wanted a black hoe for Christmas.
Me (sweating like OJ Simpson under oath): How, um, how do you know about that?
NOS: Steve's brother had a tape of black hoes and stuff and we watched it.
Me: He...what?
NOS: Yeah. It was all these guys doing stuff with black hoes and stuff.
Me: And now you want...
NOS: Yeah, a black hoe. Daddy what kind should I get?
Me: I don't know if this is an appropriate thing...
NOS (getting whiny and pouty): I don't want one of the BIG FAT ones! I just want the kind you can lift and carry and let your friends play with!!
Me: That's not the point.
NOS: They aren't expensive!
Me: That's not the point, either.
NOS (Getting really whiny, and on the verge of tears): But everyone has a black hoe! [he runs]
Look! This the one I want! [waves magazine* at my scandalized face]
Me: Um, son, that's called a BACK hoe.

-J.

* Catalog for Tonka toys. He wants the RC bulldozer/back hoe set.

Posted by Joke at 11:42 AM 8 comments

Book recommendation

OK. I realize that some of youse are, unfortunately, either wholly commited to fiction or nonfiction. Which is sad, really. Myself, I read both ways. Today's suggestion is a surprising one for many, not the least of all, me.

Dean & Me by Jerry Lewis.

For the record, I have never found Jerry Lewis all that funny. A bit too muggy, a bit too schticky. Dean Martin I'd always found amusing and cool in a cool way...no more than that. But, a few years back I saw a documentary on the team of Martin & Lewis and I was floored not only by the amazing comedic synergy of these two guys but also the reaction of the crowds to which they played. You'd think these audiences were watching Elvis or The Beatles at the top of their game. But it was just two guys: a smartass crooner and deranged man-child clown.

The book is surprisingly moving and, although it contains a few fleeting chemical traces of humor, it doesn't attempt to be funny. It also tries to be impartial. It doesn't succeed, although the effort is herculean and commendable. When you stop and think, it really CAN'T be impartial when one of the two people in a bitter divorce (in a way, fighting over custody of Frank Sinatra), is writing. The giveaways are subtle, gentle and none-too-pervasive, but they are there*. But it tries, hard and you appreciate it.

Once you get past that, and you learn to set your compensatory reading skills accordingly, you see a lot. Not so much in terms of Hollywood glamor-ama although there is that, but just in the gradual devolution of a relationship between two people. It's funny that people can spot it a million miles away when it's someone else, but many elements of this narrative will hit closer to home than many folks would care for it to.

Now, I want to look for that old documentary on DVD.

-J.

* It does take one swipe at Hope & Crosby, Martin & Lewis' "rival" duo, which is like a typerwiter saying it's better than a toaster.

Posted by Joke at 11:03 AM 1 comments

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Thanksgiving 101 - The Turkey

For most people, through most of our lives, the turkey is a perennial letdown. The dark meat is gamy and liver-ish, the white meat is moisture-free to the extent Dr. Heimlich would be alarmed, the skin is flabby and greasy and the flavor is non-existent.

But no more.

I'm going to steer you through this. It's gonna be OK. Come in off the ledge.

Herb-Roasted Turkey.

First, you're gonna need to get the right turkey. Do NOT get any turkey injected with any bizarro ingredients. Do NOT get any ::cough, cough:: self-basting turkey. These are wrong. Get yourself a free-range, all-natural, etc., etc. turkey. I swear by Bell & Evans and Plainfield Farms is also quite good, but get whatever your supermarket/butcher carries (you may have to order ahead). It is not necessary (but it IS nice) to get an heirloom turkey or one of those $150 boutique turkeys. Just make sure it's all natural and free range and EITHER frozen (not bad, actually) or NEVER frozen. Those frozen-then-thawed suckers are beyond flavorless.

Next, brine the turkey. This is the voodoo part of the equation, so go slow here, OK? First you'll need to make an herb infusion. Get dried (BUT NOT GROUND) thyme, marjoram and sage, in decreasing order at a 3:2:1 ratio. A lot will depend on the time you have available to brine (all day or overnight?), the size of the bird (12lb or 20lb?) and the vessel to contain it (a bucket or a big-ass cooler?) and whether you are starting with a fresh or frozen bird.

