Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Pie

HOLY SHITBALLS!!!!  I just received a confession!  It was actually Sinclair who threw out "accidentally" my chipolte peppers.  Saboteur!!!  Please continue reading...

I don’t eat Turkey.  Even though I started eating meat a few years ago, I cannot seem to bring myself to eat birds.  They just freak me out, like eating a terradctyl or something.  So, my thanksgiving traditions have usually been about other things like the side dishes and oysters and champagne (strangely this year is I think the FIRST that involved no champagne or oysters).  But the most important part of Thanksgiving for me is the pie!  I love pie.  Actually, I should say that I love to bake pie.  I love making crust and tweaking my recipes until they are perfectly mine and now part of my tradition.  Making this pumpkin pie every year with the sounds of the Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade in the background on tv really makes me feel safe and homey no matter where I have lived when I make it.  The smell of the spices cooking signals something internal in me that it’s officially the holiday season.  This year it was a little different.  It was just the two of us…me and Schmoo.  And it was great. 

The night before I roasted the pumpkin, after getting the knife stuck in the pumpkin and panicking for about 45 minutes.  In this tear soaked time, I was not only questioning why I wanted to start the pie after working all day and night but also thinking of some of the more hilarious Thanksgiving misgivings I’ve been a part of.  I thought of a thanksgiving back in the late 70’s when my uncle and I set up a cassette recorder and placed it under the “adult table” so we could find out what was really going on.  For years afterward, we kept the secret of this tape safe and just between us.  We were convinced that one day we would be able to use “the evidence” as blackmail for something we needed desperately when the time seemed appropriate.  I thought about one of the years that Bryan and Sinclair hosted Thanksgiving and Bryan and I cooked just about everything imaginable, and he “accidentally” threw away my chipolte peppers that I was going to use for my sweet potatoes and the whole rest of the evening I was convinced of sabotage.  I thought of the year I spent at my ex-in laws and noticed that they served a dish they called a “pretzel salad” that seemed to consist of red jello, pretzels, and marshmallows all congealed together.  When I asked the grandmother about it she said she never eats it herself but always makes it because it looks so pretty on the plate.  I thought about my years of tofurkey, or carb fest dinners when I didn’t eat meat.  I thought about all the years I worked at a restaurant on Thanksgiving!  I thought about drinking whisky from a flask at the parade and watching one of the balloons come crashing down on broadway.  And I thought about the future and wondered what sort of things will be my traditions when I have my own family.  I’ve spent thanksgiving with a lot of different people.  Sometimes at my home, sometimes at others, sometimes with family, sometimes with friends, coast to coast, year to year only two things have remained the same: Schmoo and this pie.    Enjoy!

Carolyn’s Maple Pumpkin Pie (originally swiped from Martha Stewart about 10 years ago but it’s been adapted and molded over the years and now it’s mine.)

13/4 cups pumpkin pureed. (one small pumpkin roasted for about 45 minutes at 325 cut in half with olive oil rubbed on cut halves will yield 1 3/4 cups puree).
1/2 cup good quality maple syrup
1/4 cup maple sugar (available at whole foods and the like)
1/4 cup sugar (either white granulated or sugar in the raw)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup low fat milk
4 eggs
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Piecrust for two pies.  Use the second piecrust to make fall leaf cut outs to decorate the top of the pie. 

In my years of baking and sharing recipes with friends and family, I’ve learned that piecrust is extremely personal and apparently private.  I get that now, but once upon a time I did not.  One of the first years I had spent thanksgiving at Bryan and Sinclair’s, I dared to ask Bryan for his recipe for his delicious pie crust and he looked at me with an expression that I can only describe as the one that Joan Crawford wore before she hauled off and knocked Christina flat on her ass in Mommy Dearest and he pretty much said get your own damn pie crust recipe.  So…get your own piecrust recipe bitches!

