Thursday, September 12, 2013

Labor Day in the kitchen with the Big Guy

I have apologize for how late this post is in coming. I have so much to cover that it's going to Homer or some shit. The last two weeks have been a blur! But the Big Guy and I had a wonderful Labor Day weekend. We spent a large portion of it in the kitchen, whipping up new and tasty treats. I love it when my honey cooks or bakes with long as he doesn't talk to me when I'm measuring ingredients! (He screwed himself up this time by talking while he was measuring, and I had a good laugh at him.)

We started out by going on a shopping adventure that Saturday. I wish I had taken a picture of all the yummy goodness we purchased at our local processor, Dewig Meats. We picked up Cheese Beef Sticks (summer sausage), Cheese Polish Sausage (heaven!), German Bologna, "Not-So-Center-Cut" Ham (love that name), Smokey Links, Pastrami, Grippos BBQ Sauce, and a new, locally produced, bottled taco seasoning that the creators were sampling in the store. Instead of that nasty packet of dried spices and preservatives, this contains real ingredients like tomatoes, peppers, onions, etc., without the chemicals. And it's a hometown product! We also grabbed sandwiches in the store to eat while we browsed. I love that they just ask for a donation for these treats, which goes to a local charity. I had the best hot dog you could ask for and the Big Guy had bratwurst (gag). Both served on a slice of white bread folded over - nothing fancy!
Care for some meat "loaf"?
Meat in tube form. Porky goodness.
Where the magic happens.

The only thing we could not get at Dewig's that we wanted was chicken. They don't handle it. So, off to the Old Fashioned Butcher Shoppe! If you've never purchased a fresh whole chicken from a locally sourced butcher shop, go do it. You can tell just by looking at the skin and the size of the bird how differently its been raised than those large-scale commercially produced chicken. (Yes, Tyson, I'm looking at you.) And if you're intimidated by breaking down a whole chicken (like I am), the butcher will do that for you in a jiffy for free.

That evening we went to a friend's house for an experimental game of "Chopped" - Couples' Edition. J is a Pampered Chef consultant who I met several years ago and later became friends with while doing vendor events with Tupperware. She and her husband, C, and the Big Guy and I went head-to-head in a cooking competition using the same (not-so-secret) "mystery box" items. I think the boys had as much fun as we did, and I learned that I'm not the only one who's a little OCD about how my kitchen is organized. At least I haven't pulled out the label maker to mark which cabinet things go in (though maybe I should...hmmmm). C delighted in taking us all around the kitchen and pantry to show us where she's placed labels and which ones are outdated. We also had appletinis. J and I may have been a little buzzed. In short, a good time was had by all.

Sunday morning, we were terrible Methodists and skipped church to take a little road trip to meat mecca and Food Network/Travel Channel-featured Moonlite Bar-B-Q. They have the most AMAZING Sunday brunch buffet featuring stuff you don't find any other day of the week. Perfectly wet scrambled eggs, insanely salty cured bacon, savory smoked sausage, homemade donuts, fried chicken, and then - of course - bbq and all the fixins. Yes, 100 miles round trip is a long way to go for breakfast. But the drive with the Big Guy on such a beautiful sunny day made it all worth while.

Sunday afternoon we got busy in the kitchen.

Not like that. Dirty birds.

We dove in and tried something I've been talking about for a long time - and even blogged about recently - but never committed the time to: homemade bagels! The pictures below tell the story.
Little balls of dough resting on Day 1.

Fresh from the fridge on Day 2 and ready for their hot bath.

The Big Guy wanted to mark one as "his." At least, I hope that's what he's doing. Gross.

Bath time! That giant stockpot is Tupperware, by the way. Want one? I can hook you up. I know a lady.

Bagel toppings ready to go (sesame seeds, poppy seeds, coarse sea salt).

The Big Guy even took photos for me so I could move quickly from boil to topping.

Still warm from the oven...mmmmm.
Yes, making bagels is a two-day process. But when you stop and think about it, it's really not that bad. I spent about three to three and a half hours on Day 1 making the sponge, dough, and forming the bagels. But really it was only more like an hour because most of that time was just resting. Day 2 went very quickly. I think I was done in 30 minutes. I made average-sized bagels (more like Lenders, not giant like Panera Bread) and got 16 out of the batch. That's three weeks of workday breakfast which would've cost me around $14, plus gas, had I gotten them from a bakery every day. I'll try to figure out the food cost next time I make them, but I'm estimating it cost me about $3 to do this at home. That's a savings of almost $200 per year. Plus I get to take out any frustrations on the dough while I'm kneading! Win-win! I did learn something in the process. The original poster (Smitten Kitchen) said all her toppings fell off, so she would try an egg wash next time. I had the same problem but only with my sesame seeds. Lesson learned. Egg wash next time for sure!
Fatty McGee begged for a snack the whole time. Look at those sugar lips. Is he the cutest or what?
Short story I have to share. A couple of years ago the Big Guy had a second job driving a delivery truck for the local donut bakery in the mornings. Every day I begged him to bring me home a sesame seed bagel, and sometimes he obliged. One morning, as he was grabbing my warm, fresh bagel from the rack, he started talking to the owner of the bakery and asked him if they had ever tried making sea salt bagels (like the ones at Einstein Brothers that I loved so much when we lived in Florida). Owner had never heard of such a thing and thought it was a great idea. Said he would experiment with it and see how it turned out. Never heard of him trying it and Big Guy went on to a different second job. Now, here we are two years later and sea salt bagels have never shown up on the menu. But they have in my kitchen, and guess what, Donut Bank? I think we're breaking up. 

My homemade bagels were a huge success. They're pretty freakin' yummy - and chewy. Very authentically stiff and chewy, not doughy or soft and bread-y. And they freeze great as well. I put each bagel in a sandwich bag and then put as many as I could fit into a gallon freezer bag. Each morning at work I just pull one out and let it sit on my desk for a half hour to hour to thaw and then pop it in the toaster oven. Couldn't be happier. 

Before we got down with the bagels, Big Guy and I starting prepping the chicken for Monday's cooking adventure. We used this recipe for brine to keep the chicken moist while smoking it (using only herbs from our garden, thankyouverymuch). On Monday, the Big Guy pulled out the smoker and got to work.
Look at all that fresh chickeny goodness.
See those giant man-beast hands? I swear it's a perspective thing. We were not smoking tiny
chicken parts on a smoker the size of a dinner plate. My man just has giant man-beast hands.

Throughout the whole process, the skinny dog was Losing. His. Mind. He loves chicken more than almost anything in the world. This is his happy face:
It's a smile. I promise.
We were all smiles, too, when those beautiful pieces of fowl came off the smoker a few hours later. The Big Guy smelled like a campfire - a delicious, lickable campfire. This is some pretty tasty yard bird right here. Still have a bit left in the freezer that we'll be using to make homemade BBQ pizzas later. I'll post about that too. But right now, I'll just leave you with this...
Mouthwatering, isn't it?

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