Category Archives: Drunken rants

Cooking a 14-course dinner, part 4: The execution, dishes 4-7

Having blabbered incoherently about wine for a few minutes, it was time to move on with the show and bring on the next dish:

Dish 4: Steamed asparagus and Skagen Ham with poached quail egg yolks and home-made mayonnaise with vinegar, tarragon, wild garlic and seaweed

There’s this really curious and strange trend going on in Danish gastronomy at the moment. No, I’m not talking about the whole NOMA wave, I’m talking about Danish producers actually starting to believe that they can deliver products as good, if not better than their famous international counterparts. From what I’ve gathered, it started with beer (and they had me at that, of course) and went over vegetables, now we’re seeing a strong development in Danish artisan cheese makers, challenging some of their famous French counterparts.. It’s really quite interesting and funny to watch. Anyways, when I heard of a little old man at the very northern tip of Denmark who produced air-cured ham comparable, if not better, to the very best hams produced in Italy and Spain.. Well, it goes without saying that I had to track some down and play around with it.

Unlike many specialty ingredients I’ve played with, tracking it down wasn’t too hard, but like many specialty ingredients I’ve tracked down, it cost me an arm and a leg.. But who cares? The more important question became: What to do with this fine, expensive, thinly sliced new ham of mine? Well, it’s asparagus season in northern Europe, so the answer came pretty easily: steamed asparagus! And what goes well with asparagus and salty ham? Poached eggs! Or in this case, because I’m me, poached quail eggs.. quail egg yolks, even! And, well, I’m gonna level with you here, I chose to poach me some quail egg yolks in a very simple case of “because I fucking can!” I find no joy what-so-ever in poaching eggs, in fact I quite hate it. Contrary to what all those “it’s really not that hard” blog posts on the internet say, poaching eggs is fucking difficult, even more so when we’re dealing with tiny hard shelled eggs laid by midget birds with too much calcium in their diets! I could entertain you for hours about how I spent a late morning dropping little eggs one by one into simmering water, carefully cooking them at exactly 92 degrees centigrade for 58 seconds while gently separating the yolk from the whites, then dumping them in ice water and storing them carefully for the night to come.. But I won’t, I’m that good of a guy! I’ll fast forward to serving where a few slices of ham were placed on each plate, topped with a few spears of steamed asparagus and three tiny poached egg yolks which had veeeery carefully been heated in hot water then dropped on top of the asparagus. To finish off, I added a few splashes of home-made mayonnaise to which I’d added a reduction of vinegar, shallots, tarragon, seaweed and wild garlic (which is apparently the new black in Danish cuisine).. The idea, was to give the mayonnaise which is very traditional (and French) a Danish twist and still add a bit of a nod to Tina’s love for Sauce Bearnaise.

I could go on and on about the result and flavor combinations because, goddamnit, you can believe the hype about Skagen Ham, it really is that damn good.. But rather than do that, I’ll leave you with this food-porn like image of us tearing into it, because, well, poached eggs simply are one of the sexiest things in this world (after girls and white Burgundy, of course).. No, really, I mean that..

Ahem.. Anyways..

Dish 5: Hot-smoked peppered salmon with new potatoes, Champagne Beurre Blanc, asparagus, cress and butter

The next dish on the menu came about for several odd reasons. For starters because Tina has decided to spend her life living with a boyfriend who doesn’t like fish, which is a little odd for someone who loves fish and shellfish as much as she does, but then again, Tina’s a strange, little girl.. Anyways, for that reason alone, I try to work at least a few fish-based courses into dinners such as these. Which is, again, a little strange as I’m not exactly a big fan of fish, me, either.. Well, I absolutely love sushi and I’ll eat fish sorta willingly given no other choice, but I’ve never exactly been one to go “wow, I really think I’ll cook up something new an exciting with fish as the main ingredient tonight!” .. But on the other hand, I do love me a challenge, so long story short.. Another fish course it was! And a smoked salmon one at that, for two very good reasons: One: I’m addicted to smoke.. Not smoking.. Smoke! I apparently love smoky flavors, be it in my chili, my food and my whisky. Two: In so far as I can actually love a fish, I love salmon.. As long as it’s smoked (duh!) or cured, I’ve been violently, violently ill eating a piece of steamed salmon once and I just CAN’T do it.. So hot smoked salmon it was, from my local fish monger, with nothing but a dash of pepper on top.

With that we had the first new potatoes of the season (which pound for pound were nearly as expensive as the fancy ham), boiled skin on with some fresh herbs and then gently coated in melted butter. A few sprigs of asparagus were added to please the eye, and a healthy dose of tangy Champagne Beurre Blanc was added to please the Tina. Beurre blanc, essentially is a classic French sauce made on a reduction of vinegar, shallots and wine (in this case, Champagne), it’s all reduced to a sweet and sour mess before scary amounts of cold butter is mixed into sauce, creating a sort of emulsion of tangy buttery goodness which goes really well with fish. Especially fish of the fatty variety because the vinegar in the sauce cuts through the fattiness of the fish.. It’s a beautiful combination, really.. If you ask me..

Tina, on the other hand, went her own ways in claiming that the combination of the fish and the sauce wasn’t nearly as good as that of the sauce and the potatoes alone.. We had a nice, brisk little argument over this and I eventually concluded that her opinion was based on the fact that Tina is seriously addicted to tanginess and sour flavors and as such didn’t really appreciate the more mellow combined flavor of the fatty fish and the tangy sauce as much as she appreciated the full out punch in the face of the sauce on its own.. As a result, I went through the course, eating it the way I had intended, with the fish and the sauce together, while Tina went on eating the fish on the side and then combining the sauce and the potatoes, with a little more sauce that I got for her from the kitchen.. To each their own 🙂 Not too surprisingly, Tina’s tasting notes for this dish mostly mention the PERFECT combination of the sauce and the potatoes before making a small note about the salmon and asparagus being of really good quality.

Dish 6:  Slow roasted breast of chicken, julienne spring vegetables and chicken consommé

There are stupendously complex dishes, and then there are really simple dishes that just taste awesome.. After a few (i.e. five!) rather complex dishes, I felt relieved to be going for something nice and simple: breast of chicken! Chicken breast has somewhat of a bad reputation, and pretty much deservingly so. It can be one of the most boring eats on the planet, but treat it right and it can also be really good eats! It’s not complicated to make a tasty, juicy chicken breast.. It’s just rather expensive and time consuming:

Step one is to get the best chicken that money can buy: organic, of course, and one that has been allowed to grow naturally and slowly. You then bring said chicken home, brine it in an 8% salt solution for six hours, rinse it out, soak it in water for another hour, dry it out in the fridge overnight and stick it in the oven for a good ten hours at 65 degrees, rest it well and cut the breast off.. Then you’ll have the most amazing chicken breasts ever.. And while you’re all in, you might as well strip the bones from the rest of the meat and then use the bones as the base of a pot of home-made chicken broth which you’ll then carefully and meticulously reduce down slowly over low heat, adding a bit of fish sauce and salt to taste near the end. You might then want to carefully clarify the broth to create a consommé which you might as well use to pour over the chicken breasts placed on a bed of julienne spring vegetables and some left over asparagus spears.. Thus creating the sixth course for a gourmet dinner, in just under two day’s time! Simple! Time consuming, yes, but ridiculously simple.

