A Catholic perspective on the world and all the good things therein, especially books and food. Literature cum chocolate is the order of the day at The Crockery.

Location: A Collegetown, Undisclosed Location, United States

No longer a graduate student, Teresa is now a professional know-it-all.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Easiest Turkey EVER

For real, y'all. This is THE simplest way to cook a turkey breast. (And of course, it's perfect for taking to a potluck dinner.)

1. First, make sure you have a turkey breast that fits in your large oval slow cooker. (Not all turkey breasts will fit.) Grease the crock (or its liner) thoroughly before starting.

2. Next, follow this recipe. . .

3. . . . with one addition: melt 1/4 a cup of butter (half a stick) in the microwave and pour that over the turkey breast.

4. As the turkey nears completion, siphon or scoop out a cup or two of liquid. Use that to make your gravy.

This result is white meat that is both moist and flavorful. It is perfect if you are cooking a holiday meal for a small party or a small family. (And since the turkey is made in a slow cooker, your oven is left free for things like rolls, casseroles, or pie.) This recipe just might make me fall in love with my slow cooker all over again.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Variation on Busy Day Italian Chicken

The Buns in the Oven cookbook contains a recipe titled "Busy Day Italian Chicken." This chicken-and-sausage pasta sauce is, I suspect, pure genius for its ease of preparation and taste. It is one of the many simple homestyle recipes that make that cookbook well worth buying (hint, hint).

However, I've never been able to make it according to the directions, because I never keep the right ingredients on hand.

Instead of following the recipe, then, I do what I so often do when trying to cook: I make up something similar that uses the ingredients I do have. The following is my patented Crockery Variation on Lisa's delicious Busy Day Italian Chicken.

Ingredients for the sauce
2 jars of garlic and mushroom pasta sauce
2 cans of Italian-flavored diced tomatoes, undrained
2-3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, cut into bite-sized (or semi-bite-sized) pieces
3 teaspoons minced garlic
1-2 teaspoons Italian pepper blend
about 8-12 oz. fresh Crimini mushrooms, sliced or chopped for ease of consumption

For the meal:
olive oil
parmesan cheese
garlic bread

1. Grease or spay the inside of a large slow cooker crock. (You will DEFINITELY need a large cooker for this recipe!)
2. Prepare all the meats; place in pot.
3. Add in tomatoes and pasta sauce.
4. Season with minced, chopped, or crushed garlic. Add red pepper seasoning to taste.
5. Cook on LOW for 8 hours.
6. You may add the mushrooms in step 2, or you may wait a few hours and add them later so that they don't overcook.

Serve over fresh cooked pasta of your choice. This recipe will make enough sauce to feed approximately a million people (okay, more like 8-10), but that's the beauty of it: if you're feeding a smaller group, you can freeze the leftover sauce and keep it for an even *busier* day.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Sometimes I hate having a pedagogical conscience

. . . because all I really want to teach in my literature classes is a range of ghost stories, mysteries, and sensation novels. Really, is that so wrong? All of those genres do or did important cultural work in their own era.

Instead, there are these concepts of "coverage" and "canon" and "course objectives." You know, things I have to teach my students so that I can go home at the end of the semester and feel that I have given a handful of young Americans just a little bit more cultural depth.

It is syllabus time in our house. I have been tinkering with a syllabus for a new (to me) survey course for some time, but now I really have to get cranking, and I don't like it. What I really want to do is run my classroom like a bookclub . . . one where I get to pick all the books. (Bossy much? Why yes, thank you.)

Perhaps my day will come when I get to teach a graduate level course. Graduate courses are more often themed, so all I have to do is come up with a wicked cool theme that somehow manages to encompass all the most fun books I can think of.

I'm working on it, I tell you. But in the meantime, I have a general survey course to plan: two hundred years of literature. Surely I won't be blamed for slipping a little Conan Doyle in there, you think? Just one of the short stories . . . it'll tide me over until the day I can manufacture a justifcation for teaching Laurie R. King's The Moor alongside The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Now you're cooking with beef heart!

