Thursday, July 31, 2008

Cincinnati Chili

A week ago or so, a couple of my colleagues had a running debate over fast food and whether or not Cincinnati chili qualified as a fast food and, if so, whether it ranked among the best.

Here is John McIntyre's post on the issue.

And here are Elizabeth Large's two posts. The first one, and the second.

What do you think?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Creative Parenting

I recently guest-blogged on my friend Kate Shatzkin's "Charm City Moms" site.

It was a recounting of an episode that sprung up during one of the Remarkable Marcy's business trips when I was left in charge of the brood.

Here's the link.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Texas Tornado

I finally got around to posting this footage of a funnel cloud that I shot eight years ago when we lived in Texas.

At the time, the kids thought it was a flying "tomato" and they were fairly unimpressed with this one. That's because it wasn't the first one that flew over our Texas home. The first one had occurred a couple of years before. I was sitting with the kids in the family room and look out the window and saw what I thought was an unusual number of buzzards circling a kill. I got up and went outside to get a better look and discovered it wasn't buzzards, but shingles and other debris whirling around inside a funnel. It was maybe a mile away and considerably bigger than the one in the video above. The kids joined me outside and we watched until Courtland, who was six at the time and considerably wiser than me, said, "Shouldn't we be hiding or something?"

He was right. Where we lived in Texas, the ground was so hard that few people had basements. The houses were built on slabs and the tornado protocol was to find a center room and hunker down there. We did that, while also donning baseball and hockey helmets for extra protection. A few minutes after we found shelter, we heard what sounded more like a passing helicopter than a train, but you could definitely hear it going over us. It lasted maybe two minutes, and once it passed, the skies turned yellow and the hail started falling, followed by brief but heavy rains.

We were lucky. The funnel hopped over our house, then touched down about a mile away on a shopping center, tearing the roof off a grocery store, blowing out windows of a video store and worst of all, destroying my favorite liquor store. It hopped again to a subdivision about two miles from there, where it did considerable damage to some homes.

All that paled compared to what it had done before it reached us. About 25 miles to the north, it had ravaged the town of Jarrell, shearing homes from their foundations and killing 27 people.

Tornadoes are the types of things that are hard to look away from, but very easy to respect once you've experienced the deadly force they bring.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Pulled Pork

The prodigal bbq blogger returns for a report on the annual pulling of the pork.

The summer has been incredibly, but enjoyably, busy with the kids' baseball and softball tournaments filling up just about every weekend. But now softball is over and we have a weekend of no games before the final baseball tournament. Wayne, the baseball coach invited the team and families over to his house Saturday night for a cookout and party, so with the extra time on my hands during the day, I volunteered to smoke a couple of pork shoulders for the event.

At 6:30 in the morning I was out back, setting up the grill for indirect heating of two, 7-lb. pork shoulders. Because they took up so much space in the Weber, I had the coals and chips on only one side of the kettle, with a drip pan taking up the other half.

I used a recipe for the Lexington Pulled Pork Shoulder Rub out of Steven Raichlen's BBQ USA, but doubled the batch because of the amount of meat I was preparing. Here's the single-batch recipe from the book:

4 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard
teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

By 7:15 a.m. I had the meat on the grill. I'm not sure how many neighbors awoke to the aroma of smoking pork, but I received no complaints.

While the meat was cooking, I mixed up the old family recipe for Kentucky BBQ Dip, a perfectly peppery vinegar-based sauce that my dad used to mop on ribs, chicken, pork and mutton when I was growing up.

I checked the kettle about once an hour, adding more charcoal and soaked wood chips as needed, then started checking the temperature of the meat at about four hours in.

The photos above show the shoulders at one and three hours in. And I've discovered that they also repulse the Remarkable Marcy, who is a great fan of pigs in any form but food.

At noon, the meat thermometer in one of the shoulders surpassed 190 degrees and I pulled it from the grill. I brought it inside, covered it with foil for about 30 minutes, then began to pull it apart. By 1 p.m., the second shoulder had cooked to the proper temperature and it also came inside for cooling and pulling. When both shoulders had been pulled, I put the meat on a cutting board and chopped it up.

The pulled, chopped pork went into a foil pan where it was topped and mixed with about two cups of the bbq dip.

A couple of hours later, with the pork, additional dip, buns and a couple of side dishes, we went to the party. There were the standard burgers, dogs and sausages, but the bbq added a bit of southern flavor and class to this bash.