Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year's Rockin' Eve in Delusional Lisaland

I've decided that Tony Bourdain should be special guest at my house tomorrow night. He can bring his wife and little daughter but I'll expect sordid tales over mass quantities of bourbon and plates of steaks and seafood. Dance Tony Monkey, dance for me! I think I'll also have Gordon back because Tony's a huge fan and I'd love for Mr. Ramsay to sign my copy of his new book, which lovely Jerry got for me for Xmas. What the hell, I'll get Tony to sign his books, too. Hero worship for everyone!

I've got lovely little filet mignons, lobster tails, and for sides baked potatoes and green salad with Russian dressing. There's bubbly, of course, but I also have some nice red wine if we change our minds. Dessert? Eh, I don't know yet as I haven't decided whether I want to make something from scratch or just make a homemade caramel sauce and serve it with vanilla ice cream. I'm bouncing around going downstairs now and making a pan of blondies but just can't get motivated. However, butter is softening on the counter so I should turn it into something yummy.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Weekly bowl of yum

This week's soup is Cauliflower Buttersquash. Quite good if I do say so myself. As follows:

1 small/medium head cauliflower, floretted (I throw in the green bits too, discarding only the tough core)
1.5 lbs buttersquash, peeled and cubed
1 cup red lentils
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
1 quart water
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp each salt and pepper

Throw everything into a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and stir occasionally for about 30-35 mins, until everything is tender and the lentils seem to have dissolved. Check for seasoning and adjust as necessary. Cool slightly then blitz with an immersion blender or in a standing blender. Return to pot and keep on low for another 20 minutes or so, adding water if it gets too thick. Serve. Nice with bits of crispy pancetta or bacon on top.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

On the 11th day of Xmas...

He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed,
God bless Us, Every One!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

On the 10th day of Xmas...

I have decided to visit Delusional Lisaland for the holidays. Nigella is coming early to make her coleslaw and enjoy a mimosa or three; Tina is bringing some of her homemade coffee whiskey mustard and making the sauteed cabbage (I am sure she will be most impressed with the Ham); I will make the Ham, glorious roast potatoes (I think I forgot to mention those earlier), and crostata; and Gordon will spend some serious time sharpening my knives because I have no idea how to use a steel and I find it mesmerizing to watch him go mental on knives. I almost expect them to sing when he's done with them. I will also insist he bring Tana, one to put paid to the rumours that he was having an affair and two, to tell her ad nauseum how often I use her cookbooks and how much I love so many of her recipes. Maybe I'll let her make the crostata.

We will then drink boozy coffee in front of the fireplace and make up dirty limericks and tell salacious tales about celebrities we don't like.

Now that's a holiday.

Monday, December 22, 2008

On the 9th day of Xmas...

I think I got the seven fishes nailed down for Xmas Eve. Actually, it's going to be the Day of Seven Creatures from the Deep as eating that much seafood in one sitting is just all kinds of a pain in the ass for me to make, serve, and keep track of.

I went to Wegmans and picked up some ready-made clams casino (1) and a pack of lobster-stuffed mushrooms (2). I'm thinking of serving these for a light dinner when the bairns are down for a nap with smoked salmon tea sandwiches (3), little pumpernickel breads spread with cream cheese and topped with a bit of the salmon. These three would go nicely with some bubbly, which I think is a most festive way to kick off the evening. Granted, I have a headache right now from too much champagne today but that is of no consequence. I always get a headache from sparkling wine but it never stops me from finishing a bottle. But I digress.

For lunch I'm leaning towards broiled tilapia (4) and cod (5) with a spinach salad and garlic bread. Or po'boys. I have a feeling I may just po'boy the fish because I'll be at Altomontes early to pick up my ham and the fresh rolls will call to me and I'll just have to cave. Plus, po'boys rock. And they're more fun than a plate of fish. And that means I can make a wealth of fries to keep them company. And I am a whore for fries. So, po'boys it is. Moving on...

