Thursday, 11 October 2012

Recipe for Success...

Hello Friends.

The doctor and I were unable to make it home this past weekend for the holiday, but indulged in delicious home cooking all the same. Elissa is a really sweet girl who lives six floors up and generously invited us to her apartment for a kind of orphans Thanksgiving. She made an amazing turkey and stuffing and the rest of us (a mix of people from the building and friends she had made from the nearby university) each brought a dish. While it's usually my custom to bring a big bottle of vodka, tonic water, lemons and limes, Doritos, and a plastic bowl (the guests can indulge in any combination of those ingredients), I thought I'd take a stab at making cole slaw, but bring a smaller bottle of vodka just in case it didn't turn out. But it turned out pretty good, thanks in no small part because there's no cooking, baking, broiling, or roasting involved. The recipe couldn't be simpler and it's always good.

To make Cole Slaw That is Good: Take a cabbage or two, quarter and chop finely. Even if you get the cabbage mix in a bag that's already shredded (as I do), chop it more. Ironically, when it comes to cole slaw, there's nothing more disgusting than a big hunk of cabbage. Add some shredded carrots and about four green onions. Keep chopping. Add 2-3 teaspoons of cider vinegar (chopped), pinches of salt, pepper, and celery seed. Stir a bunch. Add in a spoonful of mayonnaise, then maybe one more, but you need less than you think you do. Stir more. Chop while you're stirring. Cover, but don't make it earlier than the day you plan to serve it or it's gonna wilt.

To make a good vodka & tonic. First take your preferred citrus fruit (but not an orange or grapefruit, you wise-ass). Slice your lemon and lime in half. Take those halves and lay them face down, so the halves protrude from your cutting board like cancerous tumours the size of lemons or limes. Place one hand on top of the lime-half to steady it, then slice from diagonally from the side to the centre on the right, then left sides. This is very confusing to explain, but basically an easy way to cut six thick wedges (three slices from each half) that keeps you from cutting yourself. Squeeze your wedge and drop in a short tumbler, add a few ice cubes and a generous shot of vodka. Then pour tonic util the glass is full. Stir, but only lightly so as to not flatten the tonic. These are tart and refreshing and lack the sourness of gin and soon everyone is sexy and you're hilarious!

The problem with the above recipes is that, in passing them off as my own, I am a fraud. The cole slaw is my mothers to the letter and I had to email her before the party to make sure I had it exactly right. My brother has tended bar for years and taught me that lemon/lime slicing trick that has saved me countless emergency room visits (seriously, can you imagine a worse injury to befall you than slicing your hand open whilst cutting up citrus? How burny that would be?).

What I need is a signature dish that is mine and mine alone. Something to pass along to my kids when they get invited to Fall Holiday Nutrient Exchange in 2049. Since I haven't found a job and none of the neighbourhood kids want to engage in freestyle rap battles, and since Dr. Jon and I finally eat dinner together in the same place at the same time, I've been cooking more and slowly getting better at it. I think I've finally hit on a filling, hearty recipe that I'm ready to share with the world.

Dream: Teach everyone to make a Pot of James.

Goal: Achievable. Pot of James is warm and garlicky and spicy and while you're supposed to make it with chicken, I prefer it meatless, so even vegetarians can get in on the fun (vegans, the recipe calls for some heavy cream, but feel free to replace that with non-dairy creamer or toothpaste).

Plan: Share my step-by-step process for making this delicious autumnal supper.

First, turn on the first burner and marvel at the smoke that comes off of it. Why do burners always smoke like I've been embedding kleenex and woodchips into the coils? I haven't! I keep them clean! But the smoke detector always threatens to go off.

In case of fire, be sure to stay calm. Eeriely calm. I remember my parents cooking something on the stove that caught fire and I sprang into action and remembered what I was told to do in school. I stayed calm, pointed at the flames and said, "Fire. Fire. Fire" in an even tone until they doused the flames with baking soda. It's only looking back now that I realize how creepy and ineffectual I may have been.

On the first burner place a pot of salted water and bring to a boil. While waiting for the water to boil, consider the preponderance of nipples. Once upon a time I was dancing at a bar with a handsy drunk. He wasn't a lech, but he got a little touchy-feely. Anyway, at the end of the song he put his hand on my chest (over my blouse, rest assured), found my nipple and kind of "beeped" it. Pushed it like a doorbell and winked at me. What? Was that supposed to activate something deep within me? Didn't. Similarly, when it comes to ladies, why is it so important to cover the nipple on tv or magazines or whatever, when the rest of the breast is exposed? Is there something about that specific area that, when uncovered, unleashes mayhem and destruction? It's a bit like showing a guy's dong but then putting a pasty or tiny hat over the tip. Why should it be difference with breasts? Cleavage? Fine. Sideboob? Yes. Underboob? How fancy! Nipples? PUT THOSE AWAY.

Anyway, add about two cups of pasta to your boiling water. I like a substantial noodle like a penne or a rotini, but do whatever the fuck you want, I'm not your mother. Then get your second burner going. Vegetarians, skip this next bit, or replace the chicken with a favourite tofu or fig paste. Anyway, if you want, salt and pepper both sides of two chicken cutlets and cook them about two-three minutes per side in some oil on medium heat. I don't love the resulting chicken; it's kinda bland. I like using next day chicken for this. Pick some hunks off whatever's left of a roast chicken or cut up an already cooked chicken breast and toss it in with some paprika or something. Anyway, once the chicken's done (or if you haven't added any in at all), toss two minced garlic cloves and a fuckload of mushrooms (the recipe I used originally calls for only five cut-up mushrooms, but I use at least ten). Also toss in about a tsp and a half of those red pepper flakes. Cook that up until your house smells awesome (about half a minute, I'd guess).

Check on your noodles and think about your celebrity besties. Those famous people you don't want to bone, necessarily, but that you just want to hang out with because you're sure you'd get along super well. My celebrity bestie of the moment is Julie Klausner, this writer/performer who hosts a podcast (How Was Your Week) and wrote a really funny book (I Don't Care About Your Band) and writes great articles for Vulture, the Awl, Jezebel, etc. I just know we'd be pals! She's on Twitter and I tweet her so often and she never responds and I should take a hint and leave the poor woman alone, but she's so smart and funny and makes a living as a writer in New York City and I think if I cooked her a Pot of James, she might really like it.

Anyway, add a small hunk of butter to your pot of garlic and fuckload of shrooms and chili flakes. When it melts, whisk in three teaspoons of whole wheat flour (you could use white flour but then what would you lord over people?). Cook that for about two minutes, reduce your heat, then whisk in some cream just to thicken that noise UP! Like maybe 1/4 cup of whipping cream. Finally, add about a cup of those dry spinach leaves, the baby ones. Stir it all around until the spinach starts to wilt and turn the perfect deep shade of green.

Drain your noodles and combine your sauce with your pasta and mix it all together. Consider how lucky you are in your little kitchen in your very own apartment. Think of all the meals your mother made for you, night after night, how much work that must have been for her. Consider how she must be an expert in all of the things in which you are still a novice. As you ladle your creamy, garlic, spanich, chicken (or figs?), mushroom, spicy, earthy Pot of James, think about all the ingredients that lead to this moment in your life. All the times you thickened up thanks to new friends, got a little spicy when faced with a challenge, was bolstered by your own flavour, became wilted in the heat. Consider that no one, nowhere, makes your dinner the way you do. Be grateful. Be hungry. Serve.

1 comment:

  1. "Anyway, if you want..." had me howling. I can't wait to serve a big ole Pot of James at my next dinner party, but only if you're there too.