commodorified: A cartoon of a worried looking woman in a chef's hat (cooking for people who don't)
[personal profile] commodorified
So, Thanksgiving this year was sort of insane: [personal profile] fairestcat was off at the OTW retreat until the day before, Dreadful developed a urinary blockage while she was away (don't feed your male cats entirely on dry kibble, folks), and we lost a lot of sleep coping with that - he was in a lot of pain, and then on a lot of drugs, and also getting meds and subcutaneous fluids put into him on a frequent and 24-hr schedule, and then in a lot of pain again because he reblocked, and also the floor was covered in blue sheets because he was having trouble making it to the box, and his Momma was away and he needed me to wake UP, DAMMIT, and snuggle and console him ... and we had people coming, people I love and love feeding, who were expecting food and frivolity and a hostess who didn't look like grim death and smell faintly of cat pee and all manner of things.

Reader, I used boughten pastry for the pear and blackberry tarts this year. No regrets. I redeemed my tattered pride at Christmas.

And I had this ham, which was enormous, and frozen solid, because we get our meat from a local farmer's co-op which delivers monthly, and (having done nearly all the vegetable prep the day before, because Ian and I rode to the farmers' market on the Saturday as a relaxing family expedition and being stressed and surrounded by good things went approximately mad and bought carrots, beets, squash, kale, sprouts, leeks, mushrooms and two or three other things and then realised how much chopping we'd let ourselves in for) I couldn't face the prospect of getting up at 6 o'clock in the clear bright to wrangle a vast and surly brick of meat through spicing and into the oven.

(ACTUAL COOKING DISCUSSION STARTS HERE)

So I started the ham the night before, from frozen, at 200F. Just popped it into an enamelled cast iron pot skin-side-up, piled some dark honey and some seedy mustard on the frozen surface, slapped the lid on, put it in the oven on a rack set one slot up from the bottom, said a quick prayer to the patron saint of Cat Mothers With Guests Arriving and went to bed, hoping it wouldn't be awful.

Friends, it was spectacular. Seriously. The one downside was, it fell apart, so it wasn't as festive-looking as a whole ham for carving would have been. Nobody cared. It was goddamn amazing, is what I'm saying.

I have since done this with pork shoulder, beef ribs, lamb shanks, and stewing mutton, and they have all - well, the mutton is in the oven right now but all the signs are good - been ridiculously good.

I like this method better than slow-cookers, which I have trouble with because the super-slow setting I find leaves meat bland and naked-looking and the "combination" setting frequently overcooks things in that way where they're not burnt they just taste like old shoes. For lentil and bean things I still love my slowcooker, but for meat it's been replaced.

(I feel compelled to say that my Hydro bill does not prefer this approach. On the other hand, it's winter, and we probably save some of it back on the furnace.)

So, here is the (ludicrously simple) method.

Before going to bed, assemble in a heavy pot with a tightly-fitting lid (we haunt the sales at Canadian Tire and the houseware department at Value Village and have now got a nice selection of completely mismatched heavy enamelled cast-iron in different sizes. If you can score one somehow, do so. If not, it is worth buying the heaviest pot-and-lid you can afford/manage to locate, not just for this but for many, many things):

Your meat: roast, ribs, stew meat, whatever. From frozen is fine, fresh is fine.

Your spicing and flavourings: pork shoulder (the farm we get the hams from has these amazing roasts so we do one a month) with

A) a lot of chopped apples (Macs or other tart ones) and cooking onions plus Penzey's Tsardust

B) pepper and salt and garlic and dried onions and Tsardust and a vast heap of cabbage,

C) A good bbq sauce, and a lot of chopped onions. This is fairly classic pulled pork, as opposed to the weird variations we've devised.

Also: beef ribs with beef broth, bouquet garni (I make my own and have made my own Tsardust and you can too: that's just to get you started), salt, pepper, onions, carrots and potatos, or you can skip the potatos and make dumplings at the end. Mushrooms optional but VERY adviseable. (I am a hobbit.)

Lamb shanks, same as the beef ribs but vegetable or chicken broth and a bit of curry powder or paste. I use Pataks and Penzeys, but you needn't.

Ham, with whatever you put in hams. We tend towards poncey mustard and honey around here, but maple syrup is good, or just the mustard, or really, the ones we get are awesome and smoked with actual smoke and plain would be fine.

Stewing lamb or mutton with vegetable broth, lots of curry, frozen spinach, dried or fresh onion.

