pulled pork sandwich

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and here it is, folks. i told you last week how i had prepared the barbecue sauce for these sandwiches, crossing my fingers that it’d turn out right. it is always a bit of a risk to try out a new recipe and then turn around and debut it to a hungry, expectant crowd, after all.

the recipe calls for a 6- to 8-pound cut of meat, but – with my guest list in mind – i bought two 5-pound picnic roasts instead, stuck them in a baking dish side-by-side, and let the oven do its thing. and after a good, long afternoon in there, the hulking pieces of pork roasted to shredability just fine. taking tips from the recipe reviewers, i made sure the internal temperature of the meat reached about 190º f before taking it out, and i made a surplus of sauce to douse the pulled pork in (i ended up needing 1 ½ times the amount that the original recipe would have yielded). the sauce ended up being just about the perfect dressing for the rich, savory meat: sweet with just a little bit of burn.

piled onto some hamburger buns with a top plop of coleslaw and a glass of something ice-cold to wash it on down… the chatter of friends old and new filling the otherwise quiet evening air, sun setting down behind you all… why, yes. i do believe this is the way to start summer.

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blueberry crisp

this post is going to be all sorts of mediocrity. first of all, i don’t know how to shoot pictures when there isn’t sunlight available.

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meh.

those are supposed to be blueberries in a lovely yellow baking dish (that my momma bought for me, aww). but instead they are grayberries. in a reasonably yellow dish.

second, while the finished product had a nice balance of crumbly crisp topping and soppy-syrupy baked fruit beneath…

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the fruit part didn’t have enough kick to it and the crumb part had a little too much salt. maybe a lot too much.

i got the recipe from the latest issue of living, needing a way to use up a leftover half-box of blueberries. the recipe was just all right, but despite its flaws, i won’t be throwing it out entirely. for some reason i always manage to mess up crumb toppings (they are forever melting into non-crumbness in the oven, making me oh-so-sad because the topping is always my favorite part), but this one turned out just right, texture-wise. i’ll just have to fiddle around with the flavor balance some more. fortunately this round was just a test run, and nobody had to eat it except me, and luckily i will still be my friend.

here’s to hoping the dessert planned for my barbecue next weekend turns out more fantastically, because people are actually going to have to eat that one.

everything

hello, this is my mishmushmash of everything i’m currently feasting my senses on.

i’ve been so giddy that “so you think you can dance” is back on. that show never fails to captivate me at least once or twice during a given episode, to hold me very still sitting on the couch and fill me to bursting with inspiration – and possibly the sudden urge to prance, with feeling.

this performance is a good example (starts at 0:30).

the beautiful song didn’t hurt either. i was so entranced by it, in fact, that i went and looked it up, and happily discovered that the song went along with a lovely little music video. youtube is my friend.

the same episode, i was especially taken with a pair of brothers.

they are so dapper, so charming in their performances. and aside from that, i just love seeing siblings who obviously love being related to each other. “my whole life i’ve been waiting for you to grow up, so we could be best friends. you finally made it, kid.” oh sheesh, somebody put that in a movie or something, please.

i also have been listening to this song “help i’m alive” by a canadian band called metric. nobody who knows me would say this is my typical kind of song, but something about it is perfect for this summer – a song to come on the radio at the right moment, on a drive to somewhere fun, when you just gotta roll down the windows and let your hair fly around your face and turn up the volume. looks like the band’s whole album is free to preview here.

lastly, i took this recipe (my new go-to for chewy chocolate chip cookies) and swapped out one cup of flour for some unsweetened baking cocoa, and then added a teaspoon of espresso powder. i took a ziploc bagful of them to go over and watch a dvd with some friends, and at the end of the night a couple of them were squabbling over the leftovers. it’s always a good sign when your baked goods can start a fight or two.

it comes with a salad

it’s the first day of my vacation. in between making peppermint bark, watching elf, and wearing three layers of clothing, i made this meal.

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meet the sausage-stuffed potato. it is unpretentious and comforting, which is my favorite kind of thing on a gray winter day. it pairs well with a generously pilled blanket and a snuggle on the couch, i think. i believe i’ll add it to the mental list i have of perfect winter meals, which currently includes wendy’s chili and the classic grilled cheese + hot tomato soup combo. what’s even better about this dish is that the recipe practically forces you to eat a side of greens, which – you realize after some initial reluctance – conveniently cuts the heartiness of the rest of the meal perfectly. among a few other lovely things (such as onion softened in a frying pan and a pretty red smidge of tomato paste) there is a dijon sauce that gets mixed into the sausage, and a few spoonfuls of it get set aside to be whisked into a bright and peppy salad dressing. so, you know, might as well fling it on a fistful of lettuce and eat it.

after putting the potato in for a quick broil to get those lovely browned bits (i’ve got a thing for lovely browned bits), i stuck my face above the steaming plate and followed this order: meaty, crumbly sausage, a touch of creamy sauce, fluffy potato, forkful of leafy greens. repeat.

it was good.

