Yeah, Thanksgiving is tomorrow and I’m ready to quit.

Yesterday I spent some time with my nieces. About four hours. We talked about a lot of stuff that has happened and basically caught up on where we were in life. Carrie, my older niece is married to Raj, a  computer wiz and she’s still teaching Spanish in school. Michelle is living in her father’s house, he’s moved to South Carolina or North Carolina, and she stays there with her sons David and Will, more on them later. David has a fraternal twin, he’s hospitalized. The boys reinforced my desire never to have children. Yep, a lot of you parents can’t grasp that because after you laid eyes on your offspring you were in unconditional love. David is at that gawky age, he just got his learner’s permit and is dealing with teen-aged angst about women his age. Will is perpetual motion.  The thing was I expected the visit to last maybe an hour tops but it ran a tad long. What it did was cut into turkey prep time. That was today. The breast had thawed since Saturday and I got the veg and herbage for stuffing. Today I prepped everything using the food processor, completely ignoring all of those knife skills I learned in school. The real fun came in removing the bone from the breast. Back inn the day when it was part of  my job in a kitchen I could do a chicken breast in like. two minutes. I watched a chef I worked under do a turkey in about five minutes. It took me a half hour to debone the freaking breast. Of course I didn’t have a proper filet knife or a whole bunch of room on a stainless steel prep table. What I did have was a dangerous cutting board that I bought during my Chinese/Japanese cooking phase. Extensive sterilization with boiling water caused it to bow. It helped today because the bow in the board allowed me to spin the board around and work on opposite sides of the breast. I multitasked making stuffing while I was cleaning the meat off. The upside was while I did it I heard and felt satisfying touch of knife on bone. The carcass got browned and hot tubbed with herbs and veg in turkey stock. After a couple hours it was strained through multiple layers of cheese cloth. Right now as I’m posting, I’m thinking about how much cleaning the Big Motherhumping Meat Flattener that a buddy of mine turned in his woodshop. It looks like a cricket bat on steroids. I have to be careful because I really wiped out a piece of meat when I over-zealously whacked it. It’ll be a gentle tap. I’ll stuff it and truss it later tonight when my back feels better. Tomorrow in the oven on a platform of veggies with a remote thermometer and a timer as a back-up. Gravy will be easy.  One hint, allow the turkey air dry in the refrigerator with nothing nearby. You’ll get nice crispy skin without having to slather the bird with excessive oil or butter. Just saying.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving. My contrary nature really wants to aim you to Yahoo where a anti-Thanksgiving is given by the great British actor Gary Oldman.

For more go to on Sunday.

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Nostalgia long past

When I was a kid my family was divided. My mother didn’t exactly get along with my father’s relatives and vice versa. This was due to the fact they were brought up in closely knit families and you had to earn your way in. Thanksgiving was usually at my Aunt Sophie’s or at our apartment. If my father was uncomfortable or resentful that he couldn’t be with his family for the holiday, he never showed it.  After a  while my father and my Uncle Stanley built a two family and moved int together. It didn’t last, there was tension. Maybe my mother contributed or my father and uncle discovered closeness wasn’t all that good of an idea. We moved out. Now during this my mother was getting sick. Breast cancer, followed by a single mastectomy followed by radiation and chemo. On Father’s Day in 1960, my mother died. All of my adult female relatives,both sides, were with her, they tossed me out. I lost my faith that day. Thanksgiving was moved to my father’s relatives. Just my Uncle Stanley and Aunt Mary and their daughters, my Aunt Ann and Dad my sister and me. It was family. We lived near them so it made sense to go there. We eventually wound up having dinner there every night. The family kind  of fell  apart, I went into the service and whole bunch of other minor fiddley things happened. My aunt and uncle died, my father died and that pretty much was it. My sister married and tried at Thanksgiving but really wasn’t equipped to handle the task. Frequently her battleship plans overloaded her rowboat abilities. Her in-laws took over and I was happy to be alone. She and her husband divorced. She moved out and I cooked Thanksgiving for by brother-in-law’s relatives. He remarried and I moved out. By that time Thanksgiving was a work day. I did it for a long time. Cooking a crapload of turkeys and dressing for people who didn’t want to do it or spending the day and part of the night in bars that catered to hospitality workers who usually worked holidays. I moved back to my hometown and in the process of looking for an apartment my ex-brother-in-law steered me to my sister, She had an extra bedroom, I helped out on rent and I hit it off with her boyfriend. We split duties for Thanksgiving. They broke up. She found another boyfriend who had a house so I mooched along. We did Thanksgiving for four years including one when she’d won a 35 pound turkey in a raffle. It was a buffet attended by every relative that could be coerced into coming. Every one of them  left with a doggie bag the size of grocery bag. We had turkey soup for a month. She and the boyfriend broke up. Her ex had an apartment to rent. She hooked up with the prior boyfriend. They wrangled over marriage and split up after one Thanksgiving at his house. She met and married the Murph. We had a couple of Thanksgivings together, they were family, but not the same. Six years ago in January she died. Murph has been going to his sisters’ houses and I either worked or stayed home with a TV dinner. Big comedown for a cook, right? Nope. This year he’s going to his nieces for the big day. His sister is a real smart mom. Teach the kid and hand it off to them. Me, a turkey breast is lurking in the freezer. It’s coming out Saturday. After a thaw it’ll be skinned, boned, butterflied. I have a stuffing that has been working its way through my brain since I decided on the turkey breast. I’ve been systematically been picking up the items I need. Yesterday was a sourdough loaf. Saturday mushrooms and carrots and celery for use as a platform for the turkey. I’m waiting.

