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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Pastrami on the UDS

It's that time of year again, where inexplicably, corned beef brisket is 1/3 the price of normal, untreated brisket, so time to make a pastrami. I started with a nice, 4 poundish corned brisket point, which was then soaked for 48 hours, with the occasional change of water. The process of soaking is to remove the salt and cure that is built up in the meat. The end result is anything but appetizing.

Yum, gray meat

From here, a rub is made from the pickling spices that were included in the package or corned beef, along with additional black pepper, coriander and fennel seeds. All fed through the grinder with a coarse grind. The rub is coated onto the meat, then wrapped in plastic wrap and pressed to create some pressure on the meat. I keep it in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours.

Rubbed and ready to wrap

Pressed and ready for chill

After 24 hours, the meat was placed on my UDS, running at 225°F for 2 hours (I used Stubbs briqs and apple wood), I then wrapped in butcher paper and back onto the UDS at 350°F, the internal temperature rose to around 190°F, which I then pulled from the cooker and allowed to rest for 2 hours. Wrapped in foil and chilled overnight.

Smoked prior to wrap

After chilling overnight, sliced of about 1/3 pound of pastrami, nice thin slices which I placed in a steamer for 15 minutes, while I prepared everything else, got the saurkraut and Russian dressing ready, got the Jewish Rye out etc...

Sliced, clearly needle brined

Gotta love a toasted Rueben

Yes, it took three days, but, the flavor is spot on, and so much better than what you can buy from most grocery stores. Plus, I have enough for a few more sandwiches.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Kettle Smoked Chuck Chili

It seemed like a good time to throw together some chili. It is allegedly winter, which is chili time, so I fired up the kettle and threw a chuck roast in there. I opted to use a commercial rub, actually being involved in working, a pre-made rub was just too simple. I used Ted and Barney's Rub, a product from Humboldt County, which is very similar to a Santa Maria rub, salt and pepper heavy. The chuck was smoked over a pecan and charcoal fire, at 225°F for two hours and 300°F in foil for 1.5 hours. This lead the chuck to be just a little underdone, perfect for the use as chili meat.

Smoked Chuck

The meat was removed, placed in an ice chest, while still wrapped and allowed to cool to 150°F then chilled. In the end, I ended up with about 3/4 cup of rendered collagen along with a nearly tender chuck roast. This was all saved for the next morning.

On the day of the cook, some Pinquito beans from Rancho Gordo were procured, and yes, these are worth the hassle of finding. I think that Rancho Gordo is producing the best dried bean product widely available, and they just cook up a whole lot better. The beans were sorted, cleaned, washed then tossed into a pot, with twice as much water and beans, by volume, I also tossed 3 short ribs, for additional flavor. It was brought to a boil, held there for 5 minutes, then reduced to a simmer, covered, for 1 hour. I then salted the beans and simmered until soft. Total time, just around 2 hours.

At the same time, we ground up three types of dried chile, one being Chilhaucle Negro, a rare dried chile commonly associated in it's native region of Mexico, with dark mole sauces. We also had some dried jalapeno and dried New Mexico type chiles. I added some chile powder to round out the heat component. We used a total of 6 tablespoons of this chile powder seasoning.

Two large yellow onions, 3 carrots and 6 cloves of garlic were chopped, and sautéed with 1/3 of the chile powder seasoning. These were sautéed until the onions became translucent.

Second addition of powder

Some chorizo was added at this point, about 1.5 pounds of sausage was removed from casings and added to the aromatics, along with another 1/3 of the chile powder seasoning. This was sautéed until the sausage was cooked through, then the smoked chuck was added, along with a large can of crushed tomatoes, and the final 1/3 of the chile powder seasoning. This was then cooked, and the seasonings adjusted with a little saly, pepper and sugar. This ended up taking about 2 hours, so the beans were added and everything was allowed to simmer for another 30 minutes. We used the bean water to adjust thickness. At this time, some fresh toasted cumin was ground and added, as was oregano. Roughly 2 tablespoons of each. More salt to pop the flavors.

Ready to Serve

Note, that there are two large Dutch ovens worth here. This chili was rich and flavorful with a nice slow burn that develops throughout the mouth and just a little at the top of the throat. The smoke flavor of the chuck, which adds both aroma and flavor is a nice complement to the chili. Yes, there are beans and tomato, but, this was an outstanding bowl of red.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Pulled Pork, South Carolina-style

I was recently the recipient of a very generous package, which included several sauces and the rub from Melvin's, a company in South Carolina. A fellow BBQ Brethren, who goes by PatAttack very generously sent me these from his home state. I have never had South Carolina style mustard sauces, and the style of BBQ plays a secondary role to the more famous North Carolina styles. Thus, this package was a great chance for me to try a new flavor of BBQ.

