Monday, February 20, 2012

Summer in February Featuring SPAM

A family tradition to break up winter has been the Summer in February picnic. The idea is to have all of the fun foods you would have at a July picnic in the dead of winter. This has also been called Rib and Pierogi Day. No matter what you call it, the day is a lot of fun and there is always way too much really good food. My responibilities for the meal are the ribs and sausage. This year I added a little bit of Spam. I saw it over at the Cowgirls Country Life a few times and decided to give it a whirl.

I've made sweet Italian sausage and posted about it a bunch of times. On Saturday afternoon, I made about 3 pounds of it. I also made a new to me fresh sausage. Not sure if anyone else has made it before, but it has been on my radar awhile: Srirachia sausage.

Started with some pork butt. It was a little lean so I added some fatback.

Salt and pepper were added at the same ratios used for Italian sausage. Then I added sriracha sauce until it looked wet. Probably around a quarter cup.

Ground it up and cased it. Then I made the rib rub...

Once the ribs were going in the pit on Sunday, I broke out the can of Spam (currently on sale at Price Chopper). I can not remember ever having had Spam before.  It was everywhere in Hawaii. We have hot dogs on treadmills in our quickie marts, they have warmed spam sushi under heat lamps in theirs.

I cut a criss-cross  pattern in the Spam and filled the cracks with brown sugar. As I was doing it, I couldn't help but smile because I was putting organic brown cane sugar on Spam. Slightly opposing sides of the food spectrum there. I drizzled on a little Jim Beam too.

Duke is no dummy. He knows something good is cooking...

 Here's what he was sniffing out

Aunt Carol's pierogi frying station ready to go

As it cooked, the Spam kind of opened up.

Carol's hard at work frying...

My mother in law makes some seriously kick-ass deviled eggs. Her potato salad is top notch too.

Sausage getting plated. Sweet Italian is on the plate. The sriracha sausage is on the right.

Spamity Spam

There were two, delicious trays of these bad boys.

I'd say the pierogi and sausage stole the main course show. The sweet Italian sausage came out great and the sriracha sausage had a nice little heat to it but the spice didn't overwhelm the other flavors of the hot sauce. This is definitely one to make again. I could eat those pierogi all day. The Spam was decent. My father-in-law didn't care for the Spam. He said it was too used to it just fried. Uncle Lou liked it. He said it didn't taste like Spam anymore, it just tasted like a baked ham. Having nothing to compare it against, I thought it was OK. If I make it again, I will make the cuts deeper. I only went halfway through the block of Spam. I'd go as far as I thought I could go without breaking the block next time. I think I'd skip the bourbon too. All in all a beautiful February day.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

On the road

I'm on the road this week. Yesterday during a pitstop in the town of Bath, NY I bought a lottery ticket and a bottle of water. The cashier asked for my ID. Slightly stunned becasue I am 40 years old, bald and buying water and a lottery ticket I said, "It's just just a water." I was told this gas station cards all tabacco, lottery and alcohol purchases. Then I was told a story about a 90 something year old guy that buys lottery tickets here daily and gets carded each time.

Seriously? After the first month of daily carding a 90+ yeard old guy that you know by name you're not going to let slide a little for him? Hard time believing he's over 18 after having it prove it to you over 30 times? Crazy.

On the opposite side of the customer service scale...We stopped into my favorite bar in the world last night. I had called to pre-order a cheesecake made by a regular customer. But the regular customer has been a little under the weather lately. And unable to reach me to let me know my cheesecake order was cancelled, Jeanette (the best bartender ever), made us chocolate chip cookies herself and brought them into the bar for us. Pretty amazing service for a couple of guys that come to the bar once or twice a year.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Good Cheap Wine

I probably shouldn't be posting this until after I visit the liquor store, but I'll take my chances. Over the weekend there was some wine with dinner at my parents house. It was the Mirassou 2010 Pinot Noir.

I took this picture from the Empire Wine site. This was the best under $10 wine I have had in awhile. Empire's online price is listed at $7.95. You really can't go wrong with it for 8 bucks. If you pick up a bottle, be sure to leave one for me too.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Elementary School's Social Event of the Season

One of the things going on at our elementary school is a "Peaceable School Program." The school does quite a bit to form a community through a number of Spirit Days at the school and occasional evening events. Tonight, there was a fund raising basketball game: Teachers vs. Local Police. The school spent a few weeks building up to it. The teacher cheer leading squad has been meeting the school buses with their cheers and pom poms all week. The build up culminated today with what my daughter Casey called "the best day of her entire life so far." Everyone wore the schools colors today. There was a big pep rally during school and then tonight the kids stayed up late and went to the basketball game. It was really quite a lot of fun. The crowd was a veritable who's who of elementary school teachers, students and parents. The gym was packed. They ran out of bleacher seats and the entire basketball court was surrounded by people. Here's a crowd shot from halftime.

