My Creations, Places I like

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Where Brooklyn At?

                                        (Background music)

                     Yea I'm out that Brooklyn, now I'm down in TriBeCa

right next to Deniro, but I'll be hood forever

I'm the new Sinatra, and... since I made it here
I can make it anywhere, yea, they love me everywhere
I used to cop in Harlem, all of my Dominicano's
right there up on Broadway, pull me back to that McDonald's
Took it to my stashbox, 560 State St.
catch me in the kitchen like a Simmons with them Pastry's
Cruisin' down 8th St., off white Lexus
drivin' so slow, but BK is from Texas
Me, I'm out that Bed-Stuy, home of that boy Biggie
now I live on Billboard and I brought my boys with me
Say what's up to Ty-Ty, still sippin' mai tai's
sittin' courtside, Knicks & Nets give me high five

    It was 2009 when Jay-Z's much anticipated Blueprint III permeated into our mainstream culture. Universally adopted by frat bros, preppies, jocks, skater punks, and quiet types, Jay's Empire State of Mind quickly became the anthem of the summer. The flow of the song meshed perfectly against a vibrant piano backdrop and breathtaking chorus lead by Alica Keys. Listening to the lyrics, Jay describes his current success as he drives down Broadway in a luxury sedan. For Jay, the song was a nod to the city that transformed him from a hustler selling drugs in the housing projects of Brooklyn to a multi-platinum recording artist, CEO, and business tycoon. As my friends and I would cruise down our own Broadway with windows down and speakers blaring, the song meant so much more than just another rags-to-riches story. For a brief moment in time the song made you feel as if you were going to make it in this world whether you lived in the bright lights of NYC or upstate; whether you were rich or poor, black or white, or anything in between. It was a song for the youth because we had the whole world ahead of us...

    It had been five and a half decades since Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher, Danny McDevitt, got Dee Fondy to ground out in the ninth before the dodgers skipped town for LA (I am no Baseball aficionado, I had to look that up...) Over half a century went by as the citizens of Brooklyn watched teams flourish in the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, and across the river in New Jersey. Fast forward to present day where Jay-Z recently finished christening the brand new Barclays Center with a series of concerts spanning eight nights (yes I said eight) that helped usher in a new era of professional sports for the city of Brooklyn. While the Nets were transitioning from New Jersey to their new home in Brooklyn, team owner, Mikhail Prokhorov had this to say about the new stadium:

"Not everyone, in their lifetime, gets to witness a project that changes the face and the destiny of the city," Nets owner and Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov told news reporters at a ribbon-cutting ceremony last Friday. "Maybe those who were at the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge, they could say it. We saw a symbol being born, and I do believe that we're all the lucky witnesses to such an event, because Barclays Center arena is so much more than just a building.
"It will be the place where everything is happening and everyone is welcome. If you are from Brooklyn or Manhattan, from Miami or Moscow, Barclays Center will be the heart of Brooklyn."

    Say what you want about Jay's whopping less than one percent stake in the team, but you cannot deny that his brand is doing tremendous things for the new look Nets. He revamped the logo giving it attitude, and his music can often be heard blaring from the stadium's speakers during timeouts and halftime. You see for Jay, the this new arena is more than just "bricks and mortars" in the same way that his Empire State of Mind track was more than just another summertime anthem in the eyes of many listeners. The Barclay's Center was the perfect way to give back to the city that had made him so famous over the years. You're probably wondering by now what any of this has to do with me or this blog. Well this past weekend I took a trip down to the city to hang with my bro Brett Fuller to watch St. John's play in the new state of the art facility. This is that Story.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Gobbler Gluttony

    I probably should have washed my hands before I began this thanksgiving post, but to be frank, I'm just too damn tired to do so. Today was a monumental thanksgiving because it was the first time I got to prepare everything myself. While my parents spent thanksgiving in Long Island with my grandmother, aunt, uncle, and cousins, I was busy slaving away at a fairly ambitious menu. Initially I had planned to buy all the groceries the night before to get a head start on some prep work, but a wild night out in Saratoga prevented any trip to the supermarket.
    I woke up Thanksgiving morning fully clothed on the living room couch with my cone head of a dog staring right at me. As I sat up I noticed that my brain felt strangely similar to the Grinch's heart--two sizes too big. My mouth? Sand. Desperately I made my way to the frig in search of liquids. While on what seemed like an endless journey to the kitchen I fantasized about opening the refrigerator door to find an unlimited supply of blue Gatorade (for the record, if you like red Gatorade you're nuts. I've had Dimetapp that tastes better than that shit). Unfortunately, all that was in the frig to greet me was a half carton of OJ, and a gallon of skim milk. 
    Right from the start I knew milk was out of the question. What I longed for was juice, man! Staring at the carton of orange juice I remembered my good friend Toby Ostrov making the world's worst Screwdriver back in the tenth grade. My bros and I stayed up late one night, and Toby proclaimed that he knew how to make "the perfect Screwdriver". A generous pour of Svedka here (there was no measuring back then), a splash of OJ there, and voila! The perfect screwdriver. It was anything but. Thinking about it now, what Toby had effectively created was, "the perfect pile-driver". Maybe he was on to something? I can see market research teams now, conjuring up a way to introduce the drink to young college kids across the country. The Pile-driver: "heavy on the booze, light on the juice". I swear Toby, if you ever make money off of this, I'm getting a cut! Its the least you can do for forever tainting my love for orange juice...

