Monthly Archives: October 2017

2017 Cookery Project — Sausage, Greens, and Beans Pasta

Sausage, Greens, and Beans Pasta

Sausage, Greens, and Beans Pasta

It always surprises me how much greens like spinach and Swiss chard leaves shrink when you wilt them. I used enough kale in this dish to fill my largest pot to overflowing, but by the time the green had wilted into the pasta cooking liquid I’d added to the pot, it had shrunk to less than a tenth of its original volume.

But that came late in the process. Let’s start at the beginning.

The first thing I did was fry two sprigs of rosemary in olive oil. (Never did that before, but it’s what the Bon Appétit recipe called for.) While they were cooking, I removed the casings from three spicy Italian sausages and broke up the contents into bite-sized pieces. After I removed the cooked rosemary and set it aside to drain and dry, the sausage segments went into the same pot.

Once the sausage was cooked, it too got the drain-and-dry treatment and was replaced in the big pot by cannellini beans, and some white wine.

Meanwhile, on another burner, the rigatoni was almost ready. (This is what’s known as a “B Story”. I included it to add depth and variety to this posting, which was becoming far too linear.)

And that was the point where the pasta water went into the pot and the kale went into the pasta water.

After the kale melt-down, I returned the sausage pieces to the pot, added the rigatoni, and blended in some Parmesan and butter.

I crumbled the rosemary leaves—remember the rosemary?—over the top, and it was ready to go.

★ Disaster. Inedible. Poisoned the cat.
★★ OK, but once is enough.
★★★ Mixed results. Something went wrong, but might try this again.
★★★★ Good, but lacks that special something.
★★★★★ Excellent. Goes into my “This is a winner” file.


2017 Cookery Project — Mussels with Tomato and Chorizo Broth

Mussels with Tomato and Chorizo Broth

Mussels with Tomato and Chorizo Broth

Oh, this was good!

It’s always the broth that determines whether a serving of mussels succeeds or fails.  I used a recipe for Mussels with Tomato and Chorizo Broth from Bon Appétit as the starting point for this one, and it was a winner.

For the broth, I removed the casings from three Spanish chorizo sausages and chopped them into one-inch slices. I tossed them into a pot and fried them until they had that nice cooked sausage look, then added some fennel seeds and minced garlic. After they’d sizzled for a while, I mixed in a pint of halved cherry tomatoes and a cup of white wine, and let it cook down by half. Finally, I filled the pot with mussels and steamed them until they opened.

When they were finished, I served them in bowls, with chopped tarragon—which really made the dish—and a side of sourdough bread, which I’d dotted with olive oil and toasted under the broiler.

The sourdough bread was the perfect medium for sopping up the excellent broth.

Loved the results! This one’s a keeper.


★ Disaster. Inedible. Poisoned the cat.
★★ OK, but once is enough.
★★★ Mixed results. Something went wrong, but might try this again.
★★★★ Good, but lacks that special something.
★★★★★ Excellent. Goes into my “This is a winner” file.

Call Me By Your Name — Official Trailer

Call Me By Your Name, a film about the charged summer relationship between the son of an American professor and a visiting grad student, has been getting rapturous early reviews from people whose judgement I trust. There’s already a lot of Award chatter for the film itself and for Timothée Chalamet’s lead performance as the 17-year-old Elio Perlman. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 96% fresh rating.

I don’t know. The movie is based on a novel of the same name by André Aciman. I tried, twice, to read it, but I couldn’t get beyond the first 40 pages. I found Elio’s first-person narration to be a little more lush and effete than I could take.

The script for the film is by James Ivory, which almost goes without saying, because the movie is 1) homoerotic and 2) set in Italy. I mean, who better?

Call Me By Your Name will be released in the United States on 24 November 2017, and yes, that’s Sufjan Stevens on the film’s soundtrack.

“Murder Is Her Hobby” — Deadly Dioramas at the Renwick Gallery

It was a beautiful day in Washington, so I took a leisurely 20-minute walk to the Renwick Gallery, which houses the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s collection of contemporary craft and decorative art.

An exhibition of the works of Frances Glessner Lee opened at the Renwick over the weekend. You’ve probably never heard of her; I certainly hadn’t.

Lee was the first female police captain in the U.S. She’s known, by people who know that sort of thing, as “mother of forensic science,” for helping to found the Department of Legal Medicine at Harvard. And beginning in the 1940s, she created the “Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death”.

