Thursday, July 30, 2009

Long Live the 8-Track

No really.
I remember the stereo system we had growing up (in the huge stereo cabinet crafted by my grandfather, which has unfortunately been lost to time and space) had an 8-track component. It was a lot of fun to sit in front of it and change the channels on the 8-track, which always made that healthy "ka-chunk." Always thinking ahead, I began to record the 8-tracks onto cassette tapes. Because cassettes were the future.

I resisted making the switch to CDs for a long time. I had two large wooden cases mounted on my wall that contained my extensive cassette collection. Then as I finally began to migrate my cassettes to CD, I sold off my cassettes. Of course by then, the 8-track player was long gone.

Recently, I have been reconstituting by iTunes library after my computer crashed. LBA has been inquiring when "Centerfield" will be moved from my computer to my iPod (as one cannot have two iTunes libraries synched on the same iPod). Soon, my boy, soon.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"Who are Those Guys?"

First off, name the movie for the above line. Bonus points for actually identifying the names of "those guys."

Last night, Mark Buehrle, not content to have thrown a perfect game in his last outing, decided to break the record of retiring 41 straight batters by getting past 45 (that's 27 from the perfect game and 18 more from last night's game).

Now as to this team that plays here in Washington, DC. What has gotten into them? They seem to have found something and have been cracking their bats over their opponents, now having won four in a row and six of their last eight. So when do playoff tickets go on sale? Yes, well, don't get your hopes up, they are still more than 25 games out of first place in the NL East.

A significant record was notched by Nationals outfielder, Josh Willingham in the game against the Brewers on Monday night. Willingham hit two grand slams in the same game, only the 13th time this has happened in the era of modern baseball. Please note this is five less occasions than the perfect games. Evidently baseball is harder than it looks.

Here's the list, which in of itself is interesting as it does not necessarily feature those marquee names that one might expect (there are only two hall of famers on the list). Further, it is interesting to note (and this was a subject of discussion at the lunch table) that, with only one exception, all of these took place on the road.
  • May 24, 1936 - Tony Lazzeri, New York Yankees, away game
  • July 4, 1939 - Jim Tabor, Boston Red Sox, away game
  • July 27, 1946 - Rudy York, Boston Red Sox, away game
  • May 9, 1961 - Jim Gentile, Baltimore Orioles, away game
  • July 3, 1966 - Tony Cloninger, Atlanta Braves, away game
  • June 24, 1968 - Jim Northrup, Detroit Tigers, away game
  • June 26, 1970 - Frank Robinson, Baltimore Orioles, away game
  • September 4, 1995 - Robin Ventura, Chicago White Sox, away game
  • August 14, 1998 - Chris Hoiles, Baltimore Orioles, away game (active)
  • April 23, 1999 - Fernando Tatís, St. Louis Cardinals, away game
  • May 10, 1999 - Nomar Garciaparra, Boston Red Sox, home game (active)
  • July 29, 2003 - Bill Mueller, Boston Red Sox, away game
  • July 27, 2009 - Josh Willingham, Washington Nationals, away game

Monday, July 27, 2009

[drool] Lamb . . . .

Growing up in New York, it was not unexpected for my friends and I to wind up at the diner after being out at the movies. We became so frequent at Syosset House that the owner would greet us by name and show us to the same table and we would have the same waitress (who was kinda hot, too). Diners in New York usually mean Greeks are running the place. This is less prevalent outside the New York metropolitan area, but if you want good diner food, make sure that spanakopita or gyros are on the menu before proceeding.

While in high school and my first few years of community college, I worked in a department store at a local mall. Quite often, I would head to a place called Hurdy Gurdy for lunch. They served the best gyros, slicing the lamb from the spit and always with the right amount of tzatziki. Where I am now, the best gyros I have found can be had at the Marathon Deli. And yes, the owner's Greek (and kinda cute, too - see how that comes full circle?).

In the New York Times on July 14, they decided to investigate the history of the gyro (which by the way is pronounced yee-ro). It was a little disappointing to learn that the majority of gyro cones are made in Chicago - and I certainly didn't read too far into the "preparation" of the meat. Some things are better left to the imagination. Isn't that what makes it taste better?