All of this week one of the questions that has been popping up is “Where were you on November 22, 1963?”. I was in Mr. Halpin’s Biology class at Pulaski Senior High School. It was around one in the afternoon when he was called to the door.  After a short conversation he went into the storage room behind the front of the class and took out a radio. He plugged it in, turned it on and tuned to a news station. The president had been shot in Dallas Texas. I remember a cute girl I had a crush on but went out with the drum major broke down sobbing. It was contagious. The boys kept a brave face but they were shell-shocked. It was that event they had heard about from their father and uncles about, December 7th . Nothing was going to be the same.  No matter what we thought about him before he got elected,  he was our president. Not some old man our parents looked up to, our fucking president and somebody shot him! Every boy had some kind of crush on his wife and wanted to be able to handle pressure with the grace he did. The girls had their crushes and wished their closets could be filled with high fashion clothes. We all looked at the potential, his dreams and wishes for this country. The politically astute among us saw them as lost during the term of his successor. The weekend tested our tolerance for what was determined as appropriate mourning. It was unseemly to play rock and roll  records during that weekend. Saturday and Sunday brought more shocks. The killer was a nobody with a mail-order rifle. He denied everything. Sunday he was shot and killed by a small-time club owner/ police groupie who later was revealed to have connections to organized crime. Kind of  lost in all of this was J.D. Tippet the police officer that Oswald shot. The three were all buried the same week, one with an eternal flame and love of his country, one with full police honors and one with news reporters as pall bearers. It’s been fifty years. JFK has drifted into legend and demystified, JFK/Oswald/Ruby have become a cottage industry for conspiracy freaks and writers. J.D. Tippet is still remembered by his wife. Since then we all watched hijackers fly  aircraft into the World Trade Center and the world become less safe and more uncomfortably secure at the same time. We press on.

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Another recipe that came up vis a vis Veteran’s Day

We need to remember. I should have posted this Monday

We need to remember. I should have posted this Monday

During WWI and WWII meat was scarce. A lot of Old Country recipes made their way into the meal rotation. With Advent coming up and more people leaning toward vegetarian diets I thought that it was time to dust off this chestnut from my grandmother’s and mother’s book, potato pancakes. We’re going for two different types. One tat’s good for using leftover mashed and making them from  potatoes. The first one uses leftover mashed and I semi-borrowed from Sandra Lee’s Semi-Homemade. Okay let’s go.

You’re going to need:

2 C mashed potatoes

I/4 C shredded cheese (mozzarella, cheddar)

1/2 C bread crumbs



vegetable oil

Combine the potatoes and cheese. Season  bread crumbs with salt and pepper. Make 1/4 C portions of potato mixture.  Roll into balls, place in bread crumbs. Roll the balls in bread crumbs. When covered flatten to 1/2 inch thick  and lightly brown in oil.

