Tuesday, May 31, 2011

cooking outside the LKTC

As I mentioned, I'm spending a little less than a week at home in between jobs.  For a while, when I would come back to the Lake, there were a few neighborhood places I insisted we visit. Then two of my three favorites closed.  So we've done more in-house cooking/eating.  A beyond-familiar concept to many, maybe, but not always for us.  

But what better day to turn out a southern meal and have friends over than Memorial Day?  Mom and I woke up and decided we just had to have pulled pork, which, because pork takes 8 to 10 hours in a slow cooker, demanded an early morning covert trip to the grocery in baseball caps (hey, when the entire small town knows your dad as being one of the only male teachers at his school, you are often accosted at the grocery, whether you look like you just woke up or not). Standing in line for Starbucks while Mom paid for the pork, I ran in to our good family friend.  More accurately, our good family friend had to shake my shoulder to snap me out of my Blackberry coma to say hello.  Details.

Luckily their family had also been thinking of throwing a pork in the crock pot and having people over, so we joined forces.  Before we went off on yet another (non-grocery) shopping adventure, Mom and I tossed the giant pork in a spice rub, put the crock pot on low, and hoped it'd cook in time.  When we got back, the true adventure began.  (Note: more accurately, Mom did the pork handling and I observed, for I have an irrational fear of raw meat)

I decided to try and recreate a barbeque sauce originally published by the Pioneer Woman, but introduced to me by Allie at one of our weekly dinners.  When Allie made it, I merely looked on as she fought with the chile peppers in adobo sauce, and silently patted myself on the back for volunteering to make the (easy by comparison) mac and cheese and peach cobbler.  This time, I'd be the one doing everything from onion dicing to pepper fighting. And I had also promised to help mom try a new potato dish in lieu of the now-tired mac and cheese dish.  

We didn't exactly get off to a promising start.  See, Mom received this recipe one day in a Williams-Sonoma store.  Much like other W-S recipes, it looks simple enough.  Then you read it.  And even then it doesn't sound so challenging.  Until you get to the part where you bake potatoes, then refrigerate them overnight, then grate them, skin and all.  

Wait, you refrigerate them overnight?? I stopped Mom as she was ticking off the steps.  We both shared an "oh crap" look, and Mom made the executive decision that we were not the kind of women who hand grate refrigerated potatoes.  We were the kind of women who laughed at the kind of women who grate refrigerated potatoes....as we sliced open a bag of pre-grated "Simply Potatoes." 

And that's just what we did.  So after I got the barbeque sauce going, I poured 2 bags of simply potatoes in a dish along with an obscene quantity of white cheddar, shallots, sour cream, and the bacon we decided to add (really, what doesn't taste better with bacon?).  I'll spare you the description of what it feels like to mix that with your hands.  Instead, I'll just tell you that it turns out deliciously, although we recommend going lighter on the shallots and heavier on the cheese and bacon (we call this the southern-ized version).  I will also spare you the detailed description of the two of us trying to drain the boiling liquid from the crock pot with the pork still in it. I will just tell you it wasn't super graceful. 

And despite my issues peeling an onion (see proof below) and straining adobo sauce away from peppers, the Pioneer Woman's sauce turned out as smoky and rich as I hoped it would be the second time around. Even the cobbler turned out well even though I was making it basically from memory and letting an intrepid 7 year old do all the work.  

I'd call it a successful Memorial Day impromptu dinner party all around.  I'm no Pioneer Woman, but I do a pretty good job of following directions, and I'm getting better at improvising when life just needs a little more bacon.  

(peeling an onion pretty much always goes this poorly)

(getting all the sauce ingredients lined up and opened)

(this doesn't really do the sauce justice, but really you must try it)

(improvising in action)

(gratin pan purchased just for this occasion)

(the spread, minus cobbler)

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