13 November 2006

La Caja China; Part One

When Jose´ told me about his pig box, I listened politely and nodded approvingly in all the right places. I mentioned how I was quite fond of the pork beast and all it's many delicious pieces. Men talk about meat. Like cars, sports and pointless explosions, meat is something that men have an opinion about and we never really shy away from sharing those opinions. It's like a secret language for us, one that we use to communicate at an instinctual level.

What Jose´ was really saying was "I like pork. I want to share some with you some day, so that you can tell me how good my pork is." I accepted his offer and offered to reciprocate by telling him about my smoked tri-tip and the special seasoning blend that I use for dry rubs.

Then, like many men, I completely forgot the entire exchange; until next Christmas. I was returning from a Christmas party when I turned the corner onto my street and my nostrils were filled with the succulent aroma or roasting pig. It filled the street and filtered in through the ventilation system of the car. If I had been a cartoon character, tendrils of wispy smoke would have gently caressed my face and lifted me by my nose to lead me to the source of the smell on my tip toes.

What I found was Jose´ and about 25 other Cubans standing in his garage huddled around a wooden box on wheels. Jose´ gestured madly and insisted that I join him. What I learned that night was that Cubans traditionally roast a pig at Christmas, that the pig is delicious, and that you don't need to speak a lot of Spanish to make someone understand that yes, you'd love another piece of crispy skin.

It was then that Jose´ told me about La Caja China, the Chinese Box. "First," he said, "you rub the pig with the sauce. You love it, you caress it like a woman, but not like your wife. Then you stab it! You stab it! Then you rub with the spice, THEN STAB IT!." His exclamations were partnered with drunken stabbing as he mimicked maiming the porcine target of his affection. "Then you put it in caja china and add the fire to the top."

"And then?" I asked.

Jose´ shrugged as if my question was irrelevant or the answer a mystery of such high order that mortals simply couldn't comprehend it. "You take out the pig." After his animated description of the preparation, I was expecting a little more in the way of details. When I pressed him for things like temperature, cooking time, and fuel, he just shrugged again. "You put the pig in, and then put the fire on and then three hours later, you take the pig out."

"Three hours?" It seemed like a rather short time to cook an entire pig.

"Yes. Always three hours." And that was that. He later explained to me that the box was magic, and that's why they called it La Caja China. According to Jose´ the Cubans have a tendency to label devices and things they don't understand, or that appear to have nearly mystical capabilities, to the Chinese. He didn't know why.

I recently got my own Caja China, and it does seem nearly magical. After a knuckle busting assembly I can assure you that the box is nothing more than a pine plywood box that's lined with sheets of stainless steel. The meat is captured in a rack and sits in the box in a drip tray. A top is placed on the box, and a grate on top of that. Coals are piled on top of the grate and lit. The coals are refreshed three times in three hours. In the last half hour the rack is flipped so the meat is skin side up to let it get crispy, but that's the only time you do anything other than watch the fire and drink a refreshing beverage.

After three hours of cooking, anything you put in there is done. The model I got can do up a 70lb pig, 4 pork shoulders, 4-6 turkeys, 12-18 chickens, 12 racks of ribs, 4 briskets, or any other suitably enormous quantity of meat. I got mine last week, and naturally I've decided to cook an entire pig for Thanksgiving.

Only a fool rushes in without experimenting though, and I wasn't about to just willy nilly try this new technique without practicing it at least once. So a friend and I prepared two picnic cuts a piece with different seasonings and marinades. The meat was secured, fire added, and time passed. Two and a half hours later, we jumped the gun and removed the coals and the pork.

The results were exceptionally tasty, although the simpler seasonings were the most favored amongst testers. Because the meat was pulled too soon, it wasn't as tender as it could have been, even though the meat had reached temperature quite quickly and stayed at temperature for more than an hour. Lessons were learned, and in a future installment, I shall detail those lessons.

