I Feel a Surge of Deep Satisfaction

It feels like the type of late Saturday afternoon when, in the early 2000s when most of us weren’t away at school, my sisters and I would be gathered in and around the kitchen, doing homework, helping mom with dinner, or just dwelling in the in-between dusky time that precedes dinner. First one downstairs would claim the warmest spot in the house, which was on the side counter by the heater vent.  Inevitably someone would commandeer the CD player, and depending on who, we’d hear 90s favorites or Disney show tunes or classical, or perhaps the Gladiator soundtrack. Dad would pad in quietly from wherever he had been reading about the time-space continuum, slippers and plaid and slightly wrinkled khakis, and burst into song if the mood struck. Mom would get hiccupy giggles, and we’d all join in the chorus.  A very pretty picture indeed, though one that more often than not dissolved into an argument between one or more sisters that could persist through half of dinner but resolve itself by washing dishes time.

We still have some of these afternoons, on the rare holiday when everyone is home, but not often enough in my opinion. So in honor of those times, I’ve assembled a likely playlist. Sisters, enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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From Zero to En Papillote – Flounder, King Oyster Mushrooms, and Bok Choy Packet

Cooking motivation has been at an all time low for the past three weeks, with the exception of homemade chocolate chip cookies. Somehow they always seem to escape the culinary doldrums, probably because in our apartment (and this is scientifically proven) dessert is a nutritional need rather than a measly want.

All this means that the most recent dinner menus I’ve half-heartedly assembled have consisted of spaghetti and meatballs (a relatively recent Ikea trip resulted in a toddler-sized bag of ’em so we’ll be subsisting off those for about 7 months), Thai takeout, lots of frozen broccoli, frozen matzoh ball soup, half a leftover sandwich that barely survived a roadtrip in my bag from New Haven to Boston, and the lonely egg here and there. And ice cream, obviously.

But last night I shot through the rut, skyrocketing so far away from it that I actually made up a dish without heavily consulting internet, cookbook, or mother, while trying a new-to-me method of cooking and type of fish.  I call it “From Zero to En Papillote” and it was pre-tty yummy. The shallot, butter, fresh thyme, and splash of beef (beef and fish?!, I know, but somehow it worked) broth worked some magic on the flounder, mushrooms, and bok choy. If you’re interested, I’m sure a glug or two of white wine wouldn’t hurt.  Savory and filling but not overly heavy – this is a good dish for those of us that are trying to stick to New Years Resolutions. Which doesn’t include me but I’ve got to make the occasional last-gasp attempt.

From Zero to En Papillote – Flounder with King Oyster Mushrooms and Bok Choy in Parchment
Serves 2

2-3 flounder fillets (eyeball them at the fish counter, you may want more if they are teeny)
1 tablespoon of butter, cut into little chunks
1 shallot, cut into slivers
6 thin slices of lemon, plus a little extra lemon juice
3 sprigs of thyme
2 baby bok choy, roughly chopped
1-2 bunches of king oyster or other wild mushrooms, roughly chopped
2-3 tablespoons beef broth (I had an open carton so this is what I used, but if it makes you nervous to mix beef and fish, chicken or vegetable broth is a good substitute)
Salt and pepper
Parchment paper (a generous piece – enough left over on the sides after the food is sitting on it that you can fold and wrap the ends, creating a pouch)**

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Pat the filets dry, dust with salt and pepper on both sides, then place them in the center of the parchment paper, which should be atop a rimmed baking sheet. Lay the thyme sprigs, butter, and lemon slices across the filets. Add the chopped mushrooms and bok choy on top, then sprinkle on the beef broth and extra lemon juice, to taste.

Gather the longer edges of the parchment paper and fold the edges together, rolling once or twice so that it is sealed but not too tight around the food inside. Do the same with the shorter edges. (Some en papillote recipes say you can staple the edges of the paper together – I would have tried this if I had a home stapler. I covet staplers. My work stapler has a label with my name on it so people can’t steal it).

