Friday, September 01, 2006

Friday Random Ten

I am giving a shout out to my daughter in Ireland, I'm doing this on the laptop in Tombstone. Yep, your old man's playing cowboy again. Love you darlin' here's what's on the OK corral iPod from out where a six gun is a fashion accessory.

Jolie Blon - - Doug Kershaw
Touch of Grey - - Grateful Dead (live bootleg)
Amsterdam - - Jaques Brel
Ashes to Ashes - - Steve Earle
Peace - - Sweet Honey in the Rock
Musta Got Lost - - J. Geils (live bootleg from K-K-K-Katie's)
We're All Mad Here - - Tom Waits
I'll Fly Away - - Allison Krause, Gillian Welsh, Emmylou Harris
Steamboat Whistle Blues - - Johnny Hartford
How Can I Miss You (if you won't go away) - - Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks

Bonus track - - Hit random twice and take the top

Boll Weevil - - Leadbelly

What are all ya'll tenderfoots listenin' too?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

April's Choice

I was feeling a bit guilty for neglecting my blog so thoroughly this week. Looking at being gone for the next four days and all. I had an idea for a post before I go. I asked April two questions.
1. What is your favorite song that I've played for you this week?
2. What was the favorite dish that I cooked for you?

She said:

Favorite song: Raglan Road

This is a tragic Irish love song. That's how it works with the Irish, happy wars, sad love songs. The only criticism I made for this choice is that April is a blonde. A golden, glorious blonde, and the song is about a woman with dark hair. She only smiled coyly and said "How do you know I'm not the singer?" Not much possibility for a comeback to that one. Besides this is her choice, not my critique. There have been many recordings of this made, my favorite is by Van Morrison on "Celtic Heartbeat." Van's a genius and rare treasure. For you music readers, here's the melody line:

Click here to listen to it

Although the notation is in the key of "D" I do it in "G" because I'm no tenor.

On Raglan Road, on an autumn day
I saw her first, and I knew
That her dark hair would weave a snare
That I might one day rue
I saw the danger, yet I walked on
Along the enchanted way
And I said "Let grief be a falling leaf
At the dawning of the day"

On Grafton Street in November
We moved lightly along the ledge
Of a deep ravine, where can be seen
The price of passion pledged
The queen of hearts, still making her tarts
And I'm not making hay
But to love too much by such and such
Is just happiness thrown away

I gave her the gifts of the mind
I showed her the secret sign
That's known by all of the artists who've met
The true gods of sound and light
With word and intent I readily spent
I gave her reams of poems to say
With her own name there
To her shining dark hair
Like the clouds over fields of May

On a quiet street where the old ghosts meet
I see her walking now
Away from me so hurriedly
That my reason must allow
That I have wooed, not as I should
A creature made of clay
When an angel woos the clay he will lose
His wings at the dawn of the day

This is a harp tune of the first magnitude. If you add in a pennywhistle or fiddle it's even better. We'll be working this one into the show this weekend. I'm not sure about whether or not it's completely period, but if I'm not sure there isn't much chance of finding a musicologist in the audience to dispute the choice of tune.

Favorite Dish: Creme Brulee

You gotta love a dish that calls for a blowtorch as a cooking tool right?

4 cups Heavy Cream (I use manufacturing cream that is found at Smart & Final)
1 Vanilla bean
Pinch Salt (sea salt or kosher or other non-iodized salt is best)
8 egg yolks
3/4 cup baker's sugar
for caramel crust
2 tablespoons baker's sugar
8 tablespoons dark brown sugar

Put the cream in a heavy saucepan over moderate heat. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the tiny seeds. Put it all into the cream and heat until just at the edge of a scald (about 190°). In a large ceramic bowl stir the egg yolks and sugar together gently to avoid air bubbles. Bring the hot cream over and begin to add it slowly to the yolks and sugar, stirring gently the whole time. You're going to be tempering the egg yolks just like you did with the Creme Anglais you do this to avoid scrambling the egg yolks. This is dessert bitchez, not breakfast, no scrambling allowed. Do your stirring gently to avoid making air bubbles.

Strain this into another bowl or glass pitcher. You can rinse and put the bean husks in a jar of sugar for extra vanilla flavor. Use a spoon to skim off any bubbles. Put 8 3/4 cup ramekins into a roasting pan and fill them to the brim with the custard. Place the roasting pan in the middle rack of a 300° oven and fill to at least halfway up the ramekins with water. Cover loosely with foil and bake for 75 minutes. When they are done the edges should be firm, it's alright if the middle is still a little sloppy. It will firm up when you chill them. Remove the ramekins from the bain marie (that's the pan of water, remember?) cool on a rack to room temperature then refridgerate for at least three hours. You can make this up to two day in advance.

