Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Twinkie Defense

Scoob has been whining about the end of Twinkies like its the end of the world. Twinkies were never my thing, so I'm having a hard time understanding the angst. Sure, I enjoy a Ding Dong or Ho-Ho now and again, but I honestly cannot remember the last time I had one or the other.

Then last night, someone on Facebook reminded me Hostess made the fruit and pudding pies, too. Okay. Shit just got real. Other kids may have had Twinkies in their lunch boxes, but my mom packed the fruit pies in mine.

I distinctly remember grocery shopping with her and coming up to the fruit pies and she would let me pick out the favors I wanted--apple, lemon, and (of course) chocolate pudding were my favorites. I remember how I had to be careful when eating the blackberry ones, because the filling had a way of gooshing out whet you bit into it, and the blackberry filling would stain whatever it fell on. I remember the disappointment of finding a smooshed pie in my lunchbox. And I remember eating it anyway.

And it wasn't just grade school. I remember eating Hostess fruit pies well into high school and even after, though with less frequency. I remember buying and packing them for camping trips, and yes, they usually got smooshed then, too.

I haven't rushed out to the stores to buy up the last few on the shelves, but if I do happen to spot one, I might be tempted to place it in my cart for nostalgia's sake. However, I am reading that psychologists are preparing for Twinkie Withdrawal Syndrome (TWS).  "It sounds like a joke, but it’s real," said Dr. Virginia Albertson of North Carolina. (North Carolina. Figures.) And that police departments in many cities are preparing for a riots at 7-11s and other delicatessens.  (Did they really just call 7-11 a delicatessen? Clearly, this is not a reputable source.)

Anyhow, back to Scoob and his Twinkies. So, this morning Scoob was lamenting over how all the stores are sold out and Twinkies are now a collectors item selling for $300/box. And he's just crushed that he'll never have another. I reminded him that Hostess will be selling off its products and recipes, so Twinkies are not gone forever. "But they just won't be the same," he said.

Now he's totally stoked because he just bought 2 boxes online (at regular price). Me, I'm now looking at a future where his perfectly preserved Twinkies share shelf space in my pantry with his Peeps that are already several years old.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Bo Ssam—Korean-style slow-roasted pork

Or, as I call it, Mind Control Pork.

I came across this article about Bo Ssam in the NYTimes—the picture alone convinced me I would need to try this recipe, but then I read the article. The recipe is the creation of David Chang, chef and owner of Momofuku in NYC where it sells for $200 and feeds 6–10 people. (I get this on the table for less than $20.) And get this:

[R]ecipes like Chang’s bo ssam are a godsend. They make any cook appear to be better than he or she really is, elevating average kitchen skills into something that approaches alchemy. Tell no one how easy this all turns out to be, though. Simply cook the food and serve it and watch as those at your table devour the meat in a kind of trance.

Did you catch that bit about a trance? That's why I call it Mind Control Pork. The pork roast itself is delicious, but the salty/sweet bark that forms on the outside is amazing! If there's an unpleasant task on the Honey-Do list, or the list is getting particularly long, I just tell Scoob I'm making this for dinner and suddenly things start getting done.

In fact, Scoob prefers it to the kalua pig that he makes (which is also amazing and simple). Coming from him, that's saying something.

I've made this a few times now, and it just seems to get better each time. The last time I made it, I even invited neighbors over for dinner (that's how confident I am with this easy recipe), and now it's being requested whenever we're the host house for supper club.

I've made a few adjustments to the original recipe—I found it unclear at one point and reduced the oven temperature and increased the time for the final step in the oven (500° just filled the house with too much smoke—extremely unpleasant, especially if you're expected guests). The recipe also recommends oysters as an accompaniment, but I didn't go there with it.

Feeling saucy?

The recipe includes directions for the accompanying sauces. I love the ginger-scallion sauce. Even though it sounds like an odd combination, I urge you to try it. Scoob refuses to try it because he hates onions—I don't care for a lot of onion either, but this stuff is addictive! Oh well, more for me! (I now make this sauce fairly regularly to go with noodles and pot stickers, too.)

Neither one of us really cared for the ssam sauce (pictured in the middle, above), so I usually skip this now and just set out some chili paste. And even though I do like kimchi (in the back, pictured above), I don't really care for the brand we have available locally. Scoob likes it though, so he gets the kimchi while I get the ginger-scallion sauce.

Bo Ssam

Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: Overnight + 6½–7½ hours cook time (mostly hands-off)

Pork Butt
    1 whole bone-in pork butt or picnic ham (8 to 10 pounds)
    1 cup white sugar
    1 cup plus 1 tablespoon kosher salt
    7 tablespoons brown sugar
Ginger-Scallion Sauce
    2½ cups thinly sliced scallions, both green and white parts
    ½ cup peeled, minced fresh ginger
    ¼ cup neutral oil (like grapeseed)
    1½ teaspoons light soy sauce
    1 scant teaspoon sherry vinegar
    ½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
    2 cups plain white rice, cooked
    3 heads bibb lettuce (we used Romaine), leaves separated, washed and dried

  1. Place the pork in a large, shallow bowl. Mix the white sugar and 1 cup of the salt together in another bowl, then rub the mixture all over the meat. (I know it sounds like a lot of salt, but you do rinse it off later. I've found ½ cup each white sugar and salt to be fine on a 6-pound pork butt.) Cover it with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, or overnight.

