Feast Twelve – Natural Selection

July 27, 2009

Selection is a valid cooking method. I say in some ways it is the most important of cooking skills. to select the correct ingredients, to balance a giving plate with flavors is an essential skill, one that should not be overlooked, as important as properly cooking an egg or my feeble attempts at baking. i mention this because this weeks feast consisted of an antipasto course that was not so much prepared as selected. i make no excuses for it, it was as it should be and was damned tasty, regardless of the fact that i did little more than arrange the ingredients on a serving board. it was what was needed for balance.

this week, i decided on a bit of italian influence. a simple meal, consisting of freshly baked ciabatta bread, an antipasto plate and pasta arrabiatta with a bit of a twist. sometimes you just need a little pasta to make everything better 🙂

the long pole on this tent was obviously the ciabatta. baking is my achilles heel, i admit to the fault but i still plunge headfirst into it without regard to success or failure. i’ll admit that i know my failings. i should be much more careful about my measurements. i need to approach baking with a bit more respect for the balance of wet and dry ingredients. i know this. but still, i run cavalier over the whole thing and as a result, i could do better. don’t get me wrong, the bread turned out pretty good but the crust was just a bit chewier than i would have liked. small fault but a fault nonetheless. i did some poking around on the net and found a ciabatta recipe from the fine people at king arthur flower that is quite detailed and explicit. when followed properly, i would guarantee a positive result. here is a link to the pdf on their site that also includes a recipe for baguettes which i shall approach over the next few months.

Ciabatta and Baguettes

my ciabattas, slightly flatter than they should be

my ciabattas, slightly flatter than they should be

because my liquid content was a little to high, my loaves flattened out a bit more than they should have. the dough should be very sticky but not runny. a little more flour in my mix next time.

it’s funny, i could swear that their were two loaves as evidenced here in the picture but by the time the pasta was ready and Eddie dropped by, only one loaf remained to be sliced. i guess its one of life’s mysteries that will never be unfurled.

for the antipasto, i decided to go with a fresh mozzarella sliced thick, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with oregano, served up with a selection of garlic stuffed olives and Pepperoncinis, slightly hot, slightly sweet. a small bowl of olive oil with red pepper flakes and the slice ciabatta rounded out the starter.

Antipasto, ready to eat

Antipasto, ready to eat

i really enjoy making pasta sauce from scratch. i suppose everyone would make it slightly different but here is my take on it. as with the majority of dishes i make these days, this one starts out with a whole diced onion cooking down in a bit of olive oil until the onion is translucent and slightly brown. transfer the cooked onion into a saucepan and brown off about a pound of ground italian sausage. while the sausage is cooking, dice up 4 tomatoes. reserve one of the diced tomatoes and puree the other three. pour the tomato puree in with the onions and add the cooked sausage, draining off any excess oil first. bring this to a simmer and add it 4 red hot peppers cut into a large dice so that they retain some shape and texture in the sauce, 6 cloves of garlic, minced, a handful of fresh basil, finely chopped, salt pepper and a bit of oregano. you want to cook this down until a fair bit of the moisture evaporates, totally up to you how long, cook it accordingly for how thick you like you pasta sauce. meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. you want a lot of water in comparison to the amount of pasta you are cooking. this gives the pasta room to move around in the water and plenty of space for the excess starches to disperse. too small an amount of water and your pasta is likely to get glue-y and nasty. and nobody wants that. bring the water to a rolling boil and dump in the amount of pasta you plan on serving with the meal. don’t make extra, it will just get nasty if you try to reheat the noodles and its quick enough to make some more when you serve the leftover sauce. return the pot to a boil and cook for around 6 – 7 minutes until the pasta is al dente, chewy still but not crunchy. should be easy to bite through but not soft enough to squish with your tongue. i used spirals because all those crevices are great for collecting pasta sauce. drizzle a bit of olive oil into the pasta, stir well and drain. serve immediately topped with the pasta sauce and some freshly grated parmesean, looking a little like the picture below 🙂

