Sunday, January 31, 2010

Snowed in? Smoked in.

So, we got a lot of snow and ice in Memphis this weekend. Pretty nasty for this area, really. Thickest ice I've encountered in years.

So, of course I did what anyone who doesn't want to leave their house would do, got the smoker going.


We have some friends who raise their own cattle. Completely grass fed. They sell what they don't eat and we get a pretty good deal on it. Before this, we'd used some of the ground beef and I've grilled some steaks, but this was the first low and slow smoke.


The meat came out quite well. The problem with the roast is that they dry out so quickly after slicing. I made a simple sauce with the drippings from the roasts and it helps. They were great for dinner and made a good sandwich the following day.


Then the ice started melting and I started craving something else. The roasts were good, but they just weren't ribs. So today I ran out and picked up some spares. My goodness these things were dinosaurs - they were huge!

All in all a great cooking weekend. Hope you all had a great one as well.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Not psyched about last night's Psych


Do y'all watch Psych? Did you see last night's episode? Did it make you feel as stabby as it did me?

Let me qualify what I'm about to say. Normally I'm a fan of the show. Yes, it's mindless entertainment, but it's FUN mindless entertainment. I dig the '80s pop-culture references and the banter between Shaun and Gus. It is normally a pretty funny show that follows USA's well-estbalished hour-long comdey/drama format. That is, most of the characters are completely incapable of doing or seeing or whatever anything that the main character is supposed to be able to do. Even if it makes them look like total buffoons. It's the main gripe I have with USA's shows. They don't hire really good writers to make their lead characters extremely brilliant or find really clever ways to solve issues. They just dumb down everyone else. Sometimes the formula gets tiresome - many episodes of the last two seasons of Monk suffered. But I digress - last night's Psych:

As I see it, there were three main problems - John Cena as an actor, the writer's complete lack of knowledge about how the military does anything, and them forgetting plot points they'd made earlier in the show. The first one's kind of easy - um, John Cena is a large, charasmatic wrestler in the WWE. If you watch wrestling at all, you probably have your opinions about him. If not, well, he's a likable enough guy, but he's no actor. He's got the range of a light switch. He's serious or not, and that's about it. However, you can overlook a lot of that. The problem is that they didn't play to his strengths - beating people up and doing action sequences - they actually tried to portray him as some kind of super-spy. In a move akin to trying to squeeze gravy from a kidney stone, they actually tried to get him to display emotion. The writers would have been far better served by just setting him in the mode he does best: Kick Ass.

Point the second: I can normally forgive a lot of military ignorance. If you haven't lived it, or done a good degree of research, you normally don't get it. But there's a difference between faking it well and what Psych did last night. I facepalmed about every five minutes. "Late at night, he snuck off base ..." There are many problems with that statement alone. "What are you doing out after lights out?" THIS ISN'T BASIC TRAINING Psych writers. "You civilians don't have authroization to be on this property!" If you're in the Army in Psych world, you live in a constant state of basic training, as a seasoned officer, you constantly talk about your experiences in war allegorically to current situations and you swallow your dog tags when you commit suicide. Just ugh.

Point the last: The climax of the ep totally ignores the character establishment throughout. SPOILER ALERT:


So, throughout the show, Cena is portrayed as some kind of military super spy taking orders from some shadowy figure. It's obviously government. Yet, at the end of the show he's about to take out the bad guy - as he's been ordered to do - and is confronted by the Psych crew who try to stop him from doing it. Not in a, "You don't have to do what your bosses tell you" kind of way, but in a "don't murder him" kind of way. They go as far as to arrest him for "attempted murder." Dumbasses. Even if the situation could have possibly been misconstrued as that (they made a point earlier in the show of basically saying he has a license to kill), later they have a scene where he's supposed to be carted off to a holding facility and he's mysteriously disappeared. Um, again dummies, he wouldn't have made it to the PD without an MiB there to "clear things up."


/SPOILER

Look, it's not like I expect great things from the show. I realize, like I've said, that it's mindless entertainment. What upset me so is that they obviously thought they could tackle a more complex plotline and they proved they suck at it horribly.

God let's hope they get back to doing what they do best - making mindless fun.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

yay /sarcasm

Oh. Boy. A 10-inch iPhone.

UPDATE: Pardon me, a 10-inch iPod touch. The thing doesn't have a camera nor can it make phone calls. I can understand the phone thing, but removing the camera doesn't make any sense.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

BBQ Weekend

Whew! There were many things barbecue going on for me this weekend.

First, on Saturday I attended a Kansas City Barbecue Society Certified Barbecue Judge class. Participants are or become KCBS members are after completing the class are certified to judge KCBS-sanctioned barbecue contests. You get to eat a good amount of barbecue in the class, too. That's a plus!

