Man About The House: Get Out Of The First Round

So, St. Pattie’s Day is here.  Now, more than likely, you’re going to go out and eat and drink green beer.  However, there’s something else to consider.  You can stay in the comfort of your home and watch the tourney on your HDTV, get a case of beer and a little green food coloring AND score an easy victory with your lady.  You can have it all: women, beer, food, AND the game.  And you don’t even have to find a designated driver. An easy win.

What’s the easy win?  YOU, yes you, can prepare a specialty Irish dish for the occasion that is filling and full of manly meat and taters.  Your lady will be so appreciative, she won’t mind that you watch 12 hours of basketball.  If you clean up after yourself, she might have a few green beers and join you.  For advanced students, they have a wonderful Corned Beef and Cabbage recipe at Home Ec 101.  However, if you’ve fallen under my wing, you’re one of those guys they aim Hardee’s breakfast commercials at.  My nemesis, Mack Vader, will mock the simplicity of your training, but you must ignore him if you are to become a Man of the House.  Strong with the force, you are.

The meal we are making this weekend is comfort food: Shepherd’s Pie. It’s not REALLY a pie, it’s meat and potatoes.  But, it’s one of those dishes that looks harder to make than it is.  You could make it harder by cooking everything from scratch, but why? 

Bring a little TV into the kitchen so you don’t miss any of the games.  Or bring your laptop in and take advantage of March Madness On Demand.  I usually bring my laptop to the kitchen, because I get a good amount of recipes from allrecipes.com, and it’s easier to do a virtual search than a real one.

Now, you’ll find that many recipes are made for the Martha Stewart types.  Do not be intimidated.  I’ll teach you the easy substitutions.  For our purposes here, instead of mashing fresh potatoes, we’re going to use instant.  I’m assuming that if you are or were at one time a bachelor, you know how to make instant mashed potatoes (along with mac and cheese and ramein noodles).  Instead of fresh chopped onion, use the frozen chopped onions.  Instead of  fresh cloves of garlic, use minced garlic from the spice section of the grocery. 

Follow the directions on the instant mashed potatoes to make around six cups.  Remember, to do this, you’ll need the instant taters, some milk, salt and butter. Once this is complete, set it aside for the moment.  Here are the other ingredients you are going to need:

2c chopped cooked beef (most of the time I just use a lb of ground beef)
2 tblsp vegetable oil
1 cup frozen chopped onions*
1/4 tsp minced garlic
3 large eggs
2 tblsp chopped parsley (from the spice rack)
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp melted butter**
A 10 inch pie plate. Don’t exaggerate. It’s only 10 inches.

UPDATE: 1 cup frozen mixed vegetables.

*If you’re hoping that cooking this great meal will help you get lucky later, make it 2/3 cup of onion.
**Melt the butter in the microwave – it takes about 20 to 30 seconds. Don’t overdo it, though.

If you do like me and use ground beef, browning it is easy.  Separate the hamburger in a way that allows you to sprinkle the beef into a large skillet.  Do not put hunks into the skillet.  Heat at medium heat (remember, high heat, for frying, sucks).  Stir the beef about 80% of the time with a rubber spatula.  You’ll know when all the beef is browned.  Use the force.  Now, you’ve got to drain the beef.

This is problematic, because it’s too hot to drain into the trash, and you NEVER drain meat down the sink.  If you’ve got a pretty large jar to use, put a funneling-type strainer on top of it and pour carefully.  If not, here’s a quick solution I discovered years ago.  On your counter, pull out about two feet of aluminum foil, twice.  Slightly overlap the two pieces of foil.  Cover this with at least two layers of paper towel.  Slowly spread the beef out over the paper towels.  Take another paper towel and pat the top of the beef layer.  Grab either side of the foil, lift either end, and shake the beef slightly back into the pan. The drippings will stay behind in the paper towels.  You have defeated the forces of evil!

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. 

