Merry Belated Christmas

Yeah…I know…I shoulda posted this yesterday…but I was too busy eating and being lazy. Tough on ya’s.

Oh well…Merry Christmas to all of you…but you need to choose one and only one of the following to provide you our wishes.

For our progressive friends…yeah, we actually have some of those misguided folks in our circle…

Please accept with no obligation, implied or explicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2011 but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere . Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishes.

To our conservative friends…Merry Christmas.

‘Round these parts…we started the merriment with Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve…but in the interests of the old folks down here who (a) don’t stay up late and (b) can’t drive at night (well, they actually can’t drive anytime…leastways not correctly dammit…but at least during the daytime they have a prayer of seeing anything…after dark it’s a lost cause for them.)…anyways it was a 1600 in the afternoon. Father Tom gave a relatively short sermon…he said it was because he was told shortly before Mass started by a parishioner that they had a 1730 dinner reservation. There was a very nice concert by the choir to start…well except for the last piece which depended on the men in the choir…and they pretty much suck (but they try and it’s choir so that’s not too bad)…anyways they got off and the whole last song was a train wreck. For those of you who’ve heard the old Harry Chapin song about the 30,000 pounds of the bananas…”The reaction of the band was best summed by my brother John who said…(music stops and very deep baritone voice here)…Harry, it sucks.”

After Mass we stopped by the local sushi/chinese restaurant and had sushi and Kirin Ichiban brews for dinner then it was back home. Earlier in the day Neil had done most of the cooking for Christmas…made the caramel pies; made the sweet potato polenta and put it in the fridge to be sliced, fried in budda’, and topped with maple syrup on the ‘morrow; and marinated our venison tenderloin (Thanks to Tom…Jenny’s dad…for the meat!!)

Sunday Connie headed back over to St Therese for the 0900 Mass…Neil stayed home so that she could call when she left and he could put the sorta home made cinnamon buns into the oven…the buns part came from a package of Flaky Southern Style Grands biscuits and he made a pecan, brown sugar, butter, and leftover caramel pie stuff mixture. He stretched the buns out into ovals about 6 inches long, schmeared (that’s an Emeril Lagasse term) the mixture on the middle and rolled ‘em up. Tossed into an oven after schmearing a little more butter and left over caramel on the top for 13 minutes at 350…et voila…hot home made cinnamon buns. He added a rum and OJ cocktail once she got home…we had finished coffee earlier before she left…and that was brunch.

We opened presents…Connie got this cool granny mug from grand baby Alex.


Other than that we got some hair things, a beard trimmer, and a few other odds and ends but nothing really spectacular…but then we mostly just get what we need when we need it anyway.

About 1030 he put the venison into the pot with our sous vide machine. Sous vide is a French cooking style technically meaning “under vacuum” but essentially you put your food into a bag…and either vacuum seal it if you have one of those to just seal into a freezer bag and squeeze the air out if you don’t have the vacuum machine. He had put some rosemary, thyme, and marjoram into the bag Saturday along with a little sherry vinegar and some olive oil to marinate over nite.

Anyways…sous vide cooking actually means cooking your food in warm to very warm water for a long time. Take venison for instance…our tenderloin was about 10 ounces and say 5 inches long and 2 inches in diameter…and we wanted it medium rare…which for venison (as for most other red meats) is about 130 degrees internal temperature. Now if you cook meat in the oven or on the grill you cook it to a center temperature of 125 and then take it off and let it rest for 20 minutes. Since the outer portions are hotter the heat equalizes and the whole thing is now at your desired 130…but unfortunately it’s only pink in the middle. Towards the outside it’s more done as the outside portions of the meat got hotter. To counteract this problem…because medium rare should be medium rare all the way through…sous vide was invented. You put the sealed bag containing your meat into a pot of water which is maintained at 130 degrees for a long time…this venison would have been done in about 2 hours but we actually had it in there for about 5. The good thing is that it cannot overcook because it can never get hotter than the 130 degree water in the cooking container…and the longer you leave it in the more tender it gets. Neil uses his large pasta pot about 12 inches deep and has a portable sous vice machine that clamps to the side of the pot. The machine has an 800 watt heater inside it and a propeller arrangement that sucks water in from the pot, heats it up and shoots it back out. It has a temperature sensor at the intake and a dial where you set the desired temperature (129 in our case since it would warm up a little bit when seared…which I’ll talk about in jus’ a minute if’n ya give me a chance. The controller cycles the heater on and off so the incoming water to the sensor remains at 129 and the propeller ensures that all the water is evenly mixed.

The result is that the meat is the same temperature the whole way through…a very nice 129 which is almost medium rare. Take a look at the cross section of the venison in the photo below and you’ll see what Ima talking ‘bout. See how the meat is nice and pink almost all the way to the outside…that’s the benefit of sous vide.


The only drawback is that the outside surface of the meat only gets to 130 as well…and it does not get that nice seared crispy brown outside. That’s technically known as a Maillard reaction and it’s a product of the amino acids and sugars in the meat in the presence of high heat  and it’s what gives browned food that nice browned crunchy bits taste. Anyways…sous vide means no Maillard reaction…and hence no browning so the meat just looks gray when you take it out of the bag. No worries though…you just toss the meat into a very, very hot skillet…or onto the grill…for a couple minutes to sear the outside into that nice browned meat color and taste.

