Tuesday, November 11, 2008

In Response to a Rumor That the Oldest Whorehouse in Wheeling, West Virginia Has Been Condemned

by James Wright

I will grieve alone,
As I strolled alone, years ago, down along
The Ohio shore.
I hid in the hobo jungle weeds
Upstream from the sewer main,
Pondering, gazing.

I saw, down river,
At Twenty-third and Water Streets
By the vinegar works,
The doors open in early evening.
Swinging their purses, the women
Poured down the long street to the river
And into the river.

I do not know how it was
They could drown every evening.
What time near dawn did they climb up the other shore,
Drying their wings?

For the river at Wheeling, West Virginia,
Has only two shores:
The one in hell, the other
In Bridgeport, Ohio.

And nobody would commit suicide, only
To find beyond death
Bridgeport, Ohio.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Sandwich Spread

Off to King's Gate today, so no posts over the weekend. Just thought I'd mention a quick follow-up to yesterday's recipe.

This barely qualifies as a recipe at all, but it's tasty and might be useful, so who knows? give it a whirl.

Deviled Sandwich Spread

2 T mayonnaise
2 T spicy brown mustard
1/4 t Worcestershire sauce

Mix all ingredients together; spread on your bread. Ideal for roast beef. It's too thin to support chunkier additions like horseradish or relish, but a pinch of paprika wouldn't hurt.

Enough for 2 sandwiches

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Secret Ingredient

I'm going to share with you one of the special ingredients I've seen in most professional kitchens... and a new application for it that I came up with to save time.

You know all those fancy marinades you can buy at the store? Forget them. The marinade of choice in most kitchens I've worked in as the cheapest, orangest, nastiest-looking Italian dressing. Wishbone? Cheaper. Think house brand. It's got all the oil and vinegar you need for a good dressing, the corn syrup to caramelize the meat, and enough spice to make it worthwhile. It works brilliantly.

I rarely have time to marinate chicken breasts, though. Generally, I'm faced with a couple of rock-hard chicken breasts in the freezer and an hour top feed the family. So instead of marinating, I braise. That way I get flavor into those bland chicken breasts while defrosting.

Here's my technique - note that you can use these breasts for just about anything, from salad toppers to pasta ingredients. The sandwiches are just one approach. Follow your muse.

Braised Chicken Breast Sandwiches

4 frozen chicken breasts
1/2 cup cheap Italian dressing
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
4 kaiser rolls
1 tomato, sliced
1 head red leaf lettuce
1/4 cup spicy brown mustard
1/2 T Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup Mayonnaise

In a large sautee pan, combine chicken stock and dressing. Add bay leaf and thyme. Bring to a boil. Add frozen chicken breasts, and return liquid to a simmer. The liquid should come up to halfway up the sides of the breasts - if not, add broth or water. Cover and let simmer for 15 minutes, turning once. Transfer breasts to a plate; the liquid can be refrigerated and used again if desired. Grill or sear the breasts over medium high heat 3-minutes until browned on each side.

In a small bowl, combine Worcestershire sauce and mustard. Toast the kaiser rolls. Build your sandwiches as follows: bottom bun, mayonnaise, breast, tomato, lettuce, mustard sauce. Serve hot and at once.

Serves 4


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Chili Primitivo - BETA, Danger!

I was looking for a "primitive" chili recipe to post after my "presidential chili" recipe post. From my understanding, this ought to be a marinated beef recipe - no beans, no tomatoes. Oddly enough, though, that's not the recipe I found. My touchstone for historical cooking, Around the American Table, has the earliest recipe for chili posted int the 1800's...with beans. Beans have apparently always been a part of the equation. Go figure.

But I still wanted a meat-only version. And I found it. Hoo boy, did I find it.

The source is an odd, but strangely reliable, one - Leaves from the Inn of the Last Home. This oddity is a collection of herbalism, astrology, back history, and other pieces of color for Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's epic fantasy series for D&D, Dragonlance. The recipes for "Krynn" have always been of a far better quality than I have the right to expect, and I'll be posting more of them in the future.

This chili recipe, however, is called "fireball chili". And a few things about it make no sense to me. I intend to make it myself next week to test it out, but I'm eating it alone... and I have yet to see if I can make it work. So I'm letting you, gentle reader, review the recipe and see if you can make it work before then. I'll post my tasting notes after I'm done.

What I suspect this recipe actually is is a beef version of carnitas - a New Mexican shredded pork recipe. I worry that lean beef won't produce the liquid that the recipe demands. If I'm right, I'll try it with pork... if I'm sufficiently brave.

You have been warned...

Chili Primitivo

1 pound beef stew meat
2 tablespoons flour
2 T rendered beef fat or bacon grease (canola oil might be an adequate substitute)
1 t Worcestershire sauce
2 T paprika
1 bottle(!) Tabasco (I'm presuming this is a small bottle, but that's the only measure given in the recipe...)
1/2 t Chinese hot oil
2 t crushed red pepper

Mix all spices thoroughly.(Wash your hands immediately thereafter...) Marinate beef for 24 hours in spices; you may marinate as long as 48 if needed. Place beef in pot or dutch oven over low head and slow-cook for 2 hours, stirring occasionally to keep meat from sticking.

After 2 hours, heat bacon grease over medium heat in a small pan. Add flour and stir constantly until a light toast color develops and the roux smells of toasted bread, 5-7 minutes. Skim 1 cup of liquid from the beef (If, as I suspect, you don't have the liquid, try using chicken broth or water). Add liquid to roux; scrape the pan and whisk frequently until thickened and any "flour" flavor has dissipated (keep beer on hand if you're using liquid rendered from the pot as you taste!). Add sauce to beef and stir thoroughly, shredding the beef in the process. Serve with lime wedges, sour cream, tortillas, and anything else you can think of to kill the pain.

