The Food of Thanksgiving 2009

This year, we had an intimate Thanksgiving. I dreaded it. But, it turned out to be one of the the most special Thanksgivings in my memory. As it was a small gathering (just the three of us, and Beej), we had a small spread. I started preparing food on Wednesday evening and worked on the feast all day on Thursday. It’s amazing that after all those hours of preparation, we were finished eating after about ten minutes. It was still worth it. I’m glad that I’m not constantly cooking like that, but on occasion, I’ll gladly rise to the challenge. And, I’m not going to take all the credit, either.

On Wednesday, I started thawing the duckling, simmering the giblets and neck in Chianti and water with eel meat and juice, and boiling a collection of turkey skin and bones to make a load of turkey stock. I made sure to turn off the fire before we went to bed so I wouldn’t reduce these to ash, like the last time I attempted to make turkey stock. (That was a bad, bad thing…) I cleaned and cut the potatoes as well. Thursday morning, I was skinning and sectioning the duckling to go into the marinade, and perfecting sauces.

PB253633

Of course, I’m a sucker for raw vegetables, so we had our selection with ranch dressing. The raw veggies weren’t quite as fresh as I would have liked, but they were still a good addition to the culinary pieces.

PB253637

As for cooked veggies, we selected two yellow squash and two zucchinis that I cut into <1/8-inch slices and two bell peppers, one yellow, one red, that I cut into about 1/4-inch slices. The thought was that I wanted the squash to cook quickly, and I wanted the peppers to remain crisp. We melted 2-tablespoons of bacon grease and half a stick of butter into a pan, and Jenni sauteed them until the squash was just barely translucent.

PB253638

We boiled 5-lbs of red potatoes with the skins on. I don’t believe in removing perfectly good skin from potatoes unless they have so much dirt and grit on them that it can’t be avoided. The Kiddo smashed the potatoes with 1-tablespoon bacon grease, a stick of butter, and a splash of heavy whipping cream.

PB253639

I had never actually made gravy before yesterday, but Jenni helped me – a lot. The gravy we made for the potatoes consisted of 1-tablespoon of bacon grease (detecting a pattern?), 1-quart of our turkey stock (there was another gallon and a half that we bagged and froze), duck neck meat, about 1-cup heavy whipping cream, and organic flour. It took about 1.5-teaspoons kosher salt and a generous helping of fresh-ground pepper to finish it up.

The duckling itself was my crowning achievement for the meal. I brined the bird for about 16-hours prior to any other preparation. As I wrote above, I skinned and sectioned it, saving the fat for rendering at a later date. I put the sections into a vacuum bag and marinated them in Konig Hoven Quadrupel ale for about six hours. The pieces were smoked with fruitless mulberry wood. For the sauce, I continued simmering the above-mentioned concoction of chianti, water, neck and giblets, and eel. I removed the solids (fed the entrails to the dog and cats, and saved the neck meat for the gravy), and continued simmering the juice with the addition of 1-tablespoon of raw sugar, 1-teaspoon kosher salt, and 1-cup of Konig Hoven Quadrupel. Once the flavors had blended nicely, I thickened the sauce with corn starch. Once the meat came off the grill, I drizzled this exquisite sauce over the top.

PB253640

It was quite lean, and very flavorful!

To wash it down, we had Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel (except The Kiddo who had milk), which we had regulated to the perfect serving temperature in holes drilled in a +60-lb chunk of sandstone. We served in Riedel ‘O’ Syrah tumblers after briefly decanting. (Beej tends to have bad luck with glasses, and we thought using stems would tempt disaster.)

PB253641

Beej brought some excellent cheesecake brownies for dessert, which we drizzled with dark chocolate syrup. Kiddo and I decided to make chocolates earlier in the day. We started with Ghirardelli 100% cacao bar. We sweetened it with raw sugar that Kiddo powderized by mortar and pestle. On his suggestion, we flavored the chocolates with Spanish saffron.

PB253634

It really was an outstanding meal, and well worth the work involved. Everything was perfect. We shall see what happens for Christmas, but I’ve really raised the bar for New Year’s Eve…

Thanksgiving

I’m thankful for…

God’s Grace
My beautiful wife
My wonderful son
Great friends
Wonderful blog readers
Struggles to keep me limber and…
Closure to bad situations (even if not all of them)
Life’s promise of brighter times
The snoring dog in my Heywood Wakefield lounge chair (she’s loud)
Kitty antics
Great food (pics to follow)
Intimacy
My talents
America, Freedom and Liberty
Living in Oklahoma
Shooting sports and my guns
My crappy house with its plumbing and wiring problems
Being employed
My Nissan

I am so very, very blessed. Thank you, God!

