Finding the Beauty in Unemployment

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The beauty of unemployment is I can walk for an hour interrupted only by my wandering thoughts. Don’t worry. I had my giant #HireAndrew placard on to protect me from the wind gusts while advertising my latest media campaign.

Beauty of Unemployment | TheBachelorBasics.com
Chorizo, mushroom and egg wrap with melted mozzarella.

After a few phone interviews, I made a good lunch, well, two good lunches. It is Leap Day after all. That’s the other huge perk of being home more. The first was a chorizo and mushroom scrambled egg situation wrapped in a scorched tortilla. What better to wash that down than a turkey chorizo burger atop a toasted ciabatta half? Continue reading Finding the Beauty in Unemployment

Thanksgiving Feast and Pie Essentials

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Timing is key for Thanksgiving. Alas, my internal ticker was woefully wrong this year. I brined the bird over night and used Alton Brown’s method of roasting: 500 degrees for the first 30 minutes, then 350 for another 90-120 minutes. The bird went into the dry sauna at 11AM and was done at 1PM.

Know what wasn’t done? Everything else.

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I had just begun peeling and chopping potatoes. The broccoli casserole was prepped and ready to go into the oven. That left the Stuffin Muffins and gravy.

Tenting foil over the bird, I started darting around the kitchen, chopping veggies, heating up skillets, making a roux, warming milk and butter, sweating more than the turkey.

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I don’t often plan when in the kitchen, believing that I can figure it out as I go. Thanksgiving isn’t one of those meals you can wing. In the end everything was executed well, if not in a precise finishing order. Thanksgiving 2014 proved to be a warm-up for the following night’s first Friendsgiving featuring Turkey Gumbo and a new variation on the crowd-pleasing Stuffin Muffins sensation.

The night ended with the traditional Pecan Pie, easily the greatest dessert and cause of diabetes.

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Turkey Burgers for Ollie & Moses

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Starting dinner after getting home from the gym usually doesn’t bode well, especially when you’re racing a storm that has been described as Biblical.

After a trip to Target (yogurt, protein bars and ground turkey) and a forgettable workout, I sped home switching between looking at the road and doomsday sky. The rain started to pick up after I saw the sign for my exit ramp on the expressway. A 7-yard sprint was the last event in my Monday pentathlon. I narrowly dodged the sideways rain and hustled inside to start dinner.

I fired up the cast iron skillet. Then added diced onion, a beaten egg, breadcrumbs and some grilling seasoning to the turkey meat before mixing with my hands. The skillet was hell hot and the burgers were ready to go.

In my haste and hunger I made a few massive burgers, which ended up being halved to ensure they cooked fully and didn’t send me to meet Moses or St. Peter.

Turkey burgers present some challenges that beef doesn’t:

There is no medium rare for turkey.

Turkey is leaner, and that means less moist. That’s why I add the egg and onions.

There isn’t a ton of flavor in the bird, so it’s a chance to get creative. I went tame tonight: Grilled onions & mushrooms with some basil and pecorino.

Other options abound. Pick a cuisine: Asian, Mexican, Italian, Indian. Blank canvas with turkey burgers.

Since this could’ve been my last meal, naturally, I opted to serve mine on a warmed tortilla, but you do you.

28 tortillas left. #Tortillachallenge

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11 Holiday Cooking Tips I Wish I Knew Sooner

I feel like there should be blurring or black bars for this shot.

I feel obligated to share that I’m eating cold, left-over pizza as I write this. The leftovers are all gone from Thanksgiving. A few weeks ago I started planning what new things I’d try this year. For fellow home chefs, holidays are the day we have been training for: making stocks, timing multiple dishes to finish at the same time, drinking enough to keep up with/tolerate the relatives, and avoid spilling anything on yourself thereby making others question your competency. This year’s turkey day served as a warm-up for Christmas.

