I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, 'wouldn't it be much worse if life *were* fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them?' So now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe. – M. Cole
Today’s inspiration question is “What are 5 things you’re grateful for today?”
1. My soulmate who supports me and feeds me excellent beef stew. 2. My dark legion of far too many cats. 3. A good bottle of wine. Last night, we had Annick Bachelet 2019 Les Charmes (Morgon) which is amazing! I think it’s the first French wine that I’ve had that didn’t taste weak and insipid. And the PA liquor stores had it at $15 a bottle. 4. A warm house to putter around in during an ice storm. I mostly finished putting in a new floor of vinyl planking in a small bathroom today. It ain’t as easy as is often shown. Of course, this is our old house where little is square. 5. Time to natter on my blog.
Time for a food and drink post. (if you are new, be aware that if you follow me, you’ll get more than food and drink. You’ll also get my unvarnished thoughts about politics and religion).
This week we corned a beef. My spouse and I were craving a Rueben sandwich and since we hadn’t done any foodie things for awhile, we decided that we could make our own corned beef. The local grocery store had buy 1 get one free for London Broils (a cut of top round) so I got two of them and pickled the one. There are a bevy of recipes on the internet (here’s one for example), but as long as you have salt, bay leaves, coriander seeds, allspice berry, etc you can make this. I like to add star anise for a little mysterious “I can’t quite identify that flavor”. One thing that isn’t completely necessary is the nitrate that will make the meat the classic dark pink that you see in a deli. I use Morton’s TenderQuick for my curing salt since it’s the easiest to find for me.
Generally, corned beef is made with beef brisket, which is quite a bit fattier than top round. Our corned beef is pretty dry, but it tastes great. With the sauerkraut, swiss cheese and thousand island dressing aka ketchup, mayo, sweet pickle relish mixed (my husband adds a little sriracha and garlic too), it works out. This is on jewish rye bread, thinly sliced with the classic caraway seeds. We assemble the sandwiches and cook them on the small grill that makes our stove perfect for us. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_PfAhAAp6k
I also decided to try a couple of vegetables I hadn’t had before. I got a spiralizer and now am making long ribbon of various veg. One was a purple sweet potato, which when spiralized and then cooked, looked rather like a plate of Klingon gagh It tasted great though.
Yucca fries also made it onto my plate. I thought potatoes didn’t have much flavor but yucca seems to have no flavor at all. They do make for a crispy fry though.
Last but not least, I finally got to taste some durian. Durian is a strange tropical fruit and when it’s presented on the various food shows here, people get all dramatic about it, declaring you either love it or hate it. I got some freeze dried and, in true freeze dried fashion, it has the texture of Styrofoam. The flavor, to me, is garlic tropical fruit. I love garlic so it’s fine but I could take it or leave it. I’m kinda disappointed it isn’t more drastic. It’s rather like when I finally got to taste truffles. They taste like garlicky mushrooms. A nice thing but definitely not worth crazy amounts of money.
As for drink, I finally got my hands on a bottle of Apothic Sparkling Red. I have a weakness for bubbly wines, especially red ones. I’ve had Rosa Regale, which is sweeter than the Apothic. The color of the Apothic is a lovely true ruby red. I’ll definitely be picking up more of this.
Dinner tonight will be bread and triple crème brie. Our grocery store had a buy one get one free for this too 😊
Here’s a bit of art I was working on today, a fantasy waterfall.
Sorry for the long hiatus. I am dealing with a job I don’t like, and working on my art, which I do like.
I’m now an officially paid artist! It’s very weird feeling for someone who hated art teachers in elementary, high school and college because the ones I had didn’t teach art, they just had class pets who could do art and ignored the rest of us. There is, I think, the idea of some innate talent but you have to be taught the rest. In a week, I’m doing another show. This is the cheese plate that sold (the white is from the reflection from the resin on it)
Lately, we’ve been trying a few new things to cook and drink. I finally cooked the last bit of game meat that I bought from D’Artangnan, a duck. It was very good, but they are indeed greasy. I think ours could have used more pricking of the skin to release more of the sub-q fat and a little longer in the oven. We had it with sweet potatoes and carrots that roasted in the fat. I just recently made a quick hash of that in a skillet to crisp it up some. Here is the duck. They are quite a bit different in physiology than a chicken.
We also had some shimmery wine. We got this at the local ren faire, the PA Renaissance Faire at Mt. Hope Winery. They mixed whatever makes liquids like Viniq shimmer (finely ground mica?) with pink Catawba wine and made fairy wine. You can’t quite see how nice it looks in a still photo. Here’s a video of Viniq.
