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    Chasing the sunshine

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  1. Broccoli salad for dinner tonight, with a Disney-esque sunset as a prelude. I have a question, for those of you following along: what determines whether cooked bacon is tough or crisp? Is it the thickness of the cut, the temperature of the skillet, how much and how often fat is drained off, something about the cure? I know that the degree to which it's cooked is a factor, but it seems I often end up with bacon that is chewy rather than shatteringly crisp, even when it's well-cooked. I like the flavor of this Wright bacon, but the texture doesn't come out as well as I'd like.
  2. It's a beautifully sunny day, and the breeze is pleasantly cool at the moment although I suspect I'll think it too hot by the afternoon. I need to get outside and cook bacon on the camp stove before it reaches that point. There's color outside; the variation in colors in the globe mallows here is astonishing. The mallows have a subtle but delightful perfume. There's also color inside. I was planning on my usual breakfast of avocado with something - toast, maybe yogurt - and then remembered that I had some blueberries set aside for the purpose. Pretty, isn't it? We came to Arizona earlier than usual in order to meet up with friends who were visiting the state. They drove down for an afternoon of flower watching in cold and breezy conditions, followed by dinner. Since they had a 2-hour drive each way, dinner was an early affair and I didn't get many pictures. We had a pork shoulder roast, doused with Lipton's Onion soup mix and cushioned with potatoes, cooking in a low oven in my Le Creuset Dutch oven for the afternoon. It kept the trailer plenty warm despite the cold and bluster outside. There was also a green salad, sourdough bread... ...and a dessert of persimmon bread. The Instant Pot came into its own the next day. Hooray for full-time electricity! The remainder of the pork roast was carved off the bone. There was a huge bone and a lot of meat. This bone was too long for my 3-quart Instant Pot, and stuck up above the liner pot's lid. After some thought I decided that the bone should be safe as long as it didn't keep the lid from closing tightly. It didn't. I kept the liquid level to slightly below the max-fill line of the pot, and made sure the bone end was turned away from the pressure vent. Then, for extra "safety" (that is, mess containment in case I had miscalculated) I covered the lot with several folds of towel. After the pressure cooker cycle was completed once and the lid vented I reversed the bone and did it all again. The result? A pint of good clear pork broth that has gelled beautifully. (The bottom-left photo is of pinto beans cooking in the pot afterward, using a few pork scraps and a bit of the broth. I was going to use that IP for all it was worth before washing it.) Here's the pork jelly: The pinto beans and some of the roast pork went into enchiladas. The plating wasn't pretty, but the results were tasty. Now, here's the downside, I suppose: with all the cutting, prepping, pork- and bean-cooking, there was bound to be a mountain of dishes. I washed this first batch of dishes while the enchiladas were baking! The Princessmobile doesn't have an automatic dishwasher.
  3. Smithy

