How It All Started

Bob Phillips

The title of this blog was inspired by one of my Spanish professor's at Miami University of Ohio, Dr. Robert Phillips, who died in the e...

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Spaghetti Carbonara

James and I like to read together, and listen to audio books together when we are in the car. The last time we read a memoir about food Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks her way through Great Books we talked about a lot of recipes we planned on trying from the book, but over a year later we have yet to prepare any. By contrast, we are still in the midst of listening to Guilia Melucci's I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti, and have already enjoyed her recipe for Spaghetti Carbonara. The recipe is simple. Ingredients include:

3 slices of cooked bacon
3 eggs (lightly beaten)
1/4 c. freshly grated pecorino, plus a little more for passing
1/4 c. freshly grated parmigiano, plus a little more for passing
Freshly ground pepper
Cooked pasta

I think we only used parmigiano cheese, but otherwise followed the recipe which calls for adding the cooked pasta to a warm bowl with the (uncooked) eggs and cheese and letting the hot pasta cook the eggs. She does realize that some may not like the idea of the undercooked eggs, and suggests that everything can be cooked in a skillet on the stovetop instead. We decided to try it creamy the way Melucci intended. The bacon, salt and pepper are added before serving.

This was easy to prepare and good to eat.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

There's The Rub!

The Big Green Egg combines ancient Chinese design with less ancient Southern U.S. enthusiasm for slow-cooked barbeque*. Careful readers of this blog will notice that we acquired our own Big Green Egg about two years ago, and have made extensive use of it as a glorified Weber-style grill. I mean no disrespect: the difference really is glorious!

Still, we have not tapped the full potential of the Egg until yesterday, when I used it for the first time as its developers in Georgia (USA, not Europe) intended. Good friends were spending part of the weekend at our beach-proximate house, so Pam opened Mary Kay Andrews' Beach House Cookbook for something worthy of the occasion.

She found the perfect recipe, with a title almost as long as the cooking time -- Smoked Pork Butt with Beach House Barbecue Sauce. It calls for applying a rub to a 4-6 pound pork butt or shoulder (notice my restraint with the butt jokes) and cooking it low and slow -- roughly an hour per pound at about 250F. She provides a recipe for a sauce to be prepared near the end of this cooking time.

As we made a grocery list, Pam noticed that the rub would be similar to the chipotle rub we recently purchased at Salem Spice -- a place that every serious cook should visit some time! So I set up the Egg with plenty of charcoal, started the fire and then nearly closed the vent to keep the temperature in the 250-300F range. I rinsed the pork butt, placed it in a small roasting pan and slathered it with olive oil. I then rubbed each side with the marvelous chipotle mixture. I then repeated the rub, with Pam's help sprinkling the powder as I turned the butt, as it is a job for more than two hands.
I placed the pan (without water, as would be required in some smokers) in the Big Green Egg and then simply did my best to keep the temperature in range for the rest of the day. This required very narrow openings in the upper and lower vents, and I probably should have checked the temperature a bit more frequently than I did. Still, I never let it get about 350F nor below 195F, and really kept it near 275F for most of the five-plus hours. The delicious rub meant that we were that house that was whetting appetites throughout the neighborhood. Low and slow.

I was proud that I managed to follow the advice in the Big Green Egg cookbook: monitor the temperature but to not monitor the meat itself. I did not open the Egg for more than five hours. When I did open it, the thermometer read exactly 200F in the center of the thickest part, and no more than 208F elsewhere.

Near the end, I whisked together the following over medium heat for about a half hour:

6 cups ketchup
6 cups apple cider vinegar
10 ounce Worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup dry mustard
1 stick unsalted butter
6T black pepper
1/4 cup Tabasco (a lesser hot sauce would also be fine)
3T salt

Actually, I did not do this, as it would have made the better part of a gallon of sauce. So math-team James divided each of these items by 6, making plenty of sauce for our purposes.

Results: Everyone loved this. Our friend Rob, who is the most expert grillmaster I know, was astonished that I had done gotten the slow-smoke method down so perfectly on my first try. And our friend Lisa, expert on all kinds of herbs and spices, pronounced the combination of rub and sauce perfect.

Needless to say, this paired very nicely with Malbec, and also with home-brewed American Pale Ale.

Pam followed this with divine apple enchiladas, which she will be posting soon.

Next time: With results like these, we will definitely have a next time. Instead of the perfectly suitable slaw I bought at the local deli, I will prepare -- probably the night before -- my cilantro-lime slaw.

*Note to New England readers: Barbeque (spellings vary) is a word of Taino (indigenous Puerto Rican) derivation referring to a variety of methods of cooking meats over wood or charcoal fire. It is not, as our university uses the term, a word meaning any food eaten out-of-doors.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Cobbler's Helper

(This post jointly authored by James & Pam.)

Pam notices yard sales as she walks the pooch around Fairhaven, and wisely does not try to make purchases with the dog pulling on her leash. At the end of Saturday's walk, she dropped the dog off and popped back out to revisit some treasures she had noticed. Most notable -- especially for this blog -- was this very old-school apple corer & slicer.

If not quite mint-in-box, certainly excellent-in-box. We were excited to have it, but also completely clueless about its use. Fortunately, we both have 2017 information literacy, which suggests only one solution: YouTube. Searching on the brand name (because there are many contraptions of this sort out there), we quickly found all the information we needed in just three minutes:

I (Pam) of course couldn't wait to use my new (to me) gadget, so on Sunday at the Fairhaven Farmer's Market we bought a half dozen apples and got out our trusty Deborah Madison Cookbook (this is so essential we now keep copies both at home and in our beach house). I found a recipe for a simple cobbler, put the sliced apples in a pie tin, topped them with the dough, and baked at 350 for about half an hour for a lovely dessert.

The set up

First apple placed

The spinning starts...

The cores went into the compost bucket

Before baking

Ready to eat! Delicious!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Scallops in White Wine Sauce

We had a bit of old white wine in our refrigerator, that we neither wanted to drink, nor waste. Thankfully we have two cookbooks specifically for cooking with wine: W.I.N.O.S. (Women in Need of Sanity) and the itty bitty Cooking Poultry and Seafood with Wine by Bruce Carlson (the outside dimensions of this one are about the same as those of an index card).

So, for our almost-regular-fish-on-Thursday dinner we picked up some scallops from our favorite fishmonger in order to make the very first recipe found in Carlson's book which is simply called "Scallops in Sauce".

I made the following deviations from the recipe shown: 
  • I did not use the Dry Sauterne the recipe calls for. I really have no idea what kind of wine it was, other than "white". 
  • I most certainly did not use frozen scallops. We get ours fresh from the boat.
  • Nor did I use canned mushrooms, fresh is always better.
  • I did not have any marjoram at the beach house, so that was omitted.
  • I also skipped the last step of putting the scallops and sauce, sprinkled with bread crumbs in a baking dish under the broiler. This was because everything was quite well cooked by the time James came back from rowing, having been stuck at the New Bedford bridge for 15 minutes. Instead, we simply served the scallops in their sauce over some fettuccine, which turned out to be a fine plan.