Entries from April 18th, 2010

Taco Night

10

18.4.10

It’s sad to say this, but until today, I haven’t eaten tacos since I left Los Angeles.

I know. It’s tragic. But I ended my Mexican food drought today, at the request of my Norwegian friend and neighbor.  Naturally, being skeptical of Mexican food on the East coast, I called my cooking mentor in Los Angeles for advice.  When I was nineteen, I fundraised for a volunteer trip to Tanzania — a friend of my father offered to help support my cause in exchange for help in the kitchen.  I basically spent my Saturday afternoons that summer chopping vegetables in his kitchen, but learned to cook in the process (I can attribute my cooking skills to him these days).  He is the authority on authentic Mexican food — I spent Christmas breaks making tamales (and almond florentines) en masse.  So this morning he gave me recipe instructions for legit tacos.

      

They were quite successful — luckily, they sell some sort of variation of “Mexican Chili Powder” at Secret Safeway in Dupont.  And we made tacos for nine people.  Needless to say, Dillon and I spent our entire Saturday slaving in the kitchen and are now in a state of taco coma, while my friends are having trouble convincing me to go out.  I’ll probably head to my favorite bar in an hour anyway.

      
      

WHAT YOU NEED:

Bone-in chicken breasts (we made about six pounds)
Salt and pepper to taste
Mexican chili powder
Vegetable Oil — about 1.5 cups for 5 pounds chicken
Onions, diced
Garlic, minced
Corn tortillas
Shredded cheese

Toppings:

More shredded cheese
Lettuce, finely chopped
Tomatos, diced
Sliced avocados
Lime, sliced

WHAT TO DO:

Boil the chicken in water with a pinch or two of salt for about two hours, until chicken is fully cooked and tender.   Let cool, and then shred finely by hand, then toss in chili powder, salt, and pepper to taste.  Preheat your oven to broil.

In a large frying pan or wok, sautee the garlic diced onions until translucent.  Then add the shredded chicken to the pan, mixing vegetable oil according to appropriate texture (you don’t want the chicken to be too dry or too oily).  Use salt and pepper to taste, and toss in dried oregano.  Afterwards, transfer the chicken into an oven-safe pan, like a casserole dish, and drizzle shredded cheese on top.  Broil in the oven for ten minutes, until the cheese is bubbling.

In the meantime, prepare the tomatoes, lettuce, limes, and avocados for toppings.  Heat corn tortillas over the open flame on your stove, two at a time, as if they were one tortilla.  Flip them with caution until the bread puffs slightly, and wrap them in a warm towel until all are complete.  Remove chicken from the oven, and serve.

Light and Airy Chocolate Waffles

9

13.4.10

When I first moved to Washington, I had no expectations — coming from the other side of the country, I really couldn’t.  Honestly, I had been flown to the district one weekend over summer to interview for a job in Tampa.  I purchased my one-way ticket to Washington two weeks after I returned home to Los Angeles.

My parents thought I had gone nuts and my friends were shocked at my abrupt escape.  But honestly, sometimes you just know — where to go, what to do, when to leave.  After three months of a hellish job and living at home, Washington had summoned me.  I slept on a gracious friend’s couch for just over two weeks and spent some quality time perusing Craigslist.  The house that I now live in invited me to an open house to meet the roommates and look around.  To my surprise, the open house was packed with girls around my age, clawing at each other’s throats, vying for attention.  I, however, was haggard in my UCLA t-shirt and running shorts.  So I laid low and chatted with each of the roommates to introduce myself, and I got a fortunate invitation to live there the next day.  Phew!

What I learned later, was that by laying low, I gave the impression that I would lay low as house mate.  I didn’t reveal to the house mates that I had a number of friends, itching to visit and anxiously awaiting my couch.  To my knowledge, having a friend crash on our couch every now and then hasn’t offended or annoyed my house mates; rather, they usually end up hanging out with my visitors, because my friends are (naturally) awesome.  But it wasn’t what they expected.

