Friday, November 21, 2014

Bison Sage Burgers with Wild Mushrooms & Truffled Chèvre Sauce

Now I do eat things other than burgers, bu I am of the opinion that this is a class of food that is under valued and not generally done nearly as well as it could be. Larger meals also contain more parts and thus more writing, and sometimes at the end of the day I'm just too lazy. So anyway on to this very tasty burger!

     Ground Bison Meat
     Assorted Wild Mushrooms
     Black Truffle infused Chèvre
     Fresh Sage
     Red Onion
     Garlic Powder
     Baby Spinach
     Burger Roll 

Making the Truffled Chèvre Sauce

Take about  a third of a small log of chèvre and mash it with a fork. Add about 2 Tbsp of mayonnaise (highly recommend making this yourself as opposed to using crap from the store), a couple dashes of garlic powder, a pinch of pepper and few finely chopped sage leaves. Whip it all together until it smooths out a bit (there will still be some small chunks of cheese). Refrigerate and let it sit so that the flavors mingle.

Making the Burger Patties

Chop up a couple cloves of garlic, less than quarter of a cup of finely diced onion and four or five good size fresh sage leaves. Add some butter to a  sauté pan over medium high heat. Don't be afraid of using real butter and using plenty, in this case a Tbsp or two should work. Once melted mix everything in and continue to stir it, cooking it until the garlic begins to brown slightly and the onions are translucent. Place all the contents into a bowl and let it cool for a bit. Add just under half a pound of burger to the bowl and thoroughly mix the contents, remove and form patties. Generously add salt and pepper to the exterior of the patty. 

Cooking & Putting it All Together

Before you put the burgers on the grill chop up the wild mushrooms, a little more garlic & onion and a few more leaves of sage. I used Cremini, Shiitake, and Oyster mushrooms which was a nice mix in my opinion. In a pan over medium high heat sauté this mixture in butter as well.

Bison really shouldn't be cooked more than medium. Well done bison is even worse than well done beef. If you're going through the trouble of making food worth eating don't over cook the meat. Anyway with that said, grill the burgers until done and place on burger burger roll (also best toasted with butter). Top with the mushroom mixture, then add the chèvre sauce, baby spinach, and some sliced tomato. Additionally I put a slice of the truffled chèvre and a whole sage leaf on top.

You can stuff this into our face anytime you'd like now!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Ménage à Trois; Seven Guidelines

This is my first post on a slightly racy topic. I have no problem discussing this stuff with close friends or even acquaintances or apparently total internet strangers- but the thought of my relatives reading this is a bit odd. So if you're a direct relation to me and continue reading beyond this point, please just pretend you didn't. Thanks!

I can't speak for everyone else, but my goal as an adolescent male was a threesome. Surveys have repeatedly shown that one of the mot common male fantasies is engaging with multiple partners at the same time, but are threesomes really the be all and end all the juvenile male mind makes them out to be? When they're good it's exciting and can be a lot of fun. I'd be lying if I said that a few mornings waking up between two woman wasn't something that stroked my male ego a bit and let me start the day with a smile on my face. That said, they are riddled with pitfalls and when they go bad they can cause serious problems in otherwise decent friendships or relationships.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but they aren't necessarily all they're cracked up to be. In the wrong situation they are just worse than sex with a single other person, as it loses all the intimacy and can turn into a competition for attention where peoples feelings get potentially hurt. One of my absolute worse experiences I ever had involved multiple woman and ended with a rather drunk upset girl saying something like "I love you, why don't you love me?" (please note I had met this girl that night- it wasn't exactly love). This was followed by her puking into a trash can. Not exactly exciting or a turn on. I may not be an expert, but I've seen enough from things myself or others have been involved in them to make some rather general remarks. So below are a few words of wisdom to avoid the most common pitfalls and make sure that if you do decide to actually proceed past the fantasizing threshold you're aware that the reality is often very different and there's a lot more to take into consideration.

Also I feel that I should note that the arrangement I am almost exclusively familiar with is that of multiple woman and a guy. Not just me personally, but anecdotaly through friends, both male and female. Men and woman for the most part just tend to find woman more attractive, and generally speaking in western woman at least there tends to be more causal acceptance of girls casually fooling around together once in a while. In Asia it seemed both men and woman were more comfortable with the same gender, though this was rarely vocalized but became readily apparent when situations presented themselves. While I realize that this arrangement certainly doesn't have a monopoly on things, I don't have a lot of insight or things to add to a discussion about the others.

