Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Shepherd's Pie

My father is English. He came to the US when he was 18 and by now he's spent more than 3/4 of his life here. Nevertheless, while technically American, my father is first and foremost English.

When I was a child, I was lucky enough to travel to England a handful of times while my Dad revisited his roots. You could safely say that I grew up eating and was strongly influenced by English food. Now I'm not talking about the England that I just came back from in March. You know, the new, amazing culinary center of Europe, where they don't pasteurize their cheeses and everywhere we went the menu said local raised, free range, local produce... What I mean is that I grew up influenced by the typical, nasty English food that everyone thinks of when they think of typical, nasty English food. Things like cold steak and kidney pies, boiled cabbage, bangers and mash, thick fatty bacon and baked beans. All of which may not be locally sourced or trans-fat free but they still, lovingly have a place in my heart.

The old England that I visited as a girl, was nowhere to be found on my March trip. While we had remarkable culinary experiences, we spent most of them in amazing ethnic eateries and hipster, sustainable hot spots. Only every now and again, to my and The Husband's joy, did we 'pub it up.' Of course, one can't eat pub food for every meal, or you'll end up looking like a puffer fish and probably die of a heart attack before 50. But I don't care. As much as I love a nice curry, to me, there is nothing like a newspaper of fish and chips for lunch, a good cup of tea with four o'clock biscuits and a fluffy gorgeous shepherd's pie to make the cold and rain of an English winter just evaporate.

So with these strange, rainy, October days lurking above us here in Los Angeles, I've incarnated my ancestors and my childhood England and worked up a batch of my favorite comfort food. Enjoy it, I'm pretty sure, you'll see the clouds part and if you don't, go ahead and finish it off with a few pints and a nice long nap. It's the English way.

Turkey Shepherd's Pie

4 large russet potatoes
1/4 cup salted butter
1/4 cup 1/2 & 1/2
1/2 cup chicken stock/broth
1 t sea salt (more or less to taste)

2 T olive olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1 1/2 lbs ground (not extra lean) turkey meat
1/2 t ground paprika
1/2 t onion powder
1/2 t dried ground garlic
1 t dried oregano
1 t sea salt
1 c red wine
4-6 oz tomato paste
1 c water
1 zucchini
3 large carrots peeled and blanched
2 fresh corn cobs with kernels removed
2 cups blanched green beans
2 T grated Parmesan cheese

First peel and boil your potatoes. When tender, drain water and add butter, half & half, chicken stock and salt. Mash until fluffy and set aside.

Place olive oil in hot large pan (the largest one you've got). Add garlic and saute until soft.
Add ground turkey and cook thoroughly.
Once turkey is cooked add paprika, onion powder, garlic, oregano and salt. Give it a sec, then add the wine.
Cook off all the wine and when the turkey is nice and purple, add the tomato paste diluted into one cup of water.

Once the sauce is hot, add the vegetables.
Stir and let it simmer for a little bit. The vegetables will let go of some of their water but don't worry, it will thicken up later, trust me. if it is dry, you may need to add some extra water.
Once veggies are crispy but hot, transfer the meat and veg mixture to an 8X8 baking dish.
Then scoop mashed potatoes on top of it all. It will seem like there is no way it will all make it in, you'll be surprised how much will fit if you dome the potatoes a bit.
Sprinkle the top with grated Parmesan cheese and bake for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees with a cookie sheet underneath. This sucker is really good at bubbling over.
When it's done the potatoes will be fluffy and buttery and the meat sauce, thickened by the starch of the potatoes will be rich and savory. The Husband often asks me if I made it with beef instead of turkey because of it's richness.
Slice into it while it's hot.
Serve it with the rest of the wine and a little salad.
Sweet, sweet comfort. The leftovers for lunch the next day could only get better if you can bring a beer to work. God save the Queen.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Halloween At Our House

I'm not a big fan of blood and gore. It's seems ironic since three of my IMDB credits are horror movies. I'll be in them, but watching them... I'm just too much of a wimp. When I watch scary movies, they stick with me and I can't shake them out of my brain. When Halloween comes around though, that is a different story. I love haunted houses, corn mazes and all the spooky stuff that comes with it. I want to emphasize the word "spooky." You see spooky is different than horror, well in my mind at least. When I think spooky, I think, crows, bats, bare trees and witches. When I think of the other, I think, bubbling puss and blood and wounds and...eh, you get it.

