Friday, May 28, 2010

&%#^&*^%^, Whew, Glad I Got that Off My Chest

We all have those awful days, you know the one, husband backs the new RV into the restored 1968 Pontiac Firebird (this week), dog devoured a sofa and a paycheck, (in one sitting) or you get on the mirrored elevator on the 30th floor and realize your skirt has been tucked into your pantyhose (for who knows how long). Sadly these are all stories that have happened to yours truly. After days like this you want to open the refrigerator door and inhale anything that doesn’t have scary fuzz on it. But we all have our special comfort food that soothes the savage stress beast. My go to food is macaroni and cheese, with extra, extra cheese, Aiken’s Diet be damned. The following was forwarded to me by a NY Times cookbook junkie, my mom.

NY Times Macaroni and Cheese

2 Tablespoons of Butter
1 cup Cottage Cheese
2 cups Whole Milk
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 pinch nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 pound shredded cheddar cheese
½ pound elbow macaroni, uncooked

Heat oven to 375 degrees, grease casserole dish with butter. In blender, puree cottage cheese, milk, mustard, cayenne, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Reserve ¼ cup cheese. Combine rest of cheese, milk mixture and uncooked pasta. Pour into prepared pan, cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover pan, stir, sprinkle remaining cheese and cook uncovered another 30 minutes.

While this is baking away, sit down, pour a GIANT glass of wine. It will restore your good humor and bring you back to center. Big breaths, tomorrow is a new day, hopefully Saturday so you can recoup and start the new week with a carbohydrate high.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Pssst, Pasta Party, Pass it on

The natives get restless, sly glances, quizzical looks about the same time every year. “Isn’t it time, you know, for the annual pasta party.” What started off as an innocent little payback for invites to your house for couples dinners has spiraled into a cast of thousands affair.

The original get together actually started out as a steamer party. For those who don’t know, steamers are little clams, we had them shipped overnight from Boston to Arizona, steamed them, dipped them in butter and ate them with beer and gusto. The problem, no matter how many times we begged and pleaded, people would willy nilly drop the shells in the yard to be gobbled up by my starving dogs. Let’s just say there is nothing that doesn’t bring you to full alert from a dead sleep like the sound of a retching dog at 2 AM.

My first thought was, maybe we need to thin the herd. Instead we opted to change the menu. What could feed the locust that wouldn’t break the bank? When I was in school, my mom would throw parties for all her all her philosophy graduate student buddies that involved lots of spaghetti and lots and lots of wine. We of course were drafted as unofficial under aged wait staff. I could adapt, I was sure of it.

Red Sauce
½ cup olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
3 lb Italian sausage
2 ½ pounds pork chops
7-28 oz. cans whole tomatoes with basil (Progresso is the best)
12-6 az. Cans tomato paste
16 cups water
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 Tablespoons Oregano
2 Tablespoons Basil
1 Batch of Mom’s Meatballs

Heat olive oil in skillet with garlic, lightly brown sausage and pork chops. Transfer to big, and I mean big, pot. Add all of the remaining ingredients except for the meatballs. Cook over a low flame, stirring approximately ever y 10 minutes for about 4 hours or until it cooks down. Add Meatballs and continue to stir and cook for an additional 2 hours. DO NOT BURN. If you do, you’ll need to transfer to another big pot.

Mom’s meatballs
2 yellow onions chopped fine
6 pounds ground beef
2 cups dry Italian bread crumbs
3 cloves garlic minced
1 cup fresh parsley
4 eggs beaten
1 cup parmesan cheese

Combine above, mix well, form 1” meatballs and place on cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

I’m giving you the big batch recipe, I don’t know how to make it smaller, one pot will feed about 30, yes you read that correctly 30 people. Special props go out to the Big Tuna, he is the world champ stirrer, never a burnt pot. We’ve had anywhere from 50 to 150 people at this somewhat annual event. By the time I sit down to eat, you can put a fork in me, I am done, done, done. This is not necessarily a fast and furious meal, but if you plan it right, you can freeze the leftovers for about a billion upcoming food events. That is of course you don’t end up giving away too many “doggie bags”. And just because I’ve given you the secret family recipe doesn’t excuse you from showing up next year, just bring your own lawn chair and wine.

P.S. I finally figured out how to let people leave comments on the website, I was too spastic to check all the right boxes to let you leave your snippets.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Sesame Chicken and Phil (FFIL)

Many, many moons ago, the Big Tuna and I left the bosom of our families back east and moved to sunny Arizona. As a fairly new bride my cooking skills were at the kindergarten level but I managed to piece together enough of a meal to keep us from starving to death. I should at this point say that after more than a quarter of a century, between us we’ve gained enough weight to have added a 5th grader.

During cold and bitter months we are a favorite destination spot for long lost relatives. We have one Far Flung In Law (FFIL) Phil who has a tendency to be a major critic of people for a little personal sport. On his initial visit he and the Big Tuna decided they’d go for a day of golf and we’d head out to a big dinner once I returned from my job at the old slave market. Upon my homecoming, the boys had been visiting the beer cart in the hot, hot sun and decided the little woman could hook them up with a little bite to eat. So be it, bacon wrapped beef filet, broccoli, and Rice a Roni it’s a meal, or is it….

Me: Something wrong with the rice Phil?
Phil: Mrs. Phil never makes Rice a Roni.
Me: Well Mrs. Phil doesn’t work so she has time to grow her own stinking rice.

Okay, I said the last line in my head, not out loud.

The following day, the Big Tuna left on a business trip but the good sport I am, made another feeble attempt at cooking something to please this picky in law.

4 chicken breasts
½ cup soy sauce
1 cup flour
2 Tablespoons Sesame Seeds
2 Tablespoons butter cut in pieces

Mix together flour and sesame seeds. Dip the chicken breasts in soy sauce and roll in the flour mixture. Place in shallow baking dish, dot with butter. Cover with aluminum foil, bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove foil and cook an additional 15 minutes.

Phil: This is the first good thing you’ve ever cooked for me.
Me: And also the very last. (Not in my head)

Phil staggers to town nearly every year, he stopped asking “What’s for Dinner” after about year ten. I will assemble a little meal for myself leaving them to forage for cold cuts and can openers. Sometimes he’ll even pop to take us out. The only thing I should mention here, is the best side dish with the chicken? You got it, Rice a Roni.