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Posts tagged “amazing

Behind the Scene

We are fortunate to have a picturesque waterfall, within the urban sprawl of the Twin Cities. Minnehaha falls, a very popular spectacle. I’ve taken pictures of it before, but had not investigated what is possibly it’s most awesome feature in a long time. Over the years, the falls have eroded a sizable amount of rock out from behind it. Making it possible to wander behind the beautiful waterfall. The ice laden cavern was about three times wider than My last visit, some 10+ years ago. Allowing for some pretty rad pictures. Sediment captured in the ice gave a pretty cool rainbow effect in some sections. Awesome stuff!


Stacking the Stars

In the past, I would take long exposure shots of the night sky. 30 minutes for a single photo was a normal affair. Last summer however, I started shooting time lapse sequences. Setting up My camera to automatically take a picture at what ever interval is desired, changed things up a lot. I found Myself going camping and letting My camera run, aimed toward the heavens while I slept. At first I was taking the resulting photos and making videos. Which is quite cool, watching the stars fly by at high speed. Not very long ago I found a free program called StarStax and have added another dimention to the time lapses I’ve been shooting. There is a video in the works, but it won’t be ready for a while. So, here are the stacked still images of a few of the night sky time lapses I captured this year.

Starting with this gem, which was a 5 and a half hour long series of 1,000 images. Nearly a quarter of earth’s rotation, viewed in one still shot. For those who are curious, The moon was on the other side of the earth and My Canon 6D with 24mm lens were set up as follows: Manual mode, f/1.4(focused on the stars), ISO 640, white balance 5400K, shutter speed of 13 seconds, taking a picture every 15 seconds. There is no edit involved, except running the images through StarStax. The second shot is the same image set, with “comet mode” selected in StarStax, no other edits…

Tree and Stars at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park © Andor (1) Tree and Stars at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park © Andor (2)

I’m particularly proud of that time lapse! The rest of these were taken with Similar settings, at different locations over the last 6 months. Sadly, the moon was in the sky for all of them but the last one, so there are less stars visible compared to the above shots. Even so, They look pretty cool. If I say so Myself… It’s been cloudy here for weeks, but as soon as I get a chance, there will be more coming.

Night Sky at USA International Raceway, DD50 © Andor (1) Night Sky at USA International Raceway, DD50 © Andor (2)North Polar Axis over the Avery Wildlife Refuge © AndorNight Sky in Central Minnesota © AndorOrion Passing By © Andor


Shooting the Stars

Shooting the Stars © Andor (1)

Last night, My Brother and I wandered out of the city to find a nice view in the country. It was said there would be a meteor shower, or possibly even a ‘meteor storm.’ We headed east of town, trying to get ahead of the approaching clouds. The shooting stars that we were seeking should have been mostly in the northern sky. We roamed the rural roads north of Hudson, WI for a while, finding a lack of northerly views that weren’t spoiled by peoples lights. Then, there was an openning to the south which revealed an awesome array of stars. We parked in someone’s driveway and proceeded to shoot from there for 2 or more hours. In some of the pictures, You can almost make out the edge of the milky-way. I was however aiming directly at I94, Hudson and the Twin Cities, with all the light pollution they emit. So after a few shots I turned to aim up and above the horizon. Which gave Me the awesome star trails, layered up around the Earth’s northern rotational axis. We only saw a couple of shooting stars, but it was still a great time.

The slightly ghost-like picture at the end was aquired with a 10 second exposure, ISO-800 at an aperture of f/1.4. All pictures taken with a Sigma 30mm 1.4 Ex on My Canon t4i.


A Crab Dinner for Burd

A Crab Dinner for Burd (0)

About a month ago I noticed a sign at a restaurant near My work. It said “all You can eat crab on Tuesday nights.” I immediately thought of Burd, My Brother’s wife, who is a foodie through and through. She loves seafood with a passion too. I shot Her a text and plans were made to attend this early week crab devouring. The next week, Tuesday arrived, the sign was gone. I stepped inside and asked the hostess if they were still doing it and was told, “no, so few people came that it’s been cancelled.” Our 5 day mental build up to this potential crab feastery was put down, hard.

