Mostly about food, this blog is just a place for me to throw things that are of interest to me. I appreciate you taking the time to stop by an look around. This represents just some of the stops on the various pathways that this amateur home cook finds himself.

You may find that these foods tend toward protein and away from carbohydrates - this is due to diabetic issues, so I try to only sparingly use carbs, and good ones at that. Of course, sometimes I forget....

Feel free to drop me a line with any suggestions or just to let me know what you think. Thanks!

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I want to thank you for the time that you spend here, and hope that you can find useful things here.


Saturday, January 31, 2009

Attack of the shrimp!

For those unfamiliar with shrimp sizing and pricing, they are usually sold by the pound, and fall into classes determined by how many shrimp (without heads) of a certain size it takes to make a pound. The fewer shrimp per pound, the larger they are; the larger they are, the more expensive they are. Here is a chart of the size grading system:

Extra Colossal under 10
Colossal 10/15
Extra jumbo 16/20
Jumbo 21/25
Extra large 26/30
Large 31/35
Medium large 36/42
Medium 43/50
Small 51/60
Extra small 61/70
Tiny Over 70

Most of the shrimp we use for cooking or grilling falls into the range from Large to Jumbo. Above that, they get too pricey.

Unbeknown to me, my father had an excellent score through the husband of a friend. I was at his place earlier today, and he whipped a bag of shrimp out of the freezer and told me it was a present.

He had acquired some U-10 shrimp, and split them so we each had a bag of about 2 lbs. These things are monstrous - about an ounce and a half apiece! Here are a few of them, laid out next to a $20 bill for comparison:
I'm still in a whir when it comes to figuring out what will be the best way to prepare them. I just wanted to toss the pic up here to get your minds rolling and mouths drooling!

Costillas mas fina - "Mo' Better Ribs"

In my poor multi-threaded mind, there's always a process running that's thinking about making good BBQ better. Lately, I've been thinking about spare ribs. then it hit me - maybe the same brining that works so well on other pork would serve me here. We'll see...

First I grabbed a cryovac rack of ribs, removed the membrane and prepped them St. Louis style. Then I trimmed of any large and obvious patches of fat. Finally, I cut the rack in half to better fit on the smoker.
Next, I prepared a simple brine. I heated half a gallon of water on the stove, and completely dissolved 1/2 cup of salt and 1/4 cup of sugar. Then I let it cool completely. This is very important so as not to start 'cooking' the ribs. Once the brine was cool, I placed the ribs in a zip-top bag and added enough brine to get them submerged with room to spare. These then go into the fridge for 12 hours, and I turned them over halfway through the brining period.

At cooking time, I pulled the bag of ribs out of the fridge and removed the ribs. Never reuse the brine - always discard it. Then I rinsed them thoroughly to remove any residual traces of salt, and dried them well with paper towels. Next, on to seasoning.

I rubbed the dry ribs down with Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce, and then sprinkled garlic powder and coarse salt and pepper on all surfaces, rubbing it in. Then they went into the smoker for five hours at 250 degrees. After pulling them later, they looked like this:
There was a very small smoke ring, smaller than I expected. Perhaps the brining somehow inhibited the hemoglobin reaction somehow. Too bad the picture can't represent the taste.

These ribs turned out to be excellent! There was a good smoke taste - not too heavy. But the texture was off the hook! these ribs were so tender, it was more like a pork tenderloin. They were incredibly juicy as well. Completely absent was any of the "springy-ness" or stringiness sometimes associated with cooked pork.

Unless there is a time issue, I'll be brining my ribs from now on - no question. Give it a try!

Friday, January 30, 2009


A real treat for those in the know. Very popular in South Texas and much of Mexico, and everyone makes theirs a little different. I picked up the milk trick through an abuela on the border, it helps the browning and crispiness.

