Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Houston - We Have A Problem

Over the weekend, the Brave Astronaut Command Console (also known as the desktop computer that I use for everything at home) suffered a major malfunction. At this time, the computer has been diagnosed with a dead motherboard. I am hoping to be able to retrieve the data that is on the hard drive.

For now, Mission Control will be dark while I get this resolved. I'm going to need a new computer, likely a laptop. To my former Syosset High School friends (specifically the one in Louisiana and Florida), can you get in touch with me? I know you've got the IT background that I might need right now along with the recommendations of what I should be looking for.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Monday's Recipe: More Chicken

Last week, Monday's recipe returned with a recipe from the New York Times Magazine. This week features another chicken recipe from the Washington Post Food section from two weeks ago. It uses one of my favorite jams, Strawberry-Rhubarb (although the real things are used here) and some chicken thighs, like the Country Captain from last week.

It's also Memorial Day today, so it's a good day to have the first "official" summer barbecue.

From the author of the recipe:
This is my riff on sweet-and-sour chicken. I’ve cleared away the goop to get a dish that tastes great, with a fun mingling of flavors.

Gone is the canned pineapple, replaced with grilled pineapple slices. Out went the breading and frying; skinless chicken thighs are grilled instead. The fruity tang comes from a homemade glaze that is applied to both the fruit and the chicken. I’ve added some blanched and quickly charred scallions.

The dish requires a few steps, but I bet you'll like the results.

If you happen to have strawberry-rhubarb jam, you can substitute 3/4 cup of it for the strawberries, rhubarb, water and sugar. Just combine the jam with the onion and mustard seeds and cook for about 25 minutes, until the onions are soft.

4 servings
Strawberry-Rhubarb Glazed Chicken Thighs

For the glaze
  • 1 stalk rhubarb (about 2 ounces), cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch dice to yield 1/2 cup
  • 4 to 6 large strawberries, hulled and cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch dice to yield 1/2 cup
  • 1 small onion, cut into small dice (1/2 cup)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
For the chicken and pineapple
  • 8 scallions (root ends trimmed off), remaining white and light-green parts about 6 inches long
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 pound peeled and cored pineapple, cut into four 1/4- to 1/2-inch slices
  • 8 (2 pounds) bone-in skinless chicken thighs
  • Freshly ground black pepper

For the glaze: Combine the rhubarb, strawberries, onion, sugar, mustard seeds, salt and water in a small saucepan over medium to medium-high heat. Stir to mix well until bubbles form at the edges. Cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally and making sure the mixture does not boil over, until it has reduced by half; the vegetables should be quite soft.

Carefully transfer to a blender. Remove the center portion of the lid to let steam escape, then place a dish towel over the lid. Puree until smooth, then add the vinegar and pulse to combine. Divide the glaze evenly between 2 small bowls.

For the chicken and pineapple: Prepare the grill for direct and indirect heat. If using a gas grill, preheat to medium (350 degrees). If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or wood briquettes; when the briquettes are ready, distribute them on one side of the cooking area. For a medium-hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals for about 6 or 7 seconds. Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames. Lightly coat the grill rack with oil and place it on the grill.

While the grill is preheating, bring a shallow pan of lightly salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the scallions and cook for 2 minutes (for thin scallions) to 4 minutes (thick), then use tongs to transfer them to a plate. They should be tender and bright green.

Lightly salt the pineapple slices and chicken thighs; season the chicken with pepper to taste. Place them on the grill over direct heat; close the lid. When the pineapple has good grill marks on one side (5 to 6 minutes), turn the pieces and move to the indirect-heat side of the grill.

Use one bowl of the glaze to brush the pineapple. Grill (with the lid closed) for 5 to 6 minutes. At the same time, turn over the chicken thighs once they have grill marks (10 to 13 minutes), allowing the second side to get color and grill marks (10 to 12 minutes). Then transfer to the indirect-heat side of the grill and brush with the glaze in the second bowl.

