Cinco de Mayo & Derby Day

by David Saturday May 4, 2013 06:57

Here it is, Kentucky Derby day and Cinco de Mayo eve. My mind is filled with gratitude and remembrances of friends back in Kentucky. We are looking forward to watching the Derby but we are also excited to be celebrating Cinco de Mayo today with our family. Our eldest son is still here waiting for his wife to graduate school (later this month). Jesse and Hillary will be here too. We are planning a Mexican food fest worthy of the Francis name.

Cinco de Mayo however, brings back memories of “Ocho de Mayo.” It is a celebration we have shared on May 8th the past two years with our closest friends back in KY. It makes my heart ache for those people and good times. Sure, the memories are a gift, but not being able to make more memories this year has me feeling a tad melancholy. We will toast to Bill, Misha, Vicki, Paula and Robin, and the memories of great times past while we enjoy the company of our children here in the Arizona desert.

I will be slow cooking beef ribs on the smoker for the first time, the meat will be used in our tacos. Apparently, I’m making chili rellenos again too since it’s Jesse’s (my youngest) favorite. Dave (my eldest) has some big plans for chimichangas as well as some other dishes. It won’t be as elaborate as the 10 dishes I made last year, but I am excited.

I have a feeling Carrie will dig out some of the decorations we saved from last year and we will have an enjoyable day.

Cheers! To the memories of great times past and also the memories yet to be made.


Cooking | Home

Rethinking the Cooking Blog

by David Tuesday March 26, 2013 05:55

I have been nurturing an idea to start a full blown cooking blog so I can share the food I like to cook – and eat. Something happened on Saturday that has me rethinking that idea completely.

My son David and wife Carrie went out “yard sale-ing” on Saturday. Leaving the house before 8:00 AM, they set off to find hidden treasures (trash) in someone else's yard or garage. They found a few things to procure and cart to the house, to be cleaned and stored and saved for our next yard sale no doubt. (grin)

After a few hours of peace on my porch, I received a call from my boy asking me if I would be interested in going to Sam’s Club to check out a barbeque competition. A real live Kansas City bbq competition in the Sam’s parking lot? I had to see this – so I agreed.

The organizers had scheduled a cooking demonstration at 1:00pm so we waited until then to arrive. As we pulled into the parking lot, the smell overtook us and we entered smoked meat heaven. Sam’s had cordoned off two rows of parking and the pit masters set up their rigs. WOW! Some really nice RV’s, gooseneck trailers and trucks with campers. Some just set up their space out of their cars as well.

The scheduled presenter was showing people how to prepare ribs and brisket – at least the parts we saw – and it lost my interest quickly because he was re-hashing information I already knew. So we decided to walk around and see the contestants set ups.

It wasn’t like those huge events you see on TV. There were maybe 20 participants instead of the hundreds that gather in national events. But that didn’t seem to take away from the few who participated. Some of these people had invested a lot of money in not only their grills and smokers, but also their camping rigs, branding and presentation.

There were several people there from Tucson and Phoenix as well as people from California and other states. In hindsight, I should have gotten some business cards or at least taken pictures of their banners so I could look them up later. My bad.

While we walked the two rows of rigs, we noticed they were all preparing for the brisket portion of the competition. We saw several people cutting their prized meat for presentation to the judges. Unfortunately, there was no opportunity to actually taste the que, and we didn’t feel comfortable trying to strike up a conversation with any of them since they were so enthralled in their process.

As we walked through these awesome set ups, smelled the smoke of hours of preparedness, and noticed small clutches of friends sitting in their space enjoying the day, I couldn’t help but think that I would like to do that too. Not so much for the competition, but the thought of spending the day with like minded people piqued my interest.

I mentioned to Dave that a lot of the participants had their own restaurant or catering business and these rigs were all intended to promote their business. Bringing home a trophy or two doesn’t hurt business either. What a great way to build a business? To hang out, doing what you like to do, in the comfort of a $100,000 recreational vehicle sounds very appealing to me.

Which brings me to my point. I am toying with the thought of starting my own bbq business. Not right away mind you – I have a magazine to get off the ground – but maybe in a year or two I can start small and give it a go. I have thousands of idea how to make a bbq joint rock and roll and just as many ideas about the food in terms of technique, quality and presentation. It all depends upon the success of the magazine to be sure – read revenue – but I can take some time to develop these thoughts, experiment with food and be ready if and when the time comes.

What this means is I may want to play my cards closer to my chest. Writing publically about the food and techniques that I am considering for a business might be counter productive. So I am thinking about keeping my cooking notes to myself and not posting them online.

Keep in mind, these are only my thoughts from the past few days, and I may find other ways to share my cooking journey online. I may change my mind entirely – who knows? But at the moment, the thought of offering world class bbq  has me excited. Heck, the thought of simply developing the menu even if I don’t do the restaurant thing has me excited.

So there you have it. Am I nuts or what?

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Business | Cooking

Smoked Pastrami with a Corned Beef

by David Monday March 25, 2013 06:08

I’ve made pastrami using a pre-packaged corned beef many times. The process is simple…


I simply grind the corned beef seasoning in a coffee grinder along with some pepper corns and cumin seeds as a base rub – add a little extra ground black pepper and pop into the smoker.

Yesterday I made two pastramis that I picked up at Sam’s Club – as usual – and put them in the smoker just like I would any brisket. I smoked these until an internal temperature of 190 or so… I usually pull the brisket when the thermometer has very little resistance when inserted and removed.

It was perfectly cooked but there was something wrong with these two – they were WAY too salty. I mean very salty. The only thing I did different was to soak the corned beef in water for about an hour in attempt to dilute the salt. Did I reactivate the salt or something? I don’t know, but these are nearly inedible.

I sliced them both and put them in the fridge. I will try to steam them tonight and hope it tones down the salt. If not, these are going to the trash and I’ll have to try again.

I think next time I will soak one, soak and rinse another every 10 minutes for an hour and a third one will go in the smoker. I may try a forth one as well, that one would go in the smoker un-soaked for 4 hours and finish in the electric roaster.

That’s the plan anyway.

New category; “When cooking goes wrong.”

On a side note however, the meat was perfect! The consistency, bite, feel was exactly what I was going for – it’s just the darn saltiness that screwed this one up.




David Francis (that's me) having recently repatriated back to Tucson Arizona after a 25 year hiatus, I felt a fresh start in life deserved (another) fresh start online. This blog is for personal posts, observations and sharing. More?

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