It was a long old haul from January 29th to July 3rd, but I made it home in one piece; road weary, a little snugger in my jeans and a little alarmed by the deepening of my forehead wrinkles. Welcome back! Five days of rest before heading out on tour for another three and a half weeks. And by rest I mean three shows and two days off to try and squeeze in all the people I love. Too many people (lucky girl) and not enough days! Strange first of all to see St. John’s in July. The Northern Peninsula has been my world from May to September for years and I was curious to see what my house looked and felt like in summer. Leaves on the trees, skeety kids skateboarding in the cul-de-sac, and 29 degrees on the thermostat in my little red kitchen. Jesus, that doesn’t even happen during my squishy Christmas party. This summer thing was really something. And friends keep telling me that sometimes you get more than those allotted two days in Cow Head.
Robert was staying at my place for the summer and my boyfriend had bought a new house while I was away, so I stayed there. The same boyfriend who didn’t blink an eye when I said. “So, I gotta go on tour for six months. We cool?” I was excited to get to know a new kitchen, and I’m pretty sure Justin was equally excited to have five months of tour explode all over his house. For sure baking him the very first batch of cookies in his brand new house would make up for my mess. I used my fail-safe, Michael Smith’s oatmeal chocolate chip cookies; the easiest recipe out there for a quick fix when someone drops by for tea, or you need a few spoonfuls of cookie dough after a shit day at work. This was going to be awesome! I was such an excellent girlfriend. We were headed to Melanie and Mark’s house the next day for a barbecue and I was in charge of dessert. I had made a batch of homemade raspberry ice cream earlier that would be squashed between cookies to make little ice cream sandwiches. I was so pleased with myself I thought about doing something I’ve never done before…tweeting one of my favourite chefs. I asked Justin if it would be weird or dorky or a little sad if, after the dessert was a raging success, it would make me a complete loser if I tweeted Michael Smith to let him know I used his recipe for the ice cream sandwiches.
“I think it would be adorable.”
“What? Adorable? Ok, well then I won’t do it.”
“Cool, I mean it would really cool.”
“I’m totally gonna do it.”
It took me a while to get around to this Twitter thing. Not surprising, as I still haven’t figured out how to put it out there on the huge blank white space to your right. Melanie finally convinced me to give it a try on Christmas Day when I was at her place, full of red wine and chicken lababdar. At that moment I could easily have been convinced to run shoeless through the streets of downtown for a laugh, but instead I opened a Twitter account. But you know what? The whole 140 characters makes it hard for me to gush about food sometimes. When I went over the character limit that first time the little bird told me “I’d have to be more clever.” So what, I was supposed to OMG and LOL and WTF? If that was clever I wanted nothing more to do with it and said so to my computer before throwing it into Melanie’s fireplace. Right, so nothing got thrown in the fireplace and I finally figured out that Twitter was harmless enough and if anything it was a fun way to get new recipes from your favourite chefs, or waste hours of time reading about people’s farts.
So that was it. I would tweet Michael, he would retweet (I know…humanity’s doomed), and we’d become instant pals. Too bad I burnt the shit out of the cookies. New kitchen, new oven, lots of places to lay the blame except squarely where it belonged. I should have raised the rack, I should have lowered the temperature until I was used to the oven, I should have kept a closer eye, blah blah. Crushing disappointment on all sides. No tweeting, no smell of homemade cookies wafting through my fella’s kitchen. Just me crooked as sin with myself for screwing up the simplest of desserts. Really. This simple.
Michael Smith’s Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp molasses
1 cup flour
1 cup oats
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips
Preheat your oven to 375 F. Cream the butter, sugar and molasses together in a stand mixer (I used a hand mixer). Beat until well combined and creamy. If you don’t have a stand mixer beat vigorously by hand in a large bowl. Meanwhile whisk the flour, oats, baking powder and salt together in a separate bowl. Add the egg and vanilla to the butter mixture and continue beating until well combined. Scrape down the bowl and gradually add the flour mix, beating just until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand. You may try using ground oats if you prefer a smoother texture cookie. Using a tablespoon, scoop out a ball of the dough and drop onto a lightly greased cookie tray. Flatten slightly, leaving lots of room in between for the cookies to expand. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Cool for 2 minutes then remove from the tray.
