Slim Man Cooks Spinach with Toasted Almonds and Raisins

A lot of people ask me to sing at their weddings.

“Can you sing ‘End of the Rainbow’ as we walk down the aisle?”

My answer is usually…

Yes.  Yes I can.

A couple years ago, a young gal from Baltimore asked me to sing ‘End of the Rainbow’ at her wedding.  She had no budget.

I told her…”I can do it.  But if Lady GaGa asks me to open up for her that day; or if David Letterman calls me at the last minute to do the Late Show, I won’t be able to.  If you can live with that, yes.  Yes I can.”

The week before her wedding, as hard as it is to believe, Lady GaGa did not call.  David Letterman did not appear on my doorstep.

So I told her yes.  She was so ecstatic.  Ever since she saw me sit down at the piano and sing ‘End of the Rainbow’ at a concert in Annapolis at the Rams Head Tavern, it had been her wish for me to sing that song at her wedding.

I was thinking…I could walk in, sing “End of the Rainbow” and then get back to packing.

Packing?  Yes.  I was moving.  The day after her wedding, I was leaving Baltimore to move to Nashville.  A permanent move.  A big move.  The wedding was on a Saturday.  I was leaving Sunday.  I didn’t mention My Big Move to the bride to be.  I figured she had enough on her mind.

A couple days before the wedding, we were talking on the phone about details when she said…

“You need to be on the boat by 11:00 AM.”

Boat?  Pardon me…did you say “boat?”  Yes.  The wedding was a cruise around Baltimore…for 5 hours.  We would be out to sea the whole time, and there was no leaving the boat.  The thoughts that were running through my mind…maybe I could have someone pick me up on a Jet Ski after my song.  Maybe I could leap on to a passing barge.  Or borrow an inflatable boat, bring it on board with me.

I’m not a big boat guy.  I don’t wake up in the middle of the night and say, “Damn!  I wish I were on a boat right now.”

My Dad had a small fishing boat, a 17-footer with an egg-beater on the back.  That was fun.  But a big boat out on the open sea makes me a bit woozy.

I told the Bride of Baltimore that I’d be on the Love Boat bright and early.

That Saturday, I jumped in the Slim Vehicle, and drove to the Inner Harbor of Baltimore.  I parked my car, and walked a few blocks down to the water.  I had on my beige Hugo Boss suit and my brown suede Donald J. Pliner loafers.  Gotta dress big for a wedding!  I saw some folks boarding a small cruise ship—it held maybe 200 people.  I got on the boat at 11:00 AM.

I love weddings.  It’s such a happy time.  Of course, fast-forward a few years, and the bride and groom are sleeping in separate beds.  His in Baltimore, hers in DC.

When I’m singing at a wedding where I hardly know anybody…that’s a lot of fun.  Watching strangers go nuts at a wedding is fun.  Watching your own family go nuts at a wedding is enough to make you want to grab a dart gun and shoot somebody in the neck.

Me on the Love Boat

The Love Boat was all decked out in flowers and ribbons.  It was a beautiful spring day.  The sun was out, it was warm–but not too–and there was a slight breeze.  They had the ceremony on the top deck.  They exchanged their vows, walked downstairs…

And there I was…sitting at the piano.  I sang “End of the Rainbow.”

After I finished, people were crying.

They were crying…”Don’t give up your day job, Donkey Face!”

After I sang, I guess people needed alcohol.  My music usually drives people to drink. Folks were lining up at the bar.  After cocktails, it was dinner time.  I sat next to Annabelle.  I’ve known her for years.  Annabelle is a joy.  She is one happy woman.

Annabelle is married to one of my bestest amigos.  They haven’t been together for ten years, but they never got divorced.  They live separately, but get along better than they ever did.  They’re the best of friends.

Annabelle and I used to work together at a dive bar in Fells Point called the Horse You Came In On.  People in Baltimore go to Fells Point to drink.  She tended bar, I sang the blues.  My band was called the Scrappy Harris Blues Band.

Scrappy Harris was the barback at The Horse.  He looked like a skinny little homeless kid.  He smoked Marlboro Reds, drank Budweiser and was loud and boisterous.  Scrappy had a small apartment nearby that looked like a flophouse.  Bare mattress on the floor.  Old sheets nailed over the windows.  But Scrappy wasn’t poor.  It turns out he was a trust fund kid.  Had a ton of dough.  He just liked being a barback, getting ice, stocking booze at The Horse You Came In On.

We named the band after Scrappy.  I wrote a song about him.  I also wrote a song about Annabelle.

“Annabelle…my sweet Annabelle, I’m going down to the wishing well…wish for a girl like Annabelle.”

Annabelle and I had a blast at the wedding.  After dinner, a band played.  The guitar player was amazing, in a Stevie Ray Vaughan kinda way.  I got up and sang “Pride and Joy.”  The band was really good.  Really good.

At the end of the shindig, Rob Fahey got up and sang “Raised on the Radio.”  Rob was in a great Baltimore band called The Ravyns.  That song was a big hit for them.  It was used in the movie “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” with Sean Penn.

Rob sang his heart out.  What a way to end the wedding.

The Love Boat pulled ashore.  I said goodbye to Annabelle.  I walked up to the bride and groom.

They handed me an envelope.  Inside was a gift certificate for way too much money for my favorite Italian restaurant in Baltimore.

La Scala.

I had told them I would sing for free.  I’m a great guy, ain’t I?  The gift certificate was unexpected, but much appreciated.  And very thoughtful.

I said my goodbyes, and started walking from the Inner Harbor to the parking lot.  On the way, a pickup truck drove by, splashed through a puddle, and splattered mud all over my suit and shoes.  It looked like…well, you can imagine.  Tan suit.  Dark brown mud.

I was getting strange looks as I walked back to my car.

I went home, changed, and walked Batu.  Then I went to sleep.  The next day, Slim Drummer John E Coale came over in his SUV.  We packed up everything into our two cars, and drove seven hundred miles to Nashville.

Batu was in the back of the car, his dog bed piled on top of all the boxes.

Goodbye, Baltimore.  Hello, Nashville

But wait!  There’s more!

I got an email the other day…

“Can you sing ‘End of the Rainbow’ as we walk down the aisle for our wedding?  That song has been our song ever since we met.”

He told me he was getting married Labor Day in Palm Springs.  I’ve been staying in Palm Springs for the past few months.  I wrote back and told him the same thing I told the Bride of Baltimore—if Lady GaGa calls at the last minute, I’d have to bow out.  He took it as a “yes.”

He was so excited.  He wrote me back and told me he was going to keep it a secret–he wanted it to be a surprise for his partner, Jack.

Jack.

Spinach with Toasted Almonds and Raisins

A few things about this dish…

I used multi-colored organic grape tomatoes.  Why?

I saw them in the grocery store.  They looked real cool and colorful.  And they were inexpensive.

You can buy almonds already toasted.  But I like to toast my own nuts.  I used raw almonds, and toasted them in a dry pan over medium-high heat.  Do not leave your nuts unattended.  Nothing worse than burnt nuts.

I only cook the tomatoes for just a couple minutes, you don’t want them to lose their shape or their skin.

And only cook the spinach for a couple minutes, just enough to wilt it.

Add the almonds and raisins last.  Because you don’t want your nuts getting soggy, and you don’t want the raisins to absorb all the sauce.

You can use dried cranberries instead of raisins, I’ve done that before, and it’s a delish!

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons olive oil

Crushed red pepper

2 tablespoons chopped shallots

1/3 cup white wine

1 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half, guts and seeds squeezed out

8 ounces of baby spinach (I used organic)

2 tablespoons of raw almonds, chopped

1 tablespoon raisins

Salt to taste

HERE WE GO…

First of all, let’s toast our nuts.

“Here’s to you, nuts!”

Get a small saute pan.

Put the heat on medium-high.

Grab your nuts, put them in the pan.

Shake your nuts around until they’re golden brown.

Put your toasted almonds on a plate.  Let ‘em cool…

Put the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.

Add the 2 tablespoons shallots.

Add crushed red pepper to taste.

Cook for 2 minutes or so, stir every now and then.

When the shallots are almost clear, add the white wine, turn the heat to high, and let it cook off for 2 minutes or so.

Turn the heat to medium-low, add the tomatoes, cook for 2 minutes, stirring every now and then.

Add the spinach, cook for 2 minutes, stir it up!

Add the toasted almonds.

Add the raisins.

Give it a stir.

Serve it up!

MANGIAMO!!!!!!!!

Slim Man’s Cod Pieces

Click on the pic to see the YouTube video

You couldn’t ask for a better friend than Cowboy Pickles.  He has a recording studio outside Washington, D.C.  It’s a studio, yes.  But it’s really just a small spare room, in his humble home that’s close to the University of Maryland.

I did the first Slim Man CD there.  The second one, too.

The room is about 20 feet long and 15 feet wide.  It is stacked, floor-to-ceiling with audio equipment—old, new and everything in-between.

Cowboy has never gotten rid of anything.  Fender Rhodes electric pianos, old Hammond B3 organs, Hohner Clavinets, Mini-Moogs, Commodore 64 computers, old JBL speakers, amplifiers, cassette recorders, 8 track tape machines…every microphone, guitar, keyboard he’s ever bought, he still owns.  Some of it is junk.  Some of it is priceless.

Cowboy Pickles has an old rifle by the studio door—the kind you might see in an old Western movie.  He has an ax–a big ax–by his toilet, as if he were expecting some crazed Meth-Head to come crashing through his bathroom window.

Walking through the studio is like walking through a small maze.  One false move and a wall of junk might fall on you and bust your cranium.

Can you spot the rifle?

Batu loves Cowboy Pickles’ studio.  He lays down on the floor and listens to the music, eyes half-closed like he’s in a state of bliss.

