C I V I L    M A R R I A G E    I S    A    C I V I L    R I G H T.

A N D N O W I T ' S T H E L A W O F T H E L A N D.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Pork Boys Do Chicken and Dumplings

Well, autumn is really settling in here, boys, and the temp is going on down to 28 degrees tonight - first time below freezing since away last February, I think.  Of course it will be back up to 60 in a couple of days, so we are not concerned, except for our pot plants, the most tender of which we have already hustled inside.  (N. B.--This has nothing to do with any kind of drugs, which we both abhor.  "Pot plants" is merely a longtime Southernism for what I suppose the rest of y'all call your pott-ed plants.  Whatever.)

But where to put them all?  Not only has M.P. accumulated more this year than ever before, but he also fed them plant food and Epsom salts (?--don't ask me) through the summer.  So we have suddenly had to find a place indoors for two dozen giant plants.  Oh dear, what to do, what to do?  Aha.  We decided to turn the living/dining room into a winter garden, and just look what a lovely conservatory it makes!

The picture does not fully convey the mammoth size of these green darlings.
Front and center:  our thai pepper bush, loaded with spicy red fruit. 

The big spiny guy is Mr. Pineapple, whose sawtooth leaves make getting around the table a sticky business.  No, he's never made a pineapple, but we keep hoping.  (Can plants be gay?)

A splendid solution, don't you think?  All our happy little plants together in one room.  So convenient for care and feeding.  But what's that, you ask?  Where are we going to have our Sunday dinners?  Ah well, that is a difficulty that M. le Chef will have to puzzle out.  I'm sure he'll think of something.  Me, I'm just the dishwasher, and not paid to worry about such details.

But last weekend we did have a couple of lovely belly-warming dinners.  On Saturday, M.P. made a luxuriously smooth and creamy cheese soup from Velveeta, sour cream, minced boiled potatoes, sauteed onions and bell peppers, and Ro-Tel.  Yummmm. 

Also some sausage balls made from ground sausage, obviously, and Bisquick and a little shredded cheese (white and yellow cheddar).  And homemade croutons made from toasted bread.  All of which was just wonderful with the hot cheese soup on a cold night.

On Sunday, M.P. finally got to try out his new cast-iron dutch oven - he wanted a bigger pot than any he already has, so I bought him this 7-quart job as an early Xmas present. It is five inches deep inside, very nearly a foot across at the top, and with the lid on weighs a full 15 pounds.  Empty.  Now fellas, this is a pot that will separate the men from the boys in the kitchen.  I tell you what.

M.P. was tickled with his new pot, and promptly made seven quarts of the most delicious chicken and dumplings you ever saw.  I suppose there are few things dearer to a Southerner's heart than homemade chicken and dumplings, unless it's fried chicken.  M.P. spent most of the day and night working on this delectable dish:  first he marinated the chicken in wine and herbs, then boiled it in chicken broth, and finally boned it when it got cool.  Then he put the chicken back into the broth and heated to boiling again.

For the dumplings, he made his regular buttermilk biscuit dough, rolled it out flat, sliced it into strips with a pizza cutter, and dropped them one by one into the boiling chicken broth.  They puffed up very nicely, as you can see here.

It's a pity the picture can't convey the tempting aroma and luscious taste of this dish - all I can say is, it sure is mighty good eatin' on a cold night, boy howdy!  Sure do wish I could hand each one of you fellas a bowlful.  I do believe you would like it, no matter who you are or where you come from.

As if that were not enough, M.P. also took a notion to set us up a potato bar with foil-wrapped, oven-baked potatoes (he deeply scorns my lazy, unwrapped microwave method, as you might guess), and all the usual fixin's.  For my overseas truckbuddies, that means butter, sour cream & chives, shredded cheese (Swiss and cheddar), and crumbled oven-baked bacon.  And I can testify that a fully loaded baked potato is another very fine thing to eat on a cold night, yessir it is.