1) Everyone Needs to be Comfortable All the rules below basically come back to this one, the golden rule. Sex, especially for woman, is about head space and making sure everyone involved is comfortable with you, their surroundings, and themselves. When things are distracting people, when they aren't comfortable with a component of what is going on, then they are not into the moment and often any chemistry or mood will fall apart. Add another person to the equation and this can get quite complicated as it's not just a matter of how comfortable people are with their own boundaries, but how comfortable each person is with a myriad of potential interactions. The very fact that you might be keeping track of what is going on and are unsure how the other people involved may respond to certain circumstances can be distracting and off putting in itself. While the context of the interaction will be a huge variable in this (see #2 below), it's essentially the golden rule of sex anyway, and it goes double for any interaction that involves more than one partner.

2) Context is Everything Not all threesomes are created equal, and they vary greatly in the people they are made up of and the reasons those people have for engaging in this kind of arrangement. Sometimes it's a couple people falling into bed together as an extension of a party, sometimes it's a married couple adding a bit of something extra to their sex life, or maybe it's a birthday present. The reasons and settings can be varied and they dictate a lot of how the situation should be approached, and specifically what annoyances or dangers are posed by the circumstance at hand. If it's a no strings attached romp it will be easier to manage and there are generally fewer pitfalls, but that said, rarely are there no strings at all and chances are that you have some background with some of the people involved. If it's a couple bringing in a third partner then things can be much more complicated depending on the motives of the people involved.

One thing I would like to say here is that threesomes really shouldn't be used as a context to sleep with someone else while giving your partner the illusion of joining in. I say this as someone who firmly does not believe in enforced monogamy, if you want to just sleep with other people, then just come to terms with that, don't put on a show because when the event happens it will be rather clear to all involved what's going on. Now if there is no pretense, and everyone is ok with that kind of arrangement, then power to the both of you- but be honest about it.

3) Know Your Role Going into this you should have an idea of what your role is. Are you a couple? Are you the third wheel that's there for a little fun? Are you all just having a bit of fun? When people compete over their place in the hierarchy of what's going on it can immediately ruin everything.

If you're in a relationship with someone then you should try and work out what your partner would and wouldn't be comfortable with prior to engaging in any kind of activity like this. If you're the third wheel, it's probably best to follow the lead of the people who do have a relationship in order not to step on any toes.

It's also important to realize that gender differences and sensitivities do exist. Look if your a guy and it's two woman it's probably best to let the woman set the pace and context. Woman are often more comfortable with other woman, and if they are the ones initiating then it most often creates a more comfortable environment for everyone involved.

Some people prefer certain roles over others. Personally one of my favorites was when I joined in two girls who were clearly very familiar with each other- I was essentially a third wheel in this one. The essential thing to understand in these situations is that to the other people involved you're essentially a living sex toy- something they've brought in for some extra fun. You aren't there to get close or form lasting bonds, and if you try to breach that gap you're asking for either trouble or disappointment.

In a case where there are no real arrangements between the people involved, try to make sure that attention is kind of distributed evenly. People are amazing social calculators and can very quickly pick up on how evenly these kind of things play out. Be generous and be equitable- this helps ensure that everyone has fun and no one feels left out, because really having someone feel like they started out involved but end up like someone on the outside looking in can be incredibly uncomfortable.

4) Know yours and your partners limits Everyone has their own lines they don't want to cross. Me, for example, I'm just not into guys. If that's your thing, that's cool I don't really care, but personally I just don't get turned on with other guys around, and I'm just not bi-sexual. At this point someone might start claiming it would only be fair if you expect your partner to be with another woman- and you'd be right- but that isn't my expectation. My expectation is for everyone involved to be doing things they want to do. If I'm with a girl that has absolutely no interest in fooling around with other girls, then I wouldn't bring it up or pressure her to do things she isn't interested in.

Sometimes people have limits as to just how intimate they feel comfortable with other people getting involved. Someone you're with may have fantasized about bringing a third person into the equation, but they aren't comfortable with that person crossing a certain line. For instance it's rather common that guys don't really have much of an issue with a girl fooling around with another girl, but that girl might want to limit just how involved the guy she's with gets with the other girl. Those are things that people in some kind of relationship need to work out prior to engaging in these kind of things. It's also best that you have some kind of word or signal to put a stop to things in the event that people aren't as comfortable as they thought they were. I can't stress enough that fantasy is one thing, seeing things play out in reality for many people is quite another, and on some occasions people just aren't as open about these things as they would like to believe. Being honest about that ensures a better experience.

