Saturday, September 15, 2007

Dublin Odds

The Irish will bet on anything. Irish bookies are some of the cleverest and quickest odds merchants out there. They've also been far, far ahead of the pundits when it comes to picking the winners. After all, they have real money on the line.

Here's the official Dublin Line from Paddy Power "Lord Mayor of Dublin Bookmakers"

Rudolph Giuliani 11 - 10
Fred Thompson 2 - 1
Mitt Romney 3 - 1
John McCain 12 - 1
Ron Paul 20 - 1
Newt Gingrich 20 - 1
Mike Huckabee 25 - 1
Sam Brownback 33 - 1
Condoleezza Rice 33 - 1

Rudy's the clear favorite at about as close to pick'em as you can go.

Now for the Dems

Hillary Clinton 2 - 5
Barack Obama 3 - 1
Al Gore 7 - 1
John Edwards 9 - 1
Bill Richardson 20 - 1
Evan Bayh 25 - 1
Joseph Biden 33 - 1
Tom Daschle 40 - 1
Wesley Clark 50 - 1

Gore's doing better than Edwards on the Dublin line and he's not going to run. Usually in Dublin if you want to make your own bet, all you do is walk up and say "I want to put a fiver on Wes Clark" and the dodger will cadge the odds for you on the spot. Clark officially endorsed Clinton this morning. Expect a SecDef or SecState position to spring from that early tap.

So, there you have it. I think I'll keep visiting Paddy to keep an close eye on the latest movements. Like I said, the Dublin Line had George W. winning against all the best predictions and fervent wishes of the few sane people left in the country.


Ginger Beer and Root Beer

Here at El Rancho Harpo, especially since I sobered up, we take things like our soda fountain seriously. There's nothing to match a homebrewed ginger or root beer. If you want a taste of heaven try a root beer float when both the ice cream and the root beer are home made.

You can buy the bottles at any respectable homebrewing supplier. Which is also the best place to find things like hops, sarsaparilla, and sassafras root. I like the spring top bottles, but the thing to remember is to always make certain that the rubber seals are new and pliable. We don't want explosions. If you want to invest in a capper and some blanks that will work fine too, as long as you go for thick, brown or green glass to prevent light damage.

Because the carbonation here is achieved by the action of yeast there will be very trace amounts of alcohol. Because the fermentation is stopped quickly the alcohol content will be well below 0.005% which by any definition is a "soft" drink.

These are both tried and true recipes which are fairly easy.


1 gallon water
10 ounces peeled fresh ginger cut into thin medallions
2 cups sugar (I often use the vanilla sugar I keep in the pantry)
2 lemons, washed well and sliced about 1/4"
1/2 teaspoon fresh brewer's yeast

Put the ginger, the sugar, and the water on a high flame in a stout pot. Bring to a boil and boil, covered, for about an hour. Uncover, and add in the lemons, boil uncovered for another 15 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature. Once it is below 85° you can add in the yeast. Allow the yeast to work overnight. I cover during this stage loosely with a cheesecloth. Skim off the yeast scum and strain through a fine mesh screen into the sterilized bottles. Cap tightly and let the bottles sit for at least 12 hours to carbonate further, then refrigerate. Once refrigerated they will keep up to two months. This makes about 12 Grolsch Lager sized bottles.


2 gallons of water
3 tablespoons ground sarsaparilla
1 tablespoon ground sassafrass root
1 heaping tablespoon hops
1 1/2 cups honey (desert sage is what i prefer for the smokiness)
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon wintergreen extract
1/4 teaspoon fresh brewer's yeast

Put the sarsaparilla, sassafrass, hops, and coriander into a slow cook crock pot with enough water to cover and bring to a boil on high setting. Reduce to the lower setting and simmer, covered, for 12 hours. You might need to add in some water from time to time to keep all the ingredients wet. This is a great step for overnight.

Next morning turn off the slow cooker so that the ingredients can all cool to room temperature, proof the yeast in 2/3 cup of warm water. Boil the 2 gallons of water in a large non-reactive pot for ten minutes and allow to cool to room temperature. Strain the stuff from the slow cooker through a fine mesh strainer so that the liquid is joined with the 2 gallons of boiled water. Stir in the honey, the wintergreen extract and the yeast slurry and mix well. Allow to sit at room temperature for a minimum of 12 hours. Skim off the yeast scum and strain into the sterilized bottles. Cap tightly and refrigerate. This makes about 24 full sized bottles. They will last up to two months if refrigerated, but as soon as the kids figure out how good it is two months will not be in the cards.

These are great winter projects for kids stuck inside by inclement weather.


Friday, September 14, 2007

Crystallized Ginger

This is great stuff. It is a great way to preserve fresh ginger. Far more fun than dousing it with sugared vodka, and the resulting syrup begs you to make waffles.