  1. prepare pie crust at 400 degrees for about 12 minutes. 2. Heat pumpkin in a heavy pan stirring often.  3.  Add milk and cream, stir to smooth but do not let it boil.  4.  With your mixer, beat eggs and sugars until smooth then add dry spices. Beat in flour, then add maple syrup.  5.  Beat hot pumpkin mixture into egg mixture.  It should be hot but not so hot as to cook the eggs.  6.  Carefully pour hot filling into hot pie crust. (valuable life lesson:  pour most of filling into pie crust then return pie dish to center of over rack and using a ladle pour the rest of the filling in…otherwise you end up spilling filling all over your oven as you slide the pie into center of rack).  7.  Bake at 400 degrees.  Every oven is different.  Your pie is done when the outside edge of pie filling is firm and a little puffy but the center is still jiggly.  8.  Remove pie and let cool on a rack (the pie will continue to cook or “set” outside of oven).  9. Once cool completely store in the fridge until about an hour before serving.  10.  I use leaf shaped cookie cutters to make decorative crust topping.  See photo!  11.  I serve this with fresh whipped cream (with a healthy dose of rum or cognac or whisky whisked into the cream).  

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My Forking Heroes!

How many of us have dreams?  How many of us have ideas?  How many of us have tried and tried to make it happen until one day we took a look around us and realized that we weren’t having any fun trying any more?  Well I know a couple of ladies who have put the fun and inspiration back into dreams and ideas. 

Forking Fantastic hits the bookstores today people!  A heartfelt, finger-licking congrats to Tamara Reynolds and Zora O’Neill the authors of Forking Fantastic!

One of the things I absolutely loved (read: now miss dearly) about my few years living in the wild, wild west  was  that everyone had dinner parties.  Everyone has parties and they don’t take place at bars…well not always at least.  And people shop for and cook and bake…in their homes!  They bring cookies to work and talk about what they made for dinner over the weekend.  Everything’s easy breezy and all about good people chilling out over a glass of wine (or many bottles perhaps) and good times.  In that spirit my friends, here in New York, created  the now infamous “Sunday Night Dinners”  which was in its’ origins a simple gathering of fabulous friends and fabulous food…the almighty dinner party.  It slowly became known as a moveable feast, an underground restaurant of sorts, and just a plain ol’ wacky  good time…the location changed, the menu changed, the guestlist changed, but the ladies stayed true to one thing…fucking amazing food and fun!  Along the way they took pictures, they blogged about the mishaps and successes, they sent out invites with the menu that usually made you smile and always made you hungry, and they cooked…and apparently someone else (besides us) paid attention!  And now they have a book! 

Oh but this is, of course, the simplified version of the story.  The one fit for family story hour.  What some of us are priviledged to know is a little bit more of how they got here.  I don’t want to give too much away…we’ll  save that for their Vh-1 behind the story special in a few years…but what I will tell you is a lot about how awesome I think they are and a little about how magical life is.

See…one day I started working as a manager of this restaurant you may have heard of, The Tasting Room.  A, now sadly closed, restaurant in which the lives of all the employees who came and went will forever, sickly be intertwined due to our passion, loyalty, and integrity and absolute love we had for this place.  And one day, this lady…a lively, redheaded story teller was totally holding court at Family meal…telling a story and holding everyone captivated whether  they realized it or not, because she was so fucking loud.  You could actually hear her laugh from down the street…and I thought she was hilarious.  We kept eyeing each other in that way that two people realize they know each other from a previous life do.  Are you an actor?  Are you a singer?  Are you a dancer?  Where did you work before?  Oh, did you ever work here?  What about there?  No?  How about there?  And finally.  Finally…we tracked it back to almost 10 years earlier.  Was it really that long ago?  Maybe 9.  And we figured out that we worked with each other for about 2 months in a place that shall go nameless because the scars it left on us are already indelible and unforgettable enough (I will tell you that in the 90’s in NYC almost everybody spent time in this place and it was commonly referred to as BootCamp).  And we bonded over hideous memories of our past work experience.  The funny thing is that in the 10 years between we both traveled and moved and worked in a million different places to only land in the same place…working at a restaurant together with a ton of creative ideas and trying to see which one would stick.  She told me about her Sunday Night Dinners.  Often when we worked together, she would talk to me about the menu planning or some funny story about what happened at last week’s dinner. I talked to her about writing about food and wine.  I shared with her some of my ideas for stories and blogs.  She told me about some of her ideas for food shows and guidebooks.  But mostly, we told stories, we drank, and we laughed.  And then one day she quit.  She went to go be a wine buyer. She had a French speaking assistant, I’ll never forgive her for that!  We stayed in touch.  I went to Sunday night dinners.  The instructions are to bring the cash donation and a bottle of wine.  Marisa and I showed up with two brown grocery bags full of vino and we had already been drinking champagne all day…it wasn’t pretty but we had fun.  Then one day Tamara  came in to see us at The Tasting Room, in the afternoon before we were open and she walked into the office and announced she and Zora were getting their book deal.  “And now all we have to do is write it.”  And with that, I thought.  Life is great.  If you do something that is fun and inspiring people will enjoy it and if you do it your own unique way…there is always a story.  And I truly believe that in life my favorite people are the ones who always know that there is a story and they can’t wait to tell it to you.  And most importantly, they laugh at their own jokes!

