It's been awhile since my last post, I got really busy in December and January - smoking hams, ribs, pork shoulders, and turkeys.... even had a pork leg quarter!
I’m sorry to report that one of our great friends has passed away, Carl, of cancer. He had been best friends to Julie for many years, and was the first person I met in Guatemala. He’ll be sorely missed by his wife and family as well as the many friends he had accumulated. I know I will.
Maria-Elena, his widow, will be having a convivial in his memory for about 70 of his friends in March. I’ll supply the food.
In February we went down to Caye Caulker to renew my visa, and couldn’t believe the changes that had taken place since August. Julie and I were amazed at the amount of construction going on. New construction, remodeling, and several places had moved into new quarters since we were here last.
Julie’s sister, who owns Island Magic Resort, wants me to prepare a tasting menu sometime in March. She’s thinking about starting a restaurant for her guests, but doesn’t know quite how to go about it, so Julie and I will offer her some suggestions. It is a good idea that will enhance the hotel tremendously.
Posted by Michael Clearwater at 9:59 PM
Don’t GET ME WRONG, I love the restaurant business. Never having a Friday or Saturday night off, always working when the rest of the world is just getting off work, being busiest during the holidays has never bothered me for some reason. I just loved to cook for other people. I want readers to get a feel for the joys of making really good food at the professional level.
To understand what it feels like to attain the dream of running your own kitchen — what it feels like amidst the clatter and chaos of a restaurant kitchen. I want to convey, as best I can, the strange delights of the language, sense of camaraderie and sense of humor found on the line. I'd like anyone who reads this to get a sense at least, that in spite of everything else, it can be fun.
I want you to see someone who loves food, not just the life of the cook. Someone to show you how to cook for yourselves, for the pure pleasure of eating, not just for the hordes of tourists who flock to Belize every winter.
Posted by Michael Clearwater at 7:34 AM
Here’s recipes for my Thanksgiving Dinner, some of them anyway. Keep in mind that here in Guatemala, packaged and pre-mixed ingredients are extremely difficult to find. They’re either made to suit local tastes or are in short supply and sold out very quickly.
Pie shells and puff pastry sheets are two of the things that are never available, so they have to be made from scratch. Last year they had pumpkin puree at all the supermarkets, until the end of October – then you couldn’t find it anywhere. This year Julie brought some back from Washington, where she was working on an article for the Washington Post.
Wouldn’t you know it, there was an overabundance of it this year!
After the turkeys are thawed out, it’s time to start cooking. I begin by preparing the turkey. They are washed and patted dry, I reserve the giblets and necks for later. Once I’ve run my hands under the skin to loosen it up they are placed in a fifty gallon pot, neck down and covered with the brine. They’ll brine for 24 to 30 hours because I’m going to smoke them and it keeps them from drying out.
Once the turkeys are brined and stored in the refrigerator, I begin baking the cornbread for the dressing, roasting the garlic, and making the gingersnaps for the mini-cheese cakes (they don’t sell gingersnap cookies here). I’ll make the dough for the pie crusts later this afternoon and let the dough get cold before baking.
Prepared Gingersnap cookie roll – about 3 to 4 inches diameter.
8 oz Cream Cheese
½ cup Dark Brown Sugar
¼ cup Light Brown Sugar
1 cup canned Pumpkin Puree, NOT pie mix
2 Tbsp Sour Cream
¼ tsp Salt
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
¾ tsp ground Cinnamon
¼ tsp freshly grated Nutmeg
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Beat cream cheese and sugars with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Combine with pumpkin, sour cream, and salt – scraping bowl frequently until well mixed. Add the remaining ingredients and continue beating until well mixed.
3. Pour into a prepared 12 cup muffin pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until set. Let cool for at least 30 minutes before refrigerating overnight.
4. To serve: Puddle chocolate or caramel sauce in bottom of dessert plates. Then place a ¼” slice of the gingersnap roll covered by pumpkin pie. Top with fresh whipped cream and pecans.
1 gallon water
3 cups Apple Cider
3 cups Kosher Salt
3 cups Sugar
Mix until salt and sugar is dissolved and pour over turkeys. Then add enough water to completely cover the turkeys.
2 whole head of roasted Garlic
2 whole head of raw garlic
4 cups Vegetable oil
2 cup fresh Orange Juice
1/2 cup Cider Vinegar
1/2 cup Sea Salt
6 Tbsp Lime Juice
6 Tbsp dried oregano
6 Chipotles in Adobo Sauce
4 Tbsp Annatto Paste
2 Tbsp ground Cumin
2 tsp ground Allspice
Zest of 2 Oranges
1. In a blender combine all ingredients until smooth. Do it in batches if blender won’t hold the whole recipe.
2. Slather over entire turkey and under the skin. Let marinade for at least 24 hours.
4 Oranges, quartered
6 Tangerines, quartered
4 Lemons, halved
1. Allow turkeys to come to room temperature before putting in smoker. Divide the citrus equally between the two birds and stuff the cavities.
2. Start the smoker and let it reach 240°F before adding the wood. Once its smoking real good, it’s ready to go. Place the turkeys in the smoke chamber and let them smoke for 3 or 4 hours before covering with foil.
3. Continue smoking until the internal temperature reaches 145°F, then it can be moved from the smoker to the oven and finished cooking at 325°F.
Posted by Michael Clearwater at 3:20 AM
Whew, it’s over at last, the final guests left at ten-thirty. All I wanted to do was to crawl into my bed and sleep for hours… maybe eight or ten hours at least. Instead it’s a quarter to two and I’m wide awake.
