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

Meathenge Labs – A Trek in to the World of Baking Treats!

Hmm, let’s see here.  I’m 47 and have been cooking since I was about this tall. But as close as I’ve ever come to baking was helping my grandmother and uncle at a tender young age. Sure I’ve put together maybe 2 batches of cookies and there’s one wheat bread post here on Meathenge proper since then. But I’ve always been someone who stoutly vocalized, “I am not a baker!” For me, cooking and baking are not the same. I do not enjoy following recipes, exactly. And brother? For baking, there are rules.

This Meat Enthusiast was laid off after 21 years this last July. Nah, don’t cry for me. No love lost there. It has given me some much needed time to rethink my self proclaimed status of a non-baker. Today I consider myself someone who has embarked on a lifelong journey in to baked goodies. And what better way to start off on such a journey, than cookies? Banana bread? Eh?

I can still remember my grandmother and uncle giving me a few pointers about measuring dry goods, bringing unsalted butter n eggs to “room temperature”. So, armed with that knowledge and a few copies of The Joy of Cooking, I’ve been making a wonderful mess in the kitchen. And you know what?  I’ve been nailing the recipes! No burning, great crumb, moist n rich, perfect in every way. Nestle’s bitter-sweet morsels fell very short of my adult expectations though.  They were quickly swapped out for the Ghirardelli counterpart and promptly scored a 10.

No recipes today, no special procedures. Only a nudge to consider knocking out some baked love while the smoker or grill is hard at work in the blustery fall weather. The smell of fresh bread wafting from your oven has a very similar effect that bacon and burning mesquite does.

xo, Biggles

ps – I did end up having to buy a thermometer for the oven. A baked chicken doesn’t care much if it’s roasting at 450 or 475. But a cookie does, a loaf of bread does. Must have an accurate oven brother man.


Warehouse Cafe – Port Costa California

Bikers, Pirates, Gypsies & Artists, oh my. Have you ever been to Port Costa? It’s a tiny town nestled in low rolling hills on the Carquinez Strait between Crockett and Martinez in West Contra Costa County. The only way in or out is 1 little two lane road that winds its way in and around.  It’s absolutely stunning and considering it’s been there since 1879, the architecture is absolutely badass.

Other than people, homes and character, there isn’t much going on in Port Costa. And it’s clear the populace likes it that way.  Don’t count on any cell connection either, ain’t gonna happen. Unless you’re at the bar, they have wireless action for everyone. Bikers & Gypsies need wi-fi too, eh.

Down at the end of the main street, nestled at the waterfront, is a dirt parking lot that’s usually populated by Harleys, 30+ year old American cars & trucks and whatever else the locals have drug in.  Park here.  Head back up and make a left turn in to the bar or restaurant, don’t matter which door you use, it’s all connected.

The Warehouse Cafe and biker bar has been around for years  and the decor is heavily eclectic to say the least.   On Friday and Saturday evenings their kitchen opens up and as my sister says, “They serve Steak & Meat”. And brother, or sister, that’s exactly what they do!  New York Steak, 1 pound. Prime Rib, 1 pound. Lobster?  I forget, but I’m sure it’s huge. Along with the meat, taters and delectable simmered mushrooms you get a happy salad bar option, home simmered pot o’ chili and clam chowder. Need to wash it down with something cool and refreshing? They tout 400 varieties of beer, that’s a lot just so you know. They don’t deny the chillin’s a menu either, it goes like this: New York Steak, 1/2 pound. Prime Rib Dinner, 1/2 pound. Lobster …, well you get the idea.

The chile was pretty darned good! Solid chile pepper flavors, hunks of well simmered tasty beefs, beans had good tooth action. I’d offer up a shot of the salad, but who cares?  I don’t. You’re lucky you get this funky shot of the chili.

And now?  The piece of resistance!

Yup, you guessed it, I ordered the Prime Rib dinner served medium rare. It was perfect in every way.  The bark had caramelly rosemary additions, fatty goodness throughout and bloody red from edge to edge. If I remember semi-well, each dinner was about $25 bux and worth every fricken penny.

