Sunday, May 31, 2015

Soggy Sunday

It was still raining hard when I woke up Sunday morning. Plus, it was cold! 46 degrees outside (on the last day of May? Crazy!) I turned the furnace on, made a cup of coffee and filled in the lengthy Blog post.

I watched the morning news shows until 10:00 a.m. and then I shaved, showered and got dressed.

I needed some bacon for dinner, so I made eight strips of it in the oven. It was funny. I made it the same way I always do: Foil on a half sheet try (I scrunch it up first, then straighten it back out – that gives little valleys for the grease to pool); Thick-cut bacon that I pepper (a lot); 400 degrees preheated oven and I plan on from 25 – 30 minutes until its done but still pliable. Except…

This time I used the convection oven. I was not sure what, if any, difference there would be, so I set the timer for 20 minutes, so I could check. When I did, the ends of the bacon were burnt and the rest was crispy! Damn! That sucker really works!!!

The rain lessened around noon, so I did two things. I went out on the patio and checked the rain gauge. There was 2 1/2 inches of water in it!

I knew it was bad, because the weather radio had been going off, warning of flooding on the Rouge River in Inkster.

Next, I drove to the Wine Barrel Plus (Plymouth Road, between Merriman and Middle Belt). A recipe I want to make today calls for 1 1/2 cups of Anchor Steam beer. I never heard of it and they don’t sell it at Kroger. I stopped at a couple of party stores yesterday and they didn’t know it either.

But, beside an extensive selection of wine (this is where I’ve gone in the past when Jake and Carla recommend a wine nobody else ever heard of), they are a big resource for local home brewers, with aisles and aisles of beer-making stuff.

Sure enough, when I asked, one of the brew masters (yes, they have brew masters, or at least that’s what they call them – they could be ex-accountants or garbage men for all I know about beer) said, “Sure, we carry it. It’s right over there.” And he walked me to a cooler. But, there was none there! Just an Anchor IP (whatever the hell that means). So, I said I’d take it. He asked why I wanted specifically Anchor Steam and I explained I didn’t particularly want to drink it, I just needed it for a recipe. He said, “Then you don’t want the Anchor IP. It will be way too “hoppy!” (Whatever the hell that means).

He explained that Anchor Steam beer was first brewed in California during the Gold Rush. German brewers had flocked to the area to take advantage of the thirsty miners (we’re sneaky like that). But, they couldn’t get the yeast cold enough in Cali to make their usual brew. So, they brewed it anyway and just called it “Steam Beer.”

Sidebar: Maybe the guy really is a brew master!

He said he had an alternative German beer that would do the trick. So, I bought a bottle of Kolsch Sunner beer (there are oomlats over the o and the u).

Note: I paid $3.99 for one bottle. Now, granted it was a big bottle. I think a regular beer bottle is, like, 12 ounces. This one was 1 pint, 9 ounces. Still, although it’s been a long time since I was a serious beer drinker, I think I could have bought a 12-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon or Old Milwaukee for that much!

Back home, I put the now-cooled bacon in the fridge. I changed clothes and started cleaning the house.

Sidebar: I like to have the house clean before leaving on trips. That way, other than what the cat messes up, I come home to a nice house. Conversely, if I die on the trip, nobody knows what a slob I really am.

I turned on the movie Jurassic Park and listened to it or watched it as I worked.

When I got the house in order, I packed my suitcase, except for the items I’d need in the morning. I also filled those Aqua Globes and stuck two apiece in each hanging plant on the porch. That will hopefully hold them until I get back.

Finally, I made supper. I was making a bacon and blue cheese burger with onion rings and beet greens. Since it was just me, I cut the onion ring recipe in half, but I’ll list the measurements as they were.

So, I peeled and sliced two large onions crosswise into 1/2 inch slices. I separated them into rings. I saved the small inner rings for later use. I added one cup of flour into a bowl. I tossed the rings in the flour and let them sit for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, I made a pound of ground chuck into three patties. I seasoned them with salt and pepper and let them come up to room temperature.

I made a spread of mayonnaise, a squirt of Dijon mustard and a lot of blue cheese crumbles.