    Through the marvels of modern time travel lets skip to the supermarket. By 2:30 I made it to Hannaford shopping list and all. "What time do you guys close today?", I asked; not wanting to hear the answer. The cashier lady looked at me with folded arms and replied spitefully, "in thirty minutes..." I could feel her devil-eyes piercing through the back of my head as I sprinted away. I must have done a half-way decent job of categorizing items based on their location in the store because it only took me twenty minutes to grab everything I needed. While two girls my age rang everything up I helped bag (it was my job when I was fifteen so do not lecture me on "eight to ten items per bag"), and briefly chatted with them about the girl in front of me who conveniently misplaced her I.D. when she tried to buy beer for her two siblings. I was eighteen once too so I can relate, but there are better ways to go about it, miss...
    Back at the house I preheated the two ovens and began to systematically break down my menu based on length of prep and cooking time required. I had planned to roast little cornish game hens and brussel sprouts, make stuffing from scratch, whip potatoes, and try my hand at some baking. I always detested those croissants and dinner rolls that you simply popped out of a Pillsbury can. They seemed so...I don't know...Susie-homemaker middle America? I'm taking a baking class currently and thought, well why not try a batch from scratch. If they came out wrong or did not rise properly, at least my older brother wouldn't know the difference.  
    Following the recipe I downloaded online, the directions asked me to cut the dough using a pastry ring two inches in diameter. Clearly there are no "pastry rings" lying around in the Hahm family kitchen so a little improv was needed.  

    That's what they looked like when I pulled them from the oven. I know they don't look anything like biscuits but at least they were warm and pillowy on the inside? In hindsight I probably would have been better off going with that pudgy little Pillsbury guy (seriously, what is he supposed to be? I swear in another life him and the "Michelin Man" are romantically involved)

I'm going to hell...

    I guess the point that I am trying to make here is that it doesn't matter that my biscuits looked like hockey pucks. I scrapped the idea of "pre-made", and just went for it. So what if it didn't look great, at least I had the courage to try. I mean c'mon, I took a stance against "canned dough" God Dammit!
    Way before I began my biscuit belittling escapade, I knew one of the first things I needed to do was bake off some homemade cornbread in order to incorporate it into the stuffing recipe I was using. Akin to the Pillsbury canned biscuits, boxed stuffing just makes my soul die. If you think about it, how often does one actually make stuffing? Once, maybe twice a year? No matter what season it is you can always find boxes of Stove Top stuffing at the grocery store. It could be mid July and if I have a hankerin' for boxed stuffing you better believe Stove Top will be right there to fill the void. Now that I think about it, I don't want to know how long those boxes stay on the shelves...I am going to go out on a limb and say all the boxed stuffing was made in the 80's and the world has been living off that same supply ever since.
    The thing that separates Stove Top from Pillsbury is that Stove Top is actually delicious. Sinfully delicious. Many a Thanksgiving night I can be found at the kitchen table eating leftover Stove Top in the dark in my boxers. Its fool proof. Anyone can make a simple biscuit; its just flour, fat, baking soda, baking powder, cut and bake. Boxed stuffing on the other hand, has barriers to entry. There's a severe learning curve advantage. Try to enter the market and people get nervous. During Thanksgiving dinner, biscuits tend to fall by the wayside, but screw up the stuffing and you might as well strap on the boxing gloves because you're in a fight; at least in my family. Seriously, if you forget the stuffing the ONE night out of the year people actually get to enjoy it and you better not walk home alone at night...
    After the cornbread was baked off, I cubed it up along with sourdough and baguette before baking it all off with sauteed chorizo sausage, roasted mushrooms, Granny Smith apples, and a bunch of other things. The video below is what a proper saute should sound like. I wanted you to be able to hear the sizzle because that is how you will achieve a good sear. The video is a bit amateur, I know; but that's mainly because I was sauteing with one hand and filming from my Iphone with the other. If you were expecting some Food Network quality video I am sorry to disappoint. The story continues with more pictures and humorous anecdotes after the jump so keep reading.  

basic cornbread