Rollin’ In The Janagy

Well we have a new toy out west. Just what I didn’t need. We partnered up with another couple and went in on a ’98 motorhome. Our friends are the James, we are the Kenagys… Hence Janagy. Clever huh. Personally, I have never had much use for a motorhome, but I finally caved to the peer pressure. And, if I’m going to be stuck with one, this was as good as any. Let’s just say, it was not a major investment by any stretch. With that low upfront cost comes a few caveats though, as I’m sure anyone who has ever owned one can attest. All-in-all it is a good deal so far; Let’s hope it stays that way.

So, we picked up this 31′ beast a few weeks ago, then took a little time to find a storage spot ($$) and take care of banalities such as taxes, license, registration, ($) and new tires all around ($$$). We then spent a little coin outfitting it. It came with a pretty solid assortment of necessities, but we picked up a coffee maker, cleaning supplies, linens, area rugs, etc. Not too bad. Then, this past weekend, we declared it ready for the maiden voyage. We studied on the US map for a few days, researching road conditions, traffic studies, bridge heights, and mountain passes. Based on all this input, we selected a fine campground in Coloma CA. It really is a very nice campground; Lots of amenities, very clean shower houses, and great camping spots right next to the American River. And the real selling point for me, it’s about 18 miles from our house. Yeah, didn’t have to burn a lot of gas on this trip.

I’m going to declare the weekend a success. Granted, that’s without soliciting input from anybody else in the group, but this is my website and they don’t read it anyway. Another bonus of the campground, it was within walking distance of a few restaurants so we just went out to eat for the most part. We fired up a grill and did some chicken Saturday night, and reheated some biscuits and gravy in the motorhome, but the rest of the meals we headed “into town.” Had some really good food as it happens, too. The motorhome performed admirably. We had a little trouble figuring out the heat the first night, but that was a minor setback as it wasn’t cold anyway. As far as mechanicals, the only problem happened Sunday. We were sitting around enjoying the fine afternoon, when the springs on one of the leveling jacks broke with a bang that had me grabbing my chest like Fred Sanford. Luckily with my extensive military background in wrenchin’, I was able to diagnose the problem and provide a temporary fix. OK, full disclosure, a friend of ours who was also staying in the campground, and is a seasoned RV’er, crawled under it and zip-tied it up. Thanks Cindy. For the record, I was about to do the same thing.

OK, OK

And suddenly, I’ve skipped an entire month of updates. Where does the time go? I swear it’s the rain, it is actually affecting my routine in general. Who even wants to go outside and get pummeled with water? Or, in more than one case, hail? We’ve even seen thunderstorms, which seem an extreme rarity to me since moving here. Between the weather and the necessary but wholly unenjoyable drudgery that is work, I just haven’t done a whole lot. But hey, now it is Spring and I’m ready to turn the corner. Still getting some lack of cooperation from the weather as far as that goes, but it’ll change. Won’t it? Please?!?!?!

What have I done in the month of absence? Well, precious little honestly. Our mothers both came out for a visit, which was fun. We went down to the Bay and did some sight-seeing, up to Placerville for some shopping, and other random activities. And, of course, I’ve taken a few opportunities to use my new smoker. Literally, a few. The rain doesn’t even come into play really; The outside of the cooker is like 3″ thick insulated steel, and it’s under the covered patio, so it does fine. But who wants to spend the afternoon huddled inside watching crappy tv, occasionally putting on a jacket to go outside and check the temps? It just ain’t the same. I’ve been so excited to use it I went ahead and fired it up a few times anyway. The first cook, honestly, was a challenge. It took me two hours to get it up to temp, then I spent the remainder of the day (literally, “the day,” a full 14 hours) messing with the air intake. I cooked a few slabs of ribs and two pork shoulders; The ribs were passable, but I didn’t really enjoy the pork that much. Setback, to be sure. I called the builder a few weeks later, lamented my troubles, and he spent a good 45 minutes (well past my attention span but I appreciated his time and the subject matter was interesting enough to keep me on) offering advice. Key points were his recommended start up procedures, and “quit messing with the temp.” OK, OK, I get it. I fidget. So, last week I gave it another go. I threw on a few small corned beefs I had left over, a turkey breast that was in the freezer, and a package of andouille sausage I’d picked up at a butcher shop a few weeks ago. Start-up went much better; Still took an hour but at least that cut the time in half. And, I actually just left it alone to do it’s thing. (I may have “tweaked it” just a few times. I actually cannot help myself.) What do you know, it ran fine without my help. The meat all came out very well too. The corned beef was, I think, the best I’ve ever done. The turkey was over salted (I left it in a brine too long, waiting for a sunny day that would never come,) but very juicy and just the right amount of smoke. I didn’t try the sausages as I’m saving them for gumbo, but eh, it’s just sausage. So, I feel that I’m back in the game. Ready for my first full brisket I think. I JUST NEED SOME SUN!!!!

