The more you approach infinity, the deeper you penetrate terror.
~Gustave Flaubert

ParisLa Ville Lumière, le Paname…an eternal, perpetual place in many psyches (including mine).

A psychotically surreal Friday the 13th evening. I admit to feeling empty, melancholic, enraged, mournful, abhorrent, sorrowful all at the same time — no way to view a match at the Stade de France, savor a meal at lieux like Le Petit Cambodge, La Belle Équipe café, Le Carillon, Café Bonne Bière, Sushi Maki, La Cosa Nostra and La Petit Balona, or revel in a concert at the Théâtre de Bataclan.

Yet, I feel somehow staunch and resolute en même temps. A bewildering mélange of emotions…confused thoughts, but by no means nothing like the victims’ loved ones whose souls suffer and agonize. The outpouring of empathy has been overwhelming. My sincere condolences and thanks, that simple.

The etymology of the word “terror” is sadly and Frenchly ironic. Terror (n.): from the early 15 century late middle English “something that frightens, causes fear and dread” is derived directly from the Old French terreur (14 century), earlier from the Latin terrorem or “fear, fright, dread, alarm,” from the Latin verb terrere “to make fearful, frighten.”

The term “terrorism” itself was coined in Paris during the wake of the 1789 revolution as a term to describe the government’s bloody campaign against counter revolutionaries. The Reign of Terror also known as Le Régime de la Terreur, a ruthless movement begun after the execution of Robespierre by guillotine in the late 18th century, was meant to purge the country of enemies of the French Revolution. The Reign was incited by competing legislative bodies, the moderate Girondins, also called the Brissontins, and the militant Jacobins, and was marked by political repression and mass executions of purported rivals.

Now, one must perplex at what W (who held hands longingly with a theocratic “royal” Saudi prince), Cheney and Rumsfeld have recently wrought upon the world. Once a country piques or provokes a tribe what other tribes, caliphates or sub-tribes are created? There is little doubt that simple hypothesis was not lucidly thought through at high places.  If not or if so, for shame.

In any event, just wonder aloud, openly discuss, and consider the calamitous precedents before invading other countries with boots on the ground.  Forget not l’Arabie saoudite as have W and his friends, confidants so conveniently done.  Please do not overreact with bellicose language, saber rattling and hawkish behavior as was done after 9.11 and the “War(s) on Terror” which have destabilized the Middle East and have spawned the now thriving Daesh, Dai’sh, Islamic State, ISIS, and/or ISIL. Whatever their nomenclature du jour may be.

This is dire reality not a time for spewing knee jerk, xenophobic and visceral, wrong headed, rash polemic and panic.

You know the drill well, Parigots — stay steady, resolute and resilient, do not deny your lifestyle or rituals, embrace your senses and those about you, rebound however maimed, cherish the ephemeral nature of life, and remain quietly vigilant yet defiant of the malefactors.  No doubt it may prove cursive to feel vulnerable and doubtful, but please keep all in perspective. Please do not allow delirium to trump reason and forever remember those words:  liberté, égalité, et fraternité.

The word “terrorism” has a somehow slightly different, peculiar sense but still maintains the same hues, although the meaning stays insidious. It usually means the “use of violence to human life, fear, coercion or intimidation in pursuit of political or religious aims.” It often is an abhorrent, indiscriminate act of violence against innocent humankind, against society. But, the word still retains its blurred vernacular and semantic ambiguities — for instance, is it mere lunacy?  Who terrorizes, intimidates, displaces another? What constitutes such an act?  While no one definition of “terrorism” has gained universal acceptance or precise use, it does remain an emerging combined military and political-religious word and applies to varied circumstances.

But, the “definition” and “history” of terrorism aside, there remains zero doubt about who should take responsibility for the deaths of blameless victims this Parisian weekend.  The same arcane, cruel and oppressive jihadist bunch that has an apocalyptic black flag and severed head for emblems. Non-believers? Really?

And enough of your false and deceptive misnomer, allahu akbar, bros, as you ruthlessly carve off kidnapped heads with bound hands and fanatically kill and maim innocents with AK-47 assault rifles at close range.   In no way can this horrific carnage be affirmed by any contorted interpretation of the Holy Qur’an or any other known sacred scriptures.

Bistro fare often comforts on dark days. Please slowly dine on this sauté + ragoût with family and friends, preferably with bare feet.

