The First Time

New Orleans Writing Marathon

Day Two, Tuesday, July 11, 2017

One snippet of what I wrote that day.

The first time Jambalaya Joe cooked for us he made – of course – jambalaya. A great black cast iron kettle, suspended over a ring of roaring blue gas jets fed by a rusty steel bottle mounted on his trailer, bubbled furiously and steamed like a witch’s cauldron into the humid Louisiana air.

Rice, mysterious lumps of meat, and bags of vegetables went in – to roil and cook.

Then Jambalaya Joe looked around as if to make sure nobody was watching (though we all were – ravenous after a long, hard working day) extracted a large tin box from a stained canvas bag, lifted it over the boiling pot, and opened the lid with the creak of old hinges.

A cloud of red spice tumbled out to disappear into the boil below. It changed the color of the stew from a flat brown to a fiery red.

“That’s his famous secret spice mix,” said some random stranger next to me, complete with a wink and a subtle elbow to the ribs.

Jambalaya Joe cooked the evening meal for us every night, hired by The Company to feed the work crew until the job was finished.

He made something different each night. Jambalaya became gumbo, then red beans and rice, Irish stew, chili, then spaghetti and meatballs… on and on – visiting every cuisine of the world. I never imagined a cast-iron kettle could be so versatile.

But every meal he dumped the exact same tin box filled with the same secret spice mix into the pot.

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What I learned this week, November 28, 2014

Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, Dallas, Texas

Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, Dallas, Texas

How Political Leadership Makes City Streets Bikeable

Bike tour group in front of the Belmont Hotel murals. (click to enlarge)

Bike tour group in front of the Belmont Hotel murals.
(click to enlarge)


Nasa Photo

Nasa Photo

All these worlds are yours, except Europa. Attempt no landing there. Use them together. Use them in peace.

Europa Is Stunning In Close-To-True Color


GoPro Tour of my favorite Dallas hike/bike trail.


I’ll bet you thought “Dallas Culture” was an oxymoron. And here they found fifteen

15 Things We’re Thankful For in Dallas Culture

I’d add Dallas Aurora returning for 2015. The last one was more than fantastic.

Shane Pennington's screen inside the Dallas City Performance Hall, with Jazz Trio.

Shane Pennington’s screen inside the Dallas City Performance Hall, with Jazz Trio.


This has always been one of my favorite movie scenes,“We will sell our bracelets by the roadside; you will play golf and enjoy hot hors d’oeuvres. My people will have pain and degradation; your people will have stick-shifts. The gods of my tribe have spoken. They have said, ‘Do not trust the Pilgrims, especially Sarah Miller. And for all these reasons, I have decided to scalp you and burn your village to the ground.”

Thanksgiving, as Told by Wednesday Addams…


Drug Overdose: The Real American Epidemic


Kindle

Call Me Ishmael

The Harvard Classics: Download All 51 Volumes as Free eBooks


Delicious, pretentious, and easy. What else do you want?

Bringing Sous Vide to the Home Cook

Homemade Habanero Hotsauce

According to WordPress, this is the one thousandth entry in my blog. I’ve written a little over one blog a day, not missing a day, for almost three years now.

This is the third or fourth blog I’ve done over the years – the first one, The Daily Epiphany, was the thirteenth (as best as I can tell) blog in the world, started in July 25, 1996. Of course, there weren’t any blogs in those days – we called them online journals. It was a lot of work back then – the entries were written in Notepad and all the HTML tags were written out by hand. Think of how much work it was to add new entries with back and forward links and tables of contents – all done without electronic help and uploaded by FTP. Within a year I had developed a series of Microsoft Word Templates with macros to help do all that – but it was a long way from today’s fully automated content systems.

I wrote every day for seven years or so, until my kids grew old enough to read the thing and share it with their friends and I had to give it up. For a long time then, I switched to paper – looking to my left I see a stack of Moleskines I filled up in the years I would write every day in longhand.

