Confession No. 56 – Please, just get to the point.
Many people think of me as a windbag. Some also believe that arrogance flows through my veins. Possibly so on both counts, but one thing’s for sure — I’m a man of double standards.
Especially when it comes to conversations.
In short, I much prefer being behind life’s virtual podium to being on the audience side. Here are a few real-life examples why:
The ‘upright’ pyramid
Scene ~ I’m getting ready for work, running behind and the phone rings.
Wife: Hey. Have you left yet?
Me: No, I’m trying though. What’s up?
Wife: Well, I was driving down Rockwall Street and Alexandra was talking and the car felt a little funny.
Me: Yes? And?
Wife: I told Alex to hush, so I could ask her whether she felt the car riding funny.
Me: Catherine! Can you get to the damn bottom line?
Wife: I had a flat.
Me: Where are you?
Wife: I’m on the loop, headed toward …
Me: Wait! So you don’t need me to come put on the spare?
Wife: No. A guy saw us and turned around and aired up the tire. He said it could make it to the school and then to the tire store.
The ‘WTH? TMI!’ story
Scene ~ Another evening around the radio, awaiting the fireside chats.
Wife: So, one of my patients today has a trach [sic] and is on a vent. He suffers from RAD and I have to chart his vitals on the MAR every 10 minutes.
Me: Outstanding. So, you earned your money…
Wife: …And his mom is more worried that he has gelatin with his creamed peas.
Me: Really? How interesting. But not as neat as all the acronyms.
Wife: So, as I’m giving him O2 and pushing his meds, she wants to talk to me about her husband’s job on the railroad.
Me: Wow! Does he work on the railroad all the live-long day? Seriously though, I’m impressed. Does he wear one of those nifty conductor hats?
Wife: Well, before that, he was unemployed for a few years, but they always managed to find money for cigarettes.
Me: Oh, the humanity.
Wife: Anyway, I’m trying to measure dram for dram — because this kid was over-medicated once before and had seizures for 30 minutes…
Me: OK. Not to be rude, but what are you trying to tell me?
Wife: What I’m trying to say is, can you believe that they prefer Pepsi over Coke?
The ‘Boy Scout Law’ Conversation
Scene ~ I’m late to a meeting with the boss
Salesman: Hey, Adam!
Me: Howdy! Good to see you. How are you?
Him: I’ll be honest with you man, I’m working my tail off.
Me: Good! You know what they say about idle hands.
Him: I’ll be honest with you, this is one of my best years ever.
Me: That’s because you’re good at what you do. Plus, you are good-looking for an old man.
Him: That’s what I like about you … always speaking your mind.
Me: Well, you did get me the correct planner inserts this year.
Him: I’ll be honest with you, that company is not easy to deal with.
— 20 minutes later —
Me: Well, I’ve just about missed my whole meeting with the boss.
Him: I know you have to go, but I’ll be honest with you … I think the Longhorns will beat the Sooners this year. I mean, have you seen their backfield?
And finally … the ‘Scare Tactic’ talk
Scene ~ I’m watching ‘Family Guy’ and the doorbell rings.
Me: Good evening.
Lady in denim skirt, hair in bun and no makeup: Hi, Sir. If you died today, do you think you’d go to Heaven?
Me: I certainly hope so.
Lady: But do you know so, Sir?
— 20 minutes later —
Me: So, you’re saying that it’s OK for me to drink beer … since we’re all sinners anyway?
Her: Sir, I’m actually just inviting you to attend my church.
Admittedly, my oft one-sidedness doesn’t bother me one bit. But, if you want to invite me somewhere, stop by for a brief ‘hello’ or tell me something important, please … just do it. Unless you prefer the sound of your own spin … like me.
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Two of the following recipes were inspired by La Mansion del Prado, a restaurant in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico at which I ate a few times between 1998 and 2004. The cauliflower-infused mashers are a lightened take-off of an award-winning recipe featured in Southern Living some years ago.
Ancho Braised Beef Shanks
4 – Dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
2 cups – water
1 – Small yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves – garlic
1 – Canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped
2 TB – Mexican oregano
2 TB – Kosher salt
1 TB – Brown sugar
1 TB – Cumin
4 cups – Beef or vegetable stock
5 – Beef shanks, about 1 inch thick
2 TB – Vegetable oil
2 TB – Flour
In a medium saucepan, place ancho chiles in water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, until chiles are soft. Remove chiles from liquid (reserving liquid) and place in a blender with next seven ingredients. Puree into a paste.
In a large Dutch oven, heat vegetable oil to medium-high and sear shanks on both sides. Set shanks aside. There should be sufficient oil in the pan to brown the flour. If not, add a little, then add flour and stir or whisk constantly for about 15-20 seconds. (We’re making a light roux.) Add chile paste. Once combined with roux, slowly add stock to the mixture while constantly whisking. Add reserved liquid used to soften chiles. At this point, your sauce should look very thin and almost watery. If not, add water to reach that point.
Add shanks to liquid. Cover Dutch oven somewhat loosely (we want some steam to escape), turn heat to medium-low and cook for about two hours, stirring occasionally.
If sauce is not reduced to a desired level once shanks are tender, remove meat from liquid, increase heat to medium, and cook until thicker. Add shanks back to thickened ancho chile sauce for about 2-3 minutes prior to serving.
Note: This dish is even better the second day. Refrigerate sauce and shanks separately. About 20 minutes before serving, remove congealed fat/oil from surface of sauce, place in a large pan over medium heat. Once steam begins to rise from the warmed sauce, add shanks and cook for about 5 minutes, or until warmed through.
Cauliflower-infused Chipotle Garlic Mashers
1 bulb – Garlic
2 TB – Vegetable oil
1 cup – Fresh or frozen corn
1 lb. – Gold potatoes, cut into 2-inch cubes
2 – 12 oz. pkgs. frozen cauliflower
3/4 cup – Light sour cream
1/4 cup – Lowfat milk
1/4 cup – Butter, or lower fat substitute, melted
1 – Canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped, plus a teaspoon of sauce
1/2 cup – Cilantro, chopped
Kosher salt, to taste
Slice off top of garlic bulb, exposing cloves. Pour 1 TB vegetable oil into bulb and wrap with foil. Bake garlic at 400F for about an hour. Meanwhile, toss corn with 1 TB vegetable oil. Place on small baking sheet (I use heavy-duty foil) and roast alongside garlic for about 10-15 minutes, stirring regularly.
In salted water, boil cauliflower for about 20 minutes. It should be very tender. Drain in a screen colander. Meanwhile, heat more salted water and cook cubed potatoes until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain. While potatoes are cooking, run drained cauliflower through a ricer (food mill), or a food processor until smooth. Place mixture back in screen colander so as to remove more water. (Stirring mixture with a rubber spatula is helpful in extracting liquid.)
Combine sour cream, milk, butter, chipotle pepper & sauce and cilantro in large bowl. Add roasted garlic by squeezing out the cooked contents of the bulb. (Discard outer skin of garlic.) Mix well. Fold in potatoes and cauliflower. Warm in microwave for a couple of minutes, if necessary.
Shrimp Cocktail à la La Mansion del Prado
12 oz – Medium chilled shrimp, cooked and deveined with tails removed
3 – Medium avocados, halved and pitted
1/2 cup – Southwestern-style Louis Dressing
Mix shrimp and Southwestern Louis Dressing. Chill for at least an hour. Slightly enlarge hole in avocado halves by removing some flesh. (Lucky you! You get to enjoy a little stray avocado before serving these beauties!) Fill with shrimp and Southwestern Louis Dressing mixture.