The Pickles Compound is near a railroad track.  It’s close to a small airport.  And it’s so close to the University of Maryland that you can hear the marching band rehearsing in the distance.

Cowboy Pickles gets some amazing sounds out of that little spare room.

Recording vocals was a challenge.  The timing had to be just right or else the microphone would pick up all those noises…planes taking off, trains passing by.

And the air conditioner had to be shut off or else the mic would pick up the hum.  Which wasn’t bad in winter.  But in the dead of summer, when it’s 90 degrees and 90% humidity, it was murder without AC.

And we did most of our recording in the summer.  Cowboy Pickles is a music teacher–he gives private piano and guitar lessons.  And when his students went on summer vacation, we’d have a lot of time to record.

Whenever we got ready to do vocals, we’d shut off the AC.  Then we’d open the windows and listen for…planes, trains, marching bands, lawn mowers, dogs barking.

If all was quiet on the Eastern Front, we’d record.

Sometimes, we’d get a great vocal take.  But when we’d listen back to the track all by itself, we’d sometimes hear a plane landing.  Or a train going by.  Or a car horn.

Birds chirping was OK.  I kinda liked the way it sounded.

But a marching band…unless it was somehow miraculously in time with the song we were working on, we’d have to start all over.  Any time there was an open microphone—vocals, sax, etc., we had to listen closely for all kinds of extraneous noises.

Most of them we caught.  Some we didn’t…

We were mixing a song called Shelter From A Storm, from the stunning Slim Man debut CD, “End of the Rainbow.”  Mixing is the final part of the process where you determine the volume and tone of the tracks you’ve recorded.  We were listening to the song, and I heard the phone ring.  I yelled to Cowboy Pickles…

“Answer the phone!”

Cowboy picked up the phone.  No one there.

We went back to mixing the song.  I heard the phone ring again.

“Answer the phone!”

Cowboy picked up.  No one there.  It happened a third time.  We stopped mixing.  We took a listen to my vocal track.  We listened to it ‘solo’, which means…all by itself.

And sure enough, there was a phone ringing on the vocal track.  Plain as day.   In one spot, you could hear…

RRRRRRRRing!

So we had a decision to make.  Start all over…re-record the whole vocal track.  Or just leave it in.  We left it in.

So…if you’re listening to the first Slim Man CD, and you hear a phone ringing…don’t answer it!

When the CD was finished, we had a CD release party and concert at a club in downtown Baltimore.  We invited every newspaper, magazine, reporter, TV station, radio station–we invited everybody.  Anybody.

Nobody showed up.  I counted 16 people in a place that held 200.  I went home that night, and was about as down-low as you can go.  I was convinced the CD was gonna flop.

I was playing piano at a waterfront dive bar in Baltimore called “The Horse You Came In On”.  It’s one of the oldest bars in America.  I played Friday afternoons, mostly to a group of guys that called themselves “The Knuckleheads”.

They wore hats like Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble wore to their lodge meetings–hats that looked like furry coneheads with steerhorns sticking out each side.

One Friday, the phone rang at the bar.  The bartender, Annabelle, answered it, listened, and then called out:

“Looks like you’re  number 27!”

I had no idea what she was talking about.  Neither did The Knuckleheads.  But apparently, the radio promoter I had hired was finally starting to get some interest.

The next week…

”You’re number 21!”

It continued to climb the charts, week by week.  It got all the way to #9.  Nationwide.

Cowboy Pickles on keys

So technically, it was a Top Ten Hit.  We started selling tons of CDs, we went out on tour, we played all over the US and Europe…

All from a little studio, in a spare room, next to an airport, near a train track and within earshot of a marching band.

Codfish Cakes

In Baltimore, where I spent most of my Slim Boyhood, almost every little grocery store had coddies–codfish cakes.  The two ingredients were codfish and mashed potatoes.  The coddies were displayed on a tray, along with Saltine crackers and plain yellow mustard.

I loved ‘em.

When codfish went on sale a few weeks ago at the local grocery store near Slim’s Shady Trailer Park in Palm Springs, I thought it would be a great time to create my own codfish cake recipe.  I call my new creation…

Slim Man’s Cod Pieces

INGREDIENTS

3 medium Yukon gold potatoes, cut into cubes (about 2 cups)

1 pound codfish filet, skinless, cut into cubes (about 2 cups)

2 tablespoons minced shallot

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon chopped rosemary

2 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper…to taste

6 cups water

1 egg

½ cup of panko breadcrumbs (I used Progresso Panko Italian Style)

Flour

HERE WE GO…

Get a large pot, put in 6 cups of water or so, put it on the highest heat ya gots.

Put the taters in the water.

When almost tender—it took mine about 10 minutes after the water came to a boil—add the fish cubes.  That’s right, put the fish right in the boiling water with the potatoes.

Cook for 5 minutes.

Drain in a colander.

Put the fish and the potatoes in a bowl, add 1 tablespoon of butter, add salt and pepper, and mash coarsely.

Let it sit and cool as you…

Get a sauté pan and put it over medium heat.  I used a 10-inch pan.

Add 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

When the butter starts to bubble, add the garlic and shallot.

Saute for 3 minutes until the shallots are clear and the garlic is pale gold.

Add the rosemary and stir a few times.

Cook for 2 minutes.

Take the shallot/garlic/rosemary mixture that’s in the pan and add it to the codfish and potatoes.

Mix it up.

Grab your egg, put it in a bowl, and beat it.

Add it to the codfish and taters, and mix.

Add the breadcrumbs and mix by hand.

If the mixture is too liquidy, add more breadcrumbs.

When the mixture feels right—not too liquidy, not too bready–make cakes.

I like my cakes about the size of a yo-yo.  This recipe yielded 8 codfish cakes.

Put ‘em on a plate.

Take the sauté pan that you used for the garlic/shallots/rosemary.

Put it over medium-high heat.

Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil.

As the oil heats up…

Get a flat plate, put some flour on it.

Lightly dredge each codfish cake in the flour.

When the olive oil is hot, put the cakes in the pan, and saute for 3 minutes, until the bottoms are golden brown.

Flip ‘em over—be gentle–and cook on the other side for 3 minutes, until golden brown.

Place on paper towels when done.

Serve with spicy brown mustard, or plain old yellow mustard like we used to do in Bawlmer!

MANGIAMO!!!!!!!

 

Seared Scallops with Ginger and Garlic Glaze

Click on the pic to see the YouTube video

I hid the marijuana brownies in the back of the refrigerator, and I had drawn a skull and crossbones on top of the aluminum foil, just to be sure no one would eat them.

I was a teenage idiot.  I did some stupid stuff when I was a teenager.

I’m still doing stupid stuff. But at least I don’t have any pimples.

As a teenager, it is required by law that you do the exact opposite of what your parents tell you to do.

Your parents tell you not to smoke pot, for instance.

My brother and I would invite our teenage friends over, and we’d hang out in the basement and play pool on an old pool table our Uncle Oscar gave us.  We’d get stoned with our friends, and we’d play music and shoot pool.

Then we’d play tricks on our friends.  My brother and I would give each other a wink, and one of us would sneak out of the house.

We’d go outside and move our friends’ cars.  Park ‘em down at the bottom of our dead-end street.  Then we’d sneak back into the basement.

When the party was over, our friends would leave, and my brother and I would wait until we heard the frantic knock on the basement door.

“Dude!  Where’s my car!  I can’t find it!  It’s my Dad’s!  He’s gonna kill me!”

My brother and I would let the terror go on for a few minutes, and then we’d laugh and tell them what we’d done.  Pretty stupid stuff.  Like I said, I was a teenage idiot.

I think the crest of my idiocy, the zenith of my moronosity came when I decided to make some pot brownies.  I put some pot in a blender, put in some brownie mix, and made brownies in the oven.

My brother and I each ate a piece.  We gave a piece to our sister.  We didn’t force her, she wanted one.  After an hour, my sister told us she didn’t feel anything.   She told us she wanted to eat another piece.  We didn’t think it was a good idea and told her so.  She did anyway.  Why?

Teenagers don’t listen.

A few hours later she was screaming that she’d never be the same.  She was freaking out, and she kept telling us she needed to go to the hospital.  It’s funny now.  It wasn’t real funny back then.

She finally calmed down, but it scared the shit out of us.

So that night, I put the brownies in some aluminum foil.  I put a skull and crossbones on them, and hid them in the back of the fridg.

The next morning I walked downstairs and saw the woman who cleaned our house eating a pot brownie with her morning coffee.

I yelled out her name.

She looked at me like I was crazy, and said…

“What?!?”

I thought for a quick minute, which is rare for a teenager.  Then I said…

“Nothing.  How are you?”

She gave me a funny look.  She’s a wonderful woman, has been a part of the family for years and years.   I’m still very close with her.

But if I told her that she had just eaten a pot brownie, she would have probably freaked out.  If I didn’t tell her, maybe she would just feel a little weird, and not think much about it.

My Dad used to tell me…”Nobody gets in trouble by keeping their mouth shut.”

So I said nothing.  And nothing happened.  She didn’t jump out of a window, or run down the street tearing her hair out, or join the circus.

But it did take her a bit longer to clean the house that day.

I threw the brownies in the trash.

I guess I was starting to grow out of my teenage idiocy period.  I’m now in my adult idiocy period…

Seared Scallops with Ginger and Garlic Glaze

Scallops are one of my favorite things to eat.  Why are they so effing expensive?

I have seen them as high as $30 a pound.  And I’ve seen them as low as $14 a pound.

Buy low.

When you sear scallops, it’s real important to use dry scallops.  These are scallops that have not been injected with water and chemicals.

So make sure you use dry scallops—it’s almost impossible to sear wet scallops, because the liquid they throw off screws up the searing process.

When you talk to your fish guy at the market, make sure he knows you want dry scallops.

