Monday, June 29, 2009

Pig Roast 2009

After two weekends in a row hosting parties at our house (and all the fretting and prepping and feverish house-cleaning that it entails), I needed a few days' recovery to revel in inactivity. This quickly descends into crippling laziness, as is its wont, until I just sit my ass down and at least download the photos off my camera. First hurdle cleared.

This year was different. First off, I'm pregnant, and that makes me heavy, slow and quick to tire. Also, we wanted to do two smaller pigs this year instead of a 100lb sow, for ease and timeliness of cooking - we ended up with two 40lb roasters. The main factor, though, was definitely the pregnancy and its function of shifting my priorities quickly. Do I really need to get ham and cheese and make extra pickles in case someone wants a Cubano, requiring yet another run to the store and a reshuffling of the contents of the fridge? Ehhhh.

After we picked up the pigs, Scott's bro and I needed to figure out where to keep them for awhile. The chest freezer that we used last year was pretty much shot (sitting in a driveway throughout a Portland winter will do that to an electric appliance) and had been carted off by the 1-800-Got-Junk guys along with an old door a few months back. So we just placed them in the bathtub for an hour or so (they were still partially frozen) until I could send Scott to the hardware store for a couple of plastic garbage cans, which we filled with ice.

Last year, I made a sticky-sweet-hot gochujang barbecue sauce to rub into the cavity of the pig, and slashed the skin on the hams to apply some dry rub. This year, I made a huge jar of the dry rub (homemade Berbere spice with salt, mustard powder, paprika and ancho chile powder) and smeared it into the interior, then sprinkled some parsley flowers and fresh coriander berries (the seeds that were still juicy and green). I used the branches of parsley and coriander to hold the pigs' mouths open - I don't know what function it serves, but it seemed like the thing to do.

Joe and Shin hoisted the piggies onto the warm grill and we covered them with foil to keep the heat in and the flies off. This year, we had much better control of the heat (and didn't use three bags of mesquite right off the bat). I tossed some green quince branches onto the coals for some sweet smoke and got to work in the kitchen.

I did end up overdoing it again somewhat, and that's another change I'll make next year - people don't really care about having banh mi or tacos when they have the option of eating hot pork sliced directly from the beast. However, the roasted corn-mango salsa was delicious in its own right and was heartily devoured with tortilla chips. The pasta salad is a cookout stand-by, as are the plate of crudites (not pictured) and baked beans (not pictured; Norm provided these and they were moist and delicious). Tammy brought a yummy sesame-y Asian noodle salad, and Susan brought platter upon platter of desserts, including some wonderful cherry petit fours and a plate of Buckeyes (a chocolate-covered peanut butter confection that Ohioans eat).

Since it was raining most of the day, I was afraid to use my camera outdoors where photography really sings. Indoors, the photos were harder to come by because of the crowded conditions and poor lighting. Regardless, I took one of one of the cocktails that I made: strawberry lemonade with rhubarb Dry Soda. Dry Soda is a discovery I made when I first learned I was pregnant and needed a replacement for cocktails and wine. It's not too sweet (only 50 calories per bottle but not artificially sweetened) and it comes in fancy flavors like juniper berry, vanilla and lavender. They're also based in Seattle so I can support a NW-based small business. I used the rhubarb, lemongrass and kumquat sodas to craft some family-friendly cocktails: sweet tea with kumquat, limeade with lemongrass and coconut milk and the aforementioned rhubarb-strawberry lemonade. Dry Soda people, if you're reading, you can totally steal these ideas.

Speaking of Seattle, Brooke and Brittany came all the way down from Seattle to say hi. Tragedy struck when they had to turn around and drive home before the pigs were ready - they had a father's day engagement the following day that was to begin traumatically early for a Sunday morning (8:00am - gasp!). It was so nice to see them, though - they're so pretty and hilarious. Brittany totally isn't dead, btw, she is just finding herself in a similar "I'm too busy for this shit and none of you sons of bitches gonna guilt me into it" situation in which I've been finding myself lately.