And to round things off, for our green vegetable M.P. whipped up a pot of Petits Pois à la Tim - who very kindly some time back gave us the true, the authentic, the one and only genuine English recipe for mushy peas, which we had long heard of as a delicacy in those parts, but had no idea how to fix.  But thanks to Tim, we now know to add butter, cream, salt, and pepper to a can of English peas, and then mash them real gentle-like while softly humming Greenpeas "Greensleeves."  Utterly simple and utterly marvelous, and that is no joke.  Green and creamy and completely satisfying in every respect. Thanks again, Tim.  By the way - they go just as delightfully with chicken as they do with fish, and you can take my word for it, boys.

It all came together very nicely, I must say, when we filled our plates.  Our table theme this week, by the way, was simply--gold.  Rhymes with cold.

Of course, we both had to go back for seconds and thirds on the C&D, which we were slurping down just as fast as we could go.  By the time we finally ate all we could hold, there was just no room or desire for dessert.

Well, let's see, I reckon that's all I have in my picture box to show you fellas - oh wait just a minute, I almost forgot to show you this here little beauty, pictured last Thursday by the kitchen door:

Ain't she purty?  M.P. buys me a hibiscus bush every spring - it's one of my favorite flowers, which amid the dry, withering sizzle of a Texas summer always reminds me of the ocean breezes of tropical Florida, where hibiscuses (hibisci?) grow in profusion. I thought this would surely be the last bloom of the year, but the very next day, a second one opened after this bloom had fallen off. Such exquisitely beautiful things.

And that's all there is for now, boys.  Y'all take care and stay warm.

Toujours bon appetit!

Monday, October 28, 2019

Spooky Sun

From NASA:
Active regions on the sun combined to look something like a jack-o-lantern’s face on Oct. 8, 2014. The image was captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, which watches the sun at all times from its orbit in space.

The active regions in this image appear brighter because those are areas that emit more light and energy. They are markers of an intense and complex set of magnetic fields hovering in the sun’s atmosphere, the corona. This image blends together two sets of extreme ultraviolet wavelengths at 171 and 193 Ångströms, typically colorized in gold and yellow, to create a particularly Halloween-like appearance.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Sunday Drive: Vivaldi, Autumn

A week or so ago, M.P. caught these geese on the wing just at sundown, not far from our house:

Friday, October 25, 2019

Waitin' for the Weekend

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The Pork Boys Do Tilapia Meunière

We are still enjoying the cooler weather down here in Texas, and with it our autumn-leaf plates and goblets, as well as matching mugs that M.P. happened to find at the store the other day.  Perfect.

Saturday night, M.P. decided to make us a simple dinner of patty melts and french fries.  The patty melts are one of his specialties, built from the bottom on a piece of Texas toast, then a well-seasoned beef patty simmered in beef bouillon for extra flavor, topped with a strip of bacon and slices of Swiss and cheddar cheese, and crowned with very thinly sliced tomatoes, and sautéed onions and bell peppers.  And then a little more cheese - Asiago - why not?  Talk about good!  Oh, my.

French fries are another of his specialties, at which he worked hard for years to discover the secret of making them soft, puffy, non-greasy, and delicious.  These we topped with beef gravy and shredded cheese - some of you fellow old-timers may fondly remember this festive combination as disco fries.

The meal was rounded out with fried Italian green beans - now fellas, you really haven't lived until you've tried these, and they are the simplest thing in the world to make.  Open a can of Italian green beans, the big flat ones.  Drain.  Dump in a greased or buttered skillet, medium-hot.  Sauté for five minutes or so, until they start to blister.  No need to brown them.  Remove from heat and serve with a dollop of pepper mayo, one of the most delightful things in the world - it's simply mayonnaise with a goodly helping of black pepper stirred in.  Marvelous.

By the way, some time ago we discovered the superiority of coarse-ground black pepper over the regular pulverized variety.  The coarse-ground tastes just the same, but looks even more appetizing on whatever you're eating.  And none of those little unexpected hard crunches that stick in your dental work, such as you get with hand-ground pepper.  To each his own, of course, but we highly recommend the coarse-ground for all black-pepper affairs.

