Monday, December 30, 2013

The Twelve Posts of Christmas - #10 (2013 Edition)

SoBA has a penchant for eggs.  And he (and LBA) like my crepes.  Today is SoBA's birthday, maybe we will make these soon. From the Amateur Gourmet.

Breakfast Crêpes with Eggs, Bacon and Cheese
Our first weekend in the new apartment and it was my mission to make breakfast. I’d carried a box of foodstuffs from our old refrigerator to the new refrigerator so as not to waste anything and that box contained perishables like eggs, bacon, butter and milk. In my pantry, I had flour, sugar and salt. What could a person make with these things that wasn’t boring? A vision came to me, a vision of a nun on a beach dancing the hoochie-coochie. But then another vision came to me: Crêpes! 

I once made crêpes, long long ago (in 2007), but after that I didn’t make them. It wasn’t a choice or anything, I just didn’t think to make them. Then I was watching Lidia in the new joint (I’m always watching Lidia) and she made an Italian version of crepes and made it look so easy. That’s where this idea came from. 

And you know what? It is easy. I can sum it up in this paragraph: melt 3 tablespoons of butter. Pour it into a bowl and let it cool. Then add 4 large eggs and 1 1/2 cups whole milk. Whisk that together and then whisk in 1/4 tsp salt, 1 tablespoon sugar, and 1 cup all-purpose flour. (Recipe from Martha Stewart - [but I don't like her - as most of you know, use my recipe instead]) Martha says you should do it in a blender but I didn’t want to dirty my blender so I used a whisk which worked fine.

Now for the “hard” part. I put “hard” in quotes (and did it again) because it’s really not that hard. Tip 1: pour the batter into a measuring glass. Tip 2: melt some more butter, pour it into a little bowl and use a brush to brush a non-stick skillet with that butter. Then turn up the heat.

When the pan’s hot, lift it up and pour the batter in a thin stream around the perimeter, tilting it all around and trying to create the thinnest layer you can. See?

Let that cook on medium/high heat for a bit (30 seconds or so) and then slide a rubber spatula underneath it all around. Take a peak: is nice and browned? Then it’s time to flip. You can be a pro and do the whole flipping motion thing or you can just lift up a corner and use your fingers to flip it. It’s not that hot.

It’ll cook faster on the other side so take note, maybe 15 seconds or so. Then slide on to a plate and start again: more butter, more batter, more cooking, more flipping, more crêpe-making. When you have all the crêpes you want, make your filling. I rendered some bacon in a skillet then added six eggs (beaten together with a pinch of salt and pepper), stirred slowly on high heat until curds formed, then I took it off the heat and added a bunch of grated Cheddar cheese. I piled that into the center of a crepe, in a straight line.

Then I rolled it up.

It’s like a French breakfast burrito only better because instead of a tortilla you have a thin sweet pancake. So give crêpes a go this weekend. You can take them in a sweet direction and fill them with fruit and whipped cream or you can stay in the savory arena and fill them with all different kinds of scrambled eggs. And whatever batter you don’t use you can save for later: crêpes for breakfast, crêpes for lunch, crêpes for dinner and crêpes for dessert. So, to quote my earlier post: don’t be a creep, make a crêpe.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Twelve Posts of Christmas - #9 (2013 Edition)

Of course today is LBA's birthday.  We have worked very hard to make sure that he has a proper birthday in addition to regular Christmas festivities.  However, there will not be tacos for Christmas Dinner tonight.  We will spend our day in church this morning followed by having friends over for Christmas dinner this afternoon.  Tomorrow we will head to NY for a few days to celebrate with the extended Brave Astronaut clan.

LBA manages pretty well with a Christmas birthday. BuzzFeed posted a list a while back with reasons why a Christmas birthday is the worst - but I maintain it's been OK for him.
  1. All your friends are home with their families, so you can forget a birthday party.
  2. Or if they’re around, there are so many holiday parties people don’t want to celebrate.
  3. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, you still get screwed. (Everything is closed and your friends are busy. Nothing better than hanging out alone to celebrate your birth.)
  4. You get combo presents from everyone and it’s not OK to point out that if your birthday was in July, this would be an outrage. (As someone with a December birthday - I often got combo presents and never really contemplated the injustice.)
  5. On top of the combo presents, your birthday presents are always wrapped in Christmas paper. (That is the cardinal rule - birthday presents must be in birthday wrap.)
  6. You have to save up a list of what you want all year. Hopefully your dream present doesn’t come out in February, otherwise you will be waiting 10 months.
  7. On the plus side - And people like to decorate really well for your “birthday.” 
  8. People also like to remind you it isn't only your birthday.  (When LBA was very young, Mrs. BA took him to the pediatrician and a little girl came over to admire LBA.  She asked when his birthday was, Mrs. BA replied, December 25.  The little girl looked up at Mrs. BA and exclaimed, "Just Like Jesus!")
  9. If they even remember at all. (We may have forgotten to give a present or two to SoBA, but LBA has always done well.)
  10. People always start to call you the Grinch since you’re sick of all the holiday cheer.
  11. This is what your birthday dinner looks like, even if you don't like turkey. (Again, there will not be tacos this evening.)
  12. Your birthday "cake" looks a lot like cookies. (LBA always gets a birthday cake.)
  13. You are always forced to do some horrible holiday activity on your birthday whether you want to or not.
  14. And you are always getting upstaged by a fat guy in a big red suit. And you are always getting upstaged by a fat guy in a big red suit.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Twelve Posts of Christmas - #8 (2013 Edition)

Mrs. BA was talking the other day about how much longer we have with LBA and Santa.  However long that is - he will be sworn to silence to keep SoBA on board.  My counterpoint is that, while the man may not come and visit each year - his spirit lives on in all of us.  So, yes, I still believe in Santa Claus, get over it.

By Francis P. Church
first published in The New York Sun in 1897
We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

Dear Editor —
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia O’Hanlon

Dear Virginia —

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
About the Exchange:
Francis P. Church’s editorial, “Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” was an immediate sensation, and went on to became one of the most famous editorials ever written. It first appeared in the The New York Sun in 1897, almost a hundred years ago, and was reprinted annually until 1949 when the paper went out of business.

Thirty-six years after her letter was printed, Virginia O’Hanlon recalled the events that prompted her letter:

“Quite naturally I believed in Santa Claus, for he had never disappointed me. But when less fortunate little boys and girls said there wasn’t any Santa Claus, I was filled with doubts. I asked my father, and he was a little evasive on the subject.

“It was a habit in our family that whenever any doubts came up as to how to pronounce a word or some question of historical fact was in doubt, we wrote to the Question and Answer column in The Sun. Father would always say, ‘If you see it in the The Sun, it’s so,’ and that settled the matter.

“ ‘Well, I’m just going to write The Sun and find out the real truth,’ I said to father.

“He said, ‘Go ahead, Virginia. I’m sure The Sun will give you the right answer, as it always does.’ ”

And so Virginia sat down and wrote her parents’ favorite newspaper.

Her letter found its way into the hands of a veteran editor, Francis P. Church. Son of a Baptist minister, Church had covered the Civil War for The New York Times and had worked on the The New York Sun for 20 years, more recently as an anonymous editorial writer. Church, a sardonic man, had for his personal motto, “Endeavour to clear your mind of cant.” When controversal subjects had to be tackled on the editorial page, especially those dealing with theology, the assignments were usually given to Church.

Now, he had in his hands a little girl’s letter on a most controversial matter, and he was burdened with the responsibility of answering it.

“Is there a Santa Claus?” the childish scrawl in the letter asked. At once, Church knew that there was no avoiding the question. He must answer, and he must answer truthfully. And so he turned to his desk, and he began his reply which was to become one of the most memorable editorials in newspaper history.

Church married shortly after the editorial appeared. He died in April, 1906, leaving no children.

Virginia O’Hanlon went on to graduate from Hunter College with a Bachelor of Arts degree at age 21. The following year she received her Master’s from Columbia, and in 1912 she began teaching in the New York City school system, later becoming a principal. After 47 years, she retired as an educator. Throughout her life she received a steady stream of mail about her Santa Claus letter, and to each reply she attached an attractive printed copy of the Church editorial. Virginia O’Hanlon Douglas died on May 13, 1971, at the age of 81, in a nursing home in Valatie, N.Y.

My fondest wish to all of you for a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy holiday season.  Please take a moment and make sure that you can still hear the sleigh bell.  You won't regret it. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Twelve Posts of Christmas - #7 (2013 Edition)

We really need to decide what we're having for Christmas dinner.  I would eat this - maybe not in two days, but at some point.  We decided on Turkey instead.