1 t salt
1/2 t fresh ground black pepper
2 t dried Mexican oregano
1 1/2 t cumin
6 garlic cloves
2 T vegetable oil
2 chiles arbol (4 if you like more heat)
2 lb. pork butt, cut into bite-sized chunks
3 T lard, shortening, or my choice - bacon grease
1/4 cup milk

Haul out the sacrificial pork butt, a clean cutting board, and a sharp knife.
P.S. - look close at the sticker, you'll see the great sale they had!

Cut the meat into big chunks, following the muscle lines. Separate the bone (if any) and any silver skin and gristle from the meat.
Cut the pork butt into bite-sized pieces, trimming off any chunks of fat (save the fat for sausage use or rendering).
Now break out the spices. Clockwise from 3:00 - chiles arbol, minced garlic, salt, black pepper, Mexican oregano and cumin.
Combine the first 6 ingredients in a molcajete, mortar and pestle, or food processor. Grind or whiz it around until you have a smooth mixture, and empty it in a large bowl. Set aside. Put your cubed pork into the bowl, and mix well until all meat is thoroughly coated. Cover the coated meat and let it sit out for about 30 minutes.
Melt the lard/shortening/bacon fat over medium heat in a large covered skillet or Dutch oven. Dump in the pork and sear the meat quickly, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook for about an hour, stirring a few times to help the browning and prevent sticking.

After an hour, add the milk, uncover and raise the heat to medium-high. Simmer until most of the liquid is gone, stirring and scraping up all the goodies off the bottom of the pan. In 15 or 20 minutes, the pork should be all brown and a bit crispy on the outside, and tender and yummy on the inside. Drain.
Caranitas is very versatile. It can be served as an entree, or shredded for enchiladas, or served my favorite way - in a steamy flour tortilla with grilled onions, avocado slices and pico de gallo!

Monday, January 26, 2009


Picadillo - a very traditional dish from Mexico where the recipe varies from pne place to another. You may find it with ingredients like chopped tomatoes, raisins, almonds, green chiles, canela or even cloves. Fresh serranos might be nice!

When I was very young and living in Laredo, Texas, we had a wonderful lady named Santa that came in to clean a couple of times a week. I don't remember all that much about her, but I remember her picadillo. This recipe is my attempt to reproduce it as a tribute to her good eats.

3 T vegetable oil
1 lg onion, minced/chopped
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
2 lb. chuck, ground
1 medium baking potato, peeled and 1/4" diced
1 t dried oregano, heaping
1/2 - 1 tsp cayenne or chile arbol, ground
1 T AP flour
1 t salt
3 C beef stock
salt & pepper
tortillas - 2 per person, flour(easier) or corn (authentic)

Plate - all purpose flour, cayenne pepper, salt and dried oregano
Tray - garlic, onions, potato, ground chuck, and veg. oil; beef broth

TOPPINGS - Mix & Match
shredded lettuce
diced tomato
grated cheese (mild cheddar or Monterey Jack)
jalapeno hot sauce
Pico de Gallo
sour cream

Warm the oil over medium heat in a large heavy skillet. Sautee the onion and garlic until translucent and softened.

Add the meat and potatoes. Stir the mixture until the meat is cooked and the potatoes are cooking as well. Stir in oregano, flour, cayenne and salt until well incorporated.

Add the beef stock and mix well. Reduce to simmer and let simmer until liquid reduces by 2/3 or so. Maybe 45 minutes to an hour or so. You do want to watch it some. Stir it occasionally to keep any ideas of sticking out of it's mind.

After it has reduced, it will resemble a very thick soup. This is a good time to take a taste and adjust with salt or pepper to suit. You will notice that, although not in the above recipe, I added a chopped up bell pepper. It was starting to turn red, so needed to be used. A perfect fit!

Time to do some plating! As you see it below, it was served on flour totillas and dressed with chopped tomato and cilantro. Many will add cheese too, I suspect. It can also be served as an entree, along with appropriate sides as Mexican rice, refried beans, or maybe a lettuce and tomato salad.