To get a rough idea, put the still-wrapped turkey in the vessel and fill with plain tap water. Remove bird and measure water. If you're doing a short brine you will need more salt, possibly sugar, and herb flavoring than if you're letting the beast soak a full day. The rule of thumb is 1 cup salt (if you use kosher or sea salt, get the SMALL crystal not the big honkin' flake variety) per gallon for a 4 hour brining for a 12-14lb. turkey. The longer the brining, the less salt you need and conversely, the bigger the bird the more salt you will need...so an overnight brining will use half the salt and a 22 lb. behemoth will use twice the salt. You get the idea. The dried herbs--in the case of a one gallon brine-- should be 3 teaspoons thyme, 2 teaspoons marjoram and 1 teaspoon sage. Add these to a cup of simmering water and steep for 3-5 minutes. Dissolve the salt in the gallon(s) minus one cup and add the herb infusion slowly. Depending on how strong and/or fresh your herbs are you may not need to add all the infusion to the brine...if you go overboard, it may start tasting like you're pickling the turkey, so watch it.

That done, remove the giblet-y bits and put the turkey and brine in your vessel (ideally a cooler) and let it soak. If you cannot fit this into a fridge (and most people can't), drop in those blue gel freezer packs to keep the temperature around 40F. If you are using a frozen turkey, you can skip the gel packs, but give it an extra hour in the brine.

Now, take the turkey out of the brine and pat it dry.

[OPTIONAL] Put it on the roasting rack, and that in the roasting pan. (If you have room, you can put this as is for 8-24 hours to air dry in the fridge. The longer the better, for an shatteringly crisp, mahogany skin.) Dump brine down the drain, and rinse. Fill bottom 1/3 of cooler with ice and nestle the laden roasting pan in the ice. Let it air dry for the aforementioned 8-24 hours.[/OPTIONAL]

OK, show time.

Take out a stick of butter. Remove your turkey from its fridge/cooler rest, letting it come up to room temperature. Preheat oven to 425F. Remove your rings and all that. Take 3 yellow onions (trim off the extreme ends, peel, and cut into rough half-wedges), a head of garlic (loosen the cloves and then smack 'em with the flat of a knife to peel them and crush them slighly) and three lemons (quarter one and THICKLY slice the other two). Smush in another 3 teaspoons thyme, 2 teaspoons marjoram and 1 teaspoon sage and 1 teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper into the butter. Run your hands CAREFULLY between the skin and the flesh of the turkey, to loosen. Smear a third of your herb-butter goop inside the skin, another third inside the cavity and the last third on the outside. Make sure the coverage is even. Stuff the cavity with the quartered lemon, 3-4 chunks of onion and 6-7 smacked garlic cloves. Scatter the remaining garlic/onion/lemon debris around the turkey in the roasting pan and add about 1" of water. If you have it (and you really should), stick in one of those probe thermometers into the thickest part of the breast, making sure you do not touch the bone. DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, TRUSS THE BIRD. Agents of Satan will try to thwart you, but keep them at bay with a bulb baster. I'm serious.*

Put the whole rack into your oven. Roast for 30 minutes until the breast skin just starts to get all golden**. Drop the oven temperature to 325F. When the breast meat registers 165F (this should be 2.5, maybe 3, hours after you dropped the temperature. Your oven could be a bit off, or your room temperature colder or warmer, so don't get all hung up on this...of course, if you have a larger turkey--18lb or so--this could mean an extra 90 minuts of roasting) turn off your oven and leave it shut for 30-45 minutes as you go about your business and the turkey rests.

Remove turkey and unstuff; set it aside on the cutting board. Put roasting rack astride two burners on medium. Add about a cup of water or chicken or turkey stock and deglaze (pick out any lemon skin--roasted lemon pulp is fine--which will be bitter) . Put all the roasted vegetables and juices and drippings into your blender and puree, adding chicken stock as needed until you get a gravy with the thickness you prefer. I like it the viscosity of a milkshake, but you do whatever. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper.

