The Functional Hermit

musings from a homebody

NFL Week 5 Menu: BBQ Boston Butt

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I tried. I really did. This year I made an honest effort to cook things other than pork on football Sundays. Basically, I made it one whole month before the perfection that is the combination of pork, football and beer commandeered the voluntary part of my brain and made any further resistance futile. Some things are simply made to be enjoyed together. Pork, football and beer just may be the Big Kahuna on this list.

As long as you’ve got some time and plenty of gas for your grill, this is actually a pretty easy thing to make. The reward far outweighs the effort you put in. I started with a three and three-quarter pound boston butt. I seasoned it with a dry rub that I often use made with garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, chili powder, cumin, salt, cayenne pepper and brown sugar. Rub it in over every side and surface area. You can season your meat the night before but I never taste any difference when I do. This is my way of telling you to feel free rubbing your meat anytime you damn well please. Frankly, this time I did the night before simply for convenience.

Before you start cooking, track down some hickory chips. I get a small bag at the hardware place around the corner. It’s easy to find. Arrange a generous helping of chips onto a piece of aluminum foil and drizzle the chips with some water. Then wrap and seal the foil around the chips. My grill has three rows of burners that go across horizontally. So I shape my hickory chip packet so it can sit over the single burner that I use.I like to punch some small holes or slits into the foil to help it burn.

The idea is to get the chips to a slow burn so they release a long and steady amount of smoke. Just a little bit of smoke adds a lot of flavor. I often make boston butts without using the chips however. It’s really optional but I like what it adds to the dish. I have to lift the grates of my grill and put the chip packet down underneath. You can see the chip packet sitting over the rear burner which is the only one I use for this dish.

Then I put the pork in, close the lid and get the temperature to around 225 degrees. 225 to 250 is a good range but the lower and slower the cook, the more tender the pork becomes. I also like to spray down the surface of the pork with a apple cider/cider vinegar every couple of hours. This helps bring out more flavor from the rub and to carmelize the outer bark of pork. Here it is about halfway.

In the past, I have pulled the pork off the heat after it reaches 190 degrees. But I think that the closer you get to 210 degrees the better everything turns out. This time out I pulled it when it hit 208 degrees and had been on the grill somewhere between 10 and 11 hours. Once it’s off, I moved it to a cutting board and let it cool awhile. A boston butt has a weirdly shaped bone in it and you know you’re in good shape when you can pull that bone out of the meat pretty easily. The outer portion of pork should transform itself into a chewy, seasoned bliss of bark that is not only delicious but also helps protect the juicy, meaty interior.

I like to use my hands to pull the pork. Sometimes I use a knife or a large blade to chop it up. If you’re going to use your hands, be careful because it can be pretty hot to handle.

On this particular day, I strayed from my regular barbecue sauce. We were running low and all the store had when I went on my “Oh shit, I forgot bbq sauce” grocery run was something called Williamson Bros. and plenty of other choices produced by America’s finest agri-business conglomerates. I opted for the Williams Bros. This was a tomato-based sauce that was a little too sweet but not so much that it ruined the end product. Normally though, I have to hand it to Johnny Harris. They make themselves one hell of a vinegar-based bbq sauce with just enough twang in each bite to remind you you’re alive. On this round, we missed you Johnny. We really did.

The final touch is to mix in the amount of sauce you like, then decide. You want straight pulled pork or you want yourself a pulled pork sandwich. If you go with the sandwich, don’t be afraid to add cole slaw on top because that is some good shit. Either way, you can’t lose.

Fucking delicious.

I want to close this entry by backtracking on one of my earlier positions. Previously, I had written in this space that I was so sick of Brettt Favre that I refuse to write about him any more. Well, that is still true, with the exception of anything related to Brett sending pictures of his manhood to a female Jets employee while he was the QB there. That story, I just cannot get enough of.

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Written by the bee dub

October 11, 2010 at 3:33 pm

Hermit Cinema: Let The Right One In

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A couple of people I know kept bugging me to watch this movie and they were very much in the right to do so. I’m not much of a horror movie fan and to be honest, once I heard it was about a vampire I could think of nothing but the vampire overload that is jamming much of our pop culture.

The long and short of this movie is this is one very interesting movie. Directed by Tomas Alfredson, this Swedish movie is well worth the effort required by its subtitles. Oskar is a lonely, bullied boy who dreams of exacting a violent, humiliating revenge on his tormenters. He ends up befriending Eli, a girl who moves into the apartment next door. Initially, she tells Oskar they cannot be friends but eventually, they form a growing bond. Eventually, Eli encourages Oskar to stand up to his bully tormentors and to take them on.