NOTE: If you want to use corn tortillas, you'll have to do a bit more. Heat about 1/2" of oil in a separate skillet until the surface shimmers. Using tongs, slide each corn tortilla into the oil until it just softens, just a few seconds. Not too long, you don't want it to harden at all. Set them out to drain on paper towels or a brown paper bag.

Home Made Sausage!

Well, after picking up a 400 watt grinder from Cabela's on a half-price sale, I figured finally that I'd bite the bullet and use it for something. I did all the reading I could on the subject, and went to work. All those great masters on the boards must know something. I carefully washed all the grinder's parts and all of the utensils, boards and containers that would get near the meat. Then, all the grinder parts went into the freezer, along with the already-cubed meat and fat.

For the meat, I used a mix of 7 lb. pork butt, 2 lb. top round, and 1 lb. of extra pork fat. I had decided to go with a package mix for this first attempt. I'm sure I'll do my own mixes later, but I was trying to reduce variables here. I chose the LEM Backwoods Fresh Sausage Seasoning. The package makes 15 lbs, but I'll only be using 2/3 of it.

After about an hour, I emptied the freezer and reassembled the grinder, using Pam as a lubricant. I also took out the semi-frozen meat, which ought to make the grinder run a bit easier.

I took two stainless steel bowls, and put ice cubes and a little water in one to create an ice bath for the bowl of ground meat. Now it was time to get down to grinding! I ran this through the 8mm plate.

The finished mound o' meat, being seasoned with the LEM mix proportioned for 10 lbs. of meat. Notice the grinder head is gone, it's parts back in the freezer again. The worst part by far was the mixing by hand of all that near-freezing meat! My hands were freezing after this, but I got the spice mix well incorporated. Before it got put up, a small test patty was created to check the taste. It was excellent.

I'll spare you with the pictures of me trying to get the collagen casing on the stuffing horn. Even though I sprayed it with Pam as well, it was still a chore. I'm sure that no small part of my difficulties lie in the fact I'd never done it before. Next time it'll be better.

Here's the start of the stuffing routine after removing the grinder guts and installing the stuffing horn. Yes, I remembered to tie off the end of the casing!

Finally finished! Below lie 9 lbs. of fresh sausage. For now. More under lessons learned.

The finished product - 8 lbs. (yes 8 lbs., not 9 any more) of links in FoodSaver bags and headed for the deep freeze. All except a few random-length end-links and some loose sausage meat for patties.

1. Next time, I think I'll try mixing the meat cubes well and seasoning them before grinding, and then grinding and stuffing in one operation. Either that or use my Jerky Blaster with a funnel adapter for stuffing. Even with the plate and knife removed, the finished mix seemed way too fine. Not like hot dogs, but not like the sausage I wanted, either.

2. All went very smoothly until the stuffing started. Having never done this before, I had nothing to guide me. As it turns out, I was putting too much meat into the casings. Several times during the link-twisting stage I had a blow out. This explains why the 9 lbs. of links turned into 8 lbs. - from rescuing and retying links. I need to get a lot better at this before I try natural hog casings, I think.

3. I think I also need a lot of practice twisting links off of the stuffer. all the ones I tried seemed to want to untwist when they moved around as the stuffing continued. Have to think on this a bit.

All in all, a qualified success. I think that some will be hitting the smoker tomorrow for the acid test. I can't wait to eat them, or to make the next batch. I have 5 more pork butts in the freezer, waiting their turn...

* * * UPDATE * * *

I pulled some sausage out of the freezer and after thawing, tossed it on the smoker with sn experimental rack of ribs. It was absolutely delicious! As I mentioned above, the texture was a little too fine, but it sure was tasty.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Hearty and Healthy

Just so you don't think that everything I cook is all calories or cholesterol, I thought I'd share a really tasty and healthy dish I make regularly. The origins of this dish are shrouded in obscurity - basically another challenge of what can I make with what I have on hand. It is very versatile, and can be changed to use other meats like pork or chicken, with an appropriate change in broth to match. Serves 6 (or 4 healthy appetites).

