What the Boss Likes – update on the remodel, random things I’ve enjoyed

The kitchen is finished all but for the painting. Since this was nice fresh drywall, I had to give it two coats of sealer/primer and now am *finally* getting the color layer on, a lavender called “garden fairy” (I want a job naming colors). I’m doing a high gloss finish since it’s a kitchen and we’ve had splatters appear on our 9 foot ceilings by evidently some spaghetti sauce trying to hit escape velocity (like this steel plate may or may not have done). Now for two hours of waiting to see how it looks on one wall before continuing.

Right now, I’m making some pasta puttanesca, resting my very sore body (using all sorts of muscles I don’t usually use) and unfortunately just crushed a chili pepper for it in my fingers and touched my nose. Whee.

Now onto the random bits.

We had a bottle of Evolucio Blaufrankisch from Hungary. Very good red wine with a very cherry taste. Also had a bottle of Primal Roots California Red Blend. This doesn’t have any cabernet sauvignon, so it is light on the tannins.

Baked some triple cream brie.  Very good with cherry preserves, roast beef (a leftover) and fig and olive relish from Tait Farms.  All with baguette like bread.

I watched Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas. This is a Dreamworks animated film from the early 2000s. Though it is not a “real” Sinbad movie (those are the ones from the 60’s-70’s with Harryhausen stop motion animation), it was good. A strong female character, a good villain and fun dialogue, some of which may generate uncomfortable questions from children to their parents. A good adventure flick.

Also watched Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Just beautiful and a good story. nothing particularly new but are there really any “new” stories?   I also loved Besson’s The Fifth Element.

I got a copy of What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions. for Christmas This is by the fellow who does the XKCD webcomic. I chortled over it as I was reading it and had a great bit of fun learning new facts, like exactly how amanita mushroom toxin works. You can see what if questions and answers on the website if you follow the “what if” up in the left corner or here: https://what-if.xkcd.com/

The weather has been colder and snowier than usual (we’re getting a touch of the nasty noreaster coming up the coast of the US), at least usual for the overly warm winters we’ve had recently. I have a pair of Carolina wrens as visitors and have given them a stick of butter to peck at, as well as some bread and cat food.   Two years ago, we had a nest of them in a roll of carpet I had put out to dispose of. They are notorious for putting nests in silly places, and this was right outside of our kitchen door too. We went out once without paying attention and there was a sudden explosion of fledglings. We tried to catch them and put them back but they took off under the hostas, never to be seen again. No idea if the little critters survived. We never saw this species before until that incident two years ago.

Well, that’s about it. Next post will be about a recent discussion I’ve had with a theist and some information about how facts and evidence work in supporting claims. Fair warning, if you don’t want to see my unvarnished opinions on politics and religion, avoid blog post starting with “Not So Polite Conversation”.

What the Boss Likes – Brothers Bright, Whitestone Motion Pictures – Appalachian gothic

I’m very fond of American myths dealing with our own monsters and magic.  This started with reading stories about Pecos Bill and Paul Bunyan,  a strange turn when I read “The Lottery” and the Cthulhu mythos, the stories about “Silver John” by Manly Wade Wellman, and into role-playing games like “Deadlands“.    Southern gothic is a subset.

Very cool applachian gothic music and videos from Whitestone Motion Pictures and Brothers Bright (they are apparently the same thing):

If you watch the movie below, you’ll see the kind of forests I grew up around, sans monsters of course  🙂

and a curious little animated video about the west.  I may have posted this sometime in the past.

Delta Rae’s Bottom of the River (note the lady in the mirror)

From the Kitchen and From the Bar – a less than standard Thanksgiving: Thai pork roast

filled-bunsThis year we decided to part from the norm of having our usual chicken dinner and try a new recipe we found in my subscription to Food & Wine magazine. This new recipe was for Thai Pulled Pork Sandwiches by Chef Jamie Bissonnette. This where my new Thai ingredients came into play. The online store, importfood.com,  has great deals on boxes of darn near everything you might need to cook Thai.