Basically any slow-cook recipe in the world.

What you don't want to do:

You want to be very stingy with liquid, if you're used to slow-cooking on top of the stove, which I still sometimes forget - this is why there will be potatoes in the curry, as I absent-mindedly used a full box of broth when I ought to have used a quarter-box. Sealing all your ingredients into a heavy pot and then baking them slowly produces a LOT of liquid.

Don't add thickeners (cornstarch, flour, potato flakes) when you start the meal. Add them right before supper, and then turn the oven up to 350 for half an hour. If you add them at the beginning things will get very lumpy, claggy, and sad.

If you are using a fatty meat, sometime the next day do take it out and skim the fat. If you can put it in the fridge or out in the cold until the fat hardens that's handy, but you can also just use a spoon. Ugh this is the boringest job. On the other hand you can then fry potato slices in the lamb or beef or pork fat. Nom.

Vegetables you want to be crunchy, and "fragile" vegetables like peas, green leaves that are not collards, etc, should go in an hour or so before supper. The frozen spinach in with the mutton is meant to cook down a lot, I'm going for a vaguely Sag Lamb effect.

Things I clearly should write about next: spice mixes, weird ingredients I use and love, kitchen gadgets and general equipment that I use and love, my grandmother's pastry recipe.

Date: 2015-01-04 05:52 pm (UTC)
stultiloquentia: Campbells condensed primordial soup (Default)
From: [personal profile] stultiloquentia
Spice mix write-up, yassss please. I have a Penzey's gift card.

Date: 2015-01-04 08:31 pm (UTC)
stultiloquentia: Campbells condensed primordial soup (Default)
From: [personal profile] stultiloquentia
Looking forward to the screed. I want to play with more African and Middle Eastern spice blends this year. In particular, I love Ethiopian cuisine, and hope to teach myself to make some of their stews (and injera for scooping, of course).

The shopping list so far:

Berebere
Ras-el Hanout
Baharat
Zahtar
(Also mustard seeds, five spice and whole nutmeg, just because I'm out.)

Date: 2015-01-04 06:40 pm (UTC)
graydon: (Default)
From: [personal profile] graydon
Poor Dreadful. Poor you.

Though yay! efficient cooking.

In a similar style of cooking, I really really like the Emile Henri ceramic dutch ovens; I've got the 6.7 L size, though they come smaller. (They don't come cheap. I figure I can trust the great nation of France to tear a cookware manufacturer limb from limb if they let heavy metals get into their pot-clay, which isn't so obvious a prospect elsewhere.) The ceramic downshifts the heat into IR ranges where meat browns.

If one were to chop up and sautee in duck fat and some crumbled thyme and tarragon one big sweet onion in the bottom of such a pot, wait until the onion's half done, turn the heat off, leave the lid off while you plunk ~3 kg of pork on top of the onion (if a double loin roast, vertically), and then add two cups of dried cranberries, a generous cup or so of chopped dried apple, and three cups of cider (the already cinnamoned mulling cider one gets this time of year works nicely; cinnamon is a meat spice), possibly three and a half (all that dried fruit) around the pork, then two tablespoons of maple syrup on the pork, plunk the lid on, and put it in a 350 oven for an hour and a half, the roast won't fall apart but it's good. And you get something that's arguably cranberry sauce to put on it.

(Fresh apples and fresh cranberries, no additional liquid! Still works.)

(the apple bits will puff up and float to the top and start to brown and can get too crispy, but when they're a little crispy they're delightful, so timing is a thing. So is "I recognize that smell!" when judging timing.)

On, and when skimming the fat?

I don't; I take the beef (or mutton) broth out of the fridge, resolute layer of fat that needs smiting with a spoon and all, and use it to cook long grain brown rice. Takes longer to cook -- a bit more than two cups of broth to a cup of dry rice takes thereabouts of an hour -- but the rice is redeemed by this into something where the flavour has mass. (Pork broth isn't awful, by no means awful, but doesn't quite have enough substance.)

No only is fat flavour, it's winter, dammit. One needs a little substance in one's victuals.
Edited Date: 2015-01-04 06:41 pm (UTC)

Date: 2015-01-04 07:47 pm (UTC)
graydon: (Default)
From: [personal profile] graydon
Ah, yes, there is no call to be lubricating the potatoes.

