Thursday, August 20, 2009

Because Monkeys Are Funny

via boingboing

Monkeys and Japanese horror movies: two great tastes

Actually, you know what tastes really good together? Red wine and pasta.

Back in April, over on Serious Eats, Gina DePalma posted a recipe for Spaghetti All’Ubriaco. It's spaghetti, cooked in equal amounts of red wine and water, finished in the pan with garlic, red pepper flakes and even more red wine. I was intrigued by the idea and, when I was in Florence later that April, I mentioned to the tour guide who was leading our group that I'd be interested in trying the dish...only to be informed by him that no such dish possibly existed in Italian culture with the kind of tone that suggested that I was a stupid American for even bringing it up.

It wasn't the first disagreement about food that we'd had in the course of the trip. Earlier, we'd had a disagreement over whether or not calamari and seppia were the same thing which had resulted in a detour from the given tour into a fish market in Padua. Despite seeing the beasts side by side, he stubbornly continued to assert they were the same creature. I left the fish market feeling stabby and unable to numb my irritation with drink because I was chaperoning children. Sometimes, even a free trip has its downsides.

Oddly enough, he did bring us by the Piazza Santa Croce, where Gina DePalma found the osteria at which she had this dish. However, he did make up for the loss of that meal by taking us to a non-tourist frequented restaurant where I had my first taste of fresh young fava beans and Pecorino Toscano together...for which I curse him because they were fabulous and I can't find them in the markets around here - not even the really good Italian market two blocks from my home. Bastard.

When I got home from from Italy, I was (and am still slightly) obsessed with all things Italian cuisine. It didn't hurt that a wine shop that only carries Italian wine had just opened a half mile from where I live. I set out to try the All’Ubriaco pasta treatment almost immediately.

You can use pretty much any pasta. I've made this with spaghettini, bucatini and, most recently, gemelli. We found ourselves in the unusual position of having leftover red wine after a visit with the Manions, so we used the remaining Merlot to make the dish (and I do think it might be my favorite so far!). There were two and a half cups of wine left so, for 2 cups of short pasta, I used 2 cups of wine and 2 cups of water (and some salt...pasta cooking liquid needs salt!). Otherwise I just followed the procedure outlined in the recipe. I finished the dish with a sprinkling of Pecorino Crotonese, which the cheese guy at my Italian market tells me is similar to Pecorino Toscano but more aged. Use whatever pasta, wine and cheese you like though.

At some point, I hope to go back to Italy and see the country in a more leisurely fashion than the 7 cities in 8 days itinerary of the school trip allowed. The trick will be convincing Mr. Scoop of the boozeworthiness of the trip. I'm hoping it won't be a hard sell, after all Italy is a magical place where you can get your morning espresso with a side of grappa and no one judges you.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

It Is Too Damn Hot

My summer vacation is rapidly approaching its end. A large part of the vacation did not actually feel like summer because of the constant presence of overcast skies, 70 degree temperatures and the ever present threat of violent thunderstorms. However, New England weather is notoriously changeable.

This week, the last week or so of my vacation, we're averaging 90 temperatures. Look! The flowers are blooming in the town square!

I took these pictures and then went home and stood on top of the AC vent for an hour until I felt human. The neighbors who saw me through the open window and complained to the condo association can't actively prove that I was naked. And for that I will not actively try to key their cars the next time they park in the common space between our garages and block my ability to pull out of my garage and get to work on time. As far as they know.

Flaring tempers aside, when it gets this hot, one of the biggest challenges to a peaceful existence is trying to feed yourself without making the temperature in your abode more uncomfortably warm than it probably already is. For that, I like to employ a couple of recipes and one nifty gadget.

Shrimp Salad on Brioche

You can make the salad a completely no-cook recipe by using frozen cooked shrimp (thawed, unless you're some kind of mutant who likes to eat frozen shrimp. I won't judge. Actually, yes. Yes, I will judge you. Freak.). I like to use frozen raw shrimp for this because it gives me an excuse to get away from the heat and stick my head in the chest freezer while I rummage around looking for the shrimp.


Shrimp Boil
1 T. whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf, whole
4 sprigs of parsley
2 T. salt
3/4 lb shrimp (unshelled), large

1/4 c. reduced fat mayonnaise
1/2 T. fresh lemon juice
2 T. minced parsley
1/2 T. thyme, fresh
1/8 t. salt
1/8 t. white pepper
1/3 c. finely diced celery
2 scallions, minced

1. Add the salt, peppercorns, parsley and bay leaf to a 5- to 6-quart pot of water. Bring to a boil and add the shrimp, stirring occasionally, until shrimp are just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer shrimp with a slotted spoon to a platter. When shrimp are cool enough to handle, peel, then chill, covered, until completely cold, about 1 hour.

