Thursday, September 27, 2007

Don't want no Captain Crunch, don't want no Raisin Bran

Once upon a time, on a sick day, I watched an entire 30 minute show of Mario Batali on the best network ever. Generally, I avoid his show, Molto Mario, because he is so aggravatingly snotty, makes things that require you to make your own specific broths with a 3 day cure and must be used within 12 hours of completion or they self destruct, etc. Don't get me started on the price of the olive oil he strongly advises to use to keep your food from tasting too common. Also, he wears bright orange crocks. Who does that, honestly. Even with all my issues of his character, taste in fashion, and general disgust for him, I found one reason that day to watch: his entire show was about cooking with the eatable innards of the chicken - namely the gizzard, heart and liver. I decided to give Mario Batali a chance to prove that he does have a place in this world and is not a total waste of space, as has been my assumption all along.

I am a huge gizzard and heart fan. Growing up, it was a fight between my dad and I who would eat them after unpacking the chicken/turkey/etc and throwing them in the frying pan. Granted, anything fried in enough grease or butter and properly seasoned is tasty, but the gizzard and heart are especially yummy. A little tough, but in a good way. Tons of flavor. Fun shape. Offers a chance to quote Magua ("When the white meat is dead, Magua will eat his heart" ). Limited competition (dad usually was distracted by the neck, giving me a chance to swoop in with my fork for the good stuff). Imagine my delight when I learned of an entire dish that could be made from chicken gizzards and hearts. A-mazing. This was months ago. I have searched Harris Teeter every time I shop for gizzards to make this dish. I asked the butcher at the most amazing grocery store ever and was shot down when I asked for a half pound of gizzards. I had all but given up hope (last resort: start buying chickens and save each and every gizzard and heart until I had collected the appropriate amount).

It was with an open heart and an empty stomach that I wandered into Giant after work on Friday to pick up some rice to attempt to redo the previous disaster (side note: the pan, after some excellent advice, has come back for more faithful service!). After watching Howie make oodles and oodles of risottos on TC this season, I also threw in the appropriate rice to attempt my own some time if the mood struck. And then there is the habitual stroll down the meat aisle, hoping fillet mignon has been marked down to $.75/pound.

And then, buried in the poultry section, were two packages of gizzard and hearts. $1.70 for the entire package.

At home, I went about the task of finding the recipe. I had printed it off at one time, but alas, it was not to be found. No problem, I thought, I'll just find it online. None of the Batali gizzard recipes were right. None sounded remotely as appetizing as the one I had burned in my memory. I was stuck in Pit of Gizzard despair.

Epicurious to the rescue! A quick search found a Gizzard Risotto recipe that not only was Kosher (how timely, considering the next day was Yom Kippur) but I also happened to have risotto rice on hand! And everything else (other than the carrots and celery, but no matter...)! I went to task (its a 2 hour recipe, but well worth the effort) and started my dinner. Well into the cooking, during a lull when the gizzards were happily simmering away in their wine and chicken broth, I started to put away my groceries from earlier. As I reached up above my fridge to collect my rice container, a piece of paper slid down, formerly stuck in just the right place so it couldn't be seen between the cookbooks and dry ingredient jars.

It was, of course, Mario's recipe.

If, by an act of God or kind butchers, I find gizzards again in the store, Mario will be challenged once again. Until then, keep your crocks outta my kitchen.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Story of the Phantom Roommate and the Dinner that Almost Wasn't

Welcome to my world all. This is my first attempt at blogging, which is bound to be pretty much amazing. As I am a structure queen, I thought about trying to pick a theme or topic my blog should be about. Cooking? Pedicures? My life that is "Devil(s) Wears Golf Shirts on Fridays" perhaps? More likely than not, a main feature will be what I'm eating. And drinking. Most likely wine will be involved. Often.

I live in a huge apartment. Huge. Seriously. And up until last weekend, I had the perfect arrangement. I moved into my apartment last November but my roommate has never actually lived here - she's been living with her boyfriend the whole time. Until last Friday when they broke up.

Oy vey.

Cooking for me is a bit of a therapy session and I've been super stressed out the last few days between work and her moving back in, so I decided to make myself a nice dinner and wind down a bit. What's the saying about good intentions? Something about hell? Well if hell is the smoke alarm going off and the death of my sauce pan, well yeah, that's about right.

Generally I am quite good about multitasking while cooking - whisk in one hand, submersion blender in the other while 2 other pots are happily bubbling away. Tonight it was too much to take. I started my broth and lemon zest infused rice on the back burner and turned my attention to the almond slivers toasting and the mushrooms that needed a quick cleaning and slicing. I thought it smelled like the almonds were cooking too fast, so a quick toss and I went back to the fungi. I smelled the smell again and, thinking that slight burned smell was the nuts, gave them another quick toss and went about the task of finding something to put them in so I could start on the chicken. Almonds out, chicken in, and the smell was still there. I assumed a sliver of almond was still stuck in the pan.

And then I smelled smoke.

And then I saw smoke.

And then I pulled the lid on my rice pot.

I'm pretty sure when I put the rice into the pot, it wasn't the color of charcoal. Let's all take a moment to remember the short life but loyal service of my sauce pan. < > Ok, thanks.

The chicken, on the other hand, was quite tasty, if I do say so myself.