Friday, June 24, 2011

Sunday #22: Birthday Dinner for Motherface

Sunday #22 my mom invited herself to my house for her birthday.

Not out of nowhere or anything. She asked a couple months ahead of time because she needed to make a great escape from Yakima. Let's see why .

Yeah. Not so much, actually.

After we got the weekend all sorted out, I started making grand plans for what we'd do, and then figured out that I wasn't really capable of "grand." After a couple of other things fell through I made an off-hand comment about how I was just going to make dinner and then go watch my best friend play roller derby. To my delight she was excited for that.

So, entertainment was solved. Finally. I'd been stressing about it for weeks because, as anyone charitable enough to spend and evening out with me will tell you, I super suck at making plans. Plus I was pretty bummed that I'd be missing the team's second bout ever. So it all worked out. Mom was happy. Hooray for me!

Hooray for me?
Uhhh - yeah! Because as any kid knows celebrating your mom's birthday is really all about bringing glory unto  yourself.

So anyway, my mother screamed her self silly ("have a seat!" being one of her favorite statements any time a Betty went to the box) and we all had a blast.

And by "we all" I mean me and mom. Mark and my dad held up the back wall and waited until it was time to go home for dinner. They're manly men that way. Sturdy.

So! After derby (is it bad taste to talk about how Toxic 253 totally kicked ass? It was fan-fricking tastic) we went home and I made us all a nice Sunday dinner.

...on Saturday. If you haven't been paying attention, Sunday has been happening on any damn day of the week I feel like.

So there.

The Menu
Appetizer: Shrimp Bruschetta
  Entree: Chicken Caprese
          Dessert: Strawberry Shortcake

Okay, so my original plan had been to feed us all and then go to the bout but that would have required me having my shit together really early, and totally stressing out.

Plus we would have been eating around 4pm. Who does that?

It feels like this is where I should take a crack at old people, maybe under a hilarious-in-context googled old-folks pic. I tried!  I really did! I just couldn't find anything about the old people that was very inspiring, and a lot of them were flipping me off. So there's that.

Just... nothing.
My brain has entered a "making fun of old people" dead zone.
I'm broken.

Since we wouldn't be getting home until almost 9pm, I got a lot of prep out of the way.

The bruschetta prep goes something like:
4 plum tomatoes
Shallots or onion - about a third as much as the tomatoes
Garlic - as much as you like
Basil - ten leaves or so
Shaka-shaka italian seasoning
Shaka-shaka-shake salt
Grindy Grindy Grind Grind of pepper
Handful of leftover shrimp from the previous evenings "appetizers for dinner" menu.
Drizzle of Balsamic vinegar

Chop the tomatoes into like, little pieces. 1/3 of an inch cubes? Yeah, something like that.
Okay, so when doing this you don't want all the crappy seeds inside, but you want the juicy goob they live in. To get this I quarter the tomatoes, and then scoop the insides out, reserving them in a bowl-like sieve I've set over my mixing bowl.

So, once you have everything chopped and in the bowl, you run a spool around in the sieve so that all of the liquid is in the mixing bowl, but those craptastic seeds aren't.

Everything gets mixed together and then set in the refrigerator for at least an hour (or five, in our case.)

Oh - also, you'll want a really good and loyal spouse-type fella who had nothing better to do (except shop at three different places and clean up the living room and kitchen - laze) but slice and toast baguette for you the day before. This way you don't even have to worry about it the day of dinner.

Okay, so that's bruschetta prep.

Chicken Caprese prep was surprisingly similar:
So, all of the above ingredients, less the vinegar and shrimp, and loads more basil. The recipe I linked to is just a guide. Recipes are for, like, people afraid of cooking.

Because seriously, do not ever EVER attempt any of the things I blog about if you're afraid of cooking. I mean, I'm not really all that clear on what I do in the writing and I set stuff on fire. Also, half the time when I sit down to do this I've got a half bottle of wine in me so... yeah, you've been warned.

How do you know if I'm talking about you?
If you absolutely cannot make anything - particularly something you've made a half-dozen times- without pulling out and following a recipe then you're afraid of cooking. I'm sorry, you may not feel like you are, but you are. But it's okay, I'm afraid of lots of things.

