Most Recent Update

BBQ Blog: 11-06-11; Cooking Blog: 11-03-11; Hold 'EM Blog: 11-13-11



Nov 6, 2011

Back-to-Basics

We (mostly me) got walloped this year on the BBQ circuit. Times change and my recipes did not. I think using old recipes contributed the most to my poor performance; although lack of practice did not help. A few people have suggested a back-to-basics approach. I like that idea and to me that means a few things:

1) Making my own rubs using simple recipes and ingredients. Searching for the next big flavor, has not worked for me. I’ll still use store-bought sauces for now, but don’t hold me to it.
2) Fixing my own stuff. I noticed that I had a lot of fun when I did my own repairs to the Raja and other things. While this won’t improve my cooking, it will get me into a mind set that I had when I used to win. I was more self sufficient and I think this helped with my cooking, and certainly my blogging.
3) Practice, practice, practice. I need to eat, so there is no reason why I can’t BBQ on the weekends and practice my craft.
4) Cutting my own ribs. This is mostly for cost and I may still buy St. Louis cut’s for contest. One side benefit of this is that I can also work on a chili recipe for the trimmings.

Good on ya….

PS. Check out the links at the top to the other blogs…

Oct 15, 2011

The New Look -Three Blogs in One

I now have three hobbies: 1) BBQ, 2) General Cooking, and 3) Texas Hold 'EM. Instead of writing about the other two on this blog I have created two other blogs and linked them all together. So now I will either post something on one of the blogs each week or not post anything until about this time next year...

Keep your fingers crossed...

Good on ya...

Jan 23, 2011

Fell off the Wagon Again

It has been a long time since I posted. Real quick:

1) Cooked crème brule at the MA State BBQ contest for the dessert category in the grilling contest. Got 5th place over all and scored the best of the other three crème brule’s. Used Blues Hog and honey/brown sugar instead of the raspberry recipe and had my best finish in ribs ever…brisket blew. While the recipe was not great, I am convinced that it is the cut of meat that drags me down. I am going to part my briskets before I cook them to ensure uniformity. I am also going to start timing the practice runs…

2) Bought goats and will probably get a few more this spring. They are for petting not eating.

3) Have gotten into playing Texas Hold ‘Em. I play mostly online; free games, not real. I have played two live games; one at a casino and one at a card room.

4) The smoker is snowed in so my cooking will focus on inside stuff. Trying out recipes from Cooking Lite and exploring Indian food, or food as it is know in India…

Hopefully, I’ll blog once a week…this time I mean it…

Good on ya,

May 9, 2010

For the World is Hollow and I have Touched the Sky

I have a blog at work, related to some of whatever it is I do and like this blog I have not posted anything in a while. For the most part, it is because I don’t have as much content as I do for my personal blog. One of the things I did to hook readers in was to use titles from Star Trek episodes and other Star Trek related trivia, e.g. the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition. It kind of worked and so I thought I would try it here. There are more cool titles than I have content for my work blog so why waste them.

This weekend I used most of the “rib” recipe on the brisket. It came out pretty good; I underestimated the fat layer and did not trim as much as I should have. It was also a little dry. I had planned to inject a store bought garlic and Balsamic vinegar marinade, but it clogged the needle on the first attempt and was too thick to draw into the injector. I’ll either thin it out or go for the full “rib” recipe and use the sake, teriyaki and pineapple mix.

If all goes well, next week will be the third week in a row that I have used the smoker. I cooked ribs again this weekend, but did not try them out. I am bringing them in to work as part of an elaborate, food based protection racket that I appear to be caught up in. Things are shaping up for NH, assuming I can get there. The Blue Rajah won’t shift out of first so I need to get it looked at…



Good on ya,

May 5, 2010

The Half Ass Rib Recipe

The NH State Championship is about a month away. I kicked the mice out of the smoker this weekend and started working on the rib recipe. I am going with the less is more philosophy with respect to the amount of seasoning. I also tried marinating the ribs, about 5 hours, with equal parts of Sake, pineapple juice, and Hannaford’s Teriyaki marinade.

After soaking, I rinsed them off and slathered on some honey mustard and gave them a light coat of the McCormick’s Sweet and Smokey rub. I used about half as much as I normally do. I used only apple wood this time and about 2 hours into the process, I flipped them.

Normally when I flip them, I put them in foil with raspberry jam, mustard, and apple juice. This time I used ½ sheet pans from the Walmart and used about half as much of the mixture. I also added about a stick of butter per rack. I saw people using the butter on the TV machine and thought, why not. After another 2 hours I took them out of the mixture. I put on one coat of the Sweet Baby Ray’s Chipotle sauce about ½ an hour after I took them out…and you guessed it, I used about half as much as I normally do.

They were moist and you could taste the meat. Overall, I got good reviews, but I have to be honest and say that I really liked the old ribs better. I suspect, though, that the judges might like these, since it is a “meat contest” after all…

Good on ya,

Mar 15, 2010

Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner…

But every restaurant I ate at the week I was in National Harbor had no problem putting Ernie in a corner. Once again, table of one, in the Washington, DC area. I was there for three nights and decided to eat at a Chinese restaurant the first night. I chose this place based on the menu and location, Duck and over looking the harbor.

Turns out, no duck and no view of the harbor, since I was in a corner. They had a mediocre hot and sour soup. They did have a curry sampler, which turned out to be pretty good, the highlight of the entire night. I need to do more with curry! The service was not that great; they brought the check and did not ask about dessert. Normally, I forgo dessert at Chinese places, so at the time it did not seem like a big deal. On the way out, however, I saw the dessert tray and was sour that I missed out.


The next night, I ate at a place that allowed you to pick from a variety of sauces. This place had duck and dessert. Sadly, while the concept was good, the food was cooked and you added the sauce after the fact, so there was not really a fusion of taste. I went with the blackberry sauce and a red pepper chutney. I had the flan for dessert. I also had a crab bisque, that was okay.

The last night, I went to a Mexican place, that had duck; man would it have been nice to blog about three different duck recipes. It was the best place of the three. I started with a creamy roasted garlic soup with crab; the best soup I ever ate. Then I had the duck, medium rare, with the black berry sauce. This was cooked through and turns out I did choose the right sauce at the other place; it just needed to be cooked with the rest of the meal. I finished with the flan again, on a bed of toasted almonds. This was one of the best meals I have eaten on travel, in a long time. While I did not have it, they prepare the guacamole at the table, provided you have at least two people…damn that table for one.


In the end, National Harbor is in the middle of nowhere, and except for the Mexican place, I would probably never go back.


Good on ya,

PS. I had strep last week and a flooded basement this week, hence the delay in blogging about this...

Feb 27, 2010

The Wonderful World of Sweet Potatoes (pt. 1)

Growing up I was not a big fan of the sweet potato. In fact, I still don’t like them in a baked potato format. I can however, eat them as fries, in pies, and as it turn out in soups. When we were in DC a few weeks ago, we had a sweet potato soup which I really enjoyed. A quick search of the internets reveals that there are a few different styles of the sweet potato soup. There is the classic soup with nutmeg (think liquid pie) and there are several different spicy versions, chipotle and curried, for example.

Sadly this weekend, I am too busy to experiment. When I get some time, I will attempt the classic version. I will start with this recipe, and instead of using a blender, I will use my food mill. I find the food mill gives a better texture and it is worth the extra work. I will strain out the solids, leave the liquid in the stock pot and mill the solids into a separate pot.

In the past I have made a potato and leek soup, using this method; I actually learned this at a 5 day cooking school. This method, combined with real cream, not half and half, tends to make a creamier soup. Specifically, I can blend in the right amount of cooking liquid as opposed to being stuck with having to use all of it. Using a blender, as the recipe suggests, would force me to use all of the liquid and could lead to a thin soup. Also, I could cook down the liquid a little to concentrate the flavors before adding them back in.

If this goes well, I am thinking of trying the spicier versions. I am also thinking of making a roasted corn version and/or some sort of hybrid of the three. I will also finish them off with some sweet crab. I have had two soups finished this way, and both were very good. I won‘t cook the crab in, since my wife is allergic to the shell fish, I‘ll add it to the individual bowl...

Good on ya,

Feb 21, 2010

Tales from the Southland

I was in Auburn, AL again and sampled many wonderful Southern delicacies. I stopped at Roger’s in Hogansville, GA along the way and bought a quart of their mustard sauce to reveres engineer. For dinner the first night we ate at a fried seafood restaurant, Cock on the Walk; they actually have a live peacook. We had craw fish tales, lobster claws and cat fish. I also had turnip greens for the first time. Interesting, but I don’t expect to make them any time soon. I may try mustard greens, since they are supposed to be sweeter. We finished off the night with black berry cobbler.

