Fancy snacks

March 23, 2018

Fancy snacks-r-us.

I have written before of my affinity for caviar. My favorite, of what I’ve tried, is good ol’ Arkansas grown White River sturgeon caviar, pricy stuff and you have to drive to Malvern and catch Mr. Jesse George at his fish market to get it.

Next to that, and significantly cheaper and a damn sight more convenient, is black Capelin caviar. One orders it from Amazon. It comes in a 3.5-ounce jar, which is about right for serving appetizers to four people, or a luxurious breakfast for two. And it’s less than 20 bucks for four jars, as compared to Mr. George’s $12 an ounce for the White River stuff. Yes, the White River stuff is better. I am not positive it’s that much better.

I have just had it in a cream cheese spread on pumpernickel toast, and I can testify it is quite excellent, never mind the fact that stirring in the black caviar turned the white spread a most interesting Easter egg blue. I had not expected that.

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The non-baker bakes

March 22, 2018

Lime pound cake, courtesy of fancy Bundt pan.

I’ve always said I was a cook and not a baker.

I guess I’m more of a baker than I used to be, by virtue of being a frequent baker of bread, but I’ve never been much¬† of one for baking cakes, pies and pastries, nor anything much beyond that. But you couldn’t tell it this week.

This week, I have made a lime pound cake, three little baby lime pound cakes, and four adolescent-sized lemon pound cakes. I will be well represented at the church rummage sale/bake sale this weekend.

What had happened was, I got in the notion for a citrus pound cake earlier this week. I had a bag of limes I’d picked up at Aldi because, well, they were $1.99 for a bag of 8, and it’s just hard to pass up cheap limes. I thought lime pound cake sounded good, so I found a recipe and made one. Indeed, I made four, because I made one in my fancy Bundt pan and three baby ones in my baby bundt pans. Decided the baby ones were plenty for us to eat at home, so I’d take the big one to the sale.

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Pickling things

March 19, 2018

Not to mention they’re quite colorful sitting on your kitchen counter.

When it’s cold and nasty outside, and you have a surfeit of produce in your fridge that needs to be used, and you’re in the notion to spend a day in the kitchen anyway, you might as well set out and pickle things.

So, I have Indian spiced cauliflower, Brussels sprouts kimchee, and Russian spiced red cabbage/cranberry sauerkraut.¬† I was going to do orange ginger carrots, but I ran out of energy and time and didn’t have everything I needed, anyway. All these will ferment on my kitchen counter for a week or so, and then go into the fridge to be sampled along as I have a notion.

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Ireland, saluted

March 18, 2018

And the Emerald Isle is once again properly honored in the kitchen.

We have honored the venerable St. Patrick, and paid homage to our Irish roots, and had a fine dinner in the process.

And we have something like three pounds of corned beef in a couple of big chunks in the fridge, which I’ll get out later and slice and portion out. Some will go in the fridge for sandwiches and hash this week; some will get vacuum sealed and frozen for sandwiches and hash later. And some will be portioned out with cabbage, potatoes and carrots into homemade TV dinners to go in the freezer.

Some beer will be consumed in the process, at least if my sinuses clear up enough that the prospect of drinking anything alcoholic even commences to sound good. Spring is in the air, and so is pollen. Lots of pollen.

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Half of what I discarded. The rest went directly in the trash.

I am unconscionably proud of myself. I have cleaned out the refrigerator.

I am absolutely horrible at letting stuff get pushed to the back of the fridge, where it remains until it’s old enough to vote. (In the case of condiments in the fridge door shelves, they may live there until they’re old enough to draw Social Security.) But even I knew the fridge was getting out of control.

So…fridge cleanout time.

This project is hampered by the fact I cannot remove either the shelves or the crisper drawers from my refrigerator without pulling it out from the wall so I can open the door all the way back, something which, because of where it’s located adjacent to a wall, requires my 6’2″, 250-pound son-in-law to accomplish. But I did the best I could.

I unloaded a shelf at a time, cleaned it thoroughly with boiling water from my electric kettle (best thing to clean fridge shelves that have had gunk spilled on them, if you can’t get them out and get them over to the sink), and divided its contents into three categories: Keep, chunk, or put somewhere on a different shelf. I further divided the “chunk” category into two divisions: one that went directly into the trash, and another that went over to the sink, where the contents would be dumped down the drain and the containers washed, twice, in the dishwasher.

