Friday, March 25, 2011

Cafe 305 Kitchen Renovation: Filth and Squalor

Time for an update on:

This is my life.

That's the range and hood. We had a little scare with these on Tuesday. The HVAC guys came to look at the specs for the hood and shook their heads and said that we'd have to have ten inch ducting and an extra intake for it, and that because our house was so tiny, we'd also have to add a ton of capacity to the current HVAC unit. Or buy a lower end range and hood. We did some fast (and kind of frantic) checking with the guys we bought the appliances from, another HVAC company and the head engineer for the county who will be doing the inspection and got the official verdict that these guys were full of beans. My range and hood are safe. And someone else will be installing the vent.

Meanwhile, back in my living room:

I know. We look like an episode of Hoarders.

Oh, and it's not just relegated to the inside.

In fairness, Brad, our carpenter, is fastidious. He wipes off surfaces, tries his best to contain dust, and leaves his workspace neat as a pin. But on top of the construction mess, I'm battling this.

And losing.

Yes, Spring. Beautiful Spring has arrived on the NC coast.

But along with this loveliness, comes this.

You try keeping it out of the house.

I asked Brad to just install a drain in the center of the house so that when this is all over, I can just pressure wash everything. He laughed at me.

So we live in filth and squalor and a thick coating of dust and pollen.

But wait! What's this?


Nick, our contractor, has said he thinks we'll be completely finished by Tuesday April 5. Andie (that's me) says she's betting we're looking at Friday, April 9. At the earliest. Because a cabinet is missing and one side is the wrong finish. Despite the fact that we said "Nick, hey, make sure ALL the cabinets are on the delivery and undamaged". He didn't, because "It's OK, these guys never screw up my cabinet order". I've given him a little good-natured grief about that. He's been great, really. That's a tiny hiccup in a project that has otherwise gone a heck of a lot more smoothly than the bathroom.

Anyway, you guys are welcome to put together a pool on finish time. But I'm guessing Nick's date won't get many takers.

Meanwhile, we wait and live like this.

And eat dinner out every night. Except last night, when Ned and Melissa took pity on us and fed us a home cooked meal so we didn't have to go to a restaurant. (Holla!) They get the first dinner from our new kitchen when it's finished.

And after we clean.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Noodles with Ground Pork and Vegetables

Here is something I cooked before this happened:

Naturally, right before we had the kitchen torn out, I got my Spring issue of Fine Cooking. And also naturally, it was stuffed full of things I wanted to try. This was one I managed to squeeze in there. It's a great, quick, weeknight supper.

Shred 2 medium carrots and 2 zucchini or yellow squash. I used my new mandoline (also known as a finger guillotine) to shred the carrots and the zucchini. Cool!

I couldn't take a picture of the carrots. I was busy bandaging my thumb. Don't think about it too long. Yes, it hurt.

Mix half a cup of peanut butter (it calls for crunchy, which I obviously didn't have) with 1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar, 1 1/2 Tbs. fish sauce (which smells like it should just taste awful, but isn't), a teaspoon of sesame oil, and 3 Tbs of warm water together in a bowl and set that aside.

Boil a half pound of pad thai noodles in salted water until they're done. Drain them and rinse them in cold water, then leave them draining in the sink.

Heat 2 teaspoons of sesame oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 3/4 lb of ground pork a generous pinch of salt and brown it for about 5 - 6 minutes.

Now it's time to mix all the stuff together. The recipe calls for 1 or 2 jalepenos, but I used Sriracha hot sauce instead. Man, I love that stuff.

Anyway, toss the pork, the noodles, the vegetables, and a generous handful of chopped mint together with the peanut sauce and serve with a few lime wedges and a drizzle of Sriracha.
All done!
I'm not doing a .pdf of the recipe since it's not mine, and since I gave you the link above for it on Fine Cooking.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Destruction of Cafe 305 and its Author

Last Wednesday night, I didn't feel quite right, so I went to the doctor Thursday morning. After torturing me with her evil scales, which are forty pounds high, she put me on a course of antibiotics.

The antibiotic bottle label.
Within 12 hours of taking the first "antibiotic", I was running a low grade fever, had chills, and was nauseous as all get-out. I thought "Wow. Well, apparently this infection thing was worse than I realized."

But then, after another 24 hours, the original symptoms disappeared. Unfortunately, the fever and nausea didn't. By then, we were at the weekend, and the doctor's office was closed.

Coincidence? I think not.

These "antibiotics" are in a black capsule.

You know that Ingrid Bergman movie, Notorious? Where Claude Raines and his wicked mother are Nazi sympathizers and she's a spy and they find out and they try to poison her, but then of course Cary Grant swoops in at the last minute and rescues her?

I totally look this gorgeous when I'm sick. Pootie is so lucky.

That was almost exactly what happened to me! Except I had to haul my own damned self back to the doctor so they could humiliate me by making me wear a Michael Jackson face mask in the waiting room and some little kid stared at me so I stuck my tongue out at her, except she couldn't see it because I was wearing that stupid mask. When I finally got in there, I said "Are you trying to kill me, or what???" Except it came out "RRFFfm ur rensen ore ree enreh wfff??" because of that stupid face mask that was smothering me. Completely busted, she told me to go off the antibiotics - that they were probably causing the fever and nausea. Except it came out more like "Drat! She ees on to us! Abort meeshun!"

My doctor looks just like the chick on the right.

Needless to say, since I've been being poisoned for almost a week, I haven't felt like cooking, consuming, or even looking at food much. And anyway, this is the kitchen's current status.

That's right, kids. It's on.

This is the sad state of my dining room. It's just depressing.

