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.

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Mr. Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liver slices filled with crustcrumbs, fried hencod’s roes.
~James Joyce, Ulysses

The gizzard, also referred to as the ventriculus, gastric mill, or gigerium, is a digestive organ comprised of a tough inner membrane, surrounded by a muscular pouch which provides grinding action for food. While fowl are the focus here, gizzards are also found in the stomach tracts of other critters such as reptiles, fish, mollusks, and insects. Some, but not all birds use swallowed gravel, called gastroliths, as grist to masticate and help with digestion. These stones usually become round and smooth from the polishing process in the belly.

A much revered food in so many of the world’s regions, gizzards are sautéed, poached, braised, roasted, grilled, boiled, stewed, pickled, deep fried or even used to flavor stocks. I adore these burgundy hued nuggets, and they are seductively cheap.

The English word “gizzard” comes from the Middle English giser which derived from the Old French word gisier (Mod.Fr. gésier) “a bird’s entrails,” from the Latin gigeria. The Latin term was likely drawn from the Persian word for liver, jigar.

While most gizzards are sold partially cleaned, the importance of diligently prepping the gizzards cannot be understated. (Although many prefer the chewy textured ones.) Simply rinse off any grit and trim off and discard any of the connective cartilage and silverskin membrane before using. A very sharp blade is imperative.

DUCK GIZZARD CONFIT

12 duck gizzards, cleaned and trimmed
1/4 C sea salt
1 T dried thyme

4-5 T duck fat

2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T unsalted butter
1 1/2 lbs fresh chanterelles and/or crimini, sliced
2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
3 plump fresh garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
Fresh thyme sprigs

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh tarragon and/or parsley leaves, roughly chopped

Mix salt with dried thyme and toss in the gizzards to coat well. Put the seasoned gizzards in a covered container in the refrigerator overnight. The following day, rinse the cured gizzards thoroughly and dry with paper towels.

Heat a large pot of water until almost simmering. Put the gizzards into a ziploc bag, and spoon in the duck fat with them. Seal tightly pressing the air out of the bag. Submerge the bag in a colander and then into the hot water, carefully positioning so that water does not seep into the bag. Maintain the water over a very low heat and slowly poach for about 4 hours.

Heat a large, heavy skillet over high heat and add olive oil and butter. Add the mushrooms and shake the pan or stir with a spatula to cook. Add the shallots and toss to combine. Cook just until the shallots are lightly brown. Add the garlic and fresh thyme and cook until the garlic softens but does not burn, about 2-3 minutes. Discard thyme sprigs and season with salt and pepper.

Carefully remove the gizzards and duck fat from the bag, slice them and add to the mushrooms, shallots and garlic over medium high heat. Shortly remove from from heat, season with salt and pepper to taste if necessary, then sprinkle with tarragon or parsley. Serve in a bowl with grilled artisanal bread nearby.

BRAISED CHICKEN GIZZARDS WITH CURRY

1 1/2 lbs. chicken gizzards, cleaned and trimmed

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and sliced into very thin half moons
4 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and chopped finely
1″ ginger root, peeled and chopped finely

1 T cumin seeds, dry roasted then ground
1 T coriander seeds, dry roasted then ground
2 dried red chiles, dry roasted then ground
1/2 t mustard seeds, dry roasted then ground

1 t fenugreek seeds, ground

1 t turmeric
1 t red chile powder
Sea salt

3 T grapeseed oil
1 T unsalted butter
3/4 C chicken stock
3/4 C water
1 cinnamon stick

Roasted peanuts, chopped (optional)
Cilantro leaves, stemmed and roughly chopped

In a bowl, combine ground cumin, coriander, red chiles, mustard seeds and fenugreek with turmeric, red chile, and salt. In a heavy large sauté pan, heat grapeseed oil and butter over medium high. Stir in the onions for a couple of minutes, then the ginger and garlic and cook until until just light golden. Stir in the spice mixture and cook another 2-3 minutes or so.

Then, add the gizzards, stirring until well coated. Stir in the stock, water and cinnamon stick, cover and simmer slowly until gizzards are tender, about 1 hour or more. Assess liquid from time to time to assure a fairly constant level. Feel free to add hot water instead of additional broth. You will need adequate curry sauce to smother the gizzards and ooze into the rice. While braising, stir occasionally and add sea salt to taste.

Serve in shallow soup bowls over Basmati rice topped with peanuts and cilantro.