Tuesday, September 22, 2009
- Drippy messes. This grill’s user’s guide states that it is not designed for the burn-off cleaning method. Instead, you should let the grill cool somewhat and then use a wire brush while the grill is still warm. Let’s try that. Um, yeh, spreads the grease around real well—pretty swirly patterns—but it sure doesn’t get anything clean. I can just imagine the discussion that occurred between the marketing folks and the tech writer forced to write that drivel.
- Heat the outside, not the kitchen. Most instructions for doing ribs on a gas grill include either par-boiling, par-baking, or crocking them first. What’s the point, especially with par-boiling and crocking? Where’s the spice rub that puts all the lovely flavor into ribs?
- Keep the grill hot without a lot of additional fuel. Not only does our grill have no good way to install lava rocks for heat retention; the user’s guide expressly states that if you use them you void your warranty! Eh? I didn’t know there was such a grill, or I surely would’ve checked the guide before not buying!
- BBQ flavor. There’s no way to get smoke beneath the food, so you have to hope it gets there sideways from a smoke box that’s about six inches above the flame. Hmmmm.
Okay, tell me I need to buy a smoker. For one kind of food. I don’t think so. Having once had a great long-term relationship with a Weber Kettle and Kingsford, I guess I just don’t “get” gas grills. I’m actually starting to lose my aversion to having a charcoal grill on a deck. Am I crazy? Meanwhile, I guess instead of great ribs, I’ll just have to settle for pretty good ribs.
Here’s the sketch; ask if you want more detail.
- Remove the membrane from the concave side of the ribs. It’s a barrier to some of the flavors you want to add to the meat.
- Rub the ribs with a dry rub. It’s called a “rub,” not a “sprinkle,” so spend a little time and make sure all the surfaces are coated: rub it in there. This is a great one, http://www.bbqsearch.com/search/26655.shtm, although I usually halve the salt so I can taste the other spices. The cayenne and paprika in the chili powder give the ribs their deep red color.
- Let the ribs come up to room temperature for about two hours. If the sight of meat on a room temp counter bothers you, tent it with foil.
- Fire up the grill to about 225° F (107° C). Use the burners on one side of the grill only.
- Cut the racks to fit on a rib rack. Don’t have one? You can get one here, and, yes, it really makes a difference http://www.cookware.com/Grillpro-41614-GRL1015.html.
- Half fill a pan with water. This will go on the grill to help keep moisture in the ribs.
- Put the water pan on the flame side of the grill.
- Put the ribs on the cool side of the grill.
- Close the cover and sit back for at least 4 hours, 6 if you can wait that long; check the water occasionally and add more if necessary. Water is also a good indicator of grill temperature. If the water is forming bubbles at the bottom of the pan and generating steam, you’re in the right range; if you have a rolling boil, dial the heat down.
- About ten to twenty minutes before removing the ribs from the grill, brush them with your favorite sauce. I’ve become partial to Sweet Baby Ray’s.
(I couldn’t wait to eat long enough to take a picture of the finished product.)
If you want baked potatoes, allow an hour and a half to an hour and three quarters because of the low grill temperature.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
I knew my computer was starting to fail. CHKDSK gave the “volume is dirty” notice; so there’s a new hard drive on order. Then, the dread “CPU Fan Failed.” Ack! Shut that thing down right now! And spend half a day at brick-and-mortar stores looking for a replacement fan, which, of course turned out to be a manufacturer’s special part.
The machine is a Dell. Long story short: I was very excited when I bought it; paid a lot of money for memory and power; have long come to the conclusion that I won’t buy another Dell for a host of reasons including the component failures and the need, within the first two months, to restore the system to its original state (and, of course, reload all my software again). It is the only machine I’ve ever owned that had any major component failure. An optical drive was the first to go (within the first year). Now the fan and the hard drive.
So, on Sunday I had to answer this question: do I order the fan and wait several days for it to arrive, or do we dredge up a Vista machine (an Acer Aspire) that’s been lying around for a year or so in order to get up and running right away? Yeah, it’ll be faster to just get that machine running…heh, heh.
Never has the process of setting up a new computer been so painful. It has been two full days, and I still don’t have all my software loaded. Not to mention data files. I made an image of the Dell shortly before the fan died, so I can browse the image to restore my data files. Or at least, I could if the image management software were Vista compatible. Yeah. I can see the image, but I can’t play with it. The trouble is, all the Plan Bs we come up with involve waiting. Fortunately, my partner also runs the imaging software and has graciously offered to extract all my files from the image to another external drive, and that will probably happen this evening.
Then, I’ll be able to restore my data files, including software application downloads. And only then will I be able to find out the hard way 1) which of those applications are not Vista compatible and 2) which were purchased as upgrades requiring a full version. Although I still have all the full versions for which I purchased upgrades, so I could theoretically load the full version and then the upgrade, what are the chances that the full versions, several years old, are Vista compatible? Fun! At least I was able to load Office 2007. And I had backed up my main pst (Outlook) file separately, so that’s running now. Some consolation.
It couldn’t have come at a worse time. Being unemployed with no access to your resume, personal reference files, application history, etc. is frustrating. Note to self: put all job search information on a USB flash drive, the way you used to do.
It’s been a painful few days that seem to have lasted for weeks. But it could be worse: I could be using Vista and a Dell.
Friday, May 15, 2009
But that was not the only fearsome ship in the water on this day: it seems there was some sort of pirate convention in town:
We ambled around enjoying the sights until lunch time; for me this was the second picture perfect day at the harbor.
We went to the well-known Phillips Seafood right on the harbor for lunch and took our time just enjoying the moment. I decided to have just appetizers. Mussels and scallops, and what a contrast. The scallops were a daily special that sounded much better than it turned out to be. A handful of bay scallops (think mini-marshmallows for size) and some little chunks of under-ripe mango, not prepared in any way other than having been cut up. But served in an oh- so-chic martini glass. Yyyyyeah, okay. The mussels, however, were utterly delectable in their Thai chili sauce with a coconut milk base. Should’ve just had two orders of those!
As we finished, we thought we had about two hours to stroll around the harbor before we had to leave for the airport. Just for shucks and grins, I thought I’d check the flight time on our tickets. Aaaaaaaaaah! We have to leave right now! Someone mistook arrival time for departure time! It cut our day pretty short, but at least we weren’t going to miss the plane!
Slept in and grabbed a cup of Starbucks for breakfast in the hotel lobby. We had intended to take the MARC train from the airport to D.C., so we asked the concierge about the hotel shuttle to the airport. The next one wouldn’t come for over half an hour. Not wanting to wait, we decided to drive. Got to town, parked, and headed for the first order of business: lunch. We ate at the Capital Grille. Nice place; lots of dark wood, ornate gilded picture frames, very old Washingtony feeling, uncomfortable little wooden chairs, nice menu. I had the daily seafood special, which was a sandwich with chunks of crab. Very tasty.
Then we started the National Mall walk on the east end, the capitol. Then it started to get warm out. Very warm. I do not tolerate heat well at all. Less than halfway across the mall, I was ready to call it a day, but I hated to disappoint, so I bought a bunch of water and we kept going. Professional photographers have taken far better ones than most tourists, so I will refer you to the Web to find thousands of postcard-perfect pictures and share just this one:
Dinner was just a bite at Ruby Tuesday. Of course, being in Maryland, this RT’s menu included crab cakes. It’s the culture. Crab cakes are everywhere, and seem to be on the tip of the tongue at all times no matter the occasion. They are so important in the state that even McDonald’s sells them. What’s a trip to Maryland without a crab cake or two? They’re okay for a change, but not really my cup of tea. Seem to mask, rather than enhance, the flavor of the crab.