I have already e-mailed eight different contests nearby to see if I can get in on the judging team. It can be difficult to get into a contest - you can imagine, people are always wanting to eat barbecue! - so the earlier you get a hold of folks the better. I need to contact a few more. I'll be happy if I just get to judge two or three.

Secondly, the parts for my smoker came in Wednesday and I was able to inaugurate it today. I put a brisket on at 4:30 a.m. and cooked a few ABTs (explanation forthcoming).



The brisket was pretty big - right at 16 lbs. It was pretty fatty though. I must have trimmed at least three pounds of fat from it. It was long though. You can see on the right-hand side that I had to fold one side under - in fact I had to do it a little more than this so the meat didn't touch the lid.



I cooked the brisket at 225-235 for four hours. Then foiled it and tried to keep the temp in the 240 - 250 range. It's amazing how well the Weber Smoky Mountain both keeps temperature and is easy to adjust. It really is a set and forget cooker. I cooked the brisket until I got an internal temperature of 205F. A total cook time of 10 hours. Moist, tender, but not mushy. It was the best brisket I've ever cooked and one of the best I've ever eaten.

After I pulled the brisket off I put on the ABTs:


This was my first time cooking or eating these things and THEY. ARE. AWESOME!

Here's the recipe I followed: Atomic Buffalo Turds - Cream cheese, pulled pork and barbecue rub. JalapeƱo Peppers and Bacon. Simple huh? I mixed the cream cheese, pork and rub in my Kitchenaid mixer. It broke the pork down and spread it out evenly and distributed the rub nicely. I couldn't have done anywhere near as nice a job with a mixing spoon. The cream-cheese filling itself is wonderful.

Cut the peppers in half (use gloves!) and scrape out the seeds and membrane. Fill with the cream cheese and wrap with a slice of bacon. Use a toothpick if necessary. I didn't need to.



Don't those look wonderful? You have to cook them over a relatively low heat so the peppers get tender and the bacon fat renders. I cooked them in the WSM for a couple of hours and then threw them in the oven under the broiler for a couple of minutes to crisp the bacon a bit more. Done properly, everything just melts in your mouth and the flavors will bowl you over. Amazing!

All-in-all, a great weekend with a lot of good food!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Turning that frown of a day on its bitch head

For a day that started off miserably because of lack of sleep, it turned out quite good.

The parts for my smoker finally came in last night. Brisket this weekend!

I had been trying to get into a certified barbecue judge class this Saturday. They had said it was all full, but I asked them to let me know if an opening became available. I got a call last night and was asked if I still wanted to go. Hell yeah!

Now, I finally did wake up yesterday and stopped walking around like I was in Romero flick, but these things really put a nice cap on an otherwise blah day.

Hope you all have as good of a weekend as mine is shaping up to be.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

To sleep, perchance to ... no, all I care about is sleep

I do not do well on little sleep. If I can get eight hours, I like to get eight hours. I'm OK with six-and-a-half or seven, but once you start getting below that, it's not a good thing.

Last night I could not sleep. An army of sleep deprivation was marching through my head.

What makes it particularly weird, though, is that I just got some Lortab and that usually knocks me out. Last night I was wired. This morning I feel like I'm having an out-of-body experience.

It's only 7 a.m. and I already want to go back home. God help me.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Chops!


Pic 1: Since I didn't get all my parts for my smoker, I went ahead and threw some chops on the grill. I kept it pretty simple. I seasoned them lightly with pepper and salt and a little lime juice and let them sit overnight in the fridge.





Pic 2: I got this product in with my smoker. It's a remote digital thermometer. This is a beautiful thing. There's a thermometer probe that runs to a sending unit. The remote unit sits inside with you. You just wait for it to hit the right internal temp and all's good.





Pic 3: The finished product. After the chops hit 170, I sauced them over direct heat with my sweet/spicy sauce. I thought the sauce might overpower the taste of the pork, but it just wasn't the case. It added a nice, sweet dimension allowing the flavor of the meat to shine.

Very nice.

Smoking update

My smoker arrived Friday almost completely intact. That is, the box was missing some parts. The interior brackets that hold the grill grates and water pan were absent. Customer service was great though and I've got new parts in route, they just aren't supposed to get here until tomorrow or Wednesday. That put a real damper on smoking this weekend, but I am grilling some boneless pork chops today and I'm going to use the sauce I mentioned in the last post.