As the pineapple and chicken thighs are done, transfer them to a platter; use the space on the grill rack to grill the par-cooked scallions close to the indirect-heat side of the grill just for a few minutes, until they are slightly charred.

To serve, cut each slice of grilled pineapple vertically in half, placing a half-slice on each plate. Top with 2 grilled chicken thighs, 2 grilled scallions and a second pineapple half.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Take Your President to Work Today

A quick post (because I said I would try to be better) to point out that the President of the United States came to the National Archives today to give a "major speech" on terrorism, torture, and national security. He stood in the Rotunda of the National Archives and spoke eloquently (as he does so well) about the future of America, and why he believes closing Guantanamo Bay is essential. You can watch the speech from C-SPAN here. He gave the shout-out to the head of the National Archives, Acting Archivist Adrienne Thomas. We just need to teach him to pronounce "archivist" correctly.

This has not been a good week for the National Archives. On Tuesday evening, it was reported that a hard drive had gone missing from the National Archives. At the same time, the results of the National Capital Survey were released, which rate the agencies of the Federal Government. The National Archives came in next to last.

I love my job. Most of the people I know love their job. Who answered the survey? I know I did. And hey, the President came to see us, that's gotta count for something, right?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Monday's Recipe Returns

So I forgot to post a recipe last Monday. Did anyone notice? In fact, I have not posted here in a while. I have lots of posts in draft form that I hope to get back on track soon. To that end, here is a Monday recipe that I saw in the New York Times Magazine a few months ago. It's been on the fridge with plans to make - now someone else can get to it first. Sounds yummy.

Country Captain
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 pounds (about 8) chicken thighs
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 medium green pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 3 tablespoons currants
  • 1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes and their juices
  • 3 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted
  • Cooked white rice
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Combine the flour, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper and the thyme in a bowl. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat until it foams. Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture, shaking off excess, and fry, in batches if needed, until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and drain off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat in the skillet.

Return the skillet to medium heat, add the bacon and fry until crispy. Transfer to a plate. Once cool, crumble and set aside.

Add the onion, pepper, celery, garlic, curry powder and 1 tablespoon of the currants to the skillet and sauté over medium-high heat until soft and fragrant, about 7 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and their juices, bring to a boil and simmer over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spread 1 cup of the tomato sauce in the bottom of an ovenproof casserole large enough to hold the chicken snugly in one layer. Arrange the chicken on top. Pour the remaining sauce over and around the chicken. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for 15 minutes more.

Top with the crumbled bacon, remaining currants and slivered almonds. Serve with cooked rice and any condiments you wish. Serves 4.

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Bridge Too High?

I lived for several years in Poughkeepsie, New York, where I was a teacher at Poughkeepsie High School and worked at Filene's Department Store at the Poughkeepsie Galleria. I enjoyed getting out into the region, which was rich with history and stuff to do. One day, I will get back for the Dutchess County Fair and the Stormville Airport Flea Market.

One weekend I read in the paper that the Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge was going to be opened for people to walk out on a portion of it (a piece of the western terminus, which was not affected by the fire that severely damaged the bridge on this date 35 years ago). That certainly sounded like a really good time.

I'll set the scene for you. It's autumn in the Hudson Valley, so it's a little cold and windy, high above the river (did I say high? the bridge is 212 feet above the surface of the Hudson River), and a group of people are walking out on planks of plywood to a small observation area. The metal railings are in disrepair or missing altogether. Even for someone who does not have a fear of heights - I had had enough soon after getting out there.

The tours were being sponsored by Walkway Over the Hudson, a newly formed group dedicated to restoring the bridge and creating the world's longest (and highest) pedestrian walkway. They are nearly there. Throughout this year, the Hudson Valley will celebrate the 400th Anniversary of Henry Hudson's trip up the river that now bears his name. During the first weekend of October, the Walkway Over the Hudson is scheduled to open. I would be up for a road trip up the Hudson . . . I'm assuming they have railings now . . .

