This is the Dollar Menu, wherein I dump stuff that I can't manage to pad out into full Foodspin columns no matter how long I make the sentences.

Feedbag

Hey Albert,

Love your recipes on Deadspin and have made them all except indoor steak (I live in TX and its always grilling weather) and the quiche (I live in TX). I managed to some how fuck up the macaroni but everything else has been great.

But here's the thing, I am trying to fuck this girl who loves to cook, or maybe she's trying to fuck me? I dunno. Actually I guess if she was trying to fuck me she already would have. Anyway, we have this weird kind of circling each other slowly thing going on and I am headed to see her in a couple of weeks (she lives in Oklahoma) and she said for me to come up with some meal for the two of us to prepare together that would "bring us closer." that's the kinda chick she is and it sounds like too much effort to me, but what the fuck man, gotta give it a go.

So my question, obviously, is what the fuck can we cook together that will bring us closer (and also do you know what that even means?). I don't need a whole recipe or anything like that, just point me in the right direction, if you can.

Thanks

Marc

Marc. Buddy. Man have I got some news for you, Marc. Oh man. I have been researching all the scientific journals on this, and it turns out, nobody's gonna take your penis and testicles away if you just say, "There's a woman I really like," instead of, "I am trying to fuck this girl." Which, fuck, man, that's amazing! I mean, weren't we all raised to believe in the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Dick And Balls Bureau, who sneak around at night chopping the dicks and balls off of ostensible "men" who acknowledge their human feelings and use respectful language to describe females? All lies! There is no Dick And Balls Bureau! You can say things like "woman" and "like" and "Michael Bolton" all you want! Isn't that great? Let's rewrite the key paragraph of your email, informed by this newfound freedom, OK?

But here's the thing, I like this woman who loves to cook, and maybe she likes me? I dunno. Actually I guess if she liked me she already would have said something (although I suppose I could also just friggin' say something, I mean after all, I'm a grownup, and grownups can say things like, "Hey, I like you and I'd like to take you out for ice cream," unless they are lactose intolerant, and I don't know if I am lactose intolerant because I'm actually someone else who doesn't know me writing this). Anyway, we have this weird kind of circling each other slowly thing going on (to which I will be putting a stop by acting like a grownup and calling her up and saying, "Hey, you know? I really like you, so let's go have some dinner and talk and see if we like each other the way grownups have been doing for, like, ten million years, instead of circling each other like mutual predators, because that's not what we are, because we are people and not sharks") and I am headed to see her in a couple of weeks (she lives in Oklahoma) (which, what, they don't have any women in Texas?) and she said for me to come up with some meal for the two of us to prepare together that would "bring us closer," which is kind of a weird request, I mean, she's the one who likes to cook, maybe she could just say, "Hey, let's make some pasta together!" (in my conception of things which is really the conception of another person who is writing this for me, everybody begins all communication with a friendly "Hey!"), but what the fuck man, that's just the kind of thing I like about her (because evidently I like the kind of people who live a whole state away and make weird requests like, "You should think of a meal that we can cook together to bring us closer.") Yeah, having sex with this person who lives a whole state away and whose desire for closeness evidently weirds me out is totally a great idea and I want you to help me make it happen as though that would not be a dereliction of the perspective you have gained over several decades of thinking about the smart way to live a human life.

Shit, that actually sucks. Let's just stick with yours. But, really. You don't have to call her the girl you're trying to fuck. You can call her the girl/woman you really like and would like to get to know better. Unless you really don't like her and are just trying to fuck her, in which case you may not call her at all.

Anyway, the answer is, pasta and salad. Something with long, thin pasta noodles that have to be twirled around the fork, but without a lot of messy gloopy sauce. Something like, say, shrimp linguine! You bring all the ingredients for both the pasta and the salad (as well as a second bottle of white wine for serving with dinner), and you prepare the pasta. Wrangling the hot stove will make you feel capable and confident and saucy, and the work of cooking will distract you enough that you won't have to think about the conversation, which I find usually makes it easier to chat. The salad will be colorful and varied and exciting, which will make it fun for her to put together without requiring her to do too much work (even though she likes to cook, if she's hosting this damn thing, the courteous move is for you to shoulder the majority of the cooking work). Also, I dunno, there's just something cool and attractive and exciting about being able to whip up a fabulously delicious, moderately fancy-seeming meal in like ten minutes in somebody else's kitchen.

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Bring along a mild, easy laugh, gentle self-deprecation, and casual confidence in the kitchen. Practice the recipe a couple of times at home so that you can prepare it without having to concentrate like you're cutting diamonds. Wear a shirt with a collar, and roll your sleeves up when you cook. Rinse the cookware as you finish using it, and lay it out on a dishrag or paper towel to dry.

Please note that this is not advice for getting you laid. This is advice for making a good impression on a date. With a woman you like, right Marc?

Salad Of The Week

  • The green shit: Baby spinach
  • The other healthful stuff: Cherry tomatoes, pitted kalamata olives
  • The less healthful stuff: Bocconcini (small mozzarella balls), Marcona almonds
  • The dressing: Balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, salt, lots and lots of black pepper

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This salad is extremely punchy. Extreeeeemely punchy. It's the olives. And man is it ever worth it. Dump all the solid stuff into a big bowl, sprinkle some salt and lots and lots of black pepper over it, dress it very lightly with the vinegar and oil, and toss with your hands. Goes great with steak. Goes very good with grilled chicken. Probably goes nicely with the shrimp linguine you are cooking for the woman you like, ahem, MARC.

Notes

I caught a fair amount of guff some number of weeks ago for suggesting, in this post, that you use an entire enormous bag of lump charcoal just to cook a measly couple of chicken breasts. Which, yeah, that's kind of wasteful, since the fire you make with an entire enormous bag of very hot-burning lump charcoal will likely stay hot enough to splice uranium nuclei for many hours after the, what, five total minutes it takes to grill a couple of chicken breasts on it. The good news is, there's a way to prevent that enormous bag of lump charcoal from being a big ol' waste.

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Here's what you do. As soon as the chicken breasts come off the fire, clamp the lid back on your crummy charcoal grill and shut all the grill's vents and openings (if your grill has a lid as well as vents which can be closed). Walk away, and do not open the grill or disturb it in any way for the rest of the day. When you come back to the grill tomorrow and remove the lid, hey presto! You should have a grill full of ash-covered and slightly diminished but still totally usable charcoal. How did that happen? Fire elves. Some shit. What do I look like, Professor Hephaestus? The point is, you can reuse the charcoal.

The smart thing to do is to cook something like chicken breasts or steak on the first day, when the fire is as furious as it's going to be. On the second day, it should still be hot enough for another round of something which benefits from very high heat—steak, or burgers, or sausages, but maybe not another round of chicken breasts. If you're not cooking large enough quantities to totally consume the charcoal on this second day, clamp the lid back on there again! You can still save enough of that charcoal to cook something like chicken thighs, which benefit from lower, slower cooking, on a third day.

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Cool, right? I mean, you can totally reuse charcoal if you cook quickly and kill the fire as soon as you're done! Saving money and time! That's... I mean, that's cool, right?

OK, I mean, yeah, I don't think it's cool either. I was just checking to see if you guys did.

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[kicks dirt]