Search This Blog

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Tri-tip

Well, for Christmas this year, we went to our reliable neighborhood butcher and she informed us that she did not order the prime ribs that we had just expected her to order.  We have tended towards only buying beef that is certified as vegetarian fed without anti-biotics, the butcher had made the decision that the more expensive beef was not a good buy.  So, we had to improvise. There were some excellent looking natural fed tri-tips and baby back ribs Tri-tips and ribs it was.

They would be cooked at the same time, on my brother's un-modified Weber and without my usual array of tools and thermometers.  No matter, after a 1 hour batlle, I finally got the kettle dialed, 231F and it held it for 5 hours.  It is, for the record, no longer un-modified, though bro' doesn't know that.

Here are the dry ribs, as you can see, I have been considering the use of more medium textured rubs.  In part, this is because of some new rubs I have been using.  In this case, I used Plowboy's rubs for a base and then a coarse salt/pepper/garlic granule rub for a second layer.  This multi-layer technique from a fellow Brethren in Texas has become a favorite technique of late. The tri-tip and the ribs came out perfect for Christmas.

The parting shot is the ribs with the rum/cherry glaze.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Rib Experiment

Today was a day to try an experiment with cooking some ribs as simply as possible while still turning out some good food. The kettle was started with half a starter of Kingsford, the coal holder was setup with about the same of K and some dregs of lump. The ribs got medium grind black pepper and kosher salt. The ribs were put in once the light blue smoke started wafting, 225F, 4.5 hours, rain and this is what I got.

I was very happy with the overall appearance and texture of the surface of the ribs, the meat was cooked to a very tender texture while pulling not quite cleanly from the bone. There was a distinct smoke ring, a light smoky flavor and the flavor of the meat was clean and porky. Here is a rather over-exposed shot of the cut rib showing the meat.

As a reference point, I was very pleased to see and taste how nicely these ribs turned out. I will still prefer the use of rubs with more intense and complex flavors, but, as a reference point,  this was worth the effort. I think from this point, I may introduce the rub in much smaller amounts, with the use of invert sugars, to see if I can maintain the light golden color and thin delicate surface texture that these ribs had.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Kalbi it Galbi

Tonight I made Kalbi, the marinated meat dish from Korea, featuring a soy based marinade with sweet and spicy flavors.  I started with Niman Ranch beef shortribs, thin cut, bone-in which I think makes an excellent start for a hot and fast grilling experience.

The meat was marinated over night in a marinade of shoyu (soy sauce), sherry, ginger, garlic, pepper sauce, sesame oil, onions and sugar.  About two hours before cooking, I removed the meat from the refrigerator and placed them on a broiler pan to drain and come to room temperature.

As you can see from the photo, the meat took the marinade quite well, when marinading meat overnight, I make it a practice to give the meat a rinse to get the meat surface a little less wet.  Part of letting it sit out is to establish a pellicle, which help with retaining moisture. Here is a close-up.

The meat was then placed onto the grill at very high heat, there really wasn't a lot of time for photos, for this kind of cook, I want the coals to be going full bore, the grill temperature is over 500 degrees. Here is the finished dish.

Served with Japanese rice and a quick sugar pickled cabbage slaw. Similar to Japanese tsunemono pickles, but much faster to prepare for serving. Here is the parting shot.

Christmas Brews

As a fine beer drinker, I really enjoy many different expressions of the brewing craft.  Unfortunately, I am not always able to buy beer in bottles that are appropriate for me to enjoy alone.  Problem!  But, every once in a while, the chance to enjoy beer with family or friends arises, the holidays are just such an occasion. Here is the weeks selection I will be trying.

The Brewery Ommegang Three Philosophers is a blend of strong ale and cherry lambic some have described as Liquid Chocolate Cherry Cordials. The Deus is a Flanders ale that is aged in France using the Methode Champenoise. Some consider this to be the finest ale in the world. I am just hoping it is close. The Celebration Ale from Sierra Nevada, I have been drinking this beer since they first brewed it.

