Thursday, March 29, 2012

Caribbean Queen

I heard Billy Ocean's "Caribbean Queen" on XM this morning, and it immediately solved my dinner dilemma.  It also helped me for a playlist on my iPod.  I have to have music when I cook or it takes me twice as long without the tunes.  That and I really enjoy the combo of cooking and music.  Our dinner was similar to my Cool Jerk Shrimps and Reggae Rice, thanks to Mr. Ocean.  But before we get to cookin', we've got to jam out my kitchen.

Songs for cooking Caribbean:

"A Well Deserved Break" by Morcheeba
- a great song that will have you wishing you were sipping a cool drink by blue waters
"A Message To You Rudy" by The Specials
"If It Happens Again" by UB40
- they can sing more than just Red, Red Wine
"You Can Get It If You Really Want" - by Jimmy Cliff
"Could You Be Loved" - by Bob Marley
"Pressure Drop" - by Toots and the Maytals
"Whatever Lola Wants" - by Sarah Vaughan
"Caribbean Queen" - by Billy Ocean
"Paradise" - by Sade

Now, let's get to cookin'!!!

Jerk Pork Roast


1.5 - 2 lb. pork roast, lean
2 tbsp. paprika
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. red pepper
1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1 tbsp. dark brown sugar
1 tbsp. melted coconut oil (or a light oil)
1/4 cup Jamaican beer (I used Red Stripe Light)
(Use white vinegar or apple cider vinegar if you prefer not to use beer, but do not skip this part.  Add water to the bottom of the pan if not using beer)


Preheat oven to 375.  Line a baking dish with nonstick foil.  Rinse and pat dry pork roast.  Place in dish.  With a knife, quickly puncture top of roast, going about an inch and a half in, marking in multiple spots on roast.  Create a paste from paprika to beer, using only 1 tbsp. of beer in the paste.  Reserve the rest of the beer.

(The best raw coconut oil ever)

Spread the paste on the surface of the pork roast, making sure to apply a light layer to the bottom.  Pour remaining beer around the bottom of the pan.  Cover with more foil.  Roast for about an hour, removing foil the last 15 minutes of roasting.  Since most pork products are raised and butchered differently than they were decades ago, you can slightly under cook the pork so it's slightly pink, if that is your preference.

Let rest out of the oven for about 10 minutes, then slice thin and serve with my Reggae Rice recipe.  I actually found some pigeon peas for the rice recipe at a Latin foods market, and I promise, they are wonderful with the exotic coconut rice.  They are more like field peas than green peas.

This meal is excellent with Red Stripe Light beer and extra lime and lemon wedges.  All you need is some Sleepwalk by Santo and Johnny, a little mood lighting, and you'll have Jamaica at your table.  Enjoy, mon!

Monday, March 26, 2012

What Madness!

There's something about the back of this man's'll either know him right away or wonder why you're being subjected to staring at someone's hair.  I read a quote last week that said, "You're not even as good looking as the back of Don Draper's head".  Really...

Last night's premier of "Mad Men" on AMC had my hubby and me riveted. Don Draper's wife singing her "Zou Bisou Bisou" song much to Don's discomfort had me cringing.  Joanie's treatment of her mother also made me shrivel a bit.  All in all, I think we were simply happy the series had resumed after such a long break in between seasons.  

One thing this gal knows for sure - I could never eat as if we were back in the early sixties.  I have roast chicken and coconut cake overload.  

I won't be including actual recipes, as these are classic dishes.  I made variations of them, thankfully with more modern kitchen equipment than any of the Mad women possessed.  

Our Sunday night Mad Men classic supper consisted of the following:
- a Negroni aperitif with salted cashews
-  Roast chicken with lemon and herbs
- Garlic roast baby potatoes
- Roasted green beans-asparagus with almonds
- Dinner rolls
- and a coconut pound cake to round the artery-clogging, salt-laden goodness.  

When I hear the word Negroni, I think of post-war era men enjoying an Italian aperitif. William Holden was a fan, and if he were alive, I'd ask him WHY.  It was so-so.  Gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth.  The definition of aperitif is a drink that stimulates the appetite.  Ok.  So not neccesseary for this hungry girl!  

Speaking of hungry, there's nothing like the smell of a chicken roasting to get your taste buds jumping.  I bought a 3 lb. organic, never been frozen roaster.  Chopped fresh thyme and rosemary, salt and pepper, a a few spritzes of olive oil.  I crammed some lemon wedges and more herbs into the cavity and roasted that little chubster at 375 for about an hour and a half until it reached an internal temp of 180.  Nonstick foil lining the pan makes for a really, super easy clean up!

While the chicken was roasting, I prepped the potatoes.  I lined a 9-inch cake pan with foil, rinsed the potatoes, and chopped some garlic.  Toss the garlic and potatoes with olive oil, sage, salt, and pepper.  Cover with more foil (I used a lot of foil, but had little clean up) and roast for an hour with the chicken.  Perfect little baked potatoes!

While the food cooked, I dumped the Negroni and created a drink recipe that I wish there was a name for.  2 ounces of Tanqueray, juice of half a lime, and a splash of ginger ale.  Refreshing!  If anyone knows the name of this drink (I cannot be the only one to pair these), please let me know!