“That’s your slow roasted chicken, that is!” Tina exclaimed after the first bite.. “Well, it’s Heston’s, really,” I replied, “but yea..” – “Wow,” she said.. And wow was about right. You’ve no idea how chicken can really taste until you’ve gotten a good specimen and treated it with the respect that it deserves. It was like buttery chickeny goodness coated in rich, velvety chicken broth.. Yum! .. And then I went and ruined it all by saying something stupid like “Iiiii.. think I’ll add a bit of raw leek to the julienned spring vegetables..” – Okay, ruined is a big word and a bit of a wrong word, but really.. I was surprised how much of an oniony flavor leek can have in its raw state, and I was surprised how much that flavor killed the delicate taste of the chicken consommé. It was, admittedly, a rather small flaw, but a flaw none the less, and it hurt, but at least I got six dishes in before making any utter mistakes, and at least the dish was still very tasty, but with two dedicated and attentive food geeks, it didn’t go unnoticed and, of course, deserves mention here as well.. Blah, on to the next..

Dish 7: Cava granité

There’s really only one problem to lengthy 6+ course dinners (barring every other problem I’ve already addressed anyways), and that is the fact that the flavors at some point become so many and so complex and intermingled that really tasting new flavors become increasingly difficult and you need a little something to cleanse the palate completely before moving onwards, and thus God created the palate cleanser, a small, reviving dish that washes away the old flavors and prepare you for those to come.. Why am I spending an entire paragraph explaining this to you guys? Well, GUYS, because that is EXACTLY the excuse you will be using to sneak a little more alcohol into the GIRLS you’re having dinner with in the shape of a Cava Granité..

Okay, I kid, I kid.. Though if you’re a worse man than I, then the idea would probably work to your advantage.. But all joking aside, a palate cleanser at at least one point during a lengthy meal IS a good idea, for the (real) reasons stated above. I wanted one for my meal as well, and since I happened to have a half bottle of Cava left over from various elements of the other dishes, it seemed quite appropriate to mix it with a bit of lemon juice and a fitting amount of sugar, then freeze it till needed and shave a little into two ramekins and serve as needed..

The result was a semi-sweet, refreshing, cold lemony treat which washed away the previous impressions and, as intended, gave us a little breather and time to prepare for the upcoming heavier dishes. It also made us quite warm, happy and chatty, possibly owing to the 12% alcohol by volume well hidden by the sugar and lemon juice. You want to be careful with the sugar, of course, as this is in no way meant to be an overly sweet dessert-like dish, but on the other hand, you don’t want it to be too tart or dry..  I must’ve gotten the balance somewhat right as Tina’s comments read simply “Simply yummy! No further comments!”

Join us in the next installment of the series for more tall tales involving pheasants and things that go “oink!” in the night..

I’m getting too old to be drinking with rock bands!

Generally speaking, the proposition was as simple as it was confusing: Can I drop by and get you hammered tomorrow if I bring plenty of Belgian beer and a guy named Bo? That is the exact wording of the text message that Dunkel sent me on Thursday and given the fucked up nature of the question, the only real response I could come up with was: Do you know the proper spelling of wood-fired oven? If so, then yes!

And with that, it was settled.. “The band and I will be rehearsing from 4-7 PM, you should drop by our rehearsal space after work.. And bring beer!” – “I can’t be there till 4:30,” I replied, “but I will bring beer!” – “Cool,” quoth the Dunkel, “dinner and beers at your place afterwards!” – Why thank you, I thought, going over his demands in my head. The fell on a Thursday afternoon at work after which I had to go directly to Emelie’s for dinner, fun with the gang and a much needed haircut. After said activities and a bit of lounging about and watching TV, I just might make it home at 10 PM that evening, at which time I had to make my home, which was in an absolutely sorry state, somewhat presentable to Dunkel, his new-found band mate Bo and his girlfriend, Marianne, who had now also announced her appearance Friday.. All this before passing out from exhaustion in due time to give me at least the illusion of a good night’s sleep before getting up Friday morning at 6.15 AM..

This all sounded like a bit of a mouthful after an entire day at work and, quite honestly, after a day at work and a cozy night with the gang, it was, indeed, a bit of a mouthful.. But I somehow managed to get everything done – and do a few loads a laundry – before passing out at shortly past midnight.

Friday at work was a real drag.. Not only because the weather was all nice-like and I would really rather be stuck in the sun drinking beer with the gang, but also because I really didn’t have much of anything to do.. Which, I guess, with my recent itinerary, I should be happy about, but it just sorta felt.. Not right.. Anyways, when the clock finally struck 3:30 PM, I grabbed the six-pack of beer for the band that I’d been saving in the office fridge, bid the office goodbye, jumped on a long yellow /(magic?) bus home and set out to join the band at their rehearsal studio in Kolding.

I arrived at around 4:30-ish and started banging on the front door to be let in, screaming a plethora of loud profanities, thinking the band was probably too busy getting their rock on to notice me. My senseless banging was answered by Dunkel’s girlfriend, Marianne who let me in, hugged me, looked me up and down, stared in confusion at my new office attire of expensive jeans and shirts, fancy shoes and new glasses and mumbled something along the lines of “Fuck me, you look good!” – “Yeah,” I said in reference to my distinct lack of stereotype rock n roll clothing, “I’m not sure the band will agree..” ..

And right I was.. As we barged through the sound-proof double doors of the studio, Under, ex-rythm guitarist cum bass player, was too busy fiddling with something to even acknowledge my entry on the scene. Dunkel, still primarily used to seeing me with long hair and some sort of 80’s metal or 70’s rock band shirt stared at me a little puzzled and Bo, new drummer of the band and last member of the new lineup, whom I had by the way never seen before, stared at my IT professional outfit in a sorta puzzled, sorta apprehensive, sorta questioning kinda way.. Ah yes, the stereotypes of metal.. Anyways, being a long time member of the scene, I knew what to do, I reached into my bag, pulled out a cold six pack and threw one beer to each member of the band, I then pulled off my Hugo Boss shirt, reached into my back, pulled out a Five Finger Death Punch tour tee, pointed at Bo and yelled “FUCKING PLAY SOME PANTERA!! NOW!!!!!” .. At which he nodded in approval in an “you’re okay, kid” kinda way and kicked into Walk.. Jamming ensued and I was evidently accepted by the pack.

What followed was a three hour rehearsal/jamming session interrupted by a break and some mindless, stupid chit-chatter at the hands of five silly metal-heads. Seeing the band in this new incarnation was kinda fun even if they were still getting into the habit of playing together. Dunkel has taken over on vocals from their former lead singer which was, well, hard to say anything about, really, as the PA in the studio was about as shitty as they come. Under went from playing guitar to playing bass which he seemed decent enough at.. And Kris, the old drummer, obviously got the boot in favor of Bo who seems young (ten years younger than me, it turns out), dedicated, fast and roaring to go.. He actually played pretty stupidly fast at times, dragging the entire band into overdrive, which is always a good thing.

