Thoughts on The Challenge

Before I get into those thoughts, something amusing from earlier this evening. I took my sisters to dinner before they went shopping (dresses for a wedding, or something). During the course of dinner, one conversation went something like this as they were talking about the MTV Movie Awards – or was it music? In any case…

Sister 2: You know, the guy with the voice.
Sister 1: Like James…James Earl Grey?
Me: Splorf.
Sister 2: (Gales of laughter)
Sister 1: Jones! James Earl Jones!
Sister 2: James Earl Grey Morning Blend. (More laughter)

It was probably something you had to be there for in order to appreciate the true hilarity of mixing James Earl Jones and a tea.

But on to the more serious issue: food.

Continue reading Thoughts on The Challenge

A better cookie

This batch definitely turned out better than the last. Parchment paper this time rather than the silpat.

Alas, I am unable to eat them, as the sharper edges can be quite painful on a tender tongue. Those that have eaten them confirm my visual estimation as this batch being superior to the last.

The perfect egg

I’m not sure about anyone else, but when I have a real breakfast, eggs are always on the menu. They can be accompanied by other things – bacon, grits, pancackes, ham, and so on – but for some reason, to me the egg will always be the centerpiece.

The other night, I was poking around for something to eat and decided that breakfast for dinner would be jsut the ticket. I’ll confess that when I eat out, I always order eggs over easy. When I eat in, it’s scrambled, with or without fillers.

But not that night. I decided it was high time to do at home what I’d had others do for me.

So, after frying up some bacon, I put a couple pats of butter into a hot pan and cracked open an egg. The beauty of butter and nonstick is that no spatula is needed: let the egg cook a bit, give the pan a shake to make sure the egg is not sticking, then shake the egg toward the far end of the pan. When you’re ready to take the plunge, flip the egg using the pan by dipping down the far end a bit and then shoving the pan away from you while flicking up the end. Gently, of course. It isn’t necessary to throw the egg a foot into the air. Just get it out of the pan far enough to catch it on its opposite side when it lands. As it lands, lower the pan so it doesn’t just splat back down. After all, it isn’t one of the old space capsules with a parachute. It’s a fragile yellow orb that should be intact at the end. After letting it cook for as long as necessary – only about 10 seconds, in my case – do the same thing and flip it back over. Voila, the perfectly done egg over easy.

There’s nothing quite like that first cut into the soft yolk.

There’s also this sort of breakfast: bacon, freshly made biscuits with (of course) freshly made gravy, some honey, and grits and eggs (no pics of that).

Behold my butt

I know, it’s been a few days. What can I say? Work intrudes on my cooking hobby. I just read an interesting article, the link to which was sent to me by a friend who also – sometimes with some snark attached – pointed out that the author was spot on in various respects with regard to my own pursuits. Bitch. I say that with love, of course. She also sent me this, asked if I were ghostwriting now. Har har har. Funny gal.

But back to my magnificent butt. Just how often do you get to use that line while completely sober?

I’ve done a turkey, I’ve done lots of ribs, and quite naturally at some point I had to make pulled pork. My small circle of regular readers will recall my search for pork butt last week. I drove about 100 miles that day in all my travels. But Friday, I returned to CostCo and picked up some supplies.

Nice pile o’ meat there, eh? From left to right: pork butt (contains two butts, total just over 15 pounds), one pack of ribs (two slabs), a double pack of maple bacon, boneless skinless chicken breasts, and another pack of ribs (also containing two slabs). That was all the meat, but not all of the stuff, which also included more dispoable steam trays, an industrial pack of foil, and these goodies.


If one of my sisters ever brings me more shrimp, the Old Bay will get some use. Until then, though, this is a story of pork.

I brined the butt overnight in a simple mixture of salt, water, and molasses. The next morning, I drained them, patted them dry, and them gave them a rub (the recipe for which I actually wrote down). The butts rested for about an hour or so after being rubbed.

They were then ready to go on the smoker. It started to rain about three hours in, and maintaining temperature became quite the adventure.

At about the seven hour mark, we had this.

They were coming along nicely, and I pulled them just after ten hours on the smoker.

I couldn’t resist picking at the edge of one of the butts before even getting the twine off after giving them a rest for about 30 minutes.

Beautiful, tender, juicy, smoky meat. Better than most smoked butt I’ve had in many places, if I do say so myself. A closeup of a morsel of meat.

