Five For Friday: Further Tunes

I wrote a little bit about music I’ve been listening to recently on Wednesday. Here are five more music-related things that have caught my ear (and, in some cases, eye) this week.

1. This “Disney Nightmare Mix” – actually called “Neverland Transmission” – from L. Pierre (aka Arab Strap’s Aidan Moffatt).

via Dazed Magazine

 

2. This Cuushe LP is on Soundcloud and has my favorite artwork of any album this year.

 

 

via Gorilla vs. Bear

 

3. The Chvrches cover of Whitney Houston’s “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay” is not as good as the original but it gets the job done.

via Stereogum

 

4. I’m super into the HAIM album, Days Are Gone, which is streaming on NPR and out on 9/30. If you haven’t listened to it…you should? (Unfortunately, you have to listen to it on NPR’s shitty media player.) But I don’t know what you like, so it’s up to you to decide.

 

5. And I know I mentioned this the other day, but I’m still rocking Kurt Vile’s KV Mixtape. Here are a few of the songs on the mixtape I’ve been playing over and over again:

 

 

 

 

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Geeking Out

On Sunday, I met my friend Alli in my old neighborhood to do some writing. I’d intended on working on a short story that I’ve been revising – well, mostly deleting and rewriting – for a few months. Of course, I didn’t end up deleting or writing another word of it. Instead, I started writing a sort of sad sack essay on being lonely in Paris when I was studying abroad there in the fall of 2007. I’ve been thinking a lot about that recently because, well, it’s fall and I was in Paris in the fall and I just happen to be thinking about that time rather than the falls of my childhood or high school or college. Anyway, I mention this because someone else published an essay on Paris and loneliness this week. You can read the beginning on The Hairpin but to read the rest you have to buy the story – it comes with all of the other ones in the same series about travel – on Amazon. (After I’m done writing this post up, I will go back to trying to turn my own essay into a not-super-depressing piece of garbage.)

Also on Sunday, I went to The Strand, as I like to do when I’m in that neck of the woods, to buy my book club’s next read. We’re reading Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, which I read, I think, after my freshman year of college. It’s one of my favorite books, but somehow I’ve never acquired my own copy. Now I do have one of my own, which I got by asking one of the booksellers at The Strand to climb a ladder and take it from one of the higher shelves. I usually don’t even get books from the high shelves because I mostly  go to the Strand to browse and end up with too many books anyway, so I always tell myself that I don’t need the ones I can’t reach. (Also, I am afraid of ladders.)

Anyway, I started rereading Geek Love yesterday and was flooded with memories. First of all, I am still in awe of the prose. I think I got the same giddy feeling I had while reading the first chapter when I was 18 or 19. And secondly, I have been thinking about Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea pretty much constantly since I opened the book. I happened to be super into that album while I was reading Geek Love the first time and it was perfect. Like, I have never been simultaneously obsessed with two pieces of art that, I thought, so complemented one another. But I’m staying away from that album for now. Making the same magic happen again seems pretty unlikely and I don’t want to be disappointed.

While I’m on the subject of music…I don’t write enough about it. I usually write about what I read here every week, but what I’m listening to takes up just as much space in my brain. My fall soundtrack has been inspired by a few things:

1. Music for Maniacs: I’d totally forgotten about this blog. But then I noticed that WFMU was linking to it on Twitter and…I fell down a Music for Maniacs black hole. This dude mostly covers eccentric/outsider music and puts together some pretty great mixtapes. He also made me see Annette Funicello in a whole new light.

2. Kurt Vile’s KV Mixtape: I saw this on Stereogum yesterday and haven’t stopped listening to it. Well, haven’t stopped listening to most of it. The songs on here inspired his recent album, Wakin’ On a Pretty Daze, one of my favorite albums this year. (Back in April, I wrote something about going to a Kurt Vile show.) I highly recommend! (The mixtape and tracklist are at the link, on Soundcloud).

3. Wikipedia: Sometimes I just re-go-through this list of Jangle Pop Bands. Like you do.

4. Modern Vampires of the City: I have listened to and seen a lot of Vampire Weekend in the last few years. (Most recently, I saw them perform at the Barclays Center this past Friday.) I didn’t really listen to Modern Vampires of the City until the middle of this summer, but I’ve found that it’s one of very few albums released this year that I keep going back to, so.

5. Stuff that sounds like Broadcast: So, mainly Broadcast. And also The Postmarks. (Who, incidentally, I was very into when I was in Paris six years ago.)

That’s that. Except I have a few other quick links to share today!

I read a two week-old New York Magazine on the elliptical last night…I got through an article on the GOP’s plot to kill Obamacare and this other one on Rebel Wilson (which was not as good or as enlightening as I had hoped, though I found out that she also likes Hello Kitty, so that’s a thing).

And today I’ve been reading this Paris Review interview with Woody Allen, which was conducted between 1985 (mostly at his table at Elaine’s) and 1995.

Banana Cream Pie

I wasn’t planning on making a pie this weekend. I really didn’t think I’d feel like it. But I surprised myself by waking up at 11:30 AM on Saturday and having enough energy to get out of bed, go to the coffee shop, procure coffee, look through cookbooks at home until I found something I wanted to make, and then go back out to the grocery store to buy ingredients. Advil was instrumental in making all of this happen.

I decided to pick a recipe from James Peterson’s Baking. I’ve had this cookbook for a few years now and I will say that I’ve learned a lot from it, though I’ve found many of the recipes to be slightly imperfect. (I usually end up modifying the recipes I make the second time around.)  You just can’t beat a cookbook that has a recipe for anything you could possibly bake.

I only had a few hours to make a dessert because we were going to a farewell party that started in the early evening, so I settled on banana cream pie because 1) it’s delicious and 2) it doesn’t require TOO much work, I thought. As usual, it was a little more work than I’d bargained for, but the outcome made it all worth it.

Banana Cream Pie

I started with the crust, which needed to be pre-baked. I’m not a pie crust expert (yet) but I’ve gained a lot of confidence in this area recently, so I didn’t think it would be a problem. That assumption was incorrect. I used Peterson’s recipe for Basic Pie and Tart Pastry Dough. I followed the directions for making it in a stand mixture, which was supposed to be better for keeping the butter cold and kind of clumpy (as opposed to a food processor), but that did not work out so well. The dough came together very, very quickly and when I added the liquid, it was way too wet. I could tell it wasn’t going to roll out easily or turn out the way I wanted it to. Also, I got some nail polish flakes in it, so into the trash it went!

So, I started over – after taking my nail polish off – and this batch turned out A LOT better. I used less liquid this time and the dough rolled out very nicely. But my kitchen was very hot and even though I had put down a lot of flour on the butcher block, the dough stuck and I had to roll it back into a ball to roll out again. At that point, I realized I didn’t have a lot of time because I hadn’t even started on the filling, so I just pressed the dough into my pie dish. Not gonna lie, it didn’t look great. I used the end of a fork to crimp the edges and that made it look slightly less ugly. Before I threw it in the oven, I put a sheet of parchment paper over it and put some dry rice on top of that to weigh it down.

Once the shell was cooking, I started on the custard for the filling. First, I made the brown butter, which was to be added to the vanilla custard to give it a butterscotch flavor. I actually had never made brown butter until a few months ago. (I had to look up how to do it and found the directions on Simply Recipes to be much easier to follow than those in Baking.) It’s…not hard to make, like, at all. I feel like I thought it was going to be hard because people are always talking about burning brown butter (right?), but I haven’t burned any yet so…Anyway, After it was was finished, I let it cool on the counter while I got started on the custard.

I actually have never cooked custard perfectly. But I did it this time! I didn’t scald the milk and there were no burnt bits on the bottom of the saucepan. I literally felt like a genius after I realized this. (Very cool, I know.) I added the brown butter to the vanilla custard and put it in the freezer to cool down, because I am all about short cuts.

While I was doing all of the filling stuff, I didn’t realize the pie shell was sort of burning. Oh, well! No one was going to see it anyway and I don’t mind a well-done crust, so I got over it pretty quickly. I left that to cool as well and went to get ready for the evening. I assembled most of the pie right before I left, except for the top layer of bananas. A layer of custard went on the bottom, followed by a layer of bananas (I used 3), followed by another, thicker layer of custard. Because my shell shrank in the oven, I didn’t end up using all of the custard, so I put it in the freezer so that I could eat frozen custard later!

I served the pie after dinner that evening and it seemed that everyone who tried it liked it just fine/maybe a lot! (Somehow, I managed to bring a banana cream pie to a party where only half of the people liked bananas.) I certainly thought it was very good and would definitely, definitely try this again.

Banana Cream Pie

BANANA CREAM PIE
by James Peterson

Basic Pie and Tart Pastry Dough

 

Ingredients:
1 cup cake flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cold butter, cut into 1/3-inch cubes
7 tablespoons water or heavy cream, or 2 eggs, lightly beaten (Note: I used slightly less because I actually found the dough too wet.)
2 tablespoons additional liquid, or 1 egg white, if dough is too dry
Directions for the easiest method – making the dough in a food processor – can be found here.

 

Filling

 

Ingredients:

3 cups milk (Note: I used whole milk.)
1 vanilla bean split lengthwise, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (Note: I definitely didn’t bother with the vanilla bean and just used extract.)
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons melted butter, lightly browned and strained (Note: I didn’t strain the brown butter, because who cares?)
3 ripe bananas (Note: I ended up using 5 1/2 bananas, I think because I made this in a slightly larger dish, and my bananas were small, I guess.)

Use a 9- to 10-inch pie pan. Roll the dough into a round about 2 inches larger than the pie pan. Line the pie pan with the dough, fold under the edge to make it a double thickness, and make a fluted edge. Place a square of parchment paper or aluminum foil over the dough, making sure it is large enough that it’s easy to pick up by the ends when you remove it. Cover the parchment paper with about a pound of dried beans to keep it from puffing up in the oven. Bake the shell for about 15 minutes, until the edge of the tart turns pale brown. Remove the paper or foil and beans and bake for another 15 minutes, or until the bottom of the shell is golden brown.

In a saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer with the vanilla bean or extract. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch until smooth. Pour half of the milk into the egg mixture, stir to combine thoroughly, and pour the mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk. Stir the mixture over medium-high heat with a whisk for about 5 minutes, or until it bubbles and thickens. Remove the vanilla bean, if using. Transfer the custard mixture to a bowl, whisk in the brown butter, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to cool to room temperature.

Cover the bottom of the pie shell with one-third of the pudding. Slice 2 of the bananas between 1/8- and 1/4-inch thick and place one half of them over the pudding in a single layer. Spread half of the remaining pudding over the banana slices. Place the remaining sliced bananas on top of the pudding, then cover the bananas with the remaining pudding.

Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving, but serve at room temperature. Shortly before serving, slice the remaining banana and arrange on top of the pie.

Reading Week: Read-watching TV

Fall TV is here! And that means I now spend approximately 50% of my time reading episode recaps. Mostly on The AV Club. (I used to be really into the recaps on Vulture, but they are not as quick to post and The AV Club really reeled me in with its grading system.) Of course, I watch all of the shows that I read about. But I watch a lot of shows so I end up reading a lot of recaps. What was I read-watching (watch-reading? I dunno) this week?

Adventure Time: I caught up on a few recent episodes (“Earth & Water” and “Time Sandwich”, for those of you who are fans) this week. I thought the review of “Earth & Water” was particularly thoughtful.

Breaking Bad: Duh. I’ve never been as big of a fan of this show as my friends/everyone on the internet seems to be. But…I have been the opposite of bored by this season and find that I look forward to reading the recaps on Sunday evenings after the show airs to see if I missed anything.

Boardwalk Empire: I vowed to stop watching this show after Season 2 ended because I thought it would hurt too much to not see Michael Pitt’s beautiful face every week. Also, it’s just not a great show. It’s fine. But I like period pieces and Steve Buscemi, so.

Broadchurch: This show has been on BBC America for six weeks now. I don’t get BBC America on Verizon FiOS, which is currently the greatest tragedy in my life, so I watch this on Amazon. Anyway, if you’re not watching it, you should be.

New Girl: Perhaps the greatest surprise of my life –  thus far –  was that I started watching and liking New Girl last year. (I would recommend everyone start with Season 2 and then go back and watch Season 1, like I did. Season 2 is just so much better.) I watched the Season 3 premiere late last night and literally thought about reading the review – which I accurately predicted would be a B+ – when I woke up this morning, which is a sad and very revealing fact about me.

So, what else? I am still reading Last Call because it’s really impossible for me to read non-fiction quickly, unless it’s like David Grann or Geoff Dyer or John Jeremiah Sullivan. (OMG, note to self: I should write about how much I love John Jeremiah Sullivan soon.)

Also, I am getting really excited to see Anna Nicole the Opera next week. The review in the New York Times was great. Reading it made me revisit one of my favorite magazine pieces of the recent past, a New York Magazine feature on Anna Nicole published shortly after the original production of the opera opened in London in 2011. I actually ripped this story out of the magazine and still have it in my “inspiration files” because it really is such “a peculiarly American story”.
One last thing: I don’t read advice columns very often, but this one on The Awl today caught my eye. Probably because the headline is “Am I Really Just A Booty Call?”. And, you know, maybe that is a question I have encountered in some fashion before. Anyway, I thought there was some pretty great advice in there for young, intelligent women who are in possession of smartphones. (I don’t necessarily agree with all of it, but I guess I wouldn’t stop anyone from trying some of the things she suggests.)

