Saturday, June 17, 2017

Tortillas Rosalyn (queso, frijoles negros, chiles verdes enlatados)

I am proud to present the first of many pieces about a quiet culinary obsession of mine:  Tortillas, cheese, and their many delicious combinations. I've been preparing and eating tortillas and cheese since I was old enough to work the microwave, and I am so glad to bring you into my kitchen and share the love I have for this simple dish and it's many, many variations.

The beauty of tortillas and cheese is that it is so simple, and so easy, and so fast.  But today we start with a more difficult variation of the theme as it requires the actual use of a stove:  Tortillas Rosalyn.

As always, we start with the base.  You get the tortillas.  You get the cheese.  For Tortillas Rosalyn I used La Banderita soft taco sized tortillas and a good hunk of Montery Jack, torn carefully by hand  into sort of rectangularish pieces, as shown.


Then roll the tortilla and cheese together, Surprisingly, there is a fair bit of technique involved in this. One must be sure to fully encapsulate the cheese in such a manner as to prevent a leakage that would render your snack no longer a finger food, but at the same time leaving enough space that the steam created by the sudden heating  of the cheese has the ability to actually dissipate and fully melt the cheese. Too tight and it takes too long to cook, to loose and it all falls apart.

For Tortillas Rosalyn you're looking for a roll somewhere between a crepe and a this case a bad, dominican wrapped cigar, as shown in the picture to the right.

Then I set the tortillas and cheese aside.  This is an example of a raft dish, where the tortillas and cheese provide a raft upon which sits...stuff.

So about that stuff.  For Tortillas Rosalyn you heat some butter in a large pan, and then add a half a can of black beans.  Toss in a little garlic salt, red pepper, minced onion and garlic, and chili power.

Once the beans are warm but aren't quite breaking a part, put in a whole thing of canned green chilis. Combine everything with a little bit of gentle vigor.  Cook until the juice of the green chillis starts to boil smartly.


If you haven't yet, this would be a good time to put your tortillas and cheese in the microwave.  Nuke them for about a minute, or until the cheese is melted.  You can usually tell by touching the middle of the tortillas; they should have a suppleness, and give away gently to the pressure of your fingers.  Be careful not to burn yourself.

If the tortillas and cheese have the desired doneness, pull them out of the microwave and then simply put the beans and green chilis on top.  Pair with a good, cheap beer.  Most dishes in the Tortillas and Cheese family are eaten with the hands, but this lends itself far better to a fork and knife.  Enjoy!


Monday, June 12, 2017

My Virginia Tech Football Memory

Virginia Tech football celebrates its 125th year this year, and the various alumni groups and Hokie Sports sites are asking us to share our memories.  Here is my submission to the so called "Bracket of Memories":

"I will never forget the night that Virginia Tech played against West Virginia on November 20, 2002.

For one, it was a fucking Wednesday. Wednesday!  Why?  I never really understood that one. Wednesday was a bad night for me.  That was the night that my ultra heavy metal band, DeathSpoon, played at The Underground Underground, a sort of concrete bunker underneath the Underground Pub.  But in all honesty, the band wasn't doing so well, and I was just a bass player. Bass players are a dime a dozen after all (it isn't that hard to just go bommma bom bom bom bom bom bommma!  Da bomma bom bom bom bom bom bomma bomma!) and if they really needed one they could just pick one up from the six or seven bass players who kind of camped out in front of the Mish Mish, just waiting for a van to pull up and offer them some work.  Painting, strange bass player sex stuff, even sometimes bass playing, just whatever those guys could get.  Just enough to keep the dream of being a real life bass player alive.  In any case, I could read the reading on the wall.  DeathSpoon would at least go on without me, and perhaps cease to be altogether.

So though it was school night, and I probably had an exam soon to come, and my impending expulsion from the band weighed heavily on mine heart, I decided that a Wednesday night in Lane Stadium (any night in Lane Stadium, really), was worth the cost.  So off I went.

I don't remember much of the game.  Just that at the half, the Hokies were winning.  I am not sure why I decided to leave at half time, aside from maybe the delicious notion that leaving at the half showed my complete contempt for the other team, a real Edward the Longshanks kind of move, retiring with the battle still raging but clearly well in hand.  I also think someone in the stands may have thrown up on my shoes, thereby dampening my enthusiasm for the contest.

So I walked back home, which at that time was a townhouse on North Main.  It was a long walk, and no doubt a thoughtful one.  I suffered with depression on and off through college (as I still do), to the point where at times the only thing I was capable of doing was sitting in bed eating a bag of Krispy Kruellers and reading "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt".  Doing anything else was just too hard.  I don't think I was there yet on this particular day, but I am sure something was on my mind.  I do remember looking in the window of a restaurant, a puddle of light on a dark November night, and seeing a few patrons sitting around a table, some of the few people in Blacksburg who were NOT at the football game.  I admired their cool disdain, their lack of concern that not one or two miles distance the mighty Hokies, THEIR mighty Hokies, were engaged in combat against the Barbarians from the Northern Coal Districts.  I wished for a moment that I had their confidence and comportment (be it ever so smug), and imagined they were interesting artsy people who wore black turtlenecks and read dead French philosophers. For a brief moment I almost decided to walk in and introduce myself, asking them to take me in like a band of jaded soldiers takes in a stray dog, for the sheer pathos of the thing, the idea that anything could be alive in a world so cold.  But the moment passed, and I walked on.