18 September 2006

Lemon Pepper Chicken with balsamic vinegar glaze

2-4 chicken breasts
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
Lemon pepper
Kosher salt

Pat chicken breasts dry and sprinkle with salt and lemon pepper. Turn oven broiler on high.

In a hot, oven safe skillet, melt butter in olive oil. Fry chicken for 2-3 minutes on each side, until browned.

Spoon or brush half of vinegar over chicken and place skillet on middle rack of oven for 3 minutes.

Remove chicken from oven. Spoon honey over chicken. Ladle remainder of vinegar over chicken. Add lemon juice to skillet.

Place skillet back in oven on top rack, directly beneath burner, for 3 minutes.

Remove chicken from skillet and serve immediately. Do not spoon sauce from pan over chicken.

11 July 2006

Don't hate the tater, hate the game

Potatoes are the most widely grown tuber in the world, and a staple of the American diet. Here's a fun fact; Potatoes do not come from Ireland. Potatoes are a new world vegetable that originate in the Andes highlands of Peru. It was imported into Spain and then slowly spread across Europe where they were considered unhealthy.

Despite being a new world vegetable, the potato has a long and varied role as a culinary ingredient. If you're american though, you've very likely only eaten in a small number of ways. Baked potato, mashed potatoes, french fries, potato chips. While fine in their own right, these three dishes don't offer the diversity of flavor that most of us crave. The more adventurous or ethnically diverse may have sampled other common potato dishes. Potato pancakes, gnocchi, or pommes souffle

Fortunately, potatoes are a hardy and durable ingredient that take well to a variety of seasonings, both sweet and savory, and cooking methods. Potatoes are almost perfect for experimentation. Fry, boil, bake, roast and grill to your hearts content.

The following recipe is my latest experimentation. I'm pleased to say that it came out quite well. The end result had the desirable crunchy exterior of an au gratin and the creamy cheesy center typical of scalloped potatoes. It came out a little sweeter than I had expected, but not enough to overbalance the savory flavors of the cheese and onion.

  • 3 russet potatoes cut into 1" cubes
  • 1 Sweet yellow onion roughly diced
  • 2 golden delicious apples cut into 1" cubes
  • 1/3 cup of Gulden's brown mustard
  • 2/3 cup of sour cream
  • 1 cup of shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup of Sargento's shredded four cheese Mexican blend
  • salt and pepper to taste
In a large mixing bowl mix together the sour cream, Gulden's mustard, Sargento's cheese and half of the parmesan cheese until well blended. Salt and pepper to taste. Add the potatoes, onion, and apples, and toss until well coated.

Place mixture in a 1.5 quart baking dish and sprinkle the top with the remainder of parmesan cheese and fresh ground black pepper. Bake in a 375° oven for 1 hour. Let the dish cool for 3-5 minutes before serving.

Fun, although untested, additions would be; bacon, prosciutto, rosemary, jicama, spinach, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, and flaked smoked salmon.

06 July 2006

Shooting for science! #2

In America, Independence Day is a really big deal. It's the titular anniversary of the day we tossed off the shackles of tyrannical monarchy and unfair taxation, shortly replacing it with ignorant misrepresentation and unfair taxation. Some people celebrate this holiday by tossing cash semi-legal fireworks vendors to procure a product that they will literally burn and explode in the street and leave the remains to float away in the evening wind. Or, you know, clog up the storm drain. America can be a confusing place, even for the natives.

I don't prescribe to the fireworks game plan much. Fireworks are most often used after dark, and I'm frequently far too intoxicated after dark to mix such things as fire and explosions. That kind of tom foolery is for the day time, and if you're going to do it, you should really do it right. So last weekend while my brother-in-law was in town, we went out to the desert for some good ol fashioned Independence Day Shooting At Things fun.

Peter had brought a number of firearms with him, and so had my good friend Jeff, so we had a grip of guns and between us we had far more ammunition than we could realistically shoot before the July sun tried to kill us and pick our bones for the pleasure of the desert. What we didn't have was much to shoot at. I had a few old hard drives, but nothing really heavy. Nothing worthy of science. "Don't worry" I admonished them as we bounced along the gas line road, "Arrakis provides." And so it did.