Sunday was mainly a siesta day for both of us, but when M.P. finally got around to fixing supper, he did a fine job of it.  The main dish was one of our favorite things:  tilapia meunière.  And one of the easiest things in the whole world to make:  flour the fish, lay them in melted butter, and sautée a few minutes.  Take the fish out, add a splash of lemon juice to the remaining butter and heat a couple of minutes.  Pour it over the fish and serve right away.  Nothing to it, but oh soooo good!

Of course, we always think of dear Julia when we have meunière, and the delectable first meal she had on French soil:

Her husband Paul was so wise to encourage her in the culinary direction. I have likewise encouraged M.P.'s gastronomic aspirations over the years with gifts of cookbooks, including four of Julia's, three of Craig Claiborne's, and a volume of Escoffier in English. (I would have given him the Larousse Gastronomique too, if he could read French.) And I congratulate myself that this strategy has certainly worked out very well for my taste buds, in my position of Chief Guinea Pig for all M.P.'s creative efforts in the kitchen.

Of course, as Head Scullion and Potscrubber, I have to clean up after him, too - no small task. But the rewards are well worth the labors.  Julia's assertion - I like to eat! - is therefore a familiar saying at our house:

But back to our menu.  Along with the fish, M.P. tried out a tasty new dish - fried broccoli.  Not something I would ever have thought of - but surprisingly scrumptious!  Just chop it up, dip in egg batter and flour, and fry it like okra, fellas.  You'll love it.

M.P. also whipped cheddar cheese, cream cheese, and beer into a smooth and lovely rarebit to go over the broccoli.  Mmmmm.  I like to call it rabbit, according to the best authorities, but M.P. finds that pronunciation too perplexing to countenance.

And just to round things out on a cool autumn night, M.P. added some potatoes and onions to a velouté sauce to make a tasty pot of creamy goodness, which needed only the addition of some coarse-ground black pepper to be complete.

My contribution to the dinner was to warm up a couple of those 7- Up Biscuits I told you about, and of course to lay the silverware, light the candles, and decant the White Zin.

From the 12 o'clock position:  biscuit, fish, broccoli, rarebit, potatoes & onions.

For dessert, with our coffee we had the last of the Granny in a Blanket - apples baked in pastry - from last week, once again with French vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce:  the delightful coda to another lovely meal, and another quiet weekend.

We are most grateful that in a troubled world we are somehow blessed, Deo gratias, with a happy circle of light and peace and good cheer in our humble home together, and I wish the same for all my truckbuddies.

Toujours bon appétit!

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Sunday Drive: Cielo Azul

As performed by Canadian guitarist Johannes Linstead, from his 2003 album Zabuca:

Friday, October 18, 2019

Waitin' for the Weekend

Thursday, October 17, 2019

The Pork Boys Do Autumn

Your Head Trucker is delighted to report that cool weather has finally arrived in Texas, after a sweltering summer of 100-plus-degree days. For a few hours on Saturday morning, the outside temperature was down to 35 degrees here, though it has since warmed back up and is settling into the fall pattern of 70s during the day and 50s at night. By happy coincidence, M.P. had a Friday and Monday off from work, making a long, leisurely weekend in which he was able to create some luscious meals, and we were finally able to bring out the autumn tableware, including autumn-leaf plates, chargers, goblets, and damask.

On Friday, M.P. whipped up a couple of off-the cuff ideas for a simple dinner. First was a skilletful of frittata, that is to say, a simple quiche-like egg-and-cheese mixture loaded with bits of ham, mushrooms, and black olives. Yummy.  The second item was a new creation, chicken breasts slowly baked in a sweet marinara sauce and covered with three cheeses:  Asiago, Swiss, and Parmesan.  The picture does not do justice to the luscious taste and moist, toothsome texture of this dish.  Mmmmm good!  Triangles of simple garlic toast rounded out the menu nicely.

We decided to name our three-cheese entree Chicken Trevi since we ate it while watching Three Coins in the Fountain (1954), which neither of us had seen before, and which we enjoyed very much.  It's a romantic comedy about three youngish women in Rome, and their three prospective husbands:  a chick flick filled with lots of gorgeous fashions and eye-popping CinemaScope backgrounds shot in Rome, Venice, and the Italian hill country that make you want to jump on a jet and go there right now!  Clifton Webb as a rich, peevish expat author gets off some hilarious wisecracks, too.

