Friday, October 30, 2015

A Ribeye Steak, French Toast, and some Sunday Sauce

Welcome to the debut of the latest Musick Channel blog. This one is for food.

No, I'm not a professional chef or even that experienced of a cook. My wife, Letty, is the cook of the family but I am trying to do my part to pitch in.

I've had some successes, and some failures (ask my son about 'caramel beef' sometime) but I am seeing a gradual and steady increase in quality of my cooking.

I've also found out that cooking good food to be enjoyed by others is actually really fun.

The weekends have become mine in the kitchen. Letty cooks a couple of dinners during the week so I'll give her a break and cook on the weekends. What the means, logistically, is that I'm responsible for breakfast on Saturday and Sunday plus dinner on Sunday (we go out to eat Saturday night).

My plan here on the blog is to present my Sunday menu (hence the name of the blog), with recipes and cooking instructions, to document my journey and, hopefully, to inspire you to pick up a spatula and frying pan to join me. After all, home cooking is the best cooking of all.

Let's kick it off with our first menu...

Breakfast: French Toast

The best way to use up your stale bread and have an absolutely delicious meal.

Dinner: Barbecued ribeye steak

The king of steaks and a classic meat to cook on the grill. 

Served with roasted potatoes and corn on the cob.

Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

CLASSIC TRIP - Maine 1999

Nubble Light

The usual disclaimer, prices and info are vintage 1999...your mileage may vary...

On our swing through the northeast, Maine served as a chance to rest & recharge our batteries in between the more hectic pace of America’s large cities. This trip brought us Wells and Ogunquit.

Public transportation here is pretty much nonexistent so a rental car is in order. I had a Ford Contour reserved, which would probably suit our needs fine, but I let the Hertz agent talk us into upgrading to a Ford Explorer for a few dollars more. As roomy as it looks, the Explorer is really a pretty poor choice for someone in a wheelchair. Oh well, time to move on.

Southwest, again the choice for wheelchair users on a budget, brought us within an hour of our destination from Los Angeles for a mere $99 each way. To get this rate, go to Southwest’s web site and sign up for their e-mail internet fares which frequently have coast-to-coast $99 deals.

We stayed at Village by the Sea, a condo complex near the Atlantic shore. In the fall, a huge 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom condo will set you back only $85 a night. Minus one bedroom and bathroom, the price is only $65 per night (the cost is about double in 2011 - Ed). The unit we chose was wheelchair accessible but did not have a roll in shower. The master bathroom had grab bars and a shower head on a hose.
Perkin's Cove and the Ugly Anne

There’s not a lot of action here in Southern Maine for those of you who live for the nightlife, but the scenery is spectacular. Ogunquit is your typical little Maine fishing village. Many boats depart from its little Perkins Cove to set traps for lobsters each day in the season.

Marginal Way
Marginal Way, a wheelchair accessible beach walk, winds a mile from the quaint cove along rocky beaches and finally ending up in the equally quaint downtown section of Oganquit.

To the north of Wells, the Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge offers another accessible hiking trail through a mile of its woods providing breathtaking views along with the chance to get up close and personal with the area’s animals.

Diners head to Maine for another reason, its lobster. You can get lobster season (spring through early fall) many ways. Lobster rolls, stew, chowder, pie, etc. It’s plentiful and cheap. On a tip from the hotel staff, we checked out the Sundog.

The Sundog is a local eatery here in Wells that has kind of an incongruous Alaska motif but serving good food at good prices in a slightly sterile atmosphere. It’s a bit of a shocker for those of us out-of-towners used to seing lobster as the expensive star of a menu. Here, it’s the cheapest thing. Lobster dinner - $8.95. Want 2? $14.95. A chicken dinner was $12.95 and steak was $15.95. The lobster here was sweet, delicious, and local. The service here the best of the trip. (The Sundog may no longer be in business, I can't find any listing for it - Ed)

Other dinners were had at the Shore Café and Barnacle Billy’s in Oganquit. The Shore Café served up some great food and decent service. Barnacle Billy’s was a bit mediocre, good service, a bit overpriced but came with million dollar views of Perkins Cove.

