Thursday, March 26, 2009

Trains again

So not this weekend but next weekend I go to Washington DC. I'm to a forum for those with NF. Neurofibromatosis. Those of you who know me, know that I have this. Those of you who REALLY know me, know that I have never met another person who has it also. I am, in a word, terrified. I have no idea what to expect. My case is not all that apparent to the eye. Ok, to the untrained eye anyway. I'm a little worried that the folks there will think I'm something of an impostor. Mama Bird thinks that I might be something of a ray of hope for some of the parents there. I think that Mama Bird might be a bit off her rocker when it comes to this one. I don't have a lot of the physical characteristics of nf, at least not where they are easily seen. I have all sorts of other issues. If I were a new parent of a child with nf, I would be horribly frightened of me.
Mama Bird and I are taking the train out. This ought to be interesting. This will be the first time she and I have taken a train ride that lasts longer than 5 hours. It will also be the first time that I will have boarded a train so late in the evening. At least in the states.
I'm a little at a loss here. I don't know what to expect. I know that I may find out all sorts of information about clinical trials, and that may be a fantastic boon. Yes, I am trying to talk myself in to this. Up to this, whatever.
No, I don't have a recipe today. I'm a bit too scattered for that right now.

--Little Bird is a nervous wreck

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Watercolor Turkey

We have had a taste of spring here, and just in time. It was 74 degrees yesterday! I got to take a nice walk, in the sun and the warmth. It was so nice! I was beginning to go stir crazy, cooped up in the apartment all winter.
Mama bird and her husband are out of town, leaving me alone this past Sunday, so no big blow-out meal to report about. I think I'll be eating kind of lightly this week, cooking for yourself can sometimes feel silly. Like a hassle really. You get the same amount of dishes and pots dirty, but only one person to feed. Seems like a waste of energy. That and I really really hate washing dishes.
I started painting again. Watercolors. I'm not very good, but it's fun. I seem to paint lakescapes mostly. The lake is right outside my window, so I suppose that makes sense. It would make more sense if the paintings looked anything like the lake.
But it's something to do, and more fun than watching TV.
Since I'm not cooking a big meal, I will give you a big recipe. Thank the good commenters at FailBlog for inspiring me to post this.

Herb Roasted Turkey with Apple Cider Gravy
10 servings
8 quarts cold water
2 cups coarse kosher salt
8 large fresh or dried bay leaves
2 Tablespoons black peppercorns
2 Tablespoons whole allspice
1 16-17 lb turkey, giblets removed, neck reserved

Herb Butter And Gravy
3 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley
3 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
3 tablespoons minced fresh marjoram
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 and 1/2 sticks)

4 cups chicken broth
2 cups apple cider
3 Tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons Calvados (or other apple brandy)


2 large granny smith apples, quartered and cored
2 large onions, quartered
1 cup apple cider

TO BRINE THE TURKEY: Line extra-large pot or bowl with two 13-gallon or larger plastic bags, one inside the other. (You may want to get a brand new kitchen waste basket or maybe a 5 gallon bucket to use for this.) Combine 1 quart water, salt, bay leaves, peppercorns, and allspice in large saucepan. Stir over medium heat until salt dissolves. Remove from heat. Add one quart cold water and cool to lukewarm. Pour into plastic bags; mix in remaining 6 quarts water. Wrap turkey neck and refrigerate. Submerge turkey in brine to cover completely, gathering bags tightly to eliminate any air; tie bags closed. Refrigerate turkey in brine in pot (bowl, container, whatever) for at least 18 hours and up to 20 hours.
Line a large roasting pan with 4 layers of paper towels. Remove turkey from brine and drain well; discard brine. Place turkey in prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

FOR HERB BUTTER AND GRAVY: Mix the parsley, thyme, sage, marjoram, rosemary, and nutmeg in a small bowl. Transfer 1/4 cup of the herb mixture to another small bowl and mix in 1/2 cup butter.
Combine broth and apple cider in a heavy large saucepan. Boil until reduced to 3 cups, about 20 minutes. Pour broth reduction into a bowl. Melt remaining 1/4 cup butter insame saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour; stir one minute. Whisk in broth reduction, then cream, Calvados, and remaining herb mixture. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until gravy base is thickened and reduced to 2 &3/4 cups, whisking often, about 20 minutes. Cool gravy base slightly.

TO ROAST THE TURKEY: Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 350 degrees Remove turkey from roasting pan and drain any accumulated juices from main cavity. Discard paper towels from roasting pan. Melt herb butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Brush bottom of roasting pan with some herb butter. Return turkey to prepared pan. Tuck wing tips under, tie legs together loosely to hold shape. Place some apple quarters and onion quarters in main cavity. Brush remaining herb butter over turkey; sprinkle with pepper. Scatter remaining apple and onion quarters in pan. Add turkey neck to pan. I told you this was a big recipe.
Roast turkey one hour. Baste with 1/2 cup apple cider. Roast turkey 30 minutes. Baste with remaining 1/2 cup cider. Roast turkey until thermometer inserted into thickest part of turkey registers 175 degrees, basting every 30 minutes with pan juices and covering breast loosely with foil if browning too quickly, about 2 hours longer (3 &1/2 total). Transfer turkey to platter and let stand for at least 30 minutes (internal temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees).
Discard apples, onions, and turkey neck from pan. Pour pan juices into large glass measuring cup; spoon off fat from surface. Pour degreased juices into gravy base and bring to boil over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally. Boil until gravy thickens enough to coat spoon and is reduced to 3 &1/2 cups, about 15 minutes. Season gravy to taste with pepper.
Serve turkey with gravy.
Note: If you have followed all these instructions, your kitchen should be a disaster zone and every pot, pan, and bowl in the house should have been used at least once. And your family damned well better do the dishes for you!

