The Next Step

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"The Next Step"

        I was in and out of consciousness those first few hours in ICU and as far as I could tell, there was quite a lot of activity in and out of my room. Doctors, family, friends, nurses, and assorted other medical staff. It wasn’t until later in the evening that I was able to stay awake long enough to ask some better questions. The next shift of staffers was now taking over and did what they could to provide me with answers to those questions. The intensive care unit isn’t the place for long term diagnosis and the information I was getting had more to do with the immediate issues and making sure I was around to have a long term to diagnosis.

The staff explained each procedure and medication as it was performed and administered, but rarely did they have time to tell me how this happened or what was next.  This section of the hospital is for acute issues only. Get the patient stable and move them on, if possible.  The next stage and round of tests were tasked with determining the reason I had found myself in this situation; what we were going to do about any future I might have; and frankly, how long that future was going to last.  It took a day and a half before I was moved to the next section. Either my health was stabilizing or it was just too expensive to house someone without insurance for another day. 

Each time I took a step in the process of my care there was a common element that felt overwhelming. The steps were mostly forward but it didn’t aid the feeling that occurred with each of these moves. I was given the details of the proposed path with probabilities -  but rarely options. The likelihood of skipping a step was near zero but each time I made a move a black cloud of fear and anxiety crept in and lingered. 

“Are you sure I am ready to move out of ICU? Can I be left alone in a room with just a button to push for help?" It’s not that I didn’t want to get on with the “fixing”, but the comfort of being stable added an additional weight when it was time to go forward. Maybe this is a normal psychological pattern or maybe I didn’t want to return to my old life, at least not at that moment. 

Whatever the issue, it popped up with each step and presented a new set of fears every time. In addition, each day more of my new reality was being presented and more absorbed, just not at the same rate. Big changes were coming regardless of when I decided to except there appearance and necessity. The first change was moving out of the ICU. 
In that first evening in intensive care a nurse came in my room to start her shift. As she walked in I saw her eyes avert to the my right shoulder. It wasn’t a look of shock but rather of disgust. Like walking into a kitchen with a pile of dishes and a delivery dropped in the corner waiting to be put away after a lunch rush (for those of you in the restaurant world). 

I couldn’t see what was causing this look on her face, but she soon let me in on the culprit. I was a bloody mess.  My right side was red with dried blood and that mess had violated the gown that was draped over me and the bedding underneath.  Apparently while I was taking one of my ‘naps” the doctors found it necessary to place a catheter in my chest leading directly into my right internal jugular vein (RIJ). This is a common placement for chronic and acute kidney issues.  Sticking out my my RIJ was a port with two tubes. One tube for blood flow out of the body, and one for returning the blood. The machine on the side of the bed was there to clean my blood as my kidneys were not holding up their end of a system that keeps us alive.

The nurse wasn’t phased by seeing the tubes protruding from my jugular vein but rather that no one had bothered to clean me and change the linens stained by my toxic blood. When I finally saw the mess that I was lying in it made the fear and shock of my guests more understandable. Not only was I hooked up to plenty of machines with several tubes coming out my body but I was lying in a blood soaked ICU bed.  Any comfort I may have experienced from waking up (versus the alternative) was slowly being challenged as I was absorbing all that was being done to correct my body’s revolution to it’s past life.

A room opened up in the hospital the following day and in the late afternoon I was moved to my new accommodations. I remember vividly being rolled down that hallway and the sight of the nurse who stood outside my new room.  That imprinted memory was based on the next several minutes. The staff that rolled me down to the new floor told the nurse they needed the bed and gurney to take back. My new nurse sternly suggested otherwise.  Each side started digging in on their position, including long and serious stares with forced wide eyes and little blinking. The two side assumed battle posture while I lay on a bed in a hallway, tubes dangling from each side. Great! A turf war for a gurney. This wasn’t a brief encounter. The nurse for the room told the ICU team that they were not moving me out that bed, period. They returned fire with issues of need of the special bed in ICU and hospital rules that didn’t allow for this bed to be on this floor. 

“That bed won’t even fit through the door.” I heard one of them scream. “Don’t you worry about my room, I’ll take care of it”, was the response from my new nurse. This was getting to be too much for my mediator personality. “I can get up and walk to the bed, really, it will be fine.” This didn’t go over well with my new nurse. He wasn’t interested in my position on the subject or my help. 

