Sunday, November 28, 2010

Grilled Lobster with Orange Chipotle Vinaigrette (Page 338)

RECIPE #1235

  • Date: Friday, October 15, 2010 -- 6pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Dave, Karen H, Helen, Charles, and Clara
  • Recipe Rating: B

My in-laws, Karen and Dave, like lobster, so we made this dish for them when they came to visit last month. I started by plunging live lobsters into boiling water and partially cooking them. I then took the tails and claws off the bodies, discarded the bodies, and halved the tails lengthwise. I prepared a vinaigrette of orange zest, orange juice, white wine vinegar, chopped canned chipotle chiles in adobo, sea salt, brown sugar, olive oil, and basil. I reserved some of the vinaigrette in a pitcher and brushed the lobster tails with some of the remaining vinaigrette. My special gentleman grilled the claws and the tails, brushing the tails with more vinaigrette as necessary. We served the lobster with the pitcher of reserved vinaigrette. The tails are pictured above and the claws are pictured below:


I admit, I am not really a lobster person. I can understand why people enjoy it, but I just don't get too excited about lobster. That said, this preparation seemed perfectly fine. Preparing the dish was very easy, but the end result was plenty flavorful. Everyone seemed to like it well enough, but no one was wowed by it. Although I liked the flavor of the orange chipotle vinaigrette, I couldn't help but wonder if the dish would have been more successful had the grilled lobster just been served with melted butter. As it was the vinaigrette was tasty, but it didn't complement the lobster as well as one might have hoped. I would have preferred to dip my lobster in butter!

The recipe is here.

Only 58 recipes left to go!

What a lovely holiday weekend! On Wednesday after I taught my class (yes, I am the kind of professor who doesn't cancel class the day before Thanksgiving!) we drove down to Columbus, Ohio, where my in-laws live. This was our first road trip with our cats, and I was a little nervous about that aspect of it. The drive is only about 4 hours though, and they did really well. They whined in their crate for a long while, but they didn't have any accidents or get carsick so I will call it a success! On Thursday we had a big Thanksgiving dinner at my special gentleman's aunt and uncle's house. It was a bit dramatic: there was a fire in the kitchen. The house filled with smoke. Thankfully the food survived -- although everything had a slightly smoky flavor! Regardless, it was a lovely meal.

On Friday we cut down a Christmas tree then put it up in Dave and Karen's house -- a day-after-Thanksgiving tradition in their family! Yesterday we watched a lot of college football. With Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Stanford all good this year, there were a number of games yesterday that someone felt invested in. We spent the rest of the weekend eating wonderful meals, playing cards, catching up, playing with the kitties... it was extremely restful. Indeed it was just the break I needed before these last couple weeks of the semester! This morning we left Ohio early so we could make it back to East Lansing in time to go to the basketball game. We cheered the Spartans on to another victory! And now I am working, trying to catch up on some of the work I had planned to do over the holiday, but didn't. Whoops! I don't feel too guilty about it. I needed a break!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Roasted Guinea Hens with Whole-Grain Mustard and Herbs (Page 404)

RECIPE #1234

  • Date: Friday, October 15, 2010 -- 6pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Karen H, Dave, Helen, Charles, and Clara
  • Recipe Rating: B+
I have a lot of recipes left in the Poultry section of The Book, so I ordered some guinea hens a few weeks ago and made this recipe. I started by boiling some heads of garlic and fingerling potatoes. Then I made a compound butter with mustard and chives. I pushed some of the butter between the skin and flesh of the birds, put some herb stems in the cavities, and then brushed the birds with melted butter. I put the hens in a hot roasting pan, along with the potatoes and some shallots. I basted the hens frequently, eventually adding the garlic and some fresh thyme. When the birds were cooked to 170 degrees, I removed them from the oven and made a pan sauce. I deglazed the pan with chicken stock, strained the liquid, and added some reserved mustard butter, salt, and pepper. I scattered chopped herbs over the birds and served them with the sauce. This dish was pretty good, but apparently rather forgettable. I asked my special gentleman about it just now and he said, "We had guinea hens?" Followed by, "Did we grill them?" And my favorite of all: "Did we have people over that night?" Ah, the middle of the semester is always a blur I suppose. Indeed we had guinea hens, we did not grill them, and yes, we had people over. With that prompting he finally remembered the dish and said, "Oh, those guinea hens. Yeah, those were tasty." They were pretty tasty. The skin was crispy and the meat was nicely cooked. My main issue with the dish was that the potatoes didn't come out very well. Something about their preparation made them rather gummy. I love potatoes and I didn't want to eat these. Indeed, without the potatoes it would have been a much more successful dish.