Bake at 400 degrees for 12-14 minutes – mine was finished at 12 but if your filets are on the thicker side they may need a bit longer. Use caution when opening the pouch because you’ll be releasing a bit of steam.

**Another option would be to make two individual packets, but I went with one bigger packet to hold everything and it worked well.

Classical(?) Covers

If you can listen to music out loud at work, put this playlist on and then surreptitiously watch your colleagues start humming along to the songs they might not initially realize they know quite well. It’s way fun for at least 15 minutes, until you just want to shut it off and hear the originals.

Speaking of which, depending on where the playlist was when you clicked on the link above, I may have just reminded you of the existence of Bittersweet Symphony. Your day just got a little better, didn’t it?

Cross-eyed and Dizzy

FORGE AHEAD!

When you marry Murphy’s Law and technology during a power outage, you arrive at the byte-bloody, sync-spastic scene of my last month of work. After tromping through the weeds of mixed frame rates, incorporating new, untested pieces of equipment in film shoots, setting up dual editing systems, and stumbling into a very unwanted murk of audio drift, my eyes are sinking back into my skull and maybe starting to cross a little. Probably the eyes of my colleagues as well, who shared in the technology apocalypse.

TAKE CHARGE!

In times like this, it’s worth remembering the things about your job that you cherish. Because while the audio was drifting, I got to listen to a sharp and funny 99 year old recount his recollections of playing in big bands in the 1930s, and how he was able to keep warm during the Great Depression winters in Michigan by nicking coal off freight trains. While the frames were mixing, I was able to break bread with a crew of lively and compassionate people, gaining new political insights and life lessons from their conversations. Before the files needed transcoding, I got to see the sun rise, a sky of black tar to pink to blue, three days in a row. (Perhaps not a tremendous feat in the dead of winter but I was up early enough to be awake enough to appreciate it). I got to film in some very cool places. And I came home from a work trip into the Mr’s loving arms plus sparkling new grout in the shower – a gift not unappreciated given how long it’s been needed and the fact that I didn’t have to spend a single second on it.  Yes, it’s been a very good month too.

So when your eyes start to cross, remember the good stuff. And maybe listen to some Dizzy, preferably with Muppets.

Philip Sheppard and Jeff Buckley

Last year I had the chance to cross paths with the extraordinary composer, Philip Sheppard, who scored a TV series our production company worked on.  Though my involvement was limited to technical logistics (he was overseas and we had to coordinate Skype meetings to discuss composition ideas, send him various cuts, receive and edit in his cues), the observation of his creative process was one of my most cherished experiences during the project.  A few months ago, he posted about meeting one of his own singular inspirations. Here is the commentary he recorded on the encounter.

Fun, Fun, Think About Fun

You know what consistently makes for good fun? See how long you can say everything in a Bob Dylan voice. Calling your significant other and asking about dinner plans? “Hunnn..EEE, let’s go OUT to EAT toNIGHT.” It’s awesome. I usually last through half of my getting ready for bed routine (“Wh-ERE is the tuh-OOTH paaaste???”) before collapsing in a pile of giggles. It’s so effective that the person you are Bob Dylan-ing to, no matter how grumpy that you won’t be serious and make a real decision about what time to set the alarm, will crack at least half a smile. True success. Which is why I really like this:

 

What’s also fun is when you latch onto an artist (not new but new to you) and fall for their every song. Even more fun when, on top of a cat-lapping-milk voice slightly reminiscent of a less twangy Loretta Lynn, you layer winged eyeliner and a 70s pinup look. Lana Del Rey could sing “Friday” and make it sound profound, like the fake Bob Dylan guy does, which is good because occasionally some of her more colloquial lyrics drift into the shallow end. Lyrics aside, I’m challenged to pick a favorite song from what she offers. If you like her too, get gleeful, because the remixes are already pouring in and there are surely more to come.