Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Poker Night At My House

Hozumi called me up last Friday night and let me know we were having dinner and poker at my house on Saturday night. I'm pretty easy, and thought it sounded like fun, so I invited a couple other people and then started trying to decide what to fix for dinner. Since Kelli and Sarah are in the states, it means that I'm the chief cook and bottle washer, actually it means I'm the only cook. So most nights I eat a few pretzels, have a swig or two of a protein drink that you may know as Scotch, and call it good. But since I actually had civilized people coming over, I figured they might like a little more than just Scotch and pretzels. And frankly I figured a little solid food might not be a bad idea for me either. So I went to Price Costco, bought some Mahi filets in a bag, and a package of these giant mushrooms.
Hozumi brought the fixings for bruschetta, and she made a fresh batch of it, it was amazing!

Another of my closely guarded secrets is that I'm actually a pretty good cook. I was a cook for some very nice restaurants for a few years back in my high school and college days. Yes, I can actually spin pizza dough, flip eggs without a spatula using only the pan, and cook one of the best omelets you've ever seen or tasted. Now the reason this is a closely guarded secret is that if people knew that I could actually cook, and make some mouth watering dishes, they might expect me to actually do it. And that might cut into my dive time, just as this little dinner and poker party did. I actually gave up my Saturday afternoon dive, just to prepare these stuffed mushrooms. It's not just a matter of putting the mushrooms in a pan and sprinkling some cheese over them.

First you give them a good washing, then you cut the stems out of all of them. Next you dice up the stems into tiny little mushroom chunks. I suppose some might just use a cleaver and chop, chop, chop. Not me, it's part of my obsessive\compulsive side. I cut each of them into little rings, then I slice the ring in half, and then cut it into little strips. And when you're doing that many mushrooms, and you're as freaksihly OC about it as I am, well there goes a good hour or so. Then you sautee the diced mushroom stems with some fresh diced garlic, sprinkle with several different seasonings, add some Virgin Olive Oil and butter and sautee over a medium flame for about 5 minutes. Then you let your sautee cool for a while. Next you mix in bread crumbs, I prefer buying the seasoned croutons and then pounding them to turn them into crumbs. Then mix in a couple eggs and some parmesan cheese. Now mix everything together, and it should have a thick paste type texture. Now you bring a big pan of water to a boil, and only after it is boiling do you add the mushroom caps. You cook them for 1 minute, and I mean 60 seconds, not 90 seconds. After you drain the mushroom caps, you put some olive oil in the bottom of a pan, rub it all over and then place the mushroom caps upside down in the pan. Now you take a little fork or spoon and put the paste you made up from the diced mushroom stems into the holes in the mushroom caps. You want it to be heaping a bit, since you'll have quite a bit of it to try fitting into all the caps. Finally you spread mozarella cheese over the top of them. I kind of like the mozarella\provolone blend. Now bake them in the oven at 375 for about 20-25 minutes. You want to bake them until the cheese on the top just starts turning a golden brown.

At this point you'll have some mushrooms that will rival those you'll find in any gourmet restaurant. As you can see, it's a bit of a time consuming process, so it's something you only do for special occasions. And after skipping my dive on Saturday afternoon, and going to all that work with the mushrooms, only 2 people showed up for dinner, Hozumi and Greg. Well, the 3 of us had a pretty darn good meal if I do say so myself, Caribbean Jerk Mahi, stuffed mushrooms, fresh bruschetta and corn. Corn just goes good with everything! But again, the whole cooking thing is a closely held secret, so let's not be saying anything about it.

Then it was poker time, and Bev showed up. I've got a pretty nice poker chip set, but we just play for the fun of it, never any money involved. That's a very good policy especially when you have the kind of luck that I do. But lady luck was actually with me on this particular night. Greg was the first one I knocked out of the game. Then we started getting lazy and played a couple hands of Indian Poker, which wound up having huge chip pots. In case you're not familiar with the game, each player gets one card, which they aren't allowed to look at, and they have to stick it to their forehead so that the other players can see it. So you can see everyone elses card, just not your own. Then you start bidding based on their cards. So if they have an ace on their forehead, you might want to just fold, since the best you could hope for would be a tie. But such was not the case in the final hand. Greg was sitting off to the side, so he could see all of our cards, and he looked like he was thoroughly enjoying the turn of events. Here you can see the size of my pile of chips is looking pretty good compared to Bev's, but things can turn very quickly, especially when it's Indian poker. Now to truly appreciate this situation, you need to realize a couple things. Hozumi is extremely competitive, and really, really, really hates losing to me. And when she thinks she smells blood in the water, she can be pretty ruthless. Now remember, she has no idea what the card on her forehead is, but she knows what Bev and I both had, so she started bidding big, I mean real big. She knew that Bev only had a 4, and evidently she felt pretty good about beating whatever was on my forehead too. Poor Hozumi, she couldn't possibly beat anything, but she had no clue. So I knew that Hozumi had a 2 and Bev had a 4, I mean come on, how low could my card possibly be, it had to beat those two. So I kept matching Hozumi's exorbitant bets, and then raising her myself. Finally those two had all of their chips in, and they were bidding on a 2 and a 4. I wasn't about to be pushed around by these two and their piddly little cards, so I matched their bets. Greg thought it was all so funny he could hardly stand it. He told Hozumi to look at her card first. She was so bummed, it was great! Next he had Bev look at her card, and from the expression on her face, I knew I beat her. Sure enough, I had a 5 on my forehead. Now normally I wouldn't bet anything on a 5, but when you have no clue what you're betting on, you'll do almost anything. So yes, Hozumi had to officially declare me the winner, I think she would have rather been tortured on the rack for hours on end. Such was Poker Night at my house!