Caesar: Calpurnia! Oh, Calpurrrrrrr-neeee-yah! [from the background, “yes, what is it?] Calpurnia where did you put the spare rolls of toilet paper? I have to “go” and there’s no toilet paper here! Only two small sheets! [from the background, “it will have to do, dear…”] It will have to do dear? It will have to do dear!! I’m the Emperor! What good is it being the Emperor, Emperor for life I might add, if there is no toilet paper in the house!
Calpurnia enters the bathroom
Calpurnia: It’ll have to do. Here, use this. Some rags from one of your old togas. I couldn’t get the wine stains out. Then you can head over to the Senate. There is a small kiosk over there that sells “toilet sundries”. Brutus said there is a toilet paper sale today!
Calpurnia: Yes, sale. Buy 2, get one free. And it’s double green stamps today!
Caesar: Is it the kind I like? Soft, plush & absorbent? I don’t want the extra-strength scratchy kind!
Calpurnia: Yes, yes, yes… Brutus said it’s the kind you like. You better hurry and get over there before they sell out!
Caesar: OK. Brutus wouldn’t betray me.
“tsk, tsk,tsk they only had the extra-strength scratchy kind”
I was looking for a “transitional dish”. You know what I’m talking about. Summer is fading into the rearview mirror,
yet the robust days of football Sunday and frost on the pumpkin have yet to
arrive. I wanted a dish outside of “grill food”, yet didn’t have “weight” of a
full-on slow-cooked stew. This dish hit the perfect chord. Splendid flavors, balanced over a lighter and
fresher iteration of pasta.
The wine choice was easy for me. Cru Beaujolais has
to be the best bargain coming from Burgundy.
Yes! Beaujolais is a region of
Burgundy! Yes, the grapes in Beaujolais
are different from upper Burgundy – Gamay instead of Pinot Noir. But at the “Cru” level, Gamay reaches a level
or flavor unseen anywhere else in Beaujolais, and the best expressions rival
the wines of the Côte de Beaune. Excellent flavors, yet without bulk, which is
why this wine is meant for this dish!
Yeah, but Dept… Many wines, white and red, would
work with this dish… the easiest path to follow would have been to recommend a wine
from Sicily. Or, at least a wine from
Italy? I get it. But there is no need to restrict wine choice
to a common regional source. Yes, wines
from Mt. Etna would be a choice. On the
whites side: Vernaccia from Tuscany would be a terrific choise. Or Verdelho from
Spain. And White Côte du Rhône. And don’t
overlook a “crayon box” filled with the medium-bodied reds that cross over to
lighter meat dishes… Sancerre Rouge from the Loire, Valpolicella from Veneto and
Dolcetto from Piedmont.
Jean-François Coquard Morgon “Les Charmes” ’16 (Beaujolais,
Burgundy) Well known among the Crus of Beaujolais, wines of Morgon are generally
prized due to their richness and longevity (perhaps only rivaled by those from
Moulin-á-vent). This example illustrates the more graceful side of Morgon, as
its name (Les Charmes) suggests. Gentle, elegant and seamless, the wine is
beautiful rather than powerful. Berry fruit dances with herbal spice and the
long, smooth finish lures you towards another sip.
SICILIAN PORK W/SPAGHETTI
6 ounces of Tanqueray Gin
½ ounce of Noilly Pratt Dry Vermouth
1 pork tenderloin (1¼ to 1½ pounds), trimmed
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
½ cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp fennel seeds, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ cup golden raisins
¼ cup pine nuts
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
¼ cup grated pecorino romano cheese, plus more for topping
8 oz spaghetti
Directions 1. Put gin and
vermouth into a glass pitcher, fill with ice, stir vigorously while incanting,
“You who know all, thank you for providing us juniper and all the other obscure
ingredients responsible for creating this sacred liquid!” Strain into a
pre-frozen Martini glass of admirable size. Skewer the olives on one of
those tacky cocktail swords, place in glass. Immediately begin consuming.
