One of the happier recent developments in retail around here has been the inclusion of local, grass-fed beef in the offerings of a proximate but otherwise lackluster market. The selection is usually limited to a few sirloins and rib eyes, but those happy few vastly exceed the earlier number of zero; I used to have to drive 20 minutes to get any good meat, which necessitated stocking up the freezer on infrequent trips. Now, when the freezer is getting low, I can just swing by and pick something up for dinner without having to plan ahead or make a special trip. What a concept, right?
So the other weekend (before I had three simultaneous deadlines) we went to a party. A birthday party, to be exact, at the scene of the Great Oyster Slaughter of aught twelve. This time around, it was more of a pot luck, and I rummaged around in the freezer to figure out what to bring. And I found a beef heart. Problem solved!
Like a lot of people, I often default to a protein on a starch with a vegetable or two on the side when time is tight and I don’t have the brain space for improvising. But sometimes a brief moment of reflection can inspire use of the same ingredients to make something much more interesting and crowd-pleasing.
That’s what they call surf and turf in Belize, and possibly elsewhere in that region; I learned this on a dive trip there long ago. For that meal, the beef was frozen and the lobster was caught that day by our guide. In this case the lobster was frozen and the beef was fresh. This is not actually what we had for Valentine’s dinner last night, which will be another post, but was instead last Sunday’s meal. I stopped by a market on the way back from ceramics, where I’ve been working on a bunch of commissioned stuff, and in addition to the local, grass-fed sirloin they now happily carry they also had some lobster tails so I grabbed a couple to augment the fanciness quotient significantly. I’m still feeling guilty about all the cooking I did not do over the last couple of months, so I saw them as a form of crustaceous atonement.
With the show up and the opening last night done and dusted, I can now return with something like regularity to this food blogging thing.
Oh, sorry, “Internet Content Providing in the Culinary Sector.” Silly me. I get paid by the word, after all.
So the other night I was working, and the clock was ticking, and when it came time to make dinner I realized there was hiding to nothing on hand in the easy or even intermediate dinner categories. It has been a busy week. But then, as is so often the case, the freezer swooped in to the rescue, except in this case what it provided was not the sort of thing that one would normally associate with a quick save: two and a half pounds of local, grass-fed chuck of a size, shape, color, and frozen hardness most closely resembling a brick.
Today was just gorgeous, so I tried to get a few outdoor chores done since it’s supposed to take a turn for the shitty tomorrow. Among the things I managed to take care of was digging up the Thai chili plant from the garden and potting it to bring inside. I’m always frustrated at how the hot peppers really seem to be hitting their stride right when the frosts come, and this specimen is so healthy and so pretty that it seemed crazy not to let it live. I have a bay laurel, two citrus shrubs, and the lemongrass (which is now three years old; I dig it up and bring it in every fall, and it’s happy as can be) so the peppers will be a welcome addition to that aromatic arsenal. And right off the bat, I got inspired to make use of them.
We’re having a pretty stellar fall so far, with a high percentage of clear, warm days that make being outside a profound experience. It’s all I can do these days not to just bail on whatever work I need to do and just hike up into the mountains for hours at a time. Another benefit to this most beautiful and fleeting time is the fact that one can fire up the oven with no discomfort at all. And that of course allows one to dust off all the comfort food cravings that lay dormant in the heat.
I love hot dogs. In my youth, they were the Holy Grail of junk food, since we were only allowed to get them for summer cookout parties or eat them at other peoples’ houses. Every now and then, my Grandfather would make me some real Frankfurters from the Kosher deli: bunless, fatter than dogs, and with skin that I peeled off uneasily, they tasted right but the context was all wrong. I would murder hot dogs in high school when they were on the lunch menu, and once wandered Central Park with a friend eating a dog at every stand we passed. I think we had eaten seven each by the time we made it the Met to look at some paintings. Now, much later, they’re something that all three of us agree are a tasty treat, and we buy a pack of good organic ones every month or so. So making them from scratch for this month’s Charcutepalooza seemed like a no-brainer.
As I settle into a routine here at Bachelor Central, I finally treated myself to the sort of caveman meal that my wife assumes I pretty much always eat when they’re away. It’s not true, of course; lately I’ve been eating bread and cheese and salads, with nibblings of chorizo thrown in for balance. But today saw a bunch of errands run, and a long-neglected repair project finally crossed off the list, so my reward was taking myself in to dinner for a thoroughly decadent treat.