Wondering how this all came about? Read the first post here.

Monday, December 21, 2009


Wait, wait, before you read on, just sit back and let that title soak into your brain a little bit. It'll make it easier to handle this idea, kind of like altitude acclimation when climbing a mountain.


OK, there. That should do it. Now turn on your speakers and hit play:

That is the sound of me realizing that there is no law of Man, Nature or God that could forbid me adding bacon to homemade Chex Party Mix. (I didn't invite the laws of Good Taste or Moderation to submit opinions.) It was immediately followed by the kind of euphoria that Newton must have felt when he conceived of gravity, or Einstein when he developed the Theory of Relativity, or Gary Clegg when he perfected the first Slanket.

The moment of inspiration came in a note from my sister-in-law Robin, (youthful) matriarch of Troubled Acres, the original home of our pig. On December 13th much of the family was gathering at the farm and then going out to cut Christmas trees. I traditionally bring a batch of homemade Chex Mix, and she mentioned that she heard about people adding bacon salt to it.

"Fie on bacon salt!" I said aloud to no one, possibly with a pirate accent. "I'm going to add BACON!"

Arrrrrr you hungry for a unique snack?

A quick search of the Interwebs found two types of bacon/Chex Mix hybrids. Bourgeois sites like epicurious.com suggested using bacon fat instead of melted butter for the seasoning. Proletarian sites like allrecipes.com had basic Chex Party Mix sprinkled with bacon salt. But as far as I could find, no one has yet thought that a meat-based snack mix was a good idea.

I was determined to prove them wrong.

The first thing to decide was what flavor combination I was going for. Chex Mix is obviously salty and savory, and so it bacon. I didn't want to overdo the savory, so I figured I would shoot for a sweet/savory mix. In addition, I wanted to make the bacon as durable (for lack of a better word) as possible - a mix might sit out, and I was worried that the high fat content of simple fried bacon might lend itself to going rancid.

The answer I settled on was candied bacon, which is bacon cooked in caramelized sugar. I have no idea if I'm right, but it seemed to me the glaze of sugar would help preserve the bacon, which is already partly preserved through smoking and brining. (Don't know if it's the same idea, but I was thinking of fruit preserves.)

I'm going to write up this recipe as if it was my own, but in reality I just looked at a bunch of recipes for candied bacon and did a little pick-and-choose of the different recipes. I then took the classic Chex Party Mix recipe and modified it to fit my needs. The source material is as follows (for fair attribution):

Candied Bacon ingredients: epicurious.com
Candied Bacon methodology: The Hungry Mouse
Chex Party Mix base recipe: Chex.com

Source: My synthesis of the above

Candied Bacon Chex Mix

Candied bacon (see below)
3 cups Corn Chex® cereal
3 cups Rice Chex® cereal
3 cups Wheat Chex® cereal
1 cup dry roasted peanuts
1 cup bite-size pretzels
1 cup garlic-flavor bagel chips, broken into 1-inch pieces
4 tablespoons bacon grease (reserved from making candied bacon)
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 ½ teaspoons seasoned salt
¾ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 pouch dried fruit pieces

Candied Bacon

8 slices bacon
1/2 cup demerara sugar (aka turbinado sugar; best known brand name is Sugar in the Raw)

Making the candied bacon
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Line a shallow pan with foil and put in light racks (I bought cheap ones at Cub rather than ruin a good cooling rack)
  • Lay out the bacon and sprinkle the top of each slice with 1 to 2 teaspoons of sugar (I used about 1 1/2 each - a nice even coating)
  • Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. 
  • The bacon should be browning and glistening, but not crinkling up or blackening. Remove the pan, flip the bacon, sprinkle each with another serving of sugar.
  • Bake for an additional 10 minutes.
  • Remove and lay the bacon on brown paper like a grocery bag to cool (NOT paper towels - the sugar will make it stick)
  • Pour off whatever grease comes easily from the pan and set it aside.

I actually did the bacon the night before and put the bacon in the fridge (after sampling a slice, of course - delicious!) The next day I made the Chex Mix proper.