The recipe is here.

Only 59 recipes left to go!

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays and I always jump at any chance I get to cook Thanksgiving food. A few times in my life I have had the opportunity to host Thanksgiving. My first year in graduate school my parents came to Boston for the holiday. My friend Bridget and I hosted Thanksgiving for my parents and 15 or so of our fellow graduate students in my tiny apartment. I don't remember much about the food. Mostly I remember that it was so crowded that once everyone sat down there was no longer space to open the refrigerator or the oven!

A couple years later my parents came to Boston again for the holiday, and my brother came too. I made Thanksgiving dinner for the four of us, plus Mike. The food came out really well that year, and we had a nice, quiet family holiday.

My last year in graduate school my parents came to Boston again for Thanksgiving. We ate Thanksgiving dinner at Richard and Anita's house, but Chris and I were in charge of the cooking! Ana and Michael cooked with us too, and the four of us put out a Thanksgiving dinner to be proud of! At that time Michael didn't know that she had cancer, and we certainly had no idea that it would be her last Thanksgiving. It was a beautiful holiday and I feel very lucky to have celebrated it with Michael and the rest of the Douglas/Hanau family.

That was the last year that I was in charge of Thanksgiving dinner. Since then we have celebrated with my special gentleman's family every year, and they have their own family traditions. I usually get assigned a few things to make (last year I was in charge of hors d'oeurvres and stuffings), but I am never in charge of, say, the turkey. It makes for a low-stress holiday, which is nice, but I have grown to miss cooking Thanksgiving dinner. So this year my special gentleman and I hosted a pre-Thanksgiving at our house on Saturday. It was a chance to cook one of the turkeys left in The Book (and a bunch of other book recipes), and to celebrate a wonderful holiday with some of our new East Lansing friends!

We had 15 people for dinner. Our dining room fits 10 or 12, but 15 would be a stretch. So we took the furniture out of the living room and set up some tables in there:


Near the dining tables we also set up some tables to put the food on:

We had quite a Thanksgiving spread. People kept offering to bring things, which was fantastic. In the end, I felt like I didn't do much at all! For hors d'oeuvres I made some shrimp balls and some corn madeleines topped with caviar. For the dinner spread my special gentleman and I made a grilled turkey, cranberry gravy, beef wellington, applesauce, cranberry-cherry sauce, and jello salad (!). Helen and Charles brought green beans. Kendra and Jubin brought mashed potatoes and stuffed pumpkin. Corbett and Mary brought salad, and Ben and Marcie brought wine. It was a feast! Here's one table of food:

And another table of food:

I forgot to take a picture of the dessert spread, which was beautiful! I made some cookies and a chocolate prune pave with candied orange zest and Armagnac creme anglaise. Helen and Charles brought an apple spice cake. And Bob and Linda brought an apple pie (and a bottle of Goldschlager!).

The food was all delicious, and we were in great company. When we moved here I didn't really know anyone, and I was nervous about starting over in a new place, trying to meet people. Now I feel tremendously thankful for the friends we have made. My one regret about the dinner was that I forgot (again!) to take a picture of everyone around the table. It was great to host a Thanksgiving meal in our new house for the first time. And tomorrow after I teach we will head to Ohio for another wonderful Thanksgiving meal with my special gentleman's extended family on Thursday! I love the holiday season!