When we get in from Jerry's aunt's we'll need sustenance. Once the boys are nestled, all snug in their beds, we'll break open the rest of the bubbly and I'll make little shrimp and crab cakes (6, 7), an amazing blend of both seafoods with garlic, scallions, sherry, you know, an idea taken directly from Nigella. I usually make them with just shrimp for when we get the UFC ppv but, as we've decided fifty bucks is too much anymore for a card we can watch for free later, we haven't had them for a while so it'll be nice to chow down on them whilst playing with tape and scissors.

I picked up a shrimp tempura lobster roll from the sushi bar after I got the other seafood. Yeah, it was good. Really good. Mmm...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

On the 8th day of Xmas...

Fruitcake is my holiday heroin. I can't really keep it in the house because, every time I go into the kitchen, ostensibly to get a glass of water or throw out some trash, I pick at it. And by pick I mean eat an entire slice. Then I find a piece of paper on the living room floor or some lint in the laundry room and--you guessed it--it needs throwing out and I just *have* to go up to the kitchen. It got so bad last week that I wrapped what was left and gave it to Jerry to keep in the computer room when he was at home working. This was on a Monday. Tuesday morning, coffee mug in hand, I went in to "check my email" and--sad to say--devoured another slice. I didn't touch it the rest of the day but I woke feeling very poorly Wednesday morning and made the painful decision to toss the rest. Starving children be damned. So I've moved on to my holiday meth (pannetone). So far, so good.

I made soup today, really nice soup. It's tomato-ish, really quite healthy (if you're not watching your sodium), and full of yum. I offer it to you.

Tomato-ish Soup

1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 tbsp oil (your choice)
pinch salt
1 large can (I believe it's 46oz) vegetable juice
1 cup canned tomatoes (crushed, diced, doesn't matter)
1 cup water
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables
3/4 small pasta (orzo, alphabets, nothing bigger)
2 cups frozen peas

Saute the onion in the oil, adding a pinch of salt, until soft. Add the juice, tomatoes, water, and mixed vegetables and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer for about 20 mins, stirring on occasion (a really good excuse to visit the kitchen for fruitcake). Remove from heat and whiz until smooth using an immersion blender. You don't want any texture and the corn and green beans usually take some work. If you don't have an immersion blender, let the soup cool slightly then puree in batches in a regular blender and return to pan. Heat soup to boiling again and add pasta, following cooking time on package. When time is up turn off the heat and add the peas, stirring them through. The heat from the soup will be enough to cook the peas. Serve. Especially good with a loaf of soft Italian bread slathered with butter. Kerrygold Irish butter if you want a treat. A spinach salad on the side with some creamy Italian dressing would also be nice. You can get all your veggies out of the way in one fell swoop and enjoy cake for dinner.

I'm enjoying a little Gentleman Jack and ginger (ale) right now to celebrate the Winter Solstice. I highly recommend you do the same. Buon natale!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

On the 7th day of Xmas...

I am in Nigella mode, which means I have read her new Christmas book about 68 times already, watched what few (too few) specials Food Network ran, and crossed my fingers mightily that Jerry got me the apron I wanted so I could be "just like her" in the kitchen. I'm obsessed.

What does this mean for the public at large? Absolutely nothing. For me, however, it means I have finalized my Xmas day menu and I am quite pleased with both myself and the rather limited amount of work involved.

I will be serving ham, simmered in ginger ale for several hours, smeared with dijon mustard, drizzled with maple syrup, blanketed with seasoned breadcrumbs, and chucked in the oven until said crust is nice and crisp. In our house, kielbasa is always on the Xmas table and this year will be no exception. Smoked, of course, as I find fresh absolutely vile. It will be from a butcher in Port Richmond. When you want kilbo you go to either Bridesburg or Port Richmond. You don't go to Hillshire Farms. I will also be making a small platter of ribs for the hubster, as he is not overly fond of ham. Calling Nigella yet again, I hope to make her bourbon glazed ribs as they sound maddeningly delicious. Moving on from the pig (but not straying from my beloved Nigella), New Orleans coleslaw, which has driven everyone to the buffet for seconds each time I present it for devouring. Another vegetable will be Tina Nordstrom's sauteed cabbage, with a substitution of purple for green just because the color is gorgeous and will look stunning on the table. Third veg is--yes, you guessed it--from Nigella, maple roasted parsnips. Now, parsnips are not something everyone loves, but I think they're a nice change from carrots and the thought of them being lavished with maple syrup...well, your mouth is watering too, I just know it. To finish, I've decided to make an apple pear crostata, nobody's recipe but my own, with vanilla ice cream should anyone want it and a cranberry chutney on the side. Myself, I'm not a fan of the a la mode style of desserting; however, I won't say no to a bowl of ice cream once everyone is gone and I have the living room to myself. Maybe with a shot of Kahlua over top.