If you really want to make one at home, here's a recipe. But, trust me, go find the real thing. You won't be sorry.

  • 1 lb. ground lamb
  • 1 lg. clove garlic, pressed
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. basil
  • 1/4 tsp. marjoram
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/8 c. snipped parsley
  • 6 pita pockets
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 16 oz. sour cream
  • 1 med. cucumber, pureed (puree in blender & strain to remove liquid)
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
Combine first ten ingredients in large bowl; blend. Place mixture in skillet; cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until meat is browned. Drain off excess drippings. Combine sour cream, cucumber, garlic, salt and sugar in bowl. Blend well. Cut pita pockets in half; spoon in meat mixture, top with tomatoes and onions. Spoon sauce over each sandwich and serve immediately. Makes 6 servings. Makes a good main course served over rice.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Would it Have Been Anyone Else?

Two weeks ago, Billy Joel and Elton John took to the stage for the first concert ever at Nationals Park - home to the lowly Washington Nationals. Tonight, I am headed to the park for a game between the Nationals and the San Diego Padres. While I would have liked to attend the concert, the reviews were mediocre and featured a full on hissy fit by Elton John, when his piano broke in the opening set.

Shortly after I returned from a New York weekend, my cousin tagged me in a note on Facebook. I have done similar work / lists like this before, but here goes:

Using only song names from ONE ARTIST, cleverly answer these questions. Try not to repeat a song title. It's harder than you think.

Pick Your Artist: Billy Joel

Are you male or female: An Innocent Man

Describe yourself: I Go to Extremes

How do you feel about yourself: Don't Ask Me Why

Describe your current boy/girl situation: A Matter of Trust

Describe where you currently live: The River of Dreams

If you could go anywhere you wanted to go: Leningrad

Your favorite form of transportation: The Downeaster Alexa

Your best friend(s) is(are): Big Shot and The Entertainer

Your favorite color is: Oyster Bay (I'm sure it's a color - it's got to be in the blue family)

Favorite time of day: Until the Night

If your life were a TV show, what would it be called: The Longest Time

What is life to you: The Longest Time

What is the best advice you have to give: You're Only Human

Thought for the Day: It's Still Rock and Roll to Me

How I would like to die: Only the Good Die Young

My soul's present condition: Pressure

Thursday, July 23, 2009

27 Up, 27 Down

Tomorrow night I will be at Nationals Park to see the Nats take on the San Diego Padres. It features two really bad teams. Today, the country's number 1 White Sox fan got to see a rare gem in baseball. It's only happened 18 times in the modern era. Congratulations Mark Buehrle, who threw the no-no today in Chicago. It was the first perfect game in five seasons.

The Perfect Game "club"
  1. Lee Richmond, June 12, 1880
  2. John Montgomery Ward, June 17, 1880
  3. Cy Young, May 5 1904
  4. Addie Joss, October 2, 1908
  5. Charlie Robertson, April 30, 1922
  6. Don Larsen, October 8, 1956 (during the World Series)
  7. Jim Bunning, June 21, 1964
  8. Sandy Koufax, September 9, 1965
  9. Catfish Hunter, May 8, 1968
  10. Len Barker, May 15, 1981
  11. Mike Witt, September 30, 1984
  12. Tom Browning, September 16, 1988
  13. Dennis Martinez, July 28, 1991
  14. Kenny Rogers, July 28, 1994
  15. David Wells, May 17, 1998
  16. David Cone, July 18, 1999
  17. Randy Johnson, May 18, 2004
  18. Mark Buehrle, July 23, 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mario Batali Burns Footwear

ADR has told me that he tends not to read Recipe Monday's all that closely, if at all. But perhaps this one will draw him out, for we know how much he loves the plastic shoe. Some time ago, celebrity chef Mario Batali was asked about his signature Crocs that he usually sports. I will cop to owning a pair - they are good for my feet, I refer to them as my summer slippers. I don't necessarily wear them out of the house though. And now, according to the Washington Post, I might not be able to get a new pair soon.