It’s a pretty straightforward recipe, with a pork roast being covered in a spice paste, roasted for hours to become fork-tender and then having a sauce added to the shredded flesh. My departures from this were minimal. I used a far larger pork roast, a pork shoulder with the skin on that weighed nearly 10 pounds. My eyes are always far larger than my stomach when it comes to purchasing my favorite meat.

raw
the raw roast with the paste on it.

The size of the shoulder meant that I thought I needed more curry paste (the curry, sugar and fish sauce mixture in the recipe) to cover it. I doubled the recipe and found that it was not needed. When I put the paste on the pork, I did not put it on the skin side.

The skin side was scored and then shoulder was roasted skin side up in my faithful black speckled roaster. When it was a couple of hours in, I took a fork and lifted the skin off and painted more curry pasted on the fat layer. The recipe has that one can take off the meat juices, remove the fat and mix the juices back in with the fork. Since I roasted this so long (4.5 hours), I got 9/10 fat, which I deemed not worth the effort to get that 1/10 juice separated (though it did inspire me to order a fat separator).roast

The coconut based sauce was done as indicated in the recipe but I added about a tablespoon of lime juice at the end since the sauce tasted a little flat to me. I think this would have been balanced using the lime wedges indicated as condiments at the end of the recipe but I found it easier to just add.

Packet of spices that are charred for the sauce.
Packet of spices that are charred for the sauce.

My husband also requested bao (you can find the link for the recipe here) rather than the brioche buns indicated. I made the steamed buns without filling using Andrea Nguyen’s recipe from Asian Dumplings. It works just as always and they are so very tender and mild. I can see little kids loving these with a little jam.

unfilled bao
unfilled bao

As a condiment, we just used cilantro since my husband isn’t much of a veggie eater and I forgot to pick up the cucumber that I wanted. I wasn’t going near a store because people lose their minds here when it comes to Thanksgiving and then the curious American habit of Black Friday.

Definitely a keeper recipe. We had a couple of Great Lakes Brewing beers with it. Their Celebration Ale is a higher alcohol ale with honey and spices. It’s sweet but not as sweet as some, like our local Troegs Mad Elf which is more than I can handle. The other was their Ohio City Oatmeal Stout, a perhaps smoier than usual stout but still very nice. The sweetness of both beers was good with the slight sweetness of the pork.

Incidentally, I did try to make the removed pork skin into cracklings. It worked somewhat. I took my cast iron griddle, got it smoking hot and put the skin bits on it. They puffed up, but somewhat irregularly, so some were nice and crunchy, and some weren’t. It was enough for a small chef’s snack 🙂

That’s it. Eat and drink well!

(postscript: in case you are new, and don’t want to see my opinions on religion and politics, just choose to read the “from the” posts. These will be about food, drink and whatever the subject is.)

From the Kitchen – port peppercorn sauce and a petit beef tenderloin filet

steakAlthough we’ve wandered a bit off of the South Beach diet lately, we are doing pretty well in keeping any new weight from being added back on.   It does help us to weigh ourselves every day, just to keep an eye on things.  We also got back some lab reports and everything is better, including cholesterol (your mileage may vary).

One of the things we started when losing weight is buying a whole beef tenderloin, doing a little butchering ourselves, and keeping easy to cook filets in the freezer. I did a stint in the meat department of a fancy grocery store and gained the skill of being able to take apart a tenderloin e.g. removing the silverskin, and knowing how the multiple muscles run to get the best result (I also became a good hand at discombobulating a whole chicken. Get a set of kitchen scissors, but a sharp knife also works fine). Out of a whole tenderloin, I generally get around a pound of inedible scraps, a pound or two of scraps I can use in stirfry or stroganoff, and, depending on the size of the tenderloin, 10-13 nice filets.

The steaks were simply cooked at high heat in butter. I do like mine “Pittsburgh style”, very brown on the outside and damn near raw otherwise.   We often use cast iron but a heavy non-stick frying pan also works if you pay attention.

The side was a baked potato, done a la the Joy of Cooking method (slick potatoes with oil or butter, then 40O F for 20-30 minutes, then pierce and put in for another 20-30 minutes). We didn’t have sour cream but we did have a nice purchased tzatziki from Cedar’s (a little more dill in it than I generally put in my own but not bad at all).