We stopped a few times and picked up things like a steel rack to use as a stand to dangle things from and an old saw horse, also to dangle things from so that we could shoot them. The real treasure though, was an old cast iron disk brake rotor. Now we were talking! Now we had some science to shoot at!

We set up our stands, attached the science target and set out to 'test' the ballistic performance of disk brakes. I'll tell you right away, disk brakes do an awesome job of stopping cars from doing silly things like ramming into other cars, but they're not really the kind of thing I'd want to hide behind in a fire fight, unless my opponent was armed solely with hand guns, and was a really good shot. Seriously, disk brakes aren't that big, and there's a big hole in the middle of them.

We started off at approximately 10 meters with the .40 Glock, which did nothing but splatter against the iron with a sharp ring and an impressive splatter. Peter, seeing the bullet splatter decided to move farther away behind me during the shooting section of Science. This is only important to note because Peter did not get shot that morning.

The .40 was followed by the .223 AR-15, the .303 Enfield, the .30-06 Springfield, and the .30-30 Marlin. That's really where we ran into a bit of a road block. The .223, .303, and .30-06 ammo was all FMJ while the .30-30 was a winchester XM2 soft nosed deer round. The FMJ ammo all cleanly and neatly penetrated the iron brake rotor and the thirty caliber rounds all popped out impressive chunks of metal on the back side. While the .30-30 round was more than powerful enough to bust through the iron, it was also real soft. At that range, and on that kind of target, it seems to have a tendency to fragment and ricochet rather unpredictably.

As soon as I took the shot with the Marlin, Jeff casually mentioned, "I'm hit" in a tone of voice that didn't really suggest panic or danger. "I took some shrapnel" he clarified and I jogged over to see what he was so politely not panicking about. Turns out a piece of the jacket had caught a ridge in the rotor and peeled off, shoot back at us and catching Jeff in the wrist. It was a good pea sized junk of the jacket a little bit of the slug and had dug firmly into the soft flesh surrounding Jeff's meaty wrist.

I had shot my best friend of twenty years.

He casually picked out the fragment and walked towards the truck, discarding the piece of bullet without thinking about retaining the trophy. We gave the wound a little cleaning, examined it for damage, determined it was a minor flesh wound, and applied the real life equivalent of a video game health pack, the band-aid.

When we resumed shooting for science, Jeff stood farther back. I felt it was important to test the .30-30 again and took more careful aim this time. Predictably I took a piece of shrapnel in the forearm. I was a little disappointed when I discovered that the fragment was tiny. A part of me was hoping I would wound myself at least as badly as I did my good friend, who didn't want to get shot, so that I might gain some kind of karmic balance. I couldn't take back the chunk of bullet in Jeff's wrist, but maybe I could put a larger one in me somewhere fleshy. I would have been okay with that. I hurt myself all the time, some times on purpose. Of course, I wasn't willing to actually shoot myself directly, especially not after seeing what these bullets where doing to cast iron.

We finished off the science portion of the day with a 2 3/4 inch 12 gauge slug. This turned out to be the surprise ballistics performer of the day. The other rifled rounds all cut clean(ish) holes in the brittle iron. This wasn't surprising considering the velocity of some of the rounds. I didn't expect the 12 gauge slug to do much tough, and so I was surprised when both test rounds punched through, making impressive ragged exits. While the rifle rounds seemed to nearly machine cut their way through, the 12 gauge slug by comparison made a whole that could have just as easily been made by a hammer.

In all seriousness though, we got lucky, and I realize that. This is an excellent example of how unpredictable and dangerous fire arms can be if not treated with respect. We, and when I say "we" I really mean "Jeff," got very lucky. The bullet fragment hit him in a place not covered by clothing that could stick in the wound and become infected, and it didn't hit him in the face or some other delicate bit.

Respect the power of your firearm.

23 June 2006

Hardened arteries are a sign of social stature.

