The Buttery Blog

Everything's better with butter.

Red Beans, Old and New Friends December 23, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — butteryblog @ 11:30 pm

Warning- no photos is this post. The food went too quickly to be photographed. Someday, I’ll add one.
 
I spent this past Saturday with old and new friends.
 
My friend M from college was in the LA area and we had lunch at Jin Patisserie. By the by, I recommend the Banana Mascarpone Cake. Highly. I hear they have amazing macarons, though I haven’t had occasion to try them. M and I caught up with each others’ lives and reflected on the fact that it has been 12 years (!) since we met. Hold on, I’m crying.
 
Okay, all better.
 
M was one of the first people I met at college. He is and was a total sweetheart. I remember that we bonded over speaking French and Boone’s Farm at the department’s Getting to Know You Party. We graduated from a tiny theatre department. Several of us lived in a house together (RIP Pflug and Harmon). Aside from the normal drama of a tiny theatre department, our crew had a rough go of it. Lots of changes and painful losses. We fought and yelled and snarked at each other, but there was a fair amount of support and love, when we weren’t in the middle of auditions. We also did a lot of holding back of hair after particularly rough nights. That will bond you for life. I have tremendous love for each of them. Even if we weren’t besties in school, every time I see them, I feel like I’m seeing my family. We’ve all grown up and realized that that part in the mainstage show really has no bearing on our actual lives so the snark and tension is gone and there’s just this shared experience of growing up together. And I’m so thrilled that so many are making amazing careers and lives for themselves, in and out of the theatre.
 
I had to leave M after a lovely chat and walk on Venice Beach (I only take my friends to the nicest places!) because we were having new friends over for dinner. I met ActorFriend a few months ago when we were randomly paired as scene partners for an acting class. In our first rehearsal, we bonded over being East Coast theatre actors in the strange land of LA. After Mr. B and I enjoyed a lovely dinner at the home of ActorFriend and his supercool wife, I invited them to dinner at our place. They brought their adorable, hilarious daughter, who at one point in the meal leaned over to her dad to say, “Daddy, can you talk to the nice nice nice girl (me) so I can talk to Mr. Butterpants?” We’re still not sure who she wanted Mrs. ActorFriend to talk to, but I’m not sure she cared as long as it wasn’t Mr. Butterpants. She is way more into him than me. It’s all good. I’m always afraid to talk to children- curse words fly out of my mouth really easily and then I’ve ruined a childhood.
 
I love cooking and I love having people over and feeding them until they pop. That said, I always have a bit of a complex about cooking for new people. Especially when the new people are good cooks. We’d already really enjoyed ActorFriend’s chili and Mrs. ActorFriend brought over what turned out be excellent chocolate bread pudding. And by the way, I ran out of turnip greens. Not embarrassing. Not at all. Ugh.
 
So I went with something I knew was easy, not too over the top and previously successful. Red Beans and Rice.
 
We called my husband’s dad to get some tips, but as with any good Cajun cook, he doesn’t have a recipe. So he gave me some tips and I ended up just flying by the seat of my pants.
 
I think it was successful. The exceptionally critical Mr. Butterpants even ate the leftovers. It’s a good sign, trust me.
 
Red Beans and Rice
I used this recipe from FatFree Vegan Kitchen as inspiration. The first time I made it, I stuck pretty close to this, but this time I was serving to meat eaters so I used the sausage. And I’ve fallen off the vegetarian wagon as of late. Back on now, though!
 
1 lb. red beans (I used Camellia brand. Anything else is a poor substitute.)
4 tbs. salted butter
1 lg. onion, diced
5 celery ribs, diced
1 lg. bell pepper, diced
3 cloves of garlic
Slap Ya Mama Cajun Spices (this can be replaced with some cayenne, if you can’t find this or something like it)
3 bay leaves
2 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. oregano
1 lb. andouille sausage (I get Trader Joe’s Chicken Andouille Sausage)
Salt and pepper to taste
 
Put your beans in a large dutch oven or pot. Cover them with water- about 2-3 inches above the beans. Soak overnight.
 
Again, cover the beans with water about 2-3 inches above beans. Simmer over medium heat.
 