The sauce is something I’ve been wanting to try for years. When I was in college, I went to a nice restaurant in the Shadyside area of Pittsburgh called Pasta Piatto (or at least I think that was the name). They had this steak absolutely crusted with coarsely crushed black peppercorns with this fabulous slightly sweet red wine sauce on it. I spent an entire month’s allowance (for extra things I might need at college) on this. I also learned that one should make sure that one’s hosts are indeed going to pay for your dinner rather than assuming it.

There are quite a number of versions of this on the internet. This is my take on it: Continue reading “From the Kitchen – port peppercorn sauce and a petit beef tenderloin filet”

From the Bar – a few Belgian ales and a movie

beerI have now been on this planet for 50 years.   I really wish I had been on some other planet during this time but alas technology has not cooperated.

For my birthday, we went to have really good cheap french fries (cooked in beef fat) and expensive Belgian beers. This was an extra treat since we’ve also been on the South Beach Diet for the last 4 weeks and haven’t had much in the way of carbohydrates (I’m happy, I’ve lost 10 pounds).

I had two beers. One was a Rochefort 8. This is a trappist ale, not quite as sweet and complex as the Rochefort 10 (or as alcoholic 9.5% as opposed to 11.3%) but very much the dark beer that tastes of caramel, dried fruits and rich yeasts. My second was Bink Bloesem, another rich beer, not quite so dark or strong (7.1%) but wonderful with the tastes of fall fruit and spice. It has pear syrup in it.  I love that our local Belgian café, Café Bruges, uses all of the fancy glasses for the beers. I have a bit of a thing for fancy things to drink out of. My mom had a cordial set that she never used and kept at the top of a tall cabinet. My younger self risked life and limb climbing up to get a little glass to drink from when she wasn’t around.

My husband had Echt Kriekenbier and a Boon Kriek. The Echt was excellent, 6.8% alcohol, a touch sour with a strong cherry aroma. It is based on an ale, not a lambic   The Boon was wonderful, like cherry pie and it has cherries in it, and is a lambic.   It is a low alcohol beer, only 4%, eminently sessionable. The only kriek we’ve had that we like better is what we’ve had up at the Selin’s Grove Brewing.

We watched Jupiter Ascending this weekend. I really liked it. It was fun, fast and was pure space opera. I really have no idea what people are looking for in a movie like this. Movies don’t need deep plots, or world-moving emotional displays. I’m more than happy to have a strong female character who likes science, who doesn’t freak out more than necessary, and who can take care of herself along with her friends. The movie is just beautiful, btw. Watch this and John Carter to see the good guys win and the bad guys lose. That seems to happen so little anymore.

From the Kitchen and the Bar – new things to try and a jalapeno appetizer

jalapenosThe Thanksgiving long weekend was a nice quiet one for us. We didn’t do the bird but we did eat a lot of appetizers as our feast. Most of them were from the freezer section of the supermarket, but we did make one from scratch.   Fresh jalapenos filled with garden vegetable cream cheese, wrapped in bacon, and then baked. Most excellent! I’ll get to the recipe below. I just cobbled together what I read from the other thousand recipes for the same thing on the ‘net.

We have been trying some new wines, beers and spirits.

Franzia Dark Red Blend – the king of box wine, Franzia, has made a dark red blend for their premium line.   It’s a very nice blend, not too tannic or too soft, and for around $20 for 5 liters, its worth a look. In addition to drinking it straight, we happened to mix it with Cran-Tangerine juice cocktail and it ended up tasting like a pretty darn good sangria (ages ago I went to Spain and had quite a bit there). I was afraid the cranberry would bring up the bitterness but it didn’t, standing in for other fruit flavors, and the wine enhanced the tangerine very well. I was surprised since the juice itself was fairly bland.

