Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sellwod Test Kitchen 2.0: Spatchcock of the Block

"I'm going to spatchcock a chicken," announces Erin.

"Should I leave the room?" I respond.

Spatchcock. Great word. Never heard it before. Certainly not in mixed company. An effortless internet search delivers endless results. I haven't been this excited about a word since I learned how to pronounce "jicama".

So what is it? I'll let Erin field this one.

Turns out, it's not really that weird. I've seen it done before, I just didn't know what it was called. All you have to do, is hack out the spine of the bird with kitchen shears. Easy peasy. Ahem, the first time I ever watched my mom prepare thanksgiving, I was asked to do something that involved handling the raw bird. When I complained and made a grossed out sound, my mom's friend said "Oh, woman up!". So, once I accepted what "spatchcocking" meant, I womaned up, and hacked away.

Just turn the small chicken (3-4 lbs) breast side down, and cut along both sides of the spine with shears, removing it. If you want, save it with the other gross parts and make broth. Or do as I did, and tell your significant other to take it to the trash immediately. Then, flip the bird over and lay it out like an open book, breast side up. I seasoned mine with olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh rosemary and lemon thyme from the Sellwood Kitchen herb garden. Roast at 500 degrees for 30 minutes, or until the thickest part of the thigh registers 165. We put carrots and onions in the roasting pan with ours. You could do potatoes, or anything else that tickles your fancy.

This bird turned out to be super crispy on the outside, while juicy and flavorful on the inside. We served the chicken and veggies on a bed of quinoa, another first in the Sellwood Kitchen. Definitely a success!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Crepe Nuts

We had The Niece over the day before Easter. We needed to feed her something she could recognize. Erin made crepes, filled with bananas or strawberries. Or both.

Most importantly, they were topped with powdered sugar. Maybe you want a little bit sugar, like me, or maybe you'd prefer to load it on, stamp it down with your spoon, and load some more on. Diner's choice!

Anyway, she wasn't sure what a crepe was, so we told her it was like a thin pancake, rolled up. Good enough. But the crepes were GREAT enough!

"Great crepes, Erin!"

"What happened?"

"No, nothin'. I'm just sayin' great crepes."

Sunday, April 11, 2010

34.0 The "In" Crowd

Starring Erin & Mike and The Others
Filmed on Location in Beautiful Downtown Sellwood
I’m the Man
by Joe Jackson

“You gotta hear me on your radio.”

Remember when you’d get sent to bed without supper because you were being a jerk or something? Kids, right? Well, guess what? ITSK is sending you rugrats to bed WITH supper!

You, Jessica, Felicia, Zac, Marissa, Leigh and 200 others like this.

There was quite a crowd in the Kitchen this month. I guess everyone COULD stand the heat. And by heat I mean “The Heat” – that often-charming but always overwhelming personality of ITSK. I suppose this is why Erin and I were asked to be featured in the popular local podcast “In Bed: With Matt & Phil”, starring local celebrity podcasters Matt & Phil. (I don’t need to explain what a podcast is, do I?) This event (hereafter known as Episodes 13 & 14 of “In Bed: With Matt & Phil”, and ITSK 34.0) caused a surge in popularity for the Sellwood Kitchen. Just check the numbers on our Facebook Fan Page (I don’t need to explain what Facebook is, do I?). In the days leading up to our significant interview (ITSK’s first jump into a new medium), our fans grew from 170 to over 200! What does that mean? Hardly anything in the non-social networking world, but for computer nerds and the barely literate worldwide, well, it’s kind of a big deal.

But this column is about food, isn’t it? (Is it?) We did prepare food, I want you to know. Sure, we’re terribly charming, but no one’s interested in us when there’s nothing to eat.

“Yes, Erin knows all about wizards and Tom Petty, and Mike delivers snarky retorts nobody understands, but I’m hungry here. Let’s get some Cajun tots at the Public House.”

Wait! We (Erin) prepared… Tiny Tostadas! Enough for the local celebrity podcasters and their audience! You should have SEEN that crew gobble up those appetizers! Well, you know how celebrities and audiences are – they LOVE free stuff!