In any case, by the time I got home the third quarter was well underway and Tech was losing.  I was upset, but not really all that surprised.  We ended up losing that game 18-21.  Won't forget that anytime soon.

So yeah.  Happy 125, Virginia Tech Football!  Wishing you many, many more."

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Vice President Pence Visits the Schiffkraftwerk!

Oh wow!

I know, I haven't written in a month.  Over a month.  I've been so busy, and so tired, and I've been trying orchestrate a coup within the Peninsula Engineers Council (it failed, but by God did we get close.  So close we could almost taste it).

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But also is the news that Vice President Pence will be visiting the Shipyard this weekend to be keynote speaker at the INDIANA (SSN 789) Christening.  This is a big deal...normally the most high powered person to attend a submarine christening is the Chief of Naval Operations or his deputies, the head of Naval Reactors, and maybe a few Senators.  Powerful people, yes indeed.  But not nearly as powerful as the Vice President of the United States.
Wait.  Strike that.  Reverse it.  No one potentially as powerful as the Vice President of the United States.  I would argue that a high ranking Senator would beat out a Vice President, as a rook on a chess board is worth more than a bishop.  But then Vice President Pence, like a stretched spring or a boulder hovering above Wiley E. Coyote's head, is full of potential, just one too many buckets of KFC away from the most powerful position in the land, if not the world.

Of course, Vice President looked pretty powerful when he was in the DMZ last week, staring down North Korean guards in his totally sweet bomber jacket.  And, as Pence cannot actually land on the deck of a Submarine (at least this one, as it is currently inside the yard's building outfitting facility) much of speculation around this visit concerns that bomber jacket....i.e. will he wear it?

I know I'd be dissuaded from launching an ICMB with a look like that.
Probably not.  Typically at a Christening Cermemony if you are going to speak or be up on the VIP stage you really wear your best.  Not black or white tie, of course (who does that anymore), but The Navy Personnel on hand will be in their dress uniforms in full regalia, men wear their suits and ties and women wear dresses or....pantsuits.  Are we really still going with pantsuits?  We haven't come up with anything better?  Or at we at the point in our society where a suit is just a suit?

Anyway.  A bomber jacket would be a little out of place.  The toughness aspect of the thing would be welcome, but it really isn't in line with convention.  Pence is a pretty conventional guy, and I'd expect him to follow the rules.

But then this is an administration that doesn't really care much about the rules.  When Trump visited the USS Gerald R. Ford he didn't take his hat off inside the Carrier as he toured the mess decks, which is typically done.  He was in a place where hats, generally, are not worn; but there he was with a big old USA red no less.  Generally the Damage Control Department wears red hats so that you know...well, you know that something is going down if one of those guys goes running by.  So not only was he wearing a hat in a place he shouldn't have been wearing one, but he was wearing a color that generally should not be worn onboard ship unless you have a particular reason for doing so.

And then of course just last week wunderkinder Sarah Palin, Ted Nugent, and Kid Rock toured the white house.  Pictures surfaced of The Nuge and The Kid in the white house, leering in front of a portrait of Hilary Clinton along with The Chick, with their hats on.  They were not ball caps, sure, but they were still hats.  And then another picture, of the trio inside the oval office with Trump, and those two paragons of patriotism still have their hats on!!  

 Now listen.  Wearing a hat indoors is bad enough.  I was always taught that inside of a building, any building, if you are wearing a hat you take it off.  Pure and simple.  I have lost a lot of hats this way, incidentally, as in college a few times I took off a ball cap, put it under my desk, and then forgot to put it back on my head again when I left.  Truly.  It wasn't screwed on, so I forgot it.  I'd realize maybe an hour later that I didn't have it, and when I returned to the scene of the crime it was usually gone.

But that is the price one pays for decency.  I know a lot of people don't follow that rule anymore, just as most people don't follow any rule anymore unless they feel like it...but I would think, the White House, where the likes of Lincoln and Roosevelt have sat and made monumental decisions that affected our country, one would at least have enough respect to remove one's hat, hat hair be damned.

All that is to say, simply, that if the basic rules of hat etiquette are out the window, than anything is possible viz a viz Mike Pence and the bomber jacket.  Of course, one problem is that in April it can get rather hot in Hampton Roads, and I wonder what these guys are going to do when it gets warm and they still want to look tough?  I mean, you may be as tough as balls, but if it's 90 degrees and 80% humidity, you probably aren't going to wear a bomber jacket.  If I have a guess, they'll go with a Motorcycle Gang style cut, leaving the arms bare and cool but still telling all your enemies that you mean business.  Plus, there is the added bonus of having plenty of room for patches.  The overall effect:  Don't fuck with these guys, or we'll pop some cruise missiles in your keister.

As the current forecast high is 85 degrees in Hampton Roads on Saturday, I'll put a box of donuts on Mike Pence showing up in this bad-ass Commander in Chief cut.