Everyone at the table thoroughly enjoyed the surroundings, the food and the waitstaff couldn’t have been more attentive and hooohot. I was able to get a few bites of my neighbor’s new york 1 pounder and next time I come for dinner, this is what I will be ordering.  While the prime rib was awesome, as with the standing rib beef roasts, they’re on the mild side. Their new york cut was grilled well and had a mouthful of beef flavor explosions that blew the mild yet tasty rib roast out of the water.  Pow, just like that.  See?  Boom!  Beef flavor explosions!  MmmMMm, steak and meat.

xo, Biggles

Warehouse Cafe

5 Canyon Lake Dr
Port Costa, CA 94569

(510) 787-1827

Jalapeno Poppers via 11 year old boy & youtube

I’ve got 2 boys, 1 of which will eat pretty much anything and enjoys it all.  The 11 year old however, ain’t quite as easy to please.  So, when you-know-who found a recipe for the J Poppers on youtube and wanted to make them?  I backed him up 110%.  He selected Jack & Mozzarella made in to a slurry with cream cheese.  Even sliced open the peppers and cleaned them out himself.  I’d always done them by slicing off the top, but he did it lengthwise so they made a cheesy boat.  Wrapped with bacon and in to a pre-heated Char-broil Smoker Roaster Grill set to maybe a little under halfway on the volume knob.  Dang boy!  They were good.

xo, Biggles

Jones’ BBQ – El Sobrante California

Yeah, yeah, I’ve reviewed Jones’ BBQ before, quite some time ago actually.  And, if my swiss related memory served me correctly it came to 3 different times spanning from 2004 ending in November of 2005. Never was able to get anything worth finishing, toss. No smoky goodness, sauce that over powered by the 3rd bite and lackluster sides.  Oh the horrors!

Wait a minute, wait just a goldarned minute.  Uh, if we use math, that’d be over 5 years ago.  Really?  Honestly, it only seems like a few years ago. I just went back and checked, yup. It was nearly 6 years ago I last stopped by.  Seems only fair I give them another shot, eh? Besides, I was pale & shaking from lack of food and this hillbilly was hungry!

As you can see, this here is California BBQ. It comes slathered in sauce. Sure, I could have asked for it on the side and they would have gladly obliged me, not a problem. But wanted to see how it came without my direction, next time it’s sauce on the side. And, was a little disappointed to see hunks of chicken breast instead of chicken parts. The way I figure it, they were probably out of parts and made do with what they had on hand, totally acceptable.

The sauce has changed greatly over the last 5+ years, far thinner with some sweet action followed by a nice bite of vinegar.  It was good, not over powering. And you know what?  Each and every bite had smoky flavors! That’s right folks, smoky love was present this time. Each and every bite of chicken and ribs were tender and smoky. The rib meat came from the bone with a tug, chicken had good texture. I ordered a side of tater salad and beans, they were fine.  Nothing to write home about and could have used 3 packets of hot sauce on top. But brother, or sister, I wasn’t there for the sides. It’s all about the meat!

To sum it all up, this 2 way combo of chicken & ribs totally didn’t suck. A bit pricey at 22 bux, but I suppose that’s pretty much standard for the San Francisco Bay Area. If you’re local and haven’t been or haven’t been in a while, stick your neck in the door and have a try. I’ll be back and will see how their fried chicken is doing.  I enjoyed it the last time, I remember Chilebrown wasn’t impressed though.  MMmMm, fried chicken.

