‘We dug coal together’

coal

(The photo above is taken from the series finale of FX’s Justified)

Welcome to blog entry #2! I hope you do not have a Mad Man style hangover from the first entry and I hope that Leon Bridges and the meal treated you well! As usual we will be be pairing food, music, and television together in three stages and you will have the option of making a drink to go with each stage. Use your own judgement and have some fun!

For this week’s menu, we will have a Kentucky theme. It will have nothing to do with horse racing, fried chicken and corrupt college basketball coaches and everything to do with bourbon, morally ambiguous cops and robbers, and contemporary country music. We will be pairing the FX television show Justified (2010-2015) with Sturgill Simpsons’ 2015 release A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. For dinner we will grill bone-in, bourbon-glazed pork ribeyes alongside mushrooms and asparagus marinated in balsamic vinaigrette. They will be accompanied by oven roasted potatoes in a garlic, olive oil marinade and topped with parmesan cheese.

Starters

Boyd Crowder Bourbon Mule:

  • 3 parts ginger beer – alcoholic OR non-alcoholic. I don’t care what you do. I’m not your biographer.
  • 1 part bourbon (when it doubt, like Boyd, always use a Bulleit)
  • 1 basil leaf
  • 1 lemon or 1 lime slice. Or both.

What to do:

  • Put desired amount of ice inside Copper Cup
  • Add vodka and ginger beer to cup
  • Stir
  • Add basil, lemon/lime

I hope your drink looks something like this, because mine did not – I forgot to take a photo:

kentucky_mule

Now lets play some music.

IMG_2361

Upon hearing Simpsons’s voice, the obvious comparisons are Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard. It’s not difficult to imagine Simpson performing on stage with Jennings and the other Highwaymen or performing a duet with Haggard. While not inaccurate, Simpson has his own voice and his own stories to tell. He is cut from the same outlaw cloth and embodies the spirit of the ‘Outlaw Country’ movement.

Released on Atlantic in 2015, Sturgill Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth was nominated for Album of the Year and won the Grammy for Best Country Album. It was Simpson’s third release and his first on a major label. The concept album is a mixture of rock, pop, blues, country and jazz. ASGTE is a love letter to his infant son that offers a blueprint for success in this journey we call life. If you can’t read between the lines, Simpson’s son is the sailor in the aforementioned title.

Simpson reminds his son that love is all around him, to make good decisions and that the most important thing about adversity is your reaction towards it. Simpson often warns his son not to repeat his father’s mistakes. On Keep It Between the Lines, Simpson opines:

‘Stay in school

Stay off the hard stuff

And keep it between the lines’

Sage advice indeed. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of ASGTE is that Simpson makes taking responsibility for your actions and staying away from drugs sound cool. In an era when popular contemporary country music practically begs the listener to party, shrug responsibility and worry about consequences later, Simpson’s Country Music Grammy is well deserved … and no small miracle.

Of course, Simpson also famously covers Nirvana’s In Bloom. It is a stripped down, old school country folk version that reinvents the song. In doing so, Simpson has made In Bloom his own. While it may not be as famous as Hendrix covering Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower; as heralded as Jeff Buckley’s rendition of Hallelujah; or as famous as Whitney Houston covering Dolly Parton’s I Will Always Love You, Simpson’s In Bloom certainly deserves to be in the team photo for most intriguing cover.

You will not be disappointed with this album and if you are, that is a YOU problem – not a civilized person problem. My wife prefers newer country to older country, and she likes this album. However, my suspicion is that she likes this album for the same reason many people do – ASGTE is a mixture of many music genres and glorifies being an adult and parent while looking back on youthful discretions with only a modicum of regret. Plus, she said Simpson is handsome.

Per usual, I picked ASGTE up at Records Per Minute. My copy cost $25 and came with a digital download (as 95% of new releases do) AND a CD. Simpson takes care of his fans.

Entrée

Oven Roasted Garlic Potatoes with Garlic, Olive Oil and Parmesan Cheese

  • 1 lb mixed baby potatoes
  • 3 Tablespoons minced garlic
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese

What to do:

  • Mix potatoes, garlic, olive oil and parmesan in storage container, shake and marinade for an hour
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Spray baking pan with olive oil
  • Insert potato mixture into preheated oven for 30 minutes

Grilled Balsamic Vinaigrette Mushrooms and Asparagus

  • 1 lb washed Cremini mushroom caps
  • 1 lb trimmed asparagus
  • 1 cup balsamic vinaigrette
  • Grilling basket
  • Aluminum foil

What to do:

  • Combine vegetables and balsamic vinaigrette for 2 hours before grilling
  • Strain vegetables in colander over sink
  • Cover basket in aluminum foil
  • Add vegetables to basket
  • Put basket on cleaned and preheated grill
  • Grill for 30 minutes while occasionally stirring. Put potatoes in oven and vegetables on grill simultaneously.

