Ghouls or Elves?

This is an old unpublished post.

Some friends dropped off these delightful gifts. It was too late for Hallowe’en and too early for Christmas. Were they evil devil vampires or cruel brownies. Either way they left these with me knowing they were my favorites. I left them in the cupboard for about 28 minutes before I opened the Christmas ones. Come on, I mean, cherry and vanilla? How could I resist that. I didn’t.

Excuse me while I find a length of rope

This showed up in my email feed a few days ago and I immediately started preparing to reopen Edgar’s Calypso. I like to be in on the hot trends.

And then I began to recall all the happy memories. Like the 5 am-in-the-kitchen making what-the-fuck ever. The thieving manager. The surly waiters. The drunk waiters. The high waiters. The having-a-cigarette-the-alley waiters. Drunk people at the bar, people an hour late for their reservation and haughtily expecting to be seated. People complaining . . . about the music, about the curry, about the I-don’t-give-a-shit-what. Ah yes. Such good times.

Spoiler alert. I will not be resurrecting my restaurant. Although I do like the idea of “A Restaurant Resurrection” replete with chocolate bunnies, Peeps and jelly beans sorta thing.

It was pretty though. (sad face emoji) R.I.P.

A fun household hack

My spices are aging. I mean, aren’t we all? But a certain royal mounted food officer of the law complained about, I’m not sure, ginger or mustard. So, finding myself at the Indian store I picked up a bag of each. When I got home I tried to think of a good use for the not insubstantial amount left in the jars. And then I had an inspiration.

The rabbits pretty much use my yard as a smorgasbord. They even ate my chives. I mean, really?? So with a great deal more hope than the situation seemed to deserve I scattered both the mustard and ginger powder all over the lawn where they spend many languid hours indiscriminately leaving little piles of poop hither and yon. I realize this was a long shot and won’t really solve my rabbit problems. It might even create some.

I’ll look out there and see them eating the grass with chopsticks. And then if I were my friend Judy I’d rush out with soy sauce and fortune cookies.

No one would have noticed

But I did. It was Easter and we were making dinner for a horde or two. I made a chicken pot pie and stupidly decided to make the top lid a lattice. But, you know, it’s Easter and you gotta make it special for the Bunny.

Doing that lattice work is time consuming, particularly on such a huge casserole, and confusing when you’re getting to the end and you have to fake it with little pieces of the dough tucked hither and tither. Particularly when you’re doing 50 other things at the same time.

So I fuss budgeted the thing into the oven with little hand-picked sage leaves placed dramatically on top and when I took it out of the oven I was horrified to discover I’d made a lattice error. What was supposed to go over went under. I was so ashamed. I couldn’t bear to bring it to the table. Just kidding. No one would ever have noticed. But I photoshopped it into perfection. The way the Easter Bunny would have wanted me to.

Springtime Dots

I am posting this with extreme reluctance since A#1: Thoughtful friends gave these to me and A#2: I am loathe to say anything unkind about Dots, my go-to.

These are called “Springtime Dots.” OK, sounds promising but even before I opened the box (3.5 seconds after I received them) I could see that the only “springtime” fruit was strawberry. I mean really??? Grapes come in the fall. Mangoes and pineapple, well, I don’t even know. Aren’t they a year ’round fruit? On the other hand, what are springtime fruits anyway? OK, Yes, strawberry. Rhubarb? (yes, I know it is not a fruit) m-m-m-m, rhubarb Dots. Not a soul gonna buy those, except me, of course, I’d give them a shot. Cherries are sorta early summer, I guess.

Like most other companies that produce consumable products they are trying to expand their reach. I get it but I don’t want to have to stand for 20 minutes in the Dots aisle (aside from being seen in the Dots aisle—how embarrassing!) trying to locate “Original flavor” like I have to do now with Triscuits. Have you looked at their brand extension lately??? Christ, sea salt Triscuits, fine pink Himalayan salt Triscuits, rosemary Triscuits, tomato-basil Triscuits, ranch Triscuits, Triscuit chips, triangle Triscuits, mini Triscuits, mini triangle Triscuits, dinosaur shaped Triscuits. It’s like they’ve lost their collective mind.

Maybe they should try expanding from seasons to countries. Tropical countries, foreign countries, authoritarian dictatorship countries. Think about it . . . Russian Dots. OK, so, not gonna buy these but not gonna buy springtime ones either.

Things you do when your husband isn’t there

So he can’t roll his eyes or say things under his breath which you know are not nice and/or flattering.

I saw this dealio on Instagram, and like most things on Instagram it looked easy and delicious. Most other things there look easy and dangerous, or stupid. Note to self: Do not stand on 8 stacked buckets to fix a light with an acetylene torch while drinking a martini.

Anyhoo, I got sucked in by this one. Seemed easy enough, peel several tangerines, freeze the individual segments and then throw them into a food processor. Boom! Delicious . . . sherbet? Sorbet? Ice cream? Well, no, none of the above. It was sour and flavorless. Maybe the tangerines were at fault, the consistency was right. So I added, to begin with, a couple of TBS of honey. Theoretically this should work except that honey doesn’t do very well in sub-freezing temperatures. It was goodish once I’d processed the congealed frozen clumps of honey out of it but it was still flavorless. So I added salt, vanilla and coconut essence.

