Defamed priest makes Church Militant pay; Catholic outrage outlet shutters doors

By Damien Fisher

Church Militant is closing.

Weeks before the defamation trial was scheduled to start, Church Militant settled the lawsuit brought by the Rev. Georges de Laire and agreed to pay out $500,000 to the parish priest who serves as judicial vicar for the Diocese of New Hampshire.

The Michigan-based media non-profit, St. Michael’s Media, plans to shut down Church Militant by the end of April, according to a segment released Friday by Todd & Weld, the law firm representing de Laire.

“St. Michael’s Media has also represented that it will cease all operations of Church Militant by the end of April 2024,” said the statement.

Church Militant is a subsidiary of St. Michael’s Media, both founded nearly 20 years ago by Gary Michael Voris. Voris stepped down in November after acknowledging he violated the non-profit’s morality clause.

Voris was accused of living a homosexual lifestyle while being the face of a media operation that attacked the Church for being open to homosexual members. He allegedly sent half-nude selfies to staffers and potential donors, including Jets placekicker Greg Zuerlein, and is accused of grooming young men who worked at the Ferndale, Michigan office.

still from video: https://www.facebook.com/michael.voris.7/videos/255458450430632

Church Militant posted an apology to its website Thursday, acknowledging the January, 2019 story labeling de Laire as “emotionally unstable” and “incompetent” was based on unnamed sources whose statements could not be substantiated in any credible manner.

“SMM and Church Militant extend their apologies to Father de Laire for the publication of this story which has been permanently removed from the ChurchMilitant.com website. Additionally, we have resolved Father de Laire’s defamation lawsuit through a financial payment to him,” the statement reads.

The statement issued Friday by de Laire’s law firm, Todd & Weld, confirms Saint Michael’s Media/Church Militant paid $500,000 to settle the lawsuit after being unable to produce a single witness who could confirm the defamatory article.

“(T)he defendants were unable to identify a single source who said anything negative about Father de Laire,” Todd & Weld’s Director of Marketing Paul Boynton wrote in the statement.

Both de Laire’s legal team and Church Militant blame the story’s author, canon lawyer Marc Balestrieri.

A “manufactured controversy” 

Boynton claims Balestrieri wrote the article as a means to get leverage on de Laire in the dispute between fringe group, The Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Diocese of Manchester, as well as to get money for himself. Balestrieri was representing the Slaves at the time.

Marc Balestrieri

“To the contrary, the evidence established that Father de Laire is highly regarded by all who know him, and that Mr. Balestrieri manufactured a controversy because at the time he was representing the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Saint Benedict Center in Richmond, NH,” Boynton wrote. “The group had been placed under Precepts by the Diocese of Manchester because of their nonobservance of Church law, according to the Church.  The defamation was used, apparently, as an attempt to discredit Father de Laire and the Diocese and to raise funds including to pay for Mr. Balestrieri’s services as a canonist. At Mr. Balestrieri’s insistence, his authorship of the article at issue was hidden from readers. Father de Laire’s lawsuit forced the disclosure of these facts about Church Militant and Mr. Balestrieri.”

Reached Friday, Balestrieri denied he wrote the article as part of any scheme.

“No sir, absolutely not,” Balestrieri said. 

Balestrieri’s been almost impossible to track down throughout the lawsuit, which was first filed in early 2021. Church Militant hid the fact he was the author for almost a year, and Balestrieri did not respond to calls or emails. According to court records, he evaded process servers, even running into the woods to hide from the lawsuit

But on Friday, Balestrieri, rather than an answering service, answered his business phone, though he declined to answer most of my questions, citing the “pendency of litigation.” In the few answers he did provide, Balestrieri stood by the facts of the article but refused to take credit.

“On February 20, 2024, I telephoned Saint Michael’s Media’s attorneys, Stephen Martin and Seth Hipple, and spoke at length with them both, informing them – prior to their entering into the agreement for judgment of February 27th on behalf of their clients – that all of the information I provided as a source was true and that there are witnesses, including myself among them, and documentation able to corroborate what Church Militant reported in the article,” he wrote.

Balestrieri did not answer directly if he actually wrote the article, but indicates he was not the author. 

“Attribution of the article in question, as indicated on the website during the entirety of its posting, was ‘Church Militant’,” he wrote.

Canon lawyer says he was threatened

Balestrieri claims he evaded the lawsuit, skipped a scheduled deposition, and stayed away from the trial because of the threat he received to stop him from telling the “truth.”

“On July 12 … within 20 minutes of agreeing in person in writing to testify to the truth, first by deposition and then in trial, I received a written threat not to go through with the deposition. For that reason and that reason alone did I not appear for the deposition. I was advised by law enforcement to take the threat seriously, decline politely to participate in the deposition, and, at the time, stay away from the trial,” Balestrieri wrote.

Evidence uncovered during litigation shows Voris threatened to somehow expose Balestrieri in June when it became clear Balestrieri planned to deny he was the story’s author. 

“We have all the receipts. You go through with this and we will rain down on you publicly. You are a liar, and a Welch,” Voris texted to Balestrieri on June 15, 2023. 

But so far, it is unproved Balestrieri was threatened in July as he told me Friday. Balestrieri was asked to provide evidence he received an additional threat on July 12, and asked for the name of the law enforcement agency that advised him, and if there was any report about the threat filed with any agency. He has yet to respond to those questions. 

Last year, Voris and Church Militant were exposed hiding Balestrieri-related evidence that was supposed to be turned over to de Laire. In response, Judge Jospeh LaPlante ordered them to go through their records and get the discovery, or face sanctions. In the weeks before the settlement was reached, Voris turned over 17 pages of text messages with Balestrieri. Church Militant handed over 30,000 documents at the start of February.

Where it all began

All of the drama started in early January of 2019 when the Slaves were issued a letter of precepts by the Diocese of Manchester. As judicial vicar, de Laire had spent years dealing with problems surrounding the Feeneyite sect, and he is the official who issued the letter of precepts.

After barely hiding their anti-Semitism and refusing to adhere to official Church teaching on the doctrine of  “No Salvation Outside The Church,” the Slaves were finally told to stop calling themselves a Catholic organization, and they were barred from having a priest celebrate Mass at their rural Richmond compound, among other measures.

Unbeknownst to the public at the time, the Slaves were represented by Balestrieri in their canon law appeals. Within weeks, Voris was in New Hampshire to interview Louis Villarubia, also known as Brother Andre, the current leader of the Slaves.

The subsequent reporting cast de Laire as the villain, an ambitious and out-of-control prelate, known to be unstable and incompetent. Church Militant’s reporting also raised questions about de Laire’s ethics, insinuating corruption due to the fact he purchased a million-dollar home close to his assigned parish.

Apparently, neither Balestrieri nor Voris was aware that de Laire is an heir to a wealthy French family that made a fortune in the perfume industry. The expensive home was purchased with de Laire’s private money for his elderly mother.

Voris never contacted de Laire for an interview prior to publishing the defamatory article.

Soon after Voris reported on the Slaves, the group started a website to solicit donations for their defense. They were seeking at least $50,000 to pay for their appeal of the precepts. Balestrieri did file an appeal on their behalf with the Vatican, but it was dismissed because he missed the deadline. 

Voris agrees to keep Balestrieri’s secret, lends him $65k of Church Militant’s money

Voris knew Balestrieri personally and had hired him for his own canon law cases, according to evidence uncovered in the case. According to the evidence and the settlement statements, Voris agreed to keep Balestrieri’s contributions to the reporting anonymous.

That meant Voris represented in court for more than a year that he was the author. When the ruse was finally found out through discovery, Balestrieri was made a defendant, and then found in default because he failed to appear in court or respond to the lawsuit. 

As the lawsuit was grinding down Church Militant’s finances, Voris pushed Balestrieri to come up with confirmation from his supposed sources. According to depositions, during a heated conversation in June of 2022 about the sources, Voris agreed to give Balestrieri an interest-free $65,000 loan from Church Militant’s accounts.

Meanwhile, Villarubia never knew that his canon lawyer was the author. Villarubia testified during a deposition that he discovered that fact after I reported it. This led to an awkward call in 2022 between the chief Slave and the canon lawyer during which Balestrieri denied he wrote the article.

“And I said this is a problem, that Michael Voris said you wrote the article and you’re our canon lawyer. And [Balestrieri] said ‘I didn’t write the article.’ He vehemently denied authorship of the article,” Villarubia said during his deposition. “I simply thought that that should be on the record. Obviously, Marc’s chosen not to defend himself, but I have this information, and I thought that this should be part of the record.”

Villarubia did not respond to a request for comment. 

Last year, Voris and his Church Militant crew, including Christine Niles and Simon Rafe, handed over reams of evidence they originally claimed didn’t exist in order to prove Balestrieri was the author. 

Multiple lawyers ended up quitting the defense citing conflict of interest rules. 

Church Militant apologizes and closes down, holds Lent Liquidation sale

On Friday, Church Militant’s website makes no mention of shutting down, though a video retrospective of Saint Michael’s Media and Michael Voris is the lead featured post.

The second featured post is the apology to de Laire. 

The video features clips of Voris’ program, The Vortex, and quotes from grateful viewers. It ends with the words “Stay Tuned.”

Church Militant was recently forced to sell both its Ferndale office building where it operates and records its shows. The estimated sales revenue was a little under $600,000, according to court records.

Earlier last year, the non-profit laid off dozens of employees in a cost cutting effort. This week, Church Militant is also advertising a “Lent Liquidation Sale,” offering 50 percent off everything in its online store which is also shutting down.

“The store has been running for longer than Church Militant itself – but all good things come to an end,” the advertisement states. “We need to liquidate the stock, and so this is your opportunity to get a hold of some wonderful Catholic books, DVDs and CDs, statues and more at fire-sale prices.”

