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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Baker's Hours

The bug is not going back to sleep. She's been up since about 2:30. It's okay, though; I wasn't sleeping well either. And I had four loaves of bread in the pantry that I'd shaped yesterday evening and was too tired to stay up and bake. So this is what just came out of the oven.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Media Notes

1. I wish this reporter had called me back to confirm slash copyedit the quote he attributes to me, and also to confirm that I live in Athens, which I don't. I like Simply Meats, and I said some nice things about it, but I don't think I said them quite that stupidly.

2. You can find my mug on the beta version of the new recipe resource Cookstr, alongside some very smart authors indeed (and probably some thick ones like me).

3. I learned yesterday that my proposal for a kind of unusual cookbook has been accepted, and if all goes well and contracts get signed it'll be published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang. This will be the first book that's really my own (that is, it was my idea) and that I actually have a stake in (it's not a work-for-hire job). Apparently I'm going to have months upon months to write it, which means it's going to be awesome and I'm not going to go completely insane. Whew.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day in Fictional Baltimore

Does anyone else have this montage running through their heads right now? I wish this clip contained the "Naw, man, I can't vote" line that just breaks my heart.

Our Polling Place 2

The Chalmerses voted a bit later in the morning than last year, all of us having had a difficult sleep last night for various reasons. The bug skipped ahead of us (until we got to the highway and the railroad tracks), and the Mr. and I walked with our arms around each other. Our best neighbors and friends June and Cecilia were there, having just voted themselves; we chatted awhile, and the atmosphere was cheerful and expectant. It was a beautiful morning, bright and clear and breezy.

Later, at the Southern States in Lexington, the mood among the middle-aged white men I overheard talking politics was not so cheerful. Though I hate to admit finding pleasure in the bitterness I hear in a feed store in rural Georgia, I think this is a sign of good things to come tonight.

As I did last year, I submitted my picture to the Polling Place Photo Project, even though the building itself is just a tiny dot here, at the vanishing point. As they ask in the questionnaire, if there's anything that would have made my voting experience better it would be knowing that all my neighbors, even those much less fortunate than I am, were able to register and to vote as easily as I was.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Outside Brown

The pork shoulder was excellent. We smoked it until about 2 p.m., so maybe nine hours for an eight-pound Boston butt? I think it registered almost 180 degrees when we took it off.

Here are some things I want to remember about what I did this time for the next time:
  • Marinate overnight: apple juice, a little brown sugar, cumin, onion powder, salt, Goya adobo.
  • Start out with hot charcoal fire in the firebox, let it burn down till the briquettes are mostly coals, then add soaked hickory chips.
  • Do not trim off any of the fat. Put shoulder fat side down on the grate to start, then flip it after a couple hours.
  • Keep the temperature at 200 to 225 degrees: When the coals are white all over, add a few more fresh coals and a handful of soaked wood chips. If it's cold outside, be sure to do this before the smoker temperature drops at all, and before the old coals are totally white; otherwise it'll be hard to maintain the heat evenly and the new coals won't light very easily and things will suck for a while.
  • When the meat registers 170 degrees, keep going for another 1 or 2 hours. Those last 10 degrees, as Mr. Chalmers warned me, are the toughest, but they're worth it.
  • Boil a few cups of the marinade for 10 or 15 minutes with some chile flakes, then strain. Add about three times as much cider vinegar, and some more chile flakes. This should be about right and all the sauce you'll need.
Mr. Chalmers chopped the meat into chunks, and I made a sauce (for the side). This morning I roughly chopped some in the food processor—I know, sue me, but it was the best tool for the job, and just look at the results!—and mixed in a bit of the sauce and made a sandwich with a toasted storebought bun for breakfast.

The coleslaw was good too, though I'm no connoisseur of the stuff. It was just green cabbage (no carrot or other useless crap) with a dressing of sour cream, mayonnaise, yogurt, Dijon mustard, cider vinegar, salt, and a little sugar. I like it with tons of cracked black pepper, so I put some in my own servings. Also made some cornbread muffins.

Our friend Regan came out to watch the Florida-Georgia game and hang out and drink beer and Argentinian wine and throw the football around out in the yard. Along with the wine, she brought pretty little turnips from Athens Locally Grown, for which she volunteers each Thursday, and made a delicious turnip salad: blanched cubed turnips tossed with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, cumin, paprika, and parsley. It was amazing, and went so well with everything else you'd've thought we'd called each other beforehand.

Dessert was creamy cold jasmine rice pudding with caramelized bananas, a Martha Stewart recipe that I would say is too fussy except that the results are always so worth the trouble that I can never bring myself to skip any of the steps. It's here, and you should try it sometime. The bananas take on this strange texture, and somehow taste alcoholic, as if they really do have rum in them. Weirdly addictive.

It was a happy, fun day, and I'm glad it lasted as long as it did.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Must Be Feeling Better?

Got up this morning around 3 and made coleslaw. It's 4:40 now, and I have a fire going in the smoker, almost ready to put the whole Boston butt pork shoulder on. I just took a pain pill and I'm drinking coffee and wearing my deer-hunter-orange puffy coat over my pajamas. Everyone else, including the dogs, is asleep. The pork's been marinating overnight in my husband's favorite pork marinade/brine thing: apple juice, onion salt, a little brown sugar, a little cumin, and some other stuff. More later.