I had sausage gravy and biscuits both days for breakfast. Their’s is much more creamy than mine, I supect that is because they don’t use skim milk. They also had less intense flavor, as compared to mine. So, the next time I make sausage gravy, I’ll use a little more fat and a little less spice.


The second night we ate at a fancy restaurant called the Amsterdam Café. We started with fried gouda cheese grits with grilled Cajun shrimp; the cheese grits here and at Cock in the Walk were much more creamer than mine. The main course was brisket and cheese grits with a pomegranate BBQ sauce (chopped point) and the dessert was homemade strawberry ice cream.

The important thing in all of this was that I learned that my cheese grits need work. I am told it is the type of grits that I am using . I told host that I was using Quaker grits, and after a few oatmeal jokes, he told me that I needed different grits; he brought me a five pound bag of his favorite brand. He is going to ship the sauce and grits to me.


He said after years of research, he figured out that it is 2 cups of water to ½ cup of grits. The oatmeal folks suggest 2 and ¼ cups. So maybe the jokes were warranted. As always, I’ll keep you posted on my progress.


Good on ya,

PS. I know I fell of the wagon and did not blog last week. I had written this one last week, just never got a around to posting it.

Feb 6, 2010

Dr. Gonzo’s Jalapeno Cheddar Grits

Well actually, they are my jalapeno cheddar grits., I just used Dr. Gonzo's jalapeno mash. Most recipes on the internets called for dicing jalapenos and it just seemed easier to use the mash than chop up a bunch of peppers. I found the grits at the Shaw’s and followed the recipe on the box with a few modifications. I used 1 cup of extra sharp cheddar and 2 table spoons of the mash. It was a little too spicy and I probably could have cooked the grit’s a little longer.


All in all, though, they were amazing and went well with the medium rare strip steak and mixed vegetables. It was extremely easy to make and I expect that I will cook this a few times a week. Their not just for breakfast any more…

Good on ya,

Note to FB users, this is reposted from my blog

Jan 31, 2010

The Big Easy, DC Style

The second night of my DC trip I ate at a restaurant featuring regional cuisine from Louisiana, Acadiana Restaurant. Once again, a brisk walk from the hotel to a waiting table for one. I ordered a lemonade and studied the menu. They had some specials, but nothing jumped out at me. The main menu, however, was filled with promise and I was excited by all the options.

The lemonade arrived and the server told me that they make their lemonade with sugar cane and mint. There was actually stalk of sugar cane and a sprig of mint in the drink. Sadly, the mint over powered the lemon, and not being a fan of mint, opted for the water, the rest on the night. While I recovered from the lemonade fiasco, they brought over biscuits and a mixture of pepper jelly and cream cheese. This more than made up for the lemonade; I am going to make this at home, so should you.

For starters, I ordered the trio of soups; three small bowls of Turtle soup, roasted corn and blue crab soup, and smoked chicken and Andouille sausage gumbo. Of the three the roasted corn and blue crab soup was probably the best soup I ever ate; another keeper for the recipe list.

I selected the “grillades and grits” as an entrée, a mix of sautéed veal medallions, creamy jalapeño cheese grits, wild mushroom pan gravy. It came with spinach, which was a little bitter and I had to eat around it. The creamy jalapeño cheese grits were amazing; yet another thing I will work on incorporating in to my recipe rotation. I’ll probably use Dr. Gonzo’s pepper mash instead of jalapeños; I googled recipes and they all require chopping the peppers. I’ll serve it with pan seared strip steak and vegetables.

While I am sure all of their desserts are delicious, they had crème brulee on the menu; need I say more. Technically it was a roasted almond crème brulee and I am always skeptical of fusions. It tasted a little like marzipan, yet another flavor I am not found of. I did eat it all though, it is crème brulee after all. After the meal, they served a piece of marshmallow, pecan, fudge treat, again with the not so much flavors, i.e., marshmallow…

So while the bookends were not great and there was the whole spinach incident, in general it was a good night. I found three things that I will try to use in my cooking, assuming I can find grits this far North.

Good on ya,


Jan 24, 2010

Sweet “Georgia Brown’s”

I went to Washington, DC last week for a conference. I love that city and when ever possible, ride the Metro to my destination. The place where I was staying was near the McPherson Metro stop. On my way to the hotel I passed Georgia Brown's, a southern style restaurant.

DC seems to shut down at night, so I asked the hotel clerk for places to eat that were still open. They provided a list which included two establishments , one of which was Georgia Brown’s, described as “Southern”. I decided that, since I was in town for two nights, I would eat at both and write about it.

Since I knew where Georgia Brown’s was, I went there first. I called to see if I needed reservations, I did not; table of one, please. It turns out the they do not have lemonade; that will be important later so remember that. I ordered ginger ale and looked at the menu and specials. After I ordered, they brought over biscuits,corn bread and hot sauce.

I decided on the mushroom, chestnut bisque and Charleston Perlau, a red rice dish. I have tried to make Charleston red rice in the past and wanted to see how the pro’s did it. My rice comes out dry, so now that I know what it should taste like, I will work on improving my recipe. It was served with duck, Andouille sauuage and shrimp. For desert they had a selection of different items to chose from; I picked the Bourbon, chocolate pecan pie.

I took pictures (using the cell phone) of everything before I started to eat, except the desert; I started in on it before I took the picture. In general, I thought the service was friendly, the flavors well paired and the portions very generous. I would eat there again. Enjoy the pictures…



Good on ya,

Jan 16, 2010

Some Assembly Required

The meat grinder came last Thursday (January 7th), as promised by FedEx. It appears to be pretty easy to assemble but requires food grade silicone spray for lubrication and to prevent rusting. In addition to the spray, I need to find casings. Using the Google I was able to find a place that sells both casings and the spray, so in principle I should be able to save on shipping. I could probably have spent some more time searching for the best deal, but…


When I made sausage the last time, I recall reading a lot about how much a pain it was to deal with the casings. You had to untangle them, rinse (flush) them and then put them on the stuffing attachment, sort of like putting on a sock. In the end, I was more focused on the fact that the Kitchenaide was overheating and in that light the casings were the least of my worries.

With the new grinder, I am sure there will be other start up issues; they don’t recommend using it with out meat so no dry runs. To make things easier, I am going to buy preflushed casings ,already untangled and loaded on to forms that will make it easy to put on the stuffing tube.

Good on ya,

Jan 10, 2010

The Enemy of the Good

We have decided every week, schedule permitting, to have sausage gravy and biscuits on the weekends. I figured it made more sense to have it on the Lord’s Day than the Sabbath; pork on the Sabbath, that‘s just crazy talk. In making it the first time, I learned a few things, as previously noted. My second attempt was much better. In addition to the minor recipe changes, I used a cast iron Dutch oven. For those trying this at home, it is probably better to season the cookware the night before, unless you like brunch; my mise en place still needs work. The original attempt was in my cast iron pan which made it hard to whisk in the flour. In addition to the high walls, the Dutch oven lends itself to outdoor cooking. So no excuses for not eating sausage gravy and biscuits just because I am at a contest…

This attempt was good , but not perfect; I need to work on thickening the gravy (probably my technique). I will probably not spend any more time working on the sausage gravy recipe and instead will focus on “la methode“. In the end it is better to have a good sausage gravy recipe now then to start all over again and try to make the perfect sausage gravy recipe. Like many things in life, we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good…


The next thing I need to work on is the biscuits. There was an episode of Diners, Dives, and Drive-Ins that showed a restaurant which served sausage gravy with cheddar biscuits. They sound tasty. A quick search of the internets reveals that for the most part cheddar biscuits are just regular biscuits with cheddar cheese mixed in. I also found a few recipes that add other flavors as well as the cheddar. Cheddar garlic biscuits anyone…

Good on ya,

Jan 7, 2010

Roll Your Own, Pt. 1

My coworkers and I try to go out for sushi at least once a month. Our options are an all you can eat sushi and Chinese food buffet for about $15 which is mostly California rolls or a pricey a la carte place. The buffet starts out with a few pieces of tuna or salmon, but those are often gone before I get there; I usually end up eating the Chinese food instead. The a la carte place has great sushi but it costs about $50 for a decent platter.

My curiosity about how food is made and my cheap nature have led me to research making sushi. Turns out you can buy sashimi grade fish on the internets and have it delivered straight to your home; actually it will probably have to be my neighbor‘s home since the local cats will likely tear open the package before I get home. You have to eat it with in two days or freeze it for up to a week, and oh yeah, you have to order about 5 lbs. That means eating a few pounds of sushi a week for around $40/week for tuna; not completely out of the question. Here’s the link for Catalina Offshore Products, which seems to be the place most websites reference. I have some leads on local stores, so that might be less convenient opiton.

