Day 224: The Man and the Sounds of the Kitchen; ‘Squat’

SQUAT?! Yesterday we get sound and today we get SQUAT?! Honestly, that’s how I feel.

Me: Hey Daily Post, think you could throw me something relevant like you did yesterday?

Daily Post: Relevant? You want relevant?! You get squat!’

Btw, it’s almost noon Eastern time, and the prompt has 0 responses so far. I find this hilarious.

Well, since I feel like the Daily Post has given me diddly-squat to work with, why don’t you just pop a squat right over there and I’ll talk to you about what I wanted to talk to you about in the first place. Boom. I just used it twice.


So the folks are expected back by the end of the week which means I’ll be surrendering some levels of autonomy and control over the household. Luckily I’ve been able to cook most of the ideas and inspirations and investigations I’ve been wanting to for a while. Now the fun part is thinking back, reflecting, tweaking, hopefully remembering what I did. Hahah. And I did request a modern Filipino cookbook as one of my souvenirs, so I am excited to look into that and see what’s been going on in the Philippines and how I can start incorporating that as well. Time to look back and look forward.

For the most part I’ve actually lived in relative silence this past month and a half. TV would be on while I was watching, my Amazon Alexa and I would play Jeopardy each day, and I’d occasionally mumble to myself, but that’s about it. I usually listen to music at work or while I’m driving. I do love me a long late night drive listening to music.

For me, music is about setting a mood, creating an environment, establishing an atmosphere. When I’m at work, I need to create a mood of calm, an environment of distance, and an atmosphere of indifference towards my fellow man. Hahah. When I’m driving it becomes partly meditative so I love songs with slow rhythms, long notes, and calm, cool tones. When I’m by myself I don’t usually need any external help creating my own internal mental attitude unless in periods of extreme stress, duress, or depression. When I’m with friends I do try to use music to create a mood, get them more psyched and excitable, and when I’m on a date or with someone I might be interested in I find music tastes are a great way to kind of gauge compatibility and engage them in conversation.

That’s why though I do have a cooking playlist on my Spotify that I am constantly looking into and updating, I don’t play it much cooking by myself. I usually use it when I’m cooking for others, especially on a date. But I do love these tracks and I do think they’re great either for cooking or eating, so I wanted to share with you some of the sounds you may have heard in my kitchen or around the table if we were sharing a meal together.

Let’s start by getting set up. Mise en place is gospel for the true chef. As I put on my jacket and start gathering pots, pans, bowls, knives, and boards, I want to be listening to my man Chris Botti. Get a little pep in my step. His album Italia is great and nothing sets the tone for the rest of the night like getting all ‘chef’ed up and looking smooth to the sounds of The Way You Look Tonight. The song gets my toes tapping and I feel like I’m becoming smooth, suave, and sophisticated. Like Sinatra standing before a crowd in a smoky nightclub, mic in hand, I’m getting set up in my kitchen, pots and pans on the stove waiting to be fired, bowls my by side, board in front, and knife in hand. I feel good, I look good, we’re gonna do good.

Okay now that I’ve got everything out and ready, it’s time to start washing, cutting, and prepping all the ingredients. I find it so much easier and less stressful when everything is pre-measured and just set around the stove in convenient little bowls to just be tossed in at the right time. Now keep in mind, you’re handling a very sharp and dangerous instrument here. You want to be cool and confident as you work your knife into a frenzy chopping, slicing, julienning, and schiffenading everything in your path. Like a masterful matador you are dancing with a bull. You want to control the bull, wrestle with it, master it. So naturally you want something with some fiery Spanish blood. Habanera from Carmen is in my cooking playlist as well, and in particular the artist Martynas’s version with him on accordion. Accordion music is awesome, y’all. (No that’s not him in the picture.)

At this point perhaps you are enticed from seeing me move so swiftly and deftly with my preparations that you want to help. You are inspired to join me in this dance around the kitchen as things start to, as we say, ‘heat up’. You’re excited, but scared. You are worried you might mess up. Make a mistake. But that’s okay. There are no mistakes in cooking. That’s the great thing about cooking. You just cook on. So I put the knife in your hand, set some herbs in front of you, wrap my arms around you and guide you. I think you know where this is going. One of the greatest dance scenes in film, and a wonderful cooking song to boot. Por Una Cabeza.

Now it’s time to start cooking! We are firing up the stove and adding some butter or oil to the pans. The butter melts, sizzles, sings. It calls to us. The kitchen begins to smell of the wonderful aroma of butter and we add other aromatics. Garlic, onion, vegetables. We’re simmering and sizzling. A lot of cooking is a matter of the senses. You want to be open enough to the process to figure out what to do. You listen to the sounds of ingredients cooking to tell what temperature they need to be at. You look at the colors as they change, you smell them releasing their flavors and essences. You poke and prick and prod to tell doneness. There is a story being told and you just want to be conscious enough to listen and figure out what’s going on. Take a stroll with your food. Relax. Like a Parisian taking a leisurely stroll along the Reine, so too do you move from one pot to another and add and sautee and season and adjust. And you do so to the sounds of Seul Ce Soir.

