Sunday, October 30, 2011
Yup, I am going to be the "full size candy bar guy" this year. I feel the need to pay back the universal karmic pool for all of the past full candy bar guys from whom I benefited as a child. You know what else? Once it gets latish some lucky child is going to get whatever is left. At that moment I will become "multiple full size candy bar guy" and it probably doesn't get much higher than that in the hierarchy of childhood heros. You are probably right behind Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny (right ahead of the Tooth Fairy) at that point.
Anyhow, happy halloween. I trust that this bit of snow won't deter our hearty Upstate children from going out to make merry this year.
Oh yes, I almost forgot. In honor of Halloween here is some nightmare fuel for you. This is a toy that the wife (for reasons unknown to me) bought for our darling daughter. I believe it is some sort of soul stealing device from the netherworld.
Friday, October 28, 2011
Meet Lurlissa. She is the newest addition to my household (I have a thing for naming appliances, here is her sister Lurlene). I have been desiring a meat slicer for some time now, but I have not desired paying the 4 or 5 hundy for a commercial one. Most of the more inexpensive slicers I have perused seemed very cheaply built and probably fairly useless. I had almost lost hope until recently, when the EdgeCraft 610 was recommended to me. This particular slicer goes for 99.99$ on Amazon and it appeared to have quite a few good reviews. I threw caution to the wind and decided to order one.
I have only just opened up my prize, no meat tests as of yet. Superficially, the thing seems fairly well constructed. It is mostly metal (i.e. no cheapy plastic) and kind of looks like a mini version of a professional grade slicer. I have high hopes for the thing, I will let you know how it goes. I am going to christen Lurlissa with some of my homemade circle bacon from a couple weeks ago (I froze some). Hopefully all goes well.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
As you may know, I have something of a soft spot in my heart for the jewel of Central NY. I am, of course, speaking of the plucky city of Utica. If you will remember during my last trip I partook of the Utican pastry specialty that is the Pustie. A pustie is a local varient of the Italian pastry pasticciotto (wiki translated from the Italian) and consists of custard encased in crust.
Now, you can get pusties at pretty much any Italian bakery throughout the state but only in the greater Utica/Rome area are they revered as a local treasure. It occurred to me the other day to see how one of our own, local (Capital Region) pasticciotto (they don't even really call them pusties 'round these parts) stacked up against a serious example of a Utica/Rome pustie.
For the Central New York contender let us take the offering from the Franklin Hotel in Rome. The Franklin is a must visit if you are out that way, have the Utica Greens and a plate of fried hot peppers with some crusty bread. You must trust me on this, it will become your favorite lunch and you will crave it daily. They also have have a decent selection of house baked goods and pictured above is a lovely boxful of vanilla and lemon pusties.
Here is a Franklin pustie with its guts exposed.
The vaguely nipple-esque pustie is a piece of art, what with its shiny browness and hearty proportions. Richly sweet custard with a beautiful vanilla flavor encased in a buttery, flaky, tender crust. I am not big into over sweetened fruit pastries or cream filled, powder sugar doused thingies so the understated sweetness of the pustie is a perfect fit for my sensibilities.
Now we have the pasticciotto from Bella Napoli in Latham.
Hrrrm... looks a little pale. Looks a wee bit crumbly and not very shiny. No appealing nipple thing on the top either. I will have to admit that I was a bit suspicious, but I did not pass immediate judgement.
Here we have her cracked open.
With the Bella Napoli offerin you have a sort of grainy, crumbly, sweetened pastry. It is less like a pie crust and more like a sugar cookie. Breaking one of these in half (to devour greedily) while driving home from the bakery results in many crumbs all over your belly and lap. The custard is not rich and creamy like you would expect it to be and you have here only a hint of vanilla.
So there you have it. As I expected the art of the pustie is significantly more refined in the true pustie country of Oneida County. Not that our local ones are bad, but you are sort of ruined for inferior pusties once you have had the real deal in its own terroir.
So there you have it, as expected the heavy weight favorite pummels the local boy.
When I smoked up my last batch of bacon I decided to try out making a bit of smoked salt. I pretty much just spread kosher in a thinnish layer on a shallow pan and put it on the top rack of the smoker (burning mesquite) for a couple of hours. A nice smokey crust forms on top of the salt which you can then stir about leaving a pretty bunch of smoke flecked salt. I dipped a finger and licked up some of the goods and it had a pleasant amount of smoke flavor, not at all overpowering.