Climate Lies?

My friend, Instinct pointed me to this on Hot Air. It’s basically about how most of the ‘data’ that we have in support of global warming/climate change had been revealed to be manipulated and fabricated, thanks to some interwebtron hacker. Go ahead and read it. I got a good laugh out of the antics! Speaking of the October weather, Dr. Trenberth writes:

This is January weather (see the Rockies baseball playoff game was canceled on saturday and then played last night in below freezing weather).

What an idiot! He didn’t even capitalize ‘Saturday’!

Tax Stimulus Truth

So, the truth comes out. For those of us that read what the IRS had to say about the legislation in the first place, we knew that we would be responsible for ‘paying back’ the ‘stimulus’ money at the end of the year, anyway. So, this is not news. Here are some gems in the above article and my comments on them:

And that could force some people to repay what the government gave them.

That who did what?!?!? That mentality really pisses me off! The government didn’t give anybody anything. They simply delayed the inevitable theft that they call income tax. This is the administration ‘giving’ you your own money and expecting to be thanked for the ‘gift’ before they turn around and take it back from you. Many of us have expected no different of the current administration.

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, called problems with the tax credit “another unfortunate example of what can happen when Congress and the White House rush through legislation like the stimulus without thinking through the consequences.”

No ****, Sherlock.

Separately, the IRS estimated that about 65,000 taxpayers could face penalties for not withholding enough taxes in 2009 because of the Making Work Pay tax credit. However, those taxpayers will be eligible to have the penalty waived, IRS spokeswoman Michelle Eldridge said.

Awe, that’s real sweet of them, isn’t it?

The Low Men in the current administration, including but not limited to San Fran Nan, Bawney Fwank, the ‘Czars’, and basically the entire Obama freak show are scoundrels and knaves. As Bawney Fwank said himself, “We are trying on every front to increase the role of government.” Actually, it was, “We awe twying on ebwy fwont to incwease da woll ov gobewnment.” There. I fixed it. Debacles such as this deal with the IRS withholding tables are par for the course when the government gets its sticky fingers in our personal business. I shall cite Social Security and the USPS as great examples of government involvement. According to the last statement that I got from the SS, if I hold out to retire when I’m 68, my government-imposed retirement plan will pay me about $1,800.00 a month. Given the rate of inflation, what will that be worth in the year 2046? Besides that, I think they’re being quite optimistic with that number, considering the system is basically bankrupt anyway. I like to think of it as the Flushing Toilet Retirement Plan. Yeah, the USPS isn’t doing so hot either, hence the ‘forever stamp‘ and its sliding scale of constant price increase. *Insert slide whistle noise.*

The last time we had a serious recession, we had a great man in the White House, who history remembers as being a great president. I will close with a quote from him.

The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’

Ronald Reagan

And, just for bonus tickles, here’s the most appropriate Beatles song for the subject at hand:

😀

11/16/09 Update

There’s mixed news today.

On the up-side, my Kevlar thread and Vectran yarn came in. I’m really looking forward to putting it in some sturdy leather! Hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to parade out some holsters like you’ve never seen before in the not-so-distant future. My ultimate goal is to offer the best looking, toughest holster that you can get. I’m confident the little improvements will eventually get me there.

On the down-side, we still aren’t out of the woods on our whole situation. I’m feeling a lot better about it today, but still freaked out. Thanks to everyone for your prayers and support! The biggest thing Jenni, The Kiddo and I have going for us currently is our support system – which has ironically taken a hit recently. But, that’s the way life rolls, and if you don’t roll with the punches, you get run over.

That’s about all I’ve got for now.

Prayer Request IV (Urgent)

I previously posted about a prayer request. An event occurred today that has me really freaked out. I plead for your prayers. This could totally suck. Right now, I’m trying to tell myself that I’m freaking out for nothing, and everything is going to be just fine. I want to believe that is true, and I think it is true. But, if this goes south, I very literally may not live through it. I don’t think it will go south. I’ve been through this particular struggle before. It was the single most harrowing experience I’ve ever had, and I’m set up for it better this time. Of course, any traumatic experience rearing its ugly head again will cause that irrational fear. This will not be my last blog entry, but I’m scared. I don’t like being scared. I like to know that everything is going well.

