Sunday, April 08, 2007

Boy, She's Waiting There For You

Much of what Jesus said boils down to put up or shut up, which is pretty good advice. Actions count in this world. I'm sure of this because when people talk to me now I feel my eyes slide off their faces and into space. I can't do anything but freeze and hope I look like I'm still there, but Christ, I'm nervous whenever someone draws a fucking breath to talk. Naturally, then, I went out to dinner last night with my erstwhile drinking buddies for Sharkey's birthday. The woman across the table didn't let me get away with disappearing for even seconds, which Sharkey knew would be good for me. I felt like that woman was stabbing me in the forehead. We had a great conversation. Today, I'm ready to start putting me back together like I mean it.

Dad died and gave me homework.

This morning, I made coffee, went out for a good long walk and bought seeds to try growing basil, lettuce and cilantro in small kitchen-size pots. Last year, the kitchen herb garden failed when not a speck of sunlight hit the plants, but I am Italian. If we find a pile of dust in our kitchens we plant basil. I need basil plants in my kitchen. I need them! I've put up a grow light and hope the DEA realizes fresh herbs are actually good for you.

The books fall into three general categories: bread, herbs and spices and Jacques Pepin. I am interested in or frustrated by these topics - or both. I called Dad quite often to discuss something as simple as why a recipe might call for an ingredient, and could I substitute another? Sometimes, Dad would say, "Sure, and don't stop there." Sometimes, Dad would say, "Do that, and you will die before dessert." Cooking may be frought with peril, but as you can see from the breadmaking gadgets pictured, Dad's legacy to me is not one of objects but of curiosity. Of the item on the right he said, "It's your job to learn what it is and how to use it." In essence, he left each of his children keys to different kingdoms, connected and changing, and very much alive.

This is the clay pot he wanted to talk about the day I roasted the chicken. He was too weak to explain to me the use of this vessel, so Daria wrapped it up for me with the proviso that I learn how to cook with it. The challenge appealed to me, since I had no information as to the pot's pedigree. The instructions say there's no need to add fat for cooking. Hmm. The instructions also say to soak the pot for ten or fifteen minutes before use.

Damn right, I brined.

This is a cornish game hen bathed overnight in the fridge in Dad's basic brine formula plus Italian seasoning, pepperoncini and cracked black pepper. Consider brining insurance against dry fowl when using a new cooking method. Anyway, while this looks grim and like the Ground Zero of a cross-contamination holocaust, it's actually fantastic and you should try it. Refrigeration and enthusiastic use of disinfectant on hands, surfaces and tools will save your life. If you choose not to disinfect, please call me so I can laugh at you.

Location, location, location.

It turned out beautifully. The flavor was exciting, the meat really moist, the skin crisp. The potatoes had steamed and roasted. The bed of onion and carrot turned into a nice jus. This experiment was a complete success. Figuring out how to share my findings with the LongItalianLastName Food Science Committee may be beyond me. The thing is just too small. That hen's stuffed in there nicely but a full size chicken? I'm not so sure. I'll have to try that next.

The instructions also say this clay pot can be used to bake bread, which I'll try next weekend. The clay is supposed to create an excellent crust. It's an interesting possibility.

In the meantime, I polished my toenails, fixed my manicure and Naired my mustache. I'm considering taking a glass of wine and Shirley Corriher's Cookwise and spending an hour in the bathtub after the Mythbusters quit blowing up stuff. After a month of no TV, it's a joy to watch a good, vigorous explosion. Today is Miss Sasha's birthday and Easter. Plan your own resurrection accordingly.


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