Tuesday, February 27, 2007

More Jon Katz. This time, a chicken

Sunday, February 25, 2007


Every year the wine writers for the Wall Street Journal (John and Dottie to their fans) encourage readers to open that special bottle on the last Saturday in February.

This year we did.

Read about it here.


Da Da Da

I bought a leather club chair about ten years ago. It was a nice chair, and I liked it plenty.

Unfortunately, so did our cat. She felt it was much easier to use that chair rather than her litter box.

I finally had enough and we put the chair out for curbside recycling this morning. It was gone within an hour.

Why do I think it will be like a Volkswagen commercial?

Monday, February 19, 2007


We had dinner again at Catalan last Saturday night. Some friends of ours joined us, so we were able to try a nice variety of food.

Before the meal, we stopped in at some gallery openings on the Colquitt Art Gallery strip. There were some nice pieces at the Dean Day gallery that we will probably return to and see if we still like the art. Gallery hopping is always fun.

We had to take separate cars from the galleries to the restaurant, so we had a great idea. We drove on the freeway (Kirby to 59 to the Loop, to I-10, to TC Jester to Washington) Our friends drove cross town (straight up Kirby to Shepherd to Washington to TC Jester). We ended up at Catalan at THE EXACT SAME TIME!!! Traffic is like water. IT seeks its own level.

So we got into the bar a few minutes late (7:50 or so) and were seated immediately. Did I mention that this was a Saturday? They place was very crowded, but in my experience they do a great job of honoring reservations.

When we sat down our waiter immediately greeted us and left our menus and the wine list at the table. He asked if we wanted drinks to start and I said we would get a bottle of wine. He said he would be back to take our order and tell us about the specials.

I looked at the wine list and was impressed by the selection available. No real surprise considering the heritage of the restaurant (Ibiza). I selected a nice Burgundy (the 2000 Jean Chauvenet Nuits St George premier cru “Rue de Chaux”) while the waiter (Adrian) told us the specials.

There were too many specials for me to repeat, but they all focused on a Mardi Gras theme. Shrimp Creole, Bisque, Sardines (I know, Sardines don’t seem to be too Mardi-Gras-y, but there you have it). The main course special was a fish (grouper?) blackened and duded up like Cajun fish.

After a glass of wine (excellent!) we ordered appetizers – Foie Gras Bon Bons, Pork Bellies in Steen’s Syrup, and the Shrimp Creole. The Foie Gras Bon Bons are something to behold. Little brown and crispy balls – about the size of a “shooter” marble. Dry and crispy on the outside, dripping with foie gras goodness on the inside. I would eat these all day if I could afford to. (Monetarily as well as salutarily). Then the pork belly. As I have been told there before, those crispy pork bellies will change your life. They do. You can’t even really describe how good they are. The Shrimp was OK, but it didn’t really have the same whomping effect that the other two appetizers did.

We then had our first plates. I had the Sardine special. (I am a sucker for small fish). My sweet ever lovin’ had a cup of the bisque, our friends had a salad and a bowl of the bisque.

My sardines were outstanding. Oily and crisp at the same time. I could have eaten a school of them. The bisque, too, was outstanding. I had one spoonful. It may have been the best thing of the evening.

I ordered the Paprika Dusted Bone-in Rib eye for my main course. My wife had the trout, our friends had the grouper and the shrimp and grits. The steak was done exactly as ordered, and was accompanied by a potato gratin and asparagus. A did not have a chance to try the other meals. My better half said that the trout was good, but not outstanding. A little bit dry (overcooked, perhaps).

For dessert we has the white chocolate bread pudding (highly recommended), the Nutella crepes (good, but not transcendent) and the off the menu local goat cheese cheese cake. Now that cheese cake was indeed transcendent. I am a sucker for cheese cake anyway. But goat cheese??!! The Best.

Overall a wonderful meal.