It's little foot could be in the disposal right now!
Babies are so stupid.

I should clarify here that the status of your cooking bravery (or lack thereof) has no bearing on whether you're a good cook or not. You could be world class with that cookbook in tow,  but if you don't have the balls to just waltz into the kitchen all unarmed and just make shit happen then you're a cooking weenie.

Uhh, yes. So the other difference with the caprese prep is that you don't chop the tomatoes and such as small and you use less onion and lots more basil. This all goes into a bowl and then into the fridge with the other bowl of tomato stuff.

I was making this for four, so I had four chicken breasts prepped. That's way more chicken than four people need, by the way, but I'll never learn.

You lay out a layer of plastic wrap on the counter, put the chicken on it, but more wrap on top of that and then pound it until it's good and flat.

You do this so that the batter you'll put on the chicken later doesn't get overcooked while leaving the middle maybe-raw.

That goes in the fridge too, not left out on the counter to rot while you loiter the beer garden at your friendly neighborhood derby bout.

Or so I've been told.

Strawberry shortcake prep:
Slice all the strawberries
Strawberries go in bowl
Shaky shake the sugar in there until you think you have enough. Then take some out because you put too much in there.
cover and refridgerate.

For the cake part...
So there are a lot of schools of thought on the cake portion of this:
-Some people just buy the little rounds that are like twinkies minus the filling
-Some people use angel food
-Some people use pound cake

And any of those are right. I happen to like them over a scone-type bakery good and so I made this recipe.

I would have really liked some lemon zest to go in it. I didn't have any so I put a few drops of Fiori di Sicilia in it. I really love that stuff. Also, I think the butter I used was pretty rank - not bad, but it had absorbed a lot of kitchen flavors while out on the counter - so I'm pretty sure this extract saved the cake from being a little off.
That there's a cake-hole.
You're welcome.

Post-game Feeding Frenzy
So, as mentioned, the derby bout kicked ass. We were invited to their after party (everyone is) and mom really wanted to go, but Mark and Pat had patiently waited through 2.5 hours of derby stuff and were ready to be fed. They told mom we'd do whatever she wanted. Luckily EAT! won out over partying with a bunch of derby girls in a seriously over-crowded bar.

Which is good, or this little story would be about how I spent all this time prepping for dinner and how my parents lamed out on me and left me with 20,000 calories worth of pasta prep.

When we got home we were starving.
Thanks to diligent prep we were able to have bruschetta in about 10 minutes.
Take the pre-toasted bread slices. Mark very lightly brushed olive oil and garlic tastiness on these before lightly toasting them. (did I mention that before? Guess not. Whatever, I'm not going back for editing now!)

Sprinkle some shredded parmesan on the toast slices. As much or as little as you'd like. Even if you're weight watching I would recommend using some cheese, otherwise the juice from the tomato mix will suck all of the crunch out of your toasties.

Oh - also - you'll want to use freshly shredded parm, because the powdered stuff equals automatic fail in this application, and the pre-shredded tub stuff will never ever melt. You could also use mozzarella as I have before. I find I'm able to get away with using a lot less parm though.

While pre-heating your oven to 400 or so, spoon your tomato mixture over all your little breads. You'll want the pan to be ready to go in the oven as soon as you're done spooning, otherwise the bread stands to get soggified.

Then you pull it out and behold the glory.

Just look at it.

That stuff was awesome. It made quite a lot, but it was tomatoes on toast, so it wasn't super heavy. Plus, the four of us hadn't eaten since very early afternoon, and were still at least an hour away from dinner. A pizza pan full of toast was definitely not too much.
Nope, "too much" came later.

Make with the Dinner

So yes - making chicken.
I followed part of another recipe and battered my pounded breasts with a little flour dredge and then a dunk through a container of eggs and shredded parm with some Italian seasoning and S&P thrown in.
Then I slapped it down on this here griddle and cooked it until it was lightly browned. It doesn't matter if it's cooked all the way or not. Trust me. 

Seriously, it can be half raw inside.

Oh, don't worry. There's a plan!
'Cause see, it goes here in this pan and then in the oven. It gets good baked while you build the sauce.
I told you it'd be fine. Wiener.  

