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A HERETIC I AM

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Name: Schmengie
Gender: Male
Hometown: Jacksonville, FL
Home country: USA
Current location: Various.
Member since: Mon Aug 4, 2003, 03:56 PM
Number of posts: 13,193

Journal Archives

The Town of Democratic Underground. We've had over 215,000 citizens. What a great place to live.

7 years ago last April I posted the original of this.....essay? That can be read here I made a few minor changes and added a much needed acknowledgement. I have often thought of DU as a little town. Surely it doesn't have 215,000 residents, more like 10 or 15,000 regulars with the rest having either left or just come into town on occasion. But still...this is how I saw it 7 years ago.

Perhaps this can serve many of the newer members to understand how many of us old timers thought of DU before the '08 election. I've been a member of DU since August of 2003. Not as long as some, longer than many. I hope you will find what I wrote enjoyable and interesting.




Hi.

Welcome to our town. Care to take a little walk with me?

I've lived here for just shy of 11 years now and I like it just fine. It's very diverse, vibrant, active and fairly peaceful. Oh, we have our differences but for the most part, everyone gets along pretty well.

We have several Churches; A Catholic Church, a small Episcopal Church, A Baptist Church, a rather large non-denominational Church as well as a Synagogue and a Mosque. Oh, and a fairly good sized Unitarian Universalist congregation too as well as a vocal and passionate non-religious group. There are clubs and civic organizations to meet all tastes and a very active GLBT community. Here on main street is where many of our inhabitants work, whether it is in the small businesses they own or for some of the national chains that have decided to adhere to our strict zoning laws and scaled down from the large, big-box stores they set up elsewhere. We have a Mall on the edge of town where others work. Very few folks from outside town come here to work but quite a few commute to the city. We have a thriving Industrial park on the other side of town where many more of our inhabitants are employed. Seems to me our unemployment rate is about the same as the national average.

We have a few folks on the outskirts that have rather large properties, a cattle ranch and a few hobby farms, some orchards and several large vegetable producers. The folks that live here come from all walks of life and do almost anything you can think of. We have several Banks, Restaurants, a couple Brokerage Firms, Real Estate offices and Insurance companies. At the end of the block is a gun shop that has a shooting range inside and there is an active group of hunters. There is a Golf Course, a Bowling Alley, Hair Salon and a Barber Shop. Oh....and the Bars. We have several of them. There is quite a lively night life here. In fact, one street is referred to as "The Lounge" because it is lined with Cocktail Lounges and Bars of all types. If you stray over there, make sure you take a serious sense of humor with you. You'll find most are very accommodating and you rarely have to buy your first drink if you are new in town.

The age range is from teenagers to the elderly. I know there are small children here because I can hear them but I never see them. There are a few celebrities, a number of published authors, several filmmakers and quite a few cranky old farts thrown in for good measure! It is rumored that several of our quietest residents are famous in politics and the arts, but they don't say much, they seem to just watch the town through the windows of their homes. All of these tend to add style and color that we quite frankly would miss if they were for some reason to leave our fair city. We have Truck Drivers, Pilots, Sanitation Workers, Waiters and Waitresses, Carpenters, Bricklayers, Craftsmen, Clerks, CPA's, Attorneys, Stockbrokers, a Veterinarian or two, Doctors and Nurses, Cooks and Chefs, Seamstresses, and maybe a Tailor. I haven't met him yet but there is his shop, right over there.

Often the national media, be it a Newspaper or a TV Network reports on what goes on here. We think thats fine. It's good to know we get noticed.

One thing you'll find out right away is that there are conversations that spring up on almost every street corner and in every business about any number of subjects at all times of the day and night. Our residents LOVE to talk. Sometimes, the conversations are just between 3 or 4 people about something as silly as what shampoo to use on a cat. Other times, huge crowds will gather with dozens shouting their opinions. There can be two or three very loud, raucous conversations about the same subject going on at once. It can get rather lively. Usually when it gets to be really big, it draws several of the cops to circle around and stroll through the crowd, looking to stop anyone who might be ready to throw a punch. Once in a while there is a push or a shove and on occasion a punch is thrown. Rarely is the injury any more severe than a bloody nose or damaged pride. More often than not, when tempers flare, the antagonist or protagonist will just walk away. In the most severe cases the some participants of a conversation will call upon the residents of the town to participate in a jury. That jury will decide whether or not to break up the conversation completely and make everyone leave. They do, but sometimes it is just down the street a little where another conversation will start again. It is usually the case that the jury will take a specific participant out of the crowd entirely, and that person is not allowed to speak in that conversation any longer. It serves to keep things a little more civil, though the system has it's flaws. Often these conversations last for days and days. There's several big ones going on right now. You can tell the ones that get heated as they tend to drift up to the top of the street, near the Courthouse, while everyone is sweating and there are several cops in the crowd.

