Football’s Back and It’s Time for Spicy Sausage (Or How to Make Spicy Italian Sausage with Tomato Cream Sauce on Farfalle)

Fall means spicy meat to me. For real.

I almost can’t believe football is back. I mean, it’s like 93 outside, but whatever. Football means fall to me. So in honor of it all, I’m making my favorite pasta dish for the game tonight. It’s a spicy sausage pasta with a tomato cream sauce, and it’s divine. It basically combines everything I love in this world.

Namely: cream, carbs, and pig.

Do you know what else makes this week a big deal? Besides all of the photos of my friends’ kids’ first day of school all over Facebook?

Yesterday was Albus’ one year adoption anniversary.

On September 4, 2011, I rescued a scared little boy named Bruno from the backseat of a Honda Accord and brought him home with me. I had just planned to foster him, but by September 5, I was making homemade ice cream cookie sandwiches while watching Harry Potter, and I sort of fell absolutely in love with the bombastic beast. Before Harry was off to Hogwarts, I had renamed the dog and informed Woodley we were keeping him.

I mean, look at this face.

What on earth am I wearing, woman?

How was I going to give him up? Woodley might have looked something like this when I told her the big dog was staying.

Another dog? I can’t even look at you.

But now they’re best buddies or something.

I’m not a dog, but I think this means they like each other. Plus Woodley cries at daycare if they don’t let her into the big dog area with her brother, so there’s that.

So anyway, here’s the recipe. It’s easy. And amazing.

Spicy Italian Sausage with Tomato Cream Sauce on Farfalle

2 T olive oil
1 lb spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional – I like my sauce really spicy so I add the pepper flakes)
1 C diced onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 14.5 ounce cans of chopped tomatoes
½ C whipping cream

1 lb farfalle (or bowtie pasta)
½ C fresh basil, torn
Fresh grated parmesan

Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot over medium high heat. Add sausage (and red peppers flakes). Cook until the sausage is no longer pink, about 5 minutes, breaking the sausage into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon as you cook the meat. Add the onion and garlic, sautéing until tender, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and juice.

Put a pot of salted water on the stove to boil after adding the tomatoes to the sauce. Once the water is boiling, cook the noodles according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, simmer the tomato sauce for 20 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced and the tomatoes are a brick red color. Add the cream to the sauce and cook for 3-5 minutes until the cream has reduced slightly.

Drain the pasta and serve the sauce over the farfalle with torn basil on top. Garnish with fresh grated parmesan.

Eat. And smile while watching football and pretending it feels like fall.

My Mac is Back and It’s Time to Talk About Owls (Or How to Make Owl Sachets)

And my MacBook is back in business. Like Dumbledore’s phoenix, Fawkes, rising from the ashes, my Mac (and its mouse) are all miraculously healed.

Sweet relief. I have a full computer screen — and a mouse that works.

So, anyway, I figured it’s time to talk about owl sachets. I should preface this tutorial with the admission that the last time I sewed anything I was about nine. And it kind of looked like a Pound Puppy. If you squinted. Hard. (I also made a panda that week which was equally heinous. I then decided I was done sewing forever and I went back to playing basketball like a proper tomboy.)

See, I own a sewing machine but prior to suggesting we give owl sachets as baby shower gifts, I had not actually removed said machine from the box. I found threading the machine more challenging than the actual act of sewing, but after watching a YouTube tutorial in Portuguese about 15 times, I finally mastered it. (I found the manual utterly useless because it skipped steps assuming one had some rudimentary understanding of sewing. I did not.)

The inspiration for this madness was this fabulous pin I found on Pinterest.

These darling owl pillows are made from Amy Butler fabric and are available on Etsy. Photo courtesy of April Foss on Etsy.

Perhaps a sensible person would not have volunteered herself for a sewing project when she did not actually know how to sew, but I like learning new things. And I am not sensible. Plus, I work best under pressure. If you’re not a lunatic like me, or if you’re pressed for time, you can buy adorable owl pillows from April Foss on Etsy. She has an amazing array of designs. Hers are not sachets, but they are still super cute.

If you want to go the DIY route ‘cuz you’re crazy like me (or actually gifted like April and Martha, which I am not), then here’s the how-to:

I cut an owl shape out of fabric and used it as a pattern. I then pinned it to the fabric I was cutting out.

