Tags: eggs, En Croute, Ham, Julia Child, Michel Richard, Peppers, Puff Pastry, Spinach, Torte Milanese, Tourte Milanese
Remember when I told you about the computer crash of 2010, where I lost almost everything, mainly tons of photos of some of the best goodies I’ve ever made, most of them pretty labor intensive? You see, I was on this roll from September 2010 to January 2011 – a fancy shmancy crazy roll. Once or twice a week I was creating showstopping sweet and savory dishes like they were going out of style, and as luck would have it, getting some good clicks of them.
It was an amazing food blog run. I had about 7 posts lined up. The posts weren’t written, but the photos were ready – tucked in and snug as a bug in a rug in my photo program, waiting until I was ready to write and post. Then..the crash.
Tags: Ballotine, Chicken Ballotine, Chicken Galantine, Deboning chicken, Jacques Pepin, Red Rice Stuffing, Stuffing
Before I say one word about this challenge, a warning. Vegetarians and vegans (In my best Melissa McCarthy impersonation) LOOK AWAY! LOOK AWAY!
Make No Bones About It!
Thanks to Renee from Don’t Make Me Call My Flying Monkeys (Awesome blog name). They’re not dead – just boneless. Created by Gary Larson
Tags: Ancho Peppers, apples, Brining Turkey, Butter Pecan, Hurricane Sandy, Recipe, Stuffed Turkey Breast, Stuffing, Thanksgiving, Turkey, Whole Boneless Turkey Breast
Damn, I thought Thanksgiving was the 29th because Thanksgiving is usually the last Thursday in November. Oh, boy, this is the trick of the trick of treat for real…the ultimate “Ha ha…you better get your ass in gear, Lisa!” moment. I think Hurricane Sandy left me a little off-kilter, but I’ll get to that later.
You see, for this month’s Daring Cook’s challenge, which is all about brining meat and/or vegetables, then roasting, which I’m late to as usual, I decided to brine a whole turkey breast, then layer it with more flavors – like a a compound butter rub, THEN stuff, roll, and tie it…for a lovely Thanksgiving treat for those who don’t want to roast a whole turkey.
Audax of Audax Artifax was our November 2012 Daring Cooks’ host. Audax has brought us into the world of brining and roasting, where we brined meat and vegetables and roasted them afterwards for a delicious meal!
I didn’t have a bowl or bag big enough to fit the turkey and brine, see left, so I ended up using a huge pot..right.
Well, well, well..this is dinner Friday night, the 16th.. and in less than one week..we will have turkey again..a whole 20 lb turkey. Because of this turkey breast, I would love to just roast some chickens and be done with it.
“Why did you buy such small turkeys?” OK, no one in my family is that dumb.
There’s no way I can break tradition here, so more turkey it is. Yippee.
I love to brine meat, from chicken to pork chops and I most always brine Thanksgiving turkeys. The well-seasoned juicy factor from brining is simply amazing and I can’t think of another method that can give you meat this juicy, unless Thomas Keller is in your kitchen. (Ha ha! I just read the Thomas Keller/Juicy Meat blurb again and realized how it sounds!)
This turkey breast is so loaded with flavor, I don’t know how I can match it and I wish I could make it again for Thanksgiving. First you’ve got the salty maple, brown sugar brine with bay leaves, garlic and peppercorns seasoning it to perfection. Then you have an ancho pepper-scallion-garlic butter rub beneath and on top of the skin. The stuffing is the crème de la crème..with apples, buttered and toasted pecans, and of course..the usual sauté of onions, herbs and whatever else you want to add to your ‘custom’ mirepoix. It’s not always celery, carrots and onions IF you don’t want it to be. No rules!
Oh, what are ancho peppers? Dried poblano peppers and they taste like spicy raisins, but impart such a lovely, slightly spicy/smoky undertone to dishes. You can find them in plastic packages in many supermarkets.
I nixed celery. I almost always nix celery in stuffing, or just add a small amount. I like celery raw and crisp, but I don’t flip over it cooked. I don’t think it adds much to dishes flavor wise when cooked, except chicken soup..and that’s only because I’m superstitious and believe it’s part of the secret penicillin that makes you feel better.
