Thursday, December 20, 2012

It's the pleasant yet very tiring time of the year

soon to be salpicon
I love The Homesick Texan. I want to cook all Lisa Fain's recipes except the fried chicken livers and the chorizo bread. And the frog's legs. Not those either. But everything else.

The other night I made the pork chops with green salsa rice. You sear chops in a skillet, put some uncooked rice atop each chop, pour salsa over everything, and roast for an hour, tightly covered. These were a smash hit, even though the rice never fully cooked. That's a big "even though," but these were so popular I'm letting it go. And it is always possible I made some mistake. You can just cook the rice on the stovetop while baking the chops.

The recipe calls for thick pork chops which Fain says should weight about 1/2 pound each. I appreciated the clarity. Recipes often fail to specify and you're left wondering whether to buy the pork chops from Safeway, each one the size and weight of a slice of bad supermarket sandwich bread, or the chops from Whole Foods, each the size of a small Easter ham. It's like they're totally different foods! Shouldn't they have different names?

The next night, I made the jalapeno mustard roast chicken. You marinate a spatchcocked chicken in yellow mustard, spices and salt, which simultaneously flavors and brines the bird. Delicious and super-easy. Sure was ugly, though.

Do you all know about spatchcocking? It just means to cut the backbone out with a pair of shears so the chicken cooks faster and more evenly and looks creepy.

I have also cooked a brisket (5 hours in the oven, tightly wrapped in foil) to make Fain's salpicon, but I can't comment on that dish yet as we're going to eat it tonight.

On another subject, a few weeks ago I read a sentence in a book that described how noisy old clocks affected our perception of time. I decided I wanted to know a bit more about noisy old clocks, maybe buy one. Whoa. Match to pile of dry leaves. Now I think about old clocks all the time, stalk them on the internet and in charity shops, have crushes on some clock styles and grudges against others. I found an Ingraham clock in a shop and was thinking of buying it, then I walked down the street and saw an antique French grandfather clock that took my breath away and made me forget the Ingraham clock. But I can't afford a grandfather clock. I also want a banjo clock, which I can afford if I strike, so to speak, at the right moment on eBay. I lost a bidding war on for a stunning Sessions banjo clock and another for a New Haven banjo clock that I'm relieved I didn't get, but now I'm in the running for a miniature banjo clock, an adorable starter banjo. Don't you dare outbid me.

I won't bore you about clocks again, don't worry. But the clock fixation is not entirely unrelated to why I started this blog, which was to address the cookbook fixation, which I haven't done. I've described the fixation and had a lot of fun wallowing around in it, but the roots remain obscure.

Why clocks? Why cookbooks? Besides beginning and ending in hard consonants, what do they have in common? Why not birds? Why not opera, Victorian teacups, rowing, or mid-century gravel art? Why do we love what we love? Why am I like this and you're like that and why in the world does anyone collect barbed wire?

Maybe I'll figure it all out in 2013. I'll let you know.


  1. The pork chops were maybe the best dish I had all year.

  2. I am so glad you started cooking from the Homesick Texan. I haven't heard you this enthusiastic about a cookbook for a while! I will have to get this book. I,too,am enamored of old clocks. I own 2, both which have to be wound with a key. They seem to give a rhythm to the day. Where did you read the article? I would be interested in reading it. As to what we love, isn't it as mysterious as who we love? We love what/who we love, we are who we are. Who knew that the holidays would make you so existential? Do you recommend spatchcocking?

  3. my mom and dad have a banjo clock with a picture of the USS Constitution on the bottom half. I have dibs.

  4. I have made lots of yummy things from her blog. The tomato-bacon pie from earlier this year was very popular at my house.

    I guess people collect barbed wire for the same reason they collect anything. At least barbed wire is an essential part of American history. I'm not sure what good Hummel figurines do for anyone.

  5. Just to say that I'm really looking forward to hearing what you cook for Christmas!

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  7. We've had to go gluten free during the past year and the Homesick Texan has been a godsend because it offers so many great options. The tortilla soup recipe is amazing and well worth the price of the book. (It's also a timely recipe, as it's a good way to use up one's leftover turkey stock and meat.)

  8. I have a fake antique mantel clock - an elephant holding the clock on his back - that I bought at Ross Dress For Less years ago. It is my favorite possession. I'm looking forward to my grandchildren fighting over who gets it, and then discovering that the clock face is plastic and pops out so you can replace the battery.

    Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

  9. P.S., Damn it, now I'm searching "elephant mantel clock" on eBay. Why have you done this to me???

  10. We had an antique Mission Oak wind up clock on the fireplace mantel. For some reason it didn't bother us when we were in our 20's and 30's. It was LOUD. But when the late 40's hit I used to lay awake and count the dongs. It is silent now.

  11. Why clocks? Why cookbooks?

    Because you must master time and substance to rise above your animal nature.

  12. I'm thrilled to follow along while you cook your way through this one. You must make her chili cheese enchiladas (perhaps you could cheat a little if it's not in her cookbook?)

  13. Wow, I really learn some great stuff in here. this is the best website I ever visited. hope you continue writing more.