Hopefully your vegetables looked like this:

IMG_2178

Bourbon-Glazed Pork Ribeye

Marinade

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbsp bourbon (when in doubt Bulleit for ANYTHING bourbon related)
  • 1 Tsp garlic salt
  • 4 lbs pork ribeye from The Butcher and The Grocer

This is what the cut looked like before grilling:

IMG_2173

What to do:

  • Put marinade ingredients in bowl and mix.
  • Remove pork ribeye from package, lightly rinse and pat dry.
  • Add ribeye and marinade in container or Ziploc and refrigerate for 2-4 hours.
  • Remove ribeye from refrigerator for 30 minutes before grilling.
  • Add pork ribeye to grill roughly 10 minutes after starting vegetables; grill 10 minutes per side.

Hopefully your final and complete product looks like this:

IMG_2192

We paired Mark West Pinot Noir with the meal. This pinot has a medium body, a smooth finish and is fruit forward. It is versatile, affordable and is perfect for drinking outside in the summer.

Forgot to get a photo here too, so here is a stock photo that will probably get my blog shut down:

mark-west-pinit-noir

 

At this time it should be noted that we hosted our friends Kyle and Libby. Kyle happens to be my wife’s boss and we were celebrating his wife Libby’s birthday. No pressure, right? Luckily I am super cool and handsome, so I didn’t let the pressure get to me. Also, Kyle brought the Makers 46, so it was not really possible for us to have a bad night. In fact, dinner was such a hit that Libby picked up her husband. Proof:

IMG_6787

 

We ended the dinner portion of the evening with Amy’s Donuts. Amy’s is a new Westside Columbus institution. The Donuts are always fresh, come in a wide variety, are reasonably price and the business gives local flair and employment opportunities to a great neighborhood. Here is a photo of the donuts:

IMG_2198

Now it’s time for the show. For those unfamiliar with Justified, it’s an FX show with charismatic and cool leads who battle with jilted lovers, scammers, dealers, evangelists, white supremacists and deep-rooted family loyalties. Set against the backdrop of Harlan County in eastern Kentucky, the show depicts a modern-day Appalachia that is riddled with opioid addicts, crime, prostitution, high unemployment rates and disappearing coal jobs. I am sure that for many viewers in Harlan County, Appalachia, the Midwes, and rural America in large, the problems depicted are all too real and hit close to home.

We’re gonna need a drink first to get into this.

 Nightcap

Wynn Duffy Maker’s 46 Manhattan

  • Makers 46
  • Dry Vermouth
  • Orange peel
  • Cherries

What to do:

  • Put martini glass in freezer for 30 minutes.
  • Put ice in cocktail shaker.
  • Put 3 parts bourbon and 1 part vermouth in cocktail shaker.
  • Pour. Add orange peel and Manhattan cherries, if so desired.

Hopefully your final product looks like this:

IMG_2184

At the heart of this drama are the show’s two protagonists: Raylan Givens (played by Timothy Olyphant) and Boyd Crowder (played by Walter Goggins). In early adulthood, Raylan and Boyd took jobs in the same coalmine, but their careers are abruptly ended during a mine collapse in which Boyd saves Raylan. After this incident, the two go their separate ways, leave Kentucky and vow never to return. Raylan begins a career in law enforcement that eventually leads him to the U.S. Marshall’s service while Boyd joins the Army and becomes a veteran of the first Gulf War. Eventually both return to Harlan County – Raylan as a disgraced, hot-headed U.S. Marshall with a hair trigger, and Boyd as a charismatic, rising star in the Dixie Mafia.

Essentially Raylan and Boyd are different sides of the same coin. They have many more similarities than differences. Raised in mirrored backgrounds, both love bourbon, fighting and a woman named Ava. In fact, if it was not for the good-hearted influence of Raylan’s aunt-turned-stepmother Helen, it would be easy to imagine Raylan as a mafia rival or partner of Boyd’s. This point is driven home many times as crime kingpin Boyd is more likeable than U.S. Marshall Raylan.

