Friday, April 30, 2010

A Heart Full of Broccoli

"Well... you're still married to him, even if his Facebook status says you're not."
- woman I overheard on the 7 train, on her cell phone, for serious.

Dear Mouse,

Sometimes, in moments of greatest darkness ... a Chef is Born.

roasted broccoli and tiny orange cauliflower in heart-shaped pan.
his-and-her S&P shakers.

I'll probably never forget the evening I spent with The Mayor last week. Now, that's saying a lot, considering all we did was meet up with our college friend JotaJota at his bar, catch up over several thousand beverages, insult each other and unfortunate strangers, sing loudly, and go home to a mighty hangover (ok, just me).

I mean, ma
ny, many evenings in my life fit this description. Sure, the location has varied, and our identities have morphed in several unpredictable ways... most notable of these the Mayor's transformation over the years from mild-mannered graphic designer to NYC's reigning King of Burlesque, who regularly appears on stages wearing glitter and not much else. But the cast and itinerary stay the same.

We were meeting to discuss
our upcoming **live band burlesque project ** (oh yeah, JULY 8 at this fabulous venue) and catch up. This is not why the evening will go down in history. Nor was it simply because we showed up in matching red denim outfits with zippered pockets -- seriously!! --though that sure is part of it . I'll say it was a night to remember for two reasons: 1) the fact that -- oh, I'll just call her Mrs. Mayor, why go there - asked The Mayor for a divorce not five min before we sat down at the bar, and 2):

... The Mayor. Is Writing. A Food Blog. ...

wait for it

... chronicling his rocky relationship (now breakup), one meal at a time. It's not open to the public, so you'll have to trust me on this.

Now, when did this happen? Back in the day i'm pretty sure The Mayor existed only on grain alcohol and Snyder's pretzels. Since then, we have been through a LOT of things together, but I'm gonna go ahead and say that a nice home-cooked meal (or even a restaurant excursion!) has been one of them ... never. I think I tried to feed him chicken soup the last time he came over, and he just leaned over the pot and inhaled appreciatively.

So, two pisco sours, a round of beer, and an ill-timed cabaret full of love songs at the Duplex later, we met up with Jota to make a Plan. Not for our show (which is
JULY 8!) but, for cooking dinner. Which, I am thrilled to let you know, happened, and looked like this:
L to R: roasted broccoli, shrimp wok-cooked with garlic, chiles, and red pepper, 'lime-scented rice' w/ cilantro. To drink: Negra Modelo beers.

In times of soggy despair I think two things are important in the kitchen. One is simplicity -- forgiving recipes that nourish without taxing an exhausted bodymind. The other is Heat - the kind from chiles, not burlesque. I believe a little spice in the food balances the, let's say humors, and rejuvenates. The shrimp went into the sizzling pan with a (gloved) handful of both thinly sliced jalapeno and anaheim chiles, all red and green and orange. At the same time, the other flavors of the meal were really subtle. I exhort you to make this fresh, delicate, "lime-scented rice" sometime. (You have to like cilantro boil the rice with a bunch of the leafy fragrant green right in there, then remove it just before serving. Beautiful.)

Finally, cooking in crisis offers a rare opportunity for insight into one's life. So the Mayor has this bag of shrimp he's frozen, which he wants to build the meal around. He's frozen them after they sat 4 days in the fridge. I, as will not surprise you, came down on the side of "let's not eat them", while he felt more in the "they're fine" sort of camp. We defrosted them, and somewhere during the deveining process, our dinner guest weighed in on my side, due to the impossible-to-ignore pungent-ness that was not going away. Democracy reigned. Gnashing his teeth in protest, The Mayor set out with Guest to buy new shrimp.

This is them.

They were delicious. And we ate them with a clear conscience and worry-free stomachs. But the thing is, I understand the teeth-gnashing. Who wants to go back to the store? Who wants to admit that the shrimp in your fridge, in which you invested many dollars, and in which you have faith and around which you based the whole meal, for pete's sake, just might have gone bad? You certainly don't want to even think about giving up on them, especially not when there's so much good there, and it's totally possible that the shrimp is fine! But there's a point where, no matter where you stand on the 'four days' issue, you have to acknowledge that they just smell really, really terrible, and let them go. Go out and get yourself a new bag of crustaceans. See the future... and then stir-fry it with garlic and chiles. Get out your cutest heart-shaped pan, your most X-rated cookware. You'll get through it.

With love and broccoli to brave men in thongs everywhere,

The Boo


Anonymous said...



Marisa said...

Love the photo!
I'll be trying that rice soon!
Glad you opted for the fresh shrimp.
Love you,