Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wrappin' it up....

Wow... month and a half gone by since my last post... (note to self... get yer butt back in the saddle, dude).

Sorry for the lapse... Thanksgiving rolled around right after my last post, and I didn't think anyone wanted to see yet another turkey, although this year's bird was bodaciously slammin'... And then I went on vacation pretty much all of December... and I mean vacation... pretty much just shut down and put the batteries back on the charger. Didn't do much of anything noteworthy.

Which brings me to tonight... Chilebrown had dangled his post about the rib roast, almost like he knew this was one of my favorite things to eat (if you're gonna eat red meat, eat the good red meat, right?). Made it just look soooo good... I just had to do one too. So I found a nice little one at the store this last weekend, no doubt left over from Christmas ordering... and I figured I'd get a small one, since if'n I totally screwed it up, there just wouldn't be much of a loss.

Well, turns out I shoulda got a bigger one. Yup... it was scrumdiddlyumpcious.

Got it on Sunday, and put it in a pan to age and dry in the fridge. Three days later, it was oh so nicely dried out, probably about 10% water lost, and very firm. Set it out on the counter for an hour or so to even the temp, dusted liberally with salt and pepper, rosemary, and a little basil. Place it rib down/fat up in a pan, and stuck into a cozy 205 degree oven. About 4 hours later... a little slab o' happiness popped out.

Surprisingly it didn't yield up any juice.... not a single drop. So I took some beef stock, added a splash of wine and a pat of butter, and reduced it to make a jus. I won't bore you with the trivial details... the pictures pretty much tell it like it is.

So... I finish this year, 2008, a little bit older, a little bit wiser (there's some that will argue that point), a little more capable in the culinary arts, and a whole lot richer for the friends and acquaintances I've made this year.

  • The Right Reverend Dr. Biggles... thanks for taking the bar and continually pushing it just a little farther each time.
  • Chilebrown... thanks for the comments and the motivation, as well as the posts on things other than meat... after all, man cannot live on meat alone...
  • Salvage... a kindred spirit in the realm of dry curing and preservation. I look forward to picking your brain a lot in the coming year....
  • Zoomie... thanks for the posts and support.

All in all... not a bad year... not bad at all.

And on that note, I bid you peace, prosperity, happiness, and just enough adversity to keep things interesting....

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Picture Worth a Thousand Words...

Raided the freezer for those various chicken parts I'd saved up, and made a big pot o' stock. Added some celery, onions, carrots, gently poached chicken meat and noodles.

'Nuff said....

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Knowing Your Place In The World...

Sometimes... just every once in a while, it's perfectly acceptable for the meat portion of a dish to take a back seat to the rest of the group and just provide a tasty backdrop for the rest of the action.

I know... I've walked right up to that line of heresy and I'm dangling my big toe over it... but hear me out first.

One of my favorite dishes when the weather takes a cold turn is Braised Cabbage and Noodles. This is supposed to be an old Polish peasant dish, but since I don't know any old Polish peasants, I'll just have to content myself with knowing that it's a darn good feed, regardless of it's pedigree.

Here's where it all starts:

1 big ol' head of cabbage, cored, and chopped into about 1" pieces
1 big ol' yellow or white onion cut however you like
1 pound of bacon (home made or store bought. either is fine)
about 2/3 of a big bag of wide egg noodles, depending on how many noodles ya want
1-2 tablespoons oregano, to your liking
dill weed to taste
couple of teaspoons of chopped garlic
half cup of white wine
salt and pepper to taste

Get your biggest wok or pan. Assuming you don't own a Chinese restaurant of have a wok big enough to stir fry a large cow, that is. Generally, electric skillet or wok sized is fine. Just needs to be big enough to hold that head of cabbage.

Start the water for the noodles boiling before anything else. It takes longest.

Cut the bacon strips into 1" pieces, more or less and toss em in the pan over medium heat. Cook bacon until just done. No need to get it crispy unless you just want to. When done, remove the bacon to a side plate.

Chop the onion however you like and toss it and the garlic in the pan with all them bacony drippings. Also add a pinch of salt to help soften the onion. Careful not to let the garlic burn.

When the onion is soft, toss in the cabbage, wine, oregano and dill weed. Cover and cook on medium low for 5-10 minutes, stirring now and again to keep from sticking.