Last week, was Burd’s birthday. Instead of a long lasting gift and inspired by recent events, I chose to give one that disappears rapidly. I went to a couple of shops around town, as well as surfed the internet. The web in fact led Me to the place which delivered these massive legs and claws to My door. It was slightly more expensive than getting the red king, golden king, or opilio crab legs found locally, but those were all so tiny by comparison.. Having read that the larger crabs tend to have a more robust flavor and sweeter meat, paired with My tendencies to go big, led Me to order 8 lbs of red king crab. Directly from Alaska. The biggest legs I could find were delivered to Minnesota, in under 18 hours.

A Crab Dinner for Burd (2)

I had told Burd, prior to Her birthday, that I was going to get Her a hammer as a gift. Which I gave to Her as We were departing a small car dealership in the southern suburbs. She was looking to buy a new car, possibly as a present to Herself? She was struggling to find a way to thank Me for giving Her a two pound mallet. Having arrived there seperately, She headed home in Her car and I headed there with My brother. We stopped at a store along the way and made it to their place before the birthday girl. Who then learned why She was holding a large rubber hammer. A knife works, but is slower and let’s face it, less fun…

A Crab Dinner for Burd (3)

I have had crab on many occasions. Nothing quite like this however. So succulent, arromatic and the beautiful color. Tasting of it made one feel so fat, so quickly. It was like devouring small, puffy clouds of sweet, tender, meaty goodness. These huge crab’s legs were just amazing. Without question, the single most luxurious thing I have ever eaten. I hardly even bothered dipping in butter, it was so delicious without any seasoning at all.

A Crab Dinner for Burd (4)

A Crab Dinner for Burd (1)


Camping in the Snow

Camping in the Snow © Andor (1)

My friend Asha called Me early in the week and asked if I wanted to go camping. She was in need of being surrounded by nature, as opposed to this city-born existence we live. Sharing Her sentiment, I said “hell yeah!” It was a one night excursion in the snow. After sitting in My alley for nearly an hour, calling state parks, browsing the Minnesota DNR website and scrolling through maps, the destination was decided. Wild River State Park, on the Saint Croix River, an hour or so north of the Twin Cities. I had never been there before and google maps gave us useless directions. For some reason, they said the park’s entrance was at the boat launching point, down a non-maintained dirt road, ten miles from the actual entrance to the park. Eventually, we found where we needed to be and effectively had the park to ourselves. One mile of hiking through sloppy snow down the untouched trail, camp was made. It wasn’t actually very cold out. 40’s on Saturday and 50’s sunday, I would guess the temperature at night was around 30 degrees. The snow certainly made it feel like winter, as did the massive slabs of ice floating down the river.

During the day Saturday, there were no clouds in the sky, so I was quite excited to get some pictures of stars, then as the sun set, clouds rolled in. They relented for about 45 minutes and revealed the sparkling sky I wanted to see. Some good practicing time doing something I have long been a fan of seeing others do. Capturing the night’s sky. Here is what I came up with.

First thing Sunday morning, I woke up, snapped the picture at the top of this post and proceeded to go back to sleep for 2 more hours. After that, we shared a can of pinapple chunks and Asha sat down to read in the sun. I decided to go for a walk, hoping to snag some closer pictures of some birds of prey. Half a mile or so down the trail from camp, I spotted a massive bird landing on a tree a few hundred yards away. I did My best to quietly work towards it, but such a thing isn’t possible when You’re walking through snow ranging from four inches to two feet deep. It kept ahead of Me, following the river for at least an hour, flying from one tree to the next. Every time I got within 150 yards, the bird would skip ahead another 300-400 yards. I use a 70-200mm lens on a cropped image sensor and just couldn’t get close enough for the shots that I desired. Which was quite saddening to Me, given this huge bird was actually an owl. I didn’t know they were so active during the day. It may only be this particular type of owl, which I believe was a Barred Owl. The wing span looked to be five, or more, feet. After looking at the two pictures I got of it, I was suprised that I wasn’t looking at a Great Grey owl. This owl’s eyes were not the right color and the greyish brown, with white stripes on the feathers didn’t match either. Included below is this barred owl sitting in a tree and flying directly over head at about 400 feet.