So this year for Halloween, I spent $3 on black and orange poster board and made this.

Side note - The bars on the window of our house is a carry-over from the 70's when they were fashionable-necessary. They make me cringe. If I owned this house, I would rip them out immediately. Alas, until we buy a house of our own, use your imagination as to how cool this would look with out them.

I free-handed the image, cut it out with kitchen scissors and scotch taped it to my front window.

During the day, it casts shadows all around the living room.

Spooky, yes?

Give A Little?

Well another season of my favorite sketch comedy show has come to an end. Fries On The Side had an amazing finale on Saturday night. And as per the norm, I did some things on stage on Saturday that shocked even me, like realizing that my black leggings were see-through under the stage lights and puppeteering with my husband to a song about abortion. I never claimed to be highbrow.

Now that it is all over and that the laughter at other people's expense has gone quiet, the cast, crew and writing staff of Fries On The Side, has decided to give a little back by doing some good (some butt-toning good at that). Some of us are run-walking at "Run For Her," a 5K run-walk to help support ovarian cancer research and awareness. Did I mention you can walk AND run?

Please consider skipping your latte today and giving $5 here on our fundraising page. It's such a good cause and for peets-sake, I have to restore my dignity somehow.

Many, many thanks to all of you!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My Father's Workshop

There is something so special about my father's basement-workshop in North Carolina. It's a strictly utilitarian space but strangely beautiful at the same time. His tools have been used for as long as I can remember and longer. Some of them are from the 50's and still work 'just fine.' He's used them to tighten every loose screw, help build many a tree fort and remodel just about every house we've ever lived in. He also used these tools to build a hundred bookcases for my family's old Santa Barbara bookshop, The Earthling. It's sort of like a painter's palate but for the ultimate handy-Dad.

This is the original bookshop sign from 1974.

Paint pans.

Sears and Roebuck tape measure.
This is my childhood bed frame. They are keeping it for my own child... one day.
And these. I won't let my parents give them away. Nostalgia is often not a bad thing.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Southern Food In The Blue Ridge Mountains

On my last visit to North Carolina, my father took my family to lunch at the Pisgah Inn. It's a seasonal hotel at the top of of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The inn overlooks the the entire Blue Ridge Mountain range and has the most remarkable views.

The gift shop had the yummiest local toffee and it also had these locally made seed flowers. I would totally have held a bouquet of these at my wedding. I'm a sucker for flowers with buttons in the middle.
Now, while the hotel is not known for having the most remarkable food. It's restaurant is always packed with people. Because the views are worth the drive alone. Now, that being said, we actually got pretty lucky in the food department because we stuck with the southern classics, I mean come on, when in Rome.
We started with these beautiful corn fritters.
Inside they were like sweet, molten, corn surprises that just exploded when you ate them. Next we went super-southern with fried pickles! Yes, and guess what, they are not as gross as they the sound. In fact, they were kind of awesome.
Sweet tea (actually half sweet/half unsweetened).
The most awesome thing that we ordered up there on the mountain, was my Dad's local baked river trout.
Our waitress had a brilliant way of de-boning our trout at the table.
She made a slice down the middle of the fish and with some tricky fork-work she took the spine and the bones right out.
It was an insanely buttery, fresh fish, cooked so simply but with a fantastic flavor. Not bad for a restaurant with a not-so-good reputation. I think it's reputation might need a revision. When we finished our meal our whole family hurried to the van (so I could make my flight home). The mountains said goodbye, and I started missing North Carolina the instant I turned my back on them.

TOMS Shoes

Tuesday, October 5, 2010