I suppose the stuff would be good sprinkled on just about anything that would normally take a smoke flavor, I haven't experimented yet. Right now I am using a bunch of the smoked salt in a cure I am putting on some pork shoulder butts. In any event, should you be smoking any meats I think you should try making this. It is a low effort/high payout kitchen experiment that is pretty hard to screw up.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
I picked up a four pack of Dogfish "Punkin" Ale (Punk for short) the other day, you know, to be seasonal. I know that Dogfish Head is all the rage lately, but I have never been much of a fan. They are big into gimmicky hops tricks and I have always said that a lot of hops can cover up a lot of mistakes. Huge hop flavor does not equal good beer...
But anyhow, too much hops is not the problem with the Punkin Ale. I simply found it a little flat (in flavor, not carbonation) and boring. The ale was vaguely pie spice-y just like every other "pumpkin" beer I have ever had. I had the urge to add a little salt to try to coax out some flavor. At 12.99 for a quartet of bottles, the price is absurd.
Anyhow, does anyone else (on occasion) like to salt their beer? I do it sometimes and people are generally either with me or against me in regards to this practice. I find it adds a little something to an otherwise bland brew. Also, it "takes the head off of the beast" i.e. it tames the excess carbonation found in some brews of ill repute.
Oops, almost forgot the pour shot.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
It occurred to me the other day that it has been quite some time since I have made any home-cured bacon. So when I spied a goodly looking 4 pound chunk of pork belly at the Meat House in Guilderland I decided to put on my pork curing shoes and get down to business. Furthermore, as bacon is the house that this blog is built on (read through the 38 posts on the subject here) I thought I would share my doings here.
Here is the fresh belly.
I did a fairly standard 2 part kosher salt to 1 part sugar (raw honey/brown sugar split) with Prague Powder #1. About 2 tsp. of pink salt for this much meat is sufficient. The pork dry cured in the bottom of my fridge for 7 days.
I wanted to do a sort of pressed/rolled, Polish style bacon this time, so when the pork was done curing I pressed it for overnight utilizing a high technology apparatus (haha, see below). This was after soaking the belly in cold water for a bit to draw out some of the excess salt.
The pressing made the belly easier to roll up. I tied it with silicone bands and encased it in a bit of cheesecloth.
Departing from my general bacon making practices here I decided to poach the sucker gently (at around 150-160deg water temp) before smoking. My thought was that this would help the pork maintain its rolled shape during the smoking process. I tied the pork to a rolling pin and suspended it in my big ol' pot.
This all cooked until the pork roll had a center temp of just over 150 degrees. Then I shocked the pork in some cold water to keep it from cooking any more. The rolled belly went under the earlier pictured pork squishing apparatus to press a bit more overnight. Not having any of that meat gelatin stuff I hoped that all the pressing would allow the rolled bacon to be sliced without falling apart.
Finally, I brought the sucker over to a gracious friends house to borrow the use of their cunning little electric smoker thing. I let it go at about 200 for a little over an hour. Here is the beautiful brown bastard after smoking.
I carved off a healthy hunk of the bacon for my friend as tax for use of the smoker and bundled up the rest of my prize to take home. Based on the visual, I was hopeful that this would be a successful experiment in bacon makin'.
Here is the butt end the following day, I thought it looked just peachy.
As I had hoped, the rolly-polly bacon maintained its shape upon slicing.
A couple thinnish rounds got fried up in one of my Griswolds.
Unfortunately, the circle bacon did not maintain its form during the cooking process.
Despite losing its circular integrity in the pan, I was overall pleased with this batch of bacon. The cure was good and mellow, not over salty at all. Due to the rolled form of the meat less surface area was exposed to the smoke. Because of this the smoke flavor was much mellower than normal and this wasn't necessarily a bad thing. The light amount of smoke, and the fact that this particular belly was pretty light on the meat and heavy on the fat, left me with an almost pancetta like result. I think the majority of this stuff will go towards seasoning/ingredient use as opposed to slicing and frying. But again, I was pleased.
It is something about the fall that kicks me into a sort of curing/pickling/smoking/preserving frenzy, so I would expect a couple more posts in this vein over the course of the coming months, hope you don't mind...