The Nutshell Studies are intricately-detailed miniature dioramas of crime scenes, used to train police how to find and evaluate evidence, and to determine what took place at the scene of the crime. The 19 surviving dioramas, of the original 20, are still in use at the Maryland Medical Examiner’s Office in Baltimore. They’ll be on display at the Renwick through 28 January 2018, and they’re quite wonderful.

Next to each miniature model is a summary of the basic facts of the case: Who found the body, the known history of the victim, etc. The viewer is invited to examine the diorama and attempt to determine what happened. Murder, suicide, or accident?

So whodunit? The Renwick provides no solutions to the cases, since Lee’s models are still used to test trainees. Except for this exhibition, in fact, the dioramas are not available for public viewing.

Frances Glessner Lee died in 1962, but her influence lives on. During her lifetime, Erle Stanley Gardner, the author of the Perry Mason novels, dedicated several of the books to Lee. Much more recently, the television series CSI and The Father Brown Mysteries have featured episodes that involved Lee-inspired crime dioramas.

It was a pleasant if ever-so-slightly morbid way to spend an afternoon.

Here’s the Renwick’s exhibition video:

All images came from the Renwick.

Renoir Sucks at Painting 2, Renoir 0

As both all of my longtime readers know, I’ve been a passionate supporter of the #RenoirSucksAtPainting movement since its earliest days. I’ve posted items about the grassroots crusade to have the treacly, insipid works of the “painter” Pierre-Auguste Renoir removed from the world’s galleries and museums here and here.

And here. And here, too.

Massive #RenoirSucksAtPainting Rally, Demanding the Removal of Treacle from American Museums

Misguided Counter Protester

As you can tell from the number of postings, I care deeply about art, which is more than can be said about a certain dead French hack. That’s why I got such malevolent joy out of two news items in the past few weeks.

Art World Owes a Debt to Heroic Thief 

According to Agence France-Presse, “A small painting by French impressionist Auguste Renoir was stolen from an auctioneer in a Paris suburb on Saturday, the day before it was due to be sold, police said. ”

The article describes the theft as “brazen,” but art lovers everywhere hailed it as valiant.

BTW, The Onion, America’s most trusted source for news, anticipated the theft. Here’s what they wrote seven years ago:

Scamming the Scammer

A few years ago, a writer for Vanity Fair was given the unenviable job of shadowing a certain short-fingered vulgarian. Here’s part of his report:

And then this happened.

Ah, the Schadenfreude! It is so sweet!

2017 Cookery Project — Baked Chicken, Sausage, and Brussels Sprouts

Baked Chicken, Sausage, and Brussels Sprouts

Baked Chicken, Sausage, and Brussels Sprouts

There’s a rumour going around that some people don’t like Brussels sprouts.

I’ve been unable to personally verify the rumour, since I make it a habit to associate only with people of impeccable taste (and no active arrest warrants.) But if it’s true, I can only suggest that those poor unfortunates seek help before it is too late.

I love Brussels sprouts, so I was eager to try a recipe for Baked Chicken, Sausage, and Brussels Sprouts that I found on Nerds with Knives. Part of the attraction was that the meal could be cooked on a single baking tray.

In addition to the three ingredients already mentioned, the recipe called for lots of shallots—always a good sign—and garlic, Dijon mustard, honey, and Worcestershire sauce, all of which I keep in stock. I added fresh rosemary and a single lemon to my shopping list.

Here’s where I get to vent: Recipes always understate the amount of prep time. The published estimate of preparation time for this dish was 20 minutes.

The Brussels sprouts had to be cleaned and halved, the chicken washed and cut into chunks, and the sausages chopped into two-inch segments. The shallots had to be peeled and quartered, and the garlic had to be peeled and minced. The liquids had to be measured, poured, and whisked. The rosemary needles had to be chopped, and the lemon had to be cut into thin slices.

Granted, my knife skills leave a lot to be desired, mainly because I’m terrified of cutting off a useful body part, but there was no way in the world that I could do all that in less time than it takes to get through to customer assistance at the DC tax office on a good day.

So prep took about 40 minutes.

But the meal turned out really well.

★ Disaster. Inedible. Poisoned the cat.
★★ OK, but once is enough.
★★★ Mixed results. Something went wrong, but might try this again.
★★★★ Good, but lacks that special something.
★★★★★ Excellent. Goes into my “This is a winner” file.