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Friday, September 25, 2009

Smoked Tuna

I have a guest blogger, Woo Hoo! Actually, it is my sister Linda who has a family that eats a lot more fish than I do.  She noted that there is a lot of pork on my blog.  Could this be why I have a weight problem? Hmmm...

Anyway, there are no photos, but, there is a recipe.


Barbecued Albacore
3 to 5 lbs. Albacore loins – cut into pieces no thicker than 2” and 3”w x 6” to 8” l
Bacon – preferably without the nitrate/nitrite (less salty)

1 Valencia Orange
1 Lime
Japanese shoyu
3 Garlic cloves
1 large knuckle Ginger
Sesame Oil
Kosher salt
Black Pepper           
3 Green Onion

above ingredients reserved from the rub
Sesame Oil
Juice squeezed from the lime and orange

This is a ‘to taste’* recipe.  Albacore can be extremely mild with just a hint of fish, or it can be stronger.  Also, the belly flap, collar area, and dark meat (obvious upon inspection) can be quite fishy.  Adjust your ingredients to accommodate the strength of the fish.  The stronger tasting meat tends to have more blood and fat.  This fat prevents the flesh from absorbing the rub and marinade as readily.  Add more aromatics, herbs, and spices to your marinade and make the rub stronger.  You can also let the rub and marinade sit on the flesh for a longer period.

Use a microplane and shave off the rind of half the orange and half the lime.  Crush the garlic with the blade of the knife, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and scrape the knife over the garlic to make a paste.  Slice and chop the ginger, then scrape with the knife to make paste.  Cut off the green tops of the green onion and discard.  Finely slice the white parts of the green onion.  Chop and scrape into paste.  Again, use a pinch of salt on both the ginger and green onion to facilitate making paste.  Note that the lime and orange rind should not overpower the other aromatics, but add a fruit/floral undertone to what amounts to teriyaki flavoring.  Place these ingredients in a mortar.  Add the sesame oil, honey, sake, shoyu, black pepper, and salt.  Grind with the pestle until the paste appears homogeneous.  Note that this will not be smooth like toothpaste, but will have a slightly gritty feel.  The black pepper, ginger, and rinds will not grind completely into paste.  Set aside some of this rub.  Use the rest to rub onto all sides of the albacore.  This is firm fish and not easily bruised, so rub the paste thoroughly onto the fish.  Place the fish into a steel or glass baking dish with 1” or higher sides.  The pan should accommodate the fish with an eighth inch to spare around each piece of fish.  Set this aside while making the marinade.  Also, separate the bacon and rub/toss/mush together with the rub.  Place it between the fish.  The fish should sit with the rub for 20 to 30 minutes at a cool room temperature.

Place the reserved rub ingredients in a non-plastic bowl.  Squeeze the juices from the lime half and the orange half into the