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Archive for December, 2009

Poutine Party!

Posted by crowbiz on December 18, 2009

Wow, talk about an unexpected intersection of culinary slumming and winter sports!  After one of his late night “senior” hockey games, Mr Crow and cohorts went for their usual drinks and tavern chow and chat.  It was here that Mr met the friend of a friend – a transplanted Canadian – who joined the game that night and (O, Fate!) they got talking about poutine.  Anyone unfamiliar with this topic and my feeling for it needs to do some homework by reading THIS first.

Welllllll, as they say, one thing led to another, and after more back-slapping, beer-swilling and explanation of “poutine” to middleman Rob, it was decided that a homemade poutine party was in order, and that Marc, as the home-country expert, would cook.  Naturally, Mr Crow did the right thing by waking me at 2:00am to tell me about this wildly fortunate turn of events – and he didn’t even have to repeat it 6 hours later when I got up.

Calls were made.  Supplies were garnered.  And to help the gig, Marc got an early Christmas present from his wife, Amy:  a double basket Presto ProFry Deep Fryer.  Look, creating and raising beautiful children together is one thing, but the gift of a deep fryer is a level of love and understanding that few couples could ever hope to achieve.  Can’t you just smell it now?

Double trouble


(Incidentally, the frying was done outside on the patio, because despite one’s abiding love of fries, it’s not something you want to smell wafting up from your couch three weeks later when you plop down to watch the idiot box.)

Of course, real cheese curd was used, not shredded cheese.  Here’s Mr Crow getting handy with the curd chopping.  It’s not often that you can appreciate when your mate cuts the cheese, but there you go…..  And Rob, whose culinary expertise is best realized with cold cereal and milk, does a bang-up job stirring the packaged beef gravy.  Yes, packaged.  This experience was meant to replicate the fry truck experience, and therefore, ingredients and prep followed the humble route.  You don’t see roadside fry slingers rendering and reducing stock, fer chrissake.

How many men look this good when cutting the cheese?


Whisk, Rob, whisk like the wind!


Before the party assembled, Marc hand-cut a huge batch of fries using Russet potatoes.  I cannot offer critique here, and thus defer all tuber matters to Marc, who hails from a small Ontario town and is steeped in poutine heritage.  The man speaks French, folks; it’s not for me to question.  

There's nothing like a poutine grin


They turned out fabulously.  Initially, Marc was concerned that they were coming out too crispy, normally a desirable quality in fries.  But the best poutine manifests as flabby but intact  once the gravy works its magic – and so it was with our group effort batch.  Without reservation, I can say this rivals the best I’ve ever shoveled into my poutine-hole; in fact, I should say it surpasses it, since it was made by people I know and trust to touch my food, whereas normally, poutine from fry wagons are delivered through a tiny window that offers no view to the food prep area, probably for good reason. 

Here are a few close-ups, which – unless you’re the kind of person who claims to like sorghum and ToFurky – should get your heart beating fast.  Or stop it entirely.  Though I can be sated entirely with poutine, I inexplicably also consumed a chili dog and a heaping bowl of chocolate bread pudding.  We swung by Gates Circle Hospital on the way home for some drive-through angioplasty and never felt better.

And I defy any  wanna-be food writer to use “flabby but intact” as a superlative.

Hot gravy melts cheese curd and softens fries - perfect!


Ideal consistency: yielding and still hot

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Season’s Beatings

Posted by crowbiz on December 10, 2009

Having a life is a serious impediment to operating a blog.  This implies a lot of things, but that’s not what today is about….

All  three of my fans have recently wondered about my absence here, but I’ve been able to console them face-to-face and make a loose pledge to step it up.  Anyway, January is coming with its teeny, precious baby-Jesus-like bundle of time, so there’s a chance I may put finger to keyboard more in 2010.

Scene of the crime - before the crime.


Online business is booming, so I’ve been consumed with keeping up.  Never underestimate people’s desire for small things to stuff a stocking.  Naturally, I’m happy about all this, if tired.  Occasionally, I get annoyed at the buyer who drops a little note like “Ship ASAP!  Need soon!” , as if I’m one of the English-as-a-third-language night-shift operators standing by in the factory order processing room.  Nothing I can’t shrug off, but just once I’d like to reply to a deadbeat buyer, “Pay ASAP!  Need money!”

Oh, and there’s that “job” I have, that commitment on M-W-F to edify the masses – or a couple hundred, anyway – at Buffalo State College.   The semester has been pretty typical, though the two courses I’m handling tend to be the most time-sucking and morale-bashing for completely different reasons.

My Intro Psych students have just one final exam to do, after which I tally the grades and wipe my hands.  In a fit of holiday benevolence (or idiocy), I decided to let all 150 of them bring their own self-designed “cheat sheets” on one 8 1/2″ x 11″ piece of paper (front and back, typed or handwritten, their choice).  The act was sort of like throwing your hands in the air on the downhill of a careening roller coaster ride.   It’s no skin off me, and as a cognitive psychologist, I designed this as a ploy to get them to (boing!) review, organize, sort and study the material, whereas they just think I’ve lost it and that they’re getting away with something big.  My main interest  is in seeing students’ creativity with the cheat sheet and in finding out what kind of loopholes they concoct.  The ones smart enough to use 6 point type will probably do just fine and the ones using their own chunky handwriting with the “i”s dotted with hearts….well, people will get what they deserve.

On the other end of the spectrum is my Experimental Research Methods class, a grueling, deep, theoretical journey into nerdism unmatched by most college courses.  Sixteen students work their variable-sized asses off in a never-ending barrage of written labs, exercises and other tortuous activities designed to make fledgling scientists out of them.  I’ve yet to finish grading their final research proposal projects, and currently they are slogging through their oral presentations in class while I get a chance to sit in the back.  Getting many of them to understand factorial designs and how to interpret them is like dragging a dead ox uphill through a privet hedge, but I’d say about 75% of them ultimately qualify as “getting it.”  This has involved enormous amounts of hand-holding over the past several weeks, and my hands are now officially off-limits.  A few, surely, hoped for the following form of counsel:

“Here, let me design this experiment for you, then I’ll write up a 12 or 14 page paper.  Then I’ll give it to you; you rearrange a few words, print it while I look the other way, then hand it back to me, and we’ll call it a semester, huh?”

The holiday handmade show circuit was drastically reduced for me this year, owing to the teaching schedule.  One shining moment remains, that being this weekend’s Last Minute Panic Holiday Marketplace at the WNY Book Arts Center, where I will give it whatever I’ve got and enjoy chatting it up with lots of folks.  Last year was a good time, so I’m hoping this weekend will give me the lift I need to power through the rest of the season – and year – with head up.

Well, that’s a snapshot in the life of Crow, which may be of great interest to those of you who live under a rock.  Others wishing for more intrigue will have to wait until I start hitting the Tom & Jerry bowl during the holiday party rounds.

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