Major Dags: Volume 2 (feat. Bean Hole Beans & Lamb Pinwheel Roast)

Welcome back to the segment on this blog that documents my “oopsie daisies”.  These are the meals that I thought would make great posts, and in the end they were either a complete failure or I forgot to take pictures.  You know, major dags.

I should quickly address my inconsistent blogging patterns lately.  Lotsa travel and not a lot of cooking recently.  In addition, I have a bit of a creativity block these days; when I am home for a weekend I stare into my freezer of crazy crap and cant think of anything to make.  So, once again, I will put out the call for requests.  If you read this blog regularly and you’ve wanted to see me attempt a difficult dish, please add the suggestion to the comments on this post.  I have a freezer full of all parts of cow, lamb, and pig along with some rabbit, pheasant, and venison.  Give me some ideas!  I don’t ask for much (aside from you patiently reading this crap and telling me how much you love it), so help me out please.

Anyhoo, this post will focus on two well intended failures: Bean Hole Beans and a Lamb Pinwheel Roast.

Bean Hole Beans

Last year on our camping trip in Maine I resumed my love affair with cooking things under the ground by attempting bean hole beans.  Relatively simple concept: mix all your baked bean ingredients in a big pot, stick the pot in a hole in the ground and build a fire on top.  In 18-24 hours, you should have baked beans.  Should have.

I started out by digging a small hole inside of our fire pit area and starting a small fire in the base of it that I intended to let burn down to a thick bed of embers.  The key adjective for the hole and the fire is “small”.

I know, I know, that's not a very deep hole.  But, I was missing both Mooman's shovel and Mooman so the digging was slow going and complaint-heavy.  Once I got to about the depth of the pot I gave it a good enough nod and walked away

I know, I know, that’s not a very deep hole.  But, I was missing both Mooman’s shovel and Mooman’s shoveling ability so the digging was slow going and complaint-heavy.  Once I got to about the depth of the pot I gave it a good-nuff nod and walked away

With the fire burning down, I started preparing the beans for cooking.  First step was to lay slices of salt pork in the bottom of a cast iron pot I stole from under my coworkers desk.

Dear Joe, when you asked me whether you could cook eggs in this freebie from a supplier, I knew that you weren't going to give it the life it deserved.  Not to mention that you still haven't noticed the it is gone and it has been 11 months

Dear Joe, when you asked me whether you could cook eggs in this freebie cast iron pot from a supplier, I knew that you weren’t going to give it the life it deserved.  Not to mention that 11 months have elapsed and you still haven’t noticed it is gone

On top of the pork I poured in a few pounds of pre-soaked beans and a mixture of onions, chopped salt pork, garlic, mustard, sugar, vinegar, maple syrup, salt, and pepper.

Anyone who has read the Momere's Baked Beans post knows these ingredients anywhere.  However, this turned out so sh*tty that I didn't want her name attached to them, so lets just pretend this is some crappy allrecipes.com recipe

Anyone who has read the Momere’s Baked Beans post recognizes these signature ingredients.  However, this turned out so sh*tty that I didn’t want her name attached to the final product, so lets just pretend this is some crappy allrecipes.com recipe

I gently stirred in about 6 cups of water trying to mix everything together without disrupting the bottom layer of salt pork.  Not my strong point since I generally only know one method of stirring which is to scrape everything off the bottom and stir until it looks like a whirlpool.  But I was careful, and it looked relatively familiar at the end.

I think this is best done in a back yard since this contained about 7 more ingredients than should be featured in a camping dish.  Maple syrup and mosquito ridden campground definitely don't go well together

I think this is best done in a backyard since this contained about 7 more ingredients than should be featured in a camping dish.  Maple syrup and mosquito ridden campgrounds definitely don’t go well together, plus I complained about my sticky hands until people got sick of hearing about them and went to bed

I wrapped the top with two layers of tin foil, then nested the heavy lid on before doing another wrap of foil over the top.  I was planning to completely cover this thing with sandy dirt, and nothing would suck more than even a tiny bit getting inside and ruining the batch.  Once I felt it was well sealed, I nestled it into the hole on top of the glowing embers from the fire.

Steamers and butter cooking on the grate, 'course.  How great is Maine, right?

Steamers, vegetable butter ball, and drawn butter cooking on the grate, ‘course.  How great is Maine?!?!?

Once the pot was well situated, I covered it up with a couple shovel-fulls of dirt and ashg from the surrounding fire.