5) Don't Bargain & Compromise Don't agree to do something you're not comfortable with in the hopes someone else will do something they aren't comfortable with. This is simply a recipe for disaster and hurt feelings. It breaks the first rule and even if people agree to it it's bound to almost certainly create an environment that is tense and uncomfortable. If people decide that they could possibly push boundaries on their own, that's one thing, but when it's done as a point of coercion it really ends up being a rather selfish act and doesn't benefit anyone in the long run.There's a big difference between a playful "I'll do X if you do Y" and really pressuring someone into things that cross mental lines for them. Simply put don't pressure other people and don't let other people pressure you into doing things you're not comfortable with.

6) Be Extremely Careful with Friends Having sex with friends always has the chance of screwing up a friendship. Again, it's easy to say that you can do the no strings attached thing, but the truth is that biologically sex is designed to attach strings. For couples I would almost always recommend that if you bring in someone else that you bring in someone that you will not have future repetitive contact, or that if you do it's very casual. Some people I know have incorporated a friend and never really had too many issues, and when that happens that's great, but you'd be foolish not to recognize the potential problems and awkwardness this could create. If you do decide to go down this route make sure that everyone involved clearly knows their role and don't leave this even remotely ambiguous. If you're friends with someone who is very comfortable with some fun fooling around that's fine, but really carefully consider future interaction with this person before letting them into a situation like this, even if it seems to just be falling together in front of you without any planning. As hard as it might be, sometimes the correct, and very unfun thing at the time, is to put a stop to it before things get out of hand.

7) Have Fun This seems like it should go without saying, but believe me, it's easy to get caught up in everything going on and not relax and enjoy the moment. With another person involved there are a lot of moving parts, and it can be surprisingly distracting. Let go, relax and have fun with the people involved. Sometimes its this most simple thing that we can forget to do.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Northern Maine: There's Lots of Trees

Part of this blog is about travel, and though that should be focused mainly on the UK in the future, I'm not quite there yet. Since being back in the US I've actually gotten to move around a bit. First I became reacquainted with Portland, and then I spent some time in Connecticut, Hermione and I got to spend a weekend in New York city and Boston and now I've spent the last few weeks up in northern Maine.

As someone who grew up here I took a lot of what Maine is for granted, but it's really unique in quite a few ways. For one, this is really one of the few areas in the developed world that is just so vast and untouched. I had always considered Bangor to pretty much be the last post of civilization when heading north, and one will notice looking on a map that Bangor is barely a third of the way up the state. From there it's another couple hours up I-95 to Houlton which is on the Canadian border. Houlton, where I've spent the last couple weeks, still isn't even really at the top of the state, there is still hours of travel time to get to the far north. in fact looking at a map it seems that nearly half the state, essentially everything to the north-west of I-95 is just a rather massive very sparsely populated mass of trees. In a minimalist kind of way, that mass of nothing but trees can be breathtakingly beautiful.

Just to the Right of the Sun is Mt. Katahdin, Maine's Highest Peak 
One thing about northern Maine is that it's cold. It was only November 2nd and I was wading in 3 foot snow drifts. Now this was record setting early snow fall, but the amount of snow they get up this way and the length of the winters in not to be underestimated. This also brings opportunities for those who enjoy winter sports, and I spent a good chunk of tie this last week wearing snow shoes, the only way to avoid sinking up to my crotch in fresh snow. Aside from snowshoeing through the wilderness one could also do some cross country skiing, snowmobiling, or if quite intrepid some winter camping. One can combine any previously stated mode of transport with winter camping, trekking through the wilderness. I've tried this, and though the sites can be quite amazing I'm really not a big enough fan of the cold to put up with it.

Snowshoes are a needed form of transport when you would otherwise sink over your knees in snow,

Fresh November snows cover the pines in Maine's north woods
Though I didn't get a chance to snap any photos there's also abundant wildlife up this way and even working up in an area with blasting and many large trucks constantly passing through I still managed to see a fair share of animals. I managed to spot a mother moose with a young one, a number of deer, rabbit, hawks, bald eagles, and a number of other bird species and plenty of signs of black bear. Traveling to places like Baxter State Park or Moosehead lake almost guarantee some good animal watching if you know where and when to go. There is also some great chances for hunting if you're into that kind of thing, and deer season just opened last weekend up that way and plenty of hunters were seen out on the trails.

