Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Nothing Rhymes with Frittata *

So I realize the sweet irony of this post. I lure you here with Bacon Explosion and a HUGE London Broil...then I change course to a vegetarian dish. To be fair it has potatoes and cheese - two of the manly food groups (the others being meat and booze). Also it is Ash Wednesday - the first day of Lent. This means 40 days of meatless Friday night dinners for me and mine.

I took this opportunity to try something new. I have been meaning to make Frittatas for years now, but have never quite gotten around to it. Are they"too close to a omelet?" or is it "Too close to a quiche?"

So I did what I usually do when I want to try something new, I find two or three of the best looking recipes off of the interweb and then I mash them together. Sometimes this ends up in a spectacular dish and sometimes in grand failure. Today turned out pretty well.

I took the basic recipe from here. Then I tweaked it a bit. When I say tweak, I mean that I forgot to add the milk, and put mainly parmesan cheese instead of cheddar. Taking a cue from other recipes on the net I finished it off in the oven under the broiler for 3 minutes. This gave it a nice firm top and texture. If there is anything I would change for next time it would be for me to be better prepared.

The dish does not take all that long to make, but I had been lollygagging around the house until the desperate cries of hunger from my Bride drove me back into the kitchen. I did a rush job and got a little flustered towards the end when I realized that getting the eggs and cheese ready ahead of time may have been a good idea. In my defense I was lollygagging because I was tired, tired from also making rustic white bread, a recipe tweaked from the wonderful Smitten Kitchen. And when I say tweaked, I mean that I forgot half the salt and did not let it rise long enough, and forgot to set a timer for the bake time.

So will I make Fritattas again? You bet. I'll just give myself a little extra time to do it.

*I tried to think of a clever title for this post, but alas nothing rhymes with Frittata.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Beef - It's whats for dinner

Let's me state something for the record. I love meat. It's a pretty safe bet that the man who starts a blog with a post about bacon is a carnivore. But as much as I love pork, and lamb, and chicken, I love beef best of all. I grew up on a beef farm. We raised Charolais cattle. We ate a ton of red meat, all of it raised on the farm. We two huge freezers in the basement, one filled with frozen vegetables from the garden the other with a full or half side of beef from a steer from our own pasture.

When I moved away from my ancestral home land (Harford County, Maryland) I made do with what I could pick up from the grocery store. In the 'lean years' of unemployment and low pay I ate beef infrequently and mostly in burger form. As my life has improved and I had the space for a couple of grills I have again become a devote of Steak. I like my local Kroger, and have had some very tasty meat from there, but sometimes wonder about where the meat comes from. Do the animals have plenty of room? Are they humanly raised? Are they shot up with hormones and steroids?

Luckily for me I have connections. Family connections. My Uncle and Cousins (the Sayre clan) and another local farmer I have known literally all my life, have a commercial beef operation. So when I head back up to Harford County, I pack a cooler and bring back a bunch of steaks from Deer Creek Beef. I can't recommend this enough. For evidence of the superior quality of home raised beef I proffer the following:

London Broil. Cooked at high heat for 6 minutes a side. Let sit for 10 minutes to let the juices settle. Slice thin at an angle. Serve with a roasted sweet potato, green salad, and a bottle of red wine (a Pinot Noir in the picture). Enjoy.

See the full Deer Creek Beef product list and prices here. Give my cousin Nancy Ann a call and put an order in. You won't regret it.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

And at last there is Whisky

Finally. A post about Whiskey. Or rather Whisky. I love both. According to our good friends at Wikipedia:

Whisky or whiskey refers to a broad category of alcoholic beverages that are distilled from fermented grain mash and aged in wooden casks (generally oak). Different grains are used for different varieties, including barley, malted barley, rye, malted rye, wheat, and maize (corn).

With few exceptions, the spelling is always Scotch and Canadian whisky (plural: whiskies), and Irish and American whiskey (whiskeys).[1]

For Christmas I got a really nice bottle of Scotch, The Macallan Cask Strength Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky - thanks Chris! I had a quick taste of it when I got it, but never really delved too deeply into the bottle.

So when my lovely and charming wife went out dinner with some of her running friends, I took the opportunity to spend some time with a nice bottle of scotch. My good friend Bessom generously donated his time and efforts to help me explore the bottle. We. poured some into my brandy snifters, another recent Christmas gift - the perfect shape to drink fine liquors out of.

So how is it? In short - delicious. This is a cask strength (116.8 proof) whisky that has been aged in a sherry oak cask. The color is reddish gold and the initial smell is very alcohol-y and strong with a floral scent. The first sip is very strong due to the high proof and surprisingly fruity.

We quickly added a little water to the glass, and it became even more enjoyable. The whisky really opened up and without all of the alcohol taste we could pick out more individual flavors of flowers and especially honey. It was quite excellent. It's heady stuff and not something that I will drink every day. I plan to take a sip from time to time and savor it.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Brief Lecture in Thermodynamics

Brewing beer is all about thermodynamics. Pour hot water over malted barley. Let sit in an insulated container. Drain off malty water. Hit grains with more hot water (called 'sparging'). Boil wort (the product of hot water and grains) with Hops for bitterness. Cool wort. Pitch yeast. That's it.

Last weekend I forgot all about what happens when you add a too hot liquid to a not as hot glass carboy. The carboy, the wort, and 3 and a half hours of work all shattered at the same time. If anyone heard the low sound of thunder in the distance last Sunday it was most likely me venting my frustrations through various oaths, both profane and scatological.

After a return trip to the homebrew supply store I was ready for a rematch. I brewed the same recipe - an Irish Red Ale (think Smithwicks not Killians).

This is my custom made Weber Sparge Master 2000 - the ultimate in hi tech brewing technology. Note the pint of homebrew. It's standard operating procedure to drink a pint of beer when brewing. It makes the process go faster.

This video demonstrates the advances in brewing technology that the Weber Sparge Master 2000 brings to the backyard brewer. Background music by Andrew Bird.

One week in the fermenter than a month of bottle conditioning and it'll be ready to drink. If I can wait that long.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

We got some bacon going on around here

I figured I would start this thing out with an explosion. A BACON EXPLOSION!!! Apparently I found out about this the same week as the New York Times, the Today Show and USA today. As soon as I mentioned this at work, at the local pub, or online everyone had heard of it...but no one had actually tasted it. I take this kind of thing as a personal challange.

So basically you take a pound of bacon, weave it into a blanket then spread two pounds of Italian sausage on it. Top with more bacon some rub and bbq sauce then roll up into a log.

I cooked it off center heat in my charcoal grille at about 200 degrees, throwing hickory chips on the fire every so often for a nice smoky flavor.

The end result? Concentrated pork deliciousness. Not for the fainthearted. Possibly life shortening. Well worth it. I took it to a superbowl party and it was a big hit.

Will I make it again? Yes, but I'll give it a couple of years and make sure it's a special, special occasion.