Egg Salad Sundays*

I had duck on the brain all week after spying a few organic ducklings at our local grocery, but waited too long to make my purchase and was SOL. So I picked up the next best dark meat—leg of lamb!

After spending an eternity cutting away fat and tearing the muscles apart at the seams for more marinade love and quicker roasting, I slathered the pieces in a garlic paste mixed with sea salt, crushed rosemary and thyme, lemon, olive oil, dijon mustard, and some extra garlic, just to be safe from our neighborhood vamps. Our refrigerator still smells of the rub, but it was well worth it…we feasted on juicy, pungent, justthissideofbloody slices of lamb that were the perfect counterpoint to our homemade mac & cheese (featuring a bechamel sauce blended with aged gouda, cheddar, and some leftover goat cheese from Thanksgiving).

*When I give my work friends the weekend recap on Mondays, I always feel like the 40-Year Old Virgin describing how he satisfied his egg salad craving. So I’ve decided to own it and spare them the conversation by posting weekly updates of my cooking exploits for all to see, share, and nod at sadly.

A Thanksgiving request

This year’s Thanksgiving invitation came with a request: Could I bring the same appetizer as last year? Those incredible bacon-wrapped dates? Well, how could I refuse, especially when I had the opportunity to spread the good word about a site called iheartbacon.com? And, as official VM (and now MI) friend Tom says, “The best thing about this recipe is that when you describe it to someone they say ‘Oh My God!’ once after you say ‘bacon-wrapped dates’ and a second time after you say ‘stuffed with goat cheese and almonds.'”

So I woke up at my usual 5:30am and began the preparations. This was the result of my hard work.

I also brought shrimp tartlets with avocado cream and spiced tomato glaze, but didn’t get any pictures of them, since I was too busy scarfing down Paula’s pepperoni-stuffed mushroom caps by the time we put them out.

The State of Your Hair Address

For as long as I can remember, my mom has delivered what I (now) affectionately refer to as The State of Your Hair Address. It was bewildering…how could she so heartlessly pick on ME, her firstborn daughter? But after going through some boxes of old stuff my folks sent me recently, I know exactly how, and why. And, not to be outdone by my husband’s Napoleon Dynamite soul-baring, I now present 12 Years of Bad Hair:

First grade

First grade You may find it hard to tell because I was quite the little actress at this age, but I was miserable here — John Lennon glasses, fiberglass-weave blouse handmade by my grandmother, sweater vest (in south Louisiana), awkward pose. But my lank locks were really the star of the show.

Continue reading “The State of Your Hair Address”

At least I’ll have a beautiful smoke ring

Gil & I live in his childhood home. It’s not a bad deal—his dad owns the house and we pay the mortgage, so it’s a lot like renting, only we get a house instead of a shitty little studio in NY. Before Gil moved back into the house a few years ago (before we met), his dad “rented” the place to a guy who did half-assed repairs in exchange for a place to squat. So we have a remodelled downstairs bathroom with plumbing that backs up if we wash more than five dishes at once. And we have a kitchen with newish cabinets, but an island that can’t possibly last till the new year. Things like that.

The one item Gil loved from day one was the wood-burning stove (and chimney!) the squatter installed. Problem is, like so many of his other renovations, this one doesn’t always function according to plan. The smoke backs up into the house as often as not and we can’t figure out why. Fun stuff. We really need to have it looked at, but things keep coming up, and we just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

Which explains why I came home to the familiar smell of smoke last night.

“Are you trying to kill me?”

“I thought it would be nice to have a fire going for you when you arrived home. What? Sometimes it works!”

“Gil, that’s how superstitions get started. Now that we’ve angered the wood-burning stove god we’ll have to make a sacrifice, and I don’t know about you, but I’m fresh out of goat blood!”

Thanksgiving anticipation

Like most Americans, I’ve had a food obsession for the past week. OK, I usually do, but this has been excessive, even for me. Though I haven’t been home to Louisiana for Thanksgiving in almost a decade, a part of me still feels the holiday Cajun feast like a phantom limb.

For me, the quintessential Thanksgiving dish was my grandfather’s oyster dressing (stuffing cooked outside of the bird for the yankees among you) made with the perfect balance of oysters and gizzards, so the first earthymeatybriney bite gave way to a more substantial base of rice and pork. I realize that description isn’t appetizing to most of you, but of the memories I have of my grandfather, watching him tend this all morning for his family is possibly my favorite. Knowing his time was short, I asked for the recipe the last time we had a holiday meal together and, if I wouldn’t have to take out a 2nd mortgage on the house to prepare the dressing with a pint of oysters (at NJ prices), I’d make it every year even if I had leftovers for a full week.

Then there’s Uncle Phil’s cornbread dressing, heavy with chicken and sage, and a meal in itself if you’re not careful. One of the cousins usually contributes a roast—venison if it’s been a good hunting season, beef if it hasn’t. My grandmother cooks the turkey which isn’t even close to the focus of the meal, since she also makes a huge pot of seafood gumbo, a ginormous cooker of rice, creamed potatoes, and smothered green beans (cooked down with onions, potatoes and salt pork or bacon until they give up the ghost). And that’s just for starters. As I move down the kitchen counter in my mind, I can almost taste the rest—hot rolls, buttered corn, eggplant dressing, shrimp fettucine, pork roast (or garlic roast surrounded by pork, depending on your view of it), ham, turkey gravy, and pork gravy (because why should you have to choose between gravies?)—and imagine the miniscule servings I’ll take of each so my plate doesn’t buckle. So it’s a full meal, even without the desserts which usually have a full room devoted to them.

But instead of going home, Gil and I will spend the day with friends at their annual Island of Misfit Toys dinner here in NJ. They host a Thanksgiving dinner for all of the strays in their lives that’s a little different than I’m used to, with Turkish, Italian, and standard American dishes in a happy jumble on the table. It isn’t my tradition, but I love forging a new one with this family of choice (which I figure, is exactly what the holiday is about)—celebrating the good fortune of having friends, family, and wonderful food in abundance.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. And eat a little pie for me, would you?