Saturday Night Update

Edit – Forgot to include the video and picture of Saturday dinner!  Apologies for reposting.


Saturday night.  After a full day of working on the computer and a full day for Tawn out running errands and catching up with various friends, he is working on a blouse and I’m preparing dinner.  Something very impromptu, made only of what odds and ends are in the kitchen.  The result: pan-fried polenta topped with tomato sauce, bacon, and Italian sausage served with a mixed green salad.  Not the healthiest main course, probably, but the fridge is a bit empty of veggies other than salad.

It has been kind of busy lately.  The first trio of several guests the autumn arrive just before Thanksgiving, and I’m trying to get a very expansive work project (now in its fourth month) completed before then, so that I can spend some time with them while they are here.

On top of that, Tawn and I are hosting Thanksgiving at our place this year.  It will be held on Saturday instead of Thursday because Thanksgiving is a US (and Canadian) thing and nobody in Thailand other than the US Embassy staff is getting Thursday off work!  We expect close to 20 guests and will be doing a poolside potluck.  A few decisions I’ve arrived at: I am going to roast only turkey breast, not a whole turkey.  I am going to roast it in advance, slather it with drippings and broth, and reheat it before serving.  I am also going to make my gravy in advance from roast chickens.  Seriously, with 20 guests and a small kitchen, I am not going to try and do a whole bird and I’m not going to spend the $100 it costs to buy an imported bird and have it roasted at the market.

Recently I made a third attempt at Macadamia Nut Cream Pie and it was similarly soupy.  Here’s a short video in which my irritation almost starts to show.

Seriously, what is the problem?  Well, the good news is that this evening I whipped up a fourth batch of filling and it appears to be setting nicely. Two hours in the fridge and it is pretty firm.  But here is the problem: I wasn’t very scientific in my approach so I can’t tell you exactly what the fix was.  I bought some new cornstarch and threw out the old, just in case that was the issue (which seems unlikely).  I also modified recipe #3, a Betty Crocker recipe for vanilla cream pie, increasing the egg yolks by one, reducing the sugar slightly, and almost doubling the cornstarch.  The scientists among you will shake your heads at my technique, but I really can’t keep baking pies, each time changing one element à la Cooks Illustrated.

I’ll try it again soon and include a pie crust and take some pictures.  Please, dear deity of the kitchen, let the me replicate my success with this recipe!

My aunt, who was like a substitute mother for me once my parents moved out of the Bay Area for the Midwest, recently underwent some serious heart-related surgery and apparently is doing very well.  I’m so relieved.  There are people in life who have an especially profound impact on us, who shape elements of our outlook on life.  My aunt’s attitude of “there’s always room for one more at the table” has shaped my approach to hospitality, party-throwing, and friendship for more than two decades.  I hope she is back to hosting parties very soon.

In other news, I found out that Tawn’s fashion school, which is affiliated with a school in Florence, has an exchange program.  He could go study for a semester in Florence with no additional tuition costs.  Room, board, transportation, etc. would be an additional cost – a very significant one! – but at least no more school fees.  I don’t know how we could swing this but my job location is very flexible and I would certainly love to live in Italy for a few months.  Maybe I can take a leave of absence and study Italian cooking!

Okay, those are the things on my mind.  I’m going to go watch episode 2 of the PBS miniseries Circus.

0 thoughts on “Saturday Night Update

  1. If you haven’t been to Florence it is a wonderful city. My daughter lived there for a school semester and we got to visit while she was there. Speaking Italian helps but not necessary since many Italians speak some English. Tremendous art, lovely people, and easy trips to Rome, Milan, Venice, etc.

  2. I will admit Florence is a beautiful city. You would love it there. Of course as usual the cost would be the big thing. I like the idea of using breasts for the dinner. I know there is the tradition eating of the giant drumsticks but they will survive. It sounds like you have everything together.

  3. Glad to know your aunt is feeling better! I guess she has quite a generous personality, just like her nephew. I’d just go for it without hesitate, a few months in Florence will pass by so quick! That’ll add another chapter to your foreign adventure, right?

  4. @RushmoreJ – I went there the summer of 2001 and loved it.  Am convinced it is a city that for some uknown reason God decided to bless with a dispraportionate amount of art and beauty.@Fatcat723 – Well, we’ll see how the breast only thing works.  Should be fine, though.@CurryPuffy – It does seem like one of those adventures that it would be a shame to pass up, right?

