Oreos match with everything …
My favorites …
I’m not gonna lie. The expectations were big.
I mean having tasted the best of the best while growing up I knew it was going to be a big challenge. I was going up against years and years of Dona Irma’s and Dona Maria’s expertise where measurements and timers weren’t needed. It was all done through smell and taste. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be an epic kitchen fail or a Guat success.
I didn’t have the magic of the senses, not with this dish and I was worried.
But let me tell you … I’m so glad I took on this challenge. My taste buds are still high-fiving me.
It’s my all-time favorite comfort food and I’ve never attempted to make it because the deliciousness contained in that ginormous soup pot seemed to be too big. With the pork shoulder and baby back ribs creating a rich broth, followed by the spicy kick of the Chile Guajillo and Chile Ancho peppers I was making Guat culinary history.
It looked right. It smelled right and as I took the first sip it definitely felt right. I closed my eyes and let the broth and hominy sit in my mouth. I just wanted to taste it, and it took me back to La Vecindad – the old neighborhood – where potlucks and block parties where the norm and where Dona Irma and Dona Maria would create huge pots of this tasty stew.
Now it might not have been of Dona Irma and Dona Maria caliber, but it sure was in the same arena. They would have been proud of me.
The fact that the one spoonful took me back, definitely means it was a success.
And it was right there and then that I realized I had done something else, something other than creating one of my childhood favorite dishes. It occurred to me that I had just checked something off my Bucket List.
That was a win-win for me. I rode that cloud nine for a couple of days. Something I thought was nearly impossible proved to be within my reach and what was even better was that the whole family was there to enjoy it as well.
If there was any doubt to the tastiness of my stew, it was soon dismissed. The pozole was gone in three days. But I still have a smile.
Milk and Pepsi.
It was Laverne’s favorite drink.
I had never heard of such a thing.
It was strange, who would have thought to mix the two together. Not me, that’s for sure. But Laverne was quirky. I enjoyed watching her adventures every week on Laverne & Shirley, and cracking up. So I thought maybe I’d try it.
Laverne has a special palette.
I hadn’t thought about that combination in such a long time until I heard someone say that they were going to eat a banana sandwich.
A mayonnaise and banana sandwich!
I needed an Alka-Seltzer just hearing that. I didn’t even want to attempt that, the sound of it just grossed me out. I was unaware that people were out there creating such catastrophes with mayonnaise. First they mix it into this whole chocolate cake thing and now bananas. I’m at a loss for words.
As I scanned the Internet to see if this banana mayonnaise concoction existed I came across a few others that made me want to reach for the Pepto-Bismol.
1. Ketchup and tuna salad.
2. Mashed potatoes and Oreo Cookies.
3. Bananas and onion soup.
4. Macaroni and Cheese and ketchup.
5. Lamb and anchovies.
6. Fruit cake and cheese.
7. Squid and banana salad.
8. Pickles and frosting.
9. Spaghetti topped with M&Ms.
10. Cottage cheese and ketchup.
**Bonus … Beer and corn flakes.
After hearing all of these stomach churning combos, Milk and Pepsi didn’t sound that bad.
What about you?
Any weird food pairings that make you cringe?
I first heard of it from Raymond.
It was his favorite.
It sounded good.
It sounded tasty.
And I told myself every week that I would try it, but for some reason it didn’t pan out.
Not until years later when the Sopranos stepped in.
Steak and pizza.
I have no idea why I waited so long. I had been depriving myself for years. But the wait was over. Nor more suffering. I came across the recipe while flipping through the book and I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t made it before. How could this have happened?
I had no idea what the ingredients were or how complex the dish would be, but I love Raymond and the fact that this was Ray’s favorite meant that I definitely had to try it.
I tuned in every week to see the adventures of The Barone Family. I knew the craziness so well I felt like a cousin, so how could this hearty and savory dish never cross my path, not even in a restaurant? Raymond loved it and after making it I completely understand why.
I get it. I really do.
The best of both worlds. It’s one of those meals that’s meant to share with the family, but after tasting it you kind of want to keep it to yourself. It brings out the selfish in you, it’s that good. So good that I forgot to take a picture of it, before it was devoured.
But the best way to describe it would be a steak lover’s dream. It’s the kind of comfort food that can change any mood. You got tender sirloin covered with a chunky semi-spicy tomato sauce made from plum tomatoes and infused with pizza flavors. All of this on top of a bed of linguine with sprinkles of Romano cheese. The sauce sits atop just waiting for you to sop every last drop.
