Quesadillas & Secret Laws

October 19, 2016

Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.
~Benjamin Franklin

Unfortunately, this is posted just beyond the cusp of National Hispanic Month this year (September 15 – October 15, 2016). Yet, quesadillas are welcome at our table at whatever the day or hour.

Now, imagine that your second language is English.  Better yet, that your cradle language is English. Either way.

Still, there are “secret laws” that are unsettlingly passed without public consent or approval to anyone and all. We have been taught endlessly that Congress publicly enacts statutes candidly, but when the secretive panel known as the Foreign Intelligence Survey Court (FISA) permits the surreptitious collection of phone records, interrogation or torture procedures it somehow becomes the law of the land. Intelligence agencies issue rules and regulations on national security issues are very often not published and not made known to the public and remain “classified.” These include, inter alia, intelligence gathering and the detention, interrogation and torture of suspected terrorists.

Secret laws deny each individual the ability to comprehend constraints imposed by official conduct. In short, perilous secret laws disallow constituents to challenge accountability or to demand any form of legal or legislative transparency. Law and fact soon become an addictive blur in a what is otherwise known as a democratic society with supposedly open courts, judges, prosecutors and legislators. Now, each may act with impunity and without the thoughts, acumen, judgment or oversight of citizens — individually or collectively, before, during, or afterwards.

The last time I looked, the preamble to the United States Constitution began with “We the People” — one of our Constitution’s guiding principles, to make no mention of the due process and confrontation clauses explicitly stated in the Bill of Rights.

While quesadillas may sometimes have directed ingredients, truthfully they are an amalgam of fine leftovers here — so, whatever is recently in the fridge or pantry are fair game (so long as you do not overload), e.g., brussels sprouts, asparagus, tongue, tripe, shredded pork butt, chicken or lamb, gizzards, livers, whatever greens, leeks, green onions, thinly sliced radishes, cheeses of any and all types, fresh or dried oregano, coriander, herbes de provence, thyme, fennel seeds, chipotle peppers, chiles of any species, garbanzo beans, hominy, new potatoes, fennel bulbs, edamame, chinese peas, snow peas, peas, salmon, mackerel, sardines, shrimp, squid, mussels, et al.

QUESADILLAS

2 T extra virgin olive oil
1-2 T unsalted butter

1 lb mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 T brandy or cognac
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

8 ozs spinach or arugula, stems removed
2-4 ozs or so, cilantro, stems removed

1-2 jalapeno chiles, stemmed, seeded, and minced

Spoonful of salsa verde

Goat cheese or chèvre, grated or broken into small pieces
Gruyère cheese, grated

8 or so flour tortillas

1-2 T extra virgin olive or canola oil
2 T unsalted butter

4 local, farm fresh eggs (1 per quesadilla), fried

Place a heavy, medium to large sauté pan over medium high heat and add 2 T extra virgin olive or canola oil and 1-2 T unsalted butter. When oil and butter shimmer, add mushrooms and as well as salt and pepper. Sauté, adding brandy or cognac until mushrooms release liquid and begin to evaporate and mushrooms begin to brown, about 8-10 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool.

Combine mushrooms, greens, chilessalsa verde, and cheese in a bowl. Place a large nonstick, heavy skillet over medium to medium high heat, and add extra virgin olive or canola oil and unsalted butter until it begins to shimmer. Do not allow to burn. While pan heats, place a large spoonful of mushroom, greens, chiles, salsa verde, and cheese mixture into each tortilla and place other tortilla over the filled one so as to make a sandwich. Place tortillas in preheated heavy skillet and cook, turning once, until tortillas are nicely browned on both sides and cheeses are melted.

Top with a large, fried egg.

Serve promptly.

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The horror! The horror!
~Kurtz in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, later adapted to the film Apocalypse Now

Spring has sprung, and those intensely surreptitious, almost clandestine, morel hunts are in full season. The image is reminiscent of the geeky bird watcher played by John McGiver in Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation with Jimmy Stewart (1962). I recommend both the film and the morel hunt.

Here is the kind of retirement pursuit more befitting to the now suddenly ubiquitous Mr. Cheney than was upland bird gaming—furtive, undercover, with dark caches, and yet thankfully no lethal arms or ordnance at his disposal. He simply rounds up these fungal suspects, detains and then stows them in away in a black hiding place. As to his next step, torture…how he could conceivably torture a defenseless mushroom is beyond my bailiwick. No references to such tactics on these highly valued delicacies can be found in the revised U.S. Army Field Manual or the Geneva Convention that he so shamelessy disregarded with humans—with the penned duplicity of the now Hon. Jay Bybee and Prof. John Yoo. Perhaps he simply delegates away the torment in a feeble effort to display clean hands. Queries: What consideration (quid pro quo) is given in a torture contract? Is this a third party “beneficiary” arrangement? What are the specific terms and provisions of a torture agreement? Is it just a proverbial “wink and a hand shake?”

In my narrow culinary sphere, I do know beyond a reasonable doubt that repeatedly inundating fresh morels with water causes core damage and elicits little valuable information. All this technique causes is changeless damage to being.

Morels, the prized honeycombed and ridged fungi worshipped by amateur mycologists and cooks alike, are nothing short of sublime. The most widely recognized species are the yellow morel or common morel (Morchella esculenta), the white morel (M. deliciosa), and the black morel (M. elata).

Also called morchella, they possess a spongy texture and subtle, earthy flavor which is so delicate that you must exercise care not to dominate morels with stout ingredients in the same dish. Do not overly adorn…rather allow the morel to stand in full glory.

Mirepoix is the classic mélange of onions, carrots, and celery often used as a flavor base for a number of dishes, including stocks, soups, and sauces. Although this is not set in stone, the typical ratio is 2:1:1 of onions, celery, and carrots. As befits French tradition, mirepoix derived its name from the duke patron of a renowned chef.

MORELS & FETTUCINE

3/4 to 1 lb fresh morels, cleaned with a brush or cloth, sliced lengthwise
4 shallots, peeled and finely diced
4 T unsalted butter

4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped and finely chopped
2 sprigs parsley leaves, finely chopped

1 C onions, peeled and minced
1/2 C carrots, peeled and minced
1/2 C celery, minced
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 C chicken stock
1 C heavy cream

Fresh parsley sprigs, chopped
Parmigiano reggiano, grated

1 lb fresh fettucine (see Basic Pasta Dough)
Sea salt

In a heavy skillet, sauté the mushrooms and shallots in butter for 2-3 minutes over medium high heat, adding the thyme and parsley for the last minute. Add the mirepoix (onions, celery and carrots) and season with salt and pepper. Sauté another 2 minutes and then add both the stock and cream. Gently simmer and let the mixture reduce by about one-third, but do not allow it to thicken to a heavy sauce consistency. Taste for salt and pepper to your liking.

In a heavy stock pot, cook the pasta in boiling water that has a liberal amount of salt added. The water should almost taste like clean seawater, and the pasta should be cooked until just al dente. Drain and toss with the morels and mirepoix mixture in the skillet. Garnish with parsley and a light grating of parmigiano reggiano.