Friday, December 31, 2010

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Big Billy's Catfish Gumbo - a weekend recipe

Here is a quick and easy dish Big Billy used to whip up when he entertained, which was often. Big Billy was so big and athletic that he could have made a career in pro football. Ironically, he was more into talking politics than watching sports on television. Still, his catfish gumbo is a perfect winter dish for watching college bowl games and the Super Bowl. This recipe serves eight.

Ingredients

• 2 lbs catfish filets, bite-sized

• 10 oz okra, sliced

• 1 c celery, chopped

• 1 c onion, chopped

• 1 c green pepper, chopped

• 2 cloves garlic, minced

• 3 T cooking oil

• 4 c beef broth

• 16 oz tomatoes, diced

• 1 bay leaf

• 1 t salt

• ½ t thyme, dried

• ½ t red pepper, ground

• ½ t oregano, dried, crushed

• 4 c rice, cooked, hot

Directions

In a large Dutch oven, cook celery, onion, green pepper and garlic in hot oil until tender. Stir in beef broth, tomatoes, bay leaf, salt, thyme, red pepper and oregano and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add catfish bites and okra, uncover and return to a boil. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily. Remove and discard bay leaf. Serve in bowls over rice.

Eric'sWeb

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Total Eclipse of the Moon

Mavis, Anne, Jack, Dale Rood, Isey, Thanksgiving, circa 80s
When I went outside very early this morning to watch the lunar eclipse, I realized I was in for a mystical treat. A golden moon brightened hazy sky, back dropped by luminous Christmas lights decorating neighbors’ houses. My big tomcat Goldie joined me as I watched the unfolding event.

I had no telescope and only gazed up at the lunar phenomenon with my naked eyes. The realization that I was witnessing a total lunar eclipse the same day as the Winter Solstice, two events that occur on the same day only once every four hundred years, or so, caused me to recall another story recounted many years ago by my Grandmother Dale O’Rear Rood. Grandmother Dale was born October 27, 1891. She was nineteen when she witnessed Halley’s Comet in 1910.

“Halley’s is the only naked-eye comet that a human can witness twice in a lifetime. Mark Twain saw it twice and so did Papa Pink. I’m going to live until it passes one more time.”

Grandmother Dale didn’t quite make it, dying February 27, 1985 at the age of 93, less than a year from the date (February 9, 1986) Halley’s Comet last passed close enough to Earth to be seen with the naked eye. She actually came closer than Papa Pink; despite his boasts to the contrary, John Pickney O’Rear was born September 9, 1837, almost two years after the comet’s passing November 16, 1835.

I thought about Grandma Rood’s story as I watched the moon disappear into darkness, and then reappear the color of burnished bronze. Goldie didn’t seem to care, but shared my moment like a spiritual being that somehow understood the importance of the celestial event.

Marilyn usually leaves the radio in our living room on all the time. I’m not a religious person, but I couldn’t help but reflect on the Christmas song, Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, playing as I opened the front door and cast one last glance at the sky. It caused me to reflect on my own existence. I won’t be around in 2061 when Halley’s Comet appears again, much less in four hundred years.

Giving Goldie, my big tom a last scratch behind the ears, I grinned, deciding not to ponder the thought further as I plodded off to bed.

Eric'sWeb

Monday, December 20, 2010

Supernatural Aspects of the Novel Morning Mist of Blood

The rattlesnake tattoo on the cover of my new mystery novel Morning Mist of Blood is from a shell gorget found in a Mississippian mound  that dates back to around 1,300 BC. There are many similar gorgets that feature supernatural beasts like strange-headed rattlesnakes, spiders and the underwater panther.

Beaks, talons, claws and fangs were favorite "metaphorical expressions" of power, hunting skill, etc.  I'm not an archaeologist but it seems like there are many similarities with symbols from Mexico, Central America and other parts of the world, especially the all-seeing eye in the center of the human palm.

Tomorrow is the Winter Solstice and the park at Spiro, Oklahoma conducts a winter's solstice walk. The last guided tour (hike) starts at around 2pm and ends at the main Spiro Mound at sunset of the year's longest day. I was hoping to make it but it doesn't look like I will. So many interesting things to do and see and so little time. Oh well, maybe next year.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Wind Chimes and Bad Times

Marilyn’s wind chimes are performing a chaotic symphony tonight because of an approaching storm. Their resonance reminds me of an incident that happened in Vietnam, but not because of the weather. I had the same eerie feeling - a warning from somewhere deep in the primitive portion of our brains that scientists never discuss, our animal brain that screams at us whenever something very bad is about to happen.