This was an especially awesome weekend for Me. Seeing for the first time, that big owl, golden eagles and turkey vultures. Not to mention the bald eagles, herrons, swans and various varieties of ducks that were fluttering about in large numbers. Just after the sun set, a pair of golden eagles came to our camp site. One landed in a tree about 40 feet from where we were, while the other circled 40-60 feet above us. I was a bit nervous, as well as awe struck. Not as large as the ones I’ve heard and read about, but the wing span was at least 6 feet. It was to dark for Me to get any sort of picture, so I am making due with these long range shots I aquired during the day light hours.


Ramen, Lovely Ramen

United Noodles is a bit of a back alley grocery store. Specializing in foods from nearly all corners of asia, they are one of the oldest asian grocers in the Twin Cities. Within this store is another store, a small deli. Called Uni Deli, this place has an extremely short menu, but that is okay, because one of the eight things listed for You to have served hot and delicious is Tonkatsu Ramen. Oh My, I had not been there in about a year and My taste buds have been blown away again. How do I forget to keep going back for more? If You go there and do not order tonkatsu, You are missing out. Order it spicy, simply the best.Tonkatsu Ramen from Uni Deli, Minneapolis © Andor (1)Tonkatsu Ramen from Uni Deli, Minneapolis © Andor (2)


Andor’s Traditional Ribs!

Andor's Traditional Ribs (2)

Yes! This is it! The ribs I served for several years at gatherings of many varieties. This is a time consuming recipe, but it’s actually quite simple and pretty easy to accomplish.  The seasoning is a pairing of sauce, dried herbs and spice blends that are available at most big box grocery stores. If You have eaten My ribs in the past, You were very likely devouring the following recipe..

Andor's Traditional Ribs (1)

With that said, this is slow cooking! It’s very simple, but since You are cooking at low temperatures, it takes a while. Barbecue is different from grilling in that You tend to use indirect heat. Many hours will pass by once the actual cooking commences and every 20 or 30 minutes, You’ll be adding wood to the coals, flipping racks and spreading thin layers of sauce! One must have the dedication to give 4 to 8 hours of loving to Your ribs for them to acheive that highly desirable, fall off the bone texture. As such, I have divided this up into two recipes that have the same seasoning arrangement. ‘The Way of the Food Junky’ delivers the afore stated texture, as well as that lovely smokey flavor. Taking 5 to 8 hours depending on the temperature in Your smoker/grill and the thickness of the meat being used. ‘The Slacker’s Attempt’ is done at higher temperature in the oven, which means it cooks through in 3 or 4 hours, but brings forth tougher meat. Both do taste quite good of course!!

Ingredients(listed per 1 rack of pork spare ribs with the cartilage tips not trimmed):

1.5 tbsp – Garlic Granules
3 tbsp – Chili Powder Blend(the kind for making chili!)
3 tbsp – Ms. Dash Lemon Pepper Blend(or 2 tbsp of regular lemon pepper)
2 tbsp – Dried Thyme Leaves
2 or 3 tbsp – Dried Terragon Leaves
2 tbsp – Freshly Ground Peppercorns(the multi colored peppercorn blends will add a lot more depth than just black pepper)
Salt to taste, although, I’ve rarely ever salted this recipe…
3/4 of a cup or so of BBQ Sauce, We all have our favorites, or hate the stuff. This recipe is based on the thick midwestern, tomato based sauces. I use Ken davis, which is from Minnesota and Sweet Baby Ray’s, which I beleive is from Illinois.

The Way of the Food Junky: The First Method

Supplies Needed:

Baking sheet with raised edges that is large enough to hold Your rack of ribs. A Very sharp knife for slicing. A brush, fork or spoon for spreading sauce. Smoker or large grill(You don’t want your ribs near the coals). with enough of a tasty hardwood(cherry and hickory are My main choices) or charcoal(1 to 1.5 standard bags), to keep a decent temperature for 6+ hours. If You are using charcoal, You shall also require chips/chunks of one of the afore stated woods, along with a large bowl or 1 gallon bucket, with water high enough to cover the wood chips.