After a fun session and some utterly silly and stupid comments and feedback from yours truly, we (we being Dunkel, Marianne, Bo and myself) headed off to my place to unload a large amount of luggage and an even larger amount of various alcoholic beverages, ranging from Newcastle Brown Ale over German Pilsners to Belgian Trappist brews, whisky and two bottles of Jäger.. Y’know, just to be on the safe side. We then wobbled on over to the local supermarket and started arguing over what to have for dinner. We settled for pork tenderloin in cream sauce on the condition, posed by someone who shall remain nameless (*cough* Marianne *cough*), that a 1:1 ratio of cocktail wieners to tenderloin be added to the mix.. Oh well, 900 grams of tenderloin and 900 grams of sausages it was, add to that the pint of heavy cream that Bo showed up with from the dairy section and the 300 grams of bacon I had left in the fridge and we just about had a meal fit for kings. Dunkel and Marianne grabbed a couple of bags of potato chips and some M&M’s for dessert, y’know, just in case anybody were still alive after the cholesterol-laden dinner.

We then trotted back to my place and each busied ourselves in our own little ways for about an hour: Dunkel showered, Marianne complained about her sore feet, I cooked dinner and Bo set out browsing my music collection from A-Z, going either YAY or NAY at each single artist he encountered.. All of us, of course, consumed alcohol in one way or another, we hadn’t come for the dancing after all..

After about an hour of cooking dinner and getting sloshed, we ate.. There’s probably a lot ot be said about the nutritional value of pork and sausages fried in bacon fat and smothered in heavy cream and served over rice with a side of beer.. But umm.. Let’s just stick to the fact that it tasted fucking GOOD! Which, I do believe, is the exact wording of the unanimous verdict brought forth by the tasting jury. After such a pork-ish onslaught, everybody were feeling pretty well stuffed, so I went and got everybody a shot of Jäger to help their digestion.. Which, from a view of trying to improve digestion was a pretty smart idea, but, bearing into mind the six or so odd beers already consumed by everybody involved, was actually a pretty stupid idea.. At any rate, things seemed to head downhill from there.. FAST!

More beers hit the table, as did a deck of cards and another round of shots, Bo claimed control of the playlist and the volume settings of my stereo (which proved a pretty bad idea), I brought out a bottle of Russian Standard Vodka and started mixing drinks for Marianne and Dunkel became the all-out instigator of all plans bad and hurtful to his fellow human beings.. Fast forward about an hour and we were dead-locked in Dunkel’s newest drinking game creation: Fast-paced Crazy Eights which he from the beginning in classic Dunkel fashion had described as “a game which won’t get you very drunk very quickly.” Voice levels were up considerably, mainly owing to Bo blasting Lamb of God about as loud as the stereo would go (and mine goes to 11!), and things had pretty much descended into madness:

Despite the music being up so loud, the windows were open because I had tried to minimize the effort needed to get new cold beers for our drinking game and in doing so had stuck two six packs in the cold early summer breeze outside the living room window. Since they were going down so fast no one had really bothered to close the window. Also, we boys had nearly killed our first bottle of Jäger and Marianne, not to be outdone, had polished off almost a quarter of a bottle of Russian Standard on account of her (despite her better judgement) insisting that I mix her drinks because it made her feel all lady-like/drunk. There was some Pernod or Pastis downing going on, too, I believe, but the details allude me for the time being.

This went on for a good little (and by that I mean long) while until eventually the new guy, Bo, had to admit defeat and spew his guts.. Which, despite the nuisance it must have posed to the neighbors, made me pretty happy that the window was still open.. And then things sorta quieted down a little, from what I remember of it anyways.. See, the thing is, nobody remembers too well after a few six packs and a third of a bottle of Jäger. What I do remember, though, is that the music got turned down considerably (for a while, at least) and that a break was had on the hard stuff. I also sorta remember making my bed with clean sheets and stuff so that Marianne would have a place to crash after she got tired of listening to our nonsense at around 3 AM. I also remember having a very strong desire to turn in myself, and relating this wish to Dunkel.. I also (vaguely!) remember Dunkel telling me something along the lines of: “Aww, come on guy, stay for another drink and Cash’s “I Walk The Line”, Manowar’s “Warriors of the World” and one other song.. What I certainly don’t remember is staying onboard for nearly another hour with Dunkel and Bo, downing another bottle of Jäger and doing all sorts of weird things. I also have absolutely no idea about when I got to bed (and by bed I mean the floor of my bedroom as the bed was taken up by Dunkel and Marianne) nor why I woke up a couple of hours later in my boxers wondering “Where the hell have my clothes gone?”.. Or, for that matter, why Dunkel and Bo were also stirring awake at the very same time asking themselves the very same question..

Dunkel eventually found his clothes in the hallway while mine were in the living room, Bo’s in return was in the bedroom with no one really having much an indication as to why this was the case, though I’d be lying if I said that this was the first time something like this happened.. I didn’t really much feel like wondering about it anyway.. Honestly, though, I didn’t really feel like much that morning.. I barely felt like living.. “Oh boy,” I told myself as the hangovers started rolling over me, I’m gonna be regretting last night for a while.. And, true to my word, I did. While Bo, Dunkel and Marianne spent time slowly regaining their composure (blessed art the young!), I curled up in a fetal position on the floor, moaning and wincing. As they gathered their stuff and left, I moved on to the couch where I turned on the TV and then passed out and slept till 4 in the afternoon. I got up, went shopping for a bit to eat, then had to lay down again on account of not feeling too well. I ate dinner at around 7 PM, much against my better judgement, then got queasy again and had to fight to hold it down until I fell asleep again at around 8.. I was in and out of consciousness until around 1 AM where I tried to watch some form of documentary but had to give up and crawl to bed.. I remember waking at 5:30 AM and still feeling hung over only to go back to bed and wake up at 8 AM Sunday morning, feeling somewhat ready to face the world.. Which I did by going out on an extended three hour hike to get the rest of the toxins out of my blood. It worked, somewhat, but it was only at around noon when Tina texted me to ask how ye olde body was doing (probably on account of not having heard from me since I declared Friday that I was off to get wasted) that I could honestly say that I was feeling well again.. Finally!

Geeze..

God bless socialism! (and lazy Sundays)

I’ve had a pretty busy weekend. In between working and spoiling Tina silly with a 14 course tasting dinner, I’ve actually had surprisingly little time for relaxation.. At a point in time where I probably really needed to relax. As a result, I, rather ironically, spent most of May 1st, International Worker’s Day, in bed sleeping the sweet sleep of the chronically over-worked.

It’s not that I didn’t try to get up, I did, my alarm clock first went off at around 8 AM but prompted nothing more than a “fuck this shit” from a sleep weary Johan. The next attempt to wake me came from Emelie who texted me at around 9:30 AM wanting to set up an dinner date later this week. Now, I’m generally not one to let invitations from pretty girls go unanswered, but I will admit to letting this one go for a while, as I actually fell asleep trying to write an answer. The third, final and successful attempt to rouse the sleeping Johan came when Tina texted me at going on 1 PM, thanking me for the evening before and enquiring as to whether I had had a good night’s sleep, to which I could only reply something along the lines of “yes, and a good morning’s as well, and early afternoon for that matter!”, before finally rolling out of bed and dragging myself up for a shower..

