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Monday, January 9, 2017

Bean Pie and Cornbread

Baby, it’s cold outside!  Time to clean the oven and fill it with some Southwestern chow.  Wait a sec…I need to separate the words South and West and even add in a little continental flavor.

Continental?  Yep, you’ll need some Spanish chorizo.  First question:  How does Spanish chorizo differ from Mexican chorizo?  Mexican chorizo is soft, like hamburger or pork sausage.  Spanish chorizo is cased and smoked.  It’s more solid (like Salami) than Mexican style.  Can’t find Spanish chorizo? Use chorizo from Puerto Rico, which is very similar.

After discussing chorizo, or cuisine in general, you can see why I don’t like to use the terms Hispanic or Latino.  It’s not only the cooking that’s different in every country, but also the culture, even if the language is similar.  Did you know Spanish is the main language in parts of Africa and also on some islands in the Philippines? 

I saw a U.S. Marine jogging, wearing a t-shirt that read, “Not Latino, not Hispanic, Mexican!”  Sums it up perfectly.  And while we’re on the subject, did you realize many in our armed forces are not American citizens?  My son’s soccer coach in Okinawa Japan was a Marine from Nigeria.  Another kids’ soccer coach was from Jamaica.  According to the Migration Policy Institute, ( over 65,000 non-citizen, long-term residents, currently serve, forming about 5% of our armed forces.  Having foreigners serve in military has been ongoing since the beginning of our country. Let’s not forget the foreigners who served in our military during our war for independence from England and don’t forget the Civil War (also called The War of Northern Aggression!), when over 1.5 million soldiers were non-citizens.

Now that we’ve got that settled, let’s pour a glass of wine, slosh down a few sips…or maybe a beer (from any country you damn well choose), or a Margarita (daisy), which we all know comes from Mexico.  Or does it?  The truth is, nobody knows for sure!  Come-on, you lazy liquorteer, in your brief moments of sobriety, do a little Googling! Don’t make me teach you EVERYTHING!

But, I will show you how to feed yourself and at the same time impress your feckless friends.  Plus, these recipes are so simple you can make the whole meal with a beer in each hand and carry on a conversation with your wife. Stick with very simple words, such as ‘Yes, dear’ and ‘Wow, great idea’ and ‘But not as cute as you.’

Here’s my version of Bean Pie accompanied by cornbread:

Bean Pie

Preheat oven to 425ºF (220ºC)

1 Can pinto beans with jalapeños, undrained
1 Can kidney beans, drained and washed
1 Can whole plum tomatoes, drained and chopped
6-7 inch stick of Spanish chorizo, casing removed, and cut into thin rounds
½ Cup chicken broth (I use a full packet of dried chicken broth and ½ Cup water.)
1 Heaping teaspoon powdered cumin
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thinly
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ Cups grated jack or pepper jack cheese (or any other hard cheese that’s handy)

In a large skillet, drop in a little oil and sauté the chorizo on medium heat for 2-3 minutes.

Remove the chorizo from the pan and add the chopped onions.  Stir for a few minutes until the onions are limp.  Add the garlic, cumin, salt, and red pepper flakes.  Stir and cook a few minutes more.

Add the beans and the chicken stock.  Bring to a boil and cook 3-4 minutes.

Put the bean mixture into a 9x13x2 baking dish and spread chorizo, tomato and cheese over the top.  Bake until the cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown.

(Same oven temp as for the Bean Pie)

Use the directions on the side of the cornmeal container, or the fearless men and women of great courage will march into the great unknown using my directions.

1 ¼  Cup yellow cornmeal
1 Cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons baking powder
2 Eggs
¼ Cup sugar
1 Cup milk
¼ Cup vegetable oil + a little oil to grease the baking pan

Spread some oil around the skillet or other pan you’re using to bake the cornbread.  Pop the pan into the preheated oven.

Mix all the dry ingredients, then make a well in the center. In a separate bowl, whip together the eggs, milk, and oil.  Pour the milk mixture into the well and mix.  If the mixture is a little too juicy, sprinkle in a little bit more cornmeal and remix.  The batter should be much thicker than pancake batter, but still pour into the well-heated pan, with a little help from a spatula.

