The Laughing Matriarch

The Laughing Matriarch
ma·tri·arch/ˈ A woman who is the head of a family or tribe.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Ghosts of Thanksgivings Past

I've cooked a lot of turkeys in my lifetime, but every one  of them has a special place in my heart.

Before The Husband came on the scene, our Thanksgiving dinners were quiet. Mom and Dad did the dishes and put away the food faster than I could finish my pumpkin pie. With no siblings around I pretty much did all the talking.

I still do.

But once I met The Husband all bets were off. Two loud, rowdy, ribald (look it up) brothers and an ex-Marine dad, and you have  recipe for a kick-ass Thanksgiving dinner.

My mother-in-law- God bless her soul- tried for class and decorum, but rarely succeeded.

In my second or so year of marriage I took over the festivities.

And the tradition began. Tables were set with china, tablecloths and candles. Mom made the gravy (a seemingly week-long recipe. But so, so worth it.) Bocce balls were tossed in the front yard and football was on the TV in two rooms. We always ate outside...except once when it actually rained.

Mom making the gravy.
 


But, as in life, there are back-stories to perfection.

That time the green bean casserole flew out of the oven and on to the floor. And my sister-in-laws and I scooped it all up and put in back in the dish and served it with a smile.
Thanksgiving in Vista, CA.

My second year of hosting when the day before Thanksgiving as I prepared the food I let a just released lady prisoner into my home to wait for her friends to pick her up. She happily, and very detailed, told me how she had tried to kill her husband...while showing me her cool brass knuckles.

The Husband finally came home and escorted her out the door.

And that first year when we moved into our new house in Vista and realized...too late... that we had propane to heat the water. And we were out. Of hot water.

We bathed in the hot tub and boiled a crap-load of water to wash the dishes. ( The Realtor -not Laurie- might have mentioned the propane to me but she was too busy trying to seduce The Husband while showing him the house. Sheesh, and I paid her a commission!)

Al fresco Thanksgiving dining.


A few years ago the tradition ended,  as traditions often do. Family members passed away. Others grew less rowdy. We moved out of the state. We flew to Canada to be with the son for the holiday. (Another story; I once accidentally poured the boiling water that was cooking the beans- it involved talking- onto my leg. Instead of going to the hospital, I drank more wine. My scar is almost gone. My  son and Miss Lydia are most likely still scarred.)

Samuel carving a Canadian turkey.


We moved to Washington five years ago and had friends over for indoor golf , turkey and mac n cheese, which was great, but we missed the rest of the crew.

This year we  returned to California and had an early dinner with the relatives and the daughter, serving it on a door covered with a tablecloth.

This week (actually Friday. Sigh.)  we will do it again in Canada with the son  and a group of his friends in a hotel in downtown Vancouver. (Please be a regular-sized oven!)

But no matter the day or time or size of the crowd, it's still Thanksgiving for the Laughing Matriarch.

The great thing about this holiday is that I get to pour my heart and soul into the pies and stuffing and turkey...and wine. Sometimes it turns out, sometimes it doesn't.

You know what the  best thing about our big-ass, oddball, non-traditional family is? (Get ready to call the cornball police)

 We always have leftovers of hugs and laughter.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

xxoo

" Isn’t it peculiar, Charlie Brown, how some traditions just slowly fade away?" Lucy Van Pelt





Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving Part Duex, Eh?

 
Where is the Laughing Matriarch these days? California? Washington? Canada?



Even she (I) is confused. Why am I talking/writing in third person?

OK, xanax has been taken and wine poured. Breathe.

HERE WE GO!

The one thing I am sure of- to borrow Oprah's silly expression - (because seriously, she's probably sure of  about $2.7 billion things) is that it's my favorite time of year to cook --- yay Thanksgiving! Oh, and Christmas! And my birthday!

But I will chill. Let's get through Thanksgiving first. Which I already did last week! HA! 15 people at the house. Best turkey ever, football, laughter, leftovers, blah, blah, blah.

But I am doing it again. On Friday, Nov. 29th in Canada. With my son and some of his friends.

Ahhh, youth.

So until tonight I thought I was cooking/warming stuff up in my hotel room for the three of us. But silly me did not check Facebook. It's 12 guests! YAY!!

Luckily I started cooking items like cornbread and wheat bread for the stuffing. Cookies. Ginger pecans.

And cranberry sauce. Yummy, sweet and tart cranberry sauce.

Last week I phoned the cranberry sauce in. Who cares, with all the cheese plates and dips and chips and gravy right?

But I do love turkey sandwich leftovers created with Best Foods and cranberry sauce. To...die...for.

So finally I will cut to the damn chase:

I grabbed the usual suspects from the freezer/cupboard and store:


 That is NOT  a martini. It was the closest glass I had to pour in the maple syrup. Truth!

I tossed the ingrediants..except for that chocolate bar- what, am I some kind of hoser?- into a pan and boiled it all up into a frothy, yummy mess.



