For the Love of the Brine

Briny chops, originally uploaded by lclea.

Do you brine? I do. Chances are if you are still reading, you have at least heard of brining, if not, then buckle in for a salty festival of flavor.

First, what is brining? Brining does two things, it gives meat an insulated layer of moisture that helps keep it from getting dry and it imparts flavor. You can brine with just water and salt, or add other things like sugar and even spices. Now, I wouldn’t just brine anything, I’ve found it works best with pork and poultry. I’ve never brined beef, and if you feel adventurous (or crazy), try it and let me know. The reason the “white” meat and the “other white meat” does so well in the briny soak is due to the skinny nature our birds and piggies have these days. I try to get pasture raised chickens, turkeys and pork (this is tough to find, but there is a great purveyor in Madison, the pigs live healthy, happy, natural lives) just because I like the way that tastes better and I can sleep at night knowing the animals used in my food live happy lives.

I learned of this technique from a cooking class at L’Etoile restaurant in Madison. Chef Tory Miller is a brining maniac and while this recipe is good, and if you have great pork, it’s even better, do if you you’re in town try the pork (or anything) at L’Etoile. The food is amazing locally grown produce and meats, and the wonderful wait staff makes each meal a memory. I’ll be there for my next birthday, hope to see you there.

Okay, back to the brine. My first time out, I followed Tory suggestion that we brine the turkey for two days… I did and it was delicious, moist, crispy, and just the right amount of salt. You really don’t need two days, but do brine your Thanksgiving turkey. It’s like a failsafe and helps you not overcook the darn thing. However, the amount of brine you need will increase, you need to completely submerge the bird in the liquid. The equation of water to salt stays true, so just adjust (I don’t use the sugar with poultry, it’s just my preference). Also have room in your fridge for the bird and the brine.

So I hope I’ve piqued your interest and if you haven’t tried it yet, give it a shot, and if you haven’t tried really good pork, and are close at all to Madison try Willow Creek Farm (but don’t brine the bacon!).
Brine
2/3 c Sugar
3/4 c Kosher Salt
1 Gallon Water

Bring all the ingredients to a boil to dissolve the salt and sugar. Cool. Tasty add ins: coriander, peppercorns, allspice, cloves, brown sugar, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, cinnamon, cayenne, or garlic cloves. Don’t add everything, mix and match or try your own! Even the plain brine is a great.  Soak the meat either chicken or pork for 1-2 hours in the refrigerator (I use large plastic bags to marinate and brine, but you may want to set it in a bowl to prevent leaks). When you remove the meat from the brine, dry it off, or you won’t get a crispy crust/skin, then roast, grill to your heart’s content. Mmmm, briny pork…

Blast Off

scan0446, originally uploaded by lclea.

I like this picture. I like the color and the dark shadow, I like how the tree frames the picture, but mostly I like the slightly off center capture of the shuttle taking off. It’s the bright blip right over the horizon and to the left of the tree trunk. Those are people heading into space. I don’t remember anything else about the launch, so it went up and came back without incident. It’s kind of like me, heading off for an adventure in higher ed. I’m trailblazing, not following anyone in my family. I’m back this Monday to try and find an abode. Wish me luck.  All I need is the housing, then I’m ready for take off.  That’ll be me, up and back without incident.  Right.

Bart

scan0087, originally uploaded by lclea.

From the earliest I can remember, I wanted a dog. We weren’t an especially doggie family and made several attempts towards dog ownership with no success. I knew however I was going to get a dog one way or another. I was living in Colorado when my parents finally pulled the trigger and got a dog. He was a Boston Terrier a breed we knew well. My dad’s parents who had a wonderful BT, Magoo who I loved dearly. I would even try to sleep in his little doggie bed in the basement.  Well this is Bart our first Boston. Really the third child in our family.  I loved this little dog. He was a sweet, finicky, skinny little boy who stole our hearts with his googly eyes and good nature. My mom didn’t think he could bark because he was just a sweet little guy. I also loved him because he opened the door for me to get my very first dog, Jake since we used the same breeder. I especially loved him because Bart was devoted to my feisty little Jake, obsessed with him really. He was a good, good boy.

Thank you

capital, originally uploaded by lclea.

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.   We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream.  It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
–Ronald Reagan

Thank you to all who’ve paid the highest price protecting our freedom.

First sock

IMG_0850, originally uploaded by lclea.

I learned to knit years ago when I lived in Colorado. My aunt is a wonderful knitter and taught me. I only finished a few piddly things and started a large complicated sweater, but gave up when I finished the front (I still have it and now know it by the term UFO-unfinished object). For years I was shamed by this UFO and didn’t knit a single thing until last year when the bug bit me again and after a couple of classes, wham bam thank you ma’am, and I’m knitting all kinds of things.

The sock, I learned online, is a mystical object when knitting. People become enthralled by sock knitting and are drawn to the yarn likes sailors to the sirens. So, being one who on occasion lives dangerously, I bought some yarn and gave it a go. This is the first sock I ever knit. It’s being modeled by Gus, my doggie. It’s tiny, but gave me a rough idea about what I should do. I’ve since taken a couple of classes and finished several other pairs, some fancy some plain, and while I have oh 10 or so skeins of sock yarn gathering dust in my knitting bin, I’ve escaped the addiction. So, I’m in the Socks that Rock sock club, so what?  Okay, I have over 20 skeins, who’s counting? And I can stop whenever I want. Mmmmmm, sock yarn…

Hoopdy Doo

scan0342, originally uploaded by lclea.

This is a blast from my past. I’m on the right in between my dad and mom, my cousin is on the left in front (of course!). It’s obviously the early ‘70’s because my brother isn’t there and well, look at the clothes. Yes, those are plaid pants on my mom and it looks like sunflowers on my dad’s shirt. But we all look good and we look so happy. How could we be anything but, since we are in the happiest place on earth (for you uninitiated that’s Disney World)?  We’d go down in the winter, often with my aunt and uncle and during the school year which was fun (teachers don’t hate)! I have nothing but wonderful memories of Disney, it was so magical and as a child who had “an overactive imagination” to quote my teachers, it was a match made in heaven. I don’t get back as often as I’d like, but for me, when I think of dream vacations, it’s Disney at the Polynesian, or France.

I think we are at the Hoopdy Doo Review, it’s still around and I remember it as an old fashioned good time with songs and family style food. I remember always wishing during the sentimental section that the cute guy (there was always a cute guy), would sing Shenandoah to me. I have a vague memory of him doing this, but that’s probably only a kid’s dream. I can’t say it enough, we had so much fun, laughing and having running jokes.  We’re all older now, and don’t take those trips.  It’s too bad. 

So, why this picture, today? I’m still working out housing and just general stress about the huge life change I’m about to undergo. But it will pass, and I will know that I can do anything I set my mind to and my dreams are coming within reach. Until then, wishing all of us Disney Dreams…