Post #528 It’s Grillin’ Time!

April 12, 2017 at 9:10 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

We’re finally getting into the warm days here on the peninsula.  We can leave the windows open all day and all night to make the most of the fresh breezes.  The trees have opened all their blossoms, and the yards in the neighborhood are a patchwork of colors.  I can’t wait for our own flowers to open.  The day lilies and hydrangea are almost ready, and the one flower whose name I can never remember is sprouting high.  Our roses are sending new shoots and leaves out ready to put out blossoms.  The only disappointment is the tulips.  I don’t think we’re going to see any.  It’s mostly the location of our front yard.  We get afternoon sun, while nearly everyone else gets morning and afternoon sun.  What this leads up to Spring.  With the warming days, low bug count, and a grill sitting idle all winter, it all adds up to grillin’ time.

My store just happened to have a sale on rib roast this week so we bought one, about three ribs worth, not quite three pounds.

Partner/Spouse and I just happened to have a day off together this week (although I got called in.  I usually get called in.  I look at my days off as opportunities to get extra hours.  I only worked the morning shift so got home with plenty of time to do what we wanted to do.  Okay, rant over.)   When we got the roast, our plan was actually to freeze it and save it for a time when we could treat it with the respect it deserved and do it up right.

Yeah, that changed.  Monday evening Partner/Spouse looks at me and says, “Do we have any charcoal?”

“Yeah, we’ve got half a bag left from the summer.”

“How about we grill that roast?  Wanna look up the directions?”

Mouth watering, I went to the trust internet and in about five minutes had read two or three recipes from trusted sources.  They all said basically the same thing.  Cook it over indirect heat and use an aluminum pan to catch the drippings.  You can use the drippings to make gravy if you want.

So when I got home from work around 1 pm, there were BLTs waiting for me.  And a yellow cake with chocolate frosting.  Partner/Spouse was busy that morning.  I had some work to do on the computer, not the least of which was getting a blog post together for you guys.

When the sun started setting, he started putting the roast together.

“Wanna sit outside with a glass of wine and watch the sun set and keep an eye on the grill with me?”

I was off the couch with the computer shut in about fifteen seconds.

All the neighbors were jealous of the grillin’ time.  We love this neighborhood.  Everyone is friendly and watches out for each other.  Some young guy blasted down the street on his motorcycle and you could hear the chorus of protests to the speed and noise with each house he passed.

As we sat and talked about things, I remembered when my father started that manly ritual of teaching his son (me) how to cook on a charcoal grill.  It was about the same time mom started teaching me to cook.  Dad had a trick to test the coals.

You sprayed the charcoal with lighter fluid and set it on fire.  When the coals were turning gray around the edges, you spread them out and waited until they were glowing cherry red.  After a few minutes, you tested the heat of the coals by holding your hand about twelve inches over the coals.  If you could hold your hand over the coals for about 5-6 seconds without undue pain, they were ready for whatever you were cooking.

Partner/Spouse, being a nurse for 30+ years, said that probably wasn’t the best way in the world to test the coals.

So when our coals were ready, we seared the roast and set it over indirect heat.  When using charcoal and indirect heat, you start the coals and get them to the point where you want to start cooking, then pile them up on one side of the grill pit.  Then you cook the food on the side of the grill that doesn’t have the coals.  This keeps the food from burning and charring.

This is where he seared the roast.  You can see the coals piled on one side, and the aluminum pan to catch the meat drippings on the other side.

We sat outside talking and grilling and getting the rest of the meal ready.  It was a great way to start the warm part of the year.

When we sat down to eat we had fried mushrooms, corn on the cob, Yorkshire pudding with gravy, and prime rib roast.  And I had another glass of wine.

I forgot to take a picture of the final product so you’ll have to use your imagination.

We saved the ribs to make soup.

It was all so good.

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Post #527 “I like that.”

April 1, 2017 at 1:51 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Anyone who’s read this blog for a while knows that I started my “formal” cooking education when I was around 13 or so.  I told my mom I wanted to learn and she handed me her cookbook (she only had one!) and we went from there.  We had this one hand painted ceramic bowl she had picked up from somewhere, and that’s the bowl I used to make everything from chocolate chip cookies to salads.  It held an entire bag of french fries perfectly.  It was the bowl I used to hand out Halloween candy.  We had other bowls, of course, but this one was large enough for all my cooking projects, and fit into the crook of my arm perfectly so I could hold it tight and use a wooden spoon to beat anything into submission.  This is the bowl.  Looks unremarkable, but it holds a lot of memories.

The story of the 600 cookies started in this bowl.  I was telling that story to a coworker a couple of nights ago during a lull and I remembered another story about this bowl that had both of us in tears by the end of it.

When my nephew was around 4, he would often wander into the kitchen while I was working to see what was going on and hopefully get a taste of whatever goodie was in construction.  He and his little sister knew that when that bowl came out with a wooden spoon, something good was coming soon.

So one afternoon I was creaming butter by hand in preparation for chocolate chip cookies.  My family was addicted to them, and addiction that continues to this day.  I’m actually quite proud of the fact that I learned how to do everything by hand.  Electric motors make it easier and I have all the good gadgets, but once in a while, I do it by hand just because.  So there I was with that bowl held tight in the crook of my left arm and my right arm clutching a large wooden spoon beating the hell out of 3/4 cup of butter to get it to the light creamy stage.

It didn’t take me long and I was ready to incorporate the sugar.  My mom taught me to add each ingredient one at a time to best gauge how the recipe was progressing.  So the brown sugar was in the butter and it was light and frothy.  I had just added the white sugar and commenced beating the butter and sugar when my nephew came into the kitchen.

“Hi Uncle Joe!”  His eyes lit up when he saw that bowl and spoon and me stirring for all I was worth.

“Hi yourself,” I replied.  “How’s things with you?”

“Good.”  He looked longingly at the bowl.  “I like that,” he said.

I was startled.  “It’s just butter and sugar.”

“I know.  I like it.”

“What?  It tastes terrible at this point.”

“No, it doesn’t.  I like that.”

I shrugged.  “Okay, grab a spoon.”

I can be so mean sometimes.

His whole little face lit up like I had just handed him Christmas.  He went to the drawer and picked out the biggest spoon he could find.

“Okay,” I said.  “Dig in.”

He pulled out a fill spoon that must have held about a quarter cup of butter with sugar blended in.  The brown sugar was completely incorporated, but the white sugar had only just been added and was grainy and crunchy.  And he thrust that whole thing in his mouth.

His face changed almost immediately.  I could read his thoughts on his face like a book.  First, he really hated what was in his mouth and didn’t want it there any more.  Second, he knew that if he spit it out, there wasn’t a snowball’s chance of ever getting another taste out of that bowl again.  Third, he was trying to decide if his second thought was worth the agony he was going through.

So I decided to twist that knife just a little.

“Is it good?” I asked with a smile.

His eyes had started to tear up a little, but he nodded and made yummy sounds.  When he’d finished swallowing, I smiled at him.

“It’s good!” he said, but his heart wasn’t in it.

“Want some more?” I held the bowl out to him again.

“No, I’ve had enough,” he said.  “You’ll need it for the cookies.”

It was a long time before he asked me for a taste out of the bowl again.

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At work today, we were holding a donation event and I was selling hot dogs.  I had an electric skillet and used my not-insignificant talents to make them taste great.  I sold a lot of them.  My boss and I were teasing each other as she was leaving and she said, “Next time I expect something gourmet from you!”

So!  The challenge is:  What gourmet food stuff can I make with a single electric skillet that I can sell easily to the masses?

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