You put the chicken in the oven for some... amount of time. At some sort of temperature. I don't remember. There's a recipe though! Yeah, look at that. It'll learn ya. Also, if you're worried it's not done, that's what meat thermometers are for. I used one because I was, in fact, a wiener.

Okay! Sauce building time!
Begins with you getting surly and telling your spouse to pick a noodle. Then he takes pictures while you glare. A nice garage hoard makes a lovely backdrop.

We used linguine. You get that boiling in the pot because sauce happens fast and chicken dries out. You could use something that cooks quicker, like angel hair, but linguine is sturdy enough to not get too smooshy if you forget about it.
See my garlic skillet? There's oil or butter in there too. Then you throw in the flour...


and stir stir stir.
Stirring, isn't it?

Once the flour has browned a bit you dump in the juice from that bowl of tomatoes and basil you prepped earlier. I just held a mesh strainer over the skillet and dumped it straight in.
Like so.

Some recipes call for you to measure out a certain amount. I said "screw that!" because measuring is for people who are organized enough to find their measuring cups.
Oh yes, wine also went in there. A half a cup? A couple good sloshes?

Yeah, something like that.

Wine also went in here.

So the tomato stuff bubbles for a while until it's good thick then you add in the cream like you see above. For a while you might try and convince yourself that you're going to cut the fat and use milk, but then you remember that that's just silly.

Then, after you've submitted to your lardly desires,  you throw in some cheese too. 
Because fuck arteries, that's why.

After the sauce gets all good and bubbly (you should taste it before then - see if it needs any salt or pepper - most of the seasoning will be carried in with the tomato stuff though) it's time to plate!
No wait! I'm lying!
(and not for the first time, I assure you)
Okay, so first you take the noodles you'll have already drained by now, and you add in a cup or so of the sauce. The point to this is to get all the noodles covered in some flavor, and it keeps them from clumping together into a giant noodle monster.
Now, once you've done that it's time to plate!

Noodles and a chicken (thoroughly temped, mind) go on a plate:
Signed~Crappy Wedding Photographer

Then it's finally time for tomatoes and basil to come back and party. Hooray
Mmmm. Basil.


Saucing and Cheesing!

And then into the oven.
For... some amount of time. 400 until it's browned and bubbly? Yeah, that sounds good.

While that's happening you can...

  • Drink some more wine and have your handsome kitchen helper set the table.
  • Clarify with everyone that making a salad would be stupid, because it would just be hogging up room the noodles and chicken could take up.
  • Further clarify that making garlic bread after bruschetta is goofy too.


It needed a little something.
Ah. There we go.

The tomatoes could have been cooked just a little more, but I like to lean towards less cooked if I'm not going to do tomatoes right - they just get too grainy and sorta slimy if you over do them.

The birthday girl was pleased.
Let's just get this out of the way:
That's my butt in the background.

Nobody stood in to make a frowny face for Max (they were tucked away at their other grandma's) because this dinner was just that awesome!

And... too much. Way too much food. Of course I ate it all anyway. We all did. We're a family of gluttons.

We saved strawberry shortcake for the next day because there was no fitting it in any time that night. I neglected to get a picture of it then - excuuuuse me. I knew I'd fail in the pic department somewhere this blog. It's what I do. Yay me!

So, yes. Then we played Apples to Apples.

I was drunk. It was hilarious.

At one point my mom got pretty desperate - desperate to leave my house. It's because she hates me.
We started out saying something like "whoever collects five cards first is the winner then we're done" and I kept upping it because I didn't want the party to be over.

My mom started slipping cards into my pile.

That's what happens - ya feed 'em then they are-you-en-en-oh-ef-tee.
That spells runnoft.

I forgive her though. It was her birthday after all!

and I'm a giver.


  1. 1. If you ever get over your wrong-headed notion of sconey shortcake I'll give you a killer recipe for sponge cake.

    2. Apples to Apples is also hilarious to play with kids who don't know what all the words mean. I recall a remark about Republicans being made by a young nephew that had Grandpa making a stern face and half the rest of the family falling on the floor laughing.

  2. This might be my new favorite! And not just because my team is in it! <3

  3. That was awesome, despite you blanking on how to insult old people for a blog entry.

    I have no doubt that it was but a momentary lapse. :)