The mind plays tricks, even the animal part of our brains. This is particularly true when the elements rob your senses. Such is the case after darkness falls in triple-canopy jungle. I was a grunt in an infantry line company. We were somewhere near the Cambodian border. Hell! We were probably in Cambodia.

The area was hot (firefight hot) and our sister companies had all made contact with the NVA during the past days. Earlier that night we had watched and heard a B-52 attack as the big planes carpet bombed a nearby patch of jungle, hoping to disrupt Charlie’s intricate system of trails that somehow managed to keep supplying arms and supplies to their soldiers in the south.

I sat in a damp hole in the ground, my senses disrupted and seeing nothing, not even an occasional flash of light. It’s true that when you have no vision your hearing becomes more acute. I was aware of the sounds of night. A tiger stalked in the distance and I could track its progress through the jungle by the low growls it periodically emitted. I could also hear elephants and horses – yes, horses. Don’t ask me how or why they were there in the jungle but their sound is unmistakable. I also heard other things.

Helicopters supplied us every three days. After cutting a landing zone in the jungle – a small LZ barely large enough for the choppers rotors – the birds would bring us food, water and fresh ammo. They also brought us beer and pop and each of us got three beverages of our choice every three days.

You didn’t want to drink your beer immediately because everyone would beg a sip and there would be little or nothing left for you to drink when the can came back around. Most soldiers savored theirs while pulling guard duty because it was about the only time you were ever truly alone while on patrol. As I sat there, listening to the tiger, elephants and horses, I heard someone pop the top on a Black Label. Then I heard something else – the low moan of a soldier, thinking of his wife or girl as he masturbated in the darkness. I knew very well how he felt because I was thinking about doing the same thing myself.

Tension mounted as days went by without encountering Charlie. As we cut our way slowly, single file through the jungle, a signal began being passed back to the rear. The soldier in front of me pointed at a snake in the branches over our head. I didn’t know its real name, but we called it a three-step snake because that’s about how far you could go before dying if it bit you. Not far from the snake, I witnessed something as eerie as I have ever seen.

It was a thousand pound bomb lying flat on the ground amid broken jungle vegetation - a relic of a B-52 attack, a monster bomb that had not detonated but still had the stark power to blow a forty-foot hole in the ground. Everyone in the row of soldiers realized as much and to say that I was frightened would be lessening the aching fear throbbing in the pit of my gut. The bomb was longer than I am tall and even lying flat it came up to my chest. We snaked around it, no one touching it for fear that it was booby trapped by the NVA.

Fifteen days passed without encountering the enemy and I still remember climbing the incline to the firebase hewn out of a Vietnamese mountain. We were stopped at the perimeter and told the bad news that instead of our expected five day stand-down, we would be re-supplied where we stood and then sent back into the jungle for another fifteen day stint.

One of the men – a southern black man - heard his animal brain louder than the rest of us. Pulling off his pack, he sat down and refused to move. I remember our idiot Lieutenant holding a .45 to the man’s forehead, threatening to blow his brains out if he didn’t get up from where he sat. He ignored the lieutenant’s threats and military police from the firebase soon led him away at gunpoint to an inevitable stay in the Long Binh Jail. As we watched them leave, all the rest of us wondered if he wasn’t the smart one in the bunch and perhaps doing the right thing.

We stayed on the perimeter of the firebase that night, not allowed on the safer side of the razor wire. Next morning we reentered the jungle for another fifteen days. At this point, my mind numbs and my memories become blocked from the events that ensued.

Tonight, as wind whistles out my back door, distant thunder rattles the windows and lightning illuminates the western sky like a fiery B-52 attack, I get that same eerie feeling that I had so many years ago.

Eric'sWeb

Friday, December 17, 2010

Big Billy's Blackened Catfish - a weekend recipe

Big Billy had an enormous outdoor grill and loved to cook on it whenever the weather was good, and sometimes when it wasn't. Here is an easy catfish recipe with as much wonderful flavor as you could ever want.

Ingredients
·         4 catfish fillets
·         olive oil
·         1/3 lb bacon
·         2 tsp cayenne pepper
·         2 tsp lemon pepper
·         2 tsp cumin or chili powder
·         2 tsp garlic powder
·         2 tsp thyme
·         2 tsp white pepper
·         2 tsp black pepper
·         2 tsp rosemary, crushed
·         2 tsp fennel seed, crushed
·         1 tsp allspice
·         1 tsp oregano
·         ½ tsp salt
Directions
Fry bacon; discard bacon and retain grease. Combine all dry ingredients, rub fillets with olive oil, then coat liberally with spices. Drop in hot bacon grease and cook until you can easily put a fork through them.

Lemon Butter
Ingredients
·         ¼ cup melted butter
·         1 teaspoon lemon juice
·         ½ teaspoon tabasco
·         sliced green onions
Directions
Combine, mix well and serve as dipping sauce with blackened catfish.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Big Billy's Catfish Fajitas - a weekend recipe

Big Billy was a Dallas restauranteur and Oklahoma oil man. It’s no secret he loved to cook, and he loved Southern comfort food. Here is one of his favorite and simplest recipes.

Ingredients

• 2 lbs. catfish, filets

• 1 cup lime juice

• 3 cups mesquite wood chips

• 1 onion, large, chopped

• 1 red pepper, large, chopped

• 2 cloves garlic, minced

• 2 Tbsp. butter

• 1/2 tsp salt

• 1/4 tsp pepper

• 8 tortillas, flour or corn, warmed

• Sour cream, salsa, avocado and lime slices

Directions

Place fish filets in large zip top bag. Pour in lime juice, seal and marinate in refrigerator for one hour. Soak wood chips in water for one hour. Drain wood chips. Sprinkle wood chips over pre-heated coals in a covered grill. Brush grill rack lightly with cooking oil and place catfish filets on rack. Close grill and cook for about five minutes on either side, or until fish is flaky.

In a large cast iron skillet, cook onion, red pepper and garlic in the butter until tender. Stir in salt and pepper. Cut filets into chunks, toss into skillet and mix well. Fill warmed tortillas with catfish mixture and serve with sour cream, salsa, avocado and lime slices.

Eric'sWeb

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Reader Reviews of Morning Mist of Blood

Here's what some of the readers have said about Morning Mist of Blood:

“A riveting read that blends mystery, suspense, and just the right amount of supernatural occurrences to keep pages turning.”

“Not like I thought it was going to be, it was better.”

“A quick, quirky, interesting read . . . Really enjoyed it.

“A fast-paced, action-filled mystery.”

“A mix of mystery and romance.”

“I just loved this one. what a true and gritty mystery/suspense/thriller/who done it/kinda sexy book! I could not put it down.”

“Great detail and I loved how the story had min stories inside of it.”

“Enjoyed this book very much.”

Now also available in all eBook formats, including Kindle and ePub.

Eric'sWeb

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Marilyn's Chicken-Fried Catfish with Pan Gravy - a weekend recipe

Do you crave southern comfort food? Who doesn’t? Here is a recipe that embodies the spirit of food for the soul. Serve it with mashed potatoes and pan gravy. Heck, I even like pan gravy over my green beans. Enjoy.


Marilyn’s Chicken-Fried Catfish with Pan Gravy

Ingredients

• 4 catfish filets
• 1 cup vegetable shortening
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 1 cup all purpose flour
• 1 cup whole milk

Directions

Combine salt, pepper and flour in a large zip-top plastic bag. Mix well. Pour milk into a large bowl. Dip filets in milk and shake off excess. Enclose in bag and shake to coat. Shake off excess. Set a cast-iron skillet over medium flame and add shortening. Lay each filet in hot fat. Repeat until skillet is full, but not crowded. The shortening should be no deeper than ¼ inch. Heat only until it's hot enough to set the breading on the catfish after it's dropped into the skillet. When the bottom crust starts sizzling, turn filets and set the other side.

Pan Gravy

Ingredients

• 3 cups milk

• Catfish drippings

• 3 Tbsp. flour

• 1 1/2 tsp. salt

• 1 tsp. pepper

Directions

In a heavy, 2-quart saucepan, heat 3 cups milk but don't let it boil. Using the skillet in which you cooked the catfish, pour off excess grease, leaving about 4 or 5 tablespoons in the pan. Over medium flame, heat the drippings and add 3 tablespoons flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue stirring to brown flour. When brown, hot and bubbling, add hot milk. Stir constantly until thick and creamy. Add 1 ½ teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.

Eric'sWeb

Eric Wilder Publishes Southern Fried Murder, Kindle Version

Please check out my latest Kindle short story at Amazon. It's called Southern Fried Murder.