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chocolate chip cookies

i’m sure a lot of you have your go-to recipe for chocolate chip cookies. i do, too – a gently tweaked betty crocker recipe – and i’ll probably hang onto it for one of those nights when i want something chewy gooey right this instant… or for when the apartment gets cold and i need a reason to turn on the oven. (is that sad?..) but for all other times, oh boy: this one is it.

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for breakfast

this is a lemon ginger scone. it looks so innocent and lovely here, baked up all golden and sugar-sparkled, sitting pretty next to a hot cup of coffee. but before getting into the oven, boy was that dough an uncooperative mess. it was wet and sticky and managed to gum up my pretty little fingers even after an exuberant dusting of flour everywhere.

but, as with all things in life: looks will get you in the door. or, all flaws can be redeemed. you pick your favorite. anyway, the end product tasted pretty darn great, and look —


aww, so pretty.

so, they’ve made it here. i may save this recipe for a part two, though, in which i will up the lemon zest about 200% and figure out a way to get the dough to behave. a large ice cream scoop may be involved.

Lemon Ginger Scones
adapted from this recipe, by Tyler Florence
Makes 8 scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. sugar
½ tsp. dried ginger
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cold, cut in chunks
zest of 1 lemon
2 ounces chopped crystallized or candied ginger (about twelve ¾-inch pieces)
1 cup half-and-half
1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 teaspoon of water to make an egg wash
Raw sugar, for sprinkling

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Sift together the dry ingredients: the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and dried ginger. Using 2 knives or a pastry blender, cut in the butter to coat the pieces with the flour. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs. Add the lemon zest and candied ginger pieces. (Coat the candied ginger pieces with some of the flour mixture to keep them from sticking together.)
  3. Make a well in the center and pour in the half-and-half. Fold everything together just to incorporate; do not overwork the dough.
  4. Press the dough out on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle about 12 by 3 by 1 ¼ inches. Cut the rectangle in half, then cut the pieces in half again, giving you 4 (3-inch) squares. Cut the squares in half on a diagonal to give you 8 triangles.
  5. Place the scones on an ungreased cookie sheet and brush the tops with the egg wash. Sprinkle generously with raw sugar. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown.

two-tone chocolate cream pie

i was telling you the other day how i lured some friends over with a couple of pies. first was the fresh strawberry tart, so sweet and delicate and composed of 80% fruit. now i’d like to introduce you to the chocolate pie. all cream and chocolate and butter and fluff. i.e., awesome.

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sweet, soft, saucy

pie is a great remedy for that ho-hum feeling you get in the middle of the work week. i took some time the other day to make a couple, then called over every good friend i knew to come and help eat them.

today: a portrait of the fresh strawberry tart.

i’m not a big fan of using the usual flaky pie pastry as a base for a fresh fruit filling, and i didn’t think a graham cracker crust would hold up too well either (though in any other pie situation, my heart belongs to crusts of the crushed-cookie-plus-melted-butter variety). so i went back in my files to retrieve a tart shell recipe i used last year. it comes from maury rubin, chef-owner of city bakery in new york, via this la times article. the tart dough bakes up to be rather firm and almost cookie-like, with a texture that crumbles finely in your mouth. i found it to be a lovely complement to the mound of sweet, soft, saucy berries.

to keep the strawberries from sharing too much of that sauciness with the delicately textured crust, i used a handy trick i picked up from my many years of eating store-bought tarts. i stuck a smattering of white chocolate chips in a bowl and melted them down, then used a pastry brush to apply a thin, sauce-proof layer of chocolate along the bottom of the tart shell after baking it. and that, my friends, put an end to my mushy-crust anxieties.

for the filling itself i turned to my dog-eared, thumbed-through betty crocker cookbook. to make the (luscious, glistening) sauce, a handful of strawberries were mashed down to a cup’s worth and thickened over the stove with some sugar, water, and cornstarch, into which i splashed about a tablespoon of lemon juice. i pushed it all through a sieve, then gave the strawberries a good tumble in the warm sauce. and then we had this:

and all of a sudden, wednesday night got interesting.

Fresh Strawberry Tart
adapted from Betty Crocker’s New Cookbook

Baked tart shell (recipe here)
about ¼ cup white chocolate chips, melted
1 ½ quarts strawberries (about 3 1-lb. containers)
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. corn starch
½ cup water
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

  1. Prepare baked tart shell.
  2. Use a pastry brush to brush bottom of tart shell with melted white chocolate.
  3. Mash enough strawberries to measure 1 cup. Mix sugar and cornstarch in 2-quart saucepan. Gradually stir in water and mashed strawberries. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir 1 minute; cool. Stir in lemon juice. Pour mixture through sieve, pressing with a spoon to squeeze out all the liquid; discard solids.
  4. Put remaining strawberries (washed and dried very well) in a large bowl. Pour cooked strawberry mixture over top and turn gently until all strawberries are coated. Fill tart shell with strawberries. Refrigerate about 3 hours until set. Refrigerate any remaining pie.