Another, even better, place to eat is Jackie's Too, on the wharf at Perkin's Cove. Along with the fresh caught lobster, they have the best burgers we'd find in Maine.

Since we were there in mid October, the fall colors were spectacular and at their peak. It is not without justification that New England is the most popular place for leaf peepers to visit each fall...although if you time it right the color is slightly more spectacular in the Blue Ridge mountains down south.

The weather was chilly and some towns, such as Old Orchard Beach, were completely shut down due to summer being over.

To sum up, spectacular scenery, a very relaxing pace, beautiful countryside scenery, and delicious seafood is what Maine has in store for the wheelchair traveler.

Copyright 1999 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Price of Beauty

A well-trimmed tree is a work of art. My neighbor has hers pruned every couple of years by her gardener.  This weekend, the crew showed up and did their magic.

The Japanese elm looks magnificent. Feathery, open, airy, without looking chopped.

The next morning, however, I go out to my patio and see this.  Seems like my walkway bore a bit of the brunt of their work.

No worries...when the gardener showed up for his regular Wednesday mow and trim, I pointed it out. He was over with a leaf blower immediately afterward.

Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, October 26, 2015

Fall Crawl in the Inland Empire

To be honest, we were originally going to head up the mountain to the Oktoberfest in Lake Arrowhead but when we found that this 'free' event would cost us a minimum of $60, we changed our mind.

Instead, we decided to buy a case of wine, sip a beer, and have a great dinner instead aided by a $50 gift certificate for Galleano Winery we'd been sitting on.

Watch the Video!

It's a wonderful day for it, mid 70's, mostly sunny weather (turns out a big thunderhead was sitting over Lake Arrowhead, so that's another plus for changing our minds) and easy traffic.

The time-travel portal that is the entrance to the Galleano ranch takes us from warehouses so big they can be seen from space into a century old farm wedged between them and Interstate 15.

There are a lot of cars here today at this normally sleepy little vineyard. Inside the tasting room, we find out why...a class reunion has descended on it. 

It's packed and Jorge, one of the employees, sets us up at a nearby butcher block table to taste.  I let Letty and Tim do most of the tasting and we end up with a mixed case plus a jug each of port and sherry to take home.

On the porch outside, we find a quiet little table to have a picnic of bread, cheese, and summer sausage from Usinger's in Milwaukee.

Next, one exit down the freeway, lies an industrial park in Norco that hosts Sons of Liberty Aleworks. This constitutional themed microbrewery serves delicious beer and ale in a dark, revolutionary-era setting. 

We sipped a few samples, with their special Oktoberfest brew my favorite, while Letty liked the chocolate porter.

It's their Oktoberfest celebration here...kind of a quiet affair (ok, a VERY quiet affair)...with a barbecue trailer out back cooking schnitzel and brats.

The constitution is more than a theme here...the owner will be very happy to hand you a pocket constitution when you check into Facebook and a local college hosts constitution educations classes on Tuesday nights.

Winding up this day across the IE, we end up at one of our favorite restaurants, Centro Basco, a great Basque restaurant in Chino. We're about a half hour early for dinner so we chill in the bar with some diet cokes and the bartender who chats us up until dinner time.

Dinner is a feast of soup, salad, bread, tongue, cheese, beans, fries, chicken cordon bleu, and ribeye steak.

Very sated, we head out and call it a day of old and new Inland Empire landmarks.

Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, October 25, 2015

French Toast

You might notice that, although the recipes I put here don't take a lot of wok to put together, they often take quite a bit of time to get to the point. 

My French toast recipe is no exception.

This dish was created to take something old (stale bread) and turn it into something absolutely delicious and avoid throwing out wasted food.  We often buy some French or Italian bread to eat with dinner. We don't always eat it all.

What's leftover is put in the freezer to await it's turn to be changed into French Toast.

1 loaf French or Italian bread, sliced an inch thick.
5 eggs
2 cups milk
Clarified butter (Ghee)

Start with a sealable bowl big enough to fit the slices of bread, laying flat, in it. I will stack 2 or three layers high, as tight as I can get them in the bowl.