The confrontation ended with a one sided victory for my new nurse. Frankly I was surprised as it was two against one. I think home field advantage had something to do with the victory. Adding insult to the loss, the ICU people had to partake in moving the bed currently in the room, into the hallway before returning sans gurney. I would like to point out that this is the same nurse who brought me tea every night, even when he wasn’t working my section. I think you have to respect someone who takes a strong position and holds to it, right or wrong. 

The issues with that bed didn’t end that evening. The next day I  headed to a treatment room a few floors down and had to be rolled there in the bed from the room. That meant getting the bed out of the room again and back in after the four hours of dialysis. A bed was required in the hospital’s dialysis unit and every person that came in had there own. This was also part of the acute treatment of my now ongoing ailment. 

Although there was still some doubt about my long term prognosis, the short term plan was becoming clear. I was going to receive daily treatments in the hospital’s dialysis center to do the work my kidneys were failing to do. The rest of the day was filled with monitoring of my sky high blood pressure and other testing. The plan was to determine what turned off my kidneys and why, and hoping they would start doing their job again. 

This went on for several days. The large amounts of medications  being sent into my system were also sending me to distant places. LaLa land, Narnia, Alice’s wonderland. Most were pleasant but not all.  I was able to remember many of the steady flow of visitors that came to check on my well being, but the notes I found after one of my journeys indicated that I missed more that a few. Let me add that the number of people willing to come and visit me in the hospital was surprising. Family, friends, customers - it’s part of recovery that isn’t recognized at the moment but in hindsight there was a mental boost with each new and returning face. Some brought books, some brought food, and others just sat with me for a hour dancing around as many personal questions as they could while monitoring how far they might venture into the subject. There was plenty of uncertainty but I did the best I could with every visitor.

By far the worst part of each day was going to the dialysis room. This is where the reality hit hardest. Laying in that bed with 4 to 6 other patients in the same room, none of us looking like we were going to make it out of our current situation. There was a  T.V. at each station and I naively brought books with me. Everything about the place was horribly uncomfortable, except of course for the “extending my life” part.  For some reason there was no getting comfortable in that room. 

      Since I had to be wheeled down to the treatment area part of my day included waiting for a “ride” from one of the hospital staff. Once in the dialysis center I was weighed and then hooked up to the machine. No small process with all the precautions taken to stave off potential infections. Those tubes were dangerously close to my heart and infections move fast. 

Those were also the longest hours of each day.  As I entered that room I felt the looming presence of something that added to the general discomfort. Although I can firmly state my position on spiritual matters is undecided, there was strong feeling I was being visited by my mortality as I rolled into that room. Sitting beside my bed fidgeting, he served as a reminder to the severity of a situation I was still not accepting.  He waited impatiently for the results of each treatment, checking his imaginary watch that measured eternity.  

When the machine had cleansed the toxins out of my blood there was another waiting game to suffer.  Anxiously wanting to return to my room, I had to wait for my “ride” to fetch me from this spiraling inferno and take me away from the demon sitting by my side. 

Any excitement of finishing the process was tainted while waiting to be removed from that room. I could see the same fear in the other patients. The desire to get out of that place and away from an uninvited and impatient companion quickly inflated when those tubes were disconnected from the machine.  As I rolled towards the door of the room I could feel him following me to the edge. He stopped at the entrance and watched with disappointment as I rolled away. The daily scene reminded me of the baseball players in the movie “Field of Dreams” as they approached the edge of the diamond. He gave me a look that said “I will be waiting for you when you return.” 

Fortunately he was not my only visitor while in that room.  Included in the list of real visitors was a friend named David.  He developed a habit of stopping in to see me several times a week and he invariable came while I was in that room.   Even though my schedule changed each day, oddly his did not.  He almost always visited while I was in that room. Guests were allowed in the dialysis section of the hospital but you wouldn't have known as other patients rarely had them. I was quite surprised when he came wandering in for the first time. He stayed about 15 minutes, checked on my status and caught me up of what was going on with our mutual friends. There was never any sign of discomfort in his appearance, with me or any of the other near death patients in the room. 

