Recipe fantasy to food reality.

Friday, June 24, 2005


It's working! The temperature is oscillating between 200 and 220, but I don't really know how we can really control it any better.

Beer tastes better before noon

Up at 7:00. Nearly nine, and we still can't seem to get the temperature right on the smoker. I threw the meat in the oven at 210, so we won't have to be dining at midnight. 8 hours of smoke rather than 10 will probably still get the job done.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

It's all coming together

Tomorrow, I plan to thoroughly rub my butt, then spend 10 to 12 hours blowing smoke up it.

Saying "pork butt" will never stop being funny.

Currently, I have 6.23 pounds of pork shoulder butt submerged in a brine of molasses and salt water. Apple chunks and chips are soaking in water overnight. I will write a depiction of the events that occur tomorrow, though I may have to sober up a few days before taking on the task.

Happy birthday, me!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

5 a day? Yeah right!

Reading this post at Morsels of Megret reminds me of something I have learned in the past few months, which I think is an important lesson if you're going to enjoy eating healthy foods: shopping for produce takes time and attention. It's only something that I've gotten any good at in the last few months, and my diet has changed accordingly. When I go to the grocery store and look at the produce, I have to wonder who eats these rock-hard "peaches" and "tomatoes." I certainly don't. And, judging by the diet habits of Americans, no one else does, either. I think it says something bizarre about American culture that we prefer food that looks like it should to food that tastes like it should. Sure, the tomatoes are awfully shiny and blemish-free by the time they make it to Northern Idaho from wherever they came, but that oughtn't be enough to get me to buy them. A McDonald's cheeseburger is an unsullied, platonic form of a cheeseburger, but it tastes nothing like something you'd make at home.

So, the next time you read a news report on the dismal eating habits of Americans, don't guiltily think of your last midnight run to Jack in the Box. Just remember that you don't have to eat the phony produce that comes in 5 lb bags. My usual tactic is to go with what looks and smells like it would be tasty, rather than making a plan of what produce to buy. Some staples, like tomatoes, I admit I'll eat whether they at all resemble what I want or not. But something you plan on eating on its own, like an apple or a pear, don't bother unless it's in a decent condition. Otherwise, it'll molder on your shelf, and continue to fuel your all too understandable avoidance of fresh produce.

P.S. I'm not just trying to preach to the choir about this, or condescend. I suppose that if you're interested in food, you are probably careful about your produce. On the other hand, I've been very interested in cooking for a long time, and have only really gotten the hang of buying fresh fruit in the past few months. This really is an epiphone for me, and I just wanted to emphasize that you don't have to be a junk food junkie to not be eating a lot of produce. With what's available, it's only natural. Cultivating the ability to choose good produce has been a bigger influence on improving my nutritional intake than anything else. More on choosing later; I've still got a lot to learn myself.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Sunny Day, Cooking with Family

Today was both my mother's birthday and father's day, so I was able to visit my parents and fulfill two required duties with one meal. It was a gorgeous sunny day, with no clouds, and my husband Andy and I cooked a simple but delicious meal for my parents: chicken breasts stuffed with spinach and feta, potatoes roasted with rosemary and onions, and a fruit salad. I won't bother to list the recipes, because naming the dishes really tells you all you need to know.

Later, after having a beer in the back yard with Andy, while the sun went down, I made some bacon jalapeno corn muffins. Again, the name tells you about all you need to know. They do make a great, rather eye-opening breakfast, though. Often, when I wake up, the last thing I want is something heavily sweet.

Also, when I stopped by to pick up some bacon at the grocery store, I put in an order for about 7 lbs of pork butt. T-minus five days...

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Clinical studies have revealed surprising results as to the effects of reading this blog.

Maybe I should have googled the term "orexia" before choosing it as a name for my blog.

Countdown to Pork Butt Birthday

My birthday is on Friday, the 24th of June. It is my plan to take the day off of work, and spend the day drinking beer and smoking a pork butt, a la Alton Brown's terra cotta smoker. I don't know anyone who has tried this apparatus, but I'll do my best to describe it, and report the results in this blog for the sake of posterity. This will not only be my first experience creating real barbecue, but it will also be my first experience eating real barbecue. My hopes are high.

The aim is to take a tough, cheap piece of meat and hold it over a low amount of heat for a very long time, so as to dissolve the tough connective tissue and keep the delicious juices inside. And, if I plan on keeping a piece of meat warm long enough to do this, I might as well also be imbuing it with flavor - letting smoke pass over it, since I've got the heat going anyway.

There are expensive ways of doing this.

I don't plan on doing this the expensive way. Alton Brown, in his infinite wisdom, has shown me the way to barbecue.

I am currently in the stage of equipment collection. The items needed include
  1. Large terra cotta pot
  2. Shallow terra cotta dish or bowl, with a circumference the same size as the pot
  3. Electric hot plate
  4. Barbecue grill sized to fit a few inches below the rim of the terra cotta pot
  5. Cake pan
  6. Thermometer
  7. Hardwood (type and amount yet to be determined)
Stay tuned for a diagram, and further explanation of the process.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Genius Chicken Salad

1 whole chicken breast
fresh rosemary
olive oil
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup finely diced onion
1/2 diced sweet bell pepper
1/4 cup dried cranberries (unsweetened preferred)
1 tablespoon chardonnay
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
salt and pepper

1. Salt chicken breast, and heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add desired amount of rosemary to oil and allow to warm (I used about a tablespoon). Set the chicken breast in the oil and brown on one side. Turn, and allow to brown on the other side.

2. Remove chicken from heat.

3. Combine remaining ingredients in medium-sized bowl and stir.

4. Dice cooled chicken breast, and add to dressing in bowl. Be sure to transfer the oil in which the chicken was cooked to the bowl as well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Refrigerate until cool. Serve on whole wheat bread with lettuce and tomato.

This is a recipe I made up the other day, and I hope the amounts listed somewhat reflect what I did. This may require further revision. When I made it, I used dried cranberries that had been sweetened, which made the salad a little too sweet. Also, the white wine left the dressing a little drippy. None the less, I'm pretty sure making up this salad makes me a genius. I could be wrong, but I don't think so.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Food Cultures from Around the World

Today I was browsing the new books at the library, and came across a book called Food Culture in the Near East, Middle East and Northern Africa. The first chapter gives a great overview of how common ingredients are used in the area, what common staples of food and drink are consumed, and even some recipes for demonstration. The good news is that the book is part of a series. The bad news is that the books are about $50 apiece. More good news is that my library has several of them.

Spicy Raspberry Bran Muffins

4 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 cup bran
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 can raspberries, drained

1. Preheat the oven to 400F and prepare 15 muffin cups with grease or paper liners.

2. Melt the butter in a saucepan over gentle heat and set aside.

3. Sift together the flours, baking soda, salt and garam masala.

4. Add the bran and sugars to the bowl, and mix.

5. In another bowl, mix together the egg, buttermilk, lemon juice, melted butter, and the raspberries. Don't worry if the berries fall apart.

6. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture, and stir lightly until just moistened; do not overstir.

7. Fill baking cups to almost full.

8. Bake until golden, about 15-20 minutes.

I made these muffins on Sunday night, and they have kept really well all week. They're nice and moist, and I love the fragrance. I recently substituted garam masala for cinnamon in a carrot cake, and the results were equally as nice as what I got in these muffins, if not better.

I'd love any comments about what would be a good change to this recipe, or anything else it brings to mind.