"Crocs are my signature, and I take a beating on your blogs about it! All fashion blogs think these shoes are the ultimate problem. I wear them because they’re the most comfortable thing and I don’t give a f**k about fashion. I like fashion on other people."
Here's a Batali recipe, which he claims to be one of his favorite dishes to make on his days off.

Around my house this simple roasted chicken is one of our favorite things to have on my days off. There are few things more satisfying to eat – or as easy to prepare and clean up – than a whole roasted bird. It's also a great way to use up the flavorful but inedible rinds from prosciutto and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. I love bitter radicchio di Treviso and it is particularly delicious with the pan juices from the roasted onions and chicken splashed over it.
  • 1 3 ½- to 4- pound chicken
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 4 tablespoons chopped rosemary leaves
  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2-ounce piece prosciutto rind or bacon
  • 2-ounce piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind
  • 2 medium red onions, sliced into 1-inch disks
  • 3/4 cup Lambrusco or other dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 6 large heads radicchio di Treviso
Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Remove the giblets and set aside.

Combine the garlic, rosemary, black pepper, and sea salt and mix with 3 tablespoons of the extra-virgin olive oil. Run the outside of the chicken all over with the rosemary mixture. Place the prosciutto and cheese rinds inside the cavity, cover and refrigerate for3 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 475ºF.

Place the onion slices and reserved giblets in the bottom of a small, heavy-bottomed roasting pan. Place the chicken on top of the onions, breast side up. Pour the wine over the chicken and rub all over with 1/4 cup of the vinegar. Roast in the oven for 1 hour 10 minutes, or until a skewer pushed into the thickest part of the thigh shows clear- not bloody- juices. Remove the pan from the oven and let the chicken rest for 5 minutes.

Preheat the grill or broiler.

Halve the radicchio lengthwise and grill for 3 to 4 minutes per side. Brush with the remaining olive oil and set aside.

Transfer the chicken to a carving platter and degrease the pan juices. Combine the onions and giblets with the pan juices. Carve the chicken, drizzle with the remaining 1/4 cup vinegar, and serve immediately over the radicchio. Pass the giblet gravy separately.

On the Moon - Another take

From McSweeney's - what really happened:

July 20, 1969, 10:20 p.m. EDT Interior of Apollo 11 lunar module
Mission Control: Okay Eagle, you're go for the module EVA. We've established visual of the ladder with the external camera. You'll be going out on a live feed so watch your step and keep it clean, gentleman!

Neil Armstrong: (Chuckling) Roger that, Houston. Just mom and apple pie.

Mission Control: Appreciated. You can go when ready. We've all got our fingers crossed on the dust issue.

Armstrong: Come again Houston. The what?

Mission Control: The dust.

Armstrong: What do you mean, the dust? What are you talking about?

Mission Control: Well, apparently there's a chance the dust is pyrophoric and that when you open the door of the module, oxygen will react with the dust and explode.

Armstrong: Oh . . . okay. Wow . . . Was that in the simulations? I don't remember it.

Mission Control: There's been some discussion with some geologists here today − we probably should have done that earlier − but you know how it is.

Armstrong: Mmm . . . . . . .

(90 seconds of silence.)
Armstrong (to Buzz Aldrin): Gee, I feel kind of guilty now, having you be first. But the suit should protect you.

Aldrin: What do you mean? You're going out first.

Armstrong: No, it's you. I talked about this with Gene when you were asleep on the way out here. We wanted to reward you for all your service.

Aldrin: How dumb do you think I am? You did not talk about this with Gene. You're the mission commander. The commander takes the lead on everything.

Armstrong: You're right. I'm commanding you to go out first.

(30 seconds of silence.)
Aldrin: I didn't sign up for this. Let's decide this fairly. Rock, paper, scissors.

Armstrong: No, I've seen your rock, paper, scissors tricks − you always lag behind by a half-second.

Aldrin: We'll flip a coin.

Armstrong: We don't have a coin. And it would take forever to come down. I'll pick a number between one and ten and then you try to guess it. If you're right, I'll go out.

Aldrin: You're giving me a ten percent chance?

Armstrong: That's under Earth gravity. It's different under moon gravity − you have a 50-50 chance.

Aldrin: Okay. . . well . . . I guess seven.


Aldrin: I got it didn't I?

Armstrong: . . . . . . . No.

Mission Control: Neil, Gene says to suit up and get out there. The meter's running. You know the audio feed is still on don't you?

Aldrin: The commander is commanded! Not to mention a liar.

July 20, 1969, 11:16 p.m. EDT Moon surface
Aldrin: This feels so weird! The powder is slippery. Look (jumping up and down). My shoes are made of flubber. (Lopes around in high bouncing steps.)

Armstrong: Stop it. Is your mike off?

Aldrin: Yes. You realize "man" and "mankind" mean the same thing don't you?

Armstrong: I said, "a man. One small step for a man."

Aldrin: Whatever. I thought you'd be in a better mood after not blowing up. (Begins jogging circles around Armstrong in slow motion.)

Armstrong: You need to quit prancing around. Start gathering dust and rocks. They want all kinds of samples.

Aldrin: Yes, master. (Takes a few steps and then kneels.) What in the hell . . . ?

Armstrong: (Comes over) What do you see?

Aldrin: Doesn't that look like . . . droppings? From an animal?

Armstrong: It does, but that can't be right. (Removes a sensor from his belt and inserts it into one lump.) Well, it's warmer than the dust it's sitting on, which makes no sense. (Probes it with finger of spacesuit.) Feels a lot like . . . dog . . . (gags).

Aldrin: Oh no. Don't throw up in your mask because then I'll throw up.

Armstrong: (Steadies himself with a few deep breaths) Okay. If this thing is organic in any way, they'll want to analyze it. Put it in your sample bag.

Aldrin: I'm not touching that, even through a spacesuit.

Armstrong: Well, use something to scoop it up with. Where's that Nixon plaque?

Aldrin: It's bolted to the ladder back on the thing. What are those . . .? (Points to tracks leading away from pile.) Holy Christ on toast. Let's get out of here.

Armstrong: (Staring) . . . I'm with you. . . . Hang on − the camera's going to be pointing this way when we plant the flag. (Erases tracks with his foot.) Apollo 12 can deal with this.

Mission Control: Neil, your audio signal's been going in and out. Did you find something?

(Both men freeze and stare at one another.)
Armstrong: No, Buzz and I were clowning with you. Did you buy it? (Hits button on helmet.)

Aldrin: So your mike −

Armstrong: Save it.

July 21, 1969, 8:54 p.m. EDT Interior of lunar module
Aldrin: I can't believe you wouldn't do the Iwo Jima thing with me when we planted the flag. When are we ever going to be back here?

Armstrong: I'm not going to act like a 10-year-old. And I saw you do the "hammer throw" when you thought I wasn't looking. If we end up needing that to pound something, you're going out and looking for it.

Aldrin: We won't need it anymore. It's just dead weight. I bet I got more than 500 yards on that toss.

Armstrong: If NASA comes breathing down my neck, you're going to answer for it. It comes out of your paycheck.

Aldrin: Fine, fine, fine. . . . . So . . . about those things we saw. Not a word?

Armstrong: Nobody needs to know.

Aldrin: What about Mike, when we rendezvous? Shouldn't we let him in on it?

Armstrong: No way. He tells his wife everything. It would be on the front page within 12 hours. Now get locked in. When NASA gives the word, I have to push the button with almost no warning.

Aldrin: (Peering out window at moon surface) Goodbye, magnificent desolation . . . Oh my god. Here it −

Armstrong: What?

Aldrin: Push it Push it Push it

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Eagle Has Landed

I am the Brave Astronaut. I could not let this particular anniversary pass without a post. I had been accumulating a number of sites and things to post links to. One of the better ones I had comes from the Big Picture.

Kottke had a number of good posts:
July 16 also was evidently the anniversary of several significant historic events, other than the date the Apollo 11 astronauts blasted off for the mood. To commemorate the blastoff, Daily Kos had the video of the launch as did Kottke. CNN covered the release of NASA's enhanced films of the moon landing.

And with the passing of "Uncle Walter" here is a video of Walter Cronkite and others talking about that monumental day. Farewell Walter. You were the voice of reason for so many years. You will truly be missed. Thank you for all your years.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Open Championship

Most people know I like golf. I don't play it very well, but I enjoy every opportunity I get to play. I also enjoy watching golf (I try to make sure that I always watch the Masters and this year I got to watch a fair amount of the U. S. Open). This weekend is the British Open, known simply as The Open Championship. This year it is being played at Turnberry in Scotland. Someday, I will get to the birthplace of golf and waggle my Billy Baroo around St. Andrews (and no that's not dirty).

The U.S. Open was played this year at Bethpage Black, a public course at Bethpage State Park, about ten minutes away from where I grew up. I have not played there - my skill set is nowhere near that level. I even shot over par in an online version of the course.

Shortly after the conclusion of the U.S. Open, I received this humorous list from Ed in Pittsburgh - a far better golfer than I. It's amusing because my sister-in-law's husband and I had this very idea (of writing a book for the duffer golfer rather than a how-to get better book - there's way too many of those). So here's a proposed chapter list for the bad golfing book. Anybody want to contribute some text?
  • Chapter 1 - How to Properly Line Up Your Fourth Putt
  • Chapter 2 - How to Hit a Nike from the Rough, when you Hit a Titleist from the tee
  • Chapter 3 - How to Avoid the Water When You Lie 8 in a bunker
  • Chapter 4 - How to Get More Distance off the Shank
  • Chapter 5 - When to Give the Ranger the Finger
  • Chapter 6 - Using Your Shadow on the Greens to Maximize Earnings
  • Chapter 7 - When to Implement Handicap Management
  • Chapter 8 - Proper Excuses for Drinking Beer Before 9:00 a.m
  • Chapter 9 - How to Rationalize a 6 Hour Round
  • Chapter 10 - When Does A Divot become Classified as Sod (or when your wedge can be re-classified as a trenching tool)
  • Chapter 11 - How to Find That Ball That Everyone Else Saw Go in the Water
  • Chapter 12 - Why your Spouse Doesn't Care That You Birdied the 5th
  • Chapter 13 - Using Curse words Creatively to Control Ball Flight
  • Chapter 14 - When to Let a Foursome Play Through Your Twosome
  • Chapter 15 - How to Relax When You Are Hitting Five off the Tee
  • Chapter 16 - When to Suggest Major Swing Corrections to Your Opponent
  • Chapter 17 - God and the Meaning of the Birdie-to-Bogey Three Putt
  • Chapter 18 - When to Regrip Your Ball Retriever
  • Chapter 19 - Throwing Your Clubs: An Effective Stress-Reduction Technique
  • Chapter 20 - Can You Purchase a Better Golf Game?
  • Chapter 21 - Why Male Golfers Will Pay $5.00 a Beer from the Cart Girl and give her a $3 Tip , but will balk at $4.50 at the 19th Hole and stiff the Bartender

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Weekend in New York

The Brave Astronaut family has returned from a weekend visit to Lawn Guyland today, where we celebrated my father's 80th birthday, with a party thrown by his new girlfriend. Mrs. BA and I took the opportunity to fill up on Long Island staples - pizza and bagels.

I have a colleague at work who has threatened to hold a blind taste test to see if I can tell the difference between Long Island bagels and bagels from anywhere else (outside the New York area). I have told him to bring it on. For the most part, bagels outside the NYC region are basically "rolls with holes." Ask any bagel maker, they'll tell you - it's the water. In fact, there is allegedly a bagel shop in Texas somewhere that has NYC water flown in so he can make "authentic" NYC bagels.