The Old Fashioned Way

You’re going to need either a food processor with a shredder blade or a box grater.

A  large bowl

3 lbs. potatoes

1 extra large egg

1/2 C bread crumbs

2 or 3 T flour

vegetable oil

Food Processor

Put in the shredding blade and run the potatoes through. Take 3/4 out and add to large bowl. Put in mixing slashing blade. Add egg, bread crumbs. Pulse until thoroughly reduced. Add to shredded potatoes. If the mixture is too soupy add flour to tighten it up. Let it sit for five, ten minutes. If t needs more flour add it. Heat about a 1/2 inch oil in a heavy skillet. Drop in large spoonful’s. When the edges get crisp turn over.

Box Grater

Shred 2 lbs. on the coarse side of the grater. The rest on the fine side. Combine. Add egg, bread crumbs. Combine. Let sit.  If it begins to look too loose add flour in increments. Heat oil in heavy skillet. Fry in large spoonfuls until crispy on the edges turn.

I’ve added grated parm to the mix but mom a and gramma wouldn’t.


A red rose on Veteran's Day still hanging in.

A red rose on Veteran’s Day still hanging in.

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Winter goodies.

Okay, you know you have it stashed in the cabinet over the sink. Not the joint you’ve saved from the last party but a box of instant oatmeal. You bought it last winter when you swore you were going to eat healthy. It worked its way to the back of the cabinet and you’ve forgotten about it. I know the feeling. I got  a box of instant oatmeal and after the first bowl started having flashbacks to when my mother made oatmeal. A gray, kinda solid mass in a bowl. I smothered it in butter and salt and pepper. Along the way  I worked in a restaurant in Hartford that had Sunday brunch. I had to make oatmeal, with apples driving my loathing farther into my soul. Okay, today I’m on Nutrisystem. They sent me the first order without my input. I got a bunch of oatmeal, with pancake mix. They both used skim milk and I made pancakes. For all of you out there here’s a recipe that works and tastes good.

You’re going to need:

1/2 C AP flour

1/2 C instant or quick cook oatmeal (if you have a variety pack mix them up)

! T white sugar (I use Stevia)

1 t baking powder

1/2 t baking soda

1/2 t salt

2 T vegetable oil

3/4 C   buttermilk (See below)

1 t vanilla extract

1/2 t cinnamon

Okay, here’s the hard part, put everything into  the food processor and blend. If you don’t have a processor big enough to do the job you can do it in two bowls. In one bowl mix the dry ingredients and in the other the wet. Combine with a whisk. A good idea is to do this the night before to allow the oatmeal to hydrate. Pour 1/4 cup portions on lightly greased griddle or non=stick skillet.  When little holes appear in the cooking cakes flip them.

If you don’t have buttermilk, combine 1C milk with 1T lemon juice or white vinegar. The other option is to buy dry buttermilk. It has to be stored in the fridge and is useful for fried chicken.

Enjoy, now I go back to waiting on eggplant in the oven.

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I stole this from dead relatives who kept it secret from me, Why? Dunno.

I’m sorry I’m late. Stayed up late last night watching the first disk in the Emma Peel Avengers mega set. The landlord showed for the semi/tri monthly spray which consisted of hunting down my cat and getting her into her carrier. The car didn’t start. Got a jump. Went to  the dealer, bought a new one and went shopping. The market was filled with seniors and I went nuts. I knew I had to post this and load a new toy my Kindle. So llet’s  get to it. You’ll need:


A paper bag

A Dutch oven  or a pan that is oven-proof


1 Chicken cut into 8 parts or use 8 legs or thighs or 4 whole breasts cut in half

2 C AP flour

11/2 t salt

2 t black or white pepper

3 T paprika (Hungarian or sweet)

1 1/2 t garlic powder

1 small onion, halved and sliced north to south

4 C chicken stock or broth

4 T oil


1) Combine flour, salt, pepper, paprika  and garlic powder in bag. Reserve 1 /4 C.

2) Put chicken in the bag and shake. Remove, let sit 10 min. while you heat oil in Dutch oven.

3) Add chicken back to bag and coat again.

4) Brown 4 pieces at a time on all sides.