Tied up and roasted, this turkey breast is a picnic on the palate (did I really just type that? Boy, I’m worse off than I thought) and as juicy as a warm peach right off the tree (Did I really type that too?)..so all you really need is a side of mashed potatoes and a vegetable..but of course you can add as many sides as you want (I cannot have Thanksgiving without candied sweet potatoes). There will be extra stuffing, but use any stuffing you like for this roast…I’m just giving you the recipe for mine because it’s perfect for this rolled turkey breast, even though I saturated it with chicken stock so the breast would be easier to roll.
By the way…I know I say this a lot, but I’m going to say it again and I can’t say it enough. This is the best stuffed turkey breast I’ve ever had in my life. You know when something tastes so good that no matter how full you are, you keep eating it? This is one of those.
Who says ugly can’t be delicious? I’ve had ‘beautiful’ that tastes like pond scum, or how I imagine pond scum would taste.
OK…a GASP moment. Once again, this turkey breast is so juicy due to the brining, it doesn’t need gravy, the holy grail of Thanksgiving. BUT, you could make a pan gravy out of the drippings with some butter, flour, white wine and/or stock, because I’m sure at least one person might protest.
3 quarts water
1 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup kosher salt
2 turkish bay leaves
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
2 garlic cloves, sliced
One 3 to 3 1/2 lb whole, boneless turkey breast with skin, butterflied, if necessary, and pounded to about 1/2-inch to 1-inch thickness.
If you can’t find a whole, rolled,boneless turkey breast with skin in your meat section, buy a whole turkey and have the butcher cut it off for you (which is what I did..using the rest of the turkey for roasted legs and stock)..or do it yourself if you feel comfortable.
1. Bring all the ingredients, except the turkey breast, to a boil in a pot on the stove..until sugar is dissolved. Let cool completely, then refrigerate until cold.
2. Pour brine into a pot or gallon bag and add turkey breast. Let brine in the refrigerator 4 to 6 hours…no more than 8!
4. Remove turkey breast from brine and rinse well under cold, running water. Pat completely dry and continue with recipe.
Ancho-Scallion Butter Rub
Adapted from Food and Wine
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ancho peppers, stemmed and seeded
6 scallions, chopped
2 garlic cloves
Kosher salt and pepper
1. In a small skillet, toast the ancho chiles until they just start to blister, about 4 minutes. Place the chiles to a small bowl and pour boiling water on top of them to cover. Let stand for 15 minutes. Drain and pat dry.
2. In a food processor, combine the chiles, butter, garlic and the chopped scallions and purée until smooth. Season well with salt and pepper. Carefully loosen the turkey breast skin and rub half of the ancho-scallion butter over the breast meat. I decided not to loosen the turkey skin since I didn’t want to risk tearing it. You need the skin to cover as much as the breast as possible when rolling it, so I rubbed some on the pounded breast meat before spreading the stuffing on top. Let sit until ready to stuff, roll and tie.
Butter Pecan – Apple Stuffing
6 tablespoons of butter, divided 4 and 2.
A few leaves of fresh sage, julienned and chopped
leaves off of 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1/4 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 leek, cleaned well and chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
4 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 to 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
5 cups day old bread of your choice (I used ciabatta, crusts removed), hand torn or cut into 2-inch cubes. If not day old, oven-dry at 200F for about an hour or two, after tearing or cutting into cubes.
1. Stir together chopped pecans and 1/4 cup melted butter. Spread in an even layer on a parchment lined sheet pan. Bake at 350° for 15 – 20 minutes, stirring them round once half way through. until pecans are toasted (you’ll be able to smell them). Remove from oven, and let cool.
2. Place bread cubes or pieces in a large bowl. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large sauté pan and add the onions, leeks and garlic. Saute until soft. Pour on top of bread. Melt two tablespoons of butter in the same pan and sauté the apples until lightly browned. Add the herbs and sauté for another two minutes. Scrape it all into bowl with the bread, onions, leeks and garlic. Stir in buttered pecans.
3. Stir together chicken broth or stock and cream. Warm in a pot on the stove,. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then pour over stuffing mixture in bowl. IMPORTANT – the juices from the turkey will moisten the stuffing, so if you like a really moist stuffing, add all the chicken broth-cream mixture like I did, which makes the turkey breast easier to roll. If not, add liquid until it’s the consistency you prefer, and use less in the turkey.
4. Let cool completely before stuffing turkey breast ( I refrigerate it for 1 hour after it cools to room temperature)..or, you can bake this stuffing on its own. Spoon into a lightly buttered baking dish, cover with buttered foil, and bake in a 350 F preheated oven for about 35 minutes, then remove foil and bake for 10-15 minutes more to brown the top. Since you will have leftover stuffing, you’ll need to do this anyway.
