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Long time Gentle Readers know that TWC loves cast iron frying pans. Cast iron is the original no-stick cookware. Bonus: Unlike even the highest quality teflon, the no-stick surface never wears out and will last several lifetimes.
Best and easiest way to clean a cast iron pan is with one of these:
Lodge is a manufacturer of cast iron cookware and this brush is, hands down, the best scrub brush that I've run across. The stiff bristles aren't easily flattened or pushed out of shape like 90% of scrub brushes on the market. The shape and size is absolutely perfect for a quick cleanup of a round cast iron skillet. Hot water, the Lodge scrub brush, and one minute of your time. Bamm! You're done.
I love this brush. Mine was a Christmas gift from Mrs TWC Santa (it was in the sock hung by the chimney with care) Get yours at Amazon or Bass-Pro.
The art of making hash browns for breakfast has long been lost in America. McDonald's serves up a deep fried instant potato mush prepared from nuked Pringles. The chains offer breakfast potatoes, made with the dregs of last weekend's uneaten baked potatoes. If one can even find hash browns on the menu at all, they are invariably grilled in restaurant oil, which, aside from leaving a ghastly aftertaste, can easily be used to fuel motor vehicles. Are America's taste buds dulled to the point where we're willing to eat stuff that's cooked in bio diesel? I guess so because even places that claim a breakfast specialty, like the Waffle House and International House of Pancakes, are hard-pressed to slap down a plate of edible hash browns.
Back in the day, short order cooks were typically ex-cons and one condition of gainful employment at the local greasy spoon was the ability to cook hash browns. Today, you pay your money and you take your chances because most hole-in-the-wall places ain't givin' Denny's much of a run for their money.
One bright spot if you're traveling: Cracker Barrel reliably prepares well crafted hash browns (except the one in Colorado Springs). And there is still the occasional independent who can do the job. But pretty much, if you want hash browns done right, you're hired. This is how it's done.
Cooking hash browns isn't difficult but there are a couple of things that make it work right.
SHREDDING THE POTATOES
Use a large, well made, stainless steel cheese grater not a food processor.
Don't shred the potatoes until you are ready to cook them or they will turn an unappetizing funky pinkish brown.
Most people prefer peeled potatoes for hash browns but you can make them with unpeeled potatoes as well.
Use good quality, fresh potatoes. Traditional Russets (white baking potatoes) work best.
Shred the potatoes onto a pile of paper towels laid on top of a paper plate or two.
IMPORTANT: Blot the starchy liquid from the shredded potatoes with paper towels. Don't be shy about it, use a lot of pressure, the potatoes need to be as dry as possible.
COOKING THE POTATOES
Bring a cast iron frying pan up to cooking temperature. We talked about this the other day, don't even try cooking hash browns in anything else (you may use a cast iron griddle if you like).
Test the temperature by dropping a pat of butter into the pan. If the butter burns, the pan is too hot. This is a hard and fast rule. Many people try to cook hash browns in a scalding hot pan. Don't do it, they will not cook right and you'll be disappointed.
Once you've achieved optimum pan temp add two tablespoons of olive or peanut oil and a half stick of butter. The oil helps prevent the butter from burning.
IMPORTANT:It is pointless to use margarine, Crisco, or any other fake substitute. Butter is what gives the hash browns their unique flavor. If you're worried about cooking with butter, you probably shouldn't be eating hash browns anyway.
Immediately put the potatoes into the pan. You'll need to fluff them as you go because they'll be pressed flat from drying them with paper towels. Layer the potatoes loosely until they are about a half inch thick and fill the skillet.
While cooking, add more butter to the edges of the pan or griddle as needed.
Test for crispiness by lifting the edge of the hash browns with a spatula and looking. When the bottom is crispy, flip the hash browns and cook the other side until done.
If the potatoes are properly crunchy on the bottom they generally will hang together when you flip them. If cooking in a large skillet you may need two spatulas. Wide spatulas designed for cooking fish work well as do large BBQ spatulas.