Long time readers of my blog know that I have a habit of picking up mysterious cuts of meat at the grocery store simply because they're cheap, then frantically searching the web to find recipes or directions for cooking said meat. This post is about my experiment with a cut of beef not often found on American tables: beef heart.

Really, people, it's good! It's not gross! It's lean muscle, so it's good for you, and it's tasty. And did I mention that it's cheap? If you can find it, it is likely to be cheaper than ground beef, let alone a roast.

The meat I picked up came already sliced, so it was ready to cook. (Whew! I wouldn't have to prepare the meat from scratch!)

After asking around on the 'net, and googling for recipes, I decided to try panfrying the meat along with mushrooms, as that seemed to be a commonly recommended way of preparing it. I found a basic recipe on, and adapted it to create the recipe below.

1- 1 1/2 pounds sliced raw beef heart
3/4 cup flour
1 tsp salt (or more, to taste)
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp paprika (or more, to taste, if you like it spicy)
1 tsp thyme
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2- 1 cup water
1 lb fresh mushrooms

1. Begin by browning the sliced beef heart in a large skillet; choose a skillet that has a lid!
2. In a large ziplock bag or shaking bad, combine flour with salt, pepper, and paprika.
3. When beef is brown, carefully transfer it to the bag. Close bag and shake up contents thoroughly, so that the beef is covered with the flour mixture.
4. Return meat to the skillet. Add garlic, thyme, red wine vinegar, and water- note that it may take more or less water, depending on the amount of meat you have and the size of the skillet.
5. Bring meat to a simmer, stirring often. Cover and allow to simmer for about 40-50 minutes, or until meat is tender, adding water as necessary.
6. Add mushrooms and cook for an additional 15 minutes. (Warning: you may need to cook the mushrooms for longer than this for best results; I was disappointed in how the mushrooms turned out when I made the meal.)

Serve the beef over rice, buttered egg noodles, or mashed potatoes.

I have to stress that I was a bit disappointed in the mushrooms; they just didn't taste good. I might try using a different type of mushroom in the future, or cooking them for longer. The beef, however, was pretty good, and it seemed to go well with the whole wheat egg noodles I used.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Should Professor Myers be fired?

Catholic bloggers and newsources have been informing the Catholic blog-reading public of the doings of Professor P.Z. Myers, who publicly displayed an act of desecration against the Eucharist and a page from the Koran. Most recently, Jimmy Akin has called for Myers' termination, on the grounds that Myers has behaved unethically and disrespectfully, in violation of the university's code of conduct.

I don't think the academy works that way, and I'm not sure that it should. Myers is a tenured faculty member. As such, he can be fired for gross misconduct. But generally speaking, tenured faculty members are fired for misconduct directly related to their work as teachers or scholars. A faculty member might be able to be fired for hate speech taking place in the classroom, or at a university-sponsored event. Sexual harassment of a student would also constitute grounds for dismissal.

But Myers' act of disrespect did not take place at a university-sponsored event, and (so far as I know), it wasn't publicized in his classroom. He publicized the event in his private blog, which doesn't claim to be affiliated with the university.

And that's why I, speaking both as a Catholic scholar and a faculty member at a state-affiliated university, have to answer "no" to the question "Should P.Z. Myers be fired?" When faculty members speak and act as representatives of the university, that's one thing. In those conditions they may indeed be held to high and precise ethical standards. But when faculty members speak as private citizens --or even as public intellectuals in their own right-- that's different.

I feel strongly about this precisely because I know that some of my own views don't accord with the common beliefs of the secular academy. There's a reason why I try to blog anonymously, but I know that my anonymity isn't perfect. If a tenured faculty member at a public institution can be fired for displaying his own anti-religious anxieties on a private blog, how can I be sure that a post explaining my views on _FITB_ subject will not be held up as evidence of my lack of professionalism or respect?

I'm not saying that academic freedom has no limits. If Myers publicly abuses the religious beliefs of his students in a university setting, I agree that he should be fired. If it is true that his desecration of a consecrated host is against the law (based on the idea that the only way to obtain such a thing is through a form of theft), that may also constitute grounds for discipline or dismissal.

