Smackdown: You Give Me Fever

another dinner, cropped

Is it possible to be in love with a camera lens?


Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite happy in my relationship. But I have a bit of a crush on this lens. Money well spent, says I. Get ready for more macro!


Tonight’s dinner comes from Jonathan Waxman and his A Great American Cook: fettuccine with red onion marmalade and mushrooms. I’d wanted to make the mole pork shoulder, but it’s so hot here I couldn’t deal with the idea of standing over a stove browning meat for an hour.

Much better to stand over a stove caramelizing onions and reducing wine for an hour. Me = clever.


Also a bad idea when it’s this hot: drinking red wine. First of all, it’s tepid. Second, I don’t actually like most red wine all that much. Third, alcohol makes me sweaty; I know you needed to know that.

So I ended up trading my red wine for Brian’s hard cider. Because if I’m going to deal with the alcohol sweats, it’s gonna be for something good.

I thinly sliced a couple of red onions and cooked them slowly over low heat in a shit ton of butter. Waxman says his book is recipes from his home kitchen, but he uses restaurant amounts of butter (at least in this dish). And I? Have no problem with that, because butter fucking rules. When the onions were soft and golden, I added a cup of wine and let it cook down to a jammy glaze.


I would tell you more about the wine, but it didn’t have a grape varietal listed – it was simply called “rosso.” It came from my well-stocked wine collection of bottles that people have given us as gifts or left here during parties. We pride ourselves on our selective accumulation of wines about which we know nothing.

When the marmalade was done, I took it off the heat and stirred in a handful of fresh herbs. There would have been more, but my lemon balm has grown to mutant proportions and is cutting off the sunlight to the other plants in the patch. Does anyone have ideas for what to do with 200 cups of lemon balm? Let me know.


The garlic – I appreciate that Waxman is not shy with it – went into the pan for the mushrooms. Which, I confess, I did not wash by submerging in a large bowl of water although instructed to do so by the book, which highlights the fallacy that one shouldn’t wash mushrooms by pointing out that it rains in the forest.

If rain falls on a mushroom in the forest but no anal foodie is there to worry about it, does it absorb any water? That will be the subject of my morning meditation.

Anyway, I didn’t wash the damn mushrooms because in heat such as this, one must economize one’s movements. And I didn’t feel like seasoning the mushrooms with my sweat. Too hard to control the salt level that way.


While the garlic gently sauteed, I hacked up the mushrooms, wiping off the bigger clods of dirt with a paper towel. As you can see here because of this damn new camera lens, which picks up all my flaws and plainly shows some remaining dirt.

I can’t stay mad at it, though.


As they cooked down, I added a splash of sherry to the mushrooms and tossed to coat them and make sure the garlic was well mixed in. I also put a big pot of water on to boil for the fettuccine and then promptly went to sit on the couch next to the air conditioner, because do you know how hot it gets standing in front of the Power Plus burner when it’s on high?

I’ll give you a hint, it’s REALLY FRICKING HOT. Good thing we’re not in the middle of a heat wave!

To think, I was going to make something from the sandwich chapter to keep it simple and cool, but I nixed that because making a sandwich seemed like a cop out. If it’s 96 degrees next Thursday? Get ready to read about a goddamn sandwich on Friday morning. I mean, really, who doesn’t like a sandwich? Freaks, that’s who.

Once the pasta was done and drained, I tossed it with the mushrooms and marmalade and heaped up a couple of bowlfuls.

another dinner

I can report that this is a much softer dish than you might think. With all the onion, wine and garlic, you might expect something really assertive. Maybe it was the quality of my ingredients, but this was quite a gentle bowl of food: earthy mushrooms, a rather delicate sweetness from the onions and wine and a hint of herb in the background.

Sadly, I only ate two forkfuls of it, since by the time I was done with dinner – which took less than an hour, definitely below average for a Smackdown – I was so overheated that I couldn’t bring myself to eat a warm dinner. And this was in my air conditioned apartment; it’s not like I was cooking outside over an open fire. Oh, well. I’ll just fill up on cider.

Now if you’ll excuse me, this lens and I are going to spoon.

16 thoughts on “Smackdown: You Give Me Fever

  1. Tell me about it. When it was 100 degrees here last month (in June? Are you fucking kidding me?) I had the urge for pot roast. POT ROAST. Braised. In the oven. For 3 1/2 hours. I may have to take out a home equity loan to pay the electric bill.

