Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

Roast, beast

October 16, 2021

The uniform of the day will include pants.

Nice to see devolution picking up the pace.

As literature loses ground to memes and emoji we’re inching back into nomadic life, killing each other with knives and bows.

Well done indeed. Can’t be much longer before we’re all living in caves, pulling the rope ladder up come evening and dropping rocks on the neighbors’ heads if they pop round to borrow a cup of fire.

Speaking of fire, our journey to the Dark Side is complete. Both furnaces snapped on this morning. Happily, I’d already plugged the sprinkler system into the wall to keep it from exploding like a baked potato in a microwave or we might have a skating pond in the back yard.

Our ovens are baked.

The joys of home ownership. Lately they include the decline and fall of our wall-mounted Whirlpool ovens, which date to 1990, if I read the serial-number code correctly.

The top unit has a bum element and runs 50° below proper temperature, while the bottom can be as much as 20° off the mark. The thermostat may have gone to its reward, too. And of course parts are hard to come by for ovens with this much white hair in their ears.

I suppose we could always roast a haunch of whatever in the fireplace. But in the meantime we’re going to roll the dice, replace the element, see if that’s all it takes to get off the bench and back in the game.

If not, well, then we’ll start shopping, see what the 21st century has to help a fella melt the cheese on his enchiladas. But a quick peek at the Lowe’s and Best Buy websites made my wallet pocket slam shut faster than a banker’s door on a homeless dude hunting a loan for the used van of his dreams and a river to park it by.

A cave and a rope ladder might be cheaper.

Benched

September 9, 2021

Looking NNW from the Candelaria Bench Trail after ascending from the southern end.

Since I didn’t seem to be suffering overmuch from Tuesday’s eight-mile hike, I decided I’d do ’er again Wednesday.

Not the same exact hike, of course. This time I paid a call on the Candelaria Bench Loop, which is right here in the ’hood.

I thought I’d get right down to business by tackling the steep and sketchy middle route up, which starts pretty much right from the northern trailhead, where Comanche dead-ends.

That’s the big city down there.

And then I thought again. Nossir, let’s have ourselves a little warmup first. Break loose a few of those old adhesions, see if the sludge will soften enough to lube the moving parts. The southern ascent will do.

It’s amazing how much a little weather will change the character of a trail, particularly one that wobbles upward like an errant bottle rocket. It was crisscrossed with ruts from runoff, grasses and cacti had closed in, and at one point about halfway up I wondered whether I had managed to wander off the trail entirely.

Nope. I arrived without incident and the Bench was as you see it. Pretty green still, especially for September, and I was the only two-legged beast in evidence, though if you linger near the Tramway side of things Albuquerque’s car culture manages to make its presence known (zoom, honk, roar, beep, crash, bang, boom, whoop whoop whoop, etc).

Up top some of the dirt was still dark with moisture, and so was I, because it was 80-something and practically windless. I cooled down by wandering around for a bit, appreciating the dearth of retail and rooftops, and then descended cautiously through the stair-stepped Valley of Boulders to Hidden Valley Road and headed for the barn.

The loss of flexibility that accompanies advancing age, buttressed by a pigheaded indifference to stretching, yoga, and resistance training, makes the descents interesting, especially when they’ve been rearranged by cascading water. At intervals I used my hickory stick like the safety rails found in certain toilet stalls, the ones with a wheelchair emblem.

Despite myself I made it down hat side up and celebrated with a delicious batch of chipotle-honey chicken tacos in the old Crock-Pot. If you ever find yourself both fatigued and famished after a hike in the hills this sumbitch is a culinary walk in the park.

April Fool’s Day is for the birds

April 2, 2021

Miss Mia is on the lookout for April fools.
Either that or birds building a nest on our roof.

April Fool’s Day has been consigned to the rear-view mirror, so it’s safe to navigate the Innertubes again.

Like St. Patrick’s Day, April Fool’s Day is for amateurs. Pros do their drinking and fooling year-round without regard for the calendar. Some of the marketing ploys soiling my in-box yesterday were weaker than watery green beer filtered through the kidneys.