I can't find the words to describe the Beer Battered Deep Fried Bacon Double Quarter Pounder. I can't decide it it's the best idea in the whole world, or a terrible terrible no good thing.

19 June 2006

A sauce for all seasons

Pasta sauces range from the time consuming bolognese to the excruciatingly simple sage and butter sauce, whose only ingredients are sage and butter. Opinions on the proper sauce to use and the way to cook it differ to a degree that would make a veteran of the Usenet OS Wars shudder and cower. Seriously, people have died over such seemingly minor differences as when to add cheese, what kind of wine to use and whether the tomatoes should be chopped or mashed by hand.

Here's what you don't hear very often though; they're dead simple to make. You can make a killer tomato based pasta sauce yourself, with very little preparation, training, or skill, and you don't even need access to a farmer's market. All of those things help, but just about anything you make will come out better than Ragu. Notice the capital R. It makes a difference. I'm talking about the Ragu brand sauces in the grocery store, not the lovingly prepared sauces crafted by hand.

The following is a recipe for a simple sauce that I made last night. i welcome you to try it and modify it as required by your available ingredients and taste. You'll note that I left out onions and carrots. I don't particularly care for onions, they give me heartburn, so I omit them. Besides, I didn't have any. Feel free to do the same thing.
  • Add about a tablespoon of olive oil to a hot stock pot. Expect some smoke, turn on a fan.
  • Add a hand full of diced prosciutto to the hot oil and stir around. It will cook very fast.
  • When the prosciutto starts to brown, and it will do so quickly, toss in 4 or 5 chopped cloves of garlic.
  • Pay close attention, the garlic will cook very fast. Once it's become brown, and just before it starts to burn, pour in about 1/3 bottle of wine. If you've never done this before, expect a very violent reaction from the pan. Smoke, steam, noise, it's like a magic show in the pan.
  • You can use any wine, although for my money, reds work best. A lot of people will tell you to never cook with wine you would drink, that you tend to lose all the important flavor components in the cooking process. This is horse shit. I wouldn't ever cooking with a wine you wouldn't drink. If it tastes like cat poop in the glass, it won't be doing your food any favors.
  • For the record I use a 2003 merlot.
  • Let this heady mixture of wine, pork and garlic boil for a good bit. You want it to reduce by about 2/3s.
  • Once the wine has reduced sufficiently, toss in two cans of diced Del Monte tomatoes, I prefer the basil, garlic, and oregano variety.
  • Yes, canned tomatoes. You know why? Because I can't be bothered to cut, scoop, blanch and peel 6-10 tomatoes. Be my guest if you want. Sometimes it's worth it.
  • Bring the sauce to a boil, adding salt and sugar to taste. The sugar will help cut down on the acidity. I also add in about a tablespoon of Italian seasoning and a few dashes of oregano and basil. At this point you want to pour in another 2 cups or so of wine.
  • I also like to toss in some sharp cheese. You can't go wrong with a nice parmesan. I also like Asiago and even Dubliner. Go nuts, make it a few big handfuls.
  • Cover the pot, and reduce the heat to a simmer.
  • Walk away. Do something else for an hour or two, and let this happily percolate.
  • After simmering, I like to go at the sauce with an immersion blender for a smoother sauce. Don't feel you have to. A chunky sauce is just as good as a smooth one.
  • Just before serving, add in a ladle or two of the water from your cooking pasta. This starchy fluid will help even out the consistency of the sauce and aid it in adhering to the pasta.
  • You can serve the sauce immediately and it will be delicious. Be sure to set some of the wine at the table with glasses. If you have the time though, I recommend letting it cool in the fridge over night and serving it the next day. Given time to rest, it will be even better.

18 June 2006

A place in the sun

The experienced firearms collector knows many ways to deal with the love hate relationship they have with cosmoline. The freshman firearms collector will soon make numerous additions to his or her vocabulary of hate. The complex emotions that a firearms collector has with cosmoline root from it's use and removal.