Carve turkey and bask in the slavish fawning of your loved ones.

-J.

* The problem with trussing is that it makes the discrepancy between leg/breast cooking times even worse. That is, the dark meat is done at 180F while the white meat is ready at 170F. Trussing only makes the dark meat take longer to come to temperature, by which point the breast is turkey flavored, moisture-free particle board. Or, the breast meat is perfect and the legs are still kicking. So, no trussing. Ever.

** Some people like put the temperature at an even 325F and start roasting the bird face down and then flip about halfway. Me? I don't like an oven open while all this is going on (and the built-up heat taking a hike to the ceiling) and it's a total PITA to open the thing, pull the rack somewhere heat-safe, manage to get a grip on the bird, flip the turkey without sending searing-hot metal items and vegetable matter flying every which-a-way, etc.) If you notice--and you have to be vigilant here--the breast skin getting too golden too fast, cover it in a LOOSE double layer of aluminum foil and leave it there until the last hour of roasting. But that shouldn't happen if your oven is close to accurate.

Posted by Joke at 6:01 AM 6 comments

Just some random things, Pt. 2

Yesterday was All Souls Day, so Mass was in the cards. Also in the cards were blank spots to fill in the names of your family's deceased members, that they may be the object of prayers. Lots of incense, solemn hymns and, ovah heah anyway, lots of stuff in Latin. Just how I like it.

Now, in some parts of the world, ASD is treated with a lot more, um, revelry which sometimes spills over to cemeteries. This, of course, is something My People seriously cannot get into. But I digress.

In retrospect, Halloween was OK, considering the semi-blackout that still exists, and all the debris and all that. NOS went as some alien (foam brain, bug eyes, cape and ex-ninja costume) and NTS went as Batman.

Now comes the best part of the year: Thanksgiving. I like Thanksgiving for many reasons and, Gentle Reader, I'll do my level best to highlight these. The one reason I'll mention now is that about 4-5 years ago, my BiL and his wife invited us to do Thanksgiving at their new place. Mrs. BiL's family is HUGE...you'd think they were Osmonds and not Spaniards. Deep down I know it's because they wanted someone who can cook all chef-ishly AND wouldn't be distracted by the eleventy gazillion cousins. Considering my extended family (my parents and sister and other BiL are OK) is a primordial soup whose ingredients range between the outright evil and the dysfunctional, this was a boon.

My BiL's FiL (i.e. Mrs. BiL's dad) was a great proponent of big family meals and was a really, really Great Guy. Last year he died after a long and hard-fought struggle with cancer, just before Thanksgiving and it was, quite literally, his dying wish that Thanksgiving go on regardless. So we made it. That year I especially didn't mind the two days of frantic prep and spending the Thursday from 6am to 6pm on my feet. So this year's All Souls Day, I also thought of him, even though he wasn't exactly related to me.

So there ya go.

-Joke

Posted by Joke at 5:34 AM 3 comments

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Last Days of Disco

My fave scene:

JOSH: There is something depressing about [“The Lady and the Tramp”], and it’s not really about dogs. Except for some superficial bow-wow stuff at the start, the dogs all represent human types, which is where it gets into real trouble. Lady, the ostensible protagonist, is a fluffy blonde cocker spaniel with absolutely nothing on her mind. She’s great looking but, let’s be honest, incredibly insipid. Tramp, the love interest, is a smarmy braggart of the most obnoxious kind. An oily jailbird, out for a piece of tail, or whatever he can get…he’s a self-confessed chicken thief—an all around sleaze ball.

What’s the function of a film of this kind?

Essentially it’s a primer on love and marriage directed at very young people; imprinting on their little psyches the idea that smooth talking delinquents, recently escaped from the local pound, are a good match for nice girls from sheltered homes. When in ten years, the icky human version of Tramp shows up around the house, their hormones will be racing, and no one will understand why. Films like this program woman to adore jerks. The only sympathetic character, the little Scotty who’s so loyal and concerned about Lady, is mocked as old-fashioned and irrelevant, and shunted off to the side.