4 T oil
1 1/2 lb. beef or chicken, cubed about 3/4"
1 med. to large onion, rough chopped
1 lb. mushrooms cut to size of beef (I like crimini, but white will do)
10 oz. box chopped frozen spinach, thawed and thoroughly drained
salt, pepper, garlic powder
1 qt. beef broth (I use organic low-sodium Swanson's)
grated Romano or Parmesan cheese for garnish

Gather the ingredients prepared as above.

Add the oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Add the meat, and cook until well-browned. Add onions and mushrooms, cooking until onions are translucent, stirring occasionally. Add seasonings to taste. Add spinach and broth.

Stir to incorporate well, and simmer until meat is tender (about 90 minutes), stirring occasionally. As it cooks the liquid will reduce, slightly thickening broth. When meat is fork-tender, ladle into bowls and top with shredded cheese. Serve with a good coarse bread and butter.

Be sure and try it with pork or chicken, using chicken broth instead of beef broth. It's all good.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Super Spares on the MES

Ever since I picked up the Masterbuilt Electric Smoker (MES) from Bass Pro Shops during a monster sale just before Christmas, it has been the subject of many experiments, with more yet to come. My MES seems to be pretty true to the temperature controller, but I have heard others that were off a bit. So far, it's all been good. Since last Thursday, a large regional grocery chain (H.E.B.) has been running a monster sale on a few meats - including cryovac packs of both pork butts and spare ribs. A dollar a pound, folks! Needless to say, my freezer is bursting now with Q for the whole summer It was time for the first rack of spares to run through the MES, and here they are.

These ribs are being sold one-up, or one to each cryo pack instead of two- or three-up that we often see here. That's fine, they keep a long time like this, and it allows me to pull one without having to vacuum seal the rest. This one was about 5 pounds.
I trim my spares in a modified St. Louis style (Kansas City cut). First, I remove any large fatty areas, leaving enough for juiciness during the smoke. Then I trim off the rib tips, the boneless 'tail' (this is what makes it KC style), and take off the chine bone. There is usually a good piece of meat on the chine bone, so I strip that off and toss the chine in the trash.

Next I flip them over and remove the pleura (membrane) on the inside of the ribs. No one wants to try and chew that nasty thing, so it goes in the trash too. Last trimming is the flap of diaphragm that is usually left running diagonally across the rack. The trimmed pork goes into my container of rib tips I keep in the freezer, and any decent trimmed-off fat goes into my pork fat stash in the freezer for use in sausage making, my next endeavor.

This leaves you with a nice roughly rectangular rack of ribs that looks good, is meaty, and easily split up for serving. Here it is after initial prep.
Now, because I am running these through the MES, there's no way they'll fit in one piece. Therefore, I eyeball the middle and split them in to smaller halves for the smoker. It is easy to see from the cut edges (facing you) just how thick and meaty these spares are. Now you know why I am stocking up!

I prepared these as has become my habit - quirky but reliable. I rinse the ribs off and dry them completely. Then I douse them with Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce (not cheaper stuff!) and rub it into all the little spaces, edgs and surfaces. Lastly, I sprinkle all surfaces with Bolner's Fiesta brand Fajita Seasoning. I know, it has MSG in it, but it is a perfect spice blend for BBQ and Mexican cooking (without the cumin and chili powder). It is also available in a salt-free version. Ths spares then go into a bag to sit overnight.
Aaaaaah - done! Since I never cooked spares in that smoker, I needed a baseline. I set the MES to 250 degrees, the timer for 3 hours, stuck them in there and left them alone. I did do some temp checks at 2 and 2 1/2 hours with an instant-read thermometer, all progressing nicely. This is how they came out.
Here's a closeup of the finished product. Note the color, and how moist they are, with just the right amount of rib ends showing. Did I hit the right cooking combo the first time out? Only time and palate will tell...
Plated for service, with frozen fries (time-saver) and some pinto beans topped with fresh-made Pico de Gallo. It tasted better than it looked, and it looked good. These ribs turned out at least as good as most off either my stick-burner or charcoal smoker. Amazing.
Here's a close-up of the ribs. They were extremely juicy, very flavorful and you can even see the nice smoke ring. So, this one is for the nay-sayers that turn their noses up at smoking on a watt-burner!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Cowboy Enchiladas

Sometimes, you just get hungry and look to see what's in the fridge. I had some leftover smoked round roast, and the rest just happened to fit. No, they're not authentic anything, but they are darned good and really filling!

1 1/2 lbs smoked chuck roast, shredded
1 med onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 fresh jalapenos, seeded and diced
2 T veg. oil
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin
1 Tbls coarse ground pepper
salt & pepper
8 0z tomato sauce
8 oz enchilada sauce, canned
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
8 flour tortillas

Add vegetable oil to large skillet. Add shredded meat, 2/3 of the onion, the garlic and the jalapenos. Heat while stirring until onions are translucent. Add garlic powder, cumin and 1 Tbls black pepper and stir into filling. While meat mixture is heating, place 8 flour tortillas in a tortilla warmer and microwave for 45 seconds until warm and pliable. Allow filling to cool down until easily handled. Correct seasonings and salt and pepper to taste.

Lightly grease a 9x13 (or so) casserole dish. I use spray Pam in a Pyrex dish. Spoon 3-4 heaping tablespoons full of meat mixture into tortilla, placing it in a fat line through the middle of the tortilla. Fold one side of tortilla tightly over the meat, then roll up the remaining tortilla, forming a fat enchilada. Place the enchilada in the dish at one end, laid so that it won't unroll. Repeat by filling the remaining tortillas in the same manner.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Scatter remaining onions over dish. Mix tomato sauce and enchilada sauce well, pour evenly over enchiladas. Toning down the sauce like this helps bring out the smoky meat taste. Bake in oven for 30 minutes. Grab it out of the oven, and it'll look something like this:

Serve yourself a couple - believe me, that's plenty.

I topped them this time with some sour cream and minced cilantro. Slice 'em open and look at all that smoky beef and onion goodness...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Top Round on the cooker

Sometimes you just get a taste for some BBQ. Those with smoke in the blood know what I mean. It had been too long since my Masterbuilt smoker earned it’s keep. So what did I find in the freezer? A 3-lb. top round. After defrosting you can see it looks as fresh as the day it went in – thanks, FoodSaver!

Here she is ready to go. Out of the bag, it was rinsed and dried, trimmed up, and had a coating of olive oil and fresh cracked pepper and sea salt.

This is it after 3 hours @ 275. I don’t know what is with the picture, it looks like the flash washed out my roast, which was really a nice color.

The smell is great and the taste is even better! Served with a baked sweet potato, and marinated BBQ onions.

I don't put together nearly as pretty a plate as Jeanie does, but it was all pretty tasty! If you've never tried a baked sweet potato with salt, pepper and butter, give it a shot.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

South Texas Afterburners

Did some ABTs but don't have any prep pictures - sorry. I'll take some the next time. These were good-sized - those two grates are 8" across each. Split 'em down the sides and scooped out the innards and stuffed.

24 lg large jalapeno peppers, fresh
1 lb Queso Fresco (or your choice of firm cheese) grated fine
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Salt, pepper and garlic to taste
1 lb chorizo (all meat, no filler Mexican pork sausage, not Spanish dried version)
2 lb bacon (thick and peppery is more $$ but better)
48 ea toothpicks
2 pr surgical gloves

If you are smart, you will work on the peppers wearing surgical gloves. The hot pepper stuff is terribly hard to get off of your hands completely, and you don't want to scratch anything important for a while.

Set cream cheese out to soften. While softening, finely grate the cheese.

Cook the chorizo in a frying pan, breaking up chunks and stirring as necessary. Cook until done,; it should release a lot of orange grease. Discard grease and drain on paper towels or a brown paper bag, let cool.