Woodley decided to help me sew. And by “help” I mean she rubbed her face on the fabric before falling asleep on it.

I sewed around the ears and the sides leaving the bottom open. To achieve a firm three dimensional shape, I filled the sachets with some stuffing I picked up at Jo-Ann’s and I mixed in the dry lavender. Then I hand sewed the bottom of the sachets.

Next I cut out eyes from white and black felt and glued them on with a hot glue gun. I opted to skip the beaks because I thought they were superfluous. I’m sure real owls don’t feel this way about their beaks, but whatever….

Here are my owls getting ready for their glue gun eye jobs.

The adorable gray and yellow fabric is Amy Butler and I found it online. The pink fabric was donated by the other shower host from her stash, so I don’t know who the designer is.

I’ll finish gluing the eyes on the sachets when we reschedule the shower. (See, the guest of honor, baby Connor, decided to arrive 5 weeks early, the day before his own shower. He and his mom are happy and healthy, and now he gets to meet everyone who bought him strollers and stuff.)

I Begin My Birthday Week with a Flesh Wound (Or Here’s the Compost Update Because I Can’t Do Anything Else)

So, I think it’s a great idea to begin my birthday week by slicing my thumb open. Yeah, that happened Saturday night….

There I was, having a picnic on the lawn of the Academy (as in, “I want to thank the Academy”), enjoying truffle popcorn, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and good company when I decided to partake in the salami sitting in front of me. Now, being a moron who is generally used to rather dull and ineffectual paring knives, I thought nothing of holding the salami in my hand and slicing toward my thumb. See, when I do this with my own knives, it doesn’t slice through my finger — the knife just sort of bounces off my flesh without incident. I was not using my own knife, however, but a viciously sharp one instead.

Um, yeah…

I’ll spare you the rest of the gory details (and the bloody, bloody photos) and just say I should have gotten stitches instead of sitting on a blanket sipping wine and watching the movie introduced by Frank Oz himself. (Sorry to be a name-dropping starfucker-type, but I really like Miss Piggy. And Yoda.) I made a makeshift tourniquet out of many, many (SO many) paper towels and my hair tie so that I’d make it through the evening – and also so I didn’t bleed all over the nice picnic spread out in front of me.

Now, I know from my last thumb carving incident 6 years ago that one needs to get stitches within eight hours of an injury or it’s too late. (That particular incident involved a dinner party of 25 people, a new Shun knife, an eggplant, and me nearly passing out twice throughout the course of the evening.) Even though I probably could have made it to the ER in time, I decided to skip it all together, because I’m dumb like that.

I did a bit of internet research last night in an attempt to find out how long the tetanus booster is effective, and it looks like it’s about ten years. There is some information indicating that one should get another booster within five years if one is in a tetanus-infested area (whatever that is, I doubt it’s Hollywood), and if one has a particularly gory wound. I have deemed this wound un-gory, though very painful despite heavy wine consumption, so I am skipping the tetanus shot.

I would like to take this moment, however, and ask any medical types out there – particularly any of you I tutored in calculus (you know who you are, and you owe me) — if my last booster of 6 years ago will be sufficient to prevent me from dying or whatever.

So, anyway, now I’m trying to figure out how one makes sixteen owl sachets, a papier mache tree, and about 152 cupcakes with only one thumb. Oh, and just in case you don’t think I’m a complete lunatic yet, I’ll show you how I fixed up my thumb when I got home. (I’m out of actual medical tape.)

Apparently, I think it’s OK to use painters tape to adhere sterile bandages to my person.

It should come as no surprise that my father thinks it’s appropriate to make a tourniquet out of a dishtowel and duct tape. He also doesn’t bother to go to the ER when he slices his forearm open – despite being on blood thinners. Oh, and he gets fillings without anesthesia because he’s actually insane. So, yeah, that’s my gene pool. (This explains a lot.)

Anyway… my thumb hurts and I’m not in the mood to make the skull and crossbones cookies I had planned to make today. I think it’s because I’m exhausted from five and a half hours of grocery shopping for two parties this afternoon — and also from a trip to the USC Credit Union to sort out an issue involving credit card fraud with my check card and some jambonie who tried to buy $102 worth of cigars in Spain. (As my friend put it, “They didn’t even try to buy good cigars!” So, yeah, my credit card thieves have poor taste in tobacco in addition to being general thieving asshats.) Also, I think I just need to unwind by watching shirtless Americans dive into a pool. (God Bless America. And the Olympics.)

