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You may and can and will have it ALL

5 Oct


All caps means it is soooo important.

What else is important?

Bread.

Cheese.

Butter.

Eggs.

Fucking waffles. Yeah waffles too.

I took a cheese sandwich, dipped it in savory French toast batter and put it in the waffle iron. I cracked open my old trustworthy Ravenswood and waited. I ate.

Things were good.

Here is what to do.

Waffles-French-Toasted-Grilled Cheese Sandwich Yeah

  • 2 pieces of bread
  • 1-2 oz cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cups half n half
  • Dash salt
  • More butter!!
  • Big bottle of red

Heat the waffle iron. Whisk the egg, half and half and salt. Slice tiny slivers of cheese. Sadly you cannot put the cheese on too thickly or it’ll ooze into the waffle maker, so slice thinly. Put it on one piece of the bread. Put another slice of bread on top. Butter both sides. Then put into the waffle iron and cook away. Meanwhile open red wine. Ooh and ahh at your life. It is worth it. 

soviet cuisine

23 Mar

  
World history has never been my forte. Art history? Sure. Food history? Heck yah. Political movements? Not so much. It is not that I don’t get concepts-it is just that I am terrible with names and dates and I have a sneaking suspicion that what I am taught has been passed through a misogynist and Anglicized filter.

Oddly, I can recite recipes for chocolate chip cookies and umpteen cocktails, complete with amounts. And yet I cannot for the life of me remember years that things happened and then I get historical events out of order. Save remembering that WWI was before WWII. Got that one down.

So I’ve been gravitating towards cookbooks that teach me a bit of history too because where there is food involved I am more likely to remember. The CCCP Cook Book: True Stories of Soviet Cuisine deals with Soviet cuisine which is fascinating. The regime in power tried to promote an official cookbook and way of cooking for the all of the Soviet Union’s restaurant and catering businesses in order to get everyone serving exactly the same food everywhere, I suppose. That “official” cuisine seemed to veer towards Russian dishes, but the Soviet Union (aka USSR or CCCP) was pretty vast. The recipes that represent Soviet cuisine found in people’s homes ranges from Russian to Georgian to Tatar.

It is also interesting how much the the economics of the time drove the dishes. There is a reason for all those breadcrumb coated dishes. Meat at the time was scarce and the quality of what was available was poor. Crumbs disguised mystery meat. The lack of meat is the same reason there were so many canned fish, and varying patties of chopped meat.

Scarcity can also lead to remarkably good dishes. Eggplant “caviar” for instance. I’m not making it to replace real caviar. I’m making it because it is pretty dang delicious. Which I found shocking because rarely do I care for eggplant dishes.

The book is full of stories of dictators being jerks (to put it mildly) and the government being corrupt. The stories are alternately funny and sad. For instance the regime would champion eggs as not being so good for you when eggs were not readily available. When eggs finally were available in some abundance the government “realized” that eggs were in fact delicious and nutritious. Mmm, the tasty tales of executive power. By the time I finished reading and cooking through this book, I will be nourished both in body and mind.

As I mentioned, there are quite a few chopped meat recipes. There are some classics like sauerkraut, chicken Kiev, borscht and stroganoff. The recipe I am sharing is a sweet and spicy beet broth eaten with a toasted cheesy bread. Think of it as a variant of the classic pairing of grilled cheese with tomato soup. The topping on the toast is positively addictive. If you don’t like spice, you may wish to cut down the cayenne but being a nut for heat, I went all in.

The story behind this dish is about a chatty lil’ supper meeting between Stalin and Mao. Stalin steered Mao towards the soup because Mao grew up in southeast China, where the Hunan cuisine was full of the spicy flavors. Apparently at this dinner there was some wine drinking too, and Mao asked why Stalin liked to mix red and white wine. Stalin’s answer was that he liked creating his own bouquet of wine flavors. Now, I don’t recommend being like Stalin in general, and I REALLY don’t recommend mixing your red and white wine. But should you be into historical reenaction feel free to pop a couple of bottles open to wash down this meal. Just don’t reenact anything else the dictators might have been up to.

Borschtok with Spicy Toast adapted from The CCCP Cook Book by Olga and Pavel Syutkin

For borschtok:

2-2 1/2 liters meat stock (being veg, I substituted vegetable stock)
400 g (around a pound) beets
3 Tbsp. vinegar
1 egg white
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. sugar
For the toast:

2-3 slices white bread
25 g (almost 1 oz.) butter, plus some extra for frying
200 g (around 1/2 pound) semi-mature cheese (I used cheddar)
2 eggs
50 g (almost 2 oz) tomato puree or ketchup (I used tomato paste)
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
For the broth:

Add the beet, finely chopped, and the vinegar and egg white to the stock. Place over low heat and simmer 15-20 minutes. Add the cayenne and sugar and simmer another 5-7 minutes. Skim off any fat (if using meat stock) then run through a sieve (I lined mine with cheesecloth).

