Monday, December 11, 2017

Kitchen Exotica and a Damned Fine Carbonara

At our only social event this season (not that I'm hinting or anything)  there was an interesting device on our hosts' coffee table.  A round base, a round wheel of a pale yellow/cream-colored cheese and a handle attached to a blade that when turned provided thin, thin rosettes of cheese.  They were very decorative and very simple to chew as they were paper thin.

I asked the man I was perched next to who was using it what it was and he told me it's called a "girolle" and originated in Switzerland in 1982.  In addition to being decorative, because it's slices are so thin, it's excellent for toasting on bread, etc.

girolle.ch  sells them (so does amazon.com) and there you can see what I'm blathering on about.  Usage calls for specific cheese - Tete de Moine (Monk's Head) at $26.46 lb. if you can find it.  The device itself runs from $30 to $60.  I think any hard cheese that does not crumble would work myself.
But:  there is another device with a similar end result and that is a Japanese spiral slicer.  With one of these, you put a carrot, or potato, a radish, or a hard cheese on the stake in the base (to hold it steady), put the cover on and turn the handle  It will crank out the same paper-thin spiral into the cover as the girolle and in the case of a radish is used for garnishing a plate or a dish.  The spiral cascading over a bowl of potato salad, say,  is very attractive and, bonus points, is edible.  Both are said to work well with blocks of chocolate.

Since I have the spiral slicer, no need to buy a girolle.  Since we don't have company to impress anyhow. Ah well.  Onward.
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During this festive season the three beach cities - Redondo, Hermosa and Manhattan - have graciously bagged all of the parking meters.  This is certainly an incentive move for us locals. 

Thus, after the Jazz Club, we went to Casa Vincenzo, 439 Pier Avenue, Hermosa.  Richie was in search of the elusive Chicken Cacciatori and had high hopes that he might have found it.  Alas.

But he consoled himself with their lasagna and very nearly ate the entire portion.  He had a temporary mental lapse about our house rule, "eat half; dinner tomorrow night."  I had to gently remind him (fork tines in the hand and a rabid glare work well.)  I am looking forward to dinner tonight myself and I really shouldn't have chided Richie as I could easily have scraped my bowl clean, too.

There was only one server working, a delightful, beautiful woman, with a slight accent.  I asked her if she spoke Italian and she smiled nicely and said, "No, French." Yeehaw!

Richie loves melon (cantaloupe in this case) with prosciutto so we started with that.  Beautifully displayed - melon crescents, cut in the middle to make an X which was then piled with prosciutto on the cross top and the whole thing lay on a bed of bright green vegetable (unknown to these eyes)  glistening with olive oil.

Seeing this I had high hopes for my quest - the perfect Caesar salad and then the pasta carbonara - but she said, "It's a huge portion of salad, I don't think it's a good idea with the pasta.."  Nodding her head, she added "Enough for a horse!" and I laughed and exaggeratedly looked out the window and we both giggled.

The Carbonara was linguini pasta with pancetta and a creamy Parmigiano sauce.  The balance in the sauce - rich, full, slightly salty due to the pancetta, was insanely good.  I remarked to her that the chef was tres sympa with pasta.  Meaning, he really understood pasta and knew his way around with cooking it.    

Lest you not like going out for dinner or if you miss the unveiling of the parking meters probably at midnight December 25th  - our local governments are greedy if nothing else, consider their weekend brunch.

I spotted two lures ... Eggs Benedict with pancetta, not Canadian bacon.  Vast improvement.  The Pizza Vincenzo contains parmigiana cream topped with black truffles.  For sheer snob appeal (truffles - of the earth and dearer than) I would order it.

Prices are reasonable, too - our tab was $67.00 before (20%) tip and taxes $6.37.
One flute of Prosecco Brut (me) one robust glass of Cabernet Sauvignon Maggio (R)
Melon prosciutto $12 - must have been most of a whole, large cantaloupe
Lasagna - again a generous portion served in a deep, square bowl $17
Spaghetti Carbonara $18.

It's 10:07 a.m. -- not too early for dinner, ya think?




Sunday, December 10, 2017

Caviar Pie

For probably the only social event in our schedule until mid-2018, we gleefully but somewhat sadly went to the party thrown by fellow Thurs. Writer Laura.  Beautiful house, incredible ocean and Catalina Island view ... if all we had done was sit out on the spacious patio and watch the sun go down, it would have been a gala occasion.

Happily, there was food.  I brought Country Pigs in Blankets (Hillshire Farms Lil' Smokies with orange marmalade instead of mustard)  as our contribution.  The degree of labor intensiveness  is a dead tie with making deviled eggs.  But they are very good and were soon gone. 

Few will admit to this, but the person who brought something will periodically cruise past to see how much is left.  If you brought a poor seller, so to speak, you won't bring it again somewhere else.

Another guest brought guacamole which is akin to saying the Pacific Ocean has a lot of water in it.  The bowl was easily as big as a baby's bathtub and it was filled to the 3/4th mark.  Surely it required 30 or 40+ avocados or stripping an entire tree to make it.  And it may be our (Southern California) last look at an avocado for some time.  The massive fires have damaged the avocado trees with fire, ash and smoke.  For Super Bowl you may find yourself prone in shock on the floor of the grocery store fruit and vegetable section, right next to the sign that reads "Avocados - $10 each."    But worry about that when it happens.

I was talking to a lovely woman named Noreen when a third woman came up and in the course of our conversation said that she'd brought her mother's  recipe for Caviar Pie.  Quicker than you could have sneezed, I departed the ladies and hurtled into the dining room to get some.   My love affaire with caviar is well known to long-time readers so will not dwell on it.

Her mother knew what she was doing - the mix had a perfect blend of sour (for sour cream and cream cheese), perky (the onion) and of course the salt of the lumpfish caviar.

Visions of it lingered.  Here is a recipe I found on line. Based on the ingredients, feel free to add or subtract things you don't like and I'm thinking of the red onion.  I love it; others loathe it.

CAVIAR PIE
6 hardboiled eggs, chopped and put in a pie pan.

Add 3 T mayonnaise  and 1 cup chopped red onion.  This is your base or "crust" in the pie pan that you've "greased" with mayonaise.  Mix well.

Spread 8 oz. of softened cream cheese mixed with  2/3 cup sour cream over the egg/mayo/onion crust.

Smooth the caviar over this as lavishly as a 4 oz. jar of caviar will go, give the cav a squirt or so of lemon and chill till serving with a variety of crackers.  Bon appetite!

This would make a great hors d'ouevre New Year's Eve.  If not Christmas Eve ...

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Drawing A Cartoon Using Words

We'll see how good I am at "showing" you a cartoon using nothing but words.  Okay ready?

Picture a stately building at the foot of a nice, somewhat winding road.  Arching over this road is a sign, made of wrought-iron, that reads:

The Sexual Harassment Center for Rehabilitation and Revenge, founded by #Me Too, and funded by the Office of House Employment Counsel

Two men are walking slowly up the drive.  One, in a navy suit, white shirt and Yale tie, says to the other clad in Sperry Topsiders, no socks, khaki Docker pants and a navy Ralph Lauren polo shirt -

"What are you in for?"

The other hangs his head in shame and says, "When I was five I played "Doctor" with the little girl across the street."

Friday, December 8, 2017

#FREE RUDOLPH!

As I am unfamiliar with "hash tags" ignore the one above.  The point I want to make is that there were 228,000 new jobs in the month of November, 2017, alone.  None of the applicants wanted to replace Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.  

Now Rudolph is 78 years old (!) and Santa Legree still expects him to haul the sled full of presents (to say nothing of Santa himself who clearly hasn't missed any meals) as well as drag any work-shy reindeer along behind him.

This is hardly work for a 78 year old.  Rudolph should have been allowed to retire 16 years ago!  But, no, Santa "depends" on him and Rudolph, not being any smarter than he needs to be, buys it every year.

He's led an active, athletic life, but:  it's also true that he only has to be a jock once a year.  Arguably, few of us have 364 days off.

I propose this - instead of cookies and milk (or Scotch and cashews in the more affluent households) -  that we all put up a sign instead that reads "Let Rudolph Retire!"

You may be worried that  if Santa (the red fatso) doesn't get his treats, he will be very cross with you and, in a fit of pique, could just say to himself, "No presents for these people!"

But:  Mrs. Clause put a lot of time and effort into getting you just what you wanted and she can be quite shrewish from the sheer fatigue of satisfying everyone.  She is not going to go for this At All.

Pithy comments about fat husbands who most certainly do not need additional food supplements are bound to fly until at least mid-January and because Santa is secretly afraid of her, he wouldn't dare bring back a sack of undelivered stuff.  "Nobody home" is not going to fly as an excuse at all. 

Thus, no worries; you'll get all you ordered.  But don't forget to eat/drink the treats yourself while you make a big sign that reads "FREE RUDOLPH!" (Santa doesn't know what a hash tag is either.  Just leave it off.)

Thursday, December 7, 2017

December Fires - Mother Nature and Uncle Sam

Mother Nature
Apparently wherever she is, she likes to keep her tootsies cozy thus all of the fires in Southern California.  Perhaps we could donate from now until next December chipping in for space heaters to dot around her quarters?

This had never occurred to me until I read this morning's Daily Breeze.  The Getty Museum and the Skirball Cultural Center were designed and built to withstand fires, largely because both are located on woodsy land, far from LA concrete.  Both are constructed of stone and steel panels; both have additional smarts to repel fire.  The Getty has a 1 million gallon water tank; the Skirball has drip irrigation that keeps the trees and bushes green on the mountain side of their property.

The Getty has an air filtration system to keep the priceless art work inside it free from smoke and ash.  Planning ahead - and they did.

Uncle Sam
The media and the Liberals are all aflame about President Trump's declaration that Jerusalem is to be the capitol of Israel.  Clearly the liberals have forgotten that he is not the first President to make said declaration.  William Jefferson Clinton said it first, followed in succession by George W. Bush and finally Barack Obama.   Back to the history books, people.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

"Puck, puck, puck" Said the Hen

Richie cooked last night (leftovers tomorrow night) and he made Poulet Cordon Bleu aka Blue Ribbon Chicken.  "Blue Ribbon" refers to the elegance and style of chicken this way, not that the chicken was wearing a blue ribbon.

However, there is a famous breed of chicken in France - the Bresse -  that is so fancy that it has the AOC or Appelation d'Origin Controllee just as certain (very expensive) wines are AOC meaning that production of either one is limited to a particular breeder/vintner and his/her acreage.  Upstart commoners whether chicken or grape need not apply.

Interestingly enough, the Bresse chicken, out of Eastern France, does have slate-blue legs.  Perhaps this blue ribbon stuff started with a Bresse chicken try to scratch it's neck and the blitzed farmer thought they were wearing a neck ribbon?  We'll never know.

CHICKEN CORDON BLEU (as it's usually listed on restaurant menus)
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
4 teas. Dijon mustard
4 slices Swiss cheese
4 slices Black Forest ham
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock + 1 T butter
`1 T flour
1 cup cold milk
1 beaten egg
Panko crumbs

Oven 350 for 35-45 minutes

Butterfly each breast, season with pepper.  Top with a slice of cheese, then a slice of ham and close with toothpicks that you've soaked in water so they won't burn.

Dredge the chicken in flour, then dip it in the beaten egg and finally roll it in panko crumbs. 
Bake on a sheet of parchment on a pizza pan or cookie sheet.

SAUCE
Heat the wine in a sauce pan and reduce by half.  Add the chicken broth, and simmer, then keep warm until ready to use.

In another saucepan make the roux:  melt the butter, whisk in the flour and continue to whisk for 8 to 10 minutes (unnecessary length of time Ed.)

Then whisk in the cold milk and the warm wine sauce and whisk together until hot.  Plate the chicken and drizzle sauce over it.   Richie serves his with noodles.  I eat it with gusto.


Monday, December 4, 2017

"Being Welsh, he was a stickler for time"

The title is a quote from a long article on the 50th anniversary of the Queen Mary arriving in Long Beach as an attraction and later a hotel in Sunday's Daily Breeze.

The "he" is Captain John Treasure Jones.  I knew that the Welsh, as a group, were famous for their singing abilities and subsequently numerous singing choruses, but had never heard that punctuality was also foremost in their lives.  This required examination.  But first I had to get through the singing information.

Various theories are expounded as to why so many of them sing so well - they have a sing-song speaking accent.
Singing is given emphasis as entertainment for both the singers and the audience. 
It took a long time for them to get electricity and thus TV (my own theory.)  

Wales is known in some circles as "The Land of Song" which is a far nicer way to describe your home country than, say "The Land of The Atomic Bomb Whose Leader is Deranged Enough To Use It."

Back to punctuality.  The Arriva Trains Wales are on time - within one minute - 85.4 per cent of the time.  Were he alive today, Mussolini would be eating his heart out with jealousy.  "He makes the trains run on time" was the only semi-nice thing ever said about him.

As an extra = the Scots are the friendliest; the Welsh the shyest' and Londoners the coldest.   Make up something about the Irish on your own.  I rather fancy, "Ireland - where your living room is the pub down the road."

I think the Scots are the friendliest because if you are a man wearing a skirt, the odds are good that another man is going to take umbrage and a lot of women are going to want a peek.  You need to be nice to deflect unwanted attention.

I think Londoners are unfriendly because they have to be wary of people carrying funny-looking back packs "Is that a coil of wire there, over by the zipper?" "Why's he carrying a pressure cooker on the Tube?"  In their case, suspicion and distance are good ideas.  We understand. I wouldn't be friendly either.