…a tight hard little woman humorless as a chicken.
John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Or is the proper spelling high falootin’?

Either way, calling these birds rock Cornish game hens just sounds rather pretentious, so hoity-toity. Not a game bird, it is simply an immature (barely a month old) breed of bantam, hybrid chicken which the French often label poussin which is either female or male, under two pounds, usually one plus. Tender, moist and amatory fare, though.

Given my leanings (I stay in the States, but my soul resides in France), this is somewhat of a French take.

CORNISH GAME HENS OR POUSSINS

2 (1+ lb) Cornish game hens or poussins

3-4 T unsalted butter, room temperature
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
Herbes de Provence
Thyme sprigs
Rosemary sprigs
Dried prunes or apricots (optional)

1 head fresh, plump garlic, cut transversely

2 shallots, peeled and sliced
1⁄2 lb mushrooms (cèpes, crimini, et al.), bottoms trimmed and quartered

3-4 T cognac or brandy
3-4 T chicken stock

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Allow the game hens (after unfreezing) to rest at room temperature for at least one hour. Pat birds totally dry, thoroughly rub the chicken inside and out with butter and season inside the cavity and outside with salt, pepper and dried herbes de Provence. Place rosemary and thyme sprigs inside the cavities as well as the optional dried fruit. Then, truss the birds and place them in the roasting pan breast side down. Strew each cut garlic half around them and cook them about 15 minutes. Baste throughout.

Reduce heat to 375 F.

Turn the hens breast side up for a total cooking time of around 50 minutes. As the birds roast, strew shallots and mushrooms onto the roasting pan around the chicks. Baste throughout.

Place an overturned soup bowl under one end of a platter or cutting board so it is tilted at an angle. Remove the roasting pan from the oven and turn the game hens so that the juices in the cavity are emptied onto the pan. Then, transfer the hens to the angulated platter or board, with breast side down and tail in the air. Cut the trussing string free and remove.

Meanwhile with a wooden spatula, scrape bits stuck to the surface of the roasting pan. When the pan is hot, add brandy to deglaze and, then stock, bringing to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer several minutes until thickened, when it coats the spatula.

Loosely tent the poussins with foil and let rest on the incline around 10 minutes. It will actually keep cooking some, and the juices will disperse evenly throughout the meat. (The birds are cooked when the juices run yellowish when pierced.)

Serve each bird on or over a plate with couscous, Israeli couscous, rice pilaf, basmati or jasmine rice, wild + white rice, new potatoes, pasta, a baguette, asparagus, peas, green beans, chinese peas, snow peas or a funky salad — with sauce and companions spooned atop.

No carving required.

You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.
~Mae West

Homo naledi whose feet and teeth mimic homo genus but still bear human lineage were unearthed last month. These hominids with smaller than current brains and intracranial space have been dubbed a mosaic species due to their varied anatomical features. They are ancestors from some 2.5-2.8 million years ago, from the same genus which includes the famed Lucy. An average Homo naledi was about 5′ tall and weighed some 100 lbs.

Lithe, petite ladies — slender and agile enough to wriggle through the proverbial crack in the wall — snakily, shimmied and crawled down narrow limestone shafts and lightless tunnels in South Africa to gather fossils and skeletal remains bones and the like from the burial vault. It was breathtaking to watch how they adroitly slid down the scant walls and so carefully culled these bony artifacts from the dirt.

Paleoanthropology professor Lee Berger of the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg was seated on the ground above poised before his laptop watching them dive and eagerly awaiting their safe return with their trove. They did not disappoint, even though some expressed concerns about trampling on such delicacies. As Dr. Berger remarked, “…there is no substitute for exploration.”

In the Rising Star Cave, these underground astronauts encountered tombs where many of the Homo naledi were interred by rituals which perhaps avoided scavengers.

Bok choy which translates to “white vegetable” in Chinese is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family which also includes broccoli, kale, collard greens, cabbage, mustard greens, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. Not surprisingly, they are rich in vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin A (carotenoids), potassium, folate, vitamin B-6, calcium, and manganese. Bok choy have smooth, glossy, spoon shaped leaves that cluster with a small base.

In some realms, smaller is better.

BABY BOK CHOY

1 T soy sauce
3-4 T oyster sauce
2 T rice vinegar (unseasoned)
Pinch of raw sugar

1-2 T peanut oil
2 T plump fresh garlic cloves, minced
1/2 t red pepper flakes
1 t ginger root, peeled and minced
4-6 bunches of baby bok choy, with ends trimmed
3 T chicken stock

Combine soy sauce, oyster sauce, raw sugar and rice vinegar in a glass bowl and set aside.