When the noodles are done, drain and toss in the pan, stirring everything up well. When all the flavors have had time to get acquainted, dish it up and chow down.

The bacon provides a nice smokey backdrop for the tartness of the cabbage and the sweetness of the onions. The garlic... well, hell... it's garlic... nuff said. The herbs do their part too. If you don't overcook it, the bacon and onions are still a little chewy, the cabbage has just a bit of crisp to it, and the noodles are silky smooth and chewy.

There's meat, to be sure... and more than enough as it turns out. With nearly every bite, you get some meat, some vegetation, and a noodle or two. Any way you slice it, it's a great dish, not only from a prep perspective, but it serves very nicely, and it reheats like you wouldn't believe.

I'd also recommend some Beano or a similar gastric abatement, unless you're up for a rousing game of 'Name that Tune' with the family.... or you have an urge to 'hot box' someone near and dear......

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

One Thing Leads To Another....

Or at least that's what the song says... And so life imitates art yet again.

While surfing for a couple of new chicken recipes this last weekend, I happened to see a link for Braised Beef Short Ribs.

Now I have to admit... I've always been a rib snob. If it's ribs, it's pork... end of discussion.

But I had to check myself when that thought started bouncing around my head. If it wasn't a good dish, why, oh why is it one of those culinary staples that every big chef seems to dredge out now and then? Not to mention a whole lotta average joe cooks like me.

So, armed with that thought, next time I was at the grocery store I grabbed some up.

Today was a work from home day (yeah... the job allows that now and again), so I thought I'd give it a shot for lunch. And if it worked, I'd see about adding it to the dinner menu. So I found a couple of recipes on, picked the simplest one, and started in.

Heated up the pan with some bacon drippings almost smokin hot. Tossed the ribs in some flour to coat, and worked up a nice pan sear on the ribs. (Note: Next time I'm gonna S&P the ribs before I flour em. I think that'll add another depth of flavor)

While this was going on, I coarse chopped an onion and some rosemary, and added some finely chopped garlic to a baking dish. Recipe called for carrots and celery also, but I didn't have any. I did add some dried celery flakes to compensate.

Got the oven up to 350, packed the ribs on top of the foliage and covered with foil. Added a couple cups of beef stock to jumpstart the melting process as well. Into the oven for a long cook.

Two hours later... it was lunch time. No, I don't mean it was noon... I mean it was lunch time... the aroma had done got my belly all riled up and snarling. As a buddy of mine sez, "mah big guts was eatin mah little guts". So I pulled the pan and did a little tenderness check.

Tender enough. And I was hongreeee.

Strained off the foliage and juice back into the searing pan, and reduced by about 2/3rds. Thickend with just a touch of slurry, and poured back over the ribs that had been resting on the side.

Dished a few up and took the plunge. Nice... very rich from all the collagen and connective tissue in the ribs. Nice base of flavor from the pan sear... Good taste of sweetness from the onion. The melted fat and gelatin from the bones added a really nice velvety texture to the sauce.

Next time, three hours in the oven. They were very tender at two hours... but at three they should be really fork tender.

All in all, this took a whopping 15 minutes of actual hands on work while I was on a conference call. Who says meetings are a waste of time? With the long cooking time, this is definitely a weekend dish, or something to cook if you're home for the day or home early. You could also use 1 cup stock and 1 cup wine if'n you wanted for a little more French flavor to the dish.

As for effort... virtually none. Taste? I'd give it an 8/10, simply because I didn't have the nice assortment of veggies as the base, and because it really needed to cook another hour to really develop the flavor. Maybe add some fresh basil to complement the rosemary as well. But other than that, all that was missing was some smashed taters to soak up that wunnerful gravy.

This one goes on the dinner menu, even if it's just for me and momma. Picky kids can just fend fer themselves....

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Keepin' It Real....

This post isn't about the food... the recipe... the technique or any of that stuff.

This one is about passing on your enthusiasm and passion for all of that stuff.

Lotsa times when we're fully engaged in the kitchen, working our mojo on all that delectable food-to-be... we get tunnel vision. Or at least I do. And it's not just cooking... when I'm heads down, fully into what I'm doing, I'm not really a pleasant person to be around. Communication is relegated to short grunts and vacant looks. I gots my mojo working... I'm in the zone... I'm firing on all cylinders... I got mah groove thang on.... etc. Which isn't a constructive environment in which to pass on some of these hard learned lessons, or even the simple ones.