The best tasting cookie dough you will ever eat. Ever. Mind the the heat in your oven, or you too will look like an arsehole in front of friends and loved ones.
Justin said they still tasted great and I told him he was supposed to say that because he was my boyfriend. I agonized over the waste of good butter and chocolate and I think I may have filled up at one point. I almost threw them out and started from scratch, but I was tired and I still had to put the chicken in to marinate for the next day. Let’s see if I could do this without looking like an 8 year old.
At Didi’s birthday party in Halifax our friend Mary-colin made these amazing chicken thighs marinated in buttermilk and turmeric and probably a bunch of other nice stuff that I didn’t quite catch through the haze of Red Stripe. This stuff was amazing on the barbecue and I knew I had to borrow the idea and give it a go. We all know how I feel about chicken breasts, but Mel really likes them and I figured if the marinade worked, they’d be tender enough to make curried barbecued chicken sandwiches. Or something. After the burnt cookies I had no hope for the universe. Anyway, it all worked out in the end, so give this a go and it’ll be something different at your next barbecue. A good recipe to have if you have friends who don’t eat red meat.
I had about five big fat chicken breasts that I put in a large bowl and stabbed with a fork a few times. Salted and peppered them and poured in enough buttermilk until they were covered (buy a one litre and save the rest for pancakes). Here’s where you can go a little crazy with whatever spices you have…just make sure turmeric is one of them so when the chicken is grilled it’ll have that really vibrant curry colour. I used whatever was in my magic tour bag of spices: 2 tsp of turmeric, 1 1/2 tsp chilli powder, 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin, 1 1/2 tsp paprika and 1 1/2 tsp of crushed chillis. I love everything absolutely bursting with spice and heat, but you can ease up and go 1 tsp each or even a half each for a subtler flavour. I think ground cardamom and coriander might be nice.
These babies marinated overnight, but you’d be good with a couple of hours in a pinch. We piled everything in the car the next afternoon and managed to make it to the liquor store and then Mel and Mark’s without spilling buttermilk chicken juice all over Justin’s car. I poured a glass of Prosecco when I got there and made some lime mint cilantro mayonnaise for the chicken burgers. As easy as it sounds, unless you’re going to make your own homemade in which case well aren’t you something. If you’ve had a couple of glasses of Prosecco on an empty stomach, just squeeze some lime juice and throw some fresh chopped mint and cilantro into a few tablespoons of your favourite jarred mayonnaise (no tangy zip please) and poof, you’re done.
Barbecuing is up there with small engine repair for me, so I got Mark to cook them. I knew he wouldn’t give us salmonella poisoning and that’s a hell of a lot of trust coming from me. He thought they were overcooked but I thought they were perfect. And not dry boring chicken breasts at all…juicy and tasty and the way a chicken breast should be, not poached next to a pile of green beans on the cover of a health magazine.
I cut up the chicken in burger-sized pieces and we ate them on big toasted Italian rolls with the mayonnaise and some arugula. Mel had hers with tomato, but I kept mine a little more naked. Served with Melanie’s favourite “yogi secret shame” macaroni salad from those clear plastic tubs. You won’t see that on a cover of a health magazine any time soon, but it’ll make you happier than green beans, that’s for sure.
Michael. I’m sorry I burnt the cookies. I’m sorry I forgot to take the ice cream out of the freezer to soften. I’m sorry I had too much Prosecco and couldn’t fashion little ice cream sandwiches. But you will be happy to know, that a few scoops of homemade raspberry ice cream on top of your burnt cookies made a whole lot of people happy.