I had a shower, coffee and a breakfast of champions and eventually emerged out my front door at around the crack of 2 PM, ready to face the world. I really had no plans for the day except to do as little as humanly possible, so I thought it a pretty good idea to just go for a scroll in the spring sunshine with my trusty old iPod and see where my feet would lead me.

My feet, as it turned out, had pretty great plans for me as the took me first through downtown, through the parks, past several lakes and a few forests until they eventually landed me at a street lamp post not far from my home.. But not just any lamp post, no! This particular lamp post had a poster on it. A red poster, none the less, advertising the time table of the traditional May 1st celebration taking place each year in a park near to my home (which, strangely enough, my feet had not yet led me through). I read the time table without much interest until mine eyes gazed upon the final entry on the board: “Free concert with the E-Street Jam” .. “Wait a moment,” I thought to myself, “that sounds like a tribute to that there Bruce Springsteen person that I happen to dig quite a lot.. It begins in 30 minutes.. And it’s just down the street.. I should go check that out! What’s the worst that could come of it?”

Well, we’ll touch upon that last question later.. Ahem, anyways, so I set on off down the street, stopped by an ATM on the way to withdraw a bit of money, thinking that any event created to celebrate socialism, solidarity and workers’ rights would probably have a beer tent.. A suspicion I was to have confirmed very shortly as I drew closer to the festival grounds and started hearing the unmistakable sounds of live music, kid’s playing and adults arguing after one too many pints in the sun. As I grew closer still, I also saw the surprisingly common sight on a day like yesterday of middle-aged to elderly men in makeshift uniforms and red, communist star barets  staggering around blindly before falling over in the nearest bush, muttering incoherent nothings about traitors, selfishness and capitalism.

Moving onwards, trying to stay out of the way of more or less stinking drunk partygoers, I eventually arrived at the source of the commotion, a local park in which a makeshift stage had been erected, surrounded by beer tents (as I’d expected), hotdog stands, and a few tents and booths selling everything from psychedelic Hawaiian Leis to communist propaganda.  “This should be interesting,” I thought as I moved on towards the stage, checking my watch. The hour had struck 4:45 PM, the time at which the band was supposed to go on. In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have been expecting an arrangement of this sort to be keeping to a strict schedule, but I was still a little annoyed to see no sign of a band getting on stage. Rather, I was seeing the unmistakable sign of a warm-up act starting to go off stage and dismount their gear. I sighed a little to myself in resignation and figured that since I was there anyways, I might as well join the other guests in doing what they had obviously been doing all morning and afternoon, having a beer. I located the nearest beer tent (the frequency of those seemingly being around two to every twenty square meters), ordered a pint of beer and were charged a whopping DKK 25.. Which was roughly 15 less than I’d expected and probably much of the reason why the patron standing at the counter next to me was swaying excessively from side to side, blaming a combination of the non-existing wind and the young whippersnappers of today for his less than impressive ability to control his own actions.

Having received my beer and feeling no need or desire to strike up conversation with the gentleman to my right, I decided to instead tour the grounds and take in the sights.. Which turned out to be not very interesting at all, aside from hotdog stands, beer tents and a booth selling crepes and popcorn, there was an inflatable castle for kids to jump around in (which, for whatever reason, I was banned from entering), representatives from various political parties and a booth from the Danish-Cuban friendship association which seemed to sell only two things, bracelets and Che Guevara t-shirts in a seemingly endless array of colors, save the most obvious choices of red with black print and black with red print. Stopping for a moment to pout at the lack of red shirts and another to ponder whether Tina would appreciate a pink Che Guevara t-shirt, I went on only to discover I had now come full circle and was back at the stage where, in the time I had been away, nothing much had happened.. Well, the warmup band had left the stage and the E-Street Jam band of which I had never heard had taken stage and started setting up.

Long, excruciatingly boring story short, the band, backed by the most incompetent sound engineer I’ve ever laid eyes upon (and I’ve seen a few) launched into an almost 45 minute long sound check which was only interrupted by dissatisfied cries of “Hey, are you guys being paid by the hour?” from the audience and frustrated cries from the engineer every time he messed something up anew. I killed the time very slowly draining my beer and looking around at the motley crew that was the crowd: I spotted everything from drifters over strung out junkies to Tina’s exceedingly schizophrenic neighbor who for whatever reason had planted herself smack dab in the middle of a rather large crowd sitting on a line of benches watching the action.. I even spotted local Springsteen cover act “The Boss”, standing around at a raised table, scouting the competition with what looked like equal parts bemusement and contempt.. I guess there’s a fair amount of competition on the Springsteen cover band touring circuit..

When, only some 50 minutes late,  the band finally kicked into an almost embarrassingly over-enthusiastic cry of “Are you ready to rock, Kolding??!”, you could literally feel their hearts sink as the crowd completely failed to muster any kind of response. Regardless, though, they kicked into their opening song which never so much struck me as a timeless Bruce Springsteen classic, as it struck me as the most horribly mixed live sound I have ever heard.. Evidently, the sound tech took this as a clue to stop drinking beer and talking to his girlfriend because he pretty quickly flew back to the soundboard where he started twisting and turning dials and pushing buttons in order to make the sound good enough for the band to perform an impressively off-key, out of tune version of “Surrender”.. “The shit’s really starting to hit the fan now,” I though, before I was interrupted by a 65+ year old lady who danced provocatively into me and started grinding and grooving by my side, starting to strike up conversation as much as she possibly could before I fled the scene quickly, cursing the fact that I seem unable to go to a Springsteen cover band show alone without some elderly lady or another making a move on me.. Goddamnit, I swear before God almighty, I’m bringing one of the girls next time!

Making a hasty exit from stage left to stage right, trying to dodge my new female admirer, I paused and chuckled a bit at a sight which had completely stolen the attention from the band, a three year old kid jamming along on a baby-sized acoustic guitar.. “Note to aspiring rock bands,” I thought:  “If a three year old steals your thunder, it’s probably time to shape up a bit..” – “You guys need to shut the hell up!,” some drunkard in front of me yelled.

To their credit, though, despite a non-caring to hostile crowd, they carried on like there was no tomorrow: the lead singer screamed, jumped around stage, jumped off stage, chased audience members with the mic, jumped back on stage, screamed some more and finally posed the ever-important question: “Why is everybody always so much more up for this kinda thing on a Saturday night?” I’m not sure if the question was meant to be rhetorical, but at any rate it didn’t spawn much in terms of an answer. Their hard work did pay off, though, after almost an hour of egging the crowd on and my watching in horrified fascination, something magical happened: Their three-year old rival ceased playing, the drunken source of Tourette’s-like outcries fell over and ceased whining, another drunken guy rose to his feet on a bench some 100 yards from the stage and started pumping his fists, screaming along to their cover of “Born in the USA”, a group of young skater punks showed up and started dancing in front of the stage in what was probably intended to be a mocking manner.. And slowly, ever so slowly people started catching on.. Heck, suddenly even Tina’s schizophrenic neighbor was head-bopping along, stomping her feet and slapping the rhythm on her thighs.