Cut to tonight.

It was a 'fend for yourself' night around our house, which means leftovers, cereal, or frozen dinners. For all intents, the cook was on strike.

Until the cook got hungry, that is.

I'd gone to the store for the weekly provisioning earlier this afternoon, and decided to tackle something I'd always loved to eat, and was too afraid to try to cook.

Fried mushrooms.

Don't laugh.... it's one of those things we all share. For some people, it's frying an egg... for others it's baking bread...

It's that fear that you're sure you'll positively screw up if you try it, no matter how simple it is. I've had a few of those in my life, and so far, I've conquered them all: learning to ride a motorcycle and pulling a 5th wheel RV, to name a couple.

So, I got my batter dry ingredients together in the bowl, got out my favorite whisk, took a deep breath, made a plea to the culinary gods to watch over and protect this poor fool, and started in. Just then, I heard a small voice ask "What are you doing?"

Enter the 4 year old into my culinary odyssey. And it's not just the question... it's how she asks it... each word gets a progressively higher pitched note which is just cute as heck.

So I tell her daddy is making mushrooms. Which of course I could have told her daddy was making hooberdygoobers for all the difference it woulda made... she's not really up on the more esoteric foodstuffs yet.

But, not daunted by her lack of comprehension of what dad's doing or even talking about... she showed that rare courage possessed only by small children and drunken fools.

She jumped right in.

She placed her little step stool in front of the counter, took the whisk firmly in hand and proceeded to stir the dry goods all up.


It actually took me a second to grasp that she was cooking.... albeit on a very minor scale... but she was doing it! Not that this was her first time helping dad piddle around in the kitchen, but this was her first time taking the initiative to help and doing exactly what needed doing.

She even battered the shrooms up once I'd mixed in the wet stuff.

Of course she flipped out when it came time for the shrooms to hit the hot oil... but we're gonna work on that one next. She wasn't through playing yet.

While they were draining and cooling off a bit, I put some ranch dip in a ramekin for my dippin pleasure. Whilst I was plating my fungal feast, I was completely unaware that my tiny helper was already helping herself to the dip, sans shrooms.

Note to self: TWO bowls of dip....

So how were they?

I'm pleased to announce that yet another fear has been conquered, much to the satisfaction of mah belly. The shrooms were awesome. Almost as good as some of the best ones I've ever had. Not the best... but damn good. Especially for a first effort.

So what's the point of this inane narrative?

I dunno... I guess it's to remind those cooks who aren't as confident in their ability as others that it all starts somewhere. Do a little research... ask a few questions... and take the plunge. Julia Childs burned more than a few dishes before she got it right... so why should we be any different?

And also... take the time to step out of that zone (assuming you're a one-track person like me) and help instill your passion for whatever you're doing in the next generation. They may like it, they may not. But if you don't show them, they'll never know.

It's like what they say about life... it's not always the destination... sometimes it's the journey itself.

Or, more importantly... sometimes it's just your traveling companion......

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Round and Round We Go

At least that's what a couple of chickens did on my rotisserie last night. Started off with a couple of young fryers, slipped them on the spit, trussed em up a bit to hold em together, and set everything in motion.

Shook on a little dry rub, garlic powder, olive oil and lemon juice, and let the old spinning wheel spin.

For a long time, it seemed like....

Actually, about two hours by the time everything was done. Generally, for rotisserie work, I use my gas grill, simply because I like the stable heat platform. However, I do cheat a bit. I have a nice little stainless steel bowl I keep in one of my grill drawers, right along side a couple bags of apple, mesquite and hickory chips. Tonight it was apple chips.

I toss a big ol' handful into the bowl, set it directly over one of the burners and I get a nice even, light smoke while the gas is doing it's heat thing.

Couple hours later, off they came for a little rest and rejuvenation while I fixed some sides. Some down home whipped taters (whipped with 1 whole stick of butter and heavy cream), a little gravy from the juices, and some green beans, and taters with some spiral sliced honey ham leftover from the other night, topped off with a pinch or two of chopped garlic.

In case you haven't noticed, I reuse a lot... not very much goes to waste around our kitchen.