Roasted Cod on Large Garlic Croutons
Bon Appetit, June 2008

  • 1 pound plum tomatoes, cored, diced 
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion 
  • 5 anchovy fillets, minced 
  • 3 large garlic cloves (2 minced, 1 halved) 
  • 4 7- to 8-ounce cod fillets or other white fish fillets (such as halibut; about 1 inch thick) 
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided 
  • 4 1/2-inch-thick slices country white bread 
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves 

Preheat oven to 475°F. Combine first 3 ingredients in large bowl. Add minced garlic and stir to blend. Season tomato mixture to taste with salt and pepper.

Arrange fish on rimmed baking sheet. Brush both sides with 2 tablespoons oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until just opaque in center, about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add tomato mixture. Cook until tomatoes soften and sauce thickens, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes; season with salt and pepper.

Toast bread; rub 1 side with cut side of halved garlic. Top with tomato sauce, basil leaves, fish, and more sauce.

Per serving: 414 calories, 19g fat (3g saturated), 75mg cholesterol, 408mg sodium, 20g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 39g protein (nutritional analysis provided by Nutrition Data)

Friday, December 20, 2013

It's My Birthday!

The Brave Astronaut celebrates today - it occurred to me that my father was the same age as I was when LBA was born.  I am certainly feeling my age, the knees don't work as well as they do, I weigh more than I would like, I really can't see close up without my readers anymore.

When I turned 30, I'm not sure if I had all of these things - but I think I had most of them.  From BuzzFeed:

40 Things Every Self-Respecting Man Over 30 Should Own
  1. A tailored black suit - I have a navy suit (I bought it to get married to Mrs. BA) - does that count?
  2. Black dress shoes - I have both lace up and loafers in black.
  3. Brown dress shoes - and brown (well, burgundy, but same thing)
  4. Stocks - my stock portfolio is in my father's custody.  I have none of my own until he's no longer around to own them.
  5. A tool kit - got that, and a tool box, and a drill, and various nails, screws, and other handy stuff.
  6. A nice wallet - a few years ago, I went to a small card wallet with money clip.  I don't carry a wallet in my back pocket anymore.
  7. Cologne - when I used to work in retail, I made friends with the Cosmetics Department Manager and got a huge selection of colognes.  I'm on my last bottle.  I could use more - if you're wondering what to get me.
  8. A watch - I have several.  An everyday watch, a dress watch, and a Tiffany's watch (that was a wedding gift from Mrs. BA).
  9. A proper bed with proper bedding - check.
  10. A flashlight - I have several, including my favorite, a heavy duty Maglite.
  11. Duct tape - because there's nothing that can't be fixed with duct tape.
  12. A weekend bag - that's something that I would like to have - a nice weekend bag.  But then again, the way I pack - for a weekend I need a steamer trunk.
  13. Proper glassware - I have most of the glasses I need.
  14. Grooming kit - check.
  15. Double-hinged wine key - check
  16. Multiple towels - Mrs. BA and I would love the gift of new towels.
  17. A chef’s knife - I have a whole set.
  18. A passport - I had one, but it's long expired and lost.  Mrs. BA and should really get ours up to date.
  19. A flask - I have my grandfather's.
  20. Sewing kit - how quaint.  It's really easier to just get new stuff sometimes.
  21. An umbrella - check
  22. An ironing board, and an iron - I have those things, but that's what dry cleaners are for.
  23. Jumper cables - check
  24. Undershirts - check (and yes I do routinely replace them)
  25. Playing cards - I've always been a card game lover (it's from my mother), so I have several decks, including two Pinochle decks.
  26. A lint roller - with no pets at the launchpad, there's no lint roller around.
  27. A leatherman - I'm on my second.  The first one was confiscated by TSA.  It was also the one that injured me, so it was OK that I had to give it up.
  28. Sunglasses - I would like to have nice sunglasses, but shades are one of those things that are not worth spending a lot of money on.  They break, they get lost.
  29. A record player - I may have had one when I was thirty, but don't have one anymore.
  30. Football/soccer ball/basketball, etc. - yes the yard is scattered with sports items.  I did however recently buy myself a new mitt when LBA was playing baseball this year.
  31. A French press - I love my coffee, so I own one of these - but I mainly use my Cuisinart.
  32. Good socks - I should have better socks.
  33. Good underwear - I should have better underwear, too.
  34. A cast-iron skillet - Mrs. BA has one of those.
  35. Multiple sheet sets - check, including several sets of flannel.
  36. A bar set - I have most of the items, they're just not in a matching set.
  37. Matching dishes - several sets, including my mother's china, Christmas dishes, and "summer" "lighthouse" dishes.
  38. A decent car - it's going to be time for a new car soon, but we like the one we have.
  39. A solid book collection - oh, there's no lack there.
  40. A decent bottle of booze - yep, that too.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Twelve Posts of Christmas - #6 (2013 Edition)

I know it's less than 10 days away, but it's possible that we aren't set with our entree dish for Christmas Dinner.  Here's a front-runner.

Herb-Crusted Beef Rib Roast with Potatoes, Carrots, and Pinot Noir Jus
(from Epicurious/Gourmet Live)

  • 1 (4-rib) standing beef rib roast (bone-in prime rib; 9 to 10 pounds) 
  • 1/4 cup mixed peppercorns (pink, white, and green) 
  • 3 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided 
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme 
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary 
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 3 pounds medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and each cut into 6 wedges (keep in a bowl of cold water to prevent discoloration) 
  • 3 pounds carrots, peeled and cut diagonally into 2-inch pieces 

  • 1 (750 milliliter) bottle Pinot Noir 
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots 
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided 
  • 2 1/4 cups reduced-salt beef or chicken broth 
Special equipment: 
  • Heavy flameproof roasting pan (not glass) fitted with a flat rack
  • instant-read thermometer
  • 2 (18- by 13-inch) heavy rimmed sheet pans (aka half-sheet pans)
  • parchment paper
For roast beef: 
Pat roast dry and put, fat side up, on rack in roasting pan.

Coarsely crush peppercorns in a mortar and pestle or folded kitchen towel (not terry cloth) with a meat pounder or bottom of a heavy skillet. Stir together peppercorns, 3 tablespoons kosher salt, thyme, and rosemary in a small bowl.

Rub roast all over with oil, then coat it all over with peppercorn mixture, pressing to help it adhere. Let coated roast stand at room temperature 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in lower third. Roast beef roast 20 minutes.

 Reduce oven temperature to 350°F and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of meat (do not touch bone) registers 110°F, 1 1/2 to 2 hours more. Transfer to a platter (keep fat and pan juices in roasting pan) and let stand, uncovered, 40 minutes (temperature of meat will rise to about 130°F for medium-rare).

While roast stands, put second oven rack in upper-third position and increase oven temperature to 450°F. Line 1 sheet pan with parchment paper.

Strain pan juices from roasting pan through a sieve into a glass measuring cup (reserve roasting pan). Drain potatoes well and toss in a large bowl with 3 tablespoons melted beef fat from roasting pan and 1 teaspoon kosher salt, then spread out on parchment-lined sheet pan. Toss carrots in same bowl with another 3 tablespoons beef fat from pan and 1 teaspoon kosher salt, then spread out on other rimmed sheet pan. Roast vegetables in upper and lower thirds of oven, stirring occasionally and switching position of pans halfway through roasting, until golden, 25 to 30 minutes for carrots and 30 to 35 minutes for potatoes.

Make jus while vegetables roast: 
Skim off and discard any remaining fat from pan juices. Set pan over 2 burners. Add 1 cup of wine and deglaze pan by boiling it over high heat, scraping up brown bits, 1 minute. Pour into pan juices in cup.

Cook shallot in 1 tablespoon butter with remaining 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring, until golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Add wine mixture in cup, along with remaining wine in bottle, and boil over high heat until mixture is reduced to 3/4 cup, about 10 minutes.

Add broth and continue to boil over high heat until mixture is reduced to 1 1/2 cups. Strain mixture through a sieve into another saucepan and whisk in remaining 3 tablespoons butter (cut into pieces) until incorporated. Season sauce with salt and pepper.

To carve roast, slide a carving knife along inside of ribs to separate meat from bones, then cut ribs into individual bones. Slice meat and serve with vegetables and jus.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Twelve Posts of Christmas - #5 (2013 Edition)

So the next time you're listening to those Christmas songs, and the Twelve Days of Christmas comes on (personally, this version is the favorite of the Brave Astronaut), do you wonder how much all that crap costs?  Well someone at PNC Bank did and, thirty years ago, and every year since - the folks at PNC have been letting us know how much all those birds, people, and Five Gold Rings cost.

One Partridge in a Pear Tree will run you $199.99, down $5 from last year.  Two Turtle Doves and three French Hens are stable at $125 and $165, respectively.  You will need $80 more for four Calling Birds, which will set you back $600.  The price of gold remains steady and five gold rings will cost you $750.  The cost of the next 13 birds (six geese-a-laying and seven swans-a-swimming) is also unchanged this year with $210 for geese and $7000 for swans ($7000 for swans, really?  they're just mean birds).