This is the flavoring for my niece Jenna's namesake chocolate truffle. She eats it out of hand as a candy, likes it chopped over ice cream, in fruit cake, and as a substitute or an addition to her beloved, indulgent uncle's homemade cinnamon raisin bread. (damn every time I ramble before cutting to the chase I end up with another recipe to post)


1 1/2 pounds fresh, peeled ginger, cut into medallions (should be about a quart by volume)
3 cups sugar
1 lemon, sliced thin and seeded
1 cup light Karo® syrup (usually when I use a brand name it is because I've tried another label and not have had good results. Go ahead and use an off brand if you want, but there's something about the Karo® that works in this one)
large granule sugar for dusting

In a large, heavy stainless steel pot put the ginger along with enough water to completely cover with a few inches to spare. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer covered for about twenty minutes unhtil the ginger is to a place where a fork will enter but not skewer. A piece picked up should be pliable but not limp.

Stir in 1 cup of the sugar, bring to a boil, then remove from heat and store covered overnight.

Day 2 - Uncover and bring liquid to a boil again. Add the Karo® and the lemon slices. Reduce heat to simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and store at room temperature, covered, overnight.

Day 3 - Uncover and bring to a boil again. Stirring often, add in 1 cup sugar and reduce heat to a simmer and stirring often, simmer 30 minutes. Bring heat back to a boil slowly, add in the last cup of sugar and stir until completely dissolved. Remove from heat, store covered at room temperature overnight.

Day 4 - Uncover, and bring slowly up to a simmer, stirring intermittently until the ginger is mostly translucent, this should take about 45 minutes to an hour. Slower is better here. The syrup should be reduced to a point where it almost balls on the side of the spoon. I look for when it begins to make one big drop on the side rather than dripping.

Take the ginger slices out of the syrup and place them on a rack (hose this down with cooking spray!) over wax paper to catch the drips. Dry over night. Run the syrup through a sieve to remove all the lemon slices and any chunky things, store tightly covered.

Shake the dried slices in a bag with large crystal sugar (Sugar In The Raw® works great for this) and store in a large, airtight jar.

This ginger has far, far more bite than anything you might buy from a store. The syrup can also be used 2 tablespoons to a large tumbler of club soda and a lemon slice, for awesome ginger ale. Over buckwheat pancakes it has to be tasted to be believed.


I forgot to add that this recipe can be made completely using a crock pot or other slow cooker. Alternate between the settings. When the instructions call for increasing the temperature slowly it is pretty damned close to perfect.


Friday Random Ten

I'm also working on posting the recipe I use for crystalized ginger. . .it ain't nothing like the stuff you buy in a store. It has bite, but I've worked off my head with this for so long that I'm having to make a batch and write down my proportions and ingredients. . .Not bad duty come to think of it.

I'll See You In My Dreams - - Merle Travis
When It's Peach Pickin' Time - - - Chet Atkins
Garden State Stomp - - - Dave Van Ronk
Portland Town - - - Marianne Faithful
Soulful Shade Of Blue - - - Buffy Sainte-Marie (egad I loves me some Buffy)
Girl of The North Country - - - Leo Kottke
Fiesta - - - The Pogues
Captain Kidd - - Great Big Sea
If I Ever Leave This World Alive - - - Flogging Molly (love you lads)
Big River - - - Johnny Cash

Bonus Track

Lo Siento Mi Vida - - - Linda Ronstadt (my beautiful homegirl)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ginger Ice Cream

I find myself at a loss today. I had a great breakfast/farewell meeting with Rez Dog who is leaving our dry, dry, and very hot area of operations for the 325 days a year rain of the Pacific Northwest. Desòkah'iyue yexaidela go deh yaa jooni shik'isn. (having been prepared, walk a journey of beauty my brother)

I tried to go off on a rant about what smarmy, disingenuous bastards Crocker and Petraeus are. I saw them both on the PBS News Hours. Maybe if they keep spouting that same bullshit line enough they will reach a point where their own fucking eyes buy into it. The problem with that is while I was wanting to rant I had Julie London singing "Don't Smoke In Bed" in front of the Nelson Riddle Orchestra which destroyed my angry.

The bottom line is that unless Congress suddenly decides that things have gone far enough. We are not going to achieve any discernable goal except to keep over 100,000 troops in Iraq so that Bush can had off the mess he created to the next administration. Then he plans to hit the lecture circuit and make beaucoup bucks.

Rather than lapse into total blank staring despair I figured I'd hit the kitchen and make one of my favorites.

I developed this recipe my very ownself. I have a beloved uncle who lives in San Diego who adores a little Thai joint in Ocean Beach. They make a great ginger ice cream which is the perfect capper to a spicy Thai meal. I asked them for their recipe and they politely refused. So, being as he's a favorite uncle and all that I went to work.


1/2 cup Baker's sugar
1 vanilla bean split in half lengthwise
1/4 cup peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
1/3 cup water
4 large egg yolks
pinch kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 cups manufacturing cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon Canton ginger liqueur (optional but it really helps with the consistency)

In a small, nonreactive saucepan, take 6 tablespoons of the sugar and the vanilla bean, scrub the inside of the bean with the sugar to remove as much of the little tiny specky looking seeds as you can. Leave the pod in the pan, add the ginger and the water and stir until the sugar dissolves. Heat over medium flame, stirring constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, stop stirring, and simmer for five minutes, without stirring. Remove from heat, cover, and allow to cool to room temperature.

