Favorite Easy Dinner

This is a variation on my mother’s recipe for chicken. The recipe goes like this:

1. Go to Publix.

2. Buy an already roasted chicken.

3. Go home.

4. Eat it.

In my version, I retain a greater morsel of self-respect. First of all I buy my chicken from Whole Foods. Granted, I probably spend a dollar or two more, but it’s worth it. And here’s what the chicken looks like when I take it home:

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The first step, then, is to carefully remove the cover. Technique doesn’t matter here: just get the cover off.

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Mmm, doesn’t that look good? And yes, I’m not so amateur as to believe that this purchased chicken is better than the one I could roast myself. But having roasted many a delicious chicken, I will say that the labor and money that goes into roasting my own is more daunting than the deliciousness differential between home-roasted and store-roasted chicken.

But to achieve some degree of dignity, I do “make” a salad. I buy a bag of pre-washed, pre-packaged gourmet lettuce leaves and a tiny tub of cherry tomatoes. I put them in a large bowl and toss them with good olive oil, sherry vinegar (though tonight I used red wine vinegar because I couldn’t get the cork off the sherry!), kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. I lay the chicken across the top and wah-lah!

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Simple, healthy and delicious. A “home-cooked meal” in minutes. Oh God. I’m turning into Rachel Ray. Kill me now!

My Favorite Pastry

This is my favorite pastry:

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What is it called? That depends on who you ask. In the California Farmer’s Market, this was called a Raspberry Princess. At Alon’s Bakery, where I purchased this beautiful specimen, it was called “Fruit Bar.” I call it: Piece Of Heaven. But I’m biased. After all, this is my favorite pastry.

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What makes it so good? Is it the buttery crumbly top? The fruity, gooey center? Is it the firm yet supple shortbread layer that holds the whole thing together, like Merideth Baxter Berney on Family Ties? That I cannot tell you.

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What I can tell you is that it is delicious. So delicious, in fact, that I am very sad this is my last piece. Where did all the bites go? This one was particularly delicious: a peach strawberry filling. And now it’s all gone. Every last bite. I enjoyed it thoroughly. It’s my favorite pastry.

Johnny’s Pizza (Atlanta)

Tonight Lauren and I ordered a pizza. The first idea was to order from Savage Pizza but the Savages refused to deliver to Emory.

“Sorry man,” a Savage said on the phone. “We don’t go out that far.”

So we went for Johnny’s. The official name is “Johnny’s New York Pizza,” but that is perhaps a misnomer. It’s amazing how food establishments can appropriate entire cities to buttress their claim to authenticity. Or even entire continents! Doc Chey’s advertises itself as an “Asian Noodle House.” Hello, Doc Chey’s? It’s Asia calling; please stop appropriating our continent.

Here’s the Johnny’s box which arrived quite promptly:

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Does the box look like a New York Pizza box? Well, for starters, there are no icicles hanging off it. And, secondly, the box looks incredibly generic. No weather-worn wear-and-tear. When I was a kid, my parents bought me some strange Hannukah gift that was a sort of Make Believe Restaurant. It came with menus to color, chef’s hats, aprons and pizza boxes that looked just like this. I think you see my point.

We opened the box and saw this:

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A fruit tart?! What gives! [Just kidding. We ate this later. It was a party gift from our friends Hannah and Mike and it was way delicious.]

Here’s what we really saw:

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Our toppings were pepperoni and green olives. I really like olives on pizza. Some stupid people (Lisa and Alex, for example) think olives are gross. These people are fools. Olives on pizza (or off pizza) are delicious.

Anyway, the pizza itself approximates a New York pizza I suppose. The crust is its greatest claim to fame. It has that burnt pizza oven flair, that crispy chew and tug. But the sauce and cheese and oil content scream Movie Theater pizza. Real New York pizza has a grace and harmony, a perfect balance of sauce and cheese that justifies its status. Johnny’s “New York” Pizza is no more “New York” than pastrami at the Waffle House.

The pizza served as a prelude to the final episode of Sex and The City. I know this is tangential, but what did you guys think? I was a little disappointed. I never really liked Mr. Big. I was hoping Carrie would end up single. But I’m glad Samantha didn’t die.

Starter Me Up?

I spent the afternoon reading 68 pages of Nancy Silverton’s Breads from the La Brea Bakery. This was one of my birthday gifts, and I was very excited about diving in and making delicious bread. Turns out that “diving in” happens in bread-making the way pyrotechnics happen at a PGA tournament. (Forgive that last sentence, I’m tired).

Basically, what Nancy’s book is telling me is that I have to grow a “starter.” This involves mixing flour and water in a bowl and then adding grapes wrapped in cheesecloth and letting it sit for 14 days. Sounds simple enough. Except that you have to “feed” the starter three times a day and pander to its every whim. If the starter is angry, you have to console it; if the starter is quiet, you have to shake it up. The starter sounds a lot like my brother.

Most troubling, though, is that even if I took the time to develop and feed a starter, by the time the starter is ready to use I’ll be off on my whirlwind Spring Break tour to New York and Florida. And who will be there to feed my starter? I can barely find someone to feed my cat.