5) Remove chicken and sauté onion until translucent.

6)  Add reserved flour mixture until you have a medium roux.

7) Whisk in stock, bring to boil,  reduce to simmer.

8) Add chicken, finish on stove top or 300 degree oven.

9) Serve over noodle or with dumplings.

Okay, this recipe is open to modification, You can  add mushrooms, green or red peppers. You can use pork or veal without too much hassle.  Beef you’ll have to change the stock. I intentionally left out wine which shows up in a lot of recipes because my aunt didn’t use any and I don’t have any. So that’s up to you.

Enjoy. See you next week.

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A Work In Progress, Literally.

Today I’m going semi-vegetarian. My godfather’s family came from Naples. His mother liked me and thought I had potential as an Italian cook. She taught me Sunday gravy or red sauce. It was complicated and took all day but it was worth it. The thing she made for me and taught me that I loved most was her take on eggplant parmigiana. It isn’t breaded , deep fried and smothered in sauce and goopy cheese. It’s simple and tastes good. You can rig the recipe to fit your needs. This is what I used and how I made it today:

You’ll need:

Eggplant, I used one that weighed in at two pounds. The smaller ones were near $4 a pound. The large ones wer$1.99. It’s a no brainer.

Roma tomatoes, I bought eight each about four inches tall and maybe three inches around the bottom.

Garlic, as much as you can stand. Eggplant is served in tomato and stew=like environs because it hasn’t got a lot of flavor of its  own,

Pine nuts, a small bottle.

Dried oregano, basil to taste

Olive oil

Salt, pepper

Anchovies, my call. I’ll explain at the end.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. If you want peel the tomatoes, I didn’t I’m lazy and have done too many times. Anyway I need the fiber and my godfather’s mother didn’t. Cut them in half length-wise. Roast them in the oven until almost burned, about twenty minutes. Take them out and let them cool. I roasted in my go-to pans, disposable aluminum cake pans with a light coat of olive oil. Now, the eggplant, there is a school of thought that says you have to salt the eggplant to leech out the bitterness. I don’t think so. As bland as it is you have to leave its own taste. Don’t peel it. It’ll lose structure. Slice it into about half inch slices. Coat a sheet pan with olive oil. Lay the slice out on the pan and turn it over so it’s got oil on both sides.  Chop the cooled tomatoes. Drain through a strainer to get rid of extra liquid. Mix in chopped garlic, olive oil, herbs and salt and pepper. Spread over the eggplant, add the pine nuts. Cook in the 400 degree oven checking every ten minutes or so. My oven isn’t all that trusty so baked items are checked often. You’ll know it’s done when it looks a bit dry. Sprinkle with grated cheese, not the sawdust you get in a bottle, spring for a small piece of parm or romano if you’re going to serve it out of the oven.

If  you let it cool, t’s good as a sandwich with mozzarella on a hoagie roll. Or on rye. The anchovies, I watched a NYT video by Melissa Clarke on Anchovies 101. I’m one of those people who use them in red sauce and on pizza. Actually, I like them so before I tossed the tomatoes on the eggplant I added about three anchovies to them. I say about because the bottle in the refrigerator is packed in olive oil and it was pretty much congealed.

Try it out. Enjoy.

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It’s Football Season, Might As Well Make Chili Satisfy the Troops and Have Something In the Freezer

First, a story. My father liked chili. Not flamethrower hot Texas chili but the mild generic diner kind. My mother as I might have mentioned before wasn’t a superstar cook. She had recipes but most of what we ate was ordinary. That was until one day she found a recipe for chili on the back of a Campbell’s soup can. It was simple, a pound of hamburger, a can of Campbell’s tomato soup, water, chili powder and kidney beans. It sucked. At ten I began to try to change it.  After my mother died, I took over chili making duties. I made two batches, one kind of mundane for dad who enjoyed it and heat seeking chili for myself. Well,  as time went on the recipe was modified and I  came up with a personal favorite. Also I became an aficionado of chili recipes. My father discovered toasting cumin seeds and crushing them. It came out of a book by H. Allen Smith a newsman and storyteller extraordinaire. He wrote of the Terlingua, Texas chili cook-off. The story inspired me. The recipe is basically simple. There is one semi-expensive part, but it lasts forever, That’s making a general use chili powder. You make it once and store it and you can use it  to make the chili of your choice.