(Or at least, if there is, something has gone most wrong. :)

Date: 2015-01-04 09:42 pm (UTC)
niqaeli: cat with arizona flag in the background (Default)
From: [personal profile] niqaeli
potatoes are actually terrible to put anywhere near your nethers unless *thoroughly* contained, at which point really you're lubricating the rubber not the potato.

(Potatoes, like most root vegetables, quite like warm moist places. This can go very badly. >_>)

Date: 2015-01-04 10:01 pm (UTC)
niqaeli: cat with arizona flag in the background (Default)
From: [personal profile] niqaeli
look, you hear one horror story and you want to make sure people KNOW to be careful about root vegetables, okay.

I mean also you know some ridiculous and silly people. :P

Date: 2015-01-04 06:58 pm (UTC)
resonant: Brian from The Breakfast Club: Demented and sad, but social (Default)
From: [personal profile] resonant
Aaaaand now I'm hungry! (Luckily we have the remains of a way-too-big ham in the fridge waiting for sandwiches and casseroles.)

One of my favorite uses for leftover ham is to combine chunks of it with cooked orzo, sliced green onions, black pepper, and goat cheese, pile it in a casserole, and run it under a broiler until the top crisps. The kidlet would live entirely on this, I think.

Date: 2015-01-04 08:54 pm (UTC)
tam_nonlinear: (Default)
From: [personal profile] tam_nonlinear
Poor Dreadful. Have you considered PU surgery? I had a male cat, Bob, years ago who was prone to blockages, and the advice I had from the vet was that after a few blockages, they tend to get enough scar tissue in the urethra that they'll be more prone to even more blockage in the future, and cat kidneys are already so prone to issues that PU'ing them is safer in the long run. It's not cheap, and you do have a cat with a cone of shame and no penis afterwards, but Bob ended up in kitty intensive care a few times, so it was the best call for him. I hope Dreadful is recovering well.

What is Canadian Tire? I'm blinking at the idea of a tire stop selling cookware, but if the stuff is good, it's good.

The recipe sounds awesome and I now have a longing for brisket.

Date: 2015-01-04 09:11 pm (UTC)
graydon: (Default)
From: [personal profile] graydon
Canadian Tire started as a tire store (in the 1930s), turned into an auto parts store, started selling camping and fishing gear, and then became a general hardware store. After that they had an outbreak of housewares. There was a recent -- corporate consumption of Mark's Work Warehouse -- expansion into clothing, too.

So, basically, an auto parts chain remembered that the department store success formula is consistent value and has been filling the department store niche as all the ostensible department stores stagger off into fashionability and die horribly.

Date: 2015-01-04 10:14 pm (UTC)
mmegaera: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mmegaera
The only way to have a male cat who will only eat kibble and turns his nose up at canned (which is *bizarre*) is to have one like my Theodore who *asks* for water four or five times a day (and, no, he's not diabetic, he just likes fresh water, which is reasonable). Either in his water dish, or trickling from the laundry room sink faucet.

Date: 2015-01-04 11:45 pm (UTC)
graydon: (Default)
From: [personal profile] graydon
My experience of cats is that they really like running water and that while those water fountains for them are pains to scrub once a week to avoid the dreaded biofilm they're entirely worth it in terms of getting the persnickety little wretches to actually drink.

Date: 2015-01-05 12:19 am (UTC)
mmegaera: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mmegaera
I've had cats all my life, but I've never had a cat actually want to play in the water until I met Ted.

Oh, and not the fountain, either. He wants his water out of the sink [wry g].

His brother is strictly a dish guy, too.

Every cat is different!

Date: 2015-01-04 11:14 pm (UTC)
emceeaich: A close-up of a pair of cats-eye glasses (Default)
From: [personal profile] emceeaich
The dutch oven Cynthia got me four years ago is one of my favorite things. We already have chili and pasta sauce cooking or I'd be starting one of the ideas mentioned in the comments already.
Edited (rewording for meaning) Date: 2015-01-04 11:14 pm (UTC)

Date: 2015-01-05 12:56 pm (UTC)
17catherines: Amor Vincit Omnia (Default)
From: [personal profile] 17catherines
Sounds fantastic! And so good to see you back here, by the way!

Date: 2015-01-05 03:42 pm (UTC)
amazon_syren: (Default)
From: [personal profile] amazon_syren
I admit to being kind of terrified to leave the oven on all night. None the less, way to go with the slow-dry-heat BBQ! :-D

I wonder if I could do something like this using my crock pot, and just switch it to the oven (lid off / replaced with foil) for the last couple of hours. Thoughts?

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