Usually December rolls around and I'm crying and screaming about how G-D busy I am and how it's non-stop stressball city, but strangely, these past few weekends in December have been surprisingly low-key. Yeah, we've had stuff to do, but it's never been like, two days of 3 solid outings each day, which makes for a pretty relaxed December, I must say.
Making the decision to scale back on the gift buying has also been a godsend. If you have the means, I highly recommend it.
I've had SO MUCH TO SAY lately, and such a backlog of book/movie reviews, but the past three days straight I've been in training to be certified for the Joint Health and Safety Committee at work. I'd rate this training a solid 8/10. Extra marks for lots of gratuitous stories about manufacturing accidents. Extra marks for the emergency preparedness/Boy Scouts dimension of being on the Joint Health and Safety Committee. The training culminates in a 40 question multiple choice, open book test. They expect you to get 26/40 correct in order to pass. If you DON'T pass, they mail back the test with the incorrect questions circled and you get another go. I'm vaguely worried that I might not pass and then I'll be mighty embarrassed. I have a history of not doing well at easy tests (see: my G1 driving test experience).
So yeah, the weekend. On Friday night we had Indian food. On Saturday, we had Chinese School (winter term, yo! Seasonally appropriate vocabulary - "snowman"!) then we went for lunch with Momma D at Great Nany's condo. Ummmm...they don't build condos like they used to. This condo is granted, in Etobicoke, but it's FREAKIN' HUGE! Two bedrooms, giant living area, dining room, eat-in kitchen, two bedrooms, balcony. Look at how cute Nany is - this is how she did the table:
By the way, this woman is 90. And she made us caesar salad (Nany DOES NOT skimp on the dressing, it's mad saucy, as Dr. Rei would say) and chili and is working on her 9 millionth crocheted afghan. We also got mad gossip about her life! Like the fact that Poppa's mom (who was Catholic) refused to go to Nany and Poppa's wedding on account of the whole Catholic marrying a Protestant thing. Plus you get to hear lines like this: "Nany (Nany's mother in law) was always saying how beautiful Honey is. Now, I mean, Honey is pretty, but I would never say she was beautiful." She's just a firecracker of a woman. Love her to bits.
On Sunday, I went a little buck and cranked out mad stuff. First, I did all the cookie boxes for the neighbours and their cards and delivered them. Then I made chocolate babka, the Smitten Kitchen by way of Martha Stewart's mom's recipe. It's supposed to make 3 babkas, but I followed what Deb did and made two biggies and three mini loaves. I'm liking this recipe more than my usual, Gourmet Magazine one, because it's chocolatier and the yield is more. Plus, the loaves puffed out a tonne more than the Gourmet version. However, I'm on the fence about the streusel topping from Deb's recipe. First of all, it made TOO MUCH streusel topping. Secondly, the streusel topping was really dry (I've never heard of confectioner's sugar in a streusel). I like the idea of streusel, but I might do my own and do less (I ended up chucking a lot of streusel). Do you think I've hit my mentions-of-streusel-in-a-single-paragraph quota yet? If not, I'm definitely almost there. I haven't cut into a babka yet (they were lovingly wrapped and frozen), but I'll report back when I do.
Then, I went on a Chicago deep-dish pizza mission, inspired by my Discerning Coyote friend's contribution to Pie Party a few weeks back. This was very successful. I made some tweaks to his version (using corn oil instead of olive oil and then substituting a 1/3 of the amount of oil with melted butter) which resulted in something pretty close to what I had in Chicago. NOW WE CAN EAT DEEP DISH AT HOME WHENEVER THE F**K WE WANT! Like, for instance, on Friday I'm having some of the gyals dem from my Canoe cooking days over and I'm going to make it again. It's pretty easy! The whole recipe (reproduced below) is predicated on a no-knead (you don't want to develop the gluten) dough and like, a raw tomato sauce topping. Cinchy!