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
|I imagine this guy to be saying "Hnnggghhh!!!"|
I don't know what is going on with my special fascination with fast food lately. It is no secret that I generally take an almost anthropological approach to the strange and wonderful world of novelty fast food items. Lately my urge to sample these sorts of things has intensified. Perhaps it is due to the fact that I am in the midst of a monk like diet/exercise regimen (I know that I am in good enough shape that I have abs, I would just like to see them a little better). Anyhow, when I spied a sign at McD's peddling "Pumpkin Pie" my curiosity got the better of me.
This is the first McD "Pie" that I have had in probably about 20 years, no lie. The pie seemed smallish. I think I remember them being much bigger, but maybe I just had smaller hands back then. I will say that the pumpkin pie thing had a fairly enticing smell to it and appeared to be attractively be-spritzed with some sort of cinnamon containing food epoxy. I broke it in half to examine the innards.
You got a nice amount of orange-ish pumpkin schmutz going on in there. Taking a bite the first thing I noticed was that the crust had a distinctive raw flour kind of taste to it. Don't know what that is all about. As for the pumpkin filling, it has that indistinct pumpkin or sweat potato, pie spice-y, "holiday" kind of flavor. Not at all bad. In fact, I am going to say that this is the best 89 cent, self contained, baked pumpkin pie thing that you are going to get out there in the world.
In any event, are people buying this? As a child, my persnickety palette would not have gone anywhere near a "pumpkin" item. I am assuming this is an item geared towards the over 40 crowd but I could be wrong.
Monday, October 17, 2011
Yesterday I tantalized you with words about White Castle breakfast, today I bring you photo-documentation. Now I don't care what anyone says, White Castle is good. There are no bones about it, I don't want to hear any, "I don't eat fast food" or, "that's grade F beef" business. I call bullshit. You like White Castle and you know it. Perhaps you lie about it to affect a sophisticated air, but you devour wee sliders alone in greasy shame whenever you get the chance. Why? Because they are unctuous, flavorful, satisfying, pillows of happiness, that's why.
So anyhow, what is better than White Castle? White Castle breakfast that is what. As you all know, White Castle has not blessed our Upstate Homeland with a location (fie on the management. Wait.... I can't stay mad at you White Castle). You have to travel south of the stinking Tappen Zee to find a WC 'round these parts. So though I have heard stories and seen menus, I have never actually partaken. Last week, this changed.
The first thing you need to do is get yourself a Barq's Red Cream soda (to prepare your innards for what is to come). The only exception I make for my strict no soda (except diet) policy is made for Barq's Red Cream. It is the corner stone of any healthy breakfast.
Look at it, LOOK AT IT! Are you attempting to lick up some crimson nectar through your computer screen? Well you can't, it just won't work and that is sad...
Next, you must stand with legs shoulder width, stick your thumbs in your belt, lean back and ponder the breakfast menu. There are many marvels to behold and you should devote some amount of thought to your decision. As for sliders, you must choose from bacon, sausage, bologna (yeah, you heard me), or burger (all with cheese and egg). I don't worry so much about the hash browns, they give me indigestion.
Look below, as I said that is an actual griddle fried egg. As in, you can watch them crack the eggs and fry them up to order (if it is slow and they aren't holding them in a wee hotel pan, but we can forgive small transgressions as they have a lot of turnover).
Now if you don't have yourself a hairy pair, you need not read any further. Bologna, egg, and cheese White Castle sliders are not for those in possession of a weak constitution.
You get a thickish slice of fried bologna that endearingly flops over the side of the slider bun.
I really don't know if it is the burger/egg or bologna/egg combination that I enjoyed more. It has been a sort of internal war my mind has been waging against itself since I consumed these bits of ambrosia. I think it might be the burger ones, there is something very perfect about this White Castle offering.
In any event, I whole heartedly endorse White Castle as a breakfast destination. I only recommend that you eat heartily. 4 or 5 is the right number of breakfast sliders, any less and you are a wilting lilly. Too many more would be rather piggish I think.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
|Lucas Oil Stadium, Home of the Peyton.|
I was out in Indianapolis for a week recently (again, see Indianapolis Jones: Part 1). I have found Indianapolis to be a pretty interesting city and have, for the most part, enjoyed the food as well. So I just thought I would share some highlights of my trip. This is just in case any of the (increasingly) small number of readers of this hack blog decides to venture out there.
Some of the locals took us to Boogie Burger in Broad Ripple Village for lunch early in the trip. The place seemed to be a local burger institution and came highly recommended.
The first thing my eye was drawn to on the menu was the fact that the Chili Burger had Peanut Butter listed as an option. I had heard of this practice before, and after inquiring of one my accompanying native Indianans I learned that is a fairly common regional burger topping. You can see the healthy smear of creamy peanut butter on the top bun in the above picture. It was a pretty good burger to tell you the truth, nice dark chili with some spice. Went pretty well with the PB in my opinion. I learned that it was also a fairly common practice in Indiana to accompany a bowl of chili with a peanut butter sandwich. It takes all kinds, takes all kinds....
If you have read my gibbering musings for long, then you will know that I have something of a thing for tamales (frozen, canned, rolled, or otherwise). So I was pretty excited when the next day we were directed to The Tamale Place. Entering, I was greeted by a giant picture of Guy Fieri. Apparently he had made a visit for one of his Food Network programs... Anyhow, I was undeterred and ordered a couple of tamales.
I sampled a Poblano and Cheese and a Spicy Pork. Both were sort of OK. The spicy pork bordered on good but was nothing outstanding. I have had better tamales locally (Magdalena's at the Troy Farmers Market for one). I found The Tamale Place's tamales to be a bit dry, especially the poblano cheese. I will say that the porky one had an agressive spice and good flavor.
Of course, I also managed to eat a crap-ton of White Castle as is my general practice whenever I am near one. Ol' Mr. Dave is a published recipe author due to my obsession with those unctuous little bastard sliders (in the This is Why You're Fat book). I happened to spy this location right across from the Colts' stadium.
Heck, I grabbed a ten sack and ate it in my rented Hyundai Sonata on the way to the hotel. Did I feel shame? Yes, but it was delicious, greasy shame.
Just look at that little bastard. I am usually a traditional, slider w/cheese kind of guy, but I have been kind of enamored with the jalapeño cheese ones lately.
Needless to say, I was more than a little excited to see that the White Castle had squirty bottles of their mustard for sale. I purchased one and plan on savoring every last drop, mayhaps it will bring sweet remembrances of fresh sliders to my taste buds (even though I don't generally take mustard on my sliders). In any event, I will probably treat it like that little bottle of magic juice that Lucy had in the Chronicles of Narnia and use it sparingly by the drop.
I even managed to indulge in a longtime dream and got to order off of the White Castle breakfast menu. But this warrants a post of its own as it was fairly glorious.
In any event, I had a pretty good time. I actually stayed fairly close to the hotel and unfortunately didn't get to go anywhere too interesting for dinner. I had to console myself by eating horribly unhealthy food for lunch (and breakfast). I managed to sample a couple local delicacies so the trip wasn't a total bust.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
I seem to be getting into many heated internet conversations lately (white knighting for P-Chopistan, and defining "Upstate", in the comments of both). Reading both the threads afterwards I had to chuckle at my sort of uncharacteristically harsh and irrational ranting. Must be the change of seasons, I don't fancy myself much of an internet ranter. Perhaps I am experiencing my male lunar period, who knows... Anyways, I guess it could be due to my own adolescent urge to act contrary and engage in count/counterpoint discussions for their own sake.
In any event, I am out in the Midwest for a week (again). So I thought I would share a couple of fall projects that I have started. Pictured above is a nice hunk of pig belly that I have curing away (raw honey, brown sugar, salt). I also just shaved down 4 pounds of organic parsnips with an onion peeler and set them away to lacto-ferment... Hopeful that both projects will be glorious.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
If you will remember, a couple of weeks ago I wrote about the seemingly increasing availability of Taylor Ham in the Capital Region. Well, the package of pork roll had been sort of languishing in my cheese drawer for a couple of weeks. The other day I decided to fry it up.
I know by the content of my blog many of you picture me as a wild, beer swilling, pork meat gnashing, beast-man type of gent, but this is actually pretty far from the truth. Sometimes I even find it hard to squeeze fatty breakfast meat into my culinary regiment. But eventually I stopped mincing about like a ninny, steeled my gut, and girded my loins for some salty, processed pig meat
As you can see, people call pork roll "Pac-man Bacon" for a reason. If you don't want the stuff to steam up in the middle and dome up like a bunch of weird, nipple-less boobies than you have to take action. Some make a few short incisions around the circumference. I prefer the classic, longer, Pac-man shape producing, single cut. I fry it until crisp, but still a bit flaccid in parts. Onto an english muffin, no egg or cheese because I am a bad ass.
By the way, I fried the stuff up in my deliciously seasoned, vintage, Griswold #10. If you are unsure of what I mean by this, you should read my post on classic cast iron here.
Monday, October 3, 2011
You can check out my ongoing "Piss Beers of Upstate New York" series (I mean "piss beer" in the most endearing possible sense of the term) above. As I have already covered a few Genesee products, I didn't feel it necessary to do a whole review of good ol' Genny Cream.
To tell you the truth, this was one of the most ubiquitous low price beers consumed in my late teens/early twenties. I remember sub 10 dollar 30 packs! As I had limited doubloons back then, Cream Ale and I were a match made in heaven.
What I would like to bring to your attention is a rare, unique term out of the lexicon of Upstate New York related to Genny Cream Ale (and Genesee products in general). We don't have too many of our very own colloquialisms around these parts (which is sort of a shame). The particular one that I refer to here is sort of, ahem ahem, the bathroom humor variety. But heck, it is our own (and related to beer) so here it is.
Ever heard of "Genny Screamers?" The Urban Dictionary defines these as -
"Hideous units of flatulence prevalent after drinking Genesee beer.
Sunday, October 2, 2011
When beer bottle shaped salami meets a cheese beer cozy and then alights on a cracker you are blessed with a blissfully gut punishing combination of meat, fat, and carbs. All the better to be washed down with some of your favorite (or not favorite...), inexpensive American Lager (PBR)... A fitting Sunday snack with which to fortify your gullet for the fall libations to come later.
Anyhow, happy fall. Today seems to me to be the first truly fall-ish day of the year. By that I mean my tootsies got cold when I got out of the shower this morn. To me this is the harbinger of the entrance of the blustery and cold 6 months of Upstate New York Fall-Winter ahead. I don't really see the coming of winter as a bad thing, maybe I am just used to it. Change isn't good or bad. It just is... (I think that is a Don Draper quote, oddly enough
Saturday, October 1, 2011
Cheese beer cozy... Has ever a sweeter phrase been uttered by mortal lips? I don't think so. If you will remember, a couple weeks ago I learned of (and ordered forthwith) the Usinger's Pabst Blue Ribbon bottle shaped salami. As fate would have it an impulse buy at BJ's also left me in possession of a largish ball of Edam cheese. Here she is pictured below.
Instantly the rusty, squeaky gears inside by fairly large head began to think of a creative way of utilizing the rosy red, waxed, cheese behemoth lurking in the crisper of my fridge. I didn't want to sit down with a cheese knife and a box of crackers and have at it, that didn't seem very sporting. As usual with matters of meat and cheese inspiration came to me fairly quickly.
I decided to fashion a beer cozy out of the cheese sphere for the afore mentioned PBR salami. This concept tickled me pink for some reason, and I could not stop chuckling to myself a little when I thought about it. I began by lopping off the top of the Edam, the bottom was already sort of flattish.
After that, I traced around the circumference of the beer salami so I had some guidelines for my cheese carving.
I whittled around the outside of the ball until I had a roughly conical, beer cozy-esque shape. Most of the smaller shavings of cheese went into my maw, I reserved the bigger chunks for other cheesy purposes.
Utilizing a fork and a paring knife I began to carefully excavate cheese from the beer cozy cavity. This was the most delicate part of the operation, I feared breaking one of the cheese walls of the cozy.
Below you can see the large amount of cheese hunks resulting from my cheese craft.
In the end, I thought it was worth it. The resulting cheese cozy was a little short for the long neck salami, but I was thoroughly satisfied with the results.
There you have it, a tall, frosty bottle of salami kept nice and cool in its Edam cozy. What more could you ask for (besides crackers)? I plan on inflicting this on some friends tomorrow at brunch, I figure the whimsical nature of the creation will carry the day.