1. Make sure the two breasts attached to the skin are pounded flat enough that they come together. I recommend you have someone really strong or your butcher do this because I had a hell of a time and never got them pounded together or as flat as I wanted, not to mention, my arm still hurts.
2. Skin side down, rub the meat with half the ancho-scallion butter, then spread about two to three cups of stuffing all over the meat…pushing it to about 1-inch from the ends of the pounded meat. Make sure you don’t spread it to the skin, since it will ooze out when you roll it. Some will ooze out anyway..but don’t worry about it.
3. From the long end..start to roll the breast, pulling the skin so it covers as you roll. It won’t cover completely, but that’s ok. Once rolled as much as you can roll it without losing half your stuffing…using cotton twine, tie the roast at 1 to 2-inch intervals. There are various methods of doing this…like THIS and THIS, but since my stuffing was oozing and the skin wasn’t covering completely, I just made simple double knot ties 2-inches apart, using about 6 pieces of long twine. To make it more secure, I also tied it vertically by taking an extra long piece of twine and weaving it through the horizontal ties on both sides….tying both ends of the twine together, tightly, on one end. Preheat oven to 400F.
3. Place rolled turkey breast on a lightly oiled rack in a roasting pan or on a baking sheet covered with foil. Rub the tied roast..all over..top and bottom, lifting as you go along, with the remaining ancho – scallion butter.
4. Place on the middle rack of your oven, and roast for 20 minutes, or until it starts to brown. Reduce the temperature to 350F and roast for another 35 to 40 minutes or until an instant read thermometer registers 155 degrees F in the middle. If not stuffing the breast…roast until it registers 145 degrees F.
5. Let rolled breast sit for 20 minutes before slicing..then slice into about 1/2 to 1-inch slices and arrange on a platter. Enjoy!
Now to Hurricane Sandy, originally dubbed ‘Frankenstorm’. By now you know the devastation it caused throughout the Northeast. We were lucky, since we’re up on the Palisades, so the water couldn’t touch us, but it was scary. Branches and god knows what else were slamming against the side of my house hard and fast. There were even points where I could feel the whole house shake, like it was going to be lifted off its foundation. I kept waiting for a tree to come through the roof, but thankfully, none did.
We were also lucky that we didn’t lose power for good. We had sporadic power losses, but by midnight, our power stayed on for good. The other side of my town lost power for almost two weeks.
However…the devastation around me and down the shore was of a magnitude I still can’t believe and it’s heartbreaking. Two friends did have trees smash down on their roofs and the sides of their houses, and in the weeks since the hurricane, I’m still hearing of friends whose houses were destroyed or battered to the point of being unlivable, especially old friends who live on the Jersey Shore.
Speaking of the Jersey Shore..my heart is broken. Seaside Heights, the place where my Bad Boy First Love Story began and spanned, and the place of so many wonderful memories, is gone as I knew it. Yes they will rebuild, but to those of us who grew up spending summers at the shore..it will never be the same. Most of Seaside was built before I was even born..including the over 100 year old carousel on the Casino Pier, which is gone forever.
At the top of this page in the right sidebar..I’ve provided a link to donate money to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy via the Red Cross. Here are some other places you can donate to..
Donations will be needed for a long, long time, so I urge you to give what you can. Any amount of money will help.
Speaking of the Jersey Shore...several people read my last draft of the last part of Bad Boy First Love and all agreed everything was squished together in short spurts to try to end it. ”Needs more details” was the general consensus. SO, I’m adding more details and there’s a good possibility the ‘end’ will come in two parts, so part 18 may not be the very last (Oy Ve, right?) I will have part 18 up early next week at the latest. Thanks so much for your patience and understanding.
Finally, thank to Audax for a great Daring Cooks challenge (Sorry it’s 4 days late!). To see what my fellow Daring Bakers brined and roasted, click on the links to their blogs, HERE. To see the recipes and read about the method of brining meats and vegetables, along with charts. click HERE.
Tags: Asiago cheese, baking, broccoli rabe, Dough, garlic, mozzarella cheese, Prosciutto, provolobe cheese, rapini, Roasted red Peppers, stromboli, Yeast
One of my favorite sandwiches in the world is prosciutto, fresh mozzarella and roasted red peppers or in Jersey Italian – prah-joot, mootz-ar-ell and peppuhs. When I was perusing through my assigned blog, Paulchen’s Blog?!, for this month’s Secret Recipe Club..I struckstromboli, and the first thing I thought of was how perfect one of my favorite sandwiches in the world would be wrapped up and baked as a stromboli. I kept wavering back and forth between the stromboli and these butterscotch brownies...because next to being a peanut butter freak..I’m a pretty heavy butterscotch user too.
