Unemployment sucks. It’s not fair that you work and build a career over many years and by the stroke of a pen or “brilliant cost cutting idea”, POOF! It’s gone. Prada to Payless overnight. Nope, not fair, not one tiny bit! Waa waa waa. There…..feel better? Everyone in this situation caters their own pity party eventually. And it’s perfectly ok to do so for a little while. You have to process the crap in order to get past it and move forward. BUT…swimming in it ‘til your fingers get all pruney?? Even YOU won’t want to be near you. At some point you need to suck it up and “SNAP OUTTA IT!” Yes, it sucks, but now what? What’s your next step forward? That’s a hard question to answer, even harder to actually do once you’ve answered. But do it you will because the fact is, there really isn’t a choice. My aunt calls this “putting on your big girl pants”. Naturally, I think of it as time to put on the BIG GIRL shoes. Sure it’s daunting and scary as hell, but tackling something really hard always is. Know what? It makes you feel pretty damn good too. Like walking around in a pair of 5” Louboutins as though you came out of the womb with them firmly in place (sorry Mom…) So get your waa waa waa on for a bit, then take a deep breath, strap on them BIG GAL shoes, and get ready to kick the crap to the curb and CONQUER THE WORLD!!
These two recipes may seem daunting but they really aren’t hard at all. What they are is impressive as hell to your guests. However, do NOT tell them they were easy. Just smile sweetly as they go on believing you are a kitchen goddess….it makes them feel good.
Smoked-Trout Pate with Pita Crisps
(Adapted from Martha Stewart Living) Makes about 3 cups
This is great with the pita crisps, and leftovers are killer schmeered on a toasted bagel.
- 1 pound smoked trout fillet, skinned and deboned
- ¼ pound cream cheese, room temperature
- 3 TBSP unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 TBSP cognac
- 2 TBSP finely chopped red onion, plus more for garnish
- ½ TSP Worcestershire sauce
- 1 TBSP chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
- 2 TSP lemon juice
- hot sauce, such as Tabasco
- coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Puree trout, cream cheese, butter, cognac, onion, Worcestershire sauce, and dill in food processor. Add lemon juice, a few drops hot sauce, salt and pepper, and pulse. Transfer to bowl. Cover, and refrigerate at least an hour (or overnight). Garnish with more onion and dill, and serve with Pita Crisps.
Calories: approximately 35 cal/TBSP
Pita Chips Makes 36 pita chips
- 3 whole-wheat or white pita (about 6 inches each)
- olive oil cooking spray, or 2-3 TBSP olive oil for brushing
- coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Preheat over to 375° F. Split pita horizontally. Brush interiors with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Cut each pita half into 6 wedges. Arrange in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until golden and crisp, 10-12 minutes. Let cool. Pita crisps can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Calories: approximately 16 cal/chip
Make-ahead chocolate soufflés
(Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated) Serves 6-8
Soufflés scare the hell out of most cooks. We’ve all watched the scene in Roman Holiday when Audrey Hepburn pulls her perfect soufflé out of the oven and watches it sink into a big cheesy turd. These little babies will put that fear to rest. You make them as individual soufflés rather than a big one and bake-off only as many as you need, (and guess who gets to have chocolate soufflé for breakfast the next day…) Plus, they get made ahead and frozen. When you are ready, you just pull them out of the freezer, pop them in the oven, and voila! Accept the applause, you ROCK STAR!
- 5 TBSP unsalted butter (1 tablespoon softened, remaining butter cut into ¼ -inch chunks)
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 TBSP for coating the dishes
- 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped coarse
- 1/8 TSP salt
- ½ TSP vanilla extract
- 1 TBSP orange liqueur (Grand Marnier or Cointreau work nicely)
- 6 large egg yolks
- 8 large egg whites
- ¼ TSP cream of tartar
- 2 TBSP confectioners’ sugar
- Optional toppings and add-ins: fresh raspberries, Clementine sections, dried apricots or cherries, crushed pretzels, salted peanuts or other salted nuts, crushed candy canes, Reese’s pieces or other small candies, whipped cream or whatever!
Coat eight 1-cup ramekins with 1 tablespoon butter, then coat inside of dish evenly with the 1 TBSP sugar; refrigerate until ready to use.
Melt chocolate and remaining butter in medium bowl set over pan of simmering water. Turn off heat, stir in salt, vanilla, and liqueur; set aside.
Bring the 1/3 cup of sugar and 2 TBSP water to boil in small saucepan, then simmer until sugar dissolves. With mixer running, slowlyadd this sugar syrup to egg yolks in a thin stream – you don’t want sweet scrambled eggs. Beat until mixture triples in volume, about 3 minutes. Fold into chocolate mixture. Clean beaters.
Beat egg whites until frothy; add cream of tartar and beat to soft peaks; add confectioners’ sugar; continue beating to stiff peaks. Cook’s Illustrated defines stiff peak stage as when the mixture just holds the weight of a raw egg in the shell when the egg is placed on top. I prefer to scoop out some, and turn the spoon upside-down over the bowl. If it stays in place, it’s ready. (I’ve seen the kitchen trick of turning the full bowl upside-down over your head. A fancy schmancy trick sure to impress spectators, but if it’s not ready you have a hell of a hair conditioning treatment and have ruined a whole bunch of eggs…)
Vigorously stir one-quarter of whipped whites into chocolate mixture. Gently fold remaining whites into mixture until just incorporated. Fill each ramekin almost to rim, wiping excess filling from rim with wet paper towel. Cover and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours, and up to two days before serving. (NOTE: if you wrap these good in cling wrap and put in a freezer bag, they can keep for even longer than that.)
Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and heat oven to 400° F. Bake until fully risen, about 16 to 18 minutes. They are done when fragrant and fully risen. Do keep an eye on them the last 2-3 minutes so they don’t burn – you can practice your ‘basking in the glow of their adoration’ smile while you wait the last few minutes. Serve immediately.
Optional toppings and add ins: When I serve these for a dinner party, I put out a lot of little bowls with some of the optional toppings listed in the ingredients (and I’m certain you can come up with a few of your own). Encourage everyone to stick their spoon in the middle of their soufflé, open it up, and add in what they like. Then sit back, and watch your grown up guests turn into a bunch of happy little kids! Calories per serving (is she SERIOUS?!): approximately 320/8 servings, or 425/6 servings. Go for another walk around the block…they’re worth it!