Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Idol chatter...again

Well, if there is any justice, Antonella Barba will vanish from American Idol with her tired attempts at Celine Dion. Absolutely hideous. And while Jordin Sparks had a nice tone, she was flat, flat, flat, and her phrasing was terrible. The judges gave her more credit than she deserved. Yes, she's 17. So was Jennifer Hudson when she was on. I'm not impressed. Leslie Hunt - go home. You are outranked, outclassed, outsung.

Meanwhile, LaKisha, Melinda, and Stephanie proved once again that they were the ones to beat, while Sabrina Sloan turned in a very nice performance in spite of the fact that it wasn't Whitney Houston.

Tonight, Jess, who really doesn't like the show that much, remarked while listening to LaKisha sing Midnight Train to Georgia, "I feel like I'm not watching American Idol." I agreed.

Monday, February 26, 2007


Let's talk chicken. Jess likes to call it "devil meat." He doesn't much like chicken as a rule. I like it more than Jess does, but I am picky about my chicken. I don't much like the boneless, skinless chicken that America has seemed to so happily embrace. Skinless, boneless chicken has made America lose its taste for what chicken really can be. It doesn't have much flavor and it's difficult to get flavor into it. The flavors lie in the skin and the bone, people!

At any rate, I made a chicken dish that I had made once before; one that Jess said he would let me make again; so I did. And I am going to tell you how I prepared it, so that you might prepare it, too, and learn (or remember) how chicken is supposed to taste. Don't want the skin? Fine, pull it off before you eat it. Don't like the bone? Use a knife and cut the chicken from the bone. You'll be rewarding your wallet by buying chicken with the skin and bone intact, and you'll be rewarding your tastebuds with the deliciousness that you can only get from chicken that isn't de-boned. And don't let the 'baked' part of what I'm about to show you fool you. The chicken comes out with a nicely crispy skin, if you like that, and it's very moist, not mushy.

So here goes:

Begin any chicken dish by soaking your chicken pieces in a brine for 15-30 minutes. For each quart of water, I use 2 tsps. kosher salt, 2 tsps. brown sugar (or in our case, an equivalent amount of Sweet and Low Brown), 1/2 tsp onion powder, and 1/2 tsp freshly grated pepper. Brining doesn't take long and you will be surprised at the flavor and moistness it imparts.

While the chicken is brining, prepare fresh spinach: rinse about 3/4 lb. of fresh spinach (don't believe the bag when it says 'triple-washed' still has sand in it, and you need to rinse it. I use a salad spinner to rinse and then drain it), then pile it into a buttered casserole dish. When I say 'pile', I mean it. Stack it up! It's going to cook down so much you won't believe it. 3/4 lb will make a nice amount for 2-3 people.

Now prepare some cream of chicken soup using 1 can of soup, 1 chicken bouillon cube or equivalent amount of Better than Bouillon(if you use Knorr, use 1/2 cube), 1 can of milk or half-and-half, a pinch of white pepper, a pinch of poultry seasoning, and a pinch of celery seed powder. Whisk all together. Then pour the chicken soup mixture over the spinach, and then spread it evenly over the entire surface of the spinach.

Preheat your oven to 350.

Meanwhile, make some seasoned salt: cut fresh rosemary and fresh sage very finely to make 1 tsp. of each. Combine in a ramekin with 1 Tbsp. kosher salt. Rub the salt into the herbs to release the flavor.

Remove chicken from brine. Rinse the brine off with water (that's important!) and pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Place chicken atop the spinach.

Using the seasoned salt, lift the chicken skin and lightly sprinkle the herbed salt under the skin, being careful not to tear it too much - you want the skin to hold the salt under the surface - and lightly sprinkle the herbed salt on top of the skin, too.

Now you're ready to bake. You will bake this for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until chicken reaches an internal temp of 160 degrees F. If you have a convection oven, use convection only during the last 20 minutes of cooking.

I have a Trivection speed-oven, which will cook this dish in 25 minutes.

When the dish is finished, it will be nice and browned and the spinach will be flavored with the chicken soup and drippings from the chicken. Heaven.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

American Idle

Watching American Idol last night, I have to say that there wasn't a single standout performance by any of the boys. Boring, blah, and downright bad; if I had my way, the boys would all be voted off. Performances that should have been belted were merely crooned. Poor song choices, and one bozo who brazenly performed in bare feet, marked the beginning of what appears to be a bust season for the boys.

On the other hand, tonight's opening performance by Stephanie Edwards kicked ass. Now to see how the rest of them do: I'd be willing to bet that, this year, the winner will be female. The women had the men beat handily, even from the auditions. But let's sit back and see how tone-deaf and shallow America is willing to be!

