Category Archives: thoughts on food

Pecan Lodge PR Party

Dude.

That shit is great.  I’m not kidding.  The best smoked meat I’ve ever had.  Anywhere.  Any time.

Last night, Hubbard and I were fortunate enough to be invited the Pecan Lodge’s PR party for their new location in Deep Ellum on Main.  You won’t believe it.  It’s a great space.  Lot’s of room, comfortable environment.  Everything is amazing.

009

They have a new line waiting for you.  More smokers this time.  Faster line with more meat.  So, you probably won’t have to get there before dawn to queue up.

Let me just say this…

Image

Image

Image

Image

Hubbard looked at me, “This is the best BBQ I’ve ever had.”  I said, “Yes, it is.  I told you.”  He agreed again that it was the absolute best in all eternity.  Look at that smoke ring.  Damn.

Image

If it looks good to you at all, it’s ten times better than you’re thinking.  AND they have a big patio space with live music (check their website), a bar, their own brew, serving dinner on Friday and Saturday.  We’ve landed in Pecan Lodge heaven, kids.  I want to take a sleeping bag and spend the night there until they open on May 23.

Image

Local notables.

Image

Are you happy yet?  You wait.  You just wait until you go.

 

Goodbye to Club Schmitz

Image

Last Friday Hubbard, myself and few friends made our way to Club Schmitz to pay our final respects.  It’s not gone yet, but May 31 will be it’s final day since it opened in 1946.  Hubbard and I attended the University of Dallas and this was one of the closest spots to get a cheap beer and decent burger, play a little shuffleboard and shoot some pool.  The place was packed.

Image

I suspect it will remain packed until it’s final day.  So, if you want to pay your final respects and gobble up one more patty melt with tater tots, you might want to try and get there early on a week day.  Our friend Bo here prefers the “double double”.  You can just guess what that is.  Strangely enough, I didn’t take any pictures of the food.

Image

It’s the feel of Club Schmitz that we’re going to miss.  The well worn table and time-warp restrooms.  The ripped seats and plastic pitchers of beer.  It’s remembering what it was like to be young and new to beer joints and finding one that you could call your own.  Goodbye Club Schmitz.  We’re going to miss you.

Image

The sign still says open, but not for long.  Don’t forget to grab a T-shirt.

 

Central Market Purchase of the Week

Besides the $9 a pound fresh Gulf shrimp I grabbed up, I like this living basil.  Questions:  Will it last long?  Will I be able to plant it outside when it’s for sure warm enough?  Will I just eat it all instead?!

Let’s See that House-Cured Bacon One More Time

Makin’ Bacon

Yes, Hubbard and I are the proud parents of a home-cured and apple wood smoked 3 lb slab of bacon.

Our pork belly spent it’s first 7 days covered in a dry cure made of Kosher salt, pink salt (nitrite) and dextrose (sugar).  Rubbed the bacon with the dry ingredients and then poured about half a cup of pure maple syrup over it.  Sealed it up, stuck it in the fridge and turned the meat every day or so.

Rinsed and ready to go.

Light a fire in the Big Green Egg.

Add some soaked apple wood chips to the fire.

Set up an indirect smoking rack.  We put down the pizza stone.  Shallow pan on the stone to catch juice.  Roasting rack with bacon.  Use your incredible Big Green Egg skills to get the unit to sit on 200 degrees for the next two hours.

There’s our toasty, roasty baby.  Nothing left to do now but…

Fry it up in pan!

So, what do we do with this 3 lbs of heaven?  Any ideas?

Butternut Squash Soup with Chipotle Cream

What is in a name?  A lot, when it comes to this soup.  In fact, the name sounded better than the soup tasted.  But, what was I expecting?  It’s squash soup.  Squash isn’t just bursting with flavor to begin with, right?

I cracked open the squash.  Since I’d never cooked a butternut squash before, more less a six dollar organic butternut squash, I took a little nibble of it raw.  Nothing.  I tossed a piece to the floor to see if the dog would eat it.  No dice.  It tasted like nice, fresh, organic nothing.  Maybe the roasting would help.

I will say that it smelled considerably better after the roasting.  I had rubbed the cut side of each half with olive oil, salt & pepper and roasted it for 45 mintues at 400.  Still didn’t taste like a whole lot.

I medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped

Saute in a soup pot with olive oil and a little salt until tender.  Add 2 cloves of minced garlic and cook for a minute or two more.  Scoop the squash flesh into the pot.  Add four cups of chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for 30 minutes or so.

From here you take it off the heat.  Use an immersion blender to puree the soup, thinning it with up to 2 cups more chicken broth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Taste.  That’s kind of the problem here.  The most potent flavor in almost six cups of soup was 2 cloves of garlic.  That’s not a lot of flavor.

All of this is supposed to be pumped up by two teaspoons of chipotle chopped.  I used chipotle puree and put a lot more than two teaspoons.  It didn’t taste like much.  I added a Mexican spice blend that’s heavy on the cumin.  A little more garlic.  Salt.

It was OK.   The addition of the blob of sour cream with chipotle mixed in was nice.  It was still and exercise in blandness.  If you like bland or if you feel that you can jazz this up sufficiently to make it really good, then do make this soup.  It’s got to be pretty good for you, right?  It’s basically nothing but vegetables.  But, frankly, V8 has more flavor.

Chicken Fried Steak

Hubbard, my husband, is the maker of great chicken fried steaks.  I never order chicken fried steak when I dine out.  I’m afraid.  Afraid I’ll get some grade-school cafeteria meat patty.  Afraid of huge fluffly crusts that have only the vaguest attachment to the meat.  I want no gristle.  Hub likes to make chicken fried steak.  In fact, he likes to make it for other people so much he’s made it for Bill Addison, the former food critic for Dallas Morning News.  Last Saturday night, Steven Doyle of CraveDFW.com.

Yes, I’m bragging on my husband.  And the fun of having a good stand-by meal that you can feed your friends.  Strangers love chicken fried steak, too.  We make ours with a Paul Prudhomme gravy.  In his book, “Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Seasoned America”, Chef does his take on traditional American food.  You know, Cuban Stew and Oklahoma Honey Wings?  That kind of American food.  We fell in love with the spicy gravy from that book’s Chicken Fried Steak recipe.

Think about it.  When was the last you time you had a homemade chicken fried steak?  With charro beans and mashed potatoes and gravy?  Homemade bread on the side.  Butter.  Tell me that’s not good.

Artisan Bread if it Kills Me

I love this idea of a free-form loaf.  I’m also kind of parcial  to the idea of cooking bread in a Le’ Crueset Dutch oven.  I decided to try the Sullivan Street Bakery recipe.  I take my total lack of breadmaking skills and get started.

It’s super simple.  Flour, water, yeast, salt.  Combine it and let it sit for 12 hours at room temp.  Here’s my first difficulty.  When do you start a bread that you have to let sit at room temp for 12 hours?  7:00 in the morning?  Then you’ll need to let it rise another couple of hours after you shape it and then cook an hour.  So, 10:00 that night I’ll have some bread?  The whole timing thing really worked me.  I started it at 7:30 at night so that the dough will be ready at 7:30 in the morning.  That makes it a bread that I can only make on a Friday or Saturday night since I would normally be at work at 10:00 or 11:00 in the morning when it’s time to cook it.  See how this is already more complicated than it should be?

When I get up in the morning, the dough, and I use that term loosely (pun intended), is more oozy than a “form a ball” dough.  I’m supposed to put it seam side down in the pot when it’s time to bake it.  There ain’t no seam.  It’s a big, oozy, sticky mess.  I have to fold in more flour to even be able to handle it.  Once it’s slightly manageable I’m supposed to generously flour a cotton (not terry) cloth for it to rest on.  I heavily flour it.  I put down semolina on top of that.  Two hours later the “ball” of dough has failed to rise.  Instead it has spread into a annoyingly flat, sticky disk.  I’m scraping it off the towel with a bench scraper.  I’m hating on the bread dough.

I throw it in the heated Dutch oven.  Literally sling it into the pot.  Who cares?    Put the lid on and to hell with it!  If it sucks, it sucks.  My only concern is that I’ll have sandblast it out of my pot.  If it sticks, I’m seriously going to be pissed. 