Other options for getting around include riding jeeps, ATVs nad other vehicles down the massive network of old logging rads and ski-mobile trails that crisscross the north woods. Although the truck I was in can get down some fairly tough terrain we swapped over to the above pictured Rhino for when the roads were a bit too small, and a bit too uneven. Although this thing can get over just about anything it did meet it's match and on a mud and snow covered hill and I spent a bunch of time trying to get the back tire out of a two foot deep mud hole. Despite this, getting deep out into the middle of nowhere in a vehicle that can handle the conditions (well most of the time) can be fun and gives you a chance to see some things most people never get out and see,

The towns you stop in aren't going to offer the best food, the accommodations might be over priced and underwhelming, but the people are mostly friendly, good and honest folk that make even the small towns decent enough stop over points while you stage your travel out to other points of interest. All in all Maine's north is a rather unique setting and its rugged landscapes and wildlife make it worth getting up to see.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Duckfat Burgers With Cranberry Relish

I'm still stuck in New England, but at least it's one of my favorite times of the year when there is some really great stuff to cook with. Seasonal variations on some of my favorite simple dishes are among my favorite things to make, here is an autumn version of the summer burger, that has hints of sweetness and the tartness of the cranberries with nice gooey brie cheese melted over bacon.

Rendered Duck Fat
Brie Cheese
Cranberry Relish*
German Pretzel Roll

Making the Cranberry Relish

First thing is first, we need to make cranberry relish. My measurements on this are going to be a bit sloppy approximations, because I simply don't bother measuring as I know how I like it, but it should get you near where you want to be and flavors can be adjusted to your own liking rather easily. 

1 Cup+ Fresh Cranberries
1/2 cup Crushed Walnuts
1 Large Orange (Will be juiced & zested)
2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 Apple Diced
1 Tbsp Brown Sugar
2 Cloves
1+ tsp Worcestershire Sauce 
1+ tsp Jack Daniels (or other Bourbon Whiskey)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp black Pepper

Juice the orange, removing any large seeds or solid pith that might mix, then mix in cloves, brown sugar and vinegar. Bring to a boil and reduce by about a third. Bring heat down to a simmer and remove the cloves and add cranberries, apple and about two tsp of orange zest, nutmeg and black pepper. We don't want to make cranberry sauce, so just cook the berries until tender, not until they are slush. Mix in the walnuts, Worcestershire sauce, and whiskey as you remove from heat. Set aside and let this cool.

Making the Burger

First let's cook the bacon, to some Brit that might be reading this I am of course referring to streaky bacon, not slab or what we would call Canadian bacon. Two or three good sized pieces per burger, cooked until crispy and if you can manage it looks better if they are not flat. Make sure to retain the fat.

Now let's get to the patty. Normally I like higher fat beef, like 25/75% mixes. The fat is where the flavor is, and contrary to popular opinion fat isn't what makes you fat. Sitting at a desk all day and eating like you just ran a marathon is what gets you fat, but I digress. For this burger we will use a leaner beef or you could use bison meet, both would be great. For about a half pound burger I mix in some of the bacon fat, maybe a bit less than a table spoon and then mix in just over a table spoon of duck fat. This gives the burger a really nice flavor in my opinion. If you don't have ducks rendering in your kitchen you can occasionally buy it at the grocery store, and it may be worth hitting up some upscale restaurants and asking if you could buy some from their kitchen, as any restaurant with duck on the menu has rendered duck fat in its kitchen. Generously season the outside of the burgers with salt and pepper.

While the burger is grilling heat up some of the duck fat and place about four or five thin slices of apple in it. Fry it until it starts to brown, but before it's crisp or burnt. I also am of the opinion that rolls should be buttered and grilled, and a nice hearty roll like a German pretzel roll is perfect for a burger like this. Bacon and brie can be placed on the burger as soon as it's been flipped once. Brie can get really gooey (one of the reasons I love it on this burger, so start it off on top of the bacon in the center of the burger. As soon as it starts to melt it will cover the whole thing. If you place it close to the edge at the start a bunch of it will just fall into flames. Once off the grill top with the cooled cranberry relish and the fried apple slices  on top. This is best served with fries cooked in duck fat as well and possibly spiced cider or mulled wine.