Okay, let’s  make chili powder. This type has no paprika which is an ingredient in a lot f chili powders to make them red and add some minor heat. The major part of chili powder is the peppers. You might have to hunt them up in the market or on-line a little research on the hotness of the peppers will help. If your market carries them they’ll have a gradated scale on the label telling you how hot they are. Hint: Habanero and Ghost chilies should be avoided unless you like being investigated for war crimes. Cascabel are nice and so are Arbols they’re mid range and you can make it hotter. To make the powder:

2.25 oz garlic powder

2.25 oz onion powder

.25 oz oregano (Italian is okay and available, Mexican is probably more authentic but it’s an acquired taste)

1  T kitchen salt

1 T black pepper

Dried chili peppers, your choice, toasted in a dry skillet and finely ground.

Okay here’s the hard part,  combine all of the ingredients and store in an air-tight container.

The chili:

2 pounds coarsely chopped beef

1/2 Cup diced onion

1 T vegetable oil

1 C dried beans or 1 can kidney, black or pinto beans rinsed

Beef stock or broth

5 T chili powder

1 small bag Fritos

Heat the oil and add the onion. When it begins to get translucent  add beef and  brown. Cover with beef stock, add chili powder and beans. If you’re using dried beans, pick and rinse them. Let them sit in water overnight. Drain, cover with unsalted water and cook until al dente. If you need more heat get a couple jalapenos, remove the ribs and seeds and brown with the onion. The Fritos, cut a teeny slit in the top of the bag and beat the bejeezus out of it until the chips are crushed. This’ll thicken up the chili. If you can find masa harina, make a slurry with beef stock and let it thicken the chili. If you want you can add a bottle or two of beer to the mix but I’m sober and don’t trust myself.

If you don’t want beef, try chicken. Get 3 pounds of thighs bone-in. Add the oil to a pot, brown the thighs in batches. Let them cool,  pull off meat and skin. Drain off all but a tablespoon of the chicken fat and cook the onions add chicken stock and deglaze the pot. Add the chili powder and the meat, let them simmer. Do the beans the same way add them. Use some of the chicken fat to  make a roux and whisk it in a little bit at a time.

Any meat is possible as are vegetarian chilies but I stick with beef and chicken. When the chili is done let it cool and refrigerate it. Any fat will come to the surface and you can dispose of it. It freezes well and will keep in the freezer six months. Serve it with the condiments of your choice but mine are oyster crackers.

Enjoy and have a nice week.


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I Know It’s Close To Thanksgiving, But Bear With Me. It’ll Be Worth It.

In another life I worked in kitchens. Along the way I wound up a steak house chain that had a lunch buffet. Cold cut platters and various soups and stews constructed out of leftovers dominated until we got an influx, no a g****** flood of ground meat. Beef, turkey and pork, ten pound bags of it. My job, feed it to the buffet customers. It started with regular rectangular meatloaf and move into new territories. I figured, stuff it. The process was easy, mix up the meat, lay it out on a parchment lined cookie sheet add a stuffing (cheese, mushrooms and onions etc.) Beef was easy, pork worked as a filler but turkey was  a PITA. I tried stuffing, you know bread, onions, celery and seasonings but there wasn’t enough fat in the meat to keep from winding up with a meat roll wrapped around a kind of solid mass of bread. One night the chef had come into a bunch of boneless chicken breasts. We had a crapload of spinach and he and I decided on Chicken Florentine. We both knew it usually was done with veal or turkey. The chicken sold. And I got an idea how to get rid of ten pound bags of ground turkey in the freezer. It got pulled out to thaw and I started the filling. Spinach, onions, grated cheese and seasonings. The turkey was mixed with finely chopped onion and celery with eggs and seasonings. If you think I spent my time at the altar of Martha, you’re wrong. We had an appliance called a buffalo chopper. It was a rotating bowl that passed through a rotating blade. It was one of those things that didn’t work if you put it together wrong or tried to run too large chunks through it. That being said it could take five pounds of vegetation and fine dice really fine.  So let’s get started. Last time I escorted you through your supermarket, that was condescending of me. You know where you shop. First, the hardware:

A food processor

A roll of parchment paper, the store brand will do

A sheet pan with edges

A medium saucepan

A large bowl

Assorted measuring cups and spoons with stirrers and scrapers

The soft stuff

One and a half pounds of boneless turkey thighs, or the same amount of ground turkey.