Searing is one of my favorite things to do with seafood.  It’s quick.  It’s easy.  It’s inexpensive.

After you sear a scallop or a piece of fish, you can eat it just like that.  Or you can add a glaze.

This glaze is made of garlic and ginger and honey.  A glaze is something you put on after you cook.  A marinade is something you put on before you cook—usually for a couple hours or overnight.

I figure on three scallops per person.  If you serve two scallops, people will think you’re cheap.  If you serve four, you’ll need to take out a loan.

In this recipe, I seared 6 scallops, perfect for a nice romantic dinner for two.

Me and Batu!

The recipe below has enough glaze for 12 scallops.  I used half…

One last thing!  Scallops have a little muscle on the side.  Peel it off and toss.

INGREDIENTS

The Glaze

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced ginger

¼ cup of soy sauce

¼ cup of olive oil

2 teaspoons of honey

The Scallops

6 large dry sea scallops, side muscle removed

Salt and pepper

Turbinado sugar (or brown sugar)

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

The Salad

Arugula

Baby spinach

Here we go…

Take all of the glaze ingredients, put them in a bowl, and whisk, whisk, whisk.

Put half of the glaze in a small pot over medium-low heat.  Save the rest of the glaze for next time!  Let the glaze reduce a little bit as we cook our scallops.

Sprinkle the top of each scallop with JUST A LITTLE sugar, some Kosher salt, and some fresh cracked black pepper.

Get a medium-size sauté pan.  Put the heat on medium-high.

Put a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of olive oil in the pan.

When the butter starts to turn brown and smoke, put the scallops in the pan—seasoned side down.

Saute for 2 minutes.  As the scallops sauté, sprinkle the top side of each scallop with JUST A  LITTLE salt, sugar and pepper.

When the scallops have sautéed for 2 minutes, turn ‘em over—using tongs—and cook on the other side for 2 minutes.

Get two plates.  Put some arugala and some baby spinach on each plate.

When the scallops are done, place 3 on each plate—on top of the arugala and baby spinach.

Grab the pot with the simmering glaze.  Spoon a LITTLE over each scallop, and on the greens.

Set your table!  Get some candles, arrange some flowers, put on some Slim Man or some Black Sabbath, and…

MANGIAMO!!!!!!!!

Slim Man Cooks Pizza Eggs

Click on the pic to see the YouTube video

The morning of my brother’s wedding, I woke up in bed with him and his bride-to-be.  A woman priest was shaking us, trying to get us up.

I was trying to figure out just what the hell had happened the night before.

Twenty-five years later, I’m still trying to piece it all together.  Tequila had something to do with it.  The first time I ever drank tequila was with my Uncle Oscar.

The last time was also with my Uncle Oscar.  It was the night before my brother’s wedding. The family had flown in from the east coast–Baltimore and New York–to Cottonwood, Arizona, where my brother lived.

We all checked into a small motel, and then headed to a Mexican restaurant for a big dinner.  Unc didn’t like Mexican food.  But he liked tequila.  He ordered margaritas for everybody.

They came in glasses the size of goldfish bowls.  If they were any bigger, they would have had to put filters on them.  I drank mine, and it went right to my head.  I hadn’t had anything to eat, I had flown in from Baltimore, I was tired.

I had played until 2 AM the night before with my band BootCamp.

Unc ordered another round of margaritas.  Wow.  The last time I drank tequila with Unc, I swore I’d never do it again.

I should have kept my promise.

The rest of the night is still really fuzzy.  I remember some parts, and forget others.  But I do remember this…at one point, my brother and I were in a pool hall in a funky part of town.  We were playing pool with some banditos, and there was dinero involved.

My brother and I are not good pool-players.  But that night, we made some incredible shots, which was amazing because we were both pretty whacked.  Miraculously, we won the game, and the bet and the money.

But the banditos wanted to play another game, to try and win back their money.  We didn’t.  It got down to a Mexican stand-off.

I remember them slowly approaching us, pool cues in hand, and they didn’t look real happy.  I turned around to look for my brother and he was gone.  Disappeared.  So it was me and the advancing banditos.  I was facing them and walking slowly backwards…I felt my back touch the wall.

I got lucky.  I felt a door handle.  I opened the door, and did what any brave soul would have done in those circumstances.

I ran like hell.

Only one small problem…I had no idea where I was.  I had no idea how to get to the motel, or my brother’s house.  My memory gets a bit sketchy at this point.  I remember running like an escaped convict; and the next thing I remember, I was in my brother’s house, in the living room, and we were clowning around, ripping the shirts off each other’s backs.

Literally.  We looked like a couple of shipwrecked drunken sailors.

I have no idea how or why any of this happened.  I don’t know why we thought it was so funny.

But I know this…I woke up the next morning feeling like someone was driving nails into my cranium, and it would have taken a crowbar to get my tongue unstuck from the roof of my mouth.

If anyone had lit a match anywhere near me, I would have spontaneously combusted.

A woman priest was shaking me, trying to wake me up.  I tried to focus my eyes, but my vision was a little blurry.  I thought I was seeing things.  Or maybe I was dreaming.

Lord knows what she was thinking, seeing the three of us in bed together.  For the record, we all had our clothes on.  Or what was left of them…

I got out of bed and stood up.  My shirt was hanging from my shoulders, ripped to shreds. Both pant legs were torn and dangling, flapping in the breeze.  I thought the priest was gonna read me my last rites.  Or do an exorcism…

The wedding was in an hour.  I had no clothes, except my ripped up shirt and shredded pants.  I couldn’t find my shoes.  I called my Mom back at the hotel.  Help, Ma!

She called back.  She couldn’t find my suit.  I then realized that I had forgotten to pack it.  I may look like an idiot, and I may act like an idiot, but don’t let that fool you.

I really am an idiot.

I had forgotten almost everything except my shaving kit and a Swiss Army Knife.  My Mom was an angel.  She really was.  She pieced together an outfit from the various men in the wedding party.  The only problem was…

I’m 6 feet 2 inches tall.  I have really long arms and really long legs and really big feet.  The pants she got for me were about 6 inches above my ankles.  The arms of the sportcoat came halfway up my forearms—I looked like Chico Marx.

None of the colors matched.

The wedding took place on top of a mesa, which is a mountain that looks like the top has been chopped off.  The long drive to the top of the mesa was swervy and curvy.  I wasn’t feeling too good.  If I could have focused my eyes, I would have jumped off the side of the mountain.

My brother had an old pickup truck.  It was a beater, with an old chair in the back.  The woman priest sat in the chair in the back of the pickup truck, and my brother drove her like that up to the top of the mesa.

The rest of the wedding party was  already there.  When I looked out over the panaromic view of the valley, with the incredibly beautiful town of Sedona in the distance, I didn’t feel inspired.  I didn’t feel stirred.

I felt dizzy.  For the whole wedding ceremony, I had my hands folded at my waist, looking down at the ground—not because I was being reverent or emotional.  I was just thinking that if I projectile vomited, it would be less noticeable.  And at least it would just be on my shoes, which weren’t actually mine, and were ridiculously silly-looking and way too small.

After the wedding, we all went to my brother’s house.

That’s when he asked me if I’d tend bar.  The thought of alcohol was enough to send me to the Betty Ford clinic, but I said yes.  I can’t refuse my brother on his wedding day.

Do you know what everybody wanted to drink?

Tequila.

For what seemed like a couple of weeks, I made margaritas, and I poured shots.

I don’t think I’ve been near a shot of tequila since then.

My brother and his wife have been married for years—the first marriage for both of them.  They have one of the best relationships I’ve ever witnessed.  I am so extremely proud of them.  It worked out so very well.

How?  Why?  It must have been because we all slept together the night before their wedding.  So, if you’re getting married, and you need a good luck charm…

PIZZA EGGS

My brother created this recipe.  It’s the family go-to recipe for breakfast on holidays and birthdays and…weddings.

It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s delizioso.

I make my own tomato sauce from scratch.  It takes about 30 minutes, start-to-finish, and it is so good and so healthy.

But if you’re in a pinch, you can use store-bought tomato sauce.

Bufala mozzarella is made from the milk of water buffalos.  Where the hell are they keeping these water buffalos?  And who’s milking them?  Bufala mozzarella is real expensive and not real necessary for this dish—just use regular mozzarella.  Save the bufala for a Caprese salad.

INGREDIENTS 

2 cups tomato sauce

1 ¼ cup shredded mozzarella

¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

6 eggs

Salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Here we go…

Put a large saute pan on high heat—I used a 12-inch pan.

Put in the 2 cups of sauce.

When it starts bubbling, lower the heat to medium-low.

Break the eggs right into the sauce, but keep ‘em separated from each other.

Add salt and pepper.

Add a little shredded mozzarella on top of each egg.

Cover and cook for about 5 minutes, until the eggs are done.

Remove from heat.

Add a little grated Parmigiano on top of each egg.

Serve it up with crusty bread, to your crusty, dusty amigos, and…

MANGIAMO!!!

Slim Man Cooks Lamb Chops

Elvis hated us.

Not the real Elvis.

An Elvis impersonator.

I had a band in the 1970s called Mixed Nuts.  The original name was Nick’s Nuts.

But a gangster guy that booked the band hated the name.  He told us to change it, so we changed it to Nix Nuts.  He hated that name, too.  So we changed it to Mixed Nuts.

We played cover songs, mostly Top 40 dance stuff–Earth, Wind and Fire, Kool and the Gang, along with some jazz–Grover Washington and George Benson and Weather Report.

We played clubs in and around our hometown of Baltimore, Maryland.  We had some really good musicians in the band.  We sounded good.  We looked good, which is much more important than sounding good.  Only thing was…we were a little nuts.