In a mixing bowl, mix the eggs and milk.

Put one layer of bread in the plastic bowl and pour some mix on them, just enough so that the surface of each slice is just covered with the mix. Do the same with the next layer of bread.

If you notice that the mix will not be enough to cover everything, add another egg and some more milk to it and stir up.

Once you have all the slices in the bowl and covered with the mix, seal up and put in the refrigerator overnight.

In the morning, pull the bowl out of the fridge, turn over, and let sit like that for an hour. That insures that the bread is soaked thoroughly. Since my bowl's lid leaks, I put it in a bigger bowl to contain any mixture that spills out.

On a flat, hot skillet, brush a fine layer of clarified butter. Carefully (the slices are very delicate when soaked), lift a few at a time...and place on the hot skillet.

Cook for a few minutes on each side, place on a plate, and cover to keep warm while you finish cooking all the bread.

We served with our easy scrambled eggs.

Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Mashed Potatoes

While boxed potato flakes might be easier to make, they're not that much easier than making mashed potatoes from scratch.  Once you learn, you'll never go back to boxed potatoes.

3 medium russet potatoes
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup half and half
1/3 stick margarine (or butter, if you prefer)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

The hardest part comes right up front, peeling the potatoes. Even so, we're not cooking for an army, peeling three potatoes is not too bad.  I peel over the sink to make cleanup of the skins easier.

Put the peeled potatoes in a stock pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat town a couple of notches. I like to do a low boil for an hour.

When potatoes are cooked to a soft consistency, drain off the water...keeping the potatoes in the pot. Get a masher and start mashing. This is the second hardest part of the recipe. Add the other ingredients.

Keep mashing and stirring to get a creamy, smooth consistency. Taste test as you go along. Not salty enough? Add a dash or two until it is. Not creamy enough or soft enough?  Splash in a bit more half and half until it is.

Serve with your favorite protein.

Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Pan Fried Pork Chops

I cook a lot of Sunday dinners on the barbecue but not all of them. Today, I'll stay in the kitchen to make this entree.

When making pork chops, I prefer to cook them on the stove where I can capture the juices in the pan instead of letting them drop onto the coals of the barbecue. This means I can avoid the bane of pork chops, dry meat.

Like beef, look for good marbling. Pork fat is the key to a tasty, juicy pork chop.  I also have a secret ingredient that you'll need to gather when making breakfast...bacon fat.

3 boneless pork chops, 1 inch thick
2 tablespoons Worcester sauce
2 green onions
1/4 white onion
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup bacon fat

I like to start several hours before cooking time. As I said, I have a secret ingredient that delivers great taste and juiciness to our chops. At breakfast, I'll make some bacon and reserved the leftover fat in a small, Pyrex bowl. This I'll set aside for later.

Take one green onion and chop up in a small food processor or dice very finely with a knife.  Put the chops in a sealable plastic bowl. Cover them evenly with the Worcester sauce and green onion. Seal the bowl and put in refrigerator.

When it's time to cook, sprinkle the chops with kosher salt and pepper on both side. Put the white onion and the other green onion in the food processor.

Chop up as fine as you can get them.

Preheat a steel pan (no non-stick) with the olive oil on high. Get it very hot.

Heat up your bacon fat so that it returns to a liquid state. 

Put the chops on the oil, they should sizzle very vigorously. Cover with a lid and cook three minutes. Turn them over and cook another three minutes, covered. This will brown the chops.

Turn the chops over, lower the heat to medium-low. Cook 8 minutes on each side. 

When done, put on a platter and cover loosely with foil.

Turn the heat back up to high on the pan. Splash some red wine vinegar over the cooked on drippings and scrape the stuck on bits with a spatula. Once you've got everything scraped up, put in the onions and bacon fat. 

Stir the onions in vigorously. Let the mixture boil for five minutes on high, lower the flame to low, and stir in the garlic. Let simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.

Plate the chops and pour a few spoonfuls of your deglazed sauce over them and serve.

Leftover rating: 4

Copyrght 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Basic Scrambled Eggs

Since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, I don't want to skip it but I get tired of how expensive and mediocre breakfast can be if I wait until I get to work and buy it each morning. I'm also short on time each morning so I need something fast if I'm going to eat it at home before I leave.