He made attempts at cheering me up as I lay there in my vulnerable position.  Even if he had limited success, there was a long term effect that was hard to quantify. The hospital is a tough place to visit in general but this room elevated that discomfort 10 fold. How and why he first wandered in there has always amazed me. Every time he came back it amazed me more. 

It was uncomfortable at first to have visitors as I was usually in some state of undress both physically and mentally. But I looked forward to seeing David. He stopped in during his work day which meant he was in a suit or at least a sport coat. He and I share an ethnic background that in no way can be disguised.  He also looks like he can handle himself in any situation, alone or otherwise.  I’m fairly certain that this is more than just appearance. The comforting nature about his visits extended beyond the mere caring and concern of a friend. There was a balancing effect to my unwelcome counterpart that sat beside me, unseen to others. Just like the battle in the hallway between the staff over that bed, I could feel the tension between these two forces. 

David’s presence several times a week felt like a signal to that rude and impatient visitor that he was going to have some competition. David represented the away team of an army of friends that helped me get through the most difficult and vulnerable part of the recovery.  Somehow my suited friend showed up to remind my mortality of the existence of that armed group - a group ready to fight him for possession

I had no way of knowing how much my friends were stockpiling for any necessary confrontation nor how much of it would be needed. Most of my 23 days in that hospital were focused on surviving each day and slowly accepting the changes ahead. In hindsight I can see how the efforts and persistence of that army carried me a long way through the battle at hand and the one they foresaw coming.  

This was the beginning of what became a collection of individual and group efforts over several years. I don’t recall asking for much help verbally but they must have seen it in me. The road ahead wasn’t to be forged alone and I rarely confronted a challenge without at least one of them at hand.  David represented those efforts as he stood there in that difficult room without hesitation or concern for the forces interested in opposing their efforts.  Thanks David. Goliath never stood a chance.

Price Elasitciy

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Entry #4

      Price elasticity of Demand is an economic principle I have had a interest in and feared throughout my years in retail. The new year has an impact on this theory as many places use the changing of the calendar year to increase their prices. With all the changes in peoples behavior on this one day change I found it too risky to add to the possible decisions customers make at this point. 

      The ability to find that magic price where you are profitable and can still provide the quality of product and service is a constant search. There are times when the all the variables line up perfectly and for a very short period of time supply and demand seem to be your bitches. Hubris becomes an aroma that lingers no matter the cologne or perfume chosen, or the location it’s dabbed. 

No need to worry for soon enough the aroma will fade and that magic combination you once thought was due to your business brilliance and acumen will be just as elusive as the Philosopher’s stone. Like the bacteria that learns and resists our antibiotics over time, readjusting price or quality never impacts the outcome as it once did. Time has changes the rules and the variable in the magic formula. Demand has learned from you application of control and developed a tolerance to your actions. 

Experience teaches us to be afraid of price increases and with good reason. If you lack the proper empirical exposure, listen to the hundreds or thousands that came before you; those that teach the subject; those that have been successful; those that failed. The path is different, but the lesson is the same. 

The first exposure to a product or service usually sets the bar for future decisions. Weekly lunch outings, daily coffee, bi-weekly laundry services, special event dinners; They all have a point of elasticity for each individual. The point not only varies with time but with each person, each subgroup, and each market, but it also varies with each product. The variables are unique for different areas. From different regions of the world to different countries, to different states, to different neighborhoods. 

I have battled the demon in every business I have been apart of, and experienced many different results. Price too low creating too much demand that eventually decreased quality. Price too high that limited the volume and hence profitability and the need to cover base costs. The number of opportunities to slide the variable of price are not infinite as each change creates an impact on the consumer whether it be his daily coffee or a car that is purchased every five or six years. 

Each of us experience this on a regular basis with simple purchases at the grocery store. We check the price on a product and decide if it has enough value at the moment, at that price. And the exact same decision can vary from day to day even if the price does not. Today I may find the value acceptable, but tomorrow something may be different and the value isn't appropriate. 

All of this is why I am so attracted to the concept and the understanding of this principle. Managing all the variables that are visible and those that are more camouflaged has intrigued me over the years. The naming of this theory might also be the attraction in my strange world. It is so perfectly descriptive of the principle in result and yet complex in it’s deciphering. All seems well while we tinker with the price and demand follows suit feeling like Geppetto before his famed puppet came to life.  Both hands on the strings and a little bored with the outcome. However, there is a point at which demand can snap and boom!, we are no longer the puppeteer but the chaser. The strings no longer control the actions and our decisions no longer impact the outcome. Pinocchio now makes his own decisions and Demand has run amok and refuses to respond as it once did. So many things change when we stretch the formula and break the connection.