Dude, I strongly encourage you to have the best of both worlds. It’s a must.
It’s a feeling when you walk into a room after a long day.
It’s a place where you can exhale.
Can be anywhere.
You know it when you see it.
You know it because you feel it.
Good vibrations … you’re happy when you can find them away from home.
I’ve always been in love with it. Some people take it too far and it becomes an uncontrollable obsession and I get that, but for me it’s always been love.
I love food especially the good kind. And it so happens that my relationship with it went up a notch thanks to The Sopranos.
I dove into the cookbook this weekend in an effort to get out of an emotional funk. The beach worked its magic as usual but once I got home there was something still lingering there, and seeing how dinner was just around the corner I thought I’d comfort my soul. My taste buds were thanking me too.
A savory and hearty mix of tomato, ditalini, cannellini beans and Pecorino Romano cheese was making me appreciate all my senses. Especially the kind that can taste and smell flavorful. And the thing is it was a simple recipe, just a couple of ingredients but the combination was amazingly delicious. So much so that the dish has made my list. My comfort food list. Do you have one?
For someone who grew up in a dysfunctional family, for someone who’s a writer, for someone who’s a mother of two, for someone who’s ever been married, for someone who’s in the George Costanza phase of life, for someone who’s ever had a bad day …
Pasta e Fagioli.
That’s got to be on your comfort food list.
Have you had it?
If not, I strongly encourage you to either get it or make it. The Sopranos Family Cookbook happened to have a great recipe. I love the library and appreciate all the culinary literature they have on hand. I wasn’t much for cookbooks prior to me 12 x 12 Chocolate Challenge. I only read fiction or nonfiction. But I realize I’m a fan. The thing with cookbooks is that they too open you up to new discoveries, Comfort Food Lists discoveries, which can eventually lead to Bucket List Adventures. And I’m all for that.
Most of the time it includes traveling to a different country, exploring a new culture, or doing something outrageously adventurous like throwing yourself off a plane or bridge.
I’ve got those on my list.
But for some reason my list also includes food. Delicious savory food, baking a cake from scratch, baking my kid’s birthday cakes.
Check, and check.
In fact a couple of months ago I baked 12 cakes from scratch, chocolate cakes.
But in addition to baking cakes from scratch I also wanted to make my own sauce … or as some Italians refer to it … “Gravy”. I’ve watched Goodfellas, The Sopranos, The Godfather … they all have scenes with sauce. Either the dudes making it or the someone’s mother. Stirring the sauce and having Sunday dinner. I mean we have Sunday dinner but it’s usually rice, beans, and carne asada. And there’s really nothing wrong with that, nothing at all.
But “Gravy” has always been on my list, along with skydiving, visiting Italy, and meeting Robert DeNiro.
It’s up there.
And thanks to the good old public library I was able to finally check out the Sopranos Cookbook I mentioned a couple of weeks ago and whip up a batch of Sunday Gravy … and it only took about four hours.
Duuuuuude. Can I tell you how amazingly impressed I was with myself? I dipped the spoon in the savory sauce and brought it up for a taste test. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. It was the kind of awesome that put you in a Zen state of mind. I know I’m Guatemalan through and through, but with that sauce I’m surprised I don’t have some part of me that’s Italian.
I was so happy it had turned out exactly the way I thought it would, because sometimes things don’t work out that way, just like life. You get all jazzed up about a recipe and then it doesn’t end up looking like the picture, or taste the way you thought it would on the first try. Just like life, you get all jazzed up about the future and then you realize you’re barely staying afloat with a life preserver and feel like you’re staring in Shark Week’s I Survived JAWS 2.
I learned … you need time and practice to perfect it. Both cooking and life.
So I was a little worried that I might need to make a couple of batches before I had that Holy-Crap-feeling.
But I’m happy to report that I was lucky enough my first time.
In fact I hope luck strikes more than once, because this entire cookbook is filled of Bucket List recipes, so it might take me a while to get through it.
But I got this.
I got this.
And my kids are definitely grateful for this Bucket List Adventure.
This one made my knees buckle.
This was it.
This was the big mamma jamma, definitely worthy of being on The List. Definitely worthy of being on anyone’s list. It was an amazing cake. A take-off-your-shoes-and- dance-Footloose-like-Kevin-Bacon kind of cake.
Yeah … it was that good.
