Archive for category Other Stuff

My Annapolis-style Cream of Crab Soup

32 oz cream (one quart)

12 oz lump blue crab meat (canned is fine, do not drain)

8 tablespoons unsalted butter (one stick)

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons Sherry wine (substitute your favorite non-oaked white wine)

3 teaspoons Old Bay

1 lemon

1/2 small yellow onion, apx 1/2 cup, chopped fine

1/2 cup unsalted chicken stock

Kosher salt

Black pepper (freshly ground)

To prepare (apx. 30 minutes, serves 4):

  1. Over medium heat, melt butter in 4 qt pot. Add onions, Old Bay, juice of one lemon, and Sherry. Sweat onions, apx 5 mins.
  2. Add flour, one tablespoon at a time, stirring constantly. Do not add next tablespoon until previous tablespoon is well incorporated. Cook 2 or 3 minutes once all flour is added, stirring constantly.
  3. Turn down heat and slowly stir in cream, apx 4 oz at a time, or in a slow drizzle. Stir continually to avoid scorching the cream. 
  4. Stir in chicken stock.
  5. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and additional Old Bay.
  6. Fold in lump crab meat and liquid from the can. Cook 10 – 15 mins. Do not boil. Stir regularly and gently to avoid scorching… But not too much that you break up the lump crab.
  7. Serve with your favorite bread on the side.

   
 
Sorry I didn’t get any pictures when I served it… I was too busy eating.

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Best Drives

I’m not going to deny it… I love a good drive. Sometimes the drive is the goal, and sometimes, it just so happens that our route to somewhere takes us somewhere amazing. Beautiful scenery, beautiful location… sometimes the company, or the music, or the way the tree limbs hang over the road are what makes for a good drive. Whatever the reasons, a good drive can be ethereal and transcendent… almost an out-of-body experience (though, make sure the “body” behind the wheel doesn’t get so caught up in the experience that they put safety in jeopardy).

So, I’m going to start a post (or many posts?) to share some of the best drives I’ve been on. The links will take you to a Google Map overview I’ve tried to tie in some good pubs and breweries where I could, but this is all about the journey.

 

1. Monterey, CA to Big Sur, CA on The 1

http://goo.gl/p7fgeJ

  • My sister and her family lived in Monterey for a while, so when I was out visiting and she suggested we spend an afternoon driving down The 1 (California Coastal Highway), I jumped at the chance. It’s the most beautiful drive I’ve even been on. Thankfully, she did all the driving because I was too busy staring at the coast go by. On the way south, we stopped at Point Lobos State Park, as well. Very beautiful. We took a quick hike along the north shore of the point, then saw some otters and sea lions out amongst the rocks on the south shore. We continued the drive and pulled over on lots of pull-offs, especially the ones at the ends of Bixby Bridge. Very beautiful. We kept heading south until the road kind of cuts inland and starts following the Big Sur River (which is really just a big stream). It’s absolutely stunning, It smells like pine and cedar and fresh water. Redwoods and pines jutting up out of the gorge carved by the river. Stop at Big Sur Inn and have a bit and grab a beer in an adirondack chair set in the river. Amazing. Big Sur Bakery is great, as well, good sandwiches. Drive down to Pfeffier Beach to see some rock arches carved out by ocean waves.

The Bixby Bridge on the way to Big Sur Photo by: Chunkybrewing

The Big Sur River at the Big Sur Inn. They have chairs set out in the middle of the “river” (which is really just a big stream) so you can have a seat out amongst the rocks and riffles and enjoy a beer. Photo by: Chunkybrewing

 

 

2. Up-and-Down Squaw Mountain, near Denver, CO

http://goo.gl/ARqyp2

  • Drive west out of Denver on I-70 to Tommyknocker Brewery & Pub in Idaho Springs, CO. They have (or “had”… if it’s not on tap) a great black IPA. Grab lunch or just a couple beers and head out of town going south on Rt. 103. You basically follow Squaw Pass Road up and over Squaw Mountain… it’s a 11,000ft+ mountain in Arapaho National Forest on the eastern front range of the Rockies. There’s beautiful views from up there, so any chance you have to pull over and snap a few pics, don’t pass it up… you’ll get a few good views down to Denver once you get past Squaw Pass and begin the descent down the eastern side of the mountain. We did the drive in early Spring, so the road up to Mt. Evans (the highest paved road in the US, supposedly) was still closed for the winter, but from what I’ve read, it’s supposed to be an amazing trip up to the summit, as well. Also, you can hike to a fire lookout at the summit of Squaw Mountain, but, again, there was still a ton of snow up there so we didn’t make any side adventures… so Google that if it’s something you’re interested in.

