Posts tagged “commentary

Arepas Chile Chicken ~ The Sweet Hereafter

So, can just anyone buy a submarine?

It’s not like she isn’t qualified to command one; after all, Sister Madly has a boating license- got it when she was twelve. Officer What’s-His-Name said it was all she needed to operate motorized watercraft- sure, she may have forgotten a few things in the intervening years, but surely beneath the water those laws no longer apply.

The craft shouldn’t be difficult to figure out, no doubt just an ignition key and a bright orange button to make it go forward. It will have no reverse gear, but that won’t be a problem on the ocean’s floor where U-turns are permitted willy-nilly; after all, the Germans call these magnificent vessels U-boats, which is clearly in honor of the U-turn.

But most importantly, one need never parallel park a Submarine between an obnoxious Prius and a wood-paneled PT Cruiser, which is a most unnatural and debauched maneuver straight from the pit of hell.

She doesn’t need all the fancy u-boat upgrades, such screen doors and nuclear warheads; your standard get-out-of-the-way torpedo will do. Sister Madly will, however, insist upon flocked wallpaper, disco lights, and a badass stereo system; David Bowie will sound especially haunting inside a submarine.

As for the intermittent, man-your-stations-you’re-under-attack buzzer (complete with flashing red light,) that will make a most excellent alarm clock for any early morning appointments Sister Madly is foolish enough to make.

Also, a conveniently placed shark’s fin will not go to waste.

It shall be called the USS Sweet Hereafter.

* But secretly, she will call it Myrtle.

There are one or two things that will need to be addressed- her negative sense of direction, for example. Officer What’s-His-Name used to talk about this apparatus called a compass, but Sister Madly finds relying upon magnetic poles so 1987. She would utilize a state-of-the-art navigational system,* not prehistoric tomfoolery.

* A few sober friends and a map.

You may be wondering where Sister Madly will store the vessel when not in use. She is certainly glad you asked! Her elder sister, Tallulah, has a creek running through her back yard- no doubt she would be happy to let sweet little sis park Myrtle at the end of the dock. The HOA doesn’t address the subject of submarines, thus one can only assume that they are allowed on the property.

Also, Sister Madly would be most responsible with the torpedoes: she will only use them on spiders.

But all this is nothing more than a pipe dream if civilian submarine ownership is beyond her reach. Sister Madly couldn’t go on wasting her night glamming up Myrtle if she wasn’t allowed to buy one.

So, at 2:41 AM:

Can just anyone buy a submarine?

Now some of you may cluck your tongues at the 2:41 timestamp, but it’s not like she was texting something frivolous, like celebrity death notices. This was important; Sister Madly’s entire future depended upon it.

And rest assured, she was completely sober at the time.

Why?

Come on, Professor- can’t a person ask about submarine ownership without being accused of plotting something nefarious? Sister Madly encountered the same skepticism last year when inquiring about a steamroller. Have a little faith.

The Professor never answered.

So… can just anyone buy a Submarine?

AREPAS CHILE CHICKEN

CHILE CHICKEN

  • 6-8 boneless chicken thighs, whole
  • 2 sweet onions, sliced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1½ cup chicken stock
  • 1 TBSP tomato paste
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp chili powder
  • ¼ tsp chipotle pepper
  • salt, to taste

Heat oil in Dutch oven
Add onions; stir to coat
Lower heat, stirring occasionally until onions are caramelized (30-45 min)
Mix in spices, stock, and chicken; bring to a boil
Reduce heat; simmer until chicken is cooked (25 min)
With 2 forks, shred chicken in sauce
Simmer to reduce and thicken

AREPAS

  • 1 cup Harina de Maiz (pre-cooked cornmeal, such as P.A.N.)
  • 1 cup water or milk, room temp if possible
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 TBSP oil

Combine arepa flour and salt
Mix in oil and water, until mixture is smooth
Knead a few times, dividing dough in four pieces*
Roll each piece into a ball, then flatten about 1/2 inch thick
Heat greased pan over medium heat
Add the arepas; cook until golden brown (about 6-7 minutes)
Flip; cook another 3-5 minutes

* Coating hands in oil will help prevent sticky-dough rage.

TO SERVE:
Split arepas horizontally
Fill with chicken
Top with cotija, guacamole, and sour cream

THEME SONG: Under Pressure, David Bowie/Queen

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Perfection Salad ~ DisasterChef Theatre

Let’s face it: one can only spend so much time lounging about, indulging in bubble wrap and drinking from the skulls of thine enemies. Faced with the possibility of becoming merely a husk of a person, Sister Madly decided to confront one of her greatest fears: making a salad.