I was disturbingly anxious about whether these $8 worth of ingredients would be a success.  In hindsight I had to admit I need to start taking some of these cooking missions a little less serious

I was disturbingly anxious about whether these $8 worth of ingredients would be a success.  In hindsight I have to admit I need to start taking some of these cooking missions a little less seriously.  Also, that shovel is 7 years old, I have no idea why it still has a label on it

Once the pot was fully covered with earth/ash, we built another small fire on top and got a good bed of embers in place for the the cold night.  Followed that with another fire in the morning, more embers, off to the beach for a full day and back to the fire to uncover and remove the beans. Not nearly as difficult as the hogs head because it was buried shallower and had a handle.

This oven mitt had a real tough weekend but we still use it despite black burned marks from the fire.  I think that is mostly becuase I am incapable of throwing anything out that I still see a little life left in

This Le Creuset oven mitt had a real tough weekend but we still use it despite black burned marks from the fire.  I know that was a bit of a brand name drop, but I just wanted to reiterate/clarify/recognize that despite some steps in this process looking wilderness-y, I was just a suburbanite playing camping

With cameras ready and a nervous expression on my face, I peeled the foil away and removed the lid to discover… that it hadn’t cooked.  Maybe it cooked a little bit but not much, and certainly not enough to eat.  I was crushed.

Looked no different.  I was crushed and basically wouldn't speak to anyone for about fifteen minutes.  I am positive I made things uncomfortable and unpleasant for those around me, which is when Janet came in handy for a "Heyyyyy!!  Look at Janet! she is sitting and not doing anything and stuff! Awwww"  Forgot to mention Janet came camping

Looked no different.  I don’t think I spoke to anyone for about fifteen minutes.  I am positive I made things uncomfortable and unpleasant for those around me, which is when Janet came in handy for a distracting “Heyyyyy!! Look at Janet! she is sitting and not doing anything and stuff! Awwww”  Forgot to mention Janet came camping

I have a pretty good idea what I did wrong (of course I am a know it all even when I am wrong).  I am sure that there was supposed to be a consistent fire on top, but given that it was cooking for 18 hours+ I had some concerns on overdoing it and the same strategy worked fine for the hogs head three ears earlier.  I also think I needed a deeper hole with more embers that had burned for longer than the batch I used.  The hole itself wasn’t warm enough to start since it needed to almost preheat like an oven.

I need to take another crack at this and get my vengence.  On myself, I guess.  Sometime soon.  On to the next major dag.

Lamb Pinwheel Roast

I can’t remember the exact occasion for this one, mainly because I don’t date my photos well, but I think it might have been Mommy Ryan’s birthday.  I also think Tim was being bossy/cranky about what he wanted to eat because it was pre-ordained that we would be having a butterfly leg of lamb and deviled eggs.  Weirdo.

I thought a great idea with the leg of lamb would be to make a pinwheel roast, almost like a lamb porchetta.  Except this one would be stuffed with all of the awesome flavors Mommy Ryan used to pack into her lamb dishes.  Namely, Dijon mustard, rosemary, garlic, and lots of salt.  Decent idea in principle, but you know I will be bungling this somewhere along the way.  Lets start with the lamb.

Looks pretty identical to any deboned piece of meat shown on this blog previously.  Most similar to the duck from the turducken I think

Looks pretty identical to any deboned piece of meat shown on this blog previously.  Most similar to the duck from the turducken I think, but without the weird snorkel thing from that shot

My goal was to make some small slices in the meat so that it would be approximately the same thickness throughout and also spread out as flat as possible.  With that done, I started working on the filling.  Three key ingredients: rosemary, (green) onion, and garlic.

Yeah, it's been a while but that pile of raw garlic doesn't look any smaller.  Not sure exactly how I thought this was the appropriate balance.  Looks like a crap ton of rosemary too, actually

Yeah, it’s been a while but that pile of raw garlic doesn’t look any smaller.  Not sure exactly how I thought this was the appropriate balance.  Looks like a crap ton of rosemary too, actually

The onions, rosemary, and garlic went into a bowl with cubed staled bread, a couple tablespoons of Dijon mustard and mayonnaise and lots of salt and pepper.  The goal was to create a wet stuffing that would flavor the lamb from the inside out, but also mimic the lamb flavors we grew up with.

I have to admit that since it's been awhile, I totally had no idea what that green blob is in the center.  Upon further review, it is a blob of mint jelly which joined the party along with some additional brown sugar as well.  It's all coming back to me now

I have to admit that since it’s been awhile, I totally had no idea what that green blob was in the center.  Upon further review, it is a blob of mint jelly which joined the party along with some additional brown sugar as well.  It’s all coming back, coming back to me now.  Shout out to my girl Celine!

