Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Pizza Experimentation

I was dying to try out the new mega yuppie Yoder Smoker/Grill/Oven/Decoding Ring on pizza.  When I researched it one of the attractions was the fact it would go up to 550 degrees - certainly hot enough to put in a pizza stone and whip out pizza.

However, as with all things Yoderish there is much tweaking to find out just how best to get the performance you're looking for.  We invited over three young couples who are very much into gastronomy (and with much better appetites than we old folk!).  One of them had moved to NM from Brooklyn NY not long ago and had indulged in lots of the famous brick oven pizza there. 

We told everyone to bring over their favorite toppings and we would just create pizzas and see how they came out.  We had a really great time.  Everyone pitched in rolling out dough and assembling pizza versions.  My friend the  Count had actually been part of a family owned pizza operation so had quite a bit of pizza dough experience.  Our newest guest, the guy from Brooklyn wanted to try this Neapolitan style dough which we all really liked.

The Yoder worked adequately but I think I left a piece in it (a heat diffuser) that I should have taken out for the high heat because it did not burn clean and we had a lot of sooty smoke.  That affected how the pizza looked but not its taste.  It is way easier to work with this than the indoor oven because you have access from three sides instead of one which makes it way easier to manage putting the pizzas on and taking them off.  I will need to do another experiment before I try to use it for Xmas.

A sample of the output




Thursday, October 16, 2014

Bonding Through Combat

One of de-I's goals for 2014 has been building deeper relationships with my grandkids.  This has been accomplished by the use of stuffed bunnies, Star War characters, sushi lunches, and Skype to name a few.  Let's add mortal combat with inflatable weaponry to that list!

When the #1 clan was here last weekend, I'd had the idea that our new backyard would be a great playground for especially the younger boys with all the stairs and levels and the castle like appearance.  Sure enough 1.2 just loved romping around the yard, especially when grandpa was willing to join in the imaginary fun.  We did all kinds of imaginary battles but they were lacking something.  So we went out to Toys R Us and I found some inflatable sword type things.  Perfect.  Too soft to do any real damage but enough for each of us to whack the bejeebers out of each of us.  Soon 1.1 was involved and we had full scale imaginary warfare going on.  Great fun.

Looking forward to when the rest of the clan comes at Christmas to take it up another notch.  Need to find some nerf quarterstaffs or the like.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Another Year Another Family Fiesta

Last year we had the wonderful experience of having the #3 clan in Albuquerque for our International Balloon Fiesta and we had the joy of seeing it through our lovely 2-3 year old granddaughter 3.1.  This year we had that joy of sharing that experience again with the #1 clan.  Hardworking entrepreneurs, they flew in on Friday night and went back on Sunday night.

We so love taking folks to the Balloon Fiesta because no matter how much you explain it to them, the experience is so much more.  Such as:



Are We Excited About the Balloon Fiesta or What!!!

The Photographer Watching Over the Next Generation

A #1  Fiesta!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Colors of a Different Sort

We headed back to the homeland today going through a number of places that are known in these parts such as Pagosa Springs and Chama but had never been to.  Not much foliage color in these parts.  But New Mexico has plenty of its own charms.

The Chama Basin

New Mexico is the land of blue sky and horizons that go forever

Echo Ampitheatre

This is a an unusual geologic formation that provides a natural echo chamber and also discloses some Jurassic era sandstone structures and colors


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Foliage Extravaganza

Today we got down to the serious business of driving around Colorado looking for fall foliage.  Last night I found a site that had up to the minute listings of where things were at their peak and based upon that we set our itinerary.

Our first target of opportunity was the Gunnison Valley leading up to Crested Butte

A Brief Interlude

I saw this in Crested Butte and had to text the picture immediately to my two grandsons

If you haven't gathered it, I am in serious Camera Sherpa mode.
After a hard day of sherpaing, my comrades and I like to gather at one of the watering holes that cater to our kind to knock back some Nepalese fire water and tell stories about our photographers

Our photographer in full battle gear including two cameras


Geology 101

On our way to our next stop, we saw this called the Dillon Pinnacles.
They represent two different volcanic activities.  The lower, more vertical part is 25 million years ago and is accumulated lava explosions.  The upper cap is welded tuft, volcanic ash and dust from an explosion about a million years ago.

