One Year of The Mall in Central Park

I finished up my photo project over the weekend.  I have no idea how it turned out.  More on that in a bit. For now I will simply direct your eyes to where they have already most likely turned, the collage (montage?) below.


This is, oddly, not the finished product.  The finished product exists as ones and zeroes on my computer and has never been seen by anyone.  What you see above is a drastically shrunken down version of the final product.  In fact, if you click on the picture you should get taken to a larger version.  But that still isn’t the real version.  The real version is forty-two inches by twenty-eight inches (though I think the size that helps put it in proportion is that each individual photo is six inches by four), and, as I keep mentioning, I’ve never seen it. That in no way fits on my screen so either I view it life-sized and see a tiny chunk of it or I view it in a reduced size which, considering the content, very much alters things.

A lot changes when each of those pictures is the size of a snapshot.  For example, some of the shots look sort of blurry in the small scale, but blown up that blurriness reveals itself as plain old weather. Some fog or snow or sun dappled leaves look wonderful in the large scale but it kind of looks mushy in the small scale.

And that’s to say nothing of what possibly gets lost due to your internet browser and my publishing platform not shaking hands properly, or the file size I have to save it in to upload it to this site a sane amount of time affecting things.

This is all very confusing and I can’t decide if I should print up a large scale version.  Mainly because I don’t know what I’d do with it…look at it once and then put it in my closet, most likely, which seems silly.

I don’t know.

Sharing work on the internet has tons of pluses but it does create weird moments like this.

Things That Were Made (Smoked) Last Weekend

Last summer, some of you might recall, I made a foray in the art of cooking with smoke and decided to make the homemade smoker from Alton Brown’s show, Good Eats.  You take an earthenware flower pot, put a hot plate at the bottom, a tin full of chips on top of that, a grill grate down inside of it, you put your meat on the grill grate, top it off with another pot, then plug it in and walk away:


It works frightiningly well.  I’ve heard people talk about how finicky smokers are and how using them outside can be tough because the weather can affect your temperature, but the earthenware is so thick and so good at holding onto heat that it never wavered. It always held at a nice 200-210 degrees through pretty strong wind and even some sprinkles.

The first day I made pulled pork.  Pulled pork takes a loooooong time.  I was up early:


Then the pork went on:


Twelve hours later the pork came off:


Awesome bark, great flavor, extremely tender.  The only thing I would change is that I’d like to try giving it a longer brine.  I was only able to soak it over night which, considering I got it in late and was up early, wasn’t that long a time.  I’d like to give it like a four day soak and see how that effects things.

But otherwise I’m so very happy with my smoker.  If anything, actually, the thing is too easy to use.  The next day we decided to smoke some more stuff.  I did some sausages that I stuffed with jalapenos and cheese:



Those turned out pretty well:


There were some ribs that were smoked as well but I didn’t get a shot of them. They turned out awesome.  There was talk of smoking some chicken wings but that never materialized.  For that matter there was talk of smoking a pizza and a hot dog bun and possibly some Cheetos and, had we not been incredibly stuffed full of food, we probably would have tried it.

Also, you’ll notice that there isn’t a damned vegetable in sight. I was so fixated on getting the pork right that I didn’t exactly round out the meal.  Yes, we had coleslaw, but that was really just part of the pork delivery system.  Then again had there been any vegetables lying around I most likely would have tried to smoke them (I’m sitting here wondering how many stoners are going to wander onto this blog post).

So this, the second outing with my crazy-ass homemade smoker, was such a success that I think I had my fill of smoked meats for about six  months.  Which is good and bad.

Oh, and you’ll notice in the top picture how I use a seashell to block the hole on the top of the smoker.  This is what the shell looked like at the end of the weekend:

Which I think is beautiful.

Things That Were Cooked Last Weekend

I had a cooking outing on Saturday.  I will attempt to walk you through this visually, although being busy cooking means not being free to take photos.  Some of the more interesting stuff went undocumented and some of the better looking stuff was cooked not by me but by my happy cooking friend.

So be it.

Everything started at Whole Foods in Columbus Circle:

Whole Foods Outside

This is the only picture I was able to take inside before being told I wasn’t allowed to take pictures:

Whole Foods Inside

I don’t know why they don’t allow photos.  I’ve never run a store so I’d imagine there are plenty of reasons, the first that springs to mind is that they don’t want a bunch of idiots like myself rearranging their fruit to take photos while paying customers are trying to shop.  But it’s a shame.  That place is beautiful and I’d like to photograph its pants off.

On to cooking.

I was in charge of the protein and we settled on baby back ribs. I went with Alton Brown’s recipe which involves putting a dry rub on the ribs, letting them sit for at least an hour, then wrapping each rack in a separate aluminum foil pouch (I have no before pics of the ribs or the rub sadly):

Foil Wrapped Ribs

Here’s an artsy picture of them…aluminum foil is shiny:


You then make a braising liquid, pour some into each pouch, seal the pouches and park them in a low oven for a few hours.  It’s an interesting cooking method, one I’ve never used before, and something went a little wrong.  The ribs tasted great and all but they weren’t BBQ Baby Back Ribs.  They were…I don’t know what they were.  They didn’t have the sticky mahogany coat I was aiming for.  And after they’ve cooked you’re supposed to drain out the remaining liquid from each foil pouch and reduce it to make a glaze. Only it never really reduced into anything except brown water.  I’m thinking I put too much liquid into each pouch.  Braising requires the barest minimum of cooking liquid, otherwise you’re stewing.  So I guess I made stewed ribs.  Which still tasted awesome.


That photo is making me hungry.

We also had Okra…

Chopped Okra

…which you toss in corn meal.  No egg or flour or any washes are required as Okra is slimy.  I know saying that a food is slimy doesn’t sound that awesome but it allows your dredge to stick to it au natural which makes it fry up surprisingly light and crisp:


We had biscuits.

I didn’t make these.  I hate baking.  My happy cooking friend also claims to hate baking which started to sound a little silly by the end of the night as, among other things, she managed to turn this:

Cut Flour

Into this:

Biscuit Dough

Into this:


We also had grits.  I’ve never made grits before.  We used quick grits.  There are grits, which require full cooking time, quick grits, which are specially ground regular grits that require very little cooking time, and then there are instant grits, which are precooked grits which only require hot water to rehydrate.

Here’s a fun experiment.  Try cooking grits in a group and counting how many times My Cousin Vinny comes up in conversation:


It’s a lot. I can’t find the actual clip.  You either know what I’m talking about or you don’t, and if you don’t then you were living in a cave for all of 1992.

Anyway, grits are crazy-stupid-easy.  You boil them for five minutes.  Then you dump cheese and butter into them. We also threw in some chopped jalapenos:


What else…collared greens and fried green (yellow) tomatoes:

Collared Greens


No after shots of those.  Both very simple.  Greens get simmered in some salted and sugared water for about 30 minutes or until tooth tender.  Adding cooked bacon and caramelized onions, shockingly, adds some nice flavors.

Tomatoes get floured, egged and dredged then pan fried in some oil.

And here is a shot of some tomato and dill which has nothing to do with anything nor do these two ingredients have anything to do with each other but they looked nice:

Dill and Tomato

There was also key-lime pie and pecan tarts but no pictures were taken of those.


Wine and beer:


Can’t forget that.

Joe out.