Tag Archives: Charley

Bar Stool Fridays – Dog Walking Adventures

The sun was shining and it felt warm on our skin.  Charley and I had encountered very few U.G.O.s (unidentified ground objects that he tries to consume) or chicken bones (yes, I live in a community where folks really throw chicken bones on the ground) on our daily midday walk around the neighborhood.  We didn’t pass anybody dealing drugs, I didn’t catch a whiff of urine from the alley…I may have even been smiling.  I was really enjoying this walk.

Now, I am definitely not a fearful person.  I walk through life with confidence, but I try to always be aware of my surroundings and I am far from trusting strangers.  However, I had no reason to be suspicious of the car driving toward us.  The driver had his window down with his arm resting on the frame.  He also seemed to be enjoying this lovely day.  And, because I look quite different than most individuals in my neighborhood and I may have been smiling, I was not surprised that he looked our way.  I didn’t find it threatening.  I was not even surprised when he stopped the car and began to speak to me.  Charley was paused to sniff what most have been a particularly fragrant section of tree and he also didn’t feel threatened by this man in the car.

“Uh wahh wahh meh like yah wahh that big black dawg?”

He was smiling when he said this, so for some reason my brain didn’t register this as something with which I should be troubled.  I smiled and replied, “What’s that?”

“Yew wanna walk me like your walkin’ that big black dawg?”

Hmmm…that was not what I expected to hear.  I thought he was going to ask for directions or comment on Charley’s size or shiny coat.  I had no expectation that someone driving down the road would pull over and ask a strange woman if she would walk him like a dog.  No expectation.

Once my brain processed what he actually said (and it did take me a couple of beats), I replied, “No.  No, thank you.”  (I have to say thank you ’cause I’m from Texas and we are nothing if not polite.)

He shrugged.  I turned away and Charley and I continued down the block as he drove away in the opposite direction.  My smile actually came back as we walked on because I found the exchange more amusing than intimidating.  I shook my head and thought, “This is why I enjoy so many bloody cocktails.”

So, I decided to make one.  Literally.  Well, with blood oranges…

This drink is inspired by the classic tequila cocktail, the Compadre, which translates to friend/partner from Spanish.  So, I’m calling it the Vecina Amiga, or the Friendly Neighbor.  Yeah, I am using the feminine, but it is pink.

The Vecina Amiga
Makes 1 drink

2 ounces tequila (I used silver)
1 ounce Campari
3 or 4 ounces blood orange soda (see NOTE)
ice
lime wedge, for garnish

Shake the tequila and Campari vigorously with ice.  Strain into an ice-filled highball glass.  Top with blood orange soda and stir gently.  Garnish with a lime wedge and serve.  Maybe you can even make one for your friendly neighbor.

NOTE: I found the “gourmet” blood orange soda in a local grocery store.  If you cannot find a similar product, mix equal parts of blood orange or grapefruit juice and club soda.  Taste, and if it needs to be sweeter, add a splash of simple syrup.

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Barstool Fridays – New Belgium Beer and A Quiver of Bacon

Intrigued?  Hope so!

I was recently selected to be a part of the FoodBuzz Tastemaker Program for New Belgium Brewing Company.  FoodBuzz is encouraging its bloggers to create recipes using or to be matched with New Belgium Beer.  Well, I really enjoy New Belgium’s offerings so I couldn’t turn down this opportunity.  Unfortunately, it is not currently available in the mid-Atlantic region where I reside.  It is available in my home state of Texas, though, and with the kind assistance of my beer-loving parents I was able to secure some for my use.  Thanks to FoodBuzz, New Belgium and, of course, Mom and Dad!

New Belgium Brewing

In the mood for spring, I elected to focus on their spring seasonal, Mighty Arrow Pale Ale.  It is pleasantly hoppy with honey malt undertones.

And, here’s my favorite part…it is brewed as a tribute to the founder’s dog, Arrow, a Border Collie mix.  I love the idea that a beer is made to honor a dog.  My dog, Charley, does, too.  I’m pretty sure he hopes to be on a beer label someday.