DES: Isn’t the whole point that Tramp changes? OK, maybe in the past he stole chickens, ran around without a license, and wasn’t always sincere with members of the opposite sex. But through his love for Lady, and beneficent influences of Fatherhood and Matrimony, he changes and becomes a valued member of that rather idyllic household.

JOSH: I don’t think people really change that way. We can change our context, but we can’t change ourselves.

ALICE: I agree with Josh. Scotty is the only admirable character. It would have been a much better movie if Lady ended up with him.

DES: I’m really surprised. I think Tramp really changed.

JOSH: Maybe he wanted to change, or tried to change, but there is not a lot of integrity there. First he’d be hanging around the house, drinking, watching ball games, maybe knocking Lady around a little bit. But pretty soon, he’d be back at the town dump chasing tail.

Posted by Joke at 3:45 PM 0 comments

Just for Badger

1 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
4 cups pureed roast butternut squash
2 cups chicken stock
2 small bay leaves
3 tsp. sea salt, plus more, to taste
1/2 cup crème fraîche (thin some sour cream with yogurt or buttermilk, as a cheat)
1/4 tsp. ground coriander (optional)
1/4 tsp. curry powder (optional)
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 tsp. grated peeled fresh ginger (optional)
8 baguette slices, each 1/2 inch thick, lightly brushed with buttah and toasted until golden
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350F (Start slicing and chopping things in the meantime) and then place the halved squash cut side UP to roast, rast until tender and slightly caramelized. Puree.

In a soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in the coriander and/or ginger and/or cayenne/etc. Add the squash puree, stock, bay leaves and the 3 tsp. salt and stir to combine. Cover and cook for 2 hours. Remove the bay leaves and discard. Add the crème fraîche. Using a stick blender, puree the soup directly in the pot until smooth.
Ladle the soup into warmed soup bowls, garnish each with a toasted baguette slice, and season the slices with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately. Serves 8. DRINK the wine and bake the apple into a tart.

-J., servant of humanity.

Posted by Joke at 6:31 AM 5 comments

Better than sex!

...that's the only way to describe my first hot shower in a week. I suppose, with the passage of time, its status will diminish relative to the object of comparison...but for now, it's a gilded memory in my mind.

Those who know me best know I am mad for showers and take two a day (in the morning and after a workout), and three-a-day are not unheard-of. This is because we got our electricity back this evening. Which was very, very good.

However, there are large pockets in the larger neighborhood where it's still dark, and with a lot of debris still around (silver lining: loads of firewood) and therefore Halloween as a subdued affair. My kids had been SO looking forward to Halloween there was zero chance of stopping them from trick-or-treating. The police had a thing at the athletic complex by the library and there was a treak-or-treating thing down the main shopping drag of this little enclave. TFBIM stopped at a few stores and relieved our bank account of some of its burden, which was kind. After that (this wrapped up well before sunset) the kids went TOTing around the lit sections of the neighborhood while I stayed behind in my capacity as candy distributor.

One of our neighbors is a very, VERY nice guy, retired dentist and WW II veteran and he never gives out candy as the treat. This year he was giving out little practical joke trinkets and Numbah Two Son has become enamored of the whoopee cushion which was his lot. So much so, he has yet to eat his weight in Pez. All he did WELL PAST HIS BEDTIME was inflate the whoopee cushion, very rapidly/loudly deflate it and then, in a sing-song voice say "Excuse me, excuse me..." and laugh goofily. Then he'd do it again. And then yet again. When we (i.e., I) got good and fed up and took it away, he kept doing the raspberry noises and excusing himself, while accompanying himself with his own laughter. You will all, no doubt, be thrilled to note, he woke up early with the express purpose of whoopee cushioning the early hours away. Fascinated by whoopee cushion technology he is.

Later on today I'll do a little something on hurricane Wilma and how weird it is to have big-ass oaks (Querqus Culum Maximus) snap.

-Joke, empowered

Posted by Joke at 5:52 AM 5 comments