Monday, February 6, 2012

The Trifecta

I stumbled upon it this evening. It's been life-changing. I feel like I can do long as I've got Celine Dion, Madonna, and Beyonce by my side. I welcome your judgement. But when you're done, you should jump on this bandwagon because my day went from zero to sixty in just 3 songs.

It was a happy accident. After today's audition, which went very well but reiterated the fact that this business often times has little to do with actual talent, I felt like baking. Truth be told, I was supposed to meet a friend for drinks but her dog is sick so I opted to eat my feelings instead. (You guys, I swear I'm really not that depressed or anything. I just look for any excuse to consume mass quantities of food. I promise.) So, I settled on Molasses and Cayenne Popcorn Balls (a risk due to the fact that I've never made my own caramel and do not own a candy thermometer. shameful, I know.) and Strawberry Orange Muffins with Streusel Topping (I don't know why but I've been baking muffins and scones out the wazoo lately. Maybe it's the instant gratification I get from falling out of bed and into a plateful of last-night's adventures in baking. I don't know. ANYWHO, I brought my iPad in the kitchen and blindly turned on some music.

My spirits were immediately lifted as 'Express Yourself' boomed throughout my tiny kitchen. But when 'Love On Top' and 'Taking Chances' came on, I literally had to stop what I was doing, give my iPad a most approving nod, and try not to burn my caramel as I danced in front of my stove, attempting to keep up with Beyonce's riff's (skipping at least every other note and eventually bellowing out what I call a solid 'white girl riff'. Example posted below.), and doing my best French-Canadian accent while indulging in the occasional self-inflicted chest-pounding. Good news, I nailed my caramel (thanks to the old-school Hard-Ball test). I had to work fast to form the balls before the caramel got too hard. Luckily, this is when 'Vogue', 'Run the World', and appropriately '4 minutes to Save the World' came on. I worked furiously. And just as I finished my arduous task, I heard the words 'A New Day Has Come' and Celine's golden voice filled my apt. and my heart. I then proceeded to sing into my wooden spoon and touch the lives and hearts of anyone on the Devoe St. block that was forced to suffer thru my no-holds-bar rendition. Whatever. That's just how I roll.
Finished Product: Molasses Cayenne Popcorn Balls

I don't know if this post is about food or life or music or all of the above. I'm gonna go with music because music can be anything and everything; it can contradict itself and still somehow be honest. It's transcendent. It's raw. It's polished. It's infectious. It's sad. It's a memory. It's a friendship. It's a relationship. It's catharsis and so much more. I needed to be reminded of this today...even by the simplest of pop tunes. And on that note, I leave you with some other incredible tunes I've been losing myself in lately.


THE TRIFECTA. I dare you to listen to these in succession and NOT feel good.




Then there's Edith. I cry. Everytime.

I'm sure my bama friends know and love Alabama Shakes, but if you don't then GET ON IT. They are incredible. Dave and I saw them at Brooklyn Bowl in Dec. I'm obsessed with Brittany's voice. It's like Tina Turner and Janis Joplin had a love child. And that love child is KILLING IT 24/7.

Also, this one:

The Secret Sister's. Love them and their pretty covers of old-school country tunes. This one's a double-whammy b/c Punch Brothers are playing with them.

I know it's been out for a while but I can't stop listening to Florence + the Machines new album, Ceremonials. Check it! Here's one of my many faves. I just love her mystical voice.

And if you have never seen this then you MUST. Patti Labelle singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". You can literally see the Holy Spirit enter her body at one point in this video. I don't want to say when. You'll know when it happens. Please wait for it. It's beyond worth it. I have to acknowledge my dear Wes Seals for reminding me of this gem.

Seriously, is this what I do?

Today's audition: Dress-up a la 1920's prostitute and say 6 words to the camera. Because those 6 words are really an adequate showcase of talent and will be a completely fair basis for judgment and critique of my capabilities. Being the jerk that I often am, I'm currently playing around with the worst possible way to speak these 6 one, sometimes two, syllable words. But considering this is for Boardwalk Empire, I probably shouldn't do that...

