Friday, April 30, 2010

Veggies from the States Around Us

In the two states that surround us here in New York we are able to get a pretty decent amount of fresh vegetables. I was able to procure Shiitake mushrooms from New Jersey and Asparagus from Connecticut which was picked yesterday morning!

My laziness won over and I pan-seared some skirt steak to accompany the spring vegetables. In addition to the shiitakes and the asaparagus I also sauteed some ramps. All of the above were sauteed in olive oil and butter.

All of the vegetables were incredible. I've never had such delicious shiitake mushrooms before. After Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen it's as if New Jersey finally got something right! Bravo!

As an accompaniment I opened this bottle of 2006 Ridge. I found this back in January after looking for it for over a year. Sadly it was only after opening it that I read on the back that for best flavor it should be consumed in 2014. Oops. It was still pretty damn good though.

For dessert we waded through a swarm of tweens to get some ice cream at Longford's Ice Cream. Jen had the mud pie and I had the Butterfinger blast (or some other nonsense name). Jen's father denounced this place as overpriced and terrible on his last visit to the neighborhood. We, however, after two trips have declared it fantastic.

Unless you have no taste for annoying pre-teens, in which case you may want to steer clear of this establishment.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

24 Carrot Disappointment

This week was marked by a number of get-it-out-of-the-fridge inspired meals.

I made this orange and lemon zest flavored roast chicken from the freezer along with some fennel purchased for Easter (it had a long life) and some other assorted roasted vegetables. This included some local Jersey asaparagus. This was convenient because a recent study shows that asparagus helps double your ability to metabolize alcohol. And by "recent" I mean one of those studies that pops up once a year as if on a timer. Like the one about red wine being good for you, or about scientists figuring out what really killed the dinosaurs.

I was going to need this asparagus to help me metabolize the one beer I planned on drinking for dinner that night.

I was looking forward to trying the new Narragansett Porter. I don't know that it is actually new but it was knew to me. Being from Rhode Island I can't legally say anything bad about this beer but I will leave it at this: it was not my favorite. I think I may stick to their original lager.

If scientists find out a vegetable that can double my ability to metabolize a taste I may pair it with this porter and try it again.

I love Narragansett Beer though! Please buy a lot of their products!

Having roasted too many vegetables I used up the remainder with a nice chunk of cod loin which I pan roasted. I also wilted some fresh baby spinach and served that as an accompaniment the following night.

Jen had found this recipe for Gajar Ka Halwa, a dessert made with shredded carrots, sugar, nuts, and condensed milk. While traditionally it should be served with cashew nuts we opted to use pistachios as we had some sitting around in the cupboard.

It's easy to make, that is if you don't break your food processor and end up having to grate the carrots by hand (which I did). After the carrots are grated it's as simple as throwing everything in a pot and simmering it for an hour-and-a-half.

We were excited to try this and thought that it would be the most delicious dessert we'd ever had. Our mutual love of carrot cake is what fueled this excitement. We were sad to discover that even after adding all those nuts, all the sugar, and a huge amount of condensed milk, and cooking it for over an hour it tasted almost exactly like some shredded carrots. It was really quite remarkable. I don't think I can recall any single food ingredient that I've ever added so many additional ingredients and so much cooking time to that changed so little.

It's not to say that it's gross or anything, it's just not what we'd hyped it up to be in our mind.

Instead of the greedy, overindulgence we usually experience when there is dessert in the house we have gone through a new routine with this dish. Every night for the past few nights we've finished dinner then sat in front of a small plate of Gajar Ka Halwa, looked at each other, and dutifully eaten our servings. The disappointment was so severe that we didn't even discuss it the first few times we ate it, being sure not to make eye contact with the other in hopes that we could continue to pretend it was the best thing we'd ever eaten.

After three nights there is still a lot left. I'd say about 60%. If you're dying to have some after the wonderful picture I've just painted please stop on by. I'll give you a double-serving.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Oh, Fiddleheads!

Here's the thing about fiddlehead ferns. Are you ready? Because I'm going to tell you.

They're not that good.

Sure, they look cool. They look like something that may have been enjoyed, long ago, by hungry dinosaurs. They look like they might even be dinosaurs themselves.

Like their seasonal cousin, the ramp, they are only available during a very brief window during the Spring. For that very reason they are held in an almost mythical light in the foodservice business. I can remember my restaurant days where the chefs would all cheer at their first days of availability through our produce supplier. We would order them in and serve them up to all of our customers who marveled at their exquisite rarity.