Squaw Pass (tucked off of Squaw Pass Road) Photo by: Chunkybrewing

Looking towards Denver from the east side of Squaw Mountain (if you look close enough, you can see the Denver skyline) Photo by: Chunkybrewing

 

 

3. I-40 over the TN/NC border

http://goo.gl/jH5fDO

  •  This route my wife and me by surprise on a trip from St. Louis to the Outer Banks, NC. I Knew it would be pretty, but I had no idea it would be this awesome. Slaloming through the Smokey Mountain, following the Pigeon River… amazing… lots of rapids. It’s tight driving, as there are lots of trucks and the road seems pretty narrow. But, if you time it with sun-up, you could probably get ahead of most other vehicles and be treated to a magnificent view.  You can stop at exit 451 on the Tennessee side and see (and take a couple steps) where the Appalachian Trail crosses under I-40, then over the Pigeon River. Finish up in Asheville, NC… the craft beer mecca of the east. Thirsty Monk was my favorite… they have a huge tap list and bottle selection, you won’t be disappointed.

I-40 crossing into North Carolina. From: drivetofive.files.wordpress.com

 

 

4. Hatteras National Seashore to Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

http://goo.gl/qc4TZ4

  • This is a wonderful drive at sea-level between dune berms and dune grass… my wife and I experienced the drive on our honeymoon a few years ago. It can get *crazy* busy during tourist season, so if you want a peaceful drive, go during the late-fall or early spring. I highly recommend stopping at Coquina Beach… there’s a relocated shipwreck up in the dunes there. The Laura Barnes ran aground in fog in 1921 and the wreck was relocated to the public beach. The wooden hull of the ship is up in the dunes to the right of where the boardwalk from the parking lot meets the beach. It may not be visible (or only partially visible), though, depending on how the dunes shifted. If you have a wife, she’ll probably recognize the names of the towns you’re driving through from all those Nicholas Sparks books. But, the drive is awesome, and you can end up at one of the coolest lighthouses you’ll ever see.

The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Photo by: Chunkybrewing

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Ham Barbecues

Apparently, ham barbecue sandwiches are a Pittsburgh thing… I was describing them to my buddy, who is from St. Louis, and he had a blank stare on his face. So, I thought I’d share the recipe for one of my favorite (and probably the most easy to prepare) meals in existence… courtesy of my childhood in Pittsburgh.

Ham barbecues in the pan… ready for some hot bun action.

1 lb chopped ham from the deli at the supermarket, shaved into as thin of a slice as possible. You’ll probably have to ask for “chopped ham” by name at the counter. asked for chipped or shaved slices (basically paper thin slices). If there’s no chopped ham, just get regular ham, sliced as thin as possible.

1/2 to 1 cup Heinz ketchup. If you use some other ketchup that is not Heinz, then you are a terrible person.

1/2 to 1 cup of your favorite bbq sauce… we like Sweet Baby Ray’s.

Four or five turns of the black pepper mill.

1 bottle of Coke, Dr. Pepper, or Dr. Pepper Cherry, your choice. But I like Dr. Pepper Cherry.

Combine the ham, ketchup, and bbq sauce in a medium sauce pan. Add four or five grinds of black pepper. Stir until ingredients are combined and add a few splashes of the soda (probably 1/2 cup total) to loosen up and thin the sauce so all the ham slices break apart from each other. Cover the pot and heat on medium until boiling, stirring occasionally, then turn down to low and let simmer for about 1/2 hour, keeping the pot covered and stirring every once in a while… or there’ll be little red splatters around the kitchen.

To serve, slop some up on some hamburger buns, and you’re good to go. I like mine with a slice of yellow american cheese.

Once you get the recipe down, feel free to personalize. I’ve heard of adding chopped onion and a few squirts of yellow mustard. I came up with the soda addition. Others adds a squirt of honey or brown sugar to really sweeten them up… it’s really up to you, but these are a Pittsburgh classic!

