Dear Uncle Ted,
Where should I go on a first date?
– Ned, Batavia, IL
Ned, I recommend the Fermilab National Laboratory, right in your home town, which houses the Tevatron, the world’s highest-energy particle accelerator, where protons, extracted from ionized hydrogen gas though the Cockroft-Walton process, are shot through a four-mile ring of 28,000-ohm neodymium magnets at nearly the speed of light, giving us insight into space and time, and the nature of the universe at the dawn of creation.
It’s chock full of nerds, so you’ll look much, much, cooler in comparison. Plus, the cafeteria has onion rings. They don’t serve booze, though, so make sure to bring a flask for yourself and however many Cosmopolitans you can pour into a Gatorade bottle. Good luck!
Dear Uncle Ted,
Can you recommend some easy but impressive dishes to cook for a dinner date? Please bear in mind that I can barely get around in my kitchen. I mean, I know how to boil water, but that’s about it!
– Elena, Rochester, NY
Ahhh, young love. So often paired with kitchen inexperience. But not to worry – Uncle Ted is here to help.
I’d recommend a tasty, easy three-course meal – one that will satisfy (and not bog you guys down while you’re watching “You’ve Got Mail” and necking on the couch. 🙂 )
Appetizer: Sweet Cucumber and Grape Gazpacho – don’t worry – it only sounds fancy. Cucumbers, green seedless grapes, a little bread, a little garlic, a food processor – 15 minutes! And you can make it a day or two ahead, which will leave you more time to stare smoulderingly into each other’s eyes over a nice glass of wine. (And while Franzia is Uncle Ted’s summer drink of choice, you might wanna splurge for the good stuff. In bottles.)
Entree: Roast Chicken with Crash Hot Potatoes. This dish is FOOLPROOF. Now, if you’ve never cooked a whole chicken before, don’t sweat – it’s actually pretty easy, and will look great coming out of the oven. Follow the directions carefully, and you’ll have a brown and juicy bird ready to be picked apart by your lucky fella. And you can use the lower rack in the oven to make the potatoes while the chicken is cooking – and relax: the potato recipe is from Australia – if those sports-obsessed felonious retards can make it, so can you!
Dessert: Mango-Acai Berry Puree with Pulverized Yuzu and Venezuelan Cocoa-Lychee Foam. Now, I don’t have a recipe link for this, since the only time I’ve had it was in Grant Achatz’s molecular gastronomic showcase, Alinea, in Chicago. But estimating the time between courses, I would say it should probably take you 10, 15 minutes, tops. (I was able to get a vague outline of the recipe by feeding their sous-chef peyote buttons after-hours – and it was worth the trouble!) Now for the puree, you’ll need to break the mangoes down in a boiling agave syrup solution until they disintegrate and start exuding notes of vanilla and caramel. Add the Acai quickly, as you have an eight-second window from when the vanilla scent starts before the agave starts to react with mango and the whole thing begins to smell like boiled cabbage. You can then turn the mixture down to a simmer while you take some yuzu (a medicinal Japanese citrus fruit formerly used to treat the wounds of Samurai warriors whose pulp is considered a Schedule II hallucinogen) and quick-freeze their rinds with a blast from your nitrogen canister. (If you’re out of supercooled nitrogen, freon from your air conditioner will do the trick.) You should then reconstitute some dried lychees with a little Nepalese mountain river water and dust them with the cocoa before extracting the foam base with an irradiating-centripedal pulse strainer (make sure your pulse strainer is well-shielded and that your apron is lead-lined.) Use an autoclaved pipette to drip your extraction into a compressed nitrous oxide dispenser. Pour the puree onto your anti-griddle (now, if you don’t own a device that provides a -30F flattop that will instantly freeze most liquids on contact, use ice, but this is really something you should have in your kitchen anyway) and form small discs. Carefully pry the puree off the surface and plate up your dessert, topping the discs with two or three generous blasts of foam. Finally, take a hammer (masonry is recommended, though ball-peen is fine) and smash your yuzu rinds. Burnish any dangerously sharp edges off the yuzu shards with a sheet of 300-grit sandpaper and sprinkle what’s left onto your foam. Enjoy!
Actually, prep time on that last course might take 20 minutes.
Lemme know how that goes! Good luck!