What’s for supper? Vol. 368: Supper, like the wild shmoo, harsh and exciting

Happy Friday! The theme of this week’s meals was: Listen, pal. 

SATURDAY
Hot dogs and chips, Squirtle cake

Saturday was Corrie’s birthday party. She is a covid baby, meaning all of her social milestones have been messed up ever since she’s been old enough to have friends to invite; so this is the first year she actually had multiple guests over, and we could celebrate indoors and everything. Very happy for her. She was delighted by every aspect of her Pokémon-themed party, including the giant Pokéball

and the Squirtle cake 

and I did not get pictures, but Sophia made her a truly deluxe illustrated treasure hunt with rhyming clues which led to a Pokéball piñata full of candy, made by Irene. Pretty great party. We just had hot dogs and chips for supper. 

SUNDAY
Calzoni, cheesecake

Sunday was her actual birthday, so she requested calzoni and cheesecake for supper. She is not the only kid to consider calzoni and cheesecake to be a primo birthday combination, even though I have pointed out that calzoni have ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese in it, and cheesecake has cream cheese and sour cream in it, and . . . foods exist that are not dense and white. Not everything has to be Dairy Wad. But, birthday is birthday, so that’s what I made. 

I have a spectacularly luscious, mile-high baked cheesecake recipe that I’ve been sworn to secrecy about, but the keys are: put all the ingredients out to come to room temperature the night before; mixed it very lightly, so as to introduce as little air as possible, and scrape down the bowl often; and  bake it in a water bath, and then turn off the oven and let it sit in the cooling oven for a few hours before you take it out and chill it. 

But I wasn’t up for that, so I made Sally’s Baking Addiction no-bake cheesecake in the morning and let it chill all day. It was okay. It does say it’s best if you chill it overnight, but it says six hours minimum, and it got at least seven hours. It was just kinda, I don’t know, greasy. I also felt like there was way too much crust for the amount of filling, and I DID follow the recipe exactly. 

However, Corrie thought it was wonderful, so that’s what counts. I got strawberries and some of those weird pineberries, which are pale pink and supposed to have a pineapple flavor. They were on sale, and they tasted like they were on sale. But, as I said, Corrie was delighted. 

Here is my basic recipe for calzones, although I think I bumped up the seasoning a bit:

Jump to Recipe

They turned out kind of unlovely, for whatever reason, but they tasted good. 

That one in the foreground is an absolute shmoo

Here I would like to note that, although I sometimes say “calzones,” the better plural is “calzoni,” but the plural of “Shmoo” is either “Shmoos” or “Shmoon.”

You might think worrying about this kind of thing is how I spend most of my time, but you’d be wrong. I spend most of my time trying to trick my computer into letting me have the photos I just gave it. I don’t know if all computers develop this quirk as they age, but my particular device has an absolute mania for hiding downloaded images from me. I download an image. I save it in “downloads.” I label it in the most obvious way possible, and I glue my eyeballs to my fingers as I type the name, to make sure I’m not misspelling anything. I also copy the name, for good luck. I paste the name into the search field. Nope, my computer has never heard of any such thing. But wait! Here is a picture of a hike we went on in 2013. How would that be? Or maybe I would like to see fifty-three images of kielbasa, hmmmm? We get into a shouting match. I cajole, I whine, I plead, I insist. I manually scroll through thousands of “recent” photos that I took “earlier.” I pretend to be interested in other files, as a misdirect. I close tabs and coldly walk away. I dash back and do a lightning fast search, so maybe it will turn up before computer realizes what is happening. I sulk, I threaten. I search for typos, even though I know it won’t help. And then the computer saunters up and goes, “Oh, hey, I found this picture of Corrie decorating birthday cheesecake with strawberries. Dunno, maybe it’s what you wanted?” 

Anyway, this is why they say Macs are intuitive. 

If you are tired of computers and want to feel a certain kind of way about humankind, I suggest reading the “Eponyms” section of the Wikipedia entry for Shmoo, and then going away and taking a little fresh air, and then reading the “Etymology” section, and do not skip the footnotes. And do not skip this:

Revealing an important key to the story, Al Capp wrote that the Shmoo metaphorically represented the limitless bounty of the Earth in all its richness—in essence, Mother Nature herself. In Li’l Abner’s words, “Shmoos hain’t make believe. The hull [whole] earth is one!!”

If you told me the hull earth was full of three to five kinds of cheese, I would be zero surprised. 

MONDAY
Salad with chicken, cranberries, walnuts, feta

Monday I finally went grocery shopping, which I wasn’t able to do over the weekend because (a) it was Corries’s birthday and also (b) we had an oops no money situation. So I went shopping without a list or a plan and just kind of sadly grabbed things, and tried to pick at least a few things that were not white and chewy. 

I roasted the chicken with oil and plenty of salt, pepper, garlic, and oregano, sliced it, and served it on greens with dried cranberries, crumbled feta, and toasted walnuts.

Perfectly decent meal. I wish I had thought to include some green apples, but I did not thought. 

TUESDAY
Leftovers

On Tuesday, Damien took the Three Fates to Boston to see Ricky Montgomery, who is a kind of a singing shmoo with cheekbones who is sad and has been treated very poorly indeed by his parents, but the songs are kind of cute? I don’t know, the kids paid for their own tickets. 

At home, I suddenly realized that, because so many people were out of the house, I could just serve leftovers and no one would say anything about it in my earshot. 

I made myself some instant oatmeal and toasted a bagel and I enjoyed this meal more than any meal I have enjoyed in quite some time. After supper, we listened to Chopin and played Bananagrams, and when the little kids went to bed, Elijah and I watched the first Dune movie, which I haven’t seen. We all tried several times to read the book and just couldn’t make the soft animal of our bodies do it. Actually we just watched the first part of the movie, because I’m too old for any 2-hour-thirty-five-minute movie at the end of the day, but I really enjoyed it. Show me pretty pictures and cool stuff, and I’m happy. 

WEDNESDAY
Ham, mashed squash, pierogies

Wednesday I completely forgot I was going to need to make supper. Luckily I had bought a pre-cooked ham, so I cut that up and put it in the oven covered with tinfoil along with some water, and I cut open a butternut squash and threw that in, too. Then I cracked open baby’s very first bag of frozen pierogies. 

Right, I have never eaten or even seen a pierogi before. This despite the fact that I grew up going to a Polish parish. This despite the fact that pierogies are the most shmoo-like of foods, and you’d think I would be spiritually wedded to them since day one. I don’t know what to tell you. I wasn’t even really sure how to prepare them, so I sprayed a pan with cooking spray and then also sprayed the pierogies, and cooked them and sprinkled them with a little salt. 

Everybody liked them, of course, so we’re off on that journey. These were potato and cheddar. The ham was also fine, of course, because it’s ham. I completely whiffed the squash situation, though, and I don’t want to talk about it. 

I did save the squash seeds and plant them, though. I forget if I mentioned I am cold sowing this year. I also have a bunch of indoor seeds started. This on the theory that it’s possible the world will end before spring comes, but when are we ever that lucky? 

But nay, I shan’t. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting. You only have to let the soft shmoo of your body have a few more pierogies, and then wonder why you’re so constipated all the time. 

THURSDAY
Carnitas with black beans and rice

Thursday morning I unwrapped the Shai-Hulud that had been lurking in the back of the fridge, and started carnitas going. 

Jump to Recipe

I did have a few oranges and cinnamon sticks in the house, but couldn’t find the bay leaves, and also suddenly got tired of the carton of guava juice taking up space in the mini fridge, so I used that instead of Coke. 

I also made some really slipshod beans and rice. Here’s my recipe

Jump to Recipe

which I did not follow, but just cooked up some rice and then dumped a bunch of cans in with it and then showered it with miscellaneous reddish-brown spices. It was fine. All manner of things shall be fine. 

The carnitas made with guava juice were, as expected, a little fruity, but not bad at all. 

Since the meat was in the pot and the beans and rice were in the Instant Pot, I realized I had time to make a pie, because the next day was going to be my friend Millie’s birthday. She loves lemon meringue pie, and I have a decent cheat recipe that comes together really fast. 

Jump to Recipe

I sometimes make this pie with one of those crusts made of graham cracker or animal cracker crumbs with melted butter and sugar, but this time, I made an actual pastry crust

Jump to Recipe

which I blind baked for like ten minutes, then filled with the cheater’s lemon curd and baked until it was set. Nothing prettier than a lemon curd in the sun, my word.

Then, rather than using the cheater meringue in the recipe, I made an actual French meringue. I followed the instructions in this recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction. I used duck eggs in the curd and in the meringue, and felt pretty good about that. 

Then, when the pie was back in the oven and I had set a timer and was zoning out on Twitter, the dog shambled into the kitchen for the forty thousandth time and looked at me, wordlessly imploring me for the thing he was sure was going to happen, because obviously I had made the entire pot of carnitas for him. So I shouted, “GO AWAY!” to which the kitchen speaker cheerfully responded, “Got it. Timer cancelled.”

Sooooooo the pie was in the oven a little longer than I would have originally liked, and I blame the dog, and, I don’t know, Steve Jobs. It wasn’t burnt, just a little dark. Bah. 

Anyway, Millie also likes morning glories, and I did manage to sprout a bunch of them for her, so I’m going to bring over the pie and the seedlings in a bit. I was going to transfer the seedlings to a more decorative pot, but then I realized that a 90-year-old woman from New Hampshire would get much more pleasure out of seeing that I reused a milk and juice jug for my seeds. You gotta know your audience. 

Please say a prayer for Millie today! She’s hoping to go home soon, and hoping to be able to have some kind of garden this year. If you met her, you would love her like I do, probably.  

FRIDAY
??

I don’t know, I forgot to plan anything. Are Shmoos meatless? What about if you live in Venezuela? 

 

Calzones

This is the basic recipe for cheese calzones. You can add whatever you'd like, just like with pizza. Warm up some marinara sauce and serve it on the side for dipping. 

