KingMidget's Ramblings

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I Miss Morelia’s

Back in 2002 when I started my current job (my god, I still can’t believe I’ve been here this long, but that’s another story), my new office was a block from K Street in Sacramento. A mix of run down blocks and some blocks completely dead, restaurants from low-brow to high-end, and a lot of homeless, down on their luck citizens, K Street at the time had four or five Mexican restaurants. Emma’s, Alejandro’s, Texas Mex, and Morelia’s. At least.  Over the years, all but Alejandro’s faded away.

My favorite was Morelia’s because they had the best chili verde I’d ever found in a restaurant and there was something about their refried beans that was just different and better.

There are two dishes that are my test for Mexican restaurants — carne asada and chili verde. In some respects, it’s almost impossible to screw up carne asada, unless it’s just over-cooked. What really makes that dish is what comes with the meat — a charred jalapeno, lightly grilled onions, good salsa, and fresh made tortillas. Some Mexican restaurants fail in the accompaniments.

Chili verde is a different beast. There are two different ways to sauce it up. There is a pepper-based sauce, which I’ve been using in my own chili verde for at least 20 years, and then there is the sauce that seems to prevail at just about every Mexican restaurant I’ve visited — it’s tomatillo based.  And, it’s just wrong, plain wrong. There is something about tomatillos that are just too sweet and cloying to me. Plus, it’s just not typically spicy enough. Although some restaurants make up for this by offering both mild and spicy versions. But still, that sweet cloying flavor is just so …  Besides, the tomatillo-based chili verde more frequently than not gives me heartburn.

But Morelia’s … for those couple of years it was on K Street before it closed, made chili verde the way it is supposed to be. Tender chunks of pork in a sauce that was like a gravy and filled with peppery flavor and spice, nary a cloying tomatillo to be found. Because when it comes to chili verde, it’s about these things…

 

My younger son is home this weekend. He regularly asks me to make certain things when he comes home. Frequently, I defer his requests until “next time.” But this weekend, I’m hitting the trifecta — pizza last night, cinnamon rolls this morning, and chili verde tonight. Those chilis are what it’s all about.

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Elton John

Around a year ago, a friend sent out a text to a group of friends to find out if anybody wanted to see Elton John on the Sacramento stop of his Farewell tour. I’m a casual Elton fan. He has a catalog of hits that are timeless, but our two tickets would cost $500. What the heck, we went in on it.

The concert was Wednesday night. Elton John is 71 years old. He has three drummers/percussionists in his band. Two of them have basically been touring with him from the beginning. So, in a band of seven performers, you’ve got three guys over the age of 70. And they put on an incredible show for almost three hours.

During one of the songs, the video screen showed a montage of pictures and video clips from Elton’s career. One of the clips showed a much younger Elton standing at his piano and while playing it jumping up and kicking his legs out behind him. Again, he was doing this while continuing to play. Wednesday night, he got a cheer from the crowd for occasionally standing up while playing the piano.

But still … the show was far better than I expected. Unlike a lot of musicians, very few songs were performed as recorded. Instead, most songs were opportunities for the band to jam and show their talents. One of them was incredible. Ray Cooper is, like Elton, 71 years old. He has performed with a lot of different musicians, but has been with Elton off and on for 50 years. He could be a show unto himself. At one point, Elton played a song and the only other musician on the stage was Cooper. Elton playing the piano, and Cooper just absolutely putting on a show.

I don’t know if the video below was of the same song, but it’s a very similar performance.

So, again, these guys are 71 years old and they did this for almost three hours. And over the course of three years, will be doing this 300 times. The mind reels.

If you have a chance to Elton on his farewell tour, do it. It’s a performance worth seeing. If nothing else, just watch Ray Cooper.

A Teaser

Over on Twitter, I suggested this morning that I may be writing a post titled The Worst Book Ever. I’m unwilling to identify the book yet, but here’s a scene that I just finished reading to give you an idea.

The Setup:

11-year-old boy in 1948 Kansas who lives with his mother. A stranger begins paying visits to the home. Boy quickly identifies him as his mother’s boyfriend. The stranger has an object that boy has decided he must have (the object has magical powers) but it’s clear the stranger will not just leave it somewhere for him to steal. So, he hatches a plan based on his belief that the stranger visits his mother at night after boy is asleep for, you know, that sex thing.

The scene:

Boy sets his alarm to go off every hour. He gets up and listens at his mother’s door to determine if boyfriend is visiting. The second night he hits the jackpot, hearing giggles and moans on the other side of his mother’s door. Boy puts his plan into action. He ties a fishing line across the top of the stairs and then goes to the bottom of the stairs to wait.

An hour later, Boyfriend comes out of his mother’s bedroom and trips on the fishing line, crashing down the stairs so violently that it shook the house. He lands at the foot of the stairs but is still alive. 11-year-old boy takes a fire poker and stabs Boyfriend in the face three times while Boyfriend screams. Boy then takes the object out of Boyfriend’s pocket. Boyfriend … is still alive. So Boy takes a knife out of his pocket and saws at Boyfriend’s throat until he is dead.

Boy then goes into the kitchen to clean himself up and take the bag of things he had hidden under the kitchen sink and runs away.

Apparently, Mom … never actually looks under the kitchen sink? And can sleep through somebody falling down the stairs so violently that it shakes the house and somebody screaming while being stabbed in the face with a poker.

Yeah.

Sure.

Worst Cooks in America … Not

It’s been a good day. I started with baking a couple of loaves of bread. I moved on to a bit of morning exercises – although, unfortunately, not a run because that groin, well yeah, the groin. Got a small amount of yardwork done. Had a bowl of guacamole for lunch, had my nap.

And …

Hold your horses.

Wrote another 1,000 words on The Irrepairable Past. Actually, I think I wrote more than that because there were some notes and random passages that I ended up finally deleting. So … I’m going to call it 1,500 words. It’s still too short. Only 35,000 words at the moment and I’m not sure just how much story there is left to tell. But I decided that once I think I have it finished, I’m going to make a serious effort to read, edit and see if there’s more story I can tell.

From there I moved on to dinner preparations. I put together the carbonara sauce — a wonderful, incredible combination of cream, parmesan, garlic, egg and bacon. No, I do not put peas in my carbonara. That makes absolutely no sense to me.

And then I shifted to making the pasta dough for the fettucini, and here’s where the topic of this post comes in.

Last weekend, I found myself sucked into a streaming marathon of Worst Cooks in America on The Food Network. This is a show I’ve never watched and what they were showing was a previous season of the show. Somehow I got hooked.

As the show progressed, I became convinced that these people were not actually the worst cooks in America. They start off each season with each cook preparing their “signature” dish. What each one comes up with is so ridiculous and hideous, I really can’t imagine that they are actual, real dishes. Then, over the course of the season, they learn how to make dishes after the real chef walks them through the process. Apparently, one of the episodes always involves homemade pasta.

So, I’m watching towards the end of the season and they’re showing clips of the two “worst cooks” that made it to the final. One of the clips shows one of those chefs casually talking to the master chef while making pasta dough.

Here’s the deal.  I’ve been making my own pasta for 20-25 years. I don’t always make homemade pasta, but probably 10-12 times a year, I make some fettucini and want it fresh and homemade. The “real” way to do this is to put the flour on your work surface, form a well in the center, put the eggs and other wet ingredients in the well, and then mix the wet ingredients with a fork and gradually incorporate the flour into the wet mixture.

The key to this is you have to do it without the wet ingredients breaching the walls of that well. Otherwise, you have a wet, sticky mess and it’s hard to get it all back together again.

I’ve made my pasta dough this way at times. When I want to impress somebody or I just feel like living dangerously. But for the most part, I put the flour in a bowl, form the well, put the wet ingredients in and then do the same thing as the “real” way, but with the comfort of knowing that the wall of the bowl will be my back up. It’s a lot more relaxed way to make homemade pasta.

Back to Worst Cooks

As I said, the “worst cook” was making pasta while talking to the master chef. She was making it the “real” way. This is simply not something a horrible cook could just do with a walk through from somebody else. It’s actually a difficult thing to pick up and get right. It’s the same thing with a lot of the other cooking techniques these “worst cooks” are suddenly able to replicate with any practice, based almost entirely on a single demonstration from the master chef.

Once I saw that clip, I became convinced that Worst Cooks in America is a scam. I’m going back to never watching the show, which is actually what I’ve done until last weekend. (Mark, stop being sucked into stupid shows!)

Bread!

I’m making Carbonara for dinner tonight. With homemade sauce and fettuccine. Probably a Caesar saiid. I decided I needed to make bread too. It’s been awhile. I don’t make bread anywhere near as often as I used to. It’s a thing I need to do more often – it feeds my tummy and my soul.

So, this the result. It combines several different techniques/concepts into one recipe. Starting the night before with a biga, then this morning making a dough that is wetter than normal and not kneaded but during the course of an hour more flour folded in, and then ice cubes in the oven to create steam which is supposed to help develop the crust. I won’t know if it worked until I cut it open tonight.

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