I'm not going to linger too long on words here because my computer is acting up on me and there is nothing worse than trying to review a recipe and being confronted by a wall of meaningless text. Mrs. Slowbreak and I were tasked with hosting an extended family gathering so we decided to make some food that we knew we would like. I'll post the process along with a few photos and let you decide if it's worth making for yourself. I should also mention that I am writing this before, during and after the actual cooking so my tenses may be screwy. Sorry Jason.
First a comforting song.
Wow, cool version of one of my very favorites.
Pickles- Home pickled
Cole Slaw - with Homemade Dressing
Dinner Rolls- Homemade (kind of)
BBQ Pulled Pork- Crock Pot Edition
Cauliflower Bruschetta with Honey Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onions.
How about another song before we get started. I'm focusing on songs that are comforting and, when possible, that I listened to during some of the cooking process.
We made our own pickles. I'm not going to spend a lot of time on the specifics becuase I need to further explore this myself. It's only the second time I have tried homemade pickles so for now suffice it to say that making you're own pickles is a thing. Small cucumbers (available in your groceries produce section), vinegar, mustard seed, salt, whatever. This is a situation with promise. Anyone out there have any tips for pickling pickles?
This is another one that I am not going spend much time on other than to suggest that there is no reason to purchase this stuff in a pre made format. I'll admit that we cheated and bought a shredded cabbage mix but it's the dressing where that matter's anyway. Go ahead and buy a bottle with a zillion ingredients if you want but just know that in less then three minutes, and using ingredients you already have at home, you can make your own coleslaw dressing according to your own personal tastes. Mayo, sugar and vinegar. That's it. Add salt and lemon juice if you want. Up to you. I like less mayo and less sugar than most people. I also suggest white balsamic vinegar but do what you want because you are the one that is going to eat most of it.
Ok, smarter people out there are going to scoff at me but this one is personal so I don't care what anyone thinks. My extended family, like most, has a few food traditions and these range from complex to simple. You know what I'm talking about. Anyway, in my family system, few traditions are as important as the dinner rolls that my late grandmother made for thanksgiving and christmas. To call these homemade is a stretch but to call them secondary is fighting words.
A few years ago, when Grandma was still alive but was fighting leukemia, it became clear that she would not have the strength to make these rolls. Chemo is a bitch. Anyway, the family was worried and everyone was too intimidated to volunteer. Turkeys can vary, pie is a whipped cream delivery system, but the rolls have to be perfect or there will be nothing to be thankful for in the coming year. I volunteered and grandma told me the process. One of the steps was proofing the dough in front a specific heat vent (in the home I now live in). Here's the dirty secret, the dough is Rhodes brand which can be found in the freezer section of any grocery store. Here is the family secret, Rhodes makes a dinner roll dough which is to be ignored- buy the bread dough and make it into rolls. Don't ask me why. Just do it or don't show up at my family meal. It's how we roll (sorry).
It's pretty easy but does take some advance planning. Let the bread loaves thaw in the refrigerator for a long time (10-12 hours). They may puff up in weird ways. Don't worry about it. That's a good sign. Now grease a few sheet pans and start breaking the dough into small chunks forming them like you would form a snowball. I like to make a variety of sizes but smaller than you think is good- a baby's hand is a weirdly accurate reference. Next cover these gently and leave in a warm place to proof for another few hours (on top of a operating oven works). Last, bake at 350 for about 15-20 minutes. Simple and so good. The perfect guilty pleasure. I just hope you have plenty of real butter on hand.
Now we are making real progress so before we move on to the real food let's enjoy another comforting song.
Rick Danko everyone! Here is a more traditional version for the American Folk music historians out there. I enjoyed the version on the Dylan Basement tapes during the cooking of this food.
BBQ Pulled Pork
This is the kind of food that seems intimidating at first and then becomes embarrassing in it's simplicity the more you try it. You have a crockpot right? Use it. Now I have no doubt that better versions of this can be made usinga nice heavy dutch oven but we are going for comfort here and comfort is always easy. It has to be.
Start by sautéing onions and garlic in the oil of your choice (isn't this how all good food starts?). You can do this right in the crock pot. Once this is done throw in a big slab of pork shoulder seasoned however you want. This time it was just salt and pepper- although in the future I'll probably be a little more creative. Add a little stock or water and some apple cider vinegar. Set it to low and ignore it for a long time. We had this going overnight which I admit I was a little worried about but it worked out fine. I did get up in the middle of the night to flip it but not by plan but because around four AM it was smelling so good I had to go see what was going on. I also had to make sure the dog wasn't eating it.
Eventually the meat will flake apart at just the touch of a fork and will be obviously done. When this happens you are ready to drain out the fat and pick out the bones (if there are any). Just sift it through a colander into a large bowl and work through it putting the meat back into the crock pot as you go. Don't be afraid to save a little of the liquid fat to put back in so it doesn't dry out. At this point add some BBQ sauce and let heat back up. That's it. Serve it on a white dinner roll with pickles, coleslaw and, if you are so inclined, a little hot sauce.
This is so easy and I should mention that the process is exactly the same if want to use chicken instead. Also worth mentioning is that you could use lime, cilantro and jalapeño to mix up the theme. Tacos are always good.
Cauliflower Bruschetta with Honey Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onions
Now after all this you could still make the case that Mrs. Slowbreak and I haven't done any actual cooking. Fair enough. I think you will agree that this very tasty bruschetta changes that. The first step for any bruschetta is choosing the right bread. I found that the take and bake french bread has a nice density for our purposes but I will leave that up to you. You want this layer to be strong enough to hold the topping in place but not so thick as to overpower the real star. Slice the bread into thin slices and toast them crispy by placing them on a sheet pan and spraying them with aerosol olive oil. Sure it's better to brush the real stuff on but come on, we're not on TV so the spray stuff works fine for this application. Pull the toast out just as it begins to brown and set it aside. That part is very simple.
Concurrently to this we cut up some cauliflower and roasted it in the oven on a sheet pan until it softened and turned slightly brown. For this we again used the aforementioned olive oil spray but I think that real olive oil would probably have been a better choice here. I also added some sea salt and just a dusting of red pepper powder that I had made by grinding up a red cayenne pepper that I grew myself. We have also used brussels sprouts for for this and I think asparagus would also work so mix it up.
I also caramelized some red onions in butter and a spalsh of truffle infused olive oil. The truffle oil gave off just a touch of funk that was a perfect compliment for the honey goat cheese which I made by adding honey to goat cheese. Once all of these parts were done I chopped the cauliflower and onions slightly and mixed them together in preparation for the assembly phase.
For assembly simply spread the honey goat cheese on the toast and then top with the veggies. Top with a balsamic reduction if you want. The hardest part is not eating it all as you go. It's that good. Also, it's always nice to be reminded that there is a whole world of bruschetta out there beyond tomatoes and basil.
Lift Bridge Irish Coffee Stout
Once again, in the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that the brewmaster at Lift Bridge is a friend of mine. Still, the beer is pretty great- this one in particular. In partnership with the folks down at Five Watt coffee in South Minneapolis, Lift Bridge combines a milk stout (for a creamy effect), with their bourbon barreled imperial stout (whiskey), and coffee from Five Watt to create a beer that is as unique as it is tasty. It's like drinking an Irish Coffee except it's stout! Seriously, find this stuff and try it before it is too late.
photo credit to @toadsongs
Delicious. This last song is like musical macaroni and cheese so grab your favorite blanket and get comfortable. Also, please share your cooking or music ideas because it's going to be long summer and we are going to need nutrients for both body and soul.