Wild Boar Ragu

Ragu Ingredients:

  • 2 carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, coarsely chopped
  • 2 onions, coarsely chopped
  • 3 cans chopped tomatoes with liquid
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 boneless wild boar shoulder, cut into1/2-inch chunks (about 3 pounds)
  • Kosher salt
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 1 bundle fresh thyme
  • Stock or water as needed
  • Grated Parmigiano, for sprinkling
  • Olive oil for finishing

Marinade Ingredients:

  • 1 sprig rosemary, torn in half
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 cups Chianti or other red wine, or as needed

Preparation:

Step 1
The night before making the ragu place the meat in a bowl with the rosemary, garlic and enough wine to cover. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Step 2
Discard the rosemary and garlic. Drain the meat in a
strainer set over a bowl, reserving the wine. In a Dutch oven
over medium-high heat, heat the oil until shimmering, and brown the meat in batches. Remove the meat after browning and add the carrot, celery and onion. Sauté until softened, 3 to 5 minutes.

Step 3
Add the meat and cook, stirring frequently, until all the liquid released by the meat has evaporated, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the reserved wine and cook,
stirring frequently, until the mixture is dry, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the tomatoes, breaking them up with a spoon. Add 1 cup water, reduce heat to very low, and cook, partly covered, at a low simmer for 1 hour.

Step 4
Add stock and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the meat begins to break apart, 1.5 to 2.5 hours. Remove from heat and, using a whisk or spoon, break the meat into very fine shreds. Serve, if desired, over
tagliatelle or other pasta.

Rain, Rain

Man this rain is relentless! I think it is affecting my quality of life. It just won’t let up. “Oh we can always use the rain.” If I hear that one more time… We made the most of the weekend despite the crummy weather though, well at least some of it. OK, on second thought, we only did something Saturday. Huh. And here I thought we had a big weekend for a second there.

So anyway, we did absolutely nothing all weekend except Saturday. That day was a good one though. For some background, on our semi-recent trip to Italy, we ordered Wild Boar Ragu on a few of our meals out. Odd sounding, but it was pretty good and even the picky eaters in the group (not to name names, but Michael & Alaina,) enjoyed it. We’ve talking about making it since we got back, a plan that has been slightly deferred due to various other menus, and my local grocery store not happening to stock wild boar. The second issue was remedied when I found it at a small butcher shop in Folsom. I could really tell some “interest” from the guy that sold it to me. Or was that skepticism? Joy at finally selling it? Something along those lines. Anyway, I ended up with a nice 4 lb wild boar shoulder. We scheduled dinner for Saturday, and the search for a recipe began. I settled on sort of a mix between a Food Network and a New York Times recipe. It came out pretty good, if I do say so my darn self. We made homemade pasta to go with it, and everyone at least pretended to enjoy it. I’ll have to type up the recipe, since I haven’t updated that part of my site in a few years.

In other big news, as news goes in my life, I got a new smoker. My old one has definitely served me well, I’ve had it over 20 years. I just felt like upgrading. I actually started talking with the guy back in November, and he just now got it done. I was hoping to cook Christmas dinner on it; Guess he didn’t quite make that date. It all worked out though, I’m very happy with the end result. I really wanted to fire it up last weekend and take it for a test run, but with the sketchy weather the pasta seemed like a better option. It will happen in the near future though.

Stuck Inside

Not a whole lot to go on this week. The weather has been atrocious (all things being relative,) restricting me to a steady routine of playing on my computer and/or binge-watching DVR’d Gunsmoke episodes. I have done no small amount of both. I even updated the main picture on pkenagy.com; It needed a little freshening up. Of note, the picture was taken at the same spot as the previous one, ten years later. (Napali Coast on the north shore of Kauai.)

On the PC / Home Network scene, I rolled out a super-neato new ad blocking setup. For the last several years, I have run an ad blocker on my home router, which has served me well. But, I had a few old Raspberry Pi’s laying around collecting dust, so I decided to put them to work. After a little reading, I decided on Pi-hole as my solution. A very little reading, I might add; It’s pretty much the go-to for ad blocking. It took me a little longer than I expected, due to some of the “oddities” of my home network that I’d long since forgotten about. After a few hours I had it up and going though, and I am quite pleased with the results. As it happens, I had two of the little Pi’s laying around, so I made a second one as a backup, in case the first ran into trouble. The house is now happily ad-free online. What advantages does this new setup give me over the previous config on my router? Well, in truth, none at all. It did serve to kill several hours of my weekend, and that’s about it.

Other than that, it was quiet. We had another couple over for Valentines dinner, and enjoyed what I considered a tasty meal. We went the traditional steak-and-lobster option. At least it’s something of tradition for us… That has been our menu for the last few years. I did the steak sous vide this year though, with rather successful results. For a relatively simple cooking method, I feel I’m just now starting to get the hang of the whole sous vide technique. We did chicken in it last night, and it came out tasty also. Just needed a year or so of practice I guess.