Outside of Ouray there was a fabulous example of really old rock.
The rock with the ripples in it is Pre-Cambrian, over 1 billion years old!
It was a water front with wave action that created the ripples.  It became a sedimentary rock when it was buried.  Then it got shoved deep into the earth where it became a metamorphic rock.  Mountain building brought it up and turned it on its side.  Recent erosion has now exposed it.

Next Target - the Road from Ouray through Sliverton to Durango

 Whew.  Time for bed.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

North To Color

Wife and I decided to take a little jaunt up north to Colorado to see if we could see and photograph (that would be Wife not I) the fall colors.  Because of the cancellation of my trip to Chicago I ended up with today free so we left a day early. 

Doing research on stalking fall foliage, we found advice saying you should pick your date, then research where the colors are peaking and go there rather than pick your location first.  So we drove up to West Central part of Colorado near Gunnison. 

First Color

We were not necessarily expecting to see anything on our drive up but we managed to score a spectacular patch of trees.

We also saw things in the distance that we hope are portents for tomorrow and Friday's drives

The Unexpected

Seen on our way walking from our motel room to dinner

World Class Fries

I love fries.  I eat them in the US, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, everywhere.  The last place I would think to find world class fries is Gunnison Colorado.  We went to a place next to our motel, the Blue Mesa Grille, and encountered FRIES COOKED IN DUCK FAT!

Even though they were thick cut they were very crisp and stayed crisp even as they cooled.  They had great flavor from the duck fat and the accompanying chipotle mayo would make all our Dutch expats happy.  

This restaurant was a hidden gem.  We had great crab cakes (In Colorado!!!) with a lovely marinated fennel salad, a good steak, and nice drinks for a very reasonable cost.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


A lot of cooking has taken place the last couple of weekends at the de-I home.

Two weekends ago we decided to do another test of the Yoder Smoker.  I was focused on trying to do some real slow cooked barbecue.  A work friend has family farming interests in Kansas where they raise beef.  He provided a brisket and also wanted to smoke some meat loaf.  I wanted to try produce pulled pork which required pork shoulder. With all that food, I called on my long list of eating friends to be guinea pigs for the experiment.

The brisket and shoulder starting

The results were disappointing.  Everything tasted good but the brisket cooked very fast and was to final temperature way too fast and so was tough.  On the other hand the pork shoulder never did get to temperature so we had nice roast pork but not barbecue.  I think the brisket was very thin and required a much lower heat and that I didn't take out th pork shoulder from the fridge soon enough so the center was too cold.  I also think the Yoder runs hot and that I need to adjust my temperatures lower.

On the other hand I made three barbecue sauces from scratch - a basic, a Carolina mustard, and a South American chimichuri.

They turned out real good and were easy to make.  To be honest I don't see why I'd ever buy barbecue sauce again.

Then last weekend I had a long-time good client who had heard about my cooking but never had experienced it over for dinner.  This was one of my classic dinners of multiple courses with wines.

To avoid guests eating too much before the main event we limited the starter to home made cheddar Parmesan crackers with Prosecco.

Wife had also made some homemade bread

The first course was a salad of roasted red and green bell peppers, roasted fennel, and cold chicken that had been brined then marinated with bay leaf and juniper berries then slow poached.  It was sauced with  house made aioli and basil oil with basil from the new garden.  I served this with a 2007 white burgundy.

The second course was a baked polenta with a  mushroom ragout of two kinds of fresh and two kinds of dried mushrooms flavored with fresh sage and rosemary.  I topped the polenta slices with Italian Fontina cheese and a Parmesan herb topping.  It was served with a 2006 Brunello de Montalcino

The main course was a pan seared rib eye steak with a pan sauced based on a veal bone stock (at long last I've found a source of veal bones for classic French stock.  What a difference!).  I had Julia's creamed spinach and sugar snap peas and caramelized shallots. The wine was a 1993 Grand Cru St. Emillion.

(sorry only pictures of the peas available)

Dessert was Wife's homemade chocolate truffles, homemade shortbread cookies and a 1996 port.

The Wines