Monday, November 22, 2010

Ecuadorean Lenten Chowder (Page 115)

RECIPE #1233

  • Date: Sunday, October 10, 2010 -- 7pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Dining Companions: Matty and Josh G
  • Recipe Rating: C+

Our friend Josh came to visit and I wanted to make him at least one dinner while he was staying with us. Josh is mostly vegetarian, but he does eat fish. I chose this salt cod chowder because salt cod is one kind of fish that it is easy to find in East Lansing. I started by soaking the salt cod in water for several days, changing the water a few times each day. Then I made this chowder, which basically involved assembling all the ingredients and cooking them for different amounts of time. I won't go through it in excruciating detail. Rather, I will just list for you all the many, many ingredients that went into this: salt cod, anchiote seeds, oil, garlic, scallions, cumin, water, queso fresco, lentils, carrots, ears of corn, zucchini, butternut squash, green cabbage, lima beans, baby peas, green beans, whole milk, butter, kidney beans, chickpeas, pinto beans, hominy, hearts of palm, avocado, and hard-boiled eggs. Whew! Needless to say, this one took a while to prep. I found this recipe to be completely ridiculous. There were SO many ingredients, and so little of each one, that it was just a big incoherent mess. For instance, in this huge vat of chowder there was a quarter of a cup of lentils. Why even have the lentils in there then? I was convinced for a while that my serving didn't have a single lentil in it. Eventually I found one, but I couldn't get past how silly it was. I love every ingredient that went into this thing, but it was just such a mess that I didn't enjoy it. If you edited out at least half the ingredients there might be a tasty dish in there. My other issue was that the broth had a bad texture and a bland flavor. The queso fresco never quite melted all the way, so there were weird strands of cheese in the broth. And somehow despite the huge list of ingredients, the broth wasn't too flavorful. I had high hopes for this dish but I was disappointed by the result.

The recipe is here.

Only 60 recipes left to go!

When we moved to Michigan my husband felt strongly that we should fight the Midwestern tendency to drive everywhere. He's right, of course, that it would be better for the environment, our health, and our finances if we didn't drive all the time. So I agreed that I would try. We made efforts to increase our chance of success: We bought a house in a very walkable area. Our house is close to where we work. I bought a bike. I didn't promise to bike every day to work though. I just promised I would give it a try, and see how it went. Honestly, I thought I wouldn't like life as a bike commuter. I figured I would make it through September, and maybe October, but after a few cold rainy days I would call it quits and buy a campus parking permit. I am happy to say, I was wrong.

It was raining this morning when I biked to work, and unseasonably warm. I was so delighted to not be wearing my usual scarf, warm hat under my helmet, and mittens, that the rain bothered me not-at-all. This is week 13 of the semester, and I have biked to work every day so far [minus a week or so when I was sick from my new meds and my special gentleman had to drive me]. I have biked through pouring rain, cold temperatures, and falling snow. I am a little nervous to face the day when I wake up and there is substantial snow on the ground -- that hasn't happened yet this season! But I am optimistic that not only will I make it through the rest of this semester as a bike commuter, but that I will make it through many years to come. What I hadn't expected is that I love biking to work! And more and more the idea that I could drive to work seems completely ridiculous.

In the last week I have driven a total of 9 miles in the car -- and we did a lot of things in the past seven days! I am feeling really good about our efforts to bike and walk whenever we reasonably can. But the toughest weather of the year is ahead of us. My plan is to buy some serious cold-weather gear and strengthen my resolve to keep biking!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Tiramisu (Page 837)

RECIPE #1232

  • Date: Friday, October 1, 2010 -- 7pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Teri, Terry, Helen, Charles, Clara, Kendra, Jubin, and Watson
  • Recipe Rating: B

