Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Smoking Is Good for You: Smoked Pork Shoulder, Part 2

Gentle reader, as you may already have surmised from the fact that you’re reading this post, the smoked pork shoulder was a success! Mind you, much of the credit must go to The Rob, who got up at 7 AM to go set up the smoker in our friends’ backyard, and spent the next several hours peering at the temperature gauge, twiddling the vents, and replenishing the water. Since I am constitutionally incapable of getting up before the crack of noon on a Sunday, I really appreciate him shouldering this huge responsibility. Get it? See what I did there? SHOULDERing! BWAAAAHAAahhahaaaaahaaa...

Ahem. Anyhoo. I arrived at my friends’ BBQ around 6 PM to man the smoker for the last few hours, before pulling the meat and serving it on soft corn tortillas with a chipotle slaw. So here’s a little post-pork analysis of the lessons I learned.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Smoking Is Good for You: Smoked Pork Shoulder, Part 1

Ah, Memorial Day weekend. A time for honoring America’s war heroes, and for cooking large quantities of meat. Alyce got a jump on the official start of grill season with a fab rooftop cookout Thursday, and today, I am marinating a pork shoulder to be smoked for a backyard gathering tomorrow evening. And by “marinating,” I mean I am sitting outside with my laptop drinking a beer while the pork sits in the fridge inside.

A pork shoulder is a great cookout option: The meat is cheap (about $1.50 a pound), it requires very little hands-on time, and a whole one will feed a crowd. (The one I bought was about 7 pounds.) The reason it’s cheap, however, is that it is a very tough cut that takes a long time to cook. You want to cook it at an extremely slow temperature so that the meat breaks down and all the fat gets nicely rendered into it; when it’s finished cooking, you should be able to pull strands of meat apart with your fingers. Again, you don’t really have to tend to it at all while it’s cooking, you just have to plan to get it cooking several hours before serving. One good way to cook a pork shoulder is by braising it in the oven at, like, 250° to 300°. And another is to put it in a smoker.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Spaghetti With Zucchini and Roasted Tomatoes

Gentle reader, at every Brooklyn street fair, it seems I end up disappointing myself. I gravitate toward the first greasy street foods in sight, then end up too full to try things I encounter later. (Hint: Avoid the mozzarepas—they expand in your stomach and ruin you for the rest of the day in one shot.) However, this past Sunday, at the Fifth Avenue Street Fair, I had the opposite problem: not getting enough street food. Oh, the irony!

See, after much cautious passing-up of various pulled-pork purveyors, I threw in my lot with a brisket slider from Benchmark. (Yummy, if messy. Note to self: Put Wet-Naps in purse before next street fair.) But by then it was getting pretty late, and it started to rain, and all the vendors started packing up, so I was unable to follow up with a chicken taco, much less funnel cake for dessert. And let me just say—at the risk of sounding melodramatic, which I would never, ever, ever do—that for a moment I hoped those people carrying signs about the End of Days coming next Saturday were right. Because seriously, what kind of a God would want to rain on His children’s funnel-cake parade?!

After I finished shaking my fists at the heavens, I proceeded to the after-party, chez the Beez (what, you don’t have after-parties for street fairs? Laaame), where I proceeded to overcompensate by eating pizza (you never saw a group of people tear into a pizza like that straight off a street-fair fried-food crawl) … at which point someone brought over a triple-crème cheese and crackers … and then I may have stopped for a couple of fried chicken drumsticks at Yafa Deli on the way home. What? Don’t judge me! I did a lot of walking at that fair!

Anyhoo. My point being: For the past couple of days, I’ve felt the need to eat relatively healthy, vegetable-driven meals that are neither deep-fried or on a stick. Hence I came up with this simple pasta, with a low ratio of noodles to veggies.

(Yes, that’s where I was going all this time. I’ll pause for you to overcome your indignation.)

So, yeah! This is a no-brainer-easy, vegetarian alternative to your average pasta with preservative-laden jar red sauce. Ingredients total around $5—and might be even cheaper come summer’s end, if you have a garden overflowing with tomatoes and zucchini. Personally, I don’t have a vegetable garden, so if you do, gentle reader, the polite thing would probably be to share some of your extra produce with me. I did share this recipe with you, after all, so it’s really the least you could do.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Celery Root and Apple Soup

Hello and happy May Day!

Yes, it's May and I know what you are thinking- soup? Celery root soup? Come on Alyce, winter's over, where's the grill? It's almost cinco de Mayo, how about some fajitas?
I know, trust me I know, but the other day I was in the grocery store, saw a big ole celery root and had to pick it up. I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to do with it. Wasn't in a gratin-y mood, and wanted to do something a little more substantial than a salad, so I looked online and found a recipe for soup with celery root and apple that piqued my interest, seemed really simple, and so I got to work.