But I'm reluctant to say that hate speech uttered in a faculty member's private life is necessarily grounds for dismissal. Tenure exists to protect academic freedom, but it also effectively protects what I can only call jackassitude. We all know that there are jackasses in the academy, and one of the effects of tenure is that it protects them. You can't fire someone just for being a jerk. And, much as it pains me to say this, you shouldn't be able to fire a tenured faculty member just for being a jerk. At many schools, a lack of collegiality may be grounds for denying someone tenure- but once that person is tenured, you can't simply weed him or her out of the department on the grounds of being unlikeable. Allowing such dismissals would open the door to all sorts of quiet discrimination.

Having said that, I have to add that there are other sorts of pressure that can be exerted on someone like Myers who acts as a sort of public intellectual. I hope, for example, that people will think twice before inviting him to speak at public events. I hope that his department puts some informal pressure on him to behave. But I can't get behind the grassroots movement to demand his dismissal. I think that's a mistake.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Super-easy "Italian-esque" steak

I've been bad. I admit it. I said that I was going to try a new series of posts, and I didn't. No excuses: I just didn't do it.

But, as a peace offering, I offer this super-easy recipe, perfect for the lazy cook.

* about 1 1/2 -2 pounds cube steak or Swiss steak; should be divided into 3-4 portions. (Hint: it is often labeled for "pan frying" and is easily recognizable because it has been scored, pierced, or pounded, leaving a distinctive pattern). This should be thin steak, 1/2 an inch thick or less.
* One can diced Italian-style tomatoes
* 1/8 - 1/4 cup favorite brand Italian dressing (approximately)
* 1-2 teaspoons minced garlic
* grated or shredded Parmesan cheese, to taste.

1) Marinade the steaks in the Italian dressing for at least an hour. (Be generous with the amount of dressing!)

2) Heat the garlic in a large skillet at medium-high heat. The goal here is two-fold. You want to get the skillet hot enough to cook steak, and you want to saute the garlic. (If you are using real, freshly minced garlic, add a teaspoon of olive oil for this step. I cheat by using minced garlic which is stored in oil.)

3) Fry the steaks in the garlic. Do not overcook! The steaks will likely take only about four minutes to cook.

4) Remove the steaks from the skillet and sprinkle with Parmesan. Again, be generous! After you have cheesified the steaks a little, move them to a warm and cozy place. (For example, place them on a heated plate and/or cover them with foil.) It's not that important HOW you keep them warm; you just don't want them to get cold during the next step.

5) Add the can of diced tomatoes to the contents of the skillet. Heat to boiling. Boil for at least 3 minutes.

6) If you are doling out the steaks yourself, place each steak on a plate and cover with a generous (you know I was going to use that word again, didn't you?) portion of the tomatoes. Then sprinkle even more cheese on top of the whole thing, if desired. If guests serve themselves at your table, place the tomato mixture into a separate bowl or gravy boat and allow guests to spoon as much as they want on top of their steaks. Provide extra Parmesan if said guests are extra-cheesy people.

I estimate that this recipe will serve 3-4 people, depending on how the steaks are cut.

Credit where credit is due: I adapted this recipe from one which I found on the label of a package of meat. It might have been supplied by the Beef Council or some similar group, but I have no idea who. In any case, I salute you, Beef Packager who provides good recipes!

Monday, April 21, 2008

It's here! It's here!

Some of you may remember that last year, Leopoldtulip bought a Nintendo Wii as his reward for finishing his dissertation. Well, guess what I bought as my reward for graduating/landing a job/etc.? Originally, I proposed the purchase of a Rumba, but as you can see, I went with an electronic toy that was a little more fun.

Yes my friends, that is an Amazon Kindle.

And yes, it's here! True, I have grocery shopping to do, papers to grade, fifty pages of a Victorian novel to read, lesson plans to type up, and dinner to cook. But I must take a moment to bask in the glory of technology.

Truly, this is an historic day.