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Archive for the ‘Gonzo Chef’ Category

FROM THE GONZO CHEF

What better way to celebrate this wondrous day then to cook a woodchuck stew. I removed from my freezer three skinned woodchucks—one old and fat and two young ones. They were destroying a garden and a Browning .22 pistol did them in.

My they were difficult to skin; it was as if they did not want to lose their winter coat while the road kill turkey I gathered up a month before skinned quickly and was in the oven in a flash. It rated four YUM YUM YUM YUM

We have all sorts of woodchucks in Vermont. There is the Glitter Chuck, a two-legged woodchuck who sells pieces of land or houses to Wood Charles and goes to their pretentious cocktail parties. A Wood Charles usually comes to Vermont from New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. They often have a trust fund but no common sense, which all Vermont woodchucks have. Oh yes, there are native Vermonters that do not have any common sense and we call them Rednecks.

A two-legged Vermont Woodchuck used to be someone born in Vermont. Now the name also includes those from out of state who are so assimilated that they drink Coors or Bud. Woodchucks can drink more of it at a much lower cost than local craft beers. It is why those empty cans are scattered along our roadsides.

It’s a fact that a four-legged woodchuck, also known as a whistle pig or ground hog (Latin name, Marmota Monax), can eat a quarter of an acre of a hayfield in a summer. Don’t believe it? Ask farmer George Woodard or any dairy farmer. It’s real easy for a cow or horse to break a leg in a woodchuck hole. Woodchucks build homes in hayfields and have a mound of dirt around the entrance, where they sit on a summer afternoon on their hind legs and whistle. They also build a hidey hole nearby with no mound and it is their emergency entrance—a straight drop to their fallout shelter. This hidey hole is a booby trap for cows and horses, for they invariable break a leg when they step in one

Boots Cornell, a Vermonter who lived in Cabot and now resides in Woodchuck Heaven, or Hell (as far as we know, the four-legged variety needs a green card to join the club), shot with his Winchester .22 hornet over 14,000 woodchucks in his life and should have received a medal from the Farm Bureau or at least a mention in the Guiness book of records.

Also the board of Directors of this four legs society realized that fisher cats, after they finished off the porkies (porcupines to you flatlanders), found a taste for pussy cats and woodchucks. So the directors of the woodchuck society advised their members to live in rock piles or stone walls.

Let’s get back to the kitchen. I took my three frozen woodchucks, (they had lived in an abandoned culvert) filled the sink with water poured salt in and brined the critters for about four hours, then gave them a cold water bath and took the cleaver to the carcasses. The young ones only had meat on the legs; the large one had a meaty haunch. I sliced off the fat and searched carefully for any glands and cut them out, for they can make a woodchuck taste like a teenager’s smelly sneaker that won a first prize.

My guide for this stew is The Recipe for Chaos, (https://therecipeforchaos.wordpress.com/2010/02/02/savory-west-virginia-groundhog-stew/ ).

Chaos led me in the right direction. The beer was the most important part, so my nephew Steve, who works for the Alchemist,  brought me four Headys which I was going to dump in the stew. He told me his boss just shook his head and said the Heady would boil down and be bitter. He suggested New Castle Brown a svelt beer, creamy and imported from England. I bought a six pack, drank one. Hmnm, better in a stew I thought. I also noticed in the store several types of Woochuck Cidery’s special so I bought Winter Chill Woodchuck hard cider with 5% alcohol (vs 4.7 for New Castle’s beer). Took a deep swig of their cider, then finished off the bottle. Not bad and seemed right for a woodchuck stew.

The most important part of the West Virgina recipe is laying down a quarter inch of grape seed oil (damn, expensive!) in a large skillet, sifting seasoned flour (Dr. Kernel’s) onto the cut up chunks of woodchuck and browning them. Set them aside. Then add the beer and cider to the grape seed oil in the skillet(one bottle of each to start with…don’t be stingy!). Stirred it, glazed it and set it aside. Cut up the veggies but then I went native and before heating them I added to the recipe what any good Woodchcuck, would do—clean out the leftovers in the frig and spice cabinet.

