Lynn’s Brisket

February 23rd, 2021 § 0 comments § permalink

HG’s late beloved Mom cooked brisket often. She called it, in Yiddish, “gedempteh flaish.” Translation: Stewed meat. It was good, winter or summer. In the winter it was accompanied by boiled potatoes. In the summer, buttered corn on the cob. The beverage was cold beer. The table held mustard, horseradish and dill pickles. Good robust eating. However, the ultimate brisket, the empress of brisketdom, was the brisket served to HG/BSK at the home of good friends Lynn and Michael Small (sadly, Michael is deceased). The recipe came from Lynn’s Mom (or grandmother). Long braising made the meat super tender and produced copious gravy of onions, garlic, tomatoes and meat juices. Lynn served it with a big bowl of kasha, perfect for soaking up the unctuous gravy. BSK cooked this for a traditional Sunday night dinner with Noel and Yossi M. (BSK’s sister and brother in law). No kasha but flavorful quinoa. Chased away the chills gloriously. The bible of brisket cooking is “The Brisket Book” by the brilliant and witty author Stephanie Pierson. (HG/BSK’s close friend for many decades). The book is so good it can turn vegans into carnivores.

Bowl O’ Red

November 23rd, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

Last month, as a hurricane approached HG/BSK’s Prince Edward Island oceanfront home, BSK made a big pot of chili. It was enough for two days of dinners and lunches, helpful if electricity ceased (gas range and oven could warm the chili). BSK used a Rich Bayless mix (not as good as the Wick Fowler “Five Alarm Chili” mix). A few nights ago, with snow flurries in the future, BSK made another abundant pot of chili, a sure cure for the chills. This time, BSK had no packaged mix but used BSK’s imaginative combination of tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, cumin, masa flour, canola oil and big spoonfuls of spicy chili powder to flavor the simmering chopped beef. The chili was a blast from the past. BSK had produced an authentic “bowl o’ red”, the lusty dish (always served with chopped onions and salty oyster crackers) that was a fixture of diners and “coffee shops” in yesteryear New York. HG topped his PEI bowl with onions plus grated cheddar and sliced avocado. Bliss. Many, many decades ago when HG was a financially limited New York journalist, HG would often patronize a small chili restaurant beneath the Third Avenue Elevated train (This was before the El’s demolition and the resultant construction that made Third Avenue fashionable. When the El thundered above, the avenue was lined with tenements and the street fronts housed Irish saloons, pawn shops, antique stores and cheap restaurants). The chili eatery served its fiery chili Texas-style (without beans), or with beans. The chili could be poured over rice or spaghetti if desired. HG would opt for Texas style chili over spaghetti. A very big bowl cost 25 cents, a filling, warming, affordable culinary treasure.

Celebratory Meal

November 21st, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

Yes, Trump is doing his best to sow chaos and division in the United States. A desperate, vindictive con man willing to sacrifice Democratic ideals for his tarnished ego. Despite all of that, the Biden/Harris victory was cause for celebration. This was accented by the acknowledgment speeches by Biden and Harris. Eloquent. Healing. Civilized. Big change from the unspeakable Nazi. So, time for a happy meal. At HG’s request, BSK made omelets stuffed with spinach and feta cheese. Brown on the outside and soft and runny on the inside (the French call this texture “baveuse”). Juicy cherry tomatoes, a ciabatta, Sicilian red wine accompanied. Sighs of pleasure. Pete’s Kitchen, a rough and ready Denver/Colfax Avenue diner, would make this omelet at HG’s request. Smothered it with green chile and served it with hashbrowns and Greek yogurt. Very good. But, not as good as BSK’s savory wonder. Both versions were better than the very subtle cheese omelets served at Romaine de Lyon, long closed New York restaurant. This was a favorite of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft. Brooks wrote the screenplay for “The Producers” ( Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder) there.