For the toast:

Heat the oven to 180 celsius or 360 Fahrenheit. Cut the bread into rectangular slices and fry in some butter. Grate the cheese and mix it with the tomato concoction of choice, eggs, butter and cayenne. Spread on the fried bread and bake in oven 10-12 minutes. Serve with the broth. Dip it. Dip it good.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip on bread. Dip in bowl. Dip da dip dip dippity do

6 Apr

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Ohhhh my goodness. I am finally done with the season of Girls on GIRLS. Although we will be rolling out cocktail-making segments soon.
And in between doing a bunch of live shows that ran the gamut from improv to sketch to contortion for comedy, I decided to pull out some of the posts I had had in my drafts for a while. This is one of them. A recipe I’ve enjoyed enough to make more than once. That’s a big compliment from me because having to vet new cookbooks leaves little time for old favorites. The genius work of Joy the Baker keeps me coming back.

Here’s the deal:
I LOVE a sandwich. I cannot dislike anything involving ample carbohydrates.

Here’s the other deal with a sandwich though:
I only love it if I can eat it on a plate with a knife and fork so I can deconstruct and reconstruct as I like. Here, a bite of the whole sandwich, there, a forkful of filling. Then a leftover bit of bread from where I swiped the filling. That I may butter.

The third and final deal with a sandwich is that I rarely actually eat things that are supposed to be served on carbs ON the said carbs. I devour bowls of spicy salsa with a spoon pretty much daily. It is not so different from gazpacho right? Then I butter the chips.
And I rarely eat the cheese on cheese plates atop the slices of baguette that come with it. I nibble each bit of fromage individually. The better to really taste the cheese, my dear. Then I butter the baguette.

So I made this dip and enjoyed deconstructing a sandwich made with it, and still had leftover dip to gobble from a bowl. And at some point I ran out of bread but I always keep back-up butter.

Take home lesson from this blog post is this: ALWAYS HAVE BACKUP BUTTER.

Spicy Spinach and Artichoke Dip/Spread adapted from this recipe by Joy the Baker
Olive oil spray
1/2 tsp. chopped garlic
A few handfuls if baby spinach
2 pieces of whole wheat bread
1 Tbsp. cream cheese
2 oz. Swiss cheese, shredded
3/4 c. Chopped artichoke hearts
Pinch of fleur de sel
1 heaping Tbsp. Cottage cheese, mashed with a fork until relatively smooth
1 1/2 tsp. Sriracha
Butter
Spray a pan with the oil and sauté the garlic a bit then add the spinach, an cook just until wilted. Take off heat. Spread the bread slices with the cream cheese. Stir together the spinach mixture, Swiss cheese, artichoke hearts, fleur de sel, cottage cheese, and Sriracha. Heap as much as you want on top of cream cheese on one piece of bread, (save the rest for another sandwich, or if you are like me, eating out of a bowl) and top with other slice of bread, cream cheese side down. Spread outside of sandwich with butter and cook Ina skillet on each side until browned to your liking. Because it is all about you.

Triple Your Everything

29 Jan

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Except nipples. Stick with two. If you have three, that’s all well and okay, but I’d only pierce the principle two.

Just to clear up any confusion I only have two nipples. And piercings.

So I’ve been pretty busy. My improv team has been booking more gigs outside of our weekly performance.

Auditions are back up and running.

I’m harloting around to casting director workshops like crazy in the name of ye olde pilot season.

Still reading and writing like a maniac for Hello Giggles.

AND most importantly Alice and I are planning our next pie party and boy is the theme of it this time a doozy. Let’s just say that my inner goth cook is hard at work.

So I’m busy. Ergo I am presenting you with a simple sandwich. I have a lot of random thoughts about/inspired by this recipe:

I’m not sure if it is an amazing recipe so much as fun. Maybe not amazing but WORTH IT.

I think everything is better with butter.

There are people who like grape jelly and people who like strawberry.
Of course I prefer blackberry or raspberry because I am persnickety. But will always take grape over strawberry. I think what you are raised with will always be the preference.

I was skeptical as to whether a slice of toast would do much for a sandwich, but then remembered how Bill Cosby used to put potato chips in his sandwiches, so I thought maybe crunch would be good.