“This is so weird,” I thought as I stood there looking around at the madness unfold in front of my eyes, “this is the best worst concert I’ve ever been at!” .. And with that I went and ordered myself another beer. As I was busying myself watching a youngster pour me another beer, something even stranger happened. The band played  a song without either sucking at it or seeming entirely out of place.. And not just any song, no, they played the single best Bruce Springsteen song EVER: The River!

Now, I happen to be working on a scale on which I judge any aspiring Springsteen cover band by their version of The River, and if my new scale is anything to go by, then forget all I just said, because in that case this band was actually pretty rocking indeed! And, musically, they just got better from there.. They actually started playing a pretty rocking show which kinda made you feel sad that they’d played most of the really rocking Springsteen songs early in the set.. Why on earth couldn’t they’ve played those when they were all warmed up?

I didn’t have much time to reflect, though, because just as I took a closer look at the spectacle, thinking that this couldn’t possibly turn into a more surreal experience, I noticed none other than my morning bus driver, Flemming, crouching around in front of the stage with a huge camera with an even huger telescopic lens, snapping pictures of the band, the fans and the weirdos.. “What the hell?,” I exclaimed as Flemming took notice, waved, got up and walked over, slapping me heartily in the back in the way that only a surprisingly fit middle-aged man who doesn’t quite know his own strength can, bellowing “Johan! What’re you doing here? Having a beer, eh? Listening to a bit of music, eh?” – “All of the above,” I replied “fancy seeing you here, Flemming.. Taking a few pictures, are we?” – “Yeah, you gotta spend your time somehow when you’re not on the road.. Man, this band kinda rocks!” – “Yeah, umm, you haven’t been here long, have you Flemming?” I asked.. “Can’t say that I have! I just got here! Anyways, I gotta get going, I’ll see you on the bus!” – and with that, Flemming was off again, snapping some more pictures on his way out. I, too, took it as a clue to pack up and get out. The band was tearing into what looked to be their final song of the evening, it was getting late, I was hungry, I was reasonably sure I could do without any possible encores, and well, I wanted to get out before I had to fight through the crowd of, well, about 25-50 insanely drunk ex-communists who somehow managed to still be standing on my way out. So I ducked out the rear entrance of the park, circled safely around a couple of people peeing in the bushes and headed on my merry way home, DKK 50 poorer, but one incredibly strange free concert experience richer.. I somehow can’t wait for next year.

I made it home at around 7:30 PM, cooked up a quick dinner, tried to watch Night at the Museum, got incredibly bored and fell back to sleep.. It had, after all, been a long, hard, tiring eight hour day off..

Disastrous Mojitos

“Nooo,” Emelie cried as her involuntary hand gesture knocked the glass over, spilling it’s precious and ridiculously expensive contents on the kitchen table.

“My mojitooo!” – Tina howled with the genuine pain and anger of an innocent girl done horribly wrong, her anguished cry echoing through the room and hitting me like a thousand icy spikes right through the heart and drawing some really uncomfortable flashbacks to much unhappier times.

Don’t,” I managed, steadying myself against the table as I tried to regain control of my involuntarily shaking legs.. “Don’t EVER do that again! Only once in the last two years have I heard such sadness and pain in your voice and back then you were trembling and crying uncontrollably in my arms.. Please, baby, it’s just a drink.”

“But..,” she looked at me with deep, sad, blue eyes, pointing at the mess that Emelie had made and was now in the process of cleaning up.. “It was my drink.. My mojito!” – “Yes, sweetie,” I countered, “and that’s my $100 rum being sucked up by kitchen towel, you’ll live and I’ll make you another mojito.” – She smiled at me gratefully, as I started shaking her another mojito and as Emelie finished, cleaning up the mess she’d left, I handed Tina another mojito and, shaking my head slightly, went back to cooking dinner.. “I should have just gone to the Entombed show downtown,” I though jokingly to myself. “It would have been easier than to spend Friday night cooking for these two crazy ladies.” It wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun, though, so despite the drama, the spilled drinks and the yelling, I was happy I had decided to spend the evening cooking for, and enjoying the company of, my lovely girls.

The drama above wasn’t part of the plan, but the mojitos were. For almost a week, we’d planned to spend Friday evening together, having a few drinks and some good food. Tina had, through her usual means of persuasion, made sure that the drinks of choice would be traditional Caribbean mojitos and daiquiris, and that the food to go along be traditional Mexican dishes, namely quesadillas and carne asada burritos. Both lovely ladies claimed that said dishes and said drinks traditionally go together and since their main arguments came in the shape of sweet smiles and batting eyelashes, I thought it futile to argue.. At any rate, I aim to please.

So yeah, anyways, Friday evening, I’d dragged myself all the way down to Emelie’s pad with all the ingredients to make some killer home-made quesadillas and burritos along with some nacho chips, a six-pack of Coronas, a bottle of French white wine and all the ingredients for the mojitos and daiquiris that were as of now apparently an integral part of traditional Mexican cooking tradition. In other words, I’d brought enough food to make the girls content, full and happy.. And enough booze to get them beautifully liquored up. The latter, at least, I seemed to be succeeding in judging by the fact that glasses were flying around the kitchen even before dinner was served.

Which about brings us back to where we were. Having regained some sort of control over the situation and having made sure everybody once again had something to drink, I set about finishing dinner while I had the girls set the table. Well, that is, I tried to have the girls set the table but made the mistake of asking the giddy, chatty girls if they’d mind setting the table once they were done with their little talk about nothing in particular.. Which, in their defense, they did, I just hugely underestimated the amount of time girls can spend chatting about nothing in particular.. So by the time we had time to sit down and eat, the quesadillas were pretty well done and I’d learned an important Zen lesson.

Starving as I was, though, the quesadilla appetizers were amazing if I dare say so myself and they went down really, really well with a cold Corona, a bit of home-made salsa and the guacamole which Tina had struggled to help me make, this time not only by mashing up the avocados for the mix, but by actually running (yes, running) out and getting new, ripe avocados as those I’d brought turned out impossibly unripe.. Thank you, baby, you saved the evening!

The appetizer was followed by more chatting, some clearing of the table and a short break while I messed up the main dish. Errm.. Which is to say that I didn’t so much mess it up as I made some involuntary fusion cooking. The beef was great, the refried beans as well, the Spanish rice and the compliments. But, as it turns out, if you leave flour tortillas in the oven for too long, they toughen up and lose a lot in the whole being pliable department, and as such they’re kinda hard to roll and manipulate into a burrito-like shape. And so, the Carne Asada taco was invented! If you can’t manage a roll, you can at least manage a semi-circle.

The resulting dish looked downright comical, but tasted pretty authentic, and hey, the girls were happy and that’s all that matters.. Hell, I was happy, too, by the time I got around to my second Corona. And so, we feasted, ate, drank and were merry until a state of food coma was reached by all.. Well, all but Tina who sneered at me as I tried to remove her plate a little too early, then had another bite and declared defeat. As the girls sat back, I quietly sneaked into the kitchen and, knowing that my cooking ways don’t usually harmonize too well with a woman’s idea of tidiness of the kitchen area, tried to clean things off a bit after myself.

