Unloaded 2 moving trucks, & packed and unpacked one of those
Entertained approx. 50 house guests total (including 4 overnight guests)
Grilled or braised approx. 70 lbs. of meat
Helped organize 4 work-related celebrations (weddings, birthdays, going-aways)
Planned 2 birthday soirees for people I love dearly
Taken 0 non-work-related/non-mandatory "vacations"
Gone to yoga a mere 2 times since June
Kissed Mr. Luz 1/50th of the times I should have
I've had alot of fun, and a few low-blood-sugar induced meltdowns, but it's time for a break.
I'm going home to St. Louis this weekend to spend time with Mama and Papa BaCon and BaCon Bit. While I'm there I'll drink too much beer with friends I've known for half my life, celebrate a Culinary School graduation (sooo proud of you, Nazer!), and visit my second family at Annie Gunn's restaurant and maybe cry a little because I don't see those guys enough. After that, who knows? Sleep, sunshine, and lots of trashy books, if I can help it.
Hopefully you guys are still around when I can stand the sight of my kitchen again, because my little blogging world has come to mean alot to me these past 6 months. And until then, I really will miss you, and eat more cheese!
With all the excitement, I'm on track to miss my semi-annual New Orleans visit. DC crushes my soul, so I promised myself that I would visit NOLA every six months to carry the sights, sounds, and feel of my flipflops on the old, gnarled sidewalk back with me. I can't make it back until February, so until then I will stalk my steamy, swampy lover via Google Images (Google is pretty fantastic for stalking, in general. I highly recommend it.) Right now I'm missing Plum Street, where I used to live, and it's neighborhood snowball shop.
Plum Street Snowballs serves soft, snowy shaved ice doused with dozens of flavored syrups "by the pail," and days where the owners didn't have a softball game, or a bar mitzvah, or something else keeping them from opening up shop, there will be a line around the corner and a crowd of people sitting on the sidewalk, enjoying their snowballs.
Mr. Luz and I heavily relied on Plum Street Snowballs to get us through bar studying, and we'd scrounge for change in the cushions and pay in dimes if we had to. If you went to Plum Street Snowballs on a quieter afternoon, you'd find yourself in a sunny, verdant neighborhood alongside a sleepy "mardi bike," and some lovely, friendly, genuinely happy folks. I really can't wait to go back.
The scene behind this photo was the scene I walked past every day during my last year in NOLA. God I miss those beat up sidewalks.
Photo 1--Jason Perlow on eGullet
Photo 2--from Gwen's Flickr account
Photo 3--by Infrogmation of WikiMedia
I know you are all dying to know where I'm going for vacay, and to that I say: Camp Energy Nerd in Lansing, Michigan!! No, really, it's called Camp NARUC (National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners), which directly translates into "Energy Nerd."
From their brochure, Camp NARUC:
Creates a unique opportunity for total immersion in modern regulatory theory, institutions, and processes.
Provides an opportunity to learn from highly skilled experts representing various disciplines and backgrounds.
Eeep! So excited. Because I love all that geeky stuff, but I also love...
Concerts on the quad at Michigan State University.... "Highly skilled experts" in camp-casual apparel (camp dress code) "totally immersing" themselves in the hula, and...Goodie bags! I've been needing some new pens and a cool canvas tote bag.... You so wish you were me.
I guess on a good day I get 1 reader a minute here at BaCon, but before I saw that little ticker bump up and announce that someone from the Philippines has arrived, then someone from Vermont, then...well, it was just a number. Now you're all people.
People who are professionally trained in all of this. (Ok, but Emeril, I mean it. Change your damned menus!) People who do things like judge my overuse of cliches and my laziness when it comes to adding the proper accent mark to words like "cliche." People who hate the Bacon Meme (you just wait till I make my Bacon Burlesque outfit-- top hat, corset, ect.--and Bacon jumps the shark once and for all).
But I digress. Tis' time for the First Annual Mr. Luz Birthday Extravaganza post. This post is dedicated to the one and only Party Momster. She's a Birthday-party-aholic, and you can check out her blog here. Party Momster says "I just love the permission a Birthday gives you to escape the everyday and do things you wouldn't normally do. And just be over-the-top in making someone feel special."
Well, Party Momster, Mr. Luz and I agree with you and applaud your dedication to the under appreciated art of partying. Here's to you.