I had no time for foolery yesterday. There were menus to devise, groceries to be purchased, bread to bake. Also, Herself’s CR-V required some attention from the Honda grease monkeys down on Lomas; this required me to engage with Albuquerque traffic, which is thick with fools year-round.

Why anyone would buy a new car in this burg remains a mystery to me. You might as well haul a sledgehammer down to the dealership and give your new ride a couple stout whacks before you roll off the lot, get used to the idea of driving a dentmobile like everyone else.

While parked at the curb in my own ratty beater I took a squint at this blog and saw that — in the mobile version, anyway — it remained buggered by WordPress and its filthy Gutenberg block editor, foisted upon the unsuspecting customer base by knaves, cutpurses, and coders who cannot be adjusted by sledgehammer, more’s the pity. So once I got back to El Rancho Pendejo I had to dive into the Classic editor and replace the text and image in the “Playing with blocks” post.

And all of this on a beautiful spring day, too. High in the 60s. Instead of a long bike ride I had to content myself with a 45-minute hike-slash-jog, which come to think of it was not half bad.

And that’s no foolin’.

Sweet and savory

March 21, 2021

Looking NNW from the back yard.

We had quite the sunset going on last evening.

Earlier, Herself and I enjoyed a ridiculously warm bike ride for March — I’m talking short sleeves and shorts here — through the hilly, low-traffic streets of the northeastern ’burbs.

Well, unless you count Tramway, which is anything but “low-traffic.” At the northern end you do get rewarded with a sniff of the fixin’s at The County Line barbecue joint, though.

No BBQ at the rancheroo, however. Instead I tried a Sam Sifton recipe for the Cuban comfort food picadillo, largely because I had most of the ingredients on hand and was bored with tacos and other ground-meat dishes.

Didn’t have any dried Spanish chorizo, or even any wet New Mexican chorizo, so I substituted some mild Italian sausage, plus some Spanish paprika and half a jalapeño. Also, no stuffed green olives, so I made do with black olives. And lacking canned whole tomatoes I went with crushed, which made the dish a little soupier than it might have been had I been able to drain off the excess juice and hand-squeeze the tomatoes.

Still, not bad, not bad at all. Next time I might skip the cloves and nutmeg, dial back the cinnamon, and use a bit more chile. And I’m definitely laying hands on some chorizo.

What is the sound of one slice toasting?

December 27, 2020

One loafer, no loaf.

The tenzo at the Juan Hand Clapping Memorial Zendo & Bicycle Warehouse wandered off the Path yesterday and forgot to bake a fresh loaf of bread.

Thus this morning’s Solomonic treatment of the one remaining slice from the old loaf. As Baba Ram Jimbo Harrison has taught us in “The Raw and the Cooked: Adventures of a Roving Gourmand,” the great cuisines of the world — and I would argue, the not-so-great as well — tend to arise from economies of scarcity.

“This calls for resourcefulness in the kitchen, or what the tenzo in a Zen monastery would call ‘skillful means,'” he wrote.

That, and a bread knife.

‘Better Call Santa,’ or ‘Breaking Bethlehem’

December 26, 2020

No snow in them thar hills for Christmas.

Father Christmas has done his usual drive-by on us. A few donuts around the cul-de-sac and off he shot into the frosty Duke City suburbs. Couldn’t ID the plate on that rig, but it was probably stolen, so why bother?

Anyway, all the John Laws on this side of town were tied up with some act of misbehavior down on Copper (and no, the irony did not escape us). We saw their Mickey Mouse ears all aglow to the west like some SWAT-team Star of Bethlehem as we turned off Copper onto Tramway, homeward bound following a visit to Herself the Elder’s assisted-living residence.

Earlier, Herself distributed freshly baked molasses cookies to the neighbors in a brazen act of socialism as I contemplated the verities.

Father Christmas,
give us some money.

We walked off our breakfast pancakes with a brisk hike through the foothills — “Merry Christmas!” shouted a happy family from their backyard hot tub, and no, I am not making that up — after which we motored off for the aforementioned holiday chat through HtE’s bedroom window, like family members visiting a jailed relative.