Now, moving into people, eight milkmaids will only set you back $58 (no change from last year).  However, nine dancing ladies, ten leaping lords, eleven pipers, and twelve drummers, will cost you more this year.  The ladies are going for $7552.84, a 20% increase from last year; the lords got a 10% raise this year, costing $5,243,37; the pipers and the drummers only got a 2.9% raise costing $2,635,20 and $2,854,50, respectively.

So when you add it all up - it's 364 gifts total, the cost of the Twelve Days of Christmas increased 7.7% this year for a total bottom line of $27,393.17.

From another source (BuzzFeed) - here's a ranking of the 12 days, ranked from worst to best.  Feel free to weigh in.

12. The 11th Day of Christmas: Pipers Piping.
11. The 12th Day of Christmas: Drummers Drumming.
10. The 8th Day of Christmas: Maids A-Milking.
9. The 6th Day of Christmas: Geese a-laying.
8. The 3rd Day of Christmas: French Hens.
7. The 7th Day of Christmas: Swans a-Swimming.
6. The 4th Day of Christmas: Colly Birds.
5. The 1st Day of Christmas: A Partridge In A Pear Tree.
4. The 10th Day of Christmas: Lords a- Leaping.
3. The 9th Day of Christmas: Ladies Dancing.
2. The 2nd Day of Christmas: Two Turtle Doves.
1. The 5th Day of Christmas: Five gold rings.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Twelve Posts of Christmas - #4 (2013 Edition)

All Stop. Good Quiet.  The cookie recipe for the season has been located.

From the Washington Post Food Section, Wednesday December 4, 2013.

Edible Letters (for the Scrabble / Words with Friends lover in your life)
A bag of these tiles would make a great gift for Scrabble fans.

There are two ways to go here. You can be a stickler for detail and slice the dough to the dimensions of actual Scrabble tiles: 1 3/16 inches long and 3/4 inch wide. Or you can take the casual approach and cut the tiles a little larger. If you opt for being exact, this recipe will yield about 250 tiles. (There are 100 tiles in an English-language Scrabble game.)

Food-grade glycerin is available at natural foods stores and cake supply shops. If you want to make your own vanilla sugar, you'll need a few weeks' head start: Split a fresh vanilla bean in half lengthwise, then bury it in several cups of sugar in a sealed container.

Make Ahead: The dough needs to be refrigerated for 30 minutes before rolling, then frozen for 15 minutes once the tiles are cut. The iced cookies need to set up at room temperature for at least 1 hour before you write on them. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks or frozen, without icing or letters, for up to 3 months.
For the tiles
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour, plus more for dusting 
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder 
  • Salt 
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature 
  • 1/2 cup homemade or store-bought vanilla sugar (see headnote)
  • 1 large egg 
  • Scant 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract 

For the icing
  • 1 large egg white 
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted 
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice 
  • 1/2 teaspoon food-grade glycerin (see headnote) 
  • Water 
  • Black edible marker pen, for decorating 

For the tiles: Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners. Lightly flour a work surface.

Combine the 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour, the baking powder and salt on a piece of wax paper.

Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer; beat on low, then medium-high speed for several minutes, until light and fluffy. Stop to scrape down the bowl. On low speed, beat in the egg, then the vanilla and almond extracts. Stop to scrape down the bowl.

On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture to form a slightly crumbly dough. Turn the dough out onto the work surface; knead until the dough comes together in a ball. Flatten the dough into 2 disks, wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Remove one disk of dough from the refrigerator and roll it out on the floured work surface to a generous 1/8-inch thickness. Use a ruler to measure and serve as a guide as you cut out tiles (see headnote), transferring the tiles to the lined baking sheets as you work and spacing them 1/2 inch apart. Scraps of dough can be rerolled as needed. Transfer the sheets to the freezer for 15 minutes.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees.

Bake the tiles one sheet at a time for 8 to 10 minutes, until they just begin to show a pale golden color at the edges; do not let them brown. Cool for a few minutes, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining filled baking sheet.

Repeat to roll, slice and bake the second disk of dough.

For the icing: Beat the egg white in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer on low speed until it becomes frothy. With the motor running, add the confectioners' sugar 1 tablespoon at a time.

Add the lemon juice and glycerin; increase the speed to medium-high and beat to form stiff peaks. If needed, stir in 1 teaspoon of water at a time to achieve the right consistency; the icing should be smooth enough to spread in a thin layer. Cover the bowl with a damp paper towel and let it rest for several minutes.

When ready to decorate, use a small teaspoon to place a dollop of icing on each cooled cookie tile, then use a small offset spatula to smooth the icing to the edges. Allow to air-dry for at least 1 hour.

Check to make sure the icing is set and dry before you use the black edible pen. Decorate with letters and their point values, as you’d find on Scrabble tiles. Make sure the writing has set before serving or storing. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Twelve Posts of Christmas - #3 (2013 Edition)

If you are still wondering what that special Brave Astronaut in your life needs, here's the list from the "Fantasy Gifts" from the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book.

Bespoke Global Falconry Companion $150,000
Years of apprenticeship and study are behind you. Your raptor is trained, and you have received the ultimate title of Master Falconer. Now, your new Bespoke Global Falconry Companion is loaded and ready for its inaugural outing.

Circling the field for the perfect spot to set up, you consider yourself lucky to take part in an ancient sport once reserved for nobles of Medieval Europe, the Middle East, and the Mongolian Empire. Little has changed in the game thousands of years later—there are no firearms and no outside weapons. It still all comes down to a relationship between the falconer and bird.

A prime locale has been found, and you and your fellow hunters set up camp. Gazing upon your portable case and matching custom trunk, you marvel at the 20-karat gold-plated perch, hand-carved stands, leather perch scale, and hand-sewn glove, anklet, and exotic-skin hoods by Ken Hooke, the world's preeminent falconry hood maker. A day in the countryside has never been so luxuriously appointed! Next, the furniture: Chatwin chairs and a foldout table by Richard Wrightman, the foremost designer of bespoke campaign furniture (the King of Jordan is a client). You unfold the beautiful, handmade backgammon board from Alexandra Llewellyn, pour yourself a drink from one of the lead crystal decanters, and select the cigar you'll enjoy, using your matching cigar cutter by David Linley. The birds are ready, and your gauntlet is in place.

Time to hunt!

Ciclotte $11,000
Morning exercise will become far less routine, thanks to your new Ciclotte. A blend of amazing form and state-of-the-art function, this modern spin on the exercise bicycle will ensure it never gets relegated to the basement.

Approaching the machine, you admire its sleek, sculptural appearance. The large wheel is a nod to the unicycles of the late 1800s, but that's where the design-reminiscing ends. Void of the superfluous bells and whistles that characterize most of today's gym equipment, this piece is a study in the power—and beauty—of simplicity. Good looks aside, its dynamic design is rivaled only by its effortless performance.

Sitting astride your cycle, you adjust the angle of the carbon-fiber handles, choose from one of 12 levels of resistance, engage the pedals, and ride, ride, ride your way to a fitter, healthier you.
Forevermark Ultimate Diamond Experience $1,850,000
Every extraordinary gem has a history, but rare is the opportunity to trace its provenance. As the owner of this 25-carat rough Forevermark® diamond, you'll travel deep into the heart of Africa to discover where your stone began its journey more than one billion years ago.

This once-in-a-lifetime adventure starts with a trip to the De Beers headquarters in London. Once there, you'll receive your exceptional diamond in its rough and uncut form, name your diamond, learn about the unique inscription it will receive, and meet the master craftsman who will hand-cut and polish it to perfection.

A private tour of The Crown Jewels and dinner with De Beers CEO Philippe Mellier and Forevermark CEO Stephen Lussier in the Tower of London follow. Your journey continues on a vessel off Namibia's coast, where your diamond was discovered deep within the ocean floor. You'll then explore rough-diamond sorting houses and a children's community project, where the local population benefits from Forevermark's responsible sourcing of diamonds.

Upon returning to the United States, you'll meet with New York jewelry designer Maria Canale to design the ring that will exhibit your exceptional diamond.
The Glass House Experience $30,000 (I would totally do this!)
You've always dreamed of calling an architectural icon "home." For the first time ever, you and a very lucky guest get to experience the next best thing: an overnight stay in the New Canaan, Connecticut, weekend residence of world-renowned architect and art patron, Philip Johnson.

The Glass House and its bucolic surroundings are yours to explore upon arrival. Get up-close-and-personal access to the life and style of one of the twentieth century's most revered visionaries as you wander among the 14 architectural structures, study his world-class modern painting and sculpture collection, visit the private library, and stroll through the 49 acres of landscaped grounds.

As evening descends, your dinner guests begin to arrive. Up to ten of your nearest and dearest will join you at Philip Johnson's table for a locally sourced, multicourse culinary experience.

