Collards & Corn Bread Are Great But What Does 7:48 Mean?

Jacques Houston snapped awake.


He could see 7:48 in his mind. He could see it clearly. What did it mean? 7:48. Was it a time? A significant time? Was something pivotal in his life going to occur at 7:48?

The numbers stayed with him through the following days as he went about his routine in New Orleans’ French Quarter. 7:48.

Jacques wasn’t smart. He didn’t have to be smart. He worked for a man who was and who was invested in numerous businesses that operated well outside the law. Jacques didn’t have to think. He only had to do as he was told.

Jacques was also not involved in the 21st century. He had neither mobile phone nor computer. He had a television but received only over the air channels. He watched old movies and sitcoms. He wore a cheap, old-fashioned wrist watch. His most prized possession was a Thompson submachine gun, the last of which was made in 1945. It was still a vicious, effective weapon.

He went to the restaurant his boss used as his office at mid day seven days a week. He stayed there usually until about ten o’clock in the evening. If the boss had something for him to do he received his orders verbally. Otherwise he waited.

On Sunday he was given a package and told to place it in a particular place in a particular manner in the home of homicide detective Jordan Baron. The cop, Jacques was told, would be gone on from 4:30 until 6:30 that evening. It was vital that Jacques get into Baron’s home during that period. He must be gone by 6:30.

Jacques thought he knew what was in the package. He wasn’t especially interested. Baron had been causing problems for the boss recently. Jacques assumed the boss decided to get the cop out of the way.

Collard greens & corn bread.

It was easy to bypass the security system at Baron’s apartment and pick the lock. It took a few minutes longer than Jacques had planned but he thought time remained plentiful.

Once inside, Jacques placed the duffel bag he carried on a table. He first removed his precious Thompson and laid it carefully aside. Then the package.

As he went about placing the package and preparing it as he had been instructed, he didn’t worry about time. He had plenty.

He thought that until he heard the click of a revolver being cocked. Then he heard the voice.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Detective Baron said. “You’re thinking you can reach that antiquated weapon on the table and lace me up with twenty rounds.”

“But I know I can get off one round from this antiquated weapon,” Baron continued, waving the Webley revolver Trent Marshall had given him, “that will rip through your brain at least two seconds before you can touch the Thompson.”

Jacques wasn’t smart. He was smart enough not to test Baron’s theory.

The detective called for the bomb squad. Then he maliciously made Jacques sit on the package on the bathroom floor, his hands cuffed to the piping under the sink. He left Jacques there with the door closed. If the bomb exploded before the squad arrived they would lose Jacques and part of Baron’s bathroom. Neither would be a great loss.

“But you were supposed to be gone until 6:30,” Jacques protested as he was led away by two uniformed officers.

“Yes, and I was forty-five minutes late,” Baron said.

Jacques looked puzzled. Baron suddenly realized why. He laughed.

“Today is Sunday, March 9th, Jacques,” Baron said, “the first day of Daylight Savings Time. We set our clocks an hour forward last night.”

“Nobody told me,” Jacques mumbled.

As he passed the large clock on Baron’s wall, he didn’t notice the hands pointed to 7:48.

With his home returned to normal and no damage done, Baron took the collard greens and corn bread, leftovers from dinner at Trent and Darcey’s that evening, to the kitchen. They knew it was one of his favorite meals. They made it especially for him.

He especially liked the way they made their collards because they use tasso, that delicious, spiced Louisiana ham. If tasso isn’t available, any good quality ham will do or, in a real emergency, even bacon.

Jordan Baron’s Collard Greens

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

8 ounces tasso, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds

5 cloves garlic, minced

3 – 4 pounds collard greens (about four bunches) with the thick stems removed and the leaves torn into pieces

salt & pepper to taste

In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil. When it is hot but not smoking, add the onion and tasso. Saute until the onion is softened and beginning to show color, and the tasso has begun to brown. Toss in the garlic and continue cooking for no more than a minute or two. Be careful to avoid burning the garlic.