Handling the fish is pretty straight forward, it’s the rice that seems to the sticking point (sticky rice, sticking point…get it…lol). It appears to be a very involved process of preparation and cooking, and I bet it the rice is not readily available in Lunenburg. The plan is to work on the rice and then order some sashimi grade tuna and roll my own…Once I get the hang of the rice, I’ll post the recipe for the rice and pictures of my attempts…

Good on ya,

PS. Dig this song by Green Day on Rhapsody…I bet the sushi guy is thinking this as we eat the sushi with chopsticks…technically you should eat it with your hands (not the rolls, the strips of fish on rice). BTW sushi is actually the method of preparing the rice, the fish is sashimi…

Jan 1, 2010

Jumping the Gun

I could not wait for the meat grinder to show up (January 7th) so I bought some lean ground pork (90/10) from the Hannafords’s and tried out a recipe for sausage gravy I found on the internets. I searched for recipes that were lowerrr in fat and calories. Most used vegetarian sausage; what’s the point of that? I will just spend a few more minutes on the tread mill (another New Year’s resolution).

Some suggest 1% milk, since you will need some fat to make gravy but I have seen a few recipes with skim milk. Here‘s my first try at it (few changes from the original):

1/2 small red onion - chopped,
1/2 tsp Marjoram
1/2 tsp ground sage
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 tbs flour
3 tbs of Chicken stock (to deglaze the pan, water works as well)
2 cups skim milk (preheated)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

I cooked the sausage, onion and spices then removed the meat. I deglazed the pan with stock and then added the flour slowly and let it turn brown. Then I added the milk, slowly to make the gravy.

I served the gravy with Grands biscuits and it came out okay. Next time I’ll use less flour (per the original recipe) and less red pepper flakes. It was too thick and too spicy. I also need to work on my “mise en place“.

Good on ya

This recipe is based on a posting at:
Dad's Low(er) Fat Sausage Gravy

Dec 24, 2009

Rastafari by Buju Banton

I heard this on the XM radio a few weeks ago and learned today that I can post songs to Blogger from Rhapsody....

http://rhaplinks.real.com/rhaplink?rhapid=6463010&type=playlist&title=Playlist&from=real

The First Step

In order to keep my New Year’s resolution (blogging once a week), I asked Santa for a netbook for Christmas. It is tiny and has a word processor, so now I can blog from almost anywhere. I still can’t blog from contests, though.

If I can overcome my own inertia, I am going to purchase a meat grinder to make sausages. I have a Kitchenaide attachment for grinding and stuffing, but it just does not have the power. I am looking at the cheapest meat grinder from Northern Tool, it has about 3 times the wattage as compared to the Kitchenaide.

I also have to find my book on sausage making or start doing the research on the internets. I think the first thing I will make is sausage for ‘sausage gravy and biscuits’. Eventually I’ll order casings and start making the real thing. The last time I made sausage, the stuffing part was the hardest, i.e,. no amount of book learning can substitute for experience…

Good on ya,

Nov 22, 2009

New Year’s Resolution

The plan is to try and blog once a week with a new cooking experiment; two resolutions in one for those of you counting. With the economy slowly on the mend, we still have to do more with less. I am going to ask Santa for a meat grinder to make sausage gravy and biscuits. I went to Auburn U. for a work project and over loaded on Southern food.

I had pulled pork with a mustard/vinegar based sauce, Southern surf and turf (steak and fried catfish, corn meal based batter), black berry cobbler, and of course sausage gravy and biscuits (lunch, dinner, breakfast; I did not eat it all at one sitting). I think my cooking is going take a southern turn…

I have come to the conclusion that when you fuse Indian and German genes, the result is a person with a love of Southern cooking…who knew…

Good on ya,

Oct 5, 2009

My Fish Cakes Bring all the Boys to the Yard


Fish Cakes
Originally uploaded by Ernie's Pictures
I made fish cakes (crab and shrimp) for the first time tonight using a recipe I found in this month’s issue of Cooking Light. It has a mustard crema sauce, which I modified. Instead of using the recommended mustard I substituted Dr. Gonzo’s Black Fly mustard and I chopped the parsley too coarse. The end result is that I get pockets of overpowering parsley in between a really good sauce. Next time, I’ll chop the parsley finer and probably put in a splash of the good Dr.’s pepper mash, along with his mustard, to give it a little kick.

The next modification (unplanned) was not beating the egg and egg whites before I blended them in with the rest of the ingredients. Consequently, the cakes did not hold together that well. I plan to serve them on a bed of baby romaine lettuce and Newman’s Own low fat ginger and sesame dressing for lunch this week. I tasted one and they did taste good, so I have to conclude that “damn right, their better than yours...I could teach you, but I would have to charge…”

Good on ya,

Sep 7, 2009

Where Does the Time Go

The heat turned on for the first time in since May. The Depot just delivered 4 pallets of US made Freedom Pellets for the stove; the critters have already started chewing through the plastic. Northern Tool sent their Winter Catalog. I have to start thinking about snow blowers and deicer for the drive way.

I am thinking about getting a 55 gallon drum of deicer and a spray back-pack for the ice. It seems like the ice on the driveway is the real issue and well, the propane torch was a fiasco. I am also looking at a snow blower. I have all but given up on the plow and bus combination. I have to order a frame pin and I am not sure the plow company is still in business. Their website is up, but last time I tried to order a frame pin for the plow it went now where.

If I get the frame pin and the plow mounted, the deicer, and the snow blower I will be happy. I have given up saying that I will be ready. I still have not done anything about a generator. I may order one and use extension cords. I don’t have the cash to get it hard wired into the house.

On the plus side, I ordered another case of briskets, flats this time, for Harvard…

Good on ya,

Aug 22, 2009

Back in the Saddle Again

I fired up the smoker this weekend and threw the last of the aged whole briskets on. I used the Homebbq.com beef rub cut with turbinado sugar (50/50). I did not grind it this time; too lazy. I think grinding gives a more intense flavor; more surface area or something.

I injected it with white zinfandel, almost a whole bottle, applied the rub and put it in the smoker with apple and pecan wood. It came out moist, with a hint of the zinfandel. I used to go with Merlot, which I now realize was too strong. I think the next step is to try something in addition to the wine.

I have to order a digital refrigerator control (mine broke) and another case of briskets. I am still going to try and get flats. As a backup I may part whole briskets before I cook them. It all depends on what I can get from the butcher. I think between flats and injecting wine, I can off set any negative impacts of aging. I can’t get over the fact that aging makes the meat so tender.

Good on ya,

PS. I have linked my Face Book page to the blog…

Aug 18, 2009

What’s the Point?

After careful deliberation, I am no longer going to cook whole briskets. I am not a big fan of the point and once the whole thing is trimmed down you lose most of the fat on the flat, under the point. I really like the flat with all the fat and this way I get more bang for my buck.

I also think it will lead to more uniform cooking. I think the reason my brisket has been dry lately has been due to too thin flats on the whole brisket. By going to flats, I should be able to get thicker cuts which will cook more uniformly.

The down side is no burnt ends or point chunks for turn in. Considering I have to take most of the brisket home, being stuck with plenty of slices of flat for sandwiches is a fair trade. Plus I never really eat the point any way and end up throwing it out when I clean out the freezer.

I have one whole aged brisket left from the last case and then I am out of the point business. I’ll probably order a case of flats at the end of the month and start aging them for Harvard and the rest of the year. Lately, the cases have been old and I am a little leery about aging them so ordering them closer to the end of the month should ensure fresher cuts…maybe…hopefully…

Good on ya,

Jul 2, 2009

All that work for nothing

I have been practicing a lot. I think I have used the smoker this year more that all the years combined. The end result was 17th in Ribs and Brisket at NH. I did have fun and we killed a keg, so on the whole it was a good weekend. I’ll try again in Harvard.

Among other things the food was dry and a little salty. Based on that, I am out of the brine business and back in the marinade game. I have a few ideas on marinades that I will try over the next few weeks.

I am thinking pineapple juice, soy sauce, and sake for the ribs (injected) and Merlot, shallots, tomato and garlic for the brisket (injected). I have had very little luck with soaking, so injection is the way to go.

I’ll try this over the weekend and let you know how it goes…

Good on ya,

May 25, 2009

Expresso Grind

I bought a coffee grinder this weekend to blend the brisket rub. I looked for an American made one, but could not find one in my budget. I set the grinder to the expresso setting and ground the rub & sugar mix. It seems to have done the trick. The rub was evenly distributed across the brisket as compared to the last time when there were pockets of sugar and rub.

