Sunday Cooking Series – {Smoked Pork Neck Bone Stew,Braised Short Rib Stew, 25lb Country Ham}

What better time of year than the Autumn season to eat thick and hearty stews?! Cooked outside in cast iron over an open pit makes for one of my favorite things to do when the weather begins to turn. 

I recently added to my cast iron collection with a nice 5 Quart Dutch Oven from Lodge. Naturally I was eager to throw something hearty and “wintery” in it immediately on the pit outside. With the help of my pop (a butcher for 35 years) I managed to pick up some smoked pork neck bones and short ribs. 

Luckily, my local butcher is pretty knowledgable about meats and had some ready for me in a few minutes. 

For the Neck Bone Stew: 

Home and eager to cook, I dumped 2 cans of red kidney beans, a quart of chicken stock, 2 quartered onions, 2 tablespoons of hot sauce, 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar … And let it sit on the pit for about an hr.  Once the onions were cooked down and everything was reducing nicely, I put 3 tablespoons of light brown sugar in to thicken it even more and give it a beautifully aromic and sweet taste. Truly ‘stick to your ribs’ food here folks! 

   
  

  
   
  
For the Briased Short Ribs:

A similar concoction which turned out incredible. 

2 packs of flanken cut beef short ribs, 1 quart of beef stock, 1 cup water, 2 onions quartered, 5 carrots, 5 potatoes, a few bay leaves, 3 tablespoons of light brown sugar, 3 teaspoons of Apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons of tomatoe paste, two small cuts of salt pork, salt & pepper as needed. Just throw it all in the Dutch oven and let it all cook down. Once finished cooking, let sit for an hour which will let all that fat and flavor really come thru in the broth, showing some sweetness due to the brown sugar. Another easy, cold weather stew that is pretty great to enjoy outside around a bonfire with friends. 

   
   
Lastly, this weekend was the start of something my father and I have been talking about doing forever but only now getting around to it! We prepped a 25lb Ham to be cured for 6 months. The process of curing meat stemmed from the days before refrigeration and resulted in a thing of beauty! So, like any normal 33 year old food nut, I have a 25lb Country Ham salt curing in my pantry where the temperature should be perfect for it over the next 6 months. Fingers crossed we have a winner!

   
 

Dim Sum, Sushi, Breakfast Pizza & More

I admit it. I have been eating out quite a bit lately. From Ramen joints in center city (Philadelphia) to local sushi restaurants. I have also been cooking a lot, usually every Sunday for entire afternoons at a time. I am very close to getting my breakfast pizza just the way I envisioned it! (Maybe a little honey in the dough will do it, hmm?).

I have not posted any pics to the blog lately so here is a big upload of some food adventures over this past month.
Enjoy.
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NYC Food Adventures – {Russ & Daughters, Papaya King, Momofuku MilkBar, Joe Juniors, etc}

Any photographer, traveler, or food enthusiast in general should visit NYC at the very least once if possible.

Ok, that’s easier for some than others of course.
It’s exactly 114 miles from my front steps to the center of Times Square. Needless to say this gives me all the opportunity in the world, minus actually living in the city, to visit as much as I want and spend countless hours exploring what I consider to be the best city in the world.

I have found myself in NYC many times since I figured out long ago what a quick escape it can be from my hometown. I’ve trekked miles up and down 7th avenue, strolled across the Brooklyn Bridge admiring Roebling’s Masterpiece, snapped panoramic pics atop Rockefeller Center, rode the subways, walked thru central park …. all of the tourist stuff I checked off a long time ago.

I’ve since added different destinations to my list(s) when I make a stop on the island these days. Sadly there are some incredible food joints I’ve never made it to yet. So today was important, particularly because I needed to check off some of NYC’s finest food joints from my list and not hold my head in shame anymore. No more ‘ah darn never tried that place yet”, or “I’ll have to make it there someday” …. excuses.

So I jotted down a few select places all relatively close to each other, hopped the train and off I went.