In the end, I couldn’t stop thinking how melty and gooey would work well for this sandwich combination in a stromboli – so that was it..decision made. BUT, as I thought it over, I wanted more cheese…another cheese, like provolone…and definitely something green and garlicky to cut into all that rich, gooey cheese. Oh, and why not top it with yet another cheese ? Asiago, perhaps? OK, now we’ve got three cheeses, roasted red peppers and prosciutto. What about the green stuff?
Yes, I’m taking you through my actual thought process at the time.
I pondered it for a bit and then it came to me..broccoli rabe aka rapini! The slightly bitter and earthy undertones would be ideal and cut the richness of the cheese..especially sauteed in a little garlic and oil. I added some hot chili flakes to give it a kick..but that’s optional, since some don’t like food that makes their nose sweat.
Now..I don’t want you to confuse broccoli rabe with broccoli, because they are nothing alike. Broccoli is related to the cabbage family. Broccoli rabe is related to the turnip family, and it’s a leafy green with buds that resemble tiny heads of broccoli..hence the name broccoli rabe.
If you get a chance, pop on over to Paulchen’s Blog?! and check out all of her delicious goodies! To see what my fellow Group A SRC members chose from their assigned blogs, click on the blue frog below to see the gallery of links.
I’m also submitting this stromboli to this month’s #TwelveLoaves theme – cheese, hosted by Lora of Cake Duchess, Jamie of Life’s a Feast and Barbara of Creative Culinary and Yeastspotting hosted by Susan of Wild Yeast. I’m also going to submit this to Shelley’s BBD #53 -Swirly breads.
One more thing. I couldn’t get a melty, drippy, gooey cheesy photo because it was way too hot to handle (the encapsulated heat burned my fingers when I tried) and I was by myself when I made and photographed it. BUT, you should have seen all the cheesy goo dripping with each slice when I first cut it open gently, on the cutting board (It was so hot, it hurt!). It was almost seductive!
Three Cheese Prosciutto, Roasted Red Pepper, Broccoli Rabe Stromboli
Dough from Ultimate Bread by Eric Treuille & Ursula Ferrigno via Paulchen’s Blog
1 packet active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups water
3 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
* 1 bunch of broccoli rabe washed and woody stems removed (If you don’t like broccoli rabe, use broccoli instead, blanching it first))
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
hot chili flakes (optional)
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
2 or 3 large red bell peppers, roasted seeded, peeled - each one sliced flat, into 3 or 4 pieces, blotted dry
12 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
8 oz thinly sliced prosciutto
8 oz thinly sliced provolone cheese
Asiago or any Italian hard grating cheese
* If you don’t like broccoli rabe, use broccolini
1. Make the dough. Sprinkle yeast into 1 cup of tepid water in a bowl. Let sit for 5 minutes until foamy.
2. Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in center and pour in dissolved yeast and the oil. Mix in flour from sides of well. Stir in reserved water, as needed, to form a soft, sticky dough.
3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth, silky, and elastic, about 10 minutes. Place the dough in a clean, oiled bowl and cover with clean kitchen towel. Let rise until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
4. While dough is resting..roast your peppers and prepare the broccoli rabe. Cut the cleaned and trimmed bunch of broccoli rabe in half, then boil in two inches of salted water for about 3 to 4 minutes. Strain and drop into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Strain again and blot dry. Heat the tablespoon of olive in a saute pan. Add the minced garlic and saute until soft but not browned. Add broccoli rabe a little at a time until wilted. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes, salt and pepper to taste and add your desired amount of hot chili flakes, if using. Remove the rabe from the pan to a plate to cool.
5. Punch down the risen dough and place it on a floured board. Cover and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes, to relax the gluten.
6. Roll the rested dough into a 14″ x 8″ rectangle. Cover with clean towel and let rest another 10 minutes.
7. Spread the mozzarella cheese, prosciutto, roasted red peppers, provolone cheese, and broccoli rabe evenly over dough, layer by layer in the order listed.