The brisket was tender, but a little bland. I tried a store bought mustard sauce for the finish; not worth mentioning the name. I still need to work on an injection; this one was not injected. I also need to find a better sauce for the brisket. I may try to make my own sauce or try the mustard & raspberry sauce I use on the ribs.

I also cooked ribs this weekend. I preheated the sauce with the bourbon in it, to drive off the alcohol. That seemed to work. I am getting more comfortable with the rib process. I added a little heat them this time and kept everything else the same. I did not get a chance to taste them, though.

Good on ya,

May 22, 2009

Are You Ready For the Summer

Are you ready for the good times? This summer we are not roasting a pig; a sign of the economic times. We are just having pulled pork. I took the day off from work to cook four butts. I’ll pull them tonight and then sauce them in the AM, prior to reheating them in the oven.

I’ll also cook a few racks of ribs and a brisket on Sunday. More practice for NH. I bought a spice (coffee) grinding for the brisket rub. I am hoping that by grinding the turbinado and the rub, I’ll be able to spread it better. I plan add a little heat to the Hannaford’s Sweet Apple Grilling sauce for the ribs. I will also try heating the raspberry, mustard and bourbon sauce to drive off some of the alcohol.

I would have thought that this would happen during the cooking but we could still taste the alcohol on the ribs.

Good on ya,

May 16, 2009

Chickening Out

I worked on chicken this weekend. I am leaning towards searing the skin prior to smoking and then cooking skin side down for about 45 minutes. I brushed the back side of the chicken with a mixture of Hannaford’s sweet apple grilling sauce and Knob Creek (Hannaford’s sells a family size bottle). Then about 15 minutes later, I flipped the thighs and brushed the skin side for a total cook time of 1.5 hours.

The smoker was running hot and the skin got a little charred; easy enough to fix. Prior to cooking, I brined in a 1 cup of each Kosher salt and sugar and a gallon of water for about six hours. I injected the chicken with a store bought (can you guess where?) mango marinade and apple juice mixture after brining. Finally, I rubbed them with a Hannaford’s Southern BBQ rub. All in all, it was pretty good, I just need to work on not charring the skin and I should have a respectable showing at NH…

Good on ya,

May 10, 2009

Close to Perfection

I am closing in on my rib recipe. I finish with Hannaford’s Apple grilling sauce about an hour from the end of the cooking cycle. I will probably add a little Sriracha hot sauce to kick it up a notch. About two hours into the process, I put the ribs face down in a seedless raspberry jam, honey mustard, and Bourbon mix (think traditional honey, brown sugar, apple juice mix). Prior to smoking, I rub the ribs with honey mustard and McCormick’s sweet and salty rub (formerly their Cinnamon Chipotle rub).

The ribs came out good; I could taste the meat with a hint of “flavors”. All in all, I was happy. I brined the ribs for about 11 hours with a ½ salt, ½ sugar mixture. I had hoped to increase the moisture, but this did not work. What I have read on-line suggests that if you brine too long or with too much salt, the meat will be salty. In this case the meat was a little dry but not salty.

Moving forward, I plan to increase the salt ratio and possibly decrease the brine time. Other than the heat, I will keep the flavor profile as is.

Good on ya,

May 9, 2009

Not the Swine Flu

I am sick; runny nose, cough sore throat. I cooked the first of four aged briskets last week…OMG…it was incredibly tender. I need to work on my application of rub. I used homebbq.com’s beef rub, which, IMO is salty. I cut it 50/50 with Turbinado sugar; the same rub I used in NH 2006 and took first place. For some reason, it did not disperse as well and I had pockets of rub and sugar.

I have been making a lot of ribs as well. I cooked up eight racks for my neighbor and plan to cook another four this weekend. I took Friday off to try and recover from this cold and I cooked the ribs as well. I switched to seedless raspberry jam, solving a presentation problem.

I got confirmation for NH this year and can’t wait. I still have to practice chicken and pork and get the Rajah road ready. This will be the most I have practiced for a contest, ever. I don’t expect to win, since the flavors will probably be not what the judges are looking for, i.e., no Blues Hog, maple syrup or brown sugar in my food. I am cooking this event for me and my friends. I am practicing because I need to spend more time cooking and having fun.

I’ll probably cook Harvard as well, but I plan to shift my cooking activities away from competition BBQ and towards exploring different techniques.

Good on ya,

Apr 19, 2009

Ribs April 19, 2009


ribs 041909
Originally uploaded by Ernie's Pictures
Ribs this weekend; not sure about next. I’ll probably take another stab at chicken. At some point I have to make some modifications to the smoker; I have all the stock I need, almost. I did not brine these or use brown sugar. I was going for a taste the meat style.

Not sure how it worked out. There was more of a meat taste, but not so sure about the other flavors. They were kind of muted. I think it is a consistency thing with respect to not evenly distributing the flavors. That being said, I at a whole rack, so they could not have been that bad.

Good on ya,

Apr 17, 2009

April Fool’s Day

I picked up four briskets today; they were packed on April 1st. They are resting comfortably in a dedicated fridge. I’ll keep an eye on them; I expect them to be ready on May.

Good on ya,

Apr 12, 2009

Cutting it Close

So I said I was going to use the smoker at least once every weekend. At 8:30PM I took eight chicken thighs off the smoker; keeping my to plan. They were brined for about 8 hours, rubbed with Hannaford’s Chipotle rub and smoked with apple wood.

I sauced half with the Wasabi Ginger frilling sauce and the other half with the Chipotle grilling sauce; in both cases, too much of it. Now I know why I need to practice. Next week I’ll be working on ribs…and probably chicken again...

Good on ya,

Apr 11, 2009

Brrrrrrrisket Hahaha Brisket

Back in the days (when Desi’s had waves), I used to brew beer so I have a few extra refrigerators that I am not using. I also have an “amusing little gizmo” that allows me to regulate the temperature of a refrigerator to with in a few degrees. It’s no chloroform deploying portable enticement snare, but it is still pretty neat.

In my new job I have been tasked to explore adjacent markets using existing company technology. Now that I am in the habit of looking at aging assets and finding new things to do with them, I realized that I have everything I need to wet age brisket. Today I ordered two briskets in the cryovac and told the butcher what I had planned. I also ordered 4 St. Louis cut racks of spare ribs.

The butcher knew what I wanted, so I am hoping he will provide me with the slaughter date. Based on what I have read on-line I have between 30 to 50 days after slaughter to age the meat. My feeling is that I should not go by the date but by the “signs” of aging. So if I don’t get the dates, I will just keep a close eye on the signs. Either way, I won’t go beyond 30 days.

Several sites suggest that if you don’t have the date, don’t start the process. I think that you should probably inspect the meat, daily and stop when it looks “done”. I am picking up the meat next Friday, so I will know better what the “deal” is then.

Good on ya,



PS Download “Stick ‘Em” by the Fatboys if you don’t get the title and the Notorious B.I.G.’s “Things Done Changed” if you don’t under stand the introduction…Watch “Mystery Men” for the amusing little Gizmo reference…it will also explain the Blue Rajah, if you don’t get that either…

Mar 21, 2009

Tax Refund

We went to H&R Block to get our taxes done. In keeping with supporting the US economy, we opted to have them done in person and locally instead of buying software. We are getting a good refund, most of which we are going to use to pay off a credit card. Rest assured, we will probably charge it back up; the refund will eventually go to stimulate the economy. It looks like we will be getting more then we owe to our credit card, which means some near terms spending.

One option is to pay for the installation of the generator. This would certainly support a local electrician who would hopefully stimulate the economy with our money. I don’t think the guy I have in mind will send the money to a foreign country. The other option is to buy kayaks. There are two companies that still make kayaks in the US and one is local to New England (Old Town Canoe in Maine). While I don’t mind spending the money on kayaks, I am concerned that we won’t get much use out of them, i.e., they will sit in the Rajah. It is too cold to go kayaking, so I have some time to mull this purchase over.
Good on ya,

Mar 17, 2009

Things are Shaping up for NH

I think I am going to do it. I am not going to cook on Saturday, just BBQ on Sunday. Friday night and Saturday are going to be party days. I am going to do all the prep at home, so all I have to do is season and throw the meat in the cooler after inspection. Then relax all day, fire up the smoker around 10PM, and not worry about the judges.

The point of the weekend is to have fun. Time is flying by and this year I will be 40. I need to start enjoying my summers more. Last summer I spent it working. So, join me in NH for some beer and fun, and we can celebrate my 40th Birthday early and in style...lol

Good on ya,

Mar 14, 2009

One Small Step

I ordered 10 pounds, each, of pecan and apple chunks from Hawgeyes BBQ; an on-line supplier of wood and other stuff. I have to smoke some pork butts for a fund raiser my wife is hosting, the weekend before the iQue class. If all goes well, I am going to practice one of the categories every weekend until NH. Hopefully this will get me back into blogging as well. I have not sent in the application, but I plan to.