My first stop was Joe Juniors for coffee and breakfast. I read good things about Joe’s from Lucky Peach and realized small places like this are getting harder to find. I made my way in only to find a setting that could not have been written better in a movie scene. At the first table sat a guy, maybe a few years older than me with a wrinkled suit on and flip flops, sipping away at his coffee. Behind him, two hipsters talking quietly about something quintessential New York. At the first bar stool an older gentleman with a Veterans hat on (I think from WWII). Besides him a young couple showing just the right amount of PDA to make things uncomfortable for the rest us. I snagged a coffee and egg/sausage sandwich, paid my bill and left overhearing one of the everyday customers arguing about the Mets to his friend behind the counter.
You can’t write this stuff any better.

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Next stop was Artichoke Basille Pizza. Two Words – Margarita Slice! Rustic, cheesy, incredible. Eat it outside along the fence and watch people walk by surely jealous of your newly found love.
Twitter @ArtichokePizza

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Let me preference this next stop with the admission that I am a big fan of David Chang and what he has accomplished. The Momofuku restaurants are incredible and you can’t possibly go wrong at any of them – just show up early or you’ll be waiting a while – especially at Momofuku Noodle Bar. Well worth it to get there early!
By this time I needed some caffeine so I stopped off at the Momofuku Milk Bar for an expresso. I folded like a lawn chair under the pressure and also bought (3) cookies to which I proceeded to devour outside the shop with no shame.
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Twitter @milkbarstore

Somehow I managed to find myself at Van Leeuwin Artisan Ice Cream. Contrary to the above cookie admission, I don’t have much of a sweet tooth these days as I once did (more of a salty guy), but I do enjoy the occasional cone. In fact, I had recently purchased the VL Artisan Ice Cream cook book (mostly because the photography is awesome) … so I figured it can’t hurt. Sampled the Salted Caramel which was… well salty but delicious. The shop had the A/C on so it was a nice respite from the late summer humidity in NYC which can be oppressive to say the least.
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Twitter @VLAIC

The next stop was a necessity. One must always stop in either Russ & Daughters or KATZ’s a few stores down when in NYC. Since I had been to KATZ’s recently and wanted to bring some things home with me I decided to brave the line and get some goodies at Russ & Daughters. I left with 6 Bagels and a can of Herring. If I had a cooler with me, filled with ice, and a limo waiting outside to drive me around to my other destinations, I would have bought much … let me stress … much smoked salmon!
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Twitter @LoxPopuli

As shameful as it is, prior to today, and seemingly impossible as one can imagine, I had not visited Papaya King before. Yes, I’ve heard Bourdain sings its praises before and seen all the colorful neon signs before. Yet today, with head held high, I had my first dog at Papaya King … and of course the Papaya drink. Out of all the stops I made today this was my most favorite. Buzzing with neon everywhere around me I sat looking out at St.Marks place chowing down on my hot dog, smothered with kraut and corn beef, sipping my ice cold papaya drink. It was, shall I say….incredible.
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Twitter @Papaya_King

Feet tired and eyes now blurry from the glow of my Mac, this is where the food adventure for today ends.

Goodnight Friends.

I am not a food critic

Food. It’s an amazing thing. I am constantly in awe of today’s food culture. A friend recently pointed out to me that my Twitter and Instagram feed (@GR8BigWorld), contained a lot of food posts lately, which followed by the question ‘Are you becoming some kind of food critic’ ?

The logical answer to this question was no of course. I did however admit that much of my posts on social media lately have been food related and I could not figure out why.  I started thinking a lot about how I use both Twitter and Instagram and thought how much enjoyment I do get out of posting some of my food adventures with my followers. I’ll even go as far as admitting having these two outlets makes some of these adventures even more fun! What did the budding traveler and foodie do years ago without them!?

I am not a food critic, overly talented in any aspect of art or trade, or rise above the title of a ‘mediocre writer’.  I do however enjoy cooking, traveling and photography. These things I love usually involve each other in some fashion or another. Lately everything ‘culinary’ has been holding much of my short lived attention span tightly, pushing me towards new restaurants and locations trying new dishes and enjoying the experiences.