And of course, we were more than happy to provide it. More than. They were there to interview us after all! And how did that go? Listen for yourself at In Bed: With Matt & Phil (look for episodes 13 & 14). Oh yeah, don’t listen to it at work and DEFINITELY don’t listen to it around children. Or senior citizens. Or… well, just listen to it alone.

In our personal fantasy worlds, In the Sellwood Kitchen is a pretty big deal. And our broadcast interview justified our minor delusions. After all, the May edition will mark ITSK’s 3rd anniversary in The Bee, the publication I consider the flagship paper of the Pamplin Media Group. Of course, the best neighborhoods in Portland deserve a newspaper of this ranking. (Not to slag the rest of Portland and its suburbs, but between you and me and the other 12 of you who read this column each month, where else would you go for a great cup of coffee and a delightful day of antiquing?)

Why not become a fan of the Sellwood Neighborhood on Facebook as well? Shouldn’t we embrace the internet? It’s the microwave of social interaction!

Three cheers for podcasts, blogs, tweets, updates, IM, the youtubes and whatever’s next in our electronic evolution!

But most of all, remember to eat! And eat well! And if all this new technology is too much for you, do things the old fashioned way – open up your copy of The Bee, clip out an In the Sellwood Kitchen article, and stick it to your fridge. Just like in the old days – the mid-1990s.

Erin’s Intro: When we found out we’d be welcoming local celebrities Matt and Phil into our house for the big podcast interview, I decided I wanted to feed them one of the most famous ITSK recipes. I picked the “Totally Worth it Tacos” from our one year anniversary episode in May 2008. Shredded Pork tacos that are literally world famous. Our friends who live in Japan make them regularly, hence the fame. However, our number one fan Jenny might argue that the Chicken Tortilla Soup is more famous, since she makes it monthly, even in the summer. Maybe we should do a poll… Anyway, to go along with the pork tacos, I came up with some little appetizers. My secret is this: if you make a miniature version of anything, it will be a hit. It will also be cute. So, I made tiny tostadas and tiny tostada cups. You can top them with pretty much any ingredients you want; even the shredded pork would be fun. Here is what we did:
Tiny Tostadas and Tostada cups:

Flour tortillas
¼ Cup Vegetable Oil
1 teaspoon Taco seasoning
1 can refried beans
1 teaspoon Cayenne red pepper (omit this if you don’t like it spicy)
Toppings – shredded Mexican cheddar cheese, diced tomatoes, sour cream.

Use a 2.5” round cookie cutter to cut out 20-30 rounds from the flour tortillas. Spread out in a single layer on a baking sheet. To make the cups, first heat the rounds in the microwave for about 20 seconds to make them more playable. When hot, using your fingers, press the rounds down into the mini muffin cups. (They keep their shape much better if you heat them up first.) In a small bowl, mix about ¼ cup of vegetable oil with a teaspoon of taco seasoning. Use a brush to coat each side of the flat tostadas with the seasoned oil lightly. Coat the cups as well. If the oil pools in the bottom of the cup, use a paper towel to soak up the excess.

Bake the tostadas at 350 until golden brown and crispy, about 10-15 minutes. Let cool.
In a small saucepan, heat the refried beans and cayenne pepper. Top each tostada/cup with refried beans, cheese, and your desired toppings. Use a sandwich bag to pipe sour cream neatly on top. Serve immediately and enjoy!

The “In the Sellwood Kitchen” cast and crew can be contacted at:

Saturday, April 3, 2010

In the Sellwood Living Room 1.0

Just one step from the kitchen is the living room. That's where our library is. Read all about it my latest article "Home is Where the Hardcover Is" (just published in Community Newspapers' 2010 "Spring Home & Garden" tab). Do not rush to the end in hopes of a delicious recipe. You will be disappointed even further.