Cosmoline is a petroleum distillate similar in appearance and consistency to petroleum jelly (Vaseline). It's primary use is as a preservative for long term storage of firearms. This is good. The remarkable preservative qualities of cosmoline allow for firearms to be stored for decades, if not longer. Cheap and easy preservation means that those of us who are so inclined can readily and cheaply purchase historical firearms.

As it ages though, cosmoline penetrates all the tiny crevices of the firearm's mechanisms, and is even absorbed by the wooden parts like a sponge; and then it hardens and gets sticky. Very sticky. So sticky that removing it can be time and sanity consuming.

The classic method is to break the weapon down into its component parts and carefully and time consumingly scrub each part with a variety of solvents designed to break down petroleum distillates. There are a number of problems with this method though, it relies on corrosive and potentially toxic combinations of solvents and it can take a long time. Last winter it took me approximately six hours to scrub down all the parts on my Lee Enfield No.4 Mk1, and more than one followup cleaning proved to be necessary.

Easier said that done
Arrrrrmy training Sir!

Others recommend using the dishwasher. The one in your kitchen. Cosmoline has a relatively low melting point of about 120 Fahrenheit. The hot water in the dishwasher is more than warm enough to gently wash away the cosmoline. Care must be taken though; never use a detergent only hot water, and immediately after removing the metal from the dishwasher, apply a thin coat of oil. Don't attempt this method if you're intending to restore the firearm, as the hot water will raise the grain on the wooden parts and a post wash sanding will be required. This could remove or damage any stock imprints or other marks of character. The most important cautionary element of this method is to prevent your wife from ever finding out you used the dishwasher in this manner. I recommend waiting until she leaves the house and then never telling her. Ever.

Another, easier, method that I've recently discovered has a short and readily obtainable list of requirements.
  • 1-3 black garbage bags
  • A hot sunny day

Don't use a nice table.

Pick up your firearm, and if you feel like it, disassemble it. Or don't, whatever, it's not that important. Place your firearm inside the garbage bags, then place it out in the sun. Wait a few hours depending on the temperature and latitude. The hotter it is, and the closer you are the equator, the less time you have to wait. Take the firearm out of the bag and wipe it down with a rag. Repeat if necessary.

Sweating to the oldies.

Seriously, that's it. Several applications may be required to get desirable results, but it beats spending numerous hours hunched over, scrubbing at a relentless foe with noxious chemicals. A serious advantage of the solar method is removal of cosmoline from the wood without damage. The only downsides to this method is that you may not live someplace that gets hot enough and the metal parts can become too hot to touch. Why spend all that time busting your hump when you can finally let that giant ball of burning hydrogen do something more constructive than hang around burning your scalp.

11 June 2006

Remember the membrane

If you're anything like me, and I have to assume you are, then you spend a lot of time watching the cable food channel, FoodTV. The shows that are featured on that cable channel are a wealth of information about cooking and I frequently find myself integrating portions of recipes I see on some of those shows as well as learning valuable techniques.

One thing that I frequently heard was that when cooking ribs, any self respecting cook that wasn't a foul lich and wasn't actually interested in poisoning their guests, would remove the membrane. Which seems like good advice. Of course I would remove the membrane. I mean, it sounds disgusting. Anything called a membrane has no purpose lurking around attached to the food I love to eat.

Of course, no one really explained what the membrane was, or where it was at, or how to actually remove it. I can only guess that they presumed something so foul would easily stand out and the process for removal would be clear to anyone capable of both tying their own shoes and walking through a kitchen without getting stabbed, burned or sliced before tripping because they'd tied their shoe laces together. I'm here to save you that pain.

I could infer from the sparkling comments of the TV hosts that the membrane rested along the back of the ribs, close to the bones. I assumed that there would be some kind of pulling, or maybe cutting, certainly some swearing was involved.