There's been a barbecue sauce smell permeating my house almost every night for about a week as I've run through different sauce recipes. For those of you who like strong vinegar sauces, this one, the No. 5 sauce, via Steve Petrone at the Virtual Weber Bullet Forums is really good and very simple. Too much vinegar for me, but I can appreciate it for what it is. There are some good flavors here, especially if you have a well-rounded rub.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Saucetastic

The past few months I've given serious thought to getting into competition barbecue. I invested in a quality smoker (competitors are using WSMs with great results) and have begun to give serious thought to rubs and sauces. Oh and that new show, BBQ Pitmasters, just adds flames to the proverbial fire.

Living in Memphis helps with the idea. Barbecue culture is all around and one of the country's premiere compeitions happens here - Memphis in May. Because of that, there are many smaller competitions all around here. I'm easing my way into the mindset. I've gotta come up with some recipes and techniques so I can reproduce results in a variety of circumstances.

I've been playing around with some different sauce recipes lately and I hit on one turned out pretty well and thought I'd share. It's a sweet and spicy mix that's probably more Kansas City than Memphis, but it's good.

- 1/2 cup Ketchup
- 1/2 cup Apple Jelly
- 3 Tbl Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 Tbl Worcestershire Sauce
- 1 Tbl Soy
- 1/2 tsp Bufalo Chipotle Sauce (my local Krogers carry this, I'm sure you could get similar results mixing a little chipotle powder and vinegar)
- 2 Tbl Brown Sugar
- 1/2 tsp Chili Powder
- 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1/2 tsp Onion Powder
- 1/2 tsp Fresh-ground Pepper

I was tired of cleaning my blender, so I combined the jelly and ketchup and whisked the hell out them to ensure the jelly got mixed properly. I then just threw everything together in a small saucepan, brought the mixture to a boil, turned to low and simmered for about 15 min.

It actually turned out a little too sweet for me, I think when I scale up the production size (at least double) I'll wind up cutting the apple jelly to 1/4 cup and substitute apple juice to bring up the liquid. The jelly is a wonderful emulsifier.

What I find most interesting about this sauce is that when it hits your tongue, you think it's going to be really hot, but it's not. So you get that spicy flavor without the tongue-burning after effects. I think this sauce would do well on chicken and ribs. It's a little too strong for pulled pork, I believe.

I'm going to make the larger batch tonight and I'll let y'all know if there are any significant changes or developments.

UPDATE: The smoker arrived missing parts. No smoking for it this weekend. :(

Thursday, January 14, 2010

My kind of encouragement

Bwahaha!



This is how I raise my kids. "You're bleeding? Don't get it on the carpet."

What to smoke

I've got one of these being delivered soon. I'm really looking forward to some low and slow smoking on this thing.

I wonder what to inaugurate this thing with? I was thinking about going with the bacon explosion. However, I've done a bit of research and at sites other than the one linked here, most people have had poor luck in making this recipe. Most have complained that the exterior bacon just will not cook properly at 225 degrees. The outside might get a little done, but the underside remains raw. I've seen some workarounds, but now I'm wondering if I even want to go there.

So, my options are open. I've done a couple of big batches of ribs lately. I'm not terribly interested in doing any more right now. I'm thinking about tackling another brisket - getting a nice 14-16 lb. full packer and bringing the smoker to life right.

Any suggestions?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Dad's shuttle service

J-mom had her first day of nursing school last night. She was nervous going in, but was giddy when she got home. It's nice to see someone so excited about school because while I'm technically still in, I've about lost all my motivation.

With the mommy being engaged with classes and schoolwork, that means that the daddy is going to have to be the primary mode of transportation for all the different activities in which our kids are involved. Fortunately it's not that many, however it still accounts for most nights of the week and Saturday mornings. Daughter #1 is in choir and cheerleading. Daughter #2 is in gymnastics and cheerleading. That's Monday-Thurs and Saturdays right there. Within the next year or two, the boy will be involved in something.

This, more than anything else, gives me newfound respect for my parents. I am a homebody to the point that many people would guess I'm partically agoraphobic. So, shuttling the kids around isn't excatly my idea of a good time. But, in the long run, I'd far rather them have these experiences and practical knowledge than not. Plus, it's pretty cool watching them do something they enjoy.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Chuck!

Man, I missed this show!

I was wondering how they were going to handle Chuck's new intersect "powers," and it went down kind of like I thought it would. They still have to play up his general ineptitude, which is kind of a bummer but ultimately makes him more endearing.

I was glad to see Morgan come back, though it's a shame he didn't succeed in his culinary career.

After months of following Adam Baldwin's tweets, it's great to see him back in action as well.

Should be exciting to see where they take the show this season.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

How Gen Y is fucking up reputation

I work in communications for an organization concerned with the recruitment (less this) and retention (very much this) of motivated and highly trainable individuals. Since I started working here in late 2007, I’ve seen a bunch of presentations that have dealt with Generation Y. After reading through a lot of “How do we reach them?” “What’s important to them?” “What makes them tick?” kind of presentations, I am increasingly of the opinion that corporate reputation is dead, or, probably more accurately, is poised to die.

(Editorial note: I am ripping off the figures and some of the information I’m about to throw out here from a very educational NASA presentation called “Gen Y Perspectives.” Here’s a bit about the presentation itself and a link to the PowerPoint presentation.)

For those not in the know, Gen Y is generally considered to be those who were born between 1977 and 2000. They are currently 25% of the workforce and are predicted to be 47% of the workforce by 47%. They are defined by a lot of things such as: liking mentors, instant gratification, attracted to large social movements, multitaskers, mobile, quickly bored, impatient but adaptable. One of the things that really struck me in most explanations of “Who is Gen Y?” is that for most of the generation, entertainment has almost always been an interactive experience. They have been asked or given a forum for their opinions for most of their lives.

Of course, some of these traits are shared by Baby Boomers and Gen X. While somewhat similar, Boomers and Xers had different formative experiences. Gen Y was shaped by both Iraq engagements, cell phones, cable TV, gaming, Columbine … it’s a far cry from Vietnam, rock and roll, and the civil rights movement. These events are cited as making Gen Y:
* Lack of trust in corporations and government
* Have a short-term career perspective
* Get easily bored
* Have no clear boundary between work and life
* Expect to work anytime, anyplace
* Connect with people in new and distinctive ways

And many other points.

I want to focus on just a couple of these traits to make my point. Because of social media, Gen Y believes that traditional, top-down communication is dead. In that, no one of their generation communicates this way. I bring all this up because the presentation I’m pulling most of this stuff from is from mutha-freakin’ NASA! This presentation addresses some of the tactics they will have to undertake to appeal to the Gen Y workforce because apparently just being NASA and doing some of the freaking coolest work in government isn’t enough. And that thought spawned this hypothesis: If an agency can no longer keep up employment rates among the younger workforce based on its reputation and mission, then perhaps the younger generation no longer cares about reputation.

That’s a pretty drastic generalization and it wouldn’t apply across the board, of course, but the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’m coming to think that I’m right.

First, I think most folks my age and younger have been desensitized to most forms of scandal. I think Tiger Woods is probably the best recent example. He had what was, arguably, one of the best reputations of any major sports athlete. After his scandal broke, he was (and still is) on every major gossip blog out there. From a “reputational” perspective, this would be detrimental to his career. However, using some of the meltdown stars of the recent past as examples, his very increased presence on these blogs ensures him future success. Sure, he’ll have to make pretty and do his PR right, but the simple fact that he is still on everyone’s lips means he can surface again. People my age and younger are quicker to forget.

Which sets up my next point: most Gen Y don’t care about what you’ve done but what you are doing or are going to do. Sure Lindsay Lohan is cannon fodder for anyone looking for a cheap joke. But that’s mainly because she keeps making the same mistakes. If she were to score a success, she’d be able to turn things around quickly. Look at Britney Spears or Nicole Ritchie. A little PR massaging, a little reflection and they’re not only still successful, but suddenly seen in a completely different light.

I believe this is true because, while anyone thinking about it would disagree, I argue that Gen Y, young people, generally want to have opinions fed to them. While they still may form their own opinion, social media is a place where collective opinions are quickly formed and shared. The very popularity of Twitter confirms to me that this is the case. Now, I’m not saying that a targeted PR campaign is guaranteed to be successful just because you’re telling people why you are awesome. But I am saying that if you hook a few, you’re likely to hook many.

Those are my thoughts. Yours?

Home insecurity

Living in Memphis, one is often confronted with the concept of home security. The crime rate here is such that most everyone will confront some kind of crime at some time.

I’m curious if any of my ‘net friends have ever experienced a home invasion of some kind. Further, I’m curious as to what your response was. For those who have firearms at home, have you ever thought you’d have to use it for home security? If you have been in some kind of robbery, etc., what would you do differently?

I worry about balancing home safety and home security. My kids aren’t stupid, but it only takes a very simple mistake for a horrible outcome. I can’t fathom not having a gun safe. So, that said, how do you acquire a firearm from a safe and engage a home invader in a reasonable amount of time?

There is a degree of paranoia to all this. I try not to be overly concerned, but I also don’t want to (continue to) be uncautious.

Monday, January 04, 2010

It's been a while

Some time off for Christmas, then about a week off being sick, then some more holiday time off. I don't know what I'm going to do with myself tomorrow.