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Corned beef. Let the grocery do yours, if you haven’t.

If you have not yet corned your brisket for this year’s St. Patrick’s Day corned beef, you’re too late. That’s a week-long process.

However, all is not lost. Betake you to the grocery, where they are selling copious quantities of already-corned beef brisket that are just waiting for you to turn them into boiled dinners or sandwiches or hash — or pastrami.

(As an aside, just because I’m off social media for Lent and feel like sharing this, I have done two significant semi-culinary things today. I have purchased a tiller, the better to tend to the garden this summer, and I have purchased Yuengling beer — in Arkansas. The latter has been possible, meaning I no longer have to bootleg it back from Memphis, for less than a month, but it’s the first time I’ve bought any.

(This is due to the fact I want beer with my corned beef sandwiches next week. Or my pastrami sandwiches starting tonight, for which I have just put a batch of potato-onion rye roll dough in to rise so they’ll be freshly baked for dinner. Don’t you wish you were eating with me?)

Two-pound chunk of brisket, ready for the smoker.

And pastrami, out of the smoker, lacking only a 45 minute steam to be ready to eat.

I don’t guess I knew for years that pastrami and corned beef started out the same way — in a chilled week or 10-day bath in a spiced brine. It’s where they go after that that makes the difference.

Corned beef gets either wrapped in foil and slow-baked, or boiled with veggies, and more spices. Pastrami, on the other hand, gets a heavy coat of rub from a different spice blend, and goes into the smoker for a few hours.

Now I, being prepared, commenced corning my brisket last week. He’s basking in a five percent brine of salt, sugar and pickling spice in the storage room fridge, where he’ll stay until Saturday or Sunday. He’ll come out and get rinsed, then go into a Instant Pot full of fresh water and some more pickling spices for, oh, probably an hour, because brisket is NOT a tender cut of meat. Then I’ll add some potatoes and carrots, give him another 10 minutes, and some wedges of cabbage, and give him another 5, and that’ll be the name of Sunday dinner.

And his leftovers will be corned beef hash with an over easy egg more than one day the following week. And some corned beef will likely go into the freezer.

Why, then, did I buy three more packages of grocery store corned beef the other day at Aldi?

For a number of reasons:

  1. It was on sale. Point cut, which is my preference, was $1.99 a pound. (Flat cut was $4.99.)
  2. It was in packages of about two pounds apiece, which is about a good size for my household.
  3. It’s always good to have extra corned beef in the freezer.

So I brought three packages home, put two of them in the freezer, and set about making pastrami with the third.

Pastrami depends on a healthy amount of black pepper and coriander for its signature taste. I mixed up a rub of those, along with some onion powder, garlic powder and ginger, and patted the brisket down heavily. Out into the smoker on low it went.

About three hours later, with an internal temp of 150, I yanked it off, wrapped it in waxed paper, and put in the fridge overnight.

Next day, in between writing a labor report and tending to Amazing Grandchild 2, I pulled it out of the fridge and transferred it to the Instant Pot for a 40-minute steam bath. I let it cool down from there, and whacked off a slice or two.

Have mercy. This, y’all, is some pretty wonderful stuff. I may go back and get two or three more of those point cuts just so I can do this several times over the next few months. And chalk up another win for my little Masterbilt smoker, which is fast winning points as one of my favorite appliances.

So you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em betake yourselves to the grocery this week, before it’s all gone, and stock up on some corned beef. And stand by for breakfast and dinner delicacies, not to mention some fine sandwiches for lunch!



On the left: Yes! On the right: Not so much.

Tired of all your usual sweets? Candies and pies and cakes and cookies not calling to you?

Here are a couple of attempts at something different, one of which I’ll recommend wholeheartedly, and one of which I’ve got to tweak a little bit.

This, toasted with lots o’butter on it? Primo.

First, the date nut bread, above. If you want a mildly sweet, but chock-full of goodies like dried fruit and nuts, bread, this is it. It would work, in fact, with most any kind of dried fruit you wanted to pack into it; I could see it with apricots, or figs, or Craisins, or pineapple, for that matter. It would be equally amenable to pecans, walnuts or almonds. Or, heck, why not hazelnuts or macadamias?

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