This weekend we’re making yet one more roast chicken when my folks visit. It’s kind of an early xmas, late thanksgiving thing. I’m going to be a sneaky daughter and given them a bible as a present, one not the hard-to-read KJV, and with large print and the apocrypha. I wonder if my dad, who bet me all those years ago I couldn’t read it the bible, will do it himself since he has found he likes reading. He used to always give me such a hassle when I was a young bookworm. Go play outside! Go play with your brother!
Now he knows what its’ like because I can’t resist teasing him.
We also adopted two friendly feral cats. A huge black one had been hanging about and I got him to like me. There was also a smaller gray and white one who seemed to get along with him well. So we brought both in. The black cat is called Tez, short for Tezcatlipoca, and the other is Aggie, short for Agamemnon, also called Roomba because he loves to roll around on the floor and collect any crumbs. We have decided to always call our cats aggressive names because those ones all turn out sweet, and the one we named Muffin is the hellion. She is about 15 now and has screeched at and cowed the the new boys (well, they are neutered).
A month or two ago, D’Artagnan (the company that sells fancy meats here in the US) had a really good flash sale and I got a selection of game meats: a duck, venison shanks and a wild boar roast. We had the wild boar first (actually a hybrid of European wild boar and feral pig that are running amuck in the south of the US). It was good, though dry and we did lard it with extra pig fat. The meat is very lean and all the darker color that you see in some pork cuts from regular pork. I wasn’t that impressed, but I will say that I cook a tasty pork shoulder and am somewhat spoiled about what good pork is.
This weekend we cooked the venison shanks. They were about 4 inches thick, and were New Zealand venison. My husband found a recipe for a very garlic heavy braise, and since I’ve been wanting to cook something with a *lot* of garlic (readers will know I consider it a vegetable), we went for it.
The wine used was a Simply Naked pinot grigio and of course the 4 bulbs of garlic. We have rosemary and thyme in our garden. It’s so shady, I’m glad that anything edible grows there. I also have quite a few really poisonous things, like monkshood, jimsonweed, foxglove, etc.
The meat was pretty indistinguishable to me from good beef. We cooked it until the cartilage melted, making the meat succulent. Not much fat on these, so the sauce isn’t as greasy as a beef based sauce would be. They do come with the bone in, so I scooped out the marrow. It was a little strong flavored for me, though I can see how some people would love that. We just had the rest of the pinot grigio with it and it went surprisingly well with such a dark meat. It’s nice and light. We also got a bottle of their unoaked chardonnay, and it was good too, though a little richer than we wanted for the recipe.
We also got a few new wines to try. We’ve been looking at the less than $10 that the PA Fine Wines and Good Spirits stores have. If you are of an age in PA, you’ll know these stores to be “state stores”. One of the wines was Regio Cantina Donpa Aglianico del Vulture 2013. We really got it because it had this as a description ““This initially shows funky aromas of stalky underbrush, wet soil and a whiff of damp fur that slowly blow off to reveal toast, leather and dried blackberry jam. The dense full-bodied palate evokes prune, chocolate and a hint of tobacco alongside firm tannins.” Alas, it wasn’t nearly so odd, and I was a bit disappointed. It is a good dark red wine though.
That’s it. Eat and drink well! If you have a good roast duck recipe, let me know for my next experiment.
This weekend we made a chicken vindaloo. This was from the Saveur magazine recipe and it just wasn’t quite what I had grown used to in most indian restaurants. What the recipe produced was a chicken and potato curry stew but not much of the vinegar tang that I like in vindaloo. So I ended up taking a can of tomato sauce (I didn’t have tomato paste) and cooking it down with a bit of balsamic vinegar to get the flavor profile I wanted. Then it came pretty close to what I was wanting. We had this with jasmine rice.
We’ve also been trying some new alcohols lately. With our Indian meal, we tried a new cream liqueur called Somrus. This stuff is delicious! It has a wonderful mix of cardamom, rose, and other exotics. It’s built on a rum base. We made a lassi and poured some in. My spouse just poured some over a brownie, which he has found very good.
We also tried a new wine, Macaw Tannat from Brazil. This is a nice simple red wine. The grape is supposedly notoriously tannic but this wasn’t bad at all. It’s nothing complex or expensive but a decent table wine.
We also tried a mixed six pack of beers from a local microbrewery, Howling Henry’s. Pretty good beers, and one really odd but good one, Basil Onion Pale Ale. This is one of the few beers I’ve had that I’d consider savory, the others being Shock Top’s Twisted Pretzel beer (alas, discontinued) and Dogfish Brewing’s Ta Henket, the Egyptian beer. This would be great in a beer bread.
Lastly, I’ve been stressed out about work and have been hiding by watching a lot of TV. We watched the first of the Mythica movies which was a lot of fun. This is what D&D movies should be. All the way around a perfectly decent sword and sorcery movie with amazingly decent CGI. This was partly funded by a Kickstarter request. Unfortunately, it has Kevin Sorbo in it, who has become a Christian twit in his “God is not dead” type movies, but he’s not bad looking. In the first, he’s only on screen for about 10 minutes.
