Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lonesome Dove

Larry McMurtry won a Pulitzer prize for his novel in 1985.  I read it.  In 1989, it was made into a TV mini-series.  I watched it.  Then I bought it on DVD and watched it some more.  I still watch bits and pieces of it when it comes on TV.  I laugh out loud every single time Captain Augustus McCrae, Gus for short, played by Robert Duvall, throws out one of his one-liner bits of wisdom.  And I cry every single time he dies.  I know it's coming, but I always hope he'll go ahead and let them cut off the other leg so that "the gangrene" won't get him.   But he never does and it always does.
As he is dying, he says to his best friend and fellow ex-Texas Ranger buddy, Captain Woodrow F. Call, played by Tommy Lee Jones--

By God, Woodrow, it's been quite a party, ain't it?

That's my favorite line. 
Just thinking about it makes me want to make biscuits, Gus' daily (and about his only) chore.

Southern Biscuits
makes one dozen

2 c. flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
4 Tbsp. butter, chilled
1 c. buttermilk, chilled

Preheat oven to 450˚F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Using a pastry blender, cut butter into dry ingredients until mixture looks like crumbs.  The faster the better so that the butter doesn't melt. Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk.  Stir just until the dough comes together.  It will be very sticky.

Turn dough onto floured surface, dust top with flour and gently fold over on itself 5 or 6 times.  Press into a 1-inch thick round.  Cut out biscuits with a 2-inch cutter, being sure to push straight down through the dough.  Place biscuits on baking sheet so that they just touch.  Reform scrap dough, working it as little as possible and continue cutting.  (The more you work the dough, the less light your biscuits will be.  I've seen some chefs throw away everything left from the first cutting.  I can't bear to do that.)

Bake until biscuits are lightly browned on top, about 15-20 minutes.

(Once in a while, Mama Mildred used to let her four little crumb-crushers sprinkle sugar on the top of one each just before baking them.  What a treat.)

Bon appétit, Gus!

Happy Birthday, Google!

Today is Google's 13th birthday.  Bon anniversaire, Google!  I am surprised you are already 13.  A teenager.  Wow.  You've grown up so fast.  I hope you are used more than usual today.  Or should I wish you the day off?  No, that would never do.  I don't know what I did before you arrived.  How did I ever find out anything?  Names of movies.  Ages of actors and actresses.  What the euro is worth today?  The weather in Paris or Provence.  Before I could google The Sabbatical Chef and find out if anyone has linked me to their blogs. 
I have even turned you into a regular -er verb--  googler.  (I doubt that I am the first or only one to do that.  Wonder when the Académie Française will add you to their official dictionary?)

I love the doodles that your creative friends come up with.  Not that I don't also love your usual logo...
I do.
But I love the days when I open you up and find something new.  The Van Gogh one is a favorite.
As is Sesame Street.
And the one created for Roald Dahl's birthday.  But where's the BFG?
I could go on and on.  But how about these for Bastille Day?
I love them all!  Vive le Google!

Bon appétit, Google!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Postcard from Paris

I just can't resist anything with Paris in the title, and this song from The Band Perry is no exception.  If they have made a video yet, I can't find it.  Maybe they are in Paris right now filming it.  Watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle.  Strolling along the Champs-Élysées.  Sipping coffee in a little café.  Climbing the steps up to the Sacré-Coeur for a view of the city.

I am planning my 2012 trip(s).  I have one certain one, with 19 students and Arles Lucy helping me chaperone.  We will spend 6 nights in Paris, a day in Normandy at the D-Day sites, and then 6 days with our friends in Villeneuve-lez-Avignon for a homestay/school visit.  With a day trip to Arles, bien sûr.  I may also go for a quick 5-day trip in January with a group of teachers.  And the BFF and I are still discussing a girls' trip to Paris and Provence in June.

So... I will get my Paris fix.  And my Provence fix. Yes, I certainly will.  But until then, it's...

Like a postcard from Paris when I've seen the real thing. 
Like a postcard from Paris when I need the real thing.

But don't misunderstand...  I love sending and receiving postcards.  I have quite a collection.

Bon appétit, The Band Perry and Paris!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

September Sunday

I decided to make brioche this morning.  It really took me back to my days in Arles when, for some reason unknown even to me, I decided to attempt to master the making of brioche.  I still question my sanity.  But the guests at the B&B ate them up.  One of my 8th grade girlies made them for her class this past week.  She used chocolate chips and raisins (recipe).  I thought about making orange-flavored ones, just as I did in Arles, but golden raisins won out in the end. 
Yeast, flour, and sugar
Plus eggs, sugar, more flour, and a little salt
Finally with butter and raisins mixed in and in the pan to rise and be baked
Eaten with some Bonne Maman fig preserves
Add a very hot cup of coffee and breakfast is served, madame.
All gone.
I will take one to Girlie tomorrow and see what she thinks.

It is already our mid-marking period for the first quarter of the school year, so grades must be averaged and progress reports written on top of the usual Sunday afternoon homework.  But I can't spend my whole day doing that, now can I?  All work and no cooking makes The Sabbatical Chef a cranky girl. Pioneer Woman posted about her improved photography skills using a chicken salad recipe she blogged about in 2008.  So, after doing school work for a hour or so, I hopped in the car and ran out to Harris Teeter for supplies.  (The Sunday special price of $4.99 on whole rotisserie chickens is enough to send me running anyway.)  My niece, Wonder Woman, has made this salad for me before and I crave it now and then.
Chopped up chicken
Green onions
All mixed up together
I still have a scar from my run-in with a brand new, very sharp little knife about a month ago.  I am actually quite proud of it, but tried hard not to do it again (or slice off part of my nail polish--Passion from OPI) while chopping up the dill for the dressing.
With the dressing added

And there's lunch.  The Ex-Ex didn't wait for the flavors to meld together, as PW suggests.  He made himself two sandwiches on sourdough bread and seems pretty happy right now sitting lying on the sofa watching football.  (I will forgive him for the initial "Where's the chicken?  All I see are grapes." comment.) 
I think that Pioneer Woman and I could be best friends.  If she could forgive me for envying her and the fact that I would probably follow her around in some sort of foggy hero-worship kind of trance asking way too many questions.  She lives in Oklahoma.  I think that she is safe from me.

Back to averaging grades now. 

Chicken Salad

1 whole chicken (cook your own or buy it already done)
2-3 stalks celery, chopped (throw in some leaves, too, if you want)
2-3 whole green onions, chopped
2 c. seedless grapes, halved
1/2 c. mayonnaise
1/2 c. plain yogurt or sour cream
1 Tbsp. brown sugar (I didn't have any so I used about 1 1/2 tsp. of my Provence lavender honey that I tend to hoard)
Juice of half a lemon (slice the lemon and stick fork tines in it and squeeze it, moving the fork back and forth to get all the juice out)
Fresh dill, minced
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

You could add almonds, pecans, dried cranberries, and/or apples, if you wish.  

Remove chicken from bones and chop into bite-sized pieces.  Chop all the fruits and vegetables and place them in a bowl with the chicken. 
In another bowl, mix mayonnaise, yogurt or sour cream, lemon juice, brown sugar, salt and pepper.  Taste and add more salt and pepper, if you wish.  If it is too thick, add some half and half or buttermilk to thin it.
Add fresh herbs (dill, oregano, cilantro, etc).  Maybe a dash of cayenne pepper, if you're "feeling brazen" (to quote PW!). 
When the dressing tastes just right, pour it over the chicken mixture and toss gently until thoroughly mixed.  "If you are feeling naughty, add a sprinkling of bacon bits." --PW
Allow the salad to chill for several hours (or not) or even overnight. 
Serve on a bed of lettuce or in a sandwich (with arugula and honey mustard, maybe).

Bon appétit, Pioneer Woman!

Thursday, September 22, 2011


According to the New Collegiate Edition of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, the second meaning of frazzle (found right before F.R.B. for Federal Reserve Board and right after Frazer, as in Sir James George) is: to wear out the nerves of.  And according to me (and Skitch), this is what it looks like--
This is how I am feeling right now.  No, I am not having a bad hair day.  It actually looks pretty good considering the humid, rainy weather we are having today.  Mousse and hairspray help.  I am feeling very frazzled inside.  My nerves are about worn out.  I have too much to do.  I feel pulled in too many directions.  There aren't enough hours in the day.  My thyroid medication is not properly adjusted. 
So, the only thing to do is focus on solutions. 
For starters, I am listening to Tony Bennett's Duets II.  (It is my free period, but I do make my advisees listen to some of my music before school and during lunch!  I consider it a valuable part of their education.)

I downloaded it a couple of days ago from iTunes.  He croons with the likes of Aretha Franklin, Michael Bublé, Willie Nelson, Natalie Cole, and Sheryl Crow.  It's lovely. 
I am also trying hard to cut out sugar.  Pioneer Woman decided to do it, so I thought, well, if she can do it, so can I.  I have fallen off the wagon a couple of times in the past week, but I've stuck to it, for the most part.   How on earth could I resist this beautiful raisin and chocolate chip brioche made by one of my 8th grade girlies?

She found the recipe in this book--

I stop often to squeeze and sniff one of the many lavender sachets I surround myself with (in my purse, in the car, on my desk, in my desk drawer, in my bookbag- you get the picture).
If that doesn't help, I rub the oil on my temples. 
I just sit and stare at this little fellow I found in a gift shop near Notre Dame de Paris.
Or I look to the left of my computer at the postcards from Provence of lavender fields or French cowboys and bulls.
Hmmm... maybe the Eiffel Tower wall wipe-off calendar given to me today by one of my advisees will do the trick.  I need to fill in the days with some fun stuff.
Okay, I feel better.  Take deep breaths and just keep on breathing.  Maybe that's the secret. Keep on breathing.
So, as Tony and Josh Groban sing This Is All I Ask  to me, I will leave you with the brioche recipe.