Add the collards and enough water to comfortably cover them. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about an hour, or until the greens are cooked through.

If you’re really smart, you’ll serve the greens with corn bread.

As Jordan Baron would say, “Bon temps!”

All’s Well That Ends Well; And Even Better When It Ends With Corn Chowder (Part Three)

New Orleans Police Captain Jordan Baron held the vicious Bullpup shotgun behind his leg as he rapped on Mr. Candy’s door. With its triple magazines capable of twelve to fifteen shells, it was an effective weapon. Its appearance alone was sufficient to end most fights.

“Open up. Police.”

Jordan heard scuffling inside. The noise wasn’t coming toward Jordan. It was moving away from him. Toward the back door. Jordan didn’t hesitate to kick in the front door. He did so just in time to see the old man not in a wheel chair but walking, albeit it slowly.

The man known as Mr. Candy in New Orleans was surprised to be greeted by Lieutenant Nancy Patrick of the Richmond, California, police department who was waiting at the back door. He was even more surprised with the Mossberg precision rifle she held trained directly on his chest.

“Hello, Smoky,” she said. “Surprise!”

Sheriff Jack Blake called Nancy after his conversation with Darcey regarding Mr. Candy and his daughter a few days earlier. Nancy had notified him recently asking him to be on the look out for a family that sounded like the Candy family. They were wanted in California for kidnapping wealthy women with young daughters. The old man was far too friendly toward little young girls. His daughter used the fear he caused the mothers to extort money from them.

Nancy was closing in on them when they suddenly disappeared. Now, thanks to Darcey and Sheriff Blake, she had them. Jordan accompanied her to serve an out of state warrant, which had been approved by the governors of both states.

She held out her hand.

“Hand it over, Smoky,” she said.

The old man didn’t argue with Nancy’s rifle. He pulled the snub nosed Chief’s Special revolver from his pocket and meekly passed it to the no nonsense cop.

The old man’s daughter rushed into the room but immediately dropped the Glock she carried when she caught sight of Baron’s threatening shotgun.

“Jordan, meet Smoky Denton and his daughter, Diana,” Nancy said.

“That’s what these out of state warrants say, even though they’ve been calling themselves Candy down here,” Jordon replied. Then he spoke directly to the old man and his daughter.

“Smoky and Diana Denton, you are both under arrest. You will be our guests in New Orleans until the court approves your extradition. I think I can guarantee that won’t be long, given the nature of the charges against you.”

The atmosphere in the old house on Governor Nicholls Street in the Vieux Carre’ was considerably lighter that evening. With Darcey’s mother, Betty, and Trent Marshall’s surrogate mother, Ivy, together in the kitchen, everyone else knew it was wise to let the two older women rule their domain without interference. Only young Kelli was in the kitchen with them. Betty and Ivy found small chores for her so she could say she helped make dinner.

Nancy was staying with Darcey while she was in New Orleans. Jordan joined them after he got off work. The three of them were in Trent’s library enjoying refreshing rum and cokes. Trent had already flown to Anchorage. Darcey, Betty, Ivy, and Kelli would join him in a few days.

In the kitchen, Betty and Ivy had a pot of corn chowder bubbling on the stove.

It had been a day of tense moments.

The relief of the evening was enough to warm the huge house.

Corn Chowder by Betty, Ivy, & Kelli

3 slices bacon, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

2 medium potatoes, unpeeled, diced

4 ears corn, with kernels cut from the cobbs

3 cups milk

salt & pepper to taste

In a large stock pot, saute’ the bacon.

Add the onion and potatoes to the bacon and its grease. Cook until the vegetables have softened and begun to brown, about fifteen minutes.

Toss the corn into the vegetables and add the milk.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Let the chowder simmer for another fifteen minutes. The fresh corn will cook quickly. Don’t over cook.