“I know, I know, you didn’t do nothing, habeas corpus and all that, but they still won’t set bail, and that abogado pendejo Saul Goodman won’t return our calls — ‘Better Call Saul’ my ass — so you’re just gonna have to wait a while longer, OK? Next time we’ll bring cigarettes and commissary money, I promise.”

Back at the shack we rang up my sister and her husband in Fort Fun, after which it was my turn in the kitchen barrel. The main dish was a largish Alaskan salmon filet (h/t Matt Wiebe) drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled generously with salt and pepper, and baked at 425° for 10-12 minutes, after which it got a squeeze of fresh lemon. Sides were white asparagus, arroz verde, and a green salad. Fake beer for me, a nice Provençal rosé for Herself.

As we ate we finished our binge-watching of “Breaking Bad,” because nothing says Christmas like an apocalyptic settling of old scores among meth kingpins.

Speaking of holiday entertainment, at some point during the day I gave ear to “Desert Oracle Radio,” a podcast recommended by Adventure Journal magazine. I’ve only listened to two episodes so far, but I’m gonna give it a tentative thumbs-up based on the Christmas show alone, which touches on our beloved Land of Entrapment and a few of its holiday oddities.

Herself thinks Ken Layne sounds like the Motel 6 guy. (“We’ll leave the light on for you.”) I think he sounds like the Motel 6 guy (with a smack habit). Take him for a quick spin around the Mojave and tell us what you think he sounds like.

When will Jesus bring the avocado toast?

November 26, 2020

Did the Pilgrims bring the avocado toast? Seems unlikely.
Hipsters those dudes were not.

And so it begins, with a simple dish so dear to the hipster heart — the avocado toast.

Things will grow progressively more complex as Thanksgiving plods along. I got behind in my pre-holiday cookery thanks to an overlong bike ride and a phone chat with my sister and brother-in-law, and today, as usual, I will be trying to chase back on.

I did manage to make a pot of green chile stew and the red chile sauce for my turkey enchiladas. But I never got around to preparing the filling for the latter, and so last night’s dinner was leftover pizza instead of tacos because the pico de gallo and arroz verde never made it off the bench and onto the field.

This morning I’m thinking about calling an audible on that play and going with turkey enchiladas smothered in red chile, with sides of green chile stew, stir-fried succotash, and a green salad prepared by Herself.

But it’s not even 8 a.m. yet. I might yet do the salsa and rice and get those tacos into the game.

In the meantime, a happy, healthy holiday feast to thee and thine. And while we wait to begin the graceful dance of fork and knife across the plate, let’s look in on Alice and Arlo at the restaurant.

At long last, dinner: turkey enchiladas smothered in red chile with sides of arroz verde, pintos in chipotle, and a little arugula and tomato for roughage. The green chile stew (not pictured) turned into lunch because cooking is hungry work. The pico de gallo, with blue corn chips, turned into am afternoon snack during the final stretch of cookery.

Take a hike

November 25, 2020

Looks dire, but it wasn’t. Lots better than being indoors.

Yesterday I noticed a neighbor marching around her back yard, doing laps NASCAR-style.

A fine COVID-safe practice, this. And a great way to stay out of the wind. Still, dull as daytime TV.

My dusty Merrell Moab 2 Mid Ventilators were just the ticket for a stove-up old stove wrangler.

Herself bundled up and went for a run. I was still enjoying the consequences of a four-mile run on Friday (the ankle said I overdid it).

And knowing that I’d be spending a lot of time on my feet preparing Thanksgiving dinner, because I am an eejit who will cook elaborately for two people to no particular purpose, I decided to take a short hike instead. Wearing boots, not running shoes.

The menu kept revising itself as I walked. My initial impulse — turkey burritos smothered in the Santa Fe School of Cooking’s green chile with a side of Tejal Rao’s arroz verde — felt a tad minimalist upon reflection.

What about turkey enchiladas smothered in red chile with sides of green chile stew and Martha Rose Shulman’s stir-fried succotash? If I made the enchilada filling the day before Thanksgiving, I thought, I could use a bit of it for tacos Wednesday night, which would give me an excuse to whip up a nice pico de gallo and the green rice.