Anyway, if anyone gets irritated at any point, I am generally capable of making up for any hard feelings with some spectacular food — like these chocolate waffles (adopted from Ghirardelli).  A friend from my hellish Xerox job in Los Angeles came to visit for the weekend… having now spent her first weekend in Washington, it seems as though she has become smitten with this city in the same way that I did, just six months ago.

WHAT YOU NEED:

1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons canola oil
4 eggs, separated
2 cups milk (as always, I used skim)

WHAT TO DO:

Preheat your waffle iron according to directions.  Sift the dry ingredients together, and add the egg yolks and milk.  Whisk together until smooth.  In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.  Then, carefully fold the chocolate batter into the meringue.  Finally, fold the batter with chocolate chips.

Ladle the batter into the waffle iron, and use a high-temperature resistant tool to make sure the batter spreads evenly.  Close the iron, and allow for cooking time indicated by the iron manufacturer.  Serve with fresh fruit and chocolate syrup.

Sloppy Dads, Sloppy Joes

1

09.4.10

Some of my favorite memories of childhood stem from visiting my dad after my parents split up. My parents went through a nasty divorce when I was a kid, but our dad was always the perfect cure of goofiness and a hands-off upbringing that I can attribute much of my personality to today. It also explains why all of my college guy friends befriended my dad after losing a number of drinking games to him at a UCLA-USC tailgate! Anyway, when I was eleven or so, my dad moved into his own house in Reseda, a Hispanic suburb of Los Angeles. He would pick my younger brother and me up on Wednesday nights for visitation, and we’d make dinner, do homework, and go to the driving range, or go running, or some other odd activity that defined nights with Dad.

One of the most-told memories at the Gerrity family gatherings dealt with visitation nights at Dad’s — forget that I taught him how to do laundry or the fact that he lived off of beer and canned sardines for a while — the night he made sloppy joes for dinner was just so typically Dad. He picked us up from Mom’s, and we headed to Ralph’s to go grocery shopping. After years of hearing about his childhood favorite, “sloppy joes,” our father was finally determined to make them. So he bought the canned mix and burger buns, amongst other odds and ends that he ate during the week (packaged sandwich meat, string cheese, and his personal favorite: Trader Joe’s taquitos).  We got home; he poured the can into a saucepan on the stove, and toasted the buns.  When I came into the kitchen to have him check my homework assignments, I asked the magic question.

“Dad, aren’t you supposed to cook it with meat?”


When he tells the story these days, he justifies that he assumed a can of sloppy joe would automatically come with meat in it (as repulsing as that sounds now).  To be honest, I don’t actually remember how we resolved it that night: we probably migrated down the street to our favorite Mexican joint, Melody’s.  The important details illustrated the smartest, most rational figure in our childhood, forgetting something so basic simply because he was not used to organizing normal weeknight dinners for his kids on his own.  Looking back on it, I realize how adorable it really was.  But since then, Daddy has learned to triumph in the kitchen, and he had done so long before I even tried cooking.  To celebrate, he installed an amazing poolside kitchen a few years ago, complete with his own kegerator.  He’s come a long way from sloppy joes.

WHAT YOU NEED:

1 French baguette
3 medium sized chicken breasts, diced
1 onion, finely diced
1 red bell pepper, also diced
2 large cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 small can tomato paste
1 12-14 oz. canned tomatoes, finely chopped (use a food processor if needed!)
2 teaspoons ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon rosemary
salt and pepper to taste

WHAT TO DO:

First, sauté the garlic, onions, olive oil, and chicken together until the onions are translucent. Then, add the bell pepper and cook on low heat for 3 to 4 more minutes. Combine the worcestershire sauce, vinegar, and tomato ingredients in the saucepan as well. Heat on low until bubbling. Then, add dry ingredients slowly, stirring continuously and tasting as you go.

Slice the baguette horizontally lengthwise, and toast in the oven. As a variation, brush a little butter or olive oil to help toast — then, spoon the sloppy joe mix onto the baguettes. I prefer mine open faced, and therefore slightly more refined. Don’t be ashamed if it gets everywhere… we cleaned up and enjoyed our isolated thunderstorm evening with a nice Sauvignon Blanc, strawberries, and mint hookah.

<3

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