As everything starts to pick up pace I start dancing from one place to another. I’m at the kitchen table grabbing more ingredients. I’m at the stove stirring, sauteeing, tasting. I’m by the oven as I place our main course in to roast or bake or broil. I move like a dancer, my feet never firmly on the ground for longer than a second. I am smiling and enjoying this dance, mindful and yet not too focused on the food as it cooks. Instead I find my gaze constantly wandering back to you as you watch me. I read your face, your body, to see how you are reacting. I ask if you can smell what the Rock is cooking, if you’re getting hungry, if you’re happy, if you’re happy here with me. Playfully teasing me, you respond ‘perhaps, perhaps, perhaps’. Quizas, Quizas, Quizas.

Ooh we are smoking now aren’t we?! Speaking of which, everything is almost done now! We have to pick up the pace. Get some more energy. Some pep. Some zing. There’s a fine line between done and over done and we’re getting close to it. We finish on a high note. I want this food just perfect and it is calling to me to be finished. The oven is getting hot. It’s getting stronger and stronger and I can’t fight it much longer. Do you know what we need to finish everything? Some Sexual Healing. And some hot brass.

Well that was quite the ride wasn’t it? But now it’s almost time to eat. So we go to set the table. A wonderful meal deserves an equally wonderful setting. Let’s bring it down now, slow it down, enjoy the buildup to the reward. The clank of forks and knives being drawn from the drawers. The gentle thud of plates on elegant place-mats. The *ksssh* of a match being struck and a candle being lit. The gentle clink of empty glasses being placed together and the calming swish of wine being poured. It’s the night, it’s romance, it’s everywhere. It’s Agua de Marco.

Finally we sit down to dinner together. I smile at you from across a candlelit table. The smell of everything is just tantalizing. We toast our glasses to a wonderful night together and admire our handiwork. I am so happy to have this time with you to cook with you. And as you look down at your plate as the pasta swirls and twirls and spins around your fork I watch you bring your first bite to your lips and think…I’ve Got You Wrapped Around My Little Finger.

That was, honestly, a lot of fun. Hahah. I hope you enjoyed this little culinary adventure together and this glimpse into my cooking playlist. Like I said, set a mood, create an environment, establish an atmosphere. Cheers.

Day 224

Man: 192 Loneliness: 32

Day 223: The Man and the Sizzling East-West Crossover; ‘Sound’

Augh. Daily Post is killing me with their prompt choices. I am supposed to talk about the sisig carbonara I made over the weekend today but tomorrow, as has been requested many many times by a dear reader, follower, and fellow pinoy blogger, I will be talking about at least one of my many situational playlists, the one I listen to while cooking/eating. So clearly, ‘sound‘ would just have been so perfect for that but I just…I just can’t stray from the path. It hurts too much. Hahah. I have to follow schedules. SO…playlist tomorrow, and let’s all just hope and pray tomorrow’s prompt is as fortuitously relevant. And instead today…we talk about…

sisig-carbonara-1

TA-DAH! Sisig carbonara. A true east meets west crossover that is rich, creamy, crispy, meaty, and oh so cheesy good. First, let’s meet our two very important elements in their native habitat.

Carbonara is an Italian pasta dish that originated in Rome. It is a very simple yet filling and rich dish. Pork (the tender jowl or guanciale is preferred but pancetta can be used and most Carbonara.jpghome cooks without access to their own authentic Italian salumeria use cured bacon) is cooked and most of the fat rendered before adding pasta (traditionally spaghetti) and then tossing it all together with a mixture of eggs, cheese, and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Speed in tossing the pasta and being sure to do it with the heat off is essential to prevent the eggs from curdling and fully cooking. The residual heat of the pan, pork, and pasta will slowly cook the eggs and create a creamy, runny sauce that is most notable for the lack of actual cream. The first time I ever tried this pasta was at the Grand Lux Cafe in a mall near my town. It was very good but unfortunately not the most authentic version ever. It had the addition of peas (which are one of my least favorite vegetables), garlic, and was a full on cream sauce. Forgive me, I didn’t know any better. I loved it so much that I had to go home and research the pasta to make it for myself. That’s when I first learned that authentic carbonara has no cream and ever since I’ve made it the traditional way and have never looked back. With just a few easy and relatively cheap ingredients (pasta, bacon, eggs, cheese, and pepper) you too can make this simple dish at home for a weekday dinner and you’d be surprised by how quickly it’s done and how quickly you’ll want to finish it too. I use freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano and whole eggs but some recipes might switch out for pecorino romano or just egg yolks. This really just depends on how rich you want the sauce to be and if you prefer the saltiness of pecorino or the nuttiness of parmigiano. I think Antonio Carluccio’s video recipe is one of the best and most authentic representations of how to prepare this dish.