Having fondly recalled the culinary success of Ham and Banana Hollandaise, Sister Madly returned to the recipe box of yesteryear for the inspiration that would propel her into the world of healthy vegetables.

And she found it.

An array of vegetables encased in gelatin, and stuffed rather glamorously into a decorative mold- or in Sister Madly’s case, a disposable tin.

SHOPPING LIST

  • 2 packets unflavored gelatin.

Unable to find unflavored gelatin (she didn’t try very hard, she admits) Sister Madly headed straight for the Jell-O. Not only does this confection have gelatin, it is available in an array of lovely colors. The lack of pigmentation was the one thing that, in Sister Madly’s most correct opinion, that kept the Salad from being absolute Perfection; thus she rectified this oversight with a package of Berry Blue.

  • 1 cup finely shredded cabbage

Sister Madly saw no reason to waste time and effort shredding a large cabbage when Mother Nature has provided mankind with itty-bitty mutant ones.

  • ½ cup chopped green pepper

Green pepper, which is a formidable piece of produce in its own right, does not have a lot of kick, and Sister Madly needed some spice to balance out the sweetness of the Berry Blue.

So she replaced the Bell Pepper with Thai Chilies. Brilliant.

  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 1 cup shredded carrots

Since celery is an affront to humanity, Sister Madly omitted this particular vegetable in order to maintain the title of ‘Perfection.’ She had every intention of including the Carrots; however, once at the market, Sister Madly found herself swept up on the winds of whimsy and substituted Cherry Tomatoes.

  • 4 oz chopped pimento

Since the pimento is the heart of an olive, and since produce is at its best when obtained organically, Sister Madly skipped the jar of farm-raised olives and chose to harvest this elusive fruit from its natural habitat: a martini.

And where best to get a martini than at a pub?

24 hours later… Behold, her genius!

Just as professional culinarians enhance their creations with decorative sticks and sprigs, Sister Madly, too, opted for garnish; but her garden yielded little more than slugs and rocks. She did come across a bit of herbal greenery in the backyard, but her neighbors were smoking it at the time.

In the end, she need look no further than her own pantry: indeed, all the culinary masters would agree that brown onions and garlic are the perfect accompaniment to Berry Blue Jell-O.

Even Sister Madly could not conceive what sort of mind would consider this anything other than absolute perfection. It was guaranteed to be called a work of art amongst those blessed with the gift of sight!

Having determined that her Salad was exquisite in every way, Sister Madly decided that it would be cruel not to share this gastronomic masterpiece with the world- and what better way than to present the Salad as the main course at a neighbor’s birthday celebration?

All she needed was a birthday candle.

Sister Madly, as you can see, is the soul of generosity.

Happy Birthday.

PERFECTION SALAD

  • 2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 12 oz apple juice
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 2 TBSP vinegar
  • 1 cup carrot, shredded
  • 1 cup celery, sliced
  • 1 cup cabbage, shredded
  • ½ cup green pepper, chopped
  • 4 oz. pimento, chopped

In small saucepan, combine gelatin, sugar, and salt; mix well.
Add 1 cup water.
Heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until sugar and gelatin are dissolved. Remove from heat.
Stir in apple juice, lemon juice, vinegar, and ¼ cup cold water.
Pour into medium bowl.
Refrigerate 1 hour, or until mixture is consistency of unbeaten egg white.
Add carrot, celery, cabbage, green pepper, and pimento; stir until well combined.
Turn into decorative, 1½ quart mold.
Refrigerate 4 hours, or until firm.
To unmold: Run small spatula around edge of mold; invert onto serving plate.
Place hot dishcloth over mold; shake gently to release. Repeat, if necessary.
Lift off mold; refrigerate until ready to serve.

~ From McCall’s Great American Recipe Card Collection

THEME SONG: Sweetest Perfection, Depeche Mode


5-Spiced Apricot Chicken ~ Forbidden Fruit on Rye

It wasn’t long ago that Sister Madly, after several gastronomical no-no’s which included the Great Ham and Banana Hollandaise Debacle, was indefinitely banned from the culinary process of party-planning. But this did not preclude her from being recruited to run essential errands, such as “picking up a couple of Swedes.”