Carved up the birds, dished up the sides, and had a nice dinner. The chicken was crispy on the outside with a nice tang of smoke, and the rub and seasonings. Inside, it was so juicy I almost wore a bib. The best part was after the carving, picking over the carcass for all the little juicy bits, 'specially those little oyster bits on the back... luv those.

Don't have a rotisserie? Not a problem.The only thing the rotisserie does is keep the juices fooled about which way is out. You can (and I routinely do) get the same results just grilling with indirect heat and turning it a couple of times.

Sometimes it's easier if you cut the backbone out and butterfly the bird. Takes up more room, but it cooks a bit faster, and it don't roll around on the grill. Plus, the amount of surface to grill contact is quite a bit larger, so you get more crispy delectable skin.

So all you really need is some indirect heat, some chicken, and an appetite. The rest is just variations on a theme.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

One for the Menu...

Okay, here's the deal.... my oldest and I are always sorta joking about someday opening a restaurant, and whenever a new effort in the kitchen works out beyond our wildest expectations (or is at least a pleasant surprise), we joke that it's "going on the menu".

Well, tonight was one of those nights, and all the more surprising because it wasn't a magnificent main course... it wasn't a stellar side dish... it wasn't even a delectable dessert.

Of all things, it was a lowly sauce.

Of course, a lot of folks will tell you that the sauce can make or break a meal. And in this case, it made it... in spades.

It all started with having to move two loads of furniture out of my garage to an in-law's.

I hate moving. I'd rather burn it or have a garage sale than move it. And if it ain't even mine, that's just insult to injury. Bright spot was, I reclaimed about a third of my garage back, so now I can get my bike in and out a little easier, and I can get to the freezer and the garage pantry a little easier.

So... after all the moving was done, I'm hot, tired, smelling a wee bit funky and hungry enough to eat the next door neighbor's cat. So on the way back home, me and the boy drop by the store and pick up some gorgeous t-bone steaks. 'Bout an inch and a quarter thick with a pretty generous piece of tenderloin on the cut, and nice marbling all around.


Wife already had spuds in the oven, so I got home, cleaned up, and hit the kitchen. Salted, peppered and slathered the steaks with a little olive oil. Grilled them bad boys up nicely, and jacked up the heat on mine at the last minute to get a little Pittsburgh sear on it, and pulled them all to a pan to rest.

Meanwhile, I took a skillet, and added a fair spoonfull of some bacon drippings and got it all het up.
Then I added a can of chicken stock, couple spoonfuls of minced garlic, some very finely chopped mushrooms, a little basil and ground sage, and a couple spoonfulls of my favorite store bought marinade, in this case,Dale's Steak Seasoning.
Then I reduced it to a third, then used a hand blender to smooth it all up. Put it back in the pan and added 1/4 cup of heavy cream. Whisked it all together, added the little bit of steak juice that accumulated in the pan, and served it as a side for dipping.

Wow... it was freakin good. Tart and a slight salty tang from the marinade, a little earthy from the 'shrooms and sage, mellow and rich from the cream. The oldest daughter poured hers over her steak, and then decided Dad had the right idea with the dippin' sauce. Better coverage.

Didn't take any pictures, because let's face it... we've all seen a great steak, and a picture of sauce is about as exciting as watching paint dry. But the sauce is awesome, and I just wanted to share it if'n anyone was interested.

Because after all, it's "going on the menu"....

See ya in the kitchen.......

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Back to Basics

Nothing special this post... just finally got around to finishing off the second half of that double header pork tenderloin. Everyone around the house has been down with a 24 hour flu bug, so meals have been pretty much non-existent the last couple of nights.

Today, however, everyone was on the upside of things, and I had a craving from a little red meat. Chicken noodle soup only goes so far......

Certainly not a lot of effort went into this one. No mad skills or anything like that. No culinary legerdemain required. Just a hot pan, a sharp knife, and a little attention.

Laid out the tenderloin and sliced it into nice medallions. Salted, peppered and hit each side with a little shot of onion powder. Het up the big skillet till it was good and hot and dropped them li'l medallions right in there. Already had a pot of spuds going on the side, and some carrots simmering in a little butter.

