Sparks has been making large-scale and highly successful experiments in meat smoking, this summer. Because we love alla y’all, we’re gonna share our secrets (some of them anyway) in the photo-documentary style of “The Pioneer Woman Cooks”.
Materials? One 22″ Weber grill, two bricks, good-quality charcoal, lighter fluid, a charcoal chimney (punch holes in a coffee can), and soaked wood chips (entirely theoretical and optional).
Fill your chimney with charcoal, douse it in lighter fluid, set it on fire, and let it stew for 30-40 minutes. Now, go inside and make yourself a drink.
If you have mint growing outside your house, you’re going to want to make mojitos frequently in the summer. We are mere neophytes in this arena–having previously focused our attention on caipirinhas (perfected by Sparks) and gin & tonics (perfected by me, and I have a secret). This mojito recipe was photographed opportunistically and provides only a loose outline. Start with four big mint leaves per mojito (these pictures show a single-serving construction).
And one small spoonful of granulated sugar. Shown here is cane sugar, which we had around from our caipirinha days, and which gives you a nice clean sophisticated virtuous feeling about your drink for reasons we don’t quite understand.
At this point, you can muddle the sugar and mint together, if you wish. This results in very finely ground mint which won’t offend the partaker of the finished drink. Unfortunately, it also seems to minimize the taste of the mint. So your alternative is…
To add the juice of one big fat lime, or two small skinny limes, and make the best muddling you can before the sugar melts entirely. You will end up with big chunks of mint leaves in your drink that have a disconcerting habit of hanging half out of your mouth after you’ve taken a sip, but the presence of the acid during the muddling helps flavor-oil extraction enormously.
Ladies and gentlemen, muddle. If you don’t have a muddler per se, use the end of a wooden spoon, the pestle from your mortar and pestle set, or (shown here) a wooden rolling pin cut in half.
Even a wet-muddling can result in nicely pulverized mint leaves.
At this point in the process I got too excited about what I was doing (art! photography! macro! i’m doing it!) and added the soda before I added the rum. I can’t say whether it hurt the final product or not. In any case, add a generous dose–maybe a cup–of soda water (if you like dryer drinks; the mojito is going to be sweet no matter what) or lemon-lime soda (if you have a real sweet tooth or if, hee hee, you’re going to give it to the kids. I’m kidding.)
Next, add “the right amount” of rum. We had half a bottle of light rum sitting around still from last Fall’s Caribbean dinner party, so I used that. What is “the right amount”? I don’t know, because I never measure liquor–I just pour. If you want to measure a jigger, go ahead and do that. Or trust your instincts. C’mon, this is as close to living dangerously as most of us come.
Finally add ice, keeping in mind that there are two kinds of people in the world: the moderate icers and the severe icers. Pictured is my moderately-iced drink. Sparks, who is a severe icer, will fill the glass to the rim with cubes.
All right. Now sit on your back deck and enjoy the summer afternoon until your charcoal is ready.