Fiddleheads are not bad. They're just not very good. They have an odd, slightly displeasing texture and not a lot in the way of their own flavor. After spending the better part of two decades trying to understand their allure I think I've resigned myself to the fact that I just don't like them very much.

The problem with a vegetable that's only available in any regularity for 3-4 weeks a year is that that gives you 48-49 weeks to forget all of that and fool yourself into believing that have been longing for them all this time. Even though I forget about them every year for that entire time until I'm reminded of them when I see them crop back up at the market. Then I fall into their slowly plotted trap once again. As Jen stated before dinner tonight: "I think I like the idea of a fiddlehead fern much more than the fern itself."

Ramps, on the other hand, are delicious.

I got some nice sea scallops so I decided that if I rendered some bacon, seared the scallops, added in a little butter and olive oil and tossed the leftover fingerlings and fiddleheads that should make the ferns a little more appealing. It turns out I was right. What would have made this dish even more enjoyable would have been substituting something else for the fiddleheads. Maybe asapargus or a dark green such as kale or chard. However, I do not wish to throw away food, particularly rare food such as this peculiar fern.

What is it that they say? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me fifteen times, shame on fiddlehead ferns. I think that's how the quote goes.

Only 51 weeks until I'm fooled again.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Late Night Lamb

Ah, Spring. It's a time for cleaning, flowers, flings, and boards. Some of my favorite things! It's also a choice time for a variety of green vegetables that all have an extremely small window of opportunity to acquire.

With Jen working late and us having dinner at 11:00 PM I had to slightly modify my dinner plans. However, I was still able to make something that captured the season somewhat. It might have been a little nicer accompanied by daylight but I substituted leftover Mingo from last night instead. If the wine with the silliest name in my rack can't make it better, nothing can.

Kale, luckily, is not one of those ingredients. I continued the recent obsession with making kale-related salads. This one I made with golden beets, lemon, feta cheese, and tomato. If you let kale marinate for long enough in some citrus it is actually quite palatable. Nate at 19 years old, who was cutting his teeth at Christopher's Restaurant would disagree. However, he was kind of an idiot. He also went to culinary school yet made himself a box of Velveta Shells & Cheese every night for dinner.

Every. Night.

For dinner I used a number of wonderful Spring ingredients. Sadly they were only 1/3 local and/or sustainable. I made New Zealand lamb sirloin steaks with fiddlehead ferns from Florida, and fingerling potatoes from Long Island. In the time of Kintaur Rosenbaum New Zealand would technically be considered local to New York as the Galactic Federation had spread humanity from here to Trifid Nebula.

For that reason I'd like to imagine tonight's dinner was a wonderfully local experience. At least the kale wasn't from Tragon IX!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Nate's 10 Minute Meals

Rachael Ray has 30 Minute Meals. Not all of us are fortunate enough privileged with that much free time. Some of us rush home from work, go to the grocery store, go to the Apple Store to get their display replaced, then pick up their wife from the train station. That leaves us with:

Nate's 10 Minute Meals!

I reached into the fridge with one arm and unearthed some leftover avocado, tomato, hearts of palm, and artichoke hearts which I combined with red leaf lettuce, lemon, and olive oil.

At the store I found some thinly cut pork sirloin steaks which I smeared with sweet-hot mustard and bread crumbs, seared, then finished in the oven.

While it finished I poured out some of this wine. It's called Mingo. That's a ridiculous name.

Jen had the idea to use some of her leftover angel food cake with mango, chocolate sauce, and coconut. I was skeptical. This was the opposite of every night where I try to make something and Jen is skeptical. Like Jen's skepticism mine was unfounded. It was quite good.

With only 10 minutes spent on making dinner there's plenty of left to clean up the dishes in the kitchen.

But how can we do dishes when there's a fresh new DVD of True Blood that came in?

A shape-shifting dog? You've got to be kidding me!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Beer Bettered Fish

Tonight's leftover level: 6 out of 10. Tonight's inspiration level: 3 out of 10.

Let's rock and roll!

You'll never guess what I did with the leftover Caesar salad ingredients. Okay, give up? I chopped them up, tossed them with more Caesar dressing and made Caesar salad!

I'm one of the last truly great culinary improvisers of our time.