I managed to keep at this dodgy plan for all of ten minutes before Emelie cried out “Joohaaaaan?” in her usual semi-concerned/semi-disapproving manner. “Be right there,” I countered, after which the girls came charging into the kitchen and gave me a right trashing for trying to tidy things up. I stood my ground pretty firmly for a while before Tina resorted to her mean, girlish ways, huggled me, snuck an arm around my waist and dragged me back into the living room without too much protest on my behalf. Damn women and their disarming tricks!

After having successfully failed in trying to clean up after myself, I thought fuck it and just plopped down with the girls on the couch where they were now snuggling under their own respective blankets. Not being much of a blanket man myself, I decided to keep warm by grabbing a bottle of wine instead and pouring a glass for Tina and myself while Emelie stuck to snoozing over the remainder of her Corona.. We then set out to watch a movie, namely “Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny”, a movie Tina claimed to never have seen despite me showing it to her a few years back.. Which she would have to admit upon seeing the first scene of the movie.. Regardless, though, it was still a fun movie and watching it with Emelie just proved all the more fun..

See, Emelie (bless her) have a way of making funny movies even more fun because the poor girl can simply not handle embarrassing situations, not even on film. Which means that she reacts to comical embarrassment in the way that most girls would usually react to horror movies, by shying away from the screen, turning her head, perhaps even hiding under the blanket if things get really bad. It’s a strange kind of behavior, if you ask me, but Emelie being Emelie, it’s also a strangely cute kinda behavior.. And having watched this particular movie about a dozen times myself, I’d say it made for some great variation now and then. And I use the term now and then because I could have been perfectly happy just watching Emelie for most of the film, but she, in turn decided to spend half of the movie sound asleep.. It had been a long day after all.

After a great movie, a few power naps, some good laughs and some even better glasses of wine, we sat and chatted for a while, watching VH1 and laughing at music videos from our younger years. Ahh, good times. Fast times, though, as most of us were pretty well spent after a long day at work, and Emelie in particular was nodding off. So, we decided to call it a day, Tina asked Jeppe to come pick her up, I started gathering my stuff, Tina got picked up, I helped Emelie clear out the rest of the mess I’d created and then I, too, headed home, carrying the last two glasses of wine with me in the bottle to share with a good friend once I made it home, i.e. myself..

And I’m happy to report that I did just that once I got home over some good music and an even better book. I’ve really taken to reading again and am quite enjoying it. After a long busy Friday it was just plain awesome to be able to kick my feet up at home, dig into my newly purchased Johnny Cash auto-biography, pour myself a glass of really good wine and disappear into American VI.. What a great day!

Finding culinary inspiration.. At the bottom of a bottle?

Being the foodie that I am, I get a lot of questions relating to cooking in general and a few relating to my cooking in particular.

One question that I often get is one that goes something along the lines of “Gee, Johan, how the f’ do you come up with those weird culinary ideas of yours?” As much as I would like to say that all my dishes are based on careful though, proper planning, and careful timing and execution.. The (sad?) truth is that a fair number of them are based on guess work and sheer fucking luck, and come about in a state of mild to heavy intoxication.. Such is also the case of one of my most recent innovations: Slow roasted leg of wild boar with three-whisky gravy and mashed potatoes.

The main problem with a creative environment fueled by alcohol and silliness is, of course, that details get a little sketchy and pics a bit blurry as no one really thought to bring a proper camera in wild anticipation of the innovation about to take place. I hope, however, that you will still enjoy this tale of how stupidly simple the process behind my cooking can be:

The date was January.. err.. somethingth.. I’d recently woken slightly dazed and confused on Dunkel’s couch after a night of binge drinking and other silliness. We were in the midst of a rather strange morning ritual involving listening to the recently deceased Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” while sipping a snifter of quality Scotch whisky..

In the middle of this ritual, Dunkel suddenly exclaims “Oh, I’ve got a project for the day!,” then retreats to the kitchen and comes back with an entire fucking leg of a wild boar and an absolutely dazed and insane look on his face, stating that “we should do something with this!”

“Okay,” I venture, recovering from my initial surprise, “I suggest slow roasting, lots of aromatic vegetables and eventually a gravy based on the roasting juices.” – “I agree,” Dunkel states, looking at my one liter bottle of MacAllan Elegancia 12 year old Whisky.. “And I think we need to add Whisky to the gravy!” – “Deal,” I mumble, draining my glass and following Dunkel and the “serves 10-12 people” cut of wild boar into the kitchen where we then set about clearning up most of the mess from last night in order to start the project.

Things were cleared up pretty quickly and sporadically, the oven was set to around 65 degrees centigrade (which is as high as you should cook pork no matter what your grandma or various scaredypants tell you!) and the hunt was on to find a suitable vessel to cook the leg’o’boar in.. Which proved a little more difficult than expected

After a lot of searching around and an equal amount of swearing, we eventually located a non-stick roasting dish which (almost) had room for the roast and, toasting enthusiastically, we set about the very complex task of seasoning the roast and adding aromatic vegetables. We solved this complex problem by pretty much pulling everything that could be qualified as “aromatic vegetables” out of the fridge and throwing them into the pan without much more than a wash and maybe a snap or two. We then chucked the roast on top, seasoned it well with salt and pepper and whatever else we found reasonable in our intoxicated minds which amounted to thyme, rosemary, tarragon, parsley and a generous coating of Dijon mustard to make it all stick.. Coz, well, yeah.

For liquid we added a bit of water, a bit of stock and a generous splash of MacAllan Elegancia Whisky, a generous splash of Tullamore Dew Whisky.. And some Bushmills Whisky as well, simply because we had the option of using three kinds of Whisky and it somehow seemed reasonable at the time.. After everyone and the

dog had approved of the result,

we chucked the damn thing in the oven and forgot about it for a good five hours.

Well, that is we TRIED to forget about it for a good five hours.. But the damn thing smelled so nice that it was kinda hard to ignore.. Which was probably a good thing because it inspired us to check on the thing often and, eventually, realize that we had completely forgotten to add bacon to the mix.. Which was just a plain silly rookie mistake as we had a pack of bacon just sitting around in the fridge waiting to get wrapped around the roast. So after some five hours, we retrieved the roast, added bacon and popped it all back.

We then waited patiently for another good three hours or so. We then evacuated the roast once more, had a good peek at it, drained the juices into a sauce pan where we let it rest for a good half hour or more while we made the sauce and a bit of mash to go along.

The mash was made in the usual way using boiled potatoes, salt, pepper, nutmeg, a heart-clogging amount of butter and a bit of skim milk to taste.. Careful on the milk, mind you, you don’t want too many calories in there!

Ages ago, I made a pledge never to try my hands with mash, so while Dunkel took care of that, I did what I do best.. Or better than mash anyways.. Which was to take care of the gravy: it started with a bit of roux (flour and butter) which was browned nicely in a sauce pan, the roasting juices from the meat were then added along with a splash of Whisky (for good measure), some cream and a splash of caramel coloring.. It was then left to reduce slightly and grow all thick and nice-like.. Simple as could be.. And tasty as could be!

“D’you realize,” I said to Dunkel as we were putting the finishing touches on everything, “that a lot of people would be terrified to attempt what we just did.. And here we are, getting wasted, cocking about and just guesstimating our way through this.. Isn’t that funny?” – “Well, we’re more awesome than the average chef,” Dunkel simply declared, raising his glass to me.. And with that in mind, we were ready to carve the roast, plate it up and feast.