To serve, take the custards out of the refridgerator, blot any liquid that may have formed on the top with a paper towel and sieve 1 tablespoon of the brown sugar over the top of each one. Evenly distribute the baker's sugar and go for your torch. You want to melt and bubble the sugar with the torch. Try not to get it all smokey and scorched but a little of that won't hurt anything. About 15 seconds of direct flame is the most you want to go for. Serve immediately. Accept all the applause and compliments gracefully. You don't have to let them know how easy it really is.

Those are April's favorites. When she's around, they're mine too.

Incommunicado Notice

I'm loading up the trust old RV tomorrow to head out to legendary Tombstone "The Town Too Tough To Die" where I will be appearing with a fiddler at the Opera House. I will be accompanied by the beautiful April, two horses and a dog.

It's a fun ass gig. In between the vaudeville style acts the two of us will be performing old cowboy songs, Stephen Foster, Daniel Emmett, and other period numbers. Very low pressure, very high fun. I promise not to get involved in any shootouts.

We are planning to spend a few of the mornings riding in the Chiricuaua range, where the great Cochise held the U.S. army and General Crook at bay.

I bet there will be an internet hotspot somewhere, but I refuse to promise anything. April is distracting, wonderfully distracting, sensuously distracting, distracting me right now. . .

Monday, August 28, 2006

Random Flickr Blogging (3280)

To hear this as a midi file click here

Ten thousand goddam cattle
A-roamin' far and wide.
Shore wisht I had my sweetie here
A-layin' by my side,
A=layin' by my side.
My gal, she up an' left me
I spect she's gone to stay.
She lit outta here a-runnin'
With a son-of-a-bitch from Ioway (2x)

I'm a lone man, a real lone man.

He wasn't tall ner handsome
Jist an ornery lookin' cur
Shucks, I dunno what she seen in him,
Or what he seen in her-r-r (2x)
They took my pinto pony
And they took my six-weeks' pay
The only thing they left here for me
Was this dam' gee-tar to play (2x)

I'm a lone man, a real lone man.

She never wrote no letter
She never sent one line,
T'tell me where the hell she put
Them French postcards o' mine (2x)
Ten thousand goddam cattle
They kin rot fer all of me,
Unless I find a purtier gal
T'ease my misery-y-y (2x)

I'm a lone man, a real lone man.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Blueberry Pie

This whole pie thing started because just as April and I were beginning to notice we liked each other the move Tombstone came out. Val Kilmer, playing Doc Holliday, had a line when he told Johnny Ringo, who was spoiling for a fight "I'm your Huckleberry." I have worn a long mustache and what they now call a "soul patch" for a long time. Sometimes when I'm in a mood to make a real visual statement I wax and curl it. It's a good look on me. I'm used to it. Also, since I shave with a straight razor it makes my lips a whole lot safer. It got so that anytime April would come up with an idea, or have something she wanted to do I'd say "I'm your huckleberry" and we'd both dissolve into laughter. Nobody else seemed to really get it. I hope we weren't making our friends ill at the sight of us.

Huckleberries and blueberries are both from the nightshade family, they have a very similar taste. So, even though I was using fresh blueberries for this recipe, when it was served to April, I said "And here's Your Huckleberry." We giggled like naughty teenagers. I'm sure it would have made any onlookers gag.

You can make your own pastry dough ahead of time or get the frozen stuff from the supermarket. Because there's a cinnamon crumb topping on this pie, a flakey top crust isn't that important. I went with the frozen sheet crust this time. I do handle it somewhat differently though. I take the thawed sheet from the refridgerator so that I'm working with a cold dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface (If you don't have a marble slab to work your pastries and chocolates on I feel sorry for you, but those silcone sheets from a Cook's catalog or chef's supply work well too) and roll it out evenly and thin. Fold the crust back on top of itself and roll it out again. Fold it into fourths and put into a 9" standard (meaning not a deep dish unit) pie pan. Trim off the excess dough and using a spiral twist shape a lip roll all the way around the top of the crust. Then using a salad fork push indentations in all the way around. Set this in a cool place.

Preheat the oven to 375°
3/4 cup white sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
6 cups fresh blueberries

Mix the above ingredients in a large bowl. I usually toss it by hand because the idea here is to get the berries nice and evenly coated without busting them all to hell. Put this mixture into your prepared pie crust.

Cinnamon Crumb topping

2/3 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup rolled oats (old fashioned Quaker, Not instant)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons sweet butter, cut into small cubes and softened

In another bowl mix these all together by hand. You are looking for pea and slightly bigger sized crumbs. Sprinkly evenly over the pie filling surface, do not pack or poke it in. Be sure to have a good berm built up around the edge of the pie otherwise hot filling stuff will leak out all over the place (it turns into black concrete on the bottom of your stove, nasty business that)

Bake for 45 minutes. The top of the pie should be a nice golden brown. Do not overcook because if it gets to dark brown it will be too hard. Also the burnt sugar thing isn't good for this particular dish.