Oskar notices some strange things about Eli but  doesn’t suspect the truth: she is a vampire. Eli lives with an older man who tries to kill victims and bring their blood back to Eli. He is, however, not a very successful serial killer so Eli is sometimes on her own to take care of her needs. Lacke is a local townie who swears to get the vampire himself, after his good friend Jocke is killed and his girlfriend, Virginia, is attacked but survives. Virginia is not left unscarred however. She becomes painfully aware that she has now become a vampire herself.

Meanwhile, Oskar makes a bold and somewhat anticlimactic stand against his main tormentor and he and Eli form a deeper and deeper bond. On the way, Oskar begins to realize that Eli isn’t what he first thought.

This movie is very well done. What really stands out is the note-perfect way it captures the loneliness and uncertainty of adolescence. The awkward beginnings and development of their relationship, the dynamic of the bullies with Oskar and each other, all of it feels so real. Seeing both Oskar and Eli struggle through it – one a weak, lonely outsider while the other has strength and powers yet is trapped in adolescence for perpetuity – gives their relationship a really unique and intriguing dynamic.

The deft use of gore and effects gives you just the desired result, no more. Nothing is done for shock value but rather for the best interests of the movie and the characters’ relationships. (I’d imagine that won’t be true for the recent release fo the American version of this film, Let Me In.) What you don’t see is used just as powerfully as what you do.

Overall, this is a strong choice for a movie that entertains while also defying any familiar categorization. It’s not a perfect film, mind you. Frankly, I found it to be fairly predictable. But just because you know where your car ride is going to end, doesn’t mean the trip can’t be a unique and enjoyable experience.

I give this movie a strongly recommended A-minus.

Written by the bee dub

October 5, 2010 at 1:28 pm

NFL Week 2 Menu: Ultimate Turkey Meatballs

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I made these a few months back and thought at the time I had discovered the ultimate turkey meatball recipe. I’m glad to report that after making these a second time, they were even better.

A lot of turkey meatballs I’ve had have been bland, dry and unsatisfying. These are moist, tender and slap-yourself-delicious. I’m glad to report that this isn’t because of some exotic or expensive ingredient either, rather just the right ingredients at the right amounts.

In a bowl I combined 1 1/4 pounds of ground turkey (93% lean), one finely chopped onion, two beaten eggs, 1 1/4 cup of bread crumbs, 1 cup of whole milk, a bit of hot sauce (sorry honey), 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of salt and plenty of ground pepper. Then I stick both hands in and mix together by hand. Around this time comes the one challenge that comes with this recipe: the consistency.

This mixture is very ‘loose’ and wet. It was a challenge to roll them into meatballs and then for that to maintain its shape. It’s not really hard, just something to keep in mind. I dusted the plate and the meatballs with flour to help them keep from sticking to the plate and each other.

I baked them in a 400-degree oven on a very well greased piece of aluminum foil, placed on a baking sheet. After 12 minutes I took a peek and they didn’t look quite done so I gave them another 3-4 minutes. At this point, they still didn’t have that done ‘look’ but I broke one open and ate it. Bingo. It was perfect.

Then I finished them off in a quick and easy tomato sauce. For that I sauteed a diced onion and some minced garlic over olive oil, then added a 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes and half a jar of Newman’s Own tomato sauce I had left over from the other night. I seasoned that with plenty of salt, pepper and a little bit of sugar.

Once the sauce was heated through I put in the meatballs and kept them over a very low heat for about an hour. To serve them I used some wheat sub rolls, spooned the meatballs and some sauce onto the bread and then topped that with some mozzarella cheese.

These were the best meatball subs we’ve ever made, and we’ve made our fair share. The meatballs were so good I had to have another one just because. I hope they’re just as good tonight. We made a good-sized batch…

Written by the bee dub

September 20, 2010 at 3:13 pm

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NFL Kickoff Menu: Beef brisket returns to glory

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What an awesome weekend. It was so awesome, I needed a good day or so to recover. Saturday had quality college football games all day long, the highlight of which was James Madison taking out Virginia Tech. That sick sound you may hear in the distance is the squealing of Boise State fans whining over losing their only quality non-conference win of the entire season. I friggin’ hate Boise State. I have zero respect for any program that schedules the softest schedule possible while playing in the softest conference in the land – and then claiming they deserve a spot in the BCS every year.

Granted, they’ve done well with what they have but there’s no way they’re on par with an SEC, Big 10, Pac 10, Big 12 or any other program with any sack at all. But enough about blue astroturf wannabees. This weekend was glorious because of three of the most beautiful letters ever strung together: NFL.

The opening weekend of pro football is always a special time for me. Last year I went and spent it with a friend in Chicago and he wanted to start making that an annual tradition. Unfortunately, work schedules got in the way this year so I was stuck at home. But what would make the best Sunday of the year even more delicious? Easy. Sweet and sour brisket.

