Murderer’s Thumb Print Cookies: Redux

Since my last batch of jelly thumb print cookies were a bit of a disaster, my mom sent me her recipe:

Jelly Filled Thumb Print Cookies
1 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 egg yolks (save whites)
2 cups flour
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
chopped walnuts or pecans
Mix together. Roll into balls about the size of large marbles. Dip balls in egg whites then roll in chopped nuts, make dent with thumb. Bake 8 minutes at 375. Plase 1/2 tsp jam or jelly in center. Bake 6 minutes more

These turned out better, though I used 1c flour and 1c whole what flour and I think the wheat flour made them too dry. I still found them delicious and remeniscent of my childhood. Kate thought they were too crumbly and preferred the first batch. Next time, I’m swapping out pecan meal for a 1/2 cup of flour and using all white flour…I shall report back.

That's Kate's hand reaching for a cookie. Caution: filling is hot!

Music and the Gourmale

A few years back, I had the ill-conceived notion of cooking New Year’s Eve Lobster Thermidor for 36 people. It was one of the worst nights of my life.

The lobsters didn’t have a very good time either.

This year, I happily left most of the New Year’s cooking to Curtis. Curtis is the co-owner of Territory Barbecue and Records, and while I admit I’ve never actually been there, I have sampled much of their fare (over at Dave’s house) and thus endorse it highly.

(Note that for most of my childhood, my father owned a somewhat legendary Kansas City style barbecue restaurant called Gator Magoons in Denver, CO—so, my standards for bbq are high).

Curtis is also the lead singer of the band Bad Wizard, an extremely rocking band from NYC by way of Athens, GA. He’s also, I believe, a Gourmale.

Curtis, Bonnie, & Dave - surely amused by some canine antics in the kitchen

The food—an amazing beef roast that tasted like my mother’s Passover brisket, a perfectly seasoned roasted pork loin, creamed corn and roasted potatoes—were all great, along with a stellar asparagus/shiitake risotto by Kate’s friends from Berlin, Ben and Theresa.

Ben, me, Kate and Theresa - top of the Palm Springs Ariel Tramway, with blue moon on the rise

On the drive home, Curtis’ rock and roll roots got me thinking about music and food.

In my life as an air guitarist, I’ve definitely logged more ‘on the road’ hours than with my actual band, Nous Non Plus. In either case, for me, touring is almost just an excuse to search for interesting food I normally would not encounter.

Once, in Cleveland, the night after an air guitar show, I found an amazing Greek deli that had these 4-cheese and olive rolls. Back on the tour bus, I toasted them, and I used them as a bed for egg sandwiches sprinkled with feta. Delicious.

This leads me to a somewhat ham-fisted self-promotional segue about my show Sound Bites. It’s an idea I had a couple of years ago where I would go on tour with a different band each week, and each episode would be all about what the band ate on the road. The late-night haunts, dingy diners, greasy spoons, and crunchified vegan (every band has its vegan) joints.

The pilot episode I did featured Bret and Jemaine, aka Flight of the Conchords, getting fish tacos.

I still think it would be a rocking show, and maybe when the economy takes its head out of its ass it will happen.

Happy New Year, and here’s to 2010 being much better than the giant turd that was 2009.

Below – some random photos from the trip to/from Palm Springs.

Whisky snoozes en route to Palm Springs

Blue Moon, New Year's Eve 2010- from the top of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Lambwich is the new Manwich

Last night’s leg-o-lamb did not turn out as tasty and delicious as the last one I made for 2009’s Burns Supper—and I’m now eagerly awaiting 2010’s tribute to Scotland’s most beloved poet to make amends.

Though my friend Peter did marinate the lamb for a full day with garlic, rosemary and olive oil per my instructions, I think the issue was the grill.

While his grill is probably the finest gas grill money can buy and heated to nearly 600 degrees in a matter of minutes, it failed to impart any flavor whatsoever to the meat. “Duh” you say? I know…I did follow the instructions of my new favorite book (Cook’s Illustrated Guide to Grilling and Barbecue) but modified it slightly. Fearing flameups (and taking advantage of the colossal space on Peter’s grill), I used only indirect heat rather than having the burners under the meat on medium as suggested, while the burners on the other half of the grill were cranked. Maybe that would’ve helped?

Also wondering if I should’ve used some soaked hickory chips or something to add a little smoke.

Anyway, owing perhaps to the not-so-amazing nature of the meat, Peter insisted I take the leftovers. Fine with me.

Mmmm Lambwich

For today’s leftover leg of lamb lambwich I mixed some blue cheese with a little mayo and olive oil and pepper, spread it on some toast and then added a few slices of lamb that I heated in a steam basket on the stove for a few minutes to warm it up (this method was inspired by marveling for many years at how they keep pastrami and corned beef hot and tender at Katz‘s in NY). I then threw on a few sprigs of arugula from my garden (ah, Los Angeles) and fed a few scraps of fatty bits to my puppy, Whisky.

We were both very happy.

Later, I gave Whisky a soda bottle to chew on—her favorite, and most economical toy.

Murderer’s Thumb Print Cookies

I have very strange looking thumbs. They are flat, and square, and resemble a big toe.

"Thumbnail image"

My thumbs make bowling difficult—how to find a ball light enough for my weak paltry arms, but with a hole large enough to fit my wide toe-like thumb?

I am not the only person in the world with these thumbs. Apparently, according to what I am sure is a very reliable blog, Megan Fox has them too. Apparently they are also problematic for nail salon professionals.

This physiological anomaly is referred to as Murderer’s Thumbs or Potter’s Thumbs, and apparently a lot of people have them. Also, they signify nothing—I am neither a murder, nor a potter. Though I do occasionally like gardening, and I will kill insects that annoy me or my wife.

But more importantly, I’ve launched a new blog—The Gourmale. Here, I’ll write about stuff I cook and eat, and will include the occasional rumination on why I cook and eat what I cook and eat.

Today, I’m baking these almond thumb print cookies—it’s a recipe I found on Epicurious. My mom used to make thumb print cookies when I was a kid (as I suspect yours may have as well) and I have fond memories of them.

For me, it was finally something for which my flat, shovel-like thumbs were useful.

This is likely not anything like her recipe, and I was lacking matzoh meal (which I found strange to see in a cookie recipe) so I followed one of the reviewers comments (sort of) and replaced that with ground pecan meal which (they used almond meal) I bought at the Echo Park Farmer’s Market.

I’m preparing them for a dinner party at my friend Peter B’s house—I’ve instructed him how to marinate a leg-of-lamb in garlic, olive oil and rosemary, and I’ll help him grill it on his extraordinarily expensive Weber grill. The only other time he’s used the grill is when I was there last time to christen it.

Sometimes I wish I had an expensive grill, but then, my Weber kettle seems to work just fine.

Here’s how the cookies turned out. A little flatter and squatter than I remembered them, and one of the centers fell out. Also, I clearly need to buy a cooling rack.

Ah well. Let’s hope the lamb works.