Sisig on the other hand, is also one of my all-time favorite foods but I don’t necessarily recommend you try making this any time soon. Hahah. It is time-consuming, tedious, complicated, but yes with very great payout. But since it is such a quintessential Filipino dish, any good Filipino restaurant will have their own version of it on the menu for you to enjoy. Like most Filipino dishes, sisig is extremely regional and therefore subject to plenty of variations. It is traditionally a dish from the Pampanga region of the Philippines and is sisigmade usually using parts of the pig’s head (the ears, the jowls, and the snout). First they are boiled to tenderize, then chopped into tiny pieces, and the bits are broiled or fried before being served super crispy on a sizzling platter. The pork is flavored with soy sauce, vinegar, onions, and plenty of spicy peppers. The last time I was in the Philippines I got to try a lot of different variations of sisig, including ones made from chicken, squid, and even tuna. The tuna was perhaps one of the best versions I’ve ever had. I prefer my sisig super crispy and spicy, but as I’ve said, sometimes you will find milder versions and most often in the Philippines you will find that the dish is served with a raw egg that is then mixed into the dish or with mayo. The ears are great because it is just soft tender fatty meat and then crunchy cartilage in the center. Sometimes cuts of pork belly are also used for the fat and the skin which becomes incredibly crispy and crunchy. When it comes to introducing non-Filipinos to Filipino food, spicy sizzling sisig is right up there along with adobo and lumpia (our version of egg-rolls) as the best and most universally liked introductions.

So interestingly enough, carbonara has already made its way to the Philippines and is actually one of the most popular pasta dishes in the country. Food has its own legs and filipino-carbonaraoften travels a lot faster than people realize. My aunt on my mother’s side makes this incredible version of Filipino carbonara that I think is just a perfect representation of the characteristics of Filipino palettes. Filipino carbonara first of all, actually uses no eggs at all. Like, at all. Instead it is a straight up super creamy sauce made with Nestle all-purpose cream (which is incredibly sweet), bacon, mushrooms, onions, and garlic. In this way it is actually much closer to an alfredo sauce but the very particular addition of Nestle cream gives it an overall sweetness whereas the traditional carbonara is usually characterized by its rich slight saltiness. This is common in a lot of Filipino dishes. We Filipinos just really like our sweet things. Like spaghetti in the Philippines. Ground beef, hot dogs, and a lot of sugar characterize our namesake ‘sweet spaghetti’. Whenever I visit I love that my aunt always makes sure that one night while I’m there she makes this sweet, rich, and creamy pasta.

sisig-carbonara-2

But to truly make an east-west mashup, I wanted to use really crispy, spicy sisig and substitute it for the pork needed in authentic preparation of carbonara. If you think about it, sisig already displays much of the same characteristics of guanciale or pancetta. It is made from the same parts (the jowl) and the previously fried sisig has plenty of wonderful flavors and fat to render into the pasta. I use less black pepper because the sisig already has plenty of kick. In a separate pot of boiling salted water I start cooking the spaghetti and when it is almost close to being perfectly al dente I begin making the carbonara. Adding no oil whatsoever to a cold pan, I put the sisig and bring it up to temperature. This lets the sisig render some of its fat without searing and burning. You know it’s ready when it starts to sizzle and sing and the pieces start popping up and try flying out of the pan (think cooking bacon). Meanwhile in a bowl I’ve mixed four whole eggs, some freshly ground black pepper, and plenty (I mean plenty) of cheese. When the pasta is ready I drain it and toss it in the strainer to get as much moisture out as possible before adding it to the pan of sisig. Once it’s all thoroughly mixed up and I have a good amount of heat throughout the pasta, I turn off the heat and add the egg and cheese mixture. A few incredibly showy flicks of the wrist and tosses of the pan and it’s all mixed up and the egg has turned creamy and the cheese is melty and…oh my god. This thing was good. Added some extra cheese and parsley on the plate and voila, my version of sisig carbonara.

sisig-carbonara-3

Oh yeah. I could definitely make (and EAT) this again.

Day 223

Man: 191 Loneliness: 32

 

Day 219: The Man and the Rubbed Breast; ‘Aware’

My weekend treat to myself this week is juicy, succulent, incredibly flavorful and meaty duck breast! I am absolutely loving getting to experiment with these new ingredients and dishes. This time around instead of re-imagining a Filipino dish, I took a very classic approach to duck breast and just added a few bits of Filipino flair. I enjoyed this for dinner and was drooling during the prep, but I have to admit the mind is already thinking of future changes and improvements. That’s the exciting thing about cooking and creating! There is always room for improvement, improvisation, and imagination!

duck-overall

The most classic preparation I have seen for duck breast has been to score the fatty skin, season generously with salt and pepper, and then first sear it fatty side down in a cold pan brought up to temp (to render some of that incredible duck fat), sear all sides, and finish in the oven. The excess duck fat is set aside for future use (which I’ve done and imagine I could use with say, some Brussels sprouts and pancetta) and what remains is deglazed in some form of sauce. I say, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Duck breast is such a luxurious item to begin with that I don’t want to go mucking about with it too much and ruin the best qualities of the meat.