Seriously, I'm kind of "tidy". OK, fine, I'm kind of a control freak. So this is difficult for me. I find myself closing my eyes and rubbing my face a lot.

Good lord.
But as of today, it has begun. The actual gutting of the kitchen. I had really hoped they'd let me take a sledgehammer to one particular drawer - like those guys destroyed that printer in Office Space - but in my frail and weakened state, it just wouldn't be the same.

Hopefully my doctor's evil plan was thwarted soon enough and I'll live to see the completion of the kitchen. Right now I still don't much care about having the ability to prepare food. Ugh.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Shrimp Tacos and Mango Slaw

My kitchen is scheduled to be destroyed Tuesday the 15th, so naturally, I'm really hitting my stride with dinner-cooking this week.

I was having dinner with Liz Biro late last week and she mentioned shrimp tacos, then she had to go and post an article about them, and I was done. It was all, "I'm off to get some shrimps" for me.

First things first - I put on some music. Suggestion for tonight's dinner - Kirsty MacColl's Tropical Brainstorm. I love this album. Thanks, Ben, for turning us on to this years ago. It's perfect for shrimp tacos.

Situated musically, I simmered some black beans. Dice an onion. Sweat it in a pot with a tablespoon of olive oil, a generous pinch of Kosher salt, then add a can of black beans. I didn't plan ahead. So no, not dried beans, which yes, are better. A can of black beans. They can cook while you're doing the rest of this.

Next, I put Pootie to work peeling shrimp. I have this thing where something on their shells makes me itch and then my fingers turn red and then it starts creeping up my arm and pretty soon my eyes get "all swole shut". Well, sometimes. Well, OK once. But I do get a mild rash and itching on my fingers and wrist. Every time. Yes, I use rubber gloves. But sometimes I just ask Pootie to do it.

Well, I mean, he wasn't all THRILLED to be peeling shrimp. But he did it.

Meanwhile, I made slaw with some mango and other stuff.

I shredded a small head of green cabbage and chopped some red bell pepper and a mango and threw that in. Then I chopped up three green onions and added the green parts, then sweated the white parts in a little olive oil. Because I can't stand raw onion. The green part is OK, but the white? Way too much for me. So I gave the whites a quick cook to tame their bite, and tossed the whole thing together to evenly distribute all of it. Then I drizzled it with olive oil, tossed it again, sprinkled it with salt and pepper, drizzled some honey and some blood orange vinegar and some white wine vinegar, and called it good. The recipe is below. Later. Keep reading. Maybe I'll throw in a picture of Godzilla.

Or, y'know...maybe not. Just keeping you on your toes!

So anyway, where was I? Oh yes. Slaw is done. Black beans are simmering on low heat. So now we do the shrimp that Pootie has so dutifully peeled.

Here you go on the shrimp. Sprinkle them WELL with kosher salt and cracked black pepper, then toss them with a teaspoon of coriander and a teaspoon of cumin. Simple. Plain.
Toss them all around then put them in a large pan with about a tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat and dance the suckers around. Add the juice of one fresh lime. Cook until the shrimp are pink and happy looking.
Not pink or happy yet.

In the last minute or two of cooking, heat some tortillas for serving. I also added some rice, because I had it left over.

Serve with some fresh limes and there you go. Happy taco eating!

Here is the .pdf of the slaw and here is the .pdf of the shrimp, if you want to take them for a spin.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Grilled Chicken Thighs with Chipotle Sauce

We're down to our last week of cooking in the current kitchen of 305. We think. We may have less time than that. We're having a discussion with the contractor over when he's going to gut it. He wants to get in there next week, and we're saying hooooold it! Wait until the cabinets are in and accounted for, and we ascertain that they're undamaged, and hey, is the sink in yet? (We've unfortunately learned to do this sort of thing the hard way - through the bathroom and laundry room projects.)

But I don't especially want to relive that trauma right now, so let's make a quick weeknight dinner.

Go pop a sweet potato or two in the oven to bake while you're doing this to go along with. Poke holes in them and put them on a pan, or you'll have a godawful mess oozing all over the bottom of your oven.

Start with boneless skinless chicken thighs. I like to get those packs from Costco and just keep them in the freezer. That way, I always have some I can thaw and have for dinner.

Make a spice rub for the chicken. I adapted this one from Tony Rosenfeld. Oh! How I love that man! Every recipe of his I've tried or adapted is great. Never a clunker in the bunch. Anyway, make this spice rub. Or some derivation of it:

Put 1-1/2 teaspoons of ground cumin, a teaspoon of packed light brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of chili powder, 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, and a teaspoon of Kosher salt in a bowl and mix them all together .

Get your roasting pan ready and turn your grill on - we're going for about 450F. You could use the oven or even the broiler if you'd rather. Yes, you could do this chicken without the roasting pan on the grill. I just like to minimize the mess on my grill. So here's my roasting pan, covered with aluminum foil and topped with parchment.

Sprinkle the spice rub over both sides of the chicken. I drizzled mine with a little olive oil first, but you don't have to do that.

Put the chicken on the grill (or in the oven) and keep an eye on it - it needs about 12 - 15 minutes, depending on how big your thighs are. Mine are pretty good sized, which is why I work out every day. And only wear shorts in the privacy of my own home.

In a small saucepan, mix together about three Tablespoons of honey, 3 Tablespoons of ketchup or tomato paste (I was shamefully out of tomato paste), one canned chipotle chili plus a couple teaspoons of the adobo sauce from the can, three Tablespoons of bourbon (yes!!), a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, and a dash of Worcestershire sauce.  Simmer that for five or ten minutes, then serve it over the finished chicken.

Here's the .pdf, if you would like to giverago!