We have a small Police Force, maybe less than 100 Deputies, a Mayor, a Sheriff and a Marshall. The Deputies volunteer to be assigned to a specific street and they rotate out every few months so there are no career cops. They carry no guns but they have a weapon no other Police Force in the country has; the magical ability to make someone shut up! It seems to work pretty well. It is rumored that the Mayor, the Sheriff and the Marshall are the town fathers, but I think they just hung a phone on a post in the woods, stuck a flag in the ground, named the town and within days, this town started to grow, but that's just my opinion. I wasn't here then, but I passed through this area before it existed and it was just wilderness. The Mayor is a decent sort, very opinionated but firm in his convictions. The Sheriff writes an occasional column in the paper that is widely read and the Marshall...well....he stays out of sight. I think he sits in his study, playing with electrical devices all day, trying to create a time machine maybe. Who knows? Sometimes an outsider will come into town and start conversations or enter into them and cause nothing but trouble. Then, all of the sudden, he or she disappears. There is a special team charged with catching those trouble makers before they get a foothold in town. They seem to do a pretty good job. I know. I was on the team for a while. (Tip - Watch what you say)

Our history has had it's share of serious problems. Soon after the towns founding, hundreds and hundreds of people came rushing in to the area, trying to tell the Mayor that he had no business setting up a town here, that he was a maniac, that the water was poisoned (or that it WOULD be if he didn't leave) that the grass would die, that no one would come to live here, etc. As you look around, I think you can tell those predictions were all wrong.

Is it a perfect place to live? Surely not. But what place is perfect? We have clean air (we see to it) clean water (that too) good schools and good food. We have births and we miss those that pass away. New folks come to town all the time. Some stay for years, others leave soon after they arrive. Some, for some strange reason, insist on telling everyone they are leaving. This often gathers a crowd of either well-wishers or smart Alec's or both. I could never understand that, but there you go. But all in all, it is a wonderful place to live. Just walk down the street and listen in to the conversations. There is so much to learn and so many incredibly intelligent people that live here. I learn something just about every minute of every day!

Just remember, when you come across one of those large conversations that seems to have drawn a large crowd, try and listen in for a bit. You don't want to say the wrong thing and get the cops pissed at you. Trust me, I know. I was escorted almost to the edge of town at least once!

Well, I hope you enjoyed my 5 cent tour. I'm heading home. Have a good time and I'll see ya around!
Posted by A HERETIC I AM | Sat Jun 28, 2014, 05:22 PM (33 replies)

The term "Tax equivalent yield" (TEY) comes to mind. (Edited)

This is the idea that given a certain adjusted gross income, it specifies the difference between what is actually realized via interest paid on taxable bonds versus non-taxable bond interest, specifically municipals.

In other words, you realize the same amount of 'take home pay' so to speak on a 2.5% coupon tax free as you would on a taxable 3.5% (purely an example) bond.

Investopedia defines it thus;


For example, if a tax-free bond has a yield of 20% and the tax rate is 10%, a taxable bond would need a pretax yield of 22.2% (20% / 90%) in order to be considered an equivalent investment. Therefore, all bonds with the same risk but with a pretax yield of less than 22.2% should be considered inferior investments compared to the 20% municipal bond.


A lot of it will depend on your income from interest bearing investments.

Bloomberg.com posts bond yields daily, and though they don't break down to the 3rd or 4th decimal point on their public website (you need a subscription to get more detail), glancing occasionally at their bond page can give you an idea of what is happening;

http://www.bloomberg.com/markets/rates-bonds/government-bonds/us/

Steve, you may be completely familiar with these securities, but for the sake of those not so familiar, I want to make a point or two.

It is important to bear in mind the difference between yield and the coupon rate of a bond.

Looking at the Bloomberg page I linked above, in the first section is listed US Treasuries. As of this writing, the 30 year had a coupon of 3.375%. That means that for every single $1000 par value bond you own you would receive $33.75 per year in interest payments, regardless of what you paid for it. Not that I have a million or anything, but I find it easier to think in those terms, so a million in face value of those would generate $33,750 per year.

The yield on that same bond is showing 3.46%. Why? Because those bonds were selling (quoted) at a discount to that $1000 par value. The "Price" column shows "98-11 1/2". That translates to ninety eight and eleven and a half thirty seconds percent of par. (!) 11 1/2 32's = 0.359375. 98 % of $1000 = $980 therefore those bonds would cost you $983.59 give or take a penny or two. Hold them for 30 years and the US Treasury will give you $1000 back. That difference of $16.41 per bond is only realized at the time the bonds are redeemed, but for the sake of the calculation of total income, that is considered income distributed annually, even though it technically isn't.

Clear?

Now...that coupon rate - the $33.75 per year is TAXABLE interest, even though it is coming from the US Treasury. Scroll down that Bloomberg page and you'll see rates for Munis. They are showing the 30 Muni at a yield of 3.46%, exactly what the 30 Treas is. But why yield and not coupon also? Because they are using an average for all the AAA rated Muni paper out there. There are thousands of different 30 year Muni issues, so they have no choice but to give that average yield. There is only one 30 year Treas.

So.....

The easiest way to figure out the head and tail of all this is to use a TEY calculator. Google offered several, and here's one from Bankrate.com;
http://www.bankrate.com/calculators/retirement/tax-equivalent-yield-calculator-tool.aspx
That tool is asking you to enter the tax free yield and will calculate the taxable rate needed for TEY

Sticking with the 30 year Muni, if I plug in those numbers, a 3.46% yield on a non-taxable bond would require a yield of 4.613 on a fully taxable. Going by what your advisor suggests, if you plug in 2.5% tax free you get 3.33%, so he is real close. As you can see, we aren't anywhere near a 4.6% yield on long Treasury bonds.

I should be clear here that your regular, run of the mill corporate bond would also generate taxable interest.

Now..here's another item or two.

1) There is ABSOLUTELY NO BENEFIT AT ALL to own Municipal bonds inside a tax-deferred account, be it an IRA, a Roth IRA, a 401(k) or a 403(b). Why? Because interest on bonds is paid regularly and you can't access the money in those accounts until retirement without penalty. This is why you just won't see a Municipal bond mutual fund offered in a 401(k) plan. It's pointless. Any advisor that tells you otherwise doesn't know what he is talking about.

2) Even though interest paid on Munis tends* to be tax free, you can still be subject to capital gains taxes on them. Why? Because it is possible to purchase them at a discount to par, just as with the Treasury I cited above, and it doesn't matter to the IRS where it comes from, if you have a capital gain, you have to pay taxes on it. If you buy a bond for $980 and sell it for more, you have realized a capital gain. If I won the lottery for instance, and I wanted to set up a large portfolio of Munis and never pay taxes again, I would have my bond buyer try as best he could to keep the purchase price at or near par. That way there is little or no capital gains when I either redeem or sell one of my bonds.

*Tends = Not all Municipal bonds pay tax-free interest. It depends on the state where you live and the type of bond. If you live in one of the 7 states with no state income tax, it doesn't matter, but if you live in all the rest, the only bonds that typically pay tax free interest are those issued in your home state. If you live in say...Michigan and own a California Muni, Michigan doesn't care and they want their cut of your income. (I noticed the OP is a FL resident, so this point is moot) So called "Private use" munis - things like bonds for a stadium or a commercial development are often not tax exempt because the end purpose is private use, even though the city or county may have initiated the bond offering.

This website has a pretty good tool for looking up bonds from various issuers, both corporate and municipal;
http://finra-markets.morningstar.com/BondCenter/Screener.jsp?type=advanced

Just for giggles, open that link, high lite the "Corporate" radio button under "Advanced Search", don't fill anything else in and hit "Show Results". You'll get well over 1500 pages! If you aren't clear on how to read the results of a search, just let me know and I'll break it down for you.

I hope all of the above was of some help. If you have any further questions, please feel free to ask, and once again, I apologize for the delay in responding.



Edit here;

I want to be sure to emphasize that the comparison I have made between Munis and US Treasuries is not the only applicable one. The TEY calculator applies to basically any taxable vs. non-taxable bond comparison.
Posted by A HERETIC I AM | Sun May 11, 2014, 12:42 PM (1 replies)

Scotch Eggs (Lots of pics)

I've been carrying a lunch cooler on and off for a while now, and have begun to take one regularly these days when I am headed out on an overnight trip, which is almost every one! I pack a pretty good lunch, if I do say so myself, but I am always trying to improve the quality and variety beyond the commonplace - the regular P, B & J sandwich and Thermos of soup. I'll make a ham & cheese or roast beef sandwich with all the trimmings, take along chips, a pickle, a piece of fruit or two etc. I'll buy those single serve little yogurts and fruit cups as well.

But I wanted to expand this little moveable feast, if you will and so I've started packing things like a few chunks of pickled herring and marinated artichokes, I just put stuff like that in seperate zip-lock bags.

But the search for more unusual items that will keep in a small ice chest/lunch cooler for up to 2 days got me thinking about good ol' fashioned English Pub Foods.

So I landed on Scotch Eggs.

If you've never heard of this or had them, it's basically a hardboiled egg wrapped in sausage meat and then deep fried.

Like so many recipes, Googling Scotch Eggs will give you many, many results and a nice variety of ingredients and methods, but they are all basically a sausage wrapped hard boiled egg.

So here's mine;

The basic ingredients; Pork sausage, and some herbs and spices to mix into it. 3 hardboiled eggs are cooling.


I am only making 3 here, so I used maybe 3/4 of the roll of sausage and into that I mixed maybe 1/2 tsp of each of the above herbs plus one tablespoon of flour. When it was good and mixed I split it into 3 portions;


I mixed about 1/2 cup of flour with salt and pepper, some garlic powder, thyme, sage and paprika. I coated the eggs with this;


Now to roll out the sausage. I laid some cling film on the board and placed one of the portions on it, then covered with another sheet of film;


Then rolled it out with my pin;


Now to wrap the egg. I placed the first one in the middle and lifting the cling film, proceeded to cover it with the sausage.


Got it all around.



Now to smooth it out


and end up with what looks like a meatball!


3 of them ready to go;


Now to bread them. The recipes I looked at called for an egg wash and breadcrumbs, so I mixed a raw egg with a dash of cream and put that in a small plastic container. In another plastic container I placed some Italian breadcrumbs.


Two of them ready to go;



I don't have a proper deep fryer so I am going to use a small pot with about 2 cups or so of vegetable oil. I used my instant read thermometer to make sure I had the oil about 350 degrees. Marinara and water boiling for my spaghetti dinner. Gently in with the first one;


After only about 3 or 4 minutes it was time to turn it.


In total it took less than 8 minutes to get it nicely brown all around;


3 of them all finished;


Now for the test - let's see how they look when cut open;


Not bad. Not bad at all;




I made a bit of a sauce using ketchup, spicy mustard and some horseradish. It was yum!;



I'm typing this from a hotel in Charleston, SC and I brought one with me. It was delicious chilled as well as warmed in the microwave.

A bit time consuming but really yummy. Give them a try!

Enjoy!
Posted by A HERETIC I AM | Thu Aug 15, 2013, 09:09 PM (65 replies)

There be MANATEES here!!! (14 Pics)

I've been renting a house on an arm of the St. Johns river in Jacksonville, FL since November. My neighbor told me that Manatees, Alligators and occasionally Dolphins will appear in this waterway in the late Spring and Summer. I've been waiting for proof of that and finally saw two Manatees! I saw a few about 3 days ago but they weren't close enough to the surface or too far out in the channel to get a good shot, but this afternoon, two of them graced me by coming close enough to get some shots.

I apologize for the quality of the photos, as they were taken with my iPhone held away from my body. Most focused fairly well, but others didn't.


Here they are!

First of all, here's a pic of the edge of my backyard that is right on the waterway. This is southwest of downtown Jax;



This was the first glimpse of what looked to be a mother and calf;


They seemed to be cruising about 3 feet below the surface. There's a fair amount of debris in the water as a result of the Storm that passed over a couple days ago.

Heading toward me;



The calf coming up for a breath;


You can barely make out the mommas tail in front of the calf.

Momma surfacing;



They rounded the corner and started heading down the inlet. Behind my next door neighbors place is a branch that had fallen during the passing of the Tropical Storm the other day and they seemed to stop and check it out. I zoomed in a bit and shot away as they surfaced;





Calf surfacing for air over mommas tail;



And back under;



Momma takes a breath;





Now turning and moving further down the channel;








I've lived in Florida on and off for almost 25 years and have never seen a Manatee in the wild. I am frankly THRILLED to be living in a place where they pass by my backyard! It was really cool to see them. Momma looked to be about 12 feet long and the calf about 6' or so, so certainly not a newborn.

This was totally cool!

I hope you enjoyed the photos as much as I enjoyed being able to share them.








Posted by A HERETIC I AM | Sat Jun 8, 2013, 03:05 PM (85 replies)

A Marine's response to the Presidential umbrella umbrage; (Edit)



I thought the reaction to this photo was interesting:



Yes, the President of the United States of America had a boot Corporal hold an umbrella for him while he gave a speech.

The reactions were interesting because people let their political butthurtedness flow into their opinions on the matter. People seem to forget that we’re Marines, and this is exactly the kind of shit that Marines do. Somehow, holding an umbrella for the President and the Turkish Prime Minister is seen as demeaning, while all of the other bullshit that Marines do every day is not. I find it entertaining to see Marines on my Facebook page saying things like, “I would have told him to fuck off and hold his own umbrella.”

No you wouldn’t.

Shut up.

We’re Marines, if the President of the fucking United States asks you to hold a fucking umbrella, you hold a fucking umbrella. As well, the day I give a shit about a boot Corporal holding an umbrella is the day I’ve forgotten what the Marine Corps is. Honestly, holding an umbrella for the President is probably the least demeaning thing I could imagine doing as a Marine, as opposed to the other bullshit I had to do every day. No one would think twice about asking a boot to police call cigarette butts across the entire base at 5am, but the minute this boot has to hold an umbrella for the Commander in Chief, people get upset.

He’s the President, he rates an umbrella.

Get over it.



Found Here



Edit to add this video from the White House web site. A You Tube link, but I found it on whitehouse.gov



The point, for the few that aren't aware, is that these positions are ones of high honor, going to only 4 individuals in the entire Marine Corps.
Posted by A HERETIC I AM | Sat May 18, 2013, 09:08 PM (110 replies)

In Sept. of 1967, my family crossed the Atlantic on the SS United States. I saved the menus.

My father worked for the government, and back then employees at his level traveled first class. We were very fortunate to be able to cross the Atlantic from Bremerhaven, Germany to New York on one of the greatest Ocean Liners ever built, the SS United States.

A 6 day crossing which included a stop in Southampton, England during a week covering Saturday and Sunday, September 16th and 17th.

Here is a photo of the cover of the menu for the Gala Dinner, the final night at sea;



And this is the menu;



A breakfast menu, from the next morning, Tuesday, September 19, 1967, the day we arrived in New York.



I thought you folks, out of all the readers on DU, would be the most interested in these. If you'll pardon me just a little while I wax nostalgic, they do harken back to a different era, one which is long past. Transatlantic Jet service had started only a few years before, and the days of the great ocean liners and the elegant meals served on-board was nearing an end.

It was 6 days I remember very clearly, though I was a mere 8 years old.

Posted by A HERETIC I AM | Thu Feb 14, 2013, 09:38 PM (86 replies)

French Onion Soup from scratch, and I mean SCRATCH! (well, almost! lots of pics) (edited)

(The "well, almost"? I didn't actually make the cheese!)

I really enjoy making different types of soups, from Clam Chowder to Italian Wedding to US Senate Bean and many others. French onion is one of those types that takes a bit of time, but is SOOO worth it.

Now I admit here that I went completely overboard with this, (probably with the pictures too, so I'm sorry if there are too many) as it is CERTAINLY not necessary to make your own stock AND bake the bread loaves for the crouton, but what the hell. The downside is that I have been putting off some yardwork and other chores!

So no more entire Sundays spent cooking for a while!

For the French Onion Soup, I pretty much followed Julia Child's recipe found here. If you're like me, you look at numerous recipes and put together what sounds best from each one. The reason I like Julia's is because she used the white wine AND the Cognac. The Cognac or Brandy is PARTICULARLY delicious with this soup.

For the Beef Stock, I again, pretty much (LOL) followed the recipe in my "Joy Of Cooking book, page 40, for "Brown Stock".

OK...the mirepoix for the stock. Celery, Carrots, Onion, all large chop and a 6 Oz can of Tomato Paste. I actually held aside the leaf portion of the celery for the soup.


The meat and bones for the stock. I have a package of Beef neck bones, the grocery stores package of "Soup Bones" and a package of Beef back ribs. I'll only use one of the ribs for the meat. The rest I froze for barbecue later on. VERY light salt and pepper. I really want to control how salty the stock is, because I am going to freeze what I don't use and I can add salt to later dishes and sauces.



I used about 2/3rds of the can of tomato paste and in a small bowl (OK, not a bowl, but my handy dandy little Bass Ale glass I got in England, years ago) , mixed in about 2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce. I just can't resist trying to "kick it up a notch"! With my hands, I spread and coated each piece of meat and bone with the Tomato Paste mix.


Into a 425 degree oven for about 15 minutes or so. Out of the oven, add the mirepoix, back in for another 10. I don't want the veggies to burn, so out it comes and stir.

After the first stir;


Ten minutes later, and another stir around, browned up and caramelized pretty good;


All done and into the pot, water to cover plus about 4 inches. Maybe a gallon and a half. I added a cleaned and chopped leek after about 20 minutes per the Joy of Cooking recipe.


Now for the bread. For the French Bread I followed the recipe I found on Betty Crocker.com pretty much to the letter. When I make bread I like to mix the wet in my stand mixer using the whisk attachment (I suppose a professional baker might find this method acceptable), then add just enough flour to make a batter. As soon as it is about the consistency of pancake batter, I switch to the dough hook.

Prepping the batter. About 1 1/2 cups of the 3 1/2 the recipe calls for in the mixer.



Mix in the wet, including the yeast, which I used a packet of Fleischmann's "ActiveDry", the kind you mix with 1/4 cup of warm water (120 or so), add a Tsp of sugar to activate and wait till it starts to foam. My packet activated great, and I was off to the races.

I replaced the whisk with the dough hook, started the machine and slowly added the rest of the flour until it all starts pulling away from the bowl. I had to scrape it down once, but that's par for the course.


It came off the hook like a champ! Onto the lightly floured counter top, kneed for 4 or 5 minutes and then into a lightly oiled bowl, cover and let rise. It was a fairly dry dough, not at all as silky feeling as when I've made sandwich bread doughs.



Florida in the Summertime is actually a great time to bake bread, because it is usually so humid and warm outside that you get a fantastic rise out of yeast doughs by setting it on the patio or deck. Well, it ain't Summer and it's cool and rather dry outside, so I have to improvise to find a warm, humid spot. Solution? The cabinet over the oven. I'll heat the oven up with a pie tin of water. That will warm the cabinet up. Into the cabinet goes the dough and I'll put the steaming pan of water next to it to keep the humidity up. 1990's vintage Marlboro/Penske Racing ashtray to keep it company! (yes, of course the ashtray is clean!)


Risen nicely, about double. (Edit) That was about 90 minutes.



On to the lightly floured counter, cut in two.


Now I'm going to roll one of the halves out, to about 14" or so across and about 1/4" thick.


Now to roll it up. Once I've done that I tuck in the ends and place it on my sheet to rise, seam side of the roll down.
Same thing to the other half of the dough. After scoring the tops, I place both of them back into the cupboard above my oven with the same reheated pan of water to rise a second time.


About 25 minutes later and about doubled again. I mixed a single egg white and a tablespoon of water and brushed that over the loaves, then baked in a 375 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes. I put the tin of water in as well to keep the oven humid.



Now to start the onions. 2 large Yellow onions, halved and sliced thin.


Into a hot pan that has about 3 tablespoons of butter and a bit of olive oil. As soon as they're in, I turned the heat down to medium low.


About 2 minutes in.


10 minutes later


About 20 minutes now.



After about 40 minutes or so. Came along nicely, about the color of my wooden spoon.


Time to actually make soup! I'm going to use a Bouquet Garni. Sprigs of thyme, the celery leaves, bay leaves and the other items. This is more herbs than Julia's recipe calls for, but others that I have looked at call for some or all of them. I also added about a teaspoon of ground sage to the pot. (BIG EDIT!) Completely forgot this and worked on putting this thread together for 2 days!! TARRAGON! TARRAGON TARRAGON! The leaf at right is fresh Tarragon. I found one recipe a while back that called for this, most DO NOT. But I love the flavor, so I used some. I minced about 5 or 6 leaves and they went into the pot. What you see in this pic went into the garni and and I only left the garni in the soup for about 15 minutes or so. Tarragon can easily overpower a dish, so if you do use it, do so sparingly. It adds a beautiful backnote.


Wrapped in cheesecloth and tied with string.


1/3 of the stock into another pot with the garni in and a small bottle of Chardonnay. Salt and pepper.



Happy cook! I just noticed I don't have enough wires in the background.



Adding the onions to what is now soup.


About a ladle full of the stock to deglaze the pan, then back in the soup. Got to get all the oniony goodness!


Pretty much exactly what I was looking for. Not too much soup, not too much onion. Slow simmer while the loaves bake.





And out they come! Lookin' good!



Slicing one of the loaves for the croutons. This is the first time I used that Betty Crocker recipe and you know what? The bread was a bit bland, actually. Not enough salt. The recipe calls for 3 1/2 cups flour, 1 Tsp sugar but only 1 Tsp salt. 2 Teaspoons probably would have made all the difference. Shot of Bourbon in the background for courage!


Under the broiler, lightly toast one side....


Then the other. And YES......those are burnt ones at the top right! These three are try number two! Don't turn your back on bread under a broiler! What a dummy! LOL


I melted a couple tablespoons of butter and added just a small garlic clove. I don't want the croutons too garlicky, so as not to overpower the soup. I coated the 3 slices and put them under the broiler for another 45 seconds or so.



Now to assemble the cups.

Some grated Gruyere to top off the cups. I was actually trying to be snobby and authentic here! But honestly, Gruyere isn't really the best choice for cheese. While it has a great flavor, it loses a lot of fat when heated and becomes fairly chewy. Romano and Parmesan might be a better choice, even a mix with mozzarella. Some recipes call for Swiss cheese, but the bottom line is, like with so many recipes, use what you like. I like that I learned not to use Gruyere again!


A toasted crouton in first.


Ladle in the soup.



Cheese on top.....


And now for the piece de resistance! A splash of Cognac on top.


OK....Don't pour, SPLASH! I just drizzled it over the cheese. I've done this both ways, adding directly to the soup and adding it to the top like this just before the oven. The Cognac really does add a sublime flavor and makes a wonderful difference.



In to the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, and it looked like this.


VOILA'!

French Onion Soup.

You can see the fat I mentioned from the cheese. I suppose filling the cups as high as I did worked to my advantage in this regard, as all that fat ran out on to the baking sheet. It really was the wrong choice, but still tasty.

Believe it or not, the first photo I took for this series - the one of the meat - I took at 10:30 AM on Sunday. The last photo above was taken about 8:15 PM!

Once again, I hope you enjoyed this and I hope it inspires you to give it a try. Packaged Beef stock works perfectly well, of course and so does store bought Baguettes or French Bread. You don't have to spend 10 hours making soup! But I enjoy the craft involved, so it was a pleasant way to spend a Sunday.

Enjoy, and eat and be well.

Paul
Posted by A HERETIC I AM | Tue Feb 12, 2013, 06:10 AM (99 replies)

Roast Beef, Yorkshire Pudding and a version of Tyler Florence's Ultimate Potato Gratin. (New Video)

It has been quite a while since I tried this, and never this combination of dishes. I have several strikes against me to start, primarily that I have only a single oven, and all three of the dishes need to bake at different temps. But, what the hell. I gave it a try.

I know most of you are experienced cooks, so please forgive me if I say anything that is obvious or common knowledge. I was always told to write as if your reader does not understand the subject!

The Potato Gratin dish is basically this one by Tyler Florence of the Food Network;

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/the-ultimate-potato-gratin-recipe2/index.html


So I started with an herb rub for the meat. Here's the ingredients including fresh Thyme, which I finely minced, about 1/2 to a Tsp of each. I used about a 1/2 Tsp of Rosemary that I ground up in the mortar and pestle;



Mixed together and set aside.