Woodley is judging me for slacking on the sugar cookie front.

In other news, my balcony no longer smells like it’s hosting a rotting raccoon. My plan to dry out the compost in buckets actually worked. Today I put the liner back in the bin, along with a bunch of soil. I placed the soil from the smaller buckets back into the bin because that soil had dried properly. I transferred some of the soil from the larger buckets into the smaller buckets so that it would dry as well. I also added more paper to the bin and stirred it for an hour. (No lie; it was cathartic and whatnot.)

My soil dries in buckets. That’s the situation.

I think it’s probably time to start a second bin. It turns out I generate a lot of kitchen waste.

My Dog May be Clean, but My Balcony is a Mess (Or I Update You on the State of My Composting Disaster)

Some days composting is not for the faint of heart. This was one of those days. After dropping Woodley off at the groomer and taking Albus on a hike, I went outside to examine the progress from last week’s watermelon disaster. Things had only marginally improved. The bin was no longer leaking loathsome ooze but it was still far too wet, and a nasty brown bilge had collected between the liner and the bin. Also, it still smelled. Vile.

I decided to remove the muck and transfer it to aerated buckets hoping to dry it out a bit in the sun. Of course I ran out of buckets midway through the task, so I had to leave a bit of the soil in the liner, but it wasn’t the end of the world. I was able to transfer enough soil that I was able to lift the liner out of the bin. Of course the dog groomer called when I was elbow deep in bilge to inform me that her majesty’s haircut and blow out had been completed. Poor Woodley would have to wait until the project was over, however, because there was no way I was going to get in the car covered with rotting veggies and smelling like I had just rolled around in a pile of monkey poo at the zoo.

Undaunted (well, sort of undaunted), I hauled the bin to my bathtub and scrubbed. As I watched the nastiness swirl around the tub it occurred to me I’d have wash that as well. (Shit.)

All of this because I feel guilty throwing away a few kitchen scraps….

I decided to add a few extra holes to the bin for aeration and then I set it out in the sun to dry.

I’m going to wait until the muck dries a bit in the sun before putting it back in the bin, so my balcony is presently littered with buckets filled to the brim with filth. I should mention, the breeze is blowing the smell into my bedroom, compelling me to light every gardenia-scented candle I own in a vain attempt to mask the smell.

This is just a disgusting mess. I’m really sorry you had to see it.

At least Woodley no longer looks or smells mangey —and Albus is thrilled to have her home. (He was a bit distressed when we dropped her off this morning. I had to stop him from bashing open the gate to follow her into the grooming area.) I think she was actually happy to see him when we arrived because she let him hit her a few times. It was unprecedented.

Woodley with tennis ball

Woodley’s first homecoming gesture involved stealing her brother’s ball. Don’t let her tiny frame fool you. This bitch means business.

They’re finally sleeping and I can get back to my papier mache tree centerpiece for my party next week. More on that later….

This is the start of the tree centerpiece for my Peter Pan Party next weekend.

Of Batman and Dancing (Or The Dark Knight is Rising Up in Here)

Luckily, I’m missing that part of your brain that keeps you from embarrassing yourself and just basically doing all kinds of idiotic stuff. Sure it can lead to broken bones, speeding tickets, and your parents shaking their heads in shame, but it does have an upside too. Case in point: I made a lot of money selling books door-to-door in Santa Barbara when I was 18. Also? It means I had this unexpectedly fabulous time last night.

See, I had plans to go out for a girls’ night with my gorgeous British friend, but she called and put a kink in things.

“Forgive me, but I was wondering if perhaps we could reschedule?” She went on to explain there was a coffee shop in her neighborhood that projected movies on the wall, played music, and provided a space for people to dance. “I’ve just been feeling I need to get in my body and out of my head. It’s a bit weird, but if you fancy joining of course you’re welcome.”

Weird dancing? Of course I fancy joining! (I excel at weird.)

