Kevin D. Weeks of Seriously Good – a little memorial

It’s a guess, but I think I first met Kevin probably 5+ years ago here on Meathenge.  He was an attentive comment poster, usually had something pertinent to add or just to give 2 thumbs up. I quickly followed him to his own Seriously Good cooking blog. I hung out on there frequently, it was a welcome place full of all the meaty goodness. We actually spent some time on the phone late at night exchanging stories about both food and computer related technology.  We’d been working in it for so long he actually got my joke about those pesky RLL drives versus the MFM ones.  I knew our future wouldn’t last forever, early on he mentioned his internal organs weren’t as they should be.  He’d be passing in the next handful of years, but not once did I ever notice that get in the way of living for today.  Although he did say that spending time on the phone with me greatly cheered him up and enjoyed the laughter that didn’t come so easily.  The feeling was mutual.

Earlier this year I noticed that his food blog fell silent, the wrong kind of silent.  Well, today I found his blog gone and an entry on the internet announcing his passing on April 5th, 2012.

You were well loved and respected Kevin, I and surely everyone you came in to contact with wish you well in your journey and miss you dearly.

xo, Guy

Biggles’ very own Chicken Conspiracy of 2012

Editor’s Note:  All is well here, no complaints.  There really isn’t much going on worth mentioning in the cooking department, that’s the bottom line. That’s why no posts for such a long period of time. Love you, miss you!

The older I get, the simpler the roast chicken gets.  Wash, more than pan dry inside and out.  Kosher salt well, truss.  Install to 450 degree oven for 1 hour, pull and let rest for 10. The salt dries out the skin and turns it in to chicken skin candy of love, especially on the wings. Meat, even the breast meat, is tender and juicy with good solid chickenny flavors. I can do this.  Well, up until recently I could do it.

Yeah well, maybe 2 months ago I was running in to bloody thigh meat, regularly.  Even the breast meat from time to time would be under cooked. Wing joints, thigh joints, not even remotely done. After 6+ chickens roasted, I was nearing tears after removing the bird from the oven, wondering what to expect this time. I was convinced I had run across The Great Chicken Conspiracy of 2012 just as I had found The Great Potato Conspiracy of 2011.

The hell continued, 7 chickens roasted, 8, 9, 10 chickens roasted. It was a nightmare, I was nearly ready to throw in the towel. I chalked a few up to not being thoroughly defrosted, even after 2 days in the fridge. I stopped trussing the chicken, allowing more heat to penetrate the thigh crevices. I checked and replaced the batteries in my Thermapen. I gathered other odd thermometers to get a gaggle of readings. I pulled apart the oven to make sure the burner assembly was firmly in place and operating correctly. I routinely used a proper oven thermometer to make sure the oven came up to the correct temperature.  All checked good.  Still, no luck.

A beaten meat man, I admitted defeat. Not such a tough thing to do at the ripe old age of 47. Today, I’m firmly convinced I have no idea what’s going on, in and/or around me. I got no idea, I’m generally working off of reflexes these days. I did what any truly defeated man would do, I read the instructions.

Turns out, no matter what temperature the oven is, roasting time is based upon the weight of the bird. I know what you’re thinking, “Biggles, no f-ing shit !!! What a pathetic doof.” All true, but wait.  See, I’d been roasting birds for so long, basing my weights on birds of the past.  It used to be you could buy chickens that were 3.5 pounds, 4 pounds and big birds were 4.5 pounds. The 5+ pounders were stewing chickens, not tender little roasting chickens. Well, for the last however many years, you’re lucky to find any chicken that’s less than 5 pounds. If you reach in, find the smallest chicken in ye olde chicken patch, you’re most likely going to pull out a 5.5 pounder.  And this bird, my good people, will not roast in an hour, or at least this is my observation.

Of course, these weights will vary depending on where you are and where you shop for your chickens. But, what’s up with these older chickens? Buy any pieced out chickens lately? Breasts the size of your forearms, thighs the size of your feet! I simply cannot buy a 3.5 pound chicken any longer, not possible. And since I’m still unemployed, buying fancy chickens directly from ranchers ain’t possible, I have to rely upon the local cheap marts for food these days.