So here’s to Zora and Tamara!  Here’s to ya’ll getting over to their website and/or amazon and purchasing the book right now.   And here’s to genius redheads stickin’ together!  And mostly, here’s to dreams and ideas!  

On another funny note:  the first restaurant that Tamara and I worked at many moons ago was also the place where the owner , knowing I was a writer, asked me if I wouldn’t like to have Ruth Reichl’s job one day and write about food and wine (Ruth was at the time the Ny times food critic and of course went on to write hilarious books and is the editor in chief at Gourmet).  I laughed.  See, at the time, I wrote “serious” drama.  I have since met Ruth and not only think she’s a genius and way cool but would fucking kill for her job.  How’s that for laughing at your own jokes?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Peaches and Cream

It's been a funny year for me.  People I know have come to live in NYC, people I haven't seen for a really long time have visited NYC and some really important people in my life have left NYC.  One came back.  One is thinking about coming back.  And one just left.  Being a New Yorker myself, whenever people leave this city (including myself a few times) I always think of the passage in the Allan Gurganus book "Plays Well with Others" where the narrator says (die hard fans please forgive my loose quotation here)..."there are four days in the life of a new yorker.  the day you first see it.  the day you move there.  the day you move away.  and the day you move back."

This, of course, pertains to non-natives.  But,  I'm just sayin'...seriously.  It is hard to live here.  It is hard to not live here.  But, sometimes you just gotta go.  And people say oh, things will stay the same, we won't change, the city will always be here, we'll always be friends.  And I'm here to tell you that is not always the case.  People change.  New York changes.  We move on, we forget, we don't answer the phone or return that email and then all of a sudden you realize it's been a week or a month or a year and you loose touch with someone you love.  I mean especially in the restaurant business, we work day in day out with people for years and the second they leave it's as if it was all a dream.  But.  Every once in a while.  Every now and again, you get caught between the moon and New York City, you meet someone and you know in your shriveled black heart, down in your little broken toes, you know that you will know that person forever.  

And I know that at some point.  Like, when I'm 103 and she's 91 that Megan Uber and I will still be stuffing our faces with peanut butter filled pretzels and looking for the next bottle of Champagne.  I mean, we'll have to buzz for the nurses to bring it.  And Uber's got a small bladder so we'll have to have the catheter changed first but there are things you know.

So, yeah.  I know this is supposed to be a food/drink blog.  And it is. But that's just it for me.  People are food and wine.  Not in a soylent green sort of way.  But, for me all of my memories of people get all twisted up with my memories of food and where we were when we ate something or what bar we had that drink in.  And this is how it is for every body in my life.  If you mention some one to me, I almost instantly think of a food or beverage I associate with them.  I never realized it until I began working on a book about my food and beverage memories but that's how it is.  

And when I started thinking about Uber leaving and thinking about obvious things like how much I'd miss her, I started thinking less about her (sorry babes) and more about the food and drinks I connect her with in my memories.  Well, okay not less.  I take that back.  I'm trying to say that a lot of my memories of our good times co-star some things and it's not about that party or that joke or that song or that book.  I mean, that's obvious.  We're good friends we got that shit too (last day at TTR, love sticks, shorty got low, lolita).

So because I like to write about food and wine and booze...and because I will miss you...I do miss you, I wanted to also write about you.  Because I know things, Uber.   Like:  the day I knew we were clearly starring in our own tv series in our brains was years ago.  I walked into the office and asked very casually "what's up peaches?" and you replied very casually "what's up cream?"  That was it.  I was like, who the hell does this bitch think she is?  I mean, sure, there was the fact that we would race to see who could spin around faster in her swivel chair, or the fact that you would get in a cab and go pick me up a lobster roll all the way downtown, or compile lists of late night restaurants without batting an eye.

