Monday, February 23, 2015

Kinda What I Had in Mind

There are a few things that I'm famous for.  Among them: Reading the headline of a newspaper or magazine article and talking about it like I'm an expert, and having no clue how long something might take.  The latter applies in the kitchen especially and the former manifests itself in the form of: reading a list of ingredients and assuming I've "read the recipe."

With regard to last week's recipe from the cookbook of the week, well, I once again proved that I have indeed perfected these two things. I planned to make my dish Thursday night...then Friday night (once Thursday got away from me).  Then on Friday I actually read the recipe that I thought I was making...then Matt made chicken.

I purchased Gastronomy of Italy by Anna Del Conte when I was working at Via Matta.  At the time I bought it because I was eager.  Eager to learn about Italian food, eager to pass just one quiz, (yes, quiz during our pre-shift meeting), eager to pronounce "Brus 'ketta" correctly, eager to teach people the difference between branzino and branzini.  Also, I think it was in the sale bin at Barnes and Noble, but that's really not the point.  

A while after I bought the book, and long before I actually opened it, I saw a copy of it in "Chef's office" and felt proud that I had purchased it.  Like I was secretly part of some obscure book club.

I've made one recipe from this book before, Pizzoccheri, a buckwheat pasta dish with potatoes, cabbage and fontina cheese (though I remember using Taleggio because it's a favorite of mine) but the blog project dictates I must cook a new recipe from each of our books for the first time.  It's meant to be a bit of an adventure.  This one sure was!

Sometimes when you buy a cookbook, there's one recipe, THE recipe that looks absolutely beautiful, impossible, but beautiful.  It's often the one on the cover.  This book was one of those.  Page 85.
So, back to what I was saying about being famous...This monstrosity only has to cook for 20 minutes. I had all the ingredients, and I had 20 minutes.  Joke was on me.  The assumption is that prior to assembly and baking you have: made your tomato sauce, hard boiled some eggs, cooked your pasta and sautéed 2 lbs of thinly sliced eggplant.  Well...that wasn't gonna fly on a school night.  So the recipe of the week got put on hold until I could spend a proper amount of time in the kitchen (aka the entire afternoon on Sunday). But the finished product.  One part lasagne, one part terrine, one part pain in the ass.  Many, many parts delicious!  Yup, it came out this good!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Sometimes You Realize It's a Lemon...

In the winter of 2002 I found myself somewhere rather peculiar.  My big evening plans lead me to the dusty, cramped stockroom of a Williams Sonoma in the Westlake Mall in downtown Seattle, Washington.  I wasn't alone.  Myself and about 15 other people stood in a semi circle around a chirpy store manager surrounded by walls of KitchenAid mixers and "color of the year" rubber spatulas. Our host asked us rapid fire questions about our career aspirations and thoughts about teamwork.  And we took turns answering with our best "I'm dying to hand out gourmet hot chocolate samples" charm.

A quick peek around the room at my peers that evening, and I assessed that their career aspirations likely had something to do with wishing the .com bubble had never burst.  That, like myself, their "career aspirations" had something to do with not being in this very place. Nonetheless...there we stood, doing our best to smile and be witty.  To stand out in this unemployed bunch, desperate to land a part-time mall job at Christmastime.  All that blather can be boiled down to this...In 2002, you did not want to be looking for work in Seattle.

So there I stood. Excited to have finally landed an interview in the mall after being told I was over qualified to work at the candle store, (thank you Illuminations for that keen observation) didn't know enough people to edge my way into the local restaurant scene, (such as it was then) and my resumes lingered in the "circular files" of what felt like every office building in the city.  Excited indeed.  This was also my first group interview.  Turns out it was my last too.  As the questions kept coming, two things became more and more apparent to me.  One, everyone in the room was even more desperate for this job than I was, and I was pretty desperate, and two, I didn't fit in here.  While I had been filling my unemployed days literally building a couch, because we couldn't afford one, and wandering around my new city in awe of the strange post grunge, pre Fifty Shades mish mash of culture, these people had been cooking.  

The next question Mr. Enthusiastic Sales Guy asked really punched me in the gut.  "What is your favorite kitchen appliance?  And Why?"  Until this very moment, I had been holding my own.  After all this was a mall job.  How could standing around a cash register ringing up sales for flatware be any different than ringing up soaps? (Incidentally, something I had already done...thank you again Seattle). Apparently to get this coveted part-time, minimum wage job, you actually had to be passionate about the products, and they preferred you didn't fake it.  I was out.

"Take out menu."  That was my answer.  It was honest, albeit some might say insulting, but truly, in a "Jen Jasmin" kind of way, honest.  As the group picked up their jaws and Mr. Enthusiastic Sales Guy got his eyes back in his head and his underwear untwisted, I politely thanked everyone for their time and excused myself from the room.

As I've mentioned before...I really, really couldn't always cook.  Back then I would have had no business working in a store that sold gadgets and gizmos that at the time I couldn't even pronounce. You know what they say about hindsight.

If I had to, I'd land that job today.  (Fingers crossed history doesn't repeat itself that way.)  And I now have cabinets full of kitchen tools that I consider indispensable. None has consistently brought me more joy on a busy week though than my CrockPot, or "slow cooker" as we are supposed to call them now as to sound more upscale gourmet, and less 70's housewife. 

Thanks for reading this week as I strolled down memory lane.  This week's recipe came from The Italian Slow Cooker by Michele Scicolone. I haven't mentioned this before, but should, I don't intend to post the actual recipes I cook during this project unless I can already find them posted somewhere else online by the chef or author that they came from.  I've learned that writing a recipe is a true art, and feel that if you'd like to make something I've tried, you should give the creator proper credit and buy the book.

May I present you: Lemon Chicken and Potatoes

It may not look like the most beautiful dish (Crockpot meals rarely do) but it was flavorful and delicious!!!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Short and Sweet

It's late...and this post is likely to be a bit less inspired than I would prefer... but in the spirit of keeping's here, and that's what matters.

Super.  Bowl.  Sunday.   We planned to have a few usual suspects over to watch the game this year...not a party per se, just a small gathering, which to us means we make enough food to feed an army!  So there was that, and I had to pick a recipe for my project.

I was struggling to find a recipe of the week to try out, or rather a cookbook I wanted to pick when Matt suggested I make something from "THE COOKBOOK" to serve for our guests.  Seemed like a heavy idea, I didn't think I was ready, in fact, in the back of my mind, I was saving this book for the last post...oh, and I'm not a great baker...oh and now I have to serve this to guests.  No pressure.  But I went for it.  And I'm happy I did.
What's "THE COOKBOOK?"  Well, as I mentioned in the beginning, I've had this Hershey's cookbook for basically my entire life (the copyright is from 1989...which means I was about 10 when I got it) and have never made a single thing from it...until now.  May I present:  Chocolate Cream Filled Cupcakes.

In the spirit of honesty, it's important to confess that the "Cream Filled" part never really happened.  I might have neglected to read that the recipe required a proper piping bag...which I neglected to remember I don't own...BUT my chocolate cupcakes came out better than I could have hoped.  I topped them with an orange butter cream frosting and they were a hit!  Phew.

Now...what's next???