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DIY Dryer Lint Fire Tinder Capsules

Last Fall, my buddies and I went on a camping trip to a coworkers farm in southeast Missouri. It was wonderful… a nice, crisp Fall night in late October. Leaves changing, coolness in the air, deer running and grunting around the camp site at 4AM. We prepped our site, pitched our tents, and set up our fire before dark so we wouldn’t have to fumble around the site once the sun went down. Despite waking up shivering at 2AM when my “10°-rated sleeping bag” suddenly wasn’t so warm when the temperature dropped into the lower 40’s, it was great weekend. I can’t wait to get out in the open again… maybe I’ll take the wife to a State Park this upcoming spring or Fall. Maybe not.

Awesome Manly Campfire

Even though we were out on the farm, by no means were we roughing it. We loaded up a Toyota Tundra with everything we would need… including pillows, garbage bags, a cooler with all our food and drinks, and bricks to build a firepit. That’s actually how I like to camp… car camping… get out into the controlled-wilderness with all/most of the things you’ll need to be relatively comfortable and well fed within arms reach. By no means am I planning on hiking the Appalachian Trail and living off the land like that idiot character in “Into the Wild”. But, just because I have a proclivity towards making my life as easy as possible, that doesn’t mean I don’t understand that if something really terrible were to happen, that I shouldn’t be prepared to be able to start my own fire, filter my own water, build a shelter, and generally “survive” on my own (my wife can come, too) until order can be restored or I am evacu-lifted on a helicopter or something like that (even the people stranded during Hurricane Katrina were *eventually* rescued, right?)

Car camping… not true rucking, but its a nice way to get out in the wilderness without being too exposed and unprepared.

By no means am I some sort of ” doomsday prepper”, but I understand the value in being self-sufficient and prepared for any emergency… kind of having the knowledge and a few of the supplies to “tip” the odds of making it in my favor until reinforcements arrive. I don’t have a basement full of MREs and ammunition cans, but I do have a survival knife and a manual fire striker, a kit of emergency fishing equipment, some water, and a first aid kit at the ready, should anything happen where the conveniences of modern living are suddenly unavailable and my wife and I are left to survive on our own. Missouri experiences 45 tornadoes per year, on average, so there is a real possibility that we could be subject to power outages and storm damage. We live in the New Madrid Seismic Zone, making the possibility of a large earthquake occurring very real… which subconsciously scares me (I was in DC when the 5.8 magnitude quake struck… not very fun, and a real wake up call to get ready for an emergency). St. Louis has experienced lengthy black outs… imagine the power is out for a week, not a few days, in the middle of a 100° heat wave… think things wouldn’t get very dangerous very quickly?

So, realizing the need to be prepared, should the power go out, I’d still like to have a way to cook food and sterilize water. I’d still like to keep warm should the power go out in the middle of winter or after a tornadic cold front blows through during storm season. The answer to theses needs, obviously, is fire. Plus, a fire has an inherent comfort factor (one of the reason everyone is putting firepits in their backyards)… and if you ever find yourself roughing it in the wild (even if you’re car camping) it “keeps the Boogey Man away”, as Les Stroud always says on his Survivorman show on Discovery Channel. Like I said, I believe in tipping the balance without having to go to extremes. So to tip the balance in my favor when it comes to the essential need of making fire, I made some tinder capsules… waterproof caches of fire tinder that my fire striker can easily light… which can help you get your fire going lickety-split. Btw, I absolutely realize I’m more likely to use these things to get a camp fire going during a trip to a State Park than I am to ever have to break one open to start a fire in a survival situation… but still…

Here’s how I did it…

1. Gather your supplies… you’ll need:

  • A plastic drinking straw
  • Scissors
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Scissors
  • A tea light candle
  • Lighter
  • A pencil
  • A couple of wash cycles worth of dryer lint
    • If you don’t have dryer lint on hand (and why wouldn’t you?), you could substitute some fluffed-up cotton ball or cotton pads, or the guts from a tampon.

2. Cut the drinking straw into 2 or 3 inch sections.Light the tea light so it can get burning for a minute or two. Use the pliers to clamp down on one of the ends of the straw section, while still leaving a millimeters worth of straw sticking out past the pliers.