Now I just need to make sure if we made enough space in the freezer for the bagels we brought back. Some time ago I spotted an entry on Buzz Feed about the flagel. I never got into the flagel phenomenon, but I do enjoy the bagel crisp. And there is nothing like a bagel with butter. Yeah, yeah, I know. But I don't like the cream cheese. And of course, when one visits Bagel Boss, you can go any time you want (as long as it's not Passover - the only time of the year they close.) And don't ask for bacon with that egg on a bagel - they're Kosher.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Of All Things Scrabble

I like the game of Scrabble. I enjoy the alternative version, Lexulous, that one can play on Facebook. (Come, challenge me to a game! - and I am sure that it's Mrs. BA's turn in the game I'm playing with her). I have accumulated a few articles and posts that popped up in my Google Reader regarding the great game of Scrabble - enjoy!
  • Skewing the Scrabble Playoffs (from - with the addition of "za", "qi", and "zzz" to the Scrabble lexicon, some players are calling for the rules to be amended, something that has not happened since the birth of the game in 1948. Mandatory Archival Content Alert! - the post linked above contains an image of Alfred Butts' (the inventor of Scrabble) tabulation sheet wherein he evaluated the commonality of the letters in words and determined how the point values would be assigned to the letters in the game.
  • On Buzzfeed - there is a new ad campaign afoot to promote the game.
  • From McSweeney's - an "interview" with the letters "Q", "X", "K", "F", "M", "G", "E", and a blank tile on how they are coping with the economic downturn.
In a somewhat-related story, here is an interesting story about the changing face of crossword puzzles (seen on Language Hat). Does anyone really know what an "etui" is - or just that it's a common four letter word in most crossword puzzles?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Well, This Doesn't Happen All That Often

Today is July 8, 2009. At 12:34 and 56 seconds, a digital display of the time and date will be:

12:34:56 - 7/8/[0]9

I know, I'm a geek. Just accept it and move on.

Monday, July 6, 2009

"Eat More Chikin"

So sayeth the bovines who advertise for Chick-fil-A. And now I've learned that today is National Fried Chicken Day. (If you're interested, Friday is Cow Appreciation Day at Chick-fil-A, and all those who show up dressed as cows get free chicken).

Well, I couldn't let this day pass without a good fried chicken recipe. Conveniently, fried chicken was the subject of last week's Washington Post food section. Here are the four recipes that were featured. I have included the one that looked the tastiest to me (hey, it uses a little bacon grease, so how bad could it be?), although Francine's looks to run a very close second.
Brian's Fried Chicken

Brian Robinson, executive chef at Restaurant 3 in Clarendon, makes fried chicken the way his grandfather and mother taught him. He adds lots of herbs to the buttermilk marinade to flavor the meat, and he coats the chicken with a mixture of panko, cornmeal and seasoning, which gives it an unusually crunchy texture (the chef has added the panko for extra crispness). A little bacon grease in the shallow frying oil imparts smoky flavor, too.

MAKE AHEAD: The chicken needs to marinate in the buttermilk for at least 2 hours (refrigerated) and up to 2 days in advance. 4 to 8 servings

For the marinade
  • 1 4-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces (plus the chicken heart; see NOTE)
  • 1 quart buttermilk, or more as needed (can use low-fat)
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, smashed
  • Leaves from 4 or 5 sprigs thyme, minced (1 teaspoon)
  • Leaves from 2 or 3 stems oregano, minced (1 teaspoon)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the coating
  • 2 cups panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon adobo seasoning
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
For frying
  • Canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons bacon fat
Place the chicken pieces in a deep container with a lid; add the buttermilk to cover, then the garlic, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper; mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.

Combine the panko, cornmeal, flour, paprika, Cajun seasoning, garlic powder, dried oregano, dried thyme, adobo seasoning and salt and pepper to taste in a large, wide bowl; mix well. Dip the chicken pieces to coat evenly but lightly on all sides, shaking off any excess.

Add enough oil to a large cast-iron skillet to fill at least 1/8 inch; heat to 325 degrees. Add the bacon fat to taste; let it melt into the oil. If you don't have an instant-read thermometer to test the oil, toss in a pinch of coated chicken; it should bubble vigorously. The oil temperature should hover around 300 degrees while the chicken is cooking; adjust the heat as needed. Place a wire rack or screen on top of a rimmed baking sheet (to drain the finished chicken).

Add half of the chicken pieces (top sides down, where appropriate), placing larger pieces at the center and smaller pieces near the rim of the skillet. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, then turn over and cook for 10 to 14 minutes; use tongs to hold some of the larger pieces on their sides for even browning. (The coating may cause the chicken to look darker than you're used to.) The chicken should be done when its internal temperature is 170 degrees for white meat, 180 degrees for dark meat.