Finally, a friend of mine started a WordPress Blog and I thought it would be fun, so I cast my line in. Old habits die hard and I found that putting an entry up every day was important to me, even though I hadn’t intended to do this starting out. I don’t put much effort into the thing – most of my writing blood, sweat, and tears, nowadays goes into my pitiful attempts at fiction. I know I often only put up a single photograph… maybe a bilious quotation – but I have learned that if you are going to put something up every day you have to give yourself permission to sometimes do something easy.

If you don’t like it, I’ll refund your money.

At any rate, a while back I came across a recipe for Habanero Hot Sauce on the Facebook page of a friend.

6 habaneros
1/2 can peaches in light syrup
1/4 cup yellow mustard
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 T salt
1 T paprika
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp allspice

Whirl it all up in a blender or food processor until it’s smooth.
I poured mine into an old 12 oz Crystal hot sauce bottle I’d washed out. The ingredients sound a bit strange, but it works!

A similar recipe I found also added 1/4 cup of molasses, but I didn’t have any in the house.

I like hot sauce and this one looked good… so I bought a handful of red, round peppers and ground it all up.

It tuned out very good… and very hot. There is a lot of talk about bhut jolokia – Ghost Chilies and Trinidad Moruga Scorpion and such – but let’s face it – habaneros are pretty damn hot and they are readily available. I still have wonderful memories of fresh grilled seafood served with an Habanero paste that I had on Passion Island off of Cozumel – the best meal of my life.

When I first tried the sauce my lips were swollen, my face burned, and the top of my head was drenched with sweat. When I tried the same dose a couple days later, it wasn’t nearly as toxic. At first, I thought it was losing its punch – but I realized that I was quickly developing a resistance. I began plotting meals that I could use to eat a little (only a little) of the sauce.

When my two sons came home for the holidays, the remaining sauce quickly disappeared and I knew I had to kick up the production and at least triple the batch sizes. I had to go to work for a while today and on the way home stopped off at the local Fiesta Mart for a bag of habaneros.

Recently, Candy bought a Ninja Master Prep food processor – Hey… just because it’s on TV doesn’t mean it doesn’t work – and it’s perfect for the dangerous task of chopping up the toxic peppers. My first batch had the seeds in it, which tended to stop up the dispensing apparatus, so I thought about cleaning the peppers first – but that’s a tricky proposition, so I simply screened the seeds out afterward.

This batch came out even hotter than the first – but pretty darn flavorful. I have a feeling I might be making more of this stuff in the future.

Funny, they don't look that hot.

Funny, they don’t look that hot.

Habaneros and other main ingredients

Habaneros and other main ingredients

Ninja Food Processor with hot sauce and spices

Ninja Food Processor with hot sauce and spices

Final product - filtered into re-purposed containers.

Final product – filtered into re-purposed containers.

Taco Talk

This weekend we were at the North Texas Taco Festival in Deep Ellum. It’s a continuation of the events associated with the Deep Ellum Market (such as the Filipino Fest last year) and the most successful so far. There were a lot of people there. Unfortunately, more people than tacos and the lines were too long (I’ll talk more about that later).

But still, it was a beautiful day and a fun time. At the side of the street, next to the Curtain Club, I saw a sign that said, Taco Talk – 1 PM. Looking at my phone, it was about ten after, so we went in.

Inside was a lecture put on by three taco experts. It was sort of fun being a couple minutes late because we didn’t hear the introductions and had to figure out who they were by inference.

John Cuellar, Anastacia Quinones, and Alejandro Escalante - the panellists at the Taco Talk.

John Cuellar, Anastacia Quinones, and Alejandro Escalante – the panellists at the Taco Talk.

First was a man that kept referring to his “family restaurant.” He was the supporter of Tex-Mex among the three experts and knew a lot about the history of that branch of the Mexican food tree. He said, “When we needed to revamp a menu, we would go to California, Mexico City, or San Antonio. Each place has such a unique take on the history and style of Mexican Food, you could find something new to bring home and adapt.”