All is well in the roasting chicken department at Meathenge Labs.  It just takes longer now.

xo, Biggles

Knife Sharpening Class with Eric Weiss – Monday, June 4th

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Who here takes the time to have their knives professionally sharpened at least twice a year? Raise your hands. Yeah, I didn’t think so, but there’s a few of you. Who here sharpens their own knives? Excellent Chilebrown! Anyone else? There’s a few of you, good.
Listen up, I don’t care what kind of knife you use in the kitchen, it could be a 500+ dollar hand-made Kramer knife or something you found in the basement years ago. No matter who made your knife, it ain’t worth a bag of wet marbles unless it’s sharp. I’ll choose a sharp 15 dollar hardware store kitchen knife over any other dull knife. Here’s your chance to learn how to sharpen your own knives from the Master Knife Sharpener Grand Poobah of All Time, Eric Weiss.
How cool would it be to be able to sharpen your own knives properly? Very cool. And now you have the chance to learn the craft the right way. Register today, time is running out!

KNIFE SHARPENING CLASS
With ERIC E. WEISS

Monday, June 4th, 2012
6:30pm – 8:30pm $65.00
Paulding & Company, A Creative Kitchen
1410 D 62nd St., Emeryville, 94608
You will be taught to hone your knives to perfection by hand.
A sharpening stone and honing oil is included in the price.
Bring your chef’s knife and paring knife and 1 other.
Eric’s sharpening experience spans over 30 years. Born in England, raised in Germany, his love affair with all things sharp began in boyhood. This devotion grew with him through military service to the Queen, and comes to fruition at Bay Area Farmer’s Markets, Restaurants, Catering Companies, Retail and Private Homes. During this unique hands-on class Eric gladly shares his true wealth of historical, cultural, and scientific knowledge about the blade.
Class details/registration at
Paulding & Co.
510-594-1104

xo, Biggles

Tabañero Hot Sauce – a review

Neat, I reviewed the Tabanero Hot Sauce here back in ’05.  Back then, as you can see in the previous words, it didn’t have a tilde over the n.  Don’t roll that n!  And, back then it didn’t have habanero peppers in it either.  However, today she’s sportin’ a new recipe.

These ingredients would be, Habanero and Tabasco Mexican Peppers, Fresh Carrots, Onions, Key Lime Juice, Agave, Garlic, Salt and Grapefruit Seed Extract.  MmMmmMm, seed extract.  I was lucky enough to have received 2 free 8 ounce bottles for review, I’ve already emptied the first one.  I slathered pretty much everything I ate from lunch to dinner with it during a week.  From delivered pizza, potato salad, sandwiches to Meathenge Lab made Gringo Carnitas, I did it all.

As before, it’s a solid contender and a good sauce.  At first slurp you find the carrots, onions, garlic with a citrussy clue. Then quickly following is an oncoming bite and flavor action from the chile peppers.  It’s not an overpowering sauce, it should be used as a finishing sauce.  Some of the sauces I have in my fridge can be used as ingredients in dishes and hold their own even after cooking, this one would have a tough time with that. Use it for what it was intended, over food you’re going to eat. Now.

xo, Biggles

ps – I just gotta say something. We gringos have a tendency to roll the n in a word that comes anywhere near close to looking Mexicanny.  Tilde or not, the n generally gets rolled.  This is especially true when we’re talking about jalapeños and/or habaneros. There’s no tilde in habanero, do not roll the n. So, Mr. or Ms. Tabañero, would you be so kind as to remove the tilde’d n in Habanero listed in your ingredients? This is all.

London Pot Broil Roast – beware free meat!

Beware free meat!  Hmmm, no.  Be wary of free meat!  Aaaaaa, no that’s not quite it either. Beware green meat!  Yes, of course but that’s another story.  Be thoughtful of free meat preparation? Yeah, that’s close enough.

