I can never find this recipe when I want it

This is not — nor will it ever be — a recipe blog. But whenever I want to use this recipe I cannot find it so I am putting it here so that I can always find.

What’s that? Put it in a recipe box, you say? Nah, too easy.

From Rick Bayless, it originally appeared in the June/July 2004 issue of Saveur (No. 76).

Barbecue Spice
Makes about ½ cup
Hickory House [his parent’s barbecue shop] used Cain’s barbecue spice blend, no longer made, as its dry rub. This recipe is author Bayless’s interpretation of that now unobtainable product.
2 large cloves of garlic; peeled adn finely chopped
¼ cup ground chile, such as ancho, New Mexico or guajillo, or paprika
4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1 teaspoon dried thyme

Put garlic, ground chile, salt, pepper, sugar, oregano and thyme into a small bowl. Stir well, making sure garlic is thoroughly combine. If not using spice mix right away, store in a small clean jar, tightly sealed, in the refrigerator for up to one month.

Hickory House Mild Barbecue Sauce
Makes about 3 cups
This sweet, ketchup-based sauce is typical of the Oklahoma City barbecue style.
2 cups ketchup
⅔ cup dark brown sugar
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
¼ cup worcestershire sauce
2–3 tablespoons white or cider vinegar
1–2 teaspoons barbecue spice (see recipe above)
½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Put ketchup, surgar, garlic, ¾ cup water, worcestershire, vinegar, barbecue spice and pepper into a small heavy-bottomed saucepan and stir until well combined. Season to taste with salt., if you like. Simer over medium-low heat, if necessary, to maintain a gentle simmer, for 30 minutes. If not using sauce right away, allow to cool, then store in a clean jar, tightly sealed, in the refrigerator for up to one month.

Going whole hog for the interview

A 52-year-old man in bright-yellow hip waders hunched over a pig, on its back and lifeless, carefully removing its skin. Clotted blood dissolved and spread like watercolors around the drain. The faint odor of barnyard hung in the air.

I stood in the corner of the cement-floored room, asking questions.

“Do you remember the first pig you ever slaughtered?”

The butcher stopped and cocked his head. “What?”

“Do you remember the first pig you ever slaughtered?”

“Nope,” he said, returning to his attention to maneuvering his knife through the subcutaneous fat covering the pig’s chest.

We’d been at this for half an hour. I asked each question twice and he gave the shortest answer possible. His longest response came when he spelled his four-letter last name.

“Do you like your job?”

He stopped again. “What?”

“Do you like your job?”

“Used to,” he said, again returning to his work. This time he shook his head slightly, a movement that told me exactly what he thought of me.

He gave me points for not vomiting when he eviscerated the pig or dug around in the 50-gallon bucket of waste to find the eyeballs he was supposed to save for dissection by future biologists. But he didn’t trust me; he wasn’t going to tell me any more than necessary.

During what could only be called a one-sided interview, the butcher’s boss interrupted us.

“You want a brat?” he asked me. Well, those were the actual words he used. But his offer of ground pork stuffed into a sheep intestine was really his way of asking a different question.

“Are you a pussy?”

It is one thing to watch someone slaughter hogs. It is something else to hear the sploosh of blood gushing out of a pig’s jugular and sloshing into a bucket of entrails while noshing on the victim’s brother. This offer was a call out.

It didn’t matter that I wasn’t really hungry, either, there was one obviously right answer.

Both of these had grown up around animal slaughter. They felt no more emotion when killing a pig or lamb as I do squashing a mosquito; it’s just the way it is.

The boss brought me just a brat — no bun, no ketchup, no mustard — and held it out to me. The translucent casing sheathed the warm, gray meat of the just-steamed sausage.

I don’t remember if I hesitated when before I took the sausage or when I went to eat it. All I remember is the snap as I bit through the natural casing.

It would have tasted better grilled.

How to kill chickens the wrong (and the right) way

A couple weeks ago I mentioned our New Hampshire hosts’ chicken slaughter and promised more detail for those of you thirsty for blood. This is the account of the first batch. 20 more were killed last weekend.

Campbell accused me of sadism for asking for the details. It’s not sadism. Humans are omnivores and that means meat and that means death and killing. I believe it’s responsible to be informed and to get over whatever squeamishness I have if I’m going to continue to eat it.

And so, more from Campbell:

Preparation is the first step. Water must be warmed to 140 degrees, weapons of slaughter must be sharpened and ready, a block for beheading must be set up, twine with which to tie the deceased to a tree and allow them to bleed and wits must be mustered.

The second — and arguably most mentally taxing — step is selection. Man must play God as he chooses which birds are worthy of continuing their lives and which are not. Having selected a bird each, Josh and I made our ways to the front yard, right on the corner so everyone could see, where our station had been setup.

Now is slaughter. The first bird was manual — hands breaking the neck. Either the chicken had an adamantine skeletal system or Josh did not do it correctly. The bird remained intact and upset. After 20 seconds of trying, Josh put the chicken on the stump and cut its head off with a cleaver chop.

I took the next bird, starting with the cleaver. Unfortunately, a combination of a loose blade and a faulty swing left the chicken with a massive gash in its neck, but a head still on its shoulders. It took two more swipes to remove the head.

The four other birds were executed old school: an ax to the neck. While holding one of the birds for Josh, the blood pumped out of the chicken and onto my face. After losing their heads, the eyes remained open as did the mouths. Some of the birds continued a breathing motion to no avail. They looked like freedivers returning to the water’s surface, greedy for air. The bodies were much livelier. Whoever held the chicken while the other cut it would pull the body away and hold it upside down while the headless bird flapped and spewed blood everywhere. After, the corpse was hung on a branch to continue bleeding.

Blanching is next. The birds were dipped into water heated to 140 degrees by a propane heater. Having been bathed for 30 seconds, the body returns to hanging and is plucked.

Plucking takes as much time as all other steps combined. Rather than plucking the smallest feathers, we burned them off in the fire.

Then we eviscerated the birds, my favorite step. Josh and I took them to an outdoor table where we removed their feet, crop, oil secreting gland and intestines. To remove the feet is easy and fun, simply hold them and cut through the knee joint. The crop is located in the neck and was loaded with the food the chickens had been eating. Because we had decided to do this last minute, the birds had been eating earlier, although we should not have let. After the crop has been pulled from the neck, one cuts off the oil gland with two triangular cuts above the anus. To remove the innards, we had to carefully pinch the anus and cut around it, then pull out all the innards through the newly enlarged asshole. We kept the hearts and livers and tossed everything else.

With the six bodies cleaned out, they look like grocery store meat, but are nowhere near as clean. Josh and I brought them inside and spent about half an hour washing them and another half hour plucking the missed feathers.

In all it took about three hours to prepare the six birds, having only 2 people, except when we had 5 during partially plucking.

Later I found pin feathers in my drumstick. That made me very ill at ease — a reminder that the meat was once an animal. They tasted like chicken.

Raising a flesh eater

There are a lot of things I’m not supposed to do as a parent. Letting my two-year-old daughter see photographs of slaughtered animals is pretty high on that list.

When I do, it’s not because I’m trying to turn her into a vegetarian. It’s because I want her to understand that the meat she eats doesn’t grow in a hermetically sealed Styrofoam tray. It was once flesh.

My hope is that she’ll learn to respect the meat she eats, to recognize that some animal has made the ultimate sacrifice for a meal that we’ll consume and then likely forget, to be concerned with how her food was treated when it was alive.

Getting kids to make that connection is hard. The traditional foods of childhood — hot dogs, bologna and hamburgers — bear little resemblance to the flesh from which they’re born. A hot dog looks the same whether it’s made of cow, pig, chicken, turkey or soybeans; they’re just different shades of brown.

I didn’t start by showing her the picture of the pig lying on the floor of a slaughterhouse. That came later. Nor did I force it — Look at the blood! Look at it! — on my daughter.

I began trying to get her, when she was just a year old, to make the connection by subverting the cartoony pictures of farm animals in the books that line her shelf. I would point to an animal on the page and, as another parent might try to coax out its sound or the color of its fur, ask if it was something we might eat.

Do we eat pigs? Chickens? Horses? (Well, some people do, sweetie.)

But even for an adult, it’s hard to connect a cartoon cow to the pieces of beef rib eye that lie on the dinner plate between the mashed potatoes and green beans. I wanted the connection in her mind to be concrete.

So we began walking along the 20 feet of supermarket meat counter, starting with the lobster tank and salmon fillets and ending with the pork sausage and bacon-wrapped fillet mignons. As we went I would tell her about each cut in as much detail as I could.

“The pork chops,” I would say, running my fingers along her spine, “come from a pig’s loin, right here on its back.”

I got used to receiving odd looks from people standing on both sides of the counter.

“She doesn’t need to hear that,” said one 50-year-old meat cutter, trying to veil his disgust with a jovial smile.

It’s odd that parents discuss with their kids what’s left over after digestion easily, and that conversations between parents can degenerate into discussions about poop and pee suddenly, but talking to my daughter about what she’s eating made me an instant member of a lunatic fringe.

Was I being creepy? I suppose so, but I couldn’t think of a better way to get her to understand that animal flesh was really no different from her own.

But bacon doesn’t look like a pig, New York strip doesn’t look like a cow and a whole chicken hardly looks like a chicken. Even in our rural state, my daughter hadn’t interacted with any livestock before it became her lunch.

So when I met Lois selling pork and lamb at the Saturday morning farmers’ market, I asked if I could bring my daughter up to her farm. Over several visits, she laughed at the bleating lambs and was fixated by the pigs romping in the open fields and chasing each other through the lots.

We would take home Lois’s meat and, when my daughter watched me cook it for dinner, I would explain that this might be the very same pig she had had so delighted her the week prior.

And when she glimpsed the photograph of the slaughtered pig, its throat cut, its pooled blood, its death throes causing its legs and body to blur, she didn’t seemed bothered. But it seemed to click in her young mind.

Not taking her eyes off of the photo, she asked in most serious tone a two-year-old can muster: “Is that Lois’ pig, Daddy?”

Executing chickens

Our New Hampshire hosts slaughtered their meat chickens yesterday. Reports Campbell, Michelle’s 18-year-old son:

On the first two we made mistakes. Josh tried to do it with his hands, but couldn’t, so he switched to a cleaver instead. I used the cleaver but it took three tries. Then we switched to the ax, which got blood on my face.

Slaughter apprehension

I was back at the farm today for the first time in a few weeks and spent time watching the pigs. They are warily curious, especially in contrast to the sheep pasturing next to them. Sheep seem stupid and scared of everything, always making sure of the space between themselves and visitors. The pigs follow visitors around their pen, sticking their snouts through the fence, shoving their way closer, climbing on each other for a better view.

The longer I’m away from the farm, the easier I think it will be to slaughter my pig when her time comes. And every time I go back to the farm and watch the pigs running and snorting and sniffing, I’m snapped back to the reality of how emotionally hard it will be.

On holiday: monster bird

Our hosts left ordering a turkey to the last minute, and finding one was made slightly more troublesome by the need to find a local, humanely raised bird. When Michelle started calling around earlier this week, lots of farms didn’t have any birds left.

She finally reached a lady who did.

“I don’t think you’re going to want it,” she said. It was 36 pounds. (That’s three pounds more than my two-year-old.) And even with 23 people on hand to eat Thanksgiving dinner — an estimated pound of pre-cooked flesh per person — that seemed like overkill.

The turkey had to be brined in a green Coleman chest cooler. At 15 minutes per pound, it would need nine hours to cook. Josh installed an additional oven just to roast the turkey.

Still, after we picked up the bird and were headed home, Josh started to have second thoughts. Maybe we should have taken the 39-pound turkey the farmer had offered.


I’m saddened learn that our turkey was nowhere near the size that one family found. That would be 72 pounds, which bested their previous record of 47.

Via The Obscure Store and Reading Room

On holiday: dream kitchen

We’re just outside Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for the week, staying in a house that has been in a state renovation for a year or so (and will be for another five). The walls are naked (and not in the no-art-hanging way), the floors plywood and walking around without shoes is a bad idea. The only heat comes from fireplaces.

It’s the home of my cousin Josh (he of the Maryland crabs), the retired cook and Culinary Institute of America alum. And while living in a constantly morphing space has it’s drawbacks, it is fantastic for cooking.

Right now, Josh is installing a new counter next to the sink over the used Sub-Zero wine storer, adding a second oven just for the 36-pound turkey (more later), and hooking up a second refrigerator for all the bits and pieces.

Josh and Michelle are raising their own chickens for both meat and eggs. (They originally got the birds to save money, but quickly realized that it was costing them more to raise their own. They don’t get government subsidizes.) The meat birds are still too small to slaughter, but the eggs’ yolks are a vibrant orange instead of the pale yellow of regular supermarket eggs (including the cage-free, organic and free-range ones).

The coolest feature of the kitchen, such as it is, is the built-in wood-fired oven. Our first night we had pizza in it and last night’s roasted chicken and the skin came out a beautiful brown. I’m now planning — with or without anyone’s consent — to tear apart our 1950s ranch to enlarge our kitchen.

Reader mail

Longtime-reader, first-time typer NOYFB writes:

“How many potlucks have you been to in the past 5 years?”

Well, for the last three Super Bowls, I went to parties where admission was apparently a container of seven-layer dip. (It’s sort of like those dances in junior high where admission was a box of tissues.) So I guess three. But I’ll betcha I’d have stratospheric numbers if I was a member of a religious group.