Mutt and I made it slowly and painfully downstairs, where I enjoy a cup of coffee and wait for the bones to settle. I only wrapped the knees and ankles loosely because they’re still swollen from yesterday, I can’t really get them tight because it’ll cut off the circulation to the joints. As usual this time of year I think back and am thankful for all the good things that have happened to me. The doc’s were wrong about the wheelchair, for which I’ll be eternally grateful. I would rather be dead than live like that. My family is as always very much a part of my life, even though I rarely see them. But Julie and Mutt are really the ones that are my life. Sure I love her family like my own, but if I didn’t have Julie and Mutt I’m not sure I would survive.
Thanksgiving was a success by anyone’s measure. I overhead one of our guests saying to someone that “this was better than at John-François” – he owns a French restaurant in Antigua, and is very good. Paul eats out a lot, except for the occasional pizza and eating at one of the cookouts at our house, Tartines is his choice of dinning. Just being mentioned with the likes of John-François is a tremdous compliment.
Everyone had a good time, and enjoyed themselves quite a bit. For Jannicke, Catirania and the Guatemalans in attendance it was a new experience. For the ex-pats and Dale it was a reminder of home. Other than when Chris helped out, Julie and I prepared everything ourselves – from the bread and condiments to the pies, cakes and turkey.
It was worth getting up at 3 am and firing up the smoker.
Posted by Michael Clearwater at 3:57 AM
God it’s depressing, all the stores are decked out in their Christmas finery, the shelves are stocked with Christmas goods and have been since last month. I can’t get used to not having Halloween and Thanksgiving. Here they wait until summer’s over and roll right into the Christmas season.
I’ve gotten thirty pounds of flour, extra baking powder, some baking soda and yeast to handle my Thanksgiving and Christmas baking needs. I’ve also made up a cooking schedule that is very helpful when cooking for large groups.
Three Weeks Ahead
· Order your turkey, roast, duck, ham, etc.
· Create a timeline for make-aheads, freezing, thawing, reheating, and cooking.
· Making fresh cranberry sauce? Better purchase and freeze berries before the stores run out.
· Clean out your freezer.
Two Weeks To Go
· Finalize your shopping list. Break it down into what can be purchased ahead, such as canned goods, and what perishables should be picked up closer to the day. Make your first shopping run.
· Do a test run on any new recipes.
One Week To Go
· If you're roasting a frozen turkey, pick it up and start thawing. Note that thawing in the fridge will take one day for every 5 pounds of meat. A 15-pound turkey will require three days to thaw thoroughly.
· Review the menu; are you on target with make-ahead dishes?
· You might have time to whip up some appetizers to store in the freezer.
Three Days Before
· Make foods you can freeze: rolls, pie crusts, cornbread for stuffing, and casseroles.
· Pick up that fresh turkey you ordered. Put it in the brine as soon as possible.
· Purchase fresh produce and prep it now. You want as much done ahead of time as possible.
Two Days Before
· Lay out serving pieces and utensils.
One Day Before
· Make turkey stock for gravy. (Don't use the liver in the stock. If you want it for the gravy, cook it separately, mince it, and add to gravy at the last minute.)
· Assemble stuffing, put it in a separate pan, moisten with your homemade turkey stock, refrigerate, and bake it on Thanksgiving Day.
· Bake pies and make cranberry sauce if you haven’t already done so.
· Arrange frozen dinner rolls on a sheet pan and thaw overnight in the fridge. (Otherwise, thaw at room temperature on Thanksgiving morning.)
· Make sure your camera is charged and ready.
· Make the dressing
Posted by Michael Clearwater at 6:30 PM
Todays the day when we start getting the stuff for our Thanksgiving meal. I can’t wait - I’m as excited as a ten year old on Christmas eve. I can’t help it.
Julie won’t be up for hours yet, we just went to bed around eleven o’clock and she’s sound asleep. Hell, the partyers and tourists aren’t even through with their late night revelries yet. But here I am wide awake and raring to go.
I’ve gone over the menu a thousand times in my head, I’ll go over it a hundred times more between now and thanksgiving… gotta make sure it sticks. There’s also the matter of buying groceries to last until our next trip to Guatemala City, about once a month, to get things that aren’t available here in Antigua.
Posted by Michael Clearwater at 2:30 AM
Julie has sent the emails out to everyone along with a copy of the menu, I’ve got the recipes printed out in the order that they’ll have to go on the heat. Normally I wouldn’t have to do this, but my brain doesn’t function quite the same anymore. Without a written copy to refer to, I’ll manage to screw it up. Like making lasagna and forgetting to boil the noodles first or roasting a goose for three hours only to discover I forgot to turn the oven on – so I don’t trust my memory for anything now.
Julie is becoming a pretty good cook. From someone who literally couldn’t boil water to make her own tea, she’s become a pretty competent helper in the kitchen with a well refined pallet that amazes me. Which is good as mine is shot… the accident again. I have her taste everything as it cooks and I’ll make adjustments to it and it turns out fine.
When we started cooking about three years ago, for social events or have guests over for a cookout, I would lose my temper quite often. I’d become so focused on what I was doing that I would forget she wasn’t a cook, and blowup at her. She was helping me out and didn’t have a clue what would come next, while I assumed that she did. Things got pretty tense for a while, but I started calming down and had her help with the prep work so she could see how everything came together. When you’ve got four dishes ready for the next step and two more requiring you’re attention in fifteen minutes isn’t the best time to learn. With my speech being so fucked up, by the time I could figure out the words and get them out in order – I could do it myself. But when you have only one arm it isn’t that simple. So everything got delayed, instead of having six dishes done perfectly, I had six that were only good and by the time the last one came off the heat the first was cold.
That was awhile ago, and now we work as a team, Julie has picked up both her skills and speed, and has prepared entire meals on her own, with me helping out when needed.
This will the first big test, where we will do everything from baking the bread to smoking the turkey and everything in between.
Posted by Michael Clearwater at 1:22 AM