Cool completely on a rack. Serve at room temperature, topped with lots of fresh whipped cream.

Finish off any meal with this, or use it to end an evening out and you can be somebody's huckleberry too.

Onion Soup Gratiné: and Scampi Marsielles

First you must make croutons. This is done by taking the older bread and slicing it about 1/4". Then brush lightly with olive oil and put in the oven at 250° for 20 minutes. This should give you slightly toasted (lightly browned but dry and hard) little slices. Altitude and the age of the bread make a difference here. But remember, these are croutons if they become bird food, so what?

Peel and slice 4 medium brown onions, then break them into rings. Douse them liberally with olive oil and put them in a stock pot over a medium flame. Cover. After 10 minutes, stir with a wooden spoon. When they have reached the translucent stage, add two more sliced onions. This will stage the onions in your soup. The first ones will carmelize and break down, almost dissolving into the stocks. These will retain enough shape and texture that no one will forget that this is an onion soup. You'll have to stir often at this stage because scorching is to be avoided. Add in equal parts of chicken and beef stock to cover the onions. 1/2 cup of dry sherry, or port goes very well at this time too. You can adjust the color of your soup by using Kitchen Bouquet or even Worcheshire Sauce. I like it fairly dark brown myself. Bring to a boil, then reduce the flame to simmer.

Put 3 to 4 croutons in the bottom of a soup bowl, ladle the onion soup over them. Top with grated swiss and parmesian cheese and put under the broiler until the cheese bubbles and begins to crust. Serve with lots of fresh baguette.

For the scampi, get fresh fettucini or make it yourself. Since I make it myself I always add about a teaspooon of ground anise to the pasta. Regular pasta does just fine though.

Peel and butterfly 6 shrimp per person making sure to remove the sand vein along the back. You can leave the last little joint of the shell on if you want. It looks good when you do, but then there's that whole "what to do with the little shell thing, and now my fingers are all saucy." If you're into sucking your dinner guests fingers, well by all means, be my guest and leave them on. Usually, for decorum's sake I completely peel the shrimp. (You can also have your fishmonger do all this for you if you want)

Since the recipe quantity here is up for grabs, all measurements (like I really fucking measure for this dish) should be adjusted according to the amount of shrimp. I'm working on a dinner for two here. Do the math.

Using a sauté pan over a medium high flame heat 4 tablespoons olive oil and 2 teaspoons minced garlic. While the garlic is sweating dredge the shrimp in seasoned flour (just flour with a little salt and pepper) shake off the excess and add to the hot garlic oil. When the shrimp pinks and curls add a splash of dry white wine and flip a few times to wet down any flour lumps. If it flames up don't be afraid, just watch your eyebrows. Add about a half cup of heavy cream and an ounce of Anisette or Pernod, stir and serve over the fettucine you remembered to boil in heavily salted water and drain. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and and orange slice.

I first had this dish at a waterfront bistro in Marseilles. I bought a bottle of champagne for the kitchen crew and refused to leave until the chef showed me how to make it. Bon Appeitite mes amis.

New Orleans one year later

To hear this as a midi file click here

The folk tradition in music is one I respect. The way a lot of songs have been kept alive and vibrant is through a continuous process of interpretation and reworking.
I chose the old gin house lament Delia's Gone because it's from New Orleans and because the loss I feel after a year is like remembering the first time that someone you love is gone.

New Orleans was killed by people, not a storm. Sure, they tell you they're rebuilding, but what they will end up with is the Epcot center version of "New Orleans Land." Buy your ticket books at the gate folks. Or, tune up your guitars, mandolins, banjos (I recommend sawmill tuning DGCDG), maybe a squeezebox or pennywhistle and sing with me. Miss my old lover, New Orleans with me.

FEMA drowned our NOLA
It was on a Sunday night
Only thing that folks could do
Was hang they heads and die

NOLA's gone
One more round
NOLA's gone

Levee's broke and water rushed
It got to ten foot high
Some folks ran and some folks swam
Some laid face down and died

NOLA's gone
One more round
NOLA's gone

Brownie came to see it
It made him weep and sob
Bush came to see Brownie
Said “Boy, heckuva a job”

But NOLA's gone
One more round
NOLA's gone

Chertoff said he did his best
Nagin said the same
Landreau said “What can you do?”
They ducked and shifted blame

NOLA's gone
One more round
NOLA's gone

Now a year has come and gone
The rubble rots and molds
Poor old NOLA sitting there
Cheap beads been bought and sold

NOLA's gone
One more round
NOLA's gone

NOLA, sweet New Orleans
Where you been so long?
I asked my friend where NOLA is
He said “She dead and gone”

NOLA's gone
One more round
NOLA's gone


The Rude Pundit, as usual says it better than the rest of us.