I also know that I was there the first time you tried an oyster.  The FIRST oyster!  I love that day.  I love that you love oysters now!  See, now you go try to have champagne and oysters and see who the hell you think of, huh?  Me.  That's right.  Yeah, whatever!  Sure, you'll think of some dude too but at some point you will get all tipsy and you'll trick someone into ordering a bottle of Selosse and everything will get all fuzzy as the flashback approaches and you'll think of my shiny red hair and tell some charming story about how hilarious and pretty I am...I know.

I mean, really.  Brighton Beach...I think of love sticks and that dude who had the chest hair growing in the pattern of a bulletproof vest.  I think of eating cherries and melting chocolate covered almonds while drinking Fontsainte rose.  Delicious.

Christmas, I think of poo-lar bear pooping little black licorice jelly beans on the floor and I think of the fact that I totally tried to pass off the fact that I hadn't put anchovies in the deviled eggs or pork in the greens that I gave to your brother!  oops.  What do you want from me?  I was drunk.  It's christmas!  Baby Jesus, the Grinch, poo-lar bear and shots of Applejack.  C'mon ya'll.  And for the record...Uber's brother does not believe in dinosaurs so he pretty much had it coming okay?

I think of snack packs of dried fruit from that magical mystery place you always tell me the name of but I can never remember and I'll never have them again because I can never remember the name. Damn you!

I think of our pretend slumber party where we were just going to drink champagne and eat ice cream.  And I think of Adulterated Ice Cream flavors.

I think of our other pretend slumber party: the coat check at work.  I love that place!  There's always cookies and mini-peanut butter cups, bananas and apples, cherries (when seasonally appropriate of course), coffees, teas (iced for me and hot for you and sascha), yogurt, leftover family meal, bagels, and how whenever I drink the kombucha drinks I get all hyper and crazy. Or whenever I eat cupcakes that Linda brings I get all hyper and crazy.

I think of our almost slumber party where we waited so long for a certain cigar smoking italian wine importer to leave the restaurant that we were passing out from exhaustion and hunger and all we had to eat was a banana and some crumbs of potato chips that we shared.

I think of our real slumber party that began with oysters and mussels that we had been dreaming about all day and ended with shots of jameson's on my shag rug.

I think of gummie candies and crab chips.  No wait, that's boo.  No wait, that's you too!

I think of the el diablo and the grape smash and how years have gone by and we still want them! And I think that we're at the end of concord grape season and I don't even know if Ricardo made any grape smashes this year?!

I was at Mas farmhouse last night.  And I looked over at the corner table and I thought of Austin's bday.  And I thought of the fact that I climbed over Schmoo and Austin to threaten to kill you with a fork.  Because?  Because.  Because, you said you didn't like corn.

What can I say lady?  I'm not gonna say "don't change".  I'm not gonna say "you'll be back".  But, I do miss ya.  And I hope you have fun.  Or had fun.  Whatever, isn't Boston like 3 blocks long?  Aren't you done with it yet?  Just kidding.  

But remember one thing lady, save room for love. 

PS  seriously what the fuck is the name of that place with the dried fruit?

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Cleanse this!

I stare ahead blankly as I watch the wrinkly back of the fat man's head in front of me turn around to look at me as we all heard the loud rumble of my stomach's hunger pains roaring.  "That's it.  I'm getting a coffee."  9 days of no coffee.  8 days of no alcohol.  7 days of raw foods, three of which were juice only and it's the fucking line at Chase bank on a Saturday morning that takes me out.  Truth be told, I was planning on having a glass of Champagne tonight, but I was hoping to leave coffee behind.  Somewhere about halfway through a 30 minute wait to deposit a check, the "crazies" set in.  Well, again let's stick to the truth Carolyn, the crazies had set in last week, or 35 years ago depending on your take.  But seriously, I started to think; this whole starvation thing is really overrated.  I don't feel well.  I actually feel like shit.  I feel exhausted.  I'm scared to work out for fear of passing out.  I got dizzy on the stairs at work yesterday.  I have a headache and I never get headaches.  I haven't even lost any weight.  And I feel straight up, voices in the head, shit-house rat crazy.  And I realized I wanted a coffee.  So that's what I'm doing, having a coffee.  And a pastry.  I mean, don't get me wrong.  I don't think I want to jump off a bridge into a sea of pasta and cheese.  The one time I did feel great during this cleanse was after I had eliminated the meat, cheese, and bread from my diet.  But cut a girl some slack, we need a little somethin', somethin' as opposed to all or nothin'.  