Heat peanut oil in a heavy skillet (non-stick or not) placed over medium high heat until oil shimmers. Add garlic, red pepper flakes and ginger, then bok choy, and stir fry for about 2 or so minutes. Add stock to the skillet, then cover and allow to cook for a couple minutes more, until bok choy has softened some at the base. Toward the end, drizzle with the soy-oyster-sugar-vinegar sauce.

Remove bok choy and friends from the skillet and turn onto a platter or separate plates/bowls. We tend to serve bok choy sidled up to lemon grass chicken and jasmine rice or noodles (September 5, 2010), but it can be paired with a host of wokked, sautéed, roasted, or grilled main dishes, Asian or otherwise.

Life calls the tune, we dance.
~John Galsworthy

A member of the cruciferous part of the cabbage family, bok choy, brassica rapa — included are Brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, kale, mustard greens, cabbage, collard greens.  Bok choy are nutrient rich with omega-3, beta carotenes, vitamins A, K & C, anti-inflammatories, potassiums, folates, flavonoids,  and antioxidants, among others.

But, more than that, bok choy is delectable.  Often cream colored and green, the vegetable does not form a head and has moist hearty stems, and has smooth, glossy leaves that cluster together which are begging to be taken apart and sautéed.

BOK CHOY

1-2 T soy sauce, preferably shoyu
3-4 T oyster sauce
2 T rice vinegar (unseasoned)
Pinch of raw sugar

1-2 T peanut oil
2 T plump fresh garlic cloves, minced
1/2 t red pepper flakes
1 t ginger root, peeled and minced
4-6 bunches of baby bok choy, with ends trimmed
2-3 T chicken stock

Combine soy sauce, oyster sauce, raw sugar and rice vinegar in a glass bowl and set aside.

Heat peanut oil in a heavy skillet placed over medium high heat until oil shimmers. Add garlic, red pepper flakes and ginger, then bok choy, and stir fry for about 2 or so minutes. Add stock to the skillet, then cover and allow to cook for a couple minutes more, until bok choy has softened some at the base. Toward the end, drizzle with the soy-oyster-sugar-vinegar sauce.

Remove bok choy and friends from the skillet and turn onto a platter or separate plates/bowls.

I’m all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let’s start with typewriters.
~Frank Lloyd Wright

Just horrific, blatant madness. Enough has been enough — a churlish and cowardly National Rifle Association, a despicable and misleading Wayne La Pierre, a dysfunctional, pugnacious and pandering Congress and a meddling and fawning usual majority of the Supreme Court who all huddling together create this arrant bedlam. Irrational.  Each of you know without any doubt that our country is awash with guns, an absolute disgrace, a contagion of non-hunting firearms. Feckless thoughts and prayers forever from Congress? Do you not even comprehend that that those words are flat empty?  C’mon man.

Some 90 people die from gun violence each and every day in this self annointed pre-eminent (not really) of nations. This number does not even include that over 270 souls are maimed by gunshot wounds each day nor does it parse out the vast numbers of children that are crippled (20) or killed (9) by gun violence daily. A cowardly slaughter occurs followed by typically incoherent, often pathological, statements from asinine donors, imbecilic gun lobbyists, gullible politicians, naïve citizens and others. Do the right thing, at least sometimes.  This is not nuance, which would be more aptly defined as a “subtlety” or “tinge.”

Gun bloodshed has been rampant for years. The utter reality is that there are now over 300,000,000 guns in shaky and often mentally unstable civilian hands either kept openly or surreptitiously by a third of households across this country. This number does not even include the vast arsenals of ammunition, shells and massive clips which have now become prodigious. A recent study showed that many guns were sold without a single background check. Moreover, there is absolutely no support for the claim that owning more guns deters, drops or reduces violent crime. No studies have supported that fallacious and invalid reasoning. Instead the opposite has been proven — rampant gun ownership correlates with and causes more homicides and harm to others and selves. Actually, Congress has even capitulated to lobbyists by refusing to allow the CDC or others to amass evidence of gun injuries and deaths. We keep tabs on car wrecks, cancers, foods, drinks, the flu and not guns? Really?

Just so you know, some 42,500,000 American adults (or 18+% of the adult population) suffer from some documented mental illness, enduring conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia — for which little or no treatment is received in this country. This does not even take into account people whose metal illness is not documented or should simply not be brandishing firearms. Criminals, of course, go underground through straw purchases or unlicensed buys, for inherently dangerous demons of death.