The meal comes to a close, you bid adieu to your guests, and retire to the bedroom with a perfect view of the surrounding forest and the manifestation of Philip Johnson's most beautiful dream.
Indian Larry's "Wild Child" Motorcycle $750,000
Like master motorcycle fabricator Indian Larry, you feel at your best on the back of a bike with the wind in your face. Astride his "Wild Child," you're practically one with the late chopper icon.

Handbuilt in Brooklyn, New York, for the Discovery Channel "Biker Build-Off" series, "Wild Child" is considered by many to be the pinnacle of Indian Larry's artistic achievements. It features his signature dished tank, root beer metal flake paint, twisted down tube frame, and a truly unique engine with a shovelhead front cylinder, panhead rear, and jockey shift. An open belt drive is emblazoned with the "Wild Child" name. Brass accents and a hand-carved leather seat in Indian Larry's likeness complete the picture of this motorized masterpiece.

In 2003, Larry rode "Wild Child" from St. Louis, Missouri, to Sturgis, South Dakota, where Larry's bike was named the winner of the Build-Off, one of three unprecedented consecutive wins for the chopper enthusiast. Upon learning of his triumph, Indian Larry famously declared, "There are no winners! There are no losers!" He shared his victory with fellow competitor Billy Lane, and then they both cut the trophy into pieces, signed the scraps, and handed them out to the crowd.
Jeff Koons's Dom Pérignon Balloon Venus $20,000
Resting on its perch, the bright figurine is void of any facial expression. But, look closer at the mirrored surface, and you'll see your own broad smile reflecting back—a trademark reaction from someone admiring a piece of work by Jeff Koons, an artist whose originality and charisma are unmatched.

Like Koons's other famous installations—Bilbao's Puppy and Balloon Dog—the limited-edition Dom Pérignon's Balloon Venus is playful, impactful, and signature Jeff Koons. Designed in celebration of the Dom Pérignon Rosé Vintage 2003, this incarnation is based on one of the latest works from Koons's Antiquity series called Balloon Venus (a modern riff on the Venus of Willendorf, which dates back to approximately 23,000 B.C.).

According to the artist, this version, made from polyurethane resin, represents the link between past, present, and future vintages of Dom Pérignon, as well as the continuity of the human experience symbolized by Venus.
Ultimate Outdoor Entertainment System $1,500,000
What will it be tonight? A four-course al fresco dinner with a side of jazz? Or, popcorn and a flick on the patio? A toss of a coin reveals it's movie night, but with over 300 films to choose from, you opt for a double feature of an apocalyptic drama followed by a tried-and-true tearjerker. Settling in, you click a button—your television emerges from its discreet, underground cache, telescoping upward and unfolding to reveal its mega 201" C SEED screen. The accompanying 7.1 digital surround sound heightens the anticipation, as it should—the speakers were developed by CAT—California Audio Technology, Inc., —using the most advanced marine-grade components specifically developed for super yachts. You can't find this level of superiority anywhere on land. As you marvel at this epic theater experience, you wonder how the two of you ever managed to enjoy at-home movies before now.

A true audio- and video-phile's dream, the system includes technologically advanced speakers, subwoofers, and amplifiers that project unparalleled sound, a DirecTV® satellite and DVD management system, and a built-in movie package featuring up to 300 movies and concerts (The American Film Institute's 100 Most Thrilling American Films and 100 Greatest Love Stories, the remaining 100 are your choice). Oh, and that never-ending argument over who controls the remote? Not an issue—two Apple® mini iPads™ serve as the remotes; one for him and one for her. The entire system is delivered at your doorstep and includes installation and programming.
Neiman Marcus 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish Volante $344,500
The weather outside is delightful—the perfect impetus to take your Neiman Marcus 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish Volante, one of only 10 in the world, for an afternoon of motoring.

With its elegant profile and confident, sexy stance, this automotive masterpiece scores high marks on good looks alone. But there's more to this machine than meets the eye. Beneath its NM Exclusive Seychelles Blue exterior exists the culmination of a century of technological and engineering prowess.

Handbuilt in Gaydon, England, your Vanquish Volante sports a 100% carbon fiber shell—the first ever in Aston Martin's history—allowing for a much lighter car with greater torsional and structural rigidity, while enhancing safety, performance, and handling. A new, naturally aspirated 6.0-liter, V-12 engine produces some 565 horsepower and is tuned to deliver 457 pound-feet of torque, available and accessible throughout the rev range to deliver an enhanced performance feel. The engine sends the drive strictly to the rear wheels via a six-speed Touchtronic 2 automatic transmission, making acceleration smooth, steady, and, above all, responsive.

The forecast is promising. Perhaps a spontaneous trip to the shore is in order? You load the bespoke leather luggage into the trunk before sliding behind the wheel. With a turn of the ignition, the throaty engine roars to life. A three-mode Adaptive Damping System allows you to choose the character of your ride. Cruising down the coastline, you wonder what it would be like to put the reported 180-plus mph max speed to the test. Like a certain secret agent, you have a penchant for these beautiful British automobiles—and a taste for adventure.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Twelve Posts of Christmas - #2 (2013 Edition)

Here's a thought for a birthday cake (Mrs. BA?) or perhaps for a Christmas Dinner dessert. From BuzzFeed and Food52.

Chocolate Coffee Ice Cream Cake
Author Notes: For this decadent treat, Alice Medrich's rich and chewy nibby brownies are topped with coffee ice cream and a billowy layer of no-churn sweet cream ice cream.
Serves 10 to 12

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces 
  • 1 cup sugar 
  • 3 eggs 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/3 cup plus one tablespoon all-purpose flour 
  • 1/4 cup cacao nibs 

  • 2 cups heavy cream 
  • 1 cup milk 
  • 1/4 cup coffee beans, coarsely ground 
  • 3/4 cups sugar 
  • 5 egg yolks 
  • 2 tablespoons Kahlua or other coffee liqueur 
  • pinches salt 
No-Churn Ice Cream
  • 14 ounces can of sweetened condensed milk 
  • 2 cups heavy cream 
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon pinches salt 
  1. FOR THE BROWNIE LAYER: Preheat oven to 350º F. Line an 8-inch springform pan with parchment paper and grease the bottom and sides generously 
  2. Put the chopped chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally until the chocolate and butter are completely melted. Let cool. 
  3. In a separate bowl whisk together the sugar, eggs, vanilla, and salt until the mixture is lighter in color, about 3 minutes. 
  4. Pour the melted chocolate mixture into the eggs and whisk to combine, then fold in the flour and 2 tablespoons of the cacao nibs. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle with the rest of the nibs. 
  5. Slide your pan into the oven and bake until a toothpick inserted into the brownies comes out clean, 25 to 30 min. Cool completely, then remove the outside of the springform pan and slice the brownie round in half horizontally. I find the brownies are easiest to slice after a few minutes in the refrigerator. Leave the bottom half of the brownies in the pan and put the outside of the springform pan back in place. Break the top layer of brownie into 1-inch pieces and set aside. Then prepare the coffee ice cream. 
  6. FOR THE COFFEE ICE CREAM LAYER: Heat 1 cup of heavy cream to just below simmering, turn off heat, add the coffee beans, and let steep for 5 minutes. Drain the mixture through a coffee filter and transfer it to a bowl with a strainer set over it. 
  7. Combine the milk, remaining heavy cream, sugar, egg yolks, and salt in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, being careful to not let the mixture boil. Stir often, and cook until the mixture coats the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Strain the mixture over the coffee-infused cream and stir to combine. Add in the coffee liqueur if using. Chill over an ice bath (or for a few hours in the fridge).
  8. When completely chilled, churn the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Spread the soft ice cream mixture over the trimmed brownie layer still in the pan. You want to fill the pan so it is about halfway full, which means you will probably have a bit of extra ice cream leftover; freeze it in an airtight container to enjoy later. Top the coffee ice cream with the broken brownie pieces. Put the pan in the freezer to firm up while you prepare the sweet cream ice cream 
  9. FOR THE NO-CHURN ICE CREAM LAYER: Whisk the sweetened condensed milk, bourbon, and salt together in a large bowl. 
  10. In a separate bowl, whisk the heavy cream to stiff peaks. Then gently fold it into the condensed milk mixture. 
  11. Top the coffee ice cream and brownies with the sweet cream mixture (you may have a bit leftover) and freeze overnight before slicing. Just before serving, sprinkle with a few teaspoons of cacao nibs and top the slices with chocolate sauce. I like this Magic Shell ( with a pinch of salt. Enjoy!

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Twelve Posts of Christmas - #1 (2013 edition)

Today is the day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday for all you retail folks out there, I've been there, I understand) - the traditional start of the holiday shopping season.  It is also the day that Christmas music is acceptable to be listened to in large quantities.  The Brave Astronaut clan is returning from Thanksgiving celebrations with Mrs. BA's family and there will be Christmas music in the car on the way home.

Here, from BuzzFeed, is a ranking of the 30 Best Christmas recordings in the 20th Century.  Comment away.