And on to that gracefully unmarked, duct tape sealed bottle on the end.  That is a bottle, the last large format bottle, of my chocolate milk stout brewed almost a year ago. Brewed with Scharffenberger chocolate and cocoa and a nice backbone of Cascade hops, this turned out to be a nice Imperial stout when first brewed and drank beautifully all year.  However, with the higher alcohol content and strong flavors, I have been aging this one, 6 months at 70F and 6 months in the refirgerator, to see how the flavors blend and the alcohol integrates into the ale.  If I had used a champagne bottle, instead of recycling a Turley Zinfandel bottle, I could have used a cage, hopefully the duct tape is not a problem for the ale.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Smoked Chicken Tamales

Tonight's dinner was something of an homage to my childhood. Up until I was 12, we lived in a very ethnically varied neighborhood that included a large population of Mexican and Tex-Mex folks who brought their own cultural backgrounds to our town.  Amongst these traditions was the idea of home made Christmas tamales. One of the things I remember growing up where the tamale girls with their Red Hots.  Red Hots were small spicy pork or chicken tamales, sold from the insulated carts, that the women walked around town with, a little bell ringing as the cart went along. I wanted to make tamales that were reminiscent of these little snacks. I am thinking these would be a good Christmas Day appetizer/snack dish.

First, I smoked a chicken on the kettle.  A skin-on, bone-in chicken breast was rubbed with a 1/3 each mix of Plowboy's Yardbird, Bob's Poultry Rub and kosher salt.  The chicken was then tightly wrapped and allowed to sit for 3 hours.

The kettle was running at 375F, lump and oak, light blue smoke, the chicken was at room temperature and placed in the kettle for an hour.  Ta-daaa...

The meat was shredded, cooled, then mixed with chopped onion, snipped cilantro and a salsa verde made with tomatillos and hatch chiles.  A dough  made of corn flour, corn meal, olive oil, kosher salt and some of the rub mix was prepared.

The dough should be spreadable, I hope the photo shows the texture I look for in a tamale dough.  The dough must taste good, this is key to a good tamale.  I rinsed then soaked the corn husks to get them softened for rolling.  I then spread a large spoonful of the dough and spread it in the corn husk.  Now, since the idea was to make Red Hots, I made sure it was small enough that a single husk would cover the tamale for cooking. These were put in a steamer for 2 hours until the dough was set. Here they are with some chips for scale, and snacking as well.

I was happy with the thickness of the tamale dough and the flavor of the chicken.  I think it could have used a little more heat.  It was paired with Full Sail Wassail winter ale.  I have to say once the hand and wrist heal, I will try these again shooting for a smaller appetizer size.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Empanada FAIL!

Well, the story starts with myself and a couple of buddies headed out to get some Mexican food, there is a strip of road in Concord, California with quite a few Mexican restaurants lining it. Oddly, Mexican and Korean stores and restaurants.  Anyway, we want something a little different and there is this mariscos place. Well, we do not speak a lick of Spanish, but, how hard can this be.  Well, first off, it is a night club and we are there at 2pm, no matter, the owner will take the business.  The waitress does not speak English, at all. Oh well, we order anyway, since we can read Spanish menu Spanish.  I get these empanadas that are the best, and they have a cornmeal crust instead of pie dough.  So good.

Flash forward 3 months, I am going to make them.  Do I have a recipe? No.  Should I have a recipe? Yes. No matter, I can do this. I make a dough consisting of corn flour, corn meal. AP flour, baking soda and a couple tablespoons of my BBQ rub.  I also made some chorizo and prepared some chicken for the grill, gotta do at least some of this on the grill. Here is the part of dinner that worked.

Once these were cooked, I brought them in, shredded the chicken and crumbled the chorizo fatty. Perfect so far. The dough has rested in the fridge, it feels good, I think we are a go.  I sauteed the meat with onions and some Hatch green chile salsa, let it cool and am ready to go.  I get the dough patted out and fill the first one. Immediately it is apparent that the dough is too wet and will not hold it's shape. It is 5:30 and I want to eat, what to do, the oil is hot, the meat is ready, I have an idea, I will fry them up as corn cakes, and serve the bell pepper and meat over it.