Have a fine mesh strainer suspended over a medium size mixing bowl nearby.

In a heavy, non-reactive saucepan, using a wooden spoon, stir together the yolks, the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and the salt until well blended. In a small pan, scald the cream and the milk. Temper this into the egg yolk and sugar mixture a little at a time. Heat this gradually, stirring constantly until it is just below the boiling point, 170 - 180° (I would hope you've gotten an instant read thermometer by now). Steam will begin to appear, there will be small bubbles forming around the perimeter, and when your finger (scrupulously clean as always) is run along the back of the wooden spoon a well-defined track will be left. Immediately remove this from the heat and strain it into the mixing bowl, making sure to scrape the thickened cream from the bottom of the pan and force it through the strainer with your wooden spoon. Cool in the refrigerator for at least two hours.

Before freezing, strain the ginger syrup, remove the vanilla pod, and put the ginger into the mini-chopper and purée with a tablespoon of the syrup until it is very fine. Tiny chunks are acceptable, lumps are forbidden. Add this to the ice cream base with the rest of the syrup, stir in the Ginger liqueur and do a normal freeze job. This is very creamy stuff, so allow to ripen a little more in the container in the freezer before serving.

This is a great compliment to pear, peach, nectarine and persimmon pie. All by itself it can brighten up one whole day.

Big Brass Blog

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What Patreaus Doesn't Know

Is whether or not all this wonderful fucking progress he's claiming to have made in Iraq is doing a lick of good for our country.

Know what dude?

I don't fucking know either. But then I'm not giving the goddamn orders that result in the deaths of young soldiers.


WARNER: I hope in the recesses of your heart that you know that strategy will continue the casualties, stress on our forces, stress on military families, stress on all Americans. Are you able to say at this time, if we continue what you have laid before the Congress, this strategy, that if you continue, you are making America safer?

PETRAEUS: Sir, I believe that this is indeed the best course of action to achieve our objections in Iraq.

WARNER: Does that make America safer?

PETRAEUS: Sir, I don’t know actually. I have not sat down and sorted out in my own mind. What I have focused on and been riveted on is how to accomplish the mission of the Multinational Force in Iraq.

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot, every time you assholes use the phrase "Multinational Force" I throw up in my mouth a little.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Dinner Menu

I started trying to listen to General Petreaus, then they couldn't figure out how to get his mic working, and as you might know from reading my performance chronicles, I'm a big stickler for production values. Also there were ladies from Code Pink there. Way to go ladies. No minds are going to be changed one way or the other, might as well let them know in the room that you're out there and you're pissed off.

Here's what I served for the double anniversary dinner.

I started out by cleaning out the deep freeze in anticipation of my son's return from the wilds of Wyoming in time for us to hit the mountains for Black Powder Elk season.

Ingredients for Elk Roast

1 whole elk tenderloin (about 3 lbs)
2 big yellow onions sliced
6 cloves garlic peeled and smashed
1 cup dry red wine
salt, pepper, cayenne

Brown the elk loin on a big griddle. This won't perform the fabled "seal in the juices" function, but it will provide a nice crust beginning. It's more of an esthetic thing. Then put it into a large roasting pan. Season well with the salt, pepper and cayenne. Put the crushed garlic cloves and the onion slices all around the roast and dump in the wine. Cover and place in a 320° oven for 3 hours. Keep checking the liquid level and if it starts to look sludgy don't be afraid to glug in some more wine or water. When the roast is done to your liking (an internal temperature of 130 is a nice medium, where the roast is thoroughly cooked through with just a little tease of pink in the center) allow it to rest for 15 minutes before slicing thin and dousing with:

Ingredients for Cumberland Sauce

3/4 cup ruby Port
1 Valencia Orange
1 Meyer Lemon
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 teaspoon dry mustard (I use Coleman's but follow your bliss)
4 tablespoons Red Currant jelly
Cayenne Pepper
Ground Ginger

Squeeze the juice from the orange and the lemon, zest them both. Combine, in a heavy saucepan, the Port, the juice, the zests, and the shallot, adding enough water to totally submerge the zests and shallot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and simmer uncovered, without stirring until reduced by 2/3's. Cool. In a sauce boat add in the jelly and the mustard, then use the ginger and cayenne to taste.

Ingredients for Farmer Charlie's Famous Carrots

Enough carrots to serve as many folks as you're serving
peeled and sliced on the bias. Reserve the tops and greens.
Sweet butter
fresh chopped sweet basil

Put an inch of heavily salted water in the bottom of a large pot and bring to a rapid boil. Cover the bottom of the pot with the tops and greens of the carrots to create a steamer effect. Place the sliced carrots on top of this and cook, covered until nicely al dente.

In a serving bowl toss the cooked slices with the butter and basil, salt lightly and serve.

It's about 2 p.m. General Patreaus has spent nearly thirty minutes of his testimony so far explaining that the data isn't cooked and he's not a liar. If he's not a liar I feel bad for him. Still, the data is suspect merely because of the administration that has generated it. If this General is the first honest man we've seen in five and a half years we're all fucked. But, hey, we knew that.