Last Monday I filmed a pilot for a hopeful new series called "Jonathan and Robert". It's about 2 chihuahua's, their owner, and his girlfriend (me). I got to be horribly patronizing to these 2 constantly shivering overgrown rats (I'm not a huge fan of this breed, if you couldn't tell) while the dogs sling witty insults at me in a Spanish accent via voice over. It's actually quite hilarious. Plus the director is awesome and I met some incredible folks on set. Hooray! So fingers-crossed on that one.

I've been in callbacks for a bunch of big projects lately, which is exciting in and of itself. However, it's rather exhausting and I'm growing tired of the 'close but no cigar' scenario that has become my life for the last month. Ugh. This biz is tough, y'all. For real. For real real. Oh well, 'onward and upward', 'on to the next', 'brush it off', 'buck up', and whatever else one says in these sometimes discouraging mostly annoying situations.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Why I love Tammy Taylor

or really just Connie Britton in general. She's so just so likeable. See for yourself!
P.S. This makes me miss home. This is also makes me miss Friday Night Lights. WHY DID IT HAVE TO END SO SOON????

And this is why Coach Eric Taylor is the greatest. If it's possible, I would like my own Coach Taylor that follows me everywhere and gives me motivational speeches and offers unwavering support. Is this too much to ask? I think not.

My apologies for the back-to-back Friday Night Light's posts...Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, CAN'T LOSE!

Oh, also, please DO NOT watch the new(ish) Guillermo Del Toro film, 'Don't Be Afraid of the Dark'. I would like that hour-and-a-half of my life back, please.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I'm addicted to series I can only watch on Netflix

I really should send a formal 'thank you' note to the lovely people of Netflix. Because of them and their recent streaming of the entire series of Friday Night Lights, I now think it's appropriate to postpone unfinished DIY projects, dirty dishes, unswept floors in lieu of spending hours at a time cheering for scripted, fictional high school football games as if my 'team spirit' could actually change/effect the outcome and continue to bring up the fate of Tim Riggins or the expressive eyes and moral fiber of Coach Taylor like they are REAL PEOPLE.

In my defense I have limited this activity to late night or Sunday's. Having that said, I may have finished all 5 seasons Sunday evening, and I may have cried real tears. Please don't judge me.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Baby it's cold outside

I'm recognizing a trend here: When the temperature drops, I take it to the kitchen. This is an obvious attempt at seeking comfort and warmth (seriously, the oven really heats up our tiny little kitchen). And with the high's being in the upper twenties, I find that the only activity I really want to engage in is eating. Having that said, I've been a busy bee trying out new recipes and repeating some old favorites in a desperate attempt to try and forget that winter in NYC can be a Bitter Bitter Betty.

First things first, I hope you all started the new year with the traditional black-eyed peas and collard greens for luck and prosperity. I've had this meal on Jan. 1st every year of my life, always with pork as the protein. I've started using this new rub on pork tenderloin and I'm obsessed with it. Try it sometime, would ya? 2 cloves minced garlic, dijon mustard, coarse-grain mustard, honey, drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper, and chopped fresh rosemary. Combine all of the above in a bowl and rub that sucker down. Couldn't be easier and it smells and tastes sooooo good. If you're feeling super-indulgent, you can wrap the entire thing in bacon. We did this at Christmas. We have serious issues when it comes to bacon.
Seriously though, how good does that look?

Braising the collards with ham hocks, jalapeno peppers, garlic, and a splash of white wine vinegar for acidity

Black-Eyed Peas with bacon, bay leaf, thyme.

I'm a little late to the party on this one, but I'm reading The Help. It's incredible. If you haven't read it yet, then please please do yourself the favor of abandoning this post, running to Barnes and Noble, and purchasing this book immediately. You're Welcome. This book has managed to make me so incredibly homesick, among other things. Therefore, all I want right now is some good ole southern cooking. SO, I decided to fry chicken (my first real attempt at this). I must say, it hit the spot. I served it with a salad, only to make myself feel better. However, I made homemade buttermilk ranch dressing soooo, I'm pretty sure that between the dressing and the fried bird, those leafy greens were more than cancelled-out. I seasoned the chicken with salt and pepper and let it soak in buttermilk. My batter consisted of flour, salt and pepper, cayenne, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and a tiny pinch of sugar. And I fried those bad boys in CRISCO. Seriously, it's the only way.

