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June 2013

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Tarragon, of Virtue, Is Full

Author's Note: Last July, I signed up for Schmoop Bingo, optimistically aiming for a blackout. In fact, I've only completed one of the stories for the 25 prompts required to fill my Bingo card. Since the deadline is December 31st, I figure that this is about all I'm going to get done, so I might as well post it. It was fun to write. Hope you find it fun to read.

Title: Tarragon, of Virtue, Is Full
Prompt: birthday – celebrant is sick (R1C1)
Medium: fic – 1,011 words
Rating: G
Warnings: --none--
Pairing: Jack/Ennis
Summary: Jack makes Ennis a birthday dinner that neither of them will ever forget.

* * * * * * * * * *

“Tarragon chicken, green beans with almonds, buttered poppy seed noodles, and red velvet cake,” Jack proposed.

“What’s tarragon?” Ennis wanted to know.

“It’s a seasoning,” Jack explained. “Wait a minute.” And he got up and went into the kitchen, returning in a minute with a spice jar full of grayish-green dried leafy bits, which he handed over.

Ennis unscrewed the lid and cautiously sniffed. “Huh. Kinda interesting. Different.”

“It’s a real easy recipe, too. Got some wine in it. And mushrooms.”

“Sounds good. And if we don’t like it after all, there’s always the noodles and the beans. And the cake. You ain’t gonna put candles all over that cake, are ya?”

“Well, hell, Ennis, it is your birthday, after all.”

“I ain’t blowin out thirty-five candles. No way.”

“Okay, then I’ll get two candles. They got em shaped like numbers, so I’ll get a three and a five. And if ya don’t treat me right, I’ll put em on the cake the wrong way, so it’ll look like you’re fifty-three.”

“Awright,” Ennis conceded. “Um, Jack, you sure about that chicken? Maybe it might be better to go with something we already know we like?”

“Nah. It’ll be great!” Jack enthused. “You’ll see!”

Jack was actually a pretty good cook, although it took a long time for Ennis to realize it. It wasn’t until they were finally living together that the truth emerged from behind the years of semi-edible camp food. The thing was that once Jack managed to get a recipe right, he wanted to move on and try something else. So on every fishing trip, Ennis would be subjected to a new series of culinary experiments, most of which were less than 100% successful.

Jack’s basic problem was that he didn’t want to follow the directions–always wanted to do it his own way. Of course he learned eventually–by trial and error–for example, that increasing the oven temperature from the recipe’s suggested 350° to 500° didn’t make the casserole cook faster; it just produced a casserole that was burned on the top while it was still cold in the middle–not to mention stuck to the pan to a degree that after three days of soaking, Jack finally decided to throw the dish away rather than do the amount of scrubbing it was going to need to be usable again. But as the years passed, Jack learned from each mistake, and by the time Ennis’ 35th birthday came around, more of Jack’s meals could be counted as successful than otherwise.

And if they hadn’t gone out drinking the night before… And if Jack hadn’t told the whole bar that tomorrow was Ennis’ birthday… And if Ennis hadn’t felt that it would be rude to refuse to drink all the congratulatory shots and beers that were pressed on him… And if Jack hadn’t drunk almost as much as Ennis… And if, and if, and if…

Along about four in the afternoon, Jack’s hangover had eased up to the point where he could stagger into the kitchen, wearing a bright blue ice-bag on his head in lieu of the more traditional white French chef’s toque. The chicken recipe called for a tablespoon of fresh tarragon, or a teaspoon of dried, which Jack figured had to be a misprint, because of course the fresh herb–being fresh–would be more potent than the dried-out stuff. That only stood to reason. And since this was their first experiment with tarragon, they’d want to get a good taste of it–subtlety could wait until later–so he decided to double the amount.