In other developed nations in the western world, gun homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings pale in comparison.  For instance, in Japan, persons die from guns at rates far less than an American chances at death by a lightning strike.  In Scotland, the chances of dying from a storm are greater than that of the very rare gunshot wound.  And so on, for more advanced western democracies…

Remember the easily debunked myth that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people?” I call nonsense (expletive deleted) on that one. Is it much more cogent to assert that “mentally ill, insane or unstable people freely and easily armed with guns and abundant ammunition kill or mutilate their victims.”  One sad state of affairs.

This makes no mention of mass shootings which now occur more than once a day according to a recent compilation of news reports. Mass shootings are sadly defined as ones where at least four or more people are left dead or injured.  Just consider the recent horrific past — at a movie theater in Aurora, a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, a manufacturer in Minneapolis, a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school, a Fort Hood army center, near the campus of UC Santa Barbara, at a movie theater in Louisiana, a military center in Chattanooga, at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, at a community college in Roseburg, Oregon, on the campus of Northern Arizona, at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs and now the carnage at a social services center in San Bernardino, California.

How long will it take for you to get off your bald headed, pale faced, nasty-tongued, flat keisters, Congress members,  while the victims’ blood palpably streams down your hands, arms, and sleeves?  Yet, you lick boots, cater to a lobbying body as daft and inane as the NRA?   It might be suggested that you get off your bums. Right now, or you will face the wrath of mothers, fathers, lovers and family members again and again.  In case you did not take note, this insanity is far beyond an epidemic stage — there is no counterpart anywhere for a supposed developed nation.

And please do not give me that Second Amendment absurdity. The Bill of Rights reads as follows: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. Whatever happened to the first two provisos, and the days of single loading, tamped down powder one-shot muskets and before assault rifles and extended, high (almost immense) capacity magazines?  In Heller, a firearm unconnected with service in a militia was used for lawful purposes, such as self-defense within a home. An extremely narrow reading of Second Amendments rights at best, and of course authored by Justice Antonin Scalia in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008).

To quote Chief Justice Warren Burger, who was appointed as a conservative justice by President Richard Nixon, the Second Amendment “has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud — I repeat the word ‘fraud’ — on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime,” and later proclaimed that “the Second Amendment doesn’t guarantee the right to have firearms at all.” In the last quarter or less century though, special interests (often paunchy members cloaked in SCOTUS black robes, with callous and scathing remarks, by slim majority votes) have sadly prevailed.

Speaking of, the same Richard Nixon, and later Ronald Reagan, proposed gutting the market of Saturday night specials, considered banning handguns altogether and simply refused to cater to gun owners who feign some inarticulate interest in assault and hand weapons. The NRA, of course, was opposed to these actions given its historically recent opposition to any gun control or restrictions.

Several previously Oval Office recordings and memos show a conservative who was often willing to feud with the NRA, even though “trusted” presidential aides fretted about political consequences.

“I don’t know why any individual should have a right to have a revolver in his house,” Nixon commented. He asked why “can’t we go after handguns, period?” He added, “I know the rifle association will be against it, the gun makers will be against it.” But, he implored “people should not have handguns.” Finally, Nixon flatly declared that “guns are an abomination.”

The lack of gun control has become a national shame. Despicable, deceptive stuff. Wall Street, Congressional hacks, the Supremes, et al. are allowed to strip those of their constitutional right to a jury trial (by arbitration) yet imagine if they these same dark folks in cloaks took away the same by barring gun ownership.

The failure of our elected few (hostages taken by the NRA), corrupt lobbyists (the NRA), and the Supreme Court to simply refuse to protect innocent victims from guns, ammunition and explosives is morally and ethically reprehensible.

Thankfully, grub overcomes guns.

FARFALLE WITH CHICKEN, SHALLOTS AND BLUE CHEESE

1/2 lb shallots, peeled and sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground black and pepper
2 T extra virgin olive oil

1-2 lbs dark hued chicken (thighs)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 T dried thyme
2-3 T extra virgin olive oil
Chicken stock
2-3 T cognac or brandy

1 lb dried farfalle
Sea salt and water

3/4 lbs blue cheese, such as bleu d’auvergne, in small chunks
A few dollops of crème fraîche and/or heavy whipping cream

Parsley leaves, chopped
Capers, drained
Parmigiano-reggiano, grated

Toss shallots in a deep, heavy skillet with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and olive oil. Then, add seasoned (salt, pepper, thyme) chicken thighs and brown. Add stock and finally some cognac or brandy. Toward the end, add crème fraîche or heavy whipping cream or both.

Remove and cut chicken into 2 1/2″ pieces.