OK...that photo is not frothing....I think I was distracted when it did the bubble dance.

So then I added some damn oranges that cost me more than I could have sold the whole orange tree I have in California.



And THEN...bippity boppity boo...I made cranberry sauce.


Pecan/ pumpkin pie (all in one pie!) to be made tomorrow... because why make two pies when you can also eat cake?

" Most turkeys taste better the day after; my mother's tasted better the day before." Rita Rudner

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Eating to Cope


I have a lot on my plate these days.

 I moved...again.
Mom has cancer.

 Baby Girl is…off her feed.

But, the great thing is I now live in California...back where I belong…and I have a kitchen...and plates, and pans. So I can cope.

This is a basic/I can pull my shit together dinner.

Steak. Potatoes.  Asparagus. Wine.

Tip: Find tiny wine glasses. You can drink all night and feel good about yourself in the morning.
 
 
And, as Kathleen says:  Don't forget to breathe.
 
 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Cheese + Cake = Love



" I've been creating cheesecakes since 1978."  If I had a cheesecake store that phrase would go on the sign. Actually, I used to sell cheesecakes professionally. Two restaurants and family and friends bought my Lindy’s New York-style cheesecakes for a year or so back in the day.

Big, fat-filled three-pound cheesecakes chockfull of eggs and sugar and of course, cream cheese. And the crust- no graham crackers for us. (A poet- cook no less.) A yummy, shortbread-style crust encircled MY (and Lindy’s) cheesecakes.

I started to add candy, like tootsie rolls and Snickers. I made pumpkin for the holidays and chocolate just because. Fresh fruit and booze went into some and plain cheesecakes topped with whipped or sour cream which soon became favorites.

 My friend Julie and I once wolfed down an entire Pina Colada cheesecake (sans forks) on the front stoop of my house as we watched the planes land at the airport below.

OK, that was definitely in the 70’s.

But then my children took over my life and I needed a professional kitchen and so Mrs. Reed’s Cheesecakes quietly closed.

And honestly, I was sick to death of cheesecake.

But every now and then a cheesecake is requested /desired/needed.

If there was ever a time for cheesecake it’s this week.

I need to devote my attention to measuring and blending and stirring. I need to forget about cancer (for at least a few hours) and pay attention to cracking the eggs and slicing the strawberries. I need to mix and press the crust into the pan; not perfect, but just so.

This will be a cheesecake filled with positive vibes, hope, a few tears and possibly some magic.

The recipe is just a little different than my usual cakes, but I wanted to mix it up a little, be a little more creative and brave try something new as my daughter has requested a cheesecake.

 If she buys more Sara Lee frozen cheesecake I will only give her one piece of this one.

Because you don't live near a bakery doesn't mean you have to go without cheesecake. Hedy Lamarr

I don't have a mixer... but this monster is on the counter. It frightens me.





 
My shortbread crust. Trust me, it's better than those kiddy crackers.

 
Extra strawberry sauce which brother Frank declared, 'So-so." Ignore him.

 
Hell yes, this thing can do everything! Whipping the cream.


 
 
Forgot to take a photo of this completed cake- with whipped cream & strawberries. They ate it all. You get it the picture.
 
 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Food for Comfort and Comfort for Food; Part I


As the Laughing Matriarch, I laugh through about 98% of my life, but recently cancer made an uninvited and unexpected visited to my immediate family. Even a smile is hard to come by these days.
After a few weeks of tears and anger and confusion, I felt the need to try and wash away some of the sadness by going back into the kitchen full-force.
 
This isn't to say that the next few weeks/months won't be filled with tears, but I will do my damnedest to at least smile in the face of pain and confusion- and fucking cancer. 
 Once an optimist...
Of course, I still don’t have my own kitchen (next week I will!) but this lovely temporary one provided by my favorite female cousin will do just fine.

With the air conditioner cranked and an iced espresso with Bailey’s at my side, I will start this important/positive week off by cooking up the best potato salad recipe I’ve ever tasted- courtesy of the Pioneer Woman. (I will mention my slight adjustments.)
This is the real deal.

Screw the Costco Bucket O' Crap and don’t you dare bring potato salad from Vons to a gathering.

Mon dueu! (I still love France.)

Ask your hostess if you can bring something else if you can’t boil potatoes and eggs. I mean, really? You can't boil potatoes and eggs?

Anyway, here we go.
" Perfect Potato Salad for 20 or So." For the full-on recipe go to: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2009/06/fourth-of-july-week-perfect-potato-salad/
(I tripled this recipe for our Labor Day family gathering.)
 
Simple ingredients.
There is a reason it's called 'potato salad.'
Smash & mash. (But don't use the ricer- yuck!)
 
 
Sweet baby dills & green onions. Your greens.
 
If you don't have one of these things go buy one now. RUN! (Thank you, Cissy.)
Perfect potato salad for 20. (I fought the urge to add bacon- but you might not be as strong.)
 