The shopping and prep work started a week ago. I hit 5 stores to get all the ingredients. Since I don’t believe in making lists, instead, relying on my faulty memory, where was I going with this…Ah! Yes. Shopping. All told the meal cost about $60-75, which is lower than normal for my family.

Onto the cooking stories and lessons, lest I bury the lede any deeper. Here are the things I wish I knew before embarking on today’s feast. These are now useless until next year. You’re welcome for my planning ahead to help you.

A. Don’t apologize. However things turned out is how they were meant to be. Embrace it. Learn from your missteps, and do better next time. Enjoy the people you’re with and the time you have together. In the end, that’s all that matters. Not that you brined, smoked, and photographed a trollop of a bird, made mashed potatoes of the perfect texture, constructed gravy that would make grandmothers weep.

2. Make-ahead stock. Purchase turkey wings. Roast those with halved onions, roughly chopped celery, some salt and pepper for 45 minutes at 400 degrees. Flipping 20-25 minutes in. Then de-glaze the pan with 2 cups of water. Once you have gotten most of the bits off the bottom, add 10 more cups of water. Simmer the wings/bones/aromatics for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally. Upside: this is mostly a passive activity and beats store-bought stock which is loaded with sodium.

D. Salt your food. I usually omit this step and rely on salting dishes individually. This bothers me largely due to watching cooking shows where chefs lambaste contestants  for not seasoning their dishes. All the dishes I made today needed salt. Otherwise the flavors were balanced. So, as a reminder, salt your food.

4. Delegate photo duties to someone you trust. When handling raw turkey and most meat, you don’t want to be spreading those bacteria to your phone. I had my sister take a few of the pics as I manhandled the bird on the grill. In retrospect, I should have discussed my preferred angles and framing.

5. Mashed Potatoes as God intended.  Heat milk/cream and half a stick of butter. I always used to add them cold to the hot potatoes. When you heat the fats, it makes for a much creamier end result.

6. You can’t eat all day, if you don’t eat breakfast. I had 2. My usual cereal upon opening my eyes. Then I made hash browns with my sister. Homemade hash browns. Added that with bacon, poblano, onion and cheddar for a frittata/omelette.

7. Post and post often. Your friends won’t invite you to friendsgiving if you don’t fill their feeds with food instead of kind notes about how thankful you are. By constantly posting, you’re screaming to the world that you have better food than they do. And that you need attention. But I prefer the former justification.

8. If you aren’t getting the necessary compliments on social media, take the direct approach. Text friends extreme close-ups of the bird or crudites. Possibly calling them, then rushing off the phone. “Gotta go check on my turkey smoking on the grill.” If possible, use a hashtag during the call. The more incoherent the better. I suggest #nevergohungry

9. Try something new. Every year I change something. Some of the changes are small. Some are new dishes. A few years ago, I started making stuffin muffins. Now, largely because of the hype I’ve created, all my friends request I bring in leftovers on Monday. This year saw two changes. First, was smoking the bird, which freed up the oven for other dishes, and was one less pan to wash. The second modification was a second gravy. I roasted poblano peppers after the turkey was done, then blended them with 2-3 cups of my finished gravy.

10. Find someone to wash dishes. Based on my straw poll, very few people like doing dishes. I’d consider marrying someone solely for their willingness to always wash dishes.

11. Embrace tradition. Maybe yours is guessing which relative will become uncomfortably intoxicated. Who will disappear before the dishes are done? If you don’t have any, create some! My family always watches Home Alone. This year I fell asleep sitting upright. No apologies.

 

Learning to Lose

16 men. 10 sports. 3 days. 2 bathrooms. 1 house.

“If you ain’t first, you’re last.” -Reese Bobby

For the past dozen years, a group of friends has gotten together to celebrate camaraderie and competition. In those years, the Pseudo Decathlon has evolved into a 3-day-weekend extravaganza with brackets, a clipboard, a trip to Costco and memory cards full of pictures.

Continue reading Learning to Lose