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.
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.
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”.
Haven’t had much of an urge to write a blog post lately. Work has become a real pain since I have a new boss who doesn’t know anything about the job and who hates using computers. Of course, that’s all we use and trying to get new boss to do anything is damn near impossible.
But if that’s the worst of my problems, I’m not doing bad.
We watched the movie Logan last night, the last of the trilogy about Wolverine. I’ve been a fan of the X-Men for a long time, first picking up the comic book around the time of the Phoenix saga. I always loved the interplay between Logan and Kurt aka Nightcrawler. The movie was very good, extremely violent (you see exactly what does happen when someone gets three adamantium claws through their head) and I have to say that I just loved Laura, having spent a decent part of my growing up wanting to be Wolverine.
This weekend we also got a pair of new appliances (General Electric) for the kitchen, in preparation for the Great Kitchen Remodel of 2017. We have an old house, circa early 20th c, and the kitchen is simply worn out. The month of December will be the gutting (yay, plaster and lath) and rebuilding of the kitchen. The new fridge is a split door up top and the freezer on the bottom. My tall spouse very much likes that set up. The stove is gas, and has a griddle in the center and I finally got a broiler again. They are stainless steel since our kitchen is very dark and we need some light bouncing around.
Finally got a chance to try Apothic’s Inferno, a red blend that’s been aged in bourbon casks. It has a very nice mellowness from the oak. They are very manipulated wines and I like them a lot. I saw out on their website that they now have a bubbly. I’ll have to try that soon.
That’s about it. I’m busy looking for a new job and just waiting until the chaos of construction is unleashed.
I haven’t had a food and drink post for awhile. A handful of weeks ago we decided to see if we could grill whole Cornish hens on our small barreled shaped grill. We didn’t want to butterfly them which would be simpler, but to have a little whole chicken for each of us.
Many years ago, I was a member of a medieval recreation group called the Society of Creative Anachronism. I was friends with some folks who were part of a somewhat parallel group called the Tuchux, a group that recreated fantasy barbarians, and got their name from the rather atrocious Gor books by John Norman (very bad fantasy of a fellow who ends up on a alien planet where his fantasies of submissive women come true). They are quite a bit more egalitarian than the Gor nonsense and were some coolest people I ever met in my sojourn in the SCA (it’s been about a decade since I’ve had any contact with the SCA). At one of their Yule Feasts that I was kindly invited to, we each got a small loaf of fresh bread and a roasted Cornish hen and it was the best feast I think ever had. I wanted to recreate that.
We managed to do so by putting a pile of charcoal on both side of the grill aka indirect grilling and putting the chooks between them for about 45 minutes and then moving them over the dying coals to crisp up the skin for about 15 minutes at the end. I do recommend getting the biggest charcoal chimney as you can get because then you never have to worry about having lighter fluid or having that nasty taste on their food. We use brown craft paper to light ours since some inks smoke like crazy.
The samoa in the title is the Girl Scout cookie. My spouse *loves* them. They are basically a shortbread cookie covered in caramel, toasted coconut and chocolate. They still are pretty good, though many of the cookies seem to less than what I remember. Of course it could simply be the glow of nostalgia. I, for the record, was a Brownie for about 6 weeks. I was there long enough to make a “sit-a-pon” and then was bored with the antics of little girls. Such is the burden of reading way way early and just not caring who had what doll, etc.
Spouse found a recipe for a “samoa pie”, and asked nicely for one. The recipe came from Averie Cooks, and is a very nice recipe indeed. It is quite the sugar bomb. I think it is better than the cookies. It is also very close to the circa 80’s Seven Layer Cookies, but I find it much easier to make since I almost always have the ingredients on hand. I got randomly lucky and the chocolate on top evidently hit the tempering temperature and it ended up shiny. I do recommend baking this on a sheet pan because the sweetened condensed milk got very very close to boiling out of the pie pan. This is very very good with a cup of dark roast coffee with a bit of cream. I’m really enjoying the Gevalia Majestic Roast lately.
As for the wine, we finally got a bottle of Apothic Crush. This is one of their limited editions, and I think for Valentine’s Day. It’s very much like their Red and Dark, velvety and rich, but a bit lighter than both. They are now coming out with a Rose for the spring/summer.
That’s it. Eat and drink well.
Postscript: if you are a new visitor, be warned that the bulk of my posts are my opinions of politics (pragmatic liberal) and religion (hard atheist). If you only want to see the food and drink posts, just pay attention to the titles. They’ll always have “from the kitchen” or “from the bar” on them. Occasionally, you’ll see a “from the back room” which will detail our adventures in home brewing. Visit The Boss’s Office to find out about your host.