While the pork was cooking, I made a slurry for the graby and had it on ready five. Tossed the coins (get it?... tossed the..... never mind) and got a good sear on both sides and a near perfect doneness throughout. Removed from the pan and covered with some foil to rest and relax.

Since there wasn't nearly enough juice for my liking, I amped up the heat on the pan a bit, and deglazed with some beef and chicken stock to sort of make a mock pork stock. Whisked in the slurry, and let it thicken up nice and easy.

Finished the spuds and carrots, and served it all up.

Again, nothing fancy at all... start to finish about 30 minutes, but it was a knockdown good meal.

Especially after a 2 day diet of canned soup. Heck, my motorcycle boots were starting to look good....

See ya in the kitchen.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Beef.... it's what's for


That's right guys and gals... it ain't just for dinner anymore (all due respects to Sam).

Several posts ago I elaborated on one of my periodic meat smoking forays. As mentioned in that post, I take the finished product and divide it up into 'meal size' portions, vacuum seal it and toss it in the freezer for later consumption.

Well, this past Saturday was one of those times. The two oldest kids had gone to a concert, and it was just me, mama, and the wee one for dinner. What to do... what to do... and then mama pipes up that some barbecue sounded fine.

She started some tater salad, I started some beans, and then proceeded to raid the freezer.

One rack of ribs, some pulled pork, sliced brisket and smoked bologna later, the sides were done, the meat reheated, and a glorious 'cue feast was had by all.

At least by all that was at home. Some gets their culture one way, some gets it another....

Anyhoo.... that left me with some leftovers to dispose of... specifically some nice tender brisket.

What to do? What to do? As if I have to ask... Smokehouse Hash! At least that's what I call it.

So this morning, I chopped up some of the brisket, tossed it in a skillet and het it up. Once is was all sizzling and filling the house with delectable aroma (now that's MY kind of aromatherapy), I tossed in a few eggs all beaten up, and scrambled it all up. Topped with some sliced Pepper Jack cheese, covered it a minute to melt the topping, and man o man o man o man.

Don't get me wrong, I loves me some bacon and eggs... or sausage and eggs... or ham and eggs... or sometimes bacon and sausage and ham and eggs. But smoked brisket and scrambled eggs is something that has to be tried to really believe it. Only thing I usually do different is to throw in a generous handful of hasbrowns or home fries. Just didn't take the time this morning.

Bacon imparts a hint, ever so subtle of smoke to the meal, but smoked brisket is a full on, in yer face, up your nose and around your head sensation.

Go on.... try it... I double dog dare ya.

See ya in the kitchen.....

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Goin' South for the Winter

Or at least for the night, anyway.

The wife has been having a hankerin' for some Jambalaya, and the oldest has been after me to make some Chicken Bog, so tonight I knocked out a double header.

For those who have been on another planet all their lives, Jambalaya is a staple of cajun cooking. And for those who aren't followers of Ms. Paula Dean, Chicken Bog is a hard core comfort food recipe that she's aired on one of her shows. Her version has more stuff in it than I use, simply because most of the rest of the family wants it simpler.

First up, the Jambalaya.
Nothing magic here, just the basics:
  • Yellow and Green Onions
  • Bell Pepper
  • Italian Parsley for the vegetation
  • Sliced mesquite smoked sausage
  • lightly boiled whole chicken (just to the point that it's done, then cool and pull apart while still juicy)
Heat a big ol' pan with some olive oil, and start in with the peppers. Give 'em a few minutes, add the onions and parsley and a big ol' spoonfull of chopped garlic. Simmer for a few minutes, and take out of the pan. Reheat, and add the sliced sausage. Get a little crusty stuff on there for the flavor, then add the shredded chicken. Return the veggies, add some tomato sauce and stewed tomatos to taste, and maybe some chicken stock, depending on how wet you like it. Add about 3 cups of cooked rice, and let it all mellow and get acquainted for a few minutes. And add whatever herbs, spices, etc. that you like, including cayenne, or whatever. I like to add some file powder right at the end.
You can also do this and add a lot more stock to the pan, and cook the rice with the meat and veggies, but I find the leftovers are gummy and starchy when I do that. This way, all the starch stays out of the main dish.