So, I’m picturing this small, dark room and general strange rave-y-ness all around. I spend all of this time applying eyeliner, creating a coordinated ensemble with black heels, a big blingy Kate Spade bracelet, and the sort of shirt you’d wear to a club. I also put on my don’t-you-dare-get-fat jeans. Every woman owns them. They’re the sort of tight pants that are absolutely unforgiving in every way and they remind you that it’s a terrible idea to finish the entire pizza while watching Dallas.

I arrive at the coffee shop (late, of course) and find my friend reading at a table. She’s not wearing club attire but workout pants instead. (My first clue the evening might not go down quite the way I expected….)

She suggests we take a peek in the room and check out the current dancing sitch. Upon doing so, I immediately notice everyone else in the very large and very bright room is wearing dance attire – like jazz shoes with Lululemon — and I’m basically dressed for a frat party.

There is no movie on the wall and talented people are basically freestyle pirouetting all over the place. Well, shit. I haven’t done ballet since I was 19. This is going to be interesting….

We pregame with a little chamomile tea (I swear to God) and head in. I remove my three-inch heels and my jewelry, and I also twist my hair into a makeshift bun because I have absolutely no hair ties on my person, and this is looking like it’s going to be an athletic endeavor.

Now, let me remind you again lest you forgot: I am in my super tight jeans that basically make me hate life. I am also not wearing a sports bra but a lacy ditty by Betsey instead. Things could get ugly.

My friend is a little more reserved and has a much stronger sense of propriety and shame than I, so she’s slowly beginning to bob her head to the music and tentatively moving the rest of her body. I decide to just go for it with something resembling reckless abandon – but not so reckless that I rip my jeans, mind you. (I absolutely hate paying to replace things I destroy through utter stupidity – particularly when those things cost about $200.)

Soon, more amateur civilian-types join us, including a guy wearing a t-shirt and a canvas kilt that basically looks like Carhartt has gone into the business of creating fashion for bagpipers.

I am making a complete fool of myself with my limited range of motion and ability, my friend has gotten more into it as well, and it’s just all kinds of awesome. (Also, Betsey must know something about gravity and stuff because somehow that business is all still in place. So sad about her bankruptcy. That woman knows bras. And bracelets.)

Midway into the evening, we meet a lovely woman who informs us we’re in the company of a dance troupe. A dance troupe. And a former Cirque du Soleil performer. Um, so yeah. I’m NOWHERE near as good as these people, but I don’t care. I’m having fun. And the truth is: everyone is so into their own performances that they’re not looking at me anyway.

Soon the other amateurs leave and it’s back to the core dance crew. And us. We wind up on the outside of a circle, clapping and encouraging others to move into the middle and showcase their skills, which include insane break dancing moves and some serious acrobatics. My friend has the good sense to get us out of there before we are called into the middle of the circle to make epic fools of ourselves. Had I not been so inappropriately dressed, I might have gone in the middle without prompting and done a heinous barefoot tap dancing routine, but the world has been spared of that. (For now.)

So we leave all sweaty and happy, and we decide this is our new thing.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I say terrible things about LA all of the time, but nights like this remind me that I will probably never leave. Sure other cities have cool shit like subways and men who drink scotch, but I like it here, thanks.

SO, now I have a fabulous new “thing” and I must do it again. Like every Sunday. I’m never going to be able to spin on my head or balance my entire body on my elbow, but it’s OK. I can burn off a few burgers with my own amateur moves and feel truly free for a night, because let’s be honest: there aren’t enough opportunities in life to escape the confines of our thoughts and just feel the music.

Now my problem becomes what to do about next Sunday night. I’m murderously over-scheduled what with my commitment to see The Dark Knight Rises, followed by drinks AND a dinner party. Somehow I have to squeeze in my weird dancing too.

I’m contemplating rescheduling dinner and drinks — because what I really need in my life next Sunday is Batman. And my bad dance moves.

While we’re on the topic of Batman, you should know that Batman was a bad dancer too and you can see it here. Hmm… maybe next time I should show up in a cape and super hero tights. The ensemble would allow for more range of motion than my evil jeans….

I mean I have already decided to make Batman and Robin costumes for the dogs, so I could just make one for myself as well. See, I found this excellent pin from Sugartot Designs with downloadable Super Hero logos, and now I’m all inspired and whatnot.

Photo Courtesy of sugartot designs.