30.  The Royal Guardsmen, "Snoopy's Christmas" (Christmas Bells) - one of my favorites (and a particular favorite of my brother).
29.  Elton John, "Step into Christmas" - the Holiday Party for the professional organization at work is having a "British Invasion" themed party.  Here's one option.
28. Alvin and the Chipmunks, "The Christmas Song (Don't Be Late)" - LBA and SoBA's exposure to the Chipmunks is confined to the newer version of the Chipmunks.
27.  Jose Feliciano, "Feliz Navidad" - hey, it's catchy.  In a former life, I used to be able to give someone the perpetual ear worm by mentioning this song to her.  For several years, I used to give her the "Feliz Navidad" Hallmark ornament that would come out every year.
26.  Carnie and Wendy Wilson, "Hey Santa" - bringing sexy to the Yuletide season.
25.  Gene Autry, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" - Still one of the best Christmas specials out there. 
24.  Andy Williams, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" - the crooners got a lot of play in the Brave Astronaut home growing up and Mr. Williams was very well represented.  Him, along with the Chairman of the Board, Mr. Sinatra - are very high on my list of Christmas standard singers.  The song of course enjoyed a rebirth in the 1990s when Staples opted to use it for Back to School shopping.
23.  John Denver and the Muppets, "The Twelve Days of Christmas" - also found on the Brave Astronaut iPod, I am particularly fond of Beaker's lines and the heartily delivered "BA DA BUM BUM" by Miss Piggy and finally, the entire group on the twelfth day.
22. Charles Brown, “Merry Christmas, Baby/Please Come Home For Christmas” - not really on my radar (though I've heard it before, primarily as it has been covered by many artists since Brown's original recording.
21.  WHAM!, "Last Christmas" - talk about your earworms.
20.  George S. Irving and Dick Shawn, “Snow Miser and Heat Miser” - from the best, IMHO, Christmas Special out there.
19.  Perry Como, "(There's No Place Like) Home for the Holidays" - this one is hard, for as most of you know, Christmas was my mother's favorite holiday, so "Home for the Holidays" isn't the same anymore.
18.  The Beach Boys, "Little Saint Nick" - sometimes it's hard to listen to a group so closely associated with summer sing about Christmas.
17.  Frank Sinatra, "Jingle Bells" - although I like some of his others (particularly his version of Adeste Fideles), this one's fine.
16.  ‘N Sync, “Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” - As the songs started to come out when I was alive, I began to lose interest in those seeking to cash in on the holiday music gravy train.
15.  Harry Belafonte, "Mary's Boy Child" - A little Calypso Christmas music, anyone?
14.  Dean Martin, "Baby, It's Cold Outside" - I mean, really, who wouldn't want to stay inside with Dino?
13.  Thurl Ravenscroft, “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” - how many sizes will your heart grow this Christmas?
12.  Elvis Presley, "Blue Christmas" - The King gets in on the Christmas music band wagon.
11.  Vince Guaraldi Trio, “O Tannenbaum” - Linus's reading of the Christmas story from Bible still moves me.
10.  Bobby Helms, "Jingle Bell Rock" - the original version of the song that has been covered many, many, many times.
9.  John & Yoko/Plastic Ono Band, “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” - An always timely piece of Christmas music.
8.  Stevie Wonder, “Someday At Christmas” - another different tack on Christmas music.
7.  Jackson 5, “Frosty The Snowman” - I prefer the Jackson boys singing about Mommy kissing Santa Claus.
6.  Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” - Clarence, you keep practicing, maybe Santa will bring you a new saxophone.
5.  The Drifters, “White Christmas” - the list makers feel this is a better version that Bing's.
4.  Brenda Lee, “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” - not one of my favorites, but here it is on the list, anyway.
3.  Bing Crosby & David Bowie, “The Little Drummer Boy / Peace On Earth” - yes, it's totally cheesy and a little staged, but it's pretty good singin'.
2.  Nat King Cole, “The Christmas Song” - who doesn't love roasting chestnuts?
1.  Mariah Carey, “All I Want For Christmas Is You” - OK, OK, don't shoot the messenger.  I would have expected Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" but perhaps they didn't realize that was in the 20th Century.  I mean, isn't that the biggest selling song of all time?

Well at least this song didn't make the list.  What are your favorites?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

I am a latecomer to cranberries - and I prefer the real stuff to the "canned log."  Here's a dessert that could easily be put out after the Thanksgiving bounty and made to disappear rather easily.

Cranberry Upside Down Cake
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Yield: Serves 8 to 10.
From Simply Recipes

  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar 
  • 4 Tbsp (1/4 cup or 1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries 

  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour 
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • Scant pinch ground cloves 
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar 
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temp (plus more for buttering the pan) 
  • 3 large eggs 
  • 1 Tbsp orange zest 
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (or Greek yogurt) 
  • 1/4 cup of milk 

  • A 9-inch cake pan with at least 2-inch high sides 

  1. Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch diameter cake pan. 
  2. In a small saucepan, place the 1/4 cup of butter and the 3/4 cups of packed brown sugar. On medium high heat, stir the sugar as the butter melts. Do not stir after the butter has melted.
  3. Pour the brown sugar butter mixture into the prepared cake pan. Spread the cranberries on top of the sugar butter mixture.
  4. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl vigorously whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. 
  5. In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter until light. Add the sugar and beat together the sugar and butter until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in the orange zest. 
  6. Mix a third of the dry ingredients into the mixture. Beat in half of the sour cream. Mix in another third of the dry ingredients. Mix in the remaining sour cream. Beat in the remaining dry ingredients and then the milk.
  7. Pour batter over the cranberries in the cake pan, and smooth the surface. Place in the preheated oven and lower the heat from 350°F to 325°F. Bake until a tester comes out clean, 55 minutes to an hour. Cool cake in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Run a blunt knife around the inside rim of the cake pan to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan. Then turn the cake out onto a platter.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Reflection on a Dark Day

This morning LBA asked me about the significance of the 50th Anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  My first answer was that the killing of an American President had not happened since William McKinley in 1901 (obviously Warren Harding and Franklin Roosevelt had died in office but not at the hands of a killer).  LBA knows about Tecumseh's Curse and he asked about that, too.  My follow up response was that JFK was so young and full of "vigah" - plus he was the first Catholic President as well.  The assassination also played out on national television, bringing a nation (and the world) to a standstill for the weekend.

Most of the reports that you hear often start with, "People who were alive in 1963 can always remember exactly where they were when they heard the news."  For an entire generation of Americans, the day's events are seared in their collective memories.

My mother told me her story many times.  She was bowling in a women's league, while my brother was home sick.  He called the bowling alley to tell my mother what had happened.  She immediately asked for the news to be announced over the bowling alley's PA system.  Everyone in the alley stopped bowling and went home to learn more.  The rest of the weekend was spent watching the news on television.  Of course, in 1963, there were no cable news channels, and only a few TV channels at that.  She always told me of watching Walter Cronkite deliver the news in his shirtsleeves - then as the afternoon turned to evening, he suddenly realized he was not wearing a suit jacket.  Later, when Cronkite returned to the air, he had put on his suit jacket.

There are any number of stories about this seminal event in American History.  Of course, there are the conspiracy theories as well, and there have been a number of "alternate histories" of what could have happened had JFK lived. Where I work, there are countless records about the JFK assassination and I have worked with researchers here and in a previous archives job who were looking into the story of the day's events.

As a "history geek," I can tell you with ease where I was when other significant events took place in history though I was not alive when JFK was killed.  The death of JFK was most certainly a defining moment in history and it brought a generation together not seen again, in my opinion, until the September 11 attacks nearly forty years later.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Seven Score and Ten Years Ago Today

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. 

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. 

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln 
November 19, 1863

Monday, November 18, 2013

What's Thanksgiving Without Stuffing?

As for sides on Thanksgiving - I like my carbs.  I prefer my potatoes, whipped (as opposed to mashed), regular over sweet.  Vegetables are welcome additions, though I am in the minority on that (because I'm going to want brussel sprouts or roasted root vegetables).  Of course, my mother would always have pearled onions in cream sauce on the table - even though she didn't like them - but they had to be there.  I've grown to like them and try to make sure they're on the table.

For years, the stuffing that was on the table came out of the bird - I'm sure at a questionable temperature and doneness.  Over the past years that I have been making my own Thanksgiving feasts, the stuffing has been cooked outside the bird, in a casserole dish.

Here's a recipe for a twist on the old, crouton-based stuffing recipe.  It might be worth a try.  From the Bitten Word, via BuzzFeed.