I decided to experiment with creating a beer cocktail.  And, bacon has been on my mind a lot lately, so I thought why not combine the two?  In fact, my mom encouraged me to try to create a BLT beer cocktail.  Hence…

A Quiver of Bacon or the Mighty Arrow BLT Beer Cocktail
Makes 1 drink

2 slices bacon, for garnish
3 – 4 croutons, for garnish
1 oz bacon vodka (yeah, that’s right…I’ll give you directions, look at the end of the entry)
1/2 oz lettuce juice (don’t worry…I’ll tell you how to do that, too)
3 oz tomato juice
2 – 3 dashes hot sauce
salt and pepper, to taste
6 oz New Belgium Mighty Arrow beer

Fry bacon until crisp, drain on paper towels.

(As I started to fry the bacon, Charley moseyed into the kitchen to watch me carefully.  He is a pretty constant kitchen companion, and is a big fan of bacon.)

Cube slightly stale bread into croutons.

Lightly brown the bread cubes in bacon grease.  Drain on paper towels.

In an ice filled shaker, add bacon vodka, lettuce juice, tomato juice, hot sauce, and salt and pepper.  Shake well.  Pour into pint glass, and pour beer on top.  Garnish with bacon and croutons, and serve.

Charley hopes you’ll share your bacon with a furry friend…

Bacon Vodka

To make bacon-infused vodka, I used a technique known as fat-washing.  I poured bacon fat into vodka, stirred, and then put it in the freezer.

To recreate, fry bacon and save the grease.  I’ve found that I can get about 1/2 cup of bacon fat from frying about a dozen pieces of bacon.

Figure out how much vodka you want to flavor and then determine how much grease you need to add.  I think for each ounce of vodka that you want to infuse, you should add at least 1/2 tsp of bacon grease.  Just pour that fat on in there and you will see that it pretty quickly separates.
Stir it up, cover well, and put in the freezer for at least 12 hours.  It will separate again and the fat will solidify in the freezer making it pretty easy to remove.
So, scrape out what fat you can and then strain the rest.  I used a paper towel lined sieve to help catch all the fat residue.
Now you are ready to use the vodka to make your Mighty Arrow BLT beer cocktail.
Lettuce Juice
This is really easy, too.  I just blitzed a few lettuce leaves in a food processor with a splash of Mighty Arrow beer.
For me, 6 or 7 leaves of lettuce with a couple of splashes of beer made about 3 ounces of lettuce juice.

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The Doggie Ate My Granola

My husband and I have a dog named Charley.  He is likely the sweetest dog you could ever meet.  He’s also smart and very protective, which is helpful in our neighborhood.

Charley has a weakness, however.  Food.  He cannot get enough.  His large appetite paired with his large size and intelligence means a constant vigilance on our part to prevent him from getting into food.  I envy friends who have small dogs who can’t reach on top of kitchen counters and shelves or into cabinets.  Sigh.

For the most part, I have learned from my mistakes.  It only takes one loss to learn what Charley is capable of reaching or opening, but morning is a bad time for my memory.  If I’m rushing out the door and focused on helping my husband not forget his belongings, I sometimes forget those previous mistakes.

You know where this is going, right?

I was tired.  I stayed up late the night before making granola to enjoy for my breakfast the rest of the week.  It smelled so good, and I really enjoyed the one bowl I had.  But, then, we were in a hurry.  I remembered to put away everything, well, almost everything.  I forgot the container of granola that was still sitting on the back of the kitchen counter…easily in reach of our long and lean dog.

Well, Charley loved the granola.  I think you will agree with him, but I hope your dog does not.

Charley’s Granola
Makes about 5 cups
(Modified from Molly Wizenberg’s recipe)

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped nuts (I used pecans and almonds)
1/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup honey
2 Tbsp agave syrup
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 cup raisins (or other dried fruit)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.  Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment.

Mix oats, nuts, coconut, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and salt in a large bowl.

In a small saucepan, combine honey, agave syrup, and oil and stir over medium-low heat until smooth.

Pour honey mixture over oat mixture and toss.

Spread onto prepared baking sheet.

Bake for about 40 minutes or until golden; stirring every 10 minutes.

Stir baked granola and let cool on sheet.  Once cool, mix in raisins.

