Dinner for One: Episode 5 – Food Memories

Mom was not a fancy cook

With 4 boys and ol’ Walt at the table 3 times a day she really had no choice.

scan0201 (NOTE: One child to be named at a later date)

I remember her talking about the time she made Baked Alaska (waaaay before the brood). She told of how, as she was putting the meringue covered ice cream in the oven, her Mom drawled “That’s the damndest thing I ever saw anybody do”.
She was enormously proud it worked perfectly, to the amazement of all…her included.

She was a ‘50s cook with a vengeance.
Raised in the depression, she lived through the wartime rationing…back in the days when carbs were under the hood of the car and gluten was some kind of paper glue. She wrangled the budget and her time to feed our little army. We may have been the only house in the neighborhood with a padlock on the refrigerator.
Yes, the pork chops were cooked to death and mashed potatoes were on the menu every…single…night. She was no saucier, but she was a hell of a pâtissier. The cupcakes, pies, cookies and her world famous Wacky Cake…to die for.

I thought, what great food memories from my youth could I recreate?

Biscuits that came in a tube, where the seam splits open like a wardrobe malfunction at a Weight Watchers Zumba class? Spaghetti with butter and those dried cheddar cheese crumbs from a shaker? And one notorious evening when she served chicken from a can. A whole cooked chicken shoved in a pineapple juice-sized can. The only other time I’ve seen this was as a mystery ingredient on Chopped.

OK, this isn’t really working out…So I searched a bit more for food memories…

I recall a crab dip I had at a picnic, brought by a college aged kid who either stole his Mom’s recipe…or she made it. It was my first crab – and I liked it.

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My first real dinner date..at 19 years old…Donna. We went to the Princess Louise Restaurant, a converted luxury cruise ship. She wore tight, white hot pants…I wore a goofy, drooling grin. I’m surprised I remember what I ordered…

Not long after that, the ship rolled over and sank 28 feet to the bottom of San Pedro Harbor…a mini Poseidon Adventure.

nws-southbayyesterdy24   File photo. The SS Princess Louise Restaurant lies on its side after it capsized in drydock in San Pedro Oct. 30, 1989.

About the same time Donna started dating a senior at UCLA with a Camaro.

So, for dinner tonight we are starting with Crocodile Crab salad with Tzatziki tomato. Followed by our entree – Sunken Ship Seafood.

Let’s Rock…

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First we have to make the cucumber dill stuffing/sauce/whatever. Peel, seed and dice about 3 inches of cuke. It’s real easy if you have a dusty Cuisinart left over from the 80’s. You want the cuke super fine.

 

 

 

Into a bowl with DSC_00882 tbl. of Mayo and the same of sour cream. You can adjust this depending on your need for tanginess. Now spice it up with a whole mess of dill (I used about 3 tablespoons) onion powder, white pepper and salt. This made enough to stuff 4-6 tomatoes.
Put in the fridge to allow the flavors to marry (if you live in a state that only allows traditional marriage take out the refrigerator light).

 

 

DSC_0090 The crab salad base is so easy. For crunch, chop up some celery…tiny pieces…like 1/8”. If you have no objectors you can do the same with some onion. Now, dump a can of picked over canned crab into the bowl and add just enough mayo to get it moistened. Don’t let this get too loose as it has to hold together in a form. Pull out the Cajun spice mix you got for the Jambalaya and season to taste.  Banish to the fridge to await plating.

Let’s get after the Newberg sauce that will hold this all together. Start a few onions ( or shallots or the whites of green onions). Pour in 3/4 cup of heavy cream and spike it with some cayenne pepper, bring it to heat and add some dry sherry. Three egg yolks are beaten with 1/4 c. of cream and then they join the party in the pan. As things get thicker, season with salt, white pepper and a whiff of grated nutmeg.
SEASONING WARNING!: Nutmeg will destroy your dish in an instant. It is the radical terrorist of the kitchen. Think about what a “pinch” is, half that…then put half of that in.

I’m a believer in cooking things separately and then throwing them together. Get a bunch of butter going in a sauté pan and plop the scallop pieces in, give ‘em a minute or so, then add the lobster. Now spice up the party with some white wine and lemon juice and it’s the shrimp’s turn.

Here we add the sauce and toss in the crab pieces to warm.

Appetizer time!
Fan out a sliced avocado. Use a circle form or a round egg mold or a tuna can with both ends cut out and drop a disk of crab fun on the plate. Now top it with a stuffed tomato (cherry size or larger) with a few tiny cucumber spears sticking out. Dust with paprika so it looks good in the pictures.

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To plate this entree – first put a sauce of contrasting color in a squeeze bottle and draw a circle. Any kind of easy colorful sauce will do. Ya like green? Get a can of tomatillo sauce. I’ve seen ready made roasted pepper sauce in the market. I cheated and thickened up some Choppino (Yeah, I know, who has choppino in the fridge?)…anyway…

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Now artfully place the empty lobster shell on the plate and fill with the seafood mix. Allow the white sauce to flow out to the second sauce. Garnish with whatever the hell green things you can find, and a lemon wedge.

OK…who wants to ring the dinner bell?

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