UPDATE: Okay, having seen the rest of the show, LaKisha Jones is likely the one to beat. I think the final two should be LaKisha and Melinda Doolittle. But there are two others that will give them a run for it: Stephanie Edwards and Sabrina Sloan. Everyone else better get their act together, 'cause these ladies are gonna sweep it if there is any justice at all.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Pressure cooker

When Jess and I were last at my mom's, I complained about the oven...again. I have been complaining about it for several years. She bought her oven when her "apartment" was being built, about 10 years ago. It wasn't an inexpensive oven, but I was disappointed the first time I came to her new place and tried it out. My mom is an avid cook. Rabid might be a better word. So you can understand my surprise and disappointment when that oven turned out to be a dud.

The burners are pathetically underpowered. The feeble flame hardly licks the bottom of pots and pans. Water takes forever to boil. The oven itself is spacious, but hasn't even the least of features such as time-bake. No convection, either. I don't know what it was about this oven that made it so attractive to my mom, but it is a piece of junk. It has a digital timer for the oven, but not a clock. But the timer stopped working years ago, when she used the self-cleaning feature for the first time. The oven was about two years old at the time, out of warranty. The self-clean overheated the oven and blew the timer as well as cracked and peeled the enameling on the bottom of the oven floor. It has always annoyed the crap out of me, this oven. My mother was hoodwinked by Sears.

So for the past three or four years, I have been hinting to my mom that she needs a new oven, She wasn't about to spend that kind of money, and I knew it, but I was trying to determine if she would be willing to part with her piece of junk.

She wasn't.

There was another issue, anyway: her living space isn't large, and I couldn't remember if the kitchen was built around the appliances or not. It seemed that we might be able to get the oven through the kitchen doorway, but it was going to be tight.

At any rate, after the latest trip, I pretty much insisted that she needed a new oven. She insisted that the oven was fine, only the rangetop was poor. I countered that the oven wasn't all that terrific, and didn't even have time-bake, a feature she had and used regularly on her ovens going back to when I was a kid. And I explained that there were many more options in rangetops that would make a big difference in her cooking, but 10 years of using the crappy model had made her forget about how good her prior ovens had been.

She started to expand on the discussion, which was promising. I had already scoped out ovens and knew what she needed: a standard-sized gas oven, but with a second oven where the warming drawer would usually be. Convection. Time-Bake. Clock. Timer. Self-cleaning feature. Five burners on the rangetop instead of four, with a griddle that can be used over the long center oval burner. Two high-powered burners that are 50% more powerful than the average rangetop burner. And all burners simmer at 500 BTU. I talked with my brother-in-law, who had constructed her apartment. The old oven would come out and the new one could go in without any modifications being necessary. Fabulous.

My mom lives on a fixed income and could not afford a new oven, but Jess and I could afford it...and we told her we would buy it for her if she was willing to accept it. She was, albeit reluctantly so. She's always the one who makes sacrifices for others; she's not a very good recipient of charity herself.

So I ordered the oven and it arrived, and she is using it...and using it. Her first comment was that she couldn't believe that she could boil water so quickly. She loves the burners because "they really get with it, but they simmer very low, too." And she really loves the double oven and the fact that she can once again use time-bake to help manage her busy schedule. And that makes us very happy.

Grrrrr...freaking Google!

Well, I have been avoiding switching to the new Blogger, knowing that someday they would catch up to me...and today, they did. I had to switch to the new Blogger, which is provided through Google. Other than refreshing all past posts on Bloglines, if you notice anything strange about the blog, please let me know.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


Y'know, new stuff isn't worth sh!t lately.

We've had our house for just about two years now, and the plumbing and heating system is totally new, not to mention most everything about the house.

At any rate, I woke up at 3:30 a.m. and thought, "it's a little cold in this room." But I took a blanket from the drawer, threw it on the bed, and pulled the covers up over my head.

And I slept, until 5:30 when Jess woke me up: "uh, Bokey, wake up; the heat's out."

The heat's out? WTF?! It's practically a new freaking gas boiler - it's just under two years old. And it dies on (naturally) the coldest day of the entire year.

So we fool around with the boiler and get the pilot light to light. And we leave and go to work, thinking all is well again.


When we came home this evening, it was immediately evident to me that the heat had gone out. Again.

So now we're sitting here waiting for the service man to show up. $175 just for the service call. And that doesn't include parts, should parts be needed. Rapists.

UPDATE: The heat was restored about three hours ended up costing a total of $325.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentine's Day = Candy!

Anyone knows that Valentime's Valentine's Day means candy. (Don't you get annoyed when people say 'Valentime's Day? I know I do. WTF?)