I hadn't made this dessert yet because it makes me nervous serving raw eggs to company. I decided to make this though, and I found some pasteurized eggs in the shell. Unfortunately, my pasteurized eggs suffered a sad fate, but since I had already mentally committed to making the recipe, I did the unthinkable and adjusted the recipe just a tad to make it a little safer (adjustment to be explained later). I started by beating together egg yolks and sugar until thick and pale. The recipe called for this mixture to be left raw. But I went ahead and put the bowl on a double boiler and carefully cooked the mixture, whisking vigorously, until it was past 165 degrees (to kill salmonella). Then I proceeded with the recipe as written. I beat mascarpone into the yolk mixture. The I reconstituted some dried pasteurized egg whites (which I always have around the house because they are great for baking!) and beat them to stiff peaks with some salt and sugar. In a different bowl I beat heavy cream to soft peaks and then folded the cream and the whites into the yolk mixture. I combined very strong coffee with Marsala, then dipped savoiardi (crisp ladyfingers) into the mixture. I layered the soaked cookies with the mascarpone mixture, then refrigerated the tiramisu for several hours. Before serving I dusted it with cocoa.

This tiramisu was pretty good. The flavor was great. My one complaint was that the texture was too liquidy. The recipe directed you to soak the ladyfingers for 4 seconds on each side, which was WAY too long. Indeed they absorbed so much liquid that I ran out and had to brew more coffee. This recipe could have been great had the ladyfingers just been soaked for less time. As it was, it was still good!

The recipe is here.

Only 61 recipes left to go!

There are two complaints about Lansing/East Lansing that you hear relatively frequently from people who either live, or have lived, in the area:
  1. There's no good food.
  2. There's nothing to do.
There is certainly some truth to criticism number 1. Was it easier to find amazing restaurant food when we lived in Boston? Well, sure. But the reality is, we mostly eat at home. And although I would cry out of happiness if a Whole Foods came to East Lansing, the ingredient selection here really isn't too bad. We eat restaurant food at most one or two meals a week. There are a handful of restaurants here that we genuinely like, and since we don't go out too often, a handful is enough! Plus, we have friends that can cook! The best food we have eaten "out" by far was at our friends Helen and Charles' house. Eating there suffers from the disadvantage that you can't just show up on a random night and demand dinner (although, truth be told, we have never tried!), but the food they serve way exceeds what you would get even in a good restaurant.

As for criticism number 2, I just don't see it. There is SO much to do here, and it is SO easy to do things because there's no traffic, everything is close, everything is cheap... We actually do much more here than we ever did in Boston, where things were expensive, or took a lot of energy to get to. This past week, for example, we did a lot of really fun things.
  • Monday: David Sedaris was doing a free reading/book signing at a local bookstore. We went there after work and listened to him talk. Hysterical.
  • Tuesday: We have season basketball tickets, and MSU played South Carolina on Tuesday night. We walked from our house to the basketball arena, I ate lots of yummy concession stand food, and we cheered our Spartans on to victory!
  • Wednesday: The theater department put on As You Like It. After work we biked from the office to our favorite Indian restaurant, then biked over the the theater. The dinner was good. The play was good. It was a fun evening!
  • Thursday: My special gentleman went to his master's swim team practice. I stayed home and worked.
  • Friday: After work a group of mathematicians met up at a bar near our house for beer. Later in the evening we went out to hear some live music.
  • Saturday: Yesterday we hosted a pre-Thanksgiving dinner from The Book for 15 of our friends here! It was so fun hosting a holiday dinner, and all the food turned out really well!
In summary: It was a busy week. Add to that the demands of our jobs, and I certainly never once had the thought, "Man, there is nothing to do here!" Honestly, there is way too much to do! Each week there are way more things that we want to do than we realistically can. What a wonderful problem to have!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Rabbit Terrine with Green Olives and Pistachios (Page 23)

RECIPE #1231

  • Date: Friday, October 1, 2010 -- 6pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Terry, Teri, Helen, Charles, Clara, Kendra, Jubin, and Watson
  • Recipe Rating: C-

