Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Curse You, Default Sheep Mentality

While we're on the subject of cooking, I thought I'd share a problem I've been having recently: following directions. As in, I follow them when I know I shouldn't. The wedding cake death march should have taught me that, when reading a recipe, be skeptical.

Over the holidays, we sampled some really delicious chocolate sables from a bakery in San Francisco. They were delicious enough that I wanted to find the recipe and crank out some myself. It took me until now to try (also I needed more cocoa, aforementioned wedding cake having thoroughly plundered my supply) them and how lucky I was that the recipe was available on el internet. In fairness, I gave myself every opportunity to correct the obvious fault with the recipe. I read it several times, opened up my master notebook of working recipes to compare, read the original again, shrugged my shoulders, and said (in a famous last words kind of way): "they published this recipe in a book, it MUST work."

Intrepid readers and bakers, perhaps you can spot the missing ingredient: cocoa, butter, sugar, flour, baking soda, vanilla extract, grated chocolate.

I'll give you a minute.

For those who don't bake often, the missing ingredient is some form of EGG PRODUCT. An ingredient, by the way, that was in every sable recipe I had in the master notebook. The mixture this recipe gave me could politely be described as "sandy." It was so dry and separate-y that even an attempt to roll it in log form in cling wrap did nothing for it. While the recipe implies that one should be able to roll the dough out and cut it into shapes, this was demonstrably untrue; instead I mashed it onto a cookie sheet as best I could and threw the whole mess in the oven (the final destination of these cookies is, as luck would have it, the crust for a cheesecake, so presentation is the least of my concerns as the whole mess will end up in the food processor anyway). What came out of the oven could politely be described as looking like the waste product of a mammal pressed onto a baking sheet and cooked.

The flavor was fine, but you couldn't possibly mistake it for a cookie - or a sable for that matter. It should work for its purpose, but don't expect to see these tied up with ribbon and presented as gifts anytime soon.

So while I seem to be a know-it-all, when confronted with written instructions, I tend to follow blindly and curse later. I find the same thing when following a knitting pattern. In both of these endeavors, I need to stop trusting the authors and instead trusting my wealth of accumulated knowledge.

On the bright side, and following from yesterday's post, the utter and complete failure of this extraordinarily simple recipe removes any chance that I would buy the full cookbook (oh, I realize I have been protecting the guilty: the recipe was from the Miette cookbook).

Monday, January 30, 2012

Otherwise They're Just Taking Up Space

One of the novelties of our suburban life which pleased me to no end was this magical extra room known as the laundry room. In apartment life the laundry room was in the basement if you were lucky, or several blocks away if you weren't. I spent many many years paying other people to do our laundry because I simply couldn't endure the laundromat - a luxury I know, but one which we endlessly justified by comparing our hourly rate at work vs. the .60/pound the nice people charged to do our laundry (and fold it) for us.

With the advent of in-house laundry, this rationalization flew out the window. I still do not relish the laundry job, but I have come to accept it as something normal people do. However, our particular laundry room may well be the largest room in our house and that seemed like a lot of room to allocate just to soiled things. So, in my optimism, I rechristened our laundry room: the prep kitchen. It has industrial shelving and a 6 foot long stainless table; all of the bizarro ingredients that don't belong in our regular kitchen (I'm looking at you, atomized glucose); and the massive stacks of cookbooks I have amassed over the years. This configuration, though, has proven the out of sight out of mind adage, and only in very special circumstances do I pick up one of those dusty cookbooks.

This will now change.

Starting this week, I will select a never before made recipe from on of the books and we will have it for dinner on Thursdays. There is really no point in ever buying another cookbook (and on this point, I have been rather firm - I haven't had a new cookbook in well over a year) if I haven't made at least some of the recipes from the existing ones.

True, there are some limitations. As there is still some calorie-watching going on in our household, it will be safe to assume that pork belly in cream sauce will not be on the menu anytime soon but, as luck would have it, the first book I selected at random immediately coughed up an acceptable meal: lime and chili crusted seared tuna.

Watch this space on Friday for the post-game.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

My Open Job Application to The Daily Show

Dear The Daily Show,
I'm a woman. There have been rumors that women don't feel so much of the love working for you. I don't really care. I'm a big fan and I can clearly take what you can dish. What I do care about is that other women seem to be hired in my stead. Granted, you've never received a formal letter of interest from me, but I'm considering changing that. Your women don't seem to last long with the exception of Samantha Bee, and I have a theory on that: she's the only one who is funny. These other women you hire, they are not funny. They are cloying and annoying and seem to equate humor with being massively, cliche-ly over the top. You have a new woman whose name I haven't bothered to learn because I doubt she'll be around long, and in her first appearance, she was a train-jumping hobo. Who wasn't funny. Not even a little bit. Then she was in a maelstrom of primary antagonism in South Carolina. Also not funny. She pulled faces and made silly voices and did pretty much everything I don't associate with humor on your show. Olivia Munn was just as bad. And don't get me started on the girl with the annoying voice.

Samantha Bee is self-deprecating, sarcastic, sardonic, all the good S-es. It's why I like her. The other women should be on sitcoms with laugh tracks for all the originality and verve they bring.

So, I would like to volunteer my services. I am a sarcastic, rage-filled, New York snob who would describe her attitude towards modern political life as ennui-filled, but can't because I do seem to still care. Previous experience includes a serious consideration of a run for the Senate seat soon-to-be-vacated by Joe Lieberman which I abandoned when I discovered he was no longer running, thus nullifying my campaign slogan, "I couldn't possibly be worse than this guy." I was also frankly adorable during several appearances on a game show in 1982-84. I don't think I'm necessarily funny, but I could work on my confidence in that arena. I know I'm funnier than the other fly-by-night women you have employed. And, not being a professional comedienne, don't have much invested in myself in that regard. Which means I won't throw hissy fits over my creative voice.

Furthermore, I'd be rather perfect at PR because I would happily stand in front of cameras and tape recorders and assure your critics that the women who have been unhappy in your employ were a bunch of whiners. I have no ego when it comes to being made to look ridiculous, and am rather phenomenal at keeping a straight face; also lying. While others might find me insufferable, I have never found myself to be. Additionally, if you hired me, I could finally convince my parents to stop watching the NBC local news at 11.

In short, I think I have The Daily Show voice. I think we could work well together. While I'm not really a cult of personality-type person, I might be able to get it going for Mr. Stewart, and I'd be all for practical jokes when Donald Rumsfeld or similar is in the green room. I would also bake cupcakes. I mention this because my understanding is that people like cupcakes. And my baking is pretty outstanding.

Please contact me at your earliest convenience. Or I'll just assume you've already read this when I send you my letter of inquiry.