No matter who you are, where you’ve come from or where you might end up, at some point you’re going to have to be a creative soul when it comes to meals coupled with a severe lack of income.  So, when your buddy says to you, “Hey Biggles, I have a huge freezer full of meat, do you want some?  I bought a half a beef.” It’s best if you smile, nod and thank them very much for their kind offer. Even though, when deep down inside, you’re shaking in your boots because you have no idea how that cow made it in there, how long it’s been in the freezer and how the gosh did some nitwit seal it up. Sealing meat well for the freezer ain’t no easy feat my good people.

The Meathenge Labs’s freezer ultimately ended up with a little over a hundred pounds of assorted frozen meaty packages, some large and some small.  Mostly beef particles, but a few were labelled with Lamb.  There were two 5 pound beef slabs labelled London Broil, one of which made it in to today’s post.  The previous one I grilled over mesquite and pecan wood, was good enough.  But I accidentally let it run to 135 to 140 degrees, was pretty chewy.  Sure it tasted darned fine, but darned that beef if it isn’t so fussy.  Not like pork!

Honestly, sometimes I really don’t have it in me to fuss over a beef steak and pull when it reaches 125 or so.  It’s far easier for me to braise it for hours in the oven submersed in aromatics, tubers and fungi of some distinction.  Crazy, I know.  But that’s how I roll.  Yo.

As I was standing in front of the open freezer door, 5 pound frozen brick of beefy London Broil in my meat-hook sized fangers, I was wondering.  “Can I pot-roast a London Broil?”

Armed with free meat, 3 days defrosting in the fridge, I was ready to find out.  Floured, salted and browned the meat in a cast iron dutch.  Browned off 16 ounces of quartered mushrooms, then sliced onion, flattened tons of fresh garlic, fresh rosemary and enough beef broth to cover.  Install in to 300 degree oven, rack on bottom for 5 hours.  Lid on for 3 or so hours, remove to reduce as needed or wanted.

Uh, yeah.  Apparently one can use a London Broil for pot roast.  And you know what brother?  Or sister, it was darned tasty.

xo, Biggles

Editor’s Note: I made no effort to do any googlizing to see if anyone else had used a london broil for pot roast.  I have absolutely no interest in what anyone else has done in the past.  For me, every day is a new adventure and I adore reinventing the wheel.

A Meathenge Cottage Pie

editor’s note: This post’s purpose is more for the author’s personal diary of ingredients and ratios for future use. American Cottage Pie recipes are as ubiquitous as pet hairs, nearly everyone has one or nine million. Do we really need another variation?

Yesterday found Biggles wandering aimlessly throughout the local mega mart attempting to come up with something, anything for dinner. We’ve had ground beef for the previous 2 days, why not another? This time topped with mashed potatoes?

Yup, 3rd day in a row for ground beef.  I couldn’t believe it myself, but I just couldn’t come up with a better solution. In the past months I’ve run myself even stupider with chicken thighs and pork steaks. Covering a meat & gravy slurry with mashed taters seemed to be my only salvation.

Holy gravy Batman! I have no idea why this dish came out so light, tasty and perfect in every way, but it did.  And brother or sister? I wanted to make sure I put down the basics here so when the hankering comes up again, I can whip this out. My ability to remember even the largest of details has long since bid a farewell.

Ground Meat – 1 pound
Onion – White and small dice
Garlic – Mooshy and as much or as little as one wants
Thyme – Heaping teaspoon full
Mushrooms – Minimum of 16 oz slice – variatize them
Beef Broff – 1 & 1/3 cuppa
Tomato Paste – Heaping Tablespoon full
Salt & Pepper – To taste ya foo
Flour – 1/4 cuppa
Veggies – I used frozed mixed
Mashed Potatoes – Enough for 6 hungry people, give or take

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F with rack in center position.

Brown everything in large, wide fry pan. You’ll need the surface area to make browning easier.

The few key points I need to remember are to start the mashed potatoes first, get them boiling before you start on the filling.  Then brown the meat, onion, mushrooms together or separately depending on your fussiness level. Then toss in the frozen veggies to warm them. Add the flour and heat for no more than 3 to 4 minutes, just get everything coated.  Add the tomato paste, stir in. Then add the broth, simmer for 15 minutes give or take.  This will set the flour and reduce the liquid just a tad. Set aside until potatoes are tender and ready to be mashed. Use only real butter and milk/cream with as much butter fat as you have on hand or are willing to purchase. We used manufacturing cream with a fat content of maybe 38 to 40%. Install filling to appropriate baking device, smoove taters over the top with love.  Coat with butter or baking spray and install to oven for 30 minutes until golden brown.  Yank, let sit for 10.