    Dinner 2019

    You've probably said this before, but what time and temperature do you use for the sous vide tri-tip? How thick is that piece? It looks wonderful.
  4. Me too. I also bought Gjelina today. I don't know whether to curse or thank you and Toliver.
  5. I too like 805. I'm not sure why I didn't clue in on the Mocha Porter. Sometimes that really hits the spot! Right now I'm on a Scottish-style ale kick (a.k.a. Four Peaks Brewery's Kilt Lifter, produced in Arizona). He likes Glenfiddich and Glenlivet, but has also enjoyed some of Tomatin's and Macallan's offerings. Don't ask me about the preferred ages! He prefers the more aged Scotch Whiskeys, but not if he has to pay a lot extra for them. I'm not sure where he usually draws the bounds.
  6. We have been unimpressed with the selection of beer and wine, much less stronger spirits, in the nearest town of Eloy. Google took us a little farther afield to Milo's Liquor Store, in Arizona City, about 15 miles from our current camping spot. It was certainly larger than anything we'd seen so far. The selection was better, but we thought it all too pricey for the single-malt Scotch my darling seeked. There were novelty spirits... ...and beer... ...and a vast selection of tequila, of which they seem to be inordinately proud. There were unexpected food items... ...and even less-expected non-food items. The wine selection was...okay, nothing worth writing about that I saw. We settled for a bottle of Maker's Mark for him (somewhat less pricey than Scotch) and a 6-pack of Kilt Lifter beer for me.
  7. Given the mixed bag of advice I got in the What Are You Cooking Sous Vide Today? topic (including yours and @rotuts', thank you!) I decided to take the middle road and follow @Shelby's advice: 135F for a little over 2 hours, then a quick sear. I rubbed it ahead of time with smoked paprika and a grilling rub. I liked the texture and doneness of it, but honestly, I think it would benefit from a marinade ahead of time because it's such a lean cut. I've been happily putting it on sandwiches with lots of mayonnaise, mustard and other condiments to make up for the lack of flavor and fat.
  8. I can feel isolated and inconvenienced with boondocking, but the wide-open space and quiet settle into me anyway. Then it's an adjustment to return to closer quarters and more rules. There are worse places to be for that re-entry than the Picacho / Tucson NW KOA campground. The view is pretty good, especially if you're lucky (as we were) to get a spot at the western end of the trailer line. There's shore power again! We have electricity without relying on our batteries or generator. I've made great use of that with the Joule circulator and the Instant Pot. I'll show some of the IP work later, but here are some slices from a sous vide pork tenderloin. There is also a hungous pair of chicken breasts, sous-vided and chilled and ready to slice into sandwich slices or chop up for chicken salad. I haven't taken a picture of that yet. I used 150F for a couple of hours instead of my usual 160F for one hour, which seems to dry it out. I'll be interested to see how the texture is different. There are changes afoot in the area. The owners were good enough to call us ahead of time and tell us about the road construction on the nearby freeway. There's quite a detour going on, and parts of the old freeway are going away. This is what we saw happen in a single day: A change closer to home, so to speak, is this campground's ownership. The atmosphere is still relaxed, and the new owners are lovely and energetic people. They're making the brave decision (probably a necessary financial decision) to stay open year-round, whereas the previous owners closed the campground during the hottest months. I wish them well. ...but, BUT!... This is drastic, and very disappointing. I've written before, probably several years running, about Frankie's Chuckwagon Steakhouse. Here is a 2017 entry, with pictures, so you can see what they did. The food was excellent, and while it wasn't exactly inexpensive it was one of our favorite types of place: easy to get to, generous portions, excellent food and service, relaxed atmosphere. Once we stumbled over this place, Frankie's was a major reason for our return to this campground. At least once each trip, we'd blow the budget (and diet) on dinner there. The restaurant is temporarily closed for renovations, and they hope to have it open sometime this spring. When it reopens, it will be considerably scaled down. The new owners don't know yet quite what they'll do, but they are so overwhelmed with running this new (to them) campground and hitting their stride that they don't want anything as elaborate as a steakhouse. It takes too much expertise to run the Santa Maria grill, and they haven't been able to recruit the sort of staff they'd need. The new place will be something like burgers and fries, or pizza. Maybe there will be a pool table (I don't know where they'd put it) and a TV screen or two. It will be, we're told, more in keeping with restaurants found at other KOA campgrounds. Oh, dear. Maybe I shouldn't jump to conclusions, but I rather doubt the new incarnation will be the regional draw that the original was. I know the previous owners ran themselves ragged trying to run both the campground and the steakhouse, and relied heavily on camp volunteers. I also know they had been trying to sell out for 2 or 3 years, and they must be relieved to be free of the enterprise at last. Still, I'm disappointed. I could taste the steaks from 100 miles away, and the joy of another visit had helped compensate for moving back into more crowded conditions.
  9. Interesting about the quick cooling. We weren't close enough to the operation to be sure, but it looked as though these vegetables were going straight from the field to a conveyor belt and into cartons. Maybe the cartons are hustled to refrigeration units; there are certainly buildings big enough for that operation in Yuma. I too would imagine that the soil needs replenishing. That's why I'm surprised that they don't seem to be planting alfalfa or another legume. They may use tons of fertilizer in a sequence that we've never observed.
  10. I love the elaborate and delicious-looking preparations above, and hesitate to follow them with something so simple. I'll justify it by using it to encourage folks who may be leery of elaborate preparations: simple can also be good. I bought some very good avocados and roma tomatoes in order to make guacamole for a dinner party. Somehow, the gaucamole didn't happen. This morning some of the abundance made it onto my breakfast plate: diced avocado, diced tomato, and a squeeze of Mexican lime juice, with half-whole-wheat sourdough toast. It was messy but delicious. I had to slice more bread and toast it, simply to sop up the juices.
  11. Smithy

    Dinner 2019

    I don't think I've ever seen tuna packed with a chili here. I'll look for it. Like @chromedome and a few others uptopic, I've taken to buying oil-packed tuna. DH and I think it is much more flavorful and moist than water-packed.
  12. I purchased some excellent avocadoes and roma tomatoes with the intention of making guacamole for a dinner party. The dinner party happened but the guacamole didn't, but nobody felt the lack. This morning, some of the tomatoes and avocados, with just a squeeze of Mexican lime, make a great breakfast on sourdough bread. This is the last of a loaf I made for the aforementioned dinner party. I'll tell more about that in another post. Someday, maybe, I'll take the trouble to find someone who can explain to me the exact sequence of planting and harvesting the row crops we see grown near Yuma in the winter. What we know from watching is that large fields of broccoli and cauliflower are planted, ripen fairly rapidly, and are harvested with the help of machinery and manual labor, seemingly in the space of a month. Within days after a field is harvested, the remaining greenery is disked under, sprinkler lines are laid, the field is watered, and then planting begins anew. One of many things I don't know is whether a new crop is sometimes planted - and if so, whether it's a crop rotation - or a field of grass always follows the crop. It may be that the grass is planted when the winter cultivation season is coming to an end. I also don't know why it would be grass, but it doesn't seem to be alfalfa, which would be a nitrogen-fixer. What I DO know is that I'm grateful for fresh winter produce, and we have been staying near one of the principal sources for the United States. These pictures (clockwise from the upper left) all took place within a week. Here are some shots of the mobile equipment used for packing broccoli and cauliflower. It looks as though the same equipment and technique are used for both crops; only the packing boxes change. Spring was springing when we left. We left earlier than we have in past years in order to meet up with friends, but we weren't really ready to go. If there was a superbloom we weren't there to see it, but the flowers were good and the Painted Lady butterly migration was spectacular.
  13. Smithy

    Lasagna baked in bainmarie style ?

    Does the chef explain why he does it that way? I imagine it would keep the edges from browning and getting crusty. In my case it might also make cleanup easier, since spills would go into the water instead of onto a dry pan. I hadn't heard of this method before. I'll be interested to read what others say.
  14. That salad looks delicious! Just to be clear: are the jalapenos and onions in the dressing? I wouldn't have thought of that, but I can imagine that it helps extract the flavors into the dressing.
  15. I may yet buy the Maya Angelou book, just so I can have it when traveling, but I haven't pulled the trigger yet. I did, however, buy the Irish Pub Cookbook (just in time!) because it looks like it has some recipes I'll enjoy. That, in turn, led me to Real Irish Food: 150 Classic Recipes from the Old Country for $1.99. The Amazon writeup alone was irresistable.