  • Preheat the oven to 250 degrees; place a large roasting pan containing 4 tbsp of bacon grease (from making the candied bacon) and 2 tbsp of butter in the pan to melt as it preheats. (If you got 6 tbsp of fat, you could use just that. You just want enough melted something to coat all the mix.)
  • While it preheats, mix the cereal, peanuts, pretzels and bagel chips in a large bowl.
  • Chop the bacon into small squares and add to the mix. Mix it all up evenly.
  • Once the oven is heated and fat/butter melted, remove the pan and stir in all seasonings.
  • Stir in the cereal mix until evenly coated.
  • Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Before the final stir, sprinkle with the 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • After it's done baking, add the pouch of dried fruit bits and stir. 
  • Let it cool and store in an airtight container.
(To be fair, I was making up a lot of this as I went along. For example, I wasn't sure about the brown sugar, but when Shannon sampled it after 45 minutes she noted there wasn't enough sweetness, so I improvised.)

I started making the candied bacon Saturday night in anticipation of Sunday's trip to the farm for the tree-cutting. Unfortunately, things started going downhill at the old homestead about the time it came out of the oven.

If you don't think that looks delicious, just leave. Now.
Our 6-month old Frankie was getting very fussy, and we soon realized he had a fever. We'd not yet had to deal with any real fevers, and weren't sure what medicine to give him or in what doses. Finally at 2:00 a.m. he was so miserable and inconsolable that we called the nurseline and an on-call doctor told us to use infant Motrin. I ran to the store, picked it up and it finally did the trick.

Unfortunately, we ended up getting just a few hours of sleep, and Troubled Acres is an hour and twenty minutes away, and we were expected at noon. We decided Shannon and Frankie would stay home so he could recuperate and I would go to see my family and get our tree, as long as I could be home early. I dragged myself from bed and made the mix, but between fussing over Frankie and staring blankly at the stove in a half-sleeping stupor I missed the window to make it in time.

Pre-baked. Kind of like Woody Harrelson is never.

We missed the tree-choppin' party, but it was for the best - Frankie's fever roared back and it would have been a miserable day to abandon them. Even better, we now had 14 cups of the world's newest, best snack all to ourselves!

Unbelievably, I failed to get a picture of the finished product. So instead I'll ask that you please just stare at this blank space and imagine the most face-meltingly beautiful thing that comes to mind riding the second most beautiful thing that comes to mind and holding aloft the third most beautiful thing that comes to mind:

 "Whatever you do, Marion, DON'T OPEN YOUR EYES!"

I think this one is a winner, although I think I will continue to tweak it - maybe sub in dried apples for the assorted fruits, maybe cinnamon and nutmeg instead of the garlic and onion, go for a kind of autumnal flavor. We really weren't able to get unbiased opinions, but we both felt this current version was a great balance of sweet and savory, chewy and crunchy. The dried fruit was added to add sweetness and complement the bacon flavor, but it also ended up being a nice texture addition, since the fruit and bacon were about equally chewy. The cereal crisped very nicely in the bacon grease, and I think some of the sugar probably melted off the bacon and into the rest of the mix as it cooked.

I'd hate to guess the nutritional info, but as far as over-the-top treats go, it's probably not the worst one out there - can't be unhealthier than a slab of turtle cheesecake, for example. Really, once it's split up into human-sized servings, it's probably like having some Chex Mix and a half slice of bacon in the same day. If that's the worst thing you've eaten, well, I feel sorry for you.

The problem is that we had a hard time eating it in human-sized servings, especially with 14 cups on hand. Shannon brought a Tupperware container to work to share with her coworkers and ended up eating most of it herself. Her boss had a sample and yelled 'Keep it away from me!' for fear it would take over her life (at least, that's what I assume she meant.)

We kept it around for a week in the refrigerator, and it still tasted fine at the end of that time, so it does keep for a while. I'm going to make another batch for the family party on Christmas Eve, and I'll report back then.

Until then, stay hungry, friends!