Jones’ BBQ
3550 San Pablo Dam Road #B3
El Sobrante, CA 94803

xo, Biggles

Meathenge Salad

Not sure what came over me, but I made a salad. Not even bacon in this sucker, no ma’am. This right here is a bowl completely filled with perfectly diced green things, red things, shaved an orange root action with some carefully rinsed garbonzos. Severe craziness, I faced my fears, I own these vegetables souls.
For the last 2 Sundays I’ve hosted dinner parties for one reason or another. Tiny E’s birthday was by far the best of the two versus Easter. What this typically means is I supply, cook and serve the meat. If you’re interested in anything else? It’s up to you to bring it. Oh sure, I have napkins and utensils. But it’s up to you to bring the beverages, dinner rolls, appetizers, BBQ beans, salads, whatever else you’d normally expect to already be there. I’m all about the meat.
Today, Mother’s Day, was being hosted by my dear sister and her husband Meathead. All well and good, but last week I got an email stating they were going to supply, cook and serve the meat. What the hell am I supposed to bring then?
I had to meditate on this salad stuff. What did it mean to me? Should I get a recipe for “salad”? That seemed kinda silly. Sure, I could have made it more difficult than it needed to be, but I’m not wired that way. Keep the salad simple, baby steps here pally boy.
This morning found Biggles in the vegetable section, mildly freaking out. I’d been able to keep myself in check during the week, but it was go time. Sure I’d purchased veggies for garnish, adding to soups & stews, pot roast and crock-pot meals. But this was different. This salad thing had to be good on its own, it needed to be edible.
I quickly pulled myself together and started with greens, then moved along quietly. And by quietly I mean, complete and utter stealth mode. I have a reputation to uphold here! I can’t be seen buying such things without a large hunk of meat to simmer along with.
I did it, pulled it together and came out on top. I made a salad and it was good.
And speaking of good, as I turned around with my salad knife in hand, caught my sister with a burger slurpee. MMmmmMMmm, burger slurpee.
xo, Biggles

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

Wooden cutting board and food bowl restoration – Biggles Method

For many years Jlee and I have been sharing a beautiful, dark in color, hand-made, and quite large cutting board. It was made by a friend of hers who makes musical instruments out of fancy kiln dried, then seasoned wood. It’s kinda cool when you’re slicing and chopping on it because the wood resonates a lot like some kind of wood instrument, it sings to you. We both love it dearly, I get it for a few years, she gets it for a few years, see how it works? Well, we’re both avid cooks and actually USE our equipment and after a couple years of hammering on a wooden cutting board, it gets pretty gooky, stained and downright, well, kinda ganky.
If these had been plastic, it would have been off to the recycling bin for the both of them. But no, they’re made out of wood and can be brought back to life. And brother, or sister, this method is going to give you the shakes it’s so easy.
My standard way of handling wooden cutting boards and similar wooden bowls for food was to, wash with soap and warm water to get most of the gunk off. Dry well. Start with 120 sanding paper on a vibrating finishing sander or by hand. Then move on to 220 to get a nice smooth finish. Dry thoroughly, then rub liberally with food grade mineral oil. Done and good for quite some time. But that makes me have to find tools, time and inspiration.
That’s hard and I don’t feel like doing all that. But I do enjoy taking care of my stuff and if you continue on, you’ll find a method I tried a few months ago on a wooden bowl that was being tossed out by a friend. It was scratched, stained and stained badly from something sitting at the bottom for too long.
A few weeks ago I was gifted back the large, most awesome cutting board of all time, how exciting!
True to our ways, she’d been a busy woman using it to steady her home coffee roaster (I just sold the roaster on ebay) and many other tasks. It needed cleaning and restoration. Egarly I thought back to the bowl I had easily brought back to life with nearly no effort and thought the cutting board would do just fine going through the same process.
Take a look, click on the image for a little larger one. Sure, they’re not new, they still have some patina from over the years, they’re totally clean and ready for another coupla years of heavy use. What do you think? Wouldn’t they be grand in your kitchen or on your dining room table?
Would you like to know the scoop?
Wash them for a few minutes under warm, sudsy water to loosen up the gank, scrub lightly with a stiff brush. Just enough to get them wet and a little cleaner.
Set them in your sink and squeeze enough liquid automatic dishwasher detergent to cover well, rubber gloves on, and rub over entire surface to be cleaned. Let them sit for no more than ten minutes.
Rinse well, very well, all over you will rinse. Pat dry and allow them to sit for a day and truly dry as best they can. They’ll look horrible, just as the first image shows, that’s nasty!
Rub liberally with food grade mineral oil, use paper towel to wipe off any excess, and that right there, is that. Look at those two pieces, that’s exactly how they are supposed to be. Well used, well taken care of and ready for action at any given moment.
So, for just a little more effort than washing your dishes, your wooden cutting board and/or wooden bowl is ready for use! Don’t you agree?
xo, Biggles
ps – I realize there’s probably millions of people who’ve done just the same thing and there are surely books that go over the same. But I haven’t read any of those books, nor have I ever talked to anyone with the same idea. For today, I’m pleased with myself.