Things have been going well for a while now. A couple months ago, I actually wondered when we’d reach the next bump in the road. Well, we have now. I’m still not ready, in my heart. But, I will do everything that I can. I need all your prayers right now. What I was hoping against is what I’m staring at right now. It feels as though my head is in the cobra’s mouth.

My boss was a bank manager. One time, there was a robbery. The robber assaulted the bank with a .22 caliber hand gun. He said that when that thing was pointed at him it was “THIS BIG!!!” He used his hands in a 2-inch circle to show the muzzle from his perspective. I’m hoping that’s what this cobra is. Always the optimist, I’m not going to let go of the idea that it may not be nearly as bad as I perceive it.

Anyway, for the fourth time, I ask for your prayers, this time more than ever before.

Anti-Gun Mentality

Instinct pointed me to this page on the failblog in an email.

That just about sums up the naivety of the anti-gun crowd. How different is it from this?

For both my readers, I know I’m preaching to the choir. But, I’ve got to rant from time to time. It seems that some people are so deluded that they think they can keep some people from criminal actions by asking them not to – or by making those criminal actions doubly illegal. You can’t stop criminals by making their actions illegallererer. That’s not how it works. It’s not like the bad guy will see the sign on the door, stop in his tracks, and wander away dejectedly.

It’s already illegal to perform unjust violent acts. The criminal mind doesn’t care. A gun is a tool that a criminal may use to perform such acts. Such use of the tool is criminally illegal. A gun is also a tool that may be used to prevent such occurrences when a police officer is on the way – or not.

Much legislation has been put in place that makes obtaining a gun much more of a hassle. There was a time (that some still living people can attest to) in which you could walk into Sears or Montgomery Ward and walk out with a shiny new gun. You could even mail-order guns from the back of a magazine. It wasn’t all that long ago that you could purchase a gun at the local drug store with just the exchange of money – no paperwork needed apply. Has the legislation kept the guns out of unsavory hands? No. Will further legislation? No. If they were to pass a blanket ban on guns, the criminals would still have them. The biggest difference is that decent people like you and I would not – because we are decent, law-abiding people.

Yesterday, I was thinking about all of this in reference to the automotive industry. My brother has said on multiple occasions that he uses wheel locks on his car, because it keeps the honest people from stealing your wheels. I personally have taken wheel locks off of cars without the wheel key. Don’t worry, I used to be a mechanic. Most people can’t keep track of the key, so the locks have to be busted off by creative means at one time or another. It’s not that hard even.

The first few cars were made in such a way that they had absolutely no security or safety features whatsoever. Nobody had thought of anything like that. Cars were such a novel thing that only the rich had them, and most people didn’t have a clue how to operate them, so they wouldn’t steal them. They didn’t go very fast, so the dangers of accidents were muted.

Today, to keep criminals from stealing our cars, we have alarms and tamper-resistant locks. Some vehicles have OnStar, which can locate an individual vehicle and shut it down if need be. We have computerized keys that interface with the lock cylinder in both the old-fashioned, mechanical pin against key tooth method, and with a computer in the car that recognizes an imprinted chip in the key. If one or the other of these features is not present in the key, the car is designed to not operate. We have wheel locks, electric door locks that lack external key cylinders, The Club, and any number of anti-theft devices. Will any of that absolutely keep your car from being stolen? No. Not a chance. There are enterprising criminals that can bypass each and every or all of these and more. These devices simply keep the honest people honest.

When I park my car, I park it in plain view so that if any criminal got any ideas, he’d have an audience to his actions. I lock the doors, because criminals usually take the path of least resistance and won’t jimmy a car door if they have a better opportunity. I don’t leave valuable-looking stuff in plain sight in the vehicle, so it doesn’t look worth breaking into, and I don’t leave actually valuable stuff in an unattended car if I can help it, so if someone breaks in, the losses will be limited.