November 10th, 2020 § 1 comment § permalink

HG was born Nov. 9, 1929, just in time for the Great Depression. So, HG is 91, just in time for a Biden/Harris win. Very surprised to be this old. Never contemplated it. This longevity is due to the continuous loving care and attention to HG’s health issues that HG receives from BSK, HG’s glorious wife for 57 years. Without BSK, HG’s cremated ashes would be in a receptacle years ago. (It was BSK’s dedication that helped HG beat throat cancer in 1992). Birthday meal last night (after opening thoughtful and generous gifts) featured HG favorites. Rack of New Zealand lamb. Mashed potatoes. Roasted, herb stuffed tomatoes. Baby spinach sauteed in olive oil and garlic. Bottle of Sicilian Nero D’Avola. Dessert was HG’s usual: A dab of French (Clement Faugier brand) chestnut puree topped with whipped cream. Vodka before dinner, Jack Daniels after. Safe, sound and joyous on Prince Edward Island where Covid-19 is not a threat (even though the cooperating population continues to wear masks).

Improbable Trump Allies

November 6th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

As the count winds down for the future of America, HG thought about The NY Times report about the section of New York City whose population is 100% for fascist Trump. That is the community of Breezy Point in Queens (Breezy Point is close to the Atlantic and the Rockaway beaches). Inhabitants are mostly active and retired New York police and firefighters (Virtually all of Irish ancestry). More than seven decades ago, young HG and HG’s hardy companions would run from Rockaway Park to Rockaway Point (That’s what Breezy Point was called yesteryear). They were confronted by a large sign: A CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY. The message was unequivocal: Jews, Stay Out !! (This was certainly in contradiction of New York Irish leaders like Mike Quill, Paul O’Dwyer, Ed Flynn, etc.).The Breezy point folks have found unlikely allies in their devotion to the vilest of American Presidents: The ultra-orthodox (mainly Hassidic) Jews of Williamsburg and other Brooklyn neighborhoods. They resent calls for wearing masks and other Covid-19 safety measures, considering them interference with their crowded synagogues and meeting halls. Not to worry. New York State is Biden territory.

Favorite Theater Moments

October 17th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

Very sad. New York theaters are closed. May open in Spring of 2021 (dependent on the pandemic). There is nothing more exciting, illuminating, thrilling and stimulating than Broadway live theater. Accompanied by beloved elder sister, the late Beulah Naomi, HG began going to the theater at age eight. A venue on Broadway sold cut-rate tickets. Second balcony seats cost as little as 25 cents. That’s where HG and sister perched and exulted in theatrical magic. As HG matured, the seats got much better but the magic remained. Here are some of the best performances HG saw. Marlon Brando (of course) in “Streetcar Named Desire.” Julie Harris in “I Am A Camera” (adapted from Christopher Isherwood’s “Berlin Stories.”) James Earl Jones in “Great White Hope.” Leo G. Caroll in “Angel Street.” Ian McCellan in “Amadeus.” Leontyne Price in “Porgy and Bess.” Anthony Newley in “Stop The World, I want To Get Off.” Ethel Merman in “Annie Get Your Gun.” Eartha Kitt in “New Faces of 1952.” HG saw many other wonderful performances but these have lodged firmly in HG’s memory.


October 9th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

Have been browsing M.F.K. Fisher’s “With Bold Knife and Fork.” No one has written English prose with more style and wit than the late M.F.K.. Tripe is one of HG’s favorite foods (the New Mexican tripe stew, Menudo, is a significant culinary pleasure). Fisher’s chapter on tripe, “The Trouble With Tripe”, is a literary masterwork. (The “Trouble” Fisher refers to, is the fact that tripe has to be cooked in quantity and Fisher had very few friends or neighbors who wanted to share savory pots of tripe). If Fisher has a flaw, it is in the book’s recipes. Some are okay. Some are vile. Witness her recipe for clam chowder. Among other things, it contains two cans of cream of corn soup. A-a-rgh!! Recipes from Melissa Clark and David Tanis (both from NY Times) are flawless. Marcella Hazan is HG/BSK’s Italian recipe authority (Caution: She gets a bit stingy in the quantities of ingredients needed for sauces). Karen Lee is best for Chinese dishes. The blog, “The Woks of Life”, has splendid recipes. HG finds Mark Bittman erratic, some good, some bad. BSK often uses Ottam Ottolenghi’s books for Israeli/Middle East dishes. Best recipe writer ever was the late Michael Field. Great dishes resulted by following his meticulous, step-by-step guidance.