A few chunks pulled to check the smoke ring.

Perfect.

Time to start pulling. A good portion of crispy bits and even a little burnt end, done on purpose since we have several people who just lvoe burnt ends.

Finally, both butts were pulled. I started with just over 15 pounds of pretty well trimmed butt. The ending weight was about 13 pounds. Thirteen pounds of wonderful porky goodness.

Of course, you can’t have barbeque without some sides.

And since I’m tiring out my jaws and killing my fillings by eating, I had a little myself. I managed to finish it, except for the crispy bits that made it into my pile of pork. The mouth and teeth just aren’t up for it. Yet.

We still have plenty. I’m going to have to pack some away in the vacuum packs and stuff them in the freezer so the pork o’ plenty will be available whenever someone gets a hankering for it.

Feeding day

In all my adult life, I cannot recall ever stepping foot into a butcher shop (a real butcher shop, that is). There may have been moments when I was a kidlet that I had the opportunity to visit one, but my memory is pretty darn good, and I don’t recall any from that time, either.

But, during the Big Bash, one of my aunts recommended that I stop into a local butcher shop and check out what the guy had to offer. So I did. The answer: after noon, not a lot that was of interest. I spied some frozen filets mignon that looked as if they’d been there since the beginning of time, quite a bit of bacon, and a huge 17-pound pork butt package (two butts in the package, as is common with boneless butts). One of the more amusing factoids I’ve always carried around in my head is that regarding the term “pork butt”. It is not, as the name might suggest to the unwary, really the ass end of the pig. Rather, it is the upper shoulder of the animal (the picnic is the lower shoulder). Quite a lot of people may know it as a Boston butt instead.

In any case, a nice butt – of the porcine variety, in today’s journeys – was my goal. While the package I saw at the first butcher was hefty and looked nice, I decided to bypass that one and continue my search.

Continue reading Feeding day

Some days

Some days I really despise people. In general. In particular, those of the asshat variety. I used to work with a woman whose favorite phrase was, “Oh, that’s nice” said in a sarcastic way, to every little issue that arose, as if it was right there on par with the D-Day invasion being called off because of fog and rough waters rather than being an issue that could be easily solved if someone just used whatever brain cells were available to them. Ever since then, I’ve hated that damn phrase, and really can’t bring myself to care too much for people who act like every little thing is the end of the world or who have to exaggerate issues instead of just dealing with them like normal human beings – or using a little common sense. People who imply that events are other than as they are – usually by omitting pertinent information – rank right up there on that list, too.

That is all.

Food porn

What are you eating right now?

This is mine.

Gratuitous closeup.

It’s a riff on a cuban sandwich – ham, tomatoes, dill pickle slices, cheese, and deli-style mustard, but naked (no bread, as bread is a little too much for me right now). I layered the ingredients, minus the mustard, then nuked it in the microwave for about 20 seconds. A line of mustard down it afterward, and we’re ready to go.

And yes, I did eat earlier. I made dinner for myself, my mom, and a dear friend: roasted boneless pork chops with my homemade bbq sauce on the side, corn on the cob – my mom always requests corn on the cob throughout the season, and it’s a bit of a staple – and oven roasted zucchini with olive oil, salt, peper, and shredded parm-reg. No pictures of any of that, unfortunately. I also ate part of the last slice of one of the chocolate cakes someone had brought, with a little milk. Surprisingly, I got hungry again, hence the naked cuban.

Someone did take my camera around on Sunday during the latter portion of the Bash and got some pics of the little bit of food that was left by that time, so I’ll upload those at some point.

Leftovers

Oh my. I’ve just started on a couple of ribs, the first of my own ribs I’ve tasted since I started smoking them. These are damn tasty, I must say. The meat is tender, but not disintegrating off the bone, with a nice smokiness permeating throughout. Some people were saying yesterday that the rubs (both the spicy and sweet) were pretty spicy, but I’m not tasting that – or maybe my taste buds are still so dead that it doesn’t affect me as much. It starts sweet and finishes with a bit of a kick at the end, which in my opinion is just how it should be. I’m also taste testing the barbeque sauce, and it’s fabulous. Maybe I’ll start packaging the rubs and the sauce for sale. Of course, this means I’d have to actually write down the proportions in the recipes in order to make them consistently.

Whew

Let’s talk for a moment about Mother Nature.