I arrived back at the hotel just in time to pick up my partner for dinner with the Northrop folks at a local brew house. One of the guys took it upon himself to order appetizers for the group. You know the guy--orders the boring cheese plate (come on—I’m from Wisconsin!) and cold cuts (do they taste better when they’re billed as “charcuterie?”). I had come for seafood, so I ordered a nice appetizer of mussels with garlic, chiles, and orange peel. Guess who was the most willing to share those with me? Actually, he was a really nice guy, just misguided in his appetizer selection. I was tempted to get another order as my entrée, but then I would have missed the perfection of what Americans call the “Cuban sandwich.” This one was made with Black Forest ham, Gruyere, and a luscious mango salsa. I highly recommend Victoria Gastro Pub in Columbia, should you ever be out in that area.
I was driving back to the hotel, and as we approached a road sign pointing the way to D.C, I said, “Hey, want to go to D.C.?” To my nearly overwhelming astonishment, I thought I heard, “Sure, what the heck?” Was I hearing things? This is a person who usually doesn’t want to divert even a block out of the way to go to a Walgreens on the way home. D.C.? And, we were planning to go to D.C. the next day, anyway. Well, I took the exit and we drove down, saw some city lights, got the lay of the land (as much as you can get in an hour in the dark) and then headed back to the hotel.
I procrastinated so long in writing this, that I have to admit I’ve forgotten much of the food aspect of the trip. I do remember that I was very excited about the prospect of copious seafood, and that the reality did not live up to the image. Might have something to do with it being a tad early for crab season. Still, it was a great trip.
We arrived late Wednesday afternoon, starving. The hotel restaurant, Acqua, had closed, but they came up with a couple of fabulous burgers for us. Normally, I don’t like hotel restaurants, but this one was really good! Although I’d never heard of “Rockford” cheese before. We met with the group from Northrop for dinner there as well, where I had a nice piece of salmon. I’m not much of a beer drinker, but I had to try the local brew, Clipper City, and I must say it was quite smooth.
I browned the ribs then threw everything in the crock pot. About 4.5 lbs of ribs, 2 lb tomatillo, a generous handful of cilantro, and 5 or six peppers. I seeded all but one, and the heat was just about right. I forgot the limes.
This is a cooking method we’ve often used for chicken and pork, but without browning. So easy, so good. But I wanted the extra flavor that browning gives to the stock this time.
Add Spanish rice—which, by the way, I make with Basmati rice—and the lovely refritos featured in the Suburban Hausfrau’s Cinco de Mayo menu, and you don’t need a drop of Mexican blood in your veins to view this as comfort food.
A couple days later, I took the leftovers out of the fridge, skimmed the fat off the top and thickened the broth for a more stew-like consistency. We were too interested in eating to photograph it!
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
We had the ribs with whole green beans and potatoes mashed with parsley and dry mustard. Mm-mm.
- Start the pan on high heat for browning.
- Grind enough garam masala to coat the ribs.
- Add a couple tablespoons of oil (I used sesame) to the hot pan.
- Rub the ground spices on all sides of the ribs.
- When the oil is very hot, start browning the ribs. Brown on all sides. Take your time: about 30 minutes overall.
(Most recipes remove the ribs at this point and brown chopped carrots, onions, and celery. Considering those veggies are already in most recommended broths, it seems double duty to me).
- Add liquid.
I used about 20 oz. of water and a couple tb. cream of balsamic. Use your imagination: do a wine reduction; veal stock is recommended; other stocks work, too.
- Cover and simmer for 2 hours
Cover and bake at 350º for 2 hours.
- Add pared vegetables. Potatoes, carrots, onions are common.
- Cover and cook for another ½ hour.
- Remove ribs and make a pan gravy from the juice.
Friday, February 6, 2009
I usually avoid using a food processor because of the inconvenience it causes in my too-small kitchen, but I didn’t really want to chop a packed cup of basil, so I hauled it out and it did a rather nice job. There are lots of variations on pesto, but this one was the classic basil, pignolia, garlic, oil, salt, and pepper. I didn’t add cheese because I wasn’t sure whether I would freeze it and the hard grated cheeses don’t freeze that well.