I realized that his was John Cuellar, of the El Chico founding family. His family sold their chain and now he is responsible for a restaurant in Oak Cliff, El Corazon de Tejas – a place we will have to check out. I’ll let you know about it.

Next to him was a woman that graduated from the CIA and was the representative of the expert culinary aspects of the humble taco – elevated to gourmet heights. She was Anastacia Quiñones, the chef at Komali. After the talk, we spoke to her for a few moments and she gave us a card and a free appetizer – so… well, another place to go and report.

She talked about the wonderful taste of fresh nixtamal. Most tortillas are made from commercial ground cornmeal or processed mix. She said her restaurant was the first in the city to make fresh nixtamal – whole kernel corn processed with lime (like hominy) and then ground fine on a metate each day. All three experts said that fresh nixtamal produces tortillas with a unique and wonderful taste and must not be missed.

Well, there you go then.

The third panelist was an expert on all things taco. He was Alejandro Escalante – the author of the book, Tacopedia. He talked passionately about the wide variety of tacos available throughout Mexico and all the variables in tortilla, meat, and salsa that can be used. The depth of his knowledge and the obvious love he had for the form made his contribution something to be enjoyed and savored.

One interesting point they made was when they were asked about Mexican Fast Food – about Taco Bell and Chipotle. These are Taco Experts and passionate about quality food and you would expect them to rant and complain about the bland and poor quality of fast food. They did not, however. Mr. Escalante pointed out that Mexican Food, tacos and nixtamal in particular, are an acquired taste and Taco Bell helps people become accustomed to the food style. Ms. Quiñones agreed and Mr. Cuellar used the phrase that occurred to me immediately – that Chipotle is the “Gateway Drug” to real Mexican Food. I thought their attitude to be refreshing and honest.

They all three spoke about their first memories of eating tacos and about their “Desert Island Tacos” – what they could not live without. In high school, in Nicaragua, there weren’t really any tacos, so my first real memories of great tacos were from Hutchinson, with flour tortillas filled with ground beef, sealed with toothpicks, and then fried crispy. You would crack them open and fill with lettuce, tomato, and salsa right before eating.

They talked about what makes a taco (who knows?) and the close relatives of enchiladas and tamales. I thought about the Nicaraguan Nacatamles – giant savory concoctions layered with masa and served in steaming packets of banana leaves – and how I can’t get them anywhere (although the Salvadoran tamal served in local pupuserias does come close).

They talked about the future, about lengua, cabeza, and authentic barbacoa, and about how far can the form be taken. I thought about the Ssahm Food Truck here in Dallas and their wonderful Korean style Kimchi tacos.

They even mentioned puff tacos – which were really popular when I first moved to Dallas in the 1980’s. That’s when you take a disk of masa and drop it in oil… and it puffs up crispy, so it can be cracked open and filled. John Cuellar said there was an art to getting everything, temperature, moisture, oil, just right and if you had a sixty percent success rate, you were doing good.

It was a very fun and interesting talk. We spoke to the folks for a minute afterward, but they had to get set up for the judging of a taco contest. We walked out the side door where a handful of local chefs were preparing their contest entries – they looked wonderful.

A long ways from Taco Bell – the gateway drug.

Professional competition Tacos

Professional competition Tacos

tacotalk3

PHOTOS: Inaugural North Texas Taco Festival draws huge crowds

Yum! Chocolate fruit, zen pork tacos highlight North Texas Taco Festival in Deep Ellum

The First North Texas Taco Festival (Photos)

The Day Tacos Ruled Deep Ellum: Recapping the North Texas Taco Festival

Recap: How the North Texas Taco Festival Stole Deep Ellum’s Heart

Photos: Omar Flores of Driftwood won throwdown at DFW’s first taco festival

Happy Chefsgiving: Anastacia Quinones


El Corazon de Tejas in Oak Cliff opens softly, with seductive mole on menu

Amazon – La tacopedia. Enciclopedia del taco (Spanish Edition) [Paperback]


Read: It’s Finally Here… La Tacopedia

Flippin’ Out

The other afternoon we were trying to figure out what to do for dinner. Candy asked if there were any places in Dallas that sold crepes. We go to Cafe Brazil all the time, and they have the thin pancakes on the menu, but she meant someplace new. Luckily, there is that internet thingy and a quick search turned up a place in Addison called Flippin’ Out. It was on Beltline Road (isn’t everything?) and a bit of a drive… but it looked different and interesting so we headed out.

