Friday, November 23, 2018

what's done so far

Whew. Thursday was a bigger prep day than I'd anticipated. Part of the reason was that I was incapacitated Wednesday evening; I wasn't able to make the stuffing until Thursday morning. Thursday evening was devoted to making the baked beans, setting up the new load of pulled pork, and crafting three different slaws. I made a standard, mayo-based slaw that won't be eaten by Charles because he doesn't like mayo-based slaws; I made a vinegar/sugar slaw for Charles—a small load that'll be mostly for him, although I admit that, when I sampled the slaw, I thought it tasted pretty good (but it needed a bit of an accent with lemon juice); and I made a corn slaw that won't be eaten by guest Patrick, who has already expressed an apparent aversion to corn slaw; and since my buddy Tom refuses to eat any vegetables at all (except for potatoes and beans and, bizarrely, oil-fried garlic cloves), he won't be having any of these three slaws. Upshot: more leftovers to take to the office, where people are far less picky and far more likely to just eat unquestioningly.*

Monday's pulled pork got eaten at work, and it was a small load, anyway, so it deserved to die at the office. A new load of pulled pork is currently mijoter-ing in the crock pot. Here's an overly bright shot of the baked beans, which were a labor of love:

I soaked a batch of Great Northerns overnight, then put them on the boil. Strangely, they didn't need a full hour to turn soft: they were done in thirty minutes, which was fine by me, as that gave me time to finish the beans ahead of schedule and move on to other dishes sooner than anticipated. I bathed the Great Northerns in ketchup, then fried up some thick-cut bacon until crispy. The bacon went straight into the beans; I used tongs to hold the bacon strips, and kitchen shears to cut the bacon into little, crunchy pieces that got mixed into the beans. With all the rendered bacon fat, I had plenty of grease for my favorite No Brand hot dogs, which I halved, diced (well, "semicircled" or "half-mooned"), and fried up in the bacon grease before using a slotted spoon to drain the dogs and toss them into the beans. For the beans themselves, I added barbecue sauce atop the ketchup, plus a blot of mustard and a goodly glug of Worcestershire sauce. Last but not least, a cup of brown sugar went into the mix. Yeah, I'm shameless. I wanted Tom to be able to eat this side, so instead of adding minced onion, I added a bit of powdered onion to the beans. You can barely taste it.

Below, and also overexposed, is the stuffing, another labor of love:

My stuffing isn't particularly imaginative. The vegetables include diced celery ribs, minced onion, finely chopped celery leaves, and mushrooms (oyster mushrooms in this case). The sausage is homemade breakfast sausage with an emphasis on sage and maple syrup. I also added diced, cooked apples done up with sugar and cinnamon. On top of that, I sprinkled extra sage over the whole thing, plus my own makeshift herbes de Provence. While some of the trendy cooks recommend baking your stuffing (technically, dressing, but I'm not going to change my speech habits at my age**) after adding a custard-ish solution of chicken stock, cream, and eggs, I simply made a broth-and-cream mixture that I poured onto my stuffing, after adding panko, in order to moisten the bread and get a heavier consistency. I've never baked my stuffing before; it comes straight off the stove.

Below—a shot of the pulled beef:

The meat—eye round—had very little fat, as I noted earlier, so I had to sauce it quickly before it dried up on me. I think I succeeded, but we'll know the truth only after I've re-warmed the beef in either the regular oven or the microwave. I made sure to use a distinctly different barbecue sauce with the pulled beef as a way to distinguish it from the pulled pork. I also baptized the beef with a blot of French honey.

Charles's slaw is below. Officially, it's called "Susan's Vinaigrette Cole Slaw," but when I containerized it, I simply labeled it "C-Slaw." Sounds more surgical that way. The slaw really does taste good, but I'm a bit worried that, given its vinegar component, it'll be well on its way toward pickling itself by the time we're sitting down to eat on Saturday. With vinegar slaws, I don't think inadvertent pickling is a tragic thing (not as tragic as when it happens with mayo/cream-based slaws, where the exudation of fluid can be aesthetically gross), but I'm still hoping for minimal picklage.


Funny thing about the above slaw: the recipe calls for poppy seeds, but I didn't know where to find those, so I bought black sesame seeds instead, and I think they make the dressing taste even better than poppy seeds would have.

Below is the corn slaw. Patrick might not want any, but a bit like a first-time father, I'm bizarrely proud of this batch of slaw, which was a fairly simple build: corn, Korean chilies, and some small red and yellow peppers, along with my standard pickle/mayo dressing, some fresh cracked black pepper, and a special ingredient: a dusting of chili powder to keep the whole thing within a Tex-Mex flavor profile.

The final picture in this brief photo essay is the regular cole slaw, which is composed of shredded carrot, shredded cabbage, pickle/mayo dressing, and cracked black pepper. As I noted long ago, once I arrived at this recipe for cole-slaw dressing, I saw no reason ever to change it up. With only three ingredients (pickle juice, mayonnaise, black pepper) the dressing couldn't be easier to make. Compare Iron Chef Bobby Flay's vaunted cole-slaw-dressing recipe, which is the epitome of overthinking slaw.

Still to come: pulled pork, sausages, baby-back ribs, BBQ chicken, and bacon mac and cheese. Sausage and ribs are a Friday prep; chicken and mac will happen on Saturday to ensure freshness. When it comes to chicken, those plump, firm breasts must be treated with the respect they deserve.

*Yes, I admit I'm picky, too, with my aversion to onions-in-certain-contexts.

**And if we're going to get pedantic about terminology, consider this: the conventional cook's wisdom is that it's stuffing if it actually, physically goes inside the bird, but it's dressing if it never enters an animal's body cavity. I say that it's stuffing either way because, even if you make it entirely separately from any bird, you can still, in theory, stuff it into a bird at any moment. So: whether it's potentially stuffing or actually stuffing, it's stuffing either way. Here's an analogy to help you out if you're still resisting this argument: you call toothpaste "toothpaste" even when it's inside the tube and not on your teeth. Whether it's potentially on your teeth or actually on your teeth, it's still toothpaste. The same should apply to stuffing. Dressing, meanwhile, is for salads, and it's a liquid.


John Mac said...

Everything looks amazing. I'd love to sample those beans and slaw. Wowza!

Charles said...

Looking good. I will not mind any pickling of the C-slaw, by the way, so no worries.

Also, perhaps we can heat the stuffing up in the oven to get a little crispiness on it? No need to add any weird custard or anything--we can just shove it under the broiler.

Kevin Kim said...

The stuffing will definitely have a suntan session in the oven.