Not the greatest movie ever made, but a simple story with a happy ending that pleases the heart, along with the lush, romantic title theme repeated numerous times.  You know, there really is nothing at all wrong with that; no fighting, no killing, no cussing, no orgies, and no psychopathic madmen running wild.  Why should any of those things be necessary in a light, romantic movie, anyway?

But back to cuisine.  On the Saturday, after waking to chilly temperatures, M.P. - who dearly loves all the rich, hearty autumnal foods, up to and including Thanksgiving dinner - at long last got to make his first big cold-weather dish:  a huge pot of beef and barley stew, including cubes of chuck steak, pearl onions, potatoes, carrots, and a splash of Guinness Extra Stout in a rich, dark-brown roux, simmered all day on the back of the stove.  (Mick started cooking at 3 p.m., and we sat down to dinner at 11.)  Oh my, my, my, my, my!  It's some kind of good, I tell you what, boys.  We are still eating on it, and loving it.

For a side dish, M.P. dreamed up a little tomato-and-onion casserole made with cream cheese and topped with buttered breadcrumbs.  He carmelized the onions in a skillet, and when they were ready, he added in the cream cheese and layered the onion mix alternating with blanched, peeled sliced tomatoes and breadcrumbs before baking the whole thing in the oven.  Delish!

Along with that, we had enormous homemade muffins, made from unbleached flour, that came out very light and fluffy, almost cake-like, with a nutty sprinkle of crushed sunflower and sesame seeds on top: a perfect accompaniment to the other two items, and altogether a thoroughly scrumptious, belly-warming meal with which to celebrate the arrival of autumn.  I don't care what the calendar says:  our summer lasts from May to October, and autumn comes to Texas only when summer decides to mosey on out.  Of course when it does, you must change from your white straw to your black felt; but then everybody knows that.

For dessert, M.P. conjured up his famous Granny in a Blanket, a delightful invention from the first days of our acquaintance:  to wit, Granny Smith apples individually wrapped in pastry dough and baked in the oven, with a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar.  The blanket of dough makes them come out meltingly soft and sweet - absolutely luxurious with a helping of vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce, as shown here.  You can take my word it, boys - you ain't never tasted anything so good in all yore life.

I have to report that this wonderful dinner did us in for the rest of the long weekend - we both slept a lot and only got up to get another bowl or two of that marvelous beef stew, which we hadn't had in ages.  We slept very soundly, too, as you might imagine.

At last, on Monday evening, M.P. decided to belly up to the stove once more for a quick little supper, and with his thinking cooking cap on devised a rather different taste treat:  Tortillas de Sobras, accompanied by Baked-Potato Chips.

The tortillas de sobras were simply a way to use up some leftover brisket that someone gave us last week, along with some leftover chicken bits:  these were mixed with some Ro-Tel and sauteed a few minutes, then drained and rolled up in flour tortillas topped with cheddar cheese and broiled a few minutes until just beginning to crisp.  Very tasty.

Now the baked-potato chips are a sensation you fellas really should try at home.  The recipe is simplicity itself:  take a leftover, already-baked potato or two, cut them in thin slices like silver dollars, and lay them on a cookie sheet; M.P. likes to put parchment paper down instead of spraying the pan with oil, but either way is fine.  Shake salt and pepper and a liberal dusting of Parmesan cheese and bacon bits over the potato slices, give them a quick spray or dribble of cooking oil, and bake for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees.  Utterly scrumptious.  I added a dollop of sour cream to mine.

And that, along with our usual White Zin, was our little Welcome-to-Autumn festival.  Hope you fellas had some good weekend eating too.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Today's Quote: Time Outlived


Meghan Daum, a youngster still in her 40s, writing in The Guardian about the difference between her generation of feminists and those who are now in their 20s, makes a point that relates to everyone old enough to be not-young today:
The world has changed so much between my time and theirs that someone just 10 years younger might as well belong to a different geological epoch. To a young person, someone like me is not so much an elder as an extinction. Is it any wonder, then, that older generations’ contributions to the conversation are, at best, a kind of verbal meteor shower, the flickering, nattering remains of planets that haven’t existed for eons?