CHICKEN FRICASSEE + LENTILS

2 lbs local chicken wings, legs, thighs (perhaps more goodies, like gizzards)
Some chicken stock, a couple tabs of unsalted butter & extra virgin olive oil

2 medium carrots, peeled and carved into 1″ pieces
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced into thin disks
1 medium turnip, peeled and carved into 1″ pieces
4-5 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled, and coarsely chopped
1 t dried herbes de provence
3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 t dried oregano
2 dried bay leaves

1 lb dried lentilles du puy
3 C water and chicken stock, combined in equal parts (1 1/2 C each)

Splash of apple cider vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Grated parmiggiano-reggianno & tarragon

Put the wings, legs, thighs, etc. into a large, heavy, Dutch oven or sauté pan with some chicken stock, butter and olive oil. Cook over medium high heat for about 5 minutes per side, until the chicken is browned.

Add the carrots, onion, turnip, garlic, oregano, thyme sprigs, herbes de provence, and bay leaves to the Dutch oven or sauté pan and cook for about a minute or two.  Do not burn anything.

Then, add the lentils du puy, water, salt and pepper, apple cider vinegar, and reduce the heat but still boil gently, covered, for some 30 minutes. Assure that the lentils are quite tender and, of course, most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaves.  Serve in shallow soup bowls with chicken atop, and finish with fresh tarragon leaves and a fresh grating of parmiggiano-reggiano.

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Filial Wings

April 13, 2012

When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.
~Unknown

This quote was first attributed to the revered, occasionally ornery, Mark Twain. But that credit now seems apocryphal as apparently Twain did not utter it. There is no evidence that links Twain to the adage, and the first version that appeared was in 1915–five years after his death. The son’s age in the quote has varied over time, and while it does not rule out a fictional biographical nexus, it should be remembered that Twain’s father died when he was eleven years old.

Scholars have not found this saying in Twain’s literary works, writings, notebooks or letters and relating this quote to him are skeptical at best. No version of this same passage has been ascribed to any other significant figure either.

Did Twain inherit the quote as a vestige from earlier mots justes? A subliminal post mortem tribute? Twain or not, I still love the quote (and the man).

This is game grub. The NCAA Tourney may be history, but the London Olympics, NBA Playoffs, French Open, UEFA Euro Championship, Tour de France, Wimbledon, World Cup Qualifying, MLB season, US Open, NFL season, to name a few, all await this year. The wings beckon too, most wondrous “children”–you know who you are.

CHICKEN WINGS

3 lbs chicken wings, wingettes and drumettes intact

1 T sea salt
1 T sugar
1 T light brown sugar
1 T smoked paprika
Juice of 2 limes
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil

1/2 C sriracha
1/4 C chile garlic sauce
2 T apple cider vinegar
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded and minced
1/4 C honey
3 T unsalted butter, room temperature
Zest + juice of 1 lime
2 t sea salt

2 C duck fat
2 C canola oil
Sea salt

Scallions, green part only, chopped
Jalapeños, stemmed, and thinly sliced
Cilantro leaves

Combine the salt, sugars, paprika, lime juice, garlic, and extra virgin olive oil in a bowl. Place the wings in a large ziploc bag, pour in the marinade and toss to thoroughly coat. Marinate for 2 hours or even overnight, then remove from fridge and allow to reach room temperature. Discard smashed garlics.

Meanwhile, make the sauce by adding sriracha, chile garlic sauce, apple cider vinegar, garlic, jalapeño, honey, butter, lime and salt in a heavy medium saucepan. Place over medium high heat, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and whisk occasionally until slightly reduced, about 10 minutes. The sauce can be adjusted by adding more chile sauce for spice or more honey for sweetness. Season with salt to taste and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 F

Spread marinated wings out on a foil covered, rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with any remaining marinade, and roast until almost but not fully cooked, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.

Place a large, heavy Dutch oven over medium high heat and add duck fat and canola oil. With a deep fry thermometer, allow the fat to reach 360 F, add the wings and fry until golden and crispy. Using a large spider, remove onto paper towels to drain and promptly season with salt.

Meanwhile, reheat the sauce to almost a simmer. Place fried wings in a large glass ovenproof bowl, pour the hot sauce over, then mix well to coat evenly so the wings are nicely glazed.

Garnish with scallions, sliced jalapeños and cilantro. Serve with yogurt-blue cheese, barbeque, and chipotle sauces.

Pourboire: some prefer the wingettes and drumettes separated for more even frying and easier eats. Others favor lightly dusting the wings in all-purpose or rice flour before frying. Also consider a sauce with a Thai bend mixing sriracha, chile garlic sauce, rice wine vinegar, fish sauce, dry sherry, soy sauce, garlic, bird chiles, peanut oil, lime and salt. Serve with red curry, gai yang, and peanut sauces.