The stuffing was pungent, but I felt like I needed that to stand up to the strong flavor of lamb and there was a lot of meat.  Using the same process I used with the turducken, I pressed as much of the stuffing as I could into the lamb in an even layer.

Midday cooking in Tim's kitchen is actually great for fotos,  It's a hell hole at night though.  Lighting-wise.  I feel like I am writing a scathing Trip Advisor review or something, but it really is terrible for taking pitcures usually

Midday cooking in Tim’s kitchen is actually great for fotos, It’s a hell hole at night though.  Lighting-wise.  I feel like I am writing a scathing Trip Advisor review or something, but it really is terrible for taking pictures usually

I attempted to roll the lamb up porchetta style and was mildly successful, but the real feat was that I actually tied it up without the whole thing falling apart.  I am assuming Tim didn’t help but probably criticized my technique.  Friggin’ jerk, I’ll show him.

The bundled package headed into the fridge for a few hours.

Again, am I on Rhee Drummond's blog or something?  Why does it feel like this is a hipster, back to nature setting?  I swear this is the same place I took blurry photos of Yuengling and dental floss-stitched smoked hog stomach

Again, am I on Rhee Drummond’s blog or something?  Where did all of this natural light come from?  I swear this is the same place I took blurry photos of Yuengling and dental floss-stitched smoked hog stomach a few months earlier

And here’s where it went off the rails.  I was obsessed with having a crispy outside on the lamb and it was a beautiful day, so I thought I could cook it slow-ish on the grill at Brother John’s.  And when I get an idea in my head it’s tough to steer me away, so onto John’s grill it went.

I should have stopped when he told me there were hot and cold spot on the grill.  I should have swallowed my pride and preheated the oven.  I shoulda

I should have stopped when he told me there were hot and cold spot on the grill.  I should have swallowed my pride and preheated the oven.  I shoulda…

This one ended up as a bit of a debacle in the cooking process.  In the first five minutes on the grill, one part of the lamb had burned while the other end of it looked like no heat had been applied.  I rolled it around on the grill a bit to keep it from burning but that led to less trapped heat (due to opening the grill constantly) and less cooking through.  When it was finally in danger of charring too much for edibility, I had to put it in the oven for 20-30 minutes.  Which didn’t make a damned bit of difference.  The stuffing was barely warmed and the inside of the lamb was rare instead of lightly cooked all the way through.  A mess and a nightmare on the stomach due to raw lamb an garlic in the mix.  Happy birthday Mommy Ryan!

Send in your suggestions!  I desperately need them.

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Major Dags: Volume 1 (feat. Cod Cheeks, Pasta Pizza, & Cuttlefish)

I was first introduced to the slang term “dag” when I was at the movies with a few friends (including regular blog character Mooman, known him a long time) at the age of 14.  We bumped into a former classmate that left for a new school a few years earlier and upon seeing us he exclaimed, “DAAAAAG! You guys got BIG!”  The comment was so absurd that it endured as a story we discussed and giggled about occasionally over the years.  15 years later, at a quiet bar in a nice restaurant where a few diners were enjoying their lunch, Marshall looked at the beer list and exclaimed “DAAAAG!!!” upon seeing the price of the beers.  Since there were 3 or 4 friends present to witness this, a catch phrase was born.

According to Urban Dictionary, dag means damn or is a general exclamation of amazement.  That’s about how we/I use it and use it often.  Anyway, this new segment on the blog is to capture the growing pile of meals that I only partially documented in photos, missed the key final shots that make a post work, or were just a complete failure.  You know, major dags.  Enjoy!

Cod Cheeks

One thing this blog has taught me is that all cheeks are delicious.  Beef, grouper, and pork have been documented here, along with collars from salmon and tuna.  So, when I noticed a fish shop on route 1 that advertised cod cheeks, I knew I would have to cook them at some point.  Only problem was that the only times I was 30 minutes north of Boston on Route 1 was when I was on my way out of town.  After a year of seeing the sign, I finally bought some and brought them to New Jersey with me.

After a rinse and pat dry.  This was around the time I realized it would be tough to keep up a conversation with Mommy Ryan while documenting a blog post

After a rinse and pat dry.  This was around the time I realized it would be tough to keep up a conversation with Mommy Ryan while documenting a blog post

The cod cheeks were medallions of meat about the size of a medium scallop and looked about how you would expect them to.  The color was a bit darker than regular cod fillets and had noticeably more fat than the usually lean cod meat.  Each piece seemed like a completely unique combination of shape and size.

I bought about a pound of the cheeks ($5.99!) and I would guess there were the cheeks of about 20 cod in there.  Excellent deal

I bought about a pound of the cheeks ($5.99!) and I would guess there were the cheeks of 20 cod in there.  Excellent deal

I’d never tasted cod cheeks before, but based on my experience with grouper it seemed like I should just treat them the way I would a scallop.

I heated up a couple tablespoons of butter in a pan then sauteed some garlic and a few capers over medium heat for a few minutes.  While that cooked, I dusted the cod cheeks with a little of flour, salt, and pepper and then added them to the pan.

Like scallops, but of all different sizes.  These might be the most innocuous looking cheeks I've cooked

Sorta looks like scallops, right?  Also could be sliced bulls balls based on the recent history of this blog.  Regardless,  these might be the most innocuous looking cheeks I’ve cooked

After a flip, I added a solid pour of white wine and lowered the heat to a simmer.  Since cod has a chewy, mushy, unpleasant texture when rare, I let the cheeks simmer for 8-10 minutes while the cooking liquid reduced and thickened around them.

A future signature of the Major Dag posts: abrupt final pictures that leave you hanging without any idea how this all came together in the end.  I blame Mommy for this one, I'm assuming she asked me a question about her Mac which derailed and beffudled me, making me forget I was documenting a post

A future signature of the Major Dag posts: abrupt final pictures that leave you hanging without any idea how this all came together in the end.  I blame Mommy for this one, I’m assuming she asked me a question about her iPhone which derailed and befuddled me, making me forget I was documenting a post

And that’s all you get.  I served the cod over some pasta with the cooking liquid as a sauce and paired it with asparagus.  The combination of butter, garlic, capers, and white wine rarely goes wrong and works with pretty much any seafood.  The cheeks were delicious, with a totally different texture than cod fillets.  Where cod is usually flaky and light, there was more density to the cheek and a more uniform, scallop-like texture.  Clever, 6 effing references to how they were like scallops, but I really got nothing else for you.  It’s accurate and annoying.

Linguine Pizza

I go through an obsessive pizza phase about once every 10 months.  No real reason for it, I just make pizza one day, it tastes really good, and then I proceed to make different varieties of it twice a week for the following 6 weeks.  The most recent incarnation of this obsession was pizza cooked on the grill, but prior to that wave it was all oven-baked and most of the creativity was in the toppings.  The pizza I made with shredded short rib and the reduced braising liquid acting as the pizza sauce was a personal favorite, but the oddest ones were based on leftovers.  Basically, roll out the dough and dump some leftovers on.

First, the dough.  For years I bought dough from local pizza shops because I assumed they use the same dough starter for years and the dough would have a nice funky bread flavor.  Plus, I never remembered to make it a day in advance.  Then I bought dough from a local place, discovered it was partially frozen and likely from a massive food service operation, and threw a temper tantrum.  The type of temper tantrum a normal babysitter would quit over, thankfully Kristi is my babysitter.

Nowadays I mostly make my dough 24 hours in advance, let it rise a couple times, then punch it down and throw it in the fridge.  Which leads to lots of situations likes this.

I consistently was terrified to remove these bags from the fridge since they both looked like they could explode in take out an eye at any second

I am consistently terrified to remove these over-inflated bags from the fridge since they look like they could explode and take out an eye at any second.  I am convinced that some morning we will wake up with the fridge doors wide open and the contents sprayed everywhere after one of these bags explodes

This has happened maybe five times, every time I’ve made pizza dough in the past year I would guess.  In each case, I punched the dough down and pressed out all air then wrapped them tight in a plastic bag.  Apparently that’s not gonna do it.  One night before hosting a party the following day, I put four doughs into a drawer in the fridge.  When we returned home, the drawer was off its track and looked like a hot air balloon inflated inside a VW Beetle.  The picture above captures the awesome inflating power of the dough.  The remarkable thing is that the dough found tiny holes and made tiny dough bubbles on the outside.

Anyway, during one of these pizza streaks I came back from a weekend in Maine with a lot of lobsters and a little bit of leftovers from a linguine with clam sauce.  The following day I was left to fend for myself for dinner and didn’t have enough pasta to make a whole dinner, sooooooooo….

The most offensive part of the oven-pizza-era was that every pizza ended up a rectangle.  I'd rather have an awful misshapen half moon (like my grilled pizzas) than something so geometric

The most offensive part of the oven-pizza-era was that every pizza ended up a rectangle.  I’d rather have an awful misshapen half moon (like my grilled pizzas) than something so geometric.  Just feels wrong

Stretch the dough out, coat well with olive oil, dump the leftovers into the center, evenly spread, then season the edges of the dough with lots of salt and pepper.  Oh, and “dust” (read: blizzard) pecorino romano plus a drizzle of additional olive oil over the top.

After 12 minutes in a 500 degree oven, I had this:

Yeah, not that different looking, but that's what you should expect from Major Dags: lots of repetitive and incomplete photography

Yeah, not that different looking, but that’s what you should expect from Major Dags: lots of repetitive and incomplete photography

I’ve made pasta pizza a few times since making this one.  Carb-wise, it’s the type of meal that makes construction workers whistle at me while I walk and ask if they can get some fries with that shake.  Flavor and texture-wise, it’s totally my fave thing.  All the flavor of the pasta dish you use, plus the crispy seasoned dough, tons of cheese, and the texture of the crunchy pieces of pasta on top.  The biggest plus is eating a bunch of pasta with only your hands and no need for a fork.  Pasta pizza is an open faced Italian taco, and the spaghetti calzone from Luigi’s in Lewiston, ME is the Italian gordita.  Need to document that one at some point.

Cuttlefish Pasta

This meal continues with the pattern of stuff I cooked when Kristi wasn’t home to make sure I ate right.

As discussed previously on this blog, the diverse inhabitants of JP leads to a lot of odd foods at the grocery store.  And pharmacy.  I found this can of shellfish at my local CVS.

I think i bought a can of octopus on the same visit to CVS.  These cans were in between the crackers and the hair gel.  100% serious

I think I bought a can of octopus on the same visit to CVS.  I used to take Playboys out of the dumpster behind CVS when I was 12, and now I am buying my shellfish there.  You and I have come a long way CVS!  Also, these cans were in between the crackers and the hair gel.  100% serious

I’ve only had a few small bites of fresh cooked cuttlefish during my travels and hope to someday purchase it fresh and cook it for myself.  I love squid and octopus, and cuttlefish seems like a close cousin of those two.  If I can’t get the fresh kind locally, though, I’ll happily give this questionable can of meat a shot.  Especially since they were packed in their own ink (supposedly), which is my fave thing.

Once I opened the can I was a little less excited.

I expected it to look more like the black squid ink I see in restaurants, not like awful sardine oil.  Shows how tough I am to please that seeing this mess just made me shrug and continue with food prep

I expected it to look more like the black squid ink I see in restaurants, not like cheap sardine oil. God that looks awful.  Shows how tough I am to please that seeing this mess just made me shrug and continue with food prep

I didn’t have the courage to eat this on its own, nor did I really want to, so I decided to make a pasta with the cuttlefish.  Started out by heating a little olive oil in a pan and adding onions, garlic, and, because Kristi was out of town and I like funky salty fish, a can of chopped anchovies.

Shoulda thrown the capers in there, another food I love dearly that I have pushed Kristi to the absolute limit on

Shoulda thrown capers in there too.  Another food I love dearly that I have pushed Kristi to the absolute limit on

While that cooked, I brought a pot of water to a boil and dumped in some dried shell pasta to cook about 3/4 of the way through.

Once the pasta was strained and the onions were translucent, I added in the cuttlefish, some salt & pepper, and a little bit of the “sauce” from the can.  After a couple minutes of cooking together I poured in about a half cup of white wine and let it simmer/reduce for 10-15 minutes.

A lot more promising than it looked in the can, but it still smelled a little bit like canned food despite all of the strong aromas.  Canned food is kind of the worst

A lot more promising than it looked in the can, but it still smelled a little bit like cat food despite all of the other strong aromas involved.  Canned food is kind of the worst

Once the sauce had reduced a bit, I stirred in the partially cooked pasta to cook the rest of the way in the sauce, which left me with this.

Shells were a terrible decision.  I think that this meal and the minimal documentation of it is as good of an example of a Major Dag that I have

Shells were a terrible decision.  I think that this meal and the minimal documentation of it is as good of an example of a Major Dag that I have

Overall, this meal was edible and I ate it, but it wasn’t exactly something that I looked forward to replicating for my friends at some point.  The flavor was fishy and muddy and had a faint taste that reminded me of the smell of a handful of change, likely from the canned fish.  The sauce looked creamy but it had a bit of graininess to it.  The cuttlefish was like squid that had boiled for a long time; some texture but disintegrated once you started chewing and not in a good way.  Because I was hungry and it had some enjoyable flavors for me, I ate most of it.  But it really wasn’t good.

I have lots of posts ready to go, just been swamped at work and haven’t had enough time to write.  I’ll try to do better.