duck-breast

Here’s how I changed it up a bit though. First, aside from the salt and pepper, I also generously rubbed the outside of the duck breast with Chinese five-spice powder. Five-spice powder is an essential seasoning in any Asian household. A wonderfully aromatic and complex mix of cinnamon, clove, fennel, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns for a slightly spicy kick. After that I did the usual sear and then roast and as it was resting, I de-glazed the pan with some port wine and chicken stock. Once it was reduced to the consistency I liked, I tossed in some cut up canned lychees (a sweet, floral, delicate fruit grown throughout Southeast Asia and a popular snack in the Philippines) with the syrup it came in and after letting it cook a bit, finishing with a nice generous pat of butter.

duck-salad

I cut the breast into nice thick slices and was so proud of the crunch and snap of the crispy duck skin as the knife cut into the pieces. The center was beautifully pink and the five-spice powder had slightly charred and caramelized along the edges and released its full aroma. The lychees I tossed in a salad of watercress and then I spooned the lychee-port sauce over the duck and vegetables. I had a wonderful meal with a glass of port to accompany me.

mango-rum

In the future, I think I can be a bit more brave and really bring out some more Filipino colors. I’ve asked my parents to bring home some mango rum, which is a liqueur popular in the beach destination of Boracay. I’m thinking of using the mango rum, with some thin strips of dried mango along with the lychee, to create a bright orange, sweet and slightly sticky sauce instead (a sort of play on the classic duck a l’orange). I also find that with the sweet and tanginess of the sauce I am craving for some more pepper, so I believe arugula would be better with everything. I hope that along the way of my culinary journey I’ve been able to make some of you aware of the myriad potential and possibilities of Filipino food and cooking style!

Day 219

Man: 187 Loneliness: 32

Day 216: The Man and the Bone to Pick; ‘Heard’

Just in case the high-fat cholesterol-laden taba ng talangka hasn’t killed you yet, over the weekend I also made a dish using rich, fatty, super meaty and incredible bone marrow. Is it any wonder between the talangka, the bone marrow, and all the pork dishes that heart disease is a big problem with Filipinos? Hahah. In case you were wondering how I probably go, it’ll most likely be with a piece of meat.

beef-bonesBone marrow is the spongy, flexible tissue found inside the bones that contain the stem cells that turn into red or white blood cells that help carry oxygen through the body and fight against disease. You’ll find the largest concentration in the larger bones, especially the femur. That is why whenever you go to the supermarket or your local butcher’s to pick up some bone marrow for cooking or roasting, it is often either just the femur bone (which can then be halved or split lengthwise) or the shank, which is the meat on the upper hip centered around a big piece of that split femur bone.

As an ingredient, bone marrow is a prized ingredient in many world cuisines, not just inbeef-shank the Philippines. For example, the classic Italian dish osso bucco is made by braising beef shanks (veal shanks preferred) in vegetables and white wine. In fact, the name osso bucco in Italian roughly translates to ‘bone with a hole’, referring to the rich marrow in the center of the shank that provides the rich beef flavor and is a treat to suck out of the bone at the end. In Vietnam, it is the collagen-rich beef marrow bones that are used to create the deeply flavored broth that is essential to good pho. If you’ve ever had pho and wondered how they can create such a complex and meaty broth, the secret is in boiling the bones with seasonings for a very long time to completely melt the marrow and have it practically dissolve into the broth. You will often find bone marrow split lengthwise and roasted, sometimes simply with salt and pepper, other times with a gremolata like paste spooned on top and then roasted to create a rich, smooth, butter-like spread that can be either enjoyed with a spoon or spread onto crusty bread.

One of my all time favorite food experiences was at the Black Hoof in Toronto. We each Wicked Spoon Marrow.jpgordered our own plate of bone marrow and after we finished it, we used the now hollowed out bones as a luge and did shots of whiskey pouring it in one end and drinking it from the other. The whiskey get into every tiny nook and cranny and carried the last bits of rich meaty goodness and oh man…that night was a blast. If you’re ever in Toronto I HIGHLY recommend the Black Hoof. Or if you’re in Vegas, my vote for best buffet in the city of buffets is the Wicked Spoon at the Cosmopolitan, where, among there myriad offerings (they have this orange mousse dessert that is incredible) is a giant heart-attack inducing pile of spicy kimchi marinated roasted bone marrow. Look, let me tell you, there’s a reason why roasted bone marrow is known as the ‘butter of the gods’. It’s smooth, spreadable, decadent, and if you eat enough of it in one sitting you’re guaranteed to meet your maker.