Pasta ready to serve

Pasta ready to serve

the wine that accompanied this meal actually turned into a funny little story. Eddie picked up a nice bottle, a 2004 Amarone della Valpolicella. Props to him, its exactly the sort of wine i would have chosen to go with this meal. However, the wine had a different plan. over the past 5 years, the cork took a real liking to its position in the bottle. Both Eddie and I struggled mightily but were unable to dislodge it. the rim of the bottle has grooves in it now from the leverage applied to the corkscrew. Finally, the corkscrew we were using broke, leaving the worm lodged in the cork. so, leftover lager from last week was quickly substituted. you didn’t expect us to go thirsty did you? now i need to go and buy a better corkscrew and make another meal suitable for this reluctant wine…

The Reluctant Wine Bottle

The Reluctant Wine Bottle

All in all, another enjoyable meal, no real faults in it aside from my striking lack of baking skill. i will bang my head against that wall until i get it right if its the last thing i do.

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Feast Eleven – Meals of Mass Destruction

July 20, 2009

“if god is all powerful, can he make a curry that is too hot for him to eat?”
–traditional omnipotence paradox

“Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
–J. Robert Oppenheimer

In some ways, i think that i have a penchant for suffering. simply put, sometimes i enjoy things that are a bit uncomfortable, maybe even a little painful. this was definitely the case this week as i prepared this particular feast…

A few weeks back when i made the mexican feast with the chicken and mole sauce, i had noted how the early stages of the mole reminded me of a japanese style curry. it had been my intention since then to develop that into a meal and this week the intention came to fruition. i must say it turned out quite nice if a little painful. i really like my curries a bit on the hot side. i want to lose any and all congestion and end up sweating by the end of the meal. with this goal in mind, i decided to kick the curry up a notch or two and enjoy the heat a bit. this meal was fairly simple in relative terms, some plain cooked white rice, a beef curry and some garlic naan bread to sop up the delicious fiery juices. i’ll warn you from the outset, this is not a dish for the faint of heart but it’s just enough to light you up, its not going to kill you.

So, as mentioned above, this prep starts the same as the mole sauce. i adjusted the amounts and ingredients a bit to match the amount of sauce i wanted and to balance the flavors. start out with two large yellow onions, sliced into medium sized slices. brown these off in a skillet with a bit of canola oil for about 15 to 20 minutes over medium heat. you want them nicely browned and caramelized but not burnt.

Prepping onions for the curry

Prepping onions for the curry

in the meantime while they are cooking down, seed and stem 4 jalapenos, 4 anaheim peppers and 2 habaneros. also peel about 10 cloves of garlic. after your onions are nicely browned, toss in the peppers and garlic and cook until the peppers soften. transfer this mixture into a large mixing bowl and add 1 can of beef broth and the following spices, freshly ground in your spice grinder please: 1 tsp of cloves, 2 tsp cumin seed, 2 tsp of cayenne, 2 tsp of coriander seed and 2 tsp of black peppercorns. add to this about a tsp of cinnamon and 2 tsp of curry powder, i used the hot madras curry powder.

Peppers and Garlic destined for the curry

Peppers and Garlic destined for the curry

time to break out the immersion blender (or pour the whole deal into a stand up blender) and liquify. you should have a thick sauce, dark reddish brown in color. add some salt to taste and set aside. meanwhile, cube to medium sized peeled potatoes and roughly chop up a large onion. add these and about 1 1/2 cups of baby carrots into some boiling salted water and cook until they begin to soften. next, take 1 pound of chopped stew meat, salt and pepper it, sprinkle with red pepper flakes and stir fry in a bit of canola oil until browned. drain the meat well and add the meat, the boil vegetable and the curry sauce into a pot. gently heat, stirring to make sure all the ingredients are well coated. serve when ready.

My tiny stove, cooking away

My tiny stove, cooking away

alongside this as i mentioned, i made some fresh naan. i seemed to have misplaced my tandori oven so i had to settle for baking these on a pizza pan at 375 degrees for about 12 – 15 minutes, turning once and brushing with butter. the dough is relatively simple, just make sure that you let it rise properly and punch it down, knead it again and let rise again before baking. baking bread is about patience which is why i rarely do it, i’m usually pretty short on patience.