Use tongs to transfer to the chicken to the rack or screen. Repeat the cooking with the remaining chicken. Serve hot, warm or cold.

NOTE: The chef likes to marinate, coat and fry the pieces of chicken heart, which take about 6 minutes to fry. They taste a little like fried chicken livers.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Rights of Cheese and Man

I've been saving this for nearly a year. It comes from a colleague that works at the Culinary Institute of America in Poughkeepsie, New York [and where my niece is now a student!]. As you can see by the picture, the work of "art" was crafted by the fine people at Cheez-its, one of the best snack crackers known to man [and a popular favorite of LBA for the ride home from daycare].

From the original article:

The French may be known for their love of the most pungent of cheeses and the British for the cheese-rolling antics, but the US claimed bragging rights in the world cheese stakes today when they immortalised the signing of the Declaration of Independence into the food-art hall of fame with a giant cheese sculpture in Times Square, New York.

Cheez-It cracker company employee, Troy Landwehr, worked eight hours a day for an entire week inside a 4ºC (40ºF) cooler carving the block of Wisconsin cheddar. He claimed that by spraying cooking oil over the block it would be prevented from melting, but was uncertain how long it might last: “That’s why it looks sweaty. It actually preserves the cheese.” One thing is for certain: if it melts before the celebrations begin, he’ll be right cheesed off (apologies).

The replica of an iconic painting by John Trumbull shows John Adams, John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin and others standing around a table signing the historic document, but this is not the first time Landwehr has recreated U.S. history with cheese. Last year he carved a cheese version of Mount Rushmore, depicting presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Abe Lincoln.

It is likely that the giant cheese sculpture will quickly become old news to New Yorkers as it is swamped by hordes of tourists crowding for a photo next to its sticky surface: now all together now… cheese!

Happy Independence Day to all! Now I'm off to partake in the annual viewing of "1776." And Cheez-it has done it again for 2009.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Crime Wave at the Brave Astronaut Launchpad

Loyal readers may recall that Brave Astronaut was a crime victim shortly after moving into our great little town. We rebounded from that and have had no incidents since. Until this weekend. In the Brave Astronaut backyard, we discovered that two of the trees planted by our predecessors were plum trees and were bearing fruit this year (evidently it takes plum trees three years to decide to fruit). There is also a sour cherry tree, but I missed those, as they had all become dry, shriveled black dots.

I had been enjoying the fruit with my lunch and LBA had great fun plucking plums off the tree to eat in the yard on a comfortable summer evening. My neighbors were beneficiaries as well, as I shared with them a bag of the bountiful plums. I enjoyed the last of the ones I had picked on Monday with my lunch and Monday evening went out to pick a new bowlful of plums.

Much to my aggravation, every single plum was gone off the trees. Ripe ones, unripe ones, a few that had fallen off the trees to the ground, not one plum remained. There was no evidence of animals having done this (broken limbs, a gnawed plum on the ground, nothing) - it was clearly a human culprit. My neighbors did not see anything, but this clearly took place during the daylight and if only one person, they were in my backyard for at least 15-20 minutes. Yesterday evening, I emailed the Chief of Police to inform him of the situation. I didn't necessarily need to file a police report, I just wanted to let him know what was up.

Then this morning, I looked out on to my back deck and noticed a propane tank, which I had on the deck awaiting a fill up from a propane delivery service was missing. There were three tanks total and now there were only two. This obviously happened between 12:30am and 7:00am. I emailed the Chief again and received a very nice phone call from him.

I guess it's time to install a surveillance camera and perhaps an invisible electric fence. That might work. I'm aggravated by the whole thing, but I'll get over it. Sometimes, however, I feel like Nate Fisher from HBO's Six Feet Under, "I hate the living."

UPDATE: Mission Control has learned that my neighbor was confused about the delivery date for the propane and took back his tank early this morning. So no extra propane for him. Unless he gets on the Propane Taxi bandwagon.