Using up the refrigerator (that’s what I do around here)

We had lots of unused vegetables from our CSA and leftover ingredients from Feastly and life, and needed to get rid of them. So… I made a casserole; a crazy veggie corn casserole. And it has in it: 2 eggplants, 6 ears of corn , 6 bell peppers, 3 hot peppers, 1 red onion, 5 cloves of garlic, and 1 cup of leftover rotisserie chicken. This was literally what we had in our fridge, and it needed to go away.

So I diced and salted the eggplant. Cut the corn off the cob. Diced the peppers (bell and hot). Diced the chicken (again). And mixed it all up in a bowl.

Then I made a cheese sauce. Oh god. Diced the red onion. Got it simmering in olive oil. Added several tablespoons of all-purpose flour (too many tbsp of flour). Added oil back to try to recover from too many tbsp of flour. Then pulled out leftover chicken broth. And in that pan, I keep stirring and stirring until it got thin enough to add a quarter of a pound of parmesan cheese and an eighth a pound of cheddar cheese (both of these were also leftovers). I mentioned this was a cheese sauce, right? And then I added a little bit of milk to thin it out more.

And after Laura very kindly transferred the mix of veggies into our covered casserole, I poured the sauce over and mixed it in. Then I covered it with panko crumbs from our pantry and shoved it in the oven at 350°F.

We’ll let you know how it turned out.

 

P.S. We also made apple sauce today, finishing the apples from our insane, mistaken purchase of a bushel of apples.

Dictated by Adam, transcribed and edited by Laura

9/12 CSA Bounty from the fields of Pennsylvania!

Hi Everyone – Adam here. I haven’t died nor have I abandoned the blog completely. I’ve just started grad school and that makes being a regular poster here a little bit harder. I thought I’d take a break from Microeconomics to share some pictures of the bounty that arrived today from the CSA we joined here in Washington. For more details follow below the fold.

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A Summer Southern Feastly Picnic

Saturday just past Laura and I cooked up a little indoor picnic for some amazing new friends all of whom just happened to be on staff with or hosts for AirBnB. There was cole slaw. There was cornbread. There were collards. There were sweet potato fries. There was even a syrupy berry salad for dessert. But! The core of the meal was an 11 lbs Boston Butt that I turned into some of the best pulled pork we’ve ever had. If I do say so myself. Now, a battalion of smokers, BBQers, and grill masters have spilled an ocean’s worth of ink and probably some blood on the best way to make this Southern staple and I have no doubt that any number of them can tell me exactly what I did wrong and why I am a heretic for having done it my way. So, I’d now like to spill a little myself describing how I did it so that you, dear reader, can have my Carolina Pulled Pork at home with only a little bit of effort.

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I have to admit upfront that this was the first time I had ever done pulled pork solo and so I relied on a few hours of internet research and a long conversation with my best friend, Whit, on the best way to get the job done. All that being said – here’s the way it happened:

  1. Obtain the Butt – I got lucky on this one. I was pretty sure when we were putting the menu together that the kind folks at Harvey’s Market would have what I was looking for and, lo and behold, they came through with a 22-day dry-aged pork shoulder and we’re even kind enough to do all the trimming for me. For those that don’t already know, dry aging is a process of allowing natural enzymes in the meat post-slaughter to activate and so tenderize the meat. 22 days is a long aging and made for a very tender shoulder.
  2. Brine the Butt – In my brief research, my experience being around pulled pork growing up, and through my conversation with Whit, it was made clear to me that brining your meat is absolutely necessary to getting the best results at the end. All Brining means is soaking the meat in a heavily salted water (with a few other choice seasonings) for 4-18 hours. Be sure to do this in the fridge. No one needs to die for their pork. The brining process  improves on the meat’s natural juiciness and infuses it with the flavors added to the brine. In my case that was a hickory smoked salt from Maine, my own dry rub mix, and a few bay leaves.
  3. Massage that Butt with Dry Rub – this last step before cooking is absolutely essential to having Carolina Pulled Pork. Take whatever mix of kosher salt, black pepper, and spices you want (mine is a secret) and shovel lots and lots of it onto the brined pork that you have pulled out of the liquid and patted dry. I really mean lots and lots. You want the pork to look like the first picture below. Massage the mix into the meat being sure you get into all those cracks and creases. It’s the dry rub that turns into what the old hands at this call a “bark.” That bark is what provides the sharp points of flavor in old-fashioned pulled pork that everyone loves so much.
  4. Slow Cook that Beautiful Butt – once the pork was thoroughly covered in dry rub, I lightly covered it with foil and put it in the oven at 215ºF. At that low temperature, the meat had to cook for 18 hours before it reached the goal – a core internal temperature of 200ºF. It was a long wait but it was totally worth it. When it was all done and had rested for about 30 minutes, the shoulder bone slid right out with no resistance at all and the meat pulled apart with two forks just like it was supposed to.

Those are the four steps to delicious Carolina Pulled Pork. Easy-peasy. Except that it takes three days. Enjoy these before and after pictures!

 

AirBnB meets Feastly

So! Feastly was kind enough to ask Laura and I to cater an event this coming Saturday: a Thank You to AirBnB’s hosts.

Since I’m starting graduate school soon, I have time to put in to making this an evening to remember. The Menu? Well… I’ll post more about that on Tuesday after the event has come off and I have lots of pictures of the meal. In the meantime, have this as a hint:

The Meat

Sugared Strawberries

Laura and I are like a lot of foodies out there – we like to listen to the podcast of Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s Splendid Table as it gets published weekly. A few weeks ago, the podcast repeated a segment from a few years ago about what to do with Summer’s berries – Raspberries, Blueberries, Blackberries, and most importantly, Strawberries. I have to tell you before we go any further: Strawberries are my favorite dessert food. Full. Stop. A bowl of strawberries will keep me happy for an evening. Even better, right now is a great time to love them because they are super cheap.

BUT! Even I can’t eat strawberries by the pound and we buy them that way. So, what to do with the extras before they go bad? You can make jam, pie, shortcake, muffins, and even ice cream. Or you can come back with me to the idea from the Splendid Table: Sugared Strawberries. This is one of those things that is so very easy to make and so wonderful that Laura and I are sure to make several more jars to have over the rest of the year. All it takes is berries and sugar in equal weight. That’s it.

(As a note, the Splendid Table’s Recipe is Sugared Raspberries but as far as I can tell the making of Sugared Berries will work with just about any berry you like.)

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We’ve tried the syrup on vanilla ice cream and it was heaven. I’m going to be making pound cake soon enough and we’ll be putting it on that. Heck, even out of the jar with a spoon is yummy. The best part is – once made, it’s supposed to keep for a whole year. So, you’ll be able to enjoy strawberries even in the middle of December.

Sugared Strawberries

  • 1 lbs (or 2 cups) of fresh Strawberries with stems removed
  • 1 lbs (or 2 cups) of granulated sugar
  1. In a large bowl, toss strawberries together with sugar until well coated
  2. Using a pastry ricer or potato masher, crush berries and sugar together until liquified.
  3. Transfer syrup to jars and refrigerate.
  4. Spoon over your ice cream, yogurt, pound cake, or just into a bowl to eat.

One final thought – I added a few blackberries to the mix above and beyond the pound of strawberries and they added a nice bit of contrasting tartness. They’re totally optional and next time I’ll probably be keeping just to pure Strawberries. Happy Summer!

 

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Inspiration and Improvising Dinner

Adam here. There isn’t a recipe at the end of this post – instead I hope you find some inspiration for your own improvisation.

Last Friday I was going through Lifehacker and happened across this post: “Five Sauces Everyone Should Know.” If you haven’t already, take a look. It was a great post and offered some excellent tips on building the sorts of sauces that really make up how I cook. Whether starting a soup with a roux (equal parts butter or olive oil and flour) or creating the garlic sauce I’ll talk about a little later, the way of improvising where you start with a basic sauce and the take whatever you have in the fridge and make a tasty meal is where I feel like I do my best cooking.

A little bit after reading through the Lifehacker piece and the directions on creating Creme Toum linked with in, Laura texted me that most important question:

What’s the plan for dinner?

I responded with “chicken, veggies, and a baguette.” Beyond those very basic descriptors I didn’t really know what I was going to do. So I looked back at the Creme Toum recipe (find it here: garlic-y goodness) and thought to myself: time to do something new. I grabbed garlic, olive oil, eggs, and lemon juice and started broke out our food processor.

Now, the recipe called for 5-7 cloves of garlic. I put in something closer to 12. Those got chopped in the processor until they disappeared with an egg white. Then I very slowly added the 3/4 of a cup of olive oil until it was all completely emulsified and then added my lemon juice. The resulting sauce is very powerful. Like so powerful that if you have a loved one that can smell – ensure that both of you enjoy it. So, that got made and put aside. The creme toum would be the sauce for dinner but what on Earth was I going to do for the rest?

I pulled some frozen chicken out of the freezer and started it defrosting and then started poking around the pantry searching for inspiration. I found pistachios. Lovely, roasted pistachios. A nutty compliment to a simple meat. I broke out a meat tenderizer, put the shelled pistachios in a bag and smashed the dickens out of them. With beaten-down pistachios now on hand, I added some olive oil and set it aside.

With the chicken on the counter moving towards being defrosted, I put myself together and went out to run some errands. About two and half hours later, I returned triumphant with a fresh baguette from one of my favorite DC area grocers: Glut Food Co-op. If you’re in the DC area, especially around the Hyattsville area, check them out and enjoy!

With some time to kill before Laura got home, I went ahead and got started putting dinner together. I filleted the chicken as thinly as I could and spread the pistachio and olive oil paste across and then rolled it up – holding the roll with a few toothpicks. I added the leftover paste to the top and cracked some black pepper to finish it off. Then, I put them into roast at the relatively low heat of 215ºF. The chicken roasted for two and half hours wrapped in parchment paper to keep it moist.

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So – that gave me the chicken. Now – what to do with the toum? Garlic bread. I broke out the baguette, cut a trough into it and spread as many several teaspoons of the sauce as could reasonably be spread. Then, with some finely grated parmesan romano to add creaminess, I replaced the bread I’d cut out, wrapped the bread in foil and put it in to heat up with the chicken about 30 minutes before Laura was supposed to get home.

Chicken and bread. Veggies. I thought for a moment about what would be a tasty addition and settled on steaming some broccoli. The broccoli then got dressed with a little bit of the grated parmesan and a touch of lemon juice.

Here’s what it looks like plated:

Pistachio-encrusted Chicken, Brocoli, and Garlic Bread

The paste at the bottom of the plate is the finished creme toum.

All told, Laura and I had a lovely dinner inspired by a Lifehacker post. Happy Improvising!