I recently picked up some of Brooklyn Summer Ale. I had a strange idea for it: I poured it into a frosted glass and drank it!

But that was only part of my idea! I also used it with a little lemon to poach this salmon. I was going to use some white wine to poach the salmon but there was only this in the fridge. Lighter beer tends to blend well with citrus so why not? The only risk was ruining the salmon. And the beer. And dinner for tonight. And our faith in humanity.

Luckily for us it was not a terrific failure. The salmon poached well in the beer. It was a nice accompaniment to last night's leftover potato salad and some fresh ramps that I sauteed in olive oil.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

If You Force It, It Will Come

I generally don't like Summer. Spring is good. Fall too. It's just that the Summer brings with it a lot of sweatiness and general discomfort that I don't particularly enjoy. It does, however, bring with it grilled food which has been absent from our lives over the past decade or so.

So with the temperatures in the lower fifties I was forcing it tonight when I decided to fire up the grill.

First I grilled the romaine lettuce to make this Caesar salad. While I love the flavor and art of grilling over hard wood, on nights like tonight I regret not having purchased a basic gas grill. After working all day the 30-40 minutes it takes to get the grill ready is a bit of a nuisance.

Jen made her famous seasoned burger patties. I think it's a Canadian thing to season your burgers with onions, seasonings, Worchestershire ssauce, and various other ingredients you happen to have lying around. In America it's typical to just put a raw burger patty onto the grill and not even season the exterior. I must be from that mysterious country that lies between the border of Canada and America. It's like Andorra for North America. In this country we liberally season the exterior of the burger, leaving the interior untouched.

I hope my burger country doesn't get invaded.

Jen also made an angel food cake. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of the final cake but it bore a striking resemblence the Olympic Saddle Dome. The final product was delicious. We served it up with some champagne mangoes and whipped cream.

And with that summer is upon us. A grey, cold, dreary summer, but all the flavors are there.

At this rate we should be roasting butternut squash again by August.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Warm the Cockles

There were a lot of spare greens kicking around the fridge today when I got home from work. There was kale, red leaf lettuce, and the fresh watercress I'd just purchased. I decided that this was their last stand. It was time to clean out these old greens and bring in a new batch for the weekend. The recent truce between me and kale has been going well. I've found a number of ways of preparing it now that don't make me sad so this is a huge triumph. It's taken us more than thirty years to achieve this delicate balance. I'm hoping it remains undisturbed.

I tossed the kale with some lemon, pine nuts, hearts of palm, artichoke hearts, grape tomato, cayenne, and just a drizzle of olive oil. I felt this was sufficient. Actually I though this was probably too much but it was going to utilize some ingredients we'd had for a while.

Jen pushed the envelope by telling me to add avocado and grapefruit. There were a lot of flavors going on in this salad but it seemed to work. Not as delicious as the lime and kale salad from the other night but still pretty good.

It's not often you find fresh cockles that are quite as wondrous as the ones I came across today. I took them home, put them in salted water (one tablespoon of salt in about one quart of water), and watched them all spit out and excess sand. I even put in one of those little robotic divers standing next to a sunken treasure chest to recreate what they were used to.

I put some olive oil and butter in a pan, cooked up some garlic and shallots, tossed in the cockles with a little white wine until they opened then threw in a handful of chopped parsley and tossed in some fresh linguine that I'd just cooked.

It's hard to get any better than that for a pasta dish.

Yesterday I purchased this giant 50 flavor Jelly Belly sample pack for Jen so for dessert we enjoyed some of the recipes they included in the box.

This one was for a banana split. If you close your eyes you can almost taste the banana split. At least I think that's a banana split. It might just taste like a handful of assorted jelly beans.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Pizza Boomerang

After working until 5:00 AM and getting four hours of sleep I'm in the mood for one thing: continuing my monastic dedication to cleaning out our fridge.

I started by buying a bunch of stuff. This is not generally the best way to begin cleaning out a fridge but we have felt in the need for some healthier fare as of late. Therefore I made this salad of kale, avocado, grape tomato, and lime with a little cayenne.

When I first started in the restaurant business I actually believed that kale was not edible. I thought it was edible in the same way that dirt was edible. You could eat it but you wouldn't want to. The only thing we ever used it for was as the base for a lemon wedge next to a casserole of baked scrod. Fifteen years later I think I've discovered that it may actually be (dare I say) delicious!