2. Whisk together mayonnaise, lemon juice, parsley, thyme, salt, and pepper in a large bowl and chill until ready to use.

3. Devein shrimp and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Season with salt and pepper, then add to dressing along with celery and scallions, and toss to combine. Serve immediately.

Breadmaker Brioche

Using the breadmaker lets you bake awesome, homemade bread in the height of the summer heat without heating up your kitchen. It's a no-brainer, really.

Brioche is lightly sweet, rich and eggy. It is what Legal Seafoods uses to make the buns for their lobster rolls. Being a fan of that, it seemed that the bread should be a natural match for my shrimp salad. If you would rather use hot dog buns, knock yourself out, but you'll be missing out on the awesomeness of brioche made lovingly by a coutertop robot who only exists to make you happy with warm, fresh bread. You don't want to make the robots angry. That's how you get Skynet.

Before you get started, be sure to outfit your breadmaker pan with its paddle so it's ready to go.

Whisk together:
1/3 c. half and half
3 eggs, large
3 T. sugar
3/4 t. salt

Pour that mixture into the breadmaker pan. Sprinkle over it:
1/4 c. cold butter, cut into small cubes

Top the liquid and butter with:
3 1/3 c. bread flour

Place the pan in the breadmaker. Make a small indentation into the flour with your knuckle. Pour into the indentation:
1 t. breadmaker yeast (or normal, dried "active yeast")

Close the breadmaker lid. Plug the machine in. If your maker has a setting for sweet bread, set it for that. Otherwise, use the white bread setting. Set the loaf size (if you have that option) for 1.5 lbs. Press start. Go relax until the bread is done.

When the bread is done, remove it from the pan to a cooling rack. Let it cool for at least a half hour (preferably an hour) before trying to slice it.


We divided the shrimp salad between four slices of brioche and folded up the open faced sandwiches to eat, taco style. Go with whatever sandwich to face delivery system works best for you.

Stay cool!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pool's Closed...

Gah. Look. Look at the humanity. Pressed up all at me.

Fetch me hand sanitizer and a fifth of Jack Daniels. Stat.

This is the last swell of the convention floor, right before the siren call of evening panels and the bar.

Oh God, they're going to follow us to the bar...

Yep. Despite our best efforts, we've landed in bar that seems to have denizens that are a cross between those that Patrick Bateman would kill...and furries.

You can't see the furries in this picture.

You can thank me later.

Ultimately, we arrived in our own hotel bar.

Is there anything more comforting, after a certain point? It's 10:50pm Pacific time right now. My brain thinks it's almost 2 in the morning local time. It wants to be in a place where it can booze itself into oblivion and then lay down with a minimum of difficulty after that kind of experience. Especially when contact with the unwashed masses is involved.

God, why did I leave the house?!!?

Oh, yeah. Vacation.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

In Which We Have Arrived In San Diego

Good morning, internets.

We have arrived in San Diego. When I woke up this morning, it was to the clanging of the umpteenth train to roll through the vicinity since we got into our room last night at 8:30pm. I think when Steven Tyler and company came up with the idea for "Train Kept A Rollin'" it wasn't about all night sex with a beautiful woman. I think they were trying to get some sleep in downtown San Diego and the woman is actually a metaphor for the rail system of greater San Diego County.

Mr. Scoop was already up when I awoke. I know this because, in response to the train he was standing on the adjoining balcony shouting, "Good morning, San Diego! Check out my wang!" I gently reminded him that, although several bail bondsmen's offices are in walking distance from our hotel, I was of the opinion that it is rather too early in our trip to need to avail ourselves of them. He reluctantly came inside.

We are shortly going to go forth in search of Vicodin whiskey food. It has also come to our attention that nearby there is a deli with a liquor store inside. San Diego is a magical place where you can buy booze at CVS. I come from a Puritan land where they have only in the past few years allowed our fair citizens to buy booze on a Sunday in a liquor store.

Pray for us.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

I Think We Have A Winner

Mr. Scoop and I have been searching for a worthy successor to the trainwreck of reality tv that was WB Superstar. Behold:

Dance Your Ass Off

From their site:

Twelve finalists, nearly 3,000 lbs, one goal -- to go from an eating machine to a dancing machine...Each contestant is paired with a professional dance partner who will train him or her for weekly stage performances -- ranging from Hip Hop, to Ballroom and even Pole Dancing! Then they shake and rattle their rolls in front of a live studio audience and a panel of expert judges.

Oh. I cannot hit "Favorite" on the Tivo fast enough.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to procure a gallon of whiskey, a beer hat and a box of Depends. Reality TV awesomeness awaits!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

I Can Has Cheezburger!