Recipe Test: Lemon Frittata with Leeks and Goat Cheese

It’s been really gross in New York this week. REALLY gross. Like, I’m sitting in an air-conditioned room right now and I’m still sweating. Also, I have Hermione hair. But really, my main problem with the weather is how much I’ve been sweating. Making this frittata the other night did not help the situation. Why? Because I ended up having my oven on BROIL for at least an hour before I actually needed to broil the frittata for three minutes. (I always forget to preheat the oven, so I was being proactive here, by preheating the over long before I needed to.)

Despite turning me into a melting mess, this frittata ended up being a pretty good learning experience. And pretty good, to boot.

Lemon Frittata with Leeks and Goat Cheese

On Tuesday night, I wanted to make something simple because I also had a lot of laundry to do and knew I would be running back and forth between my apartment and the laundry room in the basement. I was doing my usual frantic search around the internet for “weeknight recipes” when it hit me — I would make a frittata! I’ve actually never made a frittata from a recipe before but I thought this time I would give it a try. I found this one on The Kitchn. It looked simple enough. And I was craving breakfast for dinner. Perfect.

I did my grocery shopping and purchased leeks for the first time ever. It didn’t occur to me until that moment that I had never handled leeks before. When I got back to my apartment, I threw in my first load of laundry and then got right to cooking. First order of business (i.e. first mistake), I preheated the oven just as the recipe stated. Then, I started prepping everything else. I cleaned the leeks, which took me pretty much forever because they had dirt on them and I started freaking out about eating dirt that’s been sitting on vegetables that have been sitting in a grocery store that’s next to a combination KFC/Taco Bell and I wanted to make sure they were super clean. But then I remembered that good things come from the earth and that if I got sick, I could just go to the hospital, I guess. (I think I’ve covered this here before, but I am a raging hypochondriac.)

Anyway, I cleaned the leeks. I whisked the eggs. I grated the lemon. And then I realized I forgot parsley and was just like, “Whatever, fuck it. I don’t even LIKE parsley.” That’s not actually true but it helped quell my perfectionist anxiety in the moment.

I got to the point where everything was together in the pan – after I had cooked the leeks for about ten minutes – and I remembered that I was supposed to crumble the goat cheese into the egg mixture before everything was in the skillet. So then I frantically had to crumble goat cheese into the frittata, which was already cooking at that point. This was difficult because I couldn’t get the goat cheese packet open and also, it was literally 200 degrees in my kitchen so the goat cheese was melting. By the time I had “crumbled” it all into the mixture, I had it all over my shirt and pants. I also found some in my hair later.

Anyway, I let the frittata set. And then I broiled it for about 4 minutes. And then it was done. It was maybe a little too lemony tasting for me. But it was good, nonetheless.

Lemon Frittata with Leeks and Goat Cheese

RECIPE

Lemon Frittata with Leeks and Goat Cheese
By Faith Durand

makes 1 10-inch frittata

Ingredients:

7 eggs
1 Meyer lemon, zested (Note: I used a regular lemon because I couldn’t find Meyer lemons – are they ‘in season’? is there a season for Meyer lemons? – and honestly it was probably fine.)
3 ounces goat cheese
Olive oil
2 large leeks, cut lengthwise and rinsed
1/3 cup Italian parsley, chopped (Note: I didn’t use this because I forgot it. And I didn’t really miss it!)
Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Pre-heat the broiler. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until slightly bubbly and well-mixed, then stir in the lemon zest. Crumble in the goat cheese. (Note: Definitely maybe wait to preheat the broiler. Also, remember to crumble in the goat cheese!)

Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. It can be cast iron or another metal; just make sure it can go in the oven. Trim the leeks of any dry or browned edges on the green tops, then slice the remaining stalk into half moons. Toss everything into the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, for about ten minutes or until the leeks are softened. Stir in the parsley and cook just until wilted. Remove from the heat and add salt and pepper to taste. Let cool for just a minute or two, then pour the cooked leeks into the bowl with the eggs and stir.

Put the skillet back on the heat and film lightly with just a bit more olive oil. Pour the egg and leek mixture in and cook over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes, or until the frittata has mostly set. Use a spatula to lift up the edges and make sure it’s cooking evenly, letting the uncooked eggs run down into the bottom of the pan.

When the frittata has set, put under the broiler for 3-5 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and slightly puffy. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Flip out onto a platter and serve immediately.