Monday, October 31, 2011

Meal No. 376: Pancakes and Biscuits & Gravy

After the late, late night of the Halloween party, and all the prep and such that went into it, you'd better believe I ended up crashing for a nap this afternoon. That means any ideas I had about a big meal this evening were dashed, and I switched into back-up mode. The result: maple-burst pancakes and biscuits with sausage gravy, and a tall cold glass of milk alongside.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

5th Annual Halloween Party

Over the last six years, there have been five great Halloween party nights (had to skip 2008, because it fell the weekend that the back of the house was getting cleaned out in anticipation of the demolition and addition project). It just might be the case that the 2011 party was the very best yet. Total guest count, best I can determine: 53. Good food, lots of great costumes and get-ups, fun music, laughter, and a late-night. Last guests departed around 4 am.

Great Catch!
Laughter Reigned
The Always Delightful Martinique
Dr. Phil (and that's an actual shaved head)
A Model Citizen
(nametag reads: 2 lbs above organ failure)
Bewitching, no doubt.

Michele Bachmann with Marcus (R) and her personal assistant (L)

Occupy Greece / The One Percent
Punkin' Head

Bullet-Brained Osama and, perhaps,
one of the virgins
An Occupy Wall Street Protestor and the Abbot Costello

Saturday, October 29, 2011

40 Cloves of Garlic Chicken and David Sedaris

A crew of us had it in our Saturday night plan to catch An Evening with David Sedaris, just up the street from the house at the University of North Carolina's Stevens Center Theatre. That is one of the cool things about downtown living...dinner at home followed by an easy walk up to a delightful cultural event.

The event-goers totaled six people, just the right number to comfortably seat around the table in the kitchen's eating nook/bay.

I'd received as a birthday present a great new cookbook but hadn't gotten around to trying it out yet: One Big Table by Molly O'Neill. As I thumbed through it on Friday, I saw a recipe from the very famous James Beard for his Forty Cloves of Garlic Chicken over savory vegetables. Since this recipe has popped up in various cookbooks over time, and since garlic is much-loved here in the Roediger House, I zeroed in on it.

The picture on the right shows the pile-o-chicken with all the garlic cloves nestled around it. This is after it had cooked longer than the recipe called for: at least an hour and a half.

I had prepared a big pot of quinoa and some good supersweet white corn. A loaf of bread heated in the oven for the last part of the cooking time. Everything was coming together for an ontime delivery of dinner, since we also wanted to step out for a couple of drinks before Sedaris's curtain went up at 8 pm.

When I peeled back the foil of this dish, I saw that the chicken thighs were still quite pink. After an hour and a half of baking. (I think I've figured out where I went wrong, though.)

So I announced to the gathered company that we would be going out to eat, which is another awesome thing about downtown. When you royally screw up dinner, you all just gather your coats and a very decent restaurant is within minutes by foot.

After the Sedaris talk, I came home and pitched this dinner that had so much potential to be marvelous. I guess out of all the meals I've made here, I'd best just count myself lucky that this is my first critical major dinner disaster.

"Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic," from James Beard. Published in One Big Table: A Portrait of American Cooking, by Molly O'Neill. Simon & Schuster, 2010, p. 350.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Meal No. 375: Cumin Roast Pork Tenderloin with Wild Mushroom Sauce

After doing several familiar and easy meals these last few days, I was ready for something a bit more involved. And something that was new to me.

Tonight, that led me to cumin roast pork tenderloin in an oyster mushroom gravy. It had a bit of a kick, thanks to a jalapeno pepper thrown in for good measure. I served it up along with stuffing and green beans.

Recipe from The Bon Appétit Cookbook, by Barbara Fairchild. 2006, p. 299-300


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Meal No. 374: Skillet Beef & Macaroni Stroganoff

I spent the day working up in Surry County, NC, today. So I didn't want a challenge for supper. That led me back to Emeril's fairly straight-forward take on stroganoff in a skillet, which I've fixed before.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Meal No. 373: Lemony Garlic Chicken & Broccoli over Angel Hair Pasta

Here was another simple but experimental meal: lemony garlic chicken and broccoli over angel hair pasta. It was easy to fix and pleased the small crew that gathered to spoon it out of wide bowls whilst we watched Family Guy.