All these thoughts came storming back to me today as I went to have coffee at my usual place. It is a higher end coffee shop for our area both in quality and price. I order a simple coffee prepared with a scientific process. I have accepted the price point for product and the overall experience. It seems that others agree with me as the place is somewhere between steady and busy. Today when I was asked to pay, the price was thirty cents higher - just under a ten percent increase. In addition the new price crossed a price barrier that impacts customers more than the increase. It crossed into a new dollar amount, from in the three dollar and change price to above the four dollar amount, and I find myself questioning the value.

Is the value enough to keep me coming back? Can I tolerate the person sitting next to me who finds it necessary to speak loud enough to overcome the music playing through my earbuds at this new price? Is the free wifi the rare server who is more interested in his coworkers and friends than the customers balanced enough with this new price? The answer is “We will see the next time I choose to venture out to have coffee and work. The real question to me is whether it will merely reduce my visits or will it change my behavior altogether. Has it reduced demand for me or has the elastic snapped? 

If the one day data collection of the busy-ness of the place compared to similar days past is any indicator, demand will wane for me and for others. It was significantly slower today than on similar days of the week in the past. First time I have noticed a change and time only will tell if it is correlation or causation. That, or maybe the guy at the iPad cash register just hit the wrong buttons and overcharged me today.  

Sausage Making

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Homemade sausage

"Never meet your heroes" and "Never watch sausage being made". Two adages from unknown sages. Here I would like to prove one of those wrong, provided you follow the another adage: "Garbage in, garbage out. "
Here we use only the good parts for our sausage making, guaranteeing a positive outcome as our end product.  

         Below are photos and recipes for 2 types of sausage followed by the process of stuffing them in casings. The second part isn't necessary and will give you  bulk sausage. Your choice. I will tell you that it is an additional step with more and more work but it depends on your needs. 

        You will need a meat grinder (electric or hand) or the attachment to many table top home mixers. If you plan on using casings you will also need the attachments that fill them. 

Ingredients: Pork Sausage with Parsley and Parmesan

  • 3 lb. Pork Butt
  • 1 lb. Fat Back (or other fatty pork part)
  • 1 1/2 Cup cups dry Red Wine
  • 1 cup Parmesan Cheese
  • 3/4 Fresh Chopped Parsley
  • 3 Tbsp. Fennel (optional for this recipe)
  • 2 Tbsp. crushed red pepper
  • Salt/Pepper
  • 1/2 cup ice water

Ingredients: Chicken Sausage with feta and spinach

  • 3 lb. Boneless Chicken Thighs
  • 1 lb. Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast
  • 1 Cup Dry White Wine
  • 1 1/2 cups Feta Cheese
  • 2 Cups Fresh Chopped Spinach
  • Salt/Pepper
  • 3 Tbsp. Fennel (optional) - gives the end product the traditional Italian sausage taste.

Start by cutting the pork butt (or Chicken) into 1 inch cubes or smaller. Cut your fat back (or chicken breast) into 1/2 inch cubes. Combine the cut meat and fat in a large bowl and add salt, pepper, wine, crushed red pepper. Set this mixture in the fridge for at least an hour, and up to 4 hours.

Prepping your casings: Natural casing can be purchased salt cured in a bag and will last a long time in the fridge. Some places offer cleaned and prepared natural casings at a much higher price but that is dealers choice. I have purchased a small bag that I have prepped at home.

Start by estimated how much length you will need. An arms length will get you about 1 1/2 lb. I plan on extra length as there is an occasional tear in the casings. Soak the disgusting tubes in water to pull out the salt used to cure. I like to change the water about every 30 minutes, 3 or four times.

Next you will want to run water through the casing to wash out any salt on the inside and to check for holes. I have used a funnel to control the flow of water. Place the casings in a fresh batch of water until ready to use.