Servings 12 calzones

Ingredients

  • 3 balls pizza dough
  • 32 oz ricotta
  • 3-4 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1 cup parmesan
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1-2 egg yolks for brushing on top
  • any extra fillings you like: pepperoni, olives, sausage, basil, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. 

  2. Mix together filling ingredients. 

  3. Cut each ball of dough into fourths. Roll each piece into a circle about the size of a dinner plate. 

  4. Put a 1/2 cup or so of filling into the middle of each circle of dough circle. (You can add other things in at this point - pepperoni, olives, etc. - if you haven't already added them to the filling) Fold the dough circle in half and pinch the edges together tightly to make a wedge-shaped calzone. 

  5. Press lightly on the calzone to squeeze the cheese down to the ends. 

  6. Mix the egg yolks up with a little water and brush the egg wash over the top of the calzones. 

  7. Grease and flour a large pan (or use corn meal or bread crumbs instead of flour). Lay the calzones on the pan, leaving some room for them to expand a bit. 

  8. Bake about 18 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Serve with hot marinara sauce for dipping.  

 

Carnitas (very slightly altered from John Herreid's recipe)

Ingredients

  • large hunk pork (butt or shoulder, but can get away with loin)
  • 2 oranges, quartered
  • 2-3 cinnamon sticks
  • 4-5 bay leaves
  • salt, pepper, oregano
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 can Coke

Instructions

  1. Cut the pork into chunks and season them heavily with salt, pepper, and oregano.

  2. Put them in a heavy pot with the cup of oil, the Coke, the quartered orange, cinnamon sticks, and bay leaves

  3. Simmer, uncovered, for at least two hours

  4. Remove the orange peels, cinnamon sticks, and bay leaves

  5. Turn up the heat and continue cooking the meat until it darkens and becomes very tender and crisp on the outside

  6. Remove the meat and shred it. Serve on tortillas.

 

 

Beans and rice

A good side dish, a main course for meatless meals, or to serve inside carnitas, etc.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups uncooked white rice
  • 1 15-oz cans red or black beans, drained
  • 1 20-oz can diced tomatoes with some of the juice
  • 1 diced jalapeno
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • chili powder
  • cumin
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Cook rice. Add rest of ingredients, adjusting spices to taste. If it's too dry, add more tomato juice. 

 

Cheater's lemon meringue pie

I like a pie shell made from several cups of animal cracker crumbs whirred into a sandy texture, mixed with a stick of melted butter and 1/4 cup of brown sugar and a dash of salt. Mix well and press into the pan.

Ingredients

  • 1 pie shell

For the lemon layer:

  • 14 oz sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, zested

For the meringue:

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350

  2. Mix together the condensed milk, egg yolks, lemon juice, and lemon zest until well combined. Pour the mixture into the pie shell.

  3. Bake 10-15 minutes until the mixture has a little skin.

  4. While it's baking, use an electric mixer with a whisk attachment to beat the egg whites until it has soft peaks. Then gradually add the sugar until it has stiff peaks.

  5. When the lemon layer comes out of the oven, spread the meringue over the top and make a little peaks all over it with a fork or spatula.

  6. Return the pie to the oven and bake for another ten minutes or so until the meringue is slightly browned.

 

Basic pie crust

Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 sticks butter, FROZEN
  • 1/4 cup water, with an ice cube

Instructions

  1. Freeze the butter for at least 20 minutes, then shred it on a box grater. Set aside.

  2. Put the water in a cup and throw an ice cube in it. Set aside.

  3. In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Then add the shredded butter and combine with a butter knife or your fingers until there are no piles of loose, dry flour. Try not to work it too hard. It's fine if there are still visible nuggets of butter.

  4. Sprinkle the dough ball with a little iced water at a time until the dough starts to become pliable but not sticky. Use the water to incorporate any remaining dry flour.

  5. If you're ready to roll out the dough, flour a surface, place the dough in the middle, flour a rolling pin, and roll it out from the center.

  6. If you're going to use it later, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. You can keep it in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for several months, if you wrap it with enough layers. Let it return to room temperature before attempting to roll it out!

  7. If the crust is too crumbly, you can add extra water, but make sure it's at room temp. Sometimes perfect dough is crumbly just because it's too cold, so give it time to warm up.

  8. You can easily patch cracked dough by rolling out a patch and attaching it to the cracked part with a little water. Pinch it together.

The test of “Here I am”

It’s that second time that Abraham says, “Here I am” that gets me.

The first time, God calls his name, and he says, “Here I am,” and God says to him:

“Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love,
and go to the land of Moriah.
There you shall offer him up as a holocaust
on a height that I will point out to you.”

What this means, I won’t try to tell you. You know as much as I do. Abraham waited his whole life for God to keep the promise he made, and then finally God does it, and Abraham finally receives his beloved, promised son. And then God says, “No, kill him.”

If he had known this is what God wanted, would he have answered so readily? Or would he have said something else besides, “Here I am”?

But apparently it is what God wanted, and Abraham is apparently finished with not trusting God. He already made all his mistakes in Egypt, telling them not once but twice that Sarah was his sister, apparently hoping they would take her but spare him; and then later he tried to force God’s hand by having a son with his servant Hagar. He does these things because the situation has gotten out of control, he’s afraid, and he doesn’t take God at his word; and because he is still learning who God is. But by the time he’s at the foot of the mountain, Abraham has changed. This time, when God calls him, he says, “Here I am,” and God tells him the terrible thing. 

He does it. He climbs the mountain with Isaac, and builds an altar, and gathers wood, and he raises his knife over the flesh of his son. And again, God calls him: “Abraham.”

To which Abraham replies, “Here I am.”

I wonder what he thought God might say this time. 

He himself has already said everything there is for a man to say: Here I am. The one thing he knows is that God is there, and Abraham puts himself there, too. For whatever. Whatever comes next. He doesn’t even ask, “What do you want?” He just says, “Here I am.” I can’t help thinking that being willing to sacrifice his son was the first part of the test, and saying “Here I am” the second time was the second part; and maybe the second part was harder.

This was the reading at Mass this past Sunday. The previous week, we heard about Jesus being tempted in the desert. That was not a test, like Abraham’s unspeakable ordeal was a test. This was a temptation, and I have been thinking about what the difference might be. 

In the desert, “the tempter” tries to get Jesus to do things. He tries to get him to turn bread into rocks, he tries to get him to jump off a high building, and he tries to get Jesus to bow to him. He is trying to get Jesus, who is God, to do things. To go places, to make things happen, to switch things around, in order to get something he presumably wants more, in return.

I cannot understand what could possibly be involved in the kind of struggle Jesus apparently goes through while being presented with these temptations; but in each case, he does not do the thing. He responds by reminding the devil who God is, according to scripture. God is the one who IS, and Jesus is his beloved son. You don’t go to God and tell him to do things. 

I have heard that the reason the devil approached Jesus in the desert is because he wanted to find out who Jesus really was. The devil clearly had his suspicions, but he tries to put Jesus through a series of challenges: He can see that this man is weak and hungry, and he presses that point, feeling out the boundaries of this strange new apparent disguise of the flesh and its limitations. He tries to get intimate with Jesus by making him do things, and in that way, he could find out who he really was.  

The devil is the devil because he has never accepted who God really is: The one who IS. Not someone you can bargain with; not someone who is manipulable by others. The devil tried and failed to change God when he rebelled against him before the world began; and he still fails to understand how IMMUTABLE God is.

Which is kind of understandable. How does an immutable God become man? I don’t have any words for that. 

But this is what makes Jesus’ ordeal a temptation, rather than a test like the one Abraham endured. A test is meant to clarify who is who, and who God is. But the goal of a temptation is to make God seem less God-like. That’s what sin does: It doesn’t really change God, of course, but it makes it harder for us to understand who God is, and harder to recognize him, and harder for us to see ourselves clearly, too. It blurs our perception of where we end and God begins. All sin does this. 

That’s what the devil wants: He wants Jesus, in the first two temptations, to enter into an entanglement, a tit-for-tat, a weird, complicated bargain where it’s not really clear who has the power and who stands to benefit. “I’ll give you this, if you give me that, and the thing you’re doing will actually SHOW how powerful you are, but it has to be the thing I say . . . ” This is not how you behave when you understand who God is. It’s how you behave when you don’t want God to be who he is.

But with the third temptation — and I’ve always thought he seems to be impatient, and frustrated with how little he has learned with his previous attempts — he just says, “Look, just bow down to me.” And of course Jesus will not. He swats away the temptation like the absurd thing it is. I almost wonder if it was the devil being tested, in the desert. Maybe, possibly, he was being given a second chance to see God for God, and to act accordingly? Maybe.

In any case, the first two temptations the devil attempts reminds me of how Abraham acted before he came to Moriah. He wants to be in a relationship with God, most definitely, but he wants to manipulate him. He’ll leave his home and family like God said, but he’ll keep himself safe by lying and throwing his wife under the bus. He’ll get that son God promised, but he’ll do it the tricky way, with poor Hagar. He is, maybe without realizing it, testing who God really is. He still believes that God is someone you can get things out of, and also that, in order to get these things, you have to manipulate him. He tries to make God less God-like, so he can be more in control.

This never ends well. It takes him a while (he is so old by this point!), but eventually he understands. God is God, and God does what he likes. I know people don’t want to hear that, but tell me what else could possibly be true? How does it end when we act otherwise? 

And this is why, the second time God calls Abraham’s name on that horrible mountaintop, Abraham just says, “Here I am.” He is done pretending he can have any kind of control over the situation, or even assuming that anything at all will come next. Maybe he will stand there with his dagger raised over his son’s neck forever, waiting for God to speak. He doesn’t know, or even try to find out. What he says is all he can say: “Here I am.” 

He passes that test. He lets God be God, even though he doesn’t know what that means, much less what it might mean for him and his son. What he knows is that God is there, and Abraham is allowing himself to be there, before God, and that is all. 