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Tree of Life Web Project

Steve Jobs on Teachers

Famous County Judge Retiring

Here is an article about Judge Eckels (made famous by Hurricane Katrina a couple of years ago):

County Judge Eckels unfazed by criticism over departure | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle

He was good for Harris County. Certainly good for the Katrina evacuees. (He and Mayor Bill White made sure that we in Houston did the right thing)

The reason that I am posting this here is that he is turning 50 this year as well. (Mayor White turned 50 a couple of years ago) and he wants to get into the private sector.

So I wonder what changes I will see this year in my year of turning 50?

Friday, February 16, 2007

A Panoply of Gumbo Recipies

Gumbo coming out of our ears!

Here are the results of a request for Gumbo recipes for my sweet Valentines Day Born niece Madeline.


Cousin Randolph LeBlanc’s Gumbo

1 Large Yellow Onion
2 Stalks Celery
3 Cloves Garlic, chopped
1 Large Bell Pepper
3 C (0r cans) Chicken Broth
1 Whole Chicken, cut up.
1 Lb smoked sausage (cut into bite sized pieces)
1 Can diced tomatoes
1 Bag Frozen Sliced Okra

Chop one large yellow onion, two stalks of celery, three cloves of garlic, and one large bell pepper.

Put all except the garlic in a large Dutch oven or stock pot with just enough oil to brown the vegetables.

Cook over medium-high heat until the vegetables are softened and caramelized.

Add about three quarters of a cup of dry roux. (see below)

(I like my gumbo little bit thicker than the traditional Franklin gumbo. You can add more or less roux to taste.)

Stir the roux with the vegetables until it's completely moistened.

Immediately added three cans of chicken broth. (Have them ready ahead or you'll burn the roux. I like Swanson's fat-free chicken broth. You can use just water, but the chicken broth makes a richer gumbo.)

Add one whole chicken, cut up into pieces with the skin removed.

Add 1 pound of smoked sausage, cut into bite size pieces.

Add the chopped garlic.

Add one can of diced tomatoes with the liquid. (This definitely strays from the traditional Franklin recipe, but I find it also makes a richer gumbo.)

Add one bag of frozen sliced okra.

Add salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, two bay leaves, and if you have it about a half teaspoon of file'.

Add enough water to fill the pot.

Bring to a boil, and let simmer until the chicken starts to fall off the bone.

Like AR, at this point I remove all the chicken, let it cool, pull the meat off the bone and put it back in the gumbo.

Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a scoop of rice. If you have file' sprinkle some on top the gumbo in the bowl.


Take a baking pan and fill it about halfway with flour. I put it in the oven at 400°. Stir in the flour about every 10 or so minutes. Be careful, just like regular roux, this stuff can burn you.

You definitely have to put your vent on, or the kitchen will be very smoky. After about a half an hour to 45 minutes, the flour will reach equilibrium and won't get any darker.

At this point, turn the oven to 450° and stir about every one or two minutes. When the flour is about the color of milk chocolate it's done.

You'll find lots of little lumps from the moisture in the flour. After the roux has cooled, you can run it through a sifter and throw away all the lumps. You can store this in a jar or a Ziploc bag for six to 12 months. I always make as much as possible, so I don't have to make it again very often.

Noey’s Gumbo

2 lbs Chicken
2/3 cup flour
¾ cup canola (or similar) oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 gallon of water

First of all, the ROUX:
A heavy pot is a must to make a pretty roux. The heavier the pot, the easier your job will be. Before you start your roux, start heating water in a kettle, the amount depending on whether you are making a gumbo or a stew. You must always add hot water to a roux. It is very important not to change the temperature of the roux by adding cold water to it. It could curdle the roux, or separate the flour and water from the oil. The measurements given below make a roux large enough for a gumbo with about 2 pounds of chicken.

Before you make your roux, brown all your pieces of chicken (it could be drumsticks, thighs, breasts -- whatever you would like) in your heavy pot, using a little oil in the bottom of the pot. Brown the chicken pieces well, then remove them all from the pot.