Moist. Crumbly. Decadent. Chocolatey. Sweet. Coconutty. It got to all my senses. Layers of fluffy light chocolate cake embracing a rich coconut-pecan filling … I mean I could even hear the chocolate telling me it loved me for using it in such a spectacular way.
I mean I had to do something amazing. Something foot-stomping-woo-hoo worthy. Not only was it cake 12 of the 12 x 12 Chocolate Challenge, but my L.A. Kings were one game away from The Stanley Cup Finals … sadly they’re still one more game away. But that wasn’t the only celebration I was anticipating … it was the last day of kindergarten and I needed something to commemorate the occasion. It was a Sandbox-List-Hallmark kind of moment for my son and I needed a cake worthy of all of that awesomeness happening in the Guat Household.
I found it.
German Chocolate Cake.
But let me tell you … it was no Betty Crocker dump and pour kind of cake. I haven’t seen something so complicated since my first recipe the Double Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Buttercream. But despite all the measuring, mixing, stirring, chopping, and simmering in the kitchen I persevered. The chocoholic in me insisted and this time I had no chocolate failures. I was proud that my chocolate journey had ended with such an epic finale. No letdowns and no meltdowns, just success in all that tastiness. This one possessed the supernatural power to change your state in a Tony-Robbins instant.
I sat there in the quiet of the night tripping out on baking skills I did not know I even had and appreciating the patience it took to make 12 cakes from scratch. I survived the craziness of measuring cups, the disaster of powered chocolate and melted chocolate in the nooks and crannies of the tiles on the floor, and the frosting on the walls, mixers, and counter tops. I had made it. I was thankful for The Swiffer and OxyClean … they truly helped me survive the chocolate-a-thon. And at the end of all of this I didn’t burn the place down … the kitchen was still standing and I was perhaps two-to-five-to 1000 pounds heavier. 🙂
But it was all good because the evening ended with an awesome cake on the counter and my son giving me a high-five.
It was colossus and had something called mint chocolate ganache in it. Totally seemed appropriate for a Friday night. Well totally just seemed appropriate in general. Chocolate seems to go with just about everything … especially if it’s three layers.
Granted that this ganache thing got messed up on my first attempt, even though I followed the directions, there it was all mushy and lumpy, looking nothing like the picture. It was sad really, a chocoholic failing at chocolate. I almost turned in my chocolate lover’s membership card.
After all these years of chocolate eating, I should know the chemistry behind the cacao bean and the hormonal changes it suffers when put under duress. I should know about the emulsification process and the ability to fix soggy, lumpy, or watery frosting disaster. I should know.
But I didn’t.
Eventually I figured out how to make it nice and smooth again. And when I say that I figured it out, I mean that I looked up baking failures on the Internet and someone with baking genius knowledge provided the answer. You know … like someone with mad baking skills that got tired of answering failure questions and just posted the answers on a page so that baking failures like myself could feel like a success again in two hours.
I almost killed the cake, but was able to turn it around, which is probably why it took me like half a day to bake this one. Usually when failure hits my baking experiments, I just have to throw it out and give up, or start over if I have enough butter. Luckily I found a secret ingredient and was able to make the miracle of smooth chocolate filling happen. I was also able to bookmark a web page that helped rehabilitate frosting failures like myself.
And I’m so glad I did, because in truth I wanted it to be a knee-buckling awesome type of cake. Not just because it was a mint chocolate chip lover’s dream, but because it was my sister’s birthday this week and I wanted to do something spectacular in her honor. I thought three layers … yeah that seems pretty honorable. Granted she lives like seven states away and wouldn’t be able to taste it, but I could still wish her a happy birthday and let her know I’m celebrating her in spirit and in a big way. With a huge slice.
So for the 11th cake, I discovered The Grasshopper. Something that once again required a paddle attachment, a baking tool that I do not have so I tend to improvise, a process that tends to help sculpt and tone my forearms.
It’s a chocolate workout.
The Grasshopper also required Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies, something that was invading every block within a five-mile radius a few months ago. But something I could not find today. So once again I improvised. I used the famous Milano Mint Cookie. Something that my sister really enjoyed snacking on when we were younger.
But regardless of the number of substitutions, frosting failures, and strenuous amounts of manual labor, I eventually finished putting together this light and tasty three-layer chocolate goody. And even though it took me half a day, it was definitely worth it.
Recipe courtesy of Pass The Sushi.