  2. The morning after.

  3. When you’re ready to cook, heat oven to 300°. Remove pork from refrigerator and discard any juices and rinse off any excess salt and sugar. (The original recipe did not call for rinsing, and my first try at this recipe was extremely salty.) Place the pork in a roasting pan .

  4. Into the oven.

  5. Cook for approximately 6 hours, after the first hour, baste hourly with pan juices. Once the roast collapses (somewhere around 200° internal temperature) and yields easily to the tines of a fork, you may remove the meat from the oven and allow it to rest for up to an hour.

  6. Somewhere around the 4 hour mark.

  7. You can make the ginger-scallion sauce while the roast rests, but I've found I like the taste even more after it has had a chance to meld—I usually make mine when I put the roast in the oven. In a large bowl, combine the scallions with the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and taste, adding salt if needed.

  8. Ginger-scallion sauce

  9. While the roast rests, prepare the rice, wash lettuce, and set out the sauces.

  10. When your accompaniments are prepared and you are ready to serve the food, turn oven to 400°. (As I mentioned earlier, 500°, as called for in the original recipe, produced way too much smoke in the house. I may try this at 450° next time, but 400° did work, although it took a bit longer. You may want to wait on setting out your rice so it doesn't get cold.) In a small bowl, stir together the remaining tablespoon of salt with the brown sugar. Rub this mixture all over the cooked pork and spoon some of the pan juices over the top being careful not to rinse off the rub. (I found spooning some juices onto the roast at this point helped the sugar form more of a glaze-crust instead of the thicker, more sugar-granular crust I experienced the first couple tries with this recipe.) Place in oven for approximately 15–20 minutes, or until a dark caramel crust has developed on the meat. Serve hot, with the accompaniments.

Going down in a glaze of glory—yes, it is Bon Jovi-worthy

Scoop some rice on your lettuce, layer on some pork,
and top with the sauce of your choice.

Leftovers, if you're lucky enough to have them, are delicious as repeats, and when you get down to the nubbins, they make an awesome fried rice. If it's just the two of us, a 4–5 pound pork shoulder easily feeds us for several days (and no one complains about getting tired of it!).

Bo ssam pork fried rice

Sunday, November 4, 2012

On Working and Relationships

I keep telling myself I am going to blog more frequently, even if it's just small posts, and I keep not doing it. I think part of the problem is that when I write here, I like to write uninterrupted. (I would also say without distraction, but I am so easily distracted it never happens that way.)

Like right now, I am writing but also monitoring file transfers and the time tracking web-based software I use for billing. The time tracker has been having some issues post-Sandy since their data center is in NYC and I am worried I may lose the tracked hours and invoices already in their system. But the point is, it's difficult for me to get lost in the writing when there's something else going on that I must monitor.

So what's going on here? Well, clearly, I am still getting freelance work (hence the file transfers I am watching) and I'm averaging 15–20 hours/week with that. Sometimes I out earn my unemployment check (which is awesome!) and sometimes I don't, and believe me, I am incredibly thankful that that particular safety net is there to help as we get back on our feet.

Scoob has started freelancing with me. He has been meeting lots of people at the networking groups he has been going to, and many of them want consulting work done on their websites. And despite my concerns about working together, we have now worked on a couple of projects together. We've been doing this pro bono right now to get the word out, but he does have a lead on a paying client.

I am not totally sold on this working arrangement—when I said he could use the company I set up to do freelancing under, I did not mean I would be taking on the additional work myself. So far I do not like how the division of labor is falling out. He finds the client, does an initial review of their website, then asks me to review the site, and then I get stuck writing up our findings and recommendations. I do not mind looking at the websites and giving a second opinion on specific things or even proofreading his write ups, but doing a complete second review of the sites and putting together the write ups is time consuming, and since he's doing the work for free right now, it takes away from time I could be billing on other projects.

If he wants to do this, he needs to do the whole thing. I am more than willing to help him, but it just rubs me the wrong way when he dumps the work he doesn't want to do in my lap. His reason is always "because you're better at it." An that may be true in some instances, but that doesn't mean I want to do it. And, he needs to start tracking the time he spends on these projects so he can figure out what to charge when the time comes. So far he hasn't been willing to, or he "forgets".

I'm seriously about to play the Owner card with him and lay down the rules and expectations, and that is exactly what I wanted to avoid. But it seems pretty clear to me that he is going to continue to take advantage of the situation unless I do. I've even offered to file the paperwork to make him a co-owner or even just turn the business over to him—if he wants to run it his way, then he needs to be in charge.

That, and I am interviewing for the position in New Jersey I posted about last time. I ended up interviewing with a VP and then a Senior VP the day after that post, and had an interview with one of their program managers this last Wednesday. I'm currently scheduling interviews with their production managers in India as the next step. Scoob and friends are convinced I have the job as long as I don't lose my mind and start dropping f-bombs during the interviews.

And, as I have been pointing out to Scoob, this is even more reason for him to step up on the freelance side, because if (when) I get this job, I won't be here to do the write ups, track the time, meet with the clients, or send out the invoices for him. Then he talks about hiring someone to do that work and I just have to keep telling him I did not want this. I never wanted to "build" a company or hire employees; I simply wanted a business name to conduct my freelance work under. If he wants to go out an conquer the world, by all means do it, but do not expect me to allow you to co-opt my business or do the grunt work. It is not my goal and is not what I want, and I have been very clear about that, and yet…