Tortilla Chip Chorizo Stuffing 
Food Network Magazine (November 2012)

Prep: 25 min | Total Time: 1 hr 25 min
Serves 8-10

  • 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the baking dish 
  • 12 ounces dried chorizo, chopped 
  • 4 bunches scallions, chopped 
  • 4 4-ounce cans chopped green chiles, drained 
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin 
  • 3 cups low-sodium turkey or chicken broth 
  • 2 large eggs 
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro 
  • 1 13-ounce bag corn tortilla chips, coarsely crushed 
  • 8 cups stale white bread cubes 
  • 2 cups cubed queso fresco cheese 
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 3-quart baking dish. Melt 8 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add the chorizo, scallions, chiles and cumin and cook, stirring, until the chorizo is slightly browned, about 4 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a simmer.

Whisk the eggs and cilantro in a large bowl. Add the tortilla chips, bread and cheese and season with salt and pepper. Slowly pour in the chorizo-broth mixture and toss to combine.

Transfer the stuffing to the prepared baking dish; dot with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 30 minutes, then uncover and bake until golden, about 30 more minutes.

Chef's Note: If you're using fresh bread, dry the cubes in a 300 degrees F oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

Friday, November 15, 2013

101 Objects That Made America

Last week was the Fall 2013 MARAC Meeting in Philadelphia.  Many of my colleagues (including Mrs. BA) work at the Smithsonian, which has just come out with a list of items in their holdings that tell the American Story.

See what you think.  Items 2-10 are grouped under "Wild America," items 11-20 are listed as "Discovery," 21-34 in "Voice," 35-48 under "Power," next is "Invention" for items 49-60, followed by "Community" for items 61-70, then items 71-79 are under "Happiness," then "America in the World" for items 80-91, and finally "Freedom" for items 91-101.
  1. The Star-Spangled Banner
  2. The American Buffalo
  3. The Duck Decoy 
  4. The Bald Eagle
  5. Coast Redwood
  6. Stegosaurus
  7. Audubon Plate
  8. Passenger Pigeon
  9. Life Preserver (from a Westward Exploration journey)
  10. Bierstadt Painting
  11. Neil Armstrong's Space Suit (didn't he just die?)
  12. Lewis and Clark's Compass 
  13. Gold Nugget 
  14. Polio Vaccine 
  15. Dark Matter Spectrograph 
  16. Scopes Trial Photograph 
  17. Benjamin Franklin's Experiments 
  18. Burgess Shale 
  19. George Catlin Paintings
  20. [James] Smithson's Will 
  21. Walt Whitman Photograph
  22. Bell's Telephone
  23. Remington Typewriter
  24. Marian Anderson's Fur Coat
  25. FDR's Microphone 
  26. Nat Turner's Bible
  27. Langston Hughes' 'The Colored Soldier'
  28. Middle Mississippian Mask 
  29. Chavez's Jacket
  30. Andy Warhol's Michael Jackson 
  31. Louis Armstrong's Trumpet
  32. Nam June Paik's Electronic Superhighway 
  33. Justice O'Connor's Robe 
  34. Telstar
  35. Lincoln's Top Hat
  36. Appomattox Table and Chairs 
  37. Gordon Photograph (a runaway slave, whose picture showed the multiple scars of many lashes)
  38. George Washington: The Lansdowne Portrait 
  39. Susan B. Anthony's Gavel 
  40. Red Horse's Drawings of Little Bighorn 
  41. Greensboro Lunch Counter 
  42. Predator Drone 
  43. Bell UH-1H Iroquois Helicopter
  44. Enola Gay 
  45. Wright Flyer
  46. Wonder Woman Comic 
  47. Colt Revolver 
  48. White House Timber
  49. Clovis Points 
  50. Singer Sewing Machine 
  51. Cotton Gin 
  52. Levi's Jeans 
  53. Eames Chair 
  54. Eniac computer 
  55. Edison Light Bulb 
  56. Kodak Camera 
  57. Morse Telegraph 
  58. John Bull Locomotive 
  59. Model T
  60. Space Shuttle Discovery
  61. Ration Ticket 
  62. Pueblo Jars 
  63. "This Land Is Your Land
  64. Suitcase From Japanese Internment 
  65. AIDS Quilt 
  66. Emergency Money
  67. John Deere Plow 
  68. Stagecoach 
  69. Negro League Baseball 
  70. Psychedelic Signboard 
  71. Barbie
  72. Chuck Berry's Guitar 
  73. Irving Berlin's Piano
  74. R2-D2 
  75. Ruby Slippers 
  76. Teddy Bear 
  77. Ali's Gloves and Robe 
  78. Jordan's Jersey 
  79. Richard Petty's Stock Car 
  80. Spirit of St. Louis
  81. Novus Orbis Map
  82. "M*A*S*H" Sign
  83. Fallout Shelter
  84. World Trade Center Sign
  85. Gas Mask (from World War I)
  86. Pocahontas Engravings 
  87. Giant Panda
  88. U.S. Olympic Hockey Jersey 
  89. Vintage California Wines 
  90. USS Maine Bugle (blown up in Havana harbor, sparking the Spanish-American War)
  91. USS Oklahoma Stamp (sunk in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor)
  92. Stained Glass Shards (from the church in Birmingham Alabama)
  93. Geronimo
  94. John Brown Daguerreotype 
  95. LBJ's Pen
  96. Thomas Jefferson's Desk 
  97. Piece of Plymouth Rock
  98. Harriet Tubman's Hymn book 
  99. "Clipper Flying Cloud
  100. Stamp Act Proof
  101. The Pill

Monday, November 11, 2013

Pigs In Sleeping Bags

Normally there's so much eating and cooking going on on Thanksgiving that appetizers don't make an appearance.  But I might make an exception for these.

Pigs In Sleeping Bags
from Epicurious
yield Makes 36 (9 to 12 servings)
A handmade sausage mix takes the place of cocktail franks in this new party classic. A couple of these will keep those Manhattans you're swilling in check.

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter 
  • 1/4 cup minced shallot 
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced 
  • 3 tablespoons panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) 
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk 
  • 3/4 cup drained sauerkraut 
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard plus more for serving 
  • 3/4 teaspoon caraway seeds, toasted, lightly crushed 
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 
  • 8 ounces ground pork 
  • 1 14-ounce package Dufour Pastry Kitchens frozen puff pastry, thawed 
  • All-purpose flour (for dusting) 
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend 

Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring occasionally and reducing heat if needed to prevent burning, until soft, 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until aromatic, about 1 minute. Transfer shallot mixture to a large bowl and let cool.

Combine panko and milk in a small bowl; let stand until milk is absorbed, 2-3 minutes. Add to bowl with shallot mixture. Squeeze any excess liquid from sauerkraut; coarsely chop and add to bowl. Stir in 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard and caraway seeds; season with salt and pepper. Mix well. Add pork; using a fork or your hands, gently mix until just combined (do not overmix).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface to a 14x10" rectangle. Cut lengthwise into three 14x3 1/3" strips. Transfer strips to prepared baking sheet. Using one-third of sausage filling and leaving a 1" border at each end, pat sausage to form a thin log of filling down the center of 1 pastry strip. Fold pastry over sausage mixture to enclose, then press pastry together to seal. Fold seam under to ensure that sausage is tightly wrapped. Repeat with remaining pastry and sausage mixture.

Cut small diagonal slits at 1" intervals along top of pastries (to help release steam). Brush top and sides of pastry with beaten egg; chill in freezer for about 30 minutes. DO AHEAD: Pastries can be made 2 weeks ahead. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, then foil, and keep frozen.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Bake pastries (if frozen, no need to thaw) until puffed and light brown, about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F; continue baking until sausage is cooked through and pastry is golden and completely puffed, about 25 minutes. Let cool slightly. Cut sausage rolls crosswise into 1" pieces. Serve with a bowl of Dijon mustard for dipping.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Off to the City of Brotherly Love

Tomorrow the Brave Astronaut will depart the launchpad for Philadelphia and the Fall Meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference.  I'm taking the train (something I like to do - but don't nearly do often enough).  I did however score an Amtrak voucher because I don't need the return leg of my journey - so a trip could be in the cards later.

The reason I won't be taking the train home is that Mrs. Brave Astronaut, also known as the First Lady of MARAC, will be joining me for the end of the conference.  Some of you, my dear readers may recall that I was elected as Chair of MARAC in the Spring - this is my first meeting that I will preside over as Chair. 

I am sure that the attendance shattering record of archivists coming to the meeting have nothing to do with that fact. :) However, to commemorate and celebrate Mrs. Brave Astronaut's appearance - I hope that several of my archivist friends will join us for dinner on Friday night and then perhaps a brief lunch on Saturday after the conclusion of the meeting.  At some point we will need to go and pick up LBA and SoBA who will be with my MIL.

If any of my Philly friends have some thoughts on where we might dine on Friday night - I welcome the suggestions.  I promise to keep it to a manageable number and I might even make a reservation.

Monday, November 4, 2013

It's November - Thanksgiving Recipe Month

It looks like the Brave Astronaut Clan will be spending Turkey Day with Mrs. BA's family this year.  We won't be on the hook for much this year - except to show up and eat - which we can do.

All this month on Recipe Monday, I will be posting some yummy Thanksgiving recipes that I have come across recently.  Hopefully they'll show up on the table.

First up, who wouldn't love a bacon themed cocktail? From the LA Times via BuzzFeed.

Candied Bacon Martini
Total time: 35 minutes
Servings: 4

Note: The candied bacon recipe is adapted from "The Gift of Southern Cooking: Recipes and Revelations From Two Great American Cooks" by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock.

Candied bacon 
  • 8 slices smoked bacon 
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar 
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, shiny side up. Dredge the bacon on both sides in the brown sugar and arrange the slices so they do not touch on the sheet. Bake until the bacon is richly caramelized, 15 to 25 minutes. Use a pair of tongs to transfer the bacon strips to a cooling rack and allow the excess fat to drain. Serve warm as candy or cool until hardened for the martinis.

Candied bacon martinis 
  • 6 ounces premium vodka 
  • 4 ounces Applejack brandy 
  • 2 ounces amaretto liqueur 
  • 2 ounces maple syrup, preferably grade "B" 
  • 4 thin slices tart apple, such as Granny Smith 
  • 2 slices candied bacon, halved crosswise
Chill 4 martini glasses. In a large cocktail shaker, combine the vodka, brandy, amaretto and maple syrup with ice. Shake until combined and chilled. Strain the cocktail into the 4 chilled glasses and garnish each with an apple slice and half a slice of candied bacon. Serve immediately.

Each of 4 servings: 284 calories; 1 gram protein; 21 grams carbohydrates; 0 fiber; 1 gram fat; 0 saturated fat; 3 mg. cholesterol; 78 mg. sodium.

Friday, November 1, 2013

All About Saints

Today is All Saint's Day in the Catholic Church Calendar.  As has been mentioned here before, the patron saint of my profession is St. Lawrence, whose feast day is celebrated on August 10.

Here's a list of some more obscure saints that you may not have realized were looking out for you.

St. Genesius - the patron saint of actors - allegedly had an epiphany while performing in a play satirizing Christian sacrament and converted to Christianity on the spot, right in the middle of the play. Emperor Diocletian, for whom the play was being performed, was enraged and, when Genesius refused to change his mind, had the performer tortured and beheaded. This reputedly untrue story, originated three centuries after Genesius’ death. It is believed that Genesius was actually a legal clerk who became so upset about the edict of persecution for Christians that he left his position and went in search of baptism. He was beheaded, around 303 CE, but there’s no evidence to suggest the conversion-during-a-play story is accurate.
St. Vitus has a slightly more legitimate reason to be patron saint of performers, but it’s still a bit fuzzy. Vitus is known as one of the “Fourteen Holy Helpers,” a group of saints venerated together because their intercession is considered especially effective.

Advertising, Television, & Broadcasting 
Bernardine of Siena was a Franciscan priest and is considered the patron saint of advertisers, an honor that stems from his passionate and highly persuasive preaching. In 1444, he realized his death was imminent, and preached for 50 consecutive days until his death. Take that, Don Draper.

Gabriel the Archangel looks after radio broadcasters (and “communication workers” in general).  Gabriel is the angel who appeared to Mary to announce her pregnancy.

St. Clare of Assisi helps those in television.  Near the end of her life, Clare became too sick to attend daily mass. On Christmas Eve, she saw visions of the chapel mass on the wall of her cell, complete with organ music and singing. Considering this miracle to be the first live broadcast, Pope Pius XII declared St. Clare the patron saint of television in 1958.

Beer, Brewers, & Alcoholics
Beer has just one patron saint, an Austrian bishop who was known for extolling the benefits of drinking beer. St. Arnold was born into a prominent Austrian family in 580 CE. In that time, water wasn’t actually very safe to drink, as it was often filled with contaminants that could make people sick. Beer’s preparation, however, kills off any harmful bacteria, making it positively healthy in comparison. Arnold spoke often on the topic of beer, especially its health benefits. He’s credited with the statement, “From man’s sweat and God’s love, beer came into the world.” About a year after Arnold’s death and burial at his monastery in Remiremont, France, his body was relocated to the local church in Metz, France, where he had frequently preached. According to legend, the procession that transported his body stopped at a tavern for refreshment on the way, but there was only one mug of beer left, so they all split it… and the mug never ran dry, quenching the crowd’s thirst. Today, there’s a brewery in Houston named for the patron saint of beer: Saint Arnold Brewing Company.

Brewers have a whole assortment of patron saints to call their own: Augustine of Hippo, Luke, Nicholas of Myra, Amand, and Wenceslaus. Yet the explanations for these patrons are lacking. The only one given an explanation is St. Augustine of Hippo, and it’s shaky at best. According to “St. Augustine of Hippo is the patron of brewers because of his conversion from a former life of loose living, which included parties, entertainment, and worldly ambitions. His complete turnaround and conversion has been an inspiration to many who struggle with a particular vice or habit they long to break.” His early bad boy lifestyle may have been a classic case of rebellion—his mother was the super holy St. Monica, who managed to convert her husband and his mother to Christianity. She prayed for Augustine through 17 years of his “loose living” and was consoled by a priest who told her, “It is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish.” Eventually, her prayers and preaching won out, and Augustine cast aside “all impurity” and began living “in imitation of Jesus.”

Speaking of St. Monica, she’s known as the patron saint of alcoholics (and those affected by them). In addition to her challenges with her son Augustine, her husband was an abusive alcoholic pagan whom she had married through arrangement at a young age. Despite their differences and his bad temper, Monica was able to not only “nag him to sobriety,” as one site put it, but to convert him to her faith. She’s also the patron saint of wives and victims of abuse, as you may have been able to guess.

Illegitimate Kids, the Divorced, & Single Moms
There isn’t much information available as to why St. John Francis Regis is regarded as the patron saint of illegitimate children, but it’s most likely related to his work with “wayward women and girls.” John was ordained in 1630 and embarked on a life of assisting others, including helping wayward women and girls “withdr[a]w from vice,” establishing hostels for prostitutes, and providing girls with incomes by setting them up as lacemakers (which is why he’s also the patron saint of lacemakers).

Those who have been divorced, especially women, can look to Helena of Constantinople, mother of Constantine the Great, as their patron saint. St. Helena (also known as St. Helen) is most often associated with the True Cross, since she is credited with finding the relics of the cross on which Jesus was crucified. However, her personal life suits her to patronage of divorcées. It’s unknown exactly when and how she met Emperor Constantius, but it is said that when they met he saw her as “his soulmate sent by God.” Sources are also unsure as to the exact nature of their relationship: some say it was a legal marriage, others a common-law marriage; some say she was his wife, others his concubine. Whatever the specifics, the two were in a relationship that produced an heir, Constantine, around the year 272 CE. They remained together for at least 15 years, but in 289 CE Constantius, who was Roman Emperor Caesar, divorced Helena to enter into a politically advantageous marriage with a younger woman, Theodora, who was the stepdaugher of Maximian, Roman Emperor Augustus at the time.

As for single moms, they have St. Margaret of Cortona, who became the mistress of a nobleman when she was a teenager. Margaret remained with the nobleman for ten years and even bore him a son, despite his refusal to marry her as she desired. She left only after his murder (don’t worry, she wasn’t the one who killed him) and returned home to her father’s house with her son, but her stepmother refused to let her stay. She took refuge with the Church of Saint Francis in Cortona, eventually joining the Third Order of St. Francis (although her past led to resistance by some members of the order).

The Ugly & Those Suffering Discrimination
Drogo of Sebourg, who was born into Flemish nobility, held himself responsible for his mother’s death in childbirth and practiced extreme penance, ridding himself of all possessions at age 18 to become a penitential pilgrim. During one pilgrimage, he suffered an “unsightly bodily affliction.” The term “unsightly” is actually a bit too mild to properly convey Drogo’s condition: he became so deformed that townspeople were scared of his appearance, and they even built a cell (attached to a church, since he was so religious) for him to stay in, to “protect the local citizens of the village from his appearance.” Yeah, he was that ugly. For the remaining 40 years of his life, the only human contact he had was via a small window in the door of his cell, through which he received his sustenance—barley, water, and the Eucharist. So if you feel that you’re ugly or deformed, send up a prayer through St. Drogo… or just remind yourself he had it a lot worse. There’s also St. Germaine, who supposedly was abandoned by her parents as a young child due to her unattractiveness. She spent her life isolated from society; as a shepherdess, she slept in fields and under stairways and had limited human interaction.