The Chicken Bog is about one of the simplest comfort foods there is.
You've all had chicken and rice before, but until you have this one, you ain't had it good.
I usually start with a whole chicken, toss it in a big pot full of water, along with a cubed onion.
Toss in a bayleaf for tradition's sake.
Cook the bird until it's done and remove. Let cool, and pull all the meat off and just tear it into shreds with your fingers. I usually strain the stock to get rid of any solids and add it back to the pot.
At this point, you want about 2-3 quarts of stocky goodness. I either keep some cans of stock on hand, or some soup base, whichever I feel like using. (I know, it's not natural or rustic, but I'm a cook, not a chef). Put the heat on medium and toss in 1 1/2 - 2 cups of rice, depending on how hungry y'all are, or how many moufs you gots to feed.
After the de rigeur 20 or so minuteses, the rice is pretty much done, so toss back in the chicken, and add 1 stick of butter.

That's right... 1 whole stick of butter.

Right there in the pot... right in there with all the other stuff.

No margarine... none of this 'I can't believe it's edible', none of that junk.

Just real butter. Heck, you can even use salted butter, if you're feeling wreckless, although keep in mind that if you used canned stock or soup base, there's a fair amount of salt in those already.

Cook it down until you can just see the rice and chicken under the top of the stock. Also, this depends on how thick you wants it. More stock is like chicken and rice soup. Less stock is like a chowder. I personally likes it less juicy. Sticks to the ribs better that way.
From that point on, add whatever you want. My crew likes it plain, so I augment once it's in the bowl: a little ground sage and crushed red pepper, and I'm set.

Also did a batch of Cheddar Biscuits today with the awesome help of my 4 year old. She was okay until it came time to put them in the oven... she wasn't ready for that, but she liked what came out.

Today's menu costs ran like this:

  • 2 small fryers.... about 3 bucks each.
  • Smoked sausage.... 2.50
  • veggies.... 2.00 or so
  • rice.... $1.50 or so
  • butter.... about 60 cents
  • Biscuits.... about 3 bucks for the cheddar, everything else was pantry stock.

Time to prep and cook:

  • 15 minutes prep on the biscuits
  • 20 minutes prep on the jambalaya
  • 10 minutes to shred the chicken for both
    30 minutes stove top time including rice and everything else.

So, all totaled, an hour and fifteen minutes, and everything was made from scratch. Total cost for everything was about 17 bux, and there's enough leftovers in the fridge to feed the Louisiana National Guard. And speaking of leftovers... both of these dishes get better the longer they set in the fridge.

Tomorrow morning's breakfast is scrambled eggs with a side of Jambalaya and Cheddar biscuits
and honey.

Good eatin' y'all..... and see ya in the kitchen.

Monday, October 13, 2008

It's A Wrap...

To carry on with the previous post... while I was buying that big ol' pork loin, I also grabbed a double pack of pork tenderloins.

Loin is good... real good... lean and juicy... but tenderloin... that's sumtin else altogether.

If you're a regular partaker of the tenderloin, you know what I mean. If you're not... you don't know what you're missing.

When I was growing up, tenderloin was a treat around our house. Weren't always a lot of money to go around, and it was a fairly pricey piece of meat. And, mom was from the old school where pork wasn't done until it was overdone. Don't get me wrong... mom is a dynamite cook. But it was sort of a brainwashing thing from growing up on the farm. So I grew up on dry overcooked pork, as a rule. Wasn't till I got grown and able to pay my own medical bills that I started eating my pork cooked medium. So now I cook it like I like it, and I've learned to hit that happy spot between just-done and over-done. The wife is always poking at it, going '..this still looks pink...'

But back to the main topic...

I took one of those tenderloins, and spread some chopped garlic on the inside, along with some thin pats of butter and a sprinkling of sage.

Next came some home made maple bacon. Laid the slices out and rolled the loin right up. Tied it off nice and tight, and set it in the fridge overnight to ponder it's fate.

This afternoon I popped it in a hot pan to sear the sides, then slipped it into the oven for the final turn.

Couple hours later, out came this gorgeous beauty.

I made a reduction of maple syrup and drizzled all over it once it was rested and sliced.

Fed 7 people off of that tenderloin. The double pack cost me $14.14 before tax. That's 7 bux and change for the main course (plus the bacon... which was about 2 bux), so call it 10 dollars even for a Maple Glazed Bacon Wrapped Roasted Pork Tenderloin.