2 tsp yeast
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp salt
4 1/2 cups flour
10 cloves of minced garlic
1/4 cup butter, melted

Dough, kneaded and ready to rise

Dough, kneaded and ready to rise

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water. Let stand for about 10 minutes, until it gets bubbly. Stir in the sugar, milk, egg, salt, and flour, stirring to make a soft dough. turn out the bowl onto a floured counter and knead until your dough is smooth and elastic. drizzle some oil into your mixing bowl and but the dough in it, turning to cover all surfaces with oil. cover it with a dish towel and set aside to rise for about an hour or until doubled in size. Punch down dough, and knead in garlic. separate the dough into about 8 balls and shape into flat circles. place these on a cookie sheet and allow to rise for another 30 minutes. preheat the oven to 375 and brush the dough with a bit of olive oil. bake for about 8 minutes, remove from oven, turn them over and brush with melted butter. about 7 more minutes in the oven, take them out and serve hot with the curry.

oh, make some sticky rice according to the instructions on the bag. make sure you buy decent rice and leave out the butter, you don’t want anything taking the flavors from the curry. i would also up the salt suggested so the rice doesn’t end up too plain.

Curry ready to serve alongside a cold lager

Curry ready to serve alongside a cold lager

well, it turned out great and had the desired effect of cleansing my body and soul. sometimes you just need a little trial by fire, some pain is good. the only thing that was missing and i’m sure joe will agree was the trip to Sonic for a milkshake after. other than that, great meal and 3 days worth of lunch for me to boot. i call that a result.


feast 10 – addendum

July 13, 2009

oh, and since you asked, here’s the best recipe i have culled from that dang ole internet for turkish delight. i hope Mr. Fayed doesn’t object to it’s reproduction, if so, let me know and i will remove it.

Turkish Delight – Lokum
By Saad Fayed

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Ingredients:
4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups cornstarch
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
4 1/4 cups water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons rosewater
1 cup confectioners sugar
Vegetable oil ot shortening
Preparation:
In a 9 inch baking pan, grease the sides and bottom with vegetable oil or shortening. Line with wax paper and grease the wax paper.

In a saucepan, combine lemon juice, sugar and 1 1/2 cups water on medium heat. Stir constantly until sugar dissolves. Allow mixture to boil. Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer, until the mixture reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and set aside.

Combine cream of tartar, 1 cup corn starch and remaining water in saucepan over medium heat. Stir until all lumps are gone and the mixture begins to boil. Stop stirring when the mixture has a glue like consistency.

Stir in the lemon juice, water and sugar mixture. Stir constantly for about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low, Allow to simmer for 1 hour, stirring frequently.

Once the mixture has become a golden color, stir in rosewater. Pour mixture into wax paper lined pan. Spread evenly and allow to cool overnight.

Once it has cooled overnight, sift together confectioners sugar and remaining cornstarch.

Turn over baking pan containing Turkish delight onto clean counter or table and cut with oiled knife into one inch pieces.

Coat with confectioners sugar mixture. Serve or store in airtight container in layers separated with wax or parchment paper.


Feast Ten – Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

July 13, 2009

True to my word, i decided this week to take it back to my childhood memories and do up a little Turkish food. I have always been a sucker for a good kebab and honestly, who can turn down a stuffed and deep fried pastry? you’d have to be a stronger man than me that’s for sure.

this week’s feast was a challenge to my sanity. i’ve gotten into a really relaxed mode with the cooking of these sunday meals. there is no doubt that under normal circumstance, i am a bundle of nerves in the kitchen, just a ball of stress trying to get food on the table in a precisely timed manner. but here, with this being a solitary venture, i’ve let go of most of that stress… if dinner is half and hour late to the table, so what? i’ll still be here, 38 more weeks at least. Eddie is getting a free meal out of it so i’ve yet to hear a complaint from him… also, aside from going to the gym in the morning, this meal is the only thing i have to do all day long. there are no distractions except the ones i choose. no other tasks, nothing except the slow plodding pace of time going by. which works for me on the one hand… i putter around, do a little prep work, get a dish staged, have all the pieces prepped for execution to try to deliver the end result at the appointed time. in between prep work, i take half an hour or so, play some video games, watch some TV, read a book, generally just fart around. and thats okay, usually.

