Thursday, August 21, 2008

Confessions of a Distracted Blogger: Part Deux

Well, after that trip, that audit, and that chicken roasting I was just about ready to hit the stove top again when a most unexpected turn of events occurred. On August 8th my Grandfather (PopPop) went to the hospital complaining of pain. A short while later we learn of a pulmonary embolism and that he had an even shorter time to live. The next day 81 year old Richard James Joyce passed away in Naples, FL. No doubt his life was great with a WWII Navy service career, a 18-0-1 Golden Gloves Boxing record, a marriage lasting 58 years, 8 children, 21 grandchildren, 3 great-grandchildren and two more preparing to make it 5 by next year. My PopPop was the iconic Irish grandfather who loved brandy and cigarettes, golf, Jesus, his wife, his family, and most importantly - being Irish.

(Some of the Joyce clan at my graduation party. Pop's got his arm around Grandmom.)

Even though 'Joyce' is akin to 'Smith' in Ireland, our family still feels a special bond with our name and family we don't quite know still on the island. We are so much so attached to our heritage that I used to sob knowing I'd have to give up my proud Irish name of Joyce when I got married. Now I realize you are how you are and nothing can change that, but it just goes to show that even a half-Italian girl can feel be entirely Irish at times. In summation, I miss my PopPop.

PopPop was the first to really share his sweets with me creating a lifelong love affair with the chocolate chip cookie. In fact, the day he passed I made a batch followed by two more for his reception along with the raspberry almond thumbprint shortbread cookies which just delighted my large family. I can also blame my PopPop for instilling a sense of Philadelphia pride that just seems excessive at times. Living in Florida, I often pine for Philadelphia and the surrounding areas and I jump when I hear anyone say anything about my hometown. I could pull this thread all day, yet I will exemplify the over-the-top, "one-upper' Philadelphia attitude by expressing my feelings on the Philadelphia cheese steak.

The Philadelphia cheese steak can and has taken on many variations. While the original format has been tampered with, it is in fact complimentary that so many people fall in love with a sandwich and then want to make it their own. Some eateries do this the right way by not calling it a Philadelphia cheese steak on the menu. By stating 'Philadelphia' in front of 'cheese steak' you are contextually telling me that I am looking forward to a chopped steak like a Steakums sandwich smothered in either provolone, american, or cheez whiz on a nice crusty roll. Those are the roots of an authentic Philadelphia cheese steak. If it ain't that, it ain't a Philly cheese steak.

I really love making cheese steaks because they are fatty and good. In honor of my PopPop and my preferred palette, I have made some Rachel's Italian Philly Cheese steaks. Peppers, onions, and all other condiments are up to the individual eater, but you will see pictured for these particular cheese steaks: 1/2 red bell pepper, sweet cherry peppers, 1/3 yellow onion, 2 garlic cloves, a heaping handful of mozzarella, crushed red pepper, provolone sliced cheese, Steakums, and Amoroso sesame seed rolls left out a bit to crunch-up the outsides.

The preparation is so simple, you'll slap yourself. In order to make some meaty cheese steaks, you need a lot of frozen steak. I used all the Steakums pictured, 7 sheets per box. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and coat with a cooking spray of your choice. Break each sheet into several large pieces and put into the skillet. You'll cook and break apart the steak until the edges start to brown. Meanwhile, heat 2 tbslp. of extra virgin olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Chop, mince or grate your garlic then start cooking that in the oil. Cut up your red bell pepper, cherry peppers and onion to about 1" to 1.5" in length. When you smell the garlic and oil infusing, drop the veggies and season with salt and a good amount of crushed red pepper. Sautee these up for about 6-8 minutes, set aside.

When the meat is fully cooked to a crispness, but in your cheese. A great melting method is also break up slices in large pieces and fold into the meat letting it just gob up and melt all over. Here we used a heaping handful of mozzerella and 9-10 pieces of sliced provolone. Once it all melted, put a large amount of meat on the bun, cover with sauteed veggies, and voila!...

Rachel's Italian Philadelphia Cheesesteaks

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Confessions of a Distracted Blogger

I must confess. I have been a terrible blogger failing to generate enough content over the past few months to keep even my own attention. Alas, I let life get in the way. Please let me surmise that which distracted my blog-tention before we get to the soup d'jour: Whole Roasted Sesame Ginger Chicken with Roasted Pineapple, Red Onion and Garlic.

Part and parcel of a workshop for The Office of the Secertary of Defense held and hosted by our RETRO Lab Directors and event organized by myself along with the incredible staff of the IDA Lab in Alexandria, VA, I made my very first trip to our nation's capital Washington, D.C.. Being raised in Philadelphia, you'd think I would have already made it there seeing as how I've been to Baltimore more times than I actually care to count. The truth is, I was waiting for the opportunity to present itself because I knew I would need to be mature enough to accept the depth of the awe I felt for my country.

Due to our work schedule, I had mere hours at the end of each evening to make my way through stunning architecture, countless musuems, and the largest collection of American monuments anywhere. Had it not been July, most attractions would not have been open until 9PM to accompany summer tourism hours. After hooofing through the Air & Space Museum and then over to the Capital Building on the first evening, I took the second evening to push my limit going from The Smithosian Gardens to The Washington Monument, The WWII Memorial, The Reflecting Pool, The Lincoln Monumnet, The White House and then to the The National Museum of Crime and Punishment (I'll explain, be patient) before it stops selling tickets at 8PM.

I made it to everything but The White House when I realized that the city blocks are much larger than in Philadelphia on account on the enormous size of the Federal and Museum buildings. While holding a fabulous conversation with one of my oldest friends Denise, I worked my hips like an Olympic speedwalker burning from 23rd Avenue to 7th where The National Crime and Punishment Museum is located. This museum opened this past May and while it holds some great relics like Bonnie & Clyde's acutal car with bullet holes, it also encases a personal national treasure. In the prison sector of the museum there is a permanent art display of 25 historically traditional prison tattoo designs drawn by the love of my life, Peter Rosario Triolo. As I came upon his installation, the overwhelming feeling of excitement and extreme pride filled me up until my lungs were constricting making it oddly hard to breath. Here, you gaze upon his national, historical piece of art and share in my glory:

Post-beaming, getting back home meant a day or two to rest my bones before ripping back into work. Oh a girl can dream can't she. After our very successful workshop, waiting for me back at my desk was an internal audit for seven months worth of Lab bank statements. Receipt gathering and number crunching left me partially brain dead but I did have time to cook up a few things of which I have pictures of only one. What didnt' make to the the camera was Lemon Pepper Seared Chicken Breasts and my fist Pesto Pinwheel Pasta. Both were good but each lacked the 'WOW' factor in their own ways. However, my Whole Roasted Sesame Ginger Chicken did not at all disappoint. For your enjoyment (and again for my own glory), here are 3 views of my first roasted chicken:

Boy oh boy do I love BoGos. The Sesame Ginger marinade was part 2 of a BoGo deal and already stocked in my kitchen were the complimentary ingredients of pineapple, red onion and garlic cloves. I roasted each separately and added them all to the roasting pan holding the chicken for the last 30 minutes. Sweet and savory; does it get any better?