Things You Need To Be Told!

Not really. I don’t have much to add to the universe except for the usual partisan rhetoric of the day, and what could be more contraversial than recipes and housekeeping tips? NOTHING. Here to kick off my contribution to uncivil discourse:

I enjoy cooking. It’s the only thing besides swimming where I can really concentrate on the process and it makes my brain feel wonderful without alcohol, pills and/or the risk of pregnancy. Last week I made the following dinner for a friend’s birthday. Please let the menu be a testament to her sweetness and winning personality. But, don’t be sad that I don’t cook this way for you. If you are reading this, you are probably married to a vegetarian, so blame him.

Kentucky Ale Sours (inspired by a drink Eric enjoyed at the Tabard Inn, try it sometime)

1 1/2 dozen oysters on the half shell
baked crab dip in a pumpernickel bread bowl (not saying boule. you can’t make me)

cornish hens
oyster stuffing
mashed potatos
brussel sprouts, lightly steamed (just kidding! they were soaked in olive oil and parmesan)

warm “world peace cookies” with whipped cream

buckets of wine

a few notes on the experience:

Oysters on the shell seem very annoying, but luckily I have an oyster shucker c/o my friend Mary Adams.

Genius! I used to stab the s*** out of myself but am now looking down at my hands and they are wound free! It’s from Crate and Barrel and I do not think it is sold anymore, too bad for you! But really, if you love oysters, buy a proper knife and wear an oven mitt you don’t care about that much. You will not be sorry you did.

The important thing- that delicious vinegar accompaniment called mignonette? It is red wine vinegar, chopped shallot, ground pepper and that is IT. What could be easier? Ladies, you have no excuse not to try these at home. I got 2 varieties of VA oysters at Whole Foods for .99 cents each, but would be interested in exploring other retailers. I am an east coast girl with west coast tastes. Hama Hama time!

But, I will say in Whole Foods’ credit that the lady at the seafood counter gave me a bag of that crushed tiny ice which is essential for oyster stabilization on an ordinary serving tray. What a life saver that was. I thought I was going to have to use cat litter but this was a much more elegant solution, so don’t forget to ask for extra if you don’t have this fancy platter I saw on Gilt.

The cornish hens themselves were brined for just a few hours and rubbed with a paste of olive oil, lemon zest, sage and thyme under their skins, which all sounds way harder than it is. Really the only hard part is remember to make the brine early on so it has time to cool to room temperature before you add the birds. Dinner at 8 = make brine at 3:30 p.m. for one hour cooling, two hours brining, one hour roasting and one half hour resting. I thought they turned out very nicely, but I’m a sucker for roasted chicken in large or small format.

Kitchen twine is something I discovered while stuffing the cornish hens and now I want to use it on everything from grilled cheese to smoothies but it’s gonna be tough to incorporate it into a daily lifestyle. Will update if I find a way to use the 78 feet of it I have left but chances are it will end up as cat toy.

The last and perhaps most important element was the world peace cookies. I found this recipe while searching for an egg free cookie my nephew could eat, because let’s face it babies need LOTS of sugar and chocolate and nothings says I Love You at Christmas like type 2 diabetes. You’re welcome Henry. Well he loved these and ran around the house with his hands flailing about, wildly searching for more. He should come to DC where there is a whole nother frozen batch of dough in my freezer!

So not only are these egg free, but yes the dough freezes beautifully for make-ahead magic. Very handy because if you are anything like me, dinner is little more than a springboard to a larger wine delivery system so you want to keep it simple.

This recipe is absolutely perfect as is and you really don’t have to change a thing. The author errs on the side of details, so if you are an inexperienced baker you will probably appreciate her thoroughness. I didn’t bother reading the instructions too carefully (well, at all) because this ain’t my first rodeo but I reviewed the steps a few minutes ago and can attest to the recipe’s accuracy. Example: despite having a freshly sharpened knife, my dough broke apart a little while slicing the rounds. This is a) inevitable and b) not a problem. Press them back together as she advises and they will be fine.

So like I said, this recipe is great as is, but I do have a few notes.

1) Let the cookies cool on the (lined) baking sheet. Resist pulling out the wire rack, even though you’ll be tempted to because hey, you own some. They remain softer this way. I cooled a batch on a wire rack as an experiment and while nothing could hurt the flavor of these cookies (SALTY CHOCOLATE YUM) I didn’t like the slightly crisper texture.

2) Bittersweet chips work fine in lieu of the chopped chocolate. If you toss them into your mixer, they’ll get broken up like you hand chopped them anyway. The only thing I pursue relentlessly is ways to be more lazy and this is a great way to save your energy for more important things like laying down under a blanket.

3) Roll out the dough to a log that’s 2 inches in diameter rather than 1.5 if you want to act like these cookies are actually tiny cakes and serve with whipped cream. The whipped cream makes it, trust me.

It is now time for me to go fix myself some tea and catch up with some back issues of National Journal at the reference desk. I love my job. In the meantime I hope that this post has everyone worked up into a lather of partisan hatred.


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