Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Best Part

New England's weather is a fickle bitch.

If you live here, I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. If you don't live here, well...then I'm very sorry.

We are deep in the throes of autumn. Look! Pretty leaves!

I said look, dammit.

When I woke up on Monday, it was 39 bone chilling degrees. Yesterday, it was tropically damp and warm with intermittent thunderstorms. I think it was 78 degrees when I left work. If not, it sure felt like it. Not quite hot enough that Mr. Scoop was complaining that his sac was sticking to his leg, but uncomfortable nonetheless. Air conditioning was run.

Last week, we used the fire place. Just saying.


The best part of meatloaf is the meatloaf sandwich. Behold last night's dinner. One crusty baguette filled with meatloaf and havarti cheese toasted until the bread was crispy and the cheese was melted. Yes, that is ketchup on the sandwich. In my world, you don't have meatloaf without ketchup.

The meatloaf recipe is an adaptation of the one I've used since I was old enough to have the responsibility of making dinner (12, if you're curious). It uses oatmeal instead of breadcrumbs as the filler. The result is an amazingly tender, non crumbly meatloaf. And it makes a fantastic sandwich.


1 1/4 lbs "meatloaf mix" (equal parts ground beef, pork and veal) or ground meat of your choice - just remember that the leaner the meat, the drier your results may turn out
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 c. milk
1/4 c. ketchup
1/4 c. hickory smoke flavored mustard (I like the Jack Daniel's brand)
3/4 c. old fashioned oats
1 small onion, diced fine
1/4 t. each of salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine the egg with the milk, ketchup, mustard, salt and pepper. Stir in the oats and let stand for about 15 minutes. Stir in the onions.
3. Add the ground meat and mix gently with clean hands until all is well combined. The fattier your ground meat is, the less you need to worry about "over combining" - which can lead to a tough loaf. If you are using lean meat, mix until everything is just combined.
4. Refrigerate the mixture for about 30 minutes to let flavors develop.
5. Spray a loaf pan with Pam and pat the meat mixture into it so that it is even on top. Bake for 1 hour. Remove to a cooling rack and let stand for 5-10 minutes. Slice into portions and serve! Should serve 4-6.

Alternately, instead of using a loaf pan, you can spray the top of a broiler pan with Pam and form the loaf on top of that. Then when the loaf cooks, the fat will drain away and you will get a crustier outside surface. You may want to glaze the outside of the loaf with about 4 oz of plain tomato sauce to which you've added some smoked paprika or chipotle chile powder (1/4-1/2 t.) and garlic salt (dash). Brush the glaze on and sprinkle it with about a 1/4 of a thinly sliced red onion before you pop it in the oven. It should still take about an hour. Look for an internal temperature of 160. Then let it rest, slice and serve.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Punched Drunk

The sound of breaking glass, accompanied by the crash of suddenly upturned furniture, shouts of anger and threats of violent bodily harm. Scenes from my last family reunion? No. This was a random fight that broke out at O'Brien's Pub in Allston last night during the "Punk Rock Comedy Show".

It was a thing of beauty. While Brendon Walsh was trying to explain to the crowd about glory holes at peep booths (I think), some punter developed the opinion that the guy next to him was beating up his girlfriend (not the punter's, the guy's own woman) and decided to mete out justice on the woman's behalf. Punches were thrown. The crowd's attention inexorably drawn to the fight, Walsh made the best of it by serenading the fighters with a little Tina Turner ("Private Dancer"). It was surreal and beautiful...and for some reason went on for at least 5 minutes before the bouncers decided to get involved.

Even before Tim McIntire or Doug Stanhope took the stage, it was already the best comedy show I've ever attended. And I say that having been very impressed earlier in the week by Steven Wright. But, that was just a very different show. The Providence Performing Arts Center is a gold leaf encrusted monument to old school "theatre". Sure, there's a bar, but you have to leave the theater to actually get a beer, which is a pain the in ass. As a consequence, you end up sober, listening to the insipid chatter from the soccer mommies seated in the row behind you while you wait for the show to start. Sure, you could get violent with them to shut them up, but with its proscenium arches, balcony box seating, and glittering curtains it's really not "that kind of place". By contrast, a live show in a room like O'Brien's is dark, scary and raw. You can easily get to the bar and stay lubricated for the whole show. Plus you, and all the other drunks around you, are right on top of the action and each other. Frankly, I would have been surprised if a fight hadn't broken out.

On a completely unrelated note, it's National Meatloaf Appreciation Day. Expect that I will be posting meatloaf recipes and pictures later today or tomorrow. We're big meatloaf fans here at Casa del Scoop.