To keep us safe, we have crumple-zones that sacrificially reduce impact to the passenger cabin. We have three-point, auto-tensioning seat belts that will lock if the car stops too suddenly. Some of these seat belts have pyrotechnic rewind units that will actually pull us harder into the seat if the body structure is compromised. Similarly, if the body buckles, we have air bags that will deploy in front of us, and beside us, to lessen cranial stress in the event of an accident. Cars are often equipped with traction control that make them harder to lose control of, and I don’t think there’s a car manufactured for the U. S. market anymore that is not equipped with sophisticated, computer-controlled anti-lock brakes that are designed to make the car easier to stop in an emergency maneuver. BMW and other premium brands even have optional night vision systems that warn the driver of obstacles that they may not otherwise be able to see in the dark.

Do people still have accidents? Absolutely. Do people still die in automotive accidents? If you watch the news, you know the answer is yes. Chances are, you have known someone who has died in an accident in the last five years. You may not have been close to them, but it’s not at all an uncommon thing to happen.

This is why we use our seat belts and don’t drive excessively fast. We use our turn signals so other drivers can better predict what’s about to happen in traffic. This is why we check our mirrors, and our blind spots. A responsible driver is aware of the cars all around him, and is constantly making predictions as to what those other drivers are going to do. When I see a large vehicle piloted by a stressed-looking driver, on the phone, swerving from lane to lane, driving as fast as they possibly can, I steer clear. They are obviously not going to take the care of my safety like I am.

Some of these mentioned were imposed by government regulation and others are features that the manufactures independently developed to make their products more attractive to the consumer. With both the safety features and the security features built into modern automobiles, they can be argued as positive improvements. Each of them does serve a purpose, but not without pitfalls. I’ve had to chase wiring problems that arose from faulty security systems that had cars dead in their tracks. If your car has no key hole on its exterior and the battery goes dead, you’re in trouble. As I mentioned before, if you lose your wheel lock key, it can be quite the pain to get the locks off. Anti-lock brakes and traction control are frowned upon by some aficionados of driving, because they impede certain characteristics of high-performance driving. When your car is fitted with a system that can shut it down from a remote location, you have relinquished a certain amount of control over your property.

With rare exception, Smith & Wesson installs a lock on nearly every one of their new revolvers. These locks are known to spontaneously lock up the gun’s action while firing on occasion. It’s a rare occurrence, and most owners of new Smith & Wesson revolvers will never experience it. But, since the possibility exists, many people refuse to carry these fine machines as defensive tools. I personally abhor what I like to call ‘deliberate’ safeties on guns. I really don’t mind the trigger safeties on Glocks, S&W M&Ps, as well as other firearms, or the grip safety like you will find on a XD or a standard 1911. But, I hate a manual safety lever. God forbid I should ever have to use a hand gun in the act of defense, I don’t want to have to do anything beyond sighting and pulling the trigger, in order to get that first shot off.

The anti crowd would like to see more stringent safety devices on guns, and would like to see the gun manufacturers held criminally liable for the illegal use of their products. This would be like someone suing Ford because their daughter died when she ran her Mustang off a bridge, or because the getaway driver was in an E150, for that matter! The anti’s would like to make it even harder for decent people to obtain guns, and the licensure to carry them. With the idiots I see on the road, it seems that it’s only gotten easier to obtain a driver’s license! The antis would ultimately like to ban guns altogether, which would still not prevent gun crimes. All we have to do is look to Mexico for an example of that.

I’ve got to stop this rant somewhere, and I suppose this is as good a place as any. I have said and written it many times before, but I will close with this thought: When people comment to me that guns are scary because they kill people, I simply answer, “None of mine have.” That usually provokes some much needed thought.

New Goodies!

I ordered some high-strength thread today for my holster making. Up until now, I’ve just been using a heavy, waxed poly thread. I’m going to experiment with using a heavy, waxed Kevlar thread, and a heavy, waxed, Vectran yarn. It’s not that I’ve had any problems with what I’ve been using, I’m just seeing if it can be done better. We shall see!

Also, I’m working on a method to cast my own dummy guns. The Blueguns are great, and the aluminum guns are even better, but some of the more esoteric guns are really hard to come by! I’m currently on waiting lists for several castings. A couple of these, I’ve actually had in my hands at one time or another. I’d like to get to a point where I cast the gun to make the holster, so I can use the cast again for subsequent holsters. I’ve been looking at alginate impression material for the mold and some type of two-part resin for the cast. I think I need to get some of this stuff and start experimenting…