8. Roll up the dough, starting at one of the shorter sides, but without rolling too tightly. Seal well.
9. Place on oiled baking sheet or a baking sheet lined with a silpat or parchment paper. Use a skewer or knife to pierce several holes through the dough all the way down to the baking sheet. Brush loaf with olive oil, them top with peels of asiago cheese (or any hard Italian grating cheese you prefer).
10. Bake at 400 degrees F for about an hour until golden brown. Let rest a few minutes before slicing.
Now to Part 16 of Bad Boy First Love. If you’re just tuning in, Part One is HERE, Part Two is HERE , Part Three is HERE, Part Four is HERE, Part Five is HERE, Part Six is HERE, Part Seven is HERE, Part 8 is HERE, Part 9 is HERE, Part Ten is HERE, Part 11 is HERE, Part 12 is HERE, Part 13A is HERE, Part 13B is HERE, Part 14A is HERE, Part 14B is HERE and Part 15 is HERE.
Nothing says I spent the night with my boyfriend more than walking through the door at 7:30 am, disheveled, when your parent’s know your flight landed on time the night before. Even though I was now considered an adult – the way they looked at me as they sat at the breakfast table with their coffee and the paper, still made me cringe like a 10-year old getting caught with one hand in the cookie jar before dinner.
I managed to spit out some BS before darting up to my room.
“We stopped at Dreamboat’s house so I could say hi to his family. I fell asleep on the couch”
I heard their disbelieving “Uh Huh’s” as I made my way up the stairs. Welcome home!
We were inseparable for the 4 days I had before I had to leave again, but it would only be one month until winter break, so I decided to break off the undefined ‘thing’ I had with hockey guy when I got back to school. I’d have a little over two weeks with Dreamboat in 4 weeks..and my love for him was stronger than ever..I didn’t want anyone else – ever again.
Easier said than done. As I looked into hockey guy’s sweet face and warm brown eyes the night I got back, after he welcomed me with a bear hug and kiss..I felt kind of sad. I liked him, but I didn’t want to lead him on..I was sure I going to marry Dreamboat. I told him that. He looked a tad pissed, but also slightly amused.
“You’ve only been here three months, Lisa…and you’re a kid. Making a life decision like that now, with years of college to go, is a little premature, don’t ya think?”
It was then I realized I was slowly splitting into two people. When home with Dreamboat, I was a starry-eyed teenager. At college, I had already cracked the teenage eggshell and was chipping away at adulthood – one eye and a foot peeking through the jagged edges. With hockey guy there were no intense butterflies, no walking on air, but there was a more mature kind of excitement – the kind of excitement where you get lost in a conversation and then turn a little gooey.
BUT..I stood my ground. Within two weeks..I sort of regretted it. I was back to ‘college Lisa’, where I had the uncanny ability to put Dreamboat on hold because he did not exist in my college world. I couldn’t even imagine him visiting because he didn’t fit into this other part of my life. I likened it to a lone palm tree thriving on Commonwealth Avenue in January.
I couldn’t completely understand these feelings, but somehow they made sense somewhere in my naïve and somewhat cockeyed view of life at the time.
The pull between me and hockey guy wasn’t going away anytime soon, and there were a few moments and stolen kisses when we ran into each other at various places, but I tried hard to keep those to a minimum.
I spent the rest of my freshman year studying, partying, hanging with my new friends, and packing on another 7 lbs – finally surrendering to buying some new clothes that would fit since I busted most of my zippers.
“Survival of the Fittest” What do you call the jeans in your closet without broken zippers, Alex?
It was the first time in my life clothes shopping was not fun.
When I arrived home for summer vacation, I was determined to whittle off the weight and spend as much time with Dreamboat as possible. He was no longer going to work on the pier because the job in North Jersey paid well, plus, at 21, he felt he had outgrown it. Naturally, I was happy about that.
I got a part-time job at a makeup boutique on the second floor of an upscale mall and I was floored when I was hired. A young woman, not much older than me.. who just worked there but was apparently given the authority to hire someone, asked if I knew how to do makeup and if I had ‘done’ makeup before. Sure!! On myself and my friends! But, a simple answer of ‘Yes’ nabbed me the job.
I was alone all the time..closing the boutique since I worked from 4 to 8 pm. Best job ever…especially since I had the whole day before work to spend at my friend’s pool. Barely anyone ever came up to the second floor because it was even more pricey than the first floor..so I talked on the phone to friends, lived on diet fudge soda, and avoided the escalator at all costs.. taking the stairs constantly in my quest to lose weight. My own little mall gym.
