“…we’re too human to see the way we’ll agonize…”
jalapeno nacho rings
keepin’ me warm through the cold
why I am eating jalapeno nacho rings
I have no capacity for spicy foods
Thanks for the plug!
(It’s an excerpt from an earlier post “42 pages of blazing glory”, about my experiences at this year’s APA National Team Championships.)
Thank you for the very kind words, Mr. McCafferty. I hope one day you will see the power of the dark side and take time to read about the food, too. 😉
Cooking Class : It Lives
Yes, the much anticipated and incredibly tardy return of Cooking Class is a reality. Let’s chow.
Spanish Chicken & Rice
I can’t remember where today’s recipe came from, but I remember cooking the rice portion of it when I was eleven or so. My mom and I like tomatoes and the rice in this dish comes out rather like paella rice. The chicken is pan-fried, and, combined with the rice and maybe a vegetable dish or two, makes a nice meal, especially since you cook the chicken and rice in the same pan.
I marinate the chicken overnight, so this is a two-day kind of dish.
6 chicken thighs (there are seven in this feature, because I had an odd amount to work with)
1 heaping teaspoon dried oregano (if you’re not much for oregano’s pungency, marjoram is like Oregano-Lite)
2 tablespoons sweet paprika (I used regular because I already had it, but sweet is recommended)
1/4 cup olive oil
chili powder (to your taste)
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup uncooked rice (Spanish short-grain for authenticity, whatever the hell rice you have for convenience)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4-6 garlic cloves, minced (I use 6 — must watch out for vampires)
1 14-ounce can tomatoes (I used ready-diced ones here, but you can use whole, and crush or dice them yourself — I’m lazy)
2 14-ounce cans chicken broth
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Let’s Get It On
We start with the chicken, since it requires marination time.
Crush the oregano between the fingers as you sprinkle it on the chicken. Add the paprika, some grinds of black pepper, and a little salt. Drizzle on the olive oil.
Wash your hands in hot, soapy water. Mix the chicken with your hands. You can use something else, but your hands will do the best job of evenly distributing the spices. And it’ll remind you of the fun times playing with paste/play-doh/various goo back in the days of your toddler-hood.
Place chicken in the fridge to marinate overnight.
Take out the chicken and bring to room temperature (if possible). Measure out one cup of rice, and let’s get it on!
Let me introduce you to the newest addition to my kitchen gadget family, the Mini Alligator. This handy little thing allows me to cut up garlic into neat little matchsticks without having my fingers also becoming neat little matchsticks. The Mini Alligator also has a larger sibling, the regular-sized Alligator Dicer, which chops larger items. I’ll probably get that one in the future, too.
Behold, the Mini Alligator.
Okay, now that we have all beheld the wonder that is the Mini Alligator, we may continue. And yes, I used a lot of garlic. I like garlic.
Mince a shallot and dice the onion.
Once you have the aromatics (fancy word for vegetables) all chopped up and ready to go (and you’ve wiped your tears away), it’s time to rock the chicken. I don’t really have to upload 640 x 480 pictures of cooking chicken, but I’ll do it just to f— with all you hungry people. 😉
Heat your skillet on high heat. When you’re pretty sure it’s at the temperature you’d most like to roast your dearest enemies with, place the chicken skin-side down.
Brown the chicken on high heat for 3 to 4 minutes per side. I like to add some more fresh ground black pepper (but remember, I LOVE black pepper), and a sprinkling of salt during the cooking. Reduce the heat to medium, and cook the chicken, uncovered, turning every 5 minutes, until done, about 25-30 minutes later. You should cut to test the doneness of the chicken.
Set aside the cooked chicken and keep warm. A good way to do this is to cover the dish with foil (if it doesn’t have a cover) and put it in a warm oven. Or on the charred remnants of your enemies.
Tasty-looking, ain’t it? The paprika gives the chicken a lovely orange color. The taste of the chicken, despite the heaping teaspoon of oregano and two tablespoons of paprika, is pleasantly mild. You can always heat things up with more chili powder or hot sauce.
Now, let us return to zee pot.
We now have a nice little puddle of chicken juices and olive oil, flavored with paprika and oregano. Since I am Asian, I refuse to waste this molten red gold. Instead, I shall use it wisely and well. Raise the heat to medium-high and heat the oil for about a minute.
Toss the garlic, shallot, and onion into the lava without mercy. Stir frequently, and saute until the onions are soft and translucent, and caramelizing (I know, it’s hard to tell with the red oil, but you’ll figure it out). It took about 15 minutes for me, but then I’m working in the Dark Ages with an ancient electric range. While the aromatics are cooking, crumble in the dried thyme. Taste, and add salt and/or pepper to your liking.