So here’s my Filipino twist on it. I wanted to recreate the flavors of bulalo, which is a clear Filipino stew that is made rich with by boiling the thick beef bones for several hours. With the soft, smooth bone marrow melting into the soup and the rich beef stock and tender boiled beef, bulalo is a hearty yet simple stew great for winters (ironic, considering the Philippines is unbearably hot). The problem with bulalo though is that the boiling process usually melts all the marrow goodness out and I never get to actually enjoy it as is. So without melting it in a stew, I still wanted to get the other flavors of the soup onto split marrow bones that I could then roast and enjoy by itself.

bulalo-overview

My solution was to roast the marrow bones with a sprinkling of very finely minced garlic and onion, so fine that most of it would melt into the marrow during the roasting process. I topped it with thin slices of onion that would crisp and caramelize in the heat and then after generously seasoning it with plenty of freshly ground black pepper I (sparingly) poured a scant bit of salty/funky fish sauce (a staple ingredient in Southeast Asian cuisine) instead of salt. Aside from the unfortunately fishy smell that came from the oven, I think it was an overwhelming success. I’ll just need to Febreze the room afterwards because if you’ve ever smelled fish sauce, you know what I’m talking about. Now imagine that smell heated to 375 degrees. Like Satan’s sweaty pits.

Bulalo Bone Focus.jpg

Often times, to counter the super richness of the bone marrow these dishes are accompanied by some citrus or a light salad with an acidic vinaigrette to cut the fattiness. I decided to pair it with my homemade ‘minute’ version of atchara, which is a dish made by pickling papaya, carrots, and peppers in a mixture of vinegar, sugar, and seasonings. My ‘minute’ version is accomplished by blanching julienned carrots, red and green peppers, and celery in a similar pickling mixture that I season with garlic, ginger, peppers, and star anise. By blanching them I help them keep their bright color and crispness, and at the same time I am able to impart them with just enough acidity and bite to help pair nicely with the bone marrow.

Bulalo Atchara Focus.jpg

So in case you’ve been living underneath a culinary rock and haven’t yet heard of the gastronomic wonder that is rich, meaty, sinfully delicious bone marrow, I hope this has given you some courage to seek it out.

Day 216

Man: 184 Loneliness: 32

Day 214: The Man and the Daily Catch Daily Prompt; ‘Lovingly’

Today’s dish is a wonderful introduction to the rich, fatty, super umami, and uniquely Filipino ingredient known as taba ng talangka.

This bright orange, slightly granular paste is made from tiny freshwater crabs that grow along the rivers in the Philippines. It used to be a major product of the Pampanga region but after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo and the resulting dredging of the Pampanga region, it is now more commonly harvested in Bicol. Regardless of where you get it though, the process of harvest is pretty much the same. These tiny crabs, no bigger than two inches across, are harvested, painstakingly peeled open and then the tiny amounts of crab roe inside (even though taba in Tagalog translates to ‘fat’ and talangka are the crabs, this is not crab fat but crab roe) are harvested and then sauteed into a paste with plenty of garlic for flavor.

Alone, the flavor is incredibly deep, rich, and complex. It possesses the kind of rich sea umami of say, Japanese uni but with not as much of the saltiness. Super fatty and best enjoyed in small doses a) because of how rich the taste is and b) because too much of this and you’ll have a cholesterol-laden one way ticket to the emergency room. The texture is slightly grainy, but when cooked into dishes it smooths out and almost disintegrates, leaving a slight aroma but deep orange color and permeating flavor. In the Philippines it is traditionally served as is, spooned over warm white rice and mixed together to melt and combine. I’ve also seen it prepared as a pasta sauce but most recipes call for a whole jar just for one serving!

My goal was to find a way to introduce this wonderful ingredient and taste in a way that would not be too foreign and too off-putting. I wanted it to simultaneously be the signature flavor star but not the main focus. The idea of mixing it with rice made me think of fried rice, which is a common item in the Philippines as well as any Asian country, and so playing on the Filipinos’ love of fried rice, I made my own version of seafood fried rice with the taba ng talangka mixed in!

Taba 1.jpg

Ta-da! This is the final result. First, in a very hot wok I saute garlic, onions, ginger, green onion, and labuyo (a tiny but super spicy and tasty Filipino chili pepper) until fragrant. I then add squid, scallops, lump crab meat, and shrimp. Next come the bean sprouts. Finally I add the rice, oyster sauce, sesame oil, fish sauce, and a generous heaping portion of the taba and mix and fry. The taba melts and colors each grain of rice that wonderful orange color and flavors the entire dish while still letting the seafood come through. Once it’s all cooked and the rice is loose and every grain is separated, I lovingly sprinkle some green onion on top.

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This is at once an homage to Asian-style fried rice, Spanish-style seafood paella, and yet also a distinctly Filipino dish in taste. I used a quart of day-old rice because older, dry rice is much better for fried rice and now I have some great leftovers to look forward to having for lunch.

If you are an adventurous foodie or a big seafood lover, I highly recommend visiting your local Asian grocery store and if you’re lucky, you might find this in the Filipino aisle. If you’re not, you’ll have to hope I open up a restaurant near you. Hahah. Either way, I definitely think that this could be one of the best unknown ingredients for the enterprising chef and is definitely a flavor worth exploring.

