Memorial Day BBQ

Enjoyed a WINDY day on Memorial Day.

Lots of wind to irritate my Weber Smoker.

Lots of “hot wind” stories told by George and Dad. . .

Smoked beef (back) ribs were enjoyed by all guests.  The bone remnants were enjoyed by Sophie.

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Patience is a virtue, but . . .

It’s something that I don’t have much of.  And it’s not a secret, either — my family, my friends, my co-workers and certainly my wife would agree that I need to work on patience (often and comprehensively). 

For now, I am just content to struggle with seeking patience.  Consequently, I take a particular interest in anything that doesn’t require patience.  I’d rather watch something vaguely interesting on Encore or IFC over something that I actually like showing on a network channel.  Not only are there too many commercials per break; but they also occur way too frequently throughout the program.

Take The Office, for example — I’ve taken to watching it, but only by taping it on the DVR to watch later when I can fast forward through the commercials.  I think the show ends up being about 20 minutes with 10 minutes of annoyance.  That’s ridiculous.

My impatience drives another quirky habit — before I wil read a magazine I have to go through it completely and remove all the annoying inserts.  I don’t like my reading to be interrupted by those kind of “magazine commercials” either.  Too many of them, thicker, rougher paper and overly redundant.  I mean, how many subscription cards does one issue really need? 

So I was quite delighted when Erika showed me a copy of Cook’s Illustrated.  She received a complementary copy for some reason.  I read it cover to cover the other day and enjoyed it thoroughly.  Here’s the top three things I like about this publication:

  • First off – they don’t accept advertising, so there isn’t any in the magazine
  • They test recipes and brands and cookware in the vein of Consumer Reports and share their findings with their readers
  • There are a lot of illustrations and how-to diagrams for various cooking techniques

So, I will be buying a subscription to Cook’s Illustrated.  And a word to the rest of the publishing world — I’d read more of what you spew forth if you’d lay off those stupid insert cards and advertising on every other page.

I’ll keep working on the virtue of patience, who knows maybe someday I’ll be content to read a regular magazine or watch a network show . . . maybe

Categories: Cooking, Ranting | 2 Comments

Caged Grudge Match – Man vs. Cake

Yesterday I made a Waldorf-Astoria cake for dessert. According to the legend, this cake was served at the luxurious hotel years ago. You can see a lovely shot of this premier hotel here ——->

Sometimes people also refer to it as red cake because the cake itself was a sort of blood-red color. Usually four layers of cake filled and topped with a thickened butter-cream frosting.

In any regard, I have my Mom’s old recipe for this cake – and I wanted to make it just as she used to.

Waldorf-Astoria Battle Royale: Red Cake = 3; Rev. Mr. Chris = nada

Against the insightful comments of my wife, I refused to line the pans with parchment paper. I said to myself, “it said grease and flour, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do, nothing more and nothing less.”

  • Red Cake goal numero uno – One layer stuck to the pan, and broke as I tried to extricate it

I made the frosting, but waited too long before incorporating the thickening paste (it said to let it cool, grrrr) to the butter base.

  • Red Cake scores again – Frosting separated and would not bind properly

As I was preparing the thickening paste for frosting batch #2, I got distracted with something to do with the salad for dinner.

  • Red Cake scores a third time – thickening paste has become solid glue

Finally, on batch 2 1/2, the frosting came out correctly. I slathered it between the layers and on the top and threw the dang thing in the fridge to set up.

This is not how I remember it working out for Mom

I ate a piece tonight rather triumphantly, but I wasn’t very pleased about it. The cake itself is a sort of pinkish red, not blood red (even with two full thingies of red food coloring that wasn’t enough).

I noticed that the Waldorf-Astoria (a Hilton property) no longer serves the blasted cake – I wonder why?

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Dark meat, white meat?

I am roasting a turkey breast for dinner this evening, which got me thinking, “what is it that makes the dark meat dark?”

Or, for that matter, the white meat white?

Turns out that the more active muscles in a bird need more oxygen. The highly active muscles are filled with blood vessels that contain myoglobin (muscle hemoglobin). Consequently, the more myoglobin the muscle has, the darker it appears.

So, in a turkey, the legs and thighs (which are the most active) are dark. The wings (which aren’t used for sustained flying) are less active, and thus have less myoglobin, and are lighter.

The taste difference is simply attributed to the type of muscle present.

Chickens are similar to turkeys, whereas ducks and pheasants (who do use their breast muscles for sustained flying) have all dark meat.

I’ve been trying to use turkey more often in cooking. It seems like every Thanksgiving I say to myself, “why don’t we eat this more often during the year?”

Ben Franklin advocated making the turkey the national bird and symbol of our nation. While I do think turkeys are pretty cool, they are also too tasty to set aside.

Sorry, Ben, but if you would have gotten your way I’d have to order a pizza tonight!

Categories: Cooking, Educational | 1 Comment

Capers – an overlooked tool

Today I prepared chicken piccata for lunch, a simple dish of thin chicken pieces dressed in a lemony sauce accented by capers.

  • Incidentally, its much better to slice the chicken rather than pound it out with a mallet, as most recipes suggest. Pounding can be useful with veal (lots of connective tissue) but a bad idea for chicken, you’ll just damage it.

Anyway, in an effort to assist those farmers who raise capers, and to those who have never heard of a caper, I’m dedicating today’s entry to them.

Capers are tiny immature flower buds that are usually pickled and found in very small jars next to olives and pickles in your supermarket. Sometimes they are kept next to cocktail onions, watermelon pickles, artichoke hearts and the like.

Lots more info about capers is available here.

Why not try using them on a favorite dish of your own? Some recipes call for rinsing the capers before use (I usually do this myself), and others just toss them in.

They add a delightful piquant flavor to dishes, and also a bit of saltiness, so you might have to adjust your seasonings slightly.

It’s an actual fact that the Scottish dish haggis has at least one song singing it’s praises, but the poor caper is just constantly overlooked.

Here’s to you, caperberry!

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