It’s brunch time.  I’m having a glass of wine and wait for the 30 minutes to pass until I take off the cover and cook it another 30 minutes.  When the time comes, I’m shocked.  It actually looks like bread.  It even rose a little, though there’s only 1/4 of teaspoon of yeast in the recipe.  I thought that was kind of strange when I started this project.

We took the loaf to dinner at a friend’s house and everyone raved about how good it was.  It did look kind of artsy.  But, you know what?  I’m not fighting with that mess again.  I still need a good artisanal bread recipe.

What about “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” by Hertzberg and Francois?  I have the book.  My friend Jill says it’s great.  The reason I’ve never made this bread is that it calls for so much stuff.  I have a pizza stone but it’s spent most of it’s life on the grill.  Do I want to cook bread on that?  I don’t have a pizza peel to built my loaf on and slide onto the hot pizza stone.  I’m supposed to let the dough rest overnight in a big food-grade container that doesn’t seal too tightly in case it wants to explode.  Forget all that.

I may fail.  But, I’m trying it after the dough has rested in my biggest bowl (thanks, Slade!) covered with plastic wrap in the fridge since yesterday.  Good thing about this recipe.  They say the dough will last in the fridge for up to 14 days.  That takes the timing issue out of it.  Today I’ve pulled off a piece of it the size of a grapefruit, cutting it loose from the rest of the dough with a serrated knife.  I flour my hands and the board.  And I’m actually able to shape a ball by turning the edges in on themselves.  They call it “cloaking” instead of kneading.  And it really is not anything like kneading. 

So, now the ball is resting on my chopping board which is covered with semolina and a little flour.  I’m going with the Dutch oven instead of the pizza stone.  So far, this is a much better experience. When the time comes, I’m going to pick that baby up and plop it into the Dutch oven.  No pizza peel.  No pizza stone.  I’m living dangerously, I know.  Maybe this dough isn’t wet enough to work in the Dutch oven.  I guess we’ll see!

Smells really good…

Maybe not quite as dark as I would like.  But, it’s pretty, isn’t it?  And I’ve got truffle butter in the fridge.  I think I just might be on the right track…

Chicago Dogs

After a little discussion on Facebook we found that our Chicago Dogs are not totally authentic.  I think I can live with that, though, because they were damned good!

Here’s what we have inside…  First, a squiggle of French’s yellow mustard on each side of the toasted bun.  Yes, kids, yellow mustard.  Bright yellow.  Then some dill relish smeared on one side.  We didn’t have the shockingly unnatural green stuff.  I guess I’ll be shopping for that now.  Can you even buy it around here?  Nathan’s dog is nestled in with some sliced tomatoes.  Topped with sliced pepperoncini, some celery salt and grilled onions.  Damn good.

This is a far cry from our regular chili covered, grated cheddar melted under the broiler dog topped with minced onion.  I would say the Chicago dog was just as tasty, only in a different way.

Your go-to dog?

Photo Blog of Saturday

Maxine in the Morning

Off to Cedars Social for lunch at the bar…

I love deviled eggs!

Hubbard loves sweetbreads!  I must say, these tempura fried sweetbreads might be the best I’ve ever had.  Delicious!  Melts in your mouth.

Fried Oysters.  Reminded me of the Cuidad days.

Look at these precious buns!  Nothing wrong with short rib sliders.  And I am a firm believer that if you’re going to serve sliders you better have cute buns.  NOT dinner rolls. 

Our good friends, Bill and Lori, met us at Cedar’s Social for a Moscow mule.

It was such a beautiful day we decided to make a move around the corner to sit outside at Lee Harvey’s and have a beer.  Luckily, we happened to be there during an English bulldog gathering.  I’m a sucker for dogs!

Not a Bulldog!

This little guy was pretty mad about the invasion of the bulldogs.  He did keep his barking across the street, though.  I bet he would have been a lot happier if he had one of my onion rings!

I had no idea their onion rings were so good.  This is a big basket.  Plenty to share.  With chipotle aioli.  Yum.

It was getting a little warm.  So, we decided to go to Bill and Lori’s and stick our feet in the pool.  I woke up wondering why I didn’t remember a whole lot about what we did after Bill and Lori’s.  When I looked at the pictures I took I remembered why I don’t remember.

Tequila Before

Tequila After

Remind me next time to “just say no”.  Overall, a very tasty day!