Bon apetit.

Day 214

Man: 182 Loneliness: 32

Day 211: The Man and the ‘Leg’endary Legs; ‘Overwhelming’

The poultry farm I went to for the duck legs and breasts (which will be showing up later on in the future with another special recipe) also happened to have some particularly large and potentially promisingly juicy turkey legs that I had to play around with as well.

No Filipino twists on this one, just a kid looking at a giant meat lollipop and remembering the fun times at Renaissance Faires and State Fairs trying to manage a giant turkey leg. As much as I loved them, they were always too cumbersome, too unwieldly, too messy to really dig into and enjoy when I was outside, with no napkins, and nowhere near a functioning sink. So I was really excited to be able to treat myself to these bad boys. Hahah.

Turkey Leg Focus.jpg

I decided to make my own marinade with some vegetable oil. Sriracha (for some real KICK to these legs, get it? I crack myself up), soy sauce, mustard powder, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, cayenne pepper, honey, parsley, basil, oregano, and ground ginger. I let them marinade for 24 hours basically tossing and turning whenever I remembered to and just slightly ‘massaging’ the bag to make sure the marinade had a chance to really penetrate the drumsticks. Before I put them in the bag I also took a knife and made a few cuts into the meat to let the marinade in.

Turkey Salad Focus.jpg

I am not exaggerating when I say that once they were in the oven and really started cooking the incredible aroma of the succulent roasting meat combined with that marinade created an aroma that was just overwhelming and made me start drooling. I was so happy with this experiment from the smell alone I was jumping and dancing for joy in the house. (Sorry not sorry for the image Elaine! Hahah.) It was sweet and spicy and had a wonderful combination of caramelized edges with wonderfully roasted and charred bits. The meat was tender, juicy, and the marinade was able to get deep into the leg. I made a simple salad to accompany and was absolutely loving every bit of it.

Turkey Overall.jpg

Well I am full, satisfied, and chock full of turkey and salad. Hahah. Very happy with how this turned out and am excited to be cooking even more over the weekend. Now I’m off to watch Resident Evil. Can’t believe it’s the last of the series. I’ve loved every single one despite how terrible they honestly are.

Day 211

Man: 179 Loneliness: 32

Day 202: The Man and the KISS; ‘Simple’

As in, ‘Keep It Simple Stupid’.

More meditation than recipe, Peaceful Cuisine on YouTube has been a calming channel I like to turn to when I’m either hungry or stressed, as it either heightens one emotion or calms the other. There is a tranquility and a harmony in the sounds of a home kitchen that, as my hero Anthony Bourdain would tell you, do NOT exist in the professional kitchens. Professional kitchens are loud, energetic, violent playgrounds. Even when cooking for a party or for a date there is music, conversation, frantic movement.

What I’ve loved about cooking for myself these past few weeks is the quiet and calm of cooking at my own pace, flavoring to my desire, steering in my direction. There is nothing over-complicated or overbearing. I have no rush, no deadline. I have been tempted at times to play music, but I get into this rhythm, this Zen, and I don’t want to draw away from it. It is in this quiet, focused, Zen state of mind that I am most at peace and yet also at my most confident and commanding.

In the spirit of KISS, I don’t want to bury you in words. I hope you find some peace in solitude.

Day 202
Man: 170 Loneliness: 32

Day 193: The Man and the Obligatory Company; ‘Invitation’

My next food project is an old favorite of mine, something I always love making whenever I feel like treating myself. LAMB! Food of the gods, as my father likes to call it. After beef, it is my second favorite meat. The rack of lamb, the Rolls-Royce of meat, is incredibly versatile and these perfect sized meat ‘lollipops’ are incredible roasted, herb-crusted, grilled, whatever. It is always difficult for me to resist ordering if I ever see it on a menu, especially at French restaurants. Lamb shanks are great and relatively cheap when you consider how much meat and flavor there is, especially with that rich bone marrow. Leg of lamb, oh my god, at a buffet carving station? Whoever is there quickly becomes my new best friend. But cooking at home, my absolute favorite piece to cook, are the lamb shoulder chops. I’m drooling just thinking about it and I’m already looking forward to tomorrow just because it means I’ll be having more and I just finished eating too. Hahah.

If you haven’t had the opportunity yet to try lamb, I highly recommend it. It’s low in calories, high in flavor, has a very mild gamey taste, and is incredibly tender. Lamb shoulder is a relatively cheap cut that can be grilled, braised, pan-fried, but my favorite preparation is simply broiled. The day before I season both sides of the shoulder chop with Goya Adobo seasoning. This is the magic fairy dust from which all great meat seasonings derive. Seriously, get this in your kitchen. I add extra fresh ground pepper because I find it helps to balance the fatty richness of the meat. I then spend the good portion of the rest of my day chopping up heaping tons of garlic and ginger. I mean, when you get to the point where you feel you have enough, double it, and then add more, just for safe measure. You’ll thank me later. Cover both sides of the lamb with this garlic/ginger mixture and then let it marinade in the fridge overnight. Pop it in the broiler until it’s just medium, medium-well. Please don’t overcook this delicate meat. Make sure you’ve got plenty of rice or some good bread handy. The copious amounts of garlic and ginger you spread on the lamb has roasted and absorbed all the meaty flavors and the lamb itself has rendered a good amount of sinfully rich fat. Spoon that flavor packed mixture over your rice or dip some bread into it and oh my god. I could have plenty of meals just mixing that with rice.

