Saturday, April 30, 2011

Shooting for the moon...

Shooting for the Moon

It has been a while since my last post.  I have been VERY busy.

Ironically, Kathy has been teasing me that since I have started culinary school, I have not cooked at home.  She is right.  I can't believe how much reading and time this program involves.  Our usual Sunday afternoon, formerly spent with her and I cooking, has been replaced with me in my chair reading while she mocks me (good naturedly) about who the "real" chef is.  This quarter I was supposed to have six credit hours of classes.  Luckily, I got 2 hours of credit for Nursing 104 (Nutrition) and, although I do not remember having taken the course (Hey, it was 35 years ago!), I'll take it!  So... that leaves 4 hours for this quarter.  I am working my ass off.

My instructior is Chef Pierre Pollin.  He is an interesting fellow.  He started off our first class by essentially telling us he does things his way and he basically doesn't care what we think of him.  33 years of working with people put the "bull shit-o-meter" on high alert and I was right.  He spent the rest of the 3 hours in the kitchen encouraging us in our first attempts to cut potatoes to the correct size.  I have come to love the twinkle in his eye when he contrasts "perfection" with what really happens in a kitchen.  He knows what is right, he is honest in his evaluation of our work, and he encourages us in our endeavors.  Sounds like a great teacher to me.

Oh, by the way.  Chef Pollin had a successful run of some thirty years owning a highly rated restaurant, "Le Titi de Paris", in Arlington Heights.  I hope for a fraction of that.

Ultimately, though, this post is all about dreams and shooting for the moon.

Dieter, my best friend and life long "partner in crime", is living his dream as a craft brewer in North Carolina.  His uncle was a maltmeister in Germany and Dieter has always professed an interest in the brewing arts.  After joining the Marines out of high school, he became a nurse and established himself as a very caring professional.  We worked a number of shifts together in the Johnston R. Bowman Center and certainly gave administration pause for our unorthodox, but incredibly effective, approach to providing care.  There are simply some things that "never" happened.  What happens in JRB stays in JRB!

Dieter and his first wife, Karen, moved to North Carolina with their children to get away from city life in the early 1990s.  He worked as a nurse and enjoyed putzing around on the house.  There were many trips both ways as our families remained close and caring.  Eventually, however, Dieter and Karen parted ways.  Whether that was good or bad, I cannot say.  Sometimes the dreams we started out with simply don't pan out.  I do know that I still love Karen and have always wished her well.  She did what she needed to do and I have always respected that.

Ilene and I also had dreams related to North Carolina.  We bought several acres of land right above Dieter's and had dreams of someday moving down there someday.  Real life happened to us, as well, and that dream simply never panned out.

"Our" land, as viewed from Dieter's...
We had almost 2 acres extending back from where you see the Sky

But some dreams do come to fruition.

Mash Tuns at Heinzelmannchen Brewery

Says it all...

Says it best... 43 years after first meeting.
Some dreams come true.

I made some macaroni and cheese yesterday to help the Occupational Therapists celebrate OT month.  This is the family size version of what I actually made.  This recipe is from Fat Willy's, a great rib joint in Chicago.  I change out a few of the cheeses, but you do need to keep the cheddar cheese.  (In particular, I change out smoked gouda for the romano.)  I also use a fresher Parmesan cheese, not Parmesan Reggiano, as the older, more mature parmesans are difficult to melt.

1 pound penne rigate, cook EXACTLY 7 minutes at a rapid boil
5 ½ cups whole milk, scalded (heated just below boiling point)
½ cup flour
¼ pound butter
¼ tablespoon paprika, plus additional for sprinkling on top
2 ½ tablespoons garlic, minced
6 ounces romano cheese
12 ½ ounces fontina cheese
15 ounces cheddar cheese
12 ½ ounces parmesan cheese, plus additional for sprinkling on top

Melt butter over low heat and add flour. Whisk constantly to prevent it from turning brown. Stir in paprika and garlic. Slowly add hot milk to the butter & flour, continually whisking to reduce lumps. After all milk is added, reduce heat to medium and continue to stir until thickened. Pour mixture through a strainer to remove any lumps & garlic pieces.

Return sauce over medium to low heat, and add cheese. Stir continually to melt cheese. Do not keep a high flame or your cheese sauce will be grainy.  If that happens, you'll need to sieve the thick cheese sauce through a chinois.  Not fun.

Pour cheese sauce over cooked penne and mix well. Place in a large casserole dish and sprinkle with additional parmesan cheese and paprika. Bake for 30 minutes in a 350° F preheated oven.

This runs about 1350 calories for a serving, so, do your heart a favor and have only once or twice a year.  (That's the RN in me coming out.)


  1. Great post, Dan and thanks for all the love! As for the moonshot; it's edgy living in all it's glory...embrace the thrill!

  2. I love that you've drawn your bow and your arrows well aimed at the moon. Watch and read the lyrics... You may strongly dislike the music but the lyrics are some great cheer leading. I thought of this immediately while reading your post!
    I too love to cook and hope to some day learn more. GO GET WHAT YOU WANT... FEED YOUR SOUL & SHARE YOUR GIFT! My plate will be clean a ready for a dish...
    Have a great day and say "Hello" to Kathy,