Mookalakaheeki. Come on, you wanna lei me. Pass the poi, Mahalo. A Luau Menu in 4 Parts
This menu should serve 8-10 for dinner, and you can easily convert everything into appetizers. (get some Hawaiian buns and make smoked pork & pineapple salsa sandwiches, cut the ribs into small portions, and spoon the potato salad onto a lettuce wrapper pupu platter-styles.)
Char Sui Ribs: (for 6 lbs. of ribs)
This recipe was relatively easy, because the Asian-inspired ingredients added a richness to the ribs even though I didn't brown them before braising. They were sweet and mellow, and so tender that they weren't really ribs so much as piles of pork with some random bones sitting around. (Oops!) The glaze adds flavor without mess, so don't skip that part.
I think it's typical for Hawaiians to bake rather than braise these puppies, but I'm not experienced with that technique. Instead, I went with a tried and true approach and was rewarded with luscious pork ribs and a lovely soy-roasted garlic-sesame oil perfume throughout the house as the guests arrived.
2 Slabs of Baby Back Ribs (6 lbs.)
1/2 Cup Light Brown Sugar
2 Tbs. Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Hoisin Sauce
4 Tbs. Sesame Oil
4 Tbs. sliced Garlic
4 Tbs. sliced Ginger
4 Tbs. Soy Sauce (I used 2 Tbs. each of regular and low-sodium)
Trim excess fat from the ribs, and remove the tendon from the back of the ribs if you prefer. Place the ribs in a large baking dish with the meaty side facing down.
Mix the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl and pour over the ribs in the roasting pan. Add enough water to the pan so that the ribs are covered ½ way. Cover tightly with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 2.5 hours.
After 2.5 hours, check on the ribs. If they are tender, remove the ribs to a large dish and pour 4 cups of the braising liquid into a sauce pan.
Skim the fat off of the braising liquid and boil until caramelized and reduced to 2 cups. Brush the glaze over the ribs, and if desired, bake at 450 degrees for 5 minutes, or until the glaze has set on the ribs. Cut into the desired size, and serve.
Smoked Island Pork Tenderloin:
Maybe I don't have room in my "yard" to bury an entire pig with some coals and ti leaves, but I do know how to marinade and smoke stuff. Hence the inspiration for this smoked pork recipe. The pork was succulent from its milky marinade, and our guests commented that the coconut flavor was subtle, and yummy.
3 lb. Pork Tenderloin
1 can Coconut Milk (approx. 2 cups)
3 Tbs. Soy Sauce
1 Tbs. Lime Juice
1 cup Pineapple Juice
2 Tbs. chopped Garlic
3 Tbs. chopped Ginger
2 Tbs. Asian 5-Spice
Salt and Pepper
Trim the excess fat and tendon off of the pork tenderloin. Add the remaining ingredients to a blender and blend until the garlic and ginger are minced. Place the tenderloin in a non-metal bowl, and pour the marinade over the top. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours. If the marinade does not cover the pork, turn it halfway through.
Prepare the grill for smoking. Remove the pork from the marinade, and season liberally with 5-spice, salt, and pepper. Place the pork on the center of the grill, over indirect heat and the drip pan, and smoke for 40 minutes. You can turn and baste with any reserved marinade after 30 minutes, but PLEEZE keep the grill closed otherwise. The pork should be medium after 40 minutes, but smoke for an additional 20 if you want it to be well done.
Remove the pork from the grill, let it rest for 10 minutes, and serve with pineapple salsa (see below).
Kimchi Potato Salad:
This is a recipe for an easy, crowd-pleasing side dish with some interesting and unique element and a light, smoky taste. Hawaiians typically serve poi (paste from taro roots) and kimchi (vinegary, pickled cabbage)at luaus, and I struggled with how to make these elements fit with the BBQ theme.
In the end, I added wilted cabbage and vinegar to an Asian-inspired potato salad, and would have added boiled, cubed taro root if it was available. If you do use taro, be careful and do some research. There are toxins in the skin and the flesh, so take extra precautions when skinning and cooking this starchy, sweet root vegetable.
6 slices of Smoked Bacon
1 ½ Cup sliced Purple Cabbage
5 lbs. of Yukon Gold Potatoes, skinned, boiled, and cubed
2 Cups Mayonnaise
2 Tbs. Soy Sauce
1 Tbs. Sesame Oil
1 Tbs. Dijon Mustard
1 Tbs. Rice Wine Vinegar
1 Cup chopped Green Onion
½ Cup chopped Cilantro
4 dashes Hot Sauce
Salt & Pepper to taste
Cook the bacon in a frying pan over medium heat until crispy and coarse chop when cooled. Wilt the cabbage in the bacon fat and drain on paper towels.