1 large onion

1 egg beaten

4 ribs of celery

2 bags spinach

3 slices of stale white bread

1 and a half Tsp. AP flour

1 and a half Tsp. butter

Half cup of grated parmesan cheese

One and a quarter plus quarter cup milk

One unflavored box of gelatin

The method. Let’s get started.

Pre heat your oven to 350 degrees. Take the turkey thighs and cut them into 2 inch pieces. Put them on a plate and put it in the freezer. If you’ve got ground turkey skip the first step, just add it to the bowl. Cut the onion and put it in the food processor. Zap the onion until it’s in small pieces. Do the same to the celery. add to the bowl. The turkey should be firm but not frozen when you put it in the processor. Pulse it until it’s a bit coarse. Add to bowl. Put the bread in the processor, pulse until in little pieces. Add the quarter cup of milk,pulse and add to bowl. Bloom a package of gelatin and add. Add your favorite seasonings and then a pinch more. Mix everything gently, don’t mush it up. Refrigerate.

Zap the spinach in a bowl. Let it cool. In a the saucepan melt the butter. When it just begins to foam add the flour. Whisk it in and let it cook. Don’t let it get too light brown. Add the milk and whisk until smooth. Add the cheese and stir. Add the spinach. Remove from heat and let cool.

Get the meat mix out of the refrigerator. Line the sheet pan with parchment. Leave about two or three inches over the barrow side. Press the meat mix onto the pan. You don’t want it too thick because it gets hard to roll up. Spread the spinach mix on the meat mix. Use the loose end of the paper to roll up the meatloaf. Slip it off and put another sheet onto the sheet pan. Transfer the meatloaf to the pan. Put in the oven and take it out when it has an internal temp of 160 degrees.

I talk about internal temp. You should add an instant read thermometer to your tool kit. It keeps you from having medium rare chicken at your next dinner and you can avoid roasts running into well–done land.

A hint if you really want to impress, hard cook three or for eggs and roll inside the meat loaf. As for a sauce a nice white cheese sauce k like you used to  bind the spinach is nice.

Next week, chili. I’m purging the freezer and so far this week have sampled three different attempts I’ve mad at chili. This one might take some time to make, but if you’ve read today’s recipe you’ve got a start.

See you in the  funnies.

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The Blog That Bombed And A Substitute That’s Hopefully Better

Okay, a serial story didn’t work. All I’ve got left is cooking. I did for fifteen years, mostly as a line cook or sous chef. What I want to offer you are recipes that are semi-healthy and won’t kill you in preparation (maybe a little). Today we’re going to try stuffed cabbage. Jenny Hansen was looking for Polish recipes and I had one and gave it to her in a compact form. Here’s the long form, starting at the grocery store.

We’re going to start in produce. First, we need a cabbage. The common garden variety will do. Pick one about the size of a volley ball or a bit larger. If it has dark outside leaves, great. We’ll need a medium onion. (A note, check the frozen food section for diced frozen onions.)

Okay, on to the meat department. If you have an in-house butcher (good luck) beautiful. Have him coarse grind a pound and half each of pork and veal and a pound of beef (80%)’ If you’re like the rest of us you’ll have to settle for meatloaf mix. It’s a combination pork, veal and beef but closer to 1 to1 to 1 ratio. You’ll need two and a half pounds usually two packages.

We’ll need rice. White or brown is your choice. If your rice cooking skills aren’t that great, try Minute Rice.

We’ll stop in the soup aisle and pick up a sixteen ounce container of chicken stock. Yeah, there’s broth, but broth is made from boiling the crap out of meat with vegetables in water. Stock is made from bones and meat with veggies and seasonings. The bones add gelatin which give a better mouth feel.

You’ll need two eggs, so if you don’t have any, pick up six.

