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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Very Rare Op-Ed on SOPA

I have thought long and hard about writing this, as most who know me are aware, I generally keep my politics out of the spotlight. I prefer to talk of food, of supporting family farmers, and keeping people who wish to work their land on it. But, it greatly bothers me that the forum that I use to discuss that, is itself threatened with censorship. Has it really come to the point where government and industry have so much to fear from us, as individuals, disseminating information, that we now see attempts to institute controls on how we might choose to interact?

We all gain a great deal by the free flow of information, whether we believe or want to hear what others are saying, the exchange of ideas and knowledge is how a society strengthens itself. If we allow government or business to control that information, we allow the erosion of the core of our rights as humans, not just Americans, but as individuals who have an inherent right to self-expression and self-determination. The suspension of any free sourced media will be the creation of censorship at the highest levels, wherein truly free thought is forced underground. It does not matter whether you are conservative or liberal, the erosion of a means of communication that is not controlled by the government or business, should represent the most dire of warnings that these rights are about to be taken away from us. There is no free press, all of our normal news sources are controlled wholly by corporations, our sources of media are constantly being consolidated, there are few independent voices that all of us can hear. Regardless of how we might choose to believe the best society can be achieved, it most certainly does not occur under the control of corporations and government entities.

As a person whose entire career had been to create intellectual property and to see it made real, I am still terribly bothered by the act of creating a legal process whereby a privileged class of entity can pursue the control of an open media source in a manner to protect their profitable gain. I find that despite what these laws might purport, as a small business man and a lifelong creator of intellectual property, when my right to compensation for the use of said property was violated, I did what any true individual entity in this country had to do, I sued the person stealing my property. Why is this no longer acceptable for the people seeking to censor the World Wide Web. The idea that government or business will be able to control how and what information I can create, distribute and trade in, this is the most disturbing thing. Although I primarily create content that is designed for development of landscape and planning, I do not want to think that at some level a precedence has been codified that could lead to my not being able to create in the image that I would choose.

Since it appears that we have come to a time when the individual has become so powerful, that we as consumers and users of the World Wide Web have become so effective as a group, that the largest of corporations must now seek to use our government against us, as a means to control how we act and behave. Perhaps it is time we turned to the powers that be and let them know, that we are tired of the politics of hate and fear, that it is time for us to return to making this country a country of the people and not a country that protects the largest corporations in the world and the largest government in the world from the very people they are meant to serve. Censorship and control of media is the sign of a failing society, where hate and fear, greed and power rule all. In the end, intellectual property and the arts falter. If you wonder how this related to design, or creation of good food, or keeping small farmers on their land, then you truly don’t get it. It is truly too late.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Meatballs and Perciatelli

BBQ Spaghetti is often a dish that is an amalgam of fusion, an attempt to make a dish from the parts of one cook and the part of another, at it's best, it can be a wonderful dish. Most often, it is a assortment of meats, in a sauce that is often more BBQ than pasta sauce and some fairly straightforward spaghetti. It can be good, I often order it when it is on special at my favorite BBQ place, Phat Matt's in Oakland, California. It has always struck me, though, that I might take this dish in a little different direction, more pasta dish than BBQ dish.

Here was my take. Spaghetti and Meatballs elevated.

In case you forgot what meatballs look like

1/2 pound fresh ground chuck (I used Eel River Organic Beef, 85%/15%)
1 pound of hickory smoked pulled pork, ground with medium plate
1 cheap white hamburger burn, torn to shreds, ground with medium plate
1 large egg, beaten with 1/4 cup water
1.5 tablespoons or so, dried Italian Herb mix

I ground the pulled pork while it was still cold, ground the bread through the same plate, then mixed with the ground beef and fed it back through the medium plate a second time. Then the egg mixture was whisked with the herb mix, this assists in a more evenly distributed herb mix. The entire mix was then allowed to cure for 15 minutes. This allowed the bread to abosrb some of the moisture and bind the mixture even more.

I handle a mixture like this as little as possible, as I want to retain the texture as loose and light as possible. Milk could have been used instead of water, but, that would mean I would need milk, which I did not have.

I went with Perciatelli, I love this pasta shape, from the outside, it looks like a double thick spaghetti, but, from the end, there is a hole in the middle. I find this pasta is as tender as it's smaller spaghetti cousin, but, the larger outside diameter holds the sauce better. I also prefer pasta that is extruded through brass dies for the rough texture.