Place the cooked potatoes in a large bowl. Add the bacon and cabbage while still warm, if possible. Mix the remaining ingredients in a small bowl, and pour over the potato mixture. Toss, chill, and serve.
Fresh pineapple is now my favorite thing ever. That should say it all.
2 Cups fresh Pineapple, chopped (reserve juices)
½ Cup chopped Cilantro
1 Jalapeno, finely chopped
1 Cup chopped Sweet Onion
1 Red Bell Pepper, finely chopped
4 Tbs. chopped Basil
2 Tbs. chopped mint
4 Tbs. Lime Juice
4 dashes Hot Sauce
Salt & Pepper to taste
Place the pineapple and any juices released from chopping in a non-metal bowl. Add the remaining ingredients, and stir. Let the salsa sit in the fridge for 1 hour to let the flavors blend. Serve well-chilled with taro chips and/or on the smoked pork tenderloin.
1. Fire & meat, but also crisp, clean summer flavors.
3. Unique dishes that are more exotic than your typical BBQ fare.
4. Mass quantities of boozy goodness can be incorporated into the menu.
5. Kiddie pool.
I quickly made the smoked pork, pineapple, and rum connection and we ended up with a Hawaiian Luau theme. I like to think that it was the food (rather than the cooler full of rum punch) that so intoxicated our guests that we were inspired to barhop in full luau gear after dinner. **At this time I'd like to give a shoutout to H street watering hole, The Pug, and the bartender who loaded the jukebox with the Beach Boys in our honor.***
I planned on making traditional Hawaiian foods, but I was limited by missing ingredients, budget, and my desire to cater to the tastes of our 16 guests. Instead, I got creative and made some yummy, Hawaiian-inspired dishes in my own slow-simmered style, and I think we ended up with an unconventional menu that was smoky, Summery, boozy, and....kiddie pool friendly?
For Mr. Luz's birthday cake, I modified a store bought white cake mix to make an easy sponge cake, then I layered it with with homemade Haupia (how-pee-uh) pudding but cheated again with a Cool Whip topping. It was an elegant, tropical, light little cake--just sweet enough because the richer cake and pudding is paired with an airy Cool Whip "icing."
Maybe it'll help you reconcile with the store bought cake mix to know that I slow-cooked 16 lbs. of pork and made potato salad & pineapple salsa for 20 while I was baking this first-ever birthday cake?
NOTE: The pudding layer didn't add a distinct icing layer, as much as it created a moist texture and a coconut-infused sponge cake. If you prefer to have a distinct layer between your cakes, I would slice each layer hoagie-bun style, and use the pudding to put the two pieces back together before assembling the entire cake with a Cool Whip layer in between.
Hawaiian Layer Cake with Haupia Coconut Pudding (modified from Hawaiiforvisitors.com)
Layer Cake: (make 2)
1 box White Cake Mix
1/3 Cup Pineapple Juice
1/3 Cup Water
2 egg whites
2 Cups Coconut Milk
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/4 tsp Salt
3 Tbsp Cornstarch
1/2 Cup Water
1 tsp Vanilla
2 Cups Cool Whip topping or a stiff gelatin-based whipped topping recipe
1 Cup Toasted Coconut
Add the cake ingredients to box of cake mix. Beat for 2 minutes, and pour into a greased an 9 inch round cake pan. Bake according to the directions on the cake box. Cool cake.
Haupia Filling Instructions:
Over low heat, heat coconut milk in a sauce pan. Do not boil. In a small bowl, add the water to the corn starch, sugar, and salt. Stir into hot coconut milk and cook, stirring constantly, until thick and pudding-like. Stir in vanilla, and cool in the fridge for at least 3 hours.
Assembling the Cake:
Spread chilled haupia pudding on the bottom (flatest) layer of the cake, reserving 1/2 cup of the pudding. Top with the top layer, and spread Cool Whip on the top layer. If you have the patience, carefully spread the Cool Whip over the bottom layer, being careful not to streak the Cool Whip with the pudding. Otherwise, spread the bottom layer with the remaining haupia pudding, letting some pudding pool around the bottom of the cake. Top with toasted coconut, and refrigerate until 1 hour before serving.