They were on sale at my grocer’s so for this entire week I’ll be enjoying lamb. Some meals were meant to be shared, but if you don’t mind, I’ll take this one alone. Hahah.

Having said that, I am planning on sharing some meals with friends soon. This weekend will be the invitation to our annual winter hot pot. Can’t wait for that and I’ll be sure to surreptitiously take plenty of pics. Wouldn’t want my friends to become so suspicious of my new food pic habits! Hahah. On Saturday night we’ll meet and spend the time drinking and playing games and then just have a spread of meat, vegetables, seafood, noodles, rice, all to just swish in the hot flavored broth to your preferred doneness. Great DIY food for a drinking party. Some friends will sleepover, one who lives nearby will probably go back and then come back Sunday morning, where we’ll make some breakfast, and I know my one friend has been wanting to make some baked alaska and meringue so we’ll probably just fool around doing that.

My one friend has just come back from a trip to Japan with his girlfriend, so I will be excited to hear about how that went. We’ll also get to try those drinking games I got for Christmas. It will be fun, and as I’ve mentioned before, it’ll be nice to have that connection and time to spend with them, despite the distance I might have been feeling. It will just be a bit strange because I know in the back of my head I’ll be thinking about what connects us, and trying to see what the years will bring.

That’s the plan for the next couple days at least. Hope you’re all happy, healthy, and eating plenty!

Day 193

Man: 162 Loneliness: 31

Day 191: The Man and the First Solo Culinary Adventure; ‘Exquisite’

Image result for no united airlinesOh my god. If you have to fly and you ever have the choice between United and literally anything else, I highly recommend you choose something else. My brother’s trip was off to quite the inauspicious start. I dropped my brother off yesterday at Newark airport with plenty of time to spare. His flight was scheduled to leave at 1pm, we were already hugging and saying goodbye by 10am. I made sure he had everything, told him he was going to be fine, to be safe, that I would miss him, and I saw my little brother walk off for his first real taste of adventure.

At least…I thought I did.

I get back to an empty, quiet home, and before I can finish contemplating how I feel about that, I get the text message from him.

Flight delayed. Won’t be leaving til 7pm.’

Okay, there’s a problem there. He has a connection in Hong Kong to get to Manila, there’s only a two hour window between the two flights. He’s definitely going to miss this.

Take your itinerary to the gate agent. Let her know what’s going on. Stress that you are traveling alone ESPECIALLY to surprise your mother in the PHILIPPINES. They’ll get you on the next best flight or take care of the connection.’

If any of you happen to follow me on Twitter, you’ll know what happened next. When this happened to me with JetBlue I took to Twitter and they not only helped me get on my next flight, they upgraded my seat, gave me extra miles and future travel credit, and when I jokingly mentioned how hungry I was and how much I love the blue Terra chips, they had an agent bring me ten. I’d never felt so special and so appreciated by an airline before. I told my brother to get a Twitter, and what followed was a complete mess of him telling his story on Twitter, me liking and retweeting, both of us trying to get United attention, and both of us trying to get him out of this situation.

For those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter, first his gate was changed last minute to Image result for travel stress gifbe across the airport. Second it was delayed further because they didn’t tell the catering crew and so their plane’s food was at the old gate. Third they were on board waiting to take off because the plane had to be ‘de-iced’. Fourth, as they are preparing for takeoff, the captain informs them they’ve reached their FAA limit and can no longer legally fly and they will need a new crew. Fifth, they can’t, so they end up CANCELING the flight altogether. Sixth, you’ve got an entire plane now of distraught travelers and only one gate agent and one customer service desk.

Ultimately they had to reschedule my brother for an early morning flight on Sunday. Which was still better than most, as a family of four wouldn’t be accommodated until Monday. They offered him only $20 food credit for the inconvenience and were going to put him up at a hotel, but I picked him up again and just had to bring him back at 4am. Fun times. United didn’t even give him extra miles or anything. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Come on guys, really?!

