Sunday, July 31, 2011

- Bringing home the bacon

Island Home

I walk through shadows,
the morning sun tangled
in orchard-high branches
of live oak and Ashe juniper,
belying the heat yet to come

Deer fly before me,
hooves clattering
across the roadway
then thudding into shadows
as birds trace scalloped arcs
from tree to wire

I imagine an outer bank,
a sheltered beach
flung into the sky,
water streaming
down flanks of stone,
the sun baking silt and shell
a million years and more

This then is home,
where driftwood lies
in dry-creek beds scoured clean
by gulf-born torrents,
lithic remnants
of the forsaken shore,
a thousand feet closer to heaven

There is a sense of place and belonging here in the Texas hill country that surprises me, as much as I love the beach. Likewise, it is passing strange that there isn’t a time when I go for a walk that I don’t think of Shelter Island, even though we now live 1000’ above sea level. I’m endlessly fascinated by the grasses, wildflowers, trees, shrubs, rocks, and critters along the roads and nature paths that thread through our neighborhood. And as the sun presses down, I could close my eyes and be once again on the Outer Banks.

Soon after we arrived (hard to believe it’s been two years), I discovered author Susan Wittig Albert. Reading her lyrical memoir Together, Alone marked the beginning of my education about the naming of things in this place we now call home. So last night, as we worked up an appetite by walking our dinner guests around the property, I proudly pointed out lace cactus and rock beds, cleared meadows and DIY bird baths, while rattling off a lengthy list of the critters that share the land with us.

Dinner included an old stand-by ("Williamsburg Trellis Style" in the Salad Days post) with a new twist: our own bacon, inspired by a recent meal of pork belly and duck at Meg and Paul’s. Of course, I didn’t exactly follow a recipe, but I have one now.

Bacon My Way

1 pound fresh pork belly
1 fresh turkey breast (hey, if you’re going to fire up a smoker, you might as well make it worthwhile)
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup kosher salt
4 cups water
12 cups cold water and ice

Heat 4 cups of water in a 6-quart pot and stir in brown sugar and salt until dissolved. Add ice and cold water until you have one gallon of cool brine.

Place the pork belly into a plastic container (cut the pork belly to fit, if necessary) and cover with brine. Place a 2-gallon plastic bag in a large stock pot, add the turkey breast, and cover with the remaining brine. Put lids on both containers and refrigerate overnight. 

One hour before smoking, remove the meats from the brine, dry with paper towels, and place under a fan to dry before smoking. Smoke the pork belly for one hour. Continue to smoke the turkey breast until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 (another hour or two, depending on your smoker and the outdoor temperature). After the meats cool a bit, wrap them securely in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. Even so, prepare to have your refrigerator smell like a smoke house for as long as it takes to eat the results of your labors. 

What? You say you don’t have a smoker? Well, you should … the cost is reasonable and the results are well worth the investment. Go for it!

BTW, pan frying the brined and smoked pork belly bacon was disappointing.  But slicing it into thin strips and microwaving it on paper towels reduced it to perfect crisps of goodness that were well-worth the effort.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

- For Peaches redux

When I started the blog almost two years ago, I posted a piece written during the 2007 Eastern Virginia Writing Project.  For Peaches was the last poem I wrote until last week, when an Facebook "missing you" from Susan at the EVWP inspired a spate of poetic musing. So be forewarned ... there may be more to come.

A view of the new rock garden on a blazing hot Texas summer day


Heat beats down 
from a cloudless blue sky;
it will not rain today.

Four inches in forty weeks;
the drought
The rain,
two lusty squalls
too little.
The floodplain,
laid bare by
in the face of the sun.
A deer,
not two months gone,
already reduced
to gleaming white.

Even so,
the hill country trees
set their seed in
rusty brown knots of flesh
like so many cobbles of chert
strewn across the Rumple-Comfort soil.

And as I draw beads
of sun-distilled nectar
from each precious drupe,
my knife’s progress is halted,
again and again,
by the stone at each heart:
creation’s prayer
for rain.

Deconstructed Peach Pie

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup lard + 1 Tbs. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4+ Tbs. ice water

Process the flour, lard, and salt until it resembles corn meal.  Put in a bowl and stir in water with your fingertips, adding just enough to gather the dough into a soft ball.  Roll out thin, slice into strips 1/2 inch wide by 3 to 4 inches long.  Sprinkle lightly with sugar and place on a baking sheet.  Bake at 375 until lightly browned ... 10 to 12 minutes.

  • 1/2 cup Mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Sugar
  • Vanilla
  • Peaches
  • Cinnamon sugar

Whip Mascarpone and cream, adding sugar and vanilla to taste. 
Slice peaches and dust with cinnamon sugar.
Set out peaches, pie crust strips, and Mascarpone cream to be combined at the table.