Chef Tom – Son of Three Short Stories and Duck Pozole!

A Reminder: These short stories are from a writing program called Round Robin. Write something every day, set the timer for 12 minutes, the title of each piece is the daily prompt. Stop writing once the alarm goes off.

Stain

Blood stain

They found the stain when removing the worn-out carpet in the back bedroom. It was a good twelve inches wide and dark brown, almost black. Henry recognized it at once. Years in forensics, he’d seen just about everything.

Marjorie and Henry found their little fixer-upper three months ago and had been working in the different rooms, tearing out wainscoting, ripping up weathered floorboards, and breaking down unnecessary walls to open the place up. They finally got to the back room.

When the carpet came up and the dark stain became visible, Henry sat back on his heels.

“Is that what I think it is?” said Marjorie

“Yeh. Pretty sure.” said Henry

“Jesus. The stories must be true.”

“I was hoping it’d be an urban legend. But this. And they just carpeted over it like nothin.’ Man oh man, people can be so fucked up.”

“Do we need to do something? Tell someone?”

“Nah. I don’t want that kind of trouble right now. Best keep it to ourselves. They caught the guy anyway and the case has been closed for five years or more. I don’t want to reopen that can of worms. Let’s just keep going.”

“Ok, hun. You know about this better than I do. Still, that’s a lot of blood. I can’t believe they just carpeted over it like that. Weird. And spooky as shit.”

“Yeh.”

“Now all we need is a ghost. This place is cute, but the history and the stories are awful. No wonder we got it so cheap. Yeh, a ghost. That’s what we need. Something to talk about when our friends are over for dinner.”

“Yeh. The first time anyway.”

—————————————————————————————- 

Bar Fight

My father got up

My father tried to get up. His brain fog cleared enough so that he could tell that he’d been on top of some guy who was lying motionless on the bar floor. As he raised himself up, he saw blood coming from the guy’s nose. The stranger was out cold. Dad steadied himself with the edge of the bar.

The silence was creepy. He could see staring faces through the smoky haze, eyes looking at him, cigarettes dangling from half-opened mouths. Glancing into the mirror of the backbar he caught the shadowy outline of another stranger whose arm was raised with a bottle of beer in his hand. The guy was about to bash my father in the head.

Dad grew up on a farm. He was strong, raw-boned, and direct. He logged. He rode horses. He operated heavy machinery. He got good at boxing in high school and knew how to handle himself. Now he was a sailor on leave and trying to have a good time, but for these assholes trying to mess with him. Muscle memory kicked in for how to position himself to throw his entire body weight behind a punch, along with the brief martial arts training he had in bootcamp, and he launched himself backwards off the bar, flattened his fist into a knife blade, and brought the calloused edge of his palm directly under the nose of his assailant, lifting the poor chap off of his feet, back over the top of the bar, crashing glasses and bottles of booze onto the floor after him.

The first time he told me this story, I was a pup. He placed his rough hand under my nose, above my lip, to show me where he’d hit the guy. I remember it was warm and smelled of Old Spice. He told me that if you hit someone hard enough in this area, upwards towards the back of his head, there’s a good chance a bone will break in the middle of his skull and get pushed up into his brain, killing him on the spot. I was awestruck. My dad knows how to kill people.

He said that he didn’t stick around long enough to see what damage he’d done but took off back to the base. No one said anything to him after. No one came looking.

—————————————————————————————- 

Catch

Catch

Papa.

Yes, Franco, what is it.

Papa, I want to do a quadruple. I can do it. I’ve been practicing. Triple is easy now. I want to add another one. The crowd will go crazy.

Papa folds his newspaper and lays it next to his plate. He thinks for a second, looking across the breakfast table at his newly sixteen-year-old son. The boy’s face is eager, watching him for a reaction. Franco has grown so much stronger this last year. He’s able to hold his mother now, as well as his older brother Gino.

Quadruple, huh. You sure.

Yes sir. I think I’m ready. We still have almost three weeks until we open in Gainesville. If we work the lines twice a day, we can do it. Let me show you on the tramp. I’ve been able to get high enough to do four turns and have landed on my feet.

I don’t know, Franco. That’s a big step to take. People love your triple and you’re so smooth when you perform.

Papa looks over at mother who’s stopped preparing their meal and is looking back and forth from Franco to Papa. He knows that look so well. She’s worried he’ll fall. She’s always worried he’ll fall since his accident. But that was four years ago, and he was just starting out. Look at him. He’s nearly a man. He gives his wife a smile and with his eyes said “Let’s trust him. He needs this.” She squinches her mouth into a reluctant smile and sighs.