"Lemony Broccoli Pasta with Chicken," by Catherine Newman.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Meal No. 372: Poached Salmon

One of the original meals when I finally started my current career path and left behind all schooling and dorm life: poached salmon with a chilled rosemary dijon cream sauce. It's a recipe that comes from the Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook (1999). Yet another dish that can be described with a certain pompous air, but it's not all that hard to make. I seldom leave any scraps on my plate by the end of this meal.

The accompaniments: some leftover layered green bean casserole from last night, and some quinoa. I also toasted a slice of the honey wheat bread I'd made to go with the previous night's gathering.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Meal No. 371: Smothered Pork Chops with Onion-Thyme Gravy

It's taken me forever to make it happen, but this evening I finally followed through on a promise to have my cousin Betsy Pierce and her husband Jim over. I've been in this house for almost exactly eight years and they just live in Greensboro, the next city over. It's pretty bad I've been so slack about this.

Betsy and my mother were very, very fond of one another, and they were close. Over the years, Betsy has mentioned Mother's excitement about the house. I'm glad she and Jim have now come and spent an evening here.

We had a great time. They are a wonderful couple and I absolutely enjoyed the visit. I was also too focused on my hosting duties (and the shortcomings therein!) and forgot to snap any shots of our meal. But I do have a photo of the spiced pecan and blue cheese salad that we used to start off dinner.

The meal was smothered pork chops with onion-thyme gravy. I realized too late that I should have submerged the chops down into the juices and onions and broth...they did turn out a bit dry. The green bean casserole (recipe from my sister Allison) was creamy and they particularly enjoyed my instant mashed potatoes.

I made up for it, in part, by serving up some chocolate fudge with walnuts (recipe from my sister Janice) and decaf coffee in the famous Roediger House mugs. We hung out in the North Parlour and caught up on family while our dinners settled.

"Braised Smothered Pork Chops with Onion-Thyme Gravy" from Cook's Country [April/May 2011], p. 22-23.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Meal No. 370: Garlic-Crusted Roast Rack of New Zealand Lamb with Madeira and Stilton Sauce

I've now made roast rack of lamb for the second time, and it turned out darned good yet again.

The lamb cooked up just exactly right. Look at how nicely browned on the outside it is, and deliciously pink inside. To go with it, I made the madeira and stilton sauce again, with directions coming from the good folks at More Than Gourmet. Added on were steamed broccoli and baked sweet potatoes.

Turns out rack of lamb prepared this way is not only reasonably simple, it also feels kind of fool-proof. I was very happy with the results for our crew of dinner eaters on this Sunday night.

"Garlic-Crusted Roast Rack of Lamb," Food & Wine, April 2011, p. 148.

"Madeira & Stilton Sauce," from More Than Gourmet recipe collection online.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Meal No. 369: Penne Carbonara

It was another night when I came in off the road and needed to make dinner from the staples on hand. Since it was so good just last week, I found myself drawn again to penne carbonara.

What's different on this night is that it was the rare Saturday for me to be working. I used to do a lot more of this, when I was teaching more classes for the University of Virginia. This is my one time this academic year of doing a weekend class, though.

At least I hope so!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Encountering a Baby Squirrel

Cyprus and I went out for a good long walk one day last weekend, and when we returned to the yard, I did my usual leash-release and let her take off for the back corner of the lot, where she goes on the prowl for signs of squirrels.

On this particular day, she actually spotted a squirrel near the base of a small tree along the side of the parking lot, and I was surprised that she was so easily able to tackle it. Then I realized it was just a baby squirrel. God bless Cyprus, because she released it and backed off on command. It also helped that the mother (or daddy) squirrel saw what was happening and was coming in for the rescue, which gave Cyprus something else to focus on briefly.