    Was that Francis Ford Coppola Rosso, by chance? I LOVE me some FFC Rosso. My liquor store sells it for $9.99 a bottle, and that’s is DEFINITELY an offer I can’t refuse.

  2. I totally made a wine sauce-mushroomy pasta last night as well. I also had the immense intelligence to pan fry chicken and keep it warm in the oven. 3 burners at once, the oven and no AC? Brilliant! And I cleaned my plate because I was fucking hungry and I deserved it!

  3. So totally possible to be in love with a lens. I feel the same about my 50mm… this looks delicious, by the way. Maybe made better by the lens…? No, I think it just looks and sounds like a mighty tasty dish.

    Long time lurker, by the way. Love your blog. I shall be back.

    Jax x

  4. Couple things. First off, here in SF it’s like 50 degrees (that’s F, not C) so that looks really tasty and warming. Second, you can infuse the lemon balm in milk/cream and make a tasty ice cream out of it- or a custard- but the ice cream will cool you down more!!

  5. “If rain falls on a mushroom in the forest but no anal foodie is there to worry about it, does it absorb any water?” That is the funniest thing I’ve read in a very long time!! I’m still laughing at it!!

  6. Gigitty. That is all.

    Until this part, where I agree on the room-temp drinking of wine being a bad idea when your AC struggles to keep the room temperature in the 70s. I have been using a different solution. The bar. With Cape Codders. Or pink wine, because in the vast world of pink wines that are not White Zinfandel there is goodness (and the more people think it’s all White Zin and turn their noses up, the more I get to drink).

  7. I was all ready to leap to the rescue with my idea for lemon balm ice cream, but it looks like Karen beat me to it. If that suggestion fails, you could put your unneeded lemon balm in a box and mail it to me!

    And that looks like mighty tasty pasta.

  8. It’s funny how perspective limits us sometimes. I’ve been making a condiment to go on the table for years, which basically consists of taking onions, sweet and/or hot peppers, and garlic and sweating them into oblivion in butter and *something* (often wine).

    It never dawned on me to make it a bit more substantial and toss pasta in it, so last night I sweated onions, garlic, sweet italian rellenos, celery, steamed carrots (a leftover), and mushrooms just like above. Then I boiled some orecchietta and tossed it with some clams I steamed. Wow.

    I felt really stupid, a real “doh” moment. How could I have been spooning this great stuff onto food for so long, but not thought about making it the main thing?

    So thanks!

  9. I adore red onion Jam….make it for parties and dinners all the time, especially when its hors d’ourvres (whatev) heavy. great paired with stinky cheeses, and sliced spanish chorizo…

  10. I also pride myself on accumulating gift wines that I know nothing about.
    What I don’t have is an awesome camera/lens such as yours. The pictures are fabulous. And the recipe looks delish too.

  11. kay, it was the FFC. i wasn’t a huge fan – though it was great in the jam – but then i’m not a red wine person in general.

    joshua, let’s go with band.

    tarah, i’m amazed you were still hungry. i wish i had been, because this was a tasty dinner.

    cali, thanks!

    jackie, my 50mm is a close second runner-up. i’m trying not to neglect it.

    karen, that’s what i did with my lemon balm last year; it was really good and i’ll probably do it again. and put a sprig of it in every glass of water i drink for the next three months.

    craig, heh, glad to be of assistance.

    geeking, yeah, i’m more of an ice + sparkling water + st. germain kinda gal, but i had the bottle of red wine open for the marmalade, so i thought i would try it. learned my lesson.

    lauren, i’m happy to drown you in lemon balm. that shit grows like a noxious weed.

    FGK, don’t thank me, thank jonathan waxman!

    vera, onion jam and stinky cheese, drool.

    karen, it’s the best way to maintain a wine collection, i’ve found.

  12. Regarding excess lemon balm–I’m a fan of using it in lemonade and drying it to make tea.

    Sorry to hear you’re boiling out there in NYC. It’s friggin foggy and cold here in LA right now. Too bad we can’t average out our temperatures–it might even out to reasonable summer weather!

  13. Pingback: thursday night smackdown » Don’t Make This For Dinner Tonight

  14. Lemon balm and all other mint-like things are great for making blender iced tea! Insert cold water and lemon balm into blender. Push button. Strain (if you’re a wuss about little bits of green goodness in your teeth). Pour into a glass with some ice cubes in it. Drink. Wonder why you hadn’t thought of that. Repeat.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s