This was our very first go-to dish that we used to try and impress good friends or out of town visitors. Lately, it’s fallen to the wayside in favor of the BBQ pork butt or carnitas. But sometimes it’s best to go back where you started. I also found a little tweak to the recipe that turns the cooking liquid into more of a sauce rather than a gooey, sticky mess.

I got myself a 3.75-pound brisket, trimmed away a bit of the fat – though I’ve learned not to trim it all away – and then seasoned both sides with a generous amount of salt, pepper and three cloves of minced garlic. Then I heated some vegetable oil in Lou Gehrig, my workhorse of a dutch oven, and browned the brisket to a nice, brown headstart. Previously I would add two sliced onions while doing this but this time, I only used one. Usually I’m all about adding way more onions than called for but something told me to hold back a little here.

I browned the brisket on both sides, removed it and then continued cooking the onions until they began to brown.

Once the onions looked right, I added half a cup of red wine and half a cup of beef broth. There was a lot of stuff stuck to the bottom of Lou Gehrig and the liquid sucked all that awesomeness right back in. After a minute or so, I then added a bottle of chili sauce, half a cup of brown sugar and half a cup of cider vinegar. I kept cooking and stirring all that until it combined, then returned the brisket to the pan and used a spoon to cover it with the sauce and onions.

I put the cover on and then put it all into a 325 degree oven for two and a half hours. Afterwards, Lou Gehring revealed that the effort was greatly rewarded.

Cutting back to one onion really let the cooking liquid stay more of a liquid. It was still thick and delicious but it also resembled something more of a sauce. The meat was perfectly cooked and tender. Everything could not have come out better.

Now with the sauce being more of a sauce, it can be spooned over the meat and is thick enough to cover it yet still runny enough to settle into every nook and cranny of meaty goodness.

Couple all this with a NY Giants win and the Sunday couldn’t have gone any better. Actually, I made some serious fantasy football fuckups, so I could have been a little smarter there. But otherwise, it was the kind of NFL opening Sunday that happily keeps me happily planted at home all day and night.

Written by the bee dub

September 14, 2010 at 10:18 am

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Labor Day Menu: Carnitas

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Due to a family health crisis and camera technology issues, I’m a bit behind on my blogging. But the Functional Hermit must roll on. Thus, a few days late, I bring you the epicurean finale to our long, holiday weekend.

I was going to save the carnitas for the first Sunday of the NFL season, otherwise known as ‘the greatest fucking day to be a man and drink beer,’ but I just couldn’t hold back. I’ll have to come up with something else suitably grandiose and indulgent for this weekend.

I’m at the point with this recipe where I’ve started playing around with it and I already know what else I’m going to change the next time I make it. It all started with a 3.75-pound pork butt. I cut it into one-inch cubes, trimming away whatever fat I could along with the bone and then seasoned the cubes with just under two tablespoons of seasoned salt.

Then I heated up some vegetable oil in Lou Gehrig, the workhorse dutch oven of my kitchen, and browned the pork in two batches. While browning, this was a good time to preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

When all the pork is browned, I drained out the fat and oil and then had a lot of crispy brown deliciousness stuck to the bottom. To this I added just over a cup of orange juice and scraped all that awesomeness so it was no longer stuck and infused itself into the orange juice.

Now it was time to add a handful of chopped cilantro, six garlic cloves, one quartered onion and two sliced jalapeno peppers. The second jalapeno was a new addition and next time I’m definitely adding another onion to cook the pork with.

Then I returned the browned pork into all this and mixed well.

I put the lid back on and then placed this into a 300 degree oven for three and a half hours. Then, it’s Ari Gold time: Boom!

There are a lot of ways to serve carnitas but I just stick with the ‘throw the shit in a tortilla’ method. Last time I served it with some avocado slices, fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime. Now, I love me some avocado but as crazy as this sounds, I think these ‘carnitas tacos’ are better off without it.

My wife performed her foolproof ‘steam the tortillas in the oven’ trick and we were ready to rock. This time, inside the tortilla I rolled with the carnitas, some diced red onion, a squeeze of lime and some healthy dollops of hot sauce (sorry honey).

It was good eatin’ and a great way to cap off a weekend with the best weather we’ve seen in these parts in a long, long time.

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Written by the bee dub

September 8, 2010 at 3:45 pm

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Hermit Cinema: Avatar

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I had strong doubts about this movie from all the hype I heard about it. I’m not one to think more highly of a movie on sheer technological advancement alone. (A lot of people apparently are, however. Just don’t count me among that group.) James Cameron is a movie maker with an impressive record of pushing the boundaries and capabilities of filmmaking technology on a very grand scale. When married with an original or interesting story, this is a potent combination. Avatar is not one of those cases I’m sorry to say.

