Sunday, June 27, 2010


I've never tried it before, but I grilled some flank steak today... it was quite fantastic. If you want an easy, low maintenance cut of meat, this is it. Not quite as tender as tri-tip, but really flavorful and very fast to prepare. If you feel like barbecue, but don't want to put in a whole day of work... give flank steak a try and you won't be disappointed.

I rubbed the steaks with horseradish, garlic, and olive oil, then barbecued them over very high heat. After about 4 minutes a side, they were medium rare.
After a 10 minute rest, I sliced the steaks across the grain, and sprinkled them with a bit of sea salt.
French rolls were then piled high with horseradish and the meat. I also grilled some mushrooms and potatoes that we tossed with baby greens and coated in a lemon-dill vinaigrette. It was an excellent salad, but the leftover vinaigrette was even better on the meat along with the horseradish. The lemon and dill were fresh, clean flavors that just added that extra little something that made this especially tasty.
Flank steak is definitely on my radar from now on. With a cooking time of only 8 minutes for a feast like this, its work to taste ratio is off the charts...

Saturday, June 26, 2010


My wife and I have come across a rub recipe that is pretty much always good, on just about any cut of meat, especially pork. It is an anise-garlic rub, and goes a little something like this:

Combine the following in a small bowl:
3 Tbls Olive Oil
2 Tbls Ground Anise Seed (I use a mortar and pestle to grind them)
1 Tblsp Minced Garlic
1 Tblsp Anisette Liqueur
2 tsp Kosher Salt
2 tsp Ground Black Pepper

In this case, we cooked a pork loin, but you can really adapt this to pretty much anything. I brined this pork loin in 1/4 cup salt, 2 Tbls Sugar, and enough water to cover the top of the pork in a gallon ziploc bag. If you do the brine, its best to get the pork in there for about 8 hours, but even half that time makes a difference.

Rinse and dry the meat, then heavily coat it with the rub (I think I doubled the recipe for this pork loin...), then let it rest for 30 minutes or so at room temperature, while your coals are lighting.
Place the pork over direct medium heat, and turn it every 5-10 minutes, until it is brown all over. You want to cook the pork to about 150F in the center. If the meat is getting too dark, move it away from the coals to finish cooking over indirect heat. Depending on the size of the meat, it should take 45-90 minutes or so...
Let the meat rest for at least 5-10 minutes, then slice it into 1/2" medallions. If you like, you can add some olive oil to any leftover rub, and drizzle it over the meat.
I love this recipe because, with a little planning, it is totally doable on a weekday. Something that tastes this good on a weekday is almost a crime...

Friday, June 25, 2010


I heard something on the radio the other day that really made me think. China has had a one-child per family policy for some time now, which I always thought was strange and horrifying, but I never really gave it more thought than that. Here's the part where my mind blew... If you think about the children of the first generation of only children, you'll realize that their parents had no brothers or sisters... If you think about what that really means, you'll realize that after just two generations, Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins do not exist! Of course, I'm sure that lots of people can get away with having more than one child, but the idea that a country could push extended family nearly out of existence is terrifying to me.

On a completely different note, I think everyone should go to and watch a talk that sounds interesting to them. Just about every subject is covered, and I think there is something for everyone. I never cease to be amazed and inspired by the ideas and information that I discover on that website. There is a link on the right side of this blog, but I think everyone should watch this video, which I found completely fascinating and important:

Aditi Shankardass: A second opinion on learning disorders Video on

I also thought these two were really interesting:
Pattie Maes and Pranav Mistry demo SixthSense | Video on

Keep in mind that this one is from 2006...the first TED video I ever saw, the one that got me hooked....
Jeff Han demos his breakthrough touchscreen Video on

Sunday, June 20, 2010


My idea of the perfect day is spending time with the people I love, and waiting all day for a few bites of perfect, juicy, tasty meat. That being said, my first Father's day was a huge success! I spent the whole day hanging out with family and smoking some pulled pork on the barbecue.