yesterday, i had staged this meal to be ready at around 5 o’clock. its a good time to eat and i like getting things rolling early enough that i’m not stressing in the late hours of sunday night with the clean up and whatnot. so, i plod along, a little prep work here, a little chilling out there… all is well and good until around 2 o’clock, i start browning the meat in order to stuff the borek. ideally, i wanted to cook the meat and chill it, roll the borek and drop them in the freezer for a bit before i fry them up, the results are much better that way… i saute the onion, drop in the beef, season everything, hooray, everything going to plan. and then… well, and then the power went out, result of a tree falling on the power lines down the road. those of you who know me can only guess how i reacted. well, you’d be wrong… i decided, ok, fine, thats the way its gonna roll? i can still make this happen as long as the power is on by about 3:30, if not, gonna have to push the time. and then i took a nap. almost as if i had planned it, power restored at around 3:20 and the rest is history. i think, in addition to gaining some culinary acumen, i am also learning a bit of patience through all this.

so, here is the way the meal rolled out:

Cucumber Salad
Borek
Cucumber-Yoghurt Dip
Shish Kebabs

I started the evening before with the kebabs. with something like this, the longer you marinate, the more flavor you end up with. i bought a small roast because it was around the right size and price, cubed it into around 1 inch cubes and marinated overnight in the fridge in a mixture of the following:

1 cup olive oil
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup vinegar
juice of one lemon
2 tbsp. dry mustard
2 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. black pepper
6 garlic cloves, minced

when you are ready to cook the kebabs, reserve the marinade for basting the meat and the vegetables…

I decided to use my broiler for the kebabs, see my previous week’s discussion on BBQ for reasoning… the great thing about this is that everything can be held until the last possible minute. the kebabs only need around 6 minutes a side under the broiler, more or less according to taste. the one thing i would urge of you is to preheat the oven at least 30 minutes prior so that it is fully up to speed and ready to broil the kebabs.

soak wooden skewers for around 2 hours before loading with your ingredients. this will prevent anything untoward like a fire in your oven. i laced 4 skewers with beef cubes, cut up two small eggplants for two addition skewers and loaded two final skewers with cherry tomatoes. lay the loaded skewers on your roasting rack elevated above a pan to catch the drippings, liberally baste with the marinade and grill for about 6 minutes a side. the tomatoes are your mile marker here, they should be shriveled and starting to blacken when everything else is about ready. it’s your meal at this point so if you like them more or less done, adjust according to taste…

the rest of the meal is ridiculously easy. the borek takes a bit of time but is really not that difficult. it takes a bit longer than the other two items, so start with it. as mentioned in my above whine about the power outage, you want to saute a whole minced onion in a bit of olive oil until the onion is soft and translucent. add to this 1/2 lb of ground beef, a little fatty is better than too lean. i think 83 percent is about right but use your own judgment for that. just remember, fat = flavor 🙂 liberally salt and pepper and sprinkle on a healthy handful of chopped cilantro. this would normally be mint but i don’t go for that, mint is not something i enjoy whatsoever, not even a little. and as this is my meal, i modded it to use cilantro in every place that mint would normally go. if you don’t like it, well, change it up, that’s ok.

chill the meat for 30 minutes or so. in the meantime, crumble a package of feta cheese into a bowl and mix with a liberal handful of chopped cilantro and a couple twists of black pepper. squeeze the juice from half a lemon in and set aside. here we have a fork in the road. traditionally, you would use filo pastry for this. more commonly, i have seen eggroll wrappers used with much success. i have to say, i took the road less traveled and that has made all the difference. it was a royal pain in the ass and i will probably never do it again. i’m not the most delicate guy in the world, there is no doubt about that. filo pastry is so thin and touchy that i needed to use triple layers, perfectly aligned, to prevent my ingredients from escaping while i rolled. eggroll wrappers would have been considerably easier to work with and while not as delicately crispy, a perfectly adequate substitute that i would highly recommend. cut your filo (or eggroll wrappers) into triangles and spoon a tbsp or 2 of filling into the near edge. fold the corners inward and roll, sealing the tip with a bit of beaten egg. set aside until you have rolled up all the borek, beef and cheese.