Now a stop in that aisle that you avoid because you really don’t know what’s in it. The aisle that has baking supplies and kitchen gadgets. Two thing, okay, three. Two packages of aluminum roasting pans about medium, you’ll need four but they come in packs of three. And you’ll need a steamer basket, one of those flower-looking things that fits inside a pot. It you’ve got a pasta pot with a strainer you can pull out ignore the last item.

The last item is in the Italian foods section, a tube of tomato paste. Too often you buy a can of tomato paste. It’s small and harmless but most recipes only need a tablespoon and the rest turns black and takes over the bottom shelf of your refrigerator.

You’re home. Pour yourself a nice glass of wine or Jack Daniels and let’s get started. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Get your pasta pot or largest soup pot with water in it on a back burner. If you bought or have a steamer basket take out the stemmy thing in the middle, it gets in the way. You’re going to need about a cup of cooked rice, so follow the instructions on the package. One thing though, add a little less water than needed the rice will absorb liquid in cooking. Now comes the dangerous part. Grasp your cabbage lovingly and take a small sharp knife and cut out the core. It won’t scream, much. Place it in the large pot and cover. You’re going to have to  pay attention to the water in the bottom of the pot, you don’t want it to boil out.

For those of you who follow Martha, dice the onion. If you bought the frozen onions add about three quarters of a cup to a large bowl. Add the meat. Salt and pepper the meat to your taste then add a bit more. We tend to underseason when we prep meals and leave it to the diners to empty the salt shaker all over our food. Crack in two eggs. Mix gently, you don’t want to mush everything together. The rice should be done about now. Let it cool a bit and add it to the meat mix. Again, gently combine. Refrigerate.

Now, the cabbage. It should be  steaming now. Take the pot off the heat and after removing the lid try to loosen some of the leaves. If it gets to be too much of a pain in the a** get help. That’s what kids, husbands, boyfriends and significant others are for.  This might take a while but as the leaves come loose put them on a cookie sheet to cool.

Still with me? Now comes the fun. Set up the roasting pans,  doubling them for stability.  Take a cup of stock and a cup of water with a squeeze of tomato paste and heat it, nuke it or not. Divide the liquid between the two pans. By now you’ve noticed a knobby little bit of cabbage that’s left from the steaming, chop it up and divide it between the two pans.

Now set up your work station. Leaves on one side meat in front and empty roasting pans on the other. Go with your dominant hand. Take a leaf of cabbage place it in front of you where it looks like a cup. Trim any veins that look tough with a paring knife. Make a small, reasonably sized ball of the meat mixture. Put it into the leaf. Fold up the bottom left and right sides and top and place it seam side down in the pan. Repeat until done with breathers for beverages. When both pans are filled, fill half-way with stock water combination. Cover with foil. Cook for forty five to fifty minutes or to an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Let them rest a bit.

If you’ve got any questions ask, I’ll try to give my best answer. Suggestion for recipes are welcome. All of the celebrity chefs have a sign-off catchphrase, mine will be “Keep your fingers out from under the knife blade.” Catchy, huh?

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Part III: Mark confronts Sam, Mark begins to see a pattern, a voice from his past whispers in his ear


More on Sam: He’s a womanizer. He’s indiscreet and basically has the common sense of a turtle, to quote Judge Judy. His last girlfriend was only partially divorced and her husband was going to use Sam as lever to possibly decrease any money his future ex-wife might get. Because he’s a tad slow, he knows that his parents will toss him out on his ass. Will is a no-go. Shelly is wounded enough to recognize a kindred spirit or someone who appears to be one.

Robin has some pull over Mark. He knows how desperate she can get. He also knows that when she first started getting worse she looked outside conventional medicine and was led into some iffy places. Faith healers, mechanical devices and whatnot.  Mark has tried to keep things close to reality. Lately she’s had that “go  back to church” look in her eyes. He doesn’t mind going but he came to catholicity late in life and still had the kind of distrust that Protestants have of Catholics with all their ceremony. The “humanizing” of the church has helped but he’s originally from the south with tent revivals and faith healers. He thinks he’s above that, he’s not so sure about her.

He loves his wife but he needs to be away. He’s checking data. The quiet relaxes him and he has a feeling of accomplishment. He’s worked all of his life and he doesn’t know any better. A vacation would drive him crazy, and confine him with people he loves. That could be a bit dangerous.