I could also do the stew in advance, because it gets even better the next day. The red sauce, too.

Shoot, Turkey Day is starting to look like a walk in the park. Today, however, may be more like a four-mile run on a bum ankle.

Turkey lurking

November 20, 2020

From Thanksgiving 2015: Emeril’s chicken cacciatore and a side of Martha Rose Shulman’s stir-fried succotash with edamame.

A week until Thanksgiving. Two months until Inauguration Day.

Guess which one I’m looking forward to?

When I was still marginally employed in the newspaper bidness I didn’t pay a lot of attention to holidays, other than in a professional sense, which meant grinding out the usual heart-warmers and eye-rollers, plugging the holes around the ads until stupid-thirty, when I could return to my true occupation, which was drinking.

Thanksgiving was just another day in the workweek for a single fella whose family was as far away as he could keep them. The O’Gradys’ holiday gatherings were not the sort that gets written up in the newspaper; not outside of the police blotter, anyway.

Think George Carlin in “40 Years of Comedy” discussing “family style” dining:

“You know what that means? It means there’s an argument going on at every table, two people are crying, and the eldest male is punching the women.”

This may be why you will rarely find me cooking turkey for Thanksgiving. Call it shell shock. One whiff of giblet gravy and I hit the deck with my eyes out on stalks and a knife in my hand.

“Micks in the wire!”

I’ve made all manner of off-brand meals for Thanksgiving, from northern New Mexican combo platters to Emeril’s take on chicken cacciatore. Martha Rose Shulman’s stir-fried succotash often plays a supporting role. But we haven’t done the actual turkey thing since 2012.

This year … frankly, I have no earthly idea. I did a speed run through the grocery early yesterday to beat the rush and hope not to go back anytime soon, so I’m limited to whatever’s already on hand.

The lead-up to the actual holiday may beat the holiday itself, feastwise. I have chicken thighs for posole, turkey thighs for tacos, the makings of a decent pizza sauce and/or a spicy pasta sauce, flour tortillas, bread flour and yeast, plus salmon filets and a couple pounds of ground turkey in the freezer. So “turkey day” may center on turkey burritos smothered in green with a side of arroz verde.

Maybe I’ll cook an actual turkey with all the trimmings when we finally run that overstuffed poltroon out of the White House. This bird’s for you, Adolf.

Seeing red

November 15, 2020

Turkey enchiladas in red chile after somebody’s been at ’em.

Even though we’ve mostly been steering clear of restaurants since March because, well, y’know, PLAGUE, an’ stuff, we eat quite a bit of Mexican food.

It’s not pro Mexican food, mind you. Category 3 at best. I missed my start time and will never catch the likes of Lucy Martinez, the enchilada-slinging mother of my old hermanos Larry and Jim.

Lucy could whip up a few platillos de comida mexicana in less time than it takes me to remember where I left my spatula. And while holding up her end of a rambling chat with a kitchen full of stuporous pendejos fresh from an long night of questionable behavior, too.

I may be slow, but I do get there, eventually. My green chile sauce is serviceable (as far as Irish green goes, anyway), but my red sauce is still hit and miss. The recipe I’ve been most successful with is this one, from the Santa Fe School of Cooking.

Last night I had a bunch of filling that didn’t get used in the previous evening’s turkey tacos, but I didn’t feel like a second round of tacos. So, boom, enchiladas it was.

I started with a 50-50 mix of Hatch chile powders (hot and mild), and recalling that I undersimmered my last batch of sauce, leaving it a little thin, I oversimmered it this time and had to add a little water to loosen it up a tad. Live and learn, they say. Riiiiiiight.

After the foil-covered Pyrex spent 20 minutes in the oven at 350° I topped the enchiladas with grated Kellygold Skellig, and gave ’em a few minutes under the broiler. Yum, yum, gimme some. Sides included potatoes roasted in red chile (another Santa Fe School of Cooking recipe) and a green salad.

The best part? Leftovers.