As they say on Governor Nicholls Street in New Orleans, Bon Temps!

Chunky Chicken Curry Soup

October 10, 2018 – Yeah, I know. I’ve written about chicken curry already.  This recipe is not the same.

And yeah, I know the title is a corny alliteration.  Something to be avoided in writing whenever possible.  Considered flashy and too clever by far.

But it was my mother’s birthday.  Though she’s been gone for two years, I felt like celebrating.  And she was flashy.  She was clever.  She was colorful.  She squeezed every bit of life from each minute she was given here with us.

Mother loved being the center of attention.  I often teased her, telling her she would join any club that let her be president.  She laughed at that and admitted it was true.  Mother liked to be in charge.  So do I.

Mother loved to entertain.  She gave great parties.  So do I.  For many years, I hosted the only Mardi Gras party in Anchorage, shipping live crawfish up from New Orleans and eventually finding the only Dixieland jazz band in Alaska.

Every year I named someone king or queen of Mardi Gras.  I never saw Mother more proud than the year she was queen.  And never was a reign more elegant.

Queen of the Anchorage Mardi Gras

In Baton Rouge, I hosted a cochon de lait, a pig roast, each fall.  Given that both of us wanted to be in charge, I had to find something for her to do.  Potato salad, I thought.  Mother made the world’s best potato salad.  That became her responsibility.  Potato salad for fifty guests.

God help you if you didn’t eat her potato salad!  She kept a close eye on how much the guests put on their plates as they passed through the line.  She was even known to wander through the tables to check plates.  If she noticed a plate with what appeared to be too much of her potato salad left on it, the diner could expect to hear, “What’s the matter?  You don’t like my potato salad?”

And I know she was proud of me.  I never saw her more so than when I sent her the manuscript of my first novel.  She was already gone when The Empty Mint Mystery was published but I can feel her delight.

My mother was colorful and fun.  I miss her.  And it was her birthday.  I wanted to celebrate.

She always supported my heuristic nature, especially when it comes to food.  I want to experiment, to prepare new dishes myself.  When I was in the kitchen she was happy to play a supporting role as I tried new things.

This year I decided to make a chicken curry soup.  Curry isn’t a spice with which I’ve had a lot of experience but I had some on hand.  I had the breasts from a roast chicken.  Why not?

So I celebrated my mother’s birthday with a French 75 and a pot of exotic soup.  She would have enjoyed the evening.

A French 75 and chicken curry soup

Chicken Curry Soup

6 tablespoons butter

1 onion, chopped

3 small Yukon Gold potatoes, chopped

2 tablespoons curry powder

2 tablespoons brown sugar

5 cups stock

6 sprigs parsley

2 large chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces

1/2 cup uncooked rice

1 cup half & half or heavy cream

12 ounces frozen green peas

Salt & pepper to taste

In a stock pot with a heavy bottom, melt the butter.  Saute’ the onion and potatoes seasoned with the curry powder and brown sugar.  Add a little salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and cook over low heat for about fifteen minutes.  Give the vegetables a stir  around the halfway mark.

Add the chicken, parsley, rice, and stock.  Bring the liquid to a boil.  Turn the heat down to low, cover, and simmer for about half an hour.

Stir in the half and half, or cream, with the peas.  Adjust seasonings to taste.  Simmer for another fifteen minutes.

Bon temps!

And happy birthday, Mother!

And yet another casserole…all vegetables

October 2, 2018 – It should be clear by now that I am a child of the ’50s.  I’ve certainly written enough about casseroles to make the point.

I am a fan of casseroles for the same reason that motivated the dominant generation of the last century.  It was a time when our lifestyle was undergoing significant change.  The old days of one person in the family working outside the home and the second tending the house and children were rapidly disappearing.  More and more it was becoming necessary for both husband and wife to take paying jobs.  And still the family must be fed.

Casseroles were, and are, an easy answer.  They’re easy to throw together, most anything in the pantry or refrigerator can go into them, they can be prepared relatively quickly in advance, and, when working parents get home, an hour or so in the oven produces dinner.  They also have the added benefit of using up any leftover bits of food that might otherwise be wasted.

Vegetable Casserole

I had a beautiful ribeye calling to me and wanted an accompaniment.  But I had a busy day ahead.  When the sun was over the yardarm late in the afternoon, I wanted to enjoy a flute of Prosecco.  I didn’t want to be standing in front of the stove.

What did I have that could be prepared earlier in the day?  All kinds of vegetables, both fresh and frozen.  Oh yeah, either works well.  I had a head of broccoli, a handful of Brussels sprouts, and a potato.  There were also half bags of green beans and pearl onions in the freezer.  And cheese.  Always some form of cheese.  To add a little depth of flavor, a poblano pepper.

I cut the broccoli flowerets away from the stalk.  The Brussels sprouts were trimmed and cut into halves.  The potato I cut into bite size pieces, leaving the skin on.  I chopped the poblano also into bite size pieces.

If you’re using fresh vegetables, brown them a bit in olive oil.  Frozen vegetables can be tossed in as is.

To bind it all together, I made a Béchamel sauce seasoned with the poblano pepper.  A nice touch.

I used Mozzarella cheese because it’s what I had and I like it.  Any grated cheese will be fine.

There is nothing sacred about the ingredients I used.  They were just some of my favorites, some things I had on hand.  They worked for me.

The final result was a cheesy, gooey bit of deliciousness, a perfect side to a rare ribeye.

Vegetable Casserole

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided (more if needed)

1/4 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half

Flowerets from one head of broccoli

1 poblano pepper, chopped

2 tablespoons all purpose flour

2 cups milk

1 russet potato with skin on, cut into bite size pieces

6 ounces frozen green beans

6 ounces frozen pearl onions

2 – 3 cups grated cheese

Salt & pepper to taste

In a skillet with a heavy bottom,  warm two tablespoons of olive oil over moderate heat.  Saute’ the Brussels sprouts and broccoli flowerets until they begin to brown.  It’ll probably take about four minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Remove the vegetables to a bowl and set aside.

Add two more tablespoons of olive oil to the pan.  When it is heated, saute’ the poblano pieces until they begin to soften, about three or four minutes.

Add two tablespoons of flour and stir to make a roux.  Don’t let it darken.  When the flour and oil are incorporated, add the milk, increasing the heat to high.  Stir continuously as the Béchamel begins to thicken.  When the sauce has reached the desired thickness, season to taste with salt and pepper.  Remove from the heat.

Place the Brussels sprouts, broccoli, potato, green beans, and pearl onions in an oven proof dish with a tight cover.  Add grated cheese to taste and the Béchamel sauce.  Mix well.

Molly is ever hopeful for a bite of steak but will settle for one of her treats if she must!

Cover with a generous amount of additional grated cheese.

Bake, covered, at 350 for an hour.

Bon temps!



Char Siu: Roast Pork in the Style of Canton

September 8, 2018 – Writing this blog for the past few years has been an education for me.  I have repeatedly noted here that I’m not a chef, nor am I an expert on the foods of the diverse countries and cultures about which I write.  Well, I do know a little about Louisiana cooking and am a fair hand at preparing Alaska salmon and king crab.  But other than the foods of my two home states, it’s strictly a never-ending learning process.

What I do is research and experiment.  I have always been fascinated about how the dishes we know and love were developed.  I have learned that most of the comfort foods we enjoy in our various home countries also appear among the dishes favored in most other parts of the world.  Certainly there are differences, but I can’t think of a culture that doesn’t have mom’s chicken soup or meat wrapped in some form of bread to create a fast food sandwich.

And that preamble brings us to Char Siu, roast pork in the style of Canton.

Canton, or more properly Guangzhou, is in southern China about 70 miles northwest of Hong Kong.  The roast pork to which Canton has given its name is known for its red color and deep penetration of flavor as a result of marinating the meat.