While I made the salad I enjoyed a Sankaty Light from Cisco Brewers on Nantucket. The beer was delicious but a word to the wise: a single glass of beer on four hours of sleep is akin to taking a handful of quaaludes on a regular night's sleep. don't do it.

After last week's Chicken Pepperoni I still had some pepperoni hanging around. Instead of the trite Chicken Peperoni dish I decided to use it in a much more original way: as a topping for a pizza!

I also used some ricotta, mustard greens, mozzarella, and broccoli rabe on the piza as well.

A problem I've been having lately with the pizza stone is that my pizzas always come out in a boomerang shape. Tonight I took extra care with the dough. I actually practiced my technique several times on a sheet pan before placing it on the pizza stone. The result of all of this practice was in the most boomerang-shaped pizza yet.

I've decided that instead of trying to avoid it I will adopt this as my trademark. Nate's Boomerang Pizza.

Now if only I could get that limo driver from Crocodile Dundee to use this to foil some bad guys. Then this would truly be the best pizza of all time.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Week of No Grocery Shopping

We generally eat dinner pretty late. Tonight we pushed the envelope a bit by having dinner at 11:00 PM. Jen was working late so I threw together some leftover bits from the fridge so that we could have something quick to eat at the time when we'd be asleep on a normal night, preferably for at least an hour.

I had purhcased this margarita mix from a company called Ripe Margarita Mix based locally out of Wallingford, Connecticut. It's made with fresh squeezed oranges, limes, and agave nectar.

The main reason I made margaritas is because I had purchased this mix for when Jen's mom and sister were in town. When I went to make margaritas for them one night I noticed a key ingredient was missing: tequila. So today I went to the wine store in town where they sell a small variety of spirits. I asked the guy at the counter for a recommendation and he recommended two tequilas. He went on about the merits of one versus the other. This one had more agave, while that one had bluer agave. This one was cask aged and that one was more crisp. I think "crisp" might be a nice way of saying "harsh."

After weighing the pros and cons of things that I cannot understand I went with the one that was $2 more figuring it was probably better and worth the risk of that small an investment.

I cleaned out the fridge (and some items from the pantry and freezer) to make an odd mix of food for tacos. I defrosted some leftover frozen tortilla shells. I had hoped to make beans and rice but discovered that we did not have any black beans.

Since my goal was to not go to the store this week's dinners I opted to go with garbanzo beans. I made a salad by tossing the garbanzos with lime, cayenne, and cilantro. Then I cooked up some scallops with a similar seasoning blend and also a batch of toasted brown rice. I also chopped up some tomato and red leaf lettuce. Only now did I realize that I forgot to shred up the cheddar in the fridge.


I'm not a big fan of margaritas but I am, however, a fan of using things up before they go bad. That forces me to eat a lot of things that I otherwise would not. The best part of the margarita for me was the Mineola tangerine I used as a garnish. It was the last in what was the tastiest batch of citrus I've ever purchased in my life.

Tonight's dinner had an air of reaching the end of the road. There's precious little left in the fridge to play with at this point. Tomorrow may be the day when we admit we have no other choice and have to either go shopping or have dinner out.

I'm confident I could do something with what we still have left but it would probably be too weird so that it would tip the balance of the Resourcefulness/Sadness Scale that I have worked so hard to keep level all week.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Chicken Pepperoni

On a recent episode of Chuck, Chuck was obsessed with cooking for his family. The dish he was preparing to make was called "Chicken Pepperoni." For some reason this fascinated me. I can't actually recall anything else that happened during this episode because I kept trying to imagine this dish in my mind. What could it be? Was it a whole chicken roasted with pepperoni stuck to the outside like a chicken larded with bacon? Was it a whole chicken roasted with pepperoni on the inside? Was it cubed up chicken breast which was fried up with chunks of pepperoni, onion, and bell pepper served with pasta?

The possibilities were endless.

This picture might suggest that we had a slight earthquake before dinner. Unfortunately (or fortunately I guess) this is just what happens when you try to do anything on our counter. Our spice arrangement is a little less than ideal and while I tried to pound out some chicken breasts this was the result in our designated spice area.

I'm open to any suggestions for a better storage option.