A 2 1/2 Lb Bottom Round Roast. Not really the best choice, but serviceable.



Rubbed into the meat on all sides, then drizzled with a bit of olive oil. It is going in the oven fat side up, but I didn't do it on this cookie sheet - I have a rack and roasting pan.


Set the meat aside while I started on the gratin prep. I have read and heard many times that it is better to begin cooking meat as close to room temp as possible, so I just left this out instead of placing it in the fridge.

First step for the gratin prep - several cloves of garlic. I'm going to finely mince then crush with my knife. I prefer this method to using a garlic press, but that would work just fine. The salt acts as an abrasive making it easier to get the garlic into an almost creamy consistency.



All minced and crushed. Set this aside.


Video of this procedure;



I used regular Yukon Gold potatoes. I like my potatoes with the skin on for almost every potato dish I make, so I just scrub them with my scotchbrite dish cleaner under cold running water.


In a bowl large enough to fit all the potatoes you're doing, put in cream and or milk. I had only about a cup of cream left in the quart, so I added another 1/2 cup of milk. Some of the chopped Thyme is present, salt and ground pepper. Whisk in half the minced garlic.


Slice the potatoes THIN! Thinner the better. Place them in the milk/cream garlic mix.


YAY! BACON! 4 slices (I like bacon, OK? LOL), 1/2 inch dice. Use as little or as much as you like but it adds HUGE flavor, and you'll see why in a bit.


Bacon into the hot pan. Tyler's recipe says cook till crisp, but if you don't like crispy bacon, don't! I know I don't, but you want to render most of the fat out, anyway. When done, take the bacon out with a slotted spoon and drain further on paper towels. You want the bacon grease in the pan.


Now for the cabbage. I used about 1/3 of the head, sliced then diced.


Add a tablespoon or two of butter to the bacon fat, and as soon as it melts, add the rest of the minced garlic. A quick stir and add the cabbage. Stir so all of it is coated with the bacon fat/butter and then cook till it has wilted and starts to smell yummy. Add the bacon back to the pan, salt and pepper to taste, stir and pull off the heat.



Now to assemble the gratin. Using your hands, layer the potato slices around your dish. A casserole works best, but I gave mine away, so all I have is this pie dish. It'll work. After a layer of potatoes, spread with 50/50 mix of Parmesan and Cheddar (or any other cheese you like). One more layer of potatoes then spread the cabbage/bacon mix on top


One more layer of potatoes on top then pour the cream mix onto it so it runs down inside and fills the dish 2/3ds to 3/4 of the way up. Cover with the rest of your cheese mix. Cover in foil and bake in a 450 degree oven for AT LEAST an hour, depending on how large a dish of it you make. After the first hour, remove the foil, check for doneness and put back in the oven for at least another 20 minutes.

I baked it on that cookie sheet as I thought it might run over. It did! Too much food for the dish!


Here's what it looked like when it came out. Frickin YUM!



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>

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Now to prep the Yorkshire pudding. This is such a simple dish, it isn't funny. It's also so simple I just took one photo of the prep. 5, Count em' FIVE ingredients! Eggs, milk, flour, salt and fat, either butter or the beef drippings or a combination of both. My and your Joy of Cooking cookbook recipe is as follows; (You DO have a Joy of Cooking, don't you? If not, GET ONE NOW!!! Go! Now. I'll wait.


.
.
Seriously.,


Go now.

OK...Got it? Good. Page 787

Preheat oven to 450.
Mix together 1 cup less one tablespoon of flour (why the missing tablespoon? I have no idea) and one Tsp salt.

In a larger bowl, whisk two large eggs and one cup of milk. Pour the dry into the wet and whisk thoroughly. No lumps. The traditional way to do this was actually in the pan you are roasting the meat in, but just prep this so it's ready when the meat is done and you can use the roasting pan while the meat rests. Otherwise, just use another pan. I used my other glass pie dish. Preheat the dish (VERY important) completely, pull it out and add 1/4 cup of beef drippings or 4 tablespoon of melted butter or a combination thereof to the dish and roll it around to spread it. Pour all the mix in to the dish at once and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 and bake till puffy and golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes more. Cut and serve immediately, as it will deflate but it is still delicious especially with brown gravy.


Here's the mix;



Here's what it looked like finished;


My mom used to make this for us regularly. If you use a square pan, like a brownie pan or your rectangular roasting pan, it will make all sorts of neat shapes and puffs and look completely different and random each and every time. Using this pie dish, it rose up around the edges! Cool, eh?

The roast out of the oven and resting in its rack;


I was looking for medium rare - about 120 degrees in the center

By the way, those towels under the pan are Australian and English bar towels! I have a bit of a collection. The red one is for Winfield Cigarettes, an Australian brand. The other is from Courage Best Bitter, an English beer. I have about 25 or so. They are unique and you will usually only see them in this country in an English style pub. I collected most of them during my travels with my work in Indy Car racing back in the 1990's.