Why Swedes specifically? Is not Sister Madly’s own Scandinavian heritage, as slight as it may be, enough of a cultural contribution to the party? Is it even possible to tell a Swede from a Norwegian? If she should bring home a Finn, would she be horribly punished?

Then again, just what kind of girl do you think she is? Do you think she routinely struts about in stilettos and a feathered boa down at the local Ikea? Sure, Sister Madly recently required that every single one of you be her Valentine– some of whom even had the audacity to question her technique- but there is a world of difference between demanding your companionship and wooing you with her dubious charm.

Besides, if Sister Madly was any good at wooing, would she resort to demanding?*

* Yes, actually. Sister Madly is lazy.

Naturally, her friends anticipated her childish tirade, and followed up with a clarifying text: Studebakers.

Well, maybe the Swede would be driving one.

Dammit… Rutabagas!

Rutabagas are a funny thing. Sister Madly has a hard time believing that the fool who first dug one up said, “Well, Son-of-a-Biscuit! What a delicious-looking thingamabob!” No doubt its history is more complicated, perhaps even stemming back to biblical times. It’s quite possible that something was lost in translating the Torah, that Eve was not tempted with the Forbidden Fruit, but the Forbidden Root.

But let’s face it: it would take an awful lot of sweet-talking on the part of the Snake to get Eve to chow down on a straight-from-the-dirt Rutabaga. Perhaps a verse was omitted from the original text in which God cursed the Forbidden Fruit by upping its carb count and reducing it to a Root, much like how the Walking-Talking Serpent was reduced to a slithering, hiss-happy Danger Noodle.

From a divine viewpoint, a Fruit-to-Root curse would have been absolutely necessary. No doubt the Forbidden Fruit would devastate the future of humanity by being a hit at the Farmer’s Market- why, just think of the incredible smoothies one could concoct, or all the lovely jams. Forbidden Fruit on a lightly-toasted rye would, without a doubt, be a most unholy way to start the weekend.

Being the cheeky little moppet that she is, Sister Madly brought up the subject to a Seminary Student later on at the party, one who got his kicks from taking himself much too seriously. She was curious as to what he had to say about her most excellent Rutabaga Theory.

He did not think it most excellent.

“If you consider the region and the climate of the Garden of Eden at the time, the Forbidden Fruit would have been similar to an Olive.”

And just what is so tempting about an Olive? It’s the only thing on this planet that can further contaminate a perfectly ghastly loaf of bologna! Olives have their place in the culinary world, make no mistake; but to bring about the downfall of all mankind- quite frankly, that tasty little wart just did not have the gumption. There is simply no way that a Serpent could seduce Eve with a beady-eyed little olive.

Unless it was in a martini.

Then again, who can say it wasn’t in a martini? How do we know that the Serpent wasn’t the local mixologist, wooing Eve with a posh cocktail? Savvy barkeeps have been making the same moves for generations- they must have picked it up from somewhere.

Speaking of which- would you like a drink, Soon-To-Be-Reverend No-Fun?

“There’s a reason they’re called spirits: being drunk with liquor is like being possessed by the devil.”

Spoken like a true fart.

5-SPICE APRICOT CHICKEN

  • 6-8 chicken drums/thighs

MARINADE

  • 3 TBSP soy sauce ~ or ~ coconut aminos
  • 2 TBSP sesame oil
  • 2 TBSP garlic, minced
  • 1 TBSP ginger, grated
  • 2 tsp Chinese 5-spice
  • 1 tsp Sriracha sauce
  • 3-4 TBSP olive oil, or as needed

APRICOT GLAZE

  • 1 cup apricot jam
  • 3-4 TBSP soy sauce ~ or ~ coconut aminos
  • 3 TBSP rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp ginger, minced
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/4 tsp Sriracha, or to taste
  • salt/pepper, to taste

MARINADE
Mix together marinade ingredients
Add chicken; shake/mix to coat
Refrigerate 30min – 24hrs

GLAZE
Mix together glaze ingredients
Bring to a boil
Reduce heat; simmer to reduce (glaze will coat spoon)

BAKE
Preheat oven to 400*
Place chicken on greased baking rack in tray
Bake for 45 min
Remove from oven, brush chicken with glaze
Return to oven; bake 10-15 min, or until cooked through
Brush with remaining glaze straight from oven

THEME SONG: In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, Iron Butterfly


Wild Mushroom Stew ~ A Confederacy of Mukluks

During the time Sister Madly spent in their employ, Utopia obtained a reputation of small-time intrigue, from back alley business deals to  Kinder Egg transactions, to smuggling contraband inside of Russian Nesting Dolls. In spite of these rumors,* Utopia decided to venture into the seedy underworld of Alpaca Sweaters.