Take a basting brush and “paint” butter all over the pie plate.  Spoon 2 and a half cups of taters into the pie plate.  Layer in 2 cups of the meat.  You’ll have some left over, put it in a container and set in the fridge and we’ll use it later for chili; or, you could just be a pig and eat it plain while the pie cooks – it’s up to you. 

UPDATE: Amy has informed me that the recipe needs mixed vegetables.  Since this meal is not the greatest nutritionally, let’s throw in some frozen mixed vegatables.  They’re the kind used for vegetable soup.  Layer about a cup over the meat.  Now, you’ve got nutrition!   

In a small skillet, heat the oil on medium heat.  Throw in the garlic and onions, cook and stir until tender.  This is going to smell wonderful.  This is the step where your lady comes into the room to see what you’re doing.

In a mixing bowl, mix the onion/garlic mixture with the eggs (remember, I’ve taught you how to break them), parsley, pepper and salt.  Mix it well then pour it into the pie over the meat.  Cover with the remaining taters, using a spoon to smooth it out like you would spackling.  Actually, leave a few ridges in the top, it looks cool.  Use your brush to brush the remaining butter onto the taters.

Bake the pie for 30 minutes until the top is slightly golden.  I know it’s tough, but take it out (turn off the oven!) and leave it alone for ten minutes.  Serve with green beer!

You’ve already got the TV or laptop in the kitchen.  After dinner, clean up after yourself before plopping down on the couch.  Like I said, the goal is to have it all: food, beer, the game, and a thankful woman who has been drinking beer.  The perfect storm.

Man About The House: A Good Egg

I’m sure you heard about it: recently during a broadcast of a game between the Boston Celtics and the Houston Rockets, Celtics announcer Cedric “Cornbread” Maxwell took offense to a call made by female referee Violet Palmer.  He then proceeded to say something he would regret:  He said Palmer should “get back in the kitchen”.  He then added with dramatic flair, “Go in there and make me some bacon and eggs, would you?”

Well, others have rightly let him have it on the political/sociological front.  Me?  I think that Mr. Maxwell could have saved himself a lot of trouble if he had previously educated himself on how to make his own bacon and eggs.  He could have come here.  Cheap is as free as it gets.  So, I figure I’ll save some other announcer a future embarrassment by giving proper instruction in cooking bacon and eggs.

 It can be very easy, or very difficult, depending on what you want, and what tools you have on hand.  I’ll profile two ways to cook bacon, and three to cook eggs.

Materials

  • Sliced bacon (I prefer thick cut sugar cured).  The thinner it is, the quicker it will cook, but the harder it is to pull each individual slice away from the others.  You COULD be a wuss and get the boxed, precooked bacon, I guess.
  • Eggs.  You’re a man!  Get the ones marked “Jumbo”.  But keep in mind, the shells on the jumbo eggs are quite thin, and you have to be super-careful.
  • A skillet.  Cast Iron really works well with the bacon, but fried eggs are hard to do in cast iron.  Pardon the pun, but stick with the non-stick type.
  • IF you are making scambled eggs or omlettes, either a fork, a wisk, or best of all, a stick mixer (get your Tim Allen on).
  • If you are microwaving the bacon,you’ll need a special bacon microwave grill.  And paper towels.
  • A couple of teaspoons of butter or margarine, or some non-stick spray.
  • If you fry the eggs (or make an omlette), a spatula.  Rubber for scrambled. 

I’m not done yet – this is long… 

Read the rest of this entry »

Man About The House: Whassup?

Welcome to my new series for men, Man About the House.  If you’ve just stumbled across this place, let me introduce myself.  I am Slartibartfast, King of all things domesticated.  I got this way, just like a super hero, by way of an experiment gone awry. Plus, my father was a genius, and worked out this wonderful system when I was a teenager where, if I helped around the house, I got use of his Olds 442 on the weekend.  That was a bitchin’ car, as we said in the day.  Once I got started cleaning, cooking, laundry and all that, I got to where I enjoyed doing those things, even during those times when I was grounded for what I did in that 442.

