Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Vegetarians, Avert Thine Eyes.

I like vegetables. I really do. All different shapes, sizes, and colors of vegetables. You never would have known that if you peeked in my fridge last Saturday.
On the bottom, there are two half-sheet pans holding 5 slabs of cured pork belly, patiently developing a pellicle and waiting to be smoked. (Look! A bag of leftover acorn squash, next to the pork belly! See? I like vegetables!) On another half-sheet pan above them, we find 8 hand cut NY Strip steaks. How do I know they are hand cut? I own the hands that did it. Having broken down many a beef tenderloin for filet mignon in the past, I was comfortable trying my hand at the big honking piece of meat we found, and carved it into 1.5 inch thick steaks. They are sitting, uncovered, in the fridge for a bit of dry-aging. It really only takes about 15 minutes of work to butcher out the steaks, and the price is outrageously low. This is good quality meat, made even better by the dry-aging, but because I did the little bit of extra work myself the price comes out to about $5 a steak. One steak with a couple of sides is enough to feed the two of us, so that's a pretty great deal. 
But what about that other giant lump of meat, you ask? Oh. That's 3 big slabs of baby back ribs, also destined for the smoker. Hey, if you've already got the thing fired up, might as well get the most out of it, right? We took the bacon, the ribs, and some applewood chips over to my brother-in-law's house on Sunday, smoked the bacon till it reached a mouth-smacking shade of juicy red-brown (and an appropriate internal temp) and sliced off a few strips, for research purposes, of course. Mmm. So much better than my first batch. I used pork from free-range Ossabaw hogs this time, and it's obvious. The meat is sweeter and much more tender, and the slabs are much easier to slice. Unfortunately, the price to overnight ship 25 lbs of meat from South Carolina is considerable. 
We provided the meat, so my sister and her husband provided the sides, and whipped up pasta salad, baked beans, (which sat in the smoker beneath the ribs, to catch some goodness) and a fabulous grilled romaine salad, topped with freshly smoked bacon and chopped red onions cooked in the rendered bacon fat and then deglazed with balsamic, and sprinkled with a little parmesan. Well done, K. I should have taken a picture. It was a really nice impromptu late lunch/early dinner, and we invited K's father-in-law, sister-in-law, and our mom over to share. 
Monday night the bacon was still lurking in the fridge, not yet portioned and frozen, and I couldn't resist it's siren call. "BLT", it said. "But I don't have any bread, and I haven't got time to bake any today!" I mentally wailed. "BLT!", it insisted. So I boiled up half a bag of whole wheat shells, cooled them, and tossed in some crisped bacon pieces, romaine lettuce, some great cherry tomatoes, mayo, black pepper, and celery salt. Voila, BLT pasta salad. I served it with roasted chicken breasts that I had marinated with rosemary and red jalapenos from our patio garden. Delicious.

"BLT!"

3 comments:

Ingrid said...

LOL! I like the title of your post!

Girl that's A LOT of meat! Even for a meat eater! I can't believe you butchered and smoked all of it yourself. How'd you know what to do? I'd be at a total loss.

Your BLT pasta salad sounds and looks wonderful! I love me some bacon, crispy please!

What part of FL do you live? I'm in Central,Winter Springs to be exact.
~ingrid

Rachel said...

It was a lot! I was a little shocked myself, which is why I had to take the photo. As far as the butchering, I saw a Good Eats episode about breaking down a beef tenderloin once, and decided to try it, and I've had the confidence to try whatever comes my way ever since. As for the curing and smoking, I've always been interested, and once I got Michael Ruhlman's 'Charcuterie' I just had to dive right in. Next big project is going to be homemade pastrami.
The BLT pasta salad was better than I had hoped, in fact, I wish I had some right now! Hubband says it's his new all-time favorite, so I'm pleased as punch.
We're in Central too, in Celebration!

Jude said...

Oh my.. Look at that pork belly.
Saw that Good Eats episode, too :)