Good on ya,

Mar 7, 2009

Going Back to School

I will be one of the lucky people who will be attending the iQue Cooking School in April. Hopefully this will get me back in the “game” with respect to competing. I am going to try and shoot for cooking in NH at the end of June. This means not only getting some recipes together but getting the Rajah road ready.

I am not sure if I will enter the grilling contest, since it is a lot of work and I am not a big fan of grilling. The first year we competed at NH, we did not grill and we had a good time. The next year, the grilling seemed to increase the pressure.

In other news, I started taking pellets out of the Rajah. I suspect that I will have enough pellets until sometime in April. I’ll probably run out and then start shopping around for pellets, if past performance is any indicator of future trends.

Good on ya,

Feb 15, 2009

Hecho en Los Estados Unidos

We are the proud owners of a slate grey Chevrolet Cobalt LS sedan. The Cobalt is made in Lordstown, Ohio, USA. We went to the Walmart today to buy some common household items and I made a point of looking at the labels to see where things were made. Turns out most, if not all cat food and litter, at the Walmart, is made in the United States. Trash bags are another story. Glad bags appear to be made in the US; Hefty products (in general) are harder to determine. Some of them say made in the USA and others do not. I went with the Glad bags and Styrofoam bowls made in the US by Hefty. We bought laundry detergent, Tide, made in the US as well.

car_side

We feed the cats using Styrofoam bowls; we are planning to go green eventually. Sadly the cats are the first victims of my “Buy US Made Products” kick. The bowls that they normally get are smaller; the US made bowls are larger. They’ll survive…

car_side

Surprisingly, the Chips Ahoy cookies are made in Mexico. We did not think to check the food stuffs; now we know. The next thing I have to think about it hair care products. The shampoo I use (Pert Plus) is made in Canada. I am certain that there are many things that I will buy this year that are not made in the US, for example another camera lens. I think I will try to at least buy them from US distributors. I am considering buying the lens at a retail store even though they are about $100 more expensive as compared to on-line stores.

Good On Ya,

Jan 25, 2009

Well Into the Second Pallet

I guess I should be happy that winter is flying by. The new driveway is great, but it is sure getting a workout. The plow is out of commission. I broke a frame pin and can’t seem to get a replacement. I ordered it and was expecting to install it over the Holidays (my employer shuts down for the week between Christmas and New Years, paid). The parts have not shown up and now I am wondering if they went out of business, due to the economy. I will have to sort that out, although, I don’t think I will install it before the end of this winter. I will also probably buy a new snow blower as a back-up for next year. I have not given up on the plowing, yet.

On the Weight Watchers front I lost seven pounds so far. I have been eating a lot of fruit and fiber. For my main meals, I have been poaching chicken breasts, dicing them, and mixing them with bell peppers and various Hannaford grilling sauces and Asian sauces. I eat this with a cup of Jasmine rice and some frozen vegetables.

The Stratus has almost 220k miles and the transmission is starting to slip. I am considering buying a Chevrolet Cobalt. It gets good mileage, is cheap, and is assembled in the USA (don’t know where the parts are form). I found a website that lists products made in the USA and it indicated the Cobalt was one of a few cars (mostly trucks) made in the USA; the Cobalt is made in Ohio.

I also switched my 401k to bonds. I saw this program on CNN called I.O.USA about the current economic situation. It pointed out that in WWII we were in a similar position. The main differences were that as a result of the war, there was a huge foreign demand for our goods and Americans owned our own debt. Specifically, everyone bought War Bonds.

It is not clear that we will get out of this one if we do not start buying our own debt (bonds) and exporting more. So in the next few weeks I will provide links to buy American websites and how to buy savings bonds. I will say that it is hard to buy American and I am not sure how much of an impact buying American will have. We really need the rest of the world to buy our stuff (what ever that may be).

Good on ya,

Jan 4, 2009

Weight Watchers

I joined the Weight Watchers on-line. I need to lose weight and this worked well before. We will see how it goes. When I stepped on the scale I was 230 lbs. When I left high school, I was 115 lbs. I am shooting for about 170 lbs. I have gotten there before when I was trying to lose weight, so I know it is possible.

They have tons of recipes on-line, so in principle, I will still be able to cook. The hard part for me is portion control.

Good on Ya…

Jan 1, 2009

Happy New Year

Last year this time we had a snow storm and the oil truck almost rolled over in the drive way (click here for details). I spent the next week buying diesel from a gas station to run my furnace. This year we had another storm almost the same day. The difference this year is that the driveway is wider and the pellet stove is running. It did help that a few days before the storm, the temperature was almost in the 60’s and all of the ice had melted. But so far, the new year has started out pretty good.

The Power Company came out this morning (1/1/09) and reattached the line to the house. So I am almost recovered from the ice storm. The service line is not completely attached, but considering how many half completed projects there are around the house, this one is pretty much done.

I had an electrician (friend of a friend) come out and quote me a price on installing a transfer switch, putting pipe up on the service line (reinforcing it) and upgrading the service to 200 amps (larger panel). I believe the larger panel is required to accommodate the transfer switch. He said between $2,000 to $2,500 (not including the generator). I will have to think about that one; he said the earliest he could do it would be March/April (too cold out).

Good on Ya….

Dec 31, 2008

Chicken Bites, Redux

I made the chicken bites again, with a few changes. The first change was that I marinated the chicken in Newman’s Sesame Ginger marinade. They sat for about 4 hours and then I let them drain on a rack over the sink while I prepared the rest of the ingredients.

I used the Hannaford’s Wasabi Ginger Mustard. It is thicker than other mustards, so I had to thin it down with rice vinegar (staying with the Asian theme). I am not sure how much I added, but it was enough to thin out the mustard to little thicker than milk.

I stayed with the bread crumbs and Asiago cheese for the crust. I probably cut too much chicken, since I barely had enough mustard to cover the chicken. Long story short, it was the best chicken bites to date. I did notice that the crust was darker than usual. I think that is because that it is the mustard that gives it the dark color.

Peace, out…

Dec 28, 2008

Once a Trick

IMG_4689_0093.JPG

Twice a technique. I cooked steak again using the method previously described and it came out great. I used less rub this time, but it was still too much salt. The next step is to work on the rub. After that, I will investigate marinades.

Why marinades, you ask? Well the last time I competed in NH one of the categories was steak. I was competing with Fireflies and they spared no expense, as always. They had a case of Porterhouse steaks and we practiced all night Friday with methods. On Saturday we turned in the Porterhouse, off the bone, with both the strip and the fillet, cooked to medium rare, seasoned with garlic, salt, pepper. It was, in my opinion, a very good steak house steak. We bombed with it.

The steaks that did well were modest (low cost) cuts, which were marinated. So, my plan for next year, is to 1) compete in NH, 2) use this method in the grilling contest (assuming steak is a category). To that end, I have to refine the rub, come up with a marinade, and figure out how to transition this technique to the grill. Even if it is not a category, or I am not able to compete, I think having a good steak recipe under my belt will be a good thing.

Peace, out…

Dec 21, 2008

Fried Chicken

Based on my experience with the snow and ice I have deduced that winter is upon us. So, to me that means frying time. I saw an episode of Throw Down with Bobby Flay, where he cooked chicken and waffles (and lost). He used a simple buttermilk and flour batter that looked pretty easy to do. My past experiences with frying chicken, as some may recall, was with boneless breasts and bread crumbs (chicken bites). This time out, I am going with drumsticks.

Not that I don’t trust Flay, but I though I would verify his method, before I started cooking. It seems that everyone marinates in buttermilk, overnight, and some add spices to the buttermilk. I chose the ginger-wasabi mustard from Hannaford’s (they make great pies also, if you are in a hurry and need to bring something to work, BTW). People also spice up the flour.

The process is simple, marinate the chicken overnight then dredge in flour, buttermilk (plain or spiced), flour, buttermilk and fry. For now I am going to go with the marinated buttermilk and spice the other things later. I want to taste the influence of each step as I go.

The actual process is messy business and I set the deep fryer to 370F per the online instructins and coocked about 20 minutes in small batches (just enough for one layer in the basket). My first attempt, I over loaded the basket (three pieces) and they stuck together.

At 370F the crust was rock hard and I threw out the three pieces. I lowered the temperature to 320F, which was reccomeded by the maker of the frier and cooked for 20 minutes.

The crust was better, but not to my liking. I ended up throwing the whole thing out. I am going to have to rethink this buttermilk business. I liked the chicken bites better, maybe that is the direction I should go...