Beef Borek, ready to roll

Beef Borek, ready to roll

*Note: all the above items that are beef would have preferentially been lamb but in a scarcity situation, you cook with what you got.

you can freeze these after rolling for a bit if you like or fry them up immediately, as i did due to my time crunch. i used a shallow layer of oil in a hot pan that reached up about halfway up the borek, deep frying would be the preferred method. fry till brown, drain and serve hot

Yogurt-Cucumber sauce:

you may be surprised but this dish consists primarily of yogurt and cucumbers. really.

peel and chop two cucumbers and 4 cloves of garlic and puree with 1 1/2 cups of plain yogurt. squeeze in the juice of half a lemon and a couple twists of salt and pepper. i also blended in 1/2 of a red onion and a white onion for added body and flavor but this wasn’t entirely necessary. chill for 30 minutes before serving as a dip for the borek and kebabs.

Cucumber salad:

i like dishes that are really simple and accentuate the natural flavors of ingredients. cucumber salad is definitely one of those dishes. peel two large cucumbers and discard the outer skin. with you peeler, continue to shave away at the cucumber until you have stripped all the outer flesh. the inner core is now a perfect chef’s treat, enjoy that for your work peeling. put the strip of cucumber in a large bowl and add in 1/2 of a red onion, roughly chopped. squeeze in the juice of half a lemon. drizzle with olive oil, around a 1/4 cup, twist in some salf and pepper. more chopped cilantro in here and then the fun part. don’t be shy, mix this up with your hands until all the ingredients are assimilated. its relaxing and a little messy. just the way i like it. chill the salad for 30 minutes or so and serve with everything else… end result should look something like this:

Borek, Kebabs and Cucumber Salad, ready to eat

Borek, Kebabs and Cucumber Salad, ready to eat

all in all, this was a decent meal, capped off nicely by a bottle of 2007 Minervois, an appellation controlled varietal that i hadn’t tried before. it was a little on the heavy and sweet side but not enough to be cloying. i would drink it again. the beef should have been a bit more tender (ok, quite a bit more) so if you suspect you have a crappy cut of meat, do some tenderizing prior to marinading. i absolutely love grilled tomatoes, they are one of my favorite things in the world…

well, thats it for this week. i think we may be going to Italy next week but i am undecided at this point. hope you enjoyed and hope i’ve inspired you to cook something for yourselves. get in there, relax and make yourselves a decent meal!


Feast Nine – The Barbeque that wasn’t

July 5, 2009

Okay, my biggest problem with making holiday or party meals is that i have a tendency to overdo it. i just feel deep down inside that if i am inviting guests for a special occasion that there is no way in hell that i am going to let them leave unsatisfied. as a result, i tend to make a lot more food than is needed. My darling wife always warns me and i always ignore her and the cycle continues. until today that is. she didn’t say anything but i had a long think about it and realized that especially with just myself and eddie eating that an enormous amount of food would be completely unneeded. so, i scaled back a bit. i figured with the beans, there was no real need to make a potato dish, starch was pretty much covered. also, with the inclusion of the lovely Samuel Adams Summer Ale, that was a dessert in and of itself and while an apple crisp would be nice, it really wasn’t necessary. and right i was. even with the exclusion of those two courses, the remaining feast items were more than enough to stuff me silly, full to the point of just wanting to roll over and never move again.

but, onwards to the barbeque that wasn’t… as i mentioned in the precursor to this posting, i was troubled by the distance between any potential outdoor cooking area and my indoor prep area. it was problematic and i decided that i would apply outdoor cooking methods in an indoor environment and see how it rolled out. i have to say, it went quite nicely.

i settled on five dishes for this meal, an appetizer (spinach artichoke dip), Short Ribs, Baked Beans, Corn on the Cob and Roasted vegetables. The appetizer is pretty much a copy of the California Pizza Kitchen recipe so i won’t linger on it much. I made it because it screams out 4th of July for me and i think its quite tasty. i would encourage you to pick up one or both of the two CPK cookbooks available. I like you all so much that i’m including a link for ya 🙂 California Pizza Kitchen Pasta, Salads, Soups, And Sides and The California Pizza Kitchen Cookbookmy only real modification is that i used chipotle tabasco in place of the regular, i like the smokiness added to it… oh, and i finished it off in the oven to make sure it was nice and hot to serve. here is a picture of the end result, regardless:

Spinach Artichoke Dip

Spinach Artichoke Dip

The beans are also a traditional dish that we make in our household for just about every barbeque type event. the real difference here is that i used homemade bbq sauce in place of the normal store bought and started with half dried beans instead of canned. easy to make and well worth the effort. just invite lots of guests, i always have waaaaaay too much beans. Start with a can each of white beans, black beans, pinto beans and red kidney beans. drain well and pour into a large pot. if using dried beans, bring them to a boil in a large pot of water and simmer for around 2 1/2 hours before draining and using like the aforementioned canned ones. to this bean mixture, add around 1/2 a cup of dijon mustard, 1/2 a cup of bbq sauce (bonus points for using homemade) and a generous couple twists of black pepper. bring to a simmer and gently stir to combine. make sure you don’t mash up the beans, you’ll end up with a pasty mess and no one will eat them. trust me. simmer for a few hours until the rest of the dishes are ready to serve.

BBQ Sauce: i have never made a homemade bbq sauce so i did a little research and found that the three predominant schools of thought are split between mustard based, ketchup based and tomato sauce/paste based sauces. this was a no brainer for me, both the mustard based and ketchup based start with strong dominant flavors from the gate and i enjoy having a palette to build upon so that the flavors, good bad or indifferent, are intentionally my own. here is the recipe that i based my sauce off of, found out on the internet. i had to play around with the amount of vinegar and the amount of brown sugar until i got to a point that i was happy with the flavor and coloration of the sauce. i also wanted this to scream with garlic so i increased the garlic to around 10 cloves and left them rough cut to give a little chunkiness to the sauce. it fit as an ingredient in the beans and coating for the ribs (see below) but if a smooth sauce is your thing, either mince finer or do what i almost did, break out the immersion blender and liquify. here is the quoted recipe:

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Ingredients:
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic crushed
4 tablespoons minced onion
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon cayenne
fresh ground pepper to taste
Preparation:
Cook minced onion and garlic in olive oil until onions turns opaque. Add remaining ingredients, mix thoroughly and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes. Makes about 1 1/2 cups of barbecue sauce.

Garlic and Onion chopped for BBQ Sauce

Garlic and Onion chopped for BBQ Sauce

i honestly don’t remember where i found the recipe, i looked at a dozen or so… if you come across it and it’s yours, post me a message and i will give credit or remove it, as suits you. i doubled this recipe to allow for extra. i plan on stewing down some chicken thighs until the meat falls off the bones and then making bbq pulled chicken sandwiches. but thats just me and my plans for the week, nothing to do with the feast per se.

Sweating the Garlic and Onions

Sweating the Garlic and Onions

Posting this picture, it amazes me how many dishes that i make start out with this exact procedure. comes from loving garlic i guess…

The Ribs: I picked up two racks of short ribs from a local mega grocery store called E-Mart (see tomorrows post on that experience) and wanted to capture the spirit of outdoor cookery without well, going outside. so, i did the ribs in two staged. first off, i braised them in beer in the crockpot for 2 1/2 hours. then, i coated them with BBQ sauce and gave them about 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven. The results were downright tasty. so, start off, cut an onion in two, peel it and separate it into sections. this will form the base for your ribs in the crock pot. toss them in. take your rack (or two) of short ribs and liberally salt and pepper. sprinkle on a bit of cayenne, a bit of oregano and a light light dusting of sage. place the ribs over the onion piece and pour in two bottles of beer. lots of people use lagers for this but for my money, a nice brown ale gives you a wonderful depth of flavor. i opted Newcastle for the obvious reason. this being that as they are sold in six packs, two bottles of beer for the ribs equated four bottles of beer for me. I like that kind of deal. Cover and cook on high, turning often, for around 2 1/2 hours or until they look well cooked.

Ribs slow cooking in the crock pot

Ribs slow cooking in the crock pot

after that, i rested mine in the fridge for an hour or so but if you don’t have the time, baste on a liberal amount of bbq sauce to both sides of the ribs and bake in a 350 degree oven for around 30 minutes or until you have finished a beer and a lot of spinach artichoke dip. timing is relative.

Ribs, Post Oven

Ribs, Post Oven

The vegetables: this is actually two dishes, corn on the cob and zucchini/mushroom medley but the cooking method is pretty much the same so i am not going to repeat it. again, bringing the grill experience indoors on this one… the key to these is to tightly wrap the veg in foil and bake in your 350 degree oven for around an hour. i modded the spice content of the two for contrast but the basic cooking method is constant. for the corn, i went with butter, a couple twists of salt and just a hint of pepper. wrap individually in tight foil packet for maximum success.

Corn, ready to wrap

Corn, ready to wrap

For the veg mix, this one goes back to a technique that i associate with my father-in-law Don more than anyone else. slice up whatever veg you want, spice it with salt, pepper, cayenne and butter, wrap tightly and cook. bonus points for irresponsible use of cayenne, it makes these really tasty. i did it as a layered dish, sliced the zucchini first, spiced it up, and dotted with butter. then, i sliced the mushrooms on top of thise and drizzled with a very thin layer of olive oil. spice and wrap tightly. one hour in the oven and enjoy.

Zucchini slice and ready

Zucchini slice and ready

Tightly wrapped veg packet

Tightly wrapped veg packet

That is about it, plate everything up, enjoy and then roll over like an overstuffed walrus. reaction to these dishes was fairly positive and i thought it turned out great. and that is how you BBQ without leaving the house.

Plated and ready to serve

Plated and ready to serve

Better view of the corn but vegetable obscured

Better view of the corn but vegetable obscured

I’ve decided that i will continue with tenuous thread of nostalgia next week by making a Turkish meal, a bit of childhood regression. At least one reader will be able to relate to the dishes on the line up. Look forward to cucumber salad, yoghurt-cucumber dip, Lamacun, kebabs and borek (cheese and meat). I’m just glad that there isn’t any raki around or i would probably have to match it with this meal…


Check it out

July 2, 2009

received a mention on this site, The Fine Art of Eccentricity which is a fairly interesting read… please check him out, especially since he was nice enough to notice my little project. 🙂


Feast Nine – Red, White and Booze

July 1, 2009

So, here we are, deep in the heart of summer, arriving at the 4th of July weekend. You would think that being in the military, all that patriotism would kick in and we would spend our time reflecting on the meaning of freedom and the struggles of the past 200 years of the American fighting force to maintain our tenuous grasp on democracy. And ok, maybe there are a few people out there that do just that. For the majority though, myself included, this has devolved into just another few days that I don’t have to go to work, get the chance to drink a few beers and typically barbeque up some old fashioned American favorites for a late afternoon celebratory feast. Oh, and pyrotechnics. I have to admit, this has always been the selling point for me, I like things blowing up. It helps release my inner child. 🙂

But, aside from my observations on the human condition and the waning patriotism in American society, this is a post about food. Holidays are strange for me, whatever my culinary inclinations are throughout the year, I fall back to the traditional on holidays. I make tamales for Christmas, a turkey for thanksgiving, a roast (usually chicken) for easter and yes, I enjoy a barbeque for the 4th of July. However, here is my dilemma… a variety of factors are aligning against a traditional barbeque. Chief amongst these, the fact that my grill is in Colorado and I am in Korea. Ok, I hear you say, surely they have charcoal and metal grates in Korea. Indeed. While there are such available, the typical large scale meal that I would roll out for a holiday requires quite a bit of synchronization between items cooked on the grill, in the oven and on the stovetop. Normally, this would be a non-issue, a patio door or quick trip to the backyard my only obstacle. However, even if I were to acquire a grill for use, my nearest usable point of set up is 6 flights of stairs and around 350 feet from the rest of my kitchen. Coordination, while possible, is not optimal. So, I have decided that the two choices are either to make everything outside or to make everything inside. Easy choice for me, I’m not the biggest outdoors guy you will ever meet and my need for situational control will be better satisfied indoors.

That sorted out, I still want to maintain the essence of a backyard barbeque, traditionalism with a few twists here and there. So, I am laying out a menu of relatively simple dishes, staged for completion in an organized timely manner. Here is the sneak peak at this weekend’s
feast:

Spinach Artichoke Dip with Corn Chips
Four Bean BBQ Baked Beans
Roasted Corn on the Cob
Roasted Zucchini
Potato Dish (TBD, leaning towards a twisted aloo ghobi)
Beer Braised Short Ribs
Homemade Barbeque Sauce for the above
Apple Crumble (wouldn’t be the 4th of July without an apple pie!)

Oh and beer.