Sauté the mushrooms in some butter; rub the cut-up chicken with a bit of salt and pepper and brown it in olive oil; pour off the excess fat; dump in a half-cup of dry vermouth and two generous tablespoons of tarragon, firmly packed; cover and let cook on low while he boiled the noodles and added almonds and garlic to the canned green beans; et voila, le birthday dinner, she is fini! (Okay, so they were whole smokehouse almonds instead of the finely sliced blanched almonds the recipe originally called for. But, in fact, they both liked it that way.)

The cake, made the day before, waited in glacial splendor in the refrigerator.

Ennis spent the morning throwing up, but by noon he could keep down a little ginger ale, and a couple hours later he ventured a few saltines. At six, he and Jack felt almost human again. And so they sat down to dinner.

The chicken smelled… tarragony. Very tarragony. The noodles were excellent, with lots of butter and poppy seeds. A purist might have considered them a little over-cooked–okay, a lot over-cooked–but whenever Jack tried cooking his pasta “al dente” it invariably came out “crunchy” instead, so he settled for the more edible end of the spectrum. The green beans were salty and smoky and garlicky and delightful. The garlic was still pretty raw, but if he’d left it on the stove long enough for the garlic to mellow, the green beans would have been mush, so it was better off as it was.

“Next time, I’ll cook the garlic a little first, and then add it to the beans.”

“Good idea. Still pretty damn good beans.”

The chicken… Ennis tried valiantly to finish his portion. And if he hadn’t tried to help it down with a too-big gulp of ginger ale… The belch was what undid him in the end. He did manage to get away from the table in time, but wisely ran for the kitchen sink, it being considerably closer than the bathroom. The overly-tarragoned chicken had been pungent going down. It was even more so coming up again. Fortunately, they had a double sink, so Jack could join him.

They ate the cake the next day. And the rest of the tarragon–over Jack’s protests–went into the garbage.

“I know what I did wrong,” Jack insisted. “I’ll use a lot less next time!”

“No next time. Not for tarragon.” Ennis was adamant.

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Cute. Well, at least Jack tried and some of it came out edible. Really sounds like a good recipe if prepared correctly.
That pretty much describes most of Jack's cooking, I'm afraid: he tries, some of it comes out edible, good recipe of prepared correctly!

Thank you for commenting, and glad you enjoyed!
A real xmas stocking!
Item 1: a new story by you =)
Item 2: J&E living together (happy sigh)...
Item 3: three excellent recipes!
Item 4: lovely conversation.
Tell Jack to be careful the garlic doesn't burn.
And thank you!
Item 1: Thank you!
Item 2: Yes, we all love that (happy sigh from me, too)!
Item 3: ...if prepared correctly...
Item 4: Thank you again!

A little charring of the garlic adds that authentic outdoor-grilled flavor (Jack says).

You're welcome. So glad you enjoyed.
I love the guys living together and I like Jack finally learning from his mistakes!
Tarragon is quite strong and must be used carefully! Poor guys!

A purist might have considered them a little over-cooked
I might have! I'm not a purist, I am Italian and maybe it's even worse! LOL

A big hug, dear Sid :)
This story is based (loosely) on my own first use of tarragon. Nobody actually got sick, but the dish was NOT a success...

So glad you enjoyed!
Great job, Sid! I love your introspection about Jack's culinary skills. I hope you had a wonderful holiday!

Thank you! So glad you enjoyed! My holidays were delightful, and I hope yours were the same!
i loved this. i like jack's reasoning about the dried herbs versus fresh.

sid, you once sent me a story that you had as a word document and i wanted to ask you about another, but i lost your address. could you contact me at your leisure grlewis@nycap.rr.com so that i might talk to you about the new one i'm seeking?

thanks, and happy holidays. gr
Well, his reasoning is logical. Just not correct. email will show up shortly.

So glad you enjoyed!
I did enjoy this!

It made me laugh!

Rose x
Thank you! So glad you enjoyed!