Store in airtight (and dog-proof) container.  Stays fresh about 1 week, if you keep Charley away.

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I’m Back

Hi, friends.  Please forgive my absence.  I’ve missed all of you.  Recent developments in the life of Cook in the Bar have taken me away from my kitchen and writing.  First there were home renovations.  Need I say more?  Then, I had some computer problems.  All cleared up now.

And, drumroll, please…A Cook Walks Into a Bar is now coming to you temporarily from Texas.  Yay, y’all!  Yes, my husband has a temporary position in Fort Worth, Texas for the next few weeks.  Husband came ahead, but I arrived only last night (after driving two days).  I’m thrilled to be back in my hometown.  Plus, I’m really eager to cook with ingredients from the Lone Star state.  In fact, I’ve already made my first trip to Central Market this morning.  (Dave, I picked up some Hatch chiles in your honor.  Yes, I know they are from New Mexico, but it is a tradition to eat them here in Texas, too.)

I have a back-log of recipes to post for your reading pleasure, so some of my posts will be a bit dated, but stay tuned for our eating adventures here in Texas as I try to catch-up.

Cross-Country Road Trip Recipe
Serves me (nobody else would dare)

2002 Honda Civic coupe
1 60-lb excitable labrador mix
1 40-lb arthritic, senile border collie mix
1 12-lb grumpy cat
approx.  150 lbs of clothes, kitchen equipment, books, and other household stuff
1300 mile journey
2 days

Start by being tired – you may want to have done several weeks of manual labor by working on your house, and don’t sleep well the night before.  Perhaps you can get your neighbors two doors down to hold a party and play bass-heavy rap music very loudly all night.

Wake up early.  Load all items into Honda by yourself while climbing down and then up stairs.  The lab mix must be running and jumping at your heels during the process.  It should be hot enough outside to make you sweat.  Pack the trunk as full as possible and maximize your spatial skills by sliding items together like pieces of a puzzle.

Encourage strangers to walk their dogs by this loading process in order to fully excite your dogs before they enter the car.  Also, it makes for a more interesting experience if, before you can load your cat he hides under the furniture that has been pushed together due to home renovations.  I recommend laying on your stomach and getting dust bunnies in your hair.  Then, pull the cat out to his loud protests, wrap him tightly in a large towel, and cram him in a car carrier.  The lab mix should try to help by barking and nipping at both you and cat.

Pull out of your driveway, but then immediately pull back in because your forget a crucial item.  Leave again.  Hit traffic from folks leaving town after Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor Rally.

Drive for 10 hours, stopping only for gas, food, and to walk the dogs.  Once you are sufficiently tired, find a seedy-looking Motel 6 (that’s almost all of them) and get a room for the night.  Make sure your room is up a flight of stairs and far from the stairwell.  It is best if you need to make three or four trips between the car and the room to unload the animals and all your gear.  It is also helpful if strange men call out to you as you pass. Because the older dog has difficulty climbing stairs and the lab mix is excited, the leashes of both dogs should become tangled and cause them to start to tumble down the stairs.  Carry the older dog up the stairs, but only once the other dog’s leash wraps around one of your legs and he half-pulls you up, too.

Once the strange men have been scared away by the dogs and you are finally in the room.  Sigh, open a beer, and take a seat on the bed, but only once you pull back the covers.  I mean, you’ve seen the Dateline report on the bodily fluids on motel beds, right?  Call friends and family, and think about how tired you are of making this same trip over and over in your life.  Sleep soundly until 3:30 am when the cat starts squalling and the older dog decides she is hungry.  Return to bed and lay awake until 5:30 am.  Decide to get ready for day.  Repeat experience of night before in reverse.

Return to car and drive for another 10 hours, stopping only for gas, food, and to walk the dogs.  Smile upon crossing Texas state line.  Smile wider upon seeing husband again.  Sigh, open a beer, and think about how lucky you are to make this same trip over and over again in your life.  Delicious.

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The Braise on the Street

Those of who know my husband and I know that we don’t live in the best neighborhood here in Washington, DC…We are always on the look-out for illegal behavior and we make it clear to our neighbors that we are watching out for things.  We attract a lot of attention for this attitude and because we have two big dogs.  And, probably because we are the only white folks for several blocks.

Night before last, though, really got the neighbors talking.  My husband was walking our dog Charley when he was charged by the neighbors little poodle.   He brought Charley back inside and led the little dog back home.  Trying again to walk Charley, the poodle escaped once more to charge them.  Hearing the barking again, I walked outside to escort the poodle back home and talk to his owner.  Then, we noticed that her car’s trunk was open and her front door was ajar.  Concerned, I took Charley’s leash and my husband walked up to the neighbor’s door.  He knocked and called her name while fending off bites from her two small dogs who were barking ferociously.  At this point, neighbors on all sides have stepped into their yards to watch the commotion and see what those crazy white folk were up to again.  The poodle’s owner finally answers the door, and when she and her boyfriend stepped onto the porch to speak to my husband it was clear they were on something and in fact had been simmering in something for quite some time.

I found this ironic since for dinner I had served beef that had been braising in beer for hours.  What is braising you ask?  Braising is a cooking technique in which meat is seared or browned in a bit of fat and then simmered in liquid at a low temperature in a covered pot.  It works great with tough cuts of meat by breaking down the tough connective tissue in meat.  It has an effect similar to barbeque, or apparently the drug our neighbors were on, which seemed to break down the fibers in their brains and impact their ability to think or speak clearly.  Braising is a very simple technique that results in tender meat with a delicious sauce or gravy.  The only perceived drawback is you may have to plan for several hours of cooking, but it is non-active cooking – you just leave it in the oven or on the stovetop and let it go.

For those of you interested in the resolution of my story…it seems as though the neighbors were just high and being careless with their car and dogs.  They mumbled a few words of thanks, walked out to their car to lock it up, and brought the dogs inside.  The others on the street stared at us for a bit longer, and then shuffled back to their porches or went back to their game of street ball.  Nothing more to see here, people.  Just another beautiful day in the neighborhood…

Beef and Onions Braised in Beer

3 medium white onions
1 (4 lb) boneless beef chuck roast
2 1/2 Tbsp canola oil
2 bay leaves
3 (12-oz) bottles or cans of lager-style beer, such as Miller High Life (keeping it classy, folks)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Slice onions lengthwise into long strips.  You can slice it in half lengthways and then slice thinner slices lengthwise again.

Pat beef dry with a paper towel to allow the seasonings to stick better and then sprinkle with salt and pepper.  For this recipe, I prefer kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper.  Heat 1 1/2 Tbsp canola oil in a wide (5 to 6-qt) heavy pot over medium-high heat until it is shimmery.

Brown the beef on all sides then remove and transfer to a plate.  It took me about 12 minutes.

Add the sliced onions to the pot with the remaining 1 Tbsp of canola oil and cook, scraping up any brown bits from bottom and stirring until onions are well browned.  While the onions are cooking, turn your oven to 350 degrees F.

When onions are done, add the beer and garlic and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up any brown bits.  This is known as deglazing the pan.  You can vary the type of beer used and the amount of garlic, of course.

Add beef to pot and return to boil.

Then, turn off the burner and cover the pot.  I didn’t have a lid to match my hand-me-down pot, so I just covered it loosely with foil.  That worked just fine.

Place it in oven to braise until meat is very tender when pierced in several places with fork.  My roast was in the oven for about 4 hours.

If you want to serve it in slices, transfer the beef to a cutting board and let it stand or rest for about 20 minutes.  Place the slices on a plate and drizzle with the sauce.  I decided to shred it with two forks in the  sauce in the pot and served the saucy meat over rice.  Also, this roast was very lean, so there wasn’t much fat in the sauce.  If you have a fattier cut of beef, you may need to remove the meat first and skim the fat from the sauce before serving.

NOTE: You aren’t going to screw up the meat if you skip the step of patting it dry first.  I do it because I find the seasoning stick to it better.  But, also when I put it in a hot oiled pan, it doesn’t splatter with the combination of water and oil.  Some folks believe it creates a better sear or browning on the meat when it is dry, but I haven’t conducted any experiments on this myself.

I’d like to hear the opinions of my readers on this…

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