Friday, January 13, 2012

My hero

Years ago, as a teenager, I thought my future was being a cartoonist. My inspiration came from many sources, but my favorite cartoonist of all time was George Booth of New Yorker fame. This cartoon was my absolute favorite and continues to be the absolute essence of cartooning for me.

And interestingly, if you were to ask me what image encapsulated my life - this would still be the one I chose.

I love and treasure George Booth's work, as I love and treasure my own life. Not surprising that the two meet somewhere.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Cooking With Chlorine - Episode 1: "It's in the bag"

As many of you who either know me or follow this strange little blog of mine will know, I love to cook and to entertain.  My kitchen is full of gadgets and gizmos and my adoring husband keeps me very happy by keeping me stocked in all the latest and greatest offerings by Williams Sonoma and others.

This year, my Santa brought me the All-Clad Slow Cooker with Anodized Aluminum Insert that can be used on stove to or in the oven to sear, braise or saute - then placed back into the slow cooker for a deliciously slow cooked finish.   Santa also brought me a Calphalon Frittata pan set.  OOO-EE!

Anyway - this is like food porn to me, so I have been slow cooking and frittata-ing everything in sight.  This resembles last years Mario Battali Panini Pan episode, where everything in my house, at some point, became a pressed sandwich.

But I digress.

Yesterday, as I was helping the husband out at the flower shop, so his partner could take a day off, I ran some deliveries and generally helped around the store.

As I left around lunch time to deliver a funeral piece to the town just north of us, he said, "Why don't you stop at McDonald's on the way back and pick up some lunch?"

Now - we're not big fast food eaters.  We do try to plan and eat better meals than that, but some days - you just  need a Big Mac and some fries.  So, I said, "fine."

When I returned to the shop, our friend Estella (originally from Oaxaca) arrived almost simultaneously with some freshly home-made quesadillas made with her own corn tortillas, queso blanco and chili verde - with a fresh avocado guacamole as an accompaniment.

The McDonalds bag was summarily dismissed to the corner of the design room and many quesadillas were devoured.

As we were preparing to close the shop and head home, I  - the one of the Midwestern upbringing with two grindingly poor sets of depression era grandparents who made my own parents think they were living in their own depression - thought about what a waste it was to just throw away a $14.00 bag of food, just like that.  After all - couldn't parts of it be reheated or repurposed?

Then it hit me.  I needed to find a way to repurpose what was in that bag and create something entirely new.

Now, I don't watch enough TV to know if someone else has done this as a chef's challenge or an elimination round or whatever.  If they have, I'm not aware of it and I am definitely not purposely copying something someone else has already done.

And frankly, I am not interested enough to Google, so shut up.

Game on.

Sunday - the challenge 

Hubby wanted to document this, so he created a visual for what may or may not become a series here - "Cooking with Miss Chlorine."  For which, he appropriated my drink and raided my collection of 1950s hostess aprons.


Here we see the raw ingredients of what I had to work with.  A double Quarter Pounder with cheese, a McChicken sandwich, a six-piece Chicken McNugget with honey-mustard sauce, and two large french fries.

My plan was to desconstruct the various elements to their basest nature to be re-used as I would other, more normal (and healthier) elements.  So, I scraped the buns and meat clean, chopped the burgers, diced the chicken and hacked the fries into uniform length potato bits.

Here are the deconstructed elements plus the chopped onions and farm fresh eggs I planned to use to create two very distinct frittatas.

To start, I sauteed the onions in some olive oil an added - in order - the chopped french fries, cooked until they started to crispy-brown;  the chopped burgers with cheese; and finally, a handful of the chopped buns. I lightly seasoned the entire pan with some Montreal Steak seasoning for a flavor punch.

Now the egg mixture was prepared.  Four fresh eggs, a splash of milk, and a dash  of the Montreal Steak seasoning.  Then poured into the pan.

I prepared the frittata as you would an omelette.  Letting the runny eggs bits drizzle down the edges as it cooks, until you're left with a lovely and only slightly raw eggy top.  Then with the brilliant pans I have, you hook the second over the first pan, flip them and let the frittata finish for about four minutes.

Once the frittata is flipped to finish off, you can attend to other chores - such as refilling ones drink.

Once the frittata is completed,  it appears puffy and golden brown in the pan.

Now it's off to the oven to stay warm at about 170 degrees while we prepare frittata number two!