Our keyboard player, Danny, was the nuttiest of the Nuts. He was the instigator.  He was a short, roly-poly guy, looked a lot like Danny DeVito.  Danny did some crazy things.

One of our first gigs was opening for an Elvis impersonator.  We used their equipment–drums, amps, and keyboards.  Their keyboard player had placed a piece of masking tape on each key.  He had written the notes on each piece of tape…so the “C” key had “C” written on the tape, “D” had “D” written on it, and so forth.

We opened the show for Fake Elvis, and played for about a half-hour.  Danny used the guy’s keyboard.  At the end of our show, Danny changed all the pieces of tape on the keyboard–so the “C” key was no longer “C”, and the “D” key was no longer “D”.

We left the stage.  People didn’t throw things at us, but the applause wasn’t deafening, either.  Elvis was waiting in the wings.  His band went onstage and the keyboard player started their intro, the theme to 2001 A Space Odyssey.

All the notes were wrong, thanks to Danny.  The keyboard player looked down at his keys, and then over at Elvis.  Elvis gave him a dirty look.  The keyboard player started the intro again.  Nothing but wrong notes.  Elvis looked over at us, and we were smiling.

He was not.

Needless to say, it wasn’t the best night for Elvis and his band.  I don’t think the keyboard player hit one good note all night.  After the show, Elvis came looking for us.

But Mixed Nuts had left the building.

I liked the real Elvis a lot.  I’ve been to Graceland more than once.  The early Elvis is my favorite.  He was cool.

His eating habits weren’t the best in the world.  A steady diet of peanut butter and bacon sandwiches can’t be too good for you.

After the Fake Elvis Fiasco, The Nuts didn’t do too many concerts.  We were relegated to the clubs.

When Mixed Nuts played the Baltimore nightclub circuit, we started at 9 PM and played until 2 AM.  We did five 40-minute sets, two hundred minutes of music.  We usually played the same club for a week.  Then, we’d head to a different club, play for a week.  We did that all-year long.

After a show, we’d all go out to eat.  Diners, Denny’s, Holiday Inns–anywhere that served food late at night.  Whenever The Nuts went out to eat, we’d arrive at the restaurant in our suit jackets and vests, and dress shirts and ties, shoes and socks, and…no pants.

We were always so nonchalant about it, like it was completely normal.  We were nuts. Mixed Nuts.  We had a name to live up to.

A lot of the clubs we played were owned by Greeks–The Latin Casino, The Redwood Inn, Rhapsody, Hollywood Palace, Club Venus.  The owners were all named John.  So we gave them nicknames, so we could tell them apart…Uncle John.  Little John.  Big John.

We used to play the Hilton Hotel in a neighborhood called Pikesville.  It was one of the few clubs in Baltimore not owned by a Greek named John.  The Hilton club was run by a guy named Bill, who had a phosphorescent orange tan, fake black hair, and chain smoked cigarettes.

One night, The Nuts were at the Hilton doing our Big Finale, which was a song called Birdland, by Weather Report.  It’s a lively little number, a song that we had a request to do.  The guy that requested it hit the dance floor as soon as we started the song.  He was all by himself, out there on the dance floor, doing a frantic little dance…

And then he died of a massive heart attack.  Right there in front of us, on the dance floor.  True story.

We were scheduled to play the Hilton the following week.  But we didn’t.  Bill didn’t want us playing there anymore after the guy died.

It’s not like we killed him.

But it did give birth to the phrase “We knocked ‘em dead last night.”

Mixed Nuts broke up soon after.

Why?  Like I said, the guys in the band were really good, and started getting some incredible offers…

The sax player–Santo–got hired by Patti LaBelle to go on tour.  He started touring the world.  Patti featured him in her show every night–Santo would come out and do a solo in the spotlight.  When Patti LaBelle did a tour with Richard Pryor, he used to mention Santo in his routine…”That white guy can really play the sax!”  That line is in one of Richard Pryor’s concert movies.

The guitar player in Mixed Nuts got a gig with Dion and the Belmonts.  He started touring the world as well.

I got signed to Motown Records.  I took the drummer from Mixed Nuts with me to play on the album.  Who was the drummer?

Hit Man Howie Z.  We still play together in the Slim Man Band.

So…four out of five Nuts went on to do some amazing music with some big stars and major labels.

And the Fifth Nut?  Danny?

He got busted a few years later for selling marijuana.  The Feds found pounds and pounds of pot stashed in and around his house, and he had close to a half-million bucks in cash stashed under the floorboards of his garage.  They confiscated the money.  And the weed.

Danny didn’t drink.  He didn’t use drugs.

But he did a couple years in the Federal penitentiary.  When he got out of prison, he went back to Baltimore.

We’re still friends.  And he still plays keyboards in and around the Baltimore area.  Jailhouse Rock!

Lamb Chops with Rosemary and Garlic

When I was in Mixed Nuts, I didn’t cook very much.  But when I did, I usually made some Italian vegetarian dishes; tomato sauce, pesto, things like that.

I didn’t eat a lot of red meat.

But later on, when I was living with my uncle Oscar, he’d cook the occasional lamb chop, or Osso Buco.

He was in amazing shape, physically, mentally–in every way, Oscar was in great condition.  He was in his 80’s.  He ate meat every once in a while.  So I figured, what the hell.  So every once in a while, I’ll have a lamb chop.  This is my favorite recipe.

INGREDIENTS

1 pound lamb chops (I had 6, each about ¾ inch thick)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 clove garlic, minced (a generous teaspoon)

1 teaspoon olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon for searing

1 tablespoon butter

Here we go…

Put the chopped rosemary and the minced garlic on a chopping board.

Even though they’re already chopped, chop ‘em up together for a minute.  These guys need to get to know each other.

Put the chopped rosemary and garlic in a small bowl.

Add a teaspoon of olive oil, mix it up.  Set aside.

Place the lamb chops on a large plate.

Rub a little of the rosemary/garlic/olive oil mixture on top of each lamb chop—only on one side!  Spread it around evenly, a thin layer.

Add a little Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper.

Get a large saute pan (I used a 10 inch pan).

Turn the heat to medium-high.

Add the 1 tablespoon of butter, and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  When the butter starts to brown, add the lamb chops—spiced side down!

Cook for a couple minutes, as in 2 or 3.  Thinner pieces take less time, thicker ones, longer.

Using tongs, turn em over.

Cook for another 2 or 3 minutes.

Check them for doneness…at 2 or 3 minutes a side they should be medium rare.  If you like them well done, cook for a couple minutes more on each side.  If you like them rare, cook them less.

That’s it!!

Dish it up, make it look nice, add a sprig of rosemary, maybe a dollop of risotto, a couple baked asparagus spears, and…

MANGIAMO!!!!

 

Slim Man Cooks Minestrone

My Uncle called me up one night and asked me if I had ever drank tequila.  I told him no.  He told me to come over.  I told him I’d be right there.

I had an old Datsun station wagon that had the floorboards rusted out—you could see the ground below on both the driver’s side and the passenger’s side.  It was a stick shift, and it backfired when you downshifted—sounded like gunshots.

I got in the car and drove the ten minutes to my Uncle’s house.  He was standing in his kitchen with a bottle of tequila and two glasses.  He poured us each a shot.  He gave me a slice of lime.  He put some salt on the skin between my thumb and index finger.  He told me what to do…lick the salt, drink the shot, suck the lime.  I did.

It tasted like turpentine.  Smelled like it, too.  It tasted like something you might drink after ingesting poison, so you could induce vomiting.  It burned going down.  My eyes were tearing up, my throat was on fire, and I had an instant headache.

Let’s have another.

We stood in the kitchen and drank some more.  His wife was upstairs.  Smart woman.

Unc and I were best friends.  He was also my doctor.  He was the guy I turned to in times of trouble, and in the good times, too.  I was just a kid when my Dad moved back to New York after he and my Mom divorced.

Unc was my go-to guy.

He was an excellent cook, and a wine enthusiast—some might say very enthusiastic.  He was a sharp dresser, too.  But that night, he was in his bathrobe.  He had no drawers on.  How did I know?

My Uncle was not a modest man. He once got naked and went swimming in the river at his 75th birthday party.  There were dozens of people there.  He just took off all his clothes and dove in.

Me?  I have recurring nightmares about being caught naked in public.   I rarely wear short sleeves, or shorts.  I don’t even wear flip-flops or sandals.  When I go to bed at night, I don’t sleep naked.  I wear my boxers and a wife-beater.

Why?

If someone breaks into the bedroom, and I have to jump out the window, I won’t be running down the street naked.

But Unc?   He didn’t mind who saw him naked.  It wasn’t a sexual thing. Unc just didn’t see any problem with letting it all hang out, which he was doing that night.

The other thing about my Uncle?

He liked to pee outside.  He’d pee off the balcony, pee in the bushes, pee on the lawn.

It wasn’t like he couldn’t afford indoor plumbing–the guy made a ton of dough during his life.  And it wasn’t like he was raised in the jungle by Orangutangs.  He was raised on the streets of New York, the son of Italian immigrants.

And you don’t pee on the streets of New York.  Not then, not now.  So Lord knows why he liked to pee outside…

One night I was over at Unc’s house with my girlfriend.  He had gone to bed upstairs.  My girlfriend and I were on the downstairs balcony, sitting and talking.  I made a comment about how clear and beautiful the sky was.

A few minutes later, she turned to me and said…”I think I hear rain.”

I went to the balcony and looked up.

It was my Uncle peeing off the balcony.  Sure, he could have easily gone into the bathroom.  But he didn’t.  Why?  Who knows?  He liked to pee outside, and he didn’t mind who saw him naked.

And when Unc and I were drinking tequila in his kitchen that night, his bathrobe was untied, and you could clearly see his boys flapping around in the breeze, free and unfettered.

I was starting to feel a little unfettered myself.