In a saute pan, melt your butter over medium heat. Saute your onions, celery, bell pepper and garlic until soft. Add your spices (start off slow with the Slap Ya Mama/cayenne, you can always add more later). Stir for a couple minutes, then add to your beans.
 
While that’s all getting loved up together, slice your sausage and brown it in a skillet. Once it’s browned, toss it into your red beans mixture and cook over medium-low heat. This has taken me anywhere from 3-6 hours depending on the beans. You want the beans to fall apart and it’ll look a bit like a mash. You don’t want it to become a paste though, so if it starts to look like that add a bit of water. Then add your salt, pepper and any additional spice you might want. I like to go light on the spice because you never know what people can tolerate. Mr. Butterpants can eat fire (it’s in the Cajun genetic code), but I knew that we were serving a kid. Know your audience is all I’m saying.
 
I used Uncle Ben’s Instant Rice because I’m lazy like that. I managed not to screw it up, though it was touch and go for a moment.
 
Serve to a fun crew with something green, crusty bread, and lots of wine.
 
Happy, merry, and all that goodness.
Thank you for being a friend,
Ms. Butterpants

 

Potatoes and Onions December 15, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — butteryblog @ 5:30 pm

Italy is my second favorite place on Earth. New York wins first prize, in case you were wondering.

My parents lived there before I was even a zygote.   We all lived there for a bit while I was a toddler.  My father spent quite a while there on a Fulbright scholarship.  Imagine my father as a really really smart Bluto (Animal House) to get the full picture.

There is a tape of me at the age of two having a conversation with my grandfather. I have a spectacularly heavy Southern accent and then suddenly I start speaking in perfect Italian. It was impressive for a three year old. Despite living there for a time and my perfect Italian, I remember almost nothing. I have only a memory of a carousel and of my Mickey Mouse sheets. Otherwise, nothing.

I spent my entire life hearing about how amazing Italy was. How gorgeous it is. How incredible the food is. One of my friends in high school went back to visit her family every summer and I burned with jealousy. Probably because she got to go to Gaeta. From her, I pretty much heard how hot the guys were. We were 16. It’s really all that mattered at the time.

I finally got to go back after I was married to Mr. Butterpants. We went on a belated honeymoon and spent time in Rome, Florence, and Positano. Heaven. Heaven.

I have a postcard my Dad sent me from Italy when I was a kid. It’s a picture of a cafe in the piazza in front of Pantheon. When my husband and I went, I took a photo to recreate the postcard. I’m not going to lie. I cried. I was so happy to be there. I was so happy to be in a space that I had stared at for so long. I was happy to be in a place that meant so much to my parents. It felt both unfamiliar and like I was finally home.

Postcard Picture

While we were in Italy, I ate Caprese salad, pomodoro sauce over whatever pasta was closest to my mouth, Paglie e Fieno, and gelato. Look, I’m a simple girl. I have simple needs. These foods are spectacular in their simplicity.

One day in Florence, we were ready for our seventh gelato of the day (I think it was 10 am) and stopped off at a gelateria. There was an osteria right next door so we decided to balance out the sugar with some… potatoes.

Potatoes and onions. Potatoes and onions are on my list of the top five foods I could eat every day and never get sick of.

Recently, I was missing Italy a bit. I kept flashing on those potatoes. So I made some. Man, did they hit the spot. It’s amazing how food can transport you. I was immediately back in that little osteria in Florence, a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed newlywed on my honeymoon. Lovely.

These are great breakfast potatoes, a side dish, dessert. Whatever you need.

Potatoes and Onions

1 large onion, sliced thin
4-6 Yukon gold potatoes (depending on the size), sliced thin
1 tbs. minced garlic
1/4 c.butter (I tend to use unsalted. I don’t know why.)
Kosher salt and pepper to taste

In a large frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat. I had to use a wok because I had a crapload of potatoes. Dump your sliced potatoes and onions in your pan. Fry for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so the potatoes don’t stick together. Dump in your garlic, salt, and pepper. Continue stirring and frying until your potatoes and onions are tender and slightly browned. Eat.

Here's what they look like on a plate.

Mr. Butterpants is obsessed with cheese and potatoes, so he added cheddar to his. He really liked that. So you could do that, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Be excellent to each other,
Ms. Butterpants