Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Dinner Party and A Hot Mess

I strongly advise pouring a drink.

Ready?  Ok.

We need to start with the dinner party Neil and I threw on Tuesday evening.  We invited our friends Todd and Mark (from the cruise...remember?) over for dinner and, though I was fully prepared to do the cooking, Neil - surprisingly - asked to cook.  This isn't strange because Neil can't cook.  Quite the opposite, actually.  He's a fantastic cook.

It's strange because we only had a week and a half to prepare.

Neil and I have often talked about having a party - as a matter of fact - I approached him with the idea of having one for his birthday, which is next week.  He agreed.

It will be a holiday party.

And the holiday could well be Easter.

I love my husband dearly.  However, 90% of the company I have over for dinner gets whatever I feel like cooking and a ten minute period where I clean the bathroom and spray enough Pledge to make the house smell like a citrus grove.  This is how I ended up with Ghetto Birthday, serving ground turkey and eating cupcakes.

Neil's idea of prepping for company is something a little more involved.  Like moving to a new house.

(I think where we live is just fine - it's a perfectly nice 6 story co-op on the Upper West Side, and it must be nice because it's the only co-op I've ever heard of where the super drives a Mercedes.  So does his wife actually, which makes me wonder where our maintenance payment is going since the elevator breaks every other week and they can't seem to keep a trash can by the mailboxes.)

Sorry.  Damn tangent.  Back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Anyway, with only 10 days to throw something together, Neil is off and running.  When this happens (I'd use the word dervish, but home would be a chilly place this evening), I'm generally instructed to remain on the couch and stay out of the way.  This is a main reason our marriage works, folks.

In this instance, Neil was bound to be more torqued up than usual, since Mark is an interior designer.  To his credit, the preparations did not - as I feared - include painting or heavy construction, and he was content to wipe every surface down with Fantastik and re-locate 90% of the crap I leave laying around.

For dinner we had Sicilian Style Chicken with Brussels Sprouts and toasted baguette with onions, black olives and anchovy.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2 T raisins
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 t salt
1 t ground black pepper
1/3 c flour
4 T olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 t oregano
2 t sugar
2 T balsamic vinegar
2 small vine ripened tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 T capers
2 green olives, pitted and chopped
1 c low sodium chicken broth
chopped parsley

Place raisins in a small dish. Add wine and set aside. 

Between 2 sheets plastic wrap, pound the chicken breasts to about 1/4 inch thickness. Sprinkle chicken with 1 teaspoon of the salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper; dredge in flour. 

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add chicken and cook about 10 minutes to brown on both sides. Remove chicken and add onion and garlic to pan. Saute about 2 minutes; then add oregano, remaining salt and pepper, sugar and vinegar. Stir in tomatoes, capers and olives. Add raisins to sauce and stir in chicken broth; cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. Return chicken to pan and heat through.


For the Brussels Sprouts (Adapted from Epicurious:)

8 T extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 1/2 - 2 pounds brussels sprouts, stemmed and cut in half (lengthwise)
4-6 garlic cloves
1 c low sodium chicken broth
1 can (15 oz) cannellini beans, drained
2 T butter 
1 cup grated Pecorino (Neil uses Pecorino Toscano)

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the brussels sprouts (you may want to divide them and cook one half at a time to avoid crowding the pan.)  Cook until brown, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Transfer to large bowl. 
Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to skillet ( I generally skip this - there's usually plenty of oil already in there.) Add garlic; sauté until brown, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Add broth and brussels sprouts. Cook until brussels sprouts are crisp-tender, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes. Add beans and butter; stir until butter melts and broth is reduced to glaze, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in cheese.
We had a really wonderful evening and the meal was delicious.  Neil did it without taking three days off from work and we ate by 9pm, so - by all accounts - this gets two thumbs up!
Yesterday I spent the morning working for one of my clients, then headed out to Brooklyn to finish the reel we're producing.  Once complete, it'll go to agents, as well as directors and production companies, so I can try and get my career developing and hosting television shows off the ground.  It was a long afternoon of editing footage and recording voiceovers - when it's done, I'll post a link so you can all see it.  All of the concepts we're developing are about food, fitness, and lifestyle issues, so you may be seeing this blogger on a remote cable channel some insomnia-addled night soon.  