Serves 2-4 masochists.

Love Poem for an Enemy

by Richard Katrovas

I, as sinned against as sinning,
take small pleasure from the winning
of our decades-long guerrilla war.
For from my job I've wanted more
than victory over one who'd tried
to punish me before he died,
and now, neither of us dead,
we haunt these halls in constant dread
of drifting past the other's life
while long-term memory is rife
with slights that sting like paper cuts.
We've occupied our separate ruts
yet simmered in a single rage.
We've grown absurd in middle age
together, and should seek wisdom now
together, by ending this row.
I therefore decommission you
as constant flagship of my rue.
Below the threshold of my hate
you now my good regard may rate.
For I have let my anger pass.
But, while you're down there, kiss my ass.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Yes. We DID!!!

And now, with my loving wife's permission, I'm going to get schnookered. Read more...

Election Day, November, 1884

by Walt Whitman

If I should need to name, O Western World, your powerfulest scene and show,

'Twould not be you, Niagara - nor you, ye limitless prairies - nor your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado,

Nor you, Yosemite - nor Yellowstone, with all its spasmic geyserloops ascending to the skies, appearing and disappearing,

Nor Oregon's white cones - nor Huron's belt of mighty lakes - nor Mississippi's stream:

This seething hemisphere's humanity, as now, I'd name - the still small voice vibrating -America's choosing day,

(The heart of it not in the chosen - the act itself the main, the quadrennial choosing,)

The stretch of North and South arous'd - sea-board and inland - Texas to Maine - the Prairie States - Vermont, Virginia, California,

The final ballot-shower from East to West - the paradox and conflict,

The countless snow-flakes falling - (a swordless conflict,

Yet more than all Rome's wars of old, or modern Napoleon's): the peaceful choice of all,

Or good or ill humanity - welcoming the darker odds, the dross:

- Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to purify - while the heart pants, life glows:

These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships,

Swell'd Washington's, Jefferson's, Lincoln's sails.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Obama's The Better Cook

So I've got several reasons that I'm voting for Obama this year. Several of them, interestingly enough, have something to do with food. Here's an example from the Plain Dealer that sort of seals the deal for me: what both men like to cook.

You can tell a lot about a man by what he chooses to do in the kitchen.

McCain, it seems, likes to deep fry turkeys in peanut oil. This is, to be modest, and incredibly dangerous and risky prospect. You cannot find a deep-turkey fryer with a UL seal of approval... because blowtorches welded to aluminum cans just aren't safe. Sure, you can get some tasty results. But is a ham-handed approach to the problem. You can roast that bird and get excellent results, if you pay attention to details and don't race off for the quick and easy answer.

Risky, quick, ill-thought out tactics, without a serious strategy. Sounds sort of like the McCain campaign, doesn't it?

Now, Obama likes to make chili. That's a manly sort of cooking, in its own way - most guys claim to know how to make chili. But you've got so many options when you make the stuff. Do you go hard-core classic, with nothing but diced steak and chilis? Beans or no beans? How spicy? Slow cook or sautee? To be a serious chili cook, you have to form a plan, listen to your audience, pursue your plan with conviction, and follow through no matter what. These are all hallmarks of the Obama campaign, in my opinion, and they're also the hallmarks of a really good cook.

Here's the chili recipe I use at home. It's based on two fundamental needs for the house: No spice (my wife likes it mild, as does my four-year-old daughter); and on the table in less than an hour. See if you like it... and if you don't, well, then, I Hope you Change it.

Baja-Style Chili

1 pound lean ground beef (90/10)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 large can diced tomatoes
3 T chili seasoning
1 lime
1 cup grated mild cheddar
Sour cream

In a large saute pan, brown the ground beef. Transfer the beef to a colander with a slotted spoon; reserve 1 T of beef fat. Sautee the diced onion until transparent. Return the beef to the pan; add the full, undrained can of tomatoes and chili spice to the pan and simmer for 10 minutes. Squeeze the juice of half of the lime into the chili; add cheddar and simmer 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot and at once, garnishing with lime wedges, grated cheddar, and sour cream.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Ex-Basketball Player

by John Updike

Pearl Avenue runs past the high-school lot,
Bends with the trolley tracks, and stops, cut off
Before it has a chance to go two blocks,
At Colonel McComsky Plaza. Berth’s Garage
Is on the corner facing west, and there,
Most days, you'll find Flick Webb, who helps Berth out.

Flick stands tall among the idiot pumps—
Five on a side, the old bubble-head style,
Their rubber elbows hanging loose and low.
One’s nostrils are two S’s, and his eyes
An E and O. And one is squat, without
A head at all—more of a football type.

Once Flick played for the high-school team, the Wizards.
He was good: in fact, the best. In ’46
He bucketed three hundred ninety points,
A county record still. The ball loved Flick.
I saw him rack up thirty-eight or forty
In one home game. His hands were like wild birds.

He never learned a trade, he just sells gas,
Checks oil, and changes flats. Once in a while,
As a gag, he dribbles an inner tube,
But most of us remember anyway.
His hands are fine and nervous on the lug wrench.
It makes no difference to the lug wrench, though.

Off work, he hangs around Mae’s Luncheonette.
Grease-gray and kind of coiled, he plays pinball,
Smokes those thin cigars, nurses lemon phosphates.
Flick seldom says a word to Mae, just nods
Beyond her face toward bright applauding tiers
Of Necco Wafers, Nibs, and Juju Beads.