The pork preparation began at 10:30 in the morning... I massaged a gorgeous 4 pound pork shoulder with a blend of paprika, kosher salt, new mexico and chipotle chili powders.
I tied the shoulder up with some kitchen twine to help it hold its shape, and let it rest for a good 30 minutes while the coals got going. Once things were properly heated up, I added some mesquite chips and the pork to the grill.

With the pork over a pan of water and very low indirect heat, I checked the meat every hour, and let it cook for about 7 hours.. adding a few coals and adjusting the vents every now and then to maintain the temperature. It cooked to about 180 degrees in the center.

This is what it looked like about two-thirds of the way through cooking:
and here it is fully cooked, before shredding...
Now, I know the meat might look a little burned in the pictures, but I assure you that it was far from it... The black crust that you see is what defines real barbecue... it's called bark, and I think it is the tastiest thing on the entire planet... its kinda like crunchy, smoky, caramelized, bacony heaven. The bark is not only delicious, but it helps contain the deliciousness inside the pork shoulder.
If you click on the pictures and view them full size, you can see where little rivers of bliss have broken through the crusty bark!

From this point, the meat rested for a bit, was shredded, and had some tangy barbecue sauce added to it... We served the meat with coleslaw on a Kaiser roll, and red chard on the side... it was to die for! The only critique I can come up with is that we could have chosen a better bun: the kaiser rolls were a little dry... and something a bit moister and fluffier would have been just the ticket.

In all honesty, this was some of the best tasting meat I've ever eaten. I think the chard, coleslaw, bun, plate, and fork were all just distractions... I would've eaten this meat straight from the grill with both hands tied behind my back if it was my only option.

I think this Father's day thing is really going to work out well for me...

Sunday, June 13, 2010


We awoke a few mornings ago to find this in our garden....
I took a closer look and found that some kind of dastardly creature was so rude as to steal half the tip of our strawberry and eat it. I decided that the we couldn't afford to lose any more of our prize strawberry, and promptly picked it and cut out the eaten portion... leaving this:
I ate my half in two bites... the first bite was like no strawberry I've ever had. I can't quite explain it, but it   just had a strawberry essence that must have come from the freshness, and was just perfect. The second bite wasn't quite so magical... it was actually downright sour. I think the strawberry should have ripened for another day or two, but it wasn't to be... We've got another one turning red now, and I'm definitely going to push it to the edge before picking it.

Our garden is really picking up some steam these days... the Nordello peppers have started popping up, and so have the poblanos... and just this morning, I noticed our first tiny tomato. This is all so exciting, considering that no plant other than a cactus has ever survived my care....

Monday, June 7, 2010


My wife's dessert of choice is a brownie... not just any brownie, though, they have to be really goopy and undercooked. Quite frankly, with egg in the batter... this is a little bit gross. We happened on a discovery today that may be the beginning of a new dessert era. Called chocolate cobbler, or hot fudge cake, this creation has it all... fully cooked, crispy, chewy, and goopy... all in one glorious dish! I don't think the recipe we used is THE recipe, but I think it is definitely on its way. It had the goopy and the cakey part, but could have used more chewy and crunchy.

I thought the baking process was really interesting. It started with a thick layer of batter that was spread into the bottom of a baking dish. This layer was then covered with a dry sugar and cocoa mixture.

Some hot tap water was poured over the top of the whole thing, and it went straight into the oven, with no stirring.

This was the result... a nice, moist, cakey center, a pretty good upper crust, and a liquidy, oozy, rich chocolate sauce under it all.

This is a definite keeper, but next time, I plan on trying a different recipe... one that will hopefully give a bit more crunchiness and chewiness to the whole thing...

This is the last thing I remember seeing... When I regained consciousness, all the chocolate was gone, and I had the strangest feeling in my stomach....

