An Assassin in Alaska; a Cop Left Behind; and Breakfast for Dinner

New Orleans Homicide Detective Jordan Baron tossed the new book, A Shooting at Auke Bay, aside. The book was a good read. A great read! But he wasn’t happy. He called Darcey Anderson.

“You need help, Darcey,” he pointed out. “You have two California cops joining you in Alaska and some old retired state trooper up there who none of us even know. I don’t get why you don’t want me with you.”

“Because I need you at the Pines, Jordan,” Darcey Anderson replied. “I need you backing up the sheriff to protect my mother, Ivy, and Kelli.”

Darcey’s mother, Betty, Trent’s surrogate mother, Ivy, and Kelli, Trent and Darcey’s three year old daughter, had been sent back to Louisiana after the shooting. Darcey thought they would be safe there.

Jordan still wasn’t happy. He plopped himself down on the large, comfortable couch in the sitting room of the old house and found a movie about the Allies saving a companile during World War II. He didn’t know why the Nazis wanted to destroy a centuries old bell in an Italian church. Pure meanness, he thought. The why didn’t matter. The plot fit his mood.

Betty and Ivy thought serving Jordan a good dinner would make him less disagreeable.

“What’s your favorite meal for dinner, Jordan?” Betty asked.

“Breakfast,” was Jordan’s sarcastic reply.

Betty and Ivy gave each other a knowing look. They had this.

Spinach from Betty’s garden with ham, cheese, and eggs made a sort of faux quiche that was satisfying. Comfort food.

An hour later, Jordan’s belly was full.

He had two motherly women fussing over him.

He was feeling better.

Jordan Baron’s Ham & Spinach Faux Quiche

1/2 onion, chopped

2 green onions, chopped

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

10 ounces fresh baby spinach

1/2 pound ham, minced

4 cloves roasted garlic, minced

4 – 6 slices bread, or enough to cover the bottom of a casserole dish

Spinach & Ham Faux Quiche. Breakfast for dinner!

6 eggs

1 1/2 cups milk

1 teaspoon dry mustard

salt & pepper to taste

1/2 pound grated Cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a heavy skillet, saute the onions and green onions in the combined butter and olive oil.

When the onions have softened and begun to take on a little color, toss in some of the spinach. A couple of handfuls will probably fill the skillet. Fold the spinach into the onions as it cooks. It will reduce dramatically in size. When the first batch has reduced, add more spinach. It’ll probably take about three batches before all the spinach is cooked down.

Add the ham and roasted garlic. Stir to combine.

Lay slices of bread on the bottom of a casserole dish. Tear one piece of bead into pieces if necessary to cover the entire bottom of the dish.

Spread the spinach and ham mixture evenly over the bread slices.

In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, milk, and dry mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste. Beat vigorously. Pour the liquid over the spinach and ham mixture.

Cover generously with the grated cheese.

Bake for about half an hour, or until the cheese is melted and golden.

Jordan wants to know what your favorite breakfast for dinner meal is.

As he would say, “Bon temps”

What’s Different about a 21st Century Burger, Fries, and Hot Dog?

A relative new entry in the upscale fast food market, BurgerFi opened its first restaurant in Florida in 2011, ironically housed in what was once a Burger King.

The company focuses on traditional fast food with all natural ingredients. It also offers a vegetarian burger.

Making burger magic at BurgerFi

BurgerFi’s commitment to the sustainable nature of the 21st century extends to furniture and wall paneling. All are made from recycled products.

The fictional Bay area homicide detective couple Christopher Booth and Nancy Patrick, who we met in Neighbors and Other  Strangers, make their way to Alaska in the upcoming third in the Trent Marshall/Darcey Anderson series, A Shooting at Auke Bay.

In Anchorage, they meet Steve Hamlen, a real person. One of a group of late 20th century pioneers instrumental in bringing advanced telecommunications services to Bush Alaska.

When they decided to have lunch together, Steve suggested they meet at BurgerFi.

A good choice.

Christopher and Nancy both ordered the CEO, a burger made from a combination of wagyu beef and brisket. It comes adorned with only a modest sauce of candied bacon and tomato, made in-house.

It needs nothing more.

The couple agreed it was one of the best burgers either had ever eaten.

They also each ordered a side of fries, hand cut and brought to table perfectly browned. The way hand cut fries should be.

Steve opted for the VegiFi, a vegetarian burger with a patty made of quinoa and hand cut vegetables accompanied by lettuce and Cheddar cheese.

He also ordered hand cut onion rings. Huge. Perfectly breaded. Perfectly browned. Onion rings.

After lunch, Steve continued on in real life, pleased with the meal and his new, fictional friends.

Christopher and Nancy returned to their world of fiction, determined to convince the author to set a scene at a BurgerFi.

They thought it would spice up any story.

If you’d like to meet somewhere for lunch with Christopher and Nancy, just leave a comment and we’ll see if we can make the arrangements.

And check out my books! Here’s the link:

Trent Marshall’s Empanadas

When Trent Marshall became interested in cooking, he turned to Ivy Ford, the woman who became his surrogate parent when his mother died young and unexpectedly. (The Empty Mint Mystery) As he became more adept in the kitchen, the natural curiosity that won him a Pulitzer Prize as an investigative reporter led him to want to know about the history of food.

Ivy was an accomplished cook and taught Trent well. From her he learned to prepare traditional Louisiana and other southern dishes. He wanted to know more.

Trent was fascinated to discover how many cultures have a version of the same dish. He also learned that many dishes were created for specific reasons. For instance, the humble meat pie.

Meat pies were traditionally working men’s food. Meat, chicken, vegetables, even fruit could be wrapped in a dough and either fried or baked. The worker would have a filling, nourishing lunch easily transported to the job.

As a Louisiana boy, Trent’s favorite was the Natchitoches meat pie. He had his mother’s recipe, which she had been given by Ivy. He loved those meat pies and made them from time to time. But he never shared the recipe.

He made them for Darcey. She didn’t ask for the recipe. If she ever got around to asking, Trent didn’t know how he would respond.

There are many other versions of the meat pie. In the UK’s Cornwall they are called pasties. They are pierogis in Poland.

Trent decided to try the empanada, the Latin American version of the meat pie.

He used ground pork in his empanadas. Beef or chicken work just as well.

Trent included cornichons in his recipe. The small, sour French pickles add a pleasant acidic quality. Feel free to use any other type of sour pickle or none at all, if you choose.

He also tossed in a little sugar. Ivy puts a pinch of sugar in everything she cooks. She told him sugar makes everything taste brighter.

Trent’s empanadas

You can make your own pie dough or use a good quality, ready made one.

Here, then, is Trent Marshall’s version of the empanada.

Trent Marshall’s Empanadas

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 roasted red pepper, chopped

1 pound ground pork

1 tomato, chopped

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

1 teaspoon sugar

salt to taste

1/4 cup chopped cornichons

Saute the onion, roasted red pepper, and ground pork in the olive oil.

When the vegetables have softened and the pork is cooked through, add the tomatoes, parsley, sugar, and salt. Mix well. Remove from the heat and stir in the cornichons.

While the pork mixture cools, roll out the dough. Cut circles about four inches in diameter. Place some of the pork mixture in each circle. Fold one side over to create a half moon shaped pie. With the tines of a fork, crimp the edge of each pie so they hold together.

The empanadas can be baked in a 425 degree oven or deep fried. As the pork is already cooked, it’s only necessary to cook the assembled pies until the dough is browned.

As Trent would say, “Bon temps!”