Saturday, September 21

Workshop Lesson

This frame was processed in Lightroom 3.0
Here I am at Stu Levy and Don Kirby's Oregon Coast Photo Workshop. Just about to leave and I wanted to get at least one post out there.
On Thursday evening, after dinner at Bandon Bill's, some of us went back to the beach for some night photography experimentation. These are two versions of the same shot, quickly and not definitively processed. Interesting, right?
This frame was processed in Windows Live Photo Gallery

Tuesday, September 10

Read This Essay

I commend this essay to you.  It may change your life - and your death. I've excerpted the lead here with a link to no-charge access on the WSJ website.  Be warned, the story might make you cry a little, but it has a happy ending - which is also the beginning.

The Ultimate End-of-Life Plan by Katy Butler
Wall Street Journal / The Saturday Essay / September 6, 2013

My mother died shortly before her 85th birthday, in a quiet hospital room in Connecticut. One of my brothers was down the hall, calling me in California to say, too late, that it was time to jump on a plane. We were not a perfect family. She did not die a perfect death. But she died a "good-enough" death, thanks to choices she made earlier that seemed brutal at the time.

She slept in her own bed until the night before she died. She was lucid and conscious to the end. She avoided what most fear and many ultimately suffer: dying mute, unconscious and "plugged into machines" in intensive care; or feeling the electric jolt of a cardiac defibrillator during a futile cardiopulmonary resuscitation; or dying demented in a nursing home. She died well because she was willing to die too soon rather than too late.

* * * * * *

My dad's death was similar to Mrs. Butler's - except that most of his family was timely and had spent the previous day at his bedside. He did not get his wish to die at home, but he almost did. As it went, he was comfortable and happy and the passing seems to have been painless.  Thanks to his decision to let it happen and make it happen.

I'll try to follow my Dad's good example.

Monday, September 2

Slow-Roast Brisket over Almond Wood (part 3)


The Hero Hot Links
When last I posted, I was feeling pretty confident that the brisket would be done properly. I added more heat at around 11:15 and the temperature really stabilized. After awhile, I was getting nervous about over-roasting - my Mom was on the phone telling me I should check the temperature. But I didn't want to start poking lots of holes in the meat. Finally at about 11:45, I gave in  and checked the temp. It was well past my target 145° so I pulled it off and whisked it into the kitchen.  I shifted the meat to a baking stone to rest so I could re-position the grill again quickly.
The hot links took the brisket's place and roasted on the residual embers. If I'd had any fresh peaches or pineapple, I would have added those to the edges over the coals. It seemed such a waste not to have more on the grill now that the fire was so perfect and the smoke smelled so sweet.
Back in the kitchen, I sliced into the brisket, pulled off a slice and posed it for this picture, then ate it up. 
Tender and delicious - but, oh my, too salty!

The Finished Brisket
I was immediately grateful that I had my back-up links and plentiful sides...I wondered what I was going to do with six pounds of salty beef...I could slice it really thin and call it bacon...and most of all, I really hoped that the moment's rest atop the brisket had "contaminated" that tasting slice.
In the end, it was all good. The brisket rested all afternoon. My friends arrived promptly and we sipped margaritas and Mexican Coke and munched peach salsa and chips in the garden. When we sliced up the brisket and links and sat down for the real test - we were all smiles.  Happy munching all around the table. And to capit off, we had Phill and Annmarie's killer Goat Cheese Cake with Tequila-Pineapple Jam. It was all too delicious to think about making a picture.

An interesting thing happened after my guests departed for the long drive home. I was cleaning up the kitchen (a simple task because of all the advance preparation) and revisiting the flavors of the evening as I packed leftovers for storage, sopping out this and that serving bowl with leftover slices of baguette. There was the foil "tray" that had held the brisket on the grill and captured the jus. It was black and brown and greasy and I started picking at the burned bits and swiping at the brown residue. They were umami treats.

On Monday, Janet John and I trotted out the same dishes for lunch under the jacaranda tree with our neighbor, another John. It was all still good. This  time, we finished with figs from the tree just behind me, a perfect light dessert. But, inside cleaning up, I missed the cake.

Sunday, September 1

Slow-Roast Brisket Over Almond Wood (part 2)

Back again!
The 9:43 stoking went better as I achieved the more perfect temperature.
Here's my "routine" (if I've done it twice is it a routine?): 
  • pull the grill with the beef in a foil pan out and rest it on a ceramic tray,
  • cover it with the kettle lid to preserve at least some heat,
  • add wood embers and this time a couple of pieces of "fresh" wood for more smoke,
  • carefully replace the grill and the lid. Above, you see the brisket ready for to be covered up again,
  • watch the thermometer and hope it comes back to something less than 250° but more than 200°.
  • start a new batch of wood on the old embers in the staging spot.
Here is a picture of the staging spot.  When the wood catches fire, I turn the flowerpot over on it to slow down the burn.
Our kettle is pretty small. I want to put some fresh wood in for the smoke but when it catches and flames up, the heat really rises and that would totally cook my brisket. So I add mostly embers and little bits of fresh wood. As it is, the embers are just barely off to the sides, hugging - even climbing - the walls of the kettle a little. I put a ceramic bowl on the fire grate with a couple of broken bricks to make an oblong void and over that I have positioned the brisket. I hope the bricks are helping to maintain the 200° and not generating too much heat under the ends of the beef.
It is surprising how few embers it takes to keep the kettle in the correct temperature range. 
By the way, I have some hot links that will go on the grill near the end of the process and linger after the brisket comes off.  So, if I totally incinerate the beef or otherwise end up with a tough slab of gray protein matter, at least we'll have something to go with the sides.

Speaking about sides, here is the menu:
  • Texas Style Slow Roasted Brisket
  • Grandma Schipper's Tangy BBQ Sauce
  • BBQ Beans made out of Joan's Pantry
  • Lemon-Caper Potato Salad (a riff on April Bloomfield's genius recipe)
  • Diane's Goat Cheese and Tortellini Pasta Salad
  • Sliced Tomatoes from Janet's garden
  • Grandma Jones's Lime Pickles
  • Baguette (because you have to have some white bread with BBQ)
  • Phill & Annmarie's Goat Cheesecake with Tequila-Pineapple Jam
  • Delia's Choice of Wine
  • Margaritas
  • Peach Salsa and Tomato Cilantro Salsa with chips

Slow-Roast Brisket Over Almond Wood (part 1)

I am making barbeque for friends on this Labor Day weekend.  I've been wanting to try slow-roasted BBQ over wood fire for some time and was encouraged by Janet and John's success a couple of weeks ago with a pork shoulder. So here I go - and because there is plenty of waiting-around-time, I can blog.
On Saturday, I bought a six pound brisket and gave it a rub following Steve Raichlen's recipe and method and set it to cure overnight. (Sorry I didn't think about blogging this until it was too late to get the rubbed-brisket photo. It was big and reddish in a two-gallon ziplock bag.)  
It has been hot, hot, hot here this last week and just because the calendar says it's September doesn't make this day any different from late August. My plan was to get the grill going early Sunday and beat the heat. Late Saturday, I assembled the materials and tools in the BBQ zone. Then I went inside to fiddle with sides and kitchen chores and assemble more tools.
On B-Day Sunday, I was up at 6:30 and got the fire going in our kettle grill.  I used charcoal briquettes as a base (ala Steve Raichlen) and mixed in leftover almond wood that John prepped. In no time, I had a good bed of charcoal and wood embers! It smelled a divine, sweet almond flavor that I don't remember from Janet & John's fire. I hope this goes well with the slightly sweet rub on the beef and the tangy sauce we'll use at table. But when I put the lid on to measure the temperature, it was way over the top. I let it burn down a little and regretted using so many briquettes. It was taking forever and my cool morning advantage was "going up in smoke". Then I realized the other way to control heat  is to remove some of it.
I pulled about half the briquettes out to the staging fire spot in the wheelbarrow. After checking the temp again, I was ready to put the meat on the grill. Here is the setup at about 8:00am with the brisket in the kettle. Finally!
The surplus hot charcoal became the base for the next batch of fire. It's there under the clay flower pot in the photo at left. 
Now it's a matter of keeping an eye on the temperature and adding heat as necessary to maintain about 225°.  Following Janet's example, I have a thermometer in the vent on the kettle lid. Steve Raichlen says you need to supplement the fire about every hour.  My first addition was at 40 minutes in and that was a little too hot for a while. I'm hoping for the best but lower temp for longer time is the path to brisket-success. Also, I am a little concerned because this brisket seems thin to me and I suspect it will get done faster than is desirable.
I'm going to post this and go add some fire to the kettle.