Now you make your roux.
Mix about 2/3 c. flour and 3/4 cup oil (like Canola oil) in your heavy iron pot. Turn the fire on medium to low, stirring constantly. Stir all over the bottom of the pot to be sure that no particles stick to the bottom. As you stir, the roux browns slowly. Don't cook your roux fast, because as it reaches the done point, it will be too hot and burn. When your roux is a rich dark brown, cut off your fire immediately, while continuing to stir. Add hot water to lower the temperature slightly so the roux will stop browning. You could also add a cup of chopped onions to lower the temperature. Either way, you continue to stir until the temperature is lowered sufficiently. Then you may turn your fire on again under the pot and add the rest of the ingredients.

Add these ingredients into your roux:
A cup or so of chopped onions, if you haven't already put them in the roux
A cup or so of chopped celery
About 2 lb. chicken thighs, drumsticks, breasts that you have already browned
About 1 gallon of water

Let cook slowly until chicken is done. Season with Tony Chachere Creole seasoning. Add 2 teaspoons chopped parsley and 2 teaspoons chopped onion tops

Serve over rice.

Gumbo is better after it is left in the refrigerator for about a day.

My Godmother’s Gumbo

½ cup flour
½ cup oil
1 Chopped Onion
1 Chopped Green Pepper
2-3 cups water
Red (cayenne) Pepper
1 ½ links of good sausage
1 chicken, cut up

Chicken & Sausage Gumbo
First you make a roux.

Do you know how? In a large heavy pot (black iron or Magnalite) put equal amounts of oil and flour - 1/2 cup each.

On a medium heat brown the flour in the oil (stirring constantly) until it's a dark brown color, darker than caramel. The darker the better but when it starts getting really dark, it's easy to burn it.

Have an onion and a green pepper chopped and ready to place in the roux when it gets to the dark stage. T

urn the heat down and let the onion and pepper cook for a minute or so.

Add 2 -3 cups of water, salt, black pepper, and a little red (Cayenne) pepper and let this cook for a while.

In another pot, or in the oven, brown your cut up chicken. 1 chicken should be enough.

After the roux has been cooking for an hour or so, add the browned chicken and sliced sausage.

We use a local brand sausage, but you can use Hormel or any brand like that of smoked sausage.

For a pot of gumbo, I use about a link or a link and a half. They usually come 3 links in a package.

Let the gumbo cook until the chicken is starting to fall off the bones.

I like to debone it at this stage but you don't have to.

People like their gumbo at different consistencies. We like ours more soupy than thick --- thick is a stew, thin is a gumbo -- so you may have to add more water as it's cooking.

Chop some onion tops and place in gumbo about 15 minutes before serving.

Seasoning is important so taste and make sure you have enough salt & pepper.

Serve gumbo in a bowl with a scoop of rice.

Oh, don't forget to have your rice cooked before the gumbo is ready.

If you have filé available, sprinkle a little filé on gumbo after it's served. Enjoy.

Cousin Claire’s Gumbo

½ pot water
½ lb sausage
Roux (1/4 of a jar)
1 chopped onion
2 celery stalks
½ chopped bell pepper
Chopped green onion
Chopped garlic (2-3 toes.)
2 T chicken base
1 whole chicken (or breasts and legs)

Gumbo at my house is fast. A little more than an hour, start to finish.

Fill a soup pot half full of water, turn the heat to medium high.

Add some sliced sausage, half a pound or more Roux from a jar is the best way to go. Maybe 1/4 of the jar.
(Stir or the roux will just sink to the bottom and stick)

1 chopped onion
2 celery stalks
1/2 chopped bell pepper
chopped green onions
chopped garlic, 2 or 3 toes, or the kind from a jar Let it boil for about 10 minutes.

2 TBL chicken flavor base (the kind in a jar, it's by the soup) Chicken on the bone (breasts and legs, or a whole one cut) (Season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper)

When the chicken floats, it's done.
It's easier to add more salt and pepper than to have too much. The sausage is salty and will flavor the broth.

Steamed rice is good, but not necessary. Baked sweet potatoes are a wonderful side dish. Ginger bread is another good side dish. So is a mayo-potato salad.

