Archive for April, 2012

4th April
written by Loren

Today is my father Curt’s birthday. That may not seem germane to a food website, but my old man taught me almost everything I know about cooking. How to grill a steak, make a

Definitely dad's natural element: cooking AND camping!

tomato sauce, griddle a pancake, make gravy, you name it.  Dad was a master improviser; I’ve never seen anyone else who can just stare at a pantry for a minute or two, then know instantly what he was going to do with what was on hand. Got a couple of pheasants which have been in the freezer for several years, maybe some egg noodles and half a carton of sour cream? BOOM! You’ve got pheasant stroganoff. I’m still trying to refine that skill (and that recipe).

Dad could also teach life lessons through cooking. One of the great lessons of cooking is, of course, patience.  A few hours can turn country ribs from tough and gristly to juicy and sumptuous, and similarly waiting to stir or turn meat while searing it will build up a beautiful and flavorful crust.  One day in particular, this lesson was definitely impressed on me. We had spent the afternoon pruning the apple trees by the garden, and we used those applewood tree trimmings to barbeque snd smoke a few pounds of venison chops in the weber grill. I. of course, wanted to take them off after 20 minutes because the smell was driving me insane. Dad insisted we wait, and when we finally took them off the grill about 3 hours (and about 10 layers of maple-chipotle glaze later)they were falling off the bone and insanely delicious.

As a bit of background, my parents divorced when I was about 3. For as long back as I can remember, I only had two weekends a month with my father. When you only get to see your dad for 4 days a month, every moment really becomes precious. So when it was time to cook dinner, I wanted to help my dad instead of watching TV or playing with the dogs. Whether it was a once in a lifetime meal or just something whipped up at the last minute, that was still quality time that I got to spend one on one with my old man and I wouldn’t trade those nights in the kitchen for anything in the world.

As you may have guessed from the usage of the past tense, my old man is no longer around. I lost him to a car accident when I was in high school. I don’t have a ton of material things to remember him by. I’ve got the shotgun he gave me for Christmas one year, one of his old hunting knives and his dogtags from the Navy. But that’s OK, because he gave me this incredible gift before he left – he taught me to cook, to love cooking and to put love in cooking. I knew friends in college who made it to their mid 20’s without being able to make anything that didn’t come in a box with explicit instructions (my apologies if any of you are reading this now, but I’m pretty sure I already made fun of you for this to your face anyways). While they seem to be getting along fine, I’m not sure how.  I just don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t cook as well as I can. My absolute favorite thing to do is cook for my friends and family.  It gives me great joy to spend a few hours crafting something really incredible and then give that dish to the people close to me for them to enjoy.

So on this day, what would have been Curt’s 57th birthday, I want to say thank you Dad. Though we didn’t have anywhere near enough time together, the amount of skills and knowledge and character you passed on to me by the time I turned 17 speaks to how incredible you were as a father and a role model. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about you, especially when in the kitchen, and I am undoubtedly a better man today because of our time together.

Cooking was actually second to engine repair for my dad, both in terms of his interest and ability.

2nd April
written by Arthur

After a late start to Sunday at DUB Pies, Iggy and I made our way down to the super market to pick-up something for dinner.  Right away I headed to the meat section to see if today was a cheap roast day.  I wasn’t disappointed; pork shoulder was only $1.19 a pound.  I’ve seen $0.89 a pound, but $1.19 is still a good deal.  I grabbed a smaller, eight pound, slab of meat.  Right away, I knew what the rest of the simple recipe would be.

I came-up with this a few years ago when I was home visiting Minnesota and at mother’s house without a car.  My mom had left me a pork loin and a recipe.  Though she seemed to over look the fact that the house was missing half the ingredients in that recipe.  Undeterred, I found some apples, onions, a bit of garlic, and a bit of apple cider vinegar.  Put it all together in a ceramic roasting pan covered it and let the flavors come together.  The result was a moist piece of meat, with a sweet apple sauce on the side, that has become my template for many a meal.

What You’ll Need:

  • Some pork (shoulder, butt, loin, or whatever cut you’re in the mood for)
  • A bunch of apples
  • A bunch of onions
  • Cider vinegar
  • Fish sauce

How to Cook It:

Put the meat in a dutch oven (or some other heavy roasting device with a lid).  If you have a pork shoulder, or other fatty cut of meat, be sure to put the fatty side-up so that the juices run down over the meat over the hours of cooking.

Cut some big chunks of apple and onions and fill in the sides and the space above the meat.  It’ll be packed in there, but everything is going to cook way down.  Throw in a bit of apple cider vinegar, maybe a quarter to half a cup.  Add a little fish sauce.  This is some what optional, but the umami in the fish sauce will help bring out the flavors.  Tread lightly with this stuff though, while a few tablespoons will bring out the flavors, too much will be a disaster (take a wiff of the bottle and you’ll know what I mean).  Give the garlic a rough chop and mix it in on the sides of the meat.

Now cover this bad boy, put it in the oven, and let it cook for hours.  For a pork shoulder, target maybe 45 minutes a pound.  Uncover for the last 30-45 minutes or so to give the meat a nice crisp.

The Result:

The apple and onion cook way down and fall apart and mix with the pork dripping to form a sweet and savory apple sauce perfect for pork.  After hours of cooking, the meat falls off the bone and practically shreds itself.  As an added benefit, your home will be filled with wonderful Sunday cooking smells.

After the Sunday night meal, you’re almost sure to have left overs.  The shredded pork and sauce can then easily become a great pulled pork sandwich (just add some BBQ sauce) or some pulled pork taco.  The Sunday meal that keeps on giving.

1st April
written by Arthur

I know what you’re thinking: how can I trust a place run by Australians?  Aren’t they are a bunch of untrustworthy criminals?  Well, don’t worry, DUB’s has the mellowing influence of New Zealanders to help you feel safe walking through their doors.  Try this Park Slope gem.

A few months ago, while sitting at the Double Windsor, I looked across the street and saw DUB Pies.  A little internet research revealed that DUB’s puts out the savory, rather than sweet variety, of baked treats.  As a Minnesota boy, I’ve never really had a savory pie–at least aside from the chicken pot variety.

After several visits, I can now safely say that those folks down under know what’s going on when it comes to making a pie that’s a meal rather than a desert and DUB’s has found its way into my weekend breakfast/brunch rotation.

The prices at DUB’s seem a bit steep at first at around $6 or $7 for personal sized pie (or $3 for a mini pie).  But a pie and coffee hits the wallet more lightly than a more traditional sit-down brunch and it leaves you plenty full for the day.

I’m a particular fan of the Steak Pie–filled with chucks of meat and a fantastic onion gravy–or the Mince Pie (ground beef).  Like bacon, gravy is always a winner.  These guys are filling, but small enough to avoid the food coma.

By weekend midday, the selection of pies can be touch and go.  As a result, I’ve tried some far less traditional fillings, such as chili or Thai chicken.  (I loved the chili. The Thai chicken was good, but not great, with a bit of hot sauce.)  I was only somewhat underwhelmed by the egg and cheese pie, though it was less a failing by DUB’s and more a personal unease with so much egg.  As a warning, the seating is limited, about six chairs, so go prepared to take your pies home when necessary.

If only DUB’s served-up great beer, as well as great coffee, it might win a place in the dinner rotation.