And feast we did.. Because, well, despite all the weirdness, the guessing and considerable blood alcohol levels, I’d have to declare awesomeness on the result. Wild boar really is one of my favorite eats, probably because it’s gamey yet not too gamey and still distinctively pork-like in a less fat than domesticated pork kind of way. The herbs and the vegetables went really well with the gamey flavors of the meat and (along with the obscene amounts of expensive Whisky) added a nice touch to the gravy which was out of this world in a “I’d like to just eat this with a spoon” kinda way.. A feat which may or may not have been attempted.

With Dunkel, myself and his girlfriend, Marianne, we ended up a total of three diners and while we did not entirely devour the “serves 10-12 people” hunk of meat, we did our damn best and got pretty shockingly long on our quest to finish it up.. Suffice to say, we didn’t quite make it.. But if you’re interested in seeing how a couple of strapping young lads look after trying to finish a meal fit for ten, look no further than here:

Yeah, not too pretty, is it? But what did you expect? Honestly, it was a rather silly attempt, a rather silly idea altogether, but it just had to be done.. If for no other reason then to prove that it doesn’t take a clear-headed genius to achieve culinary innovation. I’m sorry if that causes disillusionment to anyone 😉

The New Year’s Eve Saga 2010, Part 3: The Party

When I last left this story, some two weeks ago, I think I stated that immediately after dinner the table was cleared and a party was had.. Which may be a bit of a half-truth because as we all know, boys will be boys and on New Year’s eve boys get to play with fireworks.. And in a perfect world they get to put firework to use for purposes for which they were not quite intended.. As was exactly the case for Jeppe and I and our Grand New Year’s Salute.. Which was really nothing but a large bunch of over-sized whistling fireworks which we had spend a borderline stupid amount of time taping together as to make them go off in a chain reaction and create as much noise, smoke, fire and uproar as possible..

Granted, it was a pretty ridiculous project, but we were proud of our ridiculous project, damnit, and we couldn’t wait to set it off.. So while others thought we should clear the table, Jeppe and I thought we should don our jackets, safety goggles and what have you and go outside and set off our little salute to the neighbors.. Some claimed it was a stupid idea, others that we were silly. We, on the other hand, thought we were pretty smart and funny.. That is until we got the thing lit and set off a little more than we had bargained for. The plan was to make a bit of noise for the neighborhood and add a bit of a smoke screen as a mild nuisance.. What really happened is that we unleashed a minute-long cacophony of hellfire and 120DB shrill whistling echoing between neighboring houses  while thick black smoke billowed into the night air effectively blocking any view of the display fireworks going into the air from other neighbors.. In essence, we had no clue of the terror we’d unleashed on the neighborhood, so we just stood there staring while it went on and on, dogs started barking, kids fled screaming and crying, parents pointed and scowled and our eyes started watering all while I ears rang with the echo of the noise being created.. As it all finally came to an end, we just sorta looked at one another, cried “AWESOME!”, did a high five and fled inside before any upset neighbors could get a hold of us.

As we got in, we discovered, somewhat happily, that the table had very conveniently nearly cleared itself during our absence. So, exhausted from our efforts of terrorizing the neighborhood, we sat down for a few glasses of wine.. And a few shots that had somehow, despite my protests, made it to the table.

And so there we sat for a while, having drinks, getting liquored up and silly, playing the age old game of cleavage target practice which is something my two blonde sidekicks Tina and Zascha (bless them) always tend to instigate after a couple of hours (and a couple of glasses of wine) in each others company.. But, y’know, who are we to complain? Actually, I think it might make a great spectator sport at some point.. Ahem, I digress..

After a while of everybody getting liquored up and silly, someone got the great idea – as it usually happens at around this time – that it would be fun to play a game or two of Sing Star. I should have objected, as I usually do, but y’know, even if I can’t sing to save my life, who am I to argue against cute girls AND alcohol? So, after a few quick singing lessons from Zascha, who is actually a trained AND skilled singer and apparently continued her trend of trying to teach me one new thing every New Year’s Eve, I decided I was none the wiser, grabbed Zascha by one hand and a wine glass full of menthol liquor (her idea, I SWEAR!) in the other and jumped into the process of getting my ass kicked in every song ranging from Alice Cooper’s “Poison” over Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” to some indie rock crap I just plain refused to have any part of.. Which is not to say I didn’t have any fun, it just went to show that I sucked at it! But oh well, so did most everybody else (except Zascha who had a bit of a natural advantage what with being a singer and all), so we all had fun on pretty much equal grounds and no one cared that most everybody sounded like shit. Actually, I was somewhat surprised that the Sing Star episode turned out to one of the best experiences of the evening, but be that as it may, the damn thing’s funny after a few drinks.. And there’s something both strangely awesome and strangely sentimental about getting to sing songs with special meanings with people you care about and a drunken chorus in the background such as when Tina and I did “Kryptonite” by 3 Doors Down which is pretty much our song and when Zascha and I did a duet of “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M. which is sorta kinda our song as well.. Well, one of our songs.. Out of lack of the very obvious “Tiny Dancer” by Elton John, “Always” by Bon Jovi, “Teenage Dirtbag” by.. And, well, let’s just stop it there.. Anyways, good times, happy times!

Such happy times, actually, that most of the crowd grew a little surprised when someone exclaimed “holy crud, it’s almost Midnight! Get the Champagne! Put on ‘Dinner for One’!” (there’s a strange Danish New Year’s tradition for ya!).. Frantic scrambling ensued and within minutes everybody were assembled in front of the TV, eagerly awaiting the chime of the bells signaling the birth of the new year.. A fact which made it all the more surprising that everybody seemed to miss the big moment. “Not to interrupt, startle or alarm anyone,” I finally bellowed in my ever so diplomatic manner, “but it’s 2011 now, so fucking CHEERS!” – “OH!,” went the rest of the crowd, “CHEERS!” – and then chaos ensued, everybody scattered and poured outside, wanting a look of the fireworks, I on the other hand ran around in a daze, picking up everything that the girls had forgotten in their hurry and pouring Champagne for those who had forgotten, then eventually made it outside to catch the very last of the fireworks.. But such is the life and ways of a gentleman, and I did get big hugs from the girls and a huff off a cigar from the guys.

We staggered around outside talking, looking at fireworks and drinking Champagne for as long as we could possibly keep up with the cold and the dark, then eventually poured back inside where we enjoyed more drinks, more shots, a quick snack, some wine and – quite possibly – a beer or two.. I really shan’t say, things were getting a little blurry at the time.. Which is why the next few hours for me contained pretty much merely scattered images of talking to various people, drinking various things, making playlists with Zascha, playing air guitar to Top Gun Anthem with the boys and then going to the toilet only find out when I get back that Tina and Jeppe had gotten tired and decided to turn in for the night.. So I’m just gonna go ahead and say that those were the only things that happened between 0:30 AM and 2:30 AM, at least that’s how I remember it.