Sausage making is as much about personal taste as it is about the process.  Each region of the world has some specific flavor combinations, and it's up to the maker to find the ones they like. Here is a typical pork sausage without fennel. Adding fennel seed will give your creation the flavor you most accustomed to buying.  My tastes have changed the more sausage I make. Less fennel for me, and more of the other flavors I can cram in there.

When you are ready to grind, load up the hopper with part of the mixture and push the meat cubes into the hole to grind the meat, If you have one of these handy tools to push the meat, do so with just enough pressure to get things rolling.

It will take a few seconds for the ground meat to start coming through the the smaller holes of the grinder, so be patient. A continuous flow of the cubes will help to keep things moving. Keep an eye on the bowl, and spin the receiving bowl so the ground meat evenly distributes. It's easy to get away from you if you are filling the hopper and pushing the cubes through without assistance.

Once the meat is ground, I like to add the remainder of the parmesan and the parsley. That way some of the flavor in ground into the meat and some is visible when stuffed into the casings.

At this point I like to test out the mixture before I stuff it into casings. Make a couple (in case you have guests helping out) of small sausage patties and fry them up to sample. Be sure to cook them all the way through, as people still get nervous about pork.  The idea is to test out the flavor and adjust as needed.

At this point you can adjust the flavor as needed. It will much harder to this after you stuff your sausage in casings. 

If you are satisfied with the flavor it's time to for the fun (albeit a little difficult) part.  At this point I will add some of the ice water to add a touch of moisture to the sausage. I find this helps out the process of stuffing into casings. 

Start by feeding the casings onto the attachment. Push the first opening 2 to 3 inches up the attachment so there is room for the remainder. I use cold water on the attachment also and the casings to ease the process. 

Leave about 2 inches off the end of the attachment and tie a knot in the end of the casings. Next add the ground meat to the hopper and use the tool to stuff some of the meat into the machine. Once you turn on the power (or start to hand crank) things will move pretty fast. 

As the sausage fills the casings, slowly assist by pulling with a little pressure. Without the assisitance the casings can fill up too much and break open. Pull without leaving any slack, but not too tight as a general (and not very helpful) rule. Trial and error is your best teacher.

The end product can be left as one large coil, but most people prefer to have links, about 1/4 lb. each. Two ways to accomplish this. 1) Twist the sausage as it comes off the attachment every three to four inches. 2) Stuff the casings a little less and twist once you hit the end off the line. Start at the first part of the sausage that come off the attachment and leave the end untied until finished. If you do this at the end remoisten the long links to keep from breaking.

The first way requires much more coordination and timing. The second can cause tears in the middle of a nice long link and force you to retry to stuffing.

Once you have completed this, tie the end piece and place your finished product in the fridge for several hours to dry out a bit. That's it. You can cook, freeze, or just admire your work. Just don't let it go to waste.


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Olindo Italian Imports and Cash & Carry
1510 Lyell Avenue
Rochester, NY 14606

I use this section to highlight businesses that I have used over the many years of cooking, and are often overlooked by today's "Bright and Shiny" places. A place to find authentic food products from Italy. Not a fancy display with fancy labels claiming to be authentic. 

Olindo's is one of my favorite places to shop for many of the hard to find items.  Our local grocery stores, especially as of late, have moved into their own branding with limited variety and in my opinion, of much lower quality. 

This is the only place that I will buy canned tomatoes (San Marzano and others). The variety is extensive and the quality of the products will add a new level to your cooking. In addition, their prices are not only competitive but often much lower than some others.

Olive oils, canned tomatoes, imported Italian cheeses makes it worth the trip.  

There is a wall of pastas from Italy, a small olive bar (currently at $5.99 lb) and all the flours and spices you will need for pizza dough, homemade pasta and breads, and anything else.

Don't overlook the pots and pans section either. I have used these at both the restaurants and and home for many years. Durable and price friendly. 

This is an absolute must. Pancetta is available in many large grocery places, but the Mastro Brand is the only one I use and this is where I buy mine, always.

Hard Cheese and other imported quality items are in the cooler section, along with cured meats other italian delights. The difference in quality is very apparent. Sorry local chains and others. 

The choice of original italian home espresso machines are all very good quality. 

Say hello to the Italian woman who work the registers and ask them for guidance if you need any.  That's when you experience exactly what it's like to grow up in an Italian household. 
Tell them you saw this here, so they know how you found them.