I was a little tired when I got home, and there was some freak on the subway, snorting and clicking like an asthmatic chicken all the way from Borough Hall to midtown.  Plus, it was hotter yesterday (September 23!) than it was in most of June, so I wasn't really up for cooking anything extravagant last night.  
I decided to make a very simple baked pasta and, in a Sandra Lee moment, used jarred sauce.
I have not opened a can of jarred sauce in years.  To my mind, using jarred spaghetti sauce is the equivalent of faking an orgasm.  It's just a cruel lie, no matter how you slice it, and nowhere near as good as the real thing.  
However, we had a jar in the house from the shoot, and - since we finished post-production yesterday, it seemed appropriate to use it.

Faux Italian Style Ghetto-roni and Cheese:
1 box pasta - anything that can hold ricotta will do: ziti, penne, rigatoni, elbows, small shells.  Last night I used a mix of small shells and orecchiette, finishing up every open box of pasta in the house.
1 jar sauce
1 medium onion
1/4 green pepper, diced
4-6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 lb. Ricotta (part-skim)
1 egg
4-8oz shredded mozzarella
salt and pepper and dried parsley

Preheat the oven to 375.
Boil water.  While it's boiling, dice and saute the onion in a little olive oil (just a dash), add the garlic and green pepper.  Add the jarred sauce.  
Cook the pasta - make sure you cook it very al dente - it will keep cooking in the oven and can get very mushy if you cook it too much now.  You don't want a meal with the consistency of oatmeal. 
Mix the ricotta and egg.  Add salt, pepper and parsley.
Dump the pasta, ricotta mixture and sauce into a casserole dish.  Mix it up.  Cover with mozzarella cheese.  Bake until the mozzarella is brown and looks crunchalicious.  This is a technical term.
Serve with warm bread.
Do not eat carbs for a month afterwards.

Today I went to my trainer in the morning, then worked from home for a while before going to a business lunch at Haru on Park Ave South.  
Please do not ever go there.  
It was awful.  Unspeakably bad.  I ordered the Chicken Teriyaki (Chicken Very-yucky) lunch box, which came with broccoli, some weird tempura thing that may have had carrots or may have had shrimp,  a California roll (trying to pass that stuff off as sushi is a crime) and rice.
Everything on the plate tasted like fish.
You want good sushi?  Go to Gari on the Upper West Side or Nobu (midtown or TriBeCa) - it became iconic for a reason.  It's good.
I'm working from a client site the rest of the day, and there's a guy here who literally must be the inspiration for the term "Hot Mess."
He's actually kind of cute, but he's always so unkempt.  His shirt is perpetually half tucked-in and half flying about, his glasses are always crooked, and there's generally a remnant of something he's eaten clinging desperately to his person.  It's like the classic film scene of the librarian who whips of the glasses and lets down her hair and is totally hot.  Except in his case it's more like a lint brush and some personal grooming.
Maybe I'll send Neil after him with the Fantastik.

The Last Word:

DO THIS, New York:
Keep your fingers crossed I get representation and a hosting gig.  I could come unglued at any moment.  And wouldn't that be fun on live television.
Throw a dinner party.  Do not throw one that requires heavy construction or re-location.
Make a ghetto dinner every once in a while.  It can be comforting to eat an entire meal with a spoon.  Look what it's done for cereal!
Eat sushi (If you are Jeremy Piven, do NOT eat sushi).  

DON'T DO THIS, New York:
Don't eat at Haru.  If you are Jeremy Piven, do not eat sushi at all.  Clearly, this bears repeating.
Don't come to work like a hot mess.  Just come looking hot.  We'll thank you for it.

1 comment:

  1. kids love ANY "ghetto - dinner". Ghetto-roni, ghetto-fingers, ghetto-burger, ANYTHING ghetto-with cheese.

    You should expand into the "straight and down-trodden housewife" circle.