It called to me from the refrigerator the very next day, so I was glad I hadn’t frozen it. Ah, yes, I will make some pasta with pesto, a few nice shrimp, and those lovely fresh green beans I just bought. And then…no long pasta in the larder! Who doesn’t have linguine, or vermicelli, or angel hair, or something long in the pasta spot? Argh! I don’t’ know why I have a minor aversion to short pasta with pesto, but I had my heart set enough on this meal to temporarily ignore it.
The only grating cheese I had was asiago, so the pesto became a variation I hadn’t heard of, but tasted quite good nonetheless. The beans and the shrimp were steamed (separately) then tossed in plain butter: between the pesto and the herb garlic bread, the nose had quite enough to do with this meal.
Monday, February 2, 2009
Rant Alert: to skip this little diatribe, go directly to the next paragraph. Why do produce suppliers feel the need to affix an adhesive label to every individual piece of fruit or vegetable? They’re such a nuisance to peel off, and if you forget, and wash the produce first, you have to wait until it’s thoroughly dry to remove the label or it will merely shred. A sign in the produce department saying, “Florida Oranges,” “produto de Brasil” or “Mexican Peppers” would suffice. Yet another example of America’s obsession with excessive labeling.
Fairly often, the Woodmans where I shop has clearance produce. Grocery carts full of bulging produce bags for seventy-nine cents each. Saturday, they had both green peppers and bananas in the clearance carts. That’s nearly four pounds of whopping great peppers, suitable for stuffing, at half a pound apiece. Yes, eight huge peppers for under a buck. I also picked up a bag of bananas weighing in at 3-3/4 pounds, mostly ripe, a few partly green, so I see banana bread in my near future.
Most people, when pondering a plethora of prodigious peppers would probably be tempted to stuff them in one way or another; not me. I’m rather cool toward stuffed peppers (except jalapeños stuffed with cream cheese, but that’s a different topic), and rather keen on roasted peppers. Rarely am I without a few in the freezer and I resort to the jarred form only when a large number is required (when serving Italian beef to a couple dozen people).
Usually I roast the peppers on the grill, but I wanted to try out my electric oven and see how it would do in this application. I had more than one panful and I suppose I could’ve just set both ovens to broil, but that seemed a bit excessive at first blush. So I looked up some instructions for roasting peppers in electric ovens and they were, basically, set the oven to 400º F (205º C), put the peppers on a foil-lined pan, and roast, turning every so often until all sides blacken a bit. (The method I use on a grill is to oil the peppers first, but I’m not sure that really serves a purpose, so I decided to roast them dry this time.)
Well, I messed up a little, but here’s how it went.
I put the peppers in and waited for fifteen minutes. Nothing. So I wondered, if you can grill them and broil them, why set the oven temperature so low? Let’s crank it up to 450º. Finally, one turned a little brown, and then…
The burst skin really wasn't a big deal. The underlying flesh did not scorch, so all was well. After about twenty minutes of turning the peppers to char all the sides, I removed the peppers to a large bowl, covered them, and let them steam for about fifteen minutes; use plastic wrap if your bowl or pot doesn’t have a lid. This steaming finishes cooking the pepper and makes the skin that’s not burnt easier to remove.
After steaming, the work begins.
If you want to keep the tasty juice, start by popping the top off of a pepper and inverting it over a cup.
Usually I quarter the peppers and freeze them about two peppers to a bundle in plastic wrap and then put the bundles into a freezer bag. But today I was running a little late, so I poured the reserved juice over the peppers and put the bowl in the fridge to keep until I can finish up. It’s amazing how time flies even when you’re not working!
A few of the green peppers, with much thicker flesh than the others, failed to cook all the way through, and their skins were a little hard to remove. Other than that, the oven method seems to work alright, but I still prefer the grill.
By the way, I thought it safe to use a nylon cutting board because I would just be removing the ribs and seeds, with no cutting against the board to dull the knife blade. So the knife is fine, but the red pepper stained the board badly. I'm going back to wood for all cutting applications. I have bleach, and I know how to use it!