Monday, December 20, 2010

eat; chrissy special!: how to roast chestnuts

Castagna in Italian, pronounced 'kustania'

I grew up with chestnuts roasting every year, but it wasn't around Christmas. In Australia, (apologies to all the Australian readers out there who wont be able to do this at this time!) chestnuts are not in season in December but around June so the whole "roasting chestnuts over an open fire at Christmas" was yet another story I could only imagine, along with snow at Christmas!!!!. My mum always told us stories of her childhood in the South of Italy in Calabria, carrying a big heavy basket full of chestnuts for miles and miles on her head, in the cold and snow around this time of year, as part of her 'child labor' experience during the second world war. This year, I have the chance to roast chestnuts at Christmas (YAY!!!), even though there is no snow here in sunny California.

(Sorry guys but I had to do it!!!!)
I know I have introduced many of you back home to chestnuts and just recently, my friend Marg who met me in New York for my birthday, was introduced to the nut when I bought them from a street peddler. Last night, I roasted chestnuts with my housemates who both hadn't tried them either. Nat grew up in Canada so I find it really strange, with all that cold and snow, that she had never tried them before. It was a nice night of showing them something new and watching as they discovered a new flavour in their mouths and educating them on how to prepare the nut for roasting. It is always a great feeling introducing a food from my childhood I took for granted to someone who has never tasted or even heard of such a thing. 

Roasting chestnuts can be done in a variety of ways and you can even purchase a chestnut roasting pan to cook then over a flame on your stove top or roasting over a fire. My mum would cook them under the griller so this is how I will cook them in this post. You guys in the States, grilling is broiling so just replace the word.

photo by Natalie Baack
To start with, you are going to have to make an incision into the chestnut.  As you can see from the photo above, cut away a small section from the bottom. 

 This is how the chestnut should look after cutting away to reveal a little of the flesh. The reason why this is important is so you wont have exploding chestnuts when roasting them!

 Place them on a grilling tray that is lined with aluminum foil.

I did mention my electric toaster oven in my first recipe within this blog and that's what I'll be using for roasting the chestnuts. Here are the chestnuts as they are beginning to roast.  I put the toaster oven onto the high setting (about 220c 450f). After about 10 minutes, try turning them so they wont burn too much on the one side. They will be very hot so be careful! They will take about 20 mins or so to cook through. Check one at this point to see if they are cooked. It should be fleshy and fluffy on the inside yet a little crunchy on the outside.

Once done, wrap up the chestnuts into a tea towel for a few minutes. This will  help the peeling process. The way to shell the chestnuts is to cover it with a tea towel and then lightly bash it with the palm of your hand, just once to crack the shell. If cooked properly, the shell should fall away easily. Keep the rest covered while you are cracking and peeling, as the chestnuts become hard to peel once cool. If you get to a point where you can't eat anymore, go through and peel all that remains whilst hot. Place into an airtight container once cooled completely. They should be fine for a few days.

As Nat, Dolphina and I were eating away, I suggested champagne would be the perfect drink to accompany the chestnuts. Champagne and Chestnuts...YUM!!!!! I definitely suggest this!

Buon Appetito and Buon Natale!!!

pink; chrissy special!

I've decided to open up this post to contain any contemporary artist creating works in pink after Hennessey Youngman's raid on F.B and his comment about works having a different meaning depending on the sex of the artist. Check out this vid on how to be a successful artist. The guy is onto something!

Meanwhile, most of you have seen my obsession on F.B with Paul McCarthy earlier this year, and even though this work is not pink, there is a pink wall within the installation (ok?!?!). For this Chrissy special, I couldn't go past Paul McCarthy's Peter Paul Chocolates. It is a hilarious installation created in New York in which the 6,000 square-foot Maccarone Gallery was transformed into a completely functional Chocolate Factory and retail store open to the public seven days a week from mid-November through to the end of 2007. It produced 1,000 chocolate figurines daily with the melting, tempering, molding, and other processes of making visible to visitors through observation windows created within the space.

So whats soooo special about the chocolates produced?!?!?! Well, they were a 10", 1-lb. chocolate figure called Santa With Tree And Bell. But if you look closely, Santa's tree certainly looks alot like a butt plug and the bell that he clasps in his hand looks like...well....hmmmm....and the bit dangling from his hand...ummmm....(?).  McCarthy has been known to use ketchup, mayonnaise and chocolate sauce as representations of bodily fluids within his entire practice and so these chocolate Santas holding a 'tree' become interesting objects up for discussion with this knowledge (check out last video at the bottom of this post).

McCarthy's practice is hilarious or disturbing, depending on who's looking at it and from which angle. I could start raving on about what this work means, it's criticism towards consumerist culture, the effects of  the commercialism of fairytales and myths, etcetera, etcetera, but that wouldn't be fun!  Watch the video below and have a chuckle with Paul. The guy is brilliant and states the obvious about what this project is for him. The video is a little slow to start with and the sound is terrible, but bare with it. It is sooooo funny and I really like the way the gallery owner expresses her enthusiasm for the piece!

Below are images from the instalation...gee I wish I could have seen it!

And here is the pink wall I promised!!!!

Check out the hand work below!!!!! Too funny!!!!!

I do love these images. Paul McCarthy likes the 'bit shit' look and thats what's going on here. I can imagine these Santas were not quite perfect, ended up in the bucket to be re-melted and here comes Paul going "They're perfect!!!!!", and vola, a great work!

Below is a funny video of art professionals sampling Pauls chocolate. It is ridiculous and funny. Wine and chocolate are meant to be a great partnership! There is a mention of Echo Park where Paul did a performance....ummmm....AT MY LOCAL PARK!!!!!!!! Soooo love living here! Oh and he lives in Pasadena which is a few suburbs away...gotta meet this guy!

Buon Natale to you all!!!!

love; chrissy special!:10 things I love this week

photo by Natalie Baack
1. Our Christmas tree! Natalie bought it off a friend and it stayed in it's box downstairs until a few weeks ago. I must admit I was dubious about a pre-lit plastic tree, but this is AMAZING! We actually hang out in our loungeroom in the evenings together now that our room looks soooo beautiful and Natalie plays a DVD of a crackling Christmas fireplace on our TV! We've also agreed to turn it into a Valentines Tree once Christmas is over, replacing the Chrissy decorations with all things pink and naughty!!!! LOVE!!!

2. Having fresh Holly in the house!!!!!!! Soooo great and looks perfect in a big wine glass! Our house is now complete, looking all Christmassy! LOVE!

3. Our Chrissy Stockings!!!! Dolphina and mine are the sparkly sequined COURSE!!!!! We don't have a fire place so we're hanging them on the bookshelf. Can't wait to fill them and see what I end up with on Chrissy Morning!!! FUN! LOVE!
4.  PANETONE!!!!!!! I FOUND SOME!!! I was thinking I might have to have my first Christmas EVER without it but Trader Joes came through with the goods! YAY!!!! If you have been soooo unfortunate as to never have tried one of these, they are like a fruity croissant without the crunchy exterior. LOVE!
6. The Christmas light explosion that happens with houses. The ones I love the most are the tackiest of all!!!!! My mum, brother and myself have always made room for an evening of driving around to look at the houses all light up. This year, I am in the land of Chritmas house lights!!! It seems EVERYONE makes an effort here and some are soooo over the top it's ridiculous!!!! They even bring out cherry pickers to get up high and decorate their big trees out front!!!! Natalie has said she will take me around to see the tackiest of them all!!!! LOVE!!!!!
7. Love this article on how not to electrocute yourself while putting up your Christmas lights! Funny!

 8.. Oh My GWAD!!!!! Disneyland at Christmas time?!?!? Yes please!!!! I'll be going there with Ashley and her sister who are visiting from Australia at the purrrfect time! Katya will be coming from Chicago too!!!!! Are you all gel!?!?!?! LOOOVVVVEEE!!!! Check out this video of candy makers at Disneyland making candy canes!!!!!

 9. My naked Santa as my profile pic for Chrissy! LOVE this photo!!!! Soooo wrong, but soooo right at the same time!!!
10. Christmas in the Summer! All you guys in Oz STAND PROUD!!! This is something that I'm missing this year  for the first time in my life but at least I wont be in a place where I'd be snowed in!!! Snow is sooooo over rated! Enjoy your barbies guys!!!!!