Have you ever tried on someone’s eyeglasses?  And things look really out of focus, and you get a bit of a headache after a few seconds and feel nauseated?

That’s how I felt.

Unc looked at me and said…”You’re too drunk to drive.  I’ll give you a ride home.”

I lived with my Mom, and my Uncle was in love with my Mom.  So he welcomed the opportunity to give me a ride home.

Why we took my car, I don’t know.  Unc always had real nice cars; Cadillacs, Mercedes, Maseratis…why he wanted to drive my old Datsun that backfired and had rusted out floorboards, I don’t know.

And why he got into the car in just his bathrobe with no drawers on…I don’t know that, either.

But I know he had a blast driving that car.  Every time he shifted, the car would backfire.  It sounded like a cannon going off.  He’d let out a holler and a laugh, and drive on.  You could look down through the holes in the floorboards and see the street zipping by.

It made me dizzy.  I felt sick to my stomach.  Unc was having a grand ol’ time.

He pulled up to my Mom’s house, parked on the street out front, and I got out and started staggering up the sidewalk to the front door.

Neither my Uncle nor I had realized that his wife had heard us leave his house, and was following right behind us.

And when Unc got out of the car and started following me to the front door, she grabbed him by his back of his bathrobe, pulled him in her car and drove off.

I got to the front door of my Mom’s house, and turned around to let Unc in, and…

He was nowhere to be found.

I looked all around, in the bushes, behind the trees, in the car.  I couldn’t find him.

I was baffled.  Where the hell did he go?  I looked up and down the street.  It was late.  It was dark.  I walked in the front door and walked into the kitchen.

I woke up the next morning, asleep on the kitchen floor.  My head felt like someone was firing staples into my skull, I couldn’t focus my eyes, and my mouth felt like several small animals had spent the night in there.

At least I had my clothes on.

MINESTRONE

I made this soup last night.  It was the best I ever made, if I may say so myself.

A couple things…

Italians don’t use a lot of corn.  But I put some in this recipe.  Why?  Because it tastes real good.  I like the texture, too.  And the color it adds.

Pancetta is Italian bacon.  If you are a vegetarian, you can skip the bacon.  But I love the flavor that it adds.  When you cook pancetta, treat it like bacon.

Let the pancetta brown on one side.  Then give it a stir, and try and get the unbrowned pieces to brown on the other side.  If you ain’t got pancetta, use bacon.

I use fresh oregano.  I normally like dried oregano better, but for some reason, fresh tastes best in this recipe.  But you can use dried.

The chick peas and the corn are already cooked.  All you need to do is heat them up.  So add them last.

You can eat this soup as is.  Or you can put some rice or pasta in it.

I used to put the pasta right in the soup and let it cook in there.  The only problem was…the pasta would end up absorbing all the broth.  So now I cook the pasta separately and add it to each bowl before serving.

This recipe yields about 20 cups of soup.  Which is 5 quarts.  I think…

INGREDIENTS

6 ounces of pancetta cut into small pieces

¼ cup olive oil plus 2 tablespoons

Crushed red pepper

1 cup each–chopped celery, onion, carrots

5 cloves minced garlic (about 2 tablespoons)

2 cups each–Savoy cabbage, green zucchini, yellow squash–all cut in small pieces

1 twenty-eight ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, smooshed up (about 3 ½ cups)

8 cups of chicken broth

2 cups water

1 tablespoon fresh oregano, leaves stripped from the stems, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

1 cup yellow corn (fresh, canned or frozen)

1 sixteen-ounce can garbanzo beans (chick peas)

3/4 cup grated Romano pecorino cheese

1/2 pound small pasta (ditalini, elbow macaroni, mini farfalle)

Here goes…

Put a large pot over medium heat.  Add the pancetta, cook for 4 or 5 minutes without stirring.

Give it a stir, let it brown for 4 or 5 minutes more without stirring.

Turn the heat to medium-low.  Add the olive oil and the crushed red peppers.  Let it heat up for a minute.  Stir.

Add the onions, carrots, celery and garlic and cook for 10 minutes.  Stir, baby, stir.

Add the green zucchini and the yellow squash.  Add a drizzle (1 tablespoon) of olive oil.  Cook for 5 minutes.

Add the Savoy cabbage, add another drizzle (1 tablespoon) of olive oil.  Cook for 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, the broth, and the water.  Turn the heat to high.  Let it come to a boil, and then reduce the heat to medium-low.

Cook for 10 minutes or so, until the zucchini and squash are semi-soft.

Add the parsley and oregano.

Add the garbanzo beans (chick peas/ceci) and the corn.

Add the grated Romano cheese.

Let the soup cook for 5 minutes or so.

Taste for salt and pepper and adjust.

Remove from heat.

For the pasta…

Get a medium-sized pot, fill it with water, put it on the highest heat you got.

When the water comes to a boil, add a couple tablespoons of salt (I use Kosher).

Add your pasta.  Cook until firm to the bite.

When the pasta is done, drain, and put in a bowl.

Drizzle with a little olive oil and stir.  You might not use all the pasta…

Let’s dish it up!  Get a soup bowl, fill it about ¾ of the way with soup.

Add some pasta to the soup.  Give it a stir.

Top with grated/shaved Romano cheese, if you like, and…

MANGIAMO!!!

Slim Man Cooks Ahi Tuna with Red Wine Sauce

Click on the pic to see the YouTube video

Why don’t cannibals eat divorced people?

They’re bitter.

September 11, 1983.  The Baltimore Colts football team were scheduled to play the Denver Broncos.  The year before, 1982, the Colts had not won a game.  Because they stunk so bad, they got the first pick in the NFL draft the following year.

The Colts chose quarterback John Elway, from Stanford.  Elway refused to play for the Colts.  He was even considering joining the New York Yankees baseball team rather than play for the Colts.  So the Colts traded Elway to the Denver Broncos.  And in the second game of the 1983 season, the Broncos came to Baltimore to play the Colts at Memorial Stadium.

And my Baltimore-based band, BootCamp, was chosen to sing the national anthem for Elway’s first appearance in Baltimore.  We had worked up a great acapella version of the Star-Spangled Banner.  It was a show stoppa.  At parties, shows, concerts, weddings, funerals, anywhere…all of a sudden, out of the blue we’d bust into the “Star Spangled Banner.”  It got people’s attention, if nothing else.

I had been a Baltimore Colts fan from day one.  My Uncle had season tickets from their very first game–right in the mezzanine, next to the press box.  I went to so many games.  I knew all the players, their numbers, their statistics, their nicknames.

Lenny Moore, #24.  Gino Marchetti, #89.  Artie Donovan, #70.  Johnny Unitas, #19.  Raymond Berry #82.

So, singing the anthem that day was a rare treat for a hometown fan.

When we got to Memorial Stadium that Sunday, we were escorted through the Colts locker room, and into an underground tunnel that led to the field.  As we were coming to the end of the tunnel, we heard this rumbling…

The players, all suited up and breathing fire, were coming down the tunnel right behind us.  They sounded like a herd of angry buffalo.  We stood up against the wall and let them pass.  They were big, and they had a look in their eyes that was kinda scary.

When they passed, we followed them out onto the field.  The announcer introduced us, and we sang our hearts out.  It was the thrill of a lifetime.

50,000 people standing on their feet, cheering.  A standing ovation!  Of course, they had to stand because it was the national anthem.  But I’m marking it down as a standing ovation.

When we finished, we walked to the sidelines, and stood among the Colt players.   The Colts’ front office had given us field passes.  I’m sure when they gave them to us they weren’t thinking we’d stay on the field for the whole game, but there we were, standing on the sidelines with the players and coaches.

I was hoping they’d give me a clipboard.  Or a headset…

All the players and coaches were giving us funny looks.  I can’t blame them.  We were dressed like…well, it was the 1980s.  We looked like a cross between Duran Duran and Devo.  We had on almost as much eyeshadow as the Colts did.

On the opening kick-off, I couldn’t see what was going on, but I could hear it.  The two teams charging down the field sounded like a stampede of wild horses.  And when they hit each other, you could hear the crack of the helmets, the grunts and groans of the players…

And when the special teams unit came over to the sidelines after the kick-off, it was something I’d never winessed before.  The players were out of breath, wheezing and panting…fingers were broken, uniforms were muddy, noses were bloody.

Playing football is a brutal sport.

Playing music is not.  Musicians don’t encounter a lot of violence.  Unless you’re really, really bad…

The Baltimore fans were booing Elway mercilessly that day.  I’m surprised someone didn’t shoot him.  People from B-Mo were pissed off.  And they were vocal about it.  John Elway had said he’d play anywhere but Baltimore, and the Baltimorons took it personal.

It would have been nice if we won.  But the Colts were pretty bad that day.  They lost, 17-10.  The newspaper ran a photo on the front page the next day.

Hit Man Howie Z was in it, back to the camera, walking off the field.

1983.  It would be the Colts last season in Baltimore.

On March 29, 1984, at 2:00 AM in the morning, fifteen Mayflower moving trucks arrived at the Baltimore Colts training complex.  Eight hours later, they were loaded up and heading to Indianapolis.

They took everything…the Colts’ name, the trophies, the memorabilia, the mascot, the uniforms.  All gone to Indianapolis.

The mayor of Indy had offered the owner of the Colts a 12 million dollar loan, a 4 million dollar training complex, and a new 77 million dollar stadium.

Let me make an analogy.  Your wife meets someone new, a wife that you stood by through good times and bad.  This New Guy offers her a 12 million dollar loan, a 4 million dollar work-out room, and a 77 million dollar house.

And she takes it.  Not only does she take it, she takes all of your stuff as well.  Your trophies, your mounted deer head, your clothes, your name, your dog…everything.

