This Column originally appeared in the Bloomington Herald Times on June 14, 2006
For the Web-savvy, blogs are commonplace; for others maybe not so much. So here's a quick primer: a "blog" is short for "Web log," an online journal that chronicles whatever the blogger wants to talk about - essentially a diary for all the world to read. Blogs can cover partisan political views, the start up of a new business, the excruciating details of a teenager's life, or, in the case of the subject of this column, adventures in food.
I've been reading food blogs for some time now. There are some great ones out there (I like chocolateandzucchini.com, a longtime favorite, and a new find - meathenge.com, an odd choice for a mostly-vegetarian, but never mind.) In the course of following the links from one blog to another (most blogs have a "blog roll" in a sidebar that links you to other blogs) I discovered www.hungryhoosier.com.
The Hungry Hoosier is Scott Hutcheson, who blogs about "traveling Indiana in search of food, family, and community." The posts on his blog are archived by date, but also by the towns in Indiana that he has visited in the course of his job in economic development for Purdue. When he gets to a town he asks the people he meets: Where do you go to eat every day? Where do you go to celebrate? What local products are produced here? He mostly likes to try out small, family run businesses that serve, grow or otherwise provide great food, and he saves you the trouble of rediscovering his favorites by sharing them with you online.
Thinking of heading to Haubstadt, Indiana?Visit Hungry Hoosier and Scott will direct you to a delicious smoked pork chop with a distinctive barbecue sauce, served with a side of German potato salad and slaw.
Michigan City on your itinerary? Scott suggests the Shoreline Brewery for a glass of Smokestack porter and an oatmeal stout braised lamb shank.
The list grows almost daily, in mouthwatering detail.
Scott is himself an avid home cook, and he blogs his own family cooking adventures (as well as other stories of life in the Hutcheson household) on a separate blog. Already busy with multiple fulltime jobs (in addition to the main one, at Purdue, he writes a weekly food column for the Lebanon Reporter, does freelance writing, and is husband to Lisa and dad to Henry, almost 5, and Oliver, nearly 17 months) he began blogging as a way of chronicling family life for his sons. He lost his own dad at 16 months, without ever having really known him and without having had the chance to build family memories. In the back of his mind is the idea that he is creating a narrative of who he is for Henry and Oliver, a record of how they all lived their lives together for the boys to look back on when they are grown up.
In the meantime, he is creating a narrative for all the rest of us to enjoy as well - good stories of food, family, and community, and an indispensable travel log that no hungry Hoosier should leave home without first checking out.
A personal note: I first contacted Scott as a subject for this column, certain that you all would enjoy his fine writing and good food sense as much as I do. In the process, he has given me some good advice about starting a food blog of my own and he and I have begun preliminary work on a book about great food finds in Indiana.Those two projects, along with other freelance writing I do on food and politics, our expanding activities at Slow Food Bloomington, and my day job at IU, have filled my dance card for some time to come. It is with real sadness that I give up this column that I have loved writing for the past four years. Please continue to visit with me at my new blog or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. It's been great. Thanks for reading.
Crostini with Indiana
Chevre, Caramelized Onions and Mission Fig Marmalade
1 cup dried Black Mission figs
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 cups water
2 tablespoons honey
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups thinly sliced yellow onion
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces chevre cheese
24 ( 1/2-inch thick) diagonally sliced French baguette
To make the jam, remove stems from figs and put in a food processor along with lemon juice and 1/2 cup of the water. Process until the figs are coarsely chopped. Transfer the fig mixture to a medium saucepan. Add the remaining water (1 1/2 cup), and rest of the ingredients. Bring this to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes or until thick. Let this mixture cool completely. The marmalade can by made ahead and refrigerated. Remove from refrigerator and bring to room temperature prior to serving.
To make the onions, heat a saute pan to medium and add the oil. Add onions, vinegar, thyme and salt. Cook for 20-25 minutes until the onions are caramelized.
To make the crostini, heat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush the top side of the slices lightly with olive oil. Place on a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes or until brown. You may want to turn the baking sheet at five minutes to assure all slices brown evenly.
The crostini can be assembled and plated for a formal presentation or the marmalade, onions, chevre and crostini can be set out for guests to assemble. About one teaspoon of chevre should be spread on each crostini, then one teaspoon of the marmalade, topped by one teaspoon of onions.
Jack Daniels-Brined Pork Chops
4 pork chops (either bone in or boneless can work)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 onion, sliced thin
12 black peppercorns
7 allspice berries
1 cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
Dash of grated nutmeg
One-quarter cup Jack Daniels
1 cup hot water
2 cups cold water
Bring 1 cup of water to boil and add the brown sugar and salt whisking until the sugar and salt are dissolved in the water. Add the other ingredients to the hot water and allow this to steep for about 10 minutes. Pour the brine mixture into a heavy duty zip lock bag.
Add the additional 2 cups of cold water. Put the pork chops in the bag, seal the bag, and place in the refrigerator for two to four hours.
When you are ready to cook the chops, prepare your grill. If you have the ability to smoke, using indirect heat, these chops taste best when smoked for about 30 minutes prior to direct-heat grilling. Apple wood chips work well for this recipe but hickory is good too.
Whether you smoke them or not, the chops eventually will need to be grilled directly over the fire. So, prepare your grill and put the chops on. If you smoke them first, your direct-grill time will only need to be about 10 minutes. If you are not smoking them, they will need to grill longer. Use an internal-read thermometer and cook them until they reach 160 degree.
Remove the chops from the grill and let them "rest" for about 5 minutes prior to serving. This gives the moisture time to settle and it will result in a juicier piece of meat.