Numerous Sunday dinners at both of my grandmothers' homes had me setting the dining room table.  My mom and grandmas used tablecloths, which I refused to use because it needed more than ironing.  It needed to be burned, it's so demolished.  Oh well, placemats to the rescue! I even set the serving dishes near the head of the table. Being married for 19 years has taught me that men like all the food on the table, within easy reach for second servings.

Wow.  Having finished that, I realized there's no time to sit - the gravy must be made!  Phew.  A 60's housewife's work just keeps on going!

I used this gravy recipe from Bon Appetit.  It's perfect if you know you're not going to have much in the way of pan drippings for gravy.

(Notice who has the majority of the gel mat at her disposal)

Still no time to sit and enjoy the gin and ginger ale.  It's veggie time.

I roast these with a tad of olive oil for the last 20 minutes of cooking time.  In fact, I put them in 10 minutes before the chicken is done, then toss them once more.  While the chicken rests on the counter before slicing, I cook the asparagus (next to the potatoes) for 10 more minutes.  Done.

Now let's eat!

Dessert was a cake that thanks to my kitchen appliances, was a breeze.  I'm not sure how the 60's housewife would have made the frosting other than with powdered sugar and milk, but my microwave and part of a tub of Duncan Hines classic white frosting was my means of preparation.  Thank goodness for the microwave!

It was a day of shopping, baking, prepping, cooking, and cleaning.  I thought Sundays were supposed to be a day of rest?!  I'm not sure the word rest  was in the vocab of a 60's housewife.  I know it's not in the vocab of this housewife, not generally.  Nor should it be.  You don't earn the badge of domestic goddess by simply looking the part, oh no.  You've got to have the grungy rubber gloves to prove it!

When I make meals like this one for my grateful family, I can honestly say it took 4 very special women to get me there.  My mother, grandmothers, and mother in-law taught me, in their own ways, something special about dinners.  Here are a few of their wise tips...

- You have to plan, prep, and time your meal.  Know when to cook each item.
- Have a back-up plan in case that roast needs more time in the oven.
- Always set a nice table.
- Put the coffee on as you're about to sit down for dinner so it'll be ready when dinner is done.
- Clean up as you go.  No one wants a full belly and dishes to wash while everyone is still enjoying the meal.
- Enjoy the process!  There are only so many Sunday dinners in life!

Please give the traditional suppers a try if you haven't.  Don't let the work level keep you from trying.  It's well worth it!  Bring some tradition and solidarity back into this era.  Just don't include the Negroni ;)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Before The Madness Begins...

Anyone watching Mad Men this Sunday on AMC?

It's the talk of every social circle I know.  I believe this show is not popular because the actors who star in the program are gorgeous and interesting.  Oh no.  I think it's popular because we simply cannot believe just how damaged the goods are.  It's 1960-something...weren't they all supposed to be so perfect?

Ok, so maybe not that perfect, but close.  The fifties and sixties were supposed to be a time of propriety.  At least, in my imaginings it was.  It was a time where men were men and women were, well, treated as simple-headed ninnies.  Where white gloves were charming, dieting meant salads and cigarettes, and you never, ever, wore white shoes after Labor Day or before Easter.

Folks from that era would have never tolerated Snookie or her pal, the Situation.  Certainly not.  The loss of standards favored by most people in our current society is shocking, to say the least.  Even for my generation.

Instead, this show is home to the sexy drunken smokestack named Don Draper and his bleach blonde disturbingly dysfunctional ex, Betty.  My favorite character is the more salt than pepper Roger Sterling, who cannot keep his married hands off the office ginger bombshell, Joan.

So before the madness begins on Sunday night, I'm prepping for the premier of Season 5 of Mad Men by planning a traditional Sunday dinner and a simple cocktail to go with it.

Roast chicken and potatoes, string beans, dinner rolls, and pie.  The cocktail will be a Tanqueray martini, straight, with olives or lemon.  A springtime Sunday dinner that I'm sure any 1960's housewife would approve of.

If you'd like to jump on the Mad Men bandwagon, check out AMCTV.Com for details. Since I do not have a bullet bra like Joanie or the Barbie-esque figure of Betty Draper, I will not be dressing up for this shindig.  But I will be checking out the the Cooking Channel's classic cocktail recipes for more ideas and flipping through my Betty Crocker cookbook to chose just which pie will go best with our Sunday chicken.

Another great resource that pairs nicely with the show is Jane Maas' book, Mad Women.  As a copywriter on Madison Avenue in the 60's, Jane knows where all the bodies are buried.  A very engaging tale, indeed.

Ideas and comments are warmly welcomed, as well as your vote on favorite characters and predictions for what season five will bring to our Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Price group.  Also, be sure to check out my pal Jorj's site for more delicious (I wish I was eating at her house) Mad Men ideas!

So will you or won't you?  Personally, I am looking forward to the opening credits and seeing the back of the handsome Don Draper's head in his signature chair and cigarette pose.  Let the dysfunction and madness soon begin!