Char Siu, I learned, means fork roasted, the original method of preparing the pork over an open fire.  These days it’s more often simply oven roasted, though sometimes it is finished on a grill to give it a little bit of char.

It’s no surprise that I found several variations on the marinade ingredients.  All, however, included hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and five spice powder.  The traditional red color is usually achieved with either food coloring or red bean paste.

I don’t like to use food coloring and didn’t have red bean paste in the pantry.  Fortunately, I found more than one recipe that achieved the same result with ketchup.  That’s not heresy when we consider that ketchup originated in China.  It reached North America by way of Malaysia.  It was in that southeast Asian nation that ketchup was refined to something closely resembling the tomato based sauce with which we in America are prone to slather our French fries.  And by the way, ketchup is the word closest to the original Chinese name for the sauce.

This is the kind of dish Trent Marshall and Darcey Anderson would love.  Stop by to see what they’re up to.  Their next adventure will be out soon!

Here’s my version of char siu, which I served over rice.

Char Siu

Char Siu, Cantonese Style Barbequed Pork Served Over Rice

1 pork shoulder (about 2 pounds)

1 roasted red pepper, chopped

4 tablespoons hoisin sauce

1/2 cup ketchup

2 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon five spice powder

Slice the pork into thin, bite size pieces.

Make the marinade by combining all the other ingredients.  Pour the mixture over the pork strips and marinate for at least three hours.  The longer the meat marinates, the better the char siu.  Overnight in the refrigerator makes it truly great.

Spread the pork with the marinade in a roasting pan.  Cook in an oven pre-heated to 350 for about 35 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Excellent served over rice.

Bon temps!


Spicy Sausage-Rice Casserole

August 19, 2018 – I’m as busy working now as I’ve been in a long time.  And it feels great!

Dividing the hours of my days among continuing to push for legislation in Washington, D.C., that is good for rural and Bush Alaska (good for all of rural America, for that matter), promoting my first novel, The Empty Mint Mystery (, and going through the second book to get it ready for the publisher (watch for Trent Marshall and Darcey Anderson’s next adventure coming soon!), there isn’t a lot of time left to create great meals.

But next to say, oh, a French 75 or some other equally delicious cocktail when the sun, as my Navy Seabee uncle always proclaimed, has gone over the yardarm, there’s nothing I like better than a good dinner.  No, make that a great dinner.

So when time is short, I revert to the ’50s, that golden era of the casserole.  They can be put together quickly using whatever is in the refrigerator or the pantry and they cook themselves relatively unsupervised.  Perfect meals ready at the end of a busy day.

Spicy Sausage-Rice Casserole

This dish starts, as do so many of my culinary experiments, with what in Louisiana we call the Trinity:  onion, sweet peppers, celery.  It’s our version of the classic mirepoix.

I like to season in layers, so the first seasoning occurs after the Trinity has had a chance to cook down a bit and the vegetables are beginning to soften.  Use salt cautiously in this dish, however, as the sausages will provide a good bit of their own and the stock I used for the rice was also seasoned.  Except for a light dusting over the Trinity, I didn’t add any salt at all.

I used a combination of uncooked sausage links, including plain pork as well as both hot and sweet Italian.  Ground bulk sausage would have been easier but I seldom have that on hand.  I wouldn’t deign to advise you on which to use.  But I will say the effort to cut through the casings and turn the uncooked links into ground sausage is measured in seconds.  It’s not that big a chore.

The hot Italian sausage added heat to the dish.  But I wanted more.  Real heat!  And I thought a touch of acid would bring out even more of the flavors.  So I added a handful of pickled jalapenos.  Oh yeah!  Now we’re talking!

I like to cook rice in a stock, or at least well-seasoned water.  I used chicken stock for this dish because, of course, it’s what I had.  Pork stock would be even better.

While we’re talking about stock, I never throw bones away.  Chicken, pork, beef.  Any bones go into the stock pot with some onion, celery, maybe lemon, whatever seasonings that sound good on stock-making day.  There’s always a bowl of stock in my refrigerator.  If you make it yourself, it’ll be better than you can buy at a store, not to mention cheaper.

And here’s a bonus she suggested with this casserole:  If there are leftovers, make

Patties from left over spicy sausage-rice casserole. Great with a fried egg on top!

sausage-rice patties and fry them up.  Great with a fried egg on top!

So here’s my Spicy Sausage-Rice Casserole for the end of a busy work day.

Spicy Sausage-Rice Casserole

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 roasted red pepper, chopped

1 rib celery, cut into 1/4 inch slices

1 tablespoon garlic powder

Salt & pepper to taste

1 1/2 pounds ground sausage (mixed plain pork, hot Italian, sweet Italian)

2 tablespoons pickled jalapeno, minced

1 cup uncooked rice

5 cups stock, boiling

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a heavy oven-friendly skillet or braising pan, heat the  olive oil over moderate heat.

Saute’ the onion, roasted red pepper, and celery in the olive oil until the vegetables begin to soften.  Season with garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste.

Add the sausage and pickled jalapeno.  Stir to combine.  Break up any clumps of sausage as the meat browns.

Add the raw rice and mix well with the browned sausage and vegetables.

Pour in the boiling stock and stir to combine.

Bake uncovered for about 45 minutes.

Bon temps!




Shrimp, Mushrooms, Pasta, & a Good Book

July 23, 2018 – A good book makes an evening alone pleasant.  Add shrimp, mushrooms, and pasta with, oh, a few other things, and it becomes memorable.

I cook quite often with shrimp and mushrooms.  They’re two of my favorite ingredients.  Very often they’re bathed, together or separately, in a cream sauce.  I had something similar in mind on this night but wanted to take it in a slightly different direction.  A cream sauce but no cream.  And perhaps an often overlooked addition that would add a little pep.

I used moderately large shrimp.  Fifteen to twenty to a pound.  But either larger or smaller would work as well.

The different direction called for substituting sour cream for the usual heavy cream.  Thicker.  A slightly different taste.  Not a radical departure from the usual.  Just a variation on the norm.

And the “often overlooked addition?”  Horseradish.  I thought about horseradish when talking recently to my friend, Rich Listowski.  Rich, in years past, was famous for the Polish Easter dinners he hosted.  Rich lives in Juneau, Alaska’s beautiful, small town capital with a small town’s paucity of grocers.  To collect the supplies needed for his Easter gathering, Rich would fly to Anchorage, Alaska’s largest community with its greater variety of grocery vendors.  He came in search of horseradish.

I would drive him around to one grocery after another as he bought up all the horseradish root he could find.  When he had enough to resemble a fair sized bundle of firewood, he would fly back to Juneau to begin the peeling and grating.  Not work for those of languid character.

This is another easily assembled, quickly prepared recipe.  It has a flavor I found to be very good.  The horseradish gave it that esoteric touch that I like.  It’s that thing that makes the diner think, “That’s really good but I just can’t quite place what it is.”  Yeah.  I like to hear that.

One other thing.  For another of those hard to place tastes, I added two tablespoons of a good quality vanilla to the pasta water.  The result was a barely discernible sweet nicely offsetting the slight bitter of the horseradish.

Here’s the result of me tinkering around in the kitchen, preparing something quick and easy to enjoy with a good book.  And the book, I’m sure you’ll agree, is a really good one!

Shrimp &  Mushrooms in a Sour Cream Sauce

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

8 ounces mushrooms, sliced

1 pound shrimp, shelled

1/2 cup white wine

1 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon horseradish

Salt & pepper to taste

Melt the butter and warm the olive oil in a heavy skillet over moderate heat.

Saute’ the mushrooms, cooking them down until they begin to brown.

Add the shrimp and continue to cook until the shrimp turns pink.  It shouldn’t take more than three to five minutes.  Don’t overcook the shrimp.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Deglaze the pan with the white wine, scraping up all the bits from the mushrooms and shrimp that have stuck to the skillet.

Stir in the sour cream and horseradish.  Mix well.  Continue to stir as the sour cream liquifies.

Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

Shrimp, mushrooms, pasta, treats for Molly, and a really good book!

Serve over your choice of pasta.

Bon temps!






Stuffed Cabbage

July 13, 2018 – “Ah, kapucha,” my friend Rich Listowski exclaimed enthusiastically when I told him I was making stuffed cabbage for dinner.  Cabbage.  A vegetable dear to generations of his Polish ancestors.

As our conversation continued, I learned that stuffed cabbage is gotabki, pronounced “gaw-WOHMP-kee.”  Translated literally, it means “little pigeons.”  Looking at the small bundles of deliciousness awaiting their baptismal dunking, it’s easy to see how they came to be so named.  It was as pretty a sight as I’ve ever seen on a stove.

The food of Poland is as fascinating as is the nation itself.  In centuries past, Poland was a major power, with several cultures falling under its dominance.  Its food from those years developed with Latvian, Turkish, and Hungarian influences among others.

Later centuries brought invasion from other powerful nations.  The Poles were no pushovers.  Their cavalry was the finest in the world, respected and feared by their enemies.  The elite were the Winged Hussars, who rode into battle with a pair of wings on their backs.  There is debate as to the purpose of the wings.  I’ve always liked the version that the wings made a weird, supernatural noise that could be heard before the cavalry came into sight, striking panic in many of the opposing forces.

Military history aside, the point is that Polish food developed from a variety of cultures.  The Poles, however, made each new element their own, preparing and presenting it in their uniquely wonderful fashion.

After emerging into the light of freedom after decades of dark domination, first by Nazis and then communists, Poland has earned the world’s respect and again become prominent in the community of nations. I decided it was time to try my hand at Polish food.  Summoning my culinary courage, I launched into the delicate construction of gotabki.

I used only ten leaves from a head of cabbage because that’s what I needed for the amount of ground meat I had.  The leaves should be large and handled gently so as not to tear.

I also added a couple of spices that probably wouldn’t be included in a true Polish version.  Sometimes I just can’t help myself.

With apologies to my pal, Rich Listowski, and his Polish ancestors, here’s my take on gotabki.


“Little Pigeons”

1 tablespoon freshly grated nutmeg

10 large cabbage leaves

1 pound ground beef

1 cup cooked rice

Little Pigeons

1 onion, minced

2 eggs

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon allspice

salt & pepper to taste

olive oil

1 onion, quartered

1 rib celery, sliced into medium chunks

1 1/2 cup stock

6 ounces tomato paste

Bring a pot of water, seasoned with nutmeg and salt to taste, to a boil.

Place the cabbage leaves in a large bowl and pour the boiling water over them.  Let them soak for about 15 minutes.

While the cabbage leaves are soaking, combine the ground beef, rice, minced onion, eggs, garlic, and allspice.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Mix well.

Remove the cabbage leaves from the water, handling very carefully so as not to tear them.

Lightly oil a heavy pan with a tightly fitting lid.

Layer the quartered onion and celery chunks in the pan to create a bed for the cabbage rolls.

Place a portion of the meat mixture into each leaf.  Carefully roll the leaf and tuck the ends under.  Lay the cabbage rolls on the vegetable bed.

Swirl the tomato paste into the stock and pour the liquid over the cabbage rolls.

Cover and simmer over low heat for one hour.

Bon temps!

Or more properly in this case, dobre czasy!





Mushroom Cream Sauce

July 6, 2018 – I love mushrooms.  Love’em.  I put them in all sorts of dishes.  And I use them as the star of many sauces, soups, pastas.  You name it.