Cousin Ellen’s Gumbo.

are u able to buy roux already pre-made, like Savoy's or Richard's? It will be in your local grocery store with the seasonings or with the condiments.
Follow the directions by melting the roux in water, then adding onion mix ( I use the pre-diced onion mix) and I add chicken breasts and your choice of sausage. The longer you cook the better, and season well with salt and Tony's Chachere. Usually gumbo tastes better when it is cooked several days before serving. After cooking store in Tupperware containers in the frig and then heat up several days later, yummy. Good luck, oh several with rice!


There are two types of interviews I can't stand:

Sports Figures.

Both have other means to get their messages across.

Let 'em

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Good News!

Competition and marginal costs

Pharyngula: Happy Intelligent Design Day!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Imagining the Tenth Dimension

Great site for Bird ID

Monday, February 05, 2007

Fast Cars and Bubbler Caps

Ever since my last speeding ticket (which, by the way, was thrown out for lack of cause, thank you very much. Oh yes, thank you David Sprecher, Esq, as well) I have been driving like an adult. Which is a good thing (as this is, indeed, my Year of Turning Fifty).

Even when I got my new car, a BMW 550i (with the Cold Weather package – oh the irony! But it has been nice this winter; the Sports Package; Comfort Access; Navigation; Satellite Radio; and the Logic 7 Sound System) I have been driving it with a certain calm that comes from knowing that with a mere twitch of my right foot I would be able to blow by almost any car that comes up on my right, my left, behind me, or who might be slowing down in the fast lane. I was content.

And I have been content all the way through the break-in period. I changed speed frequently, I never exceeded 100 mph (heaven forbid!) I never slammed the brakes.

But today, this afternoon, was the first time I came close – close, mind you, to really slamming the thing down and flying.

Here’s the story. It has been raining and raining here in Houston. I think that we have only had about 4 days without rain in the month of January. Why is that important to the story? Well, that meant that I did not have the sprinkler system turned on all month. This past Sunday was the first day I had the thing turned on since Christmas.

So this morning when I was looking out the back door, I noticed that one of our drip stakes was not dripping, but spurting water like a fountain. (it was spurting like a bubbler, for my WI family. The unit is called a bubbler, oddly enough) I went out o examine it, and the little cap that regulated water flow was gone. I looked and looked, but it was nowhere to be found.

So that say I had to find one of these little caps. You know how hard it is to find something like that? I Googled left and right, and finally discovered what the thing was called (the bubbler cap. You can look it up!) but where it could be found was another story.

I found a place on e-bay (in Ontario!) that sold ten-packs. You can buy the cap from Rainbird themselves, but for a $0.98 part it was $5.95 shipping. I can’t say I liked that ratio.

I found out that both Home Depot and Lowe’s carry Rainbird parts, so I figured I should call and see if they had these little caps.

(As an aside, I know, I know. This feels as if the whole damned story is an aside. Anyway. My sweet ever-loving (2001 330i – that is E46 to my BMW friends) drove out of her way on a wild Goof chase looking for the same part at a nursery I sent her to. I am sorry about that)

So I called. Do you know how hard it is to ask for the cap to a bubbler stake for a Rainbird drip irrigation system? Well, it is hard. But I finally determined that Home Depot probably didn’t have what I wanted, but Lowe’s probably did. So I headed out of the office to see.

Our office is on the corner of Commerce Green and Sugar Creek Center Boulevard in Sugar Land, TX. Very close to the freeway, very close to the Lowe’s. I drove out of the parking lot and headed down Commerce Green to the feeder road.

As I was getting close to the feeder, a new Cadillac CTS (or one of those angular new caddies) was pulling out of a parking lot. He made me slow (so I would make sure I wouldn’t hit him) and then he rode my bumper to the stop sign.

Oh-Kay. I turned right and hit the accelerator. He dropped behind me and a lane over, and tried to pass. He tried to pass! Ha. So now I hit it a little harder, and simply walked up onto the freeway. He dropped in behind me, but was doing nothing but getting father behind. The best thing was he hit his windshield wipers by mistake! (I am not familiar with the CTS cockpit. Does the blinker control the wipers as well?) He pulled over and slunk off in disgrace.

I drove to the Lowe’s and found the bubbler cap.

It was a nice drive. And I don’t think I even broke the speed limit.