I am running out of recipes that sound appealing in the Hors D'Oeuvres and First Courses section of The Book. The situation is already pretty dire, but when you factor in that my mother is severely allergic to seafood, I didn't have a lot of hors d'oeuvres options for my parents' visit. In the end I settled on this recipe, for better or for worse. I started by cutting a rabbit into pieces and simmering it in water with shallots, carrots, parsley, thyme, leek, garlic, salt, and black peppercorns. Once the rabbit was tender I removed the meat from the bones and shredded it. The meat itself was very tasty, and I ate a few pieces as I worked. I then clarified the rabbit broth by first straining it and then whisking in a mixture of egg whites and crushed egg shells. I simmered the broth until the impurities rose to the top and formed a crust with the egg and shell bits. Then I carefully strained the broth again, resulting in a completely clear rabbit broth. I dissolved some gelatin into the broth and added Madeira and salt. I then prepared the rabbit mixture, with the help of my special gentleman. We ground fennel seeds and tossed them with the rabbit meat, along with chopped green olives, chopped pistachios, chives, thyme, salt, and pepper. Up until that point my special gentleman had been insisting that this dish would definitely be delicious. When he saw the green olives and pistachios he quickly changed his tune. When it was time to assemble the terrine, I lined my mold with plastic wrap, put the rabbit mixture in, then poured in the rabbit broth. I weighted the terrine and refrigerated it for several hours. Once the terrine set I filled the mold a bit more with the leftover broth, then chilled again. My special gentleman made some buttered toasts to serve with the terrine.

On the one hand, this labor-intensive dish was very impressive looking. I'm not sure it looked appetizing exactly, but the appearance definitely left an impression. On the other hand, it tasted bad. The rabbit meat was delicious, and I am sure that had I just served the shredded rabbit on the buttered toast it would have all been eaten. The tasty meat, however, became much less tasty when mixed with green olives and pistachios and suspended in rabbit jello. It wasn't just the gelatinous texture of the rabbit jello that made it unappealing -- it had a bad flavor. The combination of the Madeira with everything else just wasn't good. Indeed, the day after we served this Matt kept saying that he thought something in the fridge was rotting. After a thorough inspection it turned out that the "rotting" smell he noticed was just the smell of this terrine! Out of the ten people eating dinner the night I served this, there was only one fan of this dish: Clara, the 18 month old daughter of our friends Helen and Charles. It totally cracked me up that she was chowing down on it! Definitely not a fussy child! I certainly wouldn't make this terrine again. It took a long time, and ultimately ended up in the trash. Not a good use of tasty, tasty rabbit.

The recipe is here.

Only 62 recipes left to go!

Yesterday morning I was walking down the hallway outside my office. When I turned the corner I found one of my colleagues waiting for me. "I thought I heard you coming." he said. I had been walking alone, not talking to anyone or making any sort of verbal expression, so what he had heard that identified me was the sound of high-heeled shoes.

When I first started graduate school I got mistaken for a new administrative assistant several times. Others mistook me for the wife of a new graduate student. I was baffled. I certainly wasn't the only woman in the math department at MIT -- indeed the gender ration in math at MIT is about as good as it is anywhere. I was speculating one day about why it was that people assumed I wasn't a mathematician, when an older graduate student offered: "You are breaking the rules. The way people distinguish between the secretaries and the math women is that the secretaries wear heels." I laughed, but he wasn't actually joking. The idea that a female mathematician would wear heels was, apparently, crazy.

I often wore heels and dresses my first few years in graduate school. I was convinced that there was no reason not to. I certainly wasn't wearing anything trashy. Indeed it seemed to me that I looked more professional than most people, and hence should be taken just as seriously as anyone else on judgments made by attire alone. Only later did I realize that the idea of looking "professional" depends strongly on one's profession. My last year in graduate school, another female mathematician who had been at MIT when I arrived said to me, "Teena, you have done really well. When I first met you I noticed one day that you were wearing make-up and I had a hard time taking you seriously after that. But I was wrong about you." I didn't know how to respond to that. In retrospect it is obvious to me that other mathematicians will take me less seriously if I wear a tasteful dress and heels to work rather than torn jeans and t-shirt (which is my special gentleman's standard attire). But often I do it anyway. I suppose it is defiant. I believe I shouldn't have to try to blend in with a sea of men in order to be taken seriously, and so I don't attempt to do so.

