Tuesday, November 27, 2007

7.0 Bet on a Bottle of Smoke

Starring Erin, Mike, Jessica & Trent
Filmed on Location in Beautiful Downtown Sellwood
Soundtrack: The Royal Scam by Steely Dan

“While the music played, you worked by candlelight…”

6:01 am. My pillow was “filled by Louisville Bedding Co.” Now I know. Great. What byte of imperative knowledge did I replace with that revelation?

Jiminy! It’s Wednesday! The next article’s due tomorrow! Nice try, brain! Better get up and check the Internets to see what’s abuzz about “In the Sellwood Kitchen.”

Word on the web is that we’re “joyfully entertaining” and a “super good time.” Let’s see if we can sustain this zenith of informative hilarity. On to this month’s installment of ITSK!

Hi. Erin speaking. I know, right?! I’m writing! Right. Don’t worry – Mike will return. I’m just checking in. I’m writing, but that doesn’t mean Mike is cooking. He’s just asked me to give a report from the kitchen. He doesn’t regularly venture into that part of the house. It’s not that he isn’t helpful; it’s just that we have a 3 square foot kitchen and I prefer him to stay out! Moving on. Luckily, this month we received an unexpected invitation to our friends Jess and Trent’s house for dinner. I can’t tell you how relieved I was not to have to come up with a recipe. Sometimes I get this thing I call "chef’s block." Not like a knife block, it’s more like writer’s block, but with food.

So anyways, I told Trent I was happy to be a sous chef for a turn. He understood completely, and I started slicing cremini mushrooms. As soon as they hit the pan, Jessica began popping in and out of the kitchen more than usual. All the while, she kept her eyes on the sizzling fungi. She seemed concerned about something. Sweating with a desperate enthusiasm over the stove, I broke her glazed and penetrating stare. “Don’t worry,” I assured her, “there’s plenty for everyone. Now go back to your 15th century pedantic banter in the living room!”

Mike here. I’m back from… well, it’s really none of your business where I was. Ok, where did Erin leave off? “Sizzling fungi”, “penetrating stare”, “15th century…” Ah yes! Well, actually it was an American History textbook from 1939 that Jess owned. You see, this is usually how our friend dinners work. Erin and Trent cook. Jess and I babble pseudo-intellectually about the political climate and quantum mechanics. Or else, we’re watching "Cash Cab" while thumbing through the viciously honest chapters of Jenny McCarthy’s baby book. Yep, Prego and I loaf in the lounge while the chefs sweat like quilted pigs in hell’s kitchen. But Jess has an excuse, being an expectant mother. Me, I’m just lazy. Hey, that’s an excuse! If I weren’t so exhausted debating about which is the superior Steely Dan album, I’d rise from the couch to give you an update from the kitchen. Hey, Erin? How goes it?

Oh, you know, it goes... Well, we made “the” sauce (Trent’s pièce de résistance), sautéed the mushrooms, grilled the chicken, and cooked the pasta. We drank wine. I cut up some great crusty bread. We drank wine. Wait, did I say that already? Well, we did, and it was pretty tasty. Trent and I spent part of our cooking session daydreaming about running our own restaurant. If people are rude in our restaurant, we would be able to make them leave. I always wished I could do that when I was serving… It was a good dream. However, we soon realized we have no money to start such a business, and no business experience. Well, it’s good to have dreams anyhow. Overall it was a pretty good dinner-making experience. I think Trent and I are getting pretty good at cooking together. We’d better be – we’re cooking together for 16 people in the smallest kitchen EVER for Thanksgiving. If our friendship survives that, we’ll be unstoppable. Enough about that. You’ll read about it in the next article. Now, on to the food! I’ll let Mike take over; his enthusiasm for food makes for some highly-entertaining writing. No pressure, Mike!

Don’t worry – I’m a professional writer (let me give a “shout out” to my long-suffering brothers and sisters in the Guild). Well, before I knew it, dinner was served. I don’t know what those two in the kitchen were complaining about – it seemed to take no time at all. Heck, I got through seven chapters of that baby book!

How best to describe the meal? Ye Gods! What a flavor! Smoky, but not “stink bomb” smoky. Rather, it possessed a delicate elemental flavor, as if the essence of smoke had been captured in a bottle and… wait, I’m told the sauce derives its epithelial hue from something called “Liquid Smoke.” Go know, right? The sauce languishes over the superlatively-cooked penne, the chicken enmeshed in the furrowed quills! And of course, there is bread. (Note to ITSK-files: there is always bread.)

Jessica, charged with a burgeoning anticipation, enters the kitchen and is so overcome by the swirling scents of steam she clamps onto the table’s edge with a vise-like grip. Only her locked elbows fight the gravitational pull of this irresistible dish. She’s like James Brown after the encore, and she hasn’t even tucked in her napkin!

Saliva pools! Tongues beckon! Forsooth – even my isthmus of the fauces yelps with curious delight! What power hath this entrée over us? Is it succulence or succubus!

Why, it’s friend dinner, done to perfection, once again!


The Sauce
Equal parts flour and butter to form a roux
2 cups whole milk
1.5 teaspoons liquid smoke
1.5 teaspoons Frangelico or hazelnut syrup
Salt to taste

The Rest
Cremini mushrooms, sautéed to perfection
2 Chicken breasts, grilled and sliced
Penne pasta

Serve sauce, mushrooms and chicken over pasta. Enjoy with crusty bread, good wine, and friends!

The “In the Sellwood Kitchen” cast and crew can be contacted at: sellwoodkitchen@gmail.com