I don’t even know who God is, except that after this hard and horrible test that we all read about every year, we keep reading and eventually come to the part where Jesus also speaks from the weakness and limitations of his flesh, and he also says, “Here I am.” The knife is poised over the flesh of the son, and this time it goes in.

So, that’s what Lent is for. It is for learning how to say, “Here I am,” and letting God say what comes next.

 

 

 

****

Image taken from f. 93v of Haggadah for Passover (the ‘Hispano-Moresque Haggadah’).

What’s for supper? Vol. 367: I knead you so badly

Happy Friday! We’ve been eating a little too well for Lent. Don’t tell my bishop. Or, actually go ahead and tell him. I went and got fired from the diocesan magazine already last week, so do your worst. (I don’t really know why it happened, other than that I am annoying. It’s fine. Something else always turns up, and I can go be annoying to a slightly different subset of readers, inshallah.)

Anyway, here’s what we had this week, which was February vacation for most of the kids:  

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, chips

Usually, for grilled cheese, I buy a few loaves of sourdough bread that comes in very large pieces, but they were out of them at Aldi, so I got some pleasant-looking Italian loaves that seemed likely. Dinner time comes along, I open the bag, and here is what the individual slices look like:

and I’m like, huh. Possibly I’m a pervert, but this feels slightly awkward. Maybe they will look more normal if I put mayonnaise on them

Ah well, we’ll just call it theology of the body and fry ’em up. 

Yes, they all looked like this. 

So everyone got one and we also had pickles and let us never speak of this again. Definitely not to the bishop. 

SUNDAY
40 garlic whole chickens, orzo al limone

I have mentioned in the past how allergic I am to cooking whole chickens, because we had them SO often when we were super poor and they used to be like 49 cents a pound, and I just feel so gloomy and oppressed by whole chickens now. But I’m trying really hard to shop the sales, so I made a tremendous penitential Lenten effort and bought two whole chickens for cheap, which I prepared using this recipe for 40 garlic clove chickens

You melt butter and oil in a dutch oven and brown the chickens on all sides, take out the chicken and drain off some of the fat, and stir in the garlic cloves. Yes, we peeled 80 cloves of garlic.

In fact, it was after we peeled about 65 cloves of garlic that I more carefully read the recipe I was going to use, and discovered that it calls for unpeeled garlic. So I quickly switched to the recipe I linked above, which doesn’t specify. No, I will not read to the end of a recipe before starting it! You can’t make me!!

So then you put the chicken back in along with a little water, and lemon juice, salt, thyme (it calls for dried but I had fresh), and pepper, cover the dutch oven, and bake it in the oven for 90 minutes.  I don’t actually have a dutch oven, so I browned the chicken in a pot and then transferred it to a giant oven pan, covered it with tinfoil, and then put a second pan on top. 

Good enough! When I opened it up, the chickens were [Danny Kaye doing his drooling Clever Gretel voice] nicely cooked

I cooked them breast-side-down in “humble frog” position, because I knew the skin wasn’t going to be the star of this chicken anyway, and I really wanted the meat to be juicy. It was not the most visually stunning chicken I have ever met, but it was extremely juicy and full of flavor. I actually used quite a bit more lemon juice than it called for, and I have no regrets.

Before I made the chicken, I started on the orzo. I was using this recipe from delish, and if it sounds tasty to you (and it will), I recommend taking a screenshot, because they limit how many free page views you get. I assemble the ingredients and knew this would be a winner. Just look:

It’s basically the same as risotto. Sauté some garlic, then lemon zest, and oops, I threw my chives in there too soon 

then add your orzo with salt and pepper and toast it a bit. Then you add chicken broth, a bit at a time, so the orzo slowly absorbs it.

Yeah man. 

When it’s cooked, stir in the cheese (it called for Pecorino Romano, but I had parmesan) and the parsley, lemon juice, and chives. 

I actually cooked the orzo first and then put it in the slow cooker, and then got to work on the chicken.

They were SO nice together. 

Some asparagus or spinach would have put this meal over the top, but it was pretty great as it was. The cloves of garlic were as soft as boiled potatoes, so what I did was just fork-mash them onto my chicken 

and we were all in garlic heaven. “We” being the chicken and the orzo and me. 

The orzo is amazing. I loved it so much. It was rich and creamy and cozy, but also piquant and sharp with the garlic and lemon and herbs. Some of the kids did not like the texture, probably because they are used to risotto and it’s not the same. But Damien and I thought it was great. 

On Sunday, I also did some winter sowing, which is something I only recently discovered. The idea is that you can start seeds outdoors in late winter even if it’s cold and snowy out, because you’re planting in milk jugs that act as little greenhouses; and then when the frost is past and your seedlings are big enough to transplant into the ground, you don’t have to harden them off, because they’re already acclimated. I have never successfully hardened seedlings off, because I take it too personally and all I can think is that nobody ever carried me in and out and in and out because my little leafies might get cold. 

You cut the milk jugs about four inches up from the bottom, leaving the last bit intact for a hinge. Fill the bottom with seed starter material, plant your seeds, water, and put the top back and tape it shut. That’s it. 

I was delighted to find a sack of seed starter I had bought on clearance last year, so I got out my saved seed stash and did three jugs of eggplants, three of pumpkin, and two butternut squash; and I did two jugs of morning glories for my friend Millie, who is in the nursing home again. And I got some more spiles and tubing for maple sugaring! But I used up all the milk jugs, so we have to build up some more supply before I can get going on that.

MONDAY
Spicy chicken sandwiches, fruit salad

Monday I went to see Millie in the morning. If you could keep her in your prayers, please, I’d appreciate it! She’s going to be 90 the first week in March and she’s hoping to be able to get back to her house and garden soon. 

I had some boneless, skinless chicken thighs I had stashed in the freezer when they were on sale a few weeks ago, and I made these wonderful sandwiches that everybody likes. They come together really fast. You just season the chicken thighs with Cajun seasoning — actually I used Tony Chachere’s, which is creole, but close enough — and then pan fry them on both sides. While they are cooking, you cut up some shishito peppers (just cut the tops off) and slice some red onions. When the chicken is done, you blister up the peppers in another pan, and lay some American cheese on top of the chicken and put a lid on it so it melts. 

(I didn’t actually cook the chicken this close together; I used two pans, and then transferred the chicken to one pan for the cheese treatment.)

Layer the chicken, peppers, and onions on brioche buns, with BBQ sauce top and bottom. Boom, amazing sandwich.

I just love this sandwich because it’s so SIMPLE. One bottle of spice, one step with the peppers, easy sliced cheese, bottled sauce. You really couldn’t improve it if you made it complicated and fiddly (although I’m sure Sam Sifton would like to try). 

You can see that I made a fruit salad, which we haven’t had for a while. Strawberries, blueberries, grapes, and kiwis. Nice to have some color. 

TUESDAY
Beef barley soup, french bread

Beef was on sale, so I got a likely-looking hunk and made some soup. Garlic, onion, and carrots, chunks of beef, tomatoes, beef broth, mushrooms, and barley, and plenty of pepper. So good. 

Jump to Recipe

This is the soup I sometimes make in my head when I can’t sleep. 

While that was simmering, I thought it was high time to test out my lovely new marble countertop, which I purposely installed lower than the rest of the counter, to make it easier to knead dough. (I’m kind of short; I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this.)

IT WAS PERFECT. Made such a difference. I never realized I was struggling with dough on the higher countertop, but now that I have a lower one, it was so much easier. 

Here is the simple french bread recipe I use:

Jump to Recipe

It makes four long loaves — or, in this case, three long ones and three shorties, because I was sending some food over to one of the kids. 

I do love rolling the loaves out. Zoop!

Then I set them for a second rise and managed to drop BOTH pans as I was moving them, so they got kind of wadded up, but they baked up well enough. 

They had a really nice thin little shattering crust on the outside, and they were soft and tender on the inside. Good stuff. 

So we had the soup and the bread

and at this point I’m just dragging the narrative out because I have more pictures. 

And now I’m done!

WEDNESDAY
Korean beef bowl, rice, raw veg, crunchy rice rolls

Wednesday we had a bunch of errands – haircuts and what have you – and I started supper late, but it was a quickie: Good old Korean Beef Bowl. I had bought extra ground beef when it was on sale for the Super Bowl, and this is a fast, easy recipe, even if you do go for fresh garlic and fresh ginger, which I did. 

Jump to Recipe

So I put the cooked beef in the slow cooker, and made some rice in the instant pot, cut up some cucumbers and took out the packages of crunchy rice rolls I had been saving. 

Tasty little meal. The beef has sesame seeds and chopped scallions for garnishes. I don’t know why I feel the need to point that out, but there you are. 

On Wednesday I cut up the leftover chicken and made a simple chicken salad (just mayo, I think maybe lemon juice or cider vinegar, salt and pepper, celery, and green apple), and then I made soup with the rest of the carcasses, just so as not to waste it. I had a brainwave and realized I could freeze it all and get a jump start on Passover cooking this year! I really hate making the chicken soup some years, so I’m delighted to have this already done. I will need to add parsley and dill, but it already has the chicken, carrots, celery, and onion in it

THURSDAY
Pizza

The kids had mainly been playing board games all week (including Dixit, which was a Christmas present, and turned out to be a hit) for vacation week, but I did promise/threaten a trip to an art museum; so five of the kids and I went to the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester. Great stuff. Admission is reasonable (one adult, two students, two youth, and a kid got in for $35) and their descriptive cards are good, providing enough context and explanation to help you see, but without leading you too much. They have a really solid, varied collection for a small museum.