Ok, my son, let’s go to the tent this morning and we’ll give it a try. You’re gonna have to convince me you can do this before was say anything to management.

I know, Papa. I’m ready. I was also thinking maybe we could do something surprising. I do the flips and you catch me like we always do, but we let the crowd know it’s going to be a quadruple, and instead of catching me by my wrists, I make it look like I miss and you catch me by my ankle instead. I want the ladies to scream!

Papa let out a laugh, glancing back to mother, who slammed down her spatula a little loudly this time, glaring directly at her husband.

One step at a time, my boy, one step. Let’s get good at the regular catch first and then we can get fancy. He could see the slight disappointment on his brave son’s face.

But I like the way you think. You’re turning into a real showman. After breakfast, ok? Mangia!

——————–

Pozole

Pozole With Duck and Mezcal

The perfect, warming bowl for the remnants of Winter.

The giant white hominy used to make pozole are a blank canvas. The hominy — soaked, then simmered using a quick-boil shortcut that skips the need for overnight soaking — welcome chiles and a good dose of cumin. This pozole includes prepared duck confit instead of the more usual pork or chicken.

Some diced fresh pineapple in the thick stew balances the spicy heat. A small glass of mezcal is a fine partner, especially as a finishing touch. Save a little of the drink for when you and guests are almost finished eating, to pour into the bowl for the last soupy spoonfuls. It’s what the French do in Gascony with their red wine when they enjoy a soup called garbure.

NOTE: You can find pozole in a can, which is always good and saves a ton of time. You can replace the duck confit with a pre-roasted chicken (or duck), although it won’t be quite as luxurious. Try the “finish” that Chef Fabricant suggests, dump a spoonful of the mezcal into the last few spoonfuls of soup at the end.

Ingredients:
1 cup dry white hominy (mote pelado)

2 tablespoons duck fat or extra virgin olive oil

1 large white onion, slivered

1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and slivered

1 fresh poblano, cored, seeded and slivered (long, green California peppers work, too)

1 leek, white part only, finely chopped

1 jalapeño, cored, seeded and minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder or smoked paprika

1/8 teaspoon cayenne, or more, to taste

1/4 whole fresh pineapple, peeled, cored and diced

2 duck confit legs and thighs, boned and slivered

4 cups chicken stock (I prefer bone broth)

1 tablespoon tomato paste

Salt

Red-pepper flakes, to taste

2 teaspoons lime juice

3 scallions, minced

1 tablespoon minced cilantro leaves

6 ounces mezcal, or to taste, optional

Directions:
Place hominy in a saucepan, add 4 cups water, bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes. Set aside, covered, for 1 hour. Then simmer about 2 hours, partly covered, until starting to soften, adding more water if needed to keep kernels covered. Set aside.

Heat duck fat or oil in a large sauté pan. Add the onion, bell pepper, poblano, leek and jalapeño. Cook on medium low until vegetables are soft and the onion barely starts to color, 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the cumin, chipotle powder and cayenne. Cook for a minute, then add the pineapple and duck. Drain the hominy and add it.

Add the chicken stock and tomato paste. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook on low about 1 1/2 hours, until the hominy has softened, is starting to look translucent and some of the kernels are popping open.

Season with salt and red-pepper flakes to taste.

Add the lime juice. Fold in the scallions and cilantro. Divide the mezcal among 4 small glasses and serve alongside, if desired, to sip with the pozole. As guests have nearly finished their pozole suggest they pour some of the mezcal into their bowls for the last few spoonfuls.

I swiped this from the New York Times:

Chef: Florence Fabricant

Photographer: Christopher Testani

Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

=CTH=

Chef Tom is currently transitioning from Personal Chef to Private Chef. He also teaches cooking classes, caters small parties and leads overseas culinary tours. His specialty for the last twelve years has been cooking for people with food allergies and sensitivities. His motto is “Food should give you pleasure, not pressure.”

Check him out at www.hippkitchen.com

One Response to “Chef Tom – Son of Three Short Stories and Duck Pozole!”

  1. Damon Hines Says:

    Always enjoy your writing, Chef; also, had pozole AND that hand to nose to brain move dancing in my head -separately- awhile. Gonna stick with pozole for the nonce. Never made it before, never had it..got a chili corn chowder skedded already.. NEXT time. 👍👍😘🎶😎😁

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