The Story

“He’s at her apartment” Mark said.


“Sam, the latest  girlfriend tossed him out. He got drunk and crashed there. She’s scared.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Why does it always have to be me?”

“You’re their father.” Robin was getting into her mother mode. “Anyway she  might call the police.”

“And this would be different from the other times how? When the grad student kept him in her apartment even though he was only seventeen? Or the woman who kept him in a hotel room until her husband found out? Do I have to continue?”

“He makes some bad judgments.”

“The boy was a bad judgment. I should have been clipped after Will.”

“What are you going to do?” She was stern-faced and her voice was determined.

“Alright, I’ll drive over and see if I can talk him into moving out.” He didn’t feel good about the trip.

Mark got dressed into what he called his “outside” clothes. Khakis, short-sleeved shirt and loafers. He had a tie in his jacket pocket. He drove over to Shelly’s apartment. She lived in a rehabbed six family. When he pulled into the parking lot he saw Sam’s car parked sideways in a guest slot. He climbed up to the second floor and knocked on Shelly’s door. She answered. She was paler than usual. She let him in. He didn’t need to know the way to the living room. On the couch,  in his shorts and tee-shirt, snoring was his youngest son. He shook him.

“Get the hell up.” His voice louder than usual.


“Wake the hell up.”

The body on the couch moved. It rolled over nearly falling off. An unshaven face with hair hanging down onto it looked up at him.

“Dad.” The face said or something like it.

Mark had a speech about irresponsibility, acting an ass and generally not acting his age.  He knew better. Sam had a way of looking at you when lectured him. He looked contrite but you could almost hear the gears in his brain plotting some form of payback for interrupting his day. Mark rolled the boy off the couch. He tossed his clothes on top of him.

“Get dressed and get the hell out of here. Go back to wherever you were leeching.”

“Or what are going you going to do?” Sam was trying to stand.

“The police sound like a good idea.”

“You won’t. Mom won’t let you.” He was sitting pulling on his pants.

“I know enough cops to have you locked so far back they’ll have to pipe fucking air to you.” For the first time since his youngest became an adult he wanted to really punch him. That was a bad decision. Once the boy was dressed, Mark grabbed his collar and frog walked him to the door.

“Get the fuck out and don’t come back.”

He drove home, fighting tears. He’d gotten too angry, way too angry.  He gave Robin a quick recap and headed downstairs. He turned on the radio and picked up a file off his desk. On a legal pad he began to write down dates and amounts. He picked up a red pen. He checked the numbers over and over. He marked dates and amounts. He checked another file. The dates were beginning to match up.  Deposits to the charities came on the thirteenth and the deposits he’d got coming in were on the fifteenth.  That was a short turn-around. Somebody was pulling strings just out of the reach of the authorities. Sometime around midnight he saw a corporation that was donating money and the small donations dropped off.

He put Robin to bed. She’d watched TV until he came upstairs. He undressed and crawled into bed. He lay next to her. He stroked her breast. They kissed and for the first time in months they made love. It wasn’t like in their teens but the love was deeper.

He woke at nine, the bedside phone was ringing. He picked up. The voice was a heart attack from his past. It was smooth and silky. He recognized it. A business trip, a mistake and a lot of guilt. One thing he knew. He must not mention her name. He told the person to hold. He arranged Robin comfortably. He picked up the phone.


“Still in bed? You used to be up early in the morning. How’s your wife? Robin? She feeling better?”

“What do you  want?”

“Well, I should tell you that I’ve moved farther into the department. You’d be working for me by now. Actually, all that data you’ve been getting? It’s a bit hot. The people who released them got a memo to pull everything you would need and release it to you. It was a mistake on my part.”

“You’re setting me up. For what? Because I wouldn’t leave my wife?”

“No,  nothing that simple. There are a lot of people involved in this and a whole crapload are going to get loose. We want them all. If they know you’ve got the records they’ll go after you. We’ll pick them off.”

“What about my family? You’re  going to watch them?”

“If we can. Anyway you were good for a few weekends. Maybe we can talk. Oh yeah check Pittermen.”


Is Sam gone? Is he going to crack the case or is he being used as bait? A female calling in the morning. She knows about him. They had an affair? Yep. Is it going to come up?




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