3. Keep holding the straw section with the pliers, and pack it full of dryer lint. Use the pencil as a ram rod to compress and pack the lint in there.

4. Once it’s three-quarters filled with compressed lint, melt the end sticking out past the pliers by holding the plastic close to the flame (but not in the flame… we’re melting, not burning).

5. Once the plastic is melted, use the pliers to “clamp” down on the end of the straw… it should seal it, like this:

6. Repeat on the other end of the straw. It should now be sealed on both ends… and voila… fire tinder capsule!

7. Repeat until all the straw sections are turned into fire tinder capsules

8. Add the capsules to where they’ll be handy. I put all of mine into my Altoids Survival Tin, which I keep in a pocket on the sheath of my survival knife. Also included in my tin are: a small Leatherman multitool, a small bobbin of braided fishing line, a wire chain saw, a bobbin of snare wire, a small LED flashlight. It’s not complete, yet, but it’s better than not having anything.

To use the capsule, simply crack or cut it open, take out the tinder, fluff it up, and use at the core of your tinder bundle to grab your sparks or embers… like this:

Additional resources:

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Crispy Baked Chicken Wings

The grocery store had chicken wings on sale, so the wife and I picked up a package. When it came time to cook them, I thought of the typical options… fry, grill, bake. I didn’t feel like stinking up the house with the smell of hot oil, nor did I feel like dragging the grill out (even though it was a nice evening), so bake it was. Though the wife and I still wanted the crispiness of fried wings… thankfully, I remembered a recipe someone shared on the homebrewing forum I’m a member of… crispy baked chicken wings. Pretty simple… and here’s how it works…

1. Thaw the chicken wings, if frozen. Once thawed, you can marinate the wings in your choice of liquids… buttermilk, hot sauce, whatever. Separate the wings into drumette and flat sections.

2. Preheat oven to 400 deg F.

3. Put a quarter cup of flour in a gallon zip lock baggie… season the flour with a little seasoned slat and black pepper. Put the wings in the bag of seasoned flour and shake to coat the wings.

4. Arrange the wings on a cookie rack on an aluminum foil-lined cookie sheet. Leave a little space between the wing pieces so the heat can circulate. Spray the wings with cooking spray until the flour coating is moistened. No need to overspray.

5. Bake wings 25-30 minutes. Flip. Bake for another 25-30 minutes.

6. While the wings are in the oven, make up a sauce. You can toss the wings with whatever you want… you can use hot sauce if you want, as well. Dry ranch dressing season might be good, too. I made a sauce of 2 parts Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey BBQ sauce, 1 part Frank’s Red Hot sauce, and a couple splashes of Cherry Dr. Pepper. It was great.

7. When the wings are done and still hot, toss them in your sauce. Serve with blue cheese or ranch for dipping.

 

Insert generic picture of chicken wings… but, they’ll look like this when done.

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Mint Sun Tea

In case the three or four weeks of 100+ degree days wasn’t clear enough… summer is upon us. And, while summer is my least-favorite season, I do enjoy the memories of summer barbecues and weekends at the lake from when I was a kid. I like having those connections… maybe that’s one of the reasons I’m kind of a foodie… every meal, every ingredient sparks a connection to some memory or nostalgic feeling. I like that. And I like iced tea. I remember my pap used to put out a pitcher of sun tea at the lake cottage when we were younger… put it out, let it steep, bring it in. So, in the name of resurrecting summer time memories (and because I have a taste for iced tea), I put out my own pitcher of sun tea today… only with a twist.

Tried to make sun tea… ended up in the shade. #Firstworldproblems

Making sun tea is easy… just take your one gallon glass jug (or a translucent milk jug… or some other closed, clear glass or plastic pitcher), fill it with hot water from the sink, tie five Lipton tea bags together, plop the tea bags in the water in the jug, and let it sit in direct sunlight to steep for three(ish) hours. Just for something different, I walked over to our container herb garden, grabbed about 30 mint leaves off our mint plant, crushed them in my hand and added them to the tea as I brought it outside… voila, mint sun tea. For a little added oomph, you could use loose-leaf tea… like an oolong, a nice green tea, or maybe even milk tea… but, the Lipton bags will work just fine, as well. The mint simple syrup I keep in the fridge is a great (yet potent) sweetener… orange blossom or wildflower honey would be nice, too.

