Other Voices, Other Rooms!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Beef Jerky, The Noblest Savage.

Beef jerky is one of my most favored food items. It doesn't remind me of the American frontier as much as it does of childhood family roadtrips and stops at long gone places like Stuckey's or Howard Johnson's.
My salesman dad got transfered frequently when I was a kid and that meant annual trips to the Alpha Quadrant, Chicago. We always lived far away in like, Atlanta, Miami or Boston and the drive would be an all day affair punctuated by stops at blue (Stuckey's) or orange (Hojo's) rooftops along I-65.

The little cigarette smoking monkeys or cardboard tomahawks, made by "Cherokee Indians In The Smokey Mountains" sold in both establishments never seemed to make the parental cut. This obviously, lead to the absolute necessity of one day possessing an excellent, Swedish Granfors Bruks 'hawk of my own as seen in the background. Dad, however, loved his jerky and we always ended up with a bag.

This particular beef comes from Bud's Custom Meats in Riverside Iowa. I have tasted many a dried, cured hunk of flesh and this is the absolute best I've ever laid teeth to. Bud's is an honest old fashioned meat locker. They'll dress your hog,  skin your buck, and even butcher your elk. Their thinly sliced, perfectly seasoned, smoked jerky is absolutely sublime. Bud will ship it right to your house for a reasonable fee if you call at (319) 648-3999

There you have it, my own little tale of the great American frontier... circa 1974.

If you want to make your own you can follow this recipe:

3 lbs of lean beef or venison (top round makes a pretty good jerky)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp instacure No. 1 (or sodium nitrate)
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup worcestershire sauce

You need to carefully remove as much fat from the meat as possible. Fat goes rancid more quickly so, get rid of the fat!
Put the meat in your freezer for about an hour. This facilitates slicing.
Slice the meat as uniformly as possible into 1/4" thick pieces. You can probably have your butcher do this for you.
Now mix the remaining ingredients thoroughly and rub the meat, coating it well.
Let the meat cure in the rub for around 12 - 24 hours, turning every few hours.
You can then apply smoke if you have a smoker like a Big Green Egg for about 6 hours at low heat, as close to 150 degrees as you can get. I like hickory or mesquite for beef.
(Look for detailed entries on smoking and the Big Green Egg in future posts.)
If you don't have a means to smoke your jerky, you can dry the meat on racks in the oven, pilot light lit and door cracked to promote air circulation for about the 6 hours.
The jerky will air dry in about 3-4 days.
You jerky will be dried enough when it cracks but does not break. Properly fixed jerky should be almost leathery.
Or you can just call Bud's in Riverside!

Today's Haul.

This is why I have to stop going to the local thrifts. Oh, if it were that simple! I ambled up to one of my favorite neighborhood junk stores, you know, just to stop in...see what's new... I am not buying anything.... I am NOT buying anything!

Why did this lemon yellow, Western Electric Sculptura phone have to be sitting there taunting me? The  Sculptura, sometimes called the Donut, is probably one of the most iconic 1970s telephones. It was produced in three colors, yellow, brown, and white and made both in TouchTone or rotary flavors. I grabbed it and carried it around, still in my heart thinking that I would leave it behind when I left.

It was the little Heath vessel that sealed my fate. Heath Ceramics is a Sausalito potter started by Chicago Art Institue alum Edith Heath way back when. Heath has pieces in the MOMA as well as my kitchen.

Good thing I kept going, because I scored a fine Digsmed Danish teak platter and bowls at the Salvation Army in San Rafael later on.

Who am I kidding? I can't stop. As this blog gets fleshed out, I may add commercial links to either ebay or etsy in case anyone wants to help me thin down a bit.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Life Is Too Short To Drink Cheap Booze Or Bad Coffee.

I have started grinding my own coffee every morning and it makes a huge difference. I used to think that was all coffee snob hype but, alas it is very true.
I've been drinking the coffee from local San Rafael, CA. roaster Equator  and it is quite good. Equator is a women owned business (who knew!) They are into bio-friendliness and sustainability, which is good for the world. The coffee is also reasonably priced at around $8.00 per pound, which is good for me.
One of the things I want to concentrate on with this blog is the art, the fine art, of thrifting. 

Lady Gaggia!

I usually hit the local thrift stores every day in search of really excellent discarded stuff. I have furnished probably 90% of my pad with thrift store or craigslist finds. It is like panning for gold. The down side is that you run the risk of getting too much and ending up on the television show Hoarders. All things in moderation said someone with a lot more discipline and restraint than I seem to have...

Thrifting is a green hobby and you can find great stuff for a fraction of what you would pay otherwise. 
I found the Gaggia MDF grinder at my local Goodwill for about $15.00. Typically this same grinder retails for around $300.00. 

Keep watching this blog for other thrift store gold!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

First Post!

Due to my ever fluctuating waistline, I've decided to do the Mark Bittman thing and delve into the vegetarian. This is what we had for dinner last night. Contrary to what Anthony Bourdain says, vegetables are good!
I'm a big fan of cooking a big batch of whatever and eating it for the next few days. The main components of these tacos are simply prepared and taste really delicious. Pinto beans and corn are both inexpensive and marry together to supply a lot of the body's needed vitamins, minerals and protein. Cheap, nutritious, and easy! What could be better?

The Pintos:

2 cups of dry pinto beans
Olive oil to taste
1 medium diced white onion

Soak the beans overnight in plenty of water. (you don't have to do this but, I always do and it seems to make the beans more tender.)
Drain and rinse the beans on the next day when you're ready to do the cooking.
Saute the diced white onion in the olive oil for about 10 minutes until everything starts to brown up nicely.
Add the rinsed beans and cover with about 2 quarts of water.
Bring your pot to a furious boil for about 10 minutes then, back off on the heat and simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour until the beans become tender. You'll know when they are getting close by giving one a bite.
Add the salt and cook the beans for about another ten minutes.

The Corn: (I copped this recipe from Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen)

4 ears of fresh, shucked corn
2 jalapeno peppers sliced into rings, seeds and all
1/2 tsp salt
The juice of 1 lime
3 tablespoons of epazote or 1/4 cup cilantro

Epazote is an ingredient largely unknown to most North American cooks. It is a Mexican herb described by Rick Bayless as having "the aggressiveness of fresh rosemary, the pungent assertiveness of cilantro and the tenacity of anise". It imparts an earthiness that once you start using, you'll  miss if its gone. I never cook black beans any more without epazote.

Carefully cut the kernels of corn from the cobs using a sharp knife
Heat a dry, heavy, cast iron or non stick skillet and add the corn and jalapenos for about 10 minutes or so until the corn starts to brown up.
In a measuring cup combine a 1/4 cup of water with the lime juice and salt, stirring until the salt is dissolved.
Add the epazote or cilantro to the corn then, drizzle the liquid over everything.
Let everything stand for a few minutes off the heat until the flavors meld and taste for salt.
Serve with more lime if you want.