Melvin's Sauces and Rub

I chanced upon a 3.8 pound pork shoulder butt, from MarinSun Farms, a local pasture grown meat company, this is likely a breed of heritage hog, that has spent it entire life on pasture in Marin County. I was thrilled to find that a local store now carries it. I gave it a quick rinse and trim, then tied it, as it had been boned. I applied a liberal coating of Melvin's rub and let it sit while getting the Kettle to 225°F, which it locked in to like it was an oven.

Fresh and Shiny

Tied and Rubbed

On the grate

As you can see, the kettle was setup for indirect cooking, the foil provides just a little protection from direct heat. I let the butt run at 225°F for 2 hours. Oh, the little cast iron skillet was a Christmas gift, not quite sure what I am going to do with it, but, it is seasoned and what I wanted. After two hours, the meat looked like this.

Ready for butcher paper

Because I was not familiar with the rub, and how it would perform, and I was working, so lost track of time before starting the cook, I decided wrapping and bumping the heat to 300°F was the combination to get to dinner at the right time. A few hours later, the meat felt soft and pliable to the touch, so I pulled and rested it for around 45 minutes. It was wrapped in foil and just sitting on the counter. I had throw together a quick soft bun recipe and it was also just cooling on the stove.

Nicely Barked and Aromatic

Nothing smell better to a BBQ cook than the aroma of pork butt, just ready for pulling. This meat was just tender enough, when I removed the string, and pushed on the top, it simply relaxed into 4 large chunks of meat, a few quick chops with a scraper and it was ready.

Pulled and Coarsely chopped

My preference for sandwiches is to smash the meat and then give it a coarse chop. This was perfectly cooked for that method. The meat was dusted with a little more of Melvin's rub, tossed and placed on the sliced bun.

Little bit of Melvin's Golden Secret

I wish I had gotten some cole slaw together, this sandwich sang without it, but, some cole slaw would have been perfect. I also ended up dipping the sandwich in the sauce that had spilled onto the plate. That is some great sauce, a real nice mustard twang, complements the pork perfectly. No doubt, the rub and sauce are meant to work as a team.

Great Texture

Perfect texture of bread, meat and sauce

This sandwich did not disappoint, and I don't care what you might think about sauce and BBQ, this was very, very, good food. The bread, meat, rub and sauce worked perfectly together. I probably could have shoveled three of these things down. Such a great and generous gesture from PatAttack, and now I can say I have tried a real South Carolina mustard sauce.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Butternilk Fried Chicken

Decided it was a good time for fried chicken, and since the entire family was gathering, it was time to really do it up, using references from many old friends, who have been gracious enough to teach me bits and pieces of Southern Cooking. These were to be fried in cast iron, shallow fried. Day one was to get the chickens parted up, and get them soaking in a butttermilk brine.

Buttermilk Brine:
1 quart buttermilk
2 cups water
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
1 cup kosher salt
1/8 cup fine turbinado sugar

Bring all items except for buttermilk to 165°F, steep for 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely. Filter the herb tea brine and combine with buttermilk. Chill until cold.

Add chicken to sealable container and soak for at least 12 hours. Turn a few tunes through the soak.

After 12 hours, the chicken should be drained and allowed to sit for 15 minutes. Assemble dredge.

Dredged in Flour

Flour Dredge:
(for 3 chickens)
2.5 cups AP flour
1 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon each of ground nutmeg, granulated garlic, granulated onion
1/2 teaspoon ground clove

Coat each piece of chicken and lay in single layer on racks. Allow coating to cure for 15 minutes. Repeat entire dredge process a second time and allow chicken to sit on rack.

Frying in the first stage

Heat two cast iron frying pans, one to 315°F and one to 375°F. Fry three to four pieces at a time, for 15-20 minutes in the lower heat, and 5 minutes in the higher heat. Monitor the heat, as adding the chicken will cause the heat to drop. The first cook is to assure the pieces are cooked, the second is to get great color and crunch. Store pieces in a 200°F preheated oven. I use a heavy steel oven pan, with a rack in the bottom, to allow drainage and maintain the crisp texture.

