Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Deliciousness: The shit I didn't post this year

Popovers are easy. These were served with a simple ramp-butter sauce. Easily one of the top ten best-tasting things I made this year.

Rotisserie duck, a no-brainer, with a couple of oranges, in the cavity, with the spit right through them.

Leftover duck? How about tostadas.

I did a lot of ribs this year. Don't forget to make a bbq sauce with whatever fruit is in season at the time. Tomatoes are great but you can be more creative than that.

Calzone type things. In my opinion they are easier to turn out a great result than pizza and a great use for leftovers. I don't remember what's inside these.

Mmmm, morels. Enough said.

Kung pow octopus.

Once in a while, my friend and fellow Coit Rd. Farmers Market board member, Tony do something we call "meat day". He brings over some huge cut of meat and we spend our Saturday afternoon after market cutting it up and cooking it any way we can think of while drinking excessively. Good quality experimenting time. I think this time we were playing with Thai spices, herbs and stuff.

Fun stuff!

Grilled toms. About to be a great summer sauce.

I love these frozen New Zealand greenshell mussels. They make an easy quick meal topped with whatever you have around. (Top) Grilled with annatto oil and asparagus. (Bottom) from the oven with sesame oil, wasabi and pickled ginger.

Some meatloaf I made at the market. I have no idea what was in this.

Some pasta thing with both a nutmeggy bechamel sauce and a cinnamonny tomato sauce. This thing was delicious.

Fried potato skins stuffed with spaghetti squash that was tossed with red pepper puree and topped with cheese.

Shrimp and andouille sausage meatball gumbo. This was eaten outside with friends while a hurricane (Ike, I think) actually made it's way through Cleveland. Our food blew off our plates and branches fell around us from my 100+ year old maple tree while we ate. This was dangerous but probably the most fun meal of the year.

This pizza may have been the most delicious thing I made this year. It was one of those times when the result was so much better than the sum of the parts. I topped it with stuff I just happened to have around from other cooking experiments, an aji-orange sauce (aji amarillo chiles, cumin seed toasted and freshly ground, granulated garlic, mandarin orange slices in light syrup and heavy cream cooked down and pureed), some pre cooked sweet longaniza sausage and, after it came out of the oven, a cilantro-hazelnut pesto (cilantro, hazelnuts, garlic, locatelli, olive oil and gray salt), which my wife still reminds me "looks like a bird shit on the pizza". The bread machine made a great dough and the pizza stone was screamin' hot. I haven't even tried to duplicate this one, I don't want to be disappointed.

Thanks to all of those who took the time to read this crap this year. I'll try to be better at responding to peoples comments and while I'm at it, I'll try to take better pictures and learn how to use the blog well enough to add the blogs I follow and all of that other stuff the rest of you have already figured out. Peace.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The pit revisited: lamb

For our second pit-roasting experiment, we decided to do a lamb for Thanksgiving. Since local lambs were not available this time of year we headed to the restaurant store to pick up a 25 lb. frozen Australian lamb.

We seasoned it by inserting dozens of whole cloves of garlic into slots we cut all over the animal. We intended to stuff the cavity with lots of fresh rosemary but the store was out of it. Instead, we decided to make a rosemary infused olive oil. I took a cup and a half of olive oil and slowly heated it and an ounce of dried rosemary to about 200 degrees and let it rest for a few hours and strained it. Using a brine pump, we injected the oil into all of the thickest parts of the animal.

We rubbed the whole thing down with salt and pepper and tucked the hind legs up into the body before wrapping it in a single layer of banana leaves. Following my own suggestion from our first pit-roasting experience, we also started with much more coals and burned the pit for three full hours to preheat it.

As you can see, we had 16" or more of coals. We mounded them up on both sides to make room for the lamb. We could smell the banana leave smoking a soon as we placed it in the pit so we quickly covered it with the steel lid and plenty of dirt. It spent a whole 17 hours underground before we unearthed it.

The lamb was cooked beautifully, the garlic and rosemary oil perfumed the lamb nicely and we were happy with the touch of smoke that the burning banana leaves gave the lamb. But it was clear that the pit had dropped below cooking temperature hours earlier. The meat was barely warm when we unwrapped it. We thought that by starting with an animal half the size, with no skin, using less banana leaves and using more coals for a longer time might even result in over-done meat. We now know for sure that it is nearly impossible to over-cook anything using this method. When we build the final version of the pit, we will use much more brick (for more thermal mass) and add a adjustable vent to allow a small amount of air to the bottom of the pit so the coals can be fed and allowed to smolder longer.

We will need a few more experiments and learn a little more about temperature control before we will be ready to cook a 100+ pound hog in the ground but we we do have a much better idea of what the design of the final version of the pit should be.