Oh Nancy, what have you done to me? I’m suffering from starter guilt. I could have spent the afternoon finishing the last 100 pages of “100 Years of Solitude” which I’ve been reading for what seems like 100 years. Or I could have, crazy enough, caught up on my reading for school: I’m only about 8000 pages behind. But no, I read all about bread–all about starters, and baskets, and types of flour (Rye vs. Whole Wheat vs. Semolina). Do I really need to know which type of flour dough absorbs quicker? Do I really need to know that when misting your oven you should avoid spraying the bread itself because it will discolor the outer surface?

Man cannot read about bread alone.

The Ew Department: Bagel Dippers

Lauren and I went to Einstein Bagels for lunch today. The next table over, a young seemingly healthy couple proceeded to do the following. They each tore at their individual bagels, spread cream cheese on the torn off piece, and proceeded to dunk the piece in a communal cup of coffee. I have never been more horrified in all my life.

Although, if they were dunking Nacho Cheese bagels in their coffee I would have shmeared my eyes out.

[HEY! HAVE YOU BEEN GROSSED OUT BY SOMETHING FOOD-RELATED LATELY? POST IT IN THE COMMENTS SECTION, AND READERS WILL DELIGHT IN YOUR HORROR!]

Last Minute Party Planning!

Ok two hours and 15 minutes before people start arriving and there’s so much left to do! Why am I posting on my blog?

Here’s what’s up. I have to go make homemade guacamole and sun-dried tomato dip, scarf down dinner, vacuum, shower and dress myself. Will it happen? Will this party be a flop or a fenomenon? Stay tuned!

The Ew Department: Yogurt Covered Pretzels

Surprise, surprise: today the thought of touching food repulsed me. I rolled out of bed, put my stockings on and began fretting over what I would consume before class.

Our refrigerator offered no help: left over sour cream, year old cartons of red pepper hummus. Yes: time to clean the fridge.

So I went to Smoothie King and bought my usual lemon twist smoothie with strawberry. Then I asked myself: “Will that be enough?

My self said “no” so I spotted a bag of yogurt covered pretzels and said: “Ok, I’ll buy those too.”

Fast forward to Business Associations, where I tear open the bag and pop a few in my mouth.

“Blech!”

They tasted like cardboard dipped in plastic. They were awful. And I like pretzels. I like pretzels dipped in things. I like things dipped in yogurt. My mother used to send me to school with yogurt covered raisins. I am no rookie when it comes to yogurt dipped things and pretzels that are dipped. But these were terrible!

Because of this, I begin a new category on the Amateur Gourmet. A category that I call “Ew.”

Yogurt Covered Pretzels from Smoothie King? Ew.

How CNN Killed My Bagel

I decided to delete all CNN airtime posts since they are now irrelevant. In the process, I deleted my post “A Cultural Anomoly: The Einstein Brothers’ Nacho Cheese Bagel.” I think it is gone forever and this upsets me because (a) I took time to write it, (b) I even did research for it, and (c) the Einstein Brothers’ Nacho Cheese Bagel is an atrocity and needs to be stopped.

One last note on CNN: my friend Bryan (who works for CNN) tells me that the reason some people can view the clip for free and others not is that if you have AOL, you can automatically watch CNN clips for free. So if you’re still game, log on to AOL and watch the Jeanne Moos clip “Milking The Janet Boob” (or whatever the segment’s called). Bryan also said he’d send me some still shots from the broadcast so once he does I’ll make sure to share them with you. (Although I’m sure you’re sick of this by now…)

If you’re curious how CNN changed my life, here are three CNN aftershocks:

1) I am now a beloved contributor to Oklahoma City radio. No joke. I have received not one but two requests to be on radio shows in Oklahoma City. The first occurred this afternoon on The Phil and Drew Show (98-9 Kiss FM). After sending me an e-mail, they called me up and put me live on the air. One of the hosts–was it Phil or Drew? So hard to tell those two apart!–asked “So what happened between the Superbowl and your decision to make the cupcakes? Did you have a little drinky drinky? A little smoky smoky?” It occurred to me then that the impression my breast cupcake probably creates for the masses is the idea that I’m a perverted fraternity boy with a vast pornography collection and a Lynrd Skynrd poster on my wall. When the truth comes out that I’m a 14 year old midget living in Provence with my lover Fen-Fen, the masses will have another thing coming. And as for Oklahoma City radio, tomorrow at 9:35 am I’ll be on the morning show on 930 WKY with hosts Mark Shannon and Larry Stein. I think you can listen to it on the internet.

2) I have been contacted by many long forgotten friends, Romans and countrymen who saw me on TV. There’s a roommate from a UCLA summer program, a former residence hall director, a law school professor, and several Emory alumns who all caught me on the air and now want to leech off my vast impending fortune. People, you were long forgotten for a REASON. Wasn’t it enough that I fed you? Clothed you? Modeled naked for you? Where were you BEFORE the cupcake? When I was out on the street, selling my body to truckers for a pittance? Why did I use the word “pittance”? Leeches all of you!

3) My site has had over 120,000 hits. This is pretty remarkable considering that (a) I started the site just three weeks ago!; and (b) that first week my grand total of hits was like 40.

Naturally, though, the site’s popularity will taper off and just the loyalists, stray skimmers and Trey Givens will remain. When that happens I promise you this. I promise to entertain you, educate you, and protect you from harm. I promise to inform you, challenge you, and bathe you. I promise to, ultimately, exploit you, offend you and alienate you. But, in all seriousness, I promise to make you care about food. And if I can accomplish that, I’ll forever be your Amateur Gourmet.