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Into the Food world I stepped…

My first job was at age 15 at a very small grocery store. We had a deli, milk & eggs, cigarettes, and the morning paper. I worked there for two years eventually becoming a store manager. It was a good job for a teenager and provided enough spending cash while I was in high school. The store eventually went under, being sucked up by large chain establishments that quickly moved in on the land and opened a bigger and better store. I was 17 and in need of another gig. I found myself working at a local sub shop. I consider this job my first real ‘food’ job. I found myself making Italian subs, washing dishes in large vats of sanitized blue water, chopping cheese steaks on a full hot grill on the weekend nights, and on some occasions slicing lunch meat – of which after a nasty cut occurred – I tried to stay away from. (I still have the scar on my finger).

My time slinging hash and making subs was fun. I always smelled like onions but somehow I didn’t seem to mind. I worked with friends and didn’t take life so seriously. It was a good time in my life.

I had now graduated high school and like many, was more lost than ever. I had dabbled in college out of state for a few semesters but eventually found myself back in Delaware at community college and in need of a job. I hadn’t worked anywhere but food joints up until this point and I knew I was too young to sit behind a desk all day. I interviewed for a job at a seasonal restaurant where I’d be busing tables, cleaning up floors, running food items to line cooks, etc. I managed to get the job and enjoyed it immediately. The job was at a local prestigious country club which I ended up working at for almost 4 years.

After the summer gig ended and the hoards of members eventually resigned to the formal dining restaurant in the main clubhouse, I found myself now in a tux busing tables. I bused tables for a few months eventually getting a server position which I enjoyed more than any other gig, mostly in part because I was making way more money than I had before. I spent that winter waiting tables and picking up as many shifts as possible, still dredging my way through college courses I was not even sure why I was in to begin with.

Spring had come around and the seasonal restaurant was slated to open up again at the end of May. This time around the club needed a manager. Someone to run the restaurant in it’s entirety, as well as manage a small staff. I interviewed and got the gig, mostly in part because I think I was the only one left over from the previous season and I had shown I was reliable and a good employee up until this point. That summer I found myself running the restaurant, minus the food prep which always came down from the chefs in the main kitchen. It was a good experience, one of which I learned quite a bit about running a small eatery. Once the summer ended I knew I wasn’t up for the gig for another season. I was still floundering about in college and decided to just stop going until I figured out what my path was going to be.

I began waiting tables again in the main clubhouse for another year or so. Large scale kitchens are a funny thing, and amaze me to this day. I met some incredibly interesting people, laughed more than I’d ever had before simply at the conversations going on, and was part of a team that Bourdain so rightly describes in Kitchen Confidential as the subculture that is the wait and kitchen staff.

I loved it.

This all was a long time ago. 10+ years ago.

I eventually left my server position and got a ‘real’  job at a bank, enrolled back in school, eventually finished college, and headed down a more ‘professional’ path with my new $40k bachelors degree in business (of which by the way I am still paying for).  I would go back and change all these ‘grown up’ choices I made back then if I could.

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I consider myself very lucky. I have found myself eating pasta in the heart of Rome, drinking beer and hot wine in a small village restaurant outside Munich, devoured pork buns in San Francisco’s Chinatown, feasted on pastrami sandwiches in NYC (Go to Katz’s), and a number of other adventures that all involved food in some way.

I read a lot about the things I love. Food being one of them. I am hooked on ‘Mind of a Chef’ and what David Chang has accomplished and believer that Bourdain is one of the best writers of our time. I read articles about obsessive foodie’s on various culinary adventures, watch past episodes of Hell’s Kitchen, binge on soup dumplings… the list goes on.

Food is a big part of us and how we see the world.

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My time in the food industry was limited at best. But it showed me first hand how much work and effort goes into preparing food for someone else to eat. I always think back on these experiences now when I eat some place new or try something I have not had before.

So when my friend asks me if I am becoming a food critic … I said no. To critique something usually means to point out the negative. I try to point out the positives in things. I will continue to post and tweet about my adventures as I make my way slowly around this globe exploring everything there is to explore.

I know a good meal will not be hard to find most places I go.

-BR