Genesee Salted Carmel Chocolate Porter – This is a premium beer from our favorite Genesee Brewing Company, home of the cream ale we drink. When we visited the brewery about a year ago, we toured their pilot batch brewery, and this is one that was run up there. It’s in bigger production but its still pretty small batch. It’s not a cheap beer, coming in just under $60 a case, but since we drink a lot of $14/a 30 pack Genny Cream Ale, we find it balances out  🙂 . It is a dark cola in color, with a fantastic caramel scent and chocolate caramel taste. Not too sweet at all, and I have no idea how they got that hint of salt in there so nicely.

Black Velvet Toasted Carmel whisky – This is a very smooth blended whisky with an excellent caramel flavoring. It’s very good neat.   However, we poured it into eggnog. That was wonderful…and dangerous.   It’s so smooth, you don’t get much of an alcohol burn even if you put in probably more than you should.

Here’s our recipe for the jalapenos.

Fresh jalapenos (we went for the 3” or so long ones)

Garden vegetable soft cream cheese

Thick cut hickory smoked bacon (we used Oscar Meyer)

Preheat oven to 385 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut peppers in half so you get to complete “boats”. Remove seeds and membranes (leave more or less if you like heat).  A grapefruit spoon is perfect for doing this. Fill with cheese. Wrap with a third of a slice of bacon. You can use a toothpick to anchor or do like we did and just put the seam on the bottom on our broiler pan since it has those convenient divots.

Bake for 40 minutes (this got the bacon well cooked but not hard and the peppers soft).   Let sit for about 5 minutes after removing from oven. Our peppers had a nice hit of spicy heat but weren’t so hot that I couldn’t snaffle down 5 of them in short order. They went very well with the Genny Cream Ale. 🙂

Eat and drink well!

What the Boss Likes – a new book, One Nation Under Gods

one nationA new book, One Nation, Under Gods by Peter Manseau, is one of the best books I have read in a long time.  Mr. Manseau reviews the history of religion in the United States of America from 1492 (with some info on religion in North America before the Europeans came) up to the present day.  It is a very easy-to-read book, despite being full to the brim with facts.

I think I am fairly well versed in history but this opened my eyes to many more new facts.  I never knew that Cotton Mather (yes, *that* Cotton Mather) advocated for an early form of vaccination, a fair number of the Africans brought to the US were Muslims,  slave owners wavered between teaching Christianity to their slaves and forbidding it, that Thomas Jefferson wrote a favorable letter to a Seneca (a Native American tribe) religious leader, a Muslim slave might be the origin of the black colored kachina in Zuni folklore, Hindu leaders were giving speeches in the US in the 1800s, etc.

I’m only half way through the book.  🙂

This book does a lovely job in dismissing the delusion of some American Christians that the US was only established by their version of Christianity and is only for them and them alone.  It does treat religion fairly, showing its benefits and does not hold back at all at showing its warts.  Everyone should read this book if they want to know the deliciously complicated religious history of America.  It is more than worth the price of admission.

From the Kitchen and the Bar – beer, cake, bourbon and rye

blue cakeThis week we tried a few new beers, a shockingly blue cake and my husband got me a bottle of rye.

The beers were from Shock Top, a craft type company owned by the giant Anheuser Busch. They were in a sampler pack of various flavored takes on their unfiltered wheat ale.

Twisted Pretzel – Weirdly enough, this beer does taste like a pretzel.   There is a very distinct toasted grain taste/smell plus a bit of salinity to bring it to fruition.

Shockolate Wheat – again based on the wheat beer, this is a nicely chocolate and vanilla beer.

Honey Bourbon Wheat – this one I wasn’t too keen on. I can taste more wood than bourbon. It does have a hefty vanilla hit.

Belgian White – This is a pretty standard Belgian wheat, with lots of coriander and orange peel.