After the aromatics have been nicely sauteed and the whole mixture has been reduced a bit, we move on to the tomatoes. Open that can of whoop-ass (a.k.a. canned tomatoes) and throw it in. No mercy!
Cook the whole mixture, stirring frequently, until it has reduced and is of the consistency of a thick stew. Be sure to stir, as the tomatoes will burn quickly when the liquid has reduced.
Add the cup of rice. Cook the rice grains, stirring constantly, for about a minute. You will see the rice grains turning opaque.
Open two more cans of whoop-ass (the chicken broth), and pour it into the rice mixture. Stir to evenly distribute.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the rice, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes until your desired level of doneness. DO NOT STIR. This is not a risotto. If you notice the liquid evaporating quickly, cover the pot and steam the rice for the remainder of the time.
Lovely, lovely food.
Serve the rice with the chicken and be prepared to receive the worship and praise of those you feed. Or tell them to cook their own damn food and gorge yourself on your hard work.
The tweakability factor of this recipe is high. Adjust the seasonings to your liking.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
It’s yet another lovely league night. I had cajun food prior to league… Mmm, mmm good.
While looking around the bar, I noticed these pictures of the patrons. The frames were screwed into the wall to prevent–theft? Anyhow, I saw something odd about one of the photographs…
I guess someone’s a bit bitter.
I was 2-2 tonight. The equipment was rather horrendous.
In my first loss, I had to make a thin, jacked-up cut shot for position on the eight, and when I shot it, the object ball rolled tiredly to the front of the pocket, and then ROCKED backwards into a divot. And the cue ball didn’t make it to rail. So, I fouled. Ugh.
In my second loss, I played a great shot, sending the cue ball three rails for the only position I could get to make the next ball, but the cue ball did a U-turn on the way and decided to stop and take a potty break behind one of my opponents object balls. Gah! I kicked and hit my ball, but sold out the game.
The best part of the evening? My two opponents, who played bad enough that they would beat me once in a hundred times (this being the one time) kept trying to console me, assuring me that I was still an all right player, and that they usually didn’t play so well.
The consolation of idiots.
Few things in the world can match it for bitterness, I assure you.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
I did chores today. Unpleasant, but necessary.
Friday, November 9, 2007
After a long week of sleep-deprivation and too much work, I had myself a nice little four-dollar steak. Allow me to share it with you. The salt grinder on the right is made by Peugeot, whom most of you know as a maker of cars. They have, however, been making salt and pepper grinders since the 1800s. Neat, eh?
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Today I made my way over to a barbox eight-ball single-elimination tournament.
I played substandardly (or maybe, I should say “as usual”) and clawed my way to third place. In the match for second and third, I dogged it royally, and lost to the tournament favorite after getting to the hill first while his score was at one, and I had many subsequent chances to win. I could not close that door to win.
And I was mad as all hell. (About a thousand times more than usual, for those of you who know me well. Yeah, it was like Chernobyl, but worse.)
I don’t think I’ve been this mad about losing in a very, very long time.
I was mad because that loss showed me, undeniably, that I was mediocre.
Once upon a time, when I first started playing pool, I was abrasive, driven, and completely fearless. I shot thousands of balls a day in drills before I played a game. I knew what it took to be a great player and I was not afraid of putting in the time and effort. I easily spent six hours a day on drills by myself, and then played maybe two hours of games with other people. I lived, breathed, and slept pool. It was great. It was also because I was a college student, had the time for it, and the college recreation room didn’t charge anyone to play.
In my last two years of college, I was still driven, and I had a part-time minimum-wage job. There was no question I had to sacrifice a lot for pool, and I did it all without a second thought. I spent all my disposable income on table time and tournaments. I paid for everything myself, and did not travel with others because, well, I don’t get along well with others and I don’t feel like waiting for other people to want to go to a tournament. When I wanted to go, I went. And I took some extreme travel measures when I just had to go play.
I used to budget two dollars and fifty cents to go to a particular bar that had good (well, better than average ball-bangers, anyways) pool players. I had no car at the time, but the bar wasn’t that far away, maybe three miles, and there was public transportation. It was fifty cents to go there by bus, and fifty cents to go back home. That left me a dollar and fifty cents for pool. The games were fifty cents apiece, so, after my initial challenge, I could lose twice more before it was time to go home.
I will tell you, that in the true spirit of the gambling pool player, I almost always took that last fifty cents that was my bus fare home and played another game. I would tell myself, since I was already going to walk home at this point, there were two ways I could go about it: I walk home pissed off at myself for using the bus fare on a game that I lost, or I could walk home thinking about how nice it was that I got to play for another two or three hours before I lost again.
A few more years, and I got this job. And I got fat. And comfortable. And boring.
