Two Ladies & Homarus Americanus

On 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 again!

Watching 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 it!  

I’m 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!

Moving 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 equal: Mom.

Mom 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.

For 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.  

Such 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.

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Foil Pack Santa Fe Chicken Dinner & Thierry Véron Sancerre Rosé

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 weather wine, 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

Ingredients
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!

2. 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 shredded cheese

6. Fold up all the sides to make a foil packet

7. Place on grill for 30 minutes

8. Open foil carefully & tuck in!!


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.

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The Mamaloshen

In 1791 Catherine the Great created the Pale of Settlement. It was the territory within Russia where Jews were permitted to live. It included all of Belarus, Lithuania and Moldova, much of present-day Ukraine, parts of eastern Latvia. And with Second Partition of Poland in 1793, the Pale included much of Poland and all of Lithuania.

My maternal Grandmother, Sophie was born in 1880ish Warsaw, then still part of the Tsarist Empire. She spoke Polish, understood Russian, both Slavic languages; but the lingua franca for Jews, spoken in the home, and amongst their co-religionists was Yiddish (the mamaloshen – “mother tongue”), which was and is a Germanic language. When she moved to America at the turn of the 20th Century, she added another Germanic language, English to her verbal skill set (although she never gained literacy in it).

My Mother was able to pick up Yiddish from my Grandmother (we called her Mommie Sophie). Mom developed a decent facility with Yiddish, and as a kid I would sometimes hear Mom and Mommie Sophie having extended conversations in Yiddish. Drawing the camera back, I think it was their language of “disagreement.” I couldn’t understand what was being said (and I am sure that was the idea), but words were exchanged in a hurried and excited manner, in a somewhat elevated volume. It wasn’t as if they were telling dirty jokes in Yiddish, either. It wasn’t, “chubdah, chubdah, chubdah, chubdah”; and then a bunch of laughter. Yeah, I think they were disagreeing about this, that or the other thing. Probably something family related, and not whether the flanken was too dry.

My Dad knew a few words and phrases, too. More than anything, he put Yiddish into play as a vehicle for humor. Which brings to me to the following.

Zack has sent me a book: The Encyclopedia Blazertannica, which is an alphabetic listing of subjects that, by and large, relate to things soccer. However, under the letter “Y” is this off-topic entry:

YIDDISH: No language does spite more creatively.

Two of the examples contained to illustrate the point.

“Ale tseyner zoln bay dir aroysfaln, nor eyner zol blaybn – af tseynveytok!”

Or, in English, “May all your teeth fall out except for one – so you can get a toothache!”

And my personal favorite…

“Zol dayne fis vern farholtzzene dayne bokyh ful mit vaser un dayn kop gamakht fun gloz azey ayer fis farbent, vet ayer boykh zidn un dayn kop vet plastn!”

Or, in English, “May your feet be made of wood, your stomach be filled with water, and your head be made of glass so when your feet catch fire your stomach will boil and your head explode!”

Lest you guess otherwise, I never heard such horrible words from the lips of Mommie Soph, or my Mother!

Yes, I know a few words and can get the gist of a couple of phrases. And it shouldn’t come as a surprise that you know a few words, too! English is a voracious language, gobbling up vocabulary from languages across the planet… including Yiddish. Among the terms that have crept into our tongue… bagel, blintz, chutzpah, glitch, kibitz, klutz, lox, nebbish, nosh, schlep, schlock, shnook and tushie… all are derived from Yiddish/German that entered into this country via Ellis Island… just like my Grandmother did!

L’chayim!!

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Foil Packet Bacon Ranch Chicken & Malk Sauvignon Blanc ’18

Living in the northern tier of States can mean that “grilling season” can be confined to the warm weather months.  That said, I have been known to put a thick bone-in rib-eye on my Weber grill with several inches of snow on my back deck. Nothing stops me from grilling!  So, as you might suspect, the idea of firing up the grill in warm weather holds little novelty for me… I just exchange my down vest for a Grumpy T-shirt and proceed as always. Hence, once I’ve grilled corn a few times (something I do only in the summer), my enthusiasm for warm weather outdoor grilling begins to fade.  What’s another juicy cut of steak?  Or burgers & dogs?  Or chicken kebobs?  Or grilled salmon? And another thing… I’m not a big salad guy. (It’s only June and I’m already dreaming of October and the return to casseroles, stews and the comfort of slow cooking!)   When I came across this recipe for a foil packet dinner I took notice!  Putting stuff in foil is nothing new.  Any source of heat can be put into play: an open campfire, a grill (charcoal or gas) & even the oven in the kitchen!  Assemble the ingredients… typically a protein, veggie & starch, and place all inside of the foil packet and put the packet on the heat.  Simple. Less time than a slow cooker, more convenient and less clean-up!

This recipe is shockingly easy. And the only “pre-prep” is cooking up a couple of slices of bacon.  Most important, it’s a change of pace recipe from what I usually put on the grill!

For wine I am opening a bottle of one of the few Sauvignon Blancs that I love, not named Sancerre.  I have enjoyed Malk Family Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc in several vintages.  The 2018 is the best I’ve tasted! I love the wine on its own merit, but it also a great choice with chicken and fish dishes.  And the Malk worked perfectly with this chicken dish!  Another choice would be a Cru Beaujolais, slightly chilled.  Or a Bandol Rosé.

Malk Family Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc ’18 (Napa, CA)
The 2018 Sauvignon Blanc is decidedly mineral driven. Wonderful limestone minerality presents upfront, highlighted with beautiful citrus notes of lime blossom and orange zest. As we employ fermenting in neutral oak barrels, there is a warmth and texture to the pallet due to the lees contact that provides a perfect balance to the wine.

FOIL PACKET BACON RANCH CHICKEN

Ingredients
6 ounces of Tanqueray Gin
½ ounce of Noilly Pratt Dry Vermouth
1 potato
1 cup frozen green beans (or canned, drained)
2 half, skinless & boneless chicken breasts
2 tsp ranch mix
2 tbsp butter
½ Cup of shredded cheddar cheese
2 slices of bacon, cooked & chopped

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!

2. Take two good sized pieces of heavy duty foil & spray with non-stick spray

3. Place a half of potato (peeled and sliced thin) in the middle of each piece of foil. Top with a half cup of green beans. Place chicken breast on top & season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with 1 tsp of the ranch mix and place a tbsp of butter on top.  Add ¼ cup of shredded cheese and bacon.

4. Fold up the sides of the foil, and pinch up the ends to make a foil pack.

5. Place packets on a grill for 30 minutes.

6. Open the foil packets carefully, dig in!

n.b.  The above recipe is for two.  But this recipe is perfectly “scalable” either down or up.  Also, I put the foil packets on a closed grill on a high temp.  This gave the potato slices a deep char crispness, which I think is great!  However, if well done potato slices is not your thing, and if you’re using a gas grill, turn off one of the sides of the cooking surface, and place the packets there.

OK, there is little difference between “deep char” and “burnt”.  I just think deep char sounds more “premeditated”, and less “accidental”.  In this instance, I just lucked into the potatoes turning out the way that they did. Next time, I’m planning on it!

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