“To add a library to a house is to give that house a soul.” – Cicero

The first thing I look for when I enter someone’s home is a book shelf (the second is a musical instrument). If I don’t find one within the first five minutes of my visit, I leave (this becomes a problem when I have booked a weekend at a bed and breakfast).

Should I find a book shelf, I peruse the titles and begin a process I call “the judging.” “The Judging” involves either my exhaling a series of ever more disappointed groans or the approving nod, or even the impressed squint and pucker of the eyes and lips.

But one book shelf, regardless of its volumes, trumps no book shelf at all, regardless of the hosts’ hospitality.

Imagine! No books! More than a passive shame, I regard such neglect as impudent!

I know – you don’t read, you’re read to and, as such, own your books on tape (tape? I’m dating myself…), or CD, or most likely in an audio file format you’ve downloaded to your iPod, iPad, or maybe even your old 2XL. I’ll pardon you this literary indiscretion. You are still a lover of knowledge. But, boy, are you missing out on the singularly simple pleasure of reading!

“No furniture so charming as books.” – Sydney Smith

Do I have a home library? Haven’t you heard of the O’Shaughnessy Public Library? Probably not – the “Public” part is a ruse. It’s our private library. Well, it’s a lending library for our “private public”, I guess, they being friends and family. I shouldn’t call it the O’Shaughnessy Public Library. Merely, the Greater O’Shaughnessy Public Library, it being a branch of OPL (my brothers curate their own).

My wife Erin and I constructed our library out of necessity – I collect books. I’m not a “true” book collector, no antiquarian, just a run-of-the-mill bibliophile. But I buy a lot of books. And I like to line them up side by side, spine out, displaying title, author and publisher. I used to run them on the floor, along the kitchen wall, until my wife suggested a “bookshelf” or “bookshelves.” What a novel idea!

Turns out we have five bookshelves worth of books. And so we appointed ourselves librarians. The cataloging began. Dewey Decimal? I am familiar with it, but I opted for a slightly broader classification system: a general non-fiction shelf for non-fiction books that do not fit the other non-fiction categories; Metaphysics; Film & Television; Children’s; Music; Journalism; Comics; Humor; Travel; General Fiction; Acton & Adventure; Poetry; Plays; Lit. Crit.; Literature; Ireland.

Of course, there’s spill-over. Call it the “Screwy” Decimal System! (Please re-shelve this joke in “Humor”.)

“So Mike,” you ask, composing yourself, your sleeve damp with tears of laughter, “how do you remember where the books go on the shelf?”

Labels, labels, labels in our library, library, library! Erin designed the category labels that we affixed with cellophane tape to the facing lips of certain shelves. I typed the appropriate subdivisions on white paper (with mine Royal typewriter – click…click…click). Erin cut them out into small rectangles and glued them on to slightly larger rectangles of forest green construction paper. Voila! as the French say (see Breton, Andre – Literature ).

The Literature section, I have organized alphabetically by author. The rest, well, size seems to dictate placement. It’s up to you! What am I, the library police?

"My library was dukedom large enough." – William Shakespeare

Even if you don’t like to read, you should consider the rest of society and our access to knowledge. Start a library and consider it furniture. Make its contents secondary. In fact, have somebody a little more literate than you fill up the shelves. You don’t want to sit down to brunch one late Sunday morning only to hear a light rapping on your front door. Upon investigation, you encounter the Duke and Duchess of So-and-so wiping their shoes on your doormat. “Our royal coach appears to have acquired a flat tyre,” mewls the Duke. “May we wait inside your residence?”

You pause and consider the lack of cultural artifacts in your fancy, barren, modern home. Full of highfalutin amenities, but nary a slim volume of Wordsworth in sight! Imagine the shame as your glistening fingertips, still buttery from brunch, nervously offer an issue of Sports Illustrated to the visiting royals as they sink into your leather sectional. And just your luck – the swimsuit edition!

You blew it, Charlie! Not bloody likely you’ll be arm in arm with the Queen Mother at Monte Carlo this summer.

Learn to love books and you’ll love to learn from books. There they are! Within reach in your own home library!