Heck, the name is worth 4 or 5 bux alone.

Add to that some smashed taters w heavy cream (no 2% here), some gravy, and a pan of green beans w new potatos, and dinner was smashing (no pun intended).
I figure I had about $5 in sides by the time it was all said and done... so let's round up and call it $15.00 to feed 7 people. (We had company)... even with New Math, that's a little over $2.00 a head.

Sure, it took time to wrap the meat, peel the taters, and whip up some gravy. I figure all totaled, I had about 45 minutes of actual work involved. Maybe an hour counting the wrap up and serve time.

So again... I challenge you to think about what you're really spending your money on, and if you're really getting your money's worth. If you ain't getting back to basics... chances are you're too wrapped up in 'saving time'.

See ya in the kitchen.....

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Less is more... more or less....

This post is all about getting more for less. I do all the cooking in the house, so I also do all the grocery shopping. This means I get really in tune with what things cost, as does anyone who buys the food.

We're a family of 5, and we like to eat, so keeping the grocery budget in check is always a challenge.

I used to just wing it without a list, but got tired of getting 90% of what I needed. Now I use a list. Always. Went to the store a couple months ago without my list... and was lost. Muddled through it, and managed to get most of what I needed... but it was scary, man.

But, I digress.

Some time back, I was buyin the groceries for the week, and wanted some grilled pork chops. Picked up some butterflied pork loin chops for about $4.59 a pound. Not bad... they were good.

But I had a problem paying almost 5 bucks a pound for pork chops... call me cheap.

So... next time we made a trip to the local bulk store (Sam's Club in these parts), I wandered over to the meat department. There I spied a whole bunch of cryovac'd whole pork loins.

Author's note: From here on, the events actually took place this afternoon. Just keepin' it fresh...

Remembering that I had a Foodsaver vacuum sealer at home, I snatched one up.

Cut to home... the kitchen... me with knife in hand. I sliced open that cryo pac, washed the loin off and tossed it on the cutting board.

Starting at the big end, I started slicing. I kept the chops at roughly an inch thick. This is plenty thick enough to stay juicy when grilled, but thin enough to cook in just a few minutes. After a couple of minutes, there were 4 groups of 5 nice, thick pork chops. The tail end of the loin was just too small and soft to really make a good chop, but I butterflied it a couple of times, worked it thin, and sliced it up for stir-fry. Got enough for a nice pork lo mein or pork stir-fry.

All that was left was a little pile of trimmings about the size of an avocado seed. That's them in the upper left corner of the picture above.

That's 5 meals for a family of 5 people. This guy was almost a 9 pound pork loin. Cost me a bit over $16.50. Even throwing in tax, this was just right at $2.00 a pound for thick juicy pork loin chops.
I can't buy hamburger for that.
So call it 17 bucks, split 5 ways...that's like $3.50 a meal for the meat portion. Throw in some spuds, rice, stuffing, whatever, and I can usually keep a meal under $10.00 for the 5 of us... and that's everything cooked fresh, from scratch, with the possible exception of some canned veggies... depends on the season.
What's my point in all this?
I dunno... I mean, times is tough, and getting tougher. Prices is rising, and there's no end in sight. Sure it's easy enough to just roll over and take it.
Or, with a little intelligent thinking... a little bit of work (hey.... it's playing with meat. What work?), and about the same money (OR LESS!) than you'd spend on pre-packaged, pre-cooked, pre-digested meetza... you can eat well.
When I cook like this, I know exactly what's in the food and how it was cooked. No hidden sugars, nitrates, preservatives, or other nasty stuff that I can't pronounce. And you know what? It just plain tastes better.
See ya in the kitchen.....

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sunday Smokin'

Well, it'd been way too long since I'd fired up the smoker, so I thought it was high time. Saturday, I got hold of a nice little 11 pound brisket, a 9 pound pork shoulder, three really nice racks of spareribs and about 10 pounds of bologna.

Saturday night (Nosh night, see post below) after all the cleanup was done and everyone had gone to bed I started in with the prepwork. I peeled and trimmed the ribs and rubbed them down with my favorite dryrub. Then I did a little injecting into the pork butt and rubbed it down all around as well. Next up I poked the brisket all over to get it good and tender and liberally applied the dry rub to all surfaces. Last up was the three rolls of bologna. Peeled the wrapper, poked numerous holes in it, and rolled it in the rub.