A full-time job allowed me to have more income, yet I had less time and flexibility to practice or go to tournaments. Furthermore, this area that I live in gets more expensive every year, and my salary is not keeping up with inflation. Table time during the day is a decent five dollars an hour, but since I work during the day, I have to play at night. Table time at night is twelve dollars an hour–the table makes just a little less per hour than I do. Twelve dollars an hour adds up with someone like me who likes to play for six hours at a time. I played less pool. I did other things, and I got used to doing other things.
I became complacent and I lost some of my drive. Pool became a hobby. I played better than most, but not well enough to be anyone of note. And I found this acceptable because I liked the occasional steak, and the occasional night out drinking with my girlfriends.
Because, dammit, there was a time when I wanted to be the best and I would never have settled for anything less.
Tonight, after my loss, a friend, who was playing in a tournament elsewhere called me, and I forgot what I said about my loss, but I know it was filled with much ire and invective.
“Whoa, whoa! Calm down! You’re awfully worked up about this loss, arent you?!”
“Hell yes! I’m pissed off! I dogged it completely.”
“I played bad and I choked, and goddammit, I’m a total pool idiot right now.”
“Why’d you play bad?”
“Because I don’t practice enough, and I don’t compete enough. I’m afraid of everything. I didn’t use to be like that.”
“Hahaha, well, it happens. If you want to get better, you should quit your job and go on the road.”
“Oh, don’t say that. DO NOT say that.”
“Hahaha, why not?”
“Because I am in a vulnerable state right now and I might just do that.”
“Go… on… the… road… hahaha!”
“Shut up, f—er.”
It was a long way home, and even when I was snug in bed, I couldn’t sleep because all I could think about was that I’d become mediocre. Mediocrity is the worst. If I were a great player, it’d be fine and well. If I were a completely craptastic player, that’d be fine, too–I’d have no problems quitting the game. It’s the limbo of being slightly better than average pool player, but not good enough to be able to do anything with the game that is the most frustrating of all.
Consider Olympic medals. Those with the gold, they are happy. How could they not be? Those with the bronze, they are content. They were not close enough to get gold, but they got a medal. Those with the silver are the most dissatisfied. They were close, but not close enough.
Every day that goes by, I know my hunger for glory and perfection fades a little more. I have fun times. I have nice things. I have the occasional steak. Life is acceptable. Then, there are losses like tonight that electrify me and I suddenly remember who I am, and what I once wanted. And my current life becomes unacceptable.
Someone told me today as I was contemplating my loss, “You got third, and I got nothing. You should be happy.” And I responded, “I can only see first place. Everything behind it doesn’t matter to me. I’m also sorry to say that I don’t care where YOU end up. I only care where I end up.” People remind me of what I’ve won, and I in turn remind them that those victories are in the past — and don’t count anymore. I always look forward and I don’t believe you can ever be too hard on yourself.
Yes, I’m having exactly what you all think I’m having — a midlife crisis. Somewhere along the road, life got in the way of my ultimate dream. If I go on like this, I’m going to wake up one day and realize I have no chance at all anymore at glory, and I’ll be nothing more than another useless person sucking up valuable oxygen. So, while I still can, I’m going to do something about it.
I hereby rededicate myself and my resources to competitive pool.
Unfortunately, that means I will be reducing these posts to once a week instead of twice a week. I need the extra 8-10 hours.
The only good thing about tonight was the Sympathy Soup I had at the end. Cheap, tasty Thai Roast Duck Noodle Soup.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Since I have been disgruntled lately, a warm-fuzzies occasion was just what the psychiatrist ordered. A poolplayer friend of mine got married today. May the pool gods have mercy on his soul… Just kidding, Steve!
Here we have the pretty roses and cute lil palm-tree candle wedding favors, and the Fruity Tower of Power.
The salsa was homemade and it was REALLY, REALLY good. I made a tiny taco with a curved corn chip.
This was a mysterious appetizer. I don’t know what it was made of, but it was sauced with BBQ flavor, so I just ate it and disregarded its origins. There were also some damn fine enchiladas. I forgot to take pictures of those because I was too busy eating them.
The very pretty twilight sky.
Steve, may you and Patty live happily, ever after! 🙂 (Just remember to jump when she says, “jump”.)
Monday, November 12, 2007
Today was a pretty quiet day. On my way back from my coffee run, I saw this incredibly skinny chick. I don’t think you can appreciate the true bony-assed magnificence from this photograph, but here it is anyways.
Her ankles are about as thick as my wrists. And her pants kept falling down.
I went to dinner today with one of my oldest (literally and figuratively) friends, to celebrate the day I started playing pool. That’s how much I am a pool nerd.
The very lovely water glass and flower arrangement. And a fancy way they serve tea–complete with an uber-cute tiny jar of honey!
Some bluefin tuna with greens…
And roasted lamb…
Thanks for feeding me, and we’ll do it again next year… 😉
Fun Links : The Return
I know you want to waste time as much as I do…