It was delicious!!! And, as an added bonus, it did not freeze into a solid block. I should post this as an Insta Reel. I’ll do that when he’s gone as well.

Restaurant dining

I’ve come to realize that generally speaking I don’t like to eat in restaurants. There is the ever present “I can make this better at home, and for a lot less money” and there’s always “can’t get a reservation or one at a time earlier than 9:30.” And the always popular “seated near overactive children” (My own grand nieces and nephews excepted). Not to mention “nothing on this menu interests me.” And, of course, the familiar “can you turn down/up the heat? The fan is blowing on my neck.” As well as the adjacent “can you turn down (never up) the music so I can hear myself think?” And if I sound like a grouchy old man, it’s because I am one.

But Husoor and I went to a restaurant called Otto’s in Madison and I had a glorious pasta dish of roasted red peppers, mushrooms, artichokes and black olives in creamy feta sauce. It was outstanding. Never mind that I can make it at home for less than its $25—or was it $32?—price tag.

Turns out I can’t. I tried. It was goodish but not outstanding. The feta (I buy the expensive stuff from the deli in the Greek store) turned seriously grainy. But if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. And I will, stay tuned.

Cream pie mysteries solved

My nephew’s favorite dessert is coconut cream pie. So for various occasions I’ve made them for him. One time disastrously. It has always been a mystery to me what went wrong with this pie. It had more in common with soup than pie.

I made it again for him on St Patrick’s Day to thank him for a favor he did me, a reason other than his Irishness. I suddenly realized that it’s completely obvious what I’d done wrong. I FORGOT THE EGGS!!! Coconut cream pie is yellow from the yolks. Mystery solved. That pie was edible, of course. With a spoon. This pie with a fork, the way God intended pies to be eaten.

Pollo O’Carlos

Sorry dad. I went Mexican for St Patrick’s Day. I mean, there is some basis for this if I really needed to excuse myself, which I don’t. So many Irishmen died in the Mexican civil war that there is a plaque for them in the Plaza San Angel in Mexico City (or CDMX, if you’re in the know). I have not posted about Pollo Carlos since 2017 . . . continued below.

I did manage to get an Irish flag on my house.

Pollo Carlos a kind of tomato-less Mexican-ish lasagna. I don’t recall what motivated me to make it the first time but it was so good that I always thought. . . when I have my restaurant I’m gonna. . . it is in some ways responsible for the misery of my having opened a restaurant. Dammit to hell.

It’s hyper easy, if somewhat tedious if you’re cooking your own chicken. It is also very forgiving about time and ingredients. I mean you cannot substitute Twinkies for chicken but you need enough shredded, sloppy chicken to make a layer in a 9 x 12 casserole (buttered). Approx 5-ish chicken breast halves, poached them with some chopped onion and about 3 tsp of cumin and shredded. But you could use any cooked chicken that you happened to have laying around. Add about 1/4 cup of chicken stock with a TBL of flour or cornstarch mixed into it. Add a tablespoon of butter into it as well.

I use flour tortillas. I have used corn, but it does not taste the same. It’s good, but not goody good, as the drunk freak that Dave Kruck, a college roommate, brought into our apartment once said to me about my artwork. Well, he said my artwork was “not just good, it was goody good.” I believe he was also trying to get in my pants. His missing teeth precluded that from happening. But I digress.

Line the bottom of the casserole with tortillas. You can tear them up to make the corners. Then add the chicken mixture and dot with butter.

Layer with tortillas.

You’ll need about a pound of shredded cheese, 1 bag of pre shredded Monterey jack and one of Colby or whatever. Though I shred my own cheese. Thank you very much. Save enough for the top. Then mix the rest with 2 eggs, one can of chopped mild green chiles, 2 TBL flour and and 1/2 cup of milk. It actually helps if you whisk the milk and flour together first though no one dies if you don’t.

Layer with tortillas and top with shredded cheese. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 50 minutes. Uncover and drizzle with green chili sauce (imma do a shamrock shape to be all, you know, Irish-y and everything) and bake another 10 minutes. Let rest for at least 10 minutes.

You can make this in advance and bake it later. Or you can bake it, refrigerate it and cut it into squares and microwave it. That’s what we did in the restaurant where I made it until my soul was crushed into a tiny miserable shred of gloom and I closed it, the restaurant, I mean. The recipe lives on. 

My nephew Evan, who waited tables in the fore-mentioned restaurant, once ate a piece the size of a Buick right from the refrigerator like a giant candy bar. It’s that good.

So I met the president

The Democratic party opened a new office in Milwaukee and Joe stopped by. I really have no idea how I got invited to this small gathering. But I did. His short speech was funny, glib and not some sort of political banging-the-drum thing. When he was done he walked around and talked to every single person there. I have worried that he was too old or whatever. I think that’s what Republicans want us to think.