This was a good save, I know they have a name in Mexico, but, for me, it was a meal saver. Sometimes the best (or poorly) laid plans require a cook to improvise.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Beef Short Ribs

Tonight was beef short ribs, I wanted to try using a combination of grilling and braising to create a pot roast dinner with the added complexity of smoke and rub in the mix.  An inspiration for this idea was the post by Larry of the BBQ Grail ( ).  I rubbed the short ribs with a rub designed for use on beef, normally I would use this rub on chuck roast and dino bones.

For this cook, I wassmoking over oak and cherry, at 275F.  After 1 hour on the kettle this is what the ribs looked like.

After another hour, I pulled the short ribs and put them in my brasier along with onion, shiitake mushrooms, several heads of garlic and green onion.  I also added 1/4 cup Amontillado sherry and 1/8 cup each of water and apple cider vinegar.

After a couple hours of being in the oven at 300F, I removed the meat and added red potato chunks and baby carrots, pumped the heat to 425F and roasted the potatoes and carrots for color, added the meat and braising fluid back into the pan to heat for serving.

A scatter of green onions and some rice rounded out the plate.  There is nothing like short ribs for a lovely texture, great intense flavor and all that collagen.  The smoke and rub added excellent complexity to the short ribs.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Kim Chi

Today I made dinner consisting of a Korean staple that has been created by a Japanese cook working in an Izakaya (essentially a Japanese gastro-pub) in New York. The essence of this dish is the play between the spicy kim chi and the sweetness of pork.  There had to be pork, I assume you knew that. I don't really know the name of the dish.  Here are the basic ingredients...

The apples were actually used for making braised apples with sherry reduction for the side dish. The bacon was fried until crisp, the fat reserved and used to fry the onions, scallions and kim chi.  It is better with pork belly, but, that was not available to me this time.  Once the veggies are sauteed the bacon is chopped and added, then a sauce consisting of 1.5 tablespoons of shoyu, 1 teaspoon of Mirin (sweet rice wine) and 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil is tossed into the veggie/bacon mix, toss with cilantro leaves and scallion tops just before removing from heat.

I found this brand of Kim Chi too mild for my taste, if I use it again, I will buy the hot version.  I tend to be cautious when buying a new brand of kim chi as I have been surprised by how hot some have been. Dinner was finished with a home baked scone and some apple butter I received from a BBQ Brethren in a sauce and rub trade. McCutcheon's Apple Butter, good stuff.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Back on the Grill

Well, after an extended lay-off (stupid cold, stupid hand) I got back on the grill today.  It was test day today, I recently took part in a sauce and rub trade with a friend from the BBQ Brethren. Marc, from the competitive BBQ team 'Life of Brine' sent me very generous samples of his competition rubs along with a local sauce.  This is a  great way to try other rubs and sauces than might be normally available. I decided to try his chicken rub. Here is a shot of the chicken ready to go.


After cooking for 40 minutes at 400F, indirect heat, the meat was sauced with a 50/30/20 mix of sauce/rice vinegar/bourbon to create a glaze.  I used a sauce from a new Humboldt County BBQ joint, which I am liking of  late. Here are the thighs fresh off the kettle.


You might also not that a couple of the thighs were cooked in tins. This is a technique that creates a very uniform shape and sized piece of chicken.  I have been seeing this type of preparation more recently and decided to give it a try. Here are the chicken muffins I got from my first try.

If you look at the top of the photos, you can see the tins, and, one of the reasons I believe that this method is catching on. Beyond the obvious fact that the chickens come out very uniform in size, they are also cooked in their own fat and juices. This technique feels very much like preparing a confit. There did not seem to be an appreciable difference in appearance of the flesh.  And quite frankly, they were both excellent.

The one thing I would do differently, is I would have used less rub.  Competitive BBQ is all about one bite impact which Marc's rub definitely has, it was a little too intense with the amount I put on (stupid Bob).

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Char siu-the finale

Here are the final shots of the completed char siu.  I ended up adding some cherry preserves to the honey, 1/8 cup honey to 1/8 cup cherry preserves.  This is used as a baste to the char siu during the last 20 minutes of the cook.

I also include this photo of the very high tech BBQ starter that we used to move things along.

There cherry preserves add a very nice fruity flavor while enhancing the red and shine typical of this recipe. The meat was tender and had a range of sweet, salty and savory flavors. Here it is marinading, we ended up vacuum packing this for 36 hours, which I think gives it better flavor. This is a dish that if you can go more than one day, it gets better.

Off the kettle and waiting for the knife.

The finished product.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Char siu

Chinese BBQ Pork, a post form the road.  Tonight I will be making a heirloom recipe, Chinese BBQ pork a la Grandpa Kwock.  My sister-in-laws grandfather ran a Chinese deli and butcher shop in the Los Angeles area for several decades and developed this recipe from his family's own recipes.  It makes some allowances for the ingredients that were more prevalent in 1940's Los Angeles. Here is the recipe as written in his daughters hand.

2 tablespoons Hoisin Sauce
2tablesoons Soy Sauce (dark or regular, not light and never lite)
1.5 tablespoons Rice Wine (sha sing wine)
2.5 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon catsup
1.5 tablespoons minced garlic
1/4 cup honey

Mix first seven ingredients and place in a sealable pan or zip sealing bag.

Bone a pork butt, you can use up to 2 lbs of meat for this amount of marinade. Cut boned butt into 3" thick strips. Try to remove large hunks of fat.

Marinade pork strips for a minimum of 4 hours.  Quite frankly, to me, a minimum of 12 hours is necessary to get the right flavor and texture.

This recipe can be roasted in an oven for 45 minutes to an hour at 375F or roasted over a live fire (which is what I prefer) for the same.  The honey is used to baste the meat for the last 20 minutes, first one side for 15 minutes, then turn and baste top of meat for 5 minutes.

The final product should have burnt edges and a nice shiny red surface on the non-edge surfaces.

Pics and variations next post.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Left-hand cooking

I remain left-handed only, this would be okay if I was left-handed. Sadly, I am not. Still, I managed to open a bottle of aged chocolate milk stout and I did make some fry bread. It was tasty.  The stout was brewed last year and I have been holding onto a few bottle through the summer to see how it aged for a year or so.  It aged beautifully, the chocolate and hops flavors have blended into a wonderful hint of chocolate on the front with the hops providing just a little zing to highlight the finish, it has a long finish with a nice malty mid-palate.  As a milk stout, there is the characteristic sense of sweetness throughout the drinking experience. This would be a crowd pleasing brew.

The fry bread was a tasty snack, with my home made seasoned salt on top to add a little salty/peppery flavor along with a nice fluffy yet chewy texture. I used a simple soft dough with commercial yeast, all-purpose flour, kneaded to make sure it had a good chewy texture. Fried in a mix of canola and light olive oil.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Well, I somehow managed to injure myself again, this time it is the right hand.  This makes things like cooking rather difficult. But, I can pop a bottle open.  So, here is a brew post.  About 7 months ago I made some hard cider, using my house ale yeast blend.  This was a mistake. I was told by experienced cider makers that this would be a mistake.  I made it with organic unfiltered apple juice. I was told by experienced cider makers that this would be a mistake. This was also a mistake. Still, I made hard cider and it is finally mellowed enough to say it is quite good.  However, it looks like this...

Not exactly the light clear elixir I had planned. The aroma is definitely of apples with a slight hint of ale. The flavor is dry, with undertones of apple, the overall flavor is that of a fruity wine, with a mild ale-ish finish. The house yeast blend is a blend of California and English ale strains that has been harvested from several previous stout, porter and red ale ferments, it has a strong ale yeast profile.

You also probably wonder about the ice, well, this cider is over-carbonated, I mean, to the very limit of being bottle bombs, the ice calms it down.  Next time, I will, perhaps, take some advice.

Friday, November 13, 2009


Well, yesterdays brisket was mighty tasty, but, I felt it was a little dry.  I felt a little moisture needed to be added back in, and chili would be the perfect way to do that. As an aside, most anytime I cook something like a brisket, I feed off of it for several days, has to do with being single. Anyways, no beans, I did add tomatoes, which I know is strictly speaking, not chili. Okay, it is a chili-like substance.

Yes, it does appear that I have served the chili in a dog bowl, like I said, single.  And you might ask, how do you know how much chili to add.  Well, today I used a simple method, I added some chile powder/seasoning mix etc...leaned over the pot, added more, leaned some more, and then, Wowzers!  Reeled away from stove, eyes and nose burning, yep, that is enough chile powder right there. hack wheeze snort snort whimper...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Brisket Tonight

Well, finally got some time to get back on the smoker, and decided to give brisket a run.  I found a small brisket flat which I rubbed up with a two later rub of Simply Marvelous Sweet and Spicy then a second layer consisting of medium ground black pepper, kosher salt and orange rind. It looked like this.

I put it on the kettle over a mixed fire of hardwood lump, hickory chunks and oak chunks.  The wood comprised about half the total fuel load.  It was allowed to light nearly completely and then dumped onto unlit lump. The brisket was put on once the thin blue smoke started up, temperature was running 250F. After one hour, I ramped up the heat to 280F to make a hot-n-fast brisket cook. Here is what came off 4 hours after that.

Served up on a Cakebox bun with some red onions and pickles.  And a Belgian Triple Abbey.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

not Queing yet

The return of the dilettante blogger...and I am still not firing up the kettle.  But I did use some of my 'Que stuff to make dinner and it was good.  I decided a burger was in order, and tater tots!  There had to be tater tots.  However, before just whacking the Yukon Gold tater tots into the oven, I coated them with canola oil and a dose of Simply Marvelous Sweet and Spicy rub.  This was a great decision.

The burger was Niman Ranch, lean grind, coated with Plowboy's Bovine Bold rub and fried up on my griddle. I use an old Magnalite Professional griddle as a pseudo-flat top on my stove.  Amongst it's many duties is actually use as a griddle (one of it's main services is as a low heat burner for sauce work and keeping beans warm).

Here is the food.  The fixings ready for assembly...

Moments before assembly...and let me add here, that Bovine Bold added a lovely crust and an excellent flavor and after a brief rest, the juicy burger was ready for this...

And yes, no lettuce, I went with raw cucumbers, persian-type cucumbers in fact. And look at those tater tots.

Oh, it was accompanied by a nice glass (yes a wine stem) of root beer ale.  I mourn the fact that this is the second to last bottle of this summer's brew.

Friday, November 6, 2009

One of the things about being a BBQ afficionado (addict) is that every trip away from home is a search for new BBQ rubs and sauces.  This past week, I was visiting family in Northern California and took the opportunity to locate some new flavors, as well as an old favorite.  I have been hearing about the new BBQ place in a town that is a little too far off the beaten path, even if I am on vacation, but, I found that they have started marketing their sauce locally in grocery stores, hence, two bottle of Shamus T. Bones BBQ sauce found it's way into my possession.  I also found some jars of Larrupin Cafe Red Sauce which is an excellent version of a BBQ red sauce and is easily converted into a glaze. Here is an image of some examples of the haul.

Along with these two sauces, I found some lime powder and more chile powder to add to my excessively well stocked cabinet of pepper powders. I am not sure how these products will figure into my cooking just yet.  But, vacation is over soon and I will be back at the kettle.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Kettle Bread

Yes, bread on a Weber, in hopes of creating a wood-fired oven feel.  I made a basic bread dough, using an overnight biga to get a good start on the dough.  I added flour and salt this morning and proceeded to make a fairly relaxed and soft dough.  It went through one punch down and two rises, then formed into sandwich rolls.

I am including this shot, cause I think it is cool

The loaves after bench proofing and ready for the kettle.

And here they are on the kettle, I really need a smaller stone, as my baking stone did not fit into the kettle. I think the bread would have been better with the stone.

And done, here they are, all cooked and cooling, ready for the sandwich.

These came out with a fine crumb, a resilient texture and a crisp crust, they made an excellent sandwich roll. I think they would make an excellent bruschetta or even garlic bread.  But that is for another day.