The little rascal was screeching something fierce and his little chest was thumping pretty rapidly, but he did not seem to be injured in any way. I grabbed him up while Cyprus snapped a few quick pictures and was going to get him back over closer to where the mother and the nest were, but he was having none of it. With some pee on my hands and a good scratch on my wrist, I figured I'd best let him find his own way.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hawk's Dinner

Back on September 11, I looked up from my chair by the kitchen fireside in time to see the local hawk had landed on the back wall just outside the kitchen bay windows. I grabbed the camera and snapped this picture through the glass door. He flew off before I could head outside to try to get better shots. But you regular readers know how giddy I get over the hawk and his machinations.

It's not that I do not love my birds that are attracted to the feeders around the house. The hawk, though, tends to put on a much better show than they do.

Cyprus and I were just headed out for a walk on a recent Saturday and it coincided with catching sight of the friendly neighborhood hawk swooping up out of the yard with what appeared to be a mourning dove in his talons. I love this, because it always thrills me to see the hawk in action, and I hate mourning doves.

As Cyprus and I were circling back home, we spotted where the hawk had taken his meal: behind my neighbor Adam's house, which is across the street from the Roediger House. I dropped Cyprus off and grabbed the telephoto for my camera and went back in hopes of capturing a shot or two.

Which I did, until a resident of (or visitor to) the house nearby drove up and scared the hawk away. He flew with dinner in hand/claw, though.

Update: A few days after this, looking out the kitchen bay windows, I caught sight of the hawk crashing into another mourning dove, with a burst and flurry of feathers. This occurred in the gravel parking lot on the north side of the house. It scooped up its meal and flew off pretty quickly.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Hurray for Downtown Winston-Salem!

My good friend Cindy Coulson, a former resident of Winston-Salem herself, recently alerted me to some good news about downtown Winston-Salem. It seems that we are on some Top Ten lists for great downtowns, including #2 on's compilation, and #8 on the list put together by Forbes magazine.

I certainly have experienced only a limited number of downtowns (and I was pretty surprised that Charlottesville did not make either list), and so I don't guess I had a concept of how we might stack up.

But this is pretty darned cool, if you ask me.

I definitely feel lucky that this is the house I get to live in. And I also like how interesting and vibrant the downtown has become. There is no shortage of cool things to walk to or walk home from, and I can even stay at home and let the fun things come right past the house (such as the Winston-Salem Bike Criterium, the Christmas Parade, or the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure).

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Meal No. 368: Chicken Potpie with Cheddar Crust

The latest issue of the Food Network Magazine had already been at the house for a number of days and I'd not really gone through it yet. I think it's likely I would have missed, overlooked, or not seriously-enough considered the recipe from it that I made tonight. That's where a couple of good friends who teach in Shenandoah County, VA, come in.

This is chicken potpie with a cheddar crust, and these ladies had already tried it out and were raving about it. I can now see why. 

Listen: the chicken and mushrooms and goop are all terrific and pleasing to the palate. But that cheddar crust that goes on top is darned noteworthy. I went back for an unneeded (and subsequently painful) extra half-helping, and that made my drive up to Virginia tonight tasty on my lips but pressing on my hips.

"Chicken Potpie with Cheddar Crust," from Food Network Magazine, Vol. 4 No. 8 (October 2011), p. 132-133.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Meal No. 367: Grilled Filet Mignon

The weather yesterday was pretty stunning, and perhaps even just a bit on the too-warm side. I spent some good time outside and it seemed like it had to be a night for grilling out. A quick trip to Sam's Club, which was already on the agenda, and I was set with large roastable asparagus spears and some thick filet mignon steaks. I tried out a package of waffle fries (nope: didn't cut those myself!) that I would like to have cooked up to be crisper. A very satisfying meal for this Monday night at home.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

RoHo on the Pride Parade Route

Straight Brides for Marriage Equality
When there are parades downtown, they almost always travel up Fourth Street, which is what I look out on from bay window surrounding the kitchen table. Spring Street is often closed as part of the staging area. Yesterday, though, Spring Street was part of the parade route. The occasion this time was Winston-Salem Pride, which I understand has not been held in town in 15 years.

Pretty Big Parade, Eh?

High School GSA Members

City Council Member Molly Leight

The weather was perfect and it appears there was a sizable turnout. It was easy to snag some pictures of the revelers as they passed by the house.
Silly Man

I also came across a small weird group of church protesters standing silent and ridiculous up at the transportation center on Fifth Street.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Meal No. 366: Pesto and Feta Pizza

I'm not sure why I have such a darned hard time working with yeast, dough, and bread. Tonight I had a shot at making a very tasty pizza but once more my effort to create a tasty crust for it fell, er, flat.

Still, it had been a while since I'd whipped up some homemade pizza, and the flavors were still good. I just have to figure out this yeast issue. It proofed nicely in the measuring cup, but it did not lead to a good rise afterwards.

Darn it.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Meal No. 365: Penne Carbonara

Well, technically, it's been a year's worth of meals now in the Roediger House, since the completion of the kitchen as part of the addition done in 2008-2009. Tonight, when I came in from working in Richmond County, NC, I made the 365th meal, as I've been tallying these.

Since I did not go out and do any grocery shopping, supper this evening depended on the staples on hand. That led me to the recipe I got from my good friend Monie Lawrence, a parent of a 7th grader I taught lo those many years ago in Raleigh. The dish pictured is penne carbonara.

This was probably the best it's ever tasted when I was the one making it, so it was perfect for this Friday night back at home for the weekend.

And there were a couple of small helpings leftover, which will be perfect for Saturday lunch. Guess I just managed to get the right balance of seasonings and thickening and onion and bacon, because it sure was mighty good.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Dakota at Seven Months

Last weekend, I received word from Erin at Animal Adoption and Rescue Foundation that Cyprus's remaining unadopted daughter was set to be picked up by her new family. She wanted me to have a chance to come see her before that happened, and I jumped at the chance. Although Erin warned me (wisely) that I might not want to bring Cyprus along, because after all these months apart they might not do so well together, I brought her along anyway. I'm naïve that way.

Of course, Cyprus tends to freak out when she's around other dogs, and the number of them at any given AARF adoption fair is sufficient to moderately cook her system. Fortunately, there was a large cage that was unoccupied, and that's where Cyprus had to hang out while I had a chance to meet and try to photograph Dakota.

Alas, she's still very much a puppy, and it was hard to snag any good shots of that lovely girl.

Cyprus stayed mostly agitated and growled and barked whenever Dakota came near her cage. There was no way to get them out together, at least not while Erin was simultaneously trying to get everything ready for the afternoon's adoption fair.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Nomination for Preserve Historic Forsyth Award

A couple of months ago, I was pleased to learn that the renovation work on the Roediger House had caught the attention of people associated with Preserve Historic Forsyth, and the house was nominated for their 2011 round of awards. Last night was the reception, keynote speaker, and awards ceremony down at Salem College, so I delayed my departure to Richmond County, NC, so that I could attend.

The Roediger House was one of four renovation projects in the Residential - Large Scale category. The ultimate winner was the 1873 Shaffner House, which is located in Old Salem proper. The couple who won has been at it for 17 years, and I think winning this designation is a fine reward for them for that long and sustained effort to make a beautiful home.

And I'm certainly happy that my own house had been taken note of and put forward in the competition. I suspect my UNC college chum Steve Zorn had a lot to do with it, and I'm grateful to him for suggesting they consider the Roediger House.

When I really do get this renovation project finished (and I hope it doesn't take 17 years!), maybe it will seem appropriate to have the house entered in a future competition. We'll see.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Meal No. 364: Asparagus & Wild Mushroom Risotto

It's a busy night tonight, between a reception and awards ceremony I'll be attending (more about that in tomorrow's blog post) and then driving a couple of hours down to Richmond County, NC, where I'm working this week.

Still, I'd been wanting to try my hand at risotto again, and I felt like it could be done as a late-afternoon meal before I had to clean up and go down to the Fine Arts Center at Salem College.

This here is asparagus and wild mushroom risotto, based on a 1994 recipe I downloaded from the Cook's Illustrated website. For my tastes, it was okay but certainly not spectacular.