This series has two other recurring character that are worth noting:

Joelle Carter as Ava Crowder. When the series begins, Ava is married to Boyd’s brother Bowman. Ava is a woman who is trapped by her past and constantly trying to escape Harlan County. Ava’s plans are almost always entangled with Raylan or Boyd. At times Ava outsmarts Raylan and Boyd and other times she is finds herself in a predicament that can only be solved with their assistance. Ava is smart, tough, beautiful and easy to root for.

Jere Burns plays Wynn Duffy. Wynn lives in a posh mobile home and is a calm and eccentric Dixie Mafia middleman. Wynn is almost always the smartest person in the room and is always two steps ahead of his competitors. Playing both sides is not a challenge for Wynn, but often his plans go awry at the last moment as he underestimates the intelligence and capabilities of his rivals and his sidekick Mikey.

As for guest stars, the two worth most worthy of mention are Margo Martindale as Mags Bennett and Jeremy Davies as her son, Dickie. Mags runs a marijuana growing and distribution operation, with the assistance of her three sons. Raylan is aware of this but has a soft spot for Mags and mostly turns a blind eye on her family business. Dickie harbors hatred for Raylan because Raylan permanently disabled Dickie, with the help of a Louisville Slugger (a heavy-handed metaphor), in a youth baseball game. Despite Dickie’s incompetence, drug use and bad decision making, he remains a serious threat to Raylan for the duration of the series.

The other peripheral characters are often paint by numbers, central casting types, which is why I only chose to include the synopsis of Ava and Wynn. For example, Raylan’s coworkers often berate him for using poor judgement and having to rely on his good looks to get out of sticky situations. The coworkers drink bourbon, crack wise and catch the bad guys but are ultimately one-dimensional. The one-dimensional characters combined with many snarled subplots keep Justified from being in the pantheon of all-time great television, but nothing keeps Boyd and Raylan from being in the pantheon of all-time great television characters.

That being said, Justified does wrap up its series run with a finale that is as well done as any finale in recent memory, so ultimately some of the unevenness can be forgiven.

All in all, Justified is enjoyable, topical, well-acted, and most importantly keeps the viewer invested in the fate of the main characters for the duration of the series. You will never be bored watching Justified – frankly, it is much too cool to be boring.

I hope you enjoyed this menu! The Kentucky theme flowed together easily. In the following entries, we will be focusing less on bourbon and more on original Netflix programming.

Additions & Substitutions

  • One of Justified’s more fun peripheral characters is Constable Bob – a bumbling Harlan County volunteer law enforcement officer who idolizes Raylan. Bob is used for comedic affect and Oswald plays the part well. If you are a Patton Oswalt fan, check out Big Fan. Oswalt is the lead and very believable as an obsessed football fan who is losing his grip on reality. Definitely worth 90 minutes of your life.
  • Justified won two acting Emmys. The first went to Margo Martindale and the second to Jeremy Davies. After you watch the series, you will understand why.
  • Speaking of Margo Martindale, she is perhaps the most underrated actress working today. She is outstanding as Claudia – a spy for the Soviet Union – in FX’s period drama The Americans. As a result of her hard work, she has won two more Emmys for this role. Stay tuned – I plan on covering The Americans during its upcoming and final season.
  • Walter Goggins should have won an Emmy and was only nominated once. It might be just as well that he wasn’t nominated more often as he would have been competing against Jon Hamm, Mad Men, and Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad.
  • Adam Arkin is a director of five Justified episodes and has a recurring role as a Detroit crime boss. Adam and his father Alan automatically make any film or television experience better. You may know Alan Arkin from being the cranky and old comedic relief in every movie in the past fifteen years, specifically Little Miss Sunshine.
  • Elmore Leonard is the writer of the short story Fire in the Hole, which is the basis for Justified. If you don’t know Leonard’s name, you certainly know his work. In the 1990s, he wrote and was involved in projects that would eventually become Get Shorty, Out of Sight, and the criminally underrated Jackie Brown.
  • I saw Sturgill and his band live in fall of 2016. They were wrapping up the ASGTE tour and playing like a band that had been on the road for 200 of the last 365 nights – which at the time they were. There was a 4 piece horn section, 3 guitars, a bass, slide guitar, piano, keyboards, and drums. They performed the album in order and in its entirety.
  • Each song clocked it at around 8 minutes and they threw in a ten minute rendition of Led Zepplin’s When The Leavy Breaks -it blew my mind, and I am not really a Zeppelin fan

2 thoughts on “‘We dug coal together’

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