Oh, forgot to mention cocktail nibbles. Well, as with Highlander, there can be only one: Holiday Cheeseball. An over-the-top blend of cream cheese, Olde English in a jar, blue cheese and several other ingredients I believe I'm not at liberty to reveal, it was passed on to me by my friend Bridget some time ago and it's crack in a crock. So, so, so damn good and almost addictive. Ha, you're thinking right now about how much you want some. Don't you wish.

Friday, December 19, 2008

On the 6th day of Xmas...

I am suffering from serious cookie overload. Went to a cookie swap yesterday and 1) ate way too many for my own good and 2) brought way too many home for everyone's good. My biggest downfall is anything that isn't chocolate. I love linzer cookies and bars (almost anything with raspberry is right up my alley), those little spritz cookies, especially when they're tinted ludicrous shades of red and green (even blue!), and basic highly decorated sugar cookies. The ones from the refrigerated roll rule. For my part, I contributed biscotti, which I make at least once a month anyway but have a special version I make only at Xmas time. So, without further ado, here is my take on the Italian classic:

Biscotti (basic recipe)

1 cup white sugar
3 large eggs
2 tbsp light oil (canola, vegetable, olive [not extra virgin])
Pinch salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or grease them very well. I recommend Pam if you don't have parchment, as I find it works better than store brands; however, if that's all you have then use it. I don't get paid for the endorsement.

In a large bowl at medium speed, beat sugar with eggs, oil, and pinch of salt until well-blended and silky. Stir baking powder through the two cups of flour and add to egg mixture, still beating on medium. If you have a hand mixer, you will feel the dough start to get stiff and almost unbearable. This is what you want. Stop when the flour is incorporated.

Halve the dough and place half lengthwise down the middle of each sheet. You want a blobby log shape. Sprinkle each blobby log with enough flour to lightly coat it. Flour your hands, too. Shape each blob into a proper log, extending the length of the sheet; I usually pat and shape so they're about four inches wide. Use a pastry brush to brush off the excess flour; a little left on the dough is okay but you don't want it to appear as if you've been checking for fingerprints.

Place the sheets in the preheated oven. Bake for 11 mins then switch the sheets from top to bottom so they brown evenly. Bake for another 11 mins. Remove from the oven and reduce the heat to 200. Let logs cool completely on sheets. Using a very sharp knife (a mezzaluna works great), slice into biscotti no thicker than ½ to 1 inch in width. Place them on their sides on the sheets and return to oven. Bake for 30 mins then switch sheets from top to bottom and bake for another 30 mins. If they feel dry enough, remove from oven. If not, turn off the heat, open the door, and let them sit until they are just how you like them. They're very forgiving, so if you forget and leave them oh, say, overnight, they won't be ruined. As long as the heat's off.


Fruit & Nut Holiday Biscotti:
Add 1/8 to 1/4 tsp fiori di sicilia flavoring (King Arthur flour sells it) or 1 tsp vanilla to egg, sugar, and oil mixture. Add a handful each of whole almonds (I like them unskinned) and fruitcake fruit (or your favorite mix of dried fruits) with flour. Proceed with rest of recipe.

Nutty White Biscotti:
Add 1 tsp vanilla to egg, sugar, and oil mixture. Add 1 tsp cinnamon to flour, and a handful each of white chocolate chips and walnuts. Proceed with rest of recipe.

You can add almost anything to these but no more than two handfuls total is plenty. If you have very large man hands then you may have to scale back a bit. Have fun and get crazy.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

On the 5th day of Xmas...

In the spirit of giving, I present to my darling Peaches, Showerz, and Kee Kee this blog, in the hope that they may no longer bitch about not being able to run amok with comments over on MySpace.