What I ended up doing for this mythical dish was thinly cutting some chicken breast, pounding it out, seasoning it lightly with salt and pepper, and stuffing it with whole basil leaves, fresh mozzarella and sliced pepperoni. I then rolled them up, seasoned the outside with salt, pepper, and olive oil and topped with bread crumbs before roasting in the oven.

I served it up with some perciatelli in tomato basil sauce. Perciatelli always looks like a good idea until you try to eat it. Because it's hollow all the way through you can't slurp it up like regular spaghetti. It's like trying to slurp up a straw.

We didn't get home until about 9:00 PM so it was not likely my most elaborate dinner to date. I opened this bottle of Silver Lining Chardonnay from King Ferry Winery which I got at last summer's 97th Street Greenmarket. Generally chardonnay is a wine I avoid. I've always hated it but my brother-in-law informed me that it is probably the oak it's aged in that I don't like. Wouldn't you know that after trying this unaged chardonnay I was quite impressed. Silver Lining is an appropriate name for the only chardonnay I've ever enjoyed.

Now I just need to find an untested recipe from movies and TV to try for tomorrow night to keep up this tradition.

I'm thinking Soylent Green.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

M.L.T. (Mutton, Lettuce, and Tomato)

With two days behind us I thought we would have made better progress on the fridge. Still it remains pretty abundantly stocked. I've purchased a few minor ingredients to aid in the use of the leftovers but still the fridge seems to swell with food.

My first hit tonight was the leftover grilled half eggplant. I smashed up some garlic, rosemary, pine nuts, and olives with my mortar and pestle then added the cubed eggplant to make this form of grilled caponata to go with the half loaf of bread I pulled from the freezer.

For the main course I wanted to make an M.L.T. (a mutton, lettuce, and tomato sandwich). I'm not sure if this technically qualifies as I had to use lamb. I couldn't think of a place that would sell mutton that wouldn't be inconveniently located in the fifteenth century. If I do find a way back to the 1400's I'll also be sure to pick up some leeches. The ones around these days are no good for bloodletting.

I think I can still get away with calling it an M.L.T. If I think back to my "Truth in Menu" discussions at culinary school lies on menus are generally only done to fool people into believing things are better than they actually are. For example: would anyone be mad if the chuck steak they ordered was actually a ribeye?

For the M.L.T. I used up slices of the leftover lamb leg from Easter, lettuce, and tomato. For Jen I browned the sliced bread with a little olive oil then rubbed the slices with garlic clove. For me I had the bread au naturale. I was going to give my bread the same treatment but the bread was so fresh and soft when I cut it I opted for this route. I knew the untoasted bread would have reminded Jen too strongly that she was having a sandwich for dinner and that would not sit well with her.

I also made a garlic rosemary mayonnaise to go with the sandwiches and served it with Grillo's Pickles and Rick's Picks Phat Beets.

We decided it would be a good idea to watch the DVD of True Blood that we got in from Netflix while we ate our dinner. Let me offer a word of advice to you out there who may be looking to do the same:

Do not.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Day After

This past weekend's in-law visit was proof that my eyes were bigger than my stomach (and much bigger than my wallet). This puts us in an exciting race against time to use up both the leftovers from this weekend's cooking along with the purchased items that we never got around to using. Everything that could be frozen has been frozen. Now it's just a matter of using up the remainders before they spoil. That means a series of uninspired (or peculiarly inspired) dishes are on the way.

Let the games begin.

I made a quick spread with the remaining grilled halibut and avocado which I added a little red onion, green onion, cayenne, paprika, and a drop of olive oil to. I served it up with some toasted rosemary bread leftover from our weekend's many lamb courses.

The red leaf lettuce (which I cleaned in anticipation of our guests but which we did not eat a single leaf of) was a top priority. I paired that up with some lemon, olive oil, pita and tabouli for this salad course.

I used up all the remaining grilled vegetables (except for one piece I saved for tomorrow) to make this pizza with mozzarella, ricotta, and fresh rosemary.

For dessert: grilled pineapple with maple syrup and cayenne pepper. A nice vaguely healthy dessert.

If it wasn't followed by heaping servings of Easter candy.

Somewhat healthy eating may have to wait for a resurgence until May.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Lamb of Good

Sadly last night's grilled meats did cause Jen's mom to have nightmares. I imagine the nightmares must be similar to the ones that Ebenezer Scrooge has in "A Christmas Carol." Particularly the Muppets version.