Peace, out…

Dec 20, 2008

Back to Basics

I need to get back into cooking and writing about it. Too many tales of weather related woe. Plus, I seem to do my best cooking/writing in the winter. To that end, I am on a quest (one of many) to make the perfect steak, both technique and recipe.

I read an article on a plane once that intrigued me. It suggested that you should preheat a cast iron pan in the oven and then I forget. For years I fooled with the first part, the part I remembered, about preheating the pan. In general, the steak always charred, by the time it was ready (medium rare). All in all, I determined that this was not a good way, from my limited experimenting, to make a steak. Something substantial was missing from this method.

With the latest storm coming, I bought supplies for cooking, with the assumption that I would not be going out anytime soon. I would try the “method” one last time. With nothing to do, I googled “cast iron pan steak” and found the rest of the recipe.

Basically, you heat a cast iron pan in the stove to 500F (as I recalled), sear each side of the steak for 1-2 minutes, and then finish in a broiler (check this out for details). The finish under the broiler was the part that I was missing.
steak_0088.JPG

My oven sucks, it cuts out after awhile. I figured, if I worked fast, i.e., not preheat the pan forever; I might be able to pull it off. I put the pan in when I turned on the over and took it out about 5 minutes after the bell rang (preheat alarm). I used the Hannaford’s Chicago steak rub, followed the procedure that is referenced above and added a fifteen minute rest, before serving. I eat it plain. I figure, if you have to use sauce, there must be something wrong with it.
steak_0090.JPG

Today, we ate it with Mac-n-Cheese. I need to eat more vegetables, I know. Thomas Keller was on the “Today” show this morning cooking brussels sprouts, summer squash and bacon…maybe next time…or not…
steak_0092.JPG

All in all, it was my best steak ever, from a doneness standpoint. The Hannaford rub was a little too salty for me, so I need to work on it. I know it needs salt, pepper, and garlic powder; I just need to get the ratio right.

Peace, out…

What A Week

We spent the last week in two different hotels and not because we were on vacation. We lost power late Thursday night (12/11) due to the ice storm that many of you may have heard about. We got it back on Friday (12/19) around 2PM. The house got down to 37F, before the power came back on. I had drained the water pipes, but not the heat pipes (forced hot water). To keep the pipes warm, I tried running a propane heater in the basement. Not sure if it worked or not.

When we checked into the first hotel, they did not have power, but they had hot water. On Monday we had to check out, since they were booked the rest of the week. We went to a less expensive hotel and would have had to check out today, if we had not gotten power back.

On Sunday of last week, a friend came by with a chain saw and we removed the trees that were on the lines. The chain saw died and we ended up using a bow saw. We had to back the Rajah up to the lines and stand on it to get to the trees. We also put the power line back up; it was ripped off the house during the storm.

I have an electrician coming soon to make the repairs permanent and possibly to install a transfer switch for a generator. Pictures are included in the posts, and yes there is a huge dent in the roof of my car.

I was able to get all of the pellets into the Rajah before the storm and the plow worked great, until it broke. I did not set one of the attachment pins right and a shear pin broke ($13 to replace). Once I fix it, I think it will do pretty good.

Peace, out…

Dec 7, 2008

The First Snow of the Season

I take both credit for the low amount (in Lunenburg) and blame for the fact that there was any. In order to prevent the snow I had to do several things, 1) put away all of the stuff scattered about the yard, 2) mount the plow on the Raja, and 3) move the wood pellets. I was able to complete the first two, but fell a little short on the third.

Most of the stuff in the yard was bbq stuff from Peter’s Pond, e.g., E-Z Ups, coolers, chairs, etc. I stored all of this in the basement. The hard thing was to move the smoker into the center of the yard. By moving the smoker, I, or someone, would be able to plow without worrying about damaging the smoker. This ended up being harder than I thought.

The smoker was off the driveway and I could not manually roll it on the driveway (asphalt lip). I could also not turn it such that I could hitch it to the Rajah, since the handle was hitting a nearby tree. After about an hour of trying to move it by hand, I realized that I could put a strap on it and drag it out with the Rajah.

Once the yard was cleaned and the smoker was moved, I started to mount the plow. It was far easier than I remember and I had the foresight to put the mounting pins on the plow, so for once in my life I had all the parts I needed in place. I hooked up the controller and nothing. Luckily, I had the manual handy (a Christmas Miracle?) and it said that I had to clean the motor on the winch.

This turned out to be the case, the rotor was rusted to the stator. I was able to take the motor apart and when the springs that held some of the magnets in place shot out, I found them on the floor with minimal searching. After it was cleaned, I struggled for about forty-five minutes with the springs. Finally, I was able to fabricate a tool using sheet metal and shears, which made the job really easy (and yes these too were where they were supposed to be).

After the plow was mounted and tested, I started on the pellets. I have 6,080 lbs of pellets left and I moved about 1,000 lbs last night into the basement, before I stopped. I will move about 3,440 lbs into the house. The other 2,2640 lbs (one pallet or 1.2 tons) will be stored in the Rajah for ballast when I plow. If I get all this done, I will be very surprised if there is any snow.

Peace, Out

Nov 6, 2008

Chim Chimeny Chim Chimcharoo

The pellet stove is awesome. Cleaning it is a little difficult, mostly because I don’t have the right tools…see where this is going…It looks like there is a vacuum cleaner made specifically for cleaning ash from stoves.

Before I rush out and buy one, I have to do a little research. The main thing is a filter that stops the ash from blowing into the room. I suspect that I could get a small shop vac, with a HEPA filter. The key will be the lowest cost possible.

On another note, I will be back on first shift in December.

Peace, out…

Oct 7, 2008

It has Begun

The paver showed up this morning to start the process. More to follow...

On the Rajah front, I started it up and drove it to the neighbor's.

Peace, out...

Oct 1, 2008

It Ain’t Cheap

So the driveway guy came by to quote the price to have the driveway widened by three feet on each side and to widen the parking area…$10k…I was going to have him pave a spot at the bottom of the driveway, but I don’t think I can afford it this year.

The next step is to write a check to myself from my equity line and assuming it is still available, start the paving. Last time I deposited a large sum of money, it took several weeks for it to clear due to post 9/11 banking rules…If all goes well, he will start next week.

Peace, out…

Sep 29, 2008

Fell off the Wagon

It will take some time to get back into the blogging thing. The good news is that I am having a contractor out on Wednesday to take a look at the driveway. I also called the electric company to see if they will remove a dead tree, next to the driveway, for free.

The contractor I called was the one who did the initial driveway work. I was very happy with him. This time I left a few messages and he never called me back. I gave him one last call today and got no answer. I did not bother to leave a message this time.

While I was on the phone with another contractor, who said the job was too small, he called back. He was checking his caller ID and my number came up. If he takes the job, then I will go with him. If it is too small, then I will call another excavating contractor that was recommended by the one who said the job was too small.

Peace, out…

Sep 20, 2008

Two Down, One to Go


So not only is the pellet stove installed and running, I also ordered 4.8 tons of pellets. I probably need about 3 tons, but they sell them in 1.2 ton pallets. If I buy 4 pallets (4.8 tons) I get free delivery. The down side is that they will deliver them sometime in October.

The good news is that I have two of my major projects completed. Now I have to tackle the driveway. The first step is to investigate culvert pipes. If I can get some extensions a friend says that he can fill in the drive way for me. He estimates about 100 yards of fill and BobCat/front end loader. I have to get prices on all three and then talk to him again.

The plan is to have the fill dropped on the driveway. Once that is done, I will have no choice but to fill it in. Consequently, I have to think long and hard about this one.

Peace, out

Sep 19, 2008

I am No Van Gough

I suck at painting. It is everywhere I don’t want it to be and not where I want it. For the most part it is fine, but where the wall meets the ceiling is spotty. So the rough painting is done and I have a lot of touch up.

Assuming the pellet stove goes in Saturday, I will focus on getting the floor down Sunday. I’ll to the touch up stuff next week and the molding next weekend. Then the room is done.

It will be my wife’s dance studio, so maybe she can do some created ceiling decorations to hide the mess.

Peace, out…

Sep 18, 2008

Watching Paint Dry

I had to tape the freshly painted walls so that when I ran the roller along the other walls they would not get paint on them. Well when I took the tape off I peeled some of the paint. Now I have to figure out how to blend in the paint and get the same effect.

I am thinking either a foam brush or a nappy rag. They are small spots, so hopefully nobody will notice.

Peace, out…

Sep 17, 2008

Bust a Deal Face the Wheel

I never should have said that I would write something every day. I put a third coat on the remaining two walls. We will see how it comes out. I am leaning towards a fourth coat on the final wall. Hopefully, I will have the pellet stove installed this weekend. I still don’t have pellets, though.

I will probably buy the saw on Friday and start the floor on Sunday.