Don set of surgical gloves #1. Split the jalapenos on one side, from near stem to near tip. Don't cut them in half; you want a slit you can open and close, like a change purse. Carefully scrape out all the seeds and ribs and pulp, this is where the really evil heat lives. Lay peppers on a tray. Remove and discard gloves.

Mix shredded cheese, cream cheese and chorizo until incorporated. Mix in the cilantro. Add salt, pepper and garlic to taste. If it seems a little thick, you can always mix in a little bacon grease for texture and taste (Pork fat rules! - Emeril). Pack it into a heavy (freezer type) quart Ziplock bag. Don set of surgical gloves #2.

Break out the prepared peppers. Snip a small corner off of the Ziploc bag. Pick up the first pepper and squeeze it so that the slit opens up. Use the Ziploc like a piping bag to fill the peppers with the mixture. Be sure to get down in the ends, but do not over fill. Repeat for remaining peppers.Next, use a toothpick to pin one end of a strip of bacon to the tip of a pepper. Wrap the bacon around the pepper, overlapping into a spiral, so that the other end of the bacon comes out even with the top. Pull bacon tight, sealing slit in pepper and pin through pepper with another toothpick at the top. Repeat for remaining peppers.

Toss the second set of gloves. Now, you have two options, you can either grill these or smoke them. If you grill them until bacon is done, you'll get what we had at the rally. If you smoke them, it'll take 2-3 hours, but the peppers will soften, darken and lose a lot of their 'heat'. Both of these methods taste great, but are different.

"Smoke 'em if you got 'em"

Friday, January 9, 2009

Marinated BBQ Onions

I say BBQ onions because they go so well with a full spread bbq! Just set them out there on the table with with the pickles, bread and all the other goodies.

2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
6 oz extra virgin olive oil
2 oz white vinegar
3 Tablespoons kosher salt
2 Tablespoon freshly cracked pepper
¼ cup chopped parsley
2 Tablespoon finely chopped chives
1 oz red wine vinegar

Rinse onions under cold water to reduce their sharpness. Drain and place onions in large bowl, separating all the rings from each other.

Toss onions with oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes, turning every few minutes.

Stir in parsley and chives. Add to large jar or other container with sealing lid. Add red wine vinegar (leave out for more traditional taste). Add equal parts olive oil, white vinegar and water to cover onions. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours before devouring.

Keep refrigerated. Shake container well before eating.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Texican Red Rice

2 Tbls. lard or bacon grease
1 med. onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup uncooked white rice
2 small Roma tomatoes, or about 1/3 cup of canned tomatoes, chopped
2 cups beef or chicken stock or broth (depending on what you're serving it with)
1 Tbls. chile powder
2/4 tsp salt

Heat the lard/bacon grease in a saucepan over medium heat. Saute the onion and garlic until soft. Add the rice, stirring to make sure all of the rice is coated with the grease. Add the tomatoes and stir well.

Add the stock/broth, the chile powder and salt, stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simer, cover and cook until all liquid is absorbed, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and let steam while covered, about 5-10 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork and serve warm.

See picture at the blog entry Tex-Mex night at Casa Gordita.

Carne Guisada - Tex-Mex authentic

If you really want a nice change for your Carne Guisada, try doing it in the oven instead of on the stovetop. It should turn out as a thick gravy, with not too much liquid. It works great in tacos, or served as a main dish with sides.

1 1/2 lb. lean beef, trimmed of all fat and gristle (chuck or round)
2-3 Tbls. AP flour
1 T oil, lard or bacon grease
1 medium onion, chopped
1-2 fresh jalapenos, seeded, deveined and minced
1 bell pepper, seeded, de-veined and cut in small strips
1 1/2 cups beef stock/broth
1 Tbs. tomato paste
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chile powder

Preheat the oven to about 350 degrees.