And there’s another way to use the herbs we’re growing!

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Sausage Fatty

Spent the Fourth of July hanging out at my buddy’s dad’s and stepmom’s place… it was awesome. Some good beers, good food, good company, fun with the herd of dogs… it was perfect. Coincidentally, my buddy and his dad have been embroiled in a alittle battle of who can make the best sausage fatty. Knowing the smoker would be out for today’s festivities, they decided to continue their fatty cook-off, and invited me to make a fatty, as well.

What’s a fatty, you ask? Well… it’s basically a log of meat goodness, stuffed with whatever your little culinary heart desires. Seriously… a log of meat… then, you wrap that meat log in bacon. If your brain didn’t just explode, I’m revoking your man card.

A slice of my fatty… om nom nom nomm

They’re ridiculously easy to make, too… the hardest part is weaving the bacon wrap. But, once you get the hang of how to do it, it’s not that hard. I’m not going to explain how, because I think this link from the Hog Blog does a great job explaining how to weave bacon strips.

So, once you got the idea of how to weave a mat of bacon, go ahead and get one made on a double-wide sheet of plastic wrap. Once you have that, spread a thin layer of sausage meat onto of the bacon. I went with brat meat… just sliced open the casing, squeezed out the meat, and patted it down into a thin layer. Remember, this is going to get rolled onto itself, so the meat doesn’t have to be incredibly thick. You can go with sweet or spicy Italian sausage, breakfast sausage, salisccia (“sahl-see-tsa”… a St. Louis-style sausage that taste like a mix between a brat and  an Italian sausage), kielbasa… whatever you want. It’s you fatty… do with it as you please.

Now, this is where the fun starts… you get to layer on the stuff you want stuffed inside. I went with cheddar cheese, chopped onion, minced garlic, fresh chive and parsley from our container herb garden, and prosciutto. My buddy used salisccia and stuffed his with red bell peppers, sliced onions, sliced baby portobello muchrooms, minced garlic, and provel cheese. My buddy’s dad went with ground turkey in place of the sausage, some pounded out chicken breasts, cilantro, basil, onions, mushrooms, and garlic. I’ve seen fatties stuffed with asparagus, ham, other types of peppers, jalapenos, any types of cheese… you can stick with a theme… like “Mediterranean”, or Italian… or Philly cheese steak… or just throw in whatever you have or whatever you think sounds like it’d be good stuffed inside a log of meat. Go for it.

Here’s what my sausage fatty looked like before it was rolled up… still needed a layer of prosciutto… but you can see the plastic wrap underneath to aid in rolling it all up.

Once you have it all laid out, it’s time for the hardest part of this whole process… rolling it up. It’s tough, but I’ve consumed enough burritos from Qdoba and Chipotle to have a handle on the process of rolling up something stuffed with way too much to seemingly fit in the wraper. Use the plastic wrap to help… you kind of roll it up, while pushing the meat  log back on itself… like rolling a burrito.

Here’s a visual aid to help you understand the process… wrapping starts at 2:53…

That guy made the meat log separately, then wrapped it in his bacon… like a 2 step process. I went with a one step process and built my fatty on top of my bacon. Whatever floats your boat.

Anyways, roll it up using the plastic wrap (without wrapping the plastic wrap into the fatty), then use the plastic wrap to wrap up the fatty and mold it a little more. Throw it on a baking sheet and tuck in the chill box to firm up.

After a few hours (or overnight), unwrap the fatty and smoke it… 300 degrees for about 4 hours (or until the internal temp is over 145 deg F… or 180 deg F if you fatty has poultry in it). Yes, that’s a little warmer than most smoking methods… but you want the bacon to crisp up a little but. You could grill your fatty over indirect heat, as well… or maybe even bake it in the oven (with a pan underneath to catch any drippings). But, smoking it is ideal… mainly because smoked meats are way more awesome.

Our three fatties on the smoker… mine is in the middle.

And that’s pretty much it… take the fatty off the smoker when it’s reached its proper internal temperature… let it rest for 10-15 minutes… slice and serve. Bacon-wrapped meat log… smoked… a little slice of heave, if you ask me.

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