My first baking experience

Hi Sid,

This is a lovely entry. I definitely enjoy reading our boys living a happy life together. And I find Jack's cooking skills very endearing as well:)

...for example, that increasing the oven temperature from the recipe’s suggested 350° to 500° didn’t make the casserole cook faster; it just produced a casserole that was burned on the top while it was still cold in the middle–not to mention stuck to the pan to a degree that after three days of soaking, Jack finally decided to throw the dish away rather than do the amount of scrubbing it was going to need to be usable again...

I am laughing so loud I have tears in my eyes.

You know, I came from China, and in China one thing we don't have in kitchen is an oven, you have to go to a bakery if you want a cake.

So when I fist came here in 1997 I was very excited to find an oven in my apartment, I rushed to the grocery to get the cake ingredients and eagerly began my great experiments.

Unlike our Jackie boy I followed the instruction to the letter, mixed up all the ingredients carefully, put it in the oven, set the temperature...and then, all forgot about it!

Half an hour later the nice smell of the newly baked cake filled the apartment. As someone who never baked before, I look all around looking for the source of the smell, but couldn't find it.

Then I decided to visit the library.

Do you want me to continue?

Well, when I came back from the library several hours later, the apartment is filled with burnt smell, and when I finally remembered my cake and opened the oven door I was almost smothered by the smoke - the cake became complete charcoals of course, but I think I do need to thank God that the apartment is not burnt down!

Happy holidays!


Re: My first baking experience

Ooops! Yes, everyone who cooks at all has stories like that. I hope your SECOND cake was more successful! (Did you buy a kitchen timer?)

So glad you enjoyed! And happy holidays to you, too!
I have to give Jack an A for effort. I know what it's like to try new recipes, but unlike him I try to stick to the amounts. I've never used tarragon. I might have eaten it but I'm not sure.

It's trial and error. Maybe he should stick with oregano instead.

cudos to Jack for wanting to do something special for his man.

thanks for a wonderful story, Sid.

happy holidays

Oregano would have made a nice dish--or rosemary or thyme or poultry seasoning... Tarragon is very distinctive, and very nice indeed--IN LIMITED QUANTITIES!

So glad you enjoyed, and happy holidays to you as well!
it was very funny, Sid, thank you for sharing ! too bad you didn't write more stories....
So glad you enjoyed! I still have my prompts list, and perhaps Jack will cook up another dish in the coming year...


This was so much fun cooking with a hangover is tough enough and then to add this much of an herb well too funny had to laugh a lot to finish reading thanks for the story. Joe


So glad you enjoyed! My prompt was: "birthday - celebrant is sick". Well, what could I do? I didn't want Jack's cooking to make Ennis sick all by itself, so adding in a killer hangover looked to be the answer. And there was my story...
Poor Jack. Poor Ennis. Poor Chicken!! This was wonderfully funny. LOL.

Yes, poor chicken, indeed! It deserved much better than to be treated like that. So glad you enjoyed!

Hey Sid!

That was pretty funny my friend. Loved Jack's "assumptions" about temperature and measurements. {or was that "LOGIC"?}

When I posted my little story tonight, Voila! There was Sid. Glad I accidentally saw your story.


Hey Judy!

I saw your Christmas story a few days ago (just went back to comment now **blush**) and that made me sad that I didn't have a Christmas something to post, too. So then I thought of my lone Schmoop Bingo story, and decided that it would just have to do.
Very funny! Lord save us from cooks with a thirst for adventure.

Thank goodness everything else turned out okay.

They ate the rest of the noodles and the green beans the next day. Plus they got a ham from the grocery store and just heated it up. And the cake was a great success. (Jack does not put cream cheese frosting on his red velvet cake. He uses the traditional chalk white icing recipe that he got from his mother.)
at least he tried- that's what counts
that's love Ennis
thanks for this little story
I'm always happy to read about the boys living together
We all love J&E living together happily ever after. So glad you enjoyed!
Very enjoyable read - I love Jack's personality in this. :)
Thank you so much! Some see Jack as a perennial screw-up, but I think it's just his optimistic and adventurous nature--he's not afraid to try new things.

So glad you enjoyed!
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