Here's the brisket, butt and ribs all prepped up and ready to hit the chill chest for the night.

Here's the bologna all poked and seasoned too.

Next morning I got the smoker all fired up and a good temp working with some hickory all wet and ready to hit the fire. About three hours later, here came the bologna.....

Another hour or so, and the ribs got pulled and wrapped in foil for another three hours of cook time...

And last but not least, the brisket and the butt got hauled out...

The brisket was perfect. Easily sliced and soft enough to pull apart with a fork.

The butt wasn't as tender as I like it, so I fired up the oven to about 195, and dropped Mr. Pigbutt in there for an overnight meditation on the fine art of being tender.

Next morning (actually, this morning) about 6 I pulled that butt out and, my oh my.... fork tender doesn't even come close.

All I had to do was give it a mean look and it just came apart.


It took about 2 minutes to pull this whole half sheet.

Now I just chill it, vacuum seal it, and I'm good for a few months. I generally portion the brisket, pork butt and bologna into 1 pound portions and seal each one individually. Ribs generally get sealed up whole. That way, when me and the missus get a hankerin' for some 'cue on a Satruday afternoon, we can pull out a little of each one. A couple minutes in the microwave (it's sealed, so it just steams itself), and we have smoked meat that is absolutely as good as it was the day I smoked it.

Add sauce and whatever condiments you want, and you have a 'cue feast fit for a king.

And the best part of all... is knowing that I did it all on my own and don't have to spend a fortune on 'cue from the local pit.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Nosh Night

Every couple of months or so around our house, we have what we call 'nosh night'. What that means is I spend a couple of hours in the kitchen cooking up a variety of snack foods so that everyone can snack and generally have an easy night of it.

Sounds fun, huh?

I don't complain though... If I didn't like cooking, I wouldn't do it.

Over time, our menu has come to include some basic staples. Pretty much the same things you'd find on any halfway respectable Superbowl Sunday... Buffalo Wings, Chicken Strips, Cheese Dip, etc.

Tonight we added a new item to the venue, and it turned out so well, I thought it worth posting about.

Tonight's menu consisted of:
Our World Famous Hotwings. I don't really call em Buffalo wings because... well... we don't live in Buffalo, and Tulsa Wings just doesn't do much for me.

Everybody's favorite Velveeta Cheese and Rotel Tomato dip, other wise known hereabouts as simply Rotel Dip. Although I usually fry up a little ground beef to add into mine, carnivore that I am.

Guacamole and chips... 'nuff said.

Hard Rock Chicken Strips. Got this recipe somewhere or another, and it's supposed to be the one they serve at all the Hard Rock Cafe's for about twice what they're worth.

Potato Salad and Deviled Eggs. (I know... no meat, but what the heck... the eggs have protein, so it's sorta close to meat)

And the new kid on the block... one that I've been wanting to try ever since I saw the special on Deep Fried foods around the country on the Food Network... that delicacy known as Texas Toothpicks... DEEP FRIED BACON!!!

Yes... that's right. Bacon that is breaded and deep fried... then served with a side of white gravy for dippin purposes.

I have to admit it... I had at least 2.2 seconds worth of doubt about this... but then I figured what the heck? It's bacon.. so that's a plus. It's breaded... that's a plus... and it's deep fried... that's a double plus with a 10 point bonus. So when I broke it down I realized that there ARE NO drawbacks, I plowed blindly ahead.

This is so simple to make that it's almost embarassing to write it out. I took a package of my recently home made maple bacon (see previous post), ran it through a little egg wash, and shook it around in a ziptop bag of flour and a little pepper, and dropped it in hot oil for about 5 minutes. (Your cooking times may vary)

Whipped up a little white gravy on the side for dippin, and holy cow! It was everything I'd heard and imagined it to be. A whole new way to consume that most delectable of meats.

The bad part was... I was the only one in the house who would eat it.
The good part was... I was the only one in the house that would eat it...
My oldest was convinced I now have a front row reservation in some dietary hell for doing this... but she's 20 and still has a metabolism that works, so what does she know?
If you've thought about making some deep fried bacon, don't wait any longer. If you haven't thought about it yet, consider yourself on notice.