That's why I have a couple of scrambled eggs before I go. It only takes five minutes to cook (if I don't have even that much time, I'll make my omelet to go recipe the night before).

One of the first things you need to learn how to cook well are scrambled eggs.  Here is my basic and easy recipe.

2 eggs (or 4 eggs for two people, 6 for three, etc.)
1 teaspoon half and half or milk
pinch of salt
1/8 cup shredded cheese
1/2 teaspoon olive oil

Preheat a non-stick frying pan (I use a 10 inch pan) with the olive oil at medium high.  While your pan is heating up, mix the eggs, half and half, and salt in a bowl.

Turn the heat on the pan up to high.  Spread the olive oil with a plastic spatula.  Pour in the mixture.  Sprinkle the cheese on top.

Mix the eggs in the pan nonstop with your spatula.  In about a minute or two, the eggs will be done.  You want them not to be liquid but still a little shiny on the surface.

Put onto a plate and let sit for a couple of minutes before eating so the eggs can finish cooking and so they won't be too hot to eat.

Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Friday, October 23, 2015

CLASSIC TRIP: North Carolina, 2000 - Part 2

In Part 1, we went to a NASCAR race in Charlotte and just missed getting robbed. Now we head for the hills...

(NOTE: This is a 'Classic Trip.' Prices and other details have probably changed in the intervening years.)

After the race and another night, we caught the train to Washington, DC (which will be covered in another trip report) and took a week's break there before returning to Charlotte.

Now, we have 8 more days, no plans, no reservations, nothing in mind but we do have a rental car for the duration. We check in to a La Quinta Inn and press on.

We pull out a map and look for somewhere to go. We see that the town of Hickory is within a couple of hours drive so off we go.

The Blue Ridge Moutains Spectacular Fall Color

Being October, the leaves are putting on a show and what a show it was. The hills and mountains were literally ablase with color. Vibrants yellows, flaming reds, glowing oranges. A SoCal boy like me never sees anything like this. We were extremely lucky to hit right at the peak of color (we've been back since and have not been able to time it just right as we did on this trip).

Murphy's Mill, North Carolina

On top of the fall color, the countryside scenery is straight out of Norman Rockwell or Mayberry...which of course is set in North Carolina to begin with. Thousands of little country roads criss cross the state with breathtaking views around every corner. Heading up to Hickory, we round a bend and are hit with a view straight off of the cover of the Saturday Evening Review, Murphy's Mill.

We pull off to take a look at this historic grist mill. We later learn that the state is dotted with such mills. The banks of the placid mill pond with it's rushing waterfall are too much to resist picnicking at.

The General Store at Murphy's Mill

No lunch? No problem, turning around we see this pleasant little country store across the street with all the supplies we need.

At this point, may I just say that the people in the state are also top-notch. You hear about Southern Hospitality but it's something else to experience it first hand. The people here are very friendly and are a pleasure to deal with.

Arriving at Hickory near dinner time, we find another charming little Mayberry-like town that the state is full of. Now Mayberry is, of course, an unobtainable fiction and all towns have problems. But the towns we've seen are beautiful examples of small town America populated by some very friendly folks.

We pull in for dinner at the Hickory Station, a nice dinner and steak house set in the restored railroad depot. As my wife dines on some savory shrimp, Tim on a nice juicy burger, and me on a tender rib-eye, we enjoy the wonderful view of the twinkling lights of downtown and the hills beyond. After dinner, the host invites us into the kitchen to meet the chef and after a nice chat we head on back to Charlotte.

The next day, we head over to the hometown of Elizabeth Dole, Salisbury. Here, we ride on the historic restored steam train at the railroad museum. The coal fired locomotive gives us a clue as to why it's not used as a fuel on modern trains anymore. Our skin, hair, and even teeth are filled with a fine, gritty soot as the smoke from the burning coal settles over the entire train.

The town offers a self guided tour of its magnificent old homes, some dating back to the 17th century. We marvel at these grand old buildings and head back for another night in the big city.