It was. But I wanted to double the creamy to play against the crunch. So I did. Double the amount of PB and J initially called for. I adore the looks of this sandwich. It is so…architectural.

PBJ Triple from the allrecipes app
1 piece of bread toasted and cooled
2 slices untoasted bread
4 Tbsp. Peanut butter
4 Tbsp jam
Spread jam on one side of untoasted bread. Spread pb on either side of toasted. Make a sandwich. I hope you are capable of figuring it out.

I confirm the subscription of this blog to the Paperblog service under the username ellenclifford

The Sexy Beast. And pretzels.

17 Oct

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It came in and conquered.
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Yes, I’ve referred to my red KitchenAid food processor as my lover, but this…this being entered like a storm. I had lusted after a red KA mixer for ages. And I got one for my birthday. I had been making due with a hand mixer that no longer would go to it’s highest speed and just stop when faced with a dough that was even remotely stiff.

Suddenly there is a world open to me that was not there before: perfectedly kneaded bread doughs, whipped egg whites, perhaps the ice cream maker attachment will come into my life at some point.

You will note that it is red. Largely because it is so goddamn sexy. It is unnerving just how bodacious a kitchen appliance can be.

It is fitting that I have a red mixer because I am a Cardinals fan. If you are born in St. Louis they inject a hefty dose of Cardinals Baseball into you at birth.

I finally went to a game here in LA:

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It is a bloody exciting time. The Cards versus the Dodgers. Whoever wins the series National League Championship Series goes to the World Series.

I hadn’t been to a game in ages and I loved it. Baseball is a meditation laced with moments where a maniac fan-monster takes over your body and you are screaming and hollering like an idiot. And then you settle in and watch some more. Love it.

I had been thinking about pretzels in honor of Octoberfest for a while. And thinking about baseball also had me thinking about pretzels. The big soft kind.

In my mind pretzels are not the sort of thing one can REALLY achieve at home. They are something you go somewhere to get. The only people who make them are the type of people who craft at home other foods you normally buy. Like Oreos.

Who friggin’ makes Oreos? Only overchieving vegans (Oreos are already vegan) and creepy bloggers who somehow think a gluten-free, date-infested, coconut cream-filled thing that looks sorta like an Oreo deserves to be called a “homemade Oreo”. I have news for them: it doesn’t matter what you name that monstrosity, or what it looks like, because it is not an Oreo. It is a travesty.

I thought I couldn’t achieve a pretzel. But I had the power of the Sexy Beast, and there seemed to be no better way to break it in.

I was nervous. I was suspicious. I did not do the best job shaping these. But as I removed them from the oven, I ripped into one. Let it cool for a moment then put it in my mouth.

My god. It was that pretzel taste. With the nice skin on it and everything. Holy moly I felt like a genius. Or a magician. Or Martha Stewart.

Or at least god.

big soft pretzels from America’s Test Kitchen’s Baking Illustrated
1 tsp. instant yeast
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp. salt
3 cups of bread flour plus more as needed
1 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
Oil for bowl
3 Tbsp. baking soda
2 Tbsp. Kosher salt or otherwise large salt
Mix yeast, honey, salt, flour, and water in a stand mixer. Use a dough hook to knead until the dough forms a smooth, elastic ball, about five-seven minutes, adding a bit of extra flour af absolutely necessary.
Place in an oiled bowl and turn to coat dough with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled, between 45 minutes and 1 1/2 hours. Punch down. Allow to rise until doubled again-30-40 minutes.
Put I’ve rack in the middle and heat oven to 450 degrees. Pour 6 cups of water and baking soda into a 12-inch skillet and heat to a boil.
Meanwhile line a baking heet with foil and spray with nonstick spray.
Divide dough into 12 pieces. Roll into ropes. I failed in getting them to the recommended 20 inches but you can try. Shape into pretzels. If you don’t know what a pretzel is shaped like…just google it. Put them on baking sheet. Use a skimmer or slotted spoon to put them in boiling water, top-side down. After 30 seconds use tongs or something like that to flip and boil another 30 seconds. Make sure they are well drained before you put them back on prepared sheet and sprinkle with salt. Bake between10 and 18 minutes-until nice and brown, turning the baking sheet after about 7 minutes. Remove to wire rack. Admire yourself.

The Things We Ate

7 Aug

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I’m giving you two recipes AGAIN this week. Like I did last week.
I am going spoil you silly, my loves.

One recipe is gooooood (see above pic) and one is not. These recipes are both from a vintage cookbook. Chosen because of last week’s occurence.
All this is pre-amble to today’s tale:

Go crazy cooking nerds! I spoke to America’s Test Kitchen. Yep. Me, on the phone with Chris Kimball and Bridget Lancaster. Or B-lanks, as I like to call her. I called their podcast because I was a nerd, with a nerdy question about my nerdy vintage cookbook. Then I geeked out with them about those funny, funny quotes in the book about men and chervil.

Men and herbs. Hilarious.

I was SO NERVOUS. More nervous than when I perform. Well, maybe not quite as nervous as doing stand-up makes me, but I was at least as nervous as I am before an improv show. That’s the comedian’s scale of of nerves, I guess.
Listen to my nerdiness here. I come in around 8 minutes, 26 seconds.

Speaking of nerves, I am only mildly nervous for an improv how this Friday.

Right now my mind is more pre-occupied with nerves for this bloody wrist surgery I am getting Monday. Seems like things in my bionic arm are not in place, and one of the many plates in it needs to be taken out. If you wanna know the full bionic story i chronicled it here.

Yeaaaaaahhhh. It’ll be ok. Maybe I can get someone to take a picture if the innards of my arm. I’d do it, but I’ll be under anesthesia.

It’s FINE. Really. I’m being dramatic here.

Anyway. Food! Lets!

I included the disgusting Mulled Jelly recipe I told my ATK friends about in the interview. Scroll past for the deliciousness that is the other recipe. It is for egg toast. It’s a keeper.

The jelly.
Why bother trying to make it purty?

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Grody!
It takes second in the weird department only next to the Dimetapp Pie made by the brilliant MadMan.

God I love italics. I even love the word italics.

Mulled Jelly

1 egg white
1 Tbsp. grape jelly
1 tsp. sugar
1 teacup boiling water
1 large cracker (or very dry toast)
Firstly, ya beat up the first few ingredients. Add agua and keep beating. Crack in the cracker. Choke down in the name of art.

Now the good. Not sure why it is called Nun’s Toast. Much like 1600 Penn today, there are many mysteries in the 1915 White House. Cookbook.
Nun’s Toast adapted from The White House Cookbook
Olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. chopped onion
1 tsp. flour
1/2 c. Almond milk
2 sliced hard-boiled eggs
Sea Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Toast, buttered
Spray a small pan with olive oil and add butter. When it is melted, add onion. When onion is softened, add flour. Add milk stir all until smooth. Add eggs, salt, and pepper to taste. Stir until hot then pour over toast. Which is buttered. Duh.

It’s art! OR For the love of soggy bread: Milk toast, part deux

16 Jan

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I tried to be artistic with my milk toast picture, but any which way you shake a stick of butter at it, it ain’t pretty:

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Although a stick of butter by itself is a beautiful thing, when it is headed towards your mouth.

The imagery that just came to my mind was terrible. Please forgive my dirty filthy mind. Move along, nothing to see here.

Ah, milk toast.

According to my wordpress stats, it is an oft-searched term that leads people to the gruel. I jest not, it is! I delved into milk toast some time ago here.
It was oh so simple, and surprisingly good.

I teased y’all with the mention of an oven-cooked version.

Oooh, teasing with the milk toast. Teasers. Milk toast. Things that don’t go together. Sticks of butter going towards people’s mouths.

Geez, what the hell is wrong with me. As I SAID nothing to see here move along!

I must say, the oven-baked version had it’s merits…but was not so delightful to me as the stove-top version.

Make milk toast the stove-top way whilst it is chilly out.

As you dine you may think to yourself: milk toast, it’s not just for breakfast any more.
Or maybe: milk toast, it’s a way of life.
Or even: milk toast? Priceless.
Or some other cliche.
You WILL think these things.
Provided you like soggy toast.
Which you should.

But why should you take my word for it when I torture you with sexual butter imagery?

Try it for yourself and see.

And just in case you don’t feel like clicking over to my preferred milk toast style, here’s the oven-baked:

Milk Toast (oven version) adapted from Marion Cunningham’s brilliant The Breakfast Book

2 pieces of buttered bread
2/3 c. Almond milk
Sugar
Turn yer oven to 350. Line a small loaf pan with nonstick foil and spray with nonstick spray, or butter. Just say yes. Put buttered bread in. Fold excess foil over to create a cover for your dish unless the pan you are using came with a cover in which case save the world and use that. Although you are going to recycle your used aluminum foil anyway, yah?
Bake this about 30 minutes. Slide into a plate and if you are feeling it add a sprinkle if sugar. Rarely am I not feeling it particularly after an evening that involved imbibing a sazerac. For the love of absinthe.
Now rinse that foil. Because you are going to recycle it. This is your chance to redeem yourself! And an aluminum can.