Seafood Po' Boy

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Po' Boy
w/Fried Oysters and/or Fried Shrimp

We had a N'awlin's cooking day in the kitchen, and since it was "Sandwich Week" proclaimed by someone, it just seemed appropriate to put this on the menu that day. Here is my disclaimer: I developed an allergy to seafood in my early twenties, and have not eaten it since the doctors narrowed down the cause. I have, however, served many of the seafood recipes in my restaurants for many years and carefully monitored the feedback from customers and friends. 

With that, here is a simple way to bring that traditional dish to your home anytime.

  • 1/2 lb small shrimp, peeled and divined
  • 8 oz. oysters, shelled, in liquer
  • 1 cup buttermilk (or milk with 2 tsp lemon or vinegar)
  • 1 cup All Purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup corn meal
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 4 Hoagie rolls 
  • 3 cups Canola oil or other Vegetable oil
  • Spicy mayo (1/2 cup may with 2 tbsp hot sauce of your choice)
  • Lettuce/Tomato/Avocado for garnish
Total Time: 20 minutes (plus 1/2 hour to marinate the shrimp/oysters)

Makes 4 big Po' Boys

Place oysters/shrimp in the buttermilk mixture and let sit in the refrigerator for up to 30 minutes. 

Heat oil to 360 degrees in a large heavy bottomed pot. Be sure the pot has plenty of room for splatter and oil displacement. I often use my dutch oven or a specific pot I have reserved for frying. 

Mix flour, corn meal, salt, pepper, cayenne, and paprika in a medium size bowl.

Slowly remove a few of the oysters/shrimp from the buttermilk mixture and let the excess buttermilk drip off. Place them in the flour mixture and coat thoroughly.

Let the excess flour fall off and carefully place a few of the flour covered oysters/shrimp in the oil and cook for 2- 3 minutes. Place the cooked delights on a plate with a paper towel to absorb any excess oil.

Cut the hoagie roll in half and dress with spicy mayo on both sides. Add lettuce and tomato, and finally a few each of the oysters and shrimp. 

That't it! N'awlins on a roll, Po' Boy style.

Oyster-Artichoke Bisque

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Oyster Artichoke Bisque

           I took a trip to New Orleans sometime in 1993, and returned with some great inspiration for food to try out in o'Bagelo's. I had never heard of this soup, but it turned out to be one of the great imports from that region. It is the only time I have seen this soup in any restaurant.  

           The response was fantastic for anyone who had the taste for oysters. It is an easy soup to make if you are willing to garner all the necessary ingredients. The reward will be worth the effort and then some, if of course you're a fan of oysters. This recipe varies from a traditional bisque as I do not puree the final product, but I left the name because I didn't have any other "Bisques" on the menu.

            I have been reluctant at times to reveal the recipes of many of my unique items in the event I ever ventured back in the business of serving food to the general public. Obviously I have decided
that this isn't going to effect either the decision or the outcome if that day ever comes. Good luck with this one, and reserve it only for oyster lovers, as it can be expensive to make, especially outside of the large areas that produce oysters.

  • 4 Pieces of bacon
  • 1/3 cup chopped onions
  • 1/2 stick of unsalted butter
  • 2 15 oz cans of Artichoke Hearts in water. chopped, liquid reserved
  • 3/4 cup All purpose flour
  • 8 oz. Clam Juice
  • 20 oz shucked oysters in liquor
  • 2/3 qt of Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 1 - 6 oz can of smoked oysters
  • 3 scallions, chopped. I use the white parts and a bit of the green for flavor and garnish
  • Salt/Pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper
  • 3 Tbsp parsley
  • 1 Tbsp thyme

Total Time: 1 hour

Should serve six, but often eaters are looking for seconds.

The first step in this trip to joyousness is to render the bacon in a large soup pot at medium high heat. A pot that you will use to combine all the ingredients. When the bacon is about 3/4 finished, add the chopped onions and sauté until the bacon is done and the onions are translucent.

You can do them separately, just be sure tho cook the onions in the bacon fat, and then add the bacon back to the pot. Once the onions and bacon are cooked, add the butter and melt thoroughly.