Bake for about 22 minutes.  Should be brown on top and a knife inserted in the center should come out with a light sheen of oil, but clean of batter.

Now call the hungry masses to the table…or maybe just one more glass of wine first?  “Now what was that again honey?  You think I’m wonderful?  Gosh, I get that all the time.  I…I…I mean from you!”

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Prospect of Whitby: Odd Name, Great Pub

Before we visit The Prospect of Whitby, perhaps the riverfront’s oldest boozer, let’s chat about London pubs in general.

If you’ve been to the vibrant city of London, you know no matter where you turn, there’s a pub only a few steps away.  Very helpful, to those of us who on an evening often find our sense of direction slightly impaired.  You wanna know how many pubs there are?  Me too. Depends on who you ask and what criteria they use. 

Wimpy answer?  Or maybe you’re thinking, I didn’t major in statistics, so give it to me straight. Oh, a tough audience!  Ok, suck on this wimpy excuse.  Nobody really knows!  At least nobody I can find.  Some tallies include only free houses (pubs not owned by breweries) and other compilations include clubs, bars and pubs.  Might as well try to figure out the tax code.

Still waiting for an answer, biting your nails and about to wet your pants?  Open invitation to follow me to London and we’ll both count.  Best guess is somewhere between 4000 and 7000.  And, even with two toilets per pub, there’ll still be some anxious moments.  As a friend of mine said, “You don’t really own a beer, you just borrow it.”

A more definitive answer for how many pubs:  Lots.  The best answer:  It doesn’t make a damn.  Grab an amber pint in any pub, and for the price of a hand pulled slosh, you’ll be entertained with wonderful conversation with the natives, while surrounded by the patina of centuries, and aswirl in the richness of English history.

History bores you? Hey, if you just want to suck down a brew, stay home, flop on the couch, and pop a Bud.

Back to The Prospect of Whitby.  What’s in a name?  The story starts and ends with a ship: “The Prospect” (a coal carrier) whose home-port was Whitby.  Could be the innkeeper named the pub, or it could be when strangers asked directions they were told, “Keep goin’ ‘til ya see Tha Prospect of Whitby.”

Not The Prospect, but one that's similar

As with so many others, this pub has had many names, the original being The Pelican, established around 1520, when Henry VIII was on the throne of England and still married to Catherine of Aragon.  Surely you remember her, the first wife, the Catholic wife, the one Hank-the-8th divorced after establishing his very own Church of England.  At the time, The Prospect of Whitby’s clientele frequently included smugglers, thieves, and pirates, hence the local name at the time, “Devil’s Tavern.”

Henry VIII

Catherine of Aragon

Then came a fire in the 18th Century and the pub being rebuilt.  Along with the rebuilding, came the current name.  As with many pubs, remodeling has continued from time to time, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the original 400 year old flagstone floor.  The paneling and the façade are both 18th century. The theme is nautical, with pillars made from ships’ masts.  Don’t forget to check the old barrels supporting a unique pewter bar top.

When you glance through the large windows that overlook the Thames (pronounced Tims), you’ll also notice something peculiar.  There’s a noose suspended over the water. As any fool would guess, it has a story.  In the 17th Century, the pub became the favorite of Judge Jeffries, known as the hanging judge. Legend has it the condemned would be tied to posts at low tide and Judge Jeffries would sip his beer and watch them drown as the tide came in.  It’s also said his ghost haunts the premises.

The Prospect of Whitby at low tide.

Fortunately, hanging out at the Whitby no longer means what it once did.

The Prospect of Whitby, at 57 Wapping Wall St is about an18 minute walk from the Whitechapel tube stop on both the District and Hamersmith & City lines.

Now let’s talk about celebs that have done a tipple or two in this famous pub.  Well there was Charles Dickens.  “Who’s he?” ask those inadequately educated.  Ever heard of the musical “Oliver?” He wrote the book.  How ‘bout Tiny Tim?  Name ring a Christmas bell?

How ‘bout Whistler and Turner, a couple of famous English painters?  Still nothing?  Princess Margaret?  Kirk Douglas?  Paul Newman?  Glenn Ford?  Boy, have you got a lot of catching up to do!