I had some chicken thighs to be roasted.  And, wouldn’t you know it?  I also had some mushrooms.  And some heavy cream.  A  mushroom cream sauce is terrific with chicken.

I use chicken thighs because I prefer them to breasts.  But either, or a combination of both, will work just fine married to this sauce.

For spices, I decided to use what I call my “gumbo” spices.  Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.  Yeah, just like the Simon and Garfunkel song.  Easy to remember.

I don’t specify the kind of mushroom for this sauce.  Use your favorite.

This is quick and easy and delicious.

Mushroom Cream Sauce

2 tablespoons butter

1 – 2 tablespoon olive oil

Molly likes chicken & mushrooms, too!

3 tablespoons flour

1 shallot, minced

1/4 cup parsley, chopped

1 tablespoon sage

1 tablespoon rosemary

1tablespoon thyme

8 ounces mushrooms, sliced

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup heavy cream

Salt & pepper to taste

In a heavy skillet, melt the butter and warm the olive oil over moderate heat.

Add the flour and stir to make a blonde roux.  In other words, don’t let it darken.

When the oils and flour are combined, toss in the shallot, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.  Continue stirring to thoroughly coat all the ingredients.  If it becomes too dry, add another tablespoon of olive oil.

When the shallot and mushrooms are beginning to soften and spots of light browning begin to show, pour in the stock and cream.  Stir to combine as the liquids come to a boil.

Lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, as the sauce thickens.  You don’t want it too thin or too thick.  It will probably take about five to seven minutes on an easy simmer but you should keep an eye on it.

When it reaches the desired consistency, season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve with your choice of chicken pieces.

Bon temps!



Shrimp, Roasted Red Pepper & Basil Hors D’oeurves

June 15, 2018 – Some evenings a complete dinner seems too much.  This was one of those evenings.  A platter of hors d’oeurves sounded more appealing.

The bonus of preparing hors d’oeurves rather than dinner is the snacks can be so simple and easy to  put together.  You don’t have to prove yourself doughty to accomplish the task.

As an example, the hors d’oeurve I offer here.  So simple.  Few ingredients.  Quickly done.  Beautiful presentation.  Best of all, delicious.

Shrimp that are on the large rather than small size are best for this dish.  The ones I used came twenty to a pound.

As to roasted red peppers, roast your own or, as I now most often do, use the ones that come in a jar.  They’re excellent and save a lot of prep time.

The fresh basil I found was probably the best I’ve ever had.  Ever.  The fragrance permeated the entire house as I tore the leaves into proper size.

Here, then, is my offering of a simple and really terrific hors d’oeurve.

Shrimp, Roasted Red Pepper, & Basil Hors D’oeurves

2-3 tablespoons olive oil, depending on how many shrimp are in a pound, plus a little extra

Shrimp, shelled & deveined

Roasted red pepper, cut into enough pieces to cover each shrimp and about the same size

Basil, torn into pieces equal to the number of shrimp and about the same size

1 tablespoon ground sage

Salt & pepper to taste

4 – 6 ounces feta, crumbled

Rounds cut from a baguette equal to the number of shrimp, toasted

Arrange the toasted rounds of bread on a decorative platter.  Dribble a little olive oil over the toasts.

Shrimp, Roasted Red Pepper, & Basil Hors Doeuvres

Heat the remaining olive oil in a heavy skillet.

When the olive oil is hot but not smoking, add the shrimp and roasted red pepper.

Stir in the sage and combine thoroughly.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cook the shrimp until it turns pink.  It should take no more than three to four minutes.  The red pepper will be heated through in that time as well.

Remove the shrimp and roasted red pepper to a plate covered with a paper towel to drain.

Assemble the hors d’oeurves by placing a shrimp on each piece of toasted bread, followed by a piece of roasted red pepper, and, finally, a piece of basil.

Sprinkle the crumbled feta over the hors d’oeurves.

Bon temps!