Next add the artichoke hearts without the liquid.  We are now going to finish this bacon-artichoke roux. Mix the flour in until you can't see any white from the flour. You may need to add a bit more flour to get this part to the perfect consistency. Not too dry and not too wet. The mixture will look wetter than a standard roux and will thicken up with the rest of the ingredients.

Let this cook on the heat for a few minutes to get rid of any flour taste and incorporate all the flavors.

Add the liquid from the artichoke hearts and the clam juice and combine well. Let the mixture heat through as it will take a few minutes to get the mixture back up to temperature after you have added the colder ingredients to the hot. 

After the heat has returned to the soup, add your oysters with their liquid. At this point, open and drain the smoked oyster on some paper towel. It will take a few minutes for the fresh oysters to cook in the soup (when the edges of the fresh oysters start to curl, they are ready).

Next we add the spices, the heavy cream, and the white part of the scallions and let cook for 3-4 minutes.  Add the smoked oyster last and garnish with the green parts of the scallions. If your soup is too thick or creamy tasting, just add some water to thin it down to your desired taste.

This is the end, and a beginning.

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"This is the end, beautiful friend, this is the end. . . " 

I generally like to quote literary or historical figures, but on occasion I like to allow for a bit more reality in appearance. And it seems to fit here. 

      Most of the stories in this section are based on my time in the restaurant business but it occurred to me that I haven’t gone into any detail as to why I am no longer in that business. I thought I would take a little space to tell you about some of the more entertaining parts of a very difficult situation. 

This idea was brought about by a now annual visit to my primary care doctor. A doctor who shows as little interest in seeing me as I do in seeing him, at least that’s what his face tells me when he enters the room. I am not aware of anything that has transpired between us to create any disdain or dislike but that is only my perspective. His monotone speech, delayed sentence structure and limited interaction may be merely representative of a doldrum personality. And as I consider myself an above average conversationalist, this really pisses me off. I believe I can drag a dead cat into a better discussion than my doctor, and I don’t like cats.

It was just over four years ago that I quite literally stumbled into his office. The pinnacle of a developing health issue that refused to be ignored any longer, no matter how hard I tried. And no matter how many people told me to get some help, having no health insurance at the time and being excessively stubborn,  I was reluctant to open that particular box of pandora’s in hope that it would take care of itself.   For the record, I was wrong.

Olive Salad - for Muffaletta

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New Orleans Olive Salad

There are many different forms of olive salad, even those claiming to be the true New Orleans "Central Grocery" recipe. There really are no limits to this and you can add any of the derivative veggies that you like. I suggest you use pickled veggies (or pickle your own), but that is still a dealers choice. This is the version (and the original, I believe) that I served at the both stores for 22 years.

Photos by Jon Feldman
The Ingredients

  • 4 cups Spanish Olives (Manzanilla - the type usually found with pimientos)
  • 3/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1.5 oz Cocktail Onions, chopped
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh garlic
  • 1/4 cup Pimientos
  • 1 tbsp Capers, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 3 tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brine liquid from the olives
  • 1 tbsp Oregeno
  • Salt/Pepper to taste
Total time: 15 minutes

The type of olives varies in recipes and I imagine this is based on preference. I suggest this spanish olives without the pimiento stuffing so you can control the amount of peppers. If you can't find unstuffed olives, do your best with what you can find, but I suggest not using all the stuffing parts.

Because it's a cool picture

I usually hand chop all these ingredients because I am very particular about the size of my chopped olives in this concoction. However here I have used a food processor, but only for the olives.  I have done this because I think it will entice more people to try this out at home.

And an obligatory close up

 On the pulse mode a bread down the olives to a chunky consistency. I don't like the olives to get minced and I find I can control that better with my knife than with the machine. Kind of my version of "John Henry".

Proof that I used a food processor

It used to be a regular (but short) argument in the kitchen concerning the lack of a food processor with any new kitchen employee. We hand cut, despite the complaints.  I have seen olive salad with olives cut in all sizes. Dealers choice. 

The processed olives

After carefully processing your olives, add the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Place the mixture in the refrigerator for at least an hour before using.

Capers. Got to have them.

All ready to mix

The olive salad can be used for any sandwich, or as a Tapenade like topping for bread, crackers, etc. It will last in fridge for several weeks, as most of the ingredients are pickled. 

Just look at those colors. Mmmm. . . 

The olive salad and the bread it will land on