The whole time I worked there, only two people asked for makeovers. Since I had no experience doing it professionally, I ended up doing their makeup like I did my own. Thank god it was only two women because anyone who came in was going to look like me if they wanted a makeover. One asked for eyeshadow, which I didn’t wear. Umm..ok.
I grabbed some pink, blue, brown and green eyeshadow – glop, glop, glop on each lid, then blended all together with a brush, emulating what I saw makeup artists do. There – eyeshadow. She really liked it. I think she looked like a clown.
Those were the exciting nights.
After closing up..I’d push open the wide glass doors to the upper deck parking lot and there he was most nights..waiting in his car. We did a lot of fun things that summer, including a Springsteen concert..well sort of.
By that time, I’d dropped some of the weight, so I went shopping on a break and chose a pretty, pale pink, cotton sleeveless dress. Not the norm for a rock concert, but I was feeling great and was in the mood to dress up a little. Dreamboat told me I looked amazing …I blushed. The blush again. He could still make me blush and remained the only person who could do so.
Well, well, well.. much to my dismay, it turned out that Dreamboat and his friends didn’t have tickets to the concert. They planned to buy from scalpers. Springsteen playing in NJ? To many NJ natives..it’s almost a religious experience. Your chances of buying a ticket, even in a seat way up in the heavens, for less than the price of a small island…were about as great as wrestling an alligator and winning with nary a scratch.
So..we hung out in the parking lot, listening to the music blasting from the arena.
Another night in a damn parking lot.
The girl I was a year before would have been fine with that…simply because I was with him. The girl blossoming into adulthood, not so much.
I saw a door on the side of the arena open. I started walking toward it with a strange boost of confidence..not knowing where it led to, but knowing I had to walk through it. Dreamboat tried to stop me, but I ignored him. He started following me, asking over and over where I was going…but I kept walking without a response, only reaching back to grab his hand and pull him along with me.
To this day I can’t explain the feeling, but it was like I was being led by something not of this earth.
I walked right through the door, past security, past a lot of VIP suits. Nobody inside that door said a word as I kept walking, the music now deafening. Dreamboat was uttering all kinds of shit..like “You’re crazy, baby!”, but his eyes proved otherwise when we walked through a large, dark entrance with neon lights and screaming people..right into one of the aisles of the floor seats. Soon we were in the 4th row..standing in front of exactly two empty seats and Bruce.
Dreamboat couldn’t stop hugging and kissing me, beaming, yelling in my ear that he could not believe I did that..and was shocked that no one stopped us. At that moment, the roles were reversed – he was the starry-eyed kid and I was the confident adult. We got to enjoy the last hour of the show, eradicating the disappointment I felt when we first arrived and he told me neither he nor his friends had tickets.
I could have tried walking through that door 20 more times after that and I probably would have been stopped, but there was something magical and symbolic about that particular night The door was more than a pathway to Bruce Springsteen, it was a pathway to independence…leading for once, not following..and doing something I normally wouldn’t even think of doing.
When we got back to the parking lot, his friends were frantic, but not frantic enough to drop the amusing barbs..
“Where did youse two go? We thought Bruce kidnapped you”
I loved listening to Dreamboat tell them what I did, his eye sparkling..he was proud of me. I couldn’t help thinking – wow, he’s proud of me, but what I did was sorta criminal, wasn’t it? I stole an hour of Bruce Springsteen. Then again, the security guards didn’t do their job, right?
That was the excuse I used to dilute any feelings of wrong doing…not that I really cared.
Although I was still completely enamored with Dreamboat, I started to notice something that bugged me just a bit. I wanted conversation, conversation outside of lovey-dovey talk and trivial stuff, like..
“Sal bought me lunch today..nice guy. I had a hero with the works, it was awesome”
So, I’d start stretching out the conversation just to have a conversation.
“Was there capocollo on it? What kind of cheese? Oil and vinegar or garlic aioli?” TELL ME ABOUT EVERY COLD CUT ON THAT SANDWICH. OK, I never requested the latter, but it’s what I was thinking.
After too many moments where I would start chattering excitedly about something I saw on the news, a book I was reading, or something relating to a class I took in college, being cut short with a response from him along the lines of..
“Really? Wow, that’s great, baby”
“Sounds pretty cool”
“Oh, that’s too bad”
..I realized as much as I loved him, he just wasn’t a deep conversationalist. He wasn’t dumb by any stretch and in fact was extremely street smart, much more than many people I knew and know to this day, but the stuff I wanted to talk about just didn’t interest him.
