Suckling Pig Sous Vide


I know this isn’t a suckling pig, but how cute is he? (Credit: Ben Salter)

Dear Internet,

For my birthday this year, Cara gave me an Anova Precision Cooker so I could try my hand at sous vide. I was hoping for a man-ring or maybe some sexy underwear*, but alas, another kitchen appliance.

It seems like a neat tool, even if its motto should be, “All the food you like in six times the amount of time you usually need to cook it.”

For those of you unfamiliar with sous vide, it’s the process by which you place your food in a plastic bag — typically vacuum-sealed (but it doesn’t have to be) — and then place the bag into a bath of water. The water is heated to the desired target temperature of your food. Medium-rare steak, for example, is somewhere in the 130-degree area. So you set your sous-vide to heat the water to 130, put the steak in a bag, draw the air out of the bag, seal it, plop it in the water and leave the steak in there for about an hour or longer (depending on thickness). You don’t have to worry about overcooking with sous vide, so you get very tender meat that is uniform all the way through. Just take it out the bag and sear it and voila! With the Anova Precision Cooker, all you need is a tub and water. You don’t have to do it anywhere near the stove. (Is “That’s what she said” still a thing?)

But instead of farting around with steak or chicken or pork chops, I figured I’d jump right in and start with a suckling pig.

I’ve got a tub big enough and the Food Saver that my good friend Shawn Adamson gave us as a wedding present came with a roll of bagging material sufficient to create a properly sized bag. As for the pig, it turns out you can find anything in Brooklyn.

But here’s where the problems start.

Getting the pig into the bag and getting the bag sealed. The pig didn’t seem to mind getting a marinade massage (Pro tip: Just steer clear of his eyes and snout!), but all hell broke loose when I tried to cram it into the bag. That damn piglet wasn’t remotely cooperative with getting into the bag. The squealing upset the dogs and, I’d assume, the neighbors. (Pro tip: If you have a landlord who lives downstairs, be sure to try this only when he’s at work.)

But mama didn’t raise no quitter. Eventually, the pig was bagged and the bag sealed.

The size of the tub. Although I knew it would take forever to heat the water with the wand, I thought a bigger tub would be better. (Pro tip: You can cheat by heating water on the stove to get it closer to temperature faster.) I figured it would allow the water to circulate better. But the bigger tub also allowed the pig to thrash around like crazy. I don’t know why I was surprised. I’ve boiled crawfish and crabs before, and they’ve never been happy about hitting the water. Who hasn’t lost at least one crawfish that managed to vault itself out of the pot before you clamp the lid down? But there’s no lid involved in sous vide, sadly. I guess part of me thought since the water wasn’t actually boiling, the pig wouldn’t mind as much. But boy did it?! And I ended up with water all over the kitchen. All I can say is thank god I didn’t do this on the living room table so I could watch TV while cooking. (Pro tip: Even though you CAN sous vide anywhere in the house, you should keep it in the kitchen for just this reason.  (Another Pro tip: Make sure your spouse isn’t home.))**

The sealed bag did restrict the pig’s movement some, but not as much as I would have liked. Maybe I need an industrial sealer. On the upside, I think the struggling did exhaust what little oxygen was still in the bag and he quieted down soon enough.

The mess. But before he finally quieted down and even though I’d removed any excess space in the bag, the pig managed to “leak” quite a bit. Thankfully, the bag held strong. Unfortunately, I had to throw the whole thing away.

Now look, you’re probably saying, “Duh, Ken. You have to clean an animal before you cook it like that.” But cooking is all about experimentation. You want to make the same scrambled eggs the same way your entire life, be my guest.

Besides, I thought maybe all the internal stuff would add flavor. It works with shrimp, doesn’t it? So why wouldn’t it work with a pig? Maybe next time I should purge the pig like people do with crawfish. But I’d like to avoid any harsh laxatives. Adding drugs or chemicals to the process defeats the whole purpose, right?

Anyway, if any of you have tried this and have had success, let me know!


*That’s a joke, yall.
** Ugh. Double parentheses. Do I even have the period in the right place on that one?