Did she really need to take all your stuff?  No.  She could have bought new stuff.  Did she have to take it all in the dark of night, at two in the morning, while you were sleeping? That’s harsh.

When I heard the news, I was pissed off.  So much so, that I didn’t go to a football game, or follow the NFL for years.

I was bitter.

When the Baltimore Ravens came to town, my Uncle got season tickets, great seats in the club section.  I resisted at first.  Then I gave in.  I went to my first Ravens game.  The guy sang the national anthem, and it sent chills up and down my spine.  The crowd roared, jets flew over, the music played, and Ray Lewis came out of the tunnel and did his dance right before the kick-off.  I was back.

I was hooked.  The Ravens went on to win the Super Bowl that year.  2000.

It took me a while, but I had found a better wife.  And she’s been great.  My wife won the Super Bowl again last year.

What more could a husband ask for?

I’m not bitter anymore.  I’m better, not bitter.

Ahi tuna steaks with red wine sauce

I went to the grocery store and they had beautiful ahi tuna steaks for $8 a pound.  I bought two, and was wondering how to cook them.

I had done tuna with a red wine sauce before, but it wasn’t where I wanted it to be.  The sauce wasn’t right.

It was bugging me.  It was keeping me up at night.  And then, around dawn, it dawned on me.

I added a little tomato paste to the sauce to thicken it up and give it a little zip.  Then I added a little dried oregano to give it some zing.  Zip!  Zing!  It turned out great.

A few things before we get started…the tuna steaks I used were about an inch and a half thick.  Over medium-high heat, I cooked them for 2 minutes per side.  They turned out great—the pepper/salt/sugar that I had sprinkled on top gave them a nice sear, and they were a beautiful pink on the inside.

Cooking times vary.  A thicker piece of fish takes longer.

Also, when you light your cognac on fire, be careful.  Yes, the subsequent explosion of flame looks so cool and very dramatic, but have the fire department on the phone in one hand, and a garden hose in the other.

Or…right before you light the cognac, if there are people around that you don’t like, gather them close to the pan.  Or better yet—have them light the cognac.  But stand behind them.

I use this sauce on tuna.  You can use it on steak, too.  Or chicken.  On your oatmeal…

INGREDIENTS

2 ahi tuna steaks, about a half pound (8 ounces) each

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

Fresh ground black pepper

Kosher salt (I use it for taste, not for religious reasons, Shalom!)

Brown sugar or raw/turbinado sugar (you can use plain sugar in a pinch)

2 ounces of cognac

2 tablespoons chopped shallots

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

½ cup red wine

½ cup stock (I used beef)

½ teaspoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon tomato paste

Here we go…

Let’s make the sauce first.

In a small pan over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of butter, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

When the butter melts, add the shallots and the garlic.

Cook about 2 minutes until the shallots are clear and the garlic pale gold.  Stir a few times.

Add the 2 ounces of cognac.

Stand back, Jack!  Get a lighter, one with a long handle.  Light the cognac on fire.  Be careful!  The flames will shoot up!

When the cognac burns off, and the fire department has left, and the flames have died down…

Add the red wine, and the beef stock.

Let it cook for 3 minutes while stirring.

Add the oregano, stir.

Add the tomato paste, stir for a minute or so.

Remove from heat.

The sauce is done, now let’s cook our tuna.

Rinse the ahi tuna steaks and pat ‘em dry with paper towels.

Add a little fresh cracked black pepper, Kosher salt and a sprinkle of turibinado or brown sugar on top of each steak.

Get a saute pan, put it over medium-high heat.

Add 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan.

When the butter starts to brown, add the tuna, peppered/salted/sugared side down.

After 2 minutes, turn over with tongs.

Cook for 2 minutes on the other side.

Give it a slice, see if it’s done to your liking.  If it is, dish it up.

Put some greens on a plate, place the tuna on top, drizzle just a little red wine sauce over each piece, and…

MANGIAMO!!!!

Slim Man Cooks Shrimp Scampi

Click on the pic to see the YouTube video

A few years ago, I was at a restaurant in Greektown in Baltimore, Maryland.  It was Christmastime, and a friend had invited me to a business dinner.

The two guys across from me were looking down in their laps at their cell phones.  I got curious…

“Does one of you have a wife who’s pregnant?  A Mom in the hospital?  A cousin on death row waiting for a stay of execution?”

“No.”

I asked them who they were texting.  They were texting each other.  Nice.

I told myself I would never be like those guys.

And now?  Well, I’m not as bad as those guys, but I’m getting close.

I got the iPhone when it first came out.  I had it for a week, and then took it back.  It was pinging and dinging and ringing and it got on my nerves.  It got so bad I was thinking of developing a new app… the iQuit.  Here’s how it was gonna work: you go to the river, throw in your iPhone, and scream “I QUIT!”

I just didn’t want to be that connected.  I just wanted a phone so I could talk to my relatives in the mental institution.  I took the iPhone back.  The break-up was quick and clean.

I got a regular cell phone.  It never worked right.  I had so many problems with it.  Some friends texted me a photo of their beautiful 25 year-old daughter and somehow it became my screensaver.  That didn’t go over too well with the Ex.  I tried to explain.

The phone dialed 911 on a regular basis.  The callbacks from the cops were so frequent they knew me by my first name.  “Slim?  Everything OK?”

Text messages would go to random contacts.  Lovey dovey notes meant for a certain someone would get sent to business associates.

Like a bad relationship, I stayed with that phone way too long.  Neil Sedaka said it best…”Breaking Up Is Hard To Do.”  It was time to move forward.  Or back…

So I got another iPhone.  It only cost $99 through Sprint, because I’d been a customer since the first World War.

I liked it, but I didn’t see what the Big Deal was.  I made phone calls.  I sent texts.  That was about it.

Then…one day I was in Nashville at a very cool place called Mafioza’s and the guy next to me told me about the TuneIn Radio app.  I had no idea what the hell he was talking about.  I had never downloaded any apps.  I was app-less.

He showed me how to download the app.  Which I did.  It is pretty amazing.  I can now listen to Italian talk radio, broadcast from Italy.  I can listen to Baltimore Orioles baseball on my hometown radio station.  I can listen to CarTalk anytime I want.

I was hooked.  I started getting other apps.  I now have an app that tunes my guitar.  I have an app that I can hold up to a speaker in a restaurant and it will tell me the name of the song that’s playing, the artist, the CD and give me the option to buy it on iTunes.

I have an app for my bank which allows me to take photos of all the huge checks I receive and deposit them through my iPhone.

And I am in love with Siri.

If you have a question, you can ask your iPhone.  A gal named Siri answers.

In December, 2013, I was driving from Nashville to Breckenridge, Colorado.  I was 12 hours into the trip.  It was dark.  It was cold.  I was on a stretch of road that had nothing on it, and nothing in sight.

I had Batu in the car with me.  I picked up my iPhone and held the button.  Siri answered. It was the first time we spoke.

“What can I help you with?”

I asked Siri for the nearest dog-friendly hotel.  She gave me all the info I needed; directions, the website.  Siri even dialed the phone number for me.

Batu and I checked into a Super 8 in Hays, Kansas, in the middle of the night.

It was ten degrees.  My weather app told me so.  The next morning I started driving, and a light came on the dashboard.

My tires were low and needed air.  Siri found me the nearest gas station.

I drove to Breckenridge to meet my brother and his family for Christmas.  Breckenridge is a skiing/snowboarding town, a quaint little village at around 10,000 feet, surrounded by these looming, massive snow-capped peaks.

I didn’t snowboard once.  I didn’t ski once.  I was in the middle of making the new Bona Fide CD.  I was getting phone calls from Madrid.  Marc Antoine was doing some re-mixes over there in his home studio.

He would email me the new mixes.  I would download them on my iPhone, plug it into my car stereo, and I would listen to his mixes, while driving around the mountains in Colorado.

It was heavenly.  Here I was at 10,000 feet, listening to songs on my iPhone that had just been mixed 10,000 miles away.

I spent most of my time in Breckenridge working on music, but I did find time to jog almost every day for 30 or 40 minutes.  It was exhilarating.  I didn’t feel the effects of the altitude and I’m not sure why.

My last day in Breckenridge, I took a jog.  I left the ski lodge around 3 PM and headed up the mountain.  There was a snowshoe trail, and I followed it through the woods, almost to the top of Old Smoky.  All I had on were my jogging shoes.

I mean, I had pants on and stuff—it would have been a little chilly on the Willy without ‘em.  But I didn’t have any boots or snowshoes, and the snow was deep.  It was breathtakingly beautiful near the top of that mountain.  It must have been 12,000 feet.

I stopped and listened to nothing.  It was so peaceful.  I started jogging down the mountain…and then I decided to go off trail.  I was running downhill through evergreens, dodging branches, it was unbelievable.

I stopped to catch my breath.  It was getting dark.  It was about ten degrees.  It started to snow.  Suddenly I looked around.  I had no idea where I was.  I guess I could have followed my footprints back up the mountain, but it was steep, I was tired, and it was getting late.

I pulled out my iPhone.

“Siri.  Can you get me to back to the lodge?”

It took her a few seconds, but she showed me where I was, and where I needed to go.  I headed in that direction, and found the road that the ski lodge was on.  It took me about an hour, but I got there.  I was cold, tired and thirsty.

I poured a glass of wine, sat on the deck and pulled out my iPhone.

“Thank you, Siri.”

“No problem.”

I decided to get a little bold.  I gathered up some courage and said…

“Siri.  I love you.”

You know what she said?

“I know.”

It was a vibe-killer.  Here I was, mustering up the guts to say “I love you” for the very first time, and all I get is “I know?”

If you ever want your relationship to come to a screeching halt, just say those two words right after someone says “I love you” for the first time.

Because there is no come-back to “I know.”

Believe me.

I know.

