Saturday, May 07, 2011

Thinkin’ and desperate wants …

Well, I’ve about got my workroom-library area in usable condition, and that will deprive me of my excuse for not putting words on paper. It’s not as though I’m neglecting this. I’m mentally sorting and reading. I read through a small booklet published in the 1830’s titled “Mob Pretense Under Law.” A Methodist preacher was arrested (in New Hampshire, that modern bastion of irrational liberalism) for being a vagrant. The real issue was his Abolitionist views. He wanted slavery to end, not a popular view anywhere in 1830’s America. He believed in the essential equality of men as advocated in the New Testament where among Christians “there (was) neither free man nor slave, Jew nor Greek.”

There is endless detail for this period of his life. George Storrs (that’s his name) went from one controversy to another, but this was a center piece of his life. If one claimed to be a Christian, then one should act like one was his solid belief. That among Christians this view had fallen out of favor by 200 AD seemed not to matter to Mr. Storrs.

He’s an easy to like man. There are several who show up in our history who are easy to like, aside from what I may think of their doctrinal fancies. He believed that Napoleon III was the anti-Christ; that the great pyramid probably contained messages from God; that Anglo-Americans were the lost tribes of Israel; and that phrenology was a promising new science. All of these things seem extreme now, but they weren’t then. Consider the difference between being a “flat-earther” in 1000 AD and being one today. It would have made perfect sense to be one in England of 1000 AD. You’re loony if you’re one now. We’re accustomed to thinking of the 19th Century as an age of invention and science. It was also an age of wild speculation and credulity. Charles Forte would have had a ball.

So … most of my ‘thinkin’ has been a process of selection. I don’t want to leave any of this out, but most of it isn’t part of the history we’re telling.

On the desperate wants front, more blog comments from more people would be nice. Harry always thinks I mean him. Sometimes I do, but mostly I have a steady flow of blog visitors who never say anything. When we get to really desperate wants, we come to books. I want a first edition of Daniel Morgan’s When the World Went Mad: A Thrilling Story of the Late War Told in the Language of the Trenches. I have a photocopy, but I want the real thing. Apparently it’s very hard to find. One historian of World War I told me it was not just hard to find but rare. I can believe that. Morgan comes into our story in the 1920’s, and we’re no where near writing about that era. I would still love a copy of this book.

I need a nice, pretty wooden box. I think I have one in storage. As my health more and more resembles drying algae, I accumulate more and more pill bottles full of nasty bits of modern medicine. I need something nice to store them in so they don’t spill off the edge of my work table.

I got a very nice late-night phone call from Mr. K. Knees. He called me at work during my slack time. And Harry … he did indeed buy me fancy chocolates, those huge truffles made in San Francisco that cost a startling amount but taste like heaven.

Tomorrow will be one nasty day. I’ll cover my own shift and a good chunk of someone else’s. Counting road time, that will be fourteen hours. The shift is twelve hours. It takes me a half hour to organize on both ends and there’s a half hour driving time both ways. I do not look forward to tomorrow. I also repeat this mid-week next week. I think they’re trying to kill me or something. At least they’ll feed me two meals, and I intend to eat something nice and expensive. Chef tells me that we have steak and lobster on the menu for tomorrow, but I think I’m having Steak Dianne.

4 (3 ounces each) center cut beef tenderloin medallions, trimmed of all fat and pounded to 1/2 inch thick, chilled
1-1/2 ounces clarified butter
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons shallots, chopped fine
1/8 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/4 cup mushroom caps, sliced 1/8 inch thick
1 tablespoon lemon juice, fresh squeezed
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves, fresh if possible
2 ounces heavy cream
1 ounce brandy
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon chives, chopped
Salt, about 1/2 teaspoon or to taste
Ground black pepper, fresh ground, 1/8 teaspoon or to taste
In a small 8- to 10-inch saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the tenderloin steaks, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, increase heat to medium-high and saute exactly 2 minutes on each side. Remove them to a plate and chill in a refrigerator for 5 minutes.

Preheat a large (12-inch) saute pan over medium heat for 1 minute. Add clarified butter, then add the Worcestershire sauce to the butter. Place the shallots, garlic, and mushrooms in the center of the pan with the tenderloin steaks around the edges. With a spoon, stir and toss the mushroom mixture. After 2 minutes add the lemon juice and season the ingredients with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Turn the filet mignon steaks and add the thyme, chopped parsley and dried mustard powder. Cook the steaks to the doneness you like. Leave them in the pan and add the heavy cream and chives. Tilt the pan slightly, and pour the brandy into the front edge of the pan, turn the heat to high and let the flame (or if electric, light with a match) catch the brandy's vapors and ignite it. Swirl slightly, turn off the heat and let the flame go out.

Place filet mignon medallions on plates and top with the sauce from the pan.

Note: You may want to slightly undercook the filet mignon steaks prior to adding the cream and brandy so that the reduction process of making the sauce doesn't overcook them.

Serves two

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