  5. But who will look after your condo while you folks are gone? I guess if you do move to Florence, you may have to re-adjust some of your conference calls / online meetings? Gosh – if you can swing it, it would be awesome.I’m glad your aunt is doing well and I love that “room for one more at the table” outlook.

  6. oh chris… ur blog always bring me so much joy best of luck w/ ur thxgiving cooking and i hope u and tawn can figure sumthing out re italy. it’s a lovely place… (my cousin in law is italian…. those trips they take 2 visit his parents r absolutely amazing) ::keeping fingers crosssed 4 ya:: ❤ xo

  7. What a fantastic opportunity to spend some time in Florence…..and it is also so accessible by train to other cities that you could explore on weekends etc…..

  8. @Roadlesstaken – I’ve fixed that, Alex.  A little too much champagne last night… ha ha!@venice – Oh, it would be fantastic to visit friends in Verona, family in Milano, friends in Cologne and Barcelona.  One would imagine that we could burn through our entire retirement savings in three or four months!  =D@Sinful_Sundae – Coincidence?  My cousin’s wife is Italian, too.  I’d like to coordinate any plans of being there with their plan to return for a visit.@ElusiveWords – There are many, many details that would have to be worked out including about the condo.  We have family here in Bangkok and many friends so that wouldn’t be a problem.  We could also coordinate with a friend who spends several months a year in Bangkok and see if he would like to stay here during that time.  Thanks for your thoughts about my aunt.

  9. Hi cutie! The meal looked de-lish and so sorry about your pie, but happy to know your aunt is do better. OMG! As much as I bake and cook now, I wish we were closer because I love mixing it up with others who like to entertain, cook and host. You still look fabulous!!!

  10. @ThePrince – Yes, we actually tried the new filling last night and it is nice and firm.  Yeah cornstarch!  I think I need to cut back on the amount of macadamia nuts, though, or maybe not grind them up so finely.  There was a bit too much texture!@notjus4ne1 – Oh, I hear you.  Folks here generally don’t have large living spaces and definitely don’t have large kitchens, so there are few people who enjoy doing the at-home entertaining.  Thanks for your kind words!

  11. Did you offer the kitchen gods a taste before placing in the refrigerator?? Let them sample the nuts?? If there were macademia nuts and I wasn’t offered any I’d certainly hex the enterprise. just saying. And I love the expression at the end! hehe!

  12. Oh my gosh- the third attempt of the Macadamia Nut pie- ha ha! Too funny!  That pie is drinkable.  Lol  So glad the fourth attempt worked.  ps.  OMG- that is way awesome about school in Flourance for Twan.  Once in a life time experience for sure & would be phenomenal for both of you.  May take some thinking and feeling to know if it’s what you should do, but how exciting a possibility- would be amazing:)

  13. @murisopsis – That may be what was the problem.  Didn’t place a few nuts next to the Buddha statue!  Ha ha…@agmhkg – There is a short list of cities where it would be fun to spend a few months and Florence in on that list.@karen_lynn – We definitely are going to have to think carefully about it.  It would be a shame not to find a way to make it work.

  14. There are so many wins for the Italy opportunities that I lost count!  I agree short-term finance can be a drain, it would be a nice investment if you guys can swing it.  BTW, Chris, you are a very sincere cook indeed.  Next time I visit Bangkok (or Florence?), I think I would request a home cooked meal, hehe.

  15. Hope the pie was exquisitely wonderful. Tell us about that soon. I am so happy that your aunt is doing well. What a blessing to have good health. And Tawn’s great fortune in going to Florence, is such a neat thing Chris. Now you will get to learn not only a different language but also do all Italian cooking.Finally, my friend, A Very Happy Birthday to you.

  16. @ThePrince – @ElusiveWords – @ANVRSADDAY – @Sinful_Sundae – @slmret – Thank you everyone for the early birthday wishes.@twoberry – Thanks for the birthday wishes.  I am baking (or at least attempting to bake) a flourless chocolate raspberry torte for my cake.  We’ll see how THAT goes!@ZSA_MD – Thank you for the thoughtful birthday wishes.  If we do end up going to Italy you can be sure I’m going to be taking both language and cooking classes!

  17. sweeeeeeeeeeet!!! HAPPY (early) BIRRRTHDAY again… mr. you still look like a 26 yrs old handsome boy!loooking forward to ur nxt update on ur flourless chocolate raspberry torte!!!!! MUAH!

  18. Unfortunately I only got to see the inside of the Florence train station when we were in Italy but it’s one of Phil’s favorite cities in Italy (he loves the architecture; surprise, surprise). That would be wonderful if you were able to swing living there for a little bit. I loved Italy!

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