And from then on I just remember things getting crazier.. There was more loud music, more drinking (though both Zascha and I slowed down considerably), more singing, and dancing.. A lot of dancing – even on my part! Again, who am I to say no to cute girls AND alcohol.. And it was all good times in a really weird, draining kinda way. Such good times, actually, that we managed to keep the party going till nearly 5 AM.. When everybody just sorta literally collapsed in a pile.. Which is an odd way of putting it, but it really sorta is what happened..

I should clarify.. See, sleeping arrangements turned out a little weird that evening. Zascha and Emelie had originally brought an inflatable mattress to sleep on, but come 4:30 AM, the thing just would inflate. Ronnie and I on the other hand, had decided to split the couch for the night seeing as it was large enough for things not to get awkward or borderline gay. What happened then was that with the mattress part being out of the equation, all four of us ended up sleeping on the couch with Ronnie in one corner, Emelie in the other and Zascha and I sorta huddled up together at Emelie’s feet, taking up a shockingly small amount of space for two normally sized individuals. Oh it was a strange night indeed, and would probably have been an awkward one, too, at that, had Zascha, Emelie and I not been such great friends because more than once did people get kicked here or there and more than once did people wake up from getting an ass in their head. Every now and then someone would go up and go to the bathroom and everybody else get a bit of a chance to readjust and be comfortable for the odd half hour or so and possibly catch a bit of shut eye.. In other words, it was the most comfortable of sleeps, but certainly one of the more memorable.. And probably the only time in my life I’ve been told off because “Johan, your head is on my ass!” .. So, really, that’s how I started my 2011, huddled up on what was actually a reasonably sized couch, until four people tried to sleep on it at once..

I secretly wish someone would have gotten up in the middle of the night to take pictures because while I’m sure it wasn’t pretty, it would have been memorable.

The New Year’s Eve Saga 2010, Part 2: The Dinner

Having spent most of the 29th and the 30th cooking for our grand New Year’s Dinner, I allowed myself to sleep in on the last day of the year.. Well, as much as I possibly could anyways. I still had some final preparations and packing to do as well as some getting myself ready for the big day.. And I had some prep and cooking to do on the 31th itself.. In a town far, far away.. Namely in the small frontier town of Gråsten down south near the border somewhere here our friends (and host couple for the evening) Louise and Carsten live.

To get down there, we had enlisted the help of my prodigal baby sister Zascha who had offered to pack the entire gang as well as our luggage, the food, a few plastic sleds (?) and an impressive array of fireworks (??) into her parents’ car and chauffeur us all safely down south. She, along with Emelie, picked me up at around 1 PM and then drove on to pick up Tina and Jeppe along with above mentioned array of fireworks and plastic sleds.. Which created a bit of a logistic nightmare because along with the 30 odd pounds of food, Emelie’s entire suitcase of possible New Years outfits, the other luggage and five people.. Well, long story short, it was a bit of a tight fit.. In the trunk as well as on the back seat, but we managed and had an altogether pleasant ride down there involving laughing, talking, pointing and many a small scale argument between Tina and I, most of which ended in a “just shut the fuck up, will you?”, Zascha poking Emelie and going “were him and I just like that back in the old days?” and Emelie going “slightly worse, actually..” – AH, the memories.. But I digress!

We arrived at Louise and Carsten’s at around 2:30 PM and quickly began carrying the food, luggage, clothes, fireworks and what the fuck have you in from the car. “It’s okay,” I told a horrified Louise watching the scene, “we’re planning a weekend trip to Northern France later, it’s not like this is all just for today!” – I then rushed by her, claiming ownership of the kitchen and half of the fridge for the remainder of the day. Which is to say that I shoved lord knows how many aluminum and plastic trays of food into the fridge, took a beer out in return, opened the beer, took a sip and then turned my attention to the important things in life.. The 5 pounds of prime rib I had meticulously dry aged in my home fridge over the previous four days. They had spend the trip down coming more or less to room temperature, so all I was now left with was to season them and be damn happy with the result..

I then, much to the bemusement of those in our tightly knit little group who had never heard of slow roasting, took out a huge pan and seared the meat thoroughly before popping it in the oven at 55C and leaving it there for.. oh.. a good four hours or so.. While I mingled, played video games, drank beer, teased the girls, and other fun stuff..

Come late afternoon, I set out to finish the sauce which had gelatinized ever so slightly overnight as well as to heat all remaining parts of the meal and season them properly. I then spent a full three minutes or so changing into something less comfortable and was ready to join the others for the official celebration kick-off at 6 PM. During which we toasted and watched the queens traditional (and frightfully boring) New Year’s Address.

And theeeeen: SHOWTIME! Dinner was a bit of a blur, to be honest, considering the whole thing had taken two days to prepare, it was a little surreal that it all went down in about two hours, but again, it’s was really just a testament to how much people loved my food and I can’t think of a much greater compliment than that.. I was well proud of myself! And hardly even stressed out this time around which is very new for me in situations where a lot of cooking for a lot of people is involved. Okay, so Zascha will probably tell you that I did stress slightly as I was plating the starters, but then, Zascha is crazy and you shouldn’t believe her.. Okay, well, so I was, for all of ten seconds and of course it’s during those ten seconds that Zascha choses to look at me and recognized my slightly shaky movements which she even after all these years abroad recognize as a stress symptom.. Which is really kinda cute, and another testament to the fact that my girls know me too damn well.. But aside from that, no stress, no worries, no problems, just a well-timed, well-received and well cream-laden meal which received much praise from the eaters.

Our friend Ronnie commented that the puff pastry starters were as good – if not better – than the ones his mother makes, which in this part of the world is a huge compliment.

Jeppe, on the other hand, nearly wept with joy when he saw how the prime rib had turned out..

.. Then took it upon himself to eat a good healthy five or six slices, even going so far as to growl at people when they tried to remove his plate.

All in all, it was a pretty decadent, tasty experience and I ended up beaming with pride and joy over the many compliments received and the fact that I had, for the first time ever, produced an absolutely perfect roast.. I mean, really.

Even the dessert, unorthodox as it was, was a big hit with everyone.. Besides maybe Zascha who didn’t much care for licorice (I’m sorry, baby, I’ve made a note for future reference). I’d been afraid it was a little too weird or over the top for most people, but after all had had their share and most had gone back for second, even third servings, I guess I was about ready to call it a success as well

And then, almost as quickly as it had all begun, it was over. Two days of work had been consumed in two hours.. And all that was left was the clean up (and some five pounds of potatoes). You’d think it’d be a sad kinda feeling to have all the work ravaged so quickly by hungry hordes, but no.. Not really.. I live to please and to have everyone dig in so enthusiastically (dare I say greedily) well, damnit, it felt good. For the first time ever, I actually felt like what some people have accused me of being for a long time: A dedicated kinda guy who produces restaurant quality meals in the comfort of my own home.

After it all was over, our hosts took me aback and surprised me with a small present for all my hard work

Emelie was sweet enough to take a few pictures of the unwrapping process, including this once which apparently shows my reaction to being surprised with quality beers.. Yay beer!

With the funny, surprised faces out of the way, all that was really left to do was to clear the table and wait for the night to set in and the party to start.. But that’s another story, involving many laughs and activities, both high tech new ones such as Sing Star and Danish party classics such as Cleavage Target Practice..

More to follow…