Interesting things happening in the contemporary art world! There is still a certain amount of “hoo HOO, I bet THIS transgressive bit of plastic really pushes your conventional little buttons, DOESN’T IT??” getting churned out, but also some far more interesting stuff. (Yes, I realize I opened this post with some penis sandwiches, so maybe I should shut my yap about who’s childishly transgressive. On the other hand, they were just sandwiches.) I was especially taken with two large works by Kara Walker, who will have an entire exhibit there soon, but there were other thoughtful, skilled, intriguing, moving contemporary pieces as well. I shared a few images on Facebook:

It is a small museum, so we did a thorough tour in two hours. Then we hit a few thrift stores just for fun, and then we got pizza and talked about art. Lovely day with my lovely kids. On the way there, they played an ice breaker game (“If you were an animal, what kind would you be? What is your favorite movie” etc.), but they played as different characters, so everyone had to guess who they were. Let me tell you, if we had run out of gas, we could have made it home under the sheer white hot heat of the quantity of in-jokes flying around. I had no idea what was going on, but they had fun. 

FRIDAY
Tilapia tacos and guacamole

I don’t really have a solid plan for this fish, but I’m tired of having it in my freezer. It was on clearance at Walmart quite some time ago, and I don’t want to look at it anymore. Hoping the avocados I got aren’t totally overripe by now. 

And I need to make a cake! A Squirtle cake! For tomorrow is Corrie’s birthday party. It’s going to be Pokémon-themed, and Sophia is making a treasure hunt and Irene is making a piñata. This has honestly been one of our nicest February vacations, despite some trials which, nay, I shan’t mention. Love seeing my kids enjoy being with each other. 

My other thing is that I’m a little frustrated with yoga lately, partially because I managed to injure both knees (one by falling on the ice, one by doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING; the little fucker just started hurting for no reason, and now I go up and down stairs looking like I imagine Strega Nona would, on stairs), so I have started pilates. I kind of hate it, but it keeps my attention because you have to be SO SPECIFIC about what muscles you’re using, so at least it’s not boring. I did one random class on YouTube and then I found this lady, Banks (that’s how she refers to herself, as “Banks”), and I have done three of her thirty-minute core classes for beginners. Tough stuff, but I’m hanging on. She is very specific about what you’re supposed to be doing and how it’s supposed to feel, which I appreciate, and she’s not especially annoying. So, now you know everything I know. 

Beef barley soup (Instant Pot or stovetop)

Makes about a gallon of lovely soup

Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 1 medium onion or red onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 3-4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2-3 lbs beef, cubed
  • 16 oz mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
  • 6 cups beef bouillon
  • 1 cup merlot or other red wine
  • 29 oz canned diced tomatoes (fire roasted is nice) with juice
  • 1 cup uncooked barley
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy pot. If using Instant Pot, choose "saute." Add the minced garlic, diced onion, and diced carrot. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions and carrots are softened. 


  2. Add the cubes of beef and cook until slightly browned.

  3. Add the canned tomatoes with their juice, the beef broth, and the merlot, plus 3 cups of water. Stir and add the mushrooms and barley. 

  4. If cooking on stovetop, cover loosely and let simmer for several hours. If using Instant Pot, close top, close valve, and set to high pressure for 30 minutes. 

  5. Before serving, add pepper to taste. Salt if necessary. 

 

French bread

Makes four long loaves. You can make the dough in one batch in a standard-sized standing mixer bowl if you are careful!

I have a hard time getting the water temperature right for yeast. One thing to know is if your water is too cool, the yeast will proof eventually; it will just take longer. So if you're nervous, err on the side of coolness.

Ingredients

  • 4-1/2 cups warm water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp active dry yeast
  • 5 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup olive or canola oil
  • 10-12 cups flour
  • butter for greasing the pan (can also use parchment paper) and for running over the hot bread (optional)
  • corn meal for sprinkling on pan (optional)

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of a standing mixer, put the warm water, and mix in the sugar and yeast until dissolved. Let stand at least five minutes until it foams a bit. If the water is too cool, it's okay; it will just take longer.

  2. Fit on the dough hook and add the salt, oil, and six of the cups of flour. Add the flour gradually, so it doesn't spurt all over the place. Mix and low and then medium speed. Gradually add more flour, one cup at a time, until the dough is smooth and comes away from the side of the bowl as you mix. It should be tender but not sticky.

  3. Lightly grease a bowl and put the dough ball in it. Cover with a damp towel or lightly cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for about an hour, until it's about double in size.

  4. Flour a working surface. Divide the dough into four balls. Taking one at a time, roll, pat, and/or stretch it out until it's a rough rectangle about 9x13" (a little bigger than a piece of looseleaf paper).

  5. Roll the long side of the dough up into a long cylinder and pinch the seam shut, and pinch the ends, so it stays rolled up. It doesn't have to be super tight, but you don't want a ton of air trapped in it.

  6. Butter some large pans. Sprinkle them with cornmeal if you like. You can also line them with parchment paper. Lay the loaves on the pans.

  7. Cover them with damp cloths or plastic wrap again and set to rise in a warm place again, until they come close to double in size. Preheat the oven to 375.

  8. Give each loaf several deep, diagonal slashes with a sharp knife. This will allow the loaves to rise without exploding. Put the pans in the oven and throw some ice cubes in the bottom of the oven, or spray some water in with a mister, and close the oven quickly, to give the bread a nice crust.

  9. Bake 25 minutes or more until the crust is golden. One pan may need to bake a few minutes longer.

  10. Run some butter over the crust of the hot bread if you like, to make it shiny and even yummier.

 

Korean Beef Bowl

A very quick and satisfying meal with lots of flavor and only a few ingredients. Serve over rice, with sesame seeds and chopped scallions on the top if you like. You can use garlic powder and powdered ginger, but fresh is better. The proportions are flexible, and you can easily add more of any sauce ingredient at the end of cooking to adjust to your taste.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown sugar (or less if you're not crazy about sweetness)
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 3-4 inches fresh ginger, minced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3-4 lb2 ground beef
  • scallions, chopped, for garnish
  • sesame seeds for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet, cook ground beef, breaking it into bits, until the meat is nearly browned. Drain most of the fat and add the fresh ginger and garlic. Continue cooking until the meat is all cooked.

  2. Add the soy sauce, brown sugar, and red pepper flakes the ground beef and stir to combine. Cook a little longer until everything is hot and saucy.

  3. Serve over rice and garnish with scallions and sesame seeds. 

Mandatory Lent Film Party, 2024: The Passion of Joan of Arc

Every Lent for the last few years, we’ve been watching a worthwhile, faith-related movie together as a family on Friday nights. (Full list at the end.)

The tradition continues! And, in keeping with tradition, right out of the gate we didn’t manage to do it on the first Friday of Lent, but instead started The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) on Saturday, had some streaming issues, and finished watching it Sunday. 

Maybe you’re thinking to yourself, “MY family would never watch a weird French black-and-white silent film from the 20’s, much less one that got broken up into two nights.” You may be surprised. This is an absolutely enthralling movie. My youngest kid is eight, and she sat there gripping my arm the whole time, and when it was over, she just said, “Wow.” 

It follows Joan’s last week or so of life, from her trial at the hands of her captors, until her execution. The historically accurate synopsis is simply: Joan is interrogated, threatened, and tormented as the English and their French collaborators try to get her to sign a document repudiating her actions leading a revolt against the English. She eventually breaks down and complies, and is sentenced to life in prison, but she regrets her moment of weakness, takes it back, and is burned at the stake. 

You might think of silent film as relying on exaggerated, histrionic facial distortions, with tossed heads and fluttering fingers, pantomime and rolling eyes meant to stand in for dialogue, but that’s not how this works. It does spend most of the film disconcertingly close to individual faces, with the camera at an odd, discomfitingly low angle, looking up at faces from about chin level.

At first I was reminded of the grotesque faces in so many paintings of Jesus being mocked — Hieronymous Bosch or many others.

 

But the faces of her tormenters are not actually grotesques. Instead, when you see them leering or smirking or looking outraged or disgusted, it’s just showing humanity at its recognizable worst.

Some pieces of dialogue are displayed on the screen, in French and in English, enough to keep you current with the story. An incredible complexity of emotion is displayed on screen, so although you often see the actors moving their lips and you don’t hear anything but the musical soundtrack, you don’t feel like you’re missing anything. The story and dialogue are taken directly from the contemporary account of her actual trial. 

The backgrounds are very spare, with light and shadow making up the most important shapes on screen (although the sets and the costume are painstakingly accurate). Much is made of people passing by windows and in and out of shadow, and appearing in doorways. You could have convinced me the film, with its minimalism and startling angles, was shot in in the 1950’s, rather than in 1928. There is so little on screen besides human faces, every object that appears — especially the woven grass crown that follows Joan around —  takes on a gripping significance; and when she is allowed to hold a crucifix as she is led up to her execution space, she cradles it so gratefully and lovingly, and you FEEL that. 

You also feel how horrific it is when, previously, they try to coerce her into recanting, showing her the Eucharist — and then, when she refuses, they put the host away again, blow out the candles, and leave her to herself.  

I thought many times of people who believe they are following their conscience, and find themselves rejected by the Church, or with people who say they represent the Church. Joan is entirely focused on Jesus, her king; and as soon as her captors understand that she really is devoted to him, they use it against her, and try to coerce her literally with Jesus. It’s horrible. This movie isn’t anti-Church, I don’t think. It doesn’t seem to be trying to convey the idea that the hierarchy is by definition cruel. It does show what happens when you follow Jesus, and when you don’t. 

It includes the historically accurate charges against her, that she offends God by wearing men’s clothes, and that she must be guilty of witchcraft; but it doesn’t veer into territory that would surely be unavoidable if it had been made today: You don’t come away with the impression that these evil, patriarchal men are tormenting her because they can’t abide a strong female lead. It does show that they’re evil, but it’s because they don’t recognize holiness, and they don’t love or recognize the Lord. And they’re willing to use Jesus as a weapon. 