Sure, they’re probably intended for actual children and not Spaniels, but I don’t care. Obviously, the dogs will also need masks like this:

I loved the Adam West Batman as a kid. I might still watch it on The Hub now, but shhh, no one needs to know that.  (Photo courtesy of Dial B for Blog) Kapow!

Did I mention the last time I sewed anything I was nine? And that it only slightly resembled a panda? See, I decide to tackle enormous sewing projects with all of the hubris and reckless abandon that I apply to dancing wildly in public and almost everything in my life because, truly, I do not have a healthy fear of failure. Or shame.

One guess who will be Robin in the dynamic duo.

Poor Woodley….

If you do have actual human children and you like Batman half as much as I do, this would be an amazing DIY painting project:

I cannot find the original source of this pin, but holy tiny car, Batman, it’s awesome.

Oh, and one last thing, If you’re into Batman and you like laughing, you should check out my friend’s video on Funny or Die here.

I Dedicate This to Bumpa (Or I am Grateful to Receive the One Lovely Blog Award)

I am one of those terrible people who sometimes checks her phone while hiking. It should be a sin when one is among trees to consult a miniature computer, but sometimes it beckons from the pocket of one’s purse and it must be consulted so that the racket will stop.

Yesterday it was beastly hot by LA standards and it was actually even a bit humid. It was almost humid enough to make me happy, but not really. See, when you live in the desert and it wreaks all kinds of havoc on your dry hair and skin you, too, will wish for moisture in the air. And those of you who are enduring 107 degree heat with 99% humidity, I would feel sympathy for you except that your mortgages are less than my rent and the men in your state wear baseball caps instead of fedoras.

So anyway, I was having this weird hike in Griffith Park, keeping to the shady parts so my dogs didn’t die of heatstroke and whatnot. There were these two old Asian ladies singing songs at a picnic table for no apparent reason, Albus was trying to pounce on tiny lizards, Woodley was straggling behind sniffing for squirrels and other prey, and there was basically all kinds of chaos everywhere. Meanwhile, my phone was making the mail sound.

I checked it and, lo, it brought glad tidings of a blogging award! There I was among the majestic trees feeling all humbled and proud to learn that I had received the One Lovely Blog Award. Seriously, thank you Kenley of Beyond the Green Door! You are like my young Fairy Blog Mother with the Awards! I adore you!

Now I am supposed to tell you seven things about myself and nominate other bloggers. Since I am terrible at following rules I haven’t personally made up, I am going to start by telling you eight things about myself.

So here it goes:

1) I would die without music.

Here I am DJing in diapers and basically being fat.

My momma raised me on Motown. Marvin GayeAretha, and the Four Tops were the soundtracks of my childhood.

Here we are with her older sister being fabulous hippie types in the grass.

Her little sister contributed a bit of Barry White, Miles Davis, and Arthur Prysock to my musical education.

My mom’s little sister introduced me to great music and gave me my first Cuisinart.

And her baby brother rounded it out by covering Patsy Cline and the blues.

My uncle’s dog, Decca, was named after Patsy Cline’s recording label. Patsy and Decca were amazing.

All of us can trace our love of music and our brown eyes back to the Patron Saint Everything Tremendous, my Bumpa, Harold Lawrence Russell. (I couldn’t say Grandpa when I was little, and the Bumpa bit just stuck.) He taught us to love darts, dancing, and the better things in life, like cocktail hour. He is my hero, and both of my dogs are basically named after him.

Woodley Russell and Professor Albus Lawrence sit nicely for biscuits in Coldwater Canyon Park.

2) Speaking of which, I have always loved dogs.

Here I am in Athens, Georgia with my cousin, Abbott. He would later sail to St. Croix on a tiny sailboat with our Bumpa because his mommy and daddy were moving there to study coral reefs at the NOAA Hydrolab.

3) I worked in the writers’ office of LOST for seasons 3 and 4, and Carlton Cuse is hands down my favorite boss ever. He is funny, smart, talented, and a true mentor in every sense of the word. (I’m super excited about his new show, Bates Motel, on A&E. You should be too. You should also read his article about college sports here.)

My old LOST office in Bungalow 23. Note: we were NOT in Honolulu. The writers’ office was on the Disney lot neighboring “What About Brian?” instead of the beach.