Peace, out…

Sep 16, 2008

I am not Sure What I Saw

In an effort to get back into blogging, I am going to try to write something every day. No matter what the topic is or if it is interesting. The paining is going slow. I have two walls done. I thought I had more rollers than I actually did, so I have to go and get some more today. Once the paint is on, I can start laying down the floor.

The floor will require some cutting and the question now becomes should I buy a saw? I could use both a miter saw and a table saw. I don’t want to buy both. If I buy the miter saw I can always go over to the neighbor’s and have him make the cuts that need the table saw. The problem with this is if there is any disruption in the schedule, I will loose interest.

If I get the table saw, I can make all the cuts I need for this job, but maybe not others, easily. I am leaning towards the table saw, for the record. I am looking at the under $200 price range; probably a Craftsman.

On the cooking side, the jambalaya reheated well, so I am going with the quart of stock per pound of orzo.

Peace, out…

Sep 15, 2008

A New Twist on an Old Favorite...Orzo I Thought

I have been meaning to try out this idea and write about it for about a month. At the beginning of the summer we went to our neighbor’s for a cookout. Her sister made a pasta salad using orzo. I thought it looked like rice and why not try it out in my jambalaya recipe.

I searched the internet and found that once again, I had been “beaten to it”. Long story short, you have to gauge the cooking liquid so that you don’t have to pour it off, like you would with pasta. For a pound of orzo, it looks like about a quart of stock works. It is a little “wet” so I may back off just a tad on the stock. We will see how it keeps. I broke down in to individual portions and refrigerated them.

When I made orzo (once before) it stuck together and was kind of hard. That time it was a little drier, so maybe the extra liquid will make it less sticky. It also appears to take less spice then the rice. I thought I eyeballed the right amount, so I will have to experiment some more.

All in all the jury is still out with respect to the use of this pasta in the jambalaya. I will make it a few more times and then make a decision. I want to do more with pasta, so I am not ruling out completely.

Peace, out….

Sep 14, 2008

Not Enough Hours in the Day

So I had a potentially big project at work that ended up going nowhere. I spent my weekends and free time during the day working on it. I basically wasted my whole summer. Now I have a lot of catching up to do.

I have the pellet stove; I just need to get it installed. I tried contacting both the driveway guy and the pellet seller. I have not heard back from either. I also have to finish a room for my wife’s dancing.

On that front it is one step up and two steps back. We bought specialty paint from the Depot that uses a funky roller. It looks better at the Depot then in the room. Once I get it to look reasonably good (not nearly like what was in the store), I am going to put down a laminate floor.

I think if I stay away from the specialty crap, I can do a pretty good job painting. If the floor goes well then I think I am going to pull up the carpet in the bedrooms and put down laminate floors.

Nothing on the cooking or Rajah front, BTW. If I get the projects under control, I will try my hand at sausage making again. I need to buy a better meat grinder. More on that later…

Peace, out…

Aug 8, 2008

The Best Laid Plans…


I wish I could say that I had not blogged for so long because I was too busy having fun. Truth is summer has gone by so fast and I have got almost nothing done. I did buy a wood stove and hopefully will get it installed before winter. I have done nothing about the driveway. I have also not done anything more on the Rajah

I competed with Mr. C’s at Peter’s Pond. The judges did not like my chicken or ribs. I went to Harpoon with the Slabs and based on their food I use too much flavor (hide the meat). Their food was a long friendly conversation of flavor, where mine is a more like a quick drive through order. Something to think about…

A full service butcher opened up in town. It is pretty cool and not to expensive. They sell pre-marinated skewers. I bought a Webber kettle to cook them on. That has been the extent of my cooking.

I bought a bicycle last weekend and it has rained almost everyday since. I did take it out for a 5 mile ride. I don’t remember bike riding being so hard, when I did it about 18 years ago.

The lawnmower stopped working. I think it is because of bad gas, but I have not been able to get it started. I drained the tank, put fresh fuel in, dry gas and tried starter fluid.

Peace, out

May 28, 2008

I am on the List

I am one of 55,000 addresses that have been selected to participate in a US Census Bureau survey on employment. I will be called for four months this year and next to verify my employment status. They asked about marital status, household income, race, age, education level and occupation.

It took about fifteen minutes to answer the questions. I will be called again the week of June 19th, but not on a Sunday; I had to put my foot down on that.

Good on ya,

May 27, 2008

Lawn Mower


Need I say more. It has 190cc engine and a lot of torque (I forget how much, but it was the highest Lowes had). Since I only mow my lawn about once every three months, this is money well spent. They did not have the bailing option for the walk behind...

Good on ya,

May 26, 2008

ABCD

American Born Confused Desi (ABCD). A Desi is Indian slang for an Indian. An ABCD is an Indian born in the US, who has not kept it real. It turns out that I am the best example of an ABCD, or so I am told.

I work with an Indian fellow who is “fresh off the boat”, and is trying to learn our pop culture, while simultaneously keeping it real. He is about 24 and leans towards the hip-hop. We have been trying to teach him American culture. For example, we suggested he watch the movie Office Space, to get a feel for the American work ethic.

One night (we both work second shift) I was researching Krishnamurti (Indian Philosopher, see previous blog post) and asked him if he had ever heard of Krishnamurti. He said no and that he was probably from the south of India (where my father is from). He asked why I was interested in him and I said I was just curious if he knew about him. I then asked him if he knew about Nehru and he said of course. Nehru was the first Prime Minister of India, BTW.

He asked how I had heard of Nehru and I said from the movie Gandhi starring Ben Kingsley. He did not know that there was a movie about Gandhi. I told him everything I know about Indian history comes from that movie. He was shocked and called me an ABCD.

I told him that I knew what it meant; although it turns out I got it a little wrong. I asked him if he would teach me about Indian culture and he asked me what I wanted to know. I asked him to show me some Indian gang signs. He walked away in disgust…

Good on ya,

May 25, 2008

Are You Ready For the Summer


Pig roast
Originally uploaded by Ernie's Pictures
Summer starts for me the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. For four years now I have been helping a friend with a pig roast. We pick up the pig on Friday, which is always an adventure and we roast it Saturday morning. Normally we get a 150 pound pig, but this year it was only 100 pounds. We have tried a bunch of things, over the years, but have found that stuffing the belly with apples is the best.

The winter dragged on for so long that I now have no motivation to do anything. I am hoping that the pig roast will get me moving. I have a lot to do this summer and would like to get some of it done.

Good on ya,

May 11, 2008

Crime Rate up in Lunenburg

Those that know me remember that at one point I had a grey G30 van that I bought at an auction for $200. I also bought a Reese hitch for about $215 which I mounted to the van. I sold the van for $200 and removed the hitch. This was about 3 years ago.

I had left the hitch at a friend’s house in NH and the other day he reminded me that it was still sitting in his shed. We made plans to mount it this weekend. When I bought the tires, a few weeks ago, I had about a ¼ of a tank of gas in it. Saturday morning I started the Rajah and planned to drive to my friend’s house.

The first thing in noticed when I started the Rajah was that the tank was empty. I had parked at the end of the driveway (about 300 ft.) from the house. I think someone siphoned the gas from the Rajah’s tank. If the tank were empty I am sure I would have remembered it. I was able to drive to the gas station and for $74 fill up the tank ($4.449/gallon). After driving up to NH and back I have about a ¼ of a tank. I parked near the house and I will monitor the tank to make sure that I don’t have leak.

Installing the hitch went well. We had to weld a flange onto the hitch to make it wide enough. Now all I have to do is wire some lights and buy a ball and receiver.

Good on Ya,

May 2, 2008

Going Home


We went to the Magic Kingdom and the Animal Kingdom today. We are heading home Saturday. Back to the cold...


Good on Ya,

May 1, 2008

Experimental Prototype Colony of Tormorrow (EPCOT)


My favorite park, but I did not take too many pictures. It always inspires me to garden. Usually we go in the winter and the inspiration does not take. This time it might. I am going to start small and buy two plants. I'll put them in pots and see how it goes.


Good on Ya,

Apr 30, 2008

Lights, Motor, Action



We went to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, formerly knows as MGM Studios. We are not sure why they changed the name. This park is my second favorite park, I love EPCOT the best. For the record, Animal Kingdom is third and the Magic Kingdom is fourth.

I took the action picture with my 100mm f/1.8 lens and the logo picture with my 75mm-300mm zoom lens. I tried many times to capture action shots at the Lights, Motor, Action show with no real luck. This is an actual shot that I took and it was by chance. I’ll post all of the vacation shots on Flickr when I return.

Good on Ya,

Apr 28, 2008

My Mother's New House



Here are some picture of the model home.