There are several different musical scores that accompany different versions of this film. The one we saw, from Criterion, had “Voices of Light” by Richard Einhorn, written in 1994, and I can’t imagine an improvement. It sounded both hauntingly modern and bracingly medieval, and it sometimes underscores the emotion on screen, but sometimes provides an emotional counterpoint or contrast that heightens the sense of seeing the action from a perspective perhaps beyond the natural world. Worth listening to on its own. 

In the first part, Jane is feverish and her eyes bug out in an unnatural fashion that is exhausting to watch, but after she has been bled, threatened with torture, and interrogated some more, her eyelids droop more and more, and you can’t help but internally mirror her. Although the camera isn’t from Joan’s perspective, the experience of the film is not a normal viewer experience., where the viewer watches a story unfold. It is an ordeal, in some ways, but a bracingly compelling one, that makes you feel like something is happening to you. You don’t want to look away, as you might during, for instance, The Passion of the Christ; instead, you find yourself straining all your senses so as to be as present as possible in what feels like a real encounter with something beyond a story. It’s not that it’s so realistic (although the camera seeks out every pore, hair, wrinkle, and tear on every face). It feels instead like something you remember or something you dreamed about: Not realistic, but more intimate than reality. 

Before and during her execution, the camera pans past the faces in the crowd, and you see there, as you did earlier with the judges, bald human emotion, frailty, pain, regret, and also foolishness, fear, perversion. The camera spends so much time on individual faces, not only on Joan’s but on everyone’s, that you come to realize everyone is on trial. Everyone is being searched, and is given a chance to either be faithful, or not. 

I wondered, as I always do when I think about Joan of Arc, why God chose to intervene in history in such an unusually political way. Joan apparently got direct orders to lead a military charge in order to bring about a specific regime change, and it really feels like God is rooting for one country over another, which seems . . . unusually Old Testamenty. But then I thought, maybe he does actually do this often, and the people he speaks to just decide not to respond! I just don’t know. In any case, this Joan is so singlemindedly fixed on her love of Christ, and her obedience to him, that you can see that that really is the main point — love and obedience — and anything else she does is merely the form her love happens to take.

That being said, she is terrified. She’s not brash or beyond human emotion. She trembles and weeps and struggles as she fights to stay true to Jesus, and you can see that she trusts God but is still terribly afraid of where that trust will lead her. She is holy, but also clearly only 19. Early on, they ask her if she knows the Lord’s Prayer, and who taught it to her. She says, “Ma mère” and a tear slips down her cheek.

Here is the “Has God made you promises?” scene.

Never ever have I seen such acting before. And it’s just her face. 

There aren’t a lot of tellingly clever lines or ideas, although Joan comes across as outwitting the judges a few times, just because she’s completely honest. When they hope to trap her by asking if she’s in a state of grace, she says, “If I am not, God put me there. If I am, please God so keep me.” When they ask if God has promised to free her, she says yes, but she doesn’t know the day or the hour.

This very simplicity, and the way she is both faithful and fearful, is the most memorable depiction of faith I can recall ever seeing. The movie pretty overtly shows Joan is walking in the same steps as Jesus in his final hours. It would make very appropriate viewing for Holy Week, and it would be perfect for kids of high school age.

Content warnings: It shows torture devices and many scenes where Joan is in terror; it shows her being bled to relieve a fever, and it shows her being executed. You see her alive and inhaling smoke, and then you see her burned, already-dead body through the flames, so it’s clear what is happening, but it’s not extremely graphic. The entire movie is tense and alarming, so even though you don’t clearly see the worst things that happen to her, I can imagine  this movie leading to nightmares for sensitive viewers. But she is so clearly triumphant at the end, it leaves you feeling — well, as I said, like something happened to you. Something good. 

***
Here is the list of movies we’ve watched in previous years, with link to ReelGood so you can see where to stream them, and my review (if any):

Lilies of the Field (1963) 
where to stream
 (My longer review here)

The Secret of Kells (2009) 
where to stream
 (My longer review here

Saint Philip Neri: I Prefer Heaven
available via Formed
 (My longer review here)

The Miracle Maker (1999)
where to stream
 (My longer review here

The Jeweller’s Shop (1989)
available via Formed
 (My longer review here)

The Reluctant Saint: The Story of Joseph of Cupertino (1963)
available via Formed
(My longer review here)

Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
where to stream
 (My longer review here)

The Scarlet and the Black (1983)
where to stream
 (My longer review here)

Boys Town (1938)
where to stream
 (My longer review here)

Fatima (2020)
where to stream
(My longer review here)

The Song of Bernadette (1943)
where to stream
 (My longer review here

Ushpizin (2005)
where to stream
 (My longer review here

Calvary (2014)
where to stream

I Confess (1953)
where to stream
(My longer review here

The Robe (1953)
where to stream
(My longer review here)

The Trouble With Angels (1966)
where to stream
 (My longer review here

Babette’s Feast (1987)
where to stream
 (My longer review here)

The Passion of the Christ (2004)
where to stream
(My full review here)

There Be Dragons (2011)
where to stream
(my longer review here

The Prince of Egypt (1998)
where to stream

 

Faith and fame don’t mix

Actor Shia LeBeouf’s reception into the Catholic Church was in the news again for a while, but then it quickly receded. I don’t know if that’s just because people get tired of news much more quickly than they used to (likely), or because people have actually learned a thing or two about Catholic celebrities (highly unlikely). Either way, it’s a relief.

I don’t know much about LaBeouf. I’ve seen him in a few unimportant movies, and I heard some grumbling about how it seems awfully convenient that he found the Lord right when he was going on trial for some kind of unsavory behavior. I also saw a few photos of him right after his baptism, and he sure looked happy.

But this isn’t about him, in particular! What it’s about is this: Fame and faith do not mix. When they do, it almost never turns out well! There’s so much harm that can come of Catholics elevating a celebrity to favored status just because they join the church: Harm to us Catholics, harm to the rest of the world, and harm to the celebrity himself.

I’m a terrible spoilsport, I know. It’s been an awfully tough decade or so to be Catholic, and it’s natural to feel encouraged when we get someone “important” on “our team.” All too often, Catholics only reach the headlines when they’ve done something awful, or finally got caught after having secretly done something awful for decades. So when the church can claim someone the world has already acknowledged as cool and attractive and appealing, it feels like a win.

Which is fine. But we have to remind ourselves sternly that it’s also a win when the hinky-looking, unpopular, wheel bearing salesman we never heard of becomes Catholic. It’s a win when the cousin you never liked very much becomes Catholic. It’s a win when a fisherman or a tentmaker or a leper is baptised, and the Gospels seem to be just as jubilant over this as they are over, say, a Centurian joining the fold.

But Simcha! you may say. It’s not the caché that matters. That’s not the reason we get excited when a celebrity gets baptized. The thing we’re really thrilled about is the influence such a person could have over their audience. Famous people get others to imitate them in all sorts of ways: How they dress, what they eat, how they raise their kids, what they do for hobbies. How could it possibly be a bad thing for a celebrity to become Catholic very publicly, and open the possibility for lots of their fans to follow?

Moreover (you may say), the Gospels actually enjoin us to be noisy about the good news, and to be ready and willing and able to speak about our faith! Why should people be barred from this good work, just because they happen to be well known?

One of the answers… Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly

image via pxhere (Creative Commons)

What’s for supper? Vol. 366: CAN I EAT THAT ON A FRIDAY?

My annual dilemma: Do I keep posting What’s For Supper on Fridays in Lent? We eat so much meat, and isn’t it kind of awful to share all those food photos when people are abstaining? ISN’T IT?

This year’s solution: Yes, but hover over each picture to get additional information. This joke is not quite funny enough to justify how long I spent trying to figure out the plugin, but the sunk cost fallacy is a powerful force. 

Okay! so here’s what we ate:

SATURDAY
Roast beef sandwiches, chips

While I was shopping, Damien offered to shop for and cook Saturday’s meal, which, duh. I would have been happy with anything, but I was delighted with roast beef sandwiches. 

But the question remains: On a Friday in Lent, can you eat this meal? 

I really hope that effect worked, because the Chinese fellows who made the plugin seem really nice and I don’t want to disappoint them.

SUNDAY
Meatball subs, chips

Sunday was Super Bowl Sunday, and I usually make some kind of pub food, like bloomin’ onions, or hot wings, sausage rolls, or potato tornados. This year I was not feeling it, but did take advantage of cheap ground beef, and made a bunch of meatballs. 

Here is my recipe, for reference

Jump to Recipe

but I have taken to sloshing in a ton of worcestershire sauce, and that turns out to be the most important ingredient of all. 

Then I just dumped the cooked meatballs in a pot of sauce from jars, heated it up, and served them on cheap rolls with everyone’s favorite plastic parmesan cheese from a shakey canister. 

But on a Friday, can you have a meatball sub?

my dude, no

you cannot eat that meatball sub

I was pretty proud of having a hot dinner ready, because I spent most of Sunday installing my lovely new cabinet and marble countertop! I used a circular saw to trim off the short part of the L of existing laminate/whatever countertop, and dragged out the old open shelving and rickety cabinet thing. 

Here’s the before:

Then I cut up the wood that had been holding the countertop up, and used it to make little risers to lift up the new cabinet, which is shorter that what I had before. I decided to leave it slightly lower, because that’s a much easier height for me to knead dough on, and I know marble is great for making dough and pastry. 

Smart, right? I’m so smart! The less smart part was when I attached the risers to the top of the cabinet, rather than the bottom. 

Oop. But I just unscrewed ’em and turned it upside down and screwed them on the bottom and turned it right side up and shoved it into place and LOOK.

So much more work space! So much more storage space!

