You’re Never Too Old to Fail


Trillium – Casa Stewarti

Monday:          Spring Quiche with Mushrooms and Asparagus

85th Street West (Stewart apartment)

85th Street West – view from Stewart apartment

Tuesday:          NYC with Drew


Wednesday:    Pasta with beans and greens


Thursday:        Jim Harrison’s Carribean Stew

More trillium

More Trillium

Friday:             The Hartwood with the Harts

tomato soup

Saturday:         Tomato Soup


Sunday:           Grilled Leg of Lamb, Roasted Potatoes, Tomatoes, Cucumber, Feta, Grapes, Tzaziki sauce
Appetizer of Asparagus with Wasabi Mayonnaise, Goat Cheese, Cheese,
Roasted Prosciutto with Baguettes
Dessert – Annie Smith

It is ironic that the dish which ignited our interest in food – a grilled lamb served to friends back when all of us had our original hips and knees – should have defeated us last Sunday night.  But such is life – one step forward, a half-step backward, three steps to the side and then you twist your ankle.

Now, it wasn’t terrible, this lamb that we cooked – well-sourced, nicely seasoned, and heartily eaten – but it was OVER-DONE!  The ignominy of this is difficult to grasp if you come from, say, Topeka.  But in Fox Chapel, it is as real and harsh as a jump into the Allegheny in mid-January.  You can be reckless with seasoning (please pass the salt and pepper), you can be utterly lax in your timing (“The stew should be ready about midnight.  How about another martini?”), but God forbid you that should serve any form of beef or lamb without a rosy pink interior.

But hey, I’m over it and, in fact, pretty high, as you will be, I promise, on the good food that we cooked last week:  a pasta worth learning about and a lusty, savory stew created by a lusty savory writer and gourmand – Jim Harrison.

And the week was, generally, delicious.  The best dinner of the week was in New York, just round the corner from the Stewart apartment, at Machiavelli where, after a pedestrian Fritto Misto, I had a tomato-citrusy, Penne Norma with just-warmed ricotta salata on top and unctuous, slightly bitter eggplant on the bottom.  Drew had a spectacular Pappardelle with a mushroom cream sauce.  On Friday we had dinner with John and Janice at Whispers.  And the guests at our failed lamb feast on Sunday could not have been nicer.  Thanks, Annie, Rick, Steve , Emily and Billy.  (Annie brought a delicious fruit tart that made us all forget the lamb.)

Here are two recipes could help me forget a lunch of Chef-Boyardee’s Spaghettios.

Caribbean stew

Jim Harrison’s Caribbean Stew

(adapted from the NYT Magazine:  April 2, 2017)

Jim Harrison wrote, lived, drank and ate large.  If you have moments like that, you will enjoy this dish.  If you don’t have moments like that, what are you doing reading this blog?  I used maybe 3 the amount of hot sauce Harrison calls for (might have doubled that if Beez had not been home).  But hot sauce is a matter of taste and a matter of product.  Frank’s Red Hot is great, but more vinegary than hot.  Tabasco is hot.  The Habañero hot sauce we used was hotter.  The Scotch bonnet recommended by Harrison is about as hot, but sweeter and works best in this dish.  We couldn’t find any.

Timing:                                    2 –2 1/2 hours   (If you are organized enough to start searing the chicken and Sausage while parboiling the ribs – this will  take 2 hours)

Ingredients:                             Feeds 4-6

1 ½ lbs. pork spareribs, cut into single ribs
4 chicken things, bone-in, skin-on
4 Italian sausages (we used hot – sweet might work better if you’re going to use a lot of hot sauce)
1 Large Spanish onion, peeled and sliced
4 cloves of garlic (we used two)
¼ Cup tomato paste
1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons of hot-pepper sauce – preferably one made with Scotch bonnet peppers.  OR TO TASTE!
1 Cup chicken stock
4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon sugar
1 ½ teaspoons chile powder
1 ½ teaspoons paprika
2 tablespoons neutral oil (canola, grapeseed, etc.)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


Pat chicken thighs dry and season with salt and pepper
Cut the spareribs apart
Slice the onion
Measure out chicken stock and assemble the various spices, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce
Preheat oven to 300 F


Place the spareribs in a pot and cover with water.  Place over high heat and bring to a boil, then lower heat slightly and cook, covered, for 20 minutes.  Remove ribs to a large bowl and discard water.

While spareribs are cooking, set a Dutch oven over high heat.  Put the oil into Dutch oven and swirl around.  When the oil starts to simmer, add the thighs to the pan, skin-side down and brown them.  Get them really brown – this will take around 7 minutes per side (adjust down to avoid burning).  Add the chicken to the bowl with the ribs.

Now brown the sausages on all sides – maybe 8 minutes total.  Remove from the pan and add to the bowl with the chicken and ribs.

Cook the onions (put them in first, then lower the heat to avoid burning the garlic) and garlic in the fat remaining in the Dutch oven, stirring from time to time, until they begin and begin to brown (about 7 minutes – but, hey, keep your eye on things, this could go quicker).