Desperate Situations and Impossible Cases
People who feel they’re facing desperate situations can comfort themselves with the knowledge that they have several patron saints to whom they can turn: Jude, Gregory the Wonderworker, and Eustace. Really, the majority of the officially recognized saints suffered through “desperate situations,” so almost any of them are worth a shot. St. Jude is probably the most well-known for desperate situations (and lost causes). His reputation as patron of the desperate is due to his New Testament letter, which “stresses that the faithful should persevere in the environment of harsh, difficult circumstances, just as their forefathers had done before them,” according to

If your situation is truly impossible, though, you have only one person to turn to: Rita of Cascia. From childhood, Rita (also known as Margarita) yearned to be a nun, but her parents forced her into marriage at age 12 to “a rich, quick-tempered, immoral man, who had many enemies in the region.” She endured his “insults, abuse, and infidelities” and persevered in converting “her cruel husband from his wicked ways, making their home a peaceful sanctuary of holy bliss.” They went on to have two children together. Despite her husband’s change of heart, his past led to his downfall; he was stabbed to death, betrayed by his allies. As her sons grew older, they plotted revenge for their father’s murder and wouldn’t listen to reason from Rita. So Rita turned to prayer instead, and her sons died non-violent deaths before they were able to enact any revenge.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

On Public Speaking

Today I participated in a class offered through my employer on Successful Public Speaking.  I don't particularly have a problem speaking in public - in my various roles and hats that I wear - I tend to do a lot of public speaking.

It was an opportunity for me to hear about where "the knowledge bar" is these days and what the current "do's and don'ts" of public speaking are.  The instructor was outstanding (as she is in most things - although she is retiring in January and leaves some might big "ruby slippers" to fill).  I say ruby slippers - as she equated our experience today to going on a journey of unforeseen consequences, unforeseen circumstances, and unforeseen outcomes - much like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.  She also used some visuals, including Paul McCartney and George Harrison (she has a thing for the Beatles) and a clip from Home Improvement, specifically an episode where Jill has to give a speech.

For the class, we had to prepare (and then deliver) one-minute, two-minute, and three-minute speeches.  In the first speech, we had to "inform, motivate, or persuade" our audience about a particular topic.  The second (two-minute) speech asked us to use an illustration / visual aid to make our point.  The final speech was to use visual, vocal, and/or verbal techniques to convey our message.

I procrastinated on preparing for the speeches (much like Jill Taylor does in Home Improvement) - finally making some notes on the metro ride in this morning.  I chose the topic of professional organizations for my first speech (as most of you know, I am involved in several professional organizations, including currently serving as Chair of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference.  I spent my minute extolling the virtues of being professional active and finished under the time deadline by telling the audience to talk with me after if they were interested in being more involved.

For the second speech, I employed the visual aid of a thumb drive to illustrate what happens when you get records on a medium that is not supposed to be transferred to the archives.  Of course (for those of you monitoring - the thumb drive was my own, the other thumb drive is locked away at work).  I used the remainder of my time explaining the "problem" and the "solution" that I would employ to deal with the thumb drive transfer.

Finally after lunch (never a good time to give a speech - or listen to one, for that matter), I explained for the audience how one "Trick or Treats" with an 8-year old (LBA) and a 5-year old (SoBA).  I explained how the costume selection process went at the launchpad - LBA is planning on being Harry Potter for Halloween, while SoBA has flitted from costume to costume, before finally settling on (we think) Indiana Jones - we'll find out tomorrow what is the winner.  In order to keep the audience engaged (and use visuals), I went out at lunch time and bought a bag of Halloween candy to proffer to them, which I believe helped my case a great deal.

Happy Halloween to all of you out there!  "See you on the other side, Ray!"

Monday, October 28, 2013

Mac and Cheese Pie - With Bacon on Top

When the Brave Astronaut Clan has breakfast for dinner - the leftover bacon (more so the bacon that is reserved and not allowed to be eaten) is made into quiche for the next evening's dinner.  As has been previously noted here - one of SoBA's favorite dishes (and easy for the Brave Astronaut to produce quickly) is pasta and peas.  They are not huge fans of the prepared mac and cheese options - though they do like my MIL's mac and cheese.  While I was furloughed recently - I went back to my roots and made my mother's mac and cheese.  It was almost as good as she used to make.

I spotted this recipe some time ago and thought it might make an appearance and be very well received.

Bacon Mac ‘N’ Cheese Pie with Bacon Lattice
Inspired by Breakfast for Dessert and chef Matt Jennings’ Cheesemonger’s Mac and Cheese

For the crust:
  • 3½ cups all-purpose flour (from the freezer if possible) 
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter, cut into ½” cubes
  • ¼ cup cold vegetable shortening 
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. kosher salt 
  • 1 Tbsp. scant apple cider vinegar + enough ice water to make ¾ cup liquid 
For mac ‘n’ cheese filling:
  • 5 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 cups dried macaroni 
  • 4 Tbsp. of butter (½ a stick) 
  • 4 Tbsp. flour 
  • 2.5 cups heavy cream 
  • 2 tsp mustard powder 
  • 1 egg yolk 
  • 1 pound grated cheese — an equal parts mixture of gruyere, sharp cheddar, brie (no rind)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 
For the bacon lattice:
  • 8 slices bacon
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar

For the crust:
  1. Measure out all of your ingredients for the crust and make sure your butter and shortening are very cold. (It helps to put them in the freezer after they’re measured and cut into pieces. It also helps to keep the flour in the freezer.)
  2. Put flour, butter, vegetable shortening, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse JUST until butter resembles tiny pebbles, about 12-15 times. (If you don’t have a food processor, stir the dry ingredients then cut the fats into the mixture with the tines of a fork until you have tiny pebbles and it’s pretty well incorporated.) Transfer to a large bowl. Gradually add vinegar-ice water mixture, using a fork to stir until dough is a mixture of clumpy wet pieces and sandy pieces, adding more water if dry. Take care not to over-moisten your dough — you don’t have to use all ¾ cups liquid. Watch the dough and stop adding liquid once it begins to clump. It doesn’t need to be completely stuck together.
  3. Turn dough out onto a clean counter and form into ball. Be careful not to over-handle it — it doesn’t need to be kneaded, just needs to come together. Once it’s in a ball, cut the ball in half then flatten the halves into discs. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour or overnight. (DO AHEAD: Can be made ahead. Keep dough refrigerated up to 2 days, or enclose in resealable plastic bag and freeze up to 1 month, then thaw in refrigerator overnight. Soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out.)
  4. Lightly grease a 9” pie plate with butter, shortening, or baking spray. 
  5. Prepare a clean countertop as workspace to roll out the dough. Sprinkle some flour on a sheet of parchment, put one dough disc on it, sprinkle flour on the disc, then top with another sheet of parchment. Using a rolling pin, roll out dough between those two sheets of parchment paper in a circular shape until its diameter is 2”-3” larger than the pie plate all around. 
  6. Remove the top sheet of parchment, then carefully pick up an edge of the round and wrap it around the rolling pin. As you continue to roll the pin, the dough will wrap completely around it so you can easily transfer it to the plate. Starting on one edge of the pie plate, unroll the dough, making sure it is centered. At this point it’s best to put it back in the fridge for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  7. Press the dough into the plate. Leaving enough dough to crimp the edges, trim the overhang with a knife or scissors.
  8. Preheat oven to 375°F. Prick chilled crust in pie dish all over with a fork. Line crust with foil or parchment paper, then fill the liner with dried beans or pie weights. Bake 25 minutes. Remove from oven; lift out foil and weights. Reduce temperature to 350°. Return to oven and bake, using fork to prick any bubbles that have formed and pressing down on them with back of fork, until crust is JUST light golden-brown, about 2 minutes longer. (It will bake again later so it shouldn’t be too dark yet.) Let crust cool completely.

For mac ‘n’ cheese filling:
  1. Boil pasta in generously salted water until just al dente, following directions on package. 
  2. Cook bacon pieces in sauté pan until just crispy, drain on paper towels and set aside. 
  3. In a large pot, melt the butter. Then stir in the flour. Whisk to combine and cook for 1-2 minutes. Now you’ve got what is called a “roux” — equal parts butter and flour cooked together. Add the cream and whisk again, let cook, whisking occasionally, for 5-10 minutes until it thickens. Now you’ve got bechamel sauce.
  4. Add mustard powder and whisk to combine.
  5. Temper egg yolk into the bechamel: To do this, take a little of your hot bechamel and put it into a bowl with the egg yolk. Whisk so that the egg heats up gently. Then dump the warm egg/bechamel mixture into the hot pot of bechamel, and whisk.
  6. Add all the cheese and stir to combine. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  7. Add macaroni and cooked bacon pieces to cheese sauce, then add more freshly ground pepper to taste.

To assemble:
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Fill the baked pie crust with the mac ‘n’ cheese. You’ll use all but 1 or 2 cups.
  3. Weave a lattice with 8 bacon slices (4 in one direction and 4 in the other direction — keep them long as long as possible because they will shrink when they cook).
  4. Using your fingers, spread brown sugar on the strips of bacon, then put in a 425°F oven for 15 minutes or until the bacon is cooked. Serve warm.