I dropped him off and there’s been no trouble at least since. He’s on his way to Hong Kong and by the time I wake up tomorrow he should be in the Philippines to surprise our mother. Meanwhile I’ve been living it up all domestic style. I did some grocery shopping, cleaned the house, cleaned the bathrooms, did the laundry, and prepped my meals for the week. I even hooked up some Bluetooth speakers around the house so I could play music from my phone while moving around the house. And some of you will be very happy to know, I kept all my clothes on, despite a past post to the contrary. Hahah.
Wanted to share with you all the first of the next couple weeks’ culinary adventures. Japanese umaki (eel omelet), shrimp tom yum noodle soup, and Thai iced tea. The eel was particularly tasty, marinating it first in eel sauce and grilling it before wrapping it in a sweet Japanese style egg omelet. The soup had a spicy richness that was cut with lemongrass and lime and the sweet shrimp. I made a whole pitcher of Thai tea and opened up a can of sweetened condensed milk so anytime this week I can make myself a cool tall glass of that uniquely dark, sweet flavor. My dinner was tasty, filling, and not to pat myself on the back too much but, dare I say, exquisite.

Good start to the month, looking forward to more!

 

 

 

Day 191

Man: 160 Loneliness: 31

Day 64: The Man and that Thing in His Eye; ‘Twinkle’

Beautiful liked to tell me that one of the major things that initially attracted her to me and was always so alluring was the passion I had for the things I loved. I can recall so many nights spent sharing stories and dreams and plans and hopes and how vividly it all came to me and the excitement in my voice, my eyes, my hands as I shared with her. I think there was something so natural about that relationship. She enjoyed watching me, being carried away with my wild dreams and gestures. I enjoyed being watched, feeling her gaze on me as I indulged in my hopes. A storyteller is only a storyteller if he has an audience, and the best way to his heart is to give him your eyes and ears.

I am normally a very reserved person. I prefer to observe and absorb as much as I can in large amounts until it becomes unbearable and I literally burst with stories. It is a common misconception to believe that the loudest and the most outgoing of us are the ones with the best stories to tell. I’m sure that plenty do and are, but you should never discount what the watchful and observant gaze can tell you. I am so much more occupied with capturing stories than telling them that I am sure to never run out.

There is constantly this ongoing battle within me between the one who watches and the one who shares. My hands were meant to wave wildly in the air with grand gestures mirroring the grandiosity of my verbosity. My voice was meant to rise and fall and inflect Jeremy.gifwith such passion and immediate transformation. Often times my fingers stumble over themselves trying to capture the words as they form in my mind. I can hear and see whole thoughts and images so vividly in my mind that I could so easily paint for you and transport you but the process of thought to hand to keyboard is oft times so much harder for me than thought to voice. I have finished all of this and right now my hands are actually just trying to recall everything I’ve already said in my mind. This is why I tell stories and not poetry. I could never figure out how to distill so much emotion and energy and wild fervor into the restrained fiery tempest of poetry. Instead I find that so many words fly in and out of my head that the fact I am able to restrict myself at all is a feat.

The thing of it is I also know that I secretly (or not so secretly) crave an audience. I am not content to be an unheard or undiscovered voice. I crave specifically that physical interaction. I love a live audience. I want to feed off of live laughter or gasps or cries. It isn’t just a coincidence that Beautiful felt that way when I spoke. I am, without ego or vanity or pride, aware of the effect of empassioned speech. I never feel as confident or as self-assured as when I am in the throes of sharing something I love. I spoke before of theeye-roll power of humor in attraction and how I was aware of that too and how it characterized my interactions with women. Even more so than that is the way I feel when I get a chance to speak about my passions. This is so much more than lazy, uninteresting, uninteractive self-centered speak. This is a way of engaging both people because when you speak with that enthusiasm and energy even listening becomes a more active experience. You listen with your eyes and your ears and your mind. You watch as I move from point to point, my arms flying with direct purpose translating thought to physical motion. You see every micro-expression as my eyes light or my brows furrow and how my mouth races to catch up with my thoughts. You hear the love and action in my voice. There is pleading and yearning and hope and despair whenever I need to invoke it. I find the best ways to connect to you, to move you, to transport you. I want what I see in my mind to be as vivid in yours.

Give me an opportunity to speak to you about food, about drink, about movies, literature, video games, martial arts, and I guarantee you will never see me as confident, smooth, articulate, and/or eloquent. Let me regale you with my stories. Let me strut with raw power and command across the stage of your mind. Let me undress you with my words as I wrap tantalizing, tempting, teasing words with my tongue. Let me move you and inspire you and sell you on my dreams. I wear my prose like a fine well-tailored suit and my speech could get me onto any red carpet.

The thing of it is though, for me, this is a very deep and personal relationship. It is a connection of words and thoughts and mind that…I choose not to want to share with everybody. The audience I crave is…an audience, really, of one. While I feel my most confident when I speak, I also find something incredibly attractive in someone who listens with such rapt attention and care. I don’t want some doting mindless audience of ‘yes’ bobbleheads. I want that one person who sees how significant it is to share. She would be the best, most engaging audience. I will feel inspired to keep talking and more importantly take words to action because of how much of me she sees and hears and believes. I miss and so incredibly desire that feeling again of being someone’s center of attention when I share. Someone who finds my hopes and dreams attractive not because of what they are but because of what they make me.

I never lost that twinkle in my eye. I just hope that someone will see it again.

Day 64

Man: 47 Loneliness: 17