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