I warmed up 6 cups of vegetable oil in my Dutch oven. I stuck a candy thermometer in the oil. When the oil came up to 350 degrees, I made the batter.

I whisked together 2 cups of flour, 1 ½ cups of cornstarch, 2 ½ teaspoons of garlic powder, 2 ½ teaspoons of onion powder, 2 ½ teaspoons of cayenne pepper, 2 ½ teaspoons of granulated sugar and 1 ½ tablespoons of kosher salt.

Then I mixed the wet ingredients: one egg I scrambled, 1 ½ cups of beer (Anchor Steam was recommended) and 2 cups of sparkling water. I mixed the wet with the dry and whisked that until no lumps remained.

I shook the flour off each ring, dipped it in the batter and dropped it in the hot oil. I did it in batches, drained them on a rack over paper towels and then stuck them into the oven set at 250 degrees to stay warm. I also turned the beet greens on to boil.

When I had the onion rings done, I fried up the hamburgers. While they were cooking, I lightly toasted an onion roll and warmed up two slices of bacon in the microwave.

When the burgers were done, I assembled one of them. I smeared the spread on each half. I put the burger on, topped it with more blue cheese crumbles and then the bacon, cut in half.

I plated my dinner, keeping the beet greens in a small dish so the vinegar wouldn’t seep into the bun or the onion rings.

It was excellent. That makes two dinners in two nights I hit out of the park!!!

I cleaned up the mess and ran the dishwasher. I put the leftovers in the freezer, along with yesterday’s chicken.

I watched The Cowboys (an old Western starring John Wayne and Bruce Dern). When it ended, I went to bed.

The Saturday Story

I slept in on Saturday! When I got up, I made a cup of coffee, stumbled to the office and filled in the Blog.

Listening to the weather on TV, I realized the forecast had changed. Now, instead of rain all day on Saturday and clearing on Sunday, we are supposed to have nice weather on Saturday morning until about 2:00 p.m. and then off and on rain through Sunday afternoon (the storm must have stalled a bit somewhere).

That put a kink in my plans to ride the Big Thumper Sunday morning! No problem, I’ll just take my ride today, I thought. So, I shaved and showered. As I was dressing for my ride, I remember I had a haircut scheduled at 9:30 a.m.! Damn!!!

So, instead of riding my bike, I rode my truck to the barber’s. After I got my hair cut, I stopped at Kroger’s to get some thick-cut bacon, blue cheese and buns (for Sunday’s dinner) and some beets for tonight.

I also stopped at Meijer’s for a beach towel and some mosquito repellent. Vicky told me on Friday (Friday!) that her mother reminded her of all the mosquitoes on her Grandmother’s farm.

Back home, I unloaded the truck, treated the cat and put away the groceries. It was almost 11:00 a.m. and the sun was still shining. So, I grabbed the bike keys and my helmet and headed out. Unfortunately, the traffic on the main roads had really picked up. So, I decided against a ride through Hines Park and just went up and down the residential roads around here.

Sidebar: I somehow attracted the attention of a Redford cop, who followed me for about a mile. I was hoping he was interested in the bike and not my lousy driving skills. That must have been it, because he finally turned off.

I finally got back to San Jose as the sky began to darken. I waited for traffic to clear and crossed Plymouth Road (I was riding south of Plymouth as all the streets on my side are dead end). I had planned on taking some pictures in one of the picnic areas on Hines Drive, but instead I took them on John’s Drive, LOL! 

I had to go to the Post Office and it was sprinkling on the way (around noon). But, as I waited in line, it started pouring so hard you could hear it inside!

It had stopped by the time I got through the line, sent my package and was walking out. The cold front must have moved through as it was noticeably less hot and humid.

My knee was aching all morning and I had ascribed it to the humidity (it messes with my arthritis). But, as I limped into the house, it dawned on me it might be something else. So, I checked and, sure enough, I had forgotten to take my pills this morning.

So, I popped my pills. I made myself another cup of coffee and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. I ate it on the bed, resting my legs and watching a DIY show. It felt so good to be off my feet, I took a nap.

When I woke up, I stripped the bed and started the weekend wash. I remembered I hadn’t stopped at the corner gas station, so I went over there. I visited a while with my little friend and then left.