Diane claims that the nightmares are more like people chasing her and stuff. If it was anything like the Muppet Christmas Carol that would be great. I would be going out of my way to consume grilled meats every night -- even more than I already do!

This morning Jen woke up incredibly early to begin baking and the table was set and ready for breakfast before anyone else was awake.

Jen woke up early specifically to make her hot cross buns. This was her best batch yet. The best part about it was that we finally used up the remaining confectioners sugar. Now, for the first time in four years we must actually restock our pantry with fresh confectioners sugar. For all we know they may not even make confectioners sugar any more.

Before Jen's mom and sister had to leave for the airport we managed to dye Easter eggs. My only contribution to the dying was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle egg over to the right. I don't know if you can tell from that picture but that's Raphael and he is "cool but rude." If it had been Michaelangelo it would have been clear because you'd be able to see that he was "a party dude."

While dinner cooked we had this salad of red leaf lettuce, marcona almond crusted goat cheese, and baby heirloom tomatoes. This is as close to healthy as we got this weekend. While eating the salad we agreed that health needed to be a primary focus next week as this week has been loaded with heavy, rich holiday foods.

While dinner cooked I also enjoyed this seasonal spring lager from Magic Hat Brewing Company. For some reason it's called Vinyl and the word "lager" is written upside down across some strange pixie's wings. I guess it's to be expected from those hippies up in Vermont who plaster their bottles with all sorts of copy about the "ancient ritual of brewing" and the like.

Last night, while the grill was hot, I seared this nice piece of lamb leg which I studded with rosemary and garlic. It's yawn-inducing but rosemary and garlic are really the best accompaniment to a nice leg of lamb. One cliche that I can't fly with is that of mint jelly. In general I just don't like mint. Certainly not as an accompaniment to anything savory. Instead I used this red pepper relish. I also cleverly cooked extra grilled asparagus and mashed potatoes last night which I utilized for tonight's dinner making this evening's Easter feast a snap to make.

Jen's mom brought a tremendous amount of Easter candy for us. Combined with the Easter candy my parents had given us a few weeks ago and the extra Easter candy we purchased at the local market made for an exceptionally unhealthy dessert. There were a good number of Canadian and British candies in the mix that we tackled first tonight.

It's hard to find a good Easter movie or music to listen to. I tried Blossom Dearie, Schoolhouse Rock, "Songs in the Key of Springfield," and Jesus Christ Superstar. The latter was probably the most appropriate. However, whilst eating our candy we watched the season opener between the Red Sox and the Yankees. It would have been impossible to avoid anyway with everyone on Facebook and Twitter yammering on about it anyway.

Go my favorite sports team, go!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Mixed Grill Nightmare

Jen's mom says that grilled meats give her nightmares. It's not that she doesn't like grilled meats, it's just that she's conducted a scientific experiment and determined that every time she's consumed grilled meats in the past year-and-a-half she has had nightmares.

I know this because Jen's mom and sister Lauren were in town to visit us. Unlucky for her mother I only discovered this nightmare information after I'd purchased all the ingredients for a mega-grilled dinner.

The show must go on.

I started by grilling some eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, spring onions, treviso, red and yellow peppers, portobella, and asparagus. I was assured that this was not a problem as vegetables did not contribute to any uneasy dreams. Scientific data was cited from Diane's experimentation journal.

A month ago Jen and I compiled a list of all the things that we wanted to grill this season (now that we actually could). I think I might have knocked most of them off the list in one dinner.

I grilled up a half chicken, a nice fillet of halibut, scallops, shrimp, and an entire rack of lamb.

Lauren made the mashed potatoes. We used yukon gold and red bliss potatoes with the skins on. Lauren refused to use the delicious Kerrygold Irish butter because she is suspicious of butter from another country. I'm not exactly sure what she expected the major difference to be in a butter made from Irish cows versus American cows but I humored her and allowed her to use only the American butter in the fridge.

(I didn't tell her about the healthy scoop of Irish butter I put into the potatoes -- I just didn't have the heart.)

I even grilled an entire pineapple as if all the rest of this weren't excessive enough for a meal for four.

We opened a bottle of the Tabor Hill Classic Demi-Sec from Michigan for dinner. This is the wine they serve at the White House! It's a very tasty wine but extremely sweet. I stuck to beer throughout the meal.

Now it's just a waiting game to see if Jen's mom has nightmares tonight.

The experimentation continues.