Bacon Footnote:
This recipe didn't use the full pound I thawed, so later in the week I fried up the last few slices and made a couple grilled cheese and bacon sandwiches with sourdough and a good smoked cheddar.

Don't really need to wax philosophical on this, but in the interest of completeness I wanted to make sure I captured every recipe I make. I will note that those are Clausen dill pickles, the ones you buy in the cooler case (they're in the meat department at my local Cub). Best pickles out there, in my opinion.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Phew. It has been a heck of a week. Both Frankie (6 months old) and Shannon fell ill this past week. Frankie didn't go to daycare Monday through Thursday, and Shannon was home Wednesday to Friday. I was home for a 'staycation,' but it ended up being 'staycare' instead ('Staycare'TM Sean Haley 2009).

I had meant to have this post and the two preceding written a week ago, but just never found the time. But with this post, I'll only be one behind, and I intend to write that one up tomorrow, and then I'll be caught up heading into Christmas, or as I shall now call it, "Ham Day."

But a very quick post for this one. Following the pork chops on December 7th and 8th, the family went to Shannon's parents for a joint birthday brunch for her dad and sister, both of whom are December babies. I brought along a pound of cottage bacon to go with the egg bake, sweet rolls and fruit salad.

Pretty much can't screw that up. There was much rejoicing.

Stay tuned for my next post!


This was part 2 of the first batch of pork chops I thawed, and I decided to attack the problems I was having with tough pork directly. My first roast and first pork chops were both tougher than expected (the chops significantly more so than the roast), so I googled 'juicy pork chops' and selected a recipe. It was actually on the web site Austin360.com, but it was a reprint from the LA Times.

The recipe was embedded in an article about the secrets to juicy pork. The upshot of it was this: Don't overcook.

A valuable lesson for all of us. Photo shamelessly 

As an added plus, the recipe combined two of my most favoritist things in the world:

Source: Donna Deane of the LA Times, reprinted by Austin360.com

Pork Chops with Wine Sauce

4 medium rib or loin pork chops
1/2 tsp. sea salt or kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. minced shallots
2 Tbsp. minced carrots
2 Tbsp. minced celery
1/3 cup white wine
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 Tbsp. cold butter, cut up


  • Pat any moisture from the surface of the chops. Season with the salt and pepper. Heat the oil and butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat. Add the pork chops to the skillet and sear until both sides are nicely browned, about 3 to 4 minutes each side. Remove the chops from the skillet to a plate; cover and keep warm. Reduce the heat to low. Pour out all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the skillet. Add the shallots, carrots and celery and quickly sauté for about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the white wine and stir to deglaze the pan, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom. Stir in the chicken broth. Bring the sauce to a simmer; cook until reduced by half.
  • Add the pork chops back into the skillet along with any drippings and simmer, spooning the juices over the chops as they cook, 1 to 2 minutes or until the chops are firm and just pink in the center. Remove the chops from the skillet.
  • Add the butter, tilting the pan and swirling the butter until the sauce is slightly thickened. Serve each chop with a little sauce spooned over the top. Makes 4 servings.
First thing to do, natch, was open the wine. We had a bottle of Monkey Bay Pinot Grigio on hand, from New Zealand. (Shannon and I went to New Zealand in 2004 and spent some time in their main wine region, called Marlborough. Since then, we pretty much buy any New Zealand wine we can find; not so much because we like the wine, although that helps, but also so we can pretend we're still there.)

One for me, one for the recipe. A shiny quarter 
to the first person who guesses which is which!

The recipe itself went pretty quickly, as you can see from the instructions. The sauce was really fun to make and smelled FANTASTIC - fat, butter, veggies and wine will do that.

I was much happier with the result this time, although it was STILL not quite as tender as I would have liked. But the searing did trap in more of the juices, and I have to say, this sauce was awesome.

I still clearly have some learning to do on stovetop cooking. It's complicated by two competing facts: Undercooked pork is bad for you, but it also continues to cook after you take it off the heat. Compounding this is Shannon's terror of undercooked meat, a family tradition that has led her to cook the living bejeezus out of many fine cuts. (Before anyone complains, her mother doesn't suffer from this affliction; it runs on her father's side.)

As a result I tend to leave meat in until I'm sure it's reached the proper temperature. But since lean pork is touchy about overcooking and continues to cook even off the heat, especially for thick cuts, if it's in the pan and at the desired temperature, it's already overcooked. I just need to get the confidence to take it off the heat at the right time.

I also might look into de-boning the chops and pounding them flatter.

This is a picture of Kirk Cameron's friend Boner from "Growing Pains." 
I tried like hell to come up with some joke connecting him to my de-boning 
line in the previous sentence, but failed. Still, I had gone to the trouble 
of googling 'boner growing pains' and had downloaded this picture, 
so I figured hey, the fact that his name was Boner is pretty funny in and of itself.

It seems like everybody has a good pork chop recipe, and I need to master the pork chop before this blog is through. Send me any ideas you have. Meanwhile, my next pork chop recipe is going to be an idiot-proof slow cooker number. But before that, we're heading back to Baconville!


From 'The Simpsons' episode "Lisa the Vegetarian," 1995:

Homer: Are you saying you're never going to eat any animal again? What about bacon?
Lisa: No.
Homer: Ham?
Lisa: No.
Homer: Pork chops?
Lisa: Dad, those all come from the same animal.
Homer: Heh heh heh. Ooh, yeah, right, Lisa. A wonderful, magical animal.

'Magical' about sums it up. I daresay pigs are the Harry Potter of animals.

Beware Lord Hormelmort!

So last week, I decided to cast a spell of delicious on my first slab of pork chops. For my recipe, I went to bettycrocker.com and looked for the simplest, highest rated pork chop recipe I could find, with the largest number of ratings. The winner by a mile was the Pork Chop Skillet Dinner:

Pork Chop Skillet Dinner

   pork loin or rib chops, 1 inch thick (1 1/2 lb)
   cup Progresso® beef flavored broth or chicken broth (from 32-oz carton)
   medium potatoes, cut into fourths
   small carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
   medium onions, cut into fourths
   teaspoon salt
   teaspoon pepper

   Chopped fresh parsley, if desired

  • Remove fat from pork. Spray 12-inch nonstick skillet with cooking spray; heat over medium-high heat. Cook pork in skillet about 5 minutes, turning once, until brown.
  • Add broth, potatoes, carrots and onions to skillet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer about 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender and pork is slightly pink when cut near bone. Sprinkle with parsley.

As a modern techie chef, I skipped the printer and made the recipe a favorite on my Betty Crocker iPhone app, the most awesomest cooking app in the world and currently featured in Apple's '12 Apps of Christmas' TV commercial. And I'm not just saying that because I worked on the team that developed it. I'm saying it because it has great recipes, simple functionality, is easy to use in the kitchen, is free, works without a data connection AND because I worked on the team that developed it.

(OK, no joke, this is a shameless plug. But it's free and I really do happen to think it's pretty cool. I helped come up with how it worked, so I pushed for features I liked and knew I would use. iPhone and iPod users, give it a try: Download Here.)

After thawing for a day in the fridge, I was ready to cook. These are bone-in chops, easily an inch thick, stacked four high.

De Niro in "The Untouchables"...                                                                ...and, say, "Goodfellas"
Two immediate problems arose. One, because of the overall thickness of the stack, the middle two were not yet thawed. Second, even trimmed each was the size of my hand; even the largest skillet I own couldn't hold all four plus the other ingredients.

I immediately made a compromise: The two (thawed) chops tonight, the other two for the next night. I kind of eyeballed the other ingredients: since I was using B-reds for my potatoes, I still used four. For the carrots, I just dumped in a third of a bag of baby carrots. The onions I reduced to two.

I made a couple other modifications. I chose chicken broth, and put in much more than the recipe called for. And I dusted the chops with Penzey's Bavarian Herbs seasoning, which has become a favorite of mine (Shannon discovered that it added a lot to burgers, and since then I've used it many times.)

From there, the recipe was pretty simple:




It smelled as good as it looked. Shannon and I sat down expectantly and...


That's the sound of a table knife sawing into a tough pork chop. OK, maybe it wasn't THAT bad, certainly edible, but much tougher and drier than expected, considering it had been simmering in an inch of broth.

Now, in fairness, this is probably the fault of the chef, not the recipe. The recipe has the following text attached to it on the BettyCrocker.com site, but unfortunately doesn't show up in the iPhone app (maybe a tweak for the next version):
Follow cook times for pork carefully. Today’s pork is lean and requires shorter cook times. Overcooking pork will make it tough.
Now, I don't know if reading that would have changed anything, since I did follow times carefully. But it does emphasize how unforgiving lean meats can be when cooking over high heat - no wonder so many pork recipes are cooked slow.

The flavor was actually very good. It reminded me a lot of the roasts my mother used to make in the oven. The vegetables were fall-apart tender and incredibly savory. I was pleasantly surprised at the onions, which had a mild flavor; now it made more sense to me why the recipe would call for so many. We ladled the extra broth onto the chops to make up for the lack of juice, and we both cleaned our plates.

But even if the fault was mine, Shannon and I agreed this one deserved a lower rating. I encourage you to try this one for yourself - a lot of people obviously have good success with it, it's easy and the flavor is good. I may have to come back and try this one later in the year once I've mastered the cook times a bit more.

In the meanwhile, I had two more chops waiting in the fridge...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Let me introduce you to cottage bacon.

If you're in America, you're already familiar with what we consider 'regular' bacon, which is made from pork belly and is streaked with fat. There are a lot of different types of bacon that are basically different cuts cured and brined in similar fashion; for example, back bacon (aka Canadian bacon) is made from the loin and is very lean.

Cottage bacon is made from pork shoulder and is also lean, while still having some fat. My sister-in-law Robin from Troubled Acres suggested we get as much of the pig processed in this way as we could. So needless to say we were excited to break into our first pound.

(For the record, we got plenty of good old-fashioned American bacon too, and I plan to do something ridiculous with some of it in the spirit of bacon mania. Like a bacon sombrero filled with cocktail weenies or a Bacon Explosion or something)

But on this day it was just good old breakfast for dinner: pancakes from the griddle and cottage bacon in a cast-iron pan.
Cottage Bacon

Cottage bacon

Seriously? Am I going to do this recipe format EVERY TIME? It's bacon. Cook it. If you can't master bacon technology, you sure as heck couldn't have found this site on the AOL Internets.
The story, in pictures:
1.                                                             2.                                                           

3.                                                           4.

5.                                                            6.



I may have hallucinated a little bit in the middle there from the smell of frying bacon, although the part where Robocop rode in on the unicorn and killed the dragon was just SO vivid.

Anyway, the bacon was as delicious as advertised. Very meaty, more tender than a hamsteak but less crisp/crumbly than normal bacon. I daresay it was addictive. Shannon, after commenting that she loved the taste, noted "It's really filling. I'm finished." I immediately noticed that 'finished' apparently meant 'finished putting it on her plate' and not 'finished eating it.' I had to keep sliding the serving plate further from her side of the table to preserve any for leftovers:

It was the meal so nice we had it twice. Next time I may have to try some grilled cottage bacon, tomato and cheddar sandwiches... mmmmmm!

Monday, December 7, 2009


Another quick post: About a week later, Nov. 14th or so, we were looking for a quick evening meal. I had thawed a pound of wild rice bratwurst earlier in the week, and decided to try something I had read on the back of a package of organic chicken sausages a couple years ago.

Basically, you just pan-fry them in oil. Again, these were fresh sausages, uncooked and uncured, so it's important to make sure they're done all the way through. I keep an instant-read digital thermometer handy to eliminate guesswork and keep from overcooking them. Ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom.

Pan-Seared Wild Rice Sausages

2 tbsp olive oil
1 lb. wild rice brats

  • Heat oil until just smoking
  • Add brats and sear until crispy on all sides (about 5 min total)
  • Turn down heat and cover, cooking for until it registers 160 degrees F on a digital thermometer (another 3-5 minutes.)
  • Top and eat

Nice and simple, and REALLY good. Searing traps in the juices, of course, so they were super juicy. I had mine on a wheat bun topped with chili sauce and spicy brown mustard, and we served it with steamed asparagus and pickles.

They also were good just on their own.

I know, I know, these complicated haute couture recipes are making your head hurt. "When will he make something I can aspire to?" you are wondering.

Well just you wait. The next one dumbs it down to "Two and a Half Men" levels. See you then!


    With the first two pounds out of the way, it was time to move on to something a little more elaborate. For the following weekend (Nov. 8) I selected a pork shoulder roast and moved it to the fridge to thaw while I went trolling for recipes online.

    I wanted something that involved just enough cooking to test my 'chops' (Get it? Chops? HAHAHAHAhahahasorry) while still being basic enough to ensure success and, again, really let me taste the pork itself, since this cut had nothing added by Dennison.

    I ended up using the first result that came up when I googled 'pork shoulder roast.' It's a recipe called "Fall-Apart Tender Slow-Roast Pork" (see below) on the site ochef.com, which appears to be kind of a cool 'ask the chef' type site.

    (Interesting sidenote: Apparently Google's lawyers are getting feisty about the use of 'google' as a verb. So I'm going to use it a bunch and see if I can get free publicity out of the ensuing lawsuit. Please google 'googled' to learn more about Google and its war on googling. (Sidenote footnote: That last sentence was added to make it more likely this page will turn up on Google when Google's lawyers google 'googled' or 'googling.'))

    The things I was looking for was  a slow-cook method (I really like slow cooking, and given that this is a tougher cut, I wanted something that would make it tender without making me hit it with a hammer or marinading overnight), and I wanted the prep so easy a caveman could do it.

    What, did I offend you? Tell you what, Einstein, you invent the wheel 
    first, THEN worry about your car insurance, and then come back and 
    we'll talk about how I besmirched your intelligence.

    Anyway, on to the recipe:

    Fall-Apart Tender Slow-Roast Pork
    From Shirley Corriher, author of Cookwise (Canada, UK)

    1 pork butt roast (about 4 pounds)
    1/4 to 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
    3/4 cup light brown sugar
    1 cup apple juice
    1/2 teaspoon salt

    • Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Place the rack slightly below the center of the oven.
    • Place the pork in a casserole that is just large enough to hold it and has a lid. Sprinkle the roast on all sides with Worcestershire sauce. Then press brown sugar coating on all sides of the pork. Pour the apple juice down the side of the casserole to the bottom, being sure not to drizzle it on the crusted meat. Cover tightly.
    • Place the roast in the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 200°F (95°C). Roast without opening the oven door for about 5 hours, until the meat is so tender that it pulls apart easily. If the meat does not pull apart easily, cover, and return to the oven and roast 30 minutes more. Check again, roast 30 minutes more as needed.
    • Pull the meat apart and remove the bone. Stir the salt into the juices at the bottom of the pan. Serve meat in its delicious juice hot or at room temperature.

    Note: This can easily be done in a slow cooker. Set it on high for 30 minutes, then turn down the heat to low, and let it cook for most of the day or even overnight.

    So here's how it went down for me:

    That's good lookin' pork shoulder! As far as I know. Actually, it looks like something Fred Flintstone would eat.

    I didn't trim the fat. It seemed so thin and I assumed it would dissolve as it cooked. Wasn't a dealbreaker, but I probably should have - then the brown sugar crust and apple juice on the side could have permeated the meat there, too.

    [Five hours later]

    Mmmm, smells great! Now to pull back the foil, and...

    WHAT? Ewww, looks AWFUL! Seriously, it looked so discolored and phlegmy my heart sank. I blame the media; those food magazines and cooking shows have given me an unrealistic roast pork image, where I think it should be beautiful and glistening like a lacquered football right out of the oven. But it just goes to show you, looks can be deceiving.

    Plated. What's that you say? Am I a professional food artist? No, I
    am not, and I don't appreciate your sarcasm. I used to eat mac and 
    cheese from the pan with a spatula, so this is pretty good for me.

    The meat was DELICIOUS. It didn't shred as easily as I expected, but I didn't have time to continue roasting, either. My friend Sean smoked a butt roast at a barbecue I was at once, and when he was done it fell apart like spaghetti when twisted with a fork. Mine needed a knife, so I think I could do better, but the flavor was amazing; it was moist and sweet and salty and just for yum.

    As instructed in the recipe, I added some salt to the juice and ladled some over the pork. After dinner, I sieved the juice and ended up with a couple cups. 

    Shannon really liked this one - she wasn't as obsessed with the texture as I was, so she might actually have been a fairer judge of the flavor on its own merits.

    The next day I skimmed the fat from the au jus and made a pork sandwich for lunch with what was left of the roast. It was just a wheat bun, pork and cheddar. With retrospect I should have used a dry, porous bread like French bread to soak up the juice, but still, not bad at all.

    Unfortunately, we had just enough meat left over for the one sandwich (once cooked and de-boned, the roast was substantially smaller than when it started), but I still had 2 cups of the au jus. Seriously, I never thought I would finish that third glass of it.

    And that concludes my first real cooking. Stay tuned!

    Sunday, December 6, 2009


    First meal I made was on Nov. 1 at my friend Sean's house. Sean, his brother Tim and myself were gathered to watch the Vikings play the Packers, and I brought over eight brats, about two pounds. At halftime Sean fired up his grill and we cooked them as a last hurrah of the grilling season. We served them on wheat buns with fresh slices of red, yellow and green peppers.

    Basic Grilled Brats

    Red, yellow and green bell peppers, sliced lengthwise
    Uh, condiments, if we're going to be OCD about this list

    • Grill the brats.
    • Top the brats.
    • Eat the brats.

    I didn't think to take pictures of the meal, but here's a detailed recreation drawn in Microsoft Paint:

    Basically, in this meal I wanted to see if you could taste the quality of the meat and, since the brats were seasoned and mixed by Dennison Meats, the quality of their processing. These were fresh brats (we also ordered some wild rice brats, bulk Italian sausage and bulk plain sausage), so the flavor of the meat should really shine through.

    It may have been the sheer psychological joy of finally eating some of the pig we'd been talking about for months, but they were really, really good brats. They were juicy, lightly seasoned, just the right amount of fat. The preparation was basic - Sean is too good a pitmaster to overcook, and he uses no lighter fluid, so they had a good smoky flavor.

    Then we watched Brett Favre draw his magical sword and slay the hated Packers as he rode atop his winged lion:

    It was a pretty good day.


    OK, I'm getting behind on these, so I'm going to plow through a few posts quickly to get myself caught up. I'm writing this on December 6, and I've already made 5 meals with the half-pig, so if I ever want to be able to do these real-time I need to make up some ground and fast.

    In that spirit, these next couple posts will be a little short.

    I did think it was worth noting the sheer volume half a pig takes up, and the fact that you need to manage a few logistics to get in the game. In particular, if you don't have a chest freezer, it's not a good idea.

    Shannon and I did not own a chest freezer.

    So when Dennison Meats in Dennison, MN (behind the gas station at the southwest corner of the intersection) called to tell us our pork was ready, we had some scrambling to do.

    Our receipt. Yummy!

    I quickly went online and started researching freezers. We settled on a 5 cubic foot model from Sears. I ordered online and went to pick it up in my Ford Fusion.

    So a couple days later I came back with a coworker's SUV. Here it is in all its glory:

    A few days later I drove down to Dennison to pick up the goods. Very nice people at the meat locker, helped me get loaded up and on my way. The full 117 pounds filled 3 coolers. Here's what half a pig looks like in the freezer:

    And we're on our way!