It is a tiny place tucked in the parking lot of a strip center… a little to the West of the hopping heart of the Addison Strip. It advertises Crepes and Coffee, so it couldn’t be bad. There is no seating inside, only a tiny room crammed with menu boards and equipment for cooking an brewing.

Out back there is a neat covered patio and someday I’d like to go back there and sit outside, but this day was too damn hot so we ordered our crepes – I had a Gulf coast (Sauteed shrimp, lump crab, roasted Pasilla peppers & Pontchartrain cream sauce)… Candy had a Cuban (Slow roasted pork, pickles & onion topped with Dijon mustard & Swiss cheese) and she also ordered a dessert… I think it was the Honey Badger (Handpicked strawberries, bananas & blueberries topped with honey, yogurt & granola).

We took the food home and it was good. I was impressed with the idea even more, though. Crepes are easy to make, very thin and don’t have a lot of calories, and very versatile. So on a whim, we ordered a Cucina Pro cordless crepe maker off of that internet thing again.

A couple days and there was a box on the doorstep. On Saturday I made up a blender full of crepe batter and stood there cranking out a couple dozen thin little pancakes. We ate a couple and put the rest in the fridge in a bag.

I’m surprised, but it looks like this is going to work out. A bit of fruit, or some leftovers… really anything… and you can roll it up in one of those things and there’s a meal. It’s like a big, thin tortilla… only Frenchier.

Flippin’ Out – it’s not very big, but it’s hard to miss.

The main menu.

Drinks menu… the coffee looks good, but “Treats from the Teat!” – I don’t know if that’s as catchy or as appetizing as they think it is.

Not a lot of room to spare inside.

Super Bowl Sliders

The Super Bowl has become one of the biggest holidays of the year in the states. It doesn’t matter that it isn’t an official government edict, that it has no religious status – not even some ancient pagan ancestor, or that it is usually a pretty crappy football game that only people in the two cities involved really cares about. It is a reason to go to someone’s house, gather ’round the big screen, and eat yourself into oblivion.

This year we were invited over and told to bring sliders of our own design. At first, I was not too excited. I am not a football fan (college basketball is my sport of choice – I went to Kansas and my son goes to Duke) and I didn’t relish a wasted day of boring sports and overindulgence. I started to think about things and try to make the best of it. There was some serious cooking skills at this place (professional caterers, graduates of chef school, people from Louisiana) and I decided to go for it and make an effort at putting together some original sliders.

If you don’t know, sliders are small hamburgers, originally from the White Castle chain. They have gone beyond those simple (but good) tiny versions of the All American Burger. Recently, I have been to a couple of food trucks – Easy Slider and The Butcher’s Son for example – that raised the bar on the creativity of sliderdom.

So I sat down with a sheet of notebook paper and worked out three different versions of sliders – two fairly pedestrian ones and one that was a bit more exotic.

First, BLT sliders. Simple – bacon, lettuce, and tomato on a roll with a little mayo. Easy and foolproof.

Then, for a second slider, I went for a Blu Cheese slider. Sliced sausage with blu cheese coleslaw and blu cheese crumbles on top.

Finally, with a little trepidation I designed a Korean slider. Pork Bar-b-que with caramelized kimchi. Soy sauce and Sriacha on the bun for a spicy kick. I still had a bunch of kimchi left over from my trip to Super H Mart. I ground some up in a food processor and sauteed it with some brown sugar (caramelized kimchi).

So I made a trip to the store and then set up an assembly line on the kitchen counter. The nice thing about sliders is that you can make a boatload of ’em without too many raw materials. There isn’t much in each little thing.

So we headed over and I lugged my trays of sliders into the house. The BLT and Blu Cheese were fine cold, but I heated the Korean sliders up in the oven. The first two disappeared immediately. I didn’t even get to try any myself, they were gone as soon as I set them out. The Korean sliders weren’t such a big hit. They were too spicy for most folks’ taste – but the more adventuresome eaters seemed to like them. I thought they were good – but I’m used to kimchi and spicy stuff.

I guess I had a good time, though we stayed too long and I ate way too much. I remember looking at a plate where I had stuck a few jalepeno peppers wrapped in bacon and thought, “I should not eat these. I’m already full and if I do it will make me sick.” I did and they did.

There was some point in the game where I think the announcer said, “And on that play Brady had no choice except to eat the football.” I know how he felt. I felt like I had eaten a football.

It even killed the next day. I walked around in a haze, dehydrated and worn out from the effort of digesting all that food.

So I swear I will never do that again. I’ll have to read this again to remind myself before next year’s Superbowl.

BLT Slider

Blu Cheese slider

Korean slider - bar-b-que, kimchi, and sriacha

Slider assembly line

One nice thing about sliders - they are easy to transport

 Thunder Burger

More Food Trucks

Hawaiian Ham and Cheese Sliders

Barbecue Sliders with Coleslaw

Sweet potato mushroom sliders—a huge thumb’s up

Homemade Meatball Sliders

Bangkok Burger Feature: Sliders (Mini Burgers)

duck shredded & sandwiched

Five Under 5: Meatball Sliders

Whiskey BBQ Sliders with Jalepenos

Turkey Burger Sliders

Sliders

Turkey Bacon Sliders

White Castle

Island Sliders

New Product: Gardein’s Ultimate Sliders

Oven Baked Burger Sliders

Bison Sliders w/ Crinkle Fries

Hot Pepper BBQ Pork Sliders

Pulled Pork Sliders w/ Homemade French Fries

The Best Sliders

Spicy Whiskey BBQ Sliders (by PW)

 

What I learned this week, October 21, 2011

16 Tips to Simplify Your Life (and Increase Your Productivity)

from Tom.Basson

  1. Turn off all technology for 60 minutes a day
  2. Don’t check your email first thing in the morning.
  3. Start your day with exercise.
  4. Be obedient to the sabbath!
  5. Learn to say no.
  6. Plan your week ahead.
  7. Don’t answer your phone every time it rings.
  8. Get up early.
  9. Go to bed early.
  10. Eat a big healthy breakfast.
  11. Clean out your closets. Get rid of things you never wear or don’t use anymore.
  12. Stop watching TV.
  13.  Make sure you plan a decent holiday break once a year.
  14. Learn to protect your time.
  15. Do your banking online.
  16. Use Evernote.

Building Three-Dimensional Characters

  • Spine
  • Supporting Trait
  • Fatal Flaw
  • Shadow

I may be a loser and an idiot, but at least I’m not like this:

Family calls 911 when they get lost in a corn maze.

Isn’t that the point of a maize maze? Aren’t you supposed to get lost? I went to one once, with two kids, and it was a little disconcerting – but I was also aware that at any time I could walk through the corn if I had to.


OK, I hate Martha Stewart as much as you do… actually I hate her more, because I actually have a reason to be pissed at her. If you ask me nice, some day I’ll tell you about it.

In the meantime, she may be a nasty little piece of work, but she does know how to:

Make the perfect Macaroni and Cheese


http://ted.com/talks/view/id/961

Uncertainty, Innovation, and the Alchemy of Fear

  • Single Task
  • Exercise Your Brain
  • Reframe
  • Pulse and Pause
  • Drop Certainty Anchors

One of Lee’s friends told us about a pet that I had never heard about. Micro-Pigs.

video

Seems like a good idea, I suppose…. Isn’t that where Bacon Bits come from?