* Sister Madly might have been responsible for spreading those rumors.

Now Sister Madly knows that there are certain risks one takes when fraternizing with the Knitting Demimonde, from products of questionable origin (i.e., “Made in the Hinterlands”) to defects in the sweater itself:

As with all art, beauty is in the mind of the beholder. Clearly this was not a Backwards Flag; this was something deeper: a masterpiece of hypoallergenic fleece symbolizing the all the hardships a weary Knitter endures during a strong, eastern wind in the Hinterlands.

Eastern winds contribute to sweater-wearing, after all.

But Management, bereft of soul as is their wont, cast aside Sister Madly’s magnificent critique in favor of a far greater concern over why the whole of West Michigan refused to show their patriotism with a Backwards American Flag Sweater in the middle of July.

After much weeping and gnashing of teeth, Management concluded that the only way to rectify this horrible situation was to bundle the American Flag Sweaters with matching American Flag Mukluks, thus revolutionizing the fashion industry, winning a Nobel Prize, and retiring to a luxury hut in the Maldives. And no doubt they would have done just that, had it not been for a slight deficiency in Old Glory.

Let’s see if you can spot the error:

This sent Management into the throes of an existential crisis.

Fiddlesticks!” *

* Sister Madly apologizes for the graphic language.

While nobody could deny that the Flag had American roots, it would have, perhaps, behooved Management to have been a bit more specific when placing the order.

Upon being promoted to Marketing Director a few seconds prior, Sister Madly was enlisted to find a way to promote the Confederate Mukluks in a positive light, as Utopia would rather utilize the errant Mukluks than complain about the product- Knitters, as you know, can be particularly cutthroat.

Not wishing to be shish-kabobbed on the nearest knitting needle, Sister Madly pitched her usual poppycock: Sweetest Day was just around the corner, after all, and what better gift for your sweetheart than this knitted ensemble depicting America’s Civil War?

Then again, why not bundle the Sweaters with a full-length mirror (gilded frame optional) as the Flag would no longer appear reversed in this reflective apparatus? As for the Mukluks, they could easily be marketed to some disgruntled butler as cheeky little dusting cloths- knitted Mukluks clean up dust almost as efficiently as they create it.

Sister Madly even enlisted herself as visual aid, modelling the lovely* ensemble in a beam of sunlight.

* In marketing, even the most hideous of products becomes ‘lovely.’

But even as Sister Madly pitched this most excellent campaign, the sight of her posing most artistically in the latest Civil War Couture*- thus violating every city ordinance in the process- was enough to convince Management to donate the ensemble to the local shelter down the street. Utopia, despite its questionable reputation, was nonetheless generous with its clutter.

* Sister Madly also apologizes to the lady passing by the window during this unfortunate exhibition: you didn’t deserve to witness that.

WILD MUSHROOM STEW

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 16oz wild mushrooms
  • rainbow carrots, chopped
  • pearl onions, peeled
  • baby potatoes, quartered
  • 3 TBSP tomato paste
  • 1 cup Marsala wine
  • 3-4 cups veg or mushroom broth
  • 2 TBSP Worcestershire (vegan substitutes here)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp marjoram
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • salt/pepper, to taste
  • oil, for sautéing

Sauté chopped onion until translucent
Add garlic; sauté 1-2 min
Add spices; sauté 30 sec
Deglaze with Marsala Wine; 2-3 minutes
Add tomato paste; mix
Add potatoes, carrots, pearl onions, mushrooms; stir to coat
Add broth
Bring to a boil
Reduce heat; cover
Simmer until veggies are almost tender, stirring occasionally
Uncover; simmer to reduce/thicken
Add Worcestershire; mix
Adjust seasonings to taste

THEME SONG: Quiet Americans, Shearwater


Sweet Potato Lamb Samosas ~ Book Club Phlebotomy

It was another Saturday night, and another encounter with the Happy Phlebotomist, a human mosquito known for his fanatical devotion to the job and a happiness borders upon sinister. That night he was feeling particularly highbrow, lamenting about the one time he attended a Book Club, the evening ended in a conga line.

Now that’s an affair Sister Madly would consider! Book Clubs these days are bogged down by the most ridiculous of frills- such as cucumber sandwiches and, you know, books- that they have forgotten their humble roots in Cuban dance.