I wore my NOAA Hydrolab shirt into the office during the writing of the Hydra Station episodes because it seemed like the right thing to do.

Hurricane Hugo destroyed my uncle’s lab in 1989. This shirt is a collectors’ item now or something, but I wear it to bed.

4) I psychotically LOVE football.

I am a Green Bay Packers fan because my dad grew up in a super remote part of Michigan that is actually connected to Wisconsin.

Here the Kohon cousins are keeping it classy in a fine establishment called The Rusty Saw Blade Bar. What else?

My true love is college football, though, and the Wolverines are my second religion, you know, after the Presbyterian part.

Only my friend Melissa wears a cashmere Hermes hat to the Big House. I love Melissa.

5) I quit being premed when I had about six credits left and decided to get my MFA in film producing from USC instead.

Because THIS:

is more fun than THIS:

6) There is a road called Kohon Road in Michigan. It’s not one of those coincidences — it’s actually named after my dad’s parents. It’s very weird putting your own name into the GPS. Truth.

Here I am on the side of a highway posing with a sign. It’s not weird… honest.

7) I love absolutely everything about trees.

Sitting in them.

There may be some truly questionable parenting at work here… because this limb? It’s nowhere near the ground. (Just kidding mom and dad.)

Planting them.

Bumpa planted a tree for each of his grandchildren at our cottage. This is my blue spruce as a baby — and also me as a baby.

Decorating them.

Here’s my Bumpa bringing me a Christmas tree.

Hauling them.

Here I am being an amazing helper. I exceed at helping Bumpa.

30 years later, still hauling…

And burning them.

We could sit by a fire absolutely for hours. It’s one of the few things that actually made us sit still.

We lost him in October of 2010, and nothing will ever be the same again. Ever.

I stenciled trees on my hallway wall in remembrance of him.

My birch trees are the first thing I see when I come home.

8) I spoke on behalf of the family at his funeral, and I still don’t know how I did it without crying what with Danny Boy being played in the church and all.

A year later we gathered to plant trees and scatter my Bumpa’s ashes at the cottage. We popped the bubbly and toasted the man who made all of our lives happier, richer, and so much more fun by being by our sides.

I would like to dedicate the One Lovely Blog award to him because I would not have returned to writing if it were not for his courage, his faith, and the legacy his integrity left behind, but that’s a long story for another time.

So now, I’m supposed to nominate 15 other blogs, and it’s not that I don’t want to follow the rules, but I want to be truly heartfelt today. I’m still new to blogging and I’m slowly amassing a list of blogs I love. These are the four blogs I adore right now, and I want you to read them. They speak to my soul and stuff.

But before you do that, you should listen to In the Mood by Glenn Miller because it’s a happy kind of song, it was my Bumpa’s favorite, and it’s good for dancing in your living room during cocktail hour. Even if your only dance partner is your dogs.

Peppermint Bliss. I discovered Bailey’s blog because her home was featured in a Design Sponge tour, and it was quite possibly the most amazing home tour I have ever seen. Never have I pinned more photos from a single spread. Ever. Her playful, colorful, yet sophisticated style epitomizes the aesthetic I aspire to create for myself. Plus she’s really funny, she’s a talented designer, and she has a Cocker Spaniel. You must check out her blog. She has a fresh voice, which is more rare than you might think in the blog space.

Living Luxe for Less Bucks. Sarah is hysterically funny. You will laugh at her anecdotes about ugly undies and awkward body waxing incidents, but you’ll also learn lots of money saving tips on her blog. She has not let her kidney transplant limit her life or dim her spirit. You should know about her. She’s truly one of a kind. Her courage, individuality, and beautiful spirit come through in her writing.

LindO Designs. Angela is a gifted architect and artist. She transforms furniture, knows how to install her own chandeliers, and she’s doing all of this while running a business and running after a miniature Michigan football player in waiting. (No, really.) In addition to her furniture business, she also has a prop company. She’s presently doing fabulous things involving Dr. Seuss for her prop company. I mean, who doesn’t love Truffula Trees?

Dirty Centaur Pictures. John is beyond funny. Last year, he and his writing partner wrote a web series that I produced for a compact car company that will remain nameless for a whole host of reasons. It was absolutely the most fun I have ever had at any job ever. You need to know about John because we all need more laughter in our lives.