So, here I am today:  I cook, clean, do laundry, help with the kids.  But I’m no nancy-boy.  I watch NASCAR, have Titans season tickets (in the upper deck), love steak and taters and movies about war.  I dress like a slob.  I’m a tech geek and I love working on the lawn.  I love chainsaws and beautiful women.  Have I given enough masculine bonafides yet?

I only say these things because what I want to talk to you about today is this crazy notion (that’s been going on for quite a while) that chores inside the house are “woman’s work”.  Now, most of us would never say such a thing out loud these days, but let’s face it, not many of us are helping out around the house to the satisfaction of our significant others.  I think that many still believe that doing housework or cooking will make us sissies, or that it’s somehow beneath us.  I call BS.

Let’s go on a journey together.  What could it hurt?  Come back here and read each installment of Man About The House.  I’ll be the Kung-Fu master, you, my talented young apprentice.  I’ll be Yoda, you, the young Jedi in training.

Why?  There are several reasons.  It’ll improve your sex life dramatically.  I’m not kidding – I’ll lay out the case for this in a future installment.  Of course, an obvious reason is peace in the home.  Want to stop the harping, and “that sigh”?  (You know the one).  I can help you turn her from shrieking banshee or docile doormat into a woman who wants to please you (in every way).  AND, you can do it on your own terms, not because she nagged you into it.  I can give you that power.

Using my methods, housework will no longer be a pain in the butt; it’ll actually be enjoyable.  You’ll get to eat what you want to eat – every meal.  You’ll have your own time to unwind every day with nobody bothering you.  Here’s some other things we’ll cover:

You can clean the every room in the house but the bedrooms in the time it takes to listen to AC/DC’s Back in Black album.
Emeril’s got a point: screaming BAM! at your work is a great way to relieve tension.
There are few things on earth that make you go AAAWWWW like the smell and feel of warm laundry, fresh from the dryer.
You’ll discover that bread dough, after you’ve kneeded it for a while, feels strangely familiar.
You might even, if the Force is strong in you, achieve the Holy Grail of domestication: perfect southern fried chicken. Many are called. Few are chosen.

Don’t get me wrong.  When you complete your training, you won’t necessarily be the primary housekeeper and cook of the family (unless you want to be).  I realize that I am a freak of nature, but, like Spiderman, I’ve learned that with great power comes great responsibility. I want to help you achieve peace in your home, and return the word “mind-blowing” to your bedroom.

Still not convinced?  Think baking a cake is “woman’s work”, and building a gun rack is “man’s work”?  Let’s examine that.

Gun Rack: You get the plans from Workbench Magazine .  Cake: You get the recipe from Allrecipes.com .
Gun Rack: You go to Home Depot and get all the raw materials you don’t have. Cake: You go to Kroger and get all the raw materials you don’t have.
Gun Rack: You prepare by getting out all the tools you’ll need. Cake: The same.
Gun Rack: If it’s a European Gun rack, you make the necessary conversions from metric to English. Cake: If you want to make a bigger or smaller cake, you make conversions of all the measurements by whatever factor you choose.
Gun Rack: There’s a manly element of danger. After all, you’re using power tools. Cake: Want to see all the scars I have from cuts and burns?
Gun Rack: You beam with pride as you observe the product of your work. And it’s functional, too. Cake: You beam with pride when you see the perfectly formed, perfect textured cake you made. And, you let out a holler for joy when your finicky 10 year old says, “good cake, Dad!”

There is one difference though.  There’s a pretty good chance your wife/girlfriend isn’t going to give you “that look” after she’s looked over your gun rack, no matter how hard you worked.  The cake?  Well, I could tell you stories…

Whatta ya say?  Want to give it a shot?  See you next time.