No, it's not Lake Tillery but another beautiful lake, Lake Lure.

For our last day in Charlotte, we head over to nearby Morrow Mountain State Park and Lake Tillery. We rent a rowboat at the bargain rate of $2.50 an hour a take a leisurely cruise to the other side of the lake, watching the fall leaves drift down to the surface and the snapping turtles drift up. A wheelchair accessible platform hovers over a prime fishing spot on the lake. A few bucks for a license and a cheap rod and reel from Wal-Mart is all that's needed to dip a line here (licenses are free for disabled persons).

The Pinebrae Bed and Breakfast

For a change of pace, we head to the hills for the rest of our trip. Our home is now the beautiful Pinebrae Bed and Breakfast just outside another charming North Carolina town, Rutherfordton. We arrive at 9:00pm hungry. After checking in and unpacking, we head into town to see what's for dinner. Not much at that time of night.

The only place open (and for only a few minutes more) is a barbecue place just outside of town on the road to nearby Spindale. I'm sorry to say that North Carolina barbecue and me just don't get along...just way to vinegary. The food was atrocious but luckily, it's the worst we would have to endure.

The Pinebrae is a antebellum style mansion situated on 15 acres of prime western North Carolina countryside with woods to wander through, great expanses of lawn, and many wild furry visitors popping through.

The owners, Alan and Charlotte, tell us it used to be a home for troubled youths back in the depression years. Now it's a beautiful home with four guest rooms for travelers. And fellow travelers here tend to be nice and quiet since most of their guests are visiting doctors working at the hospital down the road.

This waterfall is not on any map, this is where our hosts led us to.

A great home cooked breakfast awaits everybody each morning and guests eat at a common great table in the massive dining room with Alan holding court leading the conversation. He also tells us of the sites nearby, off the beaten path, that lead to spectacular waterfalls and mountaintop views. This luxurious and homey retreat costs us a grand total of $69 a night including breakfast.

A country lane near Rutherfordton

Travelling through the countryside towards nearby Asheville, we stop at roadside stands to pick up home made jams, jellies, and preserves to take back with us.

We travel over to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and hike up to the top of Clingman's Dome, the second highest point in the state and the highest point of neighboring Tennessee (the state line bisects the peak).

If you can make it, here is the lookout tower that awaits you at the top of Clingman's Dome

A note here for wheelchair users: although there is a smooth, paved path leading up from the parking lot to the top of the lookout tower with no steps whatsoever, the trail is very steep. A strong power chair with lots of traction and a full charge will probably make it. Be sure to bring a very strong pusher or be in extremely good physical shape if you attempt this in a manual chair. I pushed my son up to the top in his manual chair and was having some very serious doubts as to if I would make it to the end of this half-mile trail without suffering a coronary. It is exceedingly difficult for a manual chair and should be attempted with caution...remember, even if you do make it up, you have to negotiate that very steep downhill slope with a chair that wants nothing more than to break loose and make a mad dash for the fall line.

We did make it after much effort and the view into neighboring Tennessee is astonishing. After a hair-raising walk 'n roll back down to the parking lot, we head over to Dillsborough to board the Great Smokey Mountain Railroad.

The scenery of the Smokey Mountains is up close from the Great Smokey Mountain Railroad.

Here, we board a wheelchair accessible coach - with an onboard accessible restroom also - and take a 2 hour ride up the Tuckaseegee River and marvel at the countryside views of tobacco farms, villages, and the river itself. Just before a tunnel, we are treated to the spot where Hollywood created that fantastic train wreck scene from the Harrison Ford movie, "The Fugitive", complete with the destroyed locomotive and prisoner transport buses.

The train makes it back to Dillsborough at 6:00pm and after browsing through the few shops still open at that time, we have dinner at the unpretentious Dillsborough Steak and Seafood house for a delicious dinner before heading back over to Rutherfordton.

We spend our last full day here shopping for souvenirs in town and taking one last drive through the countryside. The next day, after having one last hot southern breakfast we say goodbye to our hosts and take that 2 hour drive back to Charlotte for the most regretable part of our trip...going home.

Copyright 2000 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved