28 September 2008

Cooking, painting, and computering

Fall weather definitely does something good to my appetite. Maybe yours too. When the mornings are downright cold, it still hasn't warmed up too much by noon. That's when we have our main meal.

I love to cook and eat carrots, celery, and onions. With herbs and bay leaves, some white wine or broth. Along with some meat — pork, chicken, beef, veal, or duck.

A rolled and tied veal roast, browned in a hot oven and
surrounded with partially cooked vegetables, ready for the oven.

A few weeks ago our local SuperU market had veal shoulder roasts on sale for a good price. That would be about €7.50/kg, or just under US$5.00/lb. I bought two for the freezer. On Friday I cooked one of them.

The first thing to do is put the roast in a very hot oven for 10 to 20 minutes to brown it all over. Salt, pepper, and oil it slightly before you put it in the oven.

Here's the roast with the cooking liquid
from the vegetables in the background.

Meanwhile, cook some chopped onions, carrots, and celery in a pan with butter, thyme, and a couple of bay leaves. Or other herbs. The flavorings are your choice. Cook the vegetables slowly and when they are all coated with butter (or oil, or duck fat) pour in a couple of cups of liquid. White wine, chicken or vegetable broth, or water will do. In my case, I had most of a bottle of French hard cider in the fridge, so I used that. Veal likes to be braised.

Then put the roast in a large baking dish, place the vegetables all around it, and pour on the cooking liquid. Cook it covered in a medium oven for an hour or more. About 20 minutes before the end, add some potatoes to the pan if you want them. And about 10 minutes before you want to eat, uncover the pan, turn up the oven, and let the meat and vegetables brown a little on top.

The vegetables, including peeled potatoes,
after browning at the end of the cooking time.
Sorry, I had already taken the veal out.

It's very simple, and maybe all of you already cook this way. For two people, or even for one, it makes a couple of good hot meals over a few days, and then some good cold leftovers.

* * * * *
I'm working on the radiator. We are going to finish this kitchen job. Walt has primed the wall and will apply the yellow paint today.

Meanwhile, we managed to get the heavy radiator out onto the front terrace, where I could wash it down with the garden hose and then scrub it with a stiff brush and some strong soap.

It's drying. Now I will clean it with a wire brush to remove any old paint that is loose, and paint it a brilliant white with a special paint made to be applied to metal surfaces. It's going to look great.

* * * * *
Windows Vista crashed on me just once too often. Microsoft's latest operating system software came with a Compaq laptop that I bought last fall at Circuit City in the U.S. I never really liked Vista, but I was giving it a chance. When it ground to a halt day before yesterday yet one more time as I was surfing the web, that did it.

I saved off everything we wanted to save from the hard disk. I wiped the disk clean and reformatted it. Then I installed a French-language version of Windows XP Home Edition (Edition familiale) that we had lying around, doing nothing.

It took me about 10 hours in all to format the disk, install the OS, and then find all the drivers I needed to make the laptop's hardware components work with XP. Compaq — Hewlett-Packard, actually, because HP owns Compaq now — wasn't an awful lot of help. It was impossible to find all the necessary drivers on the Compaq/HP web site.

Internet forums and advice from other Compaq laptop users who had done the same thing with their Vista-based computers pointed me to the right web sites for a full set of drivers. I found the last one I needed yesterday morning, so now the computer is working perfectly. We'll see how long that lasts.


  1. Hi Ken, I hope you have better luck with Window XP Home Edition than I have. I got my PC some 4 years ago with the software already installed. In the very beginning it was fine, but then, all of a sudden, the program would 'crash' especillay when I was listening to the radio (Nostalgie France) via the internet, announcing an alarming 'Dump of physical memoray has started'. The trick is to shut down immediatly and ... reinstall your modem.
    The incident occurs at the oddest moments. Sometimes it's fine for weeks or months on end, and then it occurs every other day or so. Maybe the French version is more stable than the English one (LOL).

    P.S. Maybe one of our fellow blogreaders can help us/me out!

  2. Hi Martine, I wish I knew how to help you with your computer. Are you using an ADSL modem or a voice/fax modem?

  3. I am not at all a staunch Mac vs PC person, but, I added on a Mac a few years ago, when I got a job where Macs were used. I bought a new Dell PC at the same time, though, because there were still some things I felt I could do better with a PC (with XP). I have to say, the Mac is the most stable computer I have ever used in my 10 years of computer use. It never crashes or freezes up.

    We have thought of buying a non-Mac laptop, also, but I am afraid of Vista.


  4. Ken, I have an external ADSL Siemens modem, which I bought from my official internet provider. If I remember well, I paid 75 euro at the time (4-5 years ago). Martine
    P.S. Hope you can help me, and thanks in advance!

  5. I've been using Windows XP Home for the last 4-5 years, and except for the usual annoying MS things it seems to be OK. But like others, am thinking it may be time to go back to Mac.

    Ken, I notice you're cooking in what looks like an earthenware dish. I have a couple, purchased years ago in Spain, but don't know how to determine if they're safe to use in this newer, hyper-cautious world where nasty chemicals lurk everywhere. Are your dishes new, or have you tested for such as lead?

  6. The earthenware dishes we have are not very old and no, I haven't had anything tested. Who would do such testing? I'm sure the tests would cost a lot more than the dishes are worth. I also use a lot of pyrex.

  7. As for Mac vs. PC, I won't go there. I worked at Apple's Claris subsidiary for six years, from '92 to '98. Those were lean years for Apple, and the Mac was not more stable or reliable than a PC back then. I never changed over to Mac at home. Now I doubt I ever will. Too expensive, that's all.


What's on your mind? Qu'avez-vous à me dire ?