This year That Boy listened to his dad and let the pomegranates ripen on the tree before he picked them all.
Patience is a virtue.
What are they good for?
Although almost as difficult to eat as an artichoke, the seeds are delicious.
UPDATE: I ate an entire pomegranate this afternoon. It wasn't nearly as difficult as eating an artichoke. Mess? Si! Noisy? Si! Yummy? Si! Don't get the juice on a white shirt, Dude. Worse than red wine.
Pomegranate juice drizzled into the finished drink is what puts the sunrise in a Tequila Sunrise. Pomegranate juice defines a good Singapore Sling. Oprah makes an excellent pomegranate martini. King Solomon made spiced pomegranate wine. The Jewish culture holds that the 613 seeds found in a pomegranate represent the 613 commandments of the Torah.
And, get this: It is more than likely that Eve was offered a pomegranate from the Tree of Life by the serpent. Scoff if you will, but apples don't grow that well in Mediterranean climates.
.....The cats. And to the dogs, who protect and keep the cats.
Without whom this bounty would have have been stillborn, consumed by every manner of varmint known to mankind. It is truly a wonder that our forebears were able to survive a week. Eating veggies still warm from the afternoon sun is a luxury.
Easy to make:
In a cast iron frying pan dribble some olive oil
Slice yellow crook neck squash in half
Scoop out the seeds and discard
Slice bite-size pieces thinly
Same story for the zucchini
Slice the onion on an angle (red onion works nicely too)
Dice a couple of cloves of garlic
Sprinkle with cayenne pepper to taste
Add sea salt for crunch and taste
Saute over medium heat until done to perfection (crispy not soggy)
Serve with mesquite grilled Porterhouse steaks (T-Bone if you're from the mid-west) and roasted corn. My dad loved T-Bone. Uncle Carl was a fan of Porterhouse.
One of my computers runs Business Vista 64 bit. It's pretty stable, comparatively, but one significant shortcoming is that there aren't any drivers available for things like my high-dollar high speed scanner and no Flash drivers for my free Firefox browser, Minefield, which was written for 64 bit Vista. YouTube? Don't bother.
Aside from being nannied to death by Bill Gates, the big problem is that Vista is sluggish. It sucks memory like chrome off of a doorknob trailer hitch ball. Truly, I am hard on computers, which compounds the problem. While in the midst of a cursing tantrum in which I suggested that neither my computer nor Bill Gates were sure of their daddy's name, I ran across a pretty cool little fix that helps resolve the sluggishness.
Goes like this:
Create a new desktop shortcut (use the shortcut wizard)
Click Next and then name your application (I used Clear Memory)
Click Finish and your done.
Right click the Icon and run it as the Administrator
It takes about thirty seconds to run and the results are astonishing. At least on my machine. Not as dramatic on my XP machine or on Mrs TWC's machine, but still noticeable. Yes, I said XP, the fix works on XP as well.
You could even set up a wizard to run the program every thirty minutes or so.
Ran across Franken-Pepper last summer, sliced it open and , voila!
Like a bad propaganda tract from the Rifkin crowd, this cancer-like growth appears to be part of the yellow pepper's vast internal struggle to return to its genetic roots, which are green. Course that's the stuff of alarmists and sci-fi thrillers.
Most store-bought yellow and red bell peppers are hybrids, manipulated for color. That's why the flavor is nearly identical to a traditional green bell pepper.
Vine ripened bell peppers naturally change color the longer they are left on the plant. Green mellows to orangish, which evolves into a reddish color, and finally a rosy sort of eggplant purple. At each stage the flavor is a bit different, becoming better as the pepper ages.
Am I against GM foods? I guess not, since everything we eat is genetically modified. We're just better at it than we used to be. No? Think about the last time you saw a milk cow in the wild.
Finally got a chance to fiddle with my hi-tech Christmas gift, which instantly transported TWC to De Javu-land. Not the records, but the turntable itself. Things like anti-skip, cartridge, platter, and grams of pressure adjustments. Flash to the Stone Age, and I was humming along, putting stuff together like I knew what I was doing. Just like adjusting the fuel mixture on a Holley carburetor. Okay, maybe more like riding a bike. You don't forget how.