I added to the Chaos recipe:

A bottle each of New Castle and Winter Chill Woodchuck Cider

A clump of Hen of the Woods mushrooms

Garlic given to me by the Food Shelf (well, I am Vermont Broke, why else would I be making woodchuck stew and eating roadkill?).

4 Bay Leafs.

1 shallot

Thyme, just a sprinkling

Celery salt—two dashes or so

Mexican oregano (gift of my daughter who owns Taqueria, a Mexican restaurant in London.)

Worscester Sauce Two jerks of the bottle.

Angostura Bitters. Give it a double dash.

Ground Chipotle flakes. Just so much.

Srirachi A swirl.

Liquid beef bouillon to vanquish a cloying sweetness,

Cross of an orange and lemon. A half cup of the juice.

Now I forgot to tell you I saved the woodchuck livers.

I did them in butter, tasted a small bit and it was okay but lets face it I HATE LIVER! But I’m a Depression child and so I clean my plate or else!, says the ghost of  my Mother. I had some port that led a wall flower’s life for about a year and poured some into the frying pan, Thought better and added enough to cover the violet-purplish black liver and transferred it to a closed covered casserole dish and slid it in the oven with the large pot of stew, set the oven on 215 degrees and the timer to four hours. I was, at this point, finishing off a can of Heady that I decided to put in another pot.

Went into the living room and watched the Iowa Caucus Circus. Drank another Heady chased with a Woodchuck Winter Chill hard cider and stumbled to bed. Woke early with a dry mouth and a clenched brain.

…Tasted the stew. Good. Tasted the liver. Hmmm. So I put a third of the liver and port sauce into the stew and kept the rest as a snack for any visitors. After such a welcoming, maybe they won’t come back.

The stew?? The woodchuck meat was firm but not gamy and the sauce a bit sweet so I added a cup of beef bouillon to give it a wry woodchucky bite. Also at this point I added a bit of Heady. The boiling had been completed so the Heady wouldn’t be bitter hoppy, but just as it always is. Outcome? Four YUM YUM YUM YUM! Here’s to Woodchuckery!

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Begin on a bi-polar high

Clean out the fridge and freezer of antiquated left overs:

Put a pot on stove, start her up.

Dump in chicken skin and slices of meat left over by butcher.

Add from your stash. Mine included:
Frozen peas
Corn
Cut beans and half a stalk of celery halved and cut thin
Half a onion diced and one quarter of a sweet red pepper torn into patches
Six olives (all I had) soaked in oil
Half a small zucchini found in the back of the fridge and on its last days
Those awful looking sliced mushrooms that have been hanging around too long, trying to mate with that small zucchini
A stalk of broccoli, cut up
A cheap wrapped slice of American cheese, checkerboard cut by me
Ground up Malabar pepper corns from Costco
About 8 ounces of vegetable bouillon
A blurp of chicken bouillon
Thai peanut satay sauce, about a teaspoon or to taste but for me, double that.
A squeeze of Sriracha sauce, then another for good luck. If you are nervy, add a couple of flakes of habanero dried peppers.

(Note, use any veggies you want and sure, be a sauce explorer.

Bring to boil, put on low for a few minutes, slurp away. I eat the soup standing up, straight from the pot if in a hurry I sit down and slurp from a red bowl and listen to NOAA weather report.

The next day use more left overs or whatever and mutate the soup into a beef or chicken soup or whatever you want. If I am out of any sort of bouillon I use a can of chicken soup or just plain water with a smattering collection of dried herbs drying too long in my cabinet. Add more veggies, plop in the meat, bring to boil, simmer, and after a while take the meat out and with a fork or knife, turn it into the pulled variety and return to its home, minus any bones.

I had a soup starting in this fashion and I transformed it into five personalities; vegetable, chicken, black bean and rice, beef stew and the last one was a fish stew of bi-polar low quality. I’m not bi-polar but for penance I ate it anyway.

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Egg Nog Amuse Bouche à la M. et Mme. Fellatio

 Call Christmas chaotic with mailing out scores of Lifetime of Vermont People books, how much isn’t in my damned checkbook while I am mailing presents of champagne and salmon that I cannot afford but what the hell, O quam cito transit gloria mundi” which means “Here today and gone tomorrow and so enjoy those trifles and share with your friends.”

So we celebrated with a small eqg nog party in my Colbyville garret, My assistant Kyle, the sous chef and dish washer, aided in the creation.

First we dug out the old ironstone potty—scrubbed clean of course— and poured in a quart of Half and Half (why not?), a pint of light cream, a bunch of egg yolks…no we didn’t count…some of Burke family’s maple syrup as we do live in Vermont, cinnamon, nutmeg and a chug-a-lug of dark Jamaican rum and a tumbler of Cognac. Added our hand whirled whipped cream made with Madagascar vanilla and served the whipped egg nog in Mason jars. …Soooo smooooth!!! …Those Mason jars hold more than a potent jolt and that was our first mistake for the spirit of the season whooshed in and goosed us onto the freezing deck to send to the big dipper bursts from roman candles. After all, it is also the winter solstice and the days grow longer and warmer, right? Yeahhhhh, right. The devil and the oil industry took futures on the weather and they won their hedge.

Later, after dinner of baked salmon and endive salad I created my Christmas special amuse bouche  dessert taught to me by my international friends the Fellatio’s.

There were some over-the-hill Harry and David pears my cousin from California sent that I cut up in a bowl and they bled out a glorious nectar. The egg nog was skimpy in the pot so we added in the pear ambrosia and then a scoop of a vanilla Häagen Dazs…and a little more Jamaican rum and why not a couple of fingers of cognac and some light cream. And the genius of it—a generous offering of Prosecco.

I had also bought a can of Cabot whipped cream and I instructed my guests on how to ingest this, errr, amuse bouche kick starter.

Take a gulp of egg nog-Häagen Dazs-pear Prosecco ambrosia but don’t swallow. Put the squirter on the top of Cabot whipped cream can between your lips open your mouth and press tip. (DON’T EVEN THINK WHAT YOU’RE THINKING! IMAGINE INSTEAD THOSE CHIPMUNKS OF SUMMER WHO SCAMPER FROM THE DECK INTO THE KITCHEN  AND DIVE INTO THE BIRD FEED BAG, SCRABBLE AROUND AND THOSE CHIPPIES COME OUT CHEEKS ALL BALLOONED OUT AND PITTY PATY THROUGH THE HOUSE, SPITTING OUT FINCH BIRD SEED IN DRAWERS, POCKET OF JACKETS, IN BEDS, SHOES AND WHEREVER THEY CAN DEPOSIT SEEDS THAT THEY WILL NEVER FIND. IMAGINE THAT AND NOTHING ELSE. IT IS CHRISTMAS AND THE WINTER SOLSTICE. MONSIEUR AND MADAME FELLATIO ARE ON A FACT-FINDING MISSION TO ITALY AND STAYING IN THE HOTEL EXCELSIOR IN VENICE IN SUITE 666. A DO NOT DISTURB SIGN HANGS ON THE DOOR KNOB…HMMMMM.)

With this caveat, let us continue…

WHOOSH!, A MOUTHFUL OF WHIPPED CREAM SPURTS INTO THE MOUTH, MARRIES WITH THE EGGNOG AND PUFFS OUT YOUR CHEEKS.  ROLL YOUR TONGUE AROUND, SAVOR AND SWALLOW…JUST HEAVENLY…HEAVENLY!

A memorable party, a delightful egg nog followed by fireworks, Scottish salmon, an endive salad and this palate tickler of a dessert:

…a mouthful of amuse bouche. It rates four

YUM! YUM! YUM! YUM!

and last but not least, some leftover fortune cookies, one that said

DON’T PUT IT OFF ANY LONGER!

