Sunday, November 12, 2017

'Next Time, This Time' & The Soundtrack of My Life

For most of my first couple of years of high school, my dad drove me to school in his fire engine red, turbo-charged Buick Riviera. On that model, I’m pretty sure, the 8-track tape stereo was standard.
Dad's Riviera looked something like this, except it was red.

Every morning from our home in St. Charles, he’d get on I-70 at Zumbehl Road going east, cross the Missouri River into St. Louis County, take I-270 South, and then usually exit at Ladue Road to Lindbergh Boulevard and onto Chaminade Drive. Most days, with the sun-glare slowed traffic on the Blanchette Bridge, the trip would take about 40 minutes and we’d pass the time listening to my dad’s 8-tracks. At the time, Jim Croce’s Photographs & Memories: His Greatest Hits was always one of his favorites and I can probably still sing along, word for word, every song on that tape.

Jim Croce's Photographs & Memories: Soundtrack of My Life
Unfortunately, I know every word to every song on ABBA’s Gold: Greatest Hits for the same reason.

Anyway, I was recently sitting in a café doing a little bit of work. I think the place subscribes to Spotify and the barista must have chosen the Jim Croce station because, among some of his other great songs, Next Time, This Time played on the speaker just above the sofa where I sat.

That day, sitting in the café in 2017, I heard the song with different ears.

Jim Croce: Next Time, This Time

If there is a soundtrack to my life, I’d certain include this track on the 12-CD box set. Of course, now, I’m not sure whether I’d include the song with the other songs from the early 1980’s or whether it would be among those associated with the 50-year old version of me.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Warwick Valley Black Dirt Biscuits & Gravy

Courtesy of Arundel Publishing
From The Single Father's Guide to Life,
Cooking, and Baseball
So, my former sister-in-law, the sister of my late wife (whatever that makes her to me), Kim, teased me after I complimented my brother-in-law (same relation) on his pancakes. “Wow," I said, "Those were great flapjacks.”

Kim commented with a mischievous smirk, “That’s high praise coming from you because, you know, pancakes!” 

The joke was that I have a LOT of pancake recipes in my book, The Single Father’s Guide to Life, Cooking, and Baseball, on this blog, and in my head. I took Kim's teasing with good humor. The truth is, in fact, I think breakfast is my favorite meal. So, wouldn’t it be somewhat natural that I’d create some really tasty recipes for my book(s) and blog?

Well, shah-yeah.

Anyway, I suppressed my urge to post a new pancake recipe, although I have a really good new one. Maybe, some other time. Rather, here is my newest and best-est recipe for some friggin’ awesome biscuits and gravy that have a, well, regional flavor. You may just die of hyper-sensory bliss when you eat this.

Warwick Valley Black Dirt Gravy ’n’ Biscuits

2 pounds ground breakfast sausage
1 sweet Black Dirt onion, diced
1 Honey Crisp or Jonagold Apple (from the Warwick Valley), diced
1 garlic clove, crushed, or ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
6 cups milk
2 heaping tablespoons whole wheat flour
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch salt (optional)
8 biscuits (either packaged, from a can, or scratch)

In a large, high-sided frying pan, add diced sweet onion, diced apple, garlic, and ground breakfast sausage. Cook on medium heat until the mixture is thoroughly browned. Remove contents from pan and drain the grease. To the pan, add milk, ½ teaspoon pepper, and ½ teaspoon cinnamon. Warm on medium heat, and sift 2 tablespoons of whole wheat flour into the milk while stirring gently. Continue to stir for 3 to 5 minutes until thickened. Stir in browned sausage, onion, apple mixture. If you’re using brown-and-serve biscuits, follow the baking directions on the can, or toast 8 - 12  pieces of bread. Feeds a single dad and his three little Wildcats.

(Note, you can substitute chicken or turkey sausage for pork sausage; soy, almond, or rice milk for cow’s milk; and wheat toast for white toast). 

Although I'm partial to them, apples from Warwick Valley orchards, onions harvested in the nearby Black Dirt, and pork grown on nearby farms aren't absolutely necessary for the recipe. You can buy your apples, onions, and breakfast sausage at the grocery store. However, a local to the Warwick Valley or a visitor to AppleFest, a weekender from New York, Philadelphia, or Boston to one of the area’s charming bed 'n' breakfast accommodations, or just a day-tripper can find most of these ingredients at the Warwick Valley Farmers' Market every Sunday from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m., April through the weekend before Thanksgiving. Roaming Acres Farm and Kiernan Farms both carry a variety of breakfast sausage and other meats, while Pennings Farm Market, Rogowski Farm, and Soon’s Orchard among others sell a variety of seasonal apples and Black Dirt onions. If you want to add some farm fresh eggs to your Sunday morning breakfast/brunch, stop at Peg’s Eggs and get a dozen jumbos that Peg collects from her more than 800 layers.

Warwick Valley Farmers' Market
(Courtesy of The Warwick Valley Chamber of Commerce.)

If you survive the euphoria of my Warwick Valley Black Dirt Biscuits 'n' Gravy,  let me know how you enjoyed them. You can find me almost every Sunday walking through the Warwick Valley Farmer’s Market.