April 2006 Archives

hens sitting or sitting "ducks"?

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Cornish game hens are tasty and simple to prepare, and the end result offers each diner all of their favorite parts; no bickering over who gets the drumsticks, etc. I have a simple Spring menu I put together yesterday for company tonight.

Pear & blue cheese tarts, cheese assortment

Herbed & grilled rock cornIsh game hens

Spring rice pilaf with vidalia onion & peas

Asparagus with lemon

Strawberry rhubarb crisp with vanilla ice cream

I was going to make triple chocolate cookies. But decided those would just be for me, and I don't need two desserts in one evening, even if I did not have dessert last night. (here's the lowdown on that: We went to Lakeville Ct. for an impromptu dinner alone Saturday night, and ate at a charming, comfortable roadside restaruant called The Woodlands. The meal was great, drinks were better, and the manager/barkeep/card shark put a thrill in the finale of the evening. (We got card tricks instead of dessert, plus we really needed to step out before it got dark to take a nice walk and enjoy a cigar.)

Back to tonight's meal. I have some photos of the hens: they looked odd sitting, draining after I rinsed them, on a kitchen towel, so I took a shot of that DrainHens.JPG , plus pictures of how I split poultry. Make sure the surface is stable, your heavy kife is sharp, and use a sawing motion, and pounding with the heel of your hand, hacking. The rib bones are quite small and will eventually yield. firstSplit.JPG Take care not to cut through the other side. I turn the hens over, spread them until I hear one of the sides of the breastbone crack, then I go ahead and cut through the other side of the spine. CutOutSpine.JPG You don't have to remove the whole thing, but I do; I just like to finish the job. splitHen.JPG I put those bones in a water-filled stockpot with whatever gizzards I had last put in the freezer for stock-making. This will go into the pilaf pot instead of water. The split chickens go in a zip bag (in this case, a few bags, with oil, wine, herbs, s&p already measured, shaken and added). hensMarinate.JPG I put them in the refrig for the afternoon; turn every now and then.

I'll go out and work in the yard for awhile (I have another 15 corms of asparagus to plant this week), but not before prepping the pilaf: measure out the ingredients, cut the onion, do the mise en place, put the pot I'll cook it in on the stove. Later on, turn the hens, start to layout the plates & table setting. I still have to make the crisp, but I want it to be very warm when it comes to table, so although I can cut the fruit and measure the topping out now, I actually will wait until 30 minutes before we sit for dinner, during appetizers in the livingroom, to put it together, & put it in the oven. If it comes out right about when I get the hens off the grill, I think the vanilla ice cream will melt very nicely on top at dessert!

insulting the first first lady?

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The master showed me his budding asparagus plot a few days ago. I could hardly hold myself back from snapping off a tender little stalk and eating it right there on the spot. The dogs would have been pretty excited to see me in their daddy's dirt! I hope he didn't notice my drooling...That experience should have prodded me into digging the garden bed at home for my own asparagus. It was scheduled to arrive very soon from Burpee. I have coveted home-grown asparagus for a very long time. This January, I finally decided to order it.

I bet you can guess what happened next...the box from Burpee came yesterday and I have not turned a single spadeful of dirt! Now I have to go out in the drizzle to see if I can prepare a half-a$$ed place to plant it! What a looser. I have had plenty of time to get this ready, in fact, I should have done it in the fall so the proper fertalizers and ph adjustments could have been made. No, not me, I garden by luck and luck alone.

So in a few minutes I am going to put on my digging clothes, to ruin my Easter manicure, and see if I can make some sort of home to plant the rootstock. Martha Washington deserves better than this.

hematoma, hamstring & city ham

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To prepare for Easter, I had three tasks on the top of my list: put in the window screens, order shoes to match my Easter dress, and order the Easter ham. Well, putting in the screens was not so hard. But it did become painful. In our 145 year old little Colonial house, the windows are original drip-glass. There are very ugly aluminum storm windows outside the wooden sashes. To put in the screens, up goes the window, up goes the lower storm sash, in goes the screen, click-click and you're done. Painless, right? Well not always.

The Tween's bed has been arranged yet again into another impossible-to-make-the-bed configuration. How she manages it in an 8x8 room is beyond me. I have come to the conclusion that the goal is not to rearrange for aesthetics, only to produce the result that she cannot make the bed. Ever. So back tot he window. I had to be ON the bed to open the window and try to put in the screen. Only her window has a broken weight, or metal strap that keeps the window open, or in whatever position you choose. We wedge a broom handle in there to open it all the way, and a book gets employed for partially-open configurations. So I hoist up the window, plop in the handle, and begin to slide the clasps inwards on the very bottom of the lower storm. Suddenly the broomstick fell out and the window slammed down on my left wrist, right between the base of my thumb and my watchband. Yeouch! The hematoma was immediate. I have never seen one so large on such a bony bodypart. The odd thing was that it did not hurt too much. I immediatlry removed my watch and iced the wrist. Husband comes home soon after and whines about the threat of spending all night in the emergency room. I took a pass on that trip, and kept up ice and short breaks while trying to get dinner started. (A wee dram o' single malt helped, too.) So far, it's very colorful, winding it's purple way around my entire wrist, into the fingers and towards my thumb. Can't wait for the green and yellow to show up. But I still don't think it's broken.

That same day the ham arrived. No surprise that I couldn't lift it into the refrigerator... But it's the best ever, from Burger's Smokehouse in California Missouri. I should go on the payroll as a spokesperson, I love this stuff so much. We were gifted a ham in December, and it was love at first bite. Just like the kind Mom used to serve on New Year's Day, and she went all out for that meal, every year. Ham, creamed potatoes, tomato aspic, asparagus, and cold duck. Did you know that sparkling burgundies (or red wines) are back? I find the new ones much more flavorful and sophisticated than the stuff Mom popped the cork on. But the menu never changed. So I ordered a whole semi-boneless spiral sliced city ham from Burger's. I recieved the two halves, brought one to the relatives for dinner, and have one to cook up tonight. YUM!

The other important item ordered for Eater was the shoes. Always a new pair. These are Cynthia Rowley, over 200 bucks, but only 30 dollars from Zappos.com. Another great website I should get paid for talking about. And shoes of that quality are not your usual "two hour shoes", that put your feet in agony by the end of the first two hours you wear them. I wore these all day, from church right through dessert, 12 hours, and on bare feet. But I think that, even though the heels are only barely 2 inches, I pulled a hamstring. I have not been wearing heels much at all. All those lonely pumps in the closet have forgotten me. Or I've forgotten them. But these new Easter shoes were comfortable enough, not to mention pretty and a perfect match to my outfit, that I kept them on all day. Now I think I'm paying for it. Pulled hamstring berhind the right knee. I walked it out twice today, stretched often, and it feels better, but I tell ya' it's been a rough weekend!

Joy of Mom

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I was looking all over for a recipe. It was one my Mother called "Veal Cassoulet". It was pretty fancy for her style, or the style she ended up displaying for my meat and potatoes Irish father. I used to know it by heart, we always found it easy, and a bit elegant. I really love veal, but you can't tell that it's the meat being used. You could easily substitute pork or chicken.

This recipe was not in my 4000+ file on the big computer, it was not in the binder of recipes my mom made for my brother and I when we went off to college, but worst of all, it was not in my head. Since she's gone and I'm an orphan now, I feel strong pressure to know these things. I knew enough to buy what I needed at the grocery store, but still, what a dummy! I was worried I could not make it correctly. I was getting panicky and the 'net was not helping one bit. Of all times to be let down by Google, my stalwart friend! As a last ditch effort, I pulled out the three sections of Joy of Cooking from the cabinet. It was closing in on 5:30 and not just the cats were getting restless. Three sections of the book because it was my mother's soft-cover copy, it's spine is broken, and three sections is what I have to work with. No missing pages, mind you, although both the covers are long gone.

No real cook could be surprised by what I say next: the recipe was in Joy of Cooking. Right there on page whatever. It was not called Veal Cassoulet, it is named under the section of recipes collected by main ingredient (veal) and cooking method (braising) and then called veal with sour cream sauce. I will write it out roughly here:

1-2 lbs. veal stew meat (I use shoulder and cut as I please)

1/2-1 chopped onion

1/2-1lb. sliced mushrooms

2 tbsp. flour

1 c. broth

salt, pepper & nutmeg to taste

1 c. sour cream

Lightly brown veal cubes in butter in large skillet. Remove to casserole dish. Saute onion and mushroom well in liquid leftover in skillet. Sprinkle in flour, scrape or whisk 2-3 min., whisk in stock, and juices collected in bottom of casserole. Simmer til thick about 5 min, remove from heat, add salt, pepper, nutmeg. Stir in sour cream. Add to casserole with meat, stir to combine, cover, bake in 300' oven 1 hour. Stir & serve over egg noodles, or your favorite starch.

Yum yum yum. I forgot how much I loved this one. Wait til Easter dinner is over, I'll rave to you about the ham we are bringing (to the in-laws) from Burger's Smokehouse. We got one gifted to us for the winter holidays, and if I didn't rave about it then, I'll be sure to make up for it next week! Whoo-weee! Plus I'm making an extra flourless chocolate cake; the one that I do for the The Chocolate Moose candy shop on Main Street (Chatham, NY). I think the guests will be happy, or filled with the JOY of eating!