While cooking farfalle according to instructions in a separate pot, add bleu d’auvergne and pasta al dente to skillet and cook until finished, adding chicken pieces.

Strew with parsley, capers and a sprinkling of freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano.

Yes, this is cherubic Carter pasta (sorry about the gun polemic, but it is vital).

To perceive is to suffer.
~Aristotle

This is not meant to be some hefty harangue or diatribe on writing. To the utter contrary. But, it does seem like the revered trait for writers is not will, bravado or grit, but rather vibrant prose, empathetic and fluid storytelling, rich and beloved character creation.

A blank screen or paper alone can be daunting (have been there and done that), leading to lengthy stares, dire anxiety and idle fingers. Then comes disjointed prose, inapt words or topics, insipid imagery, worthless metaphors, and feeble punctuation. Writing, as with many art forms, is just really arduous labor; a brutal, almost crippling, job.

So, a poetic lilt, even just an enlightened brief passage or paragraph, lifts souls and so often makes us return to re-read, even aloud. Think of Toni Morrison, Saul Bellow, Isabel Allende, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, William Shakespeare, James Joyce, Marcel Proust, Samuel Beckett, John Barth, Virginia Woolf, William Faulkner, David Mitchell, Joseph Conrad, Leo Tolstoy, Umberto Eco, Jane Austen, Vladimir Nabokov, Victor Hugo, T.S. Eliot, Gustave Flaubert, John Updike, Kingsley Amis, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Stendahl, Günter Grass, Heinrich Böll, André Gide, Jorge Luis Borges, et al. — this is just a smattering of prose writers and does not even mention the magical creations of preeminent poets. But, their words and perceptive imagery can flat illuminate your universe. By arranging selective words, creating characters, telling stories, and placing punctuation or not on a page, skilled novelists, poets and playwrights reveal their minds and extend ours. Even when disruptive to our psyches, their heedful art has unearthed and unveiled human nature, the bare bones of our biology, our anthropology. Alexithymia untethered, so thank you all so much.

So, why do I write about food and stuff? Well, repasts and convo are damned pleasing, and one of our primary hobbies happens to be cooking. The ruminations just came along for the ride. So, the blog seemed a fit, a natural, making little mention of Mom’s Joy of Cooking with her handwritten notes staring at me. Besides being a logophile, my mother gave me a sense of ardor, one of passion, even a feeling of the absurd. Enough of that, as I am not worthy.

Rapturous fare below.

ROASTED ROOT VEGETABLES WITH EGGS & HERBS

3 lbs root vegetables, cut into rough wedges (local multi-hued carrots, rainbow beets, new potatoes, turnips, white and red radishes, fennel bulb(s), zucchini, celery root — some peeled, other’s not)
1-2 plump, fresh garlic heads, cut transversely
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2-3 bay leaves, dried

Local eggs
Extra virgin olive oil

Fresh herb leaves (rosemary, basil, thyme, lavender) torn and chopped
Capers, drained

Heat oven to 400-425 F.

Toss local vegetables with olive oil, garlic(s), sea salt, black pepper, and bay leaves in a heavy pan. Let stand at room temperature. Then roast, stirring thrice or so until slightly browned, about an hour. Discard the bay leaves.

Serve with fried eggs just sautéed in olive oil and partially cover the roasted vegetables, with egg spaces here and there, ground black pepper, then strew with fresh herbs and capers atop.

A vivid and savory tapestry.

A potato expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.
~Victor Hugo

Dill (Anethum graveolens) is a faintly anise flavored herb in the family Umbelliferae which includes carraway, cumin, and fennel, et al. Growing annually from 16″-24″ it has hollow stems and delicate, wispy leaves, demanding hot summers and lofty sunshine with well drained fertile soil.

Containing no cholesterol and low in calories, dill is rich in volatile oils as well as folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin A, ß carotene, and vitamin C. This is not to mention that dill contains minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. Dill’s benefits also come from two types of healing components — monoterpenes, such as carvone, limonene, and anethofuran and flavonoids, such as kaempferol and vicenin. Needless to say, dill herb is one of the most healthy, functional foods in the chain.

Too bad dill is not consumed for these reasons in this house — scents and sapidity rule — apparently though, the benefits come from the back side. Nevertheless, both “recipes” are darlings of our kitchen…simple starch staples yet glorious (good) grub.