Here are some pictures of the lot on which it will be built. We spent the whole day picking upgrades...


Good on ya....

Apr 27, 2008

Something to Think About

My mother is moving to FL, she sold her house yesterday and got her asking price. It was on the Market for about 6 months, maybe. I was helping her clean out some of my father’s books. He wanted to get rid of his history related books. He is still working in Saudi Arabia and hopefully will retire in August.

He had a bunch of books on Indian history and by Indian writers (he is from India). I recognized one of the names (Jawaharlal Nehru) who was the first Prime Minister of India. Sadly, I knew this from the movie Gandhi and not from any extensive study of Indian history.

This got me thinking about a quote from an Indian philosopher on the subject of truth that I had heard sometime ago. From my various readings on Eastern Religions I came to the conclusion on religion, wisdom, and ultimately truth that is best summarized by this quote. Interestingly, the first time I heard it was on a MMA instructional video series (Matt Thornton’s Functional JKD Series II). Matt’s approach to MMA is also best summarized by this quote as well.

“I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. That is my point of view, and I adhere to that absolutely and unconditionally. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or to coerce people along any particular path. If you first understand that, then you will see how impossible it is to organize a belief. A belief is purely an individual matter, and you cannot and must not organize it. If you do, it becomes dead, crystallized; it becomes a creed, a sect, a religion, to be imposed on others. This is what everyone throughout the world is attempting to do. Truth is narrowed down and made a plaything for those who are weak, for those who are only momentarily discontented. Truth cannot be brought down, rather the individual must make the effort to ascend to it. You cannot bring the mountain-top to the valley. If you would attain to the mountain-top you must pass through the valley, climb the steeps, unafraid of the dangerous precipices.”

J. Krishnamurti

Good On Ya,

Apr 20, 2008

The Last of It

I have no idea how this one happened and why it is only on one side. I think this is the last of the plow related damage. I estimate that it is about $100 worth of replacement lights and some time with a hammer to get things back to where they were.

So I finally did the brine experiment. I modified a recipe I got from the first Alton Brown cookbook (my version below) and made half of this recipe. I let some boneless thighs sit in the brine overnight (twelve hours).

1 quart vegetable stock
1-1/4 cup lime juice
½ cup Kosher salt
¼ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 quart orange juice
2 cups ice water.

I mixed a small portion of the stock, about ¼ of the total amount, with the spices and boiled to dissolve them. I then added the rest of the ingredients and chilled the whole thing below 43oF. Once chilled, I added the chicken.

As the grill was heating up, I patted dry the chicken and let it warm up to room temp. Just before putting on the grill I sprinkled it with McCormick’s Jerk seasoning. The plan was to put on a mango-honey BBQ sauce halfway through the cooking.

I lost track of time and the chicken was done before I put the sauce on. I moved it off the coals and then put the sauce on. All-in-all it was the best chicken I ever cooked. That being said there is room for improvement.

I need to get more of the orange-lime flavor into the chicken. I think I will try to eliminate the stock and replace it with OJ and maybe some more lime. I came up the lime portion by adding and tasting until I could taste the lime. I will have to play with this more mix ratio. I will have to use water instead of stock to dissolve the spices or I think I will have a sticky mess on my hands.

I also need to back of on the Jerk flavoring. It was a little too strong and did not blend well with the other favors. I suppose if the orange comes out more, then this will off set the Jerk seasoning.

Finally, I need to time the sauce better. I think it is the right sauce for this recipe, my only concern is how long it will be available for (I bought it at Hannaford’s). I need to keep an eye on it, and if it disappears, then I need to make my own version. From the website it seems like it is a big company. I can also buy it on-line from them direct, if things don’t go well in the stores. I put a link on the blog if anybody is interested in trying it.

Si Se Puede,

Apr 19, 2008

Not my Fault

It is nice out today, probably mid 70’s, at least. Here’s the tire track from the oil truck when it got stuck. I think this happened when he was winched out. You can’t really get a feel for the depth, but it is about a 8 inch rut.

The drop from the driveway is about 6 feet. I need to get quotes this spring to have the driveway repaved and widened. It cost about $12k to get the drive way put it. I am hoping that it will be less to have it fixed.




Si Se Puede,

Apr 15, 2008

Still Recovering from Winter


plow damage 002
Originally uploaded by Ernie's Pictures
The weather is getting warmer every day! I spoke to a friend about hitches and he feels that we can weld up one, custom. Once I get the hitch on I can bring the smoker to his place and we can start to “pimp my smoker”.

I did some looking on- line for breaker boxes. I think this will be another buy at the store effort due to the lack of details for the products. I need a 30A main and probably two or three circuit breakers. The AC draws about 16A so I will use a 20A breaker for that. I will then probably install 20A circuit (maybe two) for lights and eventually a refrigerator.

I need to check into how many amps a fridge draws. Alternately, there are 12-Volt refrigerators but then I would need batteries, chargers, etc. The main thing is the AC and a place to plug in the DVD and TV.

Si Se Puede,

Apr 12, 2008

Maybe I did not Save as Much Money As I thought


plow damage 003
Originally uploaded by Ernie's Pictures
More plow damage…I bought new tires today (from Sears). It cost about $840, but at least they did not try to shake me down for more work on the bus. I actually asked them about the brake lines and they said they would probably pass on that. They did try to get me to apply for a credit card, btw.

It was kind of refreshing to go some place auto repair related and have them fix what you came in for with our trying to find other stuff. That being said for $6 more the guy suggested the OEM tires. They are larger, which in hindsight might aggravate the mud flap problem.

The weather was awesome today. While I was waiting for the tires I walked over to the mall. They had a free display of literature on campsites in NE. This got me motivated a little. I think I am going to do the electrical first, mostly the AC. This way I can go to a campsite and plug in and be comfortable.

A lot of sites have WiFi and free cable, so I can have all of the electrical comforts of home, if I need them. Until I get the plumbing set, I would have to use their showers and toilets. We will see how it goes, but I may trade the BBQ circuit for camping.

This last week at work was extremely stressful and I could use a way to “leave it all behind” for a few days.

Si Se Puede,

Apr 8, 2008

A Chain in the Neck



After I fixed the mud flaps, I decided to remove the chains. The inner chain had wrapped around the axel and there was no way to get it out. I ended up having to remove the outer wheel. To get at the lug nuts I had to use my ½” breaker bar, 1-1/16” socket, and a 6” extension. The extension broke on the last lug nut so I had to take my first trip to Sears of the year. I am borrowing a 150 ft-lb torque wrench from a friend to retighten the lug nuts (need 140 ft-lb). Once I get this done, I’ll get new tires and a hitch.

Si se puede,

Apr 6, 2008

WTF

I noticed this the other week. I am not sure how it happened. It must have gotten bound up in the chains. With the snow melted and the weather reasonably warm I thought I would try to fix this. I found out after I took this picture that this occurred on both rear wheels.

I could not pry it back so I decided to just back up and hope for the best. I was afraid that it would puncture the tires. Fortunately, for me this did not happen and I was able to reverse the damage. I freed the metal and then bent it back until it was out of the way.

Si se puede,

Mar 16, 2008

It's a Dogg's Life

I am told that a local junkyard has three or four RV’s. I had planned to swing by and see if they had any propane water heaters and other related plumbing parts for the Rajah. My plan was to go there and see what tools I needed to remove the parts and what they wanted to remove them for me.

When I woke up Saturday morning there was snow on the ground. I decided not to go to the junk yard, but figured the ground would dry up by the afternoon and I could take the chains of the Rajah. The ground stayed wet all weekend so I stayed in and watched TV.

The good news was that I saw one of the funniest shows on TV today, “Snoop Dogg’s Fatherhood” (on E!). I set the DVR to record all the episodes. I was ROTFL as I watched (rolling on the floor laughing). It is your typical reality show, which I normally do not watch. The difference is, on some level, I can relate to Snoop.

The episode I watched started out with the Dogg watching soccer at 4AM in the morning. He watches it in his “Dogg House”, which is really a prefabricated garden shed with plastic lawn chairs and a TV. I have the chairs and a similar shed. He was eating fried chicken when his wife came in. She was on his back about eating fried chicken late at night and took the Styrofoam container from him.

As soon as she left, he smiled for the camera and pulled out another container of chicken. The episode focused on his diet and his wife’s efforts to get him to eat better. She held a meeting to let his staff know that they could no longer buy him junk food. During the meeting Snoop called one of his assistants and asked him to set up a meeting with David Beckham and pick up some fried chicken (both were equally important). He wanted to meet with Beckham to impress his kids and teach them about soccer.

The rest of the episode was him trying to get fried chicken (from a place called Rosco's Chicken and Waffles) and his wife stopping him. You have to see it to believe it...

Bark, park