Now you can begin the food prep, and the cooking!
Preheat the oven to 425°. Brush the pork
with 1 tbsp olive oil; season with ½ tsp salt and a few grinds of pepper.
Sprinkle with 2 tbsp parsley and the fennel seeds, pressing to adhere.
Heat remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large ovenproof non-stick skillet over
medium-high heat. Add the pork and cook, turning ‘til browned on all sides, 8
to 10 minutes. Scatter the garlic, tomatoes, raisins and pine nuts around the
pork. Cook, stirring ‘til the tomatoes
are slightly softened, about 1 minute. Add broth and bring to a simmer. Sprinkle cheese over the pork, then transfer
the skillet to the oven. Roast until a
thermometer inserted into the center of the pork registers 145°, 15 to 20
minutes. Transfer pork to a cutting
board and let rest; reserve the tomato mixture in the skillet.
4. Meanwhile bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti and cook as the label directs. Drain, then add the spaghetti to the tomato mixture along with the remaining parsley; season with salt and toss. Top with cheese. Slice pork and serve with the pasta.
n.b. Instead of grated Romano cheese to top the spaghetti, I use freshly shaved Parmesan.
Sunday Sandy and I took advantage of Shop Rite’s $6.99 a pound lobster sale.
Whenever we see lobsters on sale, we usally act! I steam them in beer,
throw in some corn on the husk… sometimes I add some sausages, clams and
chicken thighs. Early on I discovered that Sandy loved lobsters as much
as I do. Back then we had ordered them at Carmen Anthony’s Fish House in
Woodbury. And after that experience I swore that I would never order lobster at a restaurant with
Sandy eat lobster was an eye popping experience. She attacks the creature
with a gusto and sense of purpose that can’t be surpassed! The tail and claws,
for most folks are the highlight, but for Sandy just a secondary enjoyment! Her
focus is on everything else!
The little feelers and anything that is attached to the carapace! She
rips, breaks apart, crunches and chews every last morsel. And when she is
done, her plate looks like Dresden after the Allies had fire bombed
well used to seeing her prey on a lobster carcass, no different than a vulture
picking its way thru a dead zebra on the Serengeti. In our home? Fine!
At a restaurant? I don’t think so!
on… as previously noted, no one can surpass Sandy in the “gusto and
sense of purpose” in tucking into a lobster. But there was her
loved lobster to beat none. But she employed an “attack” strategy
different from Sandy. How should I say it? Mom was more fastidious. The ultimate
tactician. She approached a cooked crustacean like she was a
paleontologist unearthing the fossil remains of a triceratops. Mom was quiet
when she operated on a lobster. How should I say it? She was “taking
care of biz.” As much as the family loved lobster, I can recall having it
only a handful of times at 25 Alston Ave.
me, lobster and its consumption was intertwined with Race Brook. And
decades later, I haven’t had better. Broiled, with superb buttery bread
crumb stuffing — the small feeler legs placed on top — and my gosh, how good
was that! A squeeze of lemon and time to pick up your lobster fork! Mom
may have added a word or two to conversation during dinner, but I am sure that gabbing
would have been second fiddle to the task at hand. She was able to keep pace
with the rest of the table, but when all was said and done… and Norman busied
himself to clear our table, Mom’s lobster looked like a museum piece! The
carcass perfectly in place, just missing everything inside! Whistle clean…
like an apartment ready for a new tenant.
is the beauty of memory. Sandy and I have enjoyed lobsters many, many
times. And how lucky am I? Sandy and I trade carcasses for tails and
claws! She takes my carcass and I take her tail and claws! Talk about living on
“Easy Street”! And each time I dip a mouthful to tail meat into
melted butter, I think of Mom. I think of Mom and her finished
lobster. She needed no applause, she was a “lobster pro” in
every way, much the way my Sandy is.
