Fish balls, fish balls; eat them up. Yum!

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Did you know: If you want to take your fish balls out to the movies, you DON’T HAVE TO PAY to get them in! What a deal!

Say someone challenged you to come up with a dish involving your choice of seafood, lime and coconut. You’d probably come up with something a lot like this, I’m sure: coconut rice and yellowtail suckers with a trio of spicy lime dipping sauces. Because when people think “fish,” they think “lollipop,” right?

Okay, I know, it sounds freaky and maybe a little bit gross. It’s just that the ingredients for this month’s Foodie Joust over at the Leftover Queens’s lent themselves so well to a variety of Thai-inspired fish dishes and curries. And they’re all looking really good, and I don’t think I could top ‘em. So I figured, if I can’t beat you in flavor inventiveness, I can… also not beat you in shape and form. But at least in the meantime, I get to eat a fried thing on a stick. Also I get to say “fish balls” a lot.

Fish balls. Fish balls. Fish balls.
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Daring Bakers: I Brake for Cake

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Breakfast Cake: It does a body good.

So I’m officially a Daring Baker! I mean, I’d like to think that I’ve been a daring baker for some time, but now I get to say it with a capital D, capital B.

I’m grateful to this month’s challenge for deflating my culinary hubris further than it already has been. Because I fully admit that when I saw the recipe – Dorie Greenspan’s Perfect Party Cake – I rolled my eyes a little. I joined the Daring Bakers to be more oven-ly challenged, and layer cakes, far from being intimidating, are the dessert that I’m most known for in the modest circles* in which I move. So it stands to reason that I would royally fuck up a basic white cake recipe and continue the debacle by mauling the components during construction, resulting in a hastily-assembled cake with 3 layers instead of 4 that I finished at roughly 1am.

So thanks, March 2008 challenge, for helping me feel like an idiot. Note to April’s recipe: I feel that I’ve built quite enough character, fuck you very much, so let’s go easy on me.

*Between 6 and 8 inches in diameter. I don’t really like people.

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Thursday Night Smackdown: Redemption Burgers

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I relish the thought of this week’s Smackdown! Ahoy-hoy! Rim shot!

I thank you all from the bottom of my shriveled little heart for all your commiseration following last week’s trouncing at the exacting hands of Thomas Keller. I am still coping with my sense of shame and loss, but my therapist assures me that it will only take a few years to work through. Yay!

This week, we decided to do a 180 from the French Laundry: burgers and fries. It may not sound like Smackdown material, but you’ll have to trust me on this one. Cindy Pawlcyn’s Big Small Plates brings us mini burgers with pickled onions and roasted pepper relish on black pepper biscuits, and papas bravas (fried potatoes with a tomato-chili-smoked paprika sauce). It has a lot of moving parts, but they all work together to produce a harmonious whole. It’s like what Jesus would make, if he were doing a burgers-and-fries Smackdown. Or maybe Rube Goldberg.

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Les frigging oignons de printemps avec des oeufs poches.

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The above-mentioned frigging spring onions.

Usually, Wednesday nights are fajita nights. Except this Wednesday, when I totally forgot because I’d been thinking all day about the best way to have poached eggs for dinner. It’s just been so sunny for the last few days and even though it hasn’t been terribly warm, immanent springtime put me in the mood for a lighter meal. When I stopped by Whole Foods after work to pick up some Smackdown ingredients for tomorrow, I saw a big pile of spring onions and immediately thought: spring onion and mushroom saute topped with poached eggs, and a simple salad. Which I came home and started preparing. Because that’s what normal people do.

Unbeknownst to me, Brian had invited his brother and his wife over for fajitas and, because of a failed game of phone tag, there I was with a pan full of spring onions.  Although I love fajita night, I really really wanted a poached egg, so I stuck to my guns (risking displeasing my surprise dinner guests, thus incurring the wrath of my inner Italian nonna).  Because I’m the one cooking, and you’ll eat what I give you and you’ll like it. Okay, not really. But you will.  Like it, I mean.

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When life gives you lemons, make orzo with goat cheese and spring veggies.

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What do you mean, that’s not how the saying goes? Fuck you.

You know how sometimes you come home after a long, tiring day sitting in front of a computer and stapling various pieces of paper to other pieces of paper, and you want a satisfying meal that won’t take very long? Usually when that happens I order in some lamb shawarma, because who wants to cook when they’re fucking tired? I had to collate things today, and I walked to the water cooler twice. But sometimes, I decide to throw some crap in a pot and see if I can make a go of it myself, and the result ends up being a tasty, easy, quick meal that instantly becomes part of the weekday repertoire.

Of course, sometimes it ends up being an inedible pot of shit and I have to order shawarma anyway. But this is not one of those times, I promise.

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Eating Out: The United Nations

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The filet mignon, or as the menu states “#4: The Boutros-Boutros.”

The really great thing about working for a non-profit organization is the pay.

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Sorry, I was choking on my own laughter and had to take a minute to compose myself. What I meant to say was that the great thing about working for a non-profit are the gala events, with their great speakers and their open bars. And if, for example, you were known to be your particular non-profit’s resident foodie, you might always get to go to the food tastings for said gala events. Ergo: eating out at the United Nations, locale of this year’s event, with food prepared by the delegates’ chef.

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Thursday Night Smackdown: Thomas Keller is a hardcore motherf*cker.

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The news said there was a 65% chance of vampires, so I figured better safe than sorry.

Tonight: Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry Cookbook (cue foreboding music)

I tried to keep the title clean, in case, you know, your frigging kids are reading over your shoulder (go to bed). I’m in a bit of a mood, you see, because Thomas Keller has roundly defeated us with his precise ways and time consuming techniques and bizarre use of hard-boiled egg yolks. How does the man get a single dish out of his kitchen – a phalanx of oompa loompas? Because we’ve been working for 3 days here; we’ve used every dish and pot in the house and I believe several workers may have died of cholera during construction.

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tacogate '08: the final chapter

There is no picture, because this item had been COMPLETELY CONSUMED by the time I was able to reach for the camera. There are only these 4 words, 4 words that should be more than enough, 4 words that under the transitive property of cake are themselves equivalent to a picture that is then equivalent to 1000 words.

Tres Leches Rum Cake

It is ooey. It is gooey. It is sticky and sweet and moist and creamy and delicious. It embodies the spirit of ten million drunk puppies playing with ten million drunk kittens in a field of cottonballs under gumdrop trees, takes that spirit and condenses it into one boozy, wondrous bite. And you make it like this…

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tacogate '08: tasty pico and inauthentic refried beans

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I know you’re all watching American Idol right now. Why does Jason Castro force us to love him, with his dreadlocks and blue eyes and charming goofiness?

Part Four in the series goes back to basics: pico de gallo and refried beans. Every time I have people over and bring out this pico there’s a minor riot, which never ceases to amaze me – and sadden me, have we become so inured to Tostitos salsa? Will future generations know nothing except Pace Picante Sauce?

Fresh pico only takes 5 ingredients and a little chopping. Do it for the flavor. Do it for the children. Dear god, won’t someone think of the children?

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tacogate '08: mrs. morales' flan

UPDATE:  We’ve been visited by Mrs. Morales!  Check out the comments for the recipe for this monumental flan!

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A giant fucking flan.

This enormous, delicious flan was oh-so-kindly prepared by Mrs. Morales. Her son Jason, a Scrabble-a-thon participant, informs me that she reads TNS and would be tickled to see a picture of her huge and scrumptious flan. So I give you: Mrs. Morales’ Flan. It had a perfect texture, delicious caramel, fed 20 people easily and balanced the federal budget, all before noon.

Mrs. Morales, your son is terrible at Scrabble, but we love your colossal, Brobdingnagian, wonderful wonderful flan.

If we all ask very nicely, there is a chance she may appear in the comments and tell us how to make this outstanding, gargantuan flan.