So if you hear the click of high-heeled shoes coming at you down the hall of a math building somewhere, someday, don't assume it is an administrative assistant. It might be me.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Buffalo Prime Rib with Orange Balsamic Glaze (Page 415)

RECIPE #1230

  • Date: Friday, October 1, 2010 -- 6pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Terry, Teri, Helen, Charles, Clara, Kendra, Jubin, and Watson
  • Recipe Rating: B+

Buffalo standing rib roast isn't so easy to come by. I have watched for it in butcher shops for years, but have never seen it. So when I decided to make this for my parents' visit, I had to order it online. There is one online meat purveyor that I use for most of my hard-to-find meats. They are great in the sense that the selection is huge, the meat is high quality, and everything always arrives in perfect condition. However, their prices are a little high. Their website was the first place I looked for my 8-pound buffalo standing rib roast. And indeed they had it -- for the bargain price of $369. So I did a bit more searching! I found it for considerably less at a place out of Wyoming, but it still wasn't cheap!

To prepare the meat I roasted it, basting it occasionally with the Orange Balsamic Glaze (see post below). I roasted it to 125 degrees, then let it rest to 135. While it rested I made a pan sauce by deglazing the roasting pan with red wine and Madeira, then adding beef stock and reducing. I strained and seasoned the jus and served it with the carved meat:

This dish was good but not amazing. I like buffalo quite a lot, but in my opinion the additional benefit of using buffalo rather than beef in this recipe was not worth the additional cost. It was novel having a standing rib roast of buffalo, but I think it would have tasted just as good (although, of course, different) with beef, so if I made it again I would likely substitute a beef standing rib roast. The orange glaze was tasty, but I found myself wishing that the glaze could have been incorporated into a sauce somehow, or alternately that the pan sauce could have picked up those citrus and balsamic flavors more. The glaze was very tasty on the exterior of the roast, but each slice of meat only had a few bites really permeated by the flavors of the glaze. All that said, the meat was very tasty, and certainly I enjoyed eating it.

The recipe is here.

Only 63 recipes left to go!

After weeks of traveling, giving talks, changing medications, etc, I am delighted to say that my semester is calming down a bit. I am already starting to feel a lot better as my body adjusts to the medication changes. I made it through the entire day at work yesterday without any serious bouts of nausea or vertigo. I didn't even need a nap in the middle of the day! So I would say I am practically back to full strength! This weekend I am catching up on a few of the many things on my ever-growing To-Do list. These past few weeks have been out-of-the-ordinary in many ways, and now I am hoping to get back into my usual routine. Amazingly there are only four weeks of classes left this term (including Thanksgiving week, which is shorter!). It's crazy to think that in no time it will be winter break! In the meantime, my goal is to make the most of these next few weeks. Nothing motivates me quite like feeling better after a period of really feeling rotten! In the past few weeks I had to prioritize only the most important/necessary tasks in my life and focus on those, so many of the things I love (e.g. exercising and cooking) fell by the wayside. But if I feel well enough on Monday I am going to start up my routine of running daily again. And I am mulling over some cooking/party plans for next weekend! For the first time in a little while, I feel excited about what lies ahead.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Orange Balsamic Glaze (Page 416)

RECIPE #1229

  • Date: Friday, October 1, 2010 -- 6pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Teri, Terry, Helen, Charles, Clara, Kendra, Jubin, and Watson
  • Recipe Rating: B+

This recipe was a component of a bison dish that I made when my parents visited. Making this glaze was quite simple. I cooked some shallots in butter, then stirred in frozen orange juice concentrate, water, sweet orange preserves, balsamic vinegar, salt, black peppercorns, and orange zest. I then simmered the glaze until it was thick. I liked this glaze quite a bit, and I thought it worked well in the bison dish (which I will blog about next). However, I think I would have liked it even better had the ingredients been balanced a little differently. I found that the balsamic was a little strong, and almost overpowered the nice orange flavors. Were I to make this again I would cut back on the balsamic just a bit.