Ready for grabbing

The chicken ends up quite tender and juicy on the inside, and true to pan fried chicken, is just as good the served at room temperature as picnic chicken.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Easy Gumbo

2 cups each of celery, bell pepper (I used a mix of red and green) and onion (I used a mix of green onions and shallots this time)
1 cup of okra (you can use less, or more, I used what I had)
1/2 cup of oil (use a high smoke point oil, the reason to follow)
1/4 to 1/2 cup AP flour

Can be any meat you want, traditionally, chicken, sausage and seafood are used. In this case, I used a fresh Andouille, and some large shrimp.

Use a good stock, you want at least 4 cups, I used 6 cups of a very good stock. In this case, it was a bunch of stock from boiling down chicken backs.

1. Prepare all of the vegetables. This is pretty important, as the process goes really fast. I like to chop everything into a medium dice. I keep the ingredients separate, but, the vegetables (celery, onion, peppers) can all be together, it doesn't really matter. Place vegetables next to the stove. Keep Okra separate, as it does not go in with the other vegetables.

2. Make the roux, you want to use a large, heavy bottomed stock pot, place the oil and flour into the bottom and start stirring over medium high heat. You can do it over high heat, but, the process goes too fast. You are going to cook, stirring the entire time. The roux will go from a pale tan and seemingly slowly go to a brick red. Keep paying attention, as it will start to turn a dark brown. As it approaches the dark brown stage, you will notice a whisp of smoke. Add the vegetables.

3. Once you see the whisp, add the vegetables. Note, that the oil is very hot, and if you are senstivie to steam, you should wear gloves when adding the vegetables. This must be done at one time, everything. Fry the vegetables for a couple of minutes.

4. Add the stock, note that it is all still very hot, so gloves are still a good option. If you are in a hurry, you can cut the time down by boiling here, it is better to assemble the stock, simmer for 45 minutes and let rest for a few hours.

5. Meanwhile, prepare whatever meats you are going to use. Since I used a very highly seasoned fresh Andouille recipe, there was no need to add salt or spices. But, salt and black pepper should be used if you are using other fresh meats. In my case, I had steamed the sausages before hand, reserved the water and added the water and sausage to the stock. This seasoned it enough. I add the meats and okra and thensimmer the sausage and stock for 15 minutes, then added the shrimp for the last 5 minutes.

6. At this point, remove from heat, serve with a scoop of long grain rice (I like Tex-mati Rice) and some file powder, if you like.

1. I use either a high smoke point oil, or lard, or a mixture of the two. The heat level you will be taking the roux to, is so close to the flash or burn point of many common kitchen oils, if you use something like Canola oil, it will never get to the right color.

2. A variation on the roux, I learned from a Louisiana cook, that what she does, is fry up some very spicy fried chicken, I mean, the flour was red with Cayenne. She then used the resulting red oil, a mixture of peanut oil and chicken fat. I didn't do that this time. It makes for a very spicy Gumbo.

3. The ratios are really one of preference, I use a little less flour than oil, as it seems to get the color I want and has less of a risk of burning. The okra ratio is the trick, too much okra and it can get slimy. But, that is a preference issue. 1 cup was perhaps a little too much for the amount of stock I had, but, I had to buy the okra frozen, thus, I had one cup. And I only had the stock on hand. I will add more stock today, as it was just a little too thick last night.

4. The roux has to be dark brown, that is where the color and flavor of the dish comes from. I added nothing in terms of color than the roux. Done properly, it has a deep complex flavor or toast, nuts, caramel that complements the dish. Literally, a few seconds too long and you are looking at black roux, that taste bitter.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Baby Backs, or why did I thaw these when I wanted Gumbo

I really wanted to eat Gumbo this weekend, but, for some reason, a few days ago, I removed these baby back ribs from the freezer. They needed to be eaten. So, no Gumbo, we go with smoked ribs. Might was well do something good here.

The ribs were rubbed with a layer of salt and pepper and then a layer of salt-free rub, basically, granulated garlic, granulated onion, brown sugar, and smoked Spanish paprika. These were wrapped and let sit for 2 hours, meanwhile, I fired up the UDS, with some pecan and all of the charcoal I could scrounge up, I need to buy more charcoal apparently.
Rubbed and Ready

Sweaty meat

The meat went on to the cooker and ran at 225°F initially, and slowly rising to 250°F over two hours. I then sprayed the ribs with what I am calling Peach Pig Honey, which is a variation of my normal Pig Honey, in that I added a can of peach juice, and 2 tablespoons each of molasses and corn syrup (real corn syrup, not flavored of modified). Then I dusted with The Rub Company Barbeque rub. I would normally powder this, but, thought I could just use it straight from the bottle.
Peach Pig Honey and Rub Co.