I’m Feeling Nostalgic (Or How to Make Orso’s Seafood Saffron Risotto)

Seafood Saffron Risotto with Parsley Garnish Inspired by Orso’s Dish.

It was January 2004, and Brett Favre was still known as the Packers’ Super Bowl-winning QB instead of a grandfather accused of sexting with a Maxim model on the Jets sidelines. For some reason I was feeling cocky (pardon the pun) during the NFC playoffs, and I placed two bets on the Eagles/Packers matchup with two of my best guy friends.

Needless to say I lost both of those bets after the Eagles got a first down on fourth and 26 (devastating clip below). Not only did I lose a case of Heineken to Neil, but I also owed Josh $50. Never mind that my team also lost the game…. It was kind of a bad Sunday.

I’m not going to lie: handing over a dozen Heinekens to a diehard Eagles fan hurt a little, but I’m not one to bilk my buddies on a bet. I was also prepared to fork over 50 bucks to Josh (even if he only bet against my team to antagonize me), but he decided it would be more fun if I took him out to dinner instead. I never pass up an excuse to go out to eat, even if I am paying, so obviously I agreed.

How we ended up at Orso, an Italian restaurant in Beverly Hills, at 10 pm is a very long story that involves a Brett Ratner movie wrapping late, Dick Cheney’s fleet of black Suburbans backing up traffic all over LA, and Nozawa, the Sushi Nazi of the San Fernando Valley, refusing to let us in when we arrived five minutes late.

So, anyway, there we were on the Orso patio, absolutely famished. Everything that could have gone wrong with our dinner plan had gone wrong thus far. Our luck changed when I surveyed the offerings and saw that the rotating menu included seafood saffron risotto.

“Sweet salvation by carbs!” I cried. (It was my favorite dish at the restaurant, and it was not always available.)

Even if Dick Cheney’s cavalcade of cars had kept us from our fancy raw fish, I was still able to have some seafood, and the dish was divine.

After salads, entrees, pinot grigio, moscato, and biscotti, I think my $50 bet ended up costing me more like $150, but we had a blast, and it did make me forget about the end of the Packers’ playoff run, if only for the night.

Sadly, the restaurant (named after a Venetian dog) closed years ago.

So, here I am eight years later, unable to name a dog “Brett” as I had once planned (see earlier sexting scandal), and feeling a bit nostalgic about football and the seafood saffron risotto at an LA restaurant that is no more.

I created my own version of the dish as best I could from memory, and I intend to eat it tonight while watching Michigan’s overtime win in the 2012 Sugar Bowl that is still saved on my DVR. You might want to pair your meal with something more soothing like, say, Chet Baker, but I need more football in my life.

My version of the recipe is below:

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Seafood Saffron Risotto

5 Cups chicken broth
¾ Cup dry white wine
6 Tablespoons butter
4 Garlic cloves
½ Teaspoon saffron threads
1 Pound of Trader Joe’s mixed seafood (shrimp, calamari and mini scallops)*
2 Shallots
1 1/2 C Arborio rice
Chopped Italian parsley for garnish

Bring broth, saffron threads, and ¼ C of wine to simmer in a saucepan. Reduce the heat; keep mixture warm.

Place the frozen seafood in a colander and run hot water over to slightly thaw it. Drain completely.

Melt two tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add 3 cloves of minced garlic and the seafood mixture. Sautee the seafood until the shrimp begin to turn pink. This should take about 2 minutes. Add the remaining ½ cup of wine and simmer until the seafood is cooked. This will take about 2-3 minutes. Set aside the seafood and cooking liquid.

Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped shallots and 1 remaining clove of minced garlic. Sautee until the shallot is cooked, about 4 minutes. Add the Arborio rice and stir to coat, about 2 minutes.

Add 2 cups of the broth mixture. Simmer until the liquid has been absorbed, stirring frequently. Continue adding the broth mixture, 1 cup at a time, stirring frequently, and simmering until the liquid is absorbed before adding more. This will take about 20 minutes. Stir in reserved seafood liquid and the seafood. Cook until the rice is slightly tender, and the mixture is creamy. This will take about 5 additional minutes.

Season the risotto to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley and serve.

*You can obviously use fresh seafood, which will improve the taste. I was looking to cut costs a little. The dish is still very tasty even with the frozen fare.