Same Old. Same Old.

October 8th, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

There are restaurants where, for years, HG has always ordered the same thing. After all, why fix what isn’t broken? This started in HG’s New York/New Jersey days. A favorite restaurant was El Charro (long closed), on Charles Street in Greenwich Village. HG/BSK ate there frequently. Meal (super delicious) was always the same. Grilled, sliced chorizo. Spanish fried chicken. Scallops in garlic/parsley green sauce. Bowls of saffron rice. Pitcher of sangria. No dessert (too full). In New Mexico, HG follows a similar routine. At El Parasol (in Pojoaque, near HG/BSK home) lunches once or twice a week on a bowl of chunky and funky green chile menudo topped with raw chopped onion. At Sopaipilla Factory, (also in Pojoaque) HG lunches on a cheese enchilada with chopped onion and topped with a fried egg (no rice or beans). At Saigon Cafe in Santa Fe, HG devours a huge bowl of pho with rice noodles and steamed tofu. Variety is the spice of life? Not in matters of romance: For 57 years, wife BSK has been the love of HG’s life. Not at breakfast: Fruit yogurt. Canadian maple syrup. Not for dinner dessert: French chestnut puree with whipped cream. Pre-dinner: Gin or vodka. Post dinner: Bagaco (Porttuguese marc distilled on Prince Edward Island. (When in New Mexico, HG sips bourbon). Old HG is consistent (possibly boring).

Corn Muffins and Other Breakfast Treats Of The Past

October 3rd, 2020 § 0 comments § permalink

Nostalgia. There were few better breakfasts than corn muffins smeared with softened butter or good strawberry jam. Do they still exist? Decades ago, they were a regular staple in New York coffee shops and New Jersey diners. These were the real deal. Grainy. Crunchy. True corn flavor. HG thought about them when shopping with BSK on Prince Edward Island. Bought blueberry mini-muffins. Had two with coffee. Crapola !! Feh!! Mushy dough. Tasteless blueberries. Rest of the package went into the garbage bin. There are still appealing muffins in HG’s food universe. Thomas English Muffins with their butter nestling “nook and crannies” have remained tasty. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have good crumpets and scones. USA and Canadian croissants disappoint (That’s because the taste of Paris bakery croissants lingers in HG’s memory). Does a Bialy qualify as a muffin? Doesn’t matter. When a New York counterman shouted: “Gimme a Bialy with a shmear!!” (Bialy with cream cheese), HG knew a breakfast treat would appear in a New York Minute.

Yom Kippur Bad Boy

September 24th, 2020 § 2 comments § permalink

Yom Kippur, “The Day of Atonement”, will be observed this month by Jews throughout the world. Basically, the day is marked by confessing the sins of the past year (and hoping for forgiveness). The body is mortified that day (sunrise to sundown) by fasting (strictly enforced). HG’s Mom and Dad were Socialists and labor unionists. Not particularly religious. However, they emulated their ancestors by the observance of Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah (New Year’s). Mom was very strict about Yom Kippur fasting. The reward was a sumptuous dinner (replete with many sweets) when the fast ended. The dinner always ended with a tray of home-baked nut-and-raisin rugelach (infinitely superior to the rugelach sold in present-day bakeries and groceries). Pop accompanied the rugelach with glasses of “vishniac”, his home-brewed cherry brandy. (Little HG was allowed a few sips). One Yom Kippur, eight year old HG left the street games (no synagogue for atheist HG). Late afternoon. Famished. Tray of freshly baked rugelach in the pantry. Satanic urges. One nibble of rugelach. That’s not really breaking the fast. Hmm!! Overwhelmed by temptation, HG ate the entire tray. Mom came home. Set the table for dinner. Looked at the empty rugelach tray. Shrieked. “Gevalt!!! Call the police. A burglar stole my rugelach.” (Pantry reached the back door so Mom wasn’t illogical). HG confessed. Major league scolding (no corporal punishment in HG’s home). Pop tried hard to mask his laughter. After all, there were other sweet things on the table. Lekach (honey cake). Taiglach (nut sized balls of flour batter baked with honey and ginger). The anecdote of HG’s rugelach theft became an oft-repeated piece of family history.

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