If ever the sun dallied just right in a blue sky, this was it. By golly, this was it. I suppose it could be that my appreciation for a warm sun beam has been acutely honed through the sheer absence of such things, courtesy of a long, winter’s campaign; but I tell you this, never has a single golden ray of it kissed my grizzled face so fine as it did this quiet, unassuming day at the pit. It has been a long winter in Minnesota, and I guess I was just ready for the sun again. Biologically primed, if you will, to lavish in it’s life-giving rays, and to dawdle the day away if need be, for to soak up every last photon of it, delivered on easy slants of golden light. And I did. Pulling it in like a poker victor rakes in his chips. When a day this nice comes along, a man does what he has to, you see. He does what he must. He digs in.
Digging in. It means to plant roots. To anchor thyself in a chosen locale, usually of a lovely persuasion. To take up roost there, and nary be thwarted by anything else. That is the way of us pit jockeys, you see. When we get a nice ambiance going, or a beautiful day such as this, with wood smoke gently in curl, sunbeams dappling through the lofty tree tops, tweety birds in full serenade, well, it is ingrained in our pit master instincts to exploit it for all its worth. A task not too difficult, nor far fetched, when you are as advanced as yours truly, in the fine art of being lazy. You do know, don’t you, how we like to loiter around here? It’s rather our specialty. Still, and even so, one ought to have a goal of some sort, and I certainly did. Namely supper. In particular, beef stew patron to the pit. Are you ready for this?
Of the first order, that is after drawing a manly beverage from the refrigerator, I stood abreast the little pit, and plopped a commendable load of stew meat onto the hot cast iron grates. They sizzled in eager anticipation there, whilst I manipulated them with aluminum tongs in hand. Then, for the heck of it, because I’ve long heard that smoked cabbage is good, I tossed on a 1/4 head of cabbage, and chucked a small tatter of mesquite wood into the coals for a little smokey goodness. Put the lid on and let the pit do it’s magic thing whilst I diced up the vegetables under the eternal blue skies above.
It’s your beef stew, you put what ever you please in it. I like potatoes and carrots. Corn and green beans too. And like I mentioned, a little bit of cabbage. And some unsalted beef broth too, for it all to swim in. And the latter I would have, had I not mistakenly believed the beef broth had been tampered with. Turns out those cartons of broth are self-puncturing when you open it up. I didn’t know that, and thus, my alder bush out pond-side got a nice drink of beef broth, on the house. Live and learn, I guess.
So we nestled the dutch oven into the hot bosom of the old kettle grill, with a few coals below it, and the rest tucked around the perimeter. A little smoke wood was still smoldering, and the day was still glorious to behold. And I knew just what to do next. I put on the kettle lid, grabbed my beverage, and made camp!
Here to Stay!
Like I said, I aimed to stay here a while. To dig in! I’ve waited far too long for weather of this kind. More over, I wanted to test out my new backpacking tent, of which I launched this day, it’s maiden erection right here on the lawn, right beside the smoking kettle grill. I sensed a formidable tandem of sheer joy here. And it wasn’t long before I was belly-up in that thing, song birds blasting away, and for a moment, I was as giddy as a school boy, content with all the world, and then a few moments after that, I was dozing in the quietude, like an old man swaddled in blessings.
And the cloud shadows silently paraded across the grass, whilst the wood smoke gently tapered into that blue sky.
An unknown amount of time passed, like it always does when your dug in somewhere. I stirred quietly in my tent; scratching my hair, and then my belly, whilst listening to the day declare around me. The tweety birds still rejoiced, and the sun, I noted, had ebbed a little further south and west, on it’s fiery arc through the sky. And hark, the aromas of mesquite and beef stew wafted as if on angelic wings through the cool air, mingling with the scent of emerging spring chlorophyll in my little nylon hut. Glory! I must say, because it’s true, I’ve never had a Weber kettle grill in a campsite before, but now, after some consideration of the matter, not to mention first hand experience, I think it could be an agreeable venture after all.
I eventually emerged from my tent like a flannel-clad, ground hog, arose to a stately posture, and promptly itched my butt, then waddled over to the pit to check in on supper. Yes, I guess it is well to cook alone sometimes. Anyways, I gave it a good stir, mixing in some more of that smokey goodness. The carrots were soft. So were the spuds. I added some freshly cracked black pepper and some salt to taste. Man! I didn’t want this cook to end. This day to end. But eventually my coals did peter out. And my glorious sun swept with out care over the roof top, leaving a cold shadow over the patio from whence it shone.
That was enough, I thought. No sense in being greedier yet. It had been a good day at the pit, after all. A very good day indeed. A day in which I did precisely that which was well with my soul. A body needs such respites from time to time. And to do so where the wood smoke also rises. Amen. And time to eat.
