The Functional Hermit

musings from a homebody

Archive for November 2008

NFL Week 13 Menu: Italian Sunday Gravy, For Real

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I have to admit that I did make this earlier in the season, but I didn’t really do it properly. Also I have to apologize for not taking pictures while cooking the meal this week. It just did not happen. I’m starting to really screw up this whole blogging thing and need to get it figured out. Ah well, back to the gravy…

Usually when I make meatballs I simmer them in a quickie tomato sauce but that didn’t feel special enough to blog about. Then again, when I usually make Italian Sunday Gravy, I don’t put meatballs in. I brown some beef, pork and then simmer that for hours. Throw a couple of sausages into the sauce and then you’ve got a well-simmered masterpiece. This time, I’m doing it right and am just going to pretend like the meatballs never happened.

Take a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of good olive oil and heat it in a large saucepan or dutch oven. Throw in a few whole garlic cloves and get ’em sizzling. Add a one pound (ish) piece of beef or pork. I usually do one of each. You don’t need a good cut of meat. Since you’re going to simmer it for a while, those more challenging cuts are actually better here. Simmer a good piece of meat that long and you’re just going to ruin it. Brown it thoroughly on all sides, stirring the garlic cloves as you do.

After the garlic is browned remove it. Remove and repeat with any other meat you have. This is also the time if you’re going to do meatballs to fry those up. Or if you’re ambitious enough to make brasciole, get those going. No matter what kind of meat, after it’s all browned up set it aside.

Now combine 3 tablespoons of tomato paste and 1/4 cup of water and mix well. (This is one of the rare recipes I’ve encountered where you actually use more than 1 tablespoon of tomato paste and then throw the rest of that tiny, little can away. This almost uses the whole thing.) Add that to the oil and fry this mixture for 2 to 3 minutes.

Now add two 28- or 35-ounce cans of San Marzano plum tomatoes and all the juice therein. Jack up the heat and bring that all to a boil. Measure about 2/3 of a can of water and pour that in. (Note: the original recipe calls for at least a whole can of water but you can always add more later.)

Return all your meat into the saucepan. Return to boil for 5 minutes. Lower heat to a low, steady simmer. Grate some good parmasan cheese into the tomatoes. I probably do about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of cheese but I just eyeball it. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar and some salt and pepper. Again, remember with the salt and pepper you an always add more later. You don’t need much. Cook for at least 2 hours. I usually shoot for 3 or 4, until the meat is falling apart and the essence and flavor of the meat have fused with the sauce. About an hour or so before you’re ready to eat, throw in some sausage – about a pound of either hot, sweet or some combination of.

That’s all there is to it. Browning the meat is the most labor intensive part really. Otherwise, just make sure to stir it regularly. Like Ray Liotta says in GoodFellas, “Tell Michael to stir the sauce so it doesn’t stick.” Break up the tomatoes when you stir to help them disintegrate. Once it sticks, you’re kind of screwed. Not beyond repair, it’s just going to keep sticking over and over again. Each time it does it gets harder to clear the bottom of the pot/saucepan/whatever.

To serve, boil up some pasta until al dente. Pull out the meat and set it all aside on a plate. Check it for seasoning. Adjust accordingly. Drain the pasta and then add big serving spoonful of sauce into the pot you used to boil the pasta. Add the pasta and cook the sauce into the pasta for a minute or so. Plate your pasta and add sauce and some grated parmasan. Serve the meat separately.

On the football front, I’m taking a beating with my fantasy team. Looks like I’m taking the loss this week, but I did clinch a spot in the playoffs last week so all is not lost. It’s more than a loss though, I got my ass kicked. The worst loss of the season so far.

Giants won again too. Man do they look good. But I’ve felt all along they’re peaking at the wrong time.

Written by the bee dub

November 30, 2008 at 10:43 pm

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More Tilt Shift Photography/Video

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The video I first fell in love with is posted again. It’s so friggin’ cool. Looks like he edited it a bit from the original I saw. It’s awesome. Again, check out more of this guys stuff here.

Written by the bee dub

November 24, 2008 at 9:49 am

NFL Week 12 Menu: Chicken Parm, Perfected

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parm

So my friends John and Theresa told me they had stumbled onto the perfect Chicken Parmigiana recipe. It was, of course, completely by accident. I guess Theresa put the chicken parm in the oven and left to go pick John up after work. Well because of some travel snafu, she ended up being out of the house for an hour. They assumed the chicken parm would be ruined but gave it a try nonetheless. Turns out it was the best one they ever had.

I’ve been playing around with a combination of their method and my own. I have to say, it is pretty good. Don’t know if it will be perfect for everyone but it is darn good to us.

setup-parm

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Heat some good olive oil in a large pan. Take two to four boneless chicken breasts and pound them out, super thin to about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch. Then take a half cup of flour and season it well. Dredge the breasts in the flour, into an egg wash, then into well seasoned bread crumbs. Brown them in the hot oil until they’re really nice and browned.

browned-parm1

Take a baking dish and spray with cooking spray, then cover the bottom with tomato sauce. The longer you’re going to keep the chicken in the oven, the more sauce you should put in otherwise it will burn. Put the browned chicken on the sauce, then spread some sauce over the chicken. Cover/seal the pan with foil. Put into the oven. I like to keep it in the oven for about forty minutes.

readyforcheese-parm

Then I take it out, grate some Parmesan cheese on top, cover with mozzarella, put some more sauce over the cheese but make sure you don’t put too much sauce over the top. After about ten or fifteen minutes, the cheese will be bubbly and the parm will be perfect.

I think the secret to this is that when you keep the chicken in the oven this long, the sauce fuses onto the browned chicken crust. It also seems to really tenderize the chicken all the way through. It’s awesome, at least to us.

Can’t believe the Giants are actually 10-1. They’re actually playing up to the hype, which is very unlike them. Now comes the killer stretch: at Redskins, Philly, at Cowboys, Carolina and finish at the Vikings. That’s a brutal way to finish the season.

I’ve got a 16 point fantasy football lead going into tonight. I’ve got Drew Brees and the other guy has the Green Bay defense – a good matchup. One’s going to get the better of the other.

Written by the bee dub

November 24, 2008 at 9:37 am

Tilt Shift Photography

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So my friend Ryan at work showed me these pictures using a technique called tilt shift. Basically, it involves taking wide shots of things and using this technique that makes thing look like it’s a picture of a diorama rather than a real scene. It’s hard to explain, but it’s mesmerizing to look at.

I found this video on Vimeo. Yesterday there was one of a monster truck rally that was awesome but somehow that isn’t there anymore. Too bad, we were almost hyponotized by it. Anyway, there’s a few others this guy has posted and they’re all pretty interesting if nothing else. He also picks perfect tracks to accompany the video. You can check out other videos he’s done here.


Written by the bee dub

November 19, 2008 at 11:19 am

NFL Week 11 Menu: Turkey Meatloaf, Tomato Gravy & Turnip Greens

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turkeygreensgravy

It’s officially gotten cold here. We’ve got lows this upcoming week predicted to be in the 20’s. For some reason, that means it’s a perfect time for meatloaf.

The meatloaf recipe is another Food Network find, again Ina Garten (or as my friend John put it, Ina Garten Davida).

In a medium saucepan, heat a tablespoon of good olive oil over medium-low heat. Add a big chopped onion, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves. Cook about 15 minutes, until the onions are translucent but not browned. Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature.

mixture

Heat oven to 325. Combine 2 1/2 pounds of ground turkey, 3/4 cup of plain bread crumbs, 2 beaten eggs and the tomato mixture and mix well. Shape into a loaf on an ungreased pan or baking dish. Spread 3/4 cup of ketchup evenly over the whole thing and put it in the oven for 1 1/2 hours, until internal temperature reaches 160.

ketchup

For the greens…now I’m no Southerner. But I’ve learned to appreciate greens. For some reason I never really like them at ‘authentic’ Southern places, but I do love the turnip greens they have at a taco place here called Taquerie Del Sol. It’s nothing like Mexican. Their most popular taco (I’m guessing) is called the Memphis with beef brisket and cole slaw. But they serve awesome greens and published the recipe in the local paper. I made sure to write it down.

steamed

Take 1 pound of cleaned & trimmed turnip greens and cover with 1 inch of water in a large pot. Bring to a boil and lower heat to simmer for 45 minutes. Remove greens and drain well. Add 3 tablespoons of butter into the empty pan and melt it over heat. Add 1 chopped onion, 3 chopped garlic cloves and 1-2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper.

cayenne

Cook until onions are soft. Add 1 can of petite chopped tomatoes (drained). Cook for 5 minutes.

tomatoes

Add 2 1/2 cups of chicken stock and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Now the recipe says to simmer for 15 minutes and then salt to taste. I say simmer to your heart’s content. The greens are so much better when they simmer until they lose their structural integrity, which doesn’t happen in 15 minutes. Make sure the heat is nice and low though, it needs to be a mellow simmer to come out right.

finished-greens

I don’t know hooey about gravy. But I make some every now and then and it always just comes down to starting with a couple tablespoons of butter with a tablespoon or two of flour to make a roux. Cook that for a minute or two and then add whatever.

roux

Chicken stock. Beef stock. Veggie Stock. Stock and beer (surprisingly good, but your choice of beer is key). Drippings, stock and wine. Whatever. I’m going to make it with a can of stewed tomatoes and some chicken stock. Just simmer it for awhile, that’s key. I started simmering when I put the meat loaf in so it’s going to simmer for at least 90 minutes.

So that’s the plan for food. As far as football goes…the Giants absolutely stomped the Ravens. As they’ve named their three running back attack: Earth, Wind & Fire. I don’t know who is who but my guess is Brandon Jacobs is Earth.

As far as fantasy goes, I’ve got a 20 point lead with 1 player left. The other guy has Jamal Lewis tonight. Statistics would point to a win but Jamal Lewis always explodes for one ridiculous game and this could be it. We’ll see…

Written by the bee dub

November 17, 2008 at 12:03 pm

I’m being laughed at

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I finally got my computer back and everything seems to be working…so far. Last time it took me a few days to realize something was wrong so I’m going to withhold judgment for a while.

One of the guys I work with came by, saw me typing on my computer and started laughing at me. I asked what was so funny and he remarked, “I always enjoy seeing a heroin junkie scoring a highball.”

I had no idea what he was talking about. He then explained that I was the junkie and my repaired laptop was the highball. Guess my dependence on technology is more obvious than I thought.

Written by the bee dub

November 13, 2008 at 4:21 pm

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Back To The Repair Shop

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My MacBook Pro has been acting weird since the last repair. The disc drive no longer works right, meaning playing DVD’s, CD’s, etc. is an iffy proposition.

So I drove about an hour south of town to the repair place and dropped it off. Looks like I’ll be without it for at least a few days. At least it’s still under warranty.

This is good in a way. I’m learning to be less dependent on it. But not by choice. One of these days I’ll be back to being a hermit with a fully functional connection to the outside world.

Written by the bee dub

November 11, 2008 at 11:35 am

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NFL Week 10 Menu: Beef Stew (Bourguignon)

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final1

Bring on the Eagles. The Giants have a huge game tonight on prime time TV and I’ll be ready. Honestly, I’ve got a bad feeling about this game so I’m going to numb myself with a few beers before kickoff.

As far as grub, fall as definitely arrived. The air is crisp and clean, especially because we got some rare rainfall on Friday night. The leaves on the trees have really transformed. Last weekend they looked a dull green. Now they’re any other color and there’s a good chill in the air – a perfect time for beef stew.

I got this menu from the Food Network, if I remember right I think it’s an Ina Garten recipe. Officially it’s called Beef Bourguignon but that’s too hoity-toity for me so I just call it Beef Stew.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Take 2 – 2 1/2 pounds of beef chuck. Trim away any fat, grizzle and connective tissue while cutting it into 1 inch-ish cubes. Pat dry with a paper towel and then season with salt and pepper.

brown

Take 8-ish ounces of center cut bacon and dice it. Take a big dutch oven (for the second week in a row, insert your own dutch oven joke here) heat some olive oil, maybe a tablespoon, and fry the bacon until it’s crisp. Set it aside with a slotted spoon. Then brown the beef in batches, turning to brown all sides (3-5 minutes per batch). Set aside the browned beef with the bacon.

both

Into the grease, add 1 pound of carrots cut into 1-inch pieces, along with two sliced onions. Cook it until the onions are brown, 10-15 minutes, stirring it often which will bring any brown bits up from the bottom. Then add two chopped garlic cloves, about 2 teaspoons, and cook another minute. (Note: At this point, the recipe calls for adding 1/2 cup of cognac and then igniting it to burn off the alcohol but I skip this.)

combine

Return the beef and bacon to the pot. Add a bottle of good Pinot Noir or Cote Du Rhone, 1 can of beef broth, 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves and a 1 pound bag of frozen, whole pearl onions. Bring it all to a simmer.

Put on the cover of the dutch oven, or a tight lid on whatever pot your using. Put it into the oven for at least 1 1/4 hours, I usually go to 1 1/2 at least, until the meat and veggies are fork tender. This is the stage of the process that for me, you can not overcook – the longer the better.

While cooking, take a pound of mushrooms, clean them and remove the stems. Slice them thick. When you’re ready to remove the concoction from the oven, add two tablespoons of room temperature, unsalted butter and use a fork to combine that with 3 tablespoons of flour. Add to the stew. Take the mushrooms and saute them with two tablespoons of unsalted buter. When they’re nice and brown, add them to the stew. (Another note: the orginal recipe says to add the frozen pearl onions at this point, but they never were cooked enough to suit my taste. I like my onions to be soft.) Bring the stew to a boil on the stove and then lower the heat to a simmer for 15 minutes.

Serve it on a piece of toasted country or sourdough bread.

Again, I do NOT feel good about the Giants tonight. Maybe they’ll surprise me but they, and Eli Manning especially, do not handle success and prosperity very well. Judging from past performances, this is exactly the kind of time – when all the pundits have declared them the class of the NFC – that they start playing down to the opposition. I’d love to be wrong here, by the way.

On the fantasy front, I’m in a likely losing battle against a friend of mine. For some reason, I just can’t beat my friends in this league. This dude is in last place. But he’s a really nice guy and I’m a mean Son of a Bitch so maybe it’s karma.

I want to end this by suggesting to everyone to love and cherish the people in your life. This weekend I got a call from my friends John and Theresa who live in New Jersey and Theresa’s dad had to get heart surgery here in Atlanta. Sounds like it went well but also sounds very serious. Then I got an e-mail from my friend John in Chicago, whose father had a stroke. Again, sounds like he’s alright and got medical attention quick enough to prevent anything serious, but if you’re the type, please take a moment and think good thoughts or prayers for my friends and their families.

Written by the bee dub

November 9, 2008 at 10:23 pm

Hermit Cinema: In Bruges

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in-bruges-posterThis is a movie I heard very little about while it was in the theaters, though the reviews I read were pretty positive.

Two English hit-men (Colin Farrell & Brendan Gleason) have to go on the lam so they hide out in Bruges; a small, somewhat tourist-y town in Belgium. They’re supposed to lay low and avoid unwanted attention while they await orders from their boss (Ralph Fiennes). Ralph Fiennes really steals every scene he’s in, which isn’t all that many.

Without giving away too many details, Gleason’s character suspects they’re in Bruges to do more than hide out and unfortunately, he turns out to be right. They try to fill the time doing some sightseeing around the town, which Gleason’s character fully enjoys but Farrell’s is way too antsy for that. Meanwhile, Farrell falls for a local girl who is working on a movie production taking place there. Random events lead to some high entertainment, especially the drug-fueled repartee between the hit-men and a dwarf acting in the movie. There’s definitely a lot more interesting scenes in the movie but I’d be just ruining them if I told you about them beforehand.

This movie was definitely worth my time and felt like a nice discovery. Not very action-focused like other movies of the English-gangster genre, this is more like a very dark comedy. Or to put it another way, it’s nothing like a Guy Ritchie movie. Don’t get me wrong, I think Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch were both very good, this is just a whole different gig.

Check it out if you’re so inclined.

Written by the bee dub

November 6, 2008 at 5:10 pm

NFL Week 9 Menu: Brisket

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This use to be my ‘go to’ dish when having company but I haven’t made it in over a year. Probably because it’s been supplanted at the top of my menu list by slow cooking a boston butt of pork. It still makes for a great meal so I figured it was time. I got the recipe from a co-worker who comes from Texas – brisket country.

Preheat your oven to 325. Then take a 3-3.5 pound brisket, trim off any fat and pat it with ground pepper and chopped garlic. Heat some vegetable oil in a dutch oven (insert a joke here if you like) and then brown the brisket, about three minutes per side while you also throw in a couple of thinly sliced onions. After browning, remove the brisket and keep cooking the onions until they’re nice and dark brown. Add a half cup of red wine and half cup of beef broth. Scrape/stir any brown bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pan. Cook for a minute or so.

Now add a half cup of brown sugar, half cup of cider vinegar and a bottle of Heinz chili sauce. Throw in a bay leaf if you like. Stir and cook until it all combines. Then return the brisket to the sauce and spoon the sauce over the top. Put the top on the dutch oven and put in the oven for 2-3 hours until brisket is tender.

I have to admit that I don’t have a picture of the finished product because I screwed it up a little. I left it in for three hours and it was a bit overcooked. That’s really saying something because basically it cooks, it then tenderizes, then it really tenderizes to the point of falling apart, then it starts firming up as it overcooks. I realize my mistake was that the brisket I got was a little small, about 2.5 pounds. But the cap of fat on the underside was really, really thick. By the time I cut it all off I had a much smaller brisket than I was planning for and never adjusted. But hey, a healthy amount of beer will do that to you. It was still pretty good, it just didn’t live up to its full potential.

Add liberal amounts of olive oil, salt, pepper and roast for two hours.

Add liberal amounts of olive oil, salt, pepper and roast for two hours.

Luckily, the roast potatoes and grilled asparagus I made came out perfectly, so it all kind of worked out in the end. I’m going to take the leftover brisket and make sandwiches with it tonight. If I’m motivated enough, I’ll make an au jus for dipping the sandwich which will negate any overcooking effect.

On the football front, the Giants won a big game against the hated, putrid Cowboys (sorry again, Dan, but it takes a bigger man than myself to restrain himself from kicking Jerry Jones when he’s down) and I’m headed for a likely victory in my fantasy league. My opponent has two players still to play tonight while mine are all done playing, but I’m sitting on a 53 point lead. Not impossible to overcome, but highly unlikely.

Written by the bee dub

November 3, 2008 at 11:41 am

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