Our relationship had always been a deep red, flawless, shiny apple to me, but now there was slight nick in it…almost invisible to the naked eye, but it was there if you looked closely. When he’d brush my hair back, caress my cheek and start kissing me – that nick would disappear…for the time being.
No relationship is perfect…and without nicks, they’d seem almost artificial, so I let it go and just accepted the fact that I’d never be discussing the congressional hearings on White Water or composers/books I loved, with him…..like I could with most of my friends at school and….hockey guy.
Hockey guy. Hmmm. I wondered how his summer was going?
My luxurious job ended unceremoniously one Monday in early August, and this is where I digress a little.
I came to work and the place was already gutted. Since there were just three of us who worked separate shifts by ourselves, and barely knew each other…the word hadn’t been passed on. The owner’s daughter – dressed to the nine’s, too much makeup, her light brown hair perfectly coiffed, and her husband..a kind of nondescript looking guy, were there packing up the merchandise. She had a major amount of chutzpah and a major amount of attitude.
“Oh, you must be one of three who works for us. Do me a favor and go down to the Chinese place in the food court and get us two orders of chicken lo mein..NO MSG.. and two large cokes”
Umm..no intro? No please? Did she even know my name? Well..I guess I was still her employee so I did what she asked, hating myself for kowtowing to her obnoxious demand.
They sat at what was once was the makeup counter..now just a U-shaped block of glass and steel, and ate while she continued to bark demands at me.
“Go in back and bring out the boxes I left by the bathroom”
“Oh, sweep the floor while you’re back there”
Yes, your highness…rude bitch, rather
Her husband didn’t say a word. He seemed a little afraid of her. I figured he was castrated on their wedding day.
When I finished, I came back up front. She waved me over “Hey, I have your commission” HEY?? I couldn’t ignore that one.
“MY name is LISA”
“OK, Lisa..whatever..here’s your commission”
She stuck the tip of a perfectly mauve lacquered nail on the edge of a five dollar bill, as if it was something repulsive, not worthy of touching her skin, and slid it toward me. It was wet. The bitch had spilled her soda on it.
Five bucks commission? Well, if they didn’t overcharge for their crap makeup, maybe some would have actually bought some of it, I thought as I took the bill and turned to leave. She didn’t deserve a thank you. She called me back with a condescending edge to her voice, as if to say “Hey, we’re not finished with you yet..we’re going to milk every drop of you as our employee, dry!”
“Help us carry some of this stuff out to the U-Haul we rented” she said, as she smoothed her overly sprayed hair with one hand to make sure there was not a strand out-of-place. I grabbed two bags and a box, walked to the U-Haul and threw them in. I was fuming. I heard her screechy voice as I walked to my car..
“If you want to use me as a reference for another job, call me”
I didn’t have her number, she didn’t offer it, and I didn’t care.
That night Dreamboat was treated to a huge serving of rage and potty mouth as I told him the story, still angry and completely disgusted with myself for not telling her where to shove her wet 5 dollar bill. He stroked my hair as I rambled on..his head against the seat, facing me..taking in all of my ire with a cute smile. He always enjoyed my feisty side. Suddenly his smile faded a bit and his eyes softened. I asked him what was wrong.
“My girl is all grown up” he said softly.
I didn’t get it. I looked at him quizzically.
“I dunno..you talk different, you say what’s on your mind a lot..I guess college changed you a little”
“Is that a bad thing?” I asked timidly
“Not at all, sweetheart..everyone has to grow up sometime”
He pulled me to him and started kissing me to signal the end of that conversation. As usual, I was putty in his arms and my horrid day evaporated into thin air.
Now that I was no longer part of the work force and he had a week vacation coming up.., he asked if I wanted to go down the shore. Of course I did, especially now that I’d lost the freshman 15 and then some. I was feeling pretty good..and he knew it, since I allowed him to touch my stomach again.
We had his parent’s shore house to ourselves because his younger brother was staying with his girlfriend house a few blocks away since her parents were away for a few weeks, and Pete also had a job back home and could only come down on weekends. His parents were visiting relatives in Maryland. No..it wasn’t perfect timing…he chose this particular week to take off because he knew the house would be empty.
