April 25th, 2011


Weeknight Stir-Fry

So I was realizing last night that I've never really written down the single "recipe" that I use most often. That's because it's not a recipe per se -- rather, it's an approach to making dinner, aimed specifically at something good for a Tuesday evening. I find myself feeling like a period cook talking about bread: it's not a precise recipe, it's just something I *do*. But I've been realizing that not everyone simply intuits the ways you can mess with this stuff, and folks might find it useful. I've described a specific dish or two made this way, but I don't think I've given the underlying pattern.

Note that I'm using "stir-fry" in the absolute loosest sense. It fails to be a proper stir-fry in several respects, and only a few of the below variations are Chinese-flavored. I'm mostly using the term to mean "tossing stuff in a skillet with modest oil, and then saucing it at the end" -- the heart of a fairly ordinary stir-fry.

So below is the "master recipe" -- really, the template -- for how I make these dishes, and some ideas of variations I apply to it. I encourage you to mess around with it and see what works for you.
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A few more weekend notes

Thursday evening, a bunch of us went to Fire+Ice downtown. Suffice it to say, we were underwhelmed. The wait was predicted to be long (as I'd expected), but the line turned out to be *comically* mismanaged, to the point where they finally seated us, quite clearly, because we were about ready to give up and leave. (hfcougar, who was beyond fed up, decided to leave anyway.) It was pretty clear that they'd lost all control of the process, to the point where they were blatantly lying to patrons about the state of things, and dealing with the line pretty ad-hoc. I don't mind waiting for a restaurant, but this was weirdly fouled up.

Inside, the mismanagement continued, to a downright astonishing degree: they were running out of foodstuffs, the grill was backed way up, even the drinks were weak. As the cherry on top, they talked us into getting ice cream to go with the ice cream bar -- which turned out to be completely out of 2/3 of the toppings.

A decent evening out with friends, but the restaurant itself was a *complete* lose: probably the worst I've been to in the past year. Decent food, but a broadly wretched experience.

Friday was focused on the Burlesque Expo -- new_man had grabbed me about a week before, because his Friday-evenng Stage Manager had to drop, and he was in dire need of a replacement. So I took the day off for rehearsals and learning what was what, and the show was at 8pm.

Overall, the whole thing was a hoot. While I'd done some small-scale stage management in the past, this was the first time I'd ever done a full-tech show. I'd sort of assumed that I would be wrangling props and acts, but in practice that's what my "stagehand" (really, assistant stage manager) mostly focused on so that I could instead call cues for acts, music and lights, and generally manage timing. Quite a lot of fun, and the show itself was a fascinating mix: the usual collection of beautiful young women doing strip routines, of course, but also a couple of great comedy acts. (Jonny Porkpie's routine was my favorite -- an over-the-top strip routine coupled with a sports-commentary track a la PDQ Bach.) Plus, there were several legends of the field in attendance, doing some of their classic routines, and you could see *why* they were legends: any 70-year-old woman who can pull off this stuff needs one *hell* of a sense of the audience, and great stage presence.

Saturday evening, I went out to dinner with fenicedautun, who shares with me a fondness for high-end restaurants, so we make good partners in crime there. We went to Ten Tables in Cambridge, which proved solidly good although not over-the-top great. I liked my pork chop (served over mushrooms and duck-fat-fried potatoes), but she found it a bit one-note and too salty; her fish was good, but a tad bland to my tastes. My "Ten Tables 'Tini" cocktail was tasty, although not "'tini"-like in any way. The Rice Pudding for dessert was tasty, although a bit dominated by the pistachioes. Atmosphere was relaxed, and service was just right -- attentive without being pushy.

So overall, I don't regret going -- it's quite good -- but not at the point where I'm going to forcibly shove people in its direction or make it a go-to-all-the-time default. Putting it in Jane's and my usual terms, it fails the Masa Test: when given the choice between going there or Masa, I'll usually pick Masa. (Which, while not quite world-class, is quite reliably good and very convenient.)

And Sunday was focused on an unfortunately-aborted attempt to get together for lunch with a friend. So I wound up mostly having a fairly pleasant wander through Boston, from Park to the Hynes and back. I wandered past the fire downtown while it was happening -- not that I could see anything, but it did seem like every fire truck in Boston converged on the Common, and there was a great deal of point-and-look. (And a whole gaggle of Frenchmen convinced that "Spider-Man" was trying to climb up the side of the building, causing the alarms.)

I wound up spending a fair while people-watching near AnimeBoston, which was a real hoot: I don't think I've ever seen such a concentration of clever and often well-executed costumes before. I may have to actually attend one of these years, although I worry I'd wind up feeling horribly old.

I found myself a tad cranky in the middle of the wander, but decided to settle down under a willow tree in the Garden, and just close my eyes for ten minutes. No enlightenment, but it *was* a fine way to regain my center.

The worst of the whole thing (almost comically bad in retrospect) was trying to catch the T home. Man, the MBTA can sometimes achieve remarkable levels of incompetence. We stood on the platform for 30 minutes waiting for a train, as the crowd got bigger and bigger. Finally, a cop came downstairs, and forced everyone to go up to the curb, to catch shuttle busses to Harvard. We got upstairs just in time for a *different* cop with a megaphone to force everyone *back* downstairs -- just in time to find that the train had finally arrived, filled and left while we were up above. And just to add insult to injury, the *next* train kicked all of its passengers off and went out of service when it got to Park, just making the crowding worse. We did eventually get an available train, and everything was smooth from there, but overall it was a reminder that, especially on Sundays, one can't rely too much on the T.