Now – you remembered to preheat the oven to 300 F, right? – add the tomato paste, vinegar, lemon juice, hot-pepper sauce, chicken stock, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, chile powder and paprika to the onions and garlic, stir them in and cook for between 1 and 2 minutes.

Now add the meats to Dutch oven, stirring and tossing to get them covered with the sauce.  Cover the pot and place in the oven to cook for 90 minutes – until the meats are tender and pulling from the bone.

Serve with bibs – the paprika can bloody a white shirt permanently.

pasta 2

EXTRA                                   Sausage, Greens and Beans Pasta

This is a beautiful and unusual dish.  The pasta, the greens and the sausage are different sizes and textures and yet the ensemble comes together in a harmony that is hard to forget.

Timing:            30 – 45 minutes (the shorter time means boiling the pasta while cooking the other ingredients)

Ingredients:                       Serves 4

12 oz. paccheri, rigatoni or other large tubular pasta (we used large rigatoni)
8 oz. Hot Italian sausage, removed from its casing
1 15.5 oz. can of chickpeas or cannellinni (we used chickpeas – they hold up better in this dish)
8 cups of torn escarole, kale or Swiss chard leaves
1/3 cup olive oil
2 sprigs of rosemary
¼ cup dry white wine
¾ cup finely grated Parmigiano divided into ½ cup and ¼ cup portions
2 tablespoons of butter
Kosher salt and ground black pepper


Wash, and tear the escarole
Take the sausage from the casings and break into pieces
Measure out the pasta, olive oil, wine, parmigiano and butter
Get a large pot of water over heat for cooking the pasta


Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high and then fry the rosemary until crisp, turning once – about 2 minutes.  Transfer to paper towels to drain.

Add the sausage to the Dutch oven (adjust heat lower to avoid burning) and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon and stirring from time to time, until browned and cooked – about 10 minutes.  Transfer to a plate.

Add chickpeas to the pot and cook, tossing occasionally and mashing some with a spoon, until browned in spots – 5 minutes.  Transfer half the chickpeas to the plate with the sausage.

Now add the wine to the pot, bring to a boil and cook until liquid is almost evaporated – about 2 minutes.

In the meantime, cook the past in a large pot of salted, boiling water – stirring occasionally, until very al dente (may 3 minutes less than package instructions).

Using a spider or slotted spoon, transfer the pasta to the pot with the chickpeas, add the escarole and 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.  Cook, tossing often, until the escarole is wilted and the pasta is al dente and the sauce is thickened – maybe 4 minutes.  Add another ¼ cup or more of pasta water and gradually add ½ cup of cheese, tossing until it melts into a glossy sauce.  Thin with more pasta water if needed, then season with pepper and salt if needed.

Now add the butter and toss to combine and then mix in the sausage and the reserved chickpeas.

Divide the pasta among serving bowls, crumble the rosemary over the top and sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup of cheese.

yet more trillium

8 thoughts on “You’re Never Too Old to Fail

  1. Whoops – meant to continue:

    Rosie – serve the ribs and sausage over rice. You need something to absorb the sauce.

    Katie – most of this block is apartments – maybe 4 or 5 single dwellings, one currently listed for $13 million. The apartment is 1/2 block from one of the nicer entrances to Central Park where Andrew takes the dog 2 or 3 times each day. The beans, greens and sausage is definitely worth doing.

  2. Bill,
    If you don’t have a Thermapen, put one on your next birthday list. The pen measures internal temps FAST; and by watching the readout as you pass the pen through the meat, you easily see the warmest and coolest spots. It is worth the c-note it will cost you.

  3. You’ve made a few different versions of the sausage, greens & beans pasta, and they have all been very good–wish I had not missed this one. The Caribbean stew was my favorite meal last week but the roasted potatoes with the lamb were the single best thing I ate last week that wasn’t cooked by Ngima Mso WaWanyoike of Lydiah’s Coffee House downtown on Grant Street. One of the best lunches that you can get in town. I’m taking you there asap.

    • Marge, you are right about the spaghettios. Gene, even with an accurate thermometer, overcooking can occur in this craft that is part science, part art and part having another martini and relaxing. Billy and UFR thanks for the support – and Billy, I’m ready for that lunch.

  4. Psycho-Chef!

    The lamb was deeelicious… You are painting an ugly picture that just isn’t so!

    I didn’t think it was overdone in the least, maybe a “little” on the ends… It was totally terrific! I don’t think there was much left either!!!
    I know both Steve, Annie and I, enjoyed it immensely!

    The tart was great too!!



  5. Bill, we had lovely seasoned, well-sourced lamb, too .. but it was overdone. Fellow cook extraordinaire John McSorley felt so bad, but it just happened somehow … likely continuing to cook inside after it came from the oven. Still, we enjoyed. Lovely seasoning. Don’t tell him I told you.


    Andrew and Julia’s view looks very upmarket. Love all the townhomes on the street, though many are likely now apartments?


    Have to try the beans and greens and tomato soup!. Look yummy.


    Katie McSorley President, Mid-Atlantic Havas PR

    m 1-724-413-6565 w a 925 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222



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