March 3, 2010

30,000 Year Plan, Part IV

So while I was away, the 30,000 year plan proceeded uninterrupted. Three bits of news about it:

1. My Patriots blog became more famous in two ways. First, it was listed among the top 100 for the keywords "nfl standings." Might not seem like much, but it squeaked past Pro Football Weekly's web page into 76th place, and I love that magazine.

2. And second, someone named marosia posted a SPAM/Advertisement in the comments section of a post. It's a little strange that someone used my blog to advertise a place to buy Patriots tickets, but somehow I think that makes me slightly more famous than I was before.

3. Additionally I had a letter published in the Boston Globe last week. Granted it wasn't about anything earth-shattering; but long after I'm gone it will remain as a reminder that I existed. And getting a letter in the paper certainly can't *hurt* the 30,000 year plan. If anyone remembers what a newspaper is :)

So as the plan proceeds, take note Angelina Jolie -- 29,991 more years and I'll be as famous as you!

That's all for now. Check back this weekend for posts about Avatar and James Cameron in the run up to the Oscars telecast on Sunday.

- Scott

October 24, 2009

Heavenly Turducken Burgers

My wife asked me to cook dinner for her birthday, and only required that I make something I thought she'd like. I have no culinary training, but I'd been playing with the idea of rethinking the turducken (a southern Thanksgiving dish), so I decided to try it.

After a discussing possible ideas with friends, I chose to cook turducken burgers (or more accurately, turducken sliders, a.k.a. mini-burgers). I can't really duplicate how I came up with the recipe. Suffice it to say it involved web research, trial and error, instinct, and guesswork.

But when grilled as suggested and topped with cheddar cheese, my homemade turducken sliders were absolutely amazing. Probably the best burgers I ever ate, and that includes the $18 burger at Craigie on Main.

So without further delay, here is the recipe.

(Note: just to cover myself legally, please make sure you handle the birds and/or meat carefully, practice proper sanitation, wash your hands and utensils often and liberally, and cook the burgers completely. If anyone asks for a "medium rare" turducken burger, give 'em a dope-slap and cook it all the way through. You will both feel better in the end.)

  • 7 oz. ground turkey
  • 7 oz. ground duck
  • 7 oz. ground chicken
(It's okay to buy these at a butcher shop or supermarket, if you can find them. But if you can't you'll have to grind your own, and that is the only difficult part of the recipe. I found ground turkey and chicken but had to grind my own duck; click here for tips on how.)
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • 3 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons butter, softened but not melted
  • 2 small garlic cloves, finely minced (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
  • your favorite vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
  • salt and pepper for seasoning
  • cheddar cheese (the good stuff, you won't regret it), sliced
  • small buns/rolls (about 2" square, with a crust that isn't too hard)


Once you have all the ingredients as listed, crank up your gas or charcoal grill to full heat. While the grill warms up, here is what you do.

Slice 7 of your burger buns in half, and place them on a plate.

In a large bowl, use your hands to mix all three meats together, working them for about a minute until they are pretty well integrated. They will be slightly different colors, so it should be easy to tell.

Add the butter, garlic, sage, and parsley to the meat and mix that for about a minute or two, until the ingredients are fully integrated.

Get a plastic or glass cutting board (don't use wood!). Divide the mix into 7 portions (about 3 oz. each), shape them into small burgers, and place them on the cutting board, separated by at least an inch on each side. Size them so they will fit on the buns -- they will not shrink much during cooking.

Once the burgers are on the board, season to taste with salt and pepper (fresh ground pepper if you have it).

Pour some vegetable oil into a small bowl, and brush each burger across the top. This will be the side that goes on the grill, and the oil is there to make sure the sliders don't stick. Note: before you start cooking, check that you have enough oil to brush the other side before flipping.

Bring the cutting board with burgers, the oil and brush, the sliced cheese, and the buns out to the grill. Also take a holding plate for the cooked burgers.

One at a time, place the burgers on the grill, oil-side down. Close the lid, and set your timer for 3 minutes. I cooked them 3 minutes on a side, but that's just a guideline -- your results may vary. While you wait, this is a good time to put the cutting board in the sink or dishwasher and wash your hands again.

When the timer goes off, open the grill, quickly brush each burger with oil and flip them (it might produce some flames, don't worry as long as it doesn't get out of hand). Close the lid and set your timer for 3 more minutes.

When the timer reaches 1 minute (or 45 seconds if it's a macho grill), put the buns on the grill, place some sliced cheese on the burgers, and close the lid again. Depending on how powerful your grill is you might have to remove the buns after 30 seconds. You want them toasted, not scorched.

When the timer goes off, check one of the burgers for doneness (there should be NO PINK at all -- we're dealing with poultry here!) and either cook them a bit longer or remove them to the holding plate.

Believe it or not, that's it. Put 'em on the buns and eat 'em while they are hot. I served them without any condiments -- though you're free to improvise, *I* sure did :)

I hope you like yours as much as I did mine. Butchering and grinding the duck was challenging, but well worth the effort. The turducken burgers sort of reminded me of buffalo burgers, but when combined with the cheddar cheese they surpassed the best I ever tasted.

Please let me know if you try this recipe and especially if you come up with any good variations or suggestions to improve the turducken sliders.

Happy eating!