Chocolate Chip and Raisin Brioches
makes 1 dozen

1/2 Tbsp. dry active yeast
1/2 c. warm water
1 tsp. sugar
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
4 eggs
1/4 c. superfine sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 c. (1 stick) sweet butter, softened
1/2 c. raisins
1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1 beaten egg

Combine the yeast, water, and the teaspoon of sugar in a large bowl.  Stir well and leave in a warm place for 10 minutes.  Stir in 1/2 cup of the flour until the mixture become a smooth paste.  Beat the eggs and add them to the yeast mixture.  Add the sugar and salt.  Stir in the remaining flour, and mix until the sough is soft and slightly sticky.  Leave in a warm place, covered with plastic wrap, for 45 minutes or until doubled in bulk.  Preheat the oven to 400˚F (200˚C).  Grease 12 mini brioche or muffin molds.  Beat in the butter, raisins, and chocolate chips.  Fill the molds halfway.  Leave in a warm place to rise for about 20 minutes, until the dough has risen to fill about two-thirds each mold.
Brush each brioche with a little of the beaten egg and bake for 20 minutes.  Cool in the molds for 5 minutes, remove, and cool on a rack.  Store in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Bon appétit et au revoir, frazzled nerves!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Life is Orange and White

Orange has never been one of my favorite colors, but I am changing my tune.  I do believe that I have now been to the orange-iest place in the world, Knoxville, Tennessee on a football weekend.  College-age son invited us for Family Weekend, not quite at the last minute, but close.  However, we managed to get a hotel room and two football tickets, the two things we had to have in order to make the journey across the mountains.
We left Durham very early and arrived in Knoxville in time to find a parking place downtown.  Son was busy with fraternity stuff so we made the most of our time wandering through the farmers' market held in the space appropriately named Market Square.  Orange was definitely the color of the day.
From flowers
to food
(note the tomatoes named Rocky Top)
to fashion
even on little-Vols-in-training
and on dads-of-Vols.
We figure that since we are now paying tuition we can respectably wear all the orange we want.
What a great morning!  Everyone was having fun.
On our walk to campus, we decided to stop for a cup of coffee at the Hilton because there is a cool little outdoor patio. 
I bought this orange Longchamp bag in Paris a few years back and wondered why on earth I chose the color.  Now I know why.  So that I could carry it to UT football games.
Here are some random orange sightings from our post-coffee stroll.
Knoxville's World's Fair Park
Serious tailgating parties.  We passed by several parking lots just like this one.
A tailgating necessity-- an orange port-a-potty

 This is not the only pair of checkerboard pants we saw, either.
They match the end zones of the stadium, by the way.

We finally met up with Son.  A sight for sore eyes.
His orange necktie has little hound dogs on it.  The UT mascot is Smoky.
The guy sitting behind me during the game was way more concerned with the dog than whether Tennessee won or lost.  I could keep up with its whereabouts just by listening to him.  I never heard him say a word about the quarterback or the score.
The Parents' Association put on a picnic.
And another picnic was going on across the street.
Son headed back to find his friends and their seats in the student section and we headed into the stadium.
With 95,000 of our new best friends, the majority of them wearing orange.  For the record, there were a few Cincinnati fans.  (I googled distances to Knoxville and found out that we had to travel further than the folks from Cincinnati.)
Oh yes, I was decked out in orange, too.  Cool sunglasses courtesy of the Parents' Association.
We arrived early in order to experience it all.
Some people arrive by boat on the Tennessee River.  I believe they call that the Vol Navy.
Coach Dooley wears orange pants.  (Son wants a pair now.)
The marching band wears orange, of course.
They make cool formations while playing music-- usually Rocky Top.
Good ole Rocky Top- woooo- Rocky Top Tennessee  (I now know how to really sing the song...)
The huge screen on the scoreboard is great for instant replays (in case you were too busy looking at everyone around you or eavesdropping on their conversations to see the play the first time) or for checking out the coach up close.
Snacks are available, of course.
Fans are showing their support for Pat Summitt, the UT women's basketball coach, after her announcement that she has been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease.  Coach Summitt has won more games than any other college basketball coach.
Fans carry orange purses, too.
And have orange sunglass straps.
And wear their family weekend t-shirts.

After the game (Tennessee won), Son decided he wanted to take us to Gus's Good Times Deli, near his dorm, for dinner.  He says it is Peyton Manning's favorite hang-out.  Who am I to argue with legendary Vol quarterback Peyton?

We had burgers and fries.
I am glad they weren't orange.  But they were really good.
We had a great weekend.  Son is happy and working hard. 
We came back to our empty nest relieved and a little sunburned.
I looked up the origins of the Tennessee nickname of Volunteers.  It seems that it all started with Tennesseans volunteering to fight under General Andrew Jackson during the War of 1812 against the British.

Bon appétit, to our Vol and to Vols everywhere.