Fortunately, we remembered that as morning was getting on and we were working with somewhat hazardous materials, Brian made sure to take a double dose of his high cholesterol medications to bolster his chances of seeing tomorrow.  

"I'm not cutting you loose, you know...they'll all be after you...," he slurred at me.  "Sure - 
I may die, but I'm coming back.  To haunt you.  With clowns. See if I don't, you bastard."

"Does this big bottle really say 'take with food'?"

[Cut to me, singing "Somewhere over the rainbow"]  and 5...4...3...2...1..

So - I wanted to create something at least a little different than the Double Quarter Pounder frittata, so I decided to steer our culinary journey towards France and came away with the idea that I would make a Chicken Frittata Provencal.

To start, I sauteed the aromatics - a little onion, some celery and a clove of garlic in the frittata pan and added a pinch of the diced fries for a starch.

Atop this, I added the diced Chicken McNuggets and the diced McChicken Sandwich patty, with a generous handful of freshly diced parsley and a good sprinkling of Herbes de Provence.

To the egg mixture, I added the packet of honey mustard dipping sauce.  I then poured it over the pan contents and repeated the steps outlined before.Once complete, I sprinkled some more fresh parsley across the top of the frittata and placed it in the oven to stay warm.

Now, the only remaining  piece of the puzzle was what to do with the rest of the food?  The last of the fries and the hamburger sat greasy and congealed  - thoroughly unappetizing in their icky cold greasiness.

But I espied the chopped bun bits and cried, "CROUTONS!", at which point Brian and two dogs fled the room, having absolutely no idea what the hell as going on.

I threw together a quick Romaine lettuce and garden radish salad with a Basil olive oil and red wine vinaigrette. 

 Once the croutons were finished, I prepared our plates.  One of us had the hamburger-based frittata, the other the chicken.

The outcome:

Okay - I have to be honest here.  I half expected something good to come from this.

The high point of this brunch was the croutons and salad.  They were absolutely the least inoffensive part of the entire meal.

However, that's not to say they were without fault.  The bun materials reacted with the vinaigrette in a way I've never experienced.  Instead of the croutons merely becoming soggy or soppy, they literally dissolved into a gummy paste-like structure that B equated to eating snails (not that he'd know - but he probably did chew his pencil erasers in grade school, so I gave him a pass). Needless to say, it was disgusting.

The Quarter Pounder frittata struggled to be somewhat worthwhile, but - in the end - ended up tasting like a big old greasy two-day old hamburger that someone blessed on to eternity with a fried egg as a final offering.

But as bad as that was, nothing had prepared us for the Chicken Frittata Provencal.  This was just nasty.  But beyond the basic, elemental nastiness of it, it was a struggle of good against evil.

B looked at me and said, "I taste what I want to like...the herbs, the eggs...but the rest of it - it's like 'hey there - let's put the worst possible ingredients EVER in here and see if anyone notices'. "

And it was true.  The chicken paste/melange/horror show that comprised the McSandwichThing and the McNuggets had become this god-awful, other-worldly anti-food that sucked anything tasty or joyful or lovely into a pasty, disgusting blech-fest of sputum and bad word hurling.

You could literally taste the good ingredients shouting, "Fuck this!" as you attempted to eat the damned egg product.

"You have blasphemed against  us," they seemed to say.  "You have defiled us by putting us in this damnable concoction that only serves to show how you as a species have let yourselves go - falling into the abyss of the feeble and uninspired - the slothful and indigent - happy to be fed whatever pap your eventual torpor-inducing overlords deem worthy to serve you."

Dude - spices and condiments can get really angry and will read your ass.  Trust me.  Especially the European ones.  I once had to skip work for a day after a bottle of HP Sauce kicked my ass.

Anyway - the end result was - this 'food' was shit.  It wasn't even worthy of being in my kitchen.

I - we- are taking a new look at this kind of food as we realize, it isn't real food at all.

I mean - I can take a $3 chuck steak and make it taste like dinner at the Ritz.  I can take root vegetables and make a soup that will make you think you've died and are riding on a velvet covered bed to heaven.

But you can't turn crap into non-crap.  I was so disappointed, but not really surprised. 

It's a glaring statement about what we've settled for.

I really hope to share more positive food experiences on this blog - but I had to share this one, even if nothing else comes of it.  

This was non-food.  It was disgusting and vile and wrong.  And as much fun as the hubby and I had doing it, it was a regrettable waste of good food (onions, herbs and eggs) trying to make a silk purse from a sow's ear.

And even that would probably have tasted better.