Here's the straight poop. The membrane does indeed run along the back side of the ribs, close to the bone. It is thin, well, membrane, composed largely of elastin. If I were to guess, I'd say it's a cousin of silver skin, that other enemy of delicious that sits so closely to our beloved ruddy morsels. It's just a guess though, I'm neither a scienctician nor Alton Brown.

How to remove the membrane:

Turn the ribs over.

One side of the rack will have longer bones that the other. Locate the second bone from the end on the short side. Slip a paring knife or butter knife between the bone and the membrane.

Use the knife to gently pry the membrane away from the bone. Don't go to fast, and don't apply too much pressure, you don't want to tear the membrane.

When you've pulled the membrane far enough way, slip a finger under the membrane and work it farther from the bone.

Once you get your whole finger under it, pull the membrane away from the bone and towards the long end of the rack. A piece of paper towel might make it easier for you to grip the membrane, as it's quite slippery, like most of the insides of a pig.

With patience, experience and luck, the membrane will come off in one large piece. Once you've removed it, take a moment to stare at it. Make some appropriate noises about how disgusting it is.

If you're like me you can consider rolling some cheese or other tasty bits up in it for frying. Push those thoughts away. Elastin is really tough, chewy and despite it's bouncy stretchy name, tends to shrink up and become inflexible when it's heated. Don't give in to that temptation, the results are not good, and certainly not edible.

Now that we've removed the membrane, all that's left is seasoning and cooking the ribs. We'll cover that in a future installment.

08 June 2006

Canned bread; not new, still awesome.

The internet is all a flutter about what the hip trendy kids are calling The best thing since sliced bread; canned bread! The original article touts the product as an "innovative product, intended for use as emergency rations."

Boingboing thinks this is awesome, and to be fair, there is some awesome in this article, but it has little or nothing to do with canned bread. What's awesome is that this is the product of a vocational rehabilitation project in Japan. A small group of bakers in Nagoya bake and can the bread and sell it directly to businesses, directing any profits to a vocational aid facility in Nagoya's Showa Ward to help with living expenses for disabled people.

Here's the thing though, canned bread isn't innovative, it isn't even a new idea. Canned bread was a staple of the C2 and C3 field rations, commonly referred to as "C-Rations",used by the US military since the early 1950s. In 1958 the C-Rations were technically replaced by Meals, Combat, Individual. The packaging and implementation were so similar that troops continued to call field rations "C Rats" until the introduction of the Meal, Ready-to-Eat, or MRE, in 1983. While the MRE was packaged in high strength plastic bags instead of cans, it too featured a bread item.

Both the C-ration and the MRE bread have a technical shelf life measured in years and a practical shelf life that's more accurately measured in decades. In 1991, while digging a fox hole during a training exercise on Fort Carson, my squad uncovered a can of spice cake marked with a date in the 50s. It was rusty, and dented, but otherwise appeared complete. We opened it and the cake seemed fine. To collect a $20 bet, I ate half of the small can of spice cake. I wouldn't describe it as "tasty" or even "desirable" as it was quite dry, but it was certainly edible and I suffered no ill effects.

20 May 2006

Sweet apple herb chicken

On occasion I happen to think of possible recipes while in the strangest of circumstances. Showering, cleaning the garage or parachuting out the back of a Russian cargo plane with an expensive German sports car are all places that culinary inspiration may strike. This time it struck as I wandered the aisles of Costco, trying to accomplish nothing more complicated than figure out what I could make for dinner with the rather limited ingredients in my refrigerator. While that may sound relatively mundane to you, my test audience is my wife, partly because she’s a picky eater, but mostly because she’s a captive audience. She has yet to spit anything out, although she isn’t hesitant to express her distaste when the situation calls for such. This dish earned accolades though and so I feel confident that you too will enjoy it.

    • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    • 2 celery stalks
    • 2 carrots
    • 1/2 onion, Vidalia, or Maui Sweet if you can get it although any yellow onion will do.
    • 2-3 granny smith apples
    • Kosher salt
    • Black pepper
    • Italian seasoning herb blend
    • Rubbed sage
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons Honey
    • Olive oil
    • Butter
    • Asiago cheese
    • Parmesan cheese
    Preheat oven to 375 F.
  • Trim the chicken breasts of excess fat. Rinse the chicken and pat dry with a paper towel.
  • Season chicken to taste with salt, pepper, Italian seasoning and sage. Rub the seasoning blend into the chicken so that it sticks.
  • Dice onion, carrots, celery and apples.
  • In a medium hot skillet or saute pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in two tablespoons of Olive oil.
  • Carefully add chicken to oil and cook about 1 to 2 minutes on both side, just enough to sear and nicely brown the exterior. We're going to finish it in the oven later.
  • Remove chicken to a plate.
  • Add the apples to the same hot skillet without removing any oil or washing it out.
  • Add the honey to the apples and saute for 2-3 minutes stirring frequently
  • Add the carrot, celery and onion to the apples in the skillet, continuing to saute for 3-5 minutes or until onions are translucent.
  • Add apple mixture to a 9x13 casserole dish and arrange the chicken breasts on top of apple mixture.
  • Shred cheese to cover chicken.
  • Bake uncovered for 35-40 minutes.
  • Serve with rice, potatoes or gnocchi.
  • Yield: 4

So why use both butter and olive oil? Butter browns nicely and lends a pleasing taste to food, unfortunately, it has a low smoking point and burns quickly. Olive oil combines with butter quickly and easly, increasing the smoke point to manageable levels and lends a subtle aromatic flavor to the finished dish.

Okay, so why both Asiago and Parmesan? This is mostly a matter of taste. I happen to think that asiago compliments parmesan nicely and gives a very subtle nutty flavor to the final product. You can of course use any blend of Asiago, Parmesan or Romano cheese that you desire. Hell, put some thick slices of mozzarella, Colby or monterey jack]over each breast, or even omit the cheese entirely. The cheese is not essential to the flavor of the chicken but each will lend its own subtle flavor to the dish. Although, with the softer cheeses you’ll want to add the cheese right at the end of the cooking period, otherwise you’ll just get a greasy mess.

08 May 2006

Shooting, for science!

I had these aluminium plates in the garage, and so, for the sake of science, we shot every load we had at it and recorded the source. I had meant to also record the type and brand of ammunition used, but four hours in the desert sun must have frizzled our noodles because we tossed all the empty boxes. Click the pics for notes. Other pics of the blessed day can be seen here, and here.

The new AR shot like a charm and the sights didn't require any adjustment for shots up to 75 yards from a standing position. One thing I had forgotten, it does get flaming hot in the desert sun.

The surprise performer for the day was the CZ-52, an ugly and uncomfortable gun designed well before ergonomics were a matter of concern, and yet a real solid ballistics performer.

20 April 2006

Recipes for the bachelor who isn't afraid of heart disease

For the bachelor there is little more satisfying or efficient than the pork beast. Bacon, fried by itself is the perfect accompaniment to an infinite variety of sources for the daring single cook. And yet, there is even more flavor and satisfaction to be uncovered for every dish that touches the pan, especially so as a only a small number of dishes is actually needed to satisfy a man’s appetite for a self cooked meal. It would seem that many bachelors don’t know that such tasty dishes can be created in a single pan. Or they are badgered by women, whose pants they wish to enter, to eat healthier more complex meals. This then, is a guide to all free men, who do not fear heart disease. Enjoy. All recipes yield one serving except where noted.

Bacon sandwich
    • Bacon
    • Cheese
    • Mayonnaise
    • Bread.
    • Black pepper
  • Cook bacon, sprinkle with pepper on both sides while cooking.
  • SPAM can be substituted for bacon. Cut SPAM as thin as possible and cook till hard and brown.
  • Toast bread.
  • Spread [mayonnaise] on both slices of bread.
  • Put cheese and bacon on bread.
  • Serve with beer.