Some totally common side effects of the flu vaccine

fluvaccineSome not uncommon side effects of the flu shot may include

  • Getting sick 24 hours after getting the shot
  • Saying “This fucking shot got me sick, which is why I never used to get it in the first place.”
  • Saying “Besides, I’m not six or 75 so it’s not like I needed the damn thing in the first place. But everyone’s like ‘OMG. Y U NO GET FLU SHOT?!? U DUM OR SUMPIN. ANYWAY ITS FREE.'” And you like free things. So.
  • Suddenly remembering there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
  • Being told by your wife, “You can’t get sick from the flu shot.”
  • Thinking, “Oh yeah, says who?” and hoping she’ll respond, “The government. That’s who.” And then you say, “Yeah, well the government says MSG allergies don’t exist and essential oils are a hoax. Also, the government is now run by Donald Trump. So who you gonna believe? Me or Donald Trump?”
  • Not saying any of the above because she might slap you in the arm where you got the flu shot and that shit hurts and then she’ll call you a baby and remind you that she TOLD you to move the arm after getting the shot but did you listen? No you did not listen.
  • Googling flu shot side effects.
  • Clicking on the CDC website and being told the flu cannot give you the flu.
  • Thinking, “Well they would say that wouldn’t they? They’re pumping it into everyone.”
  • Thinking, “These are the same clowns who said they had Ebola so under control.”
  • Thinking, “Oh, they use a dead virus do they? How does that even work? Couldn’t I just chew on a snotty flu tissue and immunize myself?”
  • Thinking, “Maybe I’ll text my friend at the CDC and set some shit straight right now. Get to the bottom of all this.” But can practically HEAR the eye rolling.
  • Thinking, “God. I’m starting to sound like those anti-vaxxer loons I make fun of on Facebook.”
  • Reading the line on the CDC site: “Some studies have found a possible small association of injectable flu vaccine with Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS).”
  • Forgetting all about the flu.
  • Feeling a slight numbness in the extremities.
  • Thinking, “Holy shit. I’ve definitely got Guillain-Barre syndrome.”
  • Thinking, “That’ll show them all.” 

The Subway Gods Are Cruel: Keys

They were loud talkers, so this story ends in the perfect way.


But you know who I’m talking about, that couple who always has one, two or three issues that they feel need to be aired out in public. This morning, they chose to do it on the R Train out of Bay Ridge. For the one stop the three of us shared, they were speaking Spanish so I was able to ignore it.

Two other women, speaking Spanish, were apparently unable to ignore it because they gave up seats to move away from the couple.

When the train pulled into 59th the street, the man exited and walked across the platform to the arriving N Train. And then the woman freaked out. She walked to the door of our R Train and started yelling, first in Spanish and then in English.

“My keys. I need my keys.” In Spanish again. “I need my fucking keys. Now. Give them to me.”

She was holding the train door. Both trains were just sitting there. I don’t know where we were in relation to the conductors of each, but maybe they heard the commotion and were giving these two a chance to get it done. The passengers on the R Train were mildly annoyed at the yelling. We were all waiting to get extremely annoyed if the conductor tried to close the door and Drama Queen had her ass wedged there and wouldn’t let us leave.

She shouted again, waving frantically. “MY KEYS!”

And for some reason, one thought flitted across my mind: Don’t do it.

But of course he did it. HE THREW THE KEYS. About two pounds of keys and key chain were launched toward the R Train.

Where do you think they landed?

On the platform? No. On the floor of the train? Of course not.

In her hands?

Well, they hit her hands, barely, and then fell, right into the gap between the train and the platform onto the tracks.

“Oh my god! How the fuck you gonna do that to me?” she yelled, then said some other things in Spanish that made me wish I knew all the dirtiest curse words in Spanish because I bet that’s what she was using. The man remained silent.

She stepped out of the train. The doors closed. The women speaking Spanish said something and laughed. Then someone else said, “Boy and you thought your day was bad,” and everyone else laughed. And off we went.

After the Louisiana Flood: A Plea

Screen Shot 2016-09-03 at 8.38.26 AM

My cousins need your help. They’re trying to raise a little cash to help their dad, my Uncle Carl.

It feels a little weird to write something (else) about the flooding in Louisiana a few weeks ago. After all, a hurricane just hit Florida and I’m constantly checking weather sites to see if it’ll make it to New York (not out of fear, but to see if it’s going to screw up my barbecue plans).

But the sad fact of the matter is that just because something bad is happening in one place, it doesn’t mean bad things just stop happening elsewhere. The national news media barely covered the Louisiana Floods to begin with. Because of that (and other shameless behavior when it comes to the state), they weren’t exactly welcomed with open arms. And when the flood waters showed the first signs of receding, they were off after the next shiny thing, whether that was Ryan Lochte, Donald Trump or the Italian earthquake, all of which got much more coverage.

Here’s the thing about floodwaters receding, though. It’s only then you see the real devastation. There might not be much of the dramatic structural damage associated with hurricanes or tornadoes, but the interiors of houses are ruined. And days later, every street in some towns becomes a valley of discarded furniture, sheetrock, moldy insulation. It looks like the houses had a hell of a frat party and then threw up all at the same time.

