But, as funny as the boys might have been, the ladies were funnier, to me. And Lucy was funniest.
I absolutely loved watching how Lucy figured out the rules, then spent the next half-hour circumventing, renegotiating, redefining, or breaking them outright. With the help of trusty Ethel, and occasionally Fred, she ran circles around Ricky! Damn it, Lucy was going to get what she wanted, and she would make us laugh the whole way.
While I was watching Lucy manipulate Ricky in reruns, I watched my father behave like Lucy at home. My mom was Dr. No at our house; My dad was The Idea Man. He was the "This is totally going to work!" guy. It was almost as fun for me to watch him maneuver a half-baked plan into fruition as it was for him to do it, I think. For me, it was never about the Lucy being a suppressed woman, it was that she had this HUGE imagination that needed to be taken out for a spirited run around the park, and was surrounded by people who thought smaller, and in more, um... realistic terms.
I probably don't need to tell you that he is Ricky to my Lucy.
It seems like I always have some 'Splaining to do. It isn't that he doesn't want to have fun, or that he isn't imaginative, it is that I see... Big Ideas! Concepts! I'm an optimist! A risk taker! Deep in my heart, I do believe that no matter what happens, if it all goes to hell in a handbasket, there is always pizza delivery and booze.
McNutt Family Pimento Cheese on Crackers
Slow Smoked Ribs!
Green Chile Cornbread
Butterbean Salad with Buttermilk and Mint
First-of-the-Season Sugar Snaps with Mint Butter
Grilled Spring Dandies and Radicchio with HOT Anchovy Dressing (you know I can't help myself!
Ranch Style Beans á la Homesick Texan!!
Some kind of delicious dessert
It also turns out that it would have perhaps been easier to have used a REAL smoker, instead of making Karl rig one out of our ghetto 55 gallon drum grill set up. Oops!
Lordy. We had barely started and I already had some 'Splaining to Do.
Like, forty pounds too many. (Cut to Karl's facepalm and fifteen minute rant.)
But in true "I can make this work!" fashion, I employed bus tubs and made a dry rub of:
Six or seven hours at between 200˚ and 250˚. Sloooow and good.
The other, uh... fourteen racks went into the oven and were tightly covered with foil. Oven, low and slow at 325˚...
So, Karl got smoker duty for the next six or seven hours. Frankly, at the time, I had no idea what he was doing, because I tried to stay far, far away. I figured that if I stuck my head out there he might remember how he wanted to murder me - like when the matador taunts the bull with a red cape.
Meanwhile, upstairs in the kitchen... I had soaked my pinto beans overnight so I could make The Homesick Texan's Ranch Beans.
I was especially excited to make these for a few reasons:
1. It is nearly impossible to get real ranch beans in NYC unless you make them yourself.
2.You have to plan ahead. You can't just decide you want them at 4pm and serve them at 6pm.
3. The tomato/chile/smoke taste of these is sooooo specific, and really takes me back to my days as a young slip of a thing, growing up in the Southwest, and
4. Homesick Texan's recipes ALWAYS rock and ALWAYS work, which is more than I can say for many cookbooks by famous chefs...
The smell was intoxicating.
I LOVE that I can get raw peanuts for cheap in Astoria. The funny thing about boiled peanuts is that you might think they would take an hour to cook, but you would be wrong. They actually require about 4 hours, so plan accordingly. As the liquid boils away you also have to be sure to replace it so your peanuts are covered.
I really should have made the McNutt Family Pimento Cheese recipe the night before, but I didn't, so I whipped it up again. This was its second go around in as many weeks-- It had been so wildly popular on Derby Day I decided it needed a curtain call. Lynn McNutt, to the rescue again.
The hilarious thing about this cornbread is that it's made from boxed Jiffy® corn muffin mix, prepared with eggs and milk as per the recipe on the box, and then, canned creamed corn. For real.
Kinda mindboggling, especially given my standard emotional allergy to processed food. In this instance, I doctored it with cans of chopped green chile that I picked up last time I was in Phoenix. They sell Hatch green chiles in Arizona, I have no fucking clue where to find them in New York, and they are truly worth the effort.
Cut to dinner, and Karl is waving the emptied cornbread bowl in my face. "When will you give in and make twice as much as you think you need? It gets eaten!" I initially attribute his cornbread freakout to hours and hours of smoke inhalation, dehydration from sweating over a hot grill and copious beer consumption, but then, I watched as a woman, new to Sunday Night Dinner, ask the guy across from her (a regular) if she could eat the remaining piece off his plate. He politely told her he was saving it. She dejectedly said, "okay." Then five minutes later, she tried AGAIN (the BALLS on this one! I love it!) and he laughed, relented, and split the piece between her and the other four slavering guests around him. Class move. Fucking Hilarious. Jiffy®, canned creamed corn and Hatch Chiles. Alchemy.
Butterbean Salad with Buttermilk Dressing and Mint is inspired by the Lee Brothers, but I diverged from their recipe a bit. I use frozen lima beans (yeah, I DO!) blanch them quickly in salty-like-the-ocean boiling water, and then cool them in an ice water bath. Then I mix greek yogurt, buttermilk, salt and the juice of a lime or two, depending on their state of golfball-hardness... I shake the fuck out of the whole business in a quart container, taste for balance and adjust, and then pour all over the little limas. Finish with chopped fresh mint. You can let this salad mingle in the fridge for a couple of hours, but no need to let it go all day. It is completely refreshing, and just perfect next to those smoky ribs and beans.
Texas Caviar is another one of those dishes I associate with poverty, college, and my first marriage, i.e. something I used to make frequently because it was cheap and now hardly ever make, but when I do, I'm reminded how delicious it is. When it hits your mouth you think, "I should TOTALLY make this all the time, and keep it around for snacking!" It's ultimately meant as a dip for chips, but I think it makes a great summer salad. And, you can put it together in ten minutes, if you use canned beans, which in this case, is a perfectly acceptable substitution:
They looked like shit at the green market. Karl put the dandelion greens on the grill, once the ribs were smoked, to tame them a little, (he was in a full-on smoke inhalation/cheap beer haze at this point, and much more compliant and happy.) Then, I tossed the charred dandies in hot anchovy butter, which, quite frankly, is the Eighth Wonder of the World, in a solid tie with miso butter. Anchovies, melted in a pan, with butter melted in and whisked to keep it together, and finished with a squeeze of lemon and dash of half and half, or cream if you have it. I told a couple of women who were over last week that anchovy butter awakes this primal instinct in me and makes me want to rub it all over my tits and lick it off myself. They laughed nervously. Anchovy butter is the Rite of Spring of the sauces...
Dessert turned out to be a complete triumph, born from having abandoned both Plans A and B. Much like my life, humming along swimmingly in Plan C, dessert was even MORE enjoyable to me, knowing that it was the end result of a bunch of failed earlier plans. Lucy again.
Little Miss Whoops© Roger Hargreaves
You know, they tasted DELICIOUS, but they probably needed another hour just for tenderizing purposes, if I can be completely honest. The oven-cooked ribs got eaten a little here, too - so meltingly tender but missing the smoky "fire" aspect of the grill. The leftovers got given to the staff at Vesta for family meal. I have no doubt that they were doctored into something completely delicious there--a sort of second life for them.
That being said, is it also still kind of fun to watch Karl get all in a lather about how my latest plan isn't going to work and then watch him have to eat it when my insane plan succeeds?
Yes. Yes it is.