I cooked the pasta, basically following the box except I use 1/8 cup salt to 1 gallon of water for 1/2 package. It is cooked to al dente, maybe a minute short of that even. I then take the pasta pan, after draining the pasta and saving 1/2 cup of the pasta water and add a cup of sauce and a little olive oil which I "fry" the sauce, then add 1/4 cup white wine and some grated Grana Pandano and the pasta, which is then tossed over low heat to finish the cooking in the sauce. This further dresses the sauce and improves both texture and flavor.

Plating is as simple as dumping the pasta into a pasta bowl, or onto a plate and topping with meatballs.

Can you see how casual the plating was?

Gah! the sauce, about the sauce. I wanted to do something other than the heavily BBQ influenced sauces so often used on BBQ spaghetti, some places just use ladles of the house sauce. I find this both heavy handed with a sauce that is meant to be a condiment, and rather too strong for a pasta dish. For me, pasta, even more than BBQ is meant to shine with a balance between a beautiful sauce and simple pasta. What I did was take 1 medium dry onion, chopped fine and 3 heads of garlic, sliced, this was all browned. Then I took a large can of canned tomatoes, dumped the liquid into the pan, chopped the tomatoes and put them in, added 4 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of chile powder and 3 tablespoons dried Italian herbs and "fried" it all. Into this was added 1/4 cup of BBQ sauce (I used Big Butz Original), 1/2 cup white wine and the whole thing was heated through. The meatballs ended up being cooked in the sauce for 10 minutes.

The final dish spoke of a pasta dish with a little taste of BBQ, the sauce and pasta was balanced, each playing a part and the meatballs spoke of both herbs and smoked pulled pork.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Pulled Pork-The Standard

I was running an experimental cook last night and decided that burning a load of charcoal just to cook a 2 pound experiment made no sense, so I got 2 9 pound pork butts and went to town. Nothing fancy here folks, this is good old BBQ, slow smoked over hickory for 15 hours until the bone pulls and the butt pulls. The UDS was set up for a long burn with a mix of Royal Oak briquettes and Pretty Good Charcoal lump and 3 pieces of apple wood. The overall smoke took from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. with temperatures running from 200F to 250F, I still need to learn the UDS.

The subjects, ready for seasoning

I wash any meat, but, I give special care to pork from cryovac as it can have a bit of a funk, I like to wash in cold water, then dry it and let it sit on counter for 10 minutes. Then the nose will tell me if it is good to go. Seasoning was to be pretty straight forward.

Rubbed up Butts, oh baby!

The butts were rubbed the night before with a medium dusting of Dizzy Dust Salt-free BBQ rub and allowed to rest in the fridge. The butts were then rubbed with a combination of 45% Simply Marvelous Sweet and Spicy and 45% Simply Marvelous Spicy Apple and 10% Phu Quoc medium grind white pepper. This was rubbed on and allowed to sit for one hour and reapplied just before hitting the pit. I do this to get a good built up bark.

3 hours into the cook

It went onto the pit and from about 3 hours to when I checked at 6 hours, it held this gorgeous red color. I considered foiling them to hold the color, but, alas, no large foil. So it was to be cooked au naturel. I had hoped for a short cook, but that was not to be, these stubborn butts took all of 15 hours to get to where the bone would pull.

See, clean bone!

Another shot of the hole left when the bone pulls clean and easy. I did end up panning the last 3 hours, to see if I could get some additional liquid. This worked out great, as I could add it back into the pulled meat. It was a nice dark unctuous gelatin once I got it cooled to remove the fat.

Nice clean pull, good dark coloring

From here it is all about letting the meat pull into the shreds and chunks it want to be in. I don't like mechanical shredders or trying to get everything just so. I like a variety of textures and sizes. I do reserve the bark and give it a good chop, as I like to have small bits throughout the mix. Here is an example of how the textures can vary.

Shreads, chunks and strips

And a mess o' pork which was drizzled with the reserved liquid from the cooking and a little BBQ sauce from Big Butz Sauces for a punch of moisture. You can see a wide variety of textures and colors, to me, this really represents what I like in pulled pork.

Mess O' Pork

This will later find it's way onto some cheap hamburger buns. Where is the beer?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Years meats

I am feeling less than motivated to blog, largely due to some weird finger injury that makes typing both a little painful and incredibly difficult to do correctly, so here are some pictures of meat I cooked.

Teriyaki Chicken

Duroc Pork Fatty

Smoked Crispy Pork Belly

Grilled Tai (Sea Bream)

Smoked Pork Butt

Braised Smoked Pork Belly

There will be follow up posts to follow on these items, I assume there will be at least.