Cafe Society

Cooking tips from Mr. James Carville

First you get yourself a real big pork tenderloin...

Want to read some unfortunate phrasing? Check out this teaser from the website of the Aurora Economic Development Council, which is hosting an event tonight called A-List 2008 at the Hyatt Regency Denver:

A-List 2008 is the most highly anticipated event in the metro area, bringing together more than 2,000 regional business and political leaders to celebrate the economic success of the region.”

Something tells me that no one at this event is going to be talking much about economic success.

But they’ll have other things to talk about, because the keynote speakers are two of my favorite political gun-hands, Democratic strategist James Carville and his wife, Republican operative Mary Matalin. And Carville is not only brilliant, cruel, funny and, along with Paul Begala, the only hope Democrats ever have for winning anything more weighty than a pie-eating contest anywhere outside New York and California, but as a food writer.

Yeah, that’s right. James Carville: food writer. In particular, barbecue writer. And while I’ve got no idea what he might be inspired to say while up on the stage tonight, I would like to take this chance to pass along a little of his food wisdom from the book We’re Right, They’re Wrong, which he wrote during the run-up to the Clinton-Dole election and which, in both the progressive politics and the recipes, still stands tall today.

“One of my wife’s friends was going to have a huge barbecue for the Fourth of July,” Carville writes. “Sure, it was going to be a chest-thumping, live-free-or-die kind of Republican affair, but I have to admit, it sounded great. This friend has a big farmhouse set in the most beautiful part of Virginia, with acres of fields for our dogs to run around in and lots of cows for them to bark at. And based on prior experience, I knew the food was going to be first-rate. I will admit it: Republican gatherings always have better food than Democratic ones. Only good thing about a Republican party is the food.”

Carville is right about that, by the way. Primarily because no large Republican gathering is ever complete without barbecue. He continues: “Wouldn’t you know it—at the last minute Mary couldn’t go. She had to run off and give a speech at a convention of truck-stop hairdressers or some such thing, and I was on my own.

“I was pissed. I had wanted to go to that barbecue real bad, but there was no way in hell I was going all by myself. I know my limits. Some of my best friends are Republicans, but without Mary to run interference from time to time, an all-Republican affair can be brutal. I made plans to watch the Marine Corps band play.

“When Mary heard I wasn’t going, she was screaming mad. She thought I’d be offending her friends by not showing up, and she just wasn’t going to let me off the hook. But I held my ground. I wasn’t going, goddammit. It was as simple as that.

“Unfortunately, Mary, like many women, is a master of the ultimatum. She told me I was going to that barbecue or else she was going to start calling me Serpenthead on her TV show every night. I caved.”

Carville then goes on to say he was right about the chow. “It was everything you would expect from a right-wing barbecue,” he writes, talking about the potato salad, hot ears of Silver Queen corn, Texas beef brisket with Vidalia onions and tenderloins of pork. He then offers “Carville’s Top Five Potato Salad Tips” (make your own mayonnaise, don’t overcook your potatoes, don’t overtoss, add fresh herbs—dill, in particular—and limit your ingredients because this is potato salad and you want to be able to taste the potatoes) and a recipe for barbecue pork tenderloin (included below) before even really mentioning anything about politics. And bear in mind, this is the beginning of the book. It actually takes Carville more than twelve pages before he gets into the meat of the liberal/conservative debate, and the bulk of those twelve pages are spent talking about food. In contrast, Bill Bennett’s book, The Death of Outrage, all about Bill Clinton’s “Assault on American ideals,” jumps immediately into the fray, talking about Bubba getting his dick sucked with quotes from such luminaries as Bill Press, Geraldo Rivera and…Zzzzzzz

In the middle of a discussion of Clinton-era income tax rates, Carville suddenly busts out with a discussion of watermelon. “You know what my favorite part of a barbecue is? I’ll tell you. It begins when your host pulls out a ten-inch chef’s knife and starts slicing up the watermelon that’s been chilling all afternoon in the ice cooler. Man, there’s nothing better. I always go for one of those middle pieces without a lot of seeds, and then I season it the southern way, with a dash of salt on top.” He uses backyard cheeseburgers to illustrate a discussion of the USDA, offers a recipe for salsa verde courtesy of Annie and David Gingrass from the restaurant Hawthorne Lane in San Francisco, all while systematically taking apart, line by line, the entire conservative political mythology.

As promised, here’s that barbecue recipe, courtesy of James Carville. Granted, it’s really more of a grilled pork tenderloin than a properly barbecued one, but give the guy a break. He’s busy. -- Jason Sheehan

Ingredients: 4-6 lbs pork tenderloin For the marinade: Paul Prudhomme’s pork and veal seasoning Garlic powder Coarse black pepper For the sauce: 2 sticks real butter 1 tablespoon fresh pressed garlic Juice of 2 fresh lemons 2 ½ teaspoons Paul Prudhomme’s pork and veal seasoning

Directions: 1. Put the tenderloin in a baking dish lined with aluminum foil. 2. Generously sprinkle with seasoning, garlic powder and black pepper, covering the tenderloin. 3. Marinate in icebox overnight. 4. The next day, lightly sauté all sauce ingredients in medium saucepan 5. Place tenderloin over high heat on a gas grill and sear for five minutes on each side 6. Take off high heat and place tenderloin on other burner 7. Turn heat to low. With the lid closed, cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour, basting periodically with the sauce. 8. After time is up, cook tenderloin over high heat for an additional 10 minutes on each side, then place on the top rack of the grill (not directly over heat). 9. Grill for another 15 minutes on low heat, basting occasionally with the sauce.

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun

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