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Posts Tagged ‘picnic’

Happy August, everyone! We’ve had a very full and good weekend so far here in “the Hav”, with a few friends visiting from out-of-town to partake in some lechon. The unfortunate things about lechon are: 1) it’s so enormous it really takes a full party to eat, and 2) it’s time-consuming and therefore requires a real occasion to make it worth making. 7 hours on the grill means we can’t make this baby on a normal weeknight!

The occasion for celebration this time around is that three of our favorite former roommates (MT, AT, and LL) were in town visiting. Perhaps the next time you come to visit, we’ll make that an excuse to fire up the grill for some lechon again!

Lechon

As far as the pork goes, this time around we tried something a little different.  First, just because it was easier to get, we used a bone-in, skin-on shoulder (instead of the boneless, skinless shoulders sold at Costco).  Perhaps the bone added flavor, but not that we could tell.  It did, however, add difficulty to carving.  The second change was that the first three hours we cooked the shoulder directly on the grill and finished the last four hours wrapped in foil.  This created a smokey, crunchy crust without drying it out.  This is a change we definitely recommend.

One additional recommendation — do overestimate the amount of meat you’ll need. We bought a 7.5 lb. bone-in shoulder for a party of 8 adults and 1 baby with a healthy appetite for meat, and ended up with barely an ounce of leftover lechon. A big part of the reason we had no leftovers is that the bone really took up a lot of the 7 lb. We spent too much time cooking for us to not end up with leftovers, so we are definitely going to overestimate in the future.

Cheese Plate

This bit is pretty exciting. Greg and I have taken to eating cheese plates pretty regularly as a pre-dinner snack, usually just a small sliver of 3-year Vermont cheddar with a few slices of peach. Cheese plates are a great way to start a party, since they’re a very low-maintenance, prep-ahead appetizer that keeps guests entertained until the main meal is served.

This cheese plate pictured above has the following: 1) toasted almonds dusted in salt, sugar, and cinnamon; 2) a small wedge of pecorino romano with a drizzle of agave; 3) hand-picked peaches from Lyman’s; 4) 3-year old Vermont cheddar.

Cabbage-Fennel-Celery Slaw

1/2 head green cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2 head fennel, thinly sliced
1/2 bunch celery, thinly sliced
sesame oil, agave, salt to taste

This is a pretty different slaw from the type we usually make. This includes cabbage, fennel, and celery, and very minimal dressings to allow the vegetable flavors really stand out on their own. (Also, I’m suffering from a bad case of strep throat so am a bit timid about extra seasonings these days, especially anything acidic or spicy. Under normal circumstances, we would have added some apple cider vinegar or habanero salt in a heart beat!)

Slice all vegetables extremely thin, ~1/8″ thick. We used a fabulous mandoline that we had received from our two good friends on the other side of the pond (we know you’re reading this, M&A!). Salt the vegetables, and let sit, refrigerated, for at least two hours. This step helps to tenderize the cabbage.

Gently whisk together agave and sesame oil, and drizzle over the slaw. Toss all vegetables until well-combined, and taste. Add additional seasoning, if needed.

Peas-Feta-Avocado Salad (not pictured)

3 c frozen shelled peas
6 oz. feta, cubed
1 avocado, cubed
olive oil, salt, pepper to taste

Defrost frozen peas in microwave or by running under hot water for 30 seconds. Toss with cubed feta and cubed avocado. Add olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste.

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Day Two in Ottawa was yet another culinary success. After dropping Greg off at the conference, I browsed through the shops and stalls at Byward Market and procured the following for a gourmet picnic:

1 loaf olive bread, The French Baker
1 wheel triple creme Brie, House of Cheese
$1 of wild boar and fig pate, House of Cheese
$5 of apricots, peaches, and blueberries, market stall
1 fig, Byward Fruit Market

We set up a small picnic outside the main conference site, complete with real plates and silverware procured from the hotel restaurant and a makeshift tablecloth, surely drawing the envy of many an economist. There aren’t too many places to eat right by campus, and we suspected that the majority of the other participants refueled at a nearby nondescript bar and grill type place with surely mediocre fare.
I spent the rest of the afternoon exploring Ottawa while Greg was off hearing Daron Acemoglu (of instrumental variable fame) present on political regimes and institutions. Highlights from my afternoon included the following: touring the Peace Tower at Parliament (the castle-like structure above); happening upon a Syrian protest; obtaining an invitation to an invitation-only Iranian event at the National Arts Center; sitting by the Rideau Canal spectating a family of ducks learn how to swim. Highlights from Greg’s afternoon included a lecture on binary choice models with endogenous regressors.
When we reconvened for the evening, we went off in an ultimately failed street meat tour, Ottawa edition — a quest to try a variety of shawarma vendors in Ottawa. Spoiled by our initial journey to Shawarma Palace, 45 minutes later and half a dozen shawarma locales visited, we decided to trek back to Shawarma Palace, a 20 minute walk away. And our appetites were surely rewarded! The amount of food offered was constrained only by the size of the plate with some allowed amount of spillover onto the tray — tabouleh, hummus, shawarma chicken, cardamom brown rice, pickled vegetables and fresh vegetables piled HIGH on our plate, and a bag of pita bread tossed on the side. In a nutshell, it was awesome. And our recommendation is the following — even if you’re starving and accompanied by a big appetite-ed companion, a split order of a shawarma plate will leave you satisfied.
And this mostly concludes our trip to Ottawa. Greg is presenting this morning on Labor Allocation and Productivity: Consequences of the 2010 Health Insurance Reform, and then we’re off to New Haven!

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