Sunday, June 6, 2010


For dinner tonight, I made some Farmer John Hot Links (Louisiana Smoked Sauasage) (WHAT! FARMER JOHN??? SERIOUSLY??) I really liked them. They were just the right amount of spicy, had a really good snap to them, and were plump and juicy. I find it hard to imagine a situation where I'd rather have a hot dog than one of these puppies. Of course, one day when I have more time, I completely plan on making my own version... but until then, these will do nicely...
I charred the links over very hot coals, then put them in steamed white buns. I steamed the buns in wet paper towels for 2 minutes in the microwave. (WHAT! MICROWAVE?? WHO ARE YOU??? FIRST FARMER JOHN, AND NOW THIS??... I swear there's a good reason... keep reading) In most situations, this would be over done, as the bread comes out a little chewy, but this is exactly what I want in a bun. The little extra bit of chewiness from the microwave helps the otherwise delicate buns hold together under the extreme pressure of a plump dog and its toppings. (I used to be big on toasting the buns over the coals, but got tired of being plagued by the dreaded "disintegrating bun syndrome")
Speaking of toppings, a little sour cream was incredible on this... the coolness of the sour cream went perfectly with the spiciness of the links. Next time I'd like to try having these in sort of a "Martha Stewart style," as they call it at Pink's hot dog stand... that would be one of these hot links topped with saurkraut, 2 slices of bacon, and drizzled with sour cream... Some grilled onions and mustard couldn't hurt anyone either...

I'm just glad I didn't have any bacon or saurkraut at home, because this meal could have easily spiraled out of control... This post would have been named uberdog, and I'd be apologizing to my poor little artery friends yet again... maybe next time!

Saturday, June 5, 2010


Yesterday, I built my miter sled, and it works like a charm. I needed to cut some 45 degree miters for the toy chest I'm building and decided to do it right. Here is a picture of the jig. The whole thing slides on two runners that fit in slots on the saw table. The two fences are at 90 degrees to each other, which means that if I cut one side of a miter on the left, and the other on the right, I will always get a nice 90 degree corner. I also added a little clamping fixture which holds the work piece in position while it is being cut. This allows me to keep my fingers well away from the blade, and ensures that my cuts don't drift or shift as I push the sled.
I really like the little hold down clamps on this sled, and plan on incorporating similar clamps and a flip stop on the crosscut sled that I already have...

Friday, June 4, 2010


We had to go to Whittier for a doctor's appointment yesterday, and on the way home, we followed up a tip on an awesome Italian market, where I had one of the best sandwiches I've had in a long, long time. This market sold imported Bresaola, Coppa Seca, Prosciutto, and Sharp Provolone... all of which went onto the sandwich they made for me. My only regret is that I should have cut back on the standard toppings to let these fine meats have the center stage they deserved... the mustard, peperoncinis, etc, masked some of the subtle flavors of the meat Next time, I'm going for meat, mayo, tomato, and a little lettuce. Also, I loved the flavor of the sharp provolone, but it, too, took away from the meat. Next time, I'm going to inquire about bufala mozzarella, which would just be completely ridiculous.

We also got some sliced meat to bring home... My wife and I both decided that the Coppa Seca was our favorite. Here are a few pictures of the cuts in our fridge so that you can see what we're talking about...

This is Bresaola. It is a cured beef top round, and has a texture similar to prosciutto, except leaner and meatier. This is my second favorite cured meat.

This is the Coppa Seca. It comes from the portion of the pig that is just forward of the tenderloin, over the shoulder. This was our favorite cut. It falls somewhere between prosciutto and bresaola, in that it has some nice meatiness to it, but isn't too rich, either. I like that the fat is incorporated within the slice, instead of on the outer edge, like prosciutto.. it gives you a more balanced fattiness in every bite.

We also got some Salame, which deserves an honorable mention, although, in my opinion, the art form that is Coppa cannot be contended with... This salame was some of the best I've had, with really tasty seasonings, and just the right amount of acidity.