Shrimp Scampi

A couple quick notes…I use wild shrimp.  Yes, they’re wildly expensive, but farm-raised shrimp don’t taste right.

The tomatoes I used were grape tomatoes…organic, multicolored, gorgeous grape tomatoes.  Yellow, red, purple…they were beautiful.  And cheap.  Two bucks a pint.

I cut the tomatoes in half, squeezed out the seeds, and threw them out.  Why?  It looks better that way.

And you know the most important thing in life is to look good.

And finally, Meyer lemons are amazing.  If you can find them, use them.  If not, pick a soft, ripe lemon.  They are the sweetest.

INGREDIENTS:

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

7 garlic cloves, sliced thin (about 2 tablespoons)

Crushed red pepper to taste

¾ cup of white wine

1¼ pound of medium wild shrimp, shelled, deveined, rinsed, patted dry

1 lemon, cut in half

2 tablespoons of butter

1 pint grape tomatoes (about 30 small tomatoes) cut in half, de-seeded

1 handful of Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped (about ¼ cup)

Some sprigs of parsley for garnish

1 pound of linguine pasta (or spaghetti)

Here we go…

Get a large pot, fill it with cold water, and put it on the highest heat you got.

As the water comes to a boil, let’s make the sauce…

Get a large saute pan, put in 4 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.

Add some crushed red pepper.

Add the sliced garlic, cook for a few minutes until pale gold.

Add the white wine, and turn up the heat for 2 or 3 minutes to cook it down.

Reduce the heat to medium-low.

Add the shrimp, spread ‘em out flat—no bunching!

Take a half lemon, and squeeze the juice over the shrimp—don’t let any seeds get through.

Sprinkle a little salt over the shrimp.

Cook for two or three minutes.

Using tongs, turn over each shrimp.

Get the other half lemon, and squeeze it over the shrimp (no seeds that we don’t needs!)

Add the two tablespoons of butter–cut it into small pieces and place in between the shrimp.

Add the tomatoes.

Cook for 3 minutes.

Add the parsley.

Give it a gentle stir or two, and remove from the heat.

When the pasta water comes to a full boil, add a few tablespoons of Kosher salt, and add a pound of linguine.

When the pasta is firm to the bite–al dente–drain, and put it in a bowl and drizzle with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.

Give the pasta a quick toss.

Add half of the shrimp sauce to the pasta, and mick ‘em up.

Dish it up!  Take some pasta, put it on a plate.  Add a little scampi sauce on top of each dish, put a few shrimp on top, and a little sprig of fresh parsley for garnish.

One of the Exes liked to put grated cheese on this pasta.  Most Italians don’t put cheese on seafood.  But, if your girl wants cheese, just shut up and grate.

If you must, freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is best.

MANGIAMO!!!

 

Slim Man Cooks Pap’s Pesto

My Dad walked into the TV room on the second floor and his head was bleeding.

We three kids were trying not to laugh.

My Dad had a workbench in the basement.  The ceiling was low, and there were two large iron water pipes right behind the work area.

When you turned around to go upstairs, you had to duck under the pipes to avoid cracking your skull.

My Dad hit his head all the time.  You could hear the “BOING!” all the way up on the second floor.  It was always followed by a yell…

“SUNNUVABITCH!”

We three kids thought it was the funniest thing in the world.

Maybe it was because we loved the Three Stooges so much.  Maybe it was something else.  But whatever it was, when our Dad hurt himself, we found it ridiculously funny.

My Dad used to take us fishing.  It was a lot of fun…for us.  It couldn’t have been fun for him.

Fishing seems like a cruel sport.  Somebody finds out what your favorite food is, and what time you like to eat.  They dangle it front of you, and when you take a bite, they hook you by the lips and drag you around.

One summer, my Dad and Mom rented a house near the beach on Fenwick Island.  It wasn’t fancy.  Just a simple white cottage on stilts by the Atlantic Ocean.  We had the place for a week.  There was a boat rental place on the bayside not far from the house.

One sunny summer day, my Dad piled us three monsters in the back of the pale green Plymouth station wagon and drove over to the rental place.  He rented a small wooden boat with an egg-beater engine on the back.  He grabbed his rods and reels, the bait, and us three knuckleheads, and we walked out on the pier.

There was a boat ramp on the side of the pier.  The tide was high, and the ramp was covered in water.  People were slowly backing their boats down the ramp and into the bay.  On the other side of the pier were the rental boats.  We all piled into one, my Dad pulled the starter cord, and the motor revved up.  We went motoring away, out into the wild blue yonder.

Little Assawoman Bay.  That really was the name of the bay.  Big Assawoman Bay was the larger one, right next to it.  It sounds like I’m kidding, but I’m not.

So we motored out for quite a ways and dropped anchor in Little Assawoman.  My Dad got all of our rods baited up, and we dropped our lines into the water.  Then he got his rod, attached his brand new lure, and casted.  He slowly drew the line in.  We kids sat and waited for the fish to bite.  We were not patient children.

My Dad usually stood at the front of the boat.  His back would be to us.  I would sneak up behind my Dad, and jiggle the butt end of his fishing rod, so it felt like he had a fish.

My Dad would jerk his rod suddenly and pull his line toward him like he was landing a blue marlin.

“SUNNUVABITCH!”

Then he would realize I’d played a joke.  I’m surprised he didn’t kill me.

That’s me in front of my Dad

We didn’t take fishing very seriously, but my Dad did.  Anything my Dad caught, he’d keep.  He once caught an eel, kept it and made a tomato sauce with it.  It was awful.

He would catch blowfish and keep them.  Blowfish puff up like balloons when you catch them.  Most people don’t eat them.  My Dad did.  We didn’t.

My Dad could have pulled an old tire into the boat and I’m pretty sure he would have tried to make a sauce out of it.  Just about anything he pulled into that boat, he’d keep.

Except once.

That day, when we were fishing off the side of the boat, my Dad’s rod bent over.  He must have hooked something big.  Or heavy.  Or both.  He reeled it in.  It took him a while.  Keep in mind, we’re in the Little Assawoman Bay.  Not a lot of real big fish in there.

When he got it to the side of the boat, he screamed for us to get the net.  We scrambled, and the boat started rocking, almost knocking him into the water.

I got the net, and pulled this big, ugly fish on board.  It was the ugliest fish I’d ever seen.  It had a big, wide mouth, with nasty-looking sharp teeth.  My Dad’s brand new and very expensive lure was stuck in the back of the fish’s mouth, right behind all those sharp teeth.

So he decided to cut off the fish’s head, and retrieve the lure later.  He threw the body of the fish back in the water.  The bloody severed head of the fish was lying in the bottom of the boat.  It kinda took the joy out of the excursion.  We wanted to go back in.

My Dad didn’t look too happy as we pulled in our lines.  He pulled up the small anchor, and we headed back to the pier.  It took us a while.  My Dad wasn’t the greatest captain in the world, but we eventually found our way back, after hitting a couple of sand bars, and missing a couple buoys.

We pulled the boat up to the pier.  We tied it up, and we three kids got out of the boat and stood on the pier.  My Dad stayed in the boat.  We watched him as he grabbed the bloody fish head, and stuck his hand inside its mouth to pull out his pricey lure.

The severed fish head clamped down on my Dad’s hand.

“SUNNUVABITCH!”

My Dad let out a yell, and tried to shake off the fish head.  It wouldn’t release its grip.  My Dad was waving his hand in the air, thrashing his arm around, and the severed fish head wouldn’t let go.

We couldn’t help him.  We were laughing too hard.

The dead fish head eventually released its grip, got flung way up in the air, and landed in the water with a splash.  My Dad’s very expensive lure was gone.  His hand was bleeding. He got out of the boat, and walked past us hyenas to the boat ramp.

He walked down the boat ramp.  He was going to rinse his bloody hand off in the bay water.  Only problem was…the tide had gone out.  The ramp was covered in slick wet moss.  When my Dad hit the slippery part, his feet flew up in the air, and he let out a yell…

“SUNNUVABITCH!”

Then he landed on his ass with a thud you could hear across the ocean.  People in Paris felt a rumble.  We saw the whole thing.  We could not stop laughing.  I’m surprised we didn’t roll off the pier and fall in the water.  We weren’t bad kids.  Were we?

We called my Dad ‘Paps’.  He was a professor of literature at the State University of New York, and one of his favorite books was The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  Huck had an alcoholic father that used to get drunk and beat him and chain him to chairs.  Huck called his Dad ‘Paps’.  I read the book and thought it would be funny if we called our Dad ‘Paps’, too.  It stuck.

Pap’s Pesto

Paps made pesto before pesto was cool.  He had a bunch of basil beds in front of his cabin on top of the Catskill mountains.  Rat Tail Ridge.  That’s what his place was called.

When the basil was ready, we’d pick it and go back to the house.  We’d wash the leaves, and Paps would make pesto.  He put it in small jars and sold it to local food stores.  It was really delicious.

Pesto in Italian means paste, and this blend of basil, cheese, garlic, pine nuts, and olive oil is delizioso.  The recipe originates in Genoa, Italy.  I had to Slimmify it a bit.

Rat Tail Ridge

I like to use toasted pine nuts, rather than plain.  Toasted pine nuts taste better, that’s all.  I place a dry skillet over medium-high heat, toss in the nuts, and flip them around ’til they’re light brown.  Don’t burn your nuts!!

This recipe calls for both Parmigiano-Reggiano and Romano pecorino cheese.  Parmigiano is a sweeter cheese.  Pecorino is saltier.  The blend of the two is nice.

However, in a pinch I have used just Parmigiano, and it tastes great like that, too.