Hooboy!  At first bite I couldn’t believe it turned out this good, so delectable! Yes, I impressed myself. I can hardly wait to make this again, with a few additions of course. Not sure what those changes might be though, it’ll come to me.  Probably while meandering through the store attempting yet again to come up with something for dinner.

xo, Biggles

ps – Chilebrown, please do not scroll downwards.  It’s a dessert and it was bucktoothed evil good. A homemade apple cake with Uncle Ralph’s tree ripened Granny Smiths, home made apple syrupy with bits and once again, whipped manufacturing cream.

 

Meathenge’s Whip Cream Journey or Merry Christmas !!!

A way back in the early ’90s I stopped off at Fat Apples restaurant in El Cerrito for a cup of coffee. 9 million years ago this was the place that was originally named Fat Albert’s, but was quickly shut down due to the illegal use of a trademarked name. I had grabbed my coffee, and poked around for the half & half. None to be found! What I did find was a container of Manufacturing Cream. Real cream in coffee?  Count me in!

Whatever it was, left a long lasting impression on me. Even today I can remember the euphoric experience in nearly detail. I searched for it over the coming day, weeks and months. But never could I find it, not even a glimmer. At some point I was told that it was a food service product, only available to restaurants, bakeries and wherever else I clearly wasn’t.

A few weeks ago I was grabbing my ubiquitous gallon of 2% at Smart & Final, a commercial type grocery store that is “open to the public”. I looked up and to the right, there she was. A half gallon of Manufacturing Cream. I wanted, no needed this magical, loaded with butter fat, container of love.

So far, everyone here at Meathenge Labs finds that whipped cream made from this stuff totally eclipses anything it’s put over.  Not only that, it’s stable as gosh.  A day later, on the counter or in the fridge, it doesn’t separate or go south. I suppose being 40% plus on butter fat probably has something to do with it, eh?

Go now, find this wonderful elixir of the gods. Make your holidays, make your Christmas extra special and make some whipped cream from Manufacturing Cream.

xo, Biggles

The Great Potato Conspiracy of 2011

At first I thought it was just me. But then after more than a few months and an observation, I’m convinced it’s a conspiracy. I have doubts about my personal abilities, surely.  But brother, or sister, if there’s one thing I can do is cook. And one of the dishes I do exceptionally well, is a good serving of creamy mashed potatoes.

Starting more than a few months ago, and even up until last night, I’ve been failing at cooking potatoes. What I mean by this is that both baking them and boiling them to mash isn’t working like it used to.  400 degrees for an hour on 1 medium potato is rendering me a mostly uncooked potato.  A large rapidly boiling pot of whole medium potatoes for 45 minutes is rendering me uncooked potatoes.  Sure, poke them with a fork and it glides in and out without resistance. But when it comes time to open the suckers up, when it comes time to mash them?  Hard as a rock.  So far, 9 out of 10 times is a tear jerking failure.

For the first dozen times, I thought that maybe I was just off my game. Maybe I set the the timer wrong, maybe the oven was off, maybe I’m just getting too old to boil a potato. I’ve even gone so far to try russets from different stores, ones in bags, tubers hand picked from the bin. Nothing rendered me success in the arena of baking or boiling potatoes.

It wasn’t until last night that I remembered a recent episode of Top Chef, can’t remember which one exactly.  A chef went home because her gratin wasn’t cooked.  She served raw potatoes. And at her level, this should never have happened.  Even if she had chosen to cook them on the day of and not the day before. Making a gratin is Cooking 101 for anyone. How could this be? I’m not the only one cooking and serving raw potatoes!