The recipe is here.

Only 64 recipes left to go!

Well, I had hoped that the transition to my new medication would be relatively painless. Unfortunately it hasn't gone as smoothly as I had hoped. The first few days were OK, but the last few have been pretty miserable, as I have been pretty sick from the meds. Luckily for me, my special gentleman has been amazing. I can't drive (due to the dizziness) and I can't bike (due to the nausea), so when I absolutely need to leave my perch on the couch at home (e.g. to get blood drawn, or to teach my class this morning) he has been driving me door to door. Counterintuitively, it is essential to my battle with the nausea that I keep eating, and my special gentleman has been lovingly preparing me small meals every four hours. And when my brother-in-law and his wife, Brad and Deniz came to visit this weekend, my special gentleman cooked beautiful meals for them all weekend while I laid on the sofa. He has made more than one grocery trip for emergency supplies (Sprite, saltines, etc...). He has taken care of the cats, cleaned the house, done the laundry, etc, etc... Basically he has been awesome. And I have been lying on the couch. So although I have been feeling shitty, I have also been feeling extremely fortunate. Thank goodness for my special gentleman!

And hopefully my body will start adjusting to the new medicine soon and I will start feeling better!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Grits with Tasso (Page 656)

RECIPE #1228

  • Date: Friday, October 1, 2010 -- 6pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our House
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Teri, Terry, Helen, Charles, Clara, Kendra, Jubin, and Watson
  • Recipe Rating: B

I love grits. Love them. So I have been wanting to make this recipe for years. I had trouble, however, finding tasso, a Cajun smoked pork product. My parents visited about a month ago, and as my mother is also a fan of grits I decided to put more effort into locating the tasso. I gave up finding it in a store and just ordered it online. Locating the tasso was by far the most difficult aspect of making this dish. To prepare it I cooked some stone-ground grits in salted water for quite a while, then added tasso, butter, salt, and pepper, and served. This dish wasn't bad, but I also wasn't super-excited about it. The texture of the grits was very nice, but I didn't enjoy having the chunks of tasso mixed in with them. I found that the tasso detracted from both the texture and the flavor of the dish. It overpowered the subtle flavor of the grits, and the very chewy little chunks didn't go well with the otherwise creamy texture. That said, the dish was still rather tasty. It just wasn't my favorite grits preparation.

The recipe is here.

Three weeks ago now one of my doctors determined that I should switch to a different tumor medication. I have been on the same drug for almost seven years now, so I admit I wasn't super-excited about the change. But the new drug is better -- more effective, fewer side effects. Overall, better. So I agreed to do it. These transitions can be rough though, and in order to start the new drug I wanted to find a window of at least 36 hours when I could lie in bed if I was too sick to do anything else. Turns out, finding that window wasn't so easy.

The last few weeks have been crazy. Last week I was in California to give a talk, and before that I was busy preparing to be gone for a week (and preparing my talk!). I started this week by having my annual teaching observation/evaluation, then today I gave a research seminar. I am giving another seminar on Tuesday. Add to that the usual research, teaching, and other obligations and things have been crazy. Plus, a couple weeks ago I started a second new drug and I couldn't bring myself to start two new medications in the same week. Add to the mix a scattering of house guests and there was just no good time to switch drugs.

But tomorrow I don't absolutely NEED to be at work. I don't have to teach, I don't have any meetings. I have a shitload to do, but nothing that I can't do from home, lying in bed if need be. So this evening, after I gave my seminar, I started my new meds. And tonight I am relaxing like it's my job. I've been watching trashy TV and reading trashy magazines. I took a bath. Right now I am lying on the sofa in front of the fire, snuggled up under two blankets, with a kitten at my feet. And so far, I feel pretty OK. Hopefully the transition will continue to go smoothly, and I will tolerate these meds better than my old one. And in a couple weeks I think my semester will calm down a bit. For now I am just doing the things that need to get done, both professionally and medically, and trying to stay as relaxed as possible. Busy, busy times.