Doing laps in the LA Fishbowl

Food Gone Wild!

The end of one year and the beginning of another is a time rife with reflection and revelation. Here is mine: I have a problem. I’m hoping that, by talking about it, I’ll be able to finally get some help and work through it. The problem has flared up over these past weeks and is now completely raging out of control.


I can’t stop cooking. 
Yes, I know you all have suspected this for some time. I’m not talking about your average weeknight dinners; I’m talking about multi-course, elaborate, balls-to-the-wall extravaganzas. App–salad–entrée–dessert. I can’t stop myself. My kitchen has been overused so much that I actually murdered my KitchenAid mixer and both my ovens in the space of two days. But has that stopped me? No. Whip that cream by hand, boy, whip it!
It may have begun manifesting itself during the Thanksgiving Decathalon of 2011, but things really ramped up when my family’s usual Hawaii Christmas became unexpectedly domestic. My L.A. sister and I hosted, and most of the big Important Meals were at my home. This included the Welcoming Ziti Dinner (antipasti–caprese–roasted peppers–beef ragu–peach pie–struffoli), the Christmas Eve Feast of Seven Fishes (calamari–mussels–octopus–linguine al vongole–broccoli rabe–crab–salt-encrusted branzinos–pear/cranberry ginger crisp) and the the Christmas Day Gorge-a-thon (standing rib roast–Yorkshire pudding–sweet and sour onions–shaved brussel sprouts with burrata–spinach pomegranate salad with pancetta-wrapped, blue cheese-filled dates–marquis au chocolat). It was like three Thanksgivings in a row.

And now, some Italian Food Porn:

THIS is struffoli.
During Fish Five of the Seven Fishes the ovens pulled a mechanical “Grandpa’s gotta lie down right now” moment and died. Who knows what happened (a serviceman’s coming out on Thursday). Surprisingly, it didn’t throw me. I looked at the six whole fish un-crusting in the left oven, and the crisp un-crisping in the right, and found a moment of grace. “This is what happens sometimes, we’re not a restaurant, no one is getting upset, there’s plenty of food, Allison made a coconut cake, let’s roll with it!”And fifteen minutes later the ovens woke up and forty-minutes after that we had a delicious final course.
A little help with the fish.
A LOT of help with the meals.
Will someone stop this man, and his 17-lb roast?

Unfortunately, I haven’t found a way to stop the momentum derived from that moment of grace. New Year’s Eve, our friends bring over a wonderful fish soup and corn muffins, but I feel compelled, with no beaters and an inconstant oven, to add to the meal corn blinis with caviar and creme fraiche, an endive-cress and goat cheese salad and a bittersweet almond torte. Plus fresh cranberry margaritas. Today I thought, “No cooking on New Years! I’ll buy it all from the Farmer’s Market!” but somehow I found myself making a roux for the homemade macaroni and cheese with pancetta. My Fine Cooking magazine featured it on the cover! It looked easy! I had the cheese and the bread crumbs! Of course, not as easy as just opening the Annie’s packet of cheese and add it to the boxed pasta, no, I had to frigging MAKE THE MAC & CHEESE. All the while planning my black-eyed peas and chard dinner. My hands are raw from the number of pots and pans scoured. The refrigerator groans every time it’s opened, the dishwasher is threatening to quit, and so is Doug.

The ironic thing is, it’s all very well and good to cook for the masses who come to dine, but who am I cooking for now? Benjamin is famed for surviving on air, and Doug and I are trying desperately to return the holiday poundage we’ve received during Christmas. Someone’s gotta stop me before I cook again! My kitchen is trying to send me the message (“She canna take much more of this, Captain!”), but it’s not getting through. I envision myself in a chef’s coat covered with blood and sweat and chocolate as I dice and sauté and deglaze myself into oblivion— the culinary equivalent of “The Red Shoes.” 
Admitting you have a problem is the first step, yah? So I make a resolution— lay off the ladle. Surrender the whisk. Cook simply, and less.
At least until Chinese New Year.

Have a sweet 2012!
PS. I had a wonderful, underhanded birthday surprise which involved no cooking at all on my part! (Well, almost no cooking). You can read about it here.

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January 2nd, 2012 - Still Life Las Vegas

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6 responses to “Food Gone Wild!”

  1. Doug says:

    The sad, sad thing is that as delicious as all the meals were, all I could think about was: "It's going to take six hours to clean the kitchen up." Thanks to our wonderful guests, it was only two hours. But still, TWO HOURS with four or more of us working? It was worth it… but BARELY.

  2. Is that a photo of you drinking a BEER? Sorry, I have other comments, but that is the predominant one in my head right now. The other is "I am SO SORRY I was not there to help eat all this fabulous food". The third is "Doesn't James' back hurt…or does he wear crocs like Mario Batali?" Other thoughts are less important. Take a break. Order in. Buy take out. Go to a restaurant. You deserve a break today.

  3. Sally Nemeth says:

    Two words. Culinary school. Then you can cook with impunity. Just sayin'. xox

  4. Lolita says:

    The first thing I wondered about was the beer too! And a 17 pound roast? Where did you find that Flinstones-sized hunk of meat? AND brussel sprouts and burrata recipe please!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Yay!! I got to imbibe in all that great cuisine!
    Thanks James!
    D

  6. James Sie says:

    Ye gods! The Beer Conspiracy! Roll the tape please, and you'll see, upon closer examination, that what I'm toasting with is naught but hard cider. Alcoholic, yes, but definitely welterweight. This holiday alcohol was DEFINITELY necessary— after all, it wouldn't be Christmas without someone drinking.

    The prehistoric chunk of meat was gotten from the Farmer's Market, courtesy of Rocky Canyon Ranch. I should have gone with 12 ribs, but I got 14. LOTS left over. Yum. My back did not go out, though I did buy one of those cushioned mats to stand on whilst at the stove.

    Doug has an incriminating photo of a meal I just made— Roast Armagnac Chicken—and I just have this to say in my defense: it was easy! Really! One pot! And a family's gotta eat, right?

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