At any rate, I decided to make candy to take in to work. I made cashew brittle, coconut dipped chocolates, chocolate-dipped peanut butter-filled pretzels, and chocolate covered almonds.

The coconut dipped chocolates have always been my personal favorite, but today, the hands-down winner was the cashew brittle. Everyone raved, and it disappeared first. It's one of the easiest candies to make in terms of steps, but it requires patience, preparation, and planning.

Cashew Brittle
You MUST have RAW cashews, a candy thermometer, and a wooden spoon to make this candy. All materials must be at room temperature and you must be prepared to work quickly. Prep your working space: near the rangetop where you will make the candy, place a ramekin with 2 tsps. baking soda; one ramekin with 1 Tbsp butter, and another ramekin with 1 tbsp. vanilla extract. Also, prepare a soup-sized bowl with ice water and place it very near where you will make the candy. Butter the bottoms of two large cookie sheets or jelly roll pans and set aside on cooling racks.

In a very large, deep skillet, place 2 cups sugar, 1 cup white corn syrup, and 1/2 c. water.

Heat skillet to medium/medium-high heat. Stir mixture constantly until sugar dissolves; then let boil without stirring until mixture reaches about 240 degrees. At this point, the mixture will form fine "hairs" when lifted from the mixture. Add 1 lb. raw cashews. Continue cooking, but stir frequently to prevent cashews from burning. Cashews will brown rapidly, but keeping them in motion will help prevent burning. Cook until the mixture reaches 290 degrees. Remove a very small portion to the bowl of ice water, and continue stirring in the skillet. Remove the candy from the ice water when it has hardened (about 10 secs) and crunch it in your teeth. If it doesn't stick to your teeth when crunched, it is ready to remove from heat. Do not allow to cook past 310 degrees. Remove from heat as soon as temperature is achieved. Stir in baking soda (warning - it will foam up - skillet should be deep enough to contain it (at least 3 inches deep) and continue stirring. Now add vanilla and butter and stir rapidly until fully incorporated. Mixture will "fall" as you stir it. Divide evenly into the two buttered cookie sheets, pouring the mixture with as much spread as possible. Work quickly to get all syrup from skillet, then using the wooden spoon, quickly spread the mixture in the pans to as thin as possible by working it to the edges of the pans. Allow to cool completely, then break into small pieces.

Now of course, this is the base recipe...I have a few secret tricks I use to make it even better. To clean up your pans, just soak them in very warm water. The sugar will dissolve after about 10 minutes.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Mmmmm....chocolate chip cookies

So, if you love chocolate chip cookies, this is a good site to look at...

There are more versions of the indubitably most popular cookie here than you can shake a stick at.

By the way, the Neiman's Cookie you will find here is an urban myth and I don't think the recipe is that terrific anyway.

Oh, and you must make them with but one brand of chocolate chip...Guittard. Good luck if you can find them in New York.

If you do find them in New York, let me know where!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Bostonian authorities are morons...

I don't usually rant about politics and the like, but this is just too much.

Came word yesterday of a dastardly plot perpetrated on the unsuspecting City of Beans..."bomb-like devices planted all over the city equipped with 'strange blinking lights' sent people into a panic."

Uh, yeah, right.

Have you idiots never seen a Lite-Brite? Each of the Lite-Brite boxes was hooked up to a battery, yes. I suppose that next, they'll try to arrest the Boston Department of Public Works for using those blinking caution traffic diverter lights (those are also hooked up to batteries), on the grounds that they are trying to perpetrate a hoax.

Come on, Boston. Your DAs sound like whining babies as they try to convict a couple of marketers of placing hoax devices throughout the city. "They could have caused significant damage to the transportation infrastructure if they had been explosive devices."

That's a mighty big if, whiny morons. And you have the balls to call yourselves adults? Your police department is upset because somehow, a couple of guys came up with a clever and relatively low-tech marketing scheme to try to get people to watch a television show, and so, to protect your police department's dignity, or cover its lack of brains, you're pressing charges against these guys and wasting Boston taxpayers' money for something that is utterly ridiculous.

Such a thing would never happen in New York, and you have to remember, we're the town that brought you the phrase "If you see something, say something." That's because New Yorkers are smart enough to know a bomb from a Lite-Brite. And our cops are, too. If you Boston DAs were in New York, we'd string you up for daring to waste our dollars and our court time with such a ludicrous case...but oh, wouldn't happen here in the first place because New Yorkers are much smarter than that! Much smarter.

Apparently, Boston's police officers have been drinking too much coffee and ingesting too much sugar, the DAs have waaaaay too much time on their hands, and the judges have too few cases on their dockets to entertain such foolishness.

Get a freaking life.