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.

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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.

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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

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.

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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.

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

Reading versus Comprehension

Have you ever spent so much time watching cooking & food shows on tv that you begin to salivate, daydream, then move along to actually getting off your ass to cook something similar? I wanted something gumbohey, something with bold flavors, something I could cook for a Tuesday evening.  Chuck Taggart’s Simple Chicken Gumbo was a clear choice.  I used it once before years ago, what could possibly go wrong?

Me.  I spent an evening, then the the morning after making my lists.  I wanted to make his Creole Seasoning too, wanted it oh so special. I got the veggies all neatly diced, got the meats all browned and set aside.  Heated up the cast iron French oven and made a badass roux, all dark and smoky. Dumped in the veggies for the 4 minute sweating, stirred and scraped. Then fell stupid quiet, jaw on ground.  The realization hit me, while looking at the nearly full pot of veggies only, “It’s not all going to fit”.

Dumbass.  Duh, 4 quarts of liquid, huge amounts of veggies and 4+ pounds of meat going in to a 5 quart pot? Dumbass.  I was all ready to put everything together and get it in to the oven!  Nope. And you know what?  I had no other oven-ready pot to put it in. Dumbass.

Then I remembered I have several shelves of cookware in the garage, a-way out in the back, that might contain something I could use.  I dragged in my camp dutch oven, the one with the 3 legs. It didn’t sit so well on the stove, all cattywompus.  But it was good enough to get everything up to temperature, then get it in to the oven, on the pizza stone. Good thing for the stone, eh? Without that I would have had another problem with those legs sitting all funky.

Instead of 1 hour, I did 1.5 hours at 375.  And even after my goof, dinner came out wonderful and on time. Remember, simply reading a recipe is completely different than actually paying attention to what you require to get the job done.  Dumbass.

xo, Biggles

Cookin’ – Recycled Gourmet Appurtenances

Back in March when Meathenge Labs hosted a small, impromptu Dutch Oven Gathering a used cookware store in San Francisco was talked about.  Me being the backwoods hillbilly that I am hadn’t heard of it. I was promised that some day in the future we’d all go and have some fun.  It took more than a few months, but we finally did it!

Tiny E and I headed out from sleepy little Richmond with hope in our hearts and a whopping 10 dollars in our pockets. Was fine though, it was more about the adventure than coming back with a truckload of jewels, goblets and fry pans.  We found and parked at Kajsa’s & Cameron’s apartment with fair ease. We had to hike in about 9 million miles, but such is the burden of living in a large city with very little available parking.

Cookin’ is housed in a bitchen old building with rough wooden floors directly located on Divisadero. While it’s organized to the teeth, it’s an exceptionally packed solid type of organization.  Floor to ceiling type of packed.  Floor to ceiling with probably more than 80 years worth of kick ass cookware and related implements.

Need a Griswold cast iron skillet? Enamel cast iron oven or pan? Solid copper sauce pan? A Farberware whatever to fill a hole in your mother’s collection? It’s there in spades. Huge spades, huge bucktoothed spades.

I noticed it was going to take probably 2 to 3 runs through the store before my eyeballs and brain were able to make any sense of what was and what it might be. To discern if there was anything there that I just had to have, something I couldn’t possibly leave behind.

Nah, ol’ Biggles’ kitchen is pretty well stocked and I wasn’t able to find anything I had to have.  I was interested in a few of the old cake holder container rigs.  You know the ones, right?  Put cake on platter, then a nifty cover goes over said cake to keep it fresh for a day or two?

The owner had half dozen or so, but they were priced way, way, way out of my price range. We’re talking a thrift store find for 8 to 15 dollars and she was asking 40 dollars and more.  Not interested. In fact, the entire store is priced at maybe solid ebay prices for collector pieces.  I looked, but wasn’t able to find one deal to be had. She knew what she had and priced it accordingly. That’s fine, it’s not as though you can walk down the street to the next recycled cookware store and buy the same thing for less. She’s got a corner on the market and is acutely aware of it.

All in all we greatly enjoyed the afternoon out and I would certainly stop by again in the future.  If you truly need something soon, then by all means stop by and get it!  It just has to be in there, somewhere. But if you’re not crazy hot to have it right now? Give yourself a breather and keep your eyes peeled at local thrift stores, garage sales and deals on the internets. That and gifts from friends and family is where most of my gear came from.

xo, Biggles

Cookin’ – Recycled Gourmet Appurtenances 339 Divisidero San Francisco 415.861.1854

Forgetful Entry #19 – A / wtf?

