A Handfull of Vowels

Every year, my grandmother sent us a package for Christmas.  An old-school, wrapped in brown paper, tied with a string package.

Inside were two things.  One was the very fruitcake that every Christmas fruitcake joke is based on.  She’d baked it, wrapped it in cotton fabric, and continually drenched it in some type of alcohol for months.  It was so full of hooch it made the mailman drunk just delivering it. When Dad unwrapped that bandaged baked good, my mom, two brothers, and I eyed it like it was a coiled rattlesnake or a six-car pile-up.  It frightened and upset us, but held over us a primal fascination, and we couldn’t look away.  If that stuff had been weaponized, and the Russians knew about it, the cold war would have been won by the USA in the mid-sixties.The second item in the box was a large coffee can.  Inside was something that our family literally fought over.  Each time somebody walked into the kitchen, they’d walk out munching, and the rest of us would grumble and quickly find a reason to go in there ourselves and exit munching.

In that Maxwell House can was my grandmother’s scrabble.

hickey

No…Yes

Granny had her own vocabulary.  She called pimples. “hickeys”.  One didn’t brush their teeth, they cleaned them.  Her word for posterior was bum.  A crick is a creek.  And, scrabble was Chex mix.

Her stuff was addictive.  When the can was empty we’d run our fingers around it and lick them—or at least I did.  She used Cheerios and All Bran in addition to Chex cereal, peanuts, and pretzels.  Then she made a seasoned butter that tied everything together in savory, garlicky succulence.I never thought to get her recipe for the butter, so I make my own version.  I leave out the All Bran and use deluxe mixed nuts from the Peanut Roaster in Henderson.  It’s not the same as the scrabble that came in the mail, sealed up in coffee cans, but like hers, it’s pretty hard to keep one’s fingers out of it.

Granny-inspired Scrabblescrabble dry1-10 ounce can fancy mixed nuts

Rice Chex

Corn Chex

Cheerios

Gluten-free pretzels

Butter Sauce:chex butter12 ounces butter (1 ½ sticks)

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 ½ teaspoons mushroom soy (or other very thick flavorful soy)

1 ½ teaspoons Goya adobo seasoning blend-bitter orange flavor

½ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon smoked sweet paprika

Dash of cayenne or hot sauce (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 275.  Place inside oven two large rimmed baking sheets.

Empty nuts into large bowl.  Using the empty nut cup, measure out the next four ingredients, plus an extra ½ of the cup of your favorite ingredient (mine’s rice chex).

Melt butter on medium-low and whisk in rest of sauce ingredients except salt & pepper.  Pour over nut/cereal mixture.  Very gently, fold to coat, then taste for seasoning.  Add salt & pepper as needed.

Pour mixture into pans, half in each.  Carefully stirring every 15 minutes, bake for 45-60 minutes until browned and toasty.

Let cool and store in airtight container or zip-top bags for up to three weeks.  Makes about eight cups.A few variations: add different nuts or cereal.  Make the butter, adding minced sundried tomatoes, let it cool to softened butter stage, then put it into a piece of plastic wrap, roll into neat log and refrigerate.  This flavored butter can be used on meat, pasta, or with some Parmesan cheese grated on top, delicious garlic bread.

The cereal mix is perfect for game day.

So, get off your bum, throw those boring chips into the crick, and make some scrabble.Thanks for your time.

Big Dipper

You know how when you buy a car you then see that kind of car everywhere?It’s funny that you never noticed all those 1975 AMC Gremlins on the streets of the Bull City until you were rocking your very own groovy ride.

It’s been that way this week with dip.

I’d been thinking about doing some snacks for watching the big game.  I wanted to do something really different.

I saw this dish on Chopped on Food Network.  It hails from Greece.

Skordaliaskordalia2 russet potatoes, peeled, cut into ¾ inch cubes

½ cup almonds (I love Marcona almonds, but use what you like)

1 head of roasted garlic, or 6-8 cloves raw garlic

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

¾ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons cold water, + more as needed

Salt & pepper to taste

Rinse suds under cold water to get rid of some of the starch.  Then cook potatoes in heavily salted water until they are very tender—a little softer than you’d want for mashed.  Drain, rinse again, then spread out onto a baking sheet and cook in a 250 degree oven for about 10 minutes to really dry them.

While the potatoes are cooking, put the garlic, almonds, lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons water into a food processor.  Blitz until it becomes a smooth paste.  Season, taste, and season again; remember lemon needs lots of salt.

When the potatoes are cooked and dried, either put them through a ricer, a food mill, or mash them with a potato masher until they are completely smooth.Put potatoes and garlic/almond paste into a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment if available.  Mix on low until it becomes a smooth emulsion.  If necessary (if it wants to separate), add more cold water a tablespoon at a time until fully cohesive.

Makes about 3 cups.     

I’m not normally somebody who likes to put a carb on a carb (pizza or wraps with potatoes are criminally wrong).  But I really think this would be legendary eaten on shards of fried pasta.  And also, pretty darn unique.  Skordalia is also expectantly good on grilled meat.

Fried pasta chipsfried-pasta16 ounces lasagna—not the no cook kind

Vegetable oil

Fine sea salt & pepper

Cook the pasta in heavily salted water until al dente.  When done, drain and gently mix with a little oil, to keep from sticking.

When cool, cut each noodle into 2-inch wide strips (you should get five from each).  Lay out on parchment-lined tray.  

Set up frying station:

Put paper towels on a large rimmed baking sheet.  Set next to the burner you’ll be using for the frying portion of the program.  Place salt nearby.  Put saucepan on medium heat, fill about halfway with oil, and heat to 350 degrees.

Fry:

Pasta really wants to stick when frying.  To minimize, do no more than three pieces at a time. Gently place pasta into hot oil, one at a time, slowly and carefully. They’ll drop to bottom. Leave them alone until they pop up.  At this point they will have a little protective skin to help keep them from sticking.  If, after all this, they try to stick, gently separate them.Fry until lightly golden, and most of the bubbling has stopped.  Remove to lined baking sheet, and salt. 

They take a while, and honestly, are pretty messy.  But they are shockingly delicious and addictive.  The Kid would mug a little old lady for fried pasta.

I have one more unexpected dip and its vehicle.

Peel two pounds of regular carrots and cut ½-inch slices diagonally so they resemble chips.carrots-and-dipPut 2 cups of peanut butter into a bowl, and whisk in a big pinch of Chinese five-spice powder and cayenne pepper to taste.  If needed, whisk in a little cold water until you have dip consistency.  Season with salt and pepper, taste, and season again, if necessary.

Refrigerate dip and keep carrots cool until service.

So, here are a couple ideas for game day snacking.  They work for all manner of contests.  It could be gin rummy, judging fashion on the red carpet, or even if your game is one of thrones.

Any type of game…

Thanks for your time.