But to bring the two subjects together as I close out this post (food and violence), here is a video short from Saturday Night Live's Andy Samberg: "People Getting Punched Just Before Eating" (also via Serious Eats).

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Shepherd's Pot

Today was really one of the first real "fall" days in New England. It stayed a crisp 62 or so all day, despite sunny conditions.

I have this rule that I won't wear socks until the first snow. Hell, I won't even bother with a jacket before then either (a sweater is ok, if you don't mind wearing the t-shirt that says "Colossal Pussy" over it). But, I will break down and make comfort food if there is the barest indication of fall chill in air.

Tonight, giddy with the prospect of comfort food looming on my horizon, I couldn't quite decide between baked stuffed potatoes, beef pot pie or shepherd's pie. So I made an amalgam of all of it. Behold Shepherd's Pot:

Shepherd's Pot

For Potato Topping

2 lbs. red potatoes
3 T. salt
1/3 c. half and half
2 T. butter
1 clove garlic, minced
8 oz. shredded Swiss cheese (I used Jarlsberg)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
black pepper to taste

For Beef Filling

12 oz. bag of frozen mixed corn, peas, carrots and green beans, cooked according to package directions
8 oz. mushrooms, medium dice (I used a mixture of crimini and shiitake)
4 shallots, sliced
2 T. olive oil
salt and pepper
1.25 lbs lean ground beef (I used 96% lean)
3/4 c. dry red wine
1/2 c. broth (chicken, beef or veggie)
2 t. corn starch
1.5 T. water
leaves from 6 sprigs of thyme

a 9"x13" casserole pan

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Make potato topping

1. Cut potatoes into large chunks and place in a 6 quart pot. Fill 3/4 of the way with cold water and add the salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork. Drain. Then add the potatoes back to the still warm pot and shake them around a bit to dry them out.

2. Mash the potatoes with a masher or a fork over medium low heat. Stir in the minced garlic. Add the butter and let it melt. Add the half and half. Stir until the liquid is absorbed by the potatoes. Then stir in the cheese, reserving a 1/2 c. Add black pepper to taste. Check seasonings. Let cool. Before using the potatoes as a topping, stir in the beaten eggs until well combined. Use to top the casserole.

Make beef filling

1. Heat a large heavy skillet over medium high heat. Saute the mushrooms and shallots until the shallots are translucent and the mushrooms are brown. Raise the heat to high. Add the beef, breaking it up with the back of a spoon. Cook until well browned. Add the cooked vegetables, the red wine and the broth. Bring to a boil and scrape the bottom of the pan for any browned, stuck bits. Add the water to the corn starch and stir until dissolved. Stir the corn starch mixture into the pan. Continue to stir until the mixture thickens a bit. Add the thyme and check for seasonings.

Make the casserole

1. Spray a 9"x13" casserole pan with Pam. Spread the beef filling on the bottom of the casserole. Spread the potato mixture carefully on top of the beef filling, smoothing with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle with reserved cheese and a few more grinds of black pepper. Cook in the oven for 25-30 minutes. If the casserole is not brown enough for you by the end of the cooking, run it under a broiler set to high for another 3 minutes (rotating as necessary). Casserole is done when it is browned on top and bubbling on the edges. Let it rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting into it.

Serves 6-8.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

This is blasphemy! This is madness!

This is, somehow, Zack Snyder's fault. My camera phone really didn't do the picture justice, but I snapped that...augmented...caution sign in front of the school's auditorium yesterday. Yes. It does show a little stick figure guy kicking another little stick figure guy until he was good and down. Like Leonidas, kicking a Persian messenger down a well...which is why it probably says "This Is Sparta!!!" underneath it all. I'm not sure what its intended purpose was - a message from the drama club to the band geeks, perhaps:

Drama: (whining...of course...)But we booked the auditorium so we could rehearse our scenes for our student written one acts! Gregory has this really great moment he just added where he talks about why he feels most comfortable in black clothes and wearing eyeliner...Did you know he hasn't taken his My Chemical Romance sweatshirt off for a month? It's so (choking up) brave.

Band: Well we need it to rehearse for the football game. People will actually come to the football game. Event attendance trumps emo wanking, bitches. (moves to enter the auditorium)

Drama: Oh that's it! Drama, give them nothing! But take from them everything!

And then a slap fight with some hair pulling ensues. And something about how tonight they would dine in the school cafeteria hell.

I should probably go grade some papers or something.