- Scott

PS. The only restaurant I found with turducken burgers is in Philadelphia (restaurant review and menu). They don't grind their duck (insert raunchy joke here), so they aren't as fully integrated as what I made. But suffice it to say that next time I'm in Philly I plan to stop in and try one!

How to make Gound Duck

This is a primer on how to make ground duck. I'm not an expert in this field, but I couldn't find any butcher shop that would do it for me so I wanted to provide some guidance for people who want to try my Turducken Burger recipe (link). Suffice it to say that if you undertake this procedure it is at your own risk, and that I bear no legal or moral responsibility if things go horribly wrong. Always be careful with food sanitation, especially when dealing with poultry.

Before you start, you can't grind duck without some sort of machine. There are three kinds, manual, stand-alone units, and meat grinding attachments for mixers. If you don't own a grinder, you will have to buy or borrow one before you start. I read on the web that a hand mixer is best for grinding poultry, but I used a KitchenAid stand mixer with a grinding attachment.

First things first; here is a video on how to get the most meat from your duck:

Note that this video doesn't mention the gizzards (that come inside a packaged duck) or the wings -- but we won't be using those for the ground duck.

Once I deboned my duck, I removed all the fat and skin and the bones from the legs. It might sound complicated, but if I can do it so can you. Take your time and remember, you only need 7 oz. of ground duck for the recipe, so even if you don't get every last morsel you should have plenty.

Once I had all the duck meat I was going to get, I cut it into small pieces, about 1" square. I placed those on a flexible plastic cutting board, spaced out so they weren't touching.

Then I chilled the duck meat in the freezer for 15 minutes, took it out and flipped the pieces over, and put it back in the freezer for another 10 minutes. This didn't actually freeze the duck, but it chilled it enough to make the grinding a lot easier.

I set up my grinding machine and once I took out the cold duck, I used the medium to medium-high speed to grind it quickly.

That is about it... good luck with whatever you are using the ground duck for.

- Scott

August 9, 2009

Book #23: Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card

The twenty-third book I read since May 2008 is:

Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card

***** Note: Spoiler Alert!! *****

I think Card learned a lot in the 14 years between the original publication of Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow. I read Ender's Game earlier this year, and I thought it was interesting but flawed, with little explanation of why Ender was the chosen one and a sudden ending that caught the reader completely by surprise.

This novel encompasses the same time period as the earlier one, but is told from the perspective of a different character, a friend of Ender's (and comrade in arms) named Bean. And this time there are no real questions as to where Bean came from, we are given nearly a complete history and see him grow from a street kid to a key player in the war to save Earth. And given Bean's agile mind and ability to get information he shouldn't have, the reader also knows some of the behind-the-scenes discussions and the ending that was too sudden in the first book is less jarring this time.

In other words, having Bean as your narrator helps because he figures out enough to keep you in the loop but there is even more tension because you understand the stakes this time.

I also found the writing flowed better and the story came through the action and less from long monologues or talky conversations. Some of it came from the latter, but those sections worked because you could see Bean out-thinking the other person and sifting through the words for new nuggets of information.

I had my doubts about reading this so soon after the first book, but I'm glad I did. It nearly cracked my Top 5 list (at right), though I didn't like it quite as much as Oscar Wao.

Worth the read, perhaps even best read before you read Ender's Game.

- Scott

July 16, 2009

Book #22 The Host by Stephanie Meyer

The twenty-second book I read since May 2008 is:

The Host by Stephanie Meyer

****Note: spoiler alert****

I love a good story that explores what it means to be a person. The movie Blade Runner is one of the classic tales that ponders whether or not being born makes you human, or if it is something more. And this book held that possibility, with a reverse-telling of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

However, The Host didn't end up doing a very good job of fleshing out the issues it held in its hands. It's a very intriguing concept; but most characters are either well-worn stereotypes (Kyle, Jeb, even Melanie), meaningless props (all of the rest of the Souls), or window-dressing/furniture (most of the rest of the crew living in the caves).

Only Jared, Doc, Wanda/Wanderer have the kind of complexity to explore the issues at hand, and unfortunately that wasn't enough to make it an interesting discussion. The rest of it seems more like a lurid look at love triangles where there were only two bodies but three "people."

Also unfortunately, the book is over 600 pages, and you can predict how it will end about 200 pages in. By that time, I was invested enough to want to finish. Problem is that I didn't find Meyer's writing style gripping enough to hold my attention.

Meyer is an okay writer, but she has a bit of a tin ear for dialogue and has several characters who do the same thing over and over (Jamie, and even the main character spring to mind). So on the whole, the idea was great, the story was well constructed, but the characters and writing weren't enough to sustain 600 pages.

Okay, but not worth the effort unless you've read and enjoy the style of the writer.

- Scott

June 16, 2009

Book #21: Leading Geeks

The twenty-first book I read since May 2008 is:

Leading Geeks by Paul Glen

I actually saw Glen speak a few years ago, and was promised a copy of his book at the time. I never got that copy, and turns out I didn't miss much. The book is decent, but I didn't learn anything in it that he didn't cover in his presentation.

My advice; get it at the library and read about the first one-third. The rest is rehash of the initial thesis, which is that geeks are different from the rest of us and need totally new thinking by their managers. Not a ground-breaking thought, but Glen starts out doing a good job explaining why the old models don't work and then peters out as he reproves the same thing over and over.

- Scott