The cake was a result of my husband going to get groceries and deciding he needed a cake. This Duncan Hines cake is the blue of a swimming pool. It’s very good, moist with lots of vanilla. It’s basically the same idea as a red velvet cake, which is built on a mild chocolate batter rather than vanilla, and a whole lot of food coloring.  It also has the same… ah…. interesting gastrointestinal effects as anything with lots of food coloring will have. 🙂   We iced it with cream cheese frosting. I’m tempted to try to make some crazy looking tie-dyed cake for this summer, using this blue, the red velvet and the classic white. My luck, I’ll probably end up with a purple cake, which would actually be pretty cool.

ryeThe rye my husband got me is J.P. Wiser’s Rye (all the liquor websites have age gates). It’s a blended Canadian rye whiskey. We do tend to like Canadian blends, like Crown Royal (though my husband loves the little bags it comes in too).   We like blends (including wines) because the product comes out as intended not so much dependent on the vagaries of nature. I also like classic American bourbons, like Wild Turkey (relatively expensive) and Old Crow, cheap but good and which is what I see a classic film noir private eye drinking (and supposedly Hunter S. Thompson liked it too).   Since we happen to have both on hand, I compared them.   The rye is light, floral with a hint of spice, and fairly dry.   I didn’t get the dried fruit that the website says one can detect in the tasting, though I could see maybe some dried figs.  It is has a nice smoothness without forgetting you are drinking a spirit. The bourbon, Wild Turkey 101, unsurprisingly, is sweeter with more vanilla/oak. It is quite strong in proof but oh it is dangerously smooth.  These were drunk neat, with a chilled piece of soapstone in the glass (it is a dodecahedron, aka a twenty-sided die sans numbers, because we are gamers. It came from thinkgeek.com. Wish they would have had the numbers carved on them…)

Eat and drink well!

From the Kitchen and From the Bar – experimenting with roots, a pie and a bottle of mead

boniatoThe local large grocery store has a small section of unusual fruits and vegetables, at least unusual to me, she who grew up in very white, very Protestant rural Pennsylvania and who hadn’t a chance to talk to someone who had skin any darker than her pale pink until she went to college. I decided to start an adventure where I try out the starchy tubers and roots that the rest of the world eats.

The first up is what the store called a “batata” (it seems boniato is a more common term), a purple skinned white fleshed type of sweet potato. It’s the first on the list here. We first found out that you don’t leave them in the usual plastic produce bag for any longer than it takes to get them home. They do sweat and I suspect will rot very quickly.

We baked our singular batata at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour and 15 minutes. The skin became stiff but you could flex it to tell when the flesh had become soft. The flesh is about as white as a classic white potato and was about the same texture, much less wet than a standard orange/yellow sweet potato that one sees in the US for the winter holidays. It was still very sweet, and my husband compared it to the sweetness of beets or sweet corn. He had butter and salt on his; I found a recipe for putting butter, a squirt of lime juice, ground cumin and salt on the batata and did so. I found that very good, the lime giving a bit of brightness to cut the starchy sweetness.

blueberryMy husband also asked me to make a blueberry pie this weekend. I made the usual pie crust I use, and poured in a can of blueberry pie filling. I also added about a cup and a half of frozen wild blueberries from Maine mixed with a tablespoon of Instant Clear Jel from King Arthur Flour Company (leftover from my venture into gluten-free baking). It made the filling just perfect, with just a small amount of flow out of the crust. The blueberries were great, and the rest will find their way into buckwheat blueberry pancakes later this week. The pie was baked at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for about 40 minutes. I did try to make a lattice pie and it’s pretty much that, though I needed to pay a bit more attention  🙂

Finally, I decided to get something new at the wine and liquor store. I found a bubbly mead made from macadamia nut tree honey and had to get it since we make our own mead and I like bubblies. The meadery is Heidrun Meadery in California.

I will have to say that I was disappointed in this mead. It tasted like a demi-sec champagne, and it is made with the same method as champagne. There was honey in the nose, but the taste was champagne, which isn’t a bad thing but not what was expected. As usual, we prefer our own still, sweet mead.

In finding this meadery, I found out something that I didn’t known about Norse mythology. Somehow I managed to miss that all of the mead for Valhalla was from the teats of a magical goat named Heidrun. Always cool stuff to still learn.  🙂

Eat and drink well!

(for any new readers, if you wish to avoid posts on religion, politics, and most things controversial, don’t read those posts under the category “Not So Polite Dinner Conversation”.)