Sunday, February 24, 2013

The JOY of Cooking

A note from Sly
I'm so glad I asked Joy to write this article.  I had no idea there was a time Joy wasn't as talented in the kitchen as she is today.  We all have a  back story don't we?
 

By NEW Guest Blogger, Joy Malaise

The fact I can cook at all is quite a feat, given I learned from my Grandmother, who was, in essence, an awful cook.  She quite successfully taught me how to burn everything.  I didn’t realize that not everyone charred their toast, then scraped it, and THEN put the butter on.  I also thought that bacon snapped when eaten, and that eggs were solid, with no beautiful golden soft yolk.  Chewy pot roasts, and vegetables cooked to mush.   It was just her way.  But she could bake a pie like no one else, from scratch, and with flaky golden crusts.  So there is the yin and yang of my humble cooking start.

I took to cooking at a very young age, always wanting to experiment and always looking for ways to make it “taste better.”  Being from Iowa, we had a bounty of fresh garden vegetables in the summer, which we canned for eating in the long winter months.  I still remember the pop, pop, pop, of the Ball jars in the pressure cooker as they sealed in their goodness.

At 19 young years of age, I loaded up my Ford Maverick, along with my two girlfriends and headed to California to visit my sister in San Diego.  My girlfriends returned back home, but I decided to stay.  And stay.  It’s been 37 years now, so it’s home.   

I’ll never forget the first time I was asked to bring guacamole to a party and said “sure, how much do you need?” not having a clue what it was. “Oh just a medium sized bowl, should do it”, she replied.  So I went to the supermarket and found some avocados, which felt like rocks to me, and headed home to prepare my guacamole.  I wanted to impress this group, because they were my sister and her husband’s friends and colleagues from the U.S. Navy, and the party was aboard a yacht in Coronado!   I was so young, and everyone else was much older and sophisticated.  I pulled out one of my three pots, and filled it with water to boil.  I tossed in my six hard-as-a-rock avocados and waited fifteen minutes.  When I opened the lid and to test them, not only were they still hard, but there was a green slime surfacing at the top of the water line.  It just didn’t look right.  Given there was no Internet in 1976, and I didn’t own a cookbook that included a recipe for guacamole, I called my neighbor over to take a look.  She burst out laughing and asked what it was I was trying to do.  I told her that I assumed they were like potatoes and when cooked would soften enough for me to peel them and mash them up.  Needless to say, I did NOT bring guacamole to that party and I still have flashbacks of that boiling pot of green slime many years ago.

I worked my way up to casseroles at dinner parties, where I thought adding some chicken to a pan of Rice-a-Roni, and tossing in a few diced carrots and celery was gourmet.  Then shortly after that, a miracle happened.  I got a roommate and she could cook!  Yes …California style.  Her name is Nomah.  She even had a braid of garlic hanging in the kitchen for heaven’s sake!  And she could make homemade cannelloni.  It was magic watching her prepare things, and reading from her cookbooks.  I learned so much from her, and still do.

I got into hosting dinner parties and inviting people over to try my new repertoire of California cuisine.  I got better and better, and accumulated more pots and pans, cookbooks and kitchen gadgets.


Fast forward to Valentine’s Day weekend 2013 and my dinner party aptly themed “An Evening in Paris.”  Yes, I decided to channel Amy Adams, who channeled Julia Child, and made beouf bourguignon from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.”  My hubby, Gary, bought me the cookbook a few years ago, and while I have read many of the recipes, I had not yet tried making one of her savory meals!

"Midnight in Paris" Helps Set the Mood During Appetizers
Gary went to the supermarket and bought all the ingredients for me, except lardons.  "WTH …lardons?"  Okay, honey, we can use bacon.  Just get some thick bacon.  I trimmed the meat to Julia's precise measurements of 2” cubed, and dried them with paper towels so when they hit the hot oil they would sear and seal in their goodness.  Even using my large Le Crueset roasting pan, it took three batches to get the meat seared.  Our  house was smelling wonderful and it was only 10:30 in the morning! 
    

I had prepared my garlic soup (see my recipe below), chicken liver pate’, and palmierres the evening before, which turned out to be a great idea, realizing how deep into this thing I was getting.  I needed to blanch and ice my haricot verts, so that I only needed to flash fry them in hot olive oil just before serving.  On those lovely beans I made a gremulata of fresh parsley, lemon zest, toasted pine nuts, garlic and Parmesan cheese.  I was able to prep that in advance, and simply toss it in at the end of searing the beans.


Now Julia said that the beef would be best served over noodles or small potatoes.  Knowing how much au jus there would be in the bottom of the pan, I opted for noodles to soak up those layers of goodness.  And it worked.  It was divine!!!!!!!!  And the haricot verts, (recipe compliments of the Barefoot Contessa’s latest cookbook “Foolproof”) were a perfect side dish.  And though we didn’t need it, how could we serve a French meal without a baguette!  

  


Gary took me to Paris for my 50th birthday, and every single day we went to the bakery and purchased a baguette.  I shall never forget the memory of us walking down the Champs de Elyse with a baguette in our backpack.  But that’s quite another article.

Whether it’s food from a farm in Iowa, or from Paris, France, I’m a good little eater.  I love to eat!  There I go channeling Amy channeling Julia again …


Joy’s Scrumptious Garlic Soup

(makes 6 small cups, perfect for dinner party) 
Recipe is easily doubled for 6 bowls, and can be made the day before and re-heated.  Who doesn’t love that?

  1   TBL Olive Oil
  1   Cup thinly sliced white/brown onion
12   Garlic cloves, smashed
  1   Cup dry white wine
  1   Quart chicken stock
 1    Bay leaf
 2    Cups French bread, 2-inch pieces (crust okay)
 ¾    Cup heavy cream (half/half okay too)
Salt and pepper
½   Cup Gruyere cheese, grated

Heat the oil in a large soup pot, and add onion and garlic.  Cook over medium heat for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they begin to caramelize.  Add the wine and continue cooking for 10 more minutes.

Add the stock and bay leaf and bring to a bowl.  Reduce the heat, and simmer for 3- minutes.  Add the bread cubes and allow them to soak in the sup off the heat for 10 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf, and using a hand-held immersion blender, puree until smooth.  Add the cream and add your seasons.  Garnish with the cheese on top.

 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Hungry for a Song?

Have you ever been afflicted with a phrase that strikes a chord?  A chord which compels you to bust out in song and share it with anyone who happens to be in the room with you?  My BFF is infamous for this!

When so inspired, it can happen to me too .... usually while I'm in the kitchen.  With that said, here are my top 10 food/drink songs that jettison off my tongue and into the ears of any audience who might be stuck in the same room, I mean lucky enough to hear it.  I apologize in advance if a bad one gets stuck in your head!


Orange Crush?
  1. Lips Like Sugar - Echo & the Bunnymen
  2. Tea for Two - From the musical No, No Nanette (Go Nat King Cole!)
  3. Black Coffee in Bed - Squeeze
  4. American Pie - Don McClean
  5. Blueberry Hill - Fats Dominoe
  6. Banana Boat Song - Harry Belafonte
  7. Orange Crush - R.E.M.
  8. Strawberry Fields Forever - The Beatles
  9. Good Ship Lollipop - Shirley Temple
  10. The Candy Man - Sammy Davis, Jr.
Honorable Mention:  
  1. The Spam Song - Monty Python
My thanks to YouTube for all the links above.

Now that I've equipped you for any future trivia night, what songs have I missed?
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