.

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By Golly I have had weird adventures à la GONZO in the kitchen.  Was way behind with sending out books, then a vacation in Florida, back to Vermont the end of January to frozen pipes and then one of a previously frozen toe became infected and half of it wasdepedicated at Copley Hospital and I am housebound, crippled with something like a lotus foot, oh Lordy. You know, during the execution I asked the OP crew to keep the toe for me, which they didn’t like too much so I had them make a Photo.

Ugly little thing, sort of like an hors d’oeuvre you’d find lined up on little plates in a tapa bar in Barcelona, or spiced and fried amidst sliced pig ears in a Chinatown Szechuan restaurant on Mott Street.

I’m not into toe cannibalism. Want to see it?… I thought not.

So the other day I made a ratatouille with eggplant, fire smoked pepper skins, onion, zucchini, oil cured black olives, habanero flakes, and several squirts of Srirachi.  I made enough to last several days.

When I am bored with plain old ratatouille I rejuvenate it. Sometimes I add more veggies but this time I turned it into spaghetti sauce.  I had a bowl of hamburger mixed up with a peanut satay sauce, mushrooms and whatever lay around. Cooked and frozen.

Squirreled around in the freezer, grabbed the bowl and mixed it in with the ratatouille. Well, it was early morning and I’m not very cognizant of anything. The test taste—just a spoonful. Hmmm.

Damned sweetest spaghetti sauce I ever tasted…UNHHH…Oh GOD! I HAD SOME HARRY AND DAVID PEARS FROM OREGON THAT HAD GONE PAST PRIME SO I MASHED AND FROZE THEM TO BECOME, AT A LATER DATE, A SORBET AND I THOUGHT IT WAS THE FROZEN HAMBURGER MIXED WITH MUSHROOM, ZUCCHINI AND PEANUT SATAY SAUCE!!! NOT!!! I HAD POURED THE MASHED PEARS INTO THE RATATOUILLE!

There was a good chunk of the mashed pears still frozen in the saucepan and I scooped it out, dunked it in water, and dropped it in a small bowl. Next morning it was perched on my grapenut flakes with a seeding of Wyman blueberries. It was smacking good.

Back to the Ratatouille-mashed pear spaghetti sauce. What the hell, now I had concocted a ratatouille blessed with frozen gourmet mashed pears so I might as well continue and fired up the gas stove, stirred away and put the tasting spoon to use. Too sweet. Out come the achiote packet, the habanero flakes, some basil and more Sriracha. Slowly it came around. Left it for a couple of hours, cooled it, tasted it…A ying and yang (yes that’s the right word) spaghetti sauce, sweet, almost fragrant, but hot, the habanero giving it an early boca freshening, I almost felt it could stand some coconut and more peanut satay yes I did.

But I didn’t and one of the great mysteries of GONZO cooking is whether coconut and more peanut satay sauce would have made it heavenly or a down-the-grinder failure.

If you dare copy my pear spaghetti sauce, you don’t have to use Harry and David pears that are a variety of Comice. (If you learn too much about how Harry and David business was skinned, you might get upset). Boscs will do, just let them soften and bruise, then mash ‘em.

Oh, I forgot. I sprinkled cinnamon on my mashed pears before I froze them.

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A HOLY GOD GOOD GONZO COCKTAIL

This is what I drank when working on the ratatouille-pear spaghetti sauce.

In a small mason jar or whatever you use, drop in some ice and fill up half way with Polar orange diet drink with 10% orange pulp.

Top off with Myer’s Jamaican dark rum.

Add a slice of lemon, then a dash of Pechnaud Aromatic Bitters

Mix with your finger and sip and gulp!  Might be good in the summer with tonic soda.