And, Dang. I know it’s been a while, but dang. A few moments ago was cleaning out the folders on my desktop and ran across a few pictures I’d taken a few months ago for a post. Yet another meal that lingered, then fell by the wayside. It took me nearly 5 minutes to sit with the pictures and the name of the jpg before I could remember anything about the meal. Shake those cobby webs Biggles!
Chilebrown of Mad Meat Genius gifted me a bottle of Kansas City Cowtown BBQ Sauce, and apparently I smoked a chicken, then glazed the sucker with the sauce. See?
Um, I don’t think ol’ CB knew what he gave away. Or maybe he did realize the gift he gave me and I apologize for it taking me 2 months to post about it. But this BBQ sauce is hands down, among some of the best bottled BBQ sauces I’ve ever had. Heck, it’s a better BBQ sauce when compared to some of the ones I’ve made or been served over the years. The damned stuff is really good, tangy with a finish of sweet, smoky goodness and thick enough to stay put. Sure there are the purists and the elitists who won’t do sauce, but sometimes sauce is good. Sometimes I like having sauce with my smoked goodies and if and when I decide it’s time for sauce, dangit, I’m going to have some sauce! Even makes an impression 2 months later.
Hmmm, or maybe it could very well be that I only had a bowl of cereal for dinner and I’m hungry. Either way, if you see this sauce on a shelf or online somewheres, it’s Meathenge Approved. Hungry or no, it’s a solid contender.
xo, Biggles

Happy Turkey Day Everbody !!!

Happy Turkey day every one and all! Meathenge Labs is still here, been doing a lot of work to the outdoor kitchen area. Tore down the existing thatched roof and put in a real bamboo roof, 3 separate outdoor power outlets, lights, gardening, refinishing wooden-top work areas and related. Even had a new back door put in. It’s all had tendencies towards goodness.
All things considered, and I do mean all, am doing well. The sheer volume of tasks I need to complete on a daily basis puts me up before the sun and am spooning out delicious meals from the crockpot for the most part, by about 8pm or so. I even had to start organizing personal paperwork and had to purchase an accordion looking item to keep them all in order. After 46 years, this is a first for me. For crissakes I don’t even wear a watch, nor do I keep a check register!
If you’re interested to see some of the pictures and business I’ve been up to, I do tend to use flickr more often now that I have myself a fancy smartphone handy. So, if’n it matters, step on over to Meathenge’s Flickr Account and have a snoozing gander.
xo, Biggles

Rogue Wordless Wednesday !!!

Wordless Wednesday, yer doin’ it wrong. Not only am I not on “The List”, am using words.
Still here, still kicking, should have stopped by and let ya’ll know I was “On Holiday”. This means I’m a lazy ass and haven’t been cooking much. The boys and I have spent most of our summer in front a computer screen, or plinking cans with a BB gun of some ilk. We’re doing okay, school starts next week. We can hardly wait.
Happy Wordless Wednesday!
xo, Biggles
ps – Thems is slow, hickory grilled chicken breasts. Slow cause they gots no skin and no bacon. Gotta take it slow, they were so darned juicy!

What’s on your grill or smoker right now?

The membrane has been removed, entire rack rubbed with kosher salt, marinating. Cooker is nearly ready, great smells. What you gots?
xo, Biggles
Editor’s Update (next morning):
Fired up the new cooker last night and smoked these babies! Removed membrane, rubbed with Kosher salt, smoked with hickory. Juicy! Click on the picture if you so choose.

Just for fun, on a Thursday evening, smoked pork ribs.

Biggles having some fun today, is all.
Blind Melon – No Rain
Ooooo-oo-oo-oo-oo, oo-oo-oo-oo
All I can say is that my life is pretty plain
I like watching the puddles gather rain
And all I can do is just pour some tea for two
And speak my point of view
But it’s not sane, it’s not sane
I just want someone to say to me no, oh, oh, oh
I’ll always be there when you wake, yea-ah
You know I’d like to keep my cheeks dry today
So stay with me and I’ll have it made
And I don’t understand why I sleep all day
And I start to complain that there’s no rain
And all I can do is read a book to stay awake
And it rips my life away, but it’s a great escape
All I can say is that my life is pretty plain
You don’t like my point of view
You think that I’m insane
It’s not sane, It’s not sane
I just want someone to say to me no, oh, oh, oh
I’ll always be there when you wake, yea-ah
You know I’d like to keep my cheeks dry today
So stay with me and I’ll have it made
And I’ll have it made
And I’ll have it made, oh
Lord no no
You know I’m really gonna, really gonna have it made
You know I’ll have it made
Ahhh, ahhh, ahhh, ahhh
What fun! Love you all, Biggles signing off.

Pissy Wednesday – One is a flavor, one is a bear.

The English language and I have been at war since the beginning, it’s a love & hate thing. I’m one of those word snobs (I didn’t say I was good at it) and really try my best to make sure I use the correct their, they’re & there. See my point? I would never say the whether is turning cold early this year or I’m knot going! On the other hand, I don’t like rules. So, the outcome can sometimes turn in to a mess. A fun mess, but a mess all the same.
Well, I’ve had enough! There’s a great, huge and quite large faux pas going on right under our noses and it’s making me crazy. The poopetrators do it every day. This would be misspelling one, specific, little word. One version is a flavor and one is a bear.
Can anyone guess what this little word might be? I’ll count to ten, 1 2 3 4 6 … .Uh listen folks, the word is smoky. Smoky flavors !!! The word Smokey is either Smokey Bear or a slang term for a police officer. You don’t get smokey flavors from your smoker !!! GAHHHHHHHHHHH. (Picture Biggles swatting the air and stamping his boots).
Pissy Man has left the building.
ps – I smoked an 11 pound turkey last night in the new outdoor cooker I’m about to review.
xo, Biggles