The Happy Phlebotomist (HP) however, was so devastated by the incident that he made an unusually bold declaration: yes, somewhere between depleting people of their life source and pushing natural supplements, he was going to start a book club of his own- a respectable book club, a proper book club. You see, he just loves the smell of books!

You’re not suppose to smell books, Sunshine, you’re suppose to read them; that’s what books are for! No doubt you know there are books which have been banned due to their content- suppose you should happen to huff one of those?

Sure, it’s just a snort here and there, but soon you’ll be wearing thick-rimmed glasses and tying your hair up in a bun, and in no time flat you’re insisting that Oreos are vegan while listening to music on ‘vinyl…’ it’s the gateway drug to hardcore hipsterdom!

It was of no use; soon they will all be card-carrying members of Book Club Phlebotomy, extracting blood and smelling books by candlelight. But even worse than this was that HP was determined to take Sister Madly along with them, handing over the book list and asking her to choose which should be their first:

  • Dianetics
  • Interview with an Exorcist
  • The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt
  • The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales
  • Beowulf
  • The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants
  • Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World
  • Atlas Shrugged

What Frankenstein stitched together this literary goulash? It’s enough to reduce anyone to a fetal position in a padded cell- even her spirit animal* is undergoing therapy for the trauma! And though Sister Madly admits that The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants would come in handy when landscaping the backyard, it’s hardly a book she would curl up with at the local coffee shop (mostly because she doesn’t like coffee.)

* Cookie Monster.

HP didn’t understand the fuss. After all, Sister Madly has been known to eat cod now and then- has she ever wondered about its heartbreaking journey from dreamy-eyed minnow to delicious fish ‘n chips? As for the Encyclopedia- why, it’s shorter than War and Peace by a few hundred pages! And just think of all the pointers she’d pick up from the Exorcist…

Exactly what pointers would those be, Sunshine? How to make your own holy water? A DIY crucifix out of dust bunnies and lemon peels? And what makes you think that Sister Madly needs pointers in the first place? Maybe she’s happy with her demons, ever think of that?!?

HP, however, was most accommodating. If Sister Madly didn’t find the list suitable, she- and her demons- were free to add to it.

And that’s just what they did:

  • The Doubtful Debutante
  • All of Them Witches
  • Higgins’ Universal Language
  • Blood on Their Hands: The Crime of It All, A Study of Some Selected Abuses in Sixteenth Century Europe
  • The Isle of Naboombu
  • To Serve Man*
  • Necronomicon

* In the original Kanamit, of course.

HP was absolutely delighted; finally, Sister Madly was showing some enthusiasm for the project! He even went so far as to buy her a pint- that is, until one of the Professors put that PhD- and smart phone thingy- to good use.

“None of these books exist!”

What can she say, Professor? Her devils made her do it.

SWEET POTATO LAMB SAMOSAS

PASTRY

  • 2 sheets Puff Pastry, thawed
  • Egg, beaten

SWEET POTATO

  • 1 sweet potato, peeled, cooked, and cubed
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1-2 chili peppers, chopped (or cayenne to taste)
  • 1/2 cup fresh peas

LAMB

  • 1 LB minced lamb
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 1 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 3/4 tsp sumac
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • salt/pepper, to taste
  • Oil/ghee

* ~ *  FILLING PREPARATION * ~ *

~ SWEET POTATO ~
Heat oil/ghee in pan
Add mustard seeds; roast until seeds start popping all over the kitchen
Add sliced onion; saute until translucent; 5 min
Add turmeric and chilies/cayenne; saute
Add potatoes and peas; stir to coat; approx 2 min
Remove from heat and set aside

~ LAMB ~
Saute chopped onions in oil; 5 min
Add garlic and ginger; saute 2 min
Add cumin, sumac, garam masala, salt/pepper; mix 30 secs
Add lamb; saute until cooked through
Add sweet potato preparation; mix thoroughly
Add stock; simmer until thickened
Stir in mint; remove from heat

PREPARING SAMOSAS
Preheat the oven to 400*
Roll out pastry sheets and cut into 9 squares (approx 4”x4”ea)
Place a tablespoon of mixture at the center of each square
Fold the pastry over filling to form a triangle
Brush egg wash the top of each samosa
Bake 20-25 minutes, or until golden

Book of Longing, Leonard Cohen w/Philip Glass