The other stuff on the plate above is savory herb stuffing with mushroom gravy on it and the venison…and the sweet potato polenta. Polenta is sort of like the Italian version of grits except it’s made from yellow stone ground cornmeal ground finer than what’s normally used for grits…you can use grits in a pinch and the flavor is pretty close but (a) corn meal is the original stuff and gives it a creamer texture and (b) we have corn meal anyway for stuff like frying oysters and fish. Cook the corn meal with water and cream for a half hour or so, add in a smashed and baked sweet ‘tater and a little cinnamon, brown sugar, salt, and ground smoked chipotle pepper for a bit of a kick. Next put the mixture into a loaf pan and into the fridge over night where it sets into a congealed mass. Slice, fry in butter, and top with maple syrup and it’s mighty tasty.

We had dinner about 1700 and much later had the salted caramel pie Neil made for dessert.


For this…you take Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk and put it into a flat baking dish which you then sit in a water bath in the oven for 90 minutes or so…this causes the milk solids in the Eagle Brand to caramelize into that nice gooey stuff you see in the photo and make it so it will set into a custard consistency when put into the fridge. Scrape the mixture into serving dishes that have a graham cracker crust, top with a little fleur de sel…that’s a 10 dollar word for sea salt…which is chemically the same as regular table or kosher salt except it’s made from evaporating sea water and has very nice crystal crumbly texture…sometimes called finishing salt but it’s what we…and fancy chefs…use as salt at the table when a bit more is necessary. Put the dishes into the fridge overnight, top with whipped cream and you’re done. It’s not as salty as either table or kosher salt is…the large crystals are flat like snowflakes and have a lot of air in them so each crystal contains less salt than it looks like it does.

We had a nice bottle of Pinot Noir red with dinner…and a couple of Green Spot Irish Whisky cocktails while he was cooking. Crammed all the dishes into the dishwasher and watched TV until bedtime…and that was our Most Excellent Christmas Day.

One other election related note…as you’re no doubt aware the media, Clinton campaign, and the various liberal talking heads/social media gadfly/et. al. are still complaining about how HRC won the popular vote…and are still making noises about abandoning the Electoral College.

There’s even a thing going on called the 270 Coalition which is trying to get states that represent 270 electoral votes to agree to cast their electoral votes for the national popular vote winner. Now that just seems wrong to me…after all we are the United States of America and not just plain old America…the founding fathers deliberately wanted the states to retain the upper hand…hence that sentence in the constitution about all other powers being retained by the states. Anyways…this seems like an end run around having to have a constitutional amendment to get rid of the EC…just like liberals trying to give the District of Columbia voting rights in Congress and the Senate despite the clear wording in the constitution that States get congressmen and senators, not districts or possessions…funny how those wanting to give DC congressional representation don’t seem to want to give any to Guam, Puerto Rico, or American Samoa…probably because they wouldn’t be reliable Democratic votes but that’s just me.

Anyways…back to the continued harping on the popular vote. Turns out that the fabled recounts of hacked elections in PA, WI, and MI actually increased Mr. Trump’s winning margin in those three states…and that while it is true that she won the overall irrelevant popular vote by 2.8 million or so…it also turns out that her popular vote victory was due…solely…to vote in NYC and LA County. This means…at least to me…that it’s even more important for the EC to be retained to ensure that the President is elected by all the people…do we really want LA and NYC to control the out come of a national election? Not me.

Neil keeps having the same discussion over and over with his liberal friends on social media…they all claim she won the popular vote and should be declared the winner. He keeps telling them that she was a lousy candidate that nobody trusted based on her record for the past 30 years; that Comey didn’t cost her the election…he actually decided not to prosecute her…twice; that she ran a terrible campaign which assumed traditional Democratic states were in the bag and completely ignored the flyover states while concentrating her energy only on the coasts; and failed to listen to the smartest politician we’ve had in the USA since Ronald Reagan. Bill Clinton…despite his moral deficiencies…was a pretty darned good president…and more importantly is a brilliant political mind. He begged her not to ignore the largely white middle class voters in the center 35 states but she saw fit to ignore that advice and campaigned only where people liked her already or where she thought she could flip a state. Ya gotta take care of your base first and foremost.

Ok, need a couple of interesting things to post…lessee.

You think wimmin are the weaker sex?

TheWeakerSexThose sneaky Chinese.


This should be posted on everything.


Life imitating art.


Definitely not…Good Eats.


We’ll finish out the holidays this week with New Years and the College Football Playoff games on Saturday…then it will be time to get down to work. In the next couple of weeks Neil’s got a bunch of work items to handle on the trailer…flush and sanitize our water system as it’s been almost 5 years, swap out the resin in our water softener, change the water heater anode element, order more water filters and install a couple of them as part of the whole water system flush/change thing, and get his bike fixed (he broke the front derailleur trying to adjust it…which isn’t surprising as he’s not a bike mechanic and doesn’t know what he’s doing. Hopefully the LBS…er, local bike shop…can quickly fix his errant adjustments.) After all that’s done he’s gotta plan out our next spring/summer/fall travels. I’ll give ya a preview of those next time in my end of the year summary…but it involves a Charles Kuralt like journey across America as well as (hopefully and tentatively) polar bears.


About Gunther

The full time RV travels and experiences of Gunther the Bear and Kara the Dog…along with their human staff neil and Connie.
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