Obviously I need to fill up that gap on the right, where it meets the higher counter, and patch the piece of flooring that the old shelves ripped up, but I am SO pleased. The marble is so pretty

and I got it for an absolute song on Facebook Marketplace. If you don’t have a small and silly kitchen, you may not recognize the problems I solved, but before, for instance, for various reasons I had to store my food processor in three different spots (one for the base, one for the top, and one for the insides). Now I can just keep it all in one spot, plugged in and ready to go, right next to my standing mixer and all my flours and whatnot. Wonderful. 

My next trick will be to replace the rest of the countertop, which is similarly chipped, scarred, and generally horrible, but that will be more involved because I will need a cut-out for the sink. 

I also made a bunch of little improvements and rearrangements that I won’t bore you with, and I re-hung the little curtain that hides the missing doors in the island storage, and it just feels awesome. I’ve had open shelving for years and years, and that means it always looks cluttered in there, and I have to wash everything before I use it. Boo! 

But no more! Check it out: 

Happy day. 

MONDAY
Chili verde, quesadillas

On Monday I answered the periodic hankering I have for chili verde. I was in a big rush so I didn’t remove any seeds or membranes from the peppers, and I knew that would make it pretty spicy.

Jump to Recipe

My friends, it turned out EXTREMELY SPICY. 

So can you eat chili verde on a Friday in Lent? 

no

but in a very real sense, no

and what I mean by that is that, if you eat it on Friday, you’ll be sorry through much of Saturday. woof. It was delicious, but I guess my stomach is getting old. Oh well. 

I also made a bunch of plain quesadillas, because only about half the kids like spicy food. 

TUESDAY
Mardi Gras!

Our tradition for Mardi Gras is to go to the Winchester, a.k.a. Chili’s. You know what, we really like Chili’s. And they didn’t get hysterical when we showed up with twelve people, either. Most of the rest of the family ordered fancy burgers of one kind or another, but I got flustered and ordered some silly chicken on salad thing. Just as well, as I was still experiencing some Regret de Chili Verde. 

So . . . can you eat burgers on Friday? 

Image Hover Title

ok obviously not, but I forgot to take a food picture. But please also do not eat Damien and Simcha

Also on Tuesday, we made Valentine treats for Corrie’s class. Valentine oysters! Cute! Adorable! Funny! We used store-bought oatmeal cookies and spread the bottom with pink frosting, stuck a conversation heart in there, and then attached a second cookie on top using a dab of melted candy wafers. Then we used more melted candy wafers to attach eyeballs to the top. 

Now, some may say that it was a poor choice to buy bright red candy wafers. Some might even say the adorable cute funny oyster valentines took on a sort of . . . . Ebola look.

Still others will say that we definitely made a lot of them, and that’s what counts. 

WEDNESDAY
Spaghetti

Guys you know what spaghetti looks like. It was Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is spaghetti day. Eat up! In moderation, whatever that looks like for you. (For me it looks like . . . kind of a lot of spaghetti. I tried.) 

THURSDAY
Omelettes, hash browns

Thursday, Damien took two of the kids to a concert in Boston, so I made omelettes-to-order for the remaining few. I had mine with ham, gouda, and spinach, with more spinach on the side. 

The burning question: Can you eat that omelette?

YES

if you skip the ham 🙁

Sad. But I didn’t burn the omelettes, anyway. 

FRIDAY
Pizza

Just cheese pizza! Which obviously you can eat on a Friday in Lent. But just to clarify, I have created this top-notch slider images, which shows a pepperoni pizza (“before,” if you will), and a pizza with all kinds of crazy shit on it, I don’t remember what, but I don’t think meat (dba “after”).

In conclusion, this was a stupid idea and I’m never doing it again. Also I grew out my fingernails, and now I can’t type. Stupid ideas all around! And no, I did not pray the litany of humility. What do you take me for. 

 

Meatballs for a crowd

Make about 100 golf ball-sized meatballs. 

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs ground meat (I like to use mostly beef with some ground chicken or turkey or pork)
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 8 oz grated parmesan cheese (about 2 cups)
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, basil, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400.

  2. Mix all ingredients together with your hands until it's fully blended.

  3. Form meatballs and put them in a single layer on a pan with drainage. Cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes or more until they're cooked all the way through.

  4. Add meatballs to sauce and keep warm until you're ready to serve. 

 

Spicy Chili Verde

You can decrease the heat by seeding the peppers, using fewer habañeros, or substituting some milder pepper. It does get less spicy as it cooks, so don't be alarmed if you make the salsa and it's overwhelming!

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs pork shoulder
  • salt and pepper
  • oil for cooking
  • 2 cups chicken broth or beer (optional)

For the salsa verde:

  • 4 Anaheim peppers
  • 2 habañero peppers
  • 4 jalapeño peppers
  • 4 medium onions
  • 12 tomatillos
  • 1 head garlic, cloves peeled
  • 1 bunch cilantro

For serving:

  • lime wedges
  • sour cream
  • additional cilantro for topping

Instructions

  1. Preheat the broiler.

  2. Pull the husks and stems off the tomatillos and rinse them. Cut the ends off all the peppers. Grease a large pan and put the tomatillos and peppers on it. Broil five minutes, turn, and broil five minutes more, until they are slightly charred.

  3. Take the pan out and cover the peppers and tomatillos with plastic wrap or tin foil for ten minutes. When they are cool enough to handle, pull the skins off the peppers and tomatillos. At this point, you can remove the seeds from the peppers to decrease the spiciness if you want.

  4. Put the skinned tomatillos and peppers in a food processor or blender with the onions, garlic, and cilantro. Purée.

  5. In a heavy pot, heat some oil. Salt and pepper the pork chunks and brown them in the oil. You will need to do it in shifts so the pork has enough room and browns rather than simmering.

  6. When all the meat is browned, put it all in the pot and add the puréed ingredients.

  7. Simmer at a low heat for at least three hours until the meat is tender. If you want thinner chili verde, you can add chicken broth or beer. At some point, if you don't want the pork in large chunks, press the meat with the back of a spoon to make it collapse into shreds.

  8. Spoon the chili verde into bowls, squeeze some lime juice over the top, and top with sour cream and fresh cilantro.

An unexpected movie watchlist for Lent

It’s the first Friday in Lent, and you know what that means: Mandatory Lent Film Party! At least, that’s what it means at our house. As much as we can manage, every other evening in Lent is screen-free at our house. But on Fridays, we assemble the family and watch a movie together. But unlike most other movie nights, the adults get to pick it.

The parameters: Each movie should have a religious or spiritual theme or setting (not necessarily Christian), and it should be well-made enough that there’s a reason to watch it besides the spiritual aspect. We lean toward movies we probably wouldn’t get around to watching otherwise.

Some of the movies are new to us, and sometimes they turn out to be terrible! This is not a problem, as long as we talk about why we didn’t like it. Talking about the movie afterward is also mandatory.

We’ve done this for a few years, and I’ve reviewed these movies as we watch them. (Click the title of the films below for my full review.) I tried to include age recommendations—my kids range from age 8 to 25—but it’s a good idea to check out a site like commonsensemedia.org for specific elements that may make it inappropriate for your household’s audience.

Here are some of the highlights and lowlights from the lesser-known or unexpected films on our Lenten watchlist to date… Read the rest of my latest for America Magazine

Image:

Meilin Lee Watching TV Template by MaksKochanowicz123
and GaryStockbridge617 (Creative Commons)

How to keep the LENT in Valentine’s Day

Ash Wednesday is tomorrow! Valentine’s Day is tomorrow! WHAT TO DO?

Last time this happened, the American bishops felt compelled to clarify that Ash Wednesday does, in fact, trump Valentine’s Day, even if overpriced teddy bears are a very important part of your spirituality. So you push up V-day to Tuesday, or to the weekend before. Easy peasy, shift your squeezy.

Or, you combine them. YASS. Both/and; so Catholic. Here are a few ideas for how to combine romance and suffering, sweetness and pain.

GIFTS OF FINEST CAROB  Remember carob?  It looks like chocolate that’s been sitting in a dusty corner for a while, and it tastes like a chocolately dusty corner.  Fasting just got that much easier! Give your significant other a satiny, heart-shaped box packed with an assortment of carob truffles, and you will be transmitting a powerful Lenten message:  we must not be seduced by the passing allure of temporal things, for the sweetness of this world is but a ackkkk, blech, ptui, what is this?

QUEEN VICTORIA’S SECRET  We’re required to abstain from meat, but other kinds of abstinence? Not obligatory. On the other hand, you don’t want to start your Lent too carnal-like.  So try this easy trick:  pick out something satiny or lacy, but at least four sizes too large.  As the lucky lady opens the box, you can wiggle your eyebrows suggestively while explaining, “You really put the gras in Mardi Gras this year, Marty!”  (This works better if your wife’s name is Marty.) I guarantee you, no sins of fleshly excess will threaten your evening.  Unless you count “stabbing” as a sin of fleshly excess.

SEASONALLY APPROPRIATE FLOWERS  Take a leaf from liturgical decorators around the country:  Go out back where the dumpsters are, pull up some dead grass, and add a few twiggy things and maybe a really scuzzy looking cattail.  Stick it in a pot, preferably one that looks like grandma got into the clay again.  Voila — Lent flowers!  In a similar vein, if you know your wife or girlfriend was hoping for perfume, you can substitute sand, because sand is symbolic and whatnot.

HEIRLOOM JEWELRY  Any unimaginative bozo can stumble into Zales and pick out a diamond this or a ruby that.  What you want is something that is not only decorative, but also saturated in spiritual significance.  So go ahead and rummage through the lost and found box on the radiator at the back of the church.  Maybe you’ll find a nice, broken-in scapular, already “seasoned” with the holy emanations of countless fervent necks.  Or maybe you’ll really luck out and find a miraculous medal that’s so well-prayed-on, it’s gone full manatee.  Jackpot!

