On mine, of course, there is nothing. On others’, though…
Tonight’s menu: shrimp scampi with angel hair pasta, bruschetta with mozarella, tomatoes, fresh basil, and garlic, and sauteed zucchini, squash, and mushrooms.
Good food, good friends, good conversation. What else could someone ask for, really? Exept a maid to clean up the kitchen afterwards?
Very little in the way of leftovers, although there was enough that one sister took a bit over to her boyfriend. No pictures, either, sad to say, because it looked (and smelled) great.
I do believe it will be time for another rib run soon. And my sister came up with the next menu:
I’m wondering if I could get away with subbing pilaf for the rice. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind as long as it tasted good.
Last night I had a rather unique (for me) experience.
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Not for nefarious purposes. For food purposes, naturally, as if thought of anything else manages to penetrate this thick skull.
For awhile now – probably from just before I had to stop eating solid food – I’ve wanted to make my own sausage. Commercial sausage isn’t horrible in most cases, and the store-made sausage from Publix is generally better, but there’s just something special about making something from scratch on your own. It’s the same reason I bake and the same reason I have a (vegetable) garden when I have the chance: it’s about having something grow under your ministrations, as careful with your new creation, as tender (or firm) with it as you would be with a child. The goal is the same: to raise something – or someone – of which you can be justifiably proud, that will serve to nourish others in a variety of ways, both bodily and mentally.
But back to the sausage. Really, it isn’t difficult to do this on your own. A bit time-consuming, to be sure, and temperature control of the meat is important so as not to have the finished product separate into grainy bits when cooked. Casings aren’t even strictly necessary, since the meat can be formed into patties instead. Since we want to have the full experience, however, and since we do have a grinder/stuffer attachment for the trusty KitchenAid, we’ll be giving it a go and stuffing casings with whatever mixture appears on our radar. My mom loves sweet Italian sausage, so I’ve put that first on my list. Other variations will no doubt follow, and I have a sense that I’ll be foisting sausages off on random strangers just to get them out of the house.
If you’ve any interest in sausage, curing, or smoking, I’d highly recommend the book Charcuterie, published late last year. I ran across a mention of it on the eGullet forums about two weeks ago and finally broke down and ordered it last week. It’s a cookbook, how could I resist? An excellent addition to the library.
I decided to deviate from my sister’s request list for Thursday night. Not out of disagreement with anything she would like to see on her plate, of course. Only because while I was picking up a prescription at Publix, I decided to wander past the seafood case. Shrimp scampi with angel hair pasta and bruschetta popped into my mind while I was looking, and since I’m easily swayed by menu suggestions at the moment, I got a couple pounds of shrimp. When I told my sister – the same one tossing out the “can you make that”, the same one who refuses to eat any sort of meat on the bone – she informed me that she doesn’t eat shrimp with pasta. No problem, says I, ever amenable and flexible, we’ll just serve them separately, and you can have the shrimp by itself. Can’t eat it, she says. Too much butter. She also won’t eat bread because she’s trying to watch her carbs for the upcoming swimuit season. This from a girl who has an athlete’s body and weighs maybe 117 soaking wet.
So it will be something else for her. I just need to figure it out. In the meantime, my mom and my other sister will happily share the main dish, and if my brother wasn’t such a rube, he’d be here to enjoy it as well.
The problem with not being able to eat is not being able to taste this stuff. When no one is around or immediately available, it’s impossible to get a victim to taste test it before anyone else eats it.
The ribs came off the smoker after about 4.5 hours.
The meat has pulled away from the bone.
I pulled a portion to look at before everyone was home/awake, to see how the first time rib smoking worked out for me. It worked: nice smoke ring.
More cuts, as the fam began arriving.
Nice and juicy.
And did I mention the zucchini gratin? Still bubbling, right out of the oven.
Pulled the slabs from the brine and gave them a quick shower.
The rub has: salt, brown sugar, paprika, onion powder, cayenne, garlic powder, cumin, chipotle chili powder, black pepper, mustard powder.
The first slab received a massage of coarse-ground prepared mustard.
And then a generous dose of the rub.
The other two slabs received rub only, and all three are ready to go.
A couple of water pans under the grates, some nicely burning charcoal and some hickory on the fire, and the slabs go on the smoker.
Now, it’s just a matter of minding the temperature and being patient. The first will probably be much easier than the second.
There’s nothing like a nice slab of pork.
Three slabs of ribs.
Into the brine for about an hour. Once done with this step, I’ll pull them out, give them a rinse, then sprinkle them with rub and let them sit for about another hour. And then? Smokin’ time.
Today is smoking day. While the ribs will have a rub, there’s always the issue of sauces. For this, sauces go on the side, and whoever wants some can pour their own. For some people, that means out of a bottle from the store. For us, that means some homemade sauce. I had intended to make several different kinds, but the cupboard conspired against me. The sweet/smoky sauce is the winner in this race.
Some ingredients, but not all.
The beginning, before the ketchup goes in.
After the ketchup, and a few minutes simmering:
The sauce is sweet to start, and then finishes with a bite. I actually tasted it – the first tomato-based anything I’ve tasted in more than six months. No tongue burn (hooray) and I got exactly the sensation my mother did when she tasted it (hooray again). Progress.
I am convinced of this: that the universe, while generally a well-functioning, smoothly oiled engine, has, at its controls, a group of monkeys who delight in picking out someone at random and resetting the clocks that run certain areas of their lives. The effect of this is to dash to bits any semblance of timing in certain circumstances for that person – not every arena, of course, as this would cause the person to go crazy as they moved through time, forever just out of sync with the rest of the world. No, I believe it’s done just to slightly throw off that person so that What Might Have Been is tossed into their faces as much as possible. Think of anything in life. The relationship that does not bloom because the other party became involved with someone “Just recently, and s/he’s a good match, but if I’d met you first, we surely would have gotten together,” they say, and clearly they mean it. The job that isn’t won because the candidate interviewed several days prior fit the bill and was offered the job. “But,” they say, and clearly they mean it, “if we had been able to interview you first, we’d have offered it to you instead.” The comeback that dies on the lips because the clever retort does not come to mind until hours or days later. “But,” they say, when others are told about the incident, and clearly they mean it, “that would have been a good one and would have put someone in their place.”
Examples of this bad timing abound, and devious monkeys are as good an explanation as the serendipitous nature of life. It’s difficult not to be just a little bitter and angry about these things from an emotional standpoint, while at the same time understanding intellectually that we don’t all move along the same strand. It’s where the real battle lies.