Our dinner last night made my already great day. We had Garruch di Pumarole (which deserves its own blog post), with a side of these incredible meats and a little Chianti....  The world suddenly just seems so right. One day, I hope to make all three of these delicious works of art on my own.... but until then, I plan on doing lots of research ;)

Thursday, June 3, 2010


In order to do a better job on my woodworking projects, I've realized that I need to spend about 50% of my time in the garage making jigs and helpful devices that are easily adjustable and re-usable. I already built a crosscut sled for my table saw, which allows me to make perfectly square 90 degree cuts very easily. Next on my list is a miter sled, which will allow me to make perfect 45 degree cuts every time.

Every time I make something like this, my work becomes a little bit more accurate, and I have new options available to me that don't require a whole lot of effort. Each time I finish a project from now on, I plan to build something for my garage before beginning a new project. In this way, I should be able to gradually improve over time, while making my time in the garage more satisfying and less frustrating.

Here is my current wish list:
Miter Sled
Adjustable Grinder Table for better sharpening
Socket Organizer
Wrench Organizer
Band Saw Rip Fence
Band Saw Miter Gauge
Workbench Tail Vice

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


I made a bookshelf for our baby's nursery, and it really reminded me why I like woodworking. Thanks to some of my cool new tools, the project went very smoothly, and was the most satisfying thing I've built in a long time. I made the bookshelf from 9" whitewood boards, and rabbeted the joints and the back. 

Here's a picture of the corner joints...
And here's the finished cabinet, installed and filled with goodies...

The next woodworking project is a toy chest, which I'm about 1/2 way finished with...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


I decided to make some Chile Verde to make this Memorial Day feel like a holiday, instead of blending in with every other day. My wife requested Chile Verde, and my brother has been asking me to post the recipe for a while now.... so here it is! (I have to confess, this recipe is not my own, but it sure is darn tasty!)

First things first... Put two big handfuls of hickory chips in a bowl of water to start soaking.

Start with a 5 pound pork shoulder. Give it a little massage with: 1 Tbs Kosher Salt, 2 tsp Pure Chile Powder, 2 tsp Oregano, 1 tsp Granulated Garlic, and 1 tsp Cumin, then wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes or so on the counter. This would be a good time to get about 30 coals lit in your barbecue.

Once the coals are hot, move half of them over to the opposite side of the barbecue, and place a pan of warm water between them. We're going for even, moist heat, and this should do the trick. If the coals are looking a little meager, add 4 or 5 per side. 

Drain the wood chips and put them on the two piles of coals. You don't want to spread them all out, which can lead to flames and bitter soot. Instead, place the chips in little concentrated piles so that they will smolder. Quickly add the pork over the water pan, and close the lid. I leave the top and bottom vents halfway open, which keeps my barbecue right around the 350F range...
Don't touch anything for 30 minutes. Don't open the lid. Don't even peek. This is a good time to make the sauce....
Puree 8 Tomatillos, 1 (7 oz) can Green Chiles, 4 Cloves Garlic, 1 small Onion, 2 tsp Oregano, 3/4 cup Dark Beer (Like Modelo Negro or Bohemia), and a fresh chile, depending on the heat you're looking for. I used half a Serrano, which seems like a good compromise if you have folks who don't like things too spicy. Pour this mixture into a foil pan, then you can go ahead and crack open the barbecue. 

This is what you should see....
Resist the urge to stand there and admire your creation. To avoid losing all your heat, you need to work quickly. Plop the pork into the pan of sauce, cover it with foil, add a few coals to each pile, and slam the lid back on as quickly as possible. Come back in an hour, rotate the pan 180 degrees, add some coals, and leave for another hour. Continue this process until the pork hits 190 F in the center... It should take 2-3 hours if you've got the temperature right.

Crack open the foil, and squeal with delight if no one else is around to laugh at you. 
At this point, you should remove any hunks of fat and gristle, and shred the pork into good sized chunks.  Drain as much fat as you can off the sauce, and put everything together in a pot. Simmer the concoction down a little bit, add 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, and add salt and chipotle tabasco sauce to taste. We like this dish best served over white rice with sour cream, chipotle tabasco, and limes. But its pretty good on a fork, too....