The teachers played really well. One teacher there can dunk. There were cheers, t-shirts thrown into the crowd, raffles, music, a bake sale and kids every where. In the end, despite the Police team's efforts to give the teachers 6 points in the last 30 seconds of the game, there was no joy in Mudville tonight. The Teachers lost 63 to 62.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Smoking Bacon

Left work a little bit early to come home and get the Modernist Bacon in the smoker. It went pretty well. I used a kind of half-assed Minion method but with lump charcoal. I lit a chimney of charcoal and let it get about 2/3rds lit. I add some unlit charcoal to the base of the fire barrel and then dumped the chimney on top. The recipe calls for a 170 degree smoking. My temperatures fluctuated at bit and i ended up controlling them by propping the smoker door open a little bit. To maintain the opening, I used a small rock I saw under the deck. I have never tried the Minion method with briquettes (I avoid using briquettes) and I think it might work a little better with the prefab uniform coals.I think I need to add a metal baffle to direct the heat down as it enters the cooking chamber. The past few times I used the smoker, I used a fire brick as a heat sink/shield.

I'm just about to light the chimney here. You can kind of see that brick I mentioned behind the piece of lump charcoal on the shelf.

In goes the slab of Modernist bacon. It smelled pretty good.

I had the temperature probe in the air near the slab of bacon. For the most part, I'd say this thermometer read between 160 and 180. Not bad. I was kind of busy during the smoke and babysitting the fire a little more would have helped too.

Here it is cooling before getting refrigerated. Looks good. I'll cut it up tomorrow night. I should weigh it to see if there was much weight loss during the cure and smoking. Remind me tomorrow.

In kitchen news, we have plumbing again. I would have been a horrible colonist.  And the cars are back in the garage. I cleaned that up tonight. Anyone need some scrap Sheetrock?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Super Sunday

I had plans for Super Bowl Sunday. They just didn't quite work out. I like to go out to eat at a nicer than our usual restaurant for dinner. The place is usually empty and the kids get a higher end restaurant experience. I even did a little research into where to go. Several choices are typically closed on Sunday: Yono's, DB Brasserie, Brown Derby, The Epicurean and Taste to name a few. I had settle on Grappa 72. Their online menu has a cheese plate and I knew Allison and Casey were going to like trying the cheeses because they really enjoyed the cheese plate on our cruise this summer.

But earlier this morning, I had the word no parent ever wants to hear. "My ear huuuurrts." So we went off to the doctor where the earache turned out to be strep for Allison and the cough was really a wheeze for Casey. And thus ended the nite out.

Instead, I bought some pre made pizza crust. Not exactly proud of that but they didn't look terrible in Hannaford. And I had a roundabout rationalization justifying the purchase. We still don't have a working kitchen sink. Got a bathtub, and two bathroom sinks. I guess I could kneel down and wash stuff in the tub. That would require bringing everything to be washed upstairs, washing it, drying it without making puddles and then bringing it all back downstairs. With the exception of charcuterie or barbecue projects, I am lazy and therefore there must be some form of urgency for me to wash something kitchen related upstairs.

So the rationalization I came up with while pushing a cart around Hannaford went something like this: It's almost 4, I can't make my own dough in time and even if I tried I would have a mess I can't clean up yet. The Fabulous Flats Stone Baked Pizza Crusts really only have one questionable ingredient and the crusts were going to cook on a pizza stone in the oven. Don't need to wash the peel or stone. I'll need a spoon for the sauce, a knife and a cutting board. The spoon and the cutting board can go in the dishwasher and patiently await a plumbing connection. We'll eat off paper plates. Dinner for four and the only thing I'll have to wash later is a knife. Sold.

The crusts were actually pretty good. Better than I would have expected. I guess that is a perk to having low expectations. And I did have to shake off some of that laziness. The pancetta needed to be rinsed and hung. This is probably too much information, but using great care and a large piece of Tupperware (that is also in the dishwasher awaiting a water line) the pancetta got rinsed in the tub.

Pancetta, meet Modernist bacon. Modernist bacon, I'd like to introduce you to your roommate Pancetta. This fridge smells really good.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Starting to rebuild

Counter tops are installed. I like the look. You have to let the sink sit for 24 hours before hooking up the plumbing. Tomorrow, we go to pick out a new faucet and maybe look at some tile for the walls. The tiling has to happen sometime after the granite back splash gets installed. They took measurements for the back splash today. The stone probably won't get cut until later in the week.

No more demo

We have the power to rebuild. I'm just not sure my handiwork is a step in the right direction...Counter tops should be coming this afternoon.