Saturday, December 22, 2007

Incredible night of food

First off, sorry I don't have pictures to go with this post. We didn't think about it until we were finished eating. : (

Our friend Jeff is out from the city this weekend, and so for dinner, he told us to choose from two options: he would take us to Grand Lux Cafe (we love it) or we could go shopping to make a spectacular dinner at home with seafood. Because we had just gone out the night before to La Marmite, a fabulous French restaurant here, where we had practically indulged in bacchanalia, we opted for the latter, since we could control the carbs of a meal we made ourselves.

So we were off to the store for some meal items and then to the seafood shop for the seafood. When we got to the seafood shop, we bought 2 1/2 lbs of shrimp, 3 lbs of King crab legs, and 1 lb of scallops.

When we got home, we began the prep for the meal. Jeff and I prepared the small Yukon Gold potatoes we had purchased, cleaning them and cutting them in half. I chopped onions for the potatoes and shrimp. Jeff snapped asparagus spears and I prepped skillets and started a very large pot of water boiling for the crab. Jeff thawed the shrimp and I cleaned it. Threw the potatoes into the microwave to steam-cook them to near-done.

We prepared the asparagus to be roasted in a very hot oven and once it was started, Jess came in to prepare the shrimp, as scampi. He makes a terrific scampi that beats anything you'd ever have at even the nicest restaurant. While he was doing that, I fried the potatoes in the iron skillet with the onions, butter and olive oil, then cleaned out the skillet and started again with basil-infused olive oil and butter and simply dried and salted and peppered the scallops before searing them for about 7 minutes. As I started the scallops, the water for the crabs was boiling, so I threw in about a tablespoon of Old Bay and then followed with the crab legs.

Everything times out very nicely, and we wound up with a feast like we've never had. Every bit of the seafood turned out perfectly, sweet and succulent and delicious. The scampi was incredible: the shrimp were lightly sweet and nicely garlicky. The large sea scallops were simple, yet perfectly sweet and moist. They practically melted on the tongue. And the crab - the crab was amazing. I haven't had crab like that in years.

All in of the best meals of my life! I loves me some Grand Lux, but this meal beat anything we could have done there by a mile.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Make the most of it

Yesterday, I received news that a good friend of mine from Kansas had died of a massive heart attack. He was my age, 48. Though he had been quite overweight for several years, and battled high cholesterol, it still came as a shock to me, and it has been on my mind yesterday and today. Just two weeks ago, I came across the obituary of a friend I had worked with while in Wichita; she was just 54.

Then tonight came the news that singer Dan Fogelberg had died this morning, at just 56, having lost a battle with prostate cancer. Again, shocking. I remember when his first big single "Longer" was released...his music was a big impression on me in high school and college.

It is overwhelming and sobering that these people left us at such a young age. Make the most of life, my friends. We don't know how long we have.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Behold, this year's signature candy

Every year as I go through the candymaking process, I try to improve upon an existing recipe or invent a new one. This year, I was hell-bent on creating a new chocolate with the tart flavor of key lime pie. Not just the flavor, though; I wanted the texture: the creaminess, the crunchiness. I was surprised that I succeeded on the first try. Thank heaven, though, because these were a pain in the ass to make. It figures. I don't enjoy working with white chocolate. It doesn't behave like real chocolate ("real" white "chocolate" has some cocoa butter solids in it, but that's's not really chocolate at all). It melts at a lower heat and sets up much faster than chocolate, so your work time is very tight once you begin working with it.

I made the candies in molds, using a white chocolate outer shell. I piped key lime cream into each shell (sorry, no pictures, patented process!) and then sprinkled in little bits of graham cracker crumbs that had been baked with sugar and butter. Then I capped them and cooled them, and when you bite into them, you have a terrific, flowing very tangy key lime center with a nice hint of graham cracker crust, enveloped in white chocolate to mimic the meringue. I think it's one of my best ever. Sorry for the blurry pic. It's the best I could do.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

More holiday treats

Okay, so I have gone a bit nuts in the kitchen this week, trying to cram in all the holiday candymaking that is necessary so that Jess and I have enough to take in to our respective offices, as well as some for friends and some for people like our barbers and other people we know.

Jess has helped me with cashew brittle and nut clusters, and we still have a few things left to do. But you can see by the plate here that we have a pretty good start on things. And yes, the granite is that blue...the photo isn't retouched.

Counterclockwise from bottom center: cherry bon bons, gingered oatmeal raisin cookies, coconut dreams, cashew brittle, cashew clusters, chocolate peanut butter chip cookies, spicy pepper peanut brittle, fudge.

Happy Chanukah if that's the holiday you're celebrating this season!

Holiday treat

Leaving the 'up' escalator from the A train at the NY Port Authority terminal, I was swmimming in a sea of people. Moving toward the 'down' escalator was a tsunami of humanity racing to reach the train before it departed. When you're in the subway, you really don't take too much note of people; if you're doing the subway correctly, you're busy maintaining walking speed with the crowd so that you don't get trampled, keeping your eye on your intended destination, and not making eye contact with anyone so as to avoid the possible panhandler or annoying hawker who wants to shove a newspaper or advertising into your hand.

But sometimes in the midst of chaos, there is a calm...or a moment of grandeur as it may be. And in the midst of this chaos, I looked up to see a vision in spectacularly beautiful white hair coming toward me from the opposite direction, clad in a full length coat and a beautiful cashmere scarf. I secretly wanted to shout to him, but what sense would that make? He doesn't know me, and I would just call attention to him, which is probably the last thing he wants as he tries to make his way home from a busy day on the air:

The gorgeous Mr. Anderson Cooper

Oh, and I can assure you that he looks just as dashing in person as he does on the air. In spite of his great reporting skills and his good looks, though, this Cooper doesn't hold a candle to my other Cooper friend, who is one of the sweetest souls on Earth. You should visit his blog. Don't just read his latest entries, go back and explore. You'll find laughter, tears, and beautiful writing there from an unusually gifted soul...the kind of person that you wish were out there to touch every life.