No. It's not a LOLcat. It's better. It's an actual cheeseburger.

This burger is about the cheese. I wanted to take advantage of a particularly yummy Gorgonzola Dolce in my fridge before it turned into a science experiment. Well, more of one anyway.

The nice thing about using turkey is that it frees you up from the constraints of burger purism. Beef based burgers have a lot of baggage. Use only beef. Don't put any binders or flavorings in it other than salt, otherwise you're making meatloaf, douchebag. It must be a grind of at least 80% beef and 20% fat. You are grinding your own beef, right? If you don't grind your own meat, you're an asshole. You may as well eat at McDonald's. God, you suck. Use a griddle. Poseurs grill. And make sure you cook it medium rare. Oh, wait no, you can't do that. Buy a thermometer and make sure it's at least 160 degrees FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON'T YOU KNOW YOU'LL DIE OF THE BACTERIAL ICK?!?!?!? Why are you even bothering? Clearly, you don't know what you're doing. Is that a brioche bun? Where are the Martin's Potato Rolls, for fuck's sake! You don't love the burger like I do! NO BURGER FOR YOU!!!

Sometimes, I think I should spend less time reading the Intertrons and more time outside. Then, I open another beer.

Using turkey breast accomplishes two things. One, it takes the "how done should this be?" out of the equation. It's poultry. Cook it until it's done. Two, it's an extremely mild flavored, lean meat. Moisture is added by mixing in shallots and shredded cheese. The focus of the flavor of this burger should be on the cheese. You can use whatever cheeses make you happy with this particular recipe. I've done variations swapping smoked Monterey Jack for some or all of the Mozzarella. Mr. Scoop enjoyed his burger with a slice of Pepper Jack instead of the Gorgonzola. It's your damn burger; enjoy it anyway you like.

Blue Cheese Turkey Burger

1.3 lbs ground turkey breast
1 c. shredded Mozzarella
1 shallot, finely minced
2 t. soy sauce
1 t. Worcestershire sauce
1/8 t. ground white pepper
cooking spray
4 oz. Gorgonzola Dolce (or other blue cheese)
4 hamburger buns, split

1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Mix the first 6 ingredients until well combined. Shape the meat mixture into 4 patties.

3. Spray a large, heavy skillet with cooking spray. Heat to medium high. Place the patties into the skillet and cook on one side for 6 minutes. Flip the patties and place into the oven to cook for 6 minutes.

4. Remove the skillet from the oven. Divide the Gorgonzola evenly over the patties. Place the skillet back into the oven to cook for about 1 more minute. The Gorgonzola should be soft spreadable at this stage, but not melted so much that it is running off the burger.

5. When the cheese has softened, remove the patties from the skillet and place them in the hamburger buns. Serve immediately with whatever condiments you like.

Serves 4.

Oh, and here's a LOLcat:

Dis mah brudder fum anudder mudder

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Drinking Independently

Annual Open Container Violation Night Independence Day has come and gone. We stood on the corner of our street and Other More Major Thoroughway with uniformed guys that might have been cops, but probably were firemen from the station across the street. We watched the finale of the town's fireworks display. It was pretty cool. The uniforms ignored my Dunkin' Donuts travel mug of Sauvignon Blanc the way they ignored the Mexicans a block up firing cherry bombs and bottle rockets into the airspace across the street from the local chop shop. God bless America.

Right now we're watching the Tivo'd Boston Pops Fourth of July festivities. I used to actually make my way to the Esplanade to see the Boston show in person. The problem with that is you need to make the commitment to spend the whole day by the banks of the Charles River. I love that dirty water as much as the next Bostonian, but I also hate my fellow Bostonians. Plus, sneaking booze into the Boston Pops show requires getting a space by the river proper. That means you get to the park by 8am or you don't bother at all. The reason for the river space is so that you can hide your booze in the water. I would generally make 64 oz. of sangria in Rubbermaid punch containers and float them in the river, avoiding scrutiny from the ever-present Man. Buddies would show up with coolers containing 2 liter Coke bottles. Half the Coke had been emptied and replaced with Bacardi. But you have to show up early and get your shit settled. The later in the day you get there, the greater the likelihood someone would toss your stuff to make sure it didn't contain any possibility of you actually having fun. As I just can't be bothered with the early rise and the logistics these days, now I just Tivo it and drink at home.

I can drink without fear that some douche will come down on me for trying to make my surroundings more interesting. I can enjoy flashbang explosions in a properly medicated state.

Oh, and on HDTV, Keith Lockhart looks like a painted whore.

Happy Fourth of July!