Monday, June 28, 2010

yankee bar-b-que

i was recently in syracuse, new york for the nerdiest of nerd gatherings - the annual cheiron meeting. a rogue group of historians of the social and behavioral sciences took over the le moyne college campus for the weekend and discussed all kinds of pressing historical issues. and by pressing i mean people discuss their own research projects which can be extremely interesting or downright boring. it's often a crap shoot.

friday night was a free night for the cheironians so we decided to travel into downtown syracuse for dinner. per usual i had done my share of culinary research before heading out and had come across the very highly rated and reviewed dinosaur bar-b-que.

well, of course i was skeptical. bbq in syracuse? there's nothin' but yankees* up there! could they really bbq? the cheironians and i were determined to find out!

dinosaur bar-b-que certainly seemed like the real deal. giant smokers behind an outdoor "bone yard" patio full of picnic tables. smoke and the familiar smells of roasting meat drifting above us as we sipped ice cold beers. and it was packed to the gills. hmm....

in order to fully assess the dinosaur's offerings i went with the sample platter - 1/4 bbq chicken (a whole leg); 1/4 slab of ribs and brisket with two sides. i went with greens and coleslaw. i also got some fried green tomatoes and the platter came with some mighty tasty cornbread.

this stuff was good!

my fellow cheironians and i agreed that dinosaur bar-b-que was the perfect ending to a long day of social science history.

i will have to disagree with this "best in the country" business though. the best bbq in the country certainly doesn't reside in syracuse, new york. you know just as well as i do that the best bbq in the country is in the backwoods of north carolina.

however, the yankees in syracuse aren't doing a bad job at all.

*you may be thinking to yourself, "wait a minute! aren't you a yankee yourself ms. erratic epicurean?" yes. yes i am. but i know good bbq when i taste it!

Friday, June 11, 2010

recent developments

i came home from work on tuesday to find my partner in pork out in the yard alongside a beautiful new raised flower bed.

we had been talking about building a raised bed for some time and the plan was to fill it with herbs but i noticed he had planted flowers. what the heck? i can't use marigolds in the kitchen!

so i went over for a closer look.


i turned around and he was down on one knee and everything!

i sobbed. i sweated profusely. i nearly vomited and i got so dizzy i had to sit down on the edge of the new flower bed. and i said yes.

Monday, June 7, 2010

flyin' by the seat of my sandwich!

with a very limited budget i schlepped on out to my local marc's for some groceries. old mother hubbard no more!

hmmm....what did i want for dinner? i walked through the produce section (with its somewhat limited options) and came upon the cheese case. mmmm....boursin cheese. that's it!

when i got home i sauteed some sliced onions, mushrooms and red pepper in a lil' olive oil and butter until they were brown and soft. i also sauteed some spinach in a lil' olive oil and butter till it was nice and wilted.

while the veggies were cooking i worked on my sides and toasted my ciabatta rolls.

side number one - cousin regina's ranch potatoes. so simple. so, so delicious. i just cubed up a couple of potatoes and tossed them with a lil' olive oil and a half packet of ranch dip mix and roasted 'em on a cookie sheet.

side number two - roasted cauliflower with lemon dijon sauce. i came across this recipe in the bon appetit cookbook my gma got me for christmas and it has become a house favorite. the sauce is also killer on broccoli and green beans and really just about anything.

i chopped up the cauliflower and roasted in the oven for just about 10 minutes or so while i made the sauce. for the sauce i melted a half stick of butter over low heat and then added in the juice of two lemons and a few good squeezes of dijon mustard. you just whisk this together and voila! kick ass lemon dijon sauce. i poured the sauce over the cauliflower and then put it back in the oven for another 10 minutes or so. mmmm.

once my rolls were done baking (underbaked by just a couple of minutes) i took them out and cut them in half. then i put them under the broiler - cut side up - for just a minute so they'd get brown and toasty.

i shmeared both sides with a lil' boursin cheese and then started stacking on my spinach and veggies. along with the sides i also enjoyed a nice glass of zinfandel. not bad for a monday night (and a meatless monday at that!)

and now for a farm update.

here is the garden so far though we are looking to expand it this weekend to put in a few more things. so far we have lettuces, leeks, onions, radishes, peas, tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes, peppers (red, yellow, green, poblano, jalapeno, chili), kale, collard greens, cabbages, brussel sprouts (a whole row!), cauliflower, broccoli, squash (butternut, acorn, crook neck) and watermelon. whew!

and the poultry. three barred rocks, three delawares, two leg horns, two pekin ducks and one mallard. the mallard (peepers) is a pet and we're hoping to keep the two leg horns as long as they lay eggs (which hasn't started yet - hopefully in a few more weeks) but the rest....well the rest will end up on the dinner table come fall.

i've never butchered anything before although when i was a kid i used to hold the legs of rabbits while my dad skinned them. it's going to be an adventure. i've checked out countless library books and read numerous internet forums but i don't think any of it is going to prepare me for actually killing a chicken.

i am nervous.

BUT - i have come to the conclusion that if i can't do it, if i can't kill these chickens, then i don't deserve to eat chicken at all. or any meat for that matter. i have become very serious about knowing where my food comes from - reading labels, buying locally and only buying meat from farmers (which is difficult and expensive) but i am committed.

and eating the fruits of my labor (or the poultry of my coop as it were) is important to me. stay tuned. i'm sure i'll share all the bloody details.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

happy memorial day!

homemade cinder block "grill"? check.

90+ lbs. charcoal? check.

147 lb. pig? check.

large container of mojo? check.

dollar store mop? check.

good eats? check! check!

my partner in pork and i set our alarm clocks for 4:30am saturday morning. on the way outside i woke up our house guest (my mom) as we would need all the help we could get dealing with our
147lb porker.

i had the butcher butterfly our lil' gal and we kept her wrapped up tight in industrial trash bags covered in ice in a big tub in the garage overnight. before the sun was up saturday morning we managed to get her up onto the table. whew!

i wiped her down with paper towels and my mom and i rubbed her with plenty of mojo while my partner readied the
grilling apparatus.

once he got her strapped in she was ready to transport to the
back yard.

we had lined the bottom of our "grill" with some industrial aluminum foil and started 3 or 4 bags of charcoal right in the center. before we took our lil' gal out to the grill we raked the hot coals into the corners so she would roast over indirect heat.

every 30 minutes or so we would mop her with more mojo and every hour or two we would flip her. we continued to add charcoal as we needed it and i think we used about 9 bags. my mom picked up some buns and i made my standard carolina bbq sauce and we feasted in the late afternoon.

this is our second pig roast and i must say the butterflied/cuban inspired method was far superior to the standard rotating spit (and it was free while a spit rental was $110!). it seemed easier to manage and in my opinion roasted much better as there was more surface area over the smoky coals.

super-mega-ultra memorial day weekend pig roast blowout = success!