A LOVE LETTER TELLING YOUR BELOVED HOW YOU REALLY FEEL. . . about the state of his or her soul.  True love doesn’t sit by and let other people wallow in sin.  Consider a hand-penned, calligraphic examination of his or her conscience.  Or you might assemble a “dream team” of hand-selected patron saints which you will be assigning to the cause of your beloved’s salvation (St. Drogo, St. Fiacre and, of course, St. Jude spring to mind).  Or simply borrow some lyric lines from scripture.  I suggest Jeremiah.  There are also some really exquisite passages in Hosea.

Good luck, hot stuff. You’re gonna need it.

***

A version of this post originally ran at the National Catholic Register in 2013.

What’s for supper? Vol. 364: Char who?

In haste! In haste! I am running out to buy a new (to me) cabinet and countertop from Facebook Marketplace. Where will it go? There are several reasonable possibilities, but I have my eye on this spot:

which is . . . fine. I JUST cleaned the floor a couple days ago, and it already looks like this again because of that huge gap, and there is an immobile piece of wood that makes it really hard to get pans in and out, and the open shelves mean everything is constantly filthy, and the whole thing wobbles, and SO ON. But it’s fine. 

The countertop itself is also kind of

. . .not the worst thing I have ever seen. HOWMEVER, I am pretty excited about the new piece! A cherry cabinet WITH DOORS and little sliding drawers on the shelves, and a marble countertop. Don’t tell me anything bad about marble. I cannot hear it right now. Tell me later. 

Okay, here’s what we ate this week!

SATURDAY
Turkey wraps, hot pretzels

Slightly weird combination of things that we either happened to have, or happened to be on sale: Turkey, salami, capicola, some kind of cheese, and lettuce. 

I guess that’s not actually that weird. I had mine with ranch dressing and it was pretty tasty. The wraps are allegedly spinach-flavored, but this was not discernible. 

SUNDAY
Jambalaya, corn bread

Kielbasa was on sale and I found a bag of shrimp in the freezer, and I thought there might be leftover chicken in the fridge. There turned out not to be, but I made the jambalaya anyway

Jump to Recipe

which is my own cobbled-together recipe, and is reasonably spicy and easy. I did start out with the “holy trinity” of onions, pepper, and celery, and here’s that with the kielbasa and shrimp added: 

Purty. 

I had a little corn meal, so I made a corn bread just following the recipe on the bag: 

Que bella luna!

Then I finished up the jambalaya and took a rather arty photo of it:

It was a little dry, but not bad. 

MONDAY
Bagel, egg, and cheese sandwiches with sausages, OJ

What’s not to like? 

and yes, American cheese is the correct cheese for this meal. 

TUESDAY
Oven fried chicken, mashed potatoes, terrible kale

Oven fried chicken delights again. I got the thighs and drumsticks soaking in milk, egg, and salt in the morning, and made a bunch of mashed potatoes and put them in the slow cooker to stay warm. Then I tried to figure out what the third thing would be. I settled on kale cooked in the manner of collard greens

This . . . should have worked. I sauteed up the garlic and onions and spices and added in the cider vinegar, and then started stuffing in the kale

and then I stirred in the broth and liquid smoke. Then my Instant Pot had a fit, and started exploding steam (I just about caca’d myself, let me tell you) and then started burning, so I had some doubts about how it would come out. I think it could have survived those things, but I made some kind of fatal error with measuring, and it tasted FOUL. Hard to believe, when it has such an exquisite appearance, I know:

but take my word for it, it was disgusting. It tasted like rotten greens soaked in penny juice, with gym socks. Bleh.  

However, the oven fried chicken turned out great. Did I put the recipe yet? Here it is:

Jump to Recipe

then seasoned the flour and dredged the soaked chicken in in. I put a pan in the oven with the oil and butter. I took a picture of this for some reason, so here’s that: 

and then you just lay the chicken down in the heated-up pan, and you have to turn it one time, but otherwise it just takes care of itself

Comes out really nice. Crisp skin, juicy meat. What’s not to like. 
The potatoes were good, too. I took this picture before I realized what I was in for, kale-wise:

Can’t win ’em all. 

WEDNESDAY
Chicken burgers, guacamole and chips

I had a bunch of avocados I had bought for the wraps, but they weren’t ripe, so I made some guacamole

Jump to Recipe

and picked up some tortilla chips.

Boop, dinner. 

THURSDAY
Cheater char siu . . . bowls? 

I don’t know what to call this. The plan was bibimbap, but I just had this hunk of pork without a specific recipe in mind, and Thursday instantly revealed itself to b a crazy-go-nuts day. So I threw the pork in the Instant Pot along with this easy sauce I invented

Jump to Recipe

and cooked it for I think 25 minutes. I also cut up some cucumbers, dished up some raw sugar snap peas, and quick-pickled some carrots. 
Here’s my recipe for quick-pickled vegetables

Jump to Recipe

but I was rushing too much to look it up, so I did a cup of white vinegar, a cup of water, and probably 1/4 cup white sugar, and it turned out fine. 

I won’t bore you with the details, but we had an insane afternoon (the low point was me yelling into the phone in the hospital lobby, “Well, they must have somebody else’s blood, then!” [they didn’t]), so I asked Damien to take the meat out of the IP and start some rice cooking; and when I got home, I sliced/shredded the meat and put it in a pan on the stove along with most of the sauce, and simmered and stirred it until the sauce thickened up and coated the meat

it took probably 25 minutes. Would have gotten thicker and stickier if I had kept going, but everyone was hungry! I fried up some eggs for anyone who wanted one (including the dog, because we’ve had some sharp words lately, and I had regrets).

For an insane day, it was a really good meal!

I don’t know what it was, exactly, but I’m not going to argue with a hot bowl of tasty things. 

FRIDAY
Pizza

Oh, and Corrie’s box turtle came! In the mail! He’s just a baby, and is about the size of a half dollar.

This is her early birthday present, and she was and is absolutely smitten.

His name is Captain Cheez Whiz. 

Here he is getting a tender and loving bath:

He’s surprisingly charming! He marches around intrepidly and is quite alert and bright-eyed, and when he gets tired, he just goes into his corner and buries himself. We all agreed that he may be onto something. 

Okay! That’s it! 

bastardized jambalaya

completely inauthentic, just things that seem tasty to me

Ingredients

  • 2-3 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 rope jambalaya, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 bell peppers, diced
  • 5 stalks celery, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp oregano
  • 2 tbsp cajun seasoning
  • raw shrimp
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 5 cups raw brown or long grain rice
  • 10-oz can diced tomatoes with chilies

Instructions

  1. In a heavy pot, heat up the oil. Brown up the kielbasa. Add in the onions, celery, and green pepper and continue stirring and cooking over medium heat until the vegetables are somewhat soft.

  2. Add in the garlic and spices and cook a few minutes more. Add in the raw shrimp and stir.

  3. Pour in the chicken broth, rice, and tomatoes with any juice. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes or until rice is cooked.

 

White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 avocados
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 medium jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

  2. Mix together with rest of ingredients and add seasonings.

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

Oven-fried chicken

so much easier than pan frying, and you still get that crisp skin and juicy meat

Ingredients

  • chicken parts (wings, drumsticks, thighs)
  • milk (enough to cover the chicken at least halfway up)
  • eggs (two eggs per cup of milk)
  • flour
  • your choice of seasonings (I usually use salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin, paprika, and chili powder)
  • oil and butter for cooking

Instructions

  1. At least three hours before you start to cook, make an egg and milk mixture and salt it heavily, using two eggs per cup of milk, so there's enough to soak the chicken at least halfway up. Beat the eggs, add the milk, stir in salt, and let the chicken soak in this. This helps to make the chicken moist and tender.

  2. About 40 minutes before dinner, turn the oven to 425, and put a pan with sides into the oven. I use a 15"x21" sheet pan and I put about a cup of oil and one or two sticks of butter. Let the pan and the butter and oil heat up.

  3. While it is heating up, put a lot of flour in a bowl and add all your seasonings. Use more than you think is reasonable! Take the chicken parts out of the milk mixture and roll them around in the flour until they are coated on all sides.

  4. Lay the floured chicken in the hot pan, skin side down. Let it cook for 25 minutes.

  5. Flip the chicken over and cook for another 20 minutes.

  6. Check for doneness and serve immediately. It's also great cold.

Quick Chinese "Roast" Pork Strips

If you have a hankering for those intensely flavorful strips of sweet, sticky Chinese roast pork but you don't want to use the oven for some reason, this works well, and you can have it in about an hour and a half, start to finish. You will need to use a pressure cooker and then finish it on the stovetop.

Ingredients

  • 4+ lbs pork roast

For sauce:

  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup oyster sauce
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 cup mirin
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 2 tsp Chinese five spice

Instructions

  1. Blend all sauce ingredients together. Put the pork in the Instant Pot, pour the sauce over it, close the lid, close the valve, and set to high pressure for 22 minutes.

  2. When pork is done, vent. Remove pork and cut into strips, saving the sauce.

  3. Put the pork in a large sauté pan with the sauce and heat on medium high, stirring frequently, for half an hour or more, until sauce reduces and becomes thick and glossy and coats the meat.

quick-pickled carrots and/or cucumbers for banh mi, bibimbap, ramen, tacos, etc.

An easy way to add tons of bright flavor and crunch to a meal. We pickle carrots and cucumbers most often, but you can also use radishes, red onions, daikon, or any firm vegetable. 

Ingredients

  • 6-7 medium carrots, peeled
  • 1 lb mini cucumbers (or 1 lg cucumber)

For the brine (make double if pickling both carrots and cukes)

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar (other vinegars will also work; you'll just get a slightly different flavor)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Mix brine ingredients together until salt and sugar are dissolved. 

  2. Slice or julienne the vegetables. The thinner they are, the more flavor they pick up, but the more quickly they will go soft, so decide how soon you are going to eat them and cut accordingly!

    Add them to the brine so they are submerged.

  3. Cover and let sit for a few hours or overnight or longer. Refrigerate if you're going to leave them overnight or longer.