Sicilian Pork with Spaghetti and Jean-François Coquard Morgon “Les Charmes” ’16

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.


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

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. 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.

3. 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. 

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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.


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

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!!

 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!


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