This was not the first time I have "starved" myself.  My diet is a constant pendulum, swinging wildly like so many chemically imbalanced moods.  I've done it all from staunch vegan diets, strictly making lists of things I will not eat to gluttonous bingeing, consuming everything in my path, spreading butter on top of my foie gras.  One or the other, constantly.  I'd like to think or fantasize really, that perhaps one glorious day I could eat well most of the time while maintaining some healthy balance.  Maybe we don't need to eat everything in site just because it's here.  And maybe we don't need to not eat anything at all just because last month we were on the "nitrate-laden cured meat only diet".  I should be used to this by now.  I'm the same person who was on the "green food only diet".  And this came a month after being on a three-month "Irish whiskey and gummy worm diet".  I just want to be able to be moderate!  But, who am I kidding?  I can't even spell moderation without the help of Microsoft's auto spell correct!  One time, while suffering some health concerns I found out that the zinc in shellfish, particularly oysters, is good for people with anemia.  I went on an all out ticket to ride adventure.  For over a month, I consumed almost nothing except raw oysters and champagne.  I think I sometimes ordered a side of spinach or an artichoke.  I finally started eating meat and that really helped but for a while I was convinced I was on the right path.  The real trick to all of these diets is self-delusion.  The thing in life I'm best at is "self-will".  The thing I'm even better at is being stubborn.  Once I've made up my mind that is it, nothing is changing that.  I can go without food as long as I believe I can.  But do I want to?  Just as I was thinking this whole "cleanse" thing is a bunch of bullshit, someone at work said I looked "amazing" and someone else said "tiny".  And there we have it...justification.  Back on track with our old friend "the crazies".  But is this how I want to live?  It's grim and not me.  

You know who really has it figured out?  The French.  That's right, I said it.  But, of course if you know me you know I think the French have everything figured out...tiny geniuses who's general apathy and suspiciously long life spans will one day leave them as last man standing so that they will once again rule the world with a debaucherus, moody fist and a cigarette dangling from their collective pouty mouth.  But I do want to let the world in on a little secret.  The French drink Slim Shots.  They do.  I swear on it.  The reason Parisiennes are so skinny, even on a diet rich with butter, cheese, and foie gras is because in their morning coffee they pour what looks like a "normal" individually wrapped creamer into the cup.  If you looked at the label it would say "slim shot" which is an appetite suppressant in the form of coffee creamer.  How do you like that?  And...and funnier than that?  It's free.  The next time you're in Paris at a cafe take a closer look at your creamer options.  It's cream or slim shots.  Seriously.  Go to the countryside in France and the people are a whole lot rounder.  I'm not condoning appetite suppressants; it's just an observation people.  And while drifting off into my own rants and thoughts of "why am I on this stupid cleanse anyways?" and "I'll give you something to cleanse", I give up the self-delusion of the cleanse.  I love food.  I love coffee.  But most of all I love, really really love, wine.  And if the saying is true, oh you know the one, "you are what you eat", then let me tell you, I want to be oysters and Champagne.

Author's note:  For the record, although the French do that whole Slim Shot thing, they also do not eat the all-american diet of corn-fed beef and high-fructose corn syrup sweetened beverages.  That's what makes us fatter than them!  Oddly though, they do love themselves some Orangina, so much so that the ads are these crazy over-sexed drawings of scantily-clad animals drinking Orangina.  Vive La France!

And...on a more serious note.  I have in the past been given some grief for my passionate take on my chosen life of gluttony.  Yet, this same person keeps reading.  So, if your out there Mr. I hate myself angry pants, this one's for you, hater:  I've decided to add some links to websites that might help if needed.  Ah, public service.
Alcoholics Anonymous
Overeaters Anonymous
Foods that heal      
Air France