In any event, things were back to cooking, and four hours later, we ended up with cooked baby backs, with a nice bark, and good bend, well, too good bend. I apparently lost track of testing. None the less, dinner was rested and looked great.
Fresh off the UDS


Then it was time to eat. Standing in the kitchen. Who needs a plate?
Done and done!

Honestly, not my best effort. The surface texture was a little harder than I prefer and the meat was a little overcooked, the thinner parts were too dry, the fatter parts were fine. These we more like loin back than baby backs (although they were baby backs by definition). I needed to go hotter, and I think these would have been fine. And they were a little salty for me, that will need to be adjusted in this method.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

High heat Spareribs

Pretty straightforward post here, I wanted to throw together a sparerib cook with the conditions, beyond my control, that I had to get them cooked Tuesday night for serving on Wednesday morning. No all night cooking, no getting up at 3:00 a.m. It was to be hot and fast, no nonsense cooking, but, it had to be at least decent.

Cooker of choice: The NorCal Brethren UDS
Fuel: Royal Oak lump charcoal
Wood: Pecan and Apple chunks
Temperature: 300°F

The meat was two racks of spareribs that I got from my local carneceria, decided to give this place a try, as I figured it would not be worse than Safeway, and might well be better. And because I ended up having to sit around at the courthouse for jury duty, I was not able to hit my usual restaurant supply place. This was some great pork, quality was excellent, and at around $3 a pound, priced like spareribs and not pork loin.

Trimmed and Ready

Gave them what I know as a modified St. Louis cut, I have heard this called a Kansas City cut rib as well. Essentially, the flap of meat and membrane under the bones are removed, the tips are cleaned up, the surface fat is removed and if there is any chest bone, it is removed.

Chest Bones, never on Cryo-vac ribs

The rub was a Maple and Pepper rub, which was applied in two layers, one was a medium layer, as seen in the photos below, the second was a dusting, more on that later.

Maple and Black Pepper Rub:
5 parts maple sugar
3 parts medium grind black pepper
2 parts Kosher salt (I use Redmond RealSalt)
1 part smoked Spanish paprika
1/2 part each granulated garlic, and granulated onion
1/4 part Allspice

Made one and a half batches of this stuff, used one as it was, for layer one of the rub. This was sprinkled and patted onto the meat and left to melt for one hour (I use that time to get the cooker fired up).

Medium coating, could be more even I suppose

Or not, should be fine

Once things were ready in the cooker, the ribs went on, and were left to run, flat on the rack for 2 hours, then I put them over a pan, and onto a rack, with the fatter ends up, this encourages a little higher heat on the tip ends, which gets the cook more even. The second layer of rub, that was the half a recipe of the rub that I had made, which I ran through the mortar and pestle, to grind it into a powder. Fine powder. This was then used in conjunction with my Pig Honey spritz, first the Pig Honey was spritzed onto the meat, then a layer of the powdered rub was sprinkled over. This was done when I moved the meat to the rack. Another coating of the Pig Honey was applied about 15 minutes before I moved the whole thing into the oven.

Here they are on the rack

I ended up bringing the ribs in at this point, and putting them into the oven at 225°F for another hour. They actually were very close to being done, and I could have let them go in the UDS, but, I wanted to control the last two hours, and it was dark outside. I cheated. 225°F for one hour, then off for another 2 hours, while I was in bed reading. I foiled and tossed them into the refrigerator, wrapped in foil for reheating the next morning. Started at 3:30 p.m. was in bed by 11:00 p.m. Not too bad.

Tossed them, still wrapped for 40 minutes at 225°F this morning, then unwrapped for 20 minutes at 245°F unwrapped. Got this.

Looking good so far

From here, they were packaged up in a pan and taken to their final destination, waited for around 30 minutes for serving, still hot and looked like this.

Nice Texture

Nice bark too

All in all, a very successful cook, the ribs were moist and tender, not fall off the bone, but, just short of that. The overall flavor and texture were about as good as I would expect from myself. I would never turn in full spares for a competition, but, the flavor and texture of these ribs were good enough for just that.