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

Crock Pot Pork Shoulder mish mash

I was sitting and watching tv an hour ago and had the idea of you’re looking at. Greens, shitake, onions, garlic, carrots, fresh rosemary, thyme, salt-free beef broth, little red taters, set to high all day.
Remember, crock pots take more work than one might think. Just tossing in ingredients and not browning the meat is a logical fallacy (thanks Cookie!). Don’t add much moisture, I just added 1/2 cup of beef broth and it will probably be too much, I can reduce it later. Also, season well, that’s what crock pots like. Now get to smell this sucker cooking on high all day!
xo, Biggles
But wait, there’s more.
Umph. I’m full.
4.5 hours on high, 1.5 hours on low. Meat was 210 to 220 when pulled. Neither the meat, carrots, onions, or mushrooms were fall aparty. You could remove everything with tongs, just like that. Juicy, tender, fell apart in your mouth to ever last part. Even the meat had some tasty bark to it. As expected the sauce was a tad bland, good by any standards but I wanted perfection. So I separated all the bits from the juice and reduced by 1/3. Used it as gravy over the food and taters.
I’m full now.

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!

Sumo Grub – Berkeley California

Last week Chilebrown of Madmeat Genius offered up a new place in Berkeley for some tempura fare, he mentioned Tempura Cheese Pizza. Yup, it’s like that.
He and Ms. Goofy (his wife) stopped by at noon on Saturday to haul my lazy ass out of the house and on a food adventure. I figured downtown Berkeley, noon, on a Saturday would be something of a snarl for traffic & parking. Traffic caused us to hit the back streets, but parking was right around the corner. We entered!
Sumo Grub is nice, clean, cute and had a handful of tables for in-house dining. The menu to the left was done on a chalk board, it was laid out well, very legible. Under burgers they have their 1/4 lb Angus beef and something called, “Vegan Meat”, I thought that was very cool. The woman running the front was exceptionally kind, helpful and cheery. The best part though? Is that they have a backyard for outside seating! It was awesome! Loved it.
The prices are exceptionally affordable, probably due to the location directly across the street from Berkeley High. So, ordering a bunch of goodies is of no concern for those of us that haven’t attended such a school for 30+ years. I ordered a cheese burger with onion rings, tempura mac & cheese and bottled water.
I really liked the onion rings, but the burger fell short. The poor beef patty was cooked beyond its life expectancy. But after meeting the owner and chef, I’m sure he’s working out the kinks and won’t hold that against him. I was the one that ordered a burger in an Asianny restaurant. Other than that, the bun was absolutely stellar along with the lettuce, and the green fleckled sauce stuff.
Here’s a shot of Chilebrown’s Chicken, Apple Sausage Tempura.
Here’s the Tempura Mac & Cheese. I’m a hard core mac and cheese guy, if it ain’t a home made southern mac & cheese, I’m not interested. I should be reviewing on its own merit, but I can’t.
When we were nearly done with our lunch, Chilebrown got up and ordered us a Tempura Heart Attack for dessert, it serves 3? This would be Tempura Oreos, Twinkies and ice cream.
I really liked the Oreos and the ice cream, the Twinkies were good. The owner really knows how to Tempura anything. This was the piece of resistance, what really tied it all together. The bread crumbs varied from item to item.
To sum it all up, Sumo Grub really shines in a few areas and I will go back to try some more dishes that compliment his skills.
Sumo Grub
2235 Milvia Street, at Kittridge
Open Monday through Saturday from 11am until “The freaks come out”
Closed on Sunday
xo, Biggles