So this is where I find myself. Amid my exasperation and confusion, I have wandered into a devastating but oddly beautiful revelation: my generation will be the last to have known the world in its analog form. As a result, we’ve grown old before actually getting old. We’ve become dinosaurs before we’re even 50.
And I'm a generation older than she is, so how do you think I feel?

I remember how my grandparents, born well before 1900, were completely unimpressed, and often disgusted, by the reckless speed and dangerous follies of the go-go Sixties.

I feel the same way about the world we live in now - this hellscape, as it is aptly termed - only much more so.

So much so, in fact, that nowadays I more often than not decide, with a sigh of resignation, not to blog about things I deplore - because, well, why waste my meteors on an indifferent planet?

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Sunday Drive: Liszt, The Cat Concerto

Otherwise known as Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, as performed by 16-year-old Yannie Tan in 2017:

Friday, October 11, 2019

Waitin' for the Weekend

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

The Pork Boys Do Chicken M.P.

Last Saturday, M.P. got up early and made two dishes to take to a party for his youngest granddaughter's 2nd birthday:  fried red tomatoes - a delicious repeat of the recipe he debuted the week before - and tandoori meatballs, with two luscious sweet-spicy sauces, one red (made with tomatoes) and one yellow (made with pineapple).  Unfortunately, I don't have a pic of the sauces, but I can testify that they were delicious when I finally got to try them at the end of the evening after M.P. brought the leftovers back, along with a slice of birthday cake.

He also brought home the good news that his daughter is expecting another child next spring - that will make four grandchildren altogether, so he was delighted to hear it, and so was the rest of the family.  But oh my, what an expensive proposition grandchildren are!  Papaw has already started ordering and stockpiling the Christmas gifts, which he does in a big way - to the joy of his posterity.  He also likes to make things - for the first grandchild, a boy, he carpentered together a large, heavy, solid-wood rocking horse, which no doubt will be an heirloom for generations to come.  And so far he has made a full-size quilt for each grandchild - hand-sewn, every stitch - and I expect another quilt will be in the making this time next year.

Late Sunday afternoon, after recuperating from the birthday party - a gathering of the whole clan that was merry for adults and children alike - M.P. started work on our big weekly dinner, which included a scrumptious new dish he created en passant:  Suprêmes de Volaille M.P., or chicken breast stuffed with sausage, Ro-Tel, and asiago cheese, wrapped in bacon, breaded with panko crumbs, and baked slowly for about three hours.  Magnifique!  Very, very tender - the bacon holds the juices in, he says - and so very, very tasty, too!

However, as creativity cannot be rushed - we sat down to eat about 3 a.m. on Monday, if you want to get technical about it - he did ask me to prepare a couple of side dishes.  First, some instant mashed potatoes, which is the simplest thing in the world to make - but the mighty M.P. somehow cannot manage that little feat, though it's really just child's play.

I must say that it has taken me years to get him to eat my instant mashed potatoes - for the longest time, he swore that they were completely inedible, and would suffer only real mashed potatoes to pass his fastidious lips.  But finally by dint of long-suffering persistence I broke him down, and now he gobbles up the instant mashed variety like nobody's business.

What's my secret, you ask?  Tout simplement, cher lecteur:  follow the directions on the box, and measure everything precisely.  That's all there is to it.  You know, it does seem to me that a great many of the sorrows - culinary and otherwise - in this world of woe arise from not following good directions.

The other side dish I prepared was even more simple, and I must admit that in this picture the microwave-steamed Brussels sprouts do look a bit dull.  But you must try them with Thousand Island dressing sometime - wheee, what a delectable combination!

I also heated up some 7-Up biscuits left over from last week that I've kept in the freezer.  We like them so well that we have decided he ought to make a big batch once a month for us to freeze, and then we would always have them handy.

And that was our Sunday dinner, rounded off with onion gravy made from the chicken and bacon drippings he poured into a skillet and added some chicken bouillon and flour to.  All of which, together with some White Zin, brought the week to a happy close.  I hope all my truckbuddies had some such good fare to end their week with, too.

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