Cut the beef into bite-sized cubes (3/4 to 1 inch). Dump the flour in a ziploc bag, add the cubed meat and shake to coat all the meat well with flour. Add the oil to a covered oven-proof skillet or a dutch oven. Brown the meat quickly but thoroughly. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring the Guisada to a simmer on the stove top.

Cover and place in the oven, baking for about 2 1/2 hours, until the meat is so tender it nearly falls apart. Serve warm as a main dish or in heated tortillas as tacos. Optionally garnish with rough chopped cilantro and onion, or Pico de Gallo.

See picture at the blog entry Tex-Mex night at Casa Gordita.

Tex-Mex night at Casa Gordita

It had been a while, and I had a hankering for some good authentic Tex-Mex. I looked around the kitchen and got out the stars of the show: very lean top round roast, pinto beans, white rice, masa harina for the tortillas, and my favorite condiment, pure filtered bacon grease, in the jar).

I didn't take any pictures during the cooking process, there was just too much going on. The pintos were done the quick cook method instead of overnight, as I wasn't worried about them splitting as they were going to get mashed anyway. Anyway, I ended up with some great Carne Guisada, Texican Red Rice, and home-made refried beans and tortillas.

Links to the meat and rice dishes are at the end of the post, and tortillas are easy to explainmake. To make the refried beans, I mash the cooked pintos and mix them with a small dab of bacon grease, maybe 1-2 teaspoons. A little salt and pepper, a little garlic powder to taste, and heat and mash until fairly smooth. A few chunks of bean in there is just fine.

Anyway, here's the result of the work - a little spicy, a lot good!

See recipes at the blog entries Carne Guisada - Tex-Mex authentic and Mexican Red Rice.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Great New Year's Eve Evergreen Massacree

As is tradition, a number of us get together each New Year's Eve at a friend's isolated South Texas Ranch to spend a (relatively) safe couple of days. This year was no exception. Faye and Bobby have a great place almost 100 years old with a wonderful wrap around porch. When we got there it was empty, waiting...

After dark fell, the festivities began in earnest, including a porch jam with a few musician types and a lot of audience:

Of course, there was the whole rally round the campfire as the temperature fell through the 40's. It was plenty warm against the night:

Closeup of what warm looked like:

Then, the main event - the annual sacrifice of the Hanukkah Bush. These things burn incredibly hot and fast! Makes you think twice about having one in your house:

Dinner consisted of a a large table of goodies: veggies, queso, chips, pickled asparagus, and other things, followed with wild hog, chicken wings, brisket, and fresh Polish sausage from Kosciusko, Texas, all hot off the smoker. Pinto beans, macaroni salad, deviled eggs and many other goodies abounded to fill in the blank spots

Anyway, the revelry went on throughout the night. I understand that there was a great deal of alcohol consumed, but I have no independent recollection of it. I know everyone seemed to have a great time and there were no accidents. There were several incidents, including things like handcuffs, a half-butchered deer, and 8 dogs. But those are stories for another time.

We thought that this ugly guy had way too much to drink, until we were awake enough to realize what we were seeing:

They have a lot of cats, and all but one live under the house to keep safe from the dogs. But here is this one odd fellow that actually lived in a tree. He had easy enough access to the roof, but I don't think he was all that smart. He'd climb the tree to get up there, but when he wanted down, he just let go and fell. They said that's how he always dismounts. You can tell by looking that there's just something not right about him:

Anyway, about 11:00 AM enough people were up to declare it time for breakfast. It consisted of chopped smoked wild pork from last night, bacon and onions, all cooked in Bobby's disco, seen in the middle of the pic below and in the subsequent image. Also on the menu was a big pot of sausage ranchera. There was a lot of food, and no one went away hungry. Hung over maybe, but not hungry!

Here's Bobby doing the bacon and onions prior to adding the pork. He made my disco, and he made his as well. A great tool! I did contribute the burner, however.

A good time was had by all, no one was injured, and we all dissipated through promises of seeing each other well before next New Year's eve. Chances are pretty good....