-Little Bird is STILL organizing

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Of Blood Oranges and Singing the Blues

Wow. So the input has been helpful and I may have planted a seed with my folks as to them purchasing an air purifier. We will have to see. Thank you to everybody who commented with advice.
This past weekend Mama Bird was sick. So this past Sunday dinner was up to me. The chicken was a both a combination of past recipes and a slight departure from them. I had to get a fryer instead of a roaster (smaller bird), and I rubbed it with butter and then sprinkled it with herbes de provence and grains of paradise, and orange pepper. I put onions in and around the bird... and I added a blood orange. Instead of lemon. I turned out great! I also made roasted potatoes sprinkled with the same herbes and the rest. The same green beans as the week before made the menu (because I LOVE them) and that was the meal. Mama Bird particularly liked the potatoes. I know this because she finished mine. My stepfather and I demolished the green beans. The chicken was just tiny. It was good, it was really good! But small.
While I was cooking Mama Bird watched this really cool animated feature on the internet called "Sita Sings The Blues". It's by a woman named Nina Paley (apologies if I've misspelled that). It is amazing! Funny, and sad, and really really well done. Look it up if you get the chance, and make sure you have the time to watch it. It is 82 minutes long, and totally worth the time.
In other news it continues to rain. But it must be at least 50 out there! It's not COLD and wet, it's just ... wet. The bad thing about this is my knee is KILLING me. It feels like there is a spike that is being jammed into the side of my knee. BUT! It's not snowing!! Spring is on it's way! I'm just gonna continue to tell myself this, ignoring the fact that we have at least two more snowfalls due to come. I just pretend that this is not really gonna happen.

--Little Bird is good at pretending

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


All of my life I have loved cats. Loved them! I've had a few in my day, too. The old fat furball named Maggie that we got when I was about 8ish. She must have weighed 20 lbs, and was a longhaired somethingorother. Cat fur EVERYWHERE. I loved her. There were others along the way and now my mother has two cats (my lease stipulates no cats). Mama Birds cats are named after sisters in a D.H. Lawrence book "Women in Love". For the life of me I cannot spell their names. One is very sweet and allows me to carry her all over the apartment, but no further. The other looks kinda like Yoda and is a pill. If you don't pet her EXACTLY the way she wishes to be pet, she'll bite you. She has seriously mellowed out over the years and now realizes that I am a reliable source of attention (This is the same cat that once walked into the room I was sitting in. Walked up to me. Hissed at me. And walked away).
So yeah, I like cats. But something odd has happened. I seem to have developed an allergy to them. If I spend too long over at Mama Bird's place, or let the cats climb over me too much, my eyes get all itchy and my nose gets twitchy. It's not the end of the world. And it takes awhile for it to affect me, but still. I sorta feel like I've been told that I can never have chocolate again. I don't know how my stepfather handles it, he is WAY allergic to cats. I know he opens windows to clear the dander out (I'm not entirely sure how this works but that's his excuse for opening the windows in FEBRUARY), but that seems to have given of the cats a cold so now I don't know what he does.
Any suggestions for making visits to Mama Bird's a less sneeze inducing experience?

--Little Bird is sniffling

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Lesson Learned

So today marks six years of living in the windy city. I told you that I was planning a special dinner. Well, Mamma Bird and I made that meal. The duck was AMAZING!!!! The recipe is at under "crispy roast duck" and was in the 2006 June issue of Gourmet magazine. The green beans with the walnuts and walnut oil were FANTASTIC. And I'm sure the potatoes were good too, but I was too afraid to really try them.
You know how occasionally a recipe calls for a very specific type of utensil or pan? There is a reason for this. As it turns out a very good reason for this. Our potato recipe called for a certain type of baking pan. One that I do not own. I used my pyrex baking pan that was the correct size. Yeah. About 10 minutes before the dish was supposed to be done the pyrex dish exploded. Yup, you read that right. It exploded. We took the top layer of potatoes (they appeared fine, no glass bits) and put them in a different dish and served them anyway. What little bit I did eat tasted great, that recipe is also at, under "potatoes gratin". To the recipe we added a touch of white truffle salt and fresh thyme. We also used 1 and 1/2 cups milk and 1/2 cup heavy cream instead of the half & half they call for. Oh, and we added mozzarella between the layers too. If you decide to make that recipe, USE THE TYPE OF PAN THEY RECOMMEND. If you don't have it, go buy it or make something else.
I now have a few bits of my former pyrex pan sitting on a shelf. A reminder that I should follow instructions.
But the duck. The duck was divine! I had never had duck before and therefor had no idea what to expect. As it turns out, duck is right up my alley. I prefer dark meat when having chicken or turkey, and duck is like an entire bird of dark meat. Mmmmm! And the skin! Oh my god the skin was crispy, crispy heaven!
But the beans. Let me first say I don't really care much for cooked veggies. Never have. But these were so good I had three helpings! The walnuts and walnut oil add an almost buttery flavor to the green beans. Of course you need to use french green beans. Not the regular kind cut skinny, but the really skinny type.
There is a bit of leftover duck, and I will be making stir-fry with that. The duck fat is currently cooling and awaiting separation. And duck fat fries are in my future!

--Little Bird is stuffed