Savory, Wholesome, Mesquite Smoked Beef Stew, Fresh out of the Dutch Oven and patron to the pit. Yum!!
Today’s BBQ story begins out under neath my car. You see I woke up there, after a fashion – after a little routine maintenance amid its grungy under-carriage. I had it up on ramps in the garage a few weekends ago, television softly bantering in the shop, and was under there changing the oil like men do, when I at once felt a great and abiding drowsiness draw over me like a warm, wet, towel – feelings patron to the finer things in life, and I, being the capitalistic man that I am, seized it in due order. And I cannot tell you that the odd but savory sensations to be found napping under your automobile is representative of a stable-sounding individual, but I would stand be-funked to say that I didn’t enjoy it to no end. It was fabulous. Sheer pleasure it is, to dose off neath such a view as this: between struts, and ball joints, and the mechanical heavens snaking above. The sound of oil draining into a cold, plastic pan. Oh yes. The art of nap-seizing is something I learned from my elder brother long ago, and is a dark art, perhaps, settled nicely on the bottom of the family gene pool. I digress.
Elder brother, in his prime anyways, was known to fall asleep in the oddest of locales: from atop snow banks, up trees, half-submerged in trout streams, half-inserted inside big machines on the factory floor in which he works, and yes, under his cars supposedly changing the oil. Who doesn’t like a good, albeit dubious, oil change now and again. I wouldn’t have even thought napping under cars was possible, had not I caught the man mid-drool one day, on his drive way, snoring peacefully under his jeep. He’s been doing this sort of thing for years. The wife would walk by and see him laying under it, soiled boots splayed at forty-five degree angles, and mistakenly assume he was being productive. She’d scamper up the steps into the house none-the-wiser, with her groceries in her arms. Elder brother had cracked the code and the highest level of unashamed loitering. After I saw that it could be done, and not to mention what could be so dubiously accomplished, whilst all the while maintaining your illusion as an upstanding and useful individual, I started taking some of my own naps this way. And a couple of Saturdays ago was one of them.
I came to under the car, eyes coming to focus on the catalytic converter, and promptly rolled myself out and sat up, hair tossed like a bad salad.
“Crikies“, I thunk,” time to stir the stew!”
I made my way for the pit with haste in my foot steps, and snatched the lid clear of the old kettle grill. There a well-seasoned 12 quart cast iron dutch oven looked up at me, piled high full of stew fixings. A beefy aroma rolled off the steaming vittles as I stirred it accordingly, nurturing unto a better place. Gray clouds and cold breezes swirled through the naked alders skirting the pond. A light mist dappled over the land. And a squadron of Canadian geese honked over-head. I dare say, no finer weather nor more apt a comfort food, than a delicious, and hearty bowl full of home-made beef stew. It’s real easy to do too, and here is how.
One chimney full of charcoal is all you need. Rip-roaring and hot, spill it out into your grill, making a quaint layer but abiding layer. Shape the bed of glowing coals just a trifle smaller in diameter than your intended dutch oven. There upon, and with the ape-like ease of a brick layer, place your dutch oven accordingly, and precisely over the fiery bed. Here we go now. Splash in a little cooking oil, and a good matter of stew meat, and brown it up. That is where the money is. This is the heart of beef stew, so take your time and pamper it. Better yet, and if you feel like it, shish kabob the stew meat, and brown them up man-style, right over the hemorrhaging flames, so to impart a bit of smokey goodness into your plunder. Can’t beat that!
Next step is to add the fixings.
This part of stew making rides on the street car named discretion. Do what you will and how you like it. We put in a big pile of peeled and quartered potatoes. Enough carrots to make bugs bunny weep. An entire bag of french cut green beans. An entire bag of corn. And a quarter cabbage, chopped. Fill the gaps with water, until it almost drowns everything and dash on some salt and pepper, that is it. Stew making 101. And anybody can do it. Let it go until the coals exhaust themselves. Ours was done in about 3 hours. We also used the big iron lid for Dutch oven most of the cook
The joy of stew however, good stew anyways, is that it benefits with the sweet passage of time. The longer we let it be, the better it gets. In point of fact, this stew will taste even better the next day, having mingled over-night amid its own host of distinct and varied flavors. So don’t rush it on the pit, tho it should be done in but a few, scant hours. Let in linger there. Let it dwell in the good ambiance of rising smoke and slanting sunbeams. And for a while at least, let this crazed drive-through-sort of world spin headlong with out thee. You will eat just fine. For good cooking should take time. Plenty of time. This to afford a man his freedoms you see, to go about his business for the day. To get some things done around the house, as it were, and maybe even go out in the garage and change the oil again. But don’t bring a pillow, cause that would just be weird.
Hearty, wholesome, and so easy to do. Home Made Beef Stew hot off the grill. Man! Oil change optional.