The finished walkway will feature a 6,768-foot-long walkway, including 3,094 feet on the main span, 212 feet above the river. The deck would be 25 feet wide. There will be marked areas for bicycling and benches along the span. They will install an elevator on the Poughkeepsie side to bring people to the bridge deck. If you prefer there will be stairs, 22 flights of them. The walkway will connect to rail trails on both sides of the river. Developers are expecting that more than 150,000 visitors a year will cross the bridge.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Election Results

As most of you may know, I was running for Town Council here in Cheverly, MD. Today was election day and after all the votes have been counted, I came up short. The incumbent was reelected. I promise to the residents of the Ward that I will stay involved and keep the Council Member on message and make sure that he communicates to the residents about what is going on in the town.

My thanks to everyone who expressed their support of my candidacy and I am grateful to those who voted for me today.

Update: ChvBlog has several updates on the elections, including video and photos: here, here, here, and here.

Update 2: The local newspaper, the Gazette has coverage of the elections here.

C'mon - SEVEN!

Anonymous Advice for Wives, 1905
"Not the least useful piece of advice, homely though it be, that we can offer newly-married ladies, is to remind them that husbands are men, and that men must eat. We can tell them, moreover, that men attach no small importance to this very essential operation, and that a very effectual way to keep them in good-humour, as well as good condition, is for wives to study their husband’s peculiar likes and dislikes in this matter. Let the wife try, therefore, if she have not already done so, to get up a little knowledge in the art of ordering dinner, to say the least of it. This task, if she be disposed to learn it, will in time be easy enough; moreover, if in addition she should acquire some practical knowledge of cookery, she will find ample reward in the gratification it will be the means of affording her husband."
Today is my seventh wedding anniversary. It is also Election Day here in town and I am awaiting the results of my bid to become Town Council Member. Stay tuned to this space and also watch here for results.

I have absolutely no issues with my wife's cookery - she does a fine job. In fact, we planned on having a very nice rack of lamb last night for dinner, but the oven crapped out on us, so we had to wing it. Tonight's dinner will be a little more difficult, I am assuming to put together. Happy Anniversary to the best wife ever. I love you very much and don't know I made it without you around.

A few weeks ago in the New York Times Magazine, in the food column, there were two recipes, the first for Maida Heatter's Preheated Oven Popovers and the second for Sugared Puffs. OK folks, quick quiz, which recipe do you think I will be including? Not that I have anything against the popover (though their cousin the Pop-Tart is likely to find its way into my mouth), but the sweet, siren call of the sugary love is too much to resist.

Sugared Puffs (from David Lebovitz)

For the puffs:
  • Softened unsalted butter, for greasing the pan
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 cup flour
For the sugar coating:
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Liberally grease a nonstick popover pan, or a muffin pan with 1/2-cup indentations, with softened butter.
  2. For the puffs, put the 2 tablespoons melted butter, eggs, milk, salt and sugar in a blender and whiz for a few seconds.
  3. Add the flour and whiz for 5 to 8 seconds, just until smooth.
  4. Divide the batter among 9 greased molds, filling each 1/2 to 2/3 full.
  5. Bake for 35 minutes, until the puffs are deep brown.
  6. Remove from the oven, wait a few minutes until cool enough to handle, then remove the puffs from the pans. You may need a small knife to help pry them out.
  7. Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Thoroughly brush each puff all over with melted butter, then dredge in sugar and cinnamon mixture to coat completely. Let cool on a baking rack. Makes 9 puffs.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Tomorrow is Election Day in Cheverly

As you may know, I am running for Town Council here in Cheverly. Tomorrow is Election Day. I am out and about today meeting with voters and will be greeting voters at the poll tomorrow. Wish me luck!

And here's to hoping that, if elected, I don't face any Council meetings like this one.