Best to settle back, have another pint of London Pride and chat with the knowledgeable barkeep, or the lads at the table next to you.  Feel the need to feed? I hear the fish and chips are worth the trip.

There’s nothing like hanging around in an English pub and The Prospect of Whitby is one of the best.  Just be sure the 
‘hanging’ is inside.

The real reason to visit!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

White Wine In Winter? With Red Meat? Hell yes!

I confess, I’m a rule breaker.  Too many musts and must-nots get in the way. I can make up my own mind!  I say, free yourself from those iritating rule shackles!  

White wine goes with fish.

Red wine goes with red meats.

Only serve sparkling wines for special occasions.

Bad luck to walk under ladders.

Step on a crack and break your mother’s back.

Of course, the last two are absolutely true.  But, the wine rules?  Toss ‘em!  Lately, I’ve had some wonderful whites that I drink anytime I damn well please!  Last night we had friends over for a chili party.  Nope, not talking about hamburger chili.  I’m talking hunks of beef, simmered for hours and hours, until the meat falls apart and people wander in off the street, following the aroma.

The first drink I served was Margarita Tea.  Well, that lasted no longer than you could say, “Gimme another glass!”  After that, I cracked open a chilled bottle of my newest favorite white wine, UBY Collection Unique 2016 (about $12 ).
Ok.  You’re intrigued by Margarita Tea, so I’ll patiently give you the recipe before getting back on track with the white wine.

14 Cups brewed tea
2.5 Cups Tequila
2.5 Cups Triple Sec
Simple syrup to taste  (Dissolve 1 Cup sugar in 1 Cup water)
Juice of 1 lime or lemon or to taste.  Serve over ice.

If you stand too close to the punch bowl, you’re taking your life in your hands, so don’t be greedy.  Grab a glass-full and move swiftly outta the way!

See how you’ve distracted me?  Back to the fav white wine… I’ve had several UBY wines from Domaine UBY , a family vineyard in the southwest of France.  I’m only sorry I didn’t marry into the fam.

Look in the southwest.  See Armagnac?  UBY vineyards are close to the c.

UBY’s full range of wines goes from the lusciously sweet Number 4 to the fruity, dry Number 3.  All are delicious.  Then comes the latest product, Collection Unique.  Well named, Collection Unique is light, but with a fruity nose that makes you think you’ve landed face down in a grove of ripe mangos and been pelted with peaches.

So, it’s sweet, right?  Not at all.  Dry, with a well-rounded finish.  For the uninitiated, when I say well-rounded, I mean a smooth-ending, with none of the bitterness or harshness normally associated with the title “dry.”  The huge question is: Can a light, fruity white stand up to the heavy spice of chili?  Oh, hell yes!

Don’t hold back! Buy a few bottles of UBY Collection Unique.  You’re going to need them as your guests polish off your chili, hold out their empty glasses and give you a look that says “We ain’t leavin’ yet!”

UBY Collection Unique 2016 is a blend of three grapes, Colombard, Ugni-Blanc, and Sauvignon Blanc.  Very different tastes, but put them all together and the balance is amazing.  I know 2016 is young, but that’s the kind of wine this is.  Young and frisky and as fresh as a stroll through the springtime vineyards.  Best to drink it within a year.



No trouble recognizing Colombard and Sauvignon, but Ugni is a different matter, even though it is France’s most commonly grown white grape.  You may not recognize the name. That’s because Ugni goes under dozens of names, spread across a dozen countries. The taste ranges from very acidic to more politely nuanced.  Want to impress your wine-snob buddies?  In its home region, Tuscany, Ugni is known as Trebbiano.

And, my main point (which almost got lost as I rambled) is that you can toss out the wine rules.  The only important rule is that taste rules!  Pick a wine that suits YOUR palate and forget the snobs at the other end of the table who mumble under their breath about your lack of sophistication.

Now, a little more chili and a top off for that glass of UBY?  I thought so. Good choice!

And, the rules about symmetry?  Don’t even get me started!

Here’s where to find out about the full range of UBY wines and Armanacs?