ANYWAY......

I overdid it juuuuust a tad, but still fine. Probably by only 6 or 7 minutes.



I just used one of those packets of the Knorrs type sauces of brown gravy - the grocery store brand - instead of making fresh gravy. After all this, it was simpler. I also made a quick spicy mustard using equal parts Grey Poupon and Guldens and half the part horseradish. Yum. Add a tablespoon of Mayo to that for an excellent spread for the leftover roast beef sammies!

I hope these sorts of threads are interesting and a bit entertaining, anyway. As some of you may know (as I've been a DU'er approaching ten years now) I have been an Over-The_road trucker most of my adult life. I eat in restaurants ALL THE DAMNED TIME! So when I get home and I feel like going for it, I'll take 6 hours and cook myself a meal like this. I just moved into a house in November, after pretty much living in hotels and on the road for almost 2 years. It is wonderful to finally have my own kitchen again! Unfortunately, no one to share it with (ah well) but plenty of leftovers that will keep for 6 or 7 days, anyway.

I sure hope you enjoyed this.

Bon Appetit!
Posted by A HERETIC I AM | Sun Feb 3, 2013, 11:34 PM (55 replies)

Stuffed Chicken Breasts (pic heavy) Updated with videos



Basically a variation of Gordon Ramsay's Stuffed Chicken Legs.

Watch the quick, 2 minute vid first;



I changed it up by using a boneless, skinless breast, not the leg and thigh he used. I am also NOT using any frickin nuts in the stuffing! Nuts do not belong in food. Instead of a sausage base, the stuffing is stepped up Stove Top (I know, I know...sacrilege!) I also marinated the breast in white wine and basil. About 1 cup or so of wine and about 2 Tablespoons of dried basil. Fresh basil works perfectly well also. Just do a chiffonade. I let the basil steep like tea leaves for about 30 minutes before I added the butterfly'ed (It was a thick one, so I cut it so to butterfly it) and pounded out breast. Marinated while I prepared the stuffing, about 40 minutes or so (with beer breaks).

Here's the stuffing prep;


Finely minced Mushroom, Onion, Bell Pepper, Celery and about 4 garlic cloves.

Knife work slicing mushrooms;


First in a hot pan with a bit of olive oil is the mushrooms;



Sweat them out then add the rest.


When the veg is tender and the onions are translucent, I added some white wine - just enough to cover the bottom of the pan and make all of it wet.

In spite of its bad reputation, I like boxed wine because it keeps so well in the fridge.

Cooked until all the wine is gone. I seasoned with salt and pepper, added a bit of basil, some ground sage and a little garlic powder.

When done, set aside.


I made the bread portion of the stuffing with, as I said, Stove Top, but I used the wine I marinated the breast in instead of water and I added a little heavy cream as well. When it was done, I folded in the sauteed veg.

Now for the breast. It's been marinating for almost an hour by now (Hey! I took beer and bourbon breaks, OK?)


I pulled it out of the marinade and laid it on a plate, tilted slightly to drain.



Now the roll prep. Similar to what Ramsay did;

Aluminum foil, bacon, salt & pepper and olive oil.

Here it is ready for the breast;


The breast placed in the center. Flecks of basil are present.


Now for the stuffing.


And an added twist, some shredded Mozzarella on top.


Now to roll it. This isn't as easy as Ramsay makes it look, but take your time and it will happen. Lift up one edge of the foil to start, then the other side and tuck over the bacon strips. Complete it by rolling the first side away from you and make it as tight as you can.




Video of the assembly process. This video was recorded on Feb. 19. 2013 so it is not of the same meal;


Now poach it. Gentle boil, about 20 to 25 minutes should do it.


Put it in the fridge for about 30 minutes or so. On the long side is a bit better, as it will set up and hold its shape better for the next step.

Unwrapping.


Ready for the hot pan. Not as pretty as Ramsays, but completely serviceable. I really over stuffed it, and that was part of why I had the problems to follow.


Cook over medium high heat, and roll it just like he does in the video to cook the bacon.


Not bad, not bad at all. It wanted to fall apart, because as I said, I over stuffed it. Oh well!


I Heard Ramsay say on one of his programs that a French chef suggested that when cooking meat, you should let it rest for as long as you cooked it. While that isn't always practical, the longer the better. I let it rest for a good ten minutes.

Now to slice it.


Again, not bad. Not bad at all.


And a video of the above procedure;


I plated it over rice with steamed broccoli and steamed sweet potato with some Bearnaise sauce I had left over.


Sorry about the pics, they were taken with my phone. The white splotches on the veggies is butter!

It was delicious. Give something like this a try. It was a bit time consuming start to finish, but well worth it and I guarantee you won't regret it.

Bon Appetite!
Posted by A HERETIC I AM | Mon Jan 14, 2013, 12:18 AM (10 replies)
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