Next up: Strawberry cheesecake.
Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food.- Hippocrates





Sunday, July 21, 2013

Without Kitchen

It's been so long since I posted. But I never stopped cooking.

Since we left the snowy shores of Chelan, WA, (and my favorite kitchen of all time) last February, we have been house-hopping.

Which means cooking in kitchens that are not mine. Where is the spatula? Where is an egg pan? Mixing bowl? Espresso maker? Really?

It's been a challenge and an adventure.

I've concocted oysters Rockefeller with a group of best friends on cozy Orcas Island...






 and  pork chops at  BFF Valerie's cabin-by-the-sea nestled among the inviting bluffs in  Del Mar, CA., with the sound of the ocean and laughter drowning out the sizzle of the meat.




I have whipped up my homemade mac and cheese with onions and goat cheese in cousin Cissy's magnificent kitchen in  East San Diego to her delight and  cooked BBQ ribs at pal Ronna's beautiful home overlooking Seattle for the hardworking Husband.



What a terrible life I lead.



I am a woman without a kitchen...but I am a woman with friends. Which do you think is more important?




"Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers." Blanche DuBois:

Oysters Rockefeller:
  1. Rock salt
  2. 2 1/2 dozen oysters in their shells, freshly shucked and drained, the deeper bottom shell rinsed and reserved for baking. ( I used fresh Judd Cover oysters...)
  3. 1 recipe Rockefeller Sauce Base
  1.   Preheat the oven to 400°. Spread a 1/2-inch-thick layer of rock salt on a large baking sheet and across the bottoms of 6 large plates.
  2. Arrange the reserved oyster shells on the baking sheet. Put 1 oyster in each shell and top with 2 to 3 tablespoons of the sauce, spreading the sauce evenly out to the edge of the shell to completely cover the oyster. (Alternatively, transfer the sauce to a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip and pipe the sauce over the oysters.)
  3. Bake until the sauce is lightly browned and the oysters begin to curl around the edges, about 20 minutes.
  4. Using tongs or a spatula, carefully transfer the hot shells to the salt-covered plates and serve immediately.
  1. Rock salt
  2. 2 1/2 dozen oysters in their shells, freshly shucked and drained, the deeper bottom shell rinsed and reserved for baking. Buy an oyster shucking knife and wear gloves! (Don't doubt me on this!)
  •  6 ounces spinach, stems removed and rinsed
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 2 3/4 cups finely chopped yellow onions
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons Herbsaint or other anise-flavored liqueur, such as Pernod or Pastis
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup cracker meal or cracker crumbs
  • BACON- chopped 
    1. 1 recipe Rockefeller Sauce Base:
      1. Bring 1 quart of water to a boil in a medium pot. Add the spinach and cook until very tender and the water is green, 5 to 6 minutes. Drain the spinach in a colander set over a large bowl and reserve 2 3/4 cups of the cooking liquid. Let the spinach sit until cool enough to handle, then finely chop, and set aside.
      2. Melt the butter in a medium pot over moderately high heat. When the butter is foamy, add the onions, celery and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the reserved spinach water, bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Add the chopped spinach, liqueur, salt and pepper and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reduces slightly, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the cracker meal and stir well to combine. Cool completely before using. Top with bacon. (Carolee's idea- YUM!)
      Make Ahead The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. 
    1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Spread a 1/2-inch-thick layer of rock salt on a large baking sheet and across the bottoms of 6 large plates.
    2. Arrange the reserved oyster shells on the baking sheet. Put 1 oyster in each shell and top with 2 to 3 tablespoons of the sauce, spreading the sauce evenly out to the edge of the shell to completely cover the oyster. (Alternatively, transfer the sauce to a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip and pipe the sauce over the oysters.)
    3. Bake until the sauce is lightly browned and the oysters begin to curl around the edges, about 20 minutes.
    4. Using tongs or a spatula, carefully transfer the hot shells to the salt-covered plates and serve immediately.




    Saturday, December 8, 2012

    I Should be a Jewish Mother...



    I make a brisket you would be lucky to taste. I smother my children with love and brag about them to strangers on the street. And I love, love, love latkes. I seem to have some sort of natural talent for concocting crispy, subtly-sweet potato pancakes. Could be the non-Jewish bacon fat I use instead of schmaltz. I mean, who has schmalzt when you need it?

    Since it's the first night of Hanukkah and I hate being left out of celebrations, I cooked up some of my infamous latkes with home- made applesauce, and sour cream and chives to serve alongside a pork roast. I said I should be a Jewish mother...

                                          Lovely Little Latkes

    Eggs, potatoes, bread crumbs, onions and some other stuff.





     





     


    Bacon fat..yes please.

    Fry it up in the pan.

                                          Latkes and pork...after the bacon fat all bets are off.



    Anytime a person goes into a delicatessen and orders a pastrami on white bread, somewhere a Jew dies. Milton Berle