Monday, June 06, 2005

Dad's Navy Days: The Pie Story

Over the weekend, I had a chance to discuss my Memorial Day post over the phone with my good friend Vulture Six, who had the honor of knowing my father before his death. Dad and V6 got along famously because they were both Navy vets. Like I did as a child, Vulture loved to listen to my dad's Navy stories. In the time he was in the Navy, my father managed to cram in a lot of interesting experiences, and loved to regale us with memories of them. Scott is of the opinion that I shoul,d commit some of those stories to my Blog so that I can preserve them for posterity. I think it's a capital idea. So today I am going to share my favorite story:

My father was a sonarman on a destroyer in the early 60's. Back in those days, he would tell me, on a small ship like that you were often called upon to do jobs not normally associated with your rate. In my father's case, he had some experience as an electrician, so he often found himself doing wiring in addition to his sonar duties. One day, that job took him into the ship's galley (kitchen) as he rasn wiring through it.

My father's ship was one of the best run destroyers in the navy, and was the flagship of its Desron (Destroyer Squadron). This meant that in addition to the skipper of the ship, it was home to the Commodore (an officer of the Navy rank of Captain who was in command of a group of ships) of the Desron. The Commodore had on board with him his own cook, who was also busy working in the galley at the same time. He had placed out to cool two blackberry pies. I've already mentioned how dearly Oregonians love blackberries.

The Electrician's toolbox that my father was using consisted of an upper tray full of tools, and a lower compartment with two curcular cutouts to hold spools of wire. As it would happen, these circular holes were of an ideal circumference fgor holding a pie plate. When the cook was not looking, my father lifted out a spool of wire, set the pie in its place, replaced the tool tray, and continued to work. A little while later, he left the compartment to continue his work elsewhere. Late than night, while standing watch in the sonar shack, he ate the pie.

Now, the commodore's cook was no dummy, and he put two and two together. A few days later, as they were having inspection, the Commodore approached my father.

Commodore: "B., do you like pie?"
Dad: "Yes, sir, I love pie."
Commodore: "Do you like Blackberry pie, B.?"
Dad: "I'm from Oregon, sir, that's probably my favorite."
Commodore: "B.?"
Dad: "Yes, sir?"
Commodore: "My cook would like his pie plate back."
Dad: "Aye aye, sir!"

Maximum Leader on Immigration

Yet again The Maximum Leader over at Naked Villainy says for me what I've been intending to say but never got around to. And probably much better than I would have.

I Love the Smell of Charcoal in the Morning.

It smells like… Barbecue!

Despite weather that couldn’t make up its mind what it wanted to do, I managed to cook outside on both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday I grilled chicken on the gas grill using a marinade recipe I learned from the cook at a church I attended in San Diego. The recipe works best if you can marinate your meat in it at least 24 hours, but I left my chicken in it for only about 10 hours and it still worked well. In addition, I discovered that it makes a great flavor base for jerky made on the smoker, and also tastes good basted onto grilled veggies:

Monkey Meat Marinade

1 medium sized ginger root
5 cloves garlic
1 10 oz. bottle of soy sauce
1 20 oz. bottle 7up or other lemon-lime pop
¼ cup sugar

Peel and grate ginger, chop garlic finely. Combine all ingredients in a glass bowl. Pour over chicken or beef, cover and refrigerate, marinate 1-3 nights.

Sunday, as I mentioned earlier, was spent barbecuing. I find very interesting the various permutations of barbecue found throughout the Southeast, Southwest, and Lower Midwest (Missouri). The debate over which are the proper methods of preparing the meat, and which meat to use, leave me bemused and drooling. Not living in or being from any of those regions, I have no vested interest in or philosophical commitment to any one method. For me, it’s all about the end result: does it taste good? That works for me.

So yesterday, I decided not to take sides in the great debate over wet vs. dry. I decided to borrow from, and probably to offend, ALL interested parties, by combining several different methods.

I started by selecting pork as the meat of choice for this round, since I’d already tried my hand at beef (brisket). I had two cuts of meat – a loin and a rack of baby backs. Friday afternoon I started marinating them in two bottles of red wine vinaigrette dressing. Sunday after church, I fired up the smoker, and removed the pork from the fridge. I patted it dry and applied a dry rub of my own concoction. The spices in it included ground sun dried tomato, paprika, cayenne, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, mustard powder, turmeric, cumin, sage, oregano, sugar, salt, and white pepper. After applying the dry rub, I started cooking. After an hour or so, when the dry rub had time to cook in to the meat, I turned it over to let the other side cook, and applied a wet sop. The sop was made up of V-8 Juice, orange juice, pineapple juice, and a package of zesty Italian dressing mix. I continued applying this sop and turning the meat for another two hours, then started applying barbecue sauce. I confess that I didn’t make my own, but relied on a high quality commercial sauce out of Texas called Stubb’s. I cooked the meat for the last two hours continuously applying Stubb’s Spicy. The last half hour or so, I ran out of charcoal and the smoker couldn’t keep up sufficient heat, so I finished it on the gas grill. That may horrify the purist, but it got the job done, and by that point, the meat had absorbed plenty of smoke.

For sides, I tossed a couple of ears of corn, still in their husks, onto the grill, and in my grill basket I cooked up some green beans with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic. I finished the meal with dinner rolls and a bottle of Pinot Noir Blanc (I didn’t think a white wine could stand up to the intensity of the BBQ sauce, and a red would probably be too dry -- a blush worked perfectly).

I was quite pleased with the results, and so was The Feared Redhead. I was informed, and I quote, “You can make this recipe again”. How generous of her. The one thing we agreed on is that next time, I could probably save myself some trouble and skip the sop in the middle, relying only on the dry rub and the sauce.

Carpe Diem Blogging

I decided to take Ally's advice and seize the (birth)day yesterday. Saturday I went out and bought myself a birthday cake, which we took to church with us yesterday and shared with the congregation. They sang Happy Birthday to me. I also informed TFR that while I would help with The Lad, no Honey Do projects would be undertaken yesterday. I spent the whole afternoon in one of my favorite pursuits, namely cooking, as I barbecued a rack of pork baby back ribs on the smoker. They were awesome, and I shall blog on them later today. I received several phone calls wishing me happy birthday, including from my mother, my sister, my good friend Vulture 6, and fro ma group of old and very dear friends down in San Diego. The Feared Redhead gave me a pair of pajamas and a pocket watch for my birthday, and we finished the day with a DQ ice cream cake.

All in all, a much better birthday than I anticipated. Thanks to all of you for your kind thoughts too.