For Purple Mountain Majesties

I have not written a blog post in too long.  Someone asked me recently if I had blogged anything new and I was sad to realize I had not.  I am not sure what the theme of this post is going to be exactly, but hopefully it will reveal itself to me before I get to the end.

It’s about the mid-way point through Summer for us and we have definitely been enjoying Summer’s bounty in the Casa Kitchen.  There is a roadside produce stand (more like the trailer portion of a tractor-trailer but whatever works) in my town that I visit at least once a week for tomatoes and peaches from Palisade on the Western Slope and other fresh vegetables from Southern Colorado and beyond.  I can make the corn tasty by grilling them in a lime butter with husks on but it’s not the sweet Ohio Silver Queen I grew up with.  There are a few things that were better in Ohio and corn and tomatoes probably top the list.

We took a very different sort of vacation this year—high in the mountains.  This was our first 4th of July not spent picnicking on the beach in Florida in nearly 25 years.  Instead, we took a break from the Florida humidity and rented a cabin in Grand Lake, Colorado on the edge of the Rocky Mountain National Park.  We rented a pontoon boat, went fishing, horseback riding, rode ATVs, hiked, biked, paddled and, of course we ate and drank like the Kings and Queens of Colorado!

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I planned our weekly menu ahead of time and purchased everything at home to save money and maximize leisure time.  I wanted easy food that would please a crowd as the trip included our family, a friend for each child, my Dad and my bestie.  The menu included such all American favorites as Hebrew National All Beef Hotdogs, my previously blogged about Au Some burgers, chicken salad, steak and chicken kabobs and a 6 pound pork shoulder that became shredded pulled pork BBQ in honor of our Nation’s Birthday.

I packed 3 cold and 3 dry coolers and away we went.  The kitchen in the rental was spacious, included a 6 range gas burner and previous tenants who had left a better than decent supply of condiments, seasonings and pantry items.  The cabin had an extra-large grill on the wide covered porch that overlooked the lake.  Other than the pork shoulder, most of our meals were grilled.

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Our 4th of July Happy Birthday America Menu included Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Macaroni & Cheese, Collard Greens, Coleslaw and Smores.  I applied my usual approach blending ‘from scratch’ and ‘store bought.’  I braised a Pork Shoulder with a chopped Vidalia onion in store-bought stock with salt, pepper, garlic, and a bay leaf for 5 -6 hours covered on low on the stove top (no crock pot). Then I shredded the meat, poured off the excess liquid and added a bottle of store bought BBQ sauce.

For the macaroni and cheese I purchased the Family Size Velveeta shells and cheese in the box but added half a stick of butter, a half cup of milk, a small tub of sour cream and mixed that together with the fake cheese in the pouch.  I poured the mixture into a 9 x 13 pan that I then topped with a mixture of Panko bread crumbs and shredded cheddar cheese.  I baked the casserole for 40 minutes at 375 until it was brown and bubbly on top.  America’s Birthday Party is most certainly not a time to be on a diet People.

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The best part of our menu was 100% from scratch–collard greens.  I actually brought 2 quarts of homemade stock that I found in my deep freezer to the cabin and used that to braise 2 pounds of chopped greens to which I added a chopped sweet onion and a pork shank.  Some salt and pepper and leave the whole thing on low covered in the stove top for several hours.  To serve, strain the greens in a slotted spoon.

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They are AMAZING with the rick savoriness of the pulled pork, the decadent cheesiness of the mac & cheese and the cool crispiness of the cole slaw. The slaw was store bought but tasty.  I recall a time when the word “coleslaw” used to conjure in my mind an image of the little styrofoam container of the crap the Colonel used to sell.   I hope they have re-formulated that shit.  NOT FINGER LICKING GOOD.

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I may not have been in the South but my menu was definitely Southern.   I am happy to report that the weather was anything but Southern and the day was partly sunny, partly cool with no humidity and the fireworks burned just as brightly over the lake as they did over the ocean.  Happy Birthday America, you are looking great for your age.

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