Wednesday, October 21, 2009

BLT Soup-

I some time back discovered Pizza Soup. Cambell's Tomato Soup, Campbell's Cheddar Cheese Soup, and whatever pizza toppings you have and want to add. Make the soup according to the instructions on the can, combining the two soups and adding the appropriate amount of water (or milk.) Add the other stuff.

Pizza Soup.

So, we are having Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato (BLT) sandwiches one day. I think, "What about BLT soup?" I think on this a while. Being a budding late-life foodie, it takes hold of me. Eventually I discuss it with my daughter, Beth. We play with food together in the kitchen, so I propose this. She does an Internet search, and we finally select Paula Deen's BLT Soup.

Yep. Someone else got there before me. That may be the great power and disappointment of the Internet. Original idea? Do a search. Someone else was already there, most of the time. As sad and disappointing as that may be, sometimes the did it better. Paula sure did.

Beth got the ingredients and did most of the prep work. I got to cook up the bacon. It is the bacon that we modified in this recipe. The recipe calls for five slices. Our family loves bacon. So, I crisp up a half pound for topping and crisp up the rest of the pound for the soup.

The rest was according to the recipe as linked. It was strange, cooking lettuce. I had never done that before. It all came together into a nice looking creamy soup. The mayo and sour cream topping seemed a bit strange, but added to a bowl of the soup and topped with a handful of crisp bacon bits and it really is something to experience.

We served ours with grilled cheese sandwiches. The soup looked very nice, with the lettuce and tomato adding color to the cream soup. That topping of mayo and sour cream was just the thing. That, and the crisp bacon bits on top. All of the flavor elements of the BLT sandwich in a hearty soup.

Be sure to prepare your ingredients before beginning. This soup requires constant attention to avoid burning the bacon and to see that the vegetables are properly wilted without over cooking. Being a cream soup it requires constant stiring. The attention is not wasted.

Trying to do preparation while the soup is cooking would invite burning somewhere along the way. Preparation in convenient containers avoids this risk and allows the soup to come together flawlessly.

It went well with conventional grilled cheese sandwiches. It encourages some experimentation in grilled cheese. This time around we were pretty conventional with the sandwiches. Next time we may go for a step or two up the cheese ladder.

That, however, is an experiment for another time.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pork Shoulder Roast-

Barbecue has not been at the top of our culinary experimentation list over the past few months. My kids and grandkids moved back home from Texas, expanding our household and shifting various family responsibilities.

Food purchasing and preparation has fallen largely to my daughter, Beth. Barbecue is not her first consideration when purchasing food or making meal plans, especially with so many young family members as part of the dining experience. After working with a few interesting cuts of meat, the focus shifted to practical daily meals.

Recently Beth discovered that Safeway (the store closest to home) can have some very good bargains on meat. However, barbecue depends on my schedule. I am available to cook only part of the week, being away for days at a time for work. So, preparation of most meals falls to her, and that means kitchen preparation.

"We should thaw out and barbecue that pork shoulder roast." she said the other day. Followed by repeated failures on her part and mine to get it out and into the refrigerator to thaw. So, yesterday being a very good day for a California barbecue, we tried a quick-thaw in repeated changes of cold water over the course of several hours.

I got my coals going, and laid the fire. The meat was oiled with Olive Oil and rubbed with my equal portions (Kosher salt/black pepper/seasoned salt) rub, and draped with bacon. I set the meat on a clean, hot grill in the cooking chamber, and placed the probe in the most distant point in the meat. The resistance of probe placement indicated that the thaw was incomplete, and might prove problematic. I continued, preparing to learn something from what might prove an error.

My thermometer did not even register internal meat temperature. "Lo" is all it said for a good part of the first hour. Not a promising beginning. We soldiered on, adding a handful of coals to the fire every twenty minutes or so. As anticipated, it took a while for the internal temperature to come up. All in all the cook took just a bit over five hours on a six pound roast. I moved the probe once the target temperature was reached. It was a few degrees lower, so I gave it another twenty minutes.

I pulled the roast out and let it rest (covered) for fifteen minutes. As I sliced the roast and cut it from the bone I found the lower part of the roast to be a bit rare. Being pork I felt that this was a bit underdone. I oiled a wok and began frying up the slices to finish. They turned out rather nicely, and the family enjoyed them with a potato dish based on Cracker Barrel cheese potatoes and a side of pork-and-beans.

Everyone satisfied I sliced what more I could from the bone and fried the slices to put away in the refrigerator. The odd chunks cut and pulled from the bone were chopped and fried with a bit more olive oil, some red wine vinegar, and a splash of soy sauce. This was put away in the refrigerator for future sandwiches.

Several lessons here. First, thoroughly thaw the meat to insure a consistent starting temperature and even cooking. Second, it is easy to fix undercooked meat. Perhaps easier than fixing meat that is overcooked and dry. Combining barbecue and frying finished this roast quite nicely, and may serve as a planned finish on some future meals.