Sausage and Rice
    • Loose pork sausage
    • Rice
    • Beans (optional)
    • Salt
    • Black pepper
    • Butter
  • Cook rice.
  • Cook sausage in butter until it’s no longer pink.
  • Sausage can be substituted with and combination of bacon, SPAM, or ham.
  • Drain beans and combine with sausage.
  • Add rice to sausage and bean mixture.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Serve with beer.

Hash browns and pig
    • Pork meat.
    • Potatoes O’Brien
    • Cheese
    • Salt
    • Black pepper
    • Cheese
    • Egg
  • Cook pork meat. You can use either bacon, sausage, SPAM or any combination of the three. Alternatively, you can use any left over meat or meat product found in the refrigerator.
  • Add a handful or two of potatoes to pan. Season to taste with pepper and salt.
  • Cook till done.
  • Sprinkle cheese over potatoes.
  • Add egg to potatoes and stir to combine.
  • Serve with beer.

Mac and porker
    • Kraft Macaroni & Cheese
    • SPAM
    • Cream Cheese
  • Cook macaroni and cheese according to directions on box.
  • Dice SPAM and cook in a separate pan till brown and hard.
  • Add SPAM and cream cheese to macaroni and cheese. Mix to combine.
  • Serve with beer.

That’s it. The well read bachelor really doesn’t need to know how to prepare anything else. More complicated fare such as steaks and hamburgers can be purchased from a respectable restaurant and the bachelor is best to not attempt these dishes at home as they frequently call for the use of such accessories as vegetables. Vegetables simply shouldn’t be cooked by the eager amateur as they require specialized equipment, like deep fryers, to prepare the ingredients in such a manner that the natural flavors are replaced with the more agreeable flavor of beer batter. For this reason, matters of convenience, and loose waitresses, things like hot wings and onion rings should only be prepared by trained professionals in the controlled environment of a sports pub. It’s worthy of note to mention that the ingredients from any of these recipes can be combined with any other or all contained herein to create a meal for you and your buddies.

07 April 2006

Range report for the Lee Enfield No.4 MkI

The only real barometer of a weapon's performance is what impact it has on a hard drive. You can talk about your ballistics gelatin and modeling clay until you're blue in the face, not me brother. 2 - 6 metal platters evenly spaced and secured inside a metal box, that's where it's at!

The Lee Enfield has a long battlefield history, and a richly deserved reputation as a battle rifle. The British soldiers were trained to use volley fire, a method of rapidly cycling the weapon to produce covering fire, that was only possible because of the rifle's velvety smooth action. This was so effective that it's said the German forces in WWI frequently thought they were being engaged by machine guns. This is all the more impressive when you realize that the rifle is fed from a 10 round box magazine that was charged with stripper clips.

Battle Ready

The rifle is chambered in British .303, a rimmed 30 caliber cartridge that packs an adequate punch for nearly all North American game and delivers about 3500 joules, depending on the powder load.

I can hear you asking though, "What what's all this about hard drives?"

Here's a neat and clean entry hole;

Like a 30 caliber cookie cutter

A much less neat exit hole;


Note that this round penetrated the densest part of the hard drive, the core of the spindle. After exiting the hard drive, the round hit a rock the size of my head that was on the hillside directly behind where we set up our targets. It still had enough energy to not only split the rock, but also start a smoldering brush fire that had to be stomped out. You many sneer, but I was impressed.

This was Sellier and Bellot 180gr FMJ at about 40 yards from a standing position using the battle sights. It took a few rounds to get dialed in, and once I figured it out the shots were pretty consistent. This rifle has a 1947 manufacture stamp and it's a tack driver. Like the 30-06 though, a comparaible round, the ballistics get a little iffy past 100 yards, and some significant elevation is required. This is why the rifle comes with graduated sights as well as battle sights. It's a heavy rifle though, and it didn't take very long for me to get tired and my placement started to wander. On the plus side, the heavy weight of the rifle set off the recoil real well. 

A heavy, but comfortable rifle.

Over all, it's a good performer and an excellent rifle, especially considering that I spent less than $100 on it (minus security and FFL transfer).