My Uncle Carl’s house was flooded. In one of those surreal moments created by modern life, I’d seen the first hint of this flit by on Facebook when my cousin Lainey asked if anyone had heard from her dad. Within half an hour, three people in pickups had shown up at his house. (The below photo is obviously taken before the flood.)


He was fine. But the house took on water. Flooding is relative. It didn’t get anywhere near the roof of the house, so yes, others had it worse. But once the water’s in. Floors had to be ripped out. Furniture had to be thrown out. And when they started cutting into the walls, they discovered water had gotten in there, too. So, it all had to be thrown out. And, obviously, it all has to be replaced. Which isn’t easy.

My cousin Corey started a GoFundMe page and I’ll let him explain a little bit about who Uncle Carl is:

a veteran of the National Guard, living with ALS, a widower, and a survivor of the Flood of 2016.   He’s worked his whole life to make a home for us growing up, and now in his retired years he’s having to rebuild once again.  In 1987 our home was wiped away by a tornado and today he lives those memories all over again.  We have had some help from FEMA but it barely covers materials for the basics of reconstruction.

That might make Uncle Carl sound like Job, but most mornings he’s up and posting on Facebook that it’s time for coffee and asking if everyone’s okay.

A word about that “widower” bit. If you’ve read my third novel, Sweet as Cane, Salty as Tears, you’ll know that the events in the book are kicked off by the death of the main character’s sister. If you’ve read anything I wrote about the writing of the book or come to my reading, you’ll know that it was the death of my Aunt Debbie that sort of shook me and kicked off that part of the book. That’s her holding me in the picture below. She was 15. I was 1.


We were young once … and tee-tiny.

She was Uncle Carl’s wife.

This is them at a wedding:163127_1493947199685_4124359_n

Now, some folks might ask, “Ken, why don’t you, I don’t know, donate some of the millions you make off of that book?”

Well, first of all, there are no millions. What I’ve made off of the book, I could maybe pay one month’s rent here in Brooklyn. Secondly, even if there were a mad rush on it, I wouldn’t see that money until next year at some point, because book publishing is an antiquated industry run by not particularly bright wizards.

Thirdly, every time you see one of those “Proceeds from this book” things, know that it’s first and foremost a marketing ploy, a PR effort to drive up sales for the book. That’s not what this is about.

I just want anyone reading this to a) donate and b) share it. Just to be clear, I donated. I’m also not a fan of “Well, I wrote about it, so I did my part! Raising awareness! Starting the conversation!” Conversation ain’t gonna get the mold out of the walls.

They’re not asking a lot. Five bucks, 10 bucks. Hell, two bucks! Donate here.

P.S. I didn’t write anything about my cousin Jason in this post. Hi Jason!

Poll: If Life Hands You Lemons…


If Life hands you lemons …

  • Reckon that’ll come in handy. This scurvy is a bitch.
  • Oh well isn’t Life a regular fancy lad, swanning about handing out lemons like he’s the King of Citrus.
  • I don’t have room for another damn thing. Get ’em out of here.
  • Lemonade? Like I’m just sitting on a mountain of sugar like some kind of sugar baron?
  • Are they GMO free? Organic?
  • Does Life even have a permit to distribute fresh fruit?
  • Got a nice piece of fish here. Little olive oil. Little salt. Little lemon juice. Bing bang boom. Doesn’t get any better than that.
  • Make lemonade. I guess.

Le Choo Choo: Cannes to Paris

CannesStreetSceneBonjour from France, yall.

I’m typing this post out while hauling ass through the South of France on a TGV train, the arid, hilly countryside and villages filled with sandy-colored houses topped with red-tile roofs. It’s the sort of region in which you could film Western movies and the audience wouldn’t know the difference. (Just ignore the fact that if you climb the next hill, you’ll be faced with the blue waters of the Mediterranean.)

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Barbecue: Seven Stops in Kansas City


Nicholas and I have just wrapped up our barbecue tour of Kansas City. Between arriving Sunday evening and Wednesday, we hit the following seven places in this order: Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue (Freight House location), Arthur Bryant’s, Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, Danny Edwards BBQ, Q39, L.C.’s Bar-B-Q, B.B.’s Lawnside Blues & BBQ.

The Short Version
Before I get into the details, some of you might just want to know the answer to the following question: If I only have time to hit one place in Kansas City, what should it be? That’s an easy answer. Joe’s Kansas City. Some people might say it’s touristy or mainstream, but these are the sort of people who start hating a band simply because it becomes popular. Joe’s is popular for a reason. It’s got perhaps the best ribs I’ve ever eaten, the pulled pork was delicious and the beans weren’t sickly sweet like they were at a lot of places.

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