I am now solidly convinced that there is a potato conspiracy going on here in these United States. From large to small, from bulk to a la carte, we have a problem. It’s not going away, in fact it could be spreading across our great nation.  Is it international? I don’t know yet, but I can tell you for sure, I’m now doing research in this field. This needs to be unearthed, we need to locate the root of the problem and halt this Great Potato Conspiracy of 2011 at any and all costs!

xo, Biggles

Meathenge’s Smoked Crop Circle Chicken

Happy Monday!  We did up this whole chicken in the Charbroil Smoker Roaster Grill last night.  Came out absolutely stunning in 1 hour, crispy, smoky skin action included. Trussed and rubbed well with kosher salt is all one needs.  I got the nifty crop circles by cooking it upside down with the breast portion resting on the bottom of the meat holding basket. Way cool, eh?

xo, Biggles

Steamy Lemon Pastry Filling

Yeah!  And a solid, Yahoo!  Am in the middle of making a poppy seed cake from The Joy of Cooking.  The poppy seeds are supposed to soak for a few hours in milk before you put the cake together.  At the bottom of the recipe I noticed that you’re supposed to make Lemon Pastry Filling, even gave a page number for the recipe.  Took a little perusing because on that page, it’s called Lemon Filling, leaving out the word “Pastry”.  That wasn’t cool because there are several other lemon filling recipes and I had to figure out which was which for what excuse. Again, reading and comprehension.  Ug.

In any case, decided to make the lemon filling while the poppy seeds did their deed.  And guess what?  I got to separate my first egg !!!  That’s right, it’s taken Biggles 47 years to separate a yolk from the white.  Pretty scary, eh?

So far, all is well.

xo, Biggles

Roasted Veggies? Egads !!!

I say, if you must eat your veggies, roast the suckers.  Or juice them, I like that too. But roasting them gives some enough flavors wherein I am able to choke them down.  Toss with good oil, s&p, favorite herbies, 425 degrees in a large roasting pan with lowish sides until done, about 30 to 40 minutes.  EAT.

xo, Biggles

Aluminum-free baking powder good – Double acting baking powder bad?

I can run with the ingredient snobs all day without breaking a sweat. It comes second nature to me and I enjoy it. Nothing like self-proclaiming that you’re better than everyone else, right?

Welp, yesterday my friend Jeffrey Davila and I were chatting via email about his recipe for some savory scones.  He was kind enough, later on the in the day, to forward over the recipe. I smiled as he noted Organic this and Fresh that, OH Jeffrey.  Well, one of the notations on his recipe was to use Baking Powder with no Aluminum. Aroo?

At the time I was thinking about the packaging, some reaction with an aluminum container.  Well, after a 2 second search on google, I received my answer. We gots our baking powder with no Sodium Aluminum Sulfate, and we have our Double Acting Baking powder that has it.  Mmmmmkay.

As near as I can tell, the Double Acting Baking powder rises in the mixing bowl, then again in the oven. Sounds fine, but as it turns out, if you really want to dial in a noticeable taste in your baked goods you must use the NO aluminum baking powder. And, no mosey action on getting your batter in to the oven.  Move along little doggy!

I’m on my way to learning the ins and outs here.  Good thing this here can of baking powder didn’t cost me 52 million dollars. I can just toss the sucker and buy Rumford or similar.

xo, Biggles

Happy Turkey Day with Scones Day of Love

From everyone here at Meathenge Labs, we wish you a happy Turkey Day!

By the closing of this last work week our family related plans all feel short. A major cooking holiday and all we have to do is hang around in our jammies and bake treats?  Count me in!

Earlier this morning found Tami Numnums and myself in the kitchen.  I purchased the ingredients a week ago and it’s taken me this long to get in to the kitchen and knock these suckers out. Cutting in butter or lard to a flour mixture correctly has always eluded me. I’ve had enough of that and it’s time that Biggles learn how to bake, and bake well enough to at least be edible.

The recipe came from The Joy of Cooking, added 1 cup of frozen blackberries.  Not fricken bad for a first try, came out pretty well.  However, 1 tablespoon of sugar was not nearly enough.  I need to try this again and double it, see what that does.  If I can get a little more sweetness in there, they’ll be perfect and ready to go in to daily if not weekly production.  Easier to make than cookies!

xo, Biggles