We’re in a bit of a drought situation around here. It hasn’t really rained here in weeks. Oh, there have been the occasional drops here and there, and sometimes the distant rumble of thunder makes those who don’t know any better hopeful for a washing of the air and a soaking of the ground. But we’re minus on rain, and will be until the real summer rainy season starts.

Until today, that is – the one day when clear (or slightly overcast) skies would have been most welcome, we get a typhoon. And I mean that, literally. The storm that rolled in brought lightning, hail, and wind that blew over tables and chairs outside. It was a nice change, and cooled things down pretty well, but of all the days, it was the day of the Big Bash. But some good came of it: everyone was driven inside, and it gave people a chance to talk with one another and eat more food.

Speaking of food, did you know that one serving of Publix prepared spinach dip is 2 tablespoons, 90 calories (80 of which are from fat)? the reason i mention this is only because I happen to be munching my way through some crackers with that dip, plus a lot of water.

The food. Goodness.

Got up this morning and got a fire started in the smoker, then tossed the ribs on. I had picked up a couple of rib racks, and let me tell you, those are the handiest things. All the slabs went on the grill in one shot, and they smoked away for just under four hours. This morning, the skies were clear and it was hot, so the ribs finished a bit fster than usual. While those were going, I made and prepped a bunch of other things, and when 2 PM rolled around, people started flowing in. Several people brought more food – desserts and a fruit salsa/dip, specifically. For the most part, though, the food was that we had prepared for everyone else.

And it was a blast.

I counted 30 adults and half a dozen or so kids, so our estimates of 30-40 people were spot on.

People started drifting out the door around 6:30 or so. I had prepared 12 pounds of shrimp, boiled, and another 4 pounds in a marinade (honey, soy sauce, chili-garlic sauce, and lime juice), only about 1.5 pounds of which was actually grilled before the torrential rains came. All 13.5 pounds were gone by the time the first guests departed. Since there was still another 4 pounds in the freezer, and the remainder of the marinated shrimp, I went ahead and prepared the rest, boiling the 4 pounds and sauteeing the marinated shrimp since it was still raining off and on and the open charcoal was now soaked. That batch vanished before the last of the guests left, and we are left with exactly zero leftover shrimp.

Of the ribs, there are a few chunks left. I told myself I would taste my ribs for the first time since I started making them, but I did not do that this afternoon. I’ll get to it on the leftovers. The guacamole was, if I must say so myself, excellent. It takes me awhile, and a lot of water, to eat an entire chip with some guacamole, but I had some, and could actually taste it.

I added a crab dip to the menu this afternoon, and had a taste of that – good stuff. That disappeared fairly rapidly, and there is none left for midnight snacking. However, I do have more crab and the other ingredients that go into it, so I may just have to make another batch tomorrow and have a more expansive tasting.

My brother requested zucchini at about the same time I was getting the remainder of the shrimp done, so I had him slice it lengthwise into flat strips, drizzled it with olive oil, gave it some salt and pepper, and then sprinkled shredded parm-reg on it. Alas, I did not get a taste of that, as it was all eaten while I was putting the shrimp into a steam tray. But, as with the crab, there’s another batch of zucchini in the fridge, and may be just the thing to eat beside a freshly made round of dip.

And then, there were the people. I think we had a good mix of people, both family and not, and although I had to endure lectures and nagging from certain parties about my eating issues (I did dump a cup of formula down the tube during the festivities), it was great to talk to everyone and listen to them talk to one another. It seemed to me that everyone had a good time and enjoyed themselves, and that really is the point, isn’t it?

My eating tally for the day: four shrimp. A few crackers and spinach dip. A chunk of watermelon. Three cucumber slices in a creamy dill sauce. A few tortillas and guacamole. A grape, peeled (unfortunately, I have no one to peel grapes and feed them to me, so I had to do this myself). A tomato wedge. A small piece of fried grouper. A small amount of crab dip. A cup of formula.

Before any lecturers start making the rounds of their circuits, I’ll be the first to admit this is not enough. As I pointed out to a dear friend when getting another one of Those Looks, all of this will get better. The moving-in phase of the move is over and things are fairly normal, the Big Bash has come and gone, and I’ll be getting back to a more normal schedule, so my eating will follow suit. But, until I can eat sufficiently, I’ll have to keep the tube as a fallback position, as the most recent weigh in bothered even me and my lackadaisacal attitude toward my fluctuating weight.

Reflections on gardening, cooking, and life