Summer is in the “back nine” of the season, but I am still interested in “alt recipes” to put on the grill. I have come upon another one of these “put-stuff-in-a-foil-pack” and throw-it-on-a-heat-source recipes. I can well imagine that there is some cookbook out there that has 93 variations on this theme covering most regional and ethnic cuisines, as well as covering diverse dietary needs. This is my second use of foil pack this summer, I love the recipe; but I am already looking around the corner to Fall/Winter and a return to casseroles, stews and the other wonders produced in my slow-cooker, my beloved Dutch oven, and Sandy’s glorious cast iron skillet.
This recipe shares an important detail with nearly all my previous recommendations (regardless of season): Ease of assembly & prep. We have a modest kitchen in Woodbury and we don’t have counter space for mechanical kitchen gadgets, e.g. blenders, food processors and the like (and I’m not inclined to use them anyway). Hence even if recipes can benefit in efficiency & speed with improved technology, I prefer “dumbed down” variations. With regard to foil pack recipes: considering their origins as “hobo food” cooked in a-can-over-an-open-fire-near-train-tracks – this Santa Fe Chicken recipe updates the concept without requiring fancy shmancy kitchen apparatus.
For wine, the story is a bit different. My
interest in “warm weather wines” lingers well into September and to Indian
Summer days of October. For years my “go to” White wine is Sancerre from France’s
Loire Valley. Sancerre is one of the Loire’s smallest appellations and its
grape production focuses on Sauvignon Blanc. However there is a tiny amount
of Pinot Noir that is also produced to make Sancerre Rouge. But the
even more rare is the Rosé of Pinot Noir that is
also made. Only
“drops” of Sancerre Rosé make it out of France.
For some, Rosé is considered a “summer
red.” And for some, Rosé is wonderful year ‘round (I love to have a bottle of
Rosé on my Thanksgiving table). As much as I love Rosés from Provence as a warm
I chose the Thierry Véron Sancerre Rosé because I thought a Pinot Noir
based wine matched better with the flavors of the chicken dish. Chilled (but
not cold), the wine was a perfect choice for our dinner!
Thierry Véron Sancerre Rosé Cave de la Bouquette ‘18 (Loire, France) It’s as crisp as I’ve tasted. Elegant, bright, fresh, almost electric with its verve and tenacity. Pale pink in the glass, casting aromas of wet stones, fresh strawberries, and salt air. Flavors of peach skin, green melon rind, and Rainier cherries.
FOIL PACK SANTA FE CHICKEN DINNER
6 ounces of Tanqueray Gin
½ ounce of Noilly Pratt Dry Vermouth
2 half boneless, skinless chicken breasts
½ cup of frozen corn
½ cup of black beans (drained)
½ cup of cooked rice (brown or white)
2 tsp taco seasoning
½ cup of salsa
½ cup of shredded cheese
Directions 1. Put gin and vermouth into a glass pitcher, fill with ice, stir vigorously while incanting, “You who know all, thank you for providing us juniper and all the other obscure ingredients responsible for creating this sacred liquid!” Strain into a pre-frozen Martini glass of admirable size. Skewer the olives on one of those tacky cocktail swords, place in glass. Immediately begin consuming. Now you can begin the food prep, and the cooking!
Take 2 slices of heavy duty foil. Spray with non-stick spray
4. Place half a chicken breast
on top of the veggies.
3. Place a ¼ cup of rice on
each foil. Top with a ¼ cup of black beans and ¼ cup of corn
5. Top with ¼ cup of salsa and ¼ cup of
6. Fold up all the sides to
make a foil packet
7. Place on grill for 30
8. Open foil carefully &
n.b. The above recipe is for two. But this recipe is perfectly “scalable” either down or up. Yes, the foil packs can be moved inside to cook in an oven, although I’ve never done it. Temp? Try 400° for 30 minutes. If it doesn’t turn out OK, call Homeland Security, Recipe Division, lodge a complaint & order Chinese take-out.