Last night I met up with Dr. Rei and we went to the mall and split an Orange Julius and basically had the best time ever. I love that girl so much. Then we met up with Bwong at Santouka Ramen but the line-up was super long and we got kinda spooked by the size of the bowls of plastic restaurant food they had in the front window. You know that thing Japanese restaurants do where they show you what they got with the plastic food? Anyway, the bowls looked MAD SMALL! So we basically left in a huff (after inching forward a bit in the line) and left guns blazing about how everyone else in line was a chump because of the small bowls, and about how they didn't have gyoza OR karaage. We ended up at Raijin Ramen, which doesn't get as good reviews as Santouka, but is huge and had no line and was a quite, calm experience. Also: they have gyoza AND karaage. Look:
The karaage was boss. Super-juicy, crispy chunks of boneless chicken thigh. So good. They also do this Japanese poutine thing, which is fries, teriyaki, mayo, scallions and cheese curds. This was tasty, although I would have liked the fries to be more crispy. The flavours were great - with an interplay between chewy, gooey, salty, sweet, and creamy:
Finally, the ramen. I got the tonkotsu shio (they do tonkotsu shio or shoyo, but no straight up tonkotsu?) which comes with pork shoulder, half an egg, some fungus, and chunks of cabbage (?). The broth was nice and milky, though a touch bland. Not oversalted, which was good. The noodles weren't al dente and the pork shoulder wasn't fatty!!! It was kind of dry and chewy and I was pissed about the cheapness on the egg. HALF AN EGG?! The cabbage was a weird touch and I wasn't completely on board. But I wasn't OFF-board either. At any rate, I'd come back for a quick, affordable, meal with good appetizers and a quite, calm atmosphere with no lineup. Either way, it's a better bowl of ramen than at Kenzo or Ajisen, but not as good as Kinton (lineup) or Sansotei (my favorite):
So the Big Yam is the best and keeps getting better! He's so funny. As he learns to string more and more words together, it's amazing what comes out of his mouth. So on the heart-melty side you have him saying, "I lofves you, Mama." On the conceptually-funny side you have him saying, "Maybe" as in, "Maybe...Auntie Rei coming..." last night to the Dotytron when the Dotytron told him where I was and why I wasn't at home. Then on the hard-to-maintain-a-straight-face side, you have him in time out on the stairs, reciting his version of this book:
We had him in time out, and then from the stairs, he was talking to himself going: "It's my hot dog! MINE! That's it! Tastes like chicken. Needs mustard." all disjointed and doing this funny little hoarse voice (when the Dotytron reads the book he does a broad, New Yawk, Brooklyn-type accent for the pigeon). The Dotytron and I were almost crying trying to hold in the laughs on the couch. It was awesome. Those moments when you're supposed to be stern but he's making you laugh are so good. I'm going to try to get it on video.
Then the other night we watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas for the first time. I fell asleep, but the Dotytron said that the Big Yam started spontaneously slow-clapping when the Grinch has the change of heart and zooms down the hill to return the presents...AND THE DOTYTRON STARTED CRYING. LOL!!! So good.
Also, he does this fake Chinese which would be completely racist if a white person was doing it. I'll try to get video of that, too.
Anyway, I love him and last night I almost snatched him out of bed for an impromptu Sleep Away Camp because I didn't get to see him all day. But I left him alone in the end.
Chicago Deep Dish Pizza
makes enough to fill a 12" 2" deep cast-iron skillet, which is enough for about 6 hungry people, with salad
2 1/4 t. yeast
1 1/2 t. sugar
1 c. (approx) tepid water
3 c. all purpose flour
1 1/2 t. salt
6 T. corn oil
3 T. melted unsalted butter
4-5 links Italian sausage, casings removed
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1.5 balls of mozzarella cheese, sliced into 1/4" slices (not the fresh mozzarrella, which is too wet)
1 28oz can San Marzano tomatoes, whole
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 t. dried oregano
- proof the yeast with the sugar in the tepid water for 10 minutes or until the yeast starts to activate.
- in the bowl of your stand mixer with the dough hook attachment, add the flour and the yeast mixture. Mix for 1 minute. Add the salt and the oil and butter, mix for another 2 minutes maximum. The resulting dough will look kind of shaggy...almost like a firm biscuit dough.
- what gives the dough the texture you're looking for is the LACK of gluten development, kneading.
- scrape the dough into an oiled bowl and let rest, covered in a warm, dry place for about an hour.
- when it's proofed and doubled in bulk, gently punch it down and then press it along the bottom and up sides of your cast-iron skillet. The dough should be pretty relaxed and easy to work with.
- while the dough is proofing, take the sausage out of the casings and cook, breaking up the large chunks with a spoon with the onion and garlic until the onion is really soft and sausage is cooked through. Use a slotted spoon to remove sausage and onions and leave the liquid in the pan (the extra liquid would make the pizza too wet).
- preheat the oven to 400F
- spread the cooked sausage/onion mixture along the bottom of the prepared pie crust
- add the slices of mozzarella evenly on top
- take the San Marzano tomatoes out of the juice in the can (discard the juice) and crush with your fingers over top of the cheese, spreading the tomatoes all over the top.
- sprinkle with the thyme (off the stalk) and the dried oregano and some cracked black pepper.
- bake until crust is golden brown (approximately 30-40 minutes in my oven).