A few things I will do differently next time: 1. Soak that chicken LONGER! I was only able to soak it for 30-45 min. Next time, I'm going for a few hours or possibly even overnight. The acidity in the buttermilk acts like a tenderizer so I say HAVE AT IT. 2. Hit the chicken with some salt immediately when it's out of the oil. I always do this when I fry things, but totally forgot this time. If you do that when frying anything (okra, fries, etc.), the salt adheres better. Almost melts into the crust due to the residual heat. Try it if you don't already. I have Dave to thank for that little trick!
Please pardon the excessive amount of towels to the left. Flour+Morgan=lots of clean-up

I really liked the batter (which I just made up as I went along, per usual...I like to think I'm an 'intuitive cook'. Clearly this is something I just tell myself.) I just kept adding spices until I liked the way it smelled. Scientific, I know. BUT you can't really taste-test batter; unless of course you happen to enjoy the subtle flavors and chalky mouth-feel of all-purpose flour. The dressing was the bomb. I've made it several times before and never really thought it was anything special until I used it for a B'day dinner I hosted for my pal Adam. Everyone raved about so I filed it away as a crowd-pleaser, and boy is it ever (not to mention beyond easy). Just Mayo, Sour Cream, Buttermilk or Whole Milk, salt and pepper, minced garlic that I turn into a paste (thanks to a little salt combined with mashing it back and forth with a knife), chopped Italian Flat Leaf Parsley, Chives, Dill, touch of cayenne, dash of Worsteshire sauce, and the juice from half a lemon. You MUST use fresh herbs people. None of that dried stuff. Ok? ok. Glad we straightened that out.
Looks 100% boring, but it was so good.

The chicken was even better the next morning, served cold, right out of the fridge, and drizzled with honey and hot sauce. mmmm.

Next up, I sought comfort in this delightful soup. Spicy Sausage, White Bean, and Kale.

So so good. I'm hoping it 'freezes beautifully' as I'm currently attempting just that with my leftovers. It's a pretty straightforward recipe--I just compiled ingredients/techniques I liked from 3 to 4 other recipes and then put my own spin on it. It was spicy enough; I always have to be careful. Dave' palate is far more sensitive than my own :) And I loved the addition of the tomatoes, lemon juice, and of course, adding some torn basil at the end. Yum. Comfort in a bowl, my friends.

Then since I had all this basil leftover and was sick of soup, I decided it was time for PIZZA. Homemade pizza is one of my favorite things to make. It's so easy and you can get creative. I mean, come on, there's no wrong way to make a pizza. I had picked up some spicy and sweet chicken sausage from Whole Foods, so I crumbled that on top along with some mushrooms, red onion, roasted garlic, oil-cured black olives w/ rosemary, fresh jalapeno (on my side only), fresh mozzarella, basil and a basic tomato sauce.

After all of this savory goodness, I decided I needed something sweet. Enter the Buttermilk Strawberry Scones. Some of you may think this is going a bit overboard, however I will have you know that I had half a carton of buttermilk left-over from the chicken and I was not about to let it go to waste. I originally found this recipe in Food and Wine (my fave cooking magazine. it's all delicious but still accessible for us 'home cooks'). I tweaked it a bit for my taste, and I must say, I'm pretty proud of my first attempt at scone-baking! My second batch got a little brown on the bottom but oh well! You win some you lose some.

I ate not one but two of these bad boys with my morning coffee...

I had posted some pics on fb of the food and got a surprising amount of requests for recipes which I LOVE! Food is quite possibly TOO important to me, but I can't help it. I love it and all that it represents: fellowship, tradition, culture, comfort, I could go on for days, but I won't.

Happy Eating, folks! Feel free to stop by for dinner. Oh! And please share any yummy recipes you may you may have inferred, I'm setting up camp in my kitchen and not coming out until Spring.