Being the hermit that I am, I did not see this in 3D in a theater. But when watching, it became obvious that 3D would have added a lot of visual depth. But I’m glad I didn’t see it that way. For one, it cost more. Secondly, that’s a layer of glossy wow factor that really works very, very hard to overcompensate for the complete lack of original story or any character development.

I watched this with my brother and I kept looking at him and jokingly saying, “Tatonka,” because this movie is as close to a clone of Dances With Wolves that you can get by simply dropping it into another setting. Many have argued to me that Dances With Wolves wasn’t the most original story either. That may be true but at least that movie felt as if it’s following its own path. In Avatar, just about every character is a stereotype you’ve seen before elsewhere.

There’s Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paraplegic who is recruited to remotely control an avatar made from a combination of alien and his brother’s DNA. Jake is sent to find out more about the Na’vi, the native people of Pandora. If he does, he’ll get his spine repaired so he can walk again.

The Na’vi are a noble people who value, respect and live in harmony with nature. Surprise! He begins empathizing more with them than his fellow humans. The evil Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) wants to kill all the Na’vi for any given reason. The sinister Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi), that’s right he’s named Selfridge in a not-so-subtle attempt at symbolism, is a corporate type who will stop at nothing to mine and collect a very valuable mineral. Joel Moore, Michelle Rodriguez, Sigourney Weaver and Zoe Saldana also have starring roles and frankly, I don’t have the desire or energy to tell you more about their characters.

Why? Because this movie’s script was that laughable. Jake infiltrates the Na’vi. Jake falls for Na’vi girl. Girl discovers Jake’s true identity. Jake must then win back the girl’s and the Na’vis’ trust so he can save them. Mind you, it takes nearly three hours to get through this very predictable premise.

Are you still reading? Then I’d like to remind you of the Hollywood myth that tells of Cameron having written this script years ago and waiting until technology would be able to do it justice. He should have spent that waiting time coming up with many revisions or something else altogether.

This movie was visually stunning. Does that make it a good movie? Not in my book. The fact that many people feel it should have won a Best Picture Academy Award undermines my faith in those who utter the thought.

I give this movie an overhyped, overrated C. It’s eye candy, nothing more.

Written by the bee dub

August 31, 2010 at 11:56 am

Hermit Cinema: District 9

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Racism. Violence. Corporate power and influence. This well-executed movie tackles a lot of heady themes and comes pretty darn close to pulling it all off. Produced by Peter Jackson, of Lord of the Rings fame, and directed by Neill Blomkamp, it begins in non-linear fashion; past, present and future are seen in a mixture of interviews, security camera footage and news reports. This is an ingenious way to give background on a premise not unfamiliar to most – aliens are here on planet Earth.

The backstory goes like this. An alien spacecraft arrives over Johannesburg, South Africa. It sits idle for months giving no indication what is going on within. Eventually, people cut their way into the spacecraft and find a million starving insect-like aliens. The aliens are given refuge in an area called District 9, which is heavily barricaded and guarded. Decades later, District 9 has disintegrated into something like a slum, drawing the ire of their human neighbors who derisively refer to the aliens as ‘prawns.’ Despite the low opinion most hold about them, the aliens have their own advanced technology and weapons that only works for beings with alien DNA.

Eventually, the South African government enlists Multinational United, or MNU, to relocate all the aliens to a new settlement – District 10 – farther outside the city. Our main character Wikus van der Merwe, a bumbling mid-level executive, is appointed to head up the relocation effort. Accompanied by heavily armed security-types, Wikus goes about serving eviction notices throughout District 9. During one eviction he discovers a mysterious metal cylinder which sprays a black mist into his face. The cylinder is then confiscated by MNU.

He later becomes ill, vomiting, bleeding black liquid from his nose and losing fingernails. An alien named Christopher has been collecting and distilling a mysterious liquid from alien technology parts over the past twenty years and has put it all into that cylinder. That cylinder is the key to the aliens being able to escape and return to their home planet.

Wikus isn’t merely ill. The liquid seems to have begun transforming Wikus into an alien. That makes him a very valuable commodity, especially to the diabolical types at MNU, as they hope it can open the doors to the use of the very advanced alien weaponry.

From here, we follow Wikus try to elude MNU, befriend Christopher and return himself to fully human form. This movie is well conceived and executed. I was especially impressed with the aliens themselves. The way they look, move and communicate is done in a way that never undermines their credibility as an alien life form. That’s hard to pull off.

Unfortunately, this movie suffers from one very major and nearly fatal flaw. Wikus’ character is just stupid enough to make him entirely unsympathetic. It saddles the whole movie with a layer of frustration that cannot be overcome. That’s a shame. Otherwise, this is a fine and enjoyable movie. It’s worth watching but never lives up to its obvious potential.

To me, that makes it a somewhat disappointing B-minus.

Written by the bee dub

August 19, 2010 at 11:27 am

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