It was great to see so many old friends and catch up, even if it meant I had to flit from friend to friend like some socially-retarded hummingbird and perform half-assed hostessing. Scott drank about 30 beers over the course of the day, and spent his first (unofficial) father's day sick in bed until 5:00pm. Next year, we'll stick with one little 60lb fella, we won't do any of the extra banh mi/Carnitas/Cubanos fixins, I'll have my prep done days in advance (making about half the volume of sides that I usually make), and I will be able to have a drink.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Poutine Galvaude

...Now, with more confit!

Awhile ago, I made poutine with sweet potatoes and veal demi glace gravy. Oh, man, was it ever a delight. A bit more recently, my good buddy Marc at the stellar (yet erroneously-named) No Recipes made it also, but one-upped me by photographing it like a genius (seriously, steam shot and everything). When I noticed the linkback in my Sitemeter readings, I took a look at my old post from last November and remembered that I'd threatened to make this with turkey leg confit leftover from Thanksgiving. Of course, I totally forgot to do that, and hi. Here we are.

Technically, this probably can't be called "galvaude" because I used duck instead of turkey or chicken, and I omitted the peas (some asshole is also probably gonna swing his/her peen around about this not really being poutine, either, since I used sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes), but honestly, who gives a shit? It's French fries with gravy and cheese curds. It has duck confit on top. SUCK IT. And after I confited the duck, I oven-roasted the fries in the hot duck fat. I used sweet potato again because they really are just more nutritious and tasty, but I have to admit that they have a hard time holding their shape after they've been essentially poached in duck fat. Next time I'll fry them on the stove top to get the proper crispness. Beef demi gravy and local white cheddar curds, and we're laughing.


If anyone has noticed or cares, I've been lagging on the blogging in a big way. I just can't pretend to care that much right now, but it's not you, I swear. I just am such a dipshit these days. It's strange what hormones do to the female brain, but each time I do cook, I forget to shoot it. For fuck's sake, I made mac and cheese with brie last weekend and forgot to photograph it. I have a couple things lined up, but who knows when I'll get around to it. I'll try to at least be present when I can, but I just have a lot of other shit going on right now, and ice cream makes a fine dinner.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Sweet Black Sesame Butter

Smear this on a toasted (and buttered) English muffin with strawberry preserves or marmalade. Imagine sweet tahini, but black. It's like Taiwanese Nutella, or a non-grainy adzuki paste. I bet it'd be great rolled up in some strudel dough with pears and a little cinnamon.

Monday, June 01, 2009

A F&%@#ing Salad

Yes, this is what I have to show for my weeks of absence. It's all I can muster. I don't know why I feel like I have some 'splaining to do every time I take off for awhile, but I guess that's just how committed I am. Ha!

I really haven't been cooking much at all. I'm just too fucking lazy! All I want to do is sit on the couch with my feet up, eat ice cream and watch Jon and Kate careen nose-first into complete loathing and contempt. I have eaten Cinnamon Life cereal for dinner twice in the last week (I amended it with an apple and some peanut butter), and have only set foot in the kitchen about twice. I did make some delicious risotto with morels and garlic scapes last week, but I've been so off my game that I actually forgot to photograph it. I think what it really boils down to is that when I'm hungry, I'm hungry and I don't want to pussyfoot around with prettiness and creativity. I need food in my gob and I need it now.

This salad was decent. At least it was nutritious. It reminded me a little of a classic chopped salad, for all of the veggies I draped over the top of the lettuce, or of bibimbap in salad form. I realized after I'd done it that I chopped the cukes into stupid little bites instead of elegant spears like the rest of the vegetables, so I ended up doing the same to the beautiful heirloom tomato. French breakfast radishes, red bell pepper, cherokee purple tomato, plain ol' cukes and some shredded chicken breast on Romaine lettuce, dribbled with store-bought salad dressing and sprinkled with torn basil leaves and cilantro flowers.

In a few weeks is the pig roast, so at least there'll be that to look forward to.