Paps used pesto for a lot of stuff.  He put it over pasta.  He used a dollop in soups.  He made omelettes with it.  Use your imagination…I’ve put it on chicken, fish.  I once made shrimp with pesto for the Food Network.  I’ve used it as a floor wax, a hair gel, a dog shampoo…

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups fresh basil leaves, cleaned

½ cup olive oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled

8 tablespoons of pine nuts (pignoli), toasted

½ teaspoon of salt

½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

½ cup freshly grated Romano pecorino cheese

Here we go…

Put the basil, ½ cup of olive oil, 4 tablespoons of toasted pine nuts, the garlic and the salt in a blender and blend, baby, blend.

When everything is smooth, transfer to a bowl and slowly blend in the grated cheeses by hand.

That’s it.

If you’re putting it over pasta…

Get a large pot, fill it with cold water, put it on the highest heat.  When it boils rapidly, toss in a few tablespoons of Kosher salt, and a pound of pasta.

When the pasta is firm to the bite (al dente), drain and transfer to a warm bowl.  Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and mix.

Scrape some the pesto sauce from its bowl, and add it to the pasta. Toss well, but be gentle.

Plate it up!  Put a small amount of pasta on a plate.  Add a little sprinkle of grated cheese, Parmigiano or Romano or both.

Take some of the remaining toasted pine nuts, and sprinkle on top.

Use a couple small fresh basil leaves for garnish and…

MANGIAMO!!!!!!!

Slim Man Cooks Chicken with Marsala and Porcini Mushrooms

The owner of the club was rumored to have ties to the KKK.

I was in Memphis in the late 1980s organizing a country music talent contest with my friend Michael.

Michael is black.  I’m white.  Well, Italian.

Marlboro sponsored the contest. Why they picked a black guy and a white guy—two city slickers, no less—to do a country music talent contest, is still puzzling.

But they paid us a lot of money.  And they paid all our expenses.

Michael and I traveled around the USA looking for the next big country music star. We went to more honkytonk hellholes than most cowboys.  We’d roll into a town like Memphis, find a club, organize the bands, and do the contest.  The grand prize was $50,000.  Fifty grand.

I organized the bands, made sure all the musicians knew where to go and what to do.  Michael was the MC.  He was the Ryan Seacrest of honkytonks.

When Michael appeared on stage, and introduced himself to the primarily white, all-country crowd, there was a little apprehension…on both sides of the microphone.

He’d come out and say…

“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Marlboro Country Music Talent Roundup.”

That’s when the crowd got a little quiet.  Michael was from New York City, and he sounded like it.  He’d continue…

“I know I don’t look like the Marlboro Man, and I don’t sound like the Marlboro Man, but tonight…”

He’d reach down and put on his white ten-gallon Hoss Cartwright cowboy hat on, and continue…

“I am the Marlboro Man.”

He sounded like Shannon Sharpe.  He looked like Cleavon Little in Blazing Saddles. Michael always got a laugh when he put the big white hat on.

Marlboro tossed a lot of do-re-mi at this thing.  We had all kinds of great merchandise—denim jackets, satin jackets, duffle bags, playing cards, T-shirts, polo shirts, denim shirts, posters…

And they gave away free cigarettes at every show.  All you could smoke.

They should have given away a Marlboro coffin.  Or maybe a Marlboro iron lung…

Here’s how we ran the contest…we had ten bands a night, three nights in a row.  Each band got fifteen minutes on stage.  We had three minutes in between bands, that’s all.

Judges picked the winners.  Kinda like American Idol, but not as sexy as J-Lo.  We’d find judges—usually three—from the local talent pool; DJs, producers, managers, agents.

The judges would pick one band to go on to the finals in Nashville, where they would compete with the other finalists from other towns for the grand prize of $50,000.

Before we got to Memphis, we got a call from Marlboro headquarters.  They told us to be careful.  It was the 20th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination in Memphis.

The club was called The Vapors, a country music honky-tonk in the middle of Memphis.  Michael and I pulled up to the club in our rental car.  We walked inside and met the owner. He was friendly.  He was as nice and as helpful as could be.  And he wasn’t wearing a white pillow case over his head.

Michael and I got set up for the show that night.  We had to hang all the Marlboro Country Music Roundup signs around the club, we had to make sure the sound company was good to go, the bands ready to play, and the judges ready to judge.

We finished soundcheck and had a few hours before showtime.  Michael had a friend who had a limo and tour bus company based in Memphis.  She rented these things out to bands and rock stars.  She invited us for a limo ride to Graceland, and a private tour.

She was a friend of Elvis Presley’s Mom.

Graceland is the house that Elvis built.  It’s now a museum.

Michael and I drove over to his friend’s house, and she had all these limos and tour buses parked all around her property.  She got behind the wheel of one of the limos, and Michael and I got in back.  She put the big black limo in reverse and floored it.

She rammed it into the side of one of her tour buses that was parked right behind her.  BANG!  We got out, and surveyed the damage.  It was substantial—to both the limo and the tour bus.

She left the smashed-up limo right there, and got into another one and drove us over to Graceland.  She gave us a private tour.   We went upstairs.  We saw the Graceland that not many people get to see.  It was surprisingly small, and had a sixties vibe to it—lots of yellow vinyl and white shag carpets and mirrored walls.  Elvis must have loved TV.  There were TVs everywhere.  He had quite a collection of cars.  And planes.  Elvis had two luxury jets parked right across the street.

After the Graceland tour, Michael and I went to visit the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.  There were TV news crews doing interviews about the 20th anniversary, and one of them came up to Michael and interviewed him.

It was eerie.

Michael and I went back to our hotel, a Holiday Inn.  We decided to take a jog before the big show that night.  We put on our running shoes, and started jogging down the streets of Memphis, side-by-side.

On our way back, we heard someone shout from a car…excuse the language, but this is the way it went down.

“Hey Nigguh boy!  Hey hippie fag!”

True story.  That’s exactly what was said.  I couldn’t believe my ears.  Then I heard it again.

“Hey Nigguh boy!  Hey hippie fag!”

Oh, shit, I thought.  Here we go.  A Black guy, and a white guy with long hair, running down the streets of Memphis.  I stopped and looked to where the voice was coming from.

It was the owner of the Vapors.  He was laughing, hanging out the window of his car, smacking his hand on the door.

“I got you!  I got you goin’!  See you fellas at the club later!  Have a nice run!”

He smiled and waved and drove off, laughing.

He got us, all right.

We did the contest that night at The Vapors.  The owner couldn’t have been nicer, the crowd was as cool as could be, and the show went as smooth as glass.

I love Memphis…Sun Studio, Graceland, Beale Street…and any city with a restaurant named Automatic Slim’s is OK in my book.

Chicken with Marsala and Porcini Mushrooms

I came up with this dish a few weeks ago.  I used porcini mushrooms and the water they soak in.  It was amazing, if I may say so myself.

The next night I cooked it for a very beautiful woman of excellent taste, and it was…just OK.  I overcooked the chicken, and it was a bit dry.  So don’t overcook your chicken.

Nothing worse than tough, dry breasts.

I like to serve this sauce over egg noodles–not a lot, just a little bit underneath each serving.

I used two boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  I cut them into 1/4 inch cutlets, which gave me six cutlets.

INGREDIENTS

6 chicken breast cutlets, about 1/4 inch thick

2 tablespoons of butter

2 tablespoons of olive oil

¾ cup of sweet Marsala

½ ounce of dried porcini mushrooms

1 cup of water

3 garlic cloves, sliced thin, about 1 tablespoon

½ a shallot, chopped fine, about 2 tablespoons

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

1/2 pound of egg noodles–pappardelle work well

Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Here we go…

Put your dried porcini mushrooms in a bowl.  Add the one cup of water.  Let it sit for an hour.

Remove the mushrooms from the bowl with a slotted spoon.

Take the remaining porcini water and strain through cheesecloth—I used a coffee filter, by the way.  Save the water–you’re gonna use a half cup for the sauce, and a half cup in the pasta water, if you want to put the sauce over pasta.

Rinse off the mushrooms and pat dry.  Chop into small pieces.

Grab your breasts.  Then grab your chicken breasts.  Notice the difference.  Salt and pepper the top of the chicken breasts.  Fresh cracked black pepper is the way to go.

Let’s make the sauce first…

Put a small saute pan over medium heat.

Add one tablespoon of butter, and one tablespoon of olive oil.

When the butter starts to bubble, add the shallots.

Cook and stir for 2 minutes, until the shallots just start to brown.

Add the garlic, cook for 2 minutes.  Give it a stir.

Add the marsala.

Add the 1/2 cup of porcini water.

Turn the heat to high and let it cook for 2 minutes.

Turn the heat to medium-low, and add the porcini mushrooms.

Cook for 2 minutes while stirring.

Add the rosemary.  Cook and stir for 2 minutes.

Remove from heat.  Sauce is done!

Let’s do the chicken…

Get a large saute pan (I used a 12 inch skillet).  Put it over medium-high heat.

Add one tablespoon of butter and one tablespoon of olive oil.

When the butter starts to bubble, add the chicken breasts, salted/peppered side down.

Cook for two or three minutes until pale gold.

Flip ‘em over.

Cook for two or three minutes on the other side until pale gold.  Give a cutlet a slice, make sure it’s done.

Pour the Marsala/porcini sauce over the breasts.

Remove from heat!

Plate ‘em up!  You can put this over egg noodles, or rice, or eat ‘em as is.

I like to put this sauce over egg noodles.  Get a large pot, fill it with cold water.  Add the remaining half cup of porcini water to the pasta water.  When it all comes to a boil, add a couple tablespoons of Kosher salt.

Add the egg noodles, cook until al dente, drain and drizzle with a little olive oil.  Stir.

Put A LITTLE BIT of egg noodles on a plate.  Put some marsala sauce over the noodles, put a chicken breast on top, spoon some sauce and juice and mushrooms on top and…

MANGIAMO!!!!!!!!!