BOILED NEW POTATOES + DILL

1 lb various hued small, new potatoes (“B” size)
1 T sea salt

4 T (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
2 plump, fresh garlic cloves, minced

Dill leaves, fresh and chopped, in amounts to your liking (or rosemary leaves)
Truffle and salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a medium to large heavy pot, combine hand culled potatoes. Add enough cold water to cover the potatoes by about 1″ and set the pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, add salt, then reduce to a vigorous simmer. Cook potatoes just until fork tender, about 20 minutes, depending upon size.

Add butter and garlic to the pot and set over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook, swirling the pan and basting as needed so that the until the potatoes are well glazed, about 5 minutes.

Tear the dill leaves, and with the pot off the heat, stir them gently into the potatoes. Add truffle and sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste and serve next to resting grilled or roasted meats, greens of choice and some more unsalted butter on the table in a ramekin.

BAKED RUSSET POTATOES

4 large baking potatoes, such as russets

4 T unsalted butter
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Chives
Sour cream or crème fraîche

Gruyère cheese (optional)
Dill leaves, fresh and chopped (optional)
Lardons (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 F

Scrub potatoes with a brush under running, cold water, then dry well. So they do not explode in the oven, pierce the skin of each in three places with a fork.

Place the potatoes in the oven, and roast for about 1 hour, depending on the size of the potatoes, until they are fork tender.

Remove from the oven taking care not to burn fingers, slice them open down the middle, and slather with butter and season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Again, put some more unsalted butter on the table for those who wish to partake.

I think it is a sad reflection on our civilization that while we can and do measure the temperature in the atmosphere of Venus we do not know what goes on inside our soufflés.
~Nicolas Kurti, physicist and chef

Kepler 425b, one of the closest, yet older, cousins to our own earth, has been found. (Perhaps the orb age is a celestial topic upon which both seculars and Christians can finally, somewhat agree.) A so called exoplanet which is some 60% larger than our world was discovered by the Keplar spacecraft, some 1,400 light years away in the habitable zone — where water could pool on the surface of an orbiting planet. It revolves around a bright star in about 385 days, and the temperatures are suitable for liquid although the jury is out whether the planet has a mountainous surface or is gassy like Neptune. Both Kepler 425b and its star (G-2 type) closely resemble the earth and our sun.

Many opine that this exoplanet will have a bulky atmosphere, rocky crust and restless volcanoes with more gravity than we experience. Does Kepler 452b sustain life?

Awe inspiring.

Admittedly, the under-served, lifted and puffy soufflé with its molten interior is almost sacred.

MUSHROOM SOUFFLE

2 T finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
2 1/2 T unsalted butter

1/2 lb mushrooms (wild fungi such as cèpes, porcini, oyster or chanterelles or, if too expensive, buy cultivated such as crimini, shitake and button)
2 T unsalted butter

2 1/2 T unsalted butter
3 T all purpose flour
1 C whole milk
1 bay leaf

1/4 t pimentón
1/2 t sea salt
Nutmeg, a small grating
White pepper, a healthy pinch, preferably freshly ground
Cayenne pepper, a small pinch

4 large local egg yolks
5 large local egg whites
1 C gruyère cheese, grated

Gruyère cheese, grated, for topping

Preheat oven to 375 F

Melt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in saucepan. Add the mushrooms and sauté for about 3 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and purée. Set aside.

Butter the surface of an 6 cup soufflé dish. Add the grated parmigiano-reggiano and roll around the dish to cover the sides and bottom, knocking out the excess.

Heat the milk with bay leaf in a heavy saucepan. Once hot, discard bay leaf and set aside the milk.

In another heavy saucepan, melt the butter, then blend in the flour with a wooden spoon to make a smooth loose paste. Stir over medium heat until the butter and flour come together without coloring more that a light yellow, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Let stand a few seconds and then pour in all of the hot milk, whisking vigorously to blend. Return to medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon; bring to a gentle boil for 3 minutes or until the sauce is quite thick. Whisk in the pimentón, salt, nutmeg and peppers and remove from heat again. Add the mushroom mash and mix well with the whisk.

While off the heat, add egg yolks one by one into the milk, herb and mushroom sauce, all the while whisking.

In a separate bowl, using a hand or stand up mixer wither fitted with a whisk, whip the egg whites until glossy and peaked. Stir in a quarter of the egg whites into the sauce with a wooden spoon or spatula. Once they are assumed in the sauce, fold in the remaining egg whites and the gruyère cheese. Turn the soufflé mixture into the prepared mold, which should be about three quarters full. Sprinkle a small amount grated gruyère on top.

Bake 25-30 minutes, until the top is golden brown, and the soufflé has puffed about 2″ over the rim of the mold. (Do not open oven door for 20 minutes.)