Prep:

Get Your smoker or grill started. I tend to start large in My modest smoking pit. If using a regular grill however, You’ll be needing a very small pile of coals. The desired temperature is about 260F, starting a little hotter than that won’t hurt at all. I would avoid going over 300F for any period of time when Your cooking. While the fire burns out and becomes coals to cook with, You’ll be seasoning Your meat.

On Your baking sheet, lay the ribs in-side up(the bones should be curved like a shallow bowl). Evenly spread half of everything EXCEPT the sauce across the ribs, press or pat them in a bit, so the herbs don’t just fall off and flip the rack over. Spread the remaining herbs and spices over the top side of the ribs and press them in a bit as well.

Once You’ve got coals instead of flames, it’s time to get smokin’

Cooking:

If using a smoking pit, simply place Your ribs on the rack and close the lid. For charcoal users, You’ll need to soak the wood chips in water for an hour or so before use. Add wood/charcoal to the coals as needed to maintain the desired temperature of 260F or so. When adding to the coals, it’s best to spread them out a bit and put the fresh stuff centered on top. This will get the new stuff burning and formed into coals the fastest, as well as add a perch for the wet wood chips, thus protecting the coals. Some put the chips in foil, I just lay it on the top in a fist sized lump. Every 20-30 minutes, You’ll need to add another fist-full of wet wood chips to the top of the coals, so as to keep the smoke billowing out.

Continue this cycle: flipping the ribs before adding more charcoal and wood chips, every half hour or so until the meat seems fully cooked, but not yet tender. On a hot summer day, this can be done in about 4 hours, however, on a cool spring or fall morning, it will likely take 6 or more hours to get it cooked through. Then, You want to start brushing on the sauce in thin layers, while continuing the flipping and adding to the coals cycle, adding sauce every time You flip the ribs. Keep it up until You can wiggle the bones away from the meat. Remove from the grill and let the rack rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

The Slacker’s Attempt: The Second, Shorter Method

Supplies Needed:

A baking sheet with raised edges and a sharp knife for slicing. An oven safe bowl with 1 or 2 cups of red wine or sherry and an equal amount of water. A brush, fork or spoon for spreading sauce.

Prep: Preheat Your oven to 400F. Season the ribs as described in the prep section above.

Cooking:

Put the bowl containing the watered down wine on to the bottom rack of the oven. Place the pan laden with ribs middle rack of the oven and immediately lower the tempurature from 400 to 300. Bake for an hour and start flipping them every 30-45 minutes for an additional 2.5 hours. The meat should be just about cooked to the bone at this point. If it doesn’t feel cooked, then let it bake a while longer. Sauce the bottom of the ribs first, then flip and sauce the top side. Place the ribs back in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Remove from the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Notes:

All cooking times will vary depending on the tempurature, thickness of meat and bones, etc…

On a regular grill, such as a Weber, You’ll want to shove the coals off to one side and place the meat on the rack as far away from the heat as possible. If You can’t manage to cook without burning the edges, You may want to consider starting the ribs on the grill. Using very little charcoal, but a lot of wood in a short period of time, say 45 minutes to an hour. Then place the ribs in the oven at 260F to actually cook them. This will give You a nice smokey essense and reasonable control over the texture of the meat. This is also the best method for those who live in the north. Trying to smoke food in temperatures under 20F tends to give a more jerky-like texture. As well as force You to use 3 or 4 times the amount of charcoal.

I use to peel the membrane off of the under-side of the ribs, but in the last couple years, I have swayed away from this. Leaving it in place does reduce the thickness of the smoke line(the red’ish color in the outer sections) in the meat and thus decreases the smokey flavor slightly, but it makes it a little easier to control the texture by holding in more moisture. It’s a preference thing that I don’t think makes much of a difference.

Using the ‘Slacker’s Method’ You can also achieve that succulent, fall off the bone texture. Instead of cooking at 300, lower the temperature to 260 and add an hour or two to the cooking time.

This recipe is actually pretty tasty without the sauce, so long as You don’t burn the spices and herbs during cooking. This will make it a bit bitter. It’s better to use fresh herbs if You’re going this route though.

The Charcoal quantities listed are for use with My pit smoker which has a 15×18 inch burning chamber and a 15×30 inch cooking area. You’ll use less with a normal grill.Andor's Smoker in Action © Andor Blogs