The sun was still shining, so I hung the yellow birdhouse out front. I took in the birdhouse that came loose from the porch ceiling (it has been sitting on the bench for about a month now). I can’t put it back up until I either find or buy some more of those fishing swivel things.

By then (around 5:00 p.m.) the sky had darkened again and then the rain hit. It was hard again, but this time accompanied by thunder and lightning. Caley seemed a bit freaked out, so I raised the mini-blind and opened the window in the office a crack so she could see it was just raining.

Sidebar: I could just see the rain gauge in the gloom. It looked like we had gotten at least an inch so far (I deliberately dumped it when I planted the oregano on Friday).

I made up the bed. Then, I started supper (in hindsight, it was a little late as I had lots to do). I was making chicken with Proven├žal sauce, roasted potato wedges and a beet with horseradish salad.

First thing was to prepare the beets. I cut off the leaves, chopped them and put them in a pot for later. I LOVE BEET GREENS!!! You can have your collards or kale. Thanks to my Mother, beet greens with a little vinegar and I am in heaven!

Anyway, I digress. I cut off the bottoms and the tops of three big beets. I scrubbed them with the vegetable brush and then dried them with a paper towel. I tossed them with some olive oil, salt and pepper. I put them in my 9x9 Pyrex dish and covered them tightly with foil. I stuck them in a 400 degree preheated oven and set the timer for 70 minutes.

Sidebar: This is why I said I should have started earlier. The beet salad is meant to be served cold.

While I waited, I prepped for the other two dishes. I took two boneless, skinless chicken breasts and put them between two sheets of cling wrap. I used my rolling pin to pound them to 1/2-inch thickness. I seasoned them with just salt and pepper and set them aside.

I mixed up the dry herbs for the roasted potatoes. Now, I must say, everybody has their own herb mixture for roasting potatoes and no two are alike. Here’s what I like to use:

1/2 teaspoon dried Rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (I crush them myself in my little mortar and pestle)
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

Then I minced two big cloves of garlic.

When the beets were done, I pulled them out, took off the foil and let them cool.

I cut four big Yukon Gold potatoes into wedges. I added about 1/8 cup of olive oil to my herbs and half of the minced garlic and mixed it all together. I added the potato wedges and tossed them until they were evenly coated. Then I put them on a half sheet tray covered with foil. I stuck them back in the 400 degrees oven.

Note: I roast them by eye, not by time. About every five minutes, I turn each wedge so they roast evenly.

Back at the stove top, I heated some olive oil on medium. I added the chicken and cooked them about six minutes per side (or until they were done).

Sidebar: I had the window cracked and the vent on, but still managed to set off the smoke alarm.

I took out the chicken and set it aside (covered with foil to keep warm). I added the rest of the garlic to the pan and cooked it about a minute. Then I put in one cup of chicken stock and 1 1/2 teaspoons of dried herbs de Provence. I brought that to a boil, scraping the pan to loosen the brown bits. I let that cook until it reduced in half (3-4 minutes).

Meanwhile, I made the dressing for the beet salad. I mixed two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, 1 1/2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard, 3/4 teaspoon of kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper and three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. I whisked that all together.

I pushed the cooled beet peels off with my fingers and cut the beets into 1/2 inch cubes. I added them to the dressing and tossed them to coat. Now, the recipe says to use 1-4 tablespoons of prepared horseradish (to taste). I like horseradish, so I used two tablespoons and tossed them to evenly distribute.

Note: I pulled the potato wedges when they looked done, sometime during all this.

By then the chicken sauce had reduced. So, I removed it from the heat and added about a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice and a pat of butter to the pan.

Then I plated my dish. I poured some of the sauce over the chicken, added potato wedges and then the beet salad.

It really was excellent! I especially liked the beet salad, although I realized afterward I was supposed to top them with fresh chives. Next time…

I was stuffed, but went back for seconds on the beet salad.

It was already late, so I finished the evening watching a mixture of some taped shows and the hockey game (without the Wings, it didn’t keep my interest). That nap screwed me up and I didn’t get to bed until after 1:00 a.m.