Staying alone together at the house was thrilling at first..but within a few days it sort of felt like we were a little old married couple. We did a lot of ‘couple’ things with his friend Andy and his girlfriend who was now his fiancé.
“I could get used to this” he said one evening as we snuggled in front of the TV after they left.
It was weird being able to spend all day and night with him down the shore. I’d never spent prime time hours walking the boardwalk with him..or lazing on the beach for hours during the day with him. I found myself watching groups of girls a few years or less younger than me doing what I used to do with my friends – chattering away on a big beach blanket, or hurrying down the boardwalk at night..again chattering away..heading somewhere and extremely excited to get there.
I missed my friends being there with me. I wanted it to be like it used to be – as recently as one year before. I wanted the excitement of going to meet him or him coming to get me after work. I wanted to feel young again. I look back and laugh now – I was just about 19, but that week..I felt old.
We went to our special beach one night.. instinctively reaching for each other’s hand as we walked toward and along the shoreline in the moonlight. We talked about the night we reconnected and my almost face plant that ripped up my knee. He pulled me into the water..knee deep, recreating that first passionate kiss after being apart a year. My whole body melted as it did on that very special night… but this time tears started running down my face mid kiss. I was going back to school in two weeks, and I was going to miss him terribly..but there was a very unfamiliar feeling pulsing against the heartbreak.
I was kind of excited to get back to school.
“It’s going to harder letting you go this time, baby” he whispered in between kisses, wiping my tears
“I know” I whispered back..and left it at that.
How could I love someone so deeply but want to leave them? Even though this new feeling was small change compared to the sad range of emotions of leaving him again..it bothered me.
His brother, Pete, came down the following Friday. Saturday morning a car pulled up in front of Dreamboat’s shore house…beeping. I ran to the couch to peer out the window.
“Geeez,,you’re like the freakin’ dogs..running to the window when someone’s outside” I heard Dreamboat say as I kept my eye on the car..the car with a girl behind the wheel. There was a sudden silence behind me, so I looked back at them.
Dreamboat remained calm, but was looking at Pete – not taking his eyes off of him for even a second..a glare that screamed ‘do something..now!’. Pete didn’t say a word – they had brain waves going on. Pete jumped up and ran outside..almost in a panic. I watched him lean down to the window and say something to the girl, then watch her drive away..making sure she was gone before making his way back into the house.
“Who was that?” I asked Dreamboat while still watching Pete walk toward the house.
“Just a friend of Pete’s” he answered nonchalantly
“Oh..ok” I answered, not believing him completely. I saw ‘the look’ he gave Pete..I knew him too well. The truth is..I didn’t want to know, just like he wouldn’t want to know about hockey guy.
Ignorance was bliss in this case..and ‘knowing’ would make me sick to my stomach.
One night back in North Jersey, two days before I was leaving for school, we sat in his car silently…looking at the Manhattan skyline..and each other. I saw his eyes glistening a little in the darkness. I reached over and rubbed my fingers around the side of one…I felt wetness, definitely tears. I hugged him, trying to kiss away those tears..but he pulled back a little.
“There’s something I need to tell you..I wasn’t honest with you about something” he said..his voice quivering..the first time I’d ever heard him sound like that..and the first time he didn’t try to hide the fact that he was crying.
NO NO NO, I thought..I don’t want to know!! I knew what he was going to say and I desperately wanted to plug my ears with cement.
“Don’t” I said, shooting daggers at him with my eyes..although my voice belied that anger via choking.
It was like he didn’t hear me..”That girl..the one that came by the shore house that day…”
NO! I tried to say it..but it wasn’t coming out. I guess I was going to have to hear it..it was too late.
“…when we worked on Tom’s house (his boss’s house down the shore) in early November..I took her out a few times..I knew her from the neighborhood, she lives there year round”
I heard myself shouting..but everything was spilling out uncontrollably….”WHY ARE YOU TELLING ME?? I DON’T WANT TO KNOW..WE PROMISED EACH OTHER WE WOULDN’T TELL!!!”
He wrapped his arms around me…tears were running down his face now – his cheek was against mine..so he was soaking my face too. Hmmm..a change of pace for once.
“Baby..I hated lying to you when you asked. If you hadn’t asked, I never would have said anything!”
Now I was crying. I hated that he had given me this cross to bear. I had to think of him with another woman..and now..I had to know more.
“Did you sleep with her? Did you see her more before I came home for the summer? Are you going to see her again? DO YOU LOVE HER?”
Part 17 – the final part..coming soon.