This Week

Mack's Corner

This Week

The $4500 Table

When we first moved in to our house in 1988 we didn't have much furniture. We moved from a 900 sq ft house. So I started building my own, all wood. I made a chair, an end table, a bench/loveseat, 2 big book shelves and a kitchen table. This was my normal Saturday routine. I would get all the cars out of the garage, pull out my table saw, turn on my little black and white TV to watch football and start. Everything I made was my design and very non-exact. If I was going to make a chair, I would go around and sit in different chairs in stores. If I found one that I liked, I would measure it. Then I would design my chair so that the seat was the length of the one I liked and the back was at the same slant. I'm no good a figuring measurements so with the exception of over-all length and width, most things were eye-balled or measured against another piece that was supposed to be the same length. If you asked me how long the leg of a table was, all I could tell you is that it was the same length as the other 3 and long enough so that it was comfortable to sit at the table. I never was a great designer, everything was very simple. And I never was a great builder, sometimes things fit, sometimes they didn't. But I was a world class finisher.

About a month after we moved in we decided to have my family over for Thanksgiving dinner. We wanted everybody to see our new house. The only problem was there was no place to serve dinner. So I started building a kitchen table a week before Thanksgiving. I went to the lumber yard and bought 32 stud grade (the cheapest kind) 8 foot 2 by 4's and a bunch of drywall screws. I got the straightest boards I could find but they still had splits and knots. I had $40 in the whole thing. I had figured that 23 2x4's on end, side by side would give me the width I wanted to fit the space in the kitchen. I laid them out on the garage floor with the flattest side down, that would be the bottom. Then I took the first two, glued them together, put a clamp on them and put in 8 drywall screws, driving the screws from the inside board through to the outside board. Un-did the clamps, put glue on the next board, clamped it on, and added 8 more screws to hold it to the other 2 boards. All the time being sure everything stayed flat on the bottom. When I finished I had all 23 boards glued and screwed together, a 46 inch by 4 inch by 8 foot slab of wood the looked like a big ugly butcher block. The ends weren't even, some of the boards didn't fit square, the top was totally uneven, it was perfect. I left it over night to let the glue dry. The next 5 days were "Finishing" days. I cut the ends off with a circular saw to make it square and filled all of the cracks with sawdust and glue. Then I started sanding. I used to buy sandpaper for my belt sander in bulk. I had super fine to super coarse. The first 2 days I probably took 1/2 inch off the top of the table just to get it flat and to make it so the table didn't have ripples in it. Then I rounded off the edges with a router and started sanding with the fine sandpaper.  Two days later I drilled 4 big holes and dropped big lag bolts through the holes. These would hold the legs on. I covered the bolt holes with small blocks of wood and sanded them flat. I put pegs in the last holes where the last set of drywall screws held the last 2 by 4 and sanded them flat. I put the first coat of varnish on and started making the legs. The last coat of varnish was still drying on Thanksgiving morning, but the table was in the kitchen. It was level and it looked great. It's been in my kitchen for 28 years. I saw one like it in a catalog once for $4500.

God's like that: He's a world class finisher. We show up rough, ugly, and not worth much. He takes us and starts sanding. Sometimes bigger flaws show up, but he keeps at it .. Ever wonder what you're worth to God?

I need to find that place that sold those $4500 tables. I could probably pop another one out for that…..


==
Cooking 220 - 2 pans, 2 burners, 20 minutes:

Sherry Yard has been the pastry chef at Spago in Beverly Hills for a long time. She is one of the great pastry chefs in the world. If you want to learn how pastry chefs think and work, her cookbook "The Secrets of Baking" will teach everything you want to know. She makes everything from a "Master" recipe. If you know how to make the Master recipe, everything else is just a variation. This recipe is the Master recipe for cookies.

Master Sugar Cookies:
Makes 3 dozen 3 inch round cookies..

6 oz (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter cut in to 1/2 inch pieces.

1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp of sugar… plus 1/4 cup for rolling

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 large egg at room temp

1 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour

(Hint #1: Baking this cookie at a lower temp (325) for a longer period of time will result in a crisp cookie. Baking it at a higher temp (350) for a shorter period creates a softer, chewier cookie… you can experiment)

With the paddle attachment or a hand mixer cream the butter on medium speed  for about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides.. Add the sugar, salt and vanilla. Cream until smooth, about 1 minute.

Add the egg and beat at medium speed for about 15 seconds. Don't overbeat.. scrape down the sides.

Either sift the flour or put it in a bowl and whisk it to get out any lumps.

Add the flour to the butter mixture and beat on LOW speed until the flour is mixed in. Scrape down the sides and beat on Low for another 30 seconds, until you have an even textured dough.

Flour you hands…. Grab handfuls of dough and plop them down on parchment paper or wax paper creating a log about 1 1/2 inches wide and 12 inches long. Fold the paper over and roll it up, making a sausage. Close it on both ends. Chill at least an hour in the fridge…. At this point the dough will keep in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for a month. (Thaw frozen dough at room temp for 30 min or until you can cut it)..

Preheat you oven to 350

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (Hint #2: You can get parchment paper at the grocery store. It's much easier to clean up because all you do is throw the paper away. You usually don't have to wash the baking sheet.) or spray with Pam.

Put the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar on a cutting board. Take the dough out of the paper and roll it in the sugar. Cut 1/3 inch rounds from the dough log and place them 1 inch apart on the baking sheet.

Bake for 12 - 15 minutes or until golden brown around the edges. Take them out of the oven and slide the paper with the cookies on it off of the baking sheet and let them rest for at least 5 minutes. (Hint #3:This stops the cookies from cooking more from the heat of the baking sheet.) Let them cool at least 20 min before storing. (Hint #4: You can freeze the cookies forever if you want to make a double batch. Then when you want some, thaw and reheat in the oven for 5 min at 350 to crisp.)

Standard rules apply: You can actually eat the frozen ones right out of the freezer. They are especially good at midnight with a glass of milk, but close the freezer door while you're standing there…..

 

Mack

 

Posted by Mack Oates at 11:48 AM