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FROM THE GONZO CHEF:

Apple Pie à la Bridge on the River Kwai

It’s that time of year and after the second frost I pick the Macs and Braeburns, skin them with my old red Rube Goldberg peeler. Out comes my dinged Chinese cleaver and I slice the flesh neat. The Joy of Cooking is at my side to make sure I have some sense of political correctness in assembling this pie.

I’m a barehanded Gonzo. First cinnamon is dusted like a sand storm on the apples, followed by eight twirls of the nutmeg mill. Kate’s butter (I splurged), I cut up in small chunks and mix it in. Then I added hot little cinnamon candies I bought at the Vermont Country Store when I was passing through. They are the size of a blueberry.

Hey, that’s a good idea! I go in the freezer, grab a handful of blueberries and dump them in and do another turn over. . I’m hand diving in the bowl, turning over the apples and all those spices, and start licking my fingers. Hmm, it needs three chunks of pineapple and I just happen to have them hidden in the bottom of the freezer.

HMMM…GOOD!

Well, I only made one other apple pie in my life and it was mostly a failure so to play it safe I bought the crust, rolled it out on the counter, let it warm up, and put half of it in a nine inch aluminum pie pan. I had heated the oven up to 450 and put the crust and pan in the oven to stiffen it so it won’t get soggy from all the juices. You know, next time I will make my own crust. I just heard of a woman who used vodka to give her crust a little special oomph.

Time for a drink of bourbon made with the juice from the pie, ice and a cherry. Lots of it. YUM! Jim Beam is a friend of mine.

A good hit on this sort of old fashioned kicks my imagination into gear. Something is missing. THAT’S IT!  My memory goes back to the apple sauce I make with habanero flakes my daughter sends me from London, England. Dodie and Fred’s Taqueria near Portobello is the best Mexican restaurant in London.

So out comes the tin with the habanero flakes. I dump a bunch in the palm of hand, take a pinch and sprinkle and mix it. Give it a taste. Hmmm. Another pinch, this one bigger and I turn over the mixture.

I scurried through the cupboard and found some dried currants in a bag. Dumped them all in. Then I took very Black B no-name maple syrup from Cold Hollow Cider Mill and did a couple of dozy dos with the bottle over the pie mix. Then a couple more.  Another turnover. Dumped in two tablespoons of cornstarch, a couple of shakes from the vanilla bottle.

Then with a dishtowel I covered the bowl and slid it in the refrigerator to hang out overnight with my habanero and chipotle applesauce and that big saucepan of soup-stew that turned out awful. I used blue cheese (I call it Roquefort). Blue cheese should be eaten only with blue cheese. Some like it on steak but they have forked tongues.

Twenty-four hours later I pulled out the pie pan, removed the dishcloth covering and did an amuse-bouche tasting. DAMN! A bit too biting with Habanero. I can take it but others might not. Well…nothing wrong with that. In the oven at 450 for 10 minutes, timed with my I Phone, than 35 minutes at 350. And I let it cool down in the oven.

Bought a half-gallon of Blue Bunny vanilla ice cream made in Iowa. It costs $3.99, less than half of Hagen Daz or Ben and Jerry’s and made with eggs, cream, vanilla, milk and skim milk, which gives it an incredible lightness of being.  Ice cream idiots from hot states don’t bloat themselves with high butterfat content from Jersey cows.

I taste the pie. I buttered and sprinkled milk and brown sugar on the crust and it was good and true said my cooking partner Ernest, who ate a bland pie on the Big Two Hearted River.

Oh dear, quite a Habanero bite. I circumcise out a triangle, dump on the ice cream and taste. PERFECT! The ice cream dulls just enough of the Habanero overload.

BUT…but…is this pie darkly dyed by blueberries and no grade black maple syrup… Did I make… a Bridge On the River Kwai pie, more suitable for Colonel Saito’s table?

WHAT HAVE I…DONE?  I pick up the pie and lurch towards the disposal and then it grabs me.

Hey, what this pie needs the next time is a couple of slugs of dark Jamaican rum, And a froth of egg nog instead of ice cream!

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