Baboon Pirates

Scribbles and Scrawls from an unrepentant swashbuckling primate.

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Location: Texas, United States

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Belated Xmas for El Capitan

Finally had Xmas last weekend. My extremely pregnant sister and her husband drove in from the Austin area last Saturday afternoon. The family was scattered all over creation during the holidays, and this was the first weekend all our schedules matched up.

We all met at my parent's house, where Dad suprised everyone yet again with an impromptu rearrangement of the furniture. That makes 6 times in the last 12 months. It made no difference. Once he & Mom got rid of the big couch and went the La-Z-Boy route, there's just no good way to sit and be comfy in one room. Their TV room is now the main room they use, and with the daybed and the big-ass recliners, there's no room for more than 2-3 people in there. The only furniture they kept in the dining room (in addition to the table & chairs) was the mismatched collection of parlor chairs and padded rocking chairs, all of them ancient and not very comfortable. Still, we muddled through somehow, and had a good afternoon chatting.

As I expected, my sister came through like a champ, and got me the Indiana Jones DVD box set. I am most happy. The parents actually got me something I asked for, which leads me to believe that my sister ratted out my blog to them. Anyway, got a big fuzzy bathrobe from them. The color is exactly the same shade as an ashtray after you dump out the butts, but before you rinse it out. Still, I'm not planning on wearing it outside the confines of the house, so color's a non-issue.

I went to Central Market the day before and bought a cartful of goodies to make a Xmas dinner for everyone. I kinda splurged more than I intended, but I rarely get to show off in the kitchen for more than myself and the cats (and they really prefer kitty crunchies to Eggs Benedict, to be honest).

I got 4.5 lbs of prime New York Strip steaks, which is a heckuva lotta meat. I actually did a double take when I saw the price tag. I got veggies for grilling, salad goodies, and some other odds & ends. I spent most of the morning prepping the veggies and getting them on skewers. For future reference, to avoid having your mushrooms split, GO SLOWLY! Use the skewer like a drill instead of a poker. I lost a lot of good mushrooms that way...

Naturally, my split-second timing was way off, through no fault of my own. I've always been really really good about having everything be ready at the same time. Some of it's long experience, but part of it's just common sense. Do your prep ahead of time, cook the slow stuff first, fast stuff last, and everything else gets done in those 2 minute gaps in between stirring the pot. The plan was for Dad to grill the skewered veggies while I worked on everything else. I've already got the iron skillets approaching 500 degrees when Dad discovers he left the gas grill on, and there's no more LP gas in the bottle. Cue the screeching halt. This is one of the many reasons I prefer charcoal. When the bag is empty, it's pretty frickin' obvious you're out of charcoal!! So, 45 minute pause while Dad runs up to the U-Haul place for a refill. I, being of short memory and sudden need for tall whiskey drink, leave cast iron skillets in oven on "Broil" the whole time. I am aroused from my Maker's Mark reverie by all three of the smoke alarms going off at once. Sigh.

The grill never did work properly. We ended up with one tray of slightly charred vegetables, and a whole bin of skewered veggies that had been microwaved until done. They tasted OK, I guess, but I would have been laughed off Iron Chef for the faux pas.

The steaks were perfect. I may never grill steaks outside again. I'm getting much better results from the broiler method. This time, I made the pan sauce, and what an adventure that was! I took the steaks out of the two skillets and put them in a covered platter to rest, and then poured about 1/2 cup of bourbon into each skillet. The sides were too deep to tip the skillet into the gas flame, so I hit each one with a fireplace lighter to flame the liquor.

Slight miscalculation!

Commercial kitchens have about 4-5 feet of clearance between burner and the hood. My parent's kitchen has about 2 feet of clearance. Commercial kitchens don't have built-in cabinets on either side of the hood, either. The result was a bit of bubbled-up varnish from excessive heat & flames on the underside of the cabinets, and a bit on one of the doors. No scorch marks, and the venthood didn't catch fire, which was a miracle, considering I don't think it has been properly cleaned since the Reagan administration.

Once the inferno died down, I added beef broth to help deglaze, combined pans, added butter & cream and fresh ground pepper and let it reduce. I should have had a few shallots in there, but it was a pretty tasty pan sauce if I say so myself.

As they say, a good time was had by all. Nice to get Xmas out of the way without a single domestic squabble!