It’s Pickling Time!!!

I got so excited about the prospect of this year’s first pickles that I took pictures to share.  I suppose if you aren’t a pickle fanatic like me, this post won’t be too exciting.  At least the pictures are nice… and I used a picture of the dill as my iPhone wallpaper which is cool (if you are a food ‘n tech geek).

IMG_2266First cucumbers of the year 🙂IMG_2270Grape leaves in the bottom of the crockIMG_2273Dill flowersIMG_2274Garlic, onion, pepper and seasoningsIMG_2276Cucumbers on top of all the goodiesIMG_22772 quarts of 5% brineIMG_2279A bowl weight to keep the cucumbers submerged while they ferment.

And now the hard part… wait a couple weeks for them to ferment… I can’t wait!

A Farewell Dinner

Bitter sweet occasion for a meal… Natalia went home to her family in Mexico after graduating from WCHS.  Spencer asked me to cook dinner for them and to share a farewell dinner with them say goodbye to Natalia.  It’s not often your teenager and his girlfriend actually want you around!

IMG_2258Caprese saladIMG_2261Salad with baguette and dipping oilIMG_2262Pan seared chicken breast and fettucine alfredo with snap peas and pancettaIMG_2263Black and red raspberry vanilla whipped cream parfait

Wine Party 2014

While the majority of the drunken debauchery can’t be shared online, the gluttony certainly can… so I thought I’d share the six course meal that accompanied all the wine.

In keeping with tradition, the first course was the charcuterie board.  The main courses were gyros, scallops, pork tenderloin and ribeye.  Again in keeping with tradition, the dessert course was chocolate fondue.

The day prior I made the gyro loaf, apricot habenero glaze and tzatziki sauce.

IMG_1812Gyro loaf seasonings

IMG_1815Gyro loaf formed in the loaf panIMG_1826Gyro loaf baked in a water bath, drained and pressedIMG_1829Apricots for jamIMG_1832Shallots and habeneros for the glazeIMG_1860Tzatziki sauce ready for stirring

The day of I made sourdough baguettes for the charcuterie board just before the guests arrived.  All else was done live with no commercial breaks or food magically appearing from backstage.

IMG_1868Ribeyes salted and peppered about and hour and a half ahead of grill timeIMG_1875The Charcuterie Board with Orange Fennel Loin, Spicy Coppa, Salami Picante and Mushroom Salami accompanied by a few cheeses included homemade goat cheeses.
IMG_1879Gyro loaf and onions being sautéed and held on the hot skillet for servingIMG_1880Gyro buffet serviceIMG_1882Enormous scallops from Noa NoaIMG_1883Scallops searing in butterIMG_1886Scallop skewers with apricot habenero glaze and bacon bits
IMG_1890I finally got to use my pig plate 🙂IMG_1891Grilled pork tenderloin and pineappleIMG_1892Plated with a little extra homemade teriyaki sauce
IMG_1896Mushrooms ready to be sautéedIMG_1902Bone-in ribeyes resting before being slicedIMG_1903Sliced ribeyes with bones on the side and the sautéed mushrooms.  Also in the background is my first ever purchased magnum bottle of wine: 1.5L of Trefethen Cabernet.
IMG_1905Chocolate fondue in the makingIMG_1906While the assorted fruit is a tradition I could carry on, the flaming of the fruit is reserved for Craig only.  Partly out of respect and partly out of fear of burning my own house down.

General consensus is that the scallops were the highlight of the evening.  The gyros were noteworthy for the homemade loaf which is about as sexy as homemade meatloaf gets.  The mushrooms were talked about more than the ribeyes, which made me laugh… maybe the wine was talking by then.  The pork and pineapple turned out very well but suffered from an “I can make that at home” lack of mystique that the other dishes possessed.

And that’s it for this year.  We’ll see what the next wine party inspires…

North Carolina Style Whole Hog Roast

Time to get caught up on the blog…

Memorial Day Weekend aka the Annual Race Day Picnic was the occasion for my first whole hog roast.  If I rewind nearly 20 years to the fall of 1994 (man, I’m old…), there’s a picture of me somewhere in overalls with a red sleeveless flannel shirt and cowboy boots in front of my hog roaster made from an a repurposed fuel oil tank.  Parke, my fraternity brother, and I brought a live pig to the fraternity house and killed, skinned, and quartered it right there on the spot.  Allegedly, the head was placed in the landscaping at Lincoln Quad (where the ISU sororities were) next to the bushes and flowers amongst the mulch….allegedly.  We wrapped the quarters in foil with sauce and onions and roasted for a few hours for the homecoming party.  Good times and good food!

Back to present day… I read a lot.  OK, so I let narrators read audiobooks to me a lot.  I read Cooked by Michael Pollan and was intrigued by the section on North Carolina whole hog barbecue.  It is my responsibility to feed those attending the Annual Race Day Party, and I chose to shamelessly use them as an excuse to try my hand at a whole hog.

I decided that a good old fashioned hole in the ground would be fitting for the event.  It also happened to be a great excuse to rent a backhoe… because who doesn’t want to play with a backhoe?!


I dug a fire pit to the left to burn wood down to coals for use in the hog pit on the right.  At this point Craig joined the fun to play with fire.  We burned wood in the hog pit to get a base of coals there, too.  And to dry it out… turns out the water table is kinda high here… it’s the little details that always get you when you try crazy things like this…


We decided that putting the pig on around midnight would work out about right for the intended meal time the next day.  The star of the show was an 80-90lb pig from Gunthorp Farms in LaGrange, IN.  The pig was cleaned and the hair removed.  The only butcher prep work to be done was splitting the spine with the cleaver so the front legs would splay.  After that, the sum total of our chef duties was to liberally salt with kosher salt.  I think this little piggy will flavor itself just fine!

IMG_1554IMG_1556Snug as a pig in a pit… not quite the same ring as snug as a bug in a rug… but pigs taste WAY better than bugs.


Jack volunteered to guard the pig pit in hopes that it would try to escape and he could eat it.


The next morning (after perhaps a beer or two and adding coals every few hours), we woke up to check on the progress, flip the pig and baste with the sauce (vinegar, salt, sugar, pepper and hot sauce).


And after about 12 hours in the sauna, it was time to pull and chop…


The wash cloths were to keep the sweat out of the food… this is not a fashion statement!

IMG_1574IMG_1576Chef’s privilege… tasting and feeding the sous chef aka chopper.  Craig made cracklins on the grill with the skin for tasty crunchy bits in the chopped pork sandwiches.


Jack and Razz volunteered for bone removal duties…


I filled an entire 28-quart cooler with chopped pork.  More than enough to feed the 20 or so people and send everyone home with too much left over pork.

Oh… and… it was absolutely DELICIOUS!!!! Tons of fun, good eating and huge success by all standards.  Maybe I should buy my own backhoe and put more pigs in the woods… you know… just in case 😉