The House Blond took an immediate interest in the ten inch records with their colorful
jackets. She spent a long time admiring the album art and reading the
song titles. Jacob thought the turntable itself was eminently cool even
though it looked as foreign to him as something out of a Star Wars
picture. This is cool, Dad. What's it do? [immediately starts pushing buttons and touching everything] Katie wanted to know if she could do that rapper thingwith the tone arm.
First impression: Although the ION USB turntable is cool, it isn't as well made or as solid as my still-functional Fisher (circa 1982). Except for that USB part that is. The ION doesn't come with a lid or a dust cover, the platter isn't close to as heavy or substantial, and I'm pretty sure the Fisher is direct drive. That ain't a big problem though because the sole mission is to get the vinyl into digital format.
Software: The ION comes with two programs. EZ Vinyl Converter, which worked fine except for the rhythmic clicking in the speakers (not evident on the recorded product). EZ Vinyl is a no frills conversion program that is easy to use and gets right to the point. Audacity is a powerful program that allows people with no life to spend hours and hours tweaking their antique record collection into something vaguely resembling the quality of a modern CD or MP3. It has a big learning curve and I'm lazy. Or maybe it just doesn't work well with 64 bit Business Vista.
The Audacity program works fine with 64 bit Business Vista, in fact, it does a great job. The key is understanding the program and setting the preferences.
Secondly, adjusting the gain settings on the turntable to minimum reduces distortion and background noise to a minimum. The gain control is right next to where you plug the USB line into the turntable.
Reality: I was absolutely stunned at the awful condition of some of my albums. Snap, Crackle, & Pop. Hiss and campfire. Skips and stucks. Ghastly. Sounded like I was using a nail rather than a needle. You can clearly hear the campfire in this old Stones sample from Out of Our Heads. It's my understanding that a patient man can clean that up using the Audacity program.
Most of the really old stuff was virtually unplayable and rendered ever so much more awful by comparison to modern technological advances. Newer albums fared better, in part, because they were purchased, immediately recorded onto reel-to-reel tape, and then put away for posterity. Wish I'd kept those tapes. The Go Go's is a newer record and didn't get as much play as the Stones. Predictably, the sound is much better. I know, what self-respecting guy admits owning a Go Go's record?
Two surprises: I don't have as many albums as I remembered and many of the records I have enjoyed over the years I've already replaced with CD's and MP3's.
All that notwithstanding, it's a worthwhile investment for us fossilized throwbacks to another era. If your vinyl is in halfway decent condition, the plain vanilla format of the EZ Vinyl software is going do a quick and painless conversion of your records to MP3's.
A little late for this, you should have begun already. Or, you can trot it out come Christmas.
For the uninitiated, brining a turkey ensures a moist delicious bird even if your oven is unforgiving or your smoker tends to dry the turkey.
You'll need a big pot or other container. It has to be non-reactive, meaning plastic, glass, or stainless. Don't use cast iron or aluminum.
Bring l.5 gallons of water to a gentle boil
Add 1.5 cups of kosher salt
Add 1.5 cups brown sugar
Add 1/8 to 1/4 cup thyme leaves (fresh is best)
Boil long enough to dissolve salt and sugar
Allow the mixture to cool to room temp (you don't want to prematurely cook the turkey). Once cooled, put the turkey in the pot and fill the pot with the cooled brine mixture. Cover the turkey completely, cover the pot with foil or a lid, stick it in the fridge until Thanksgiving. 24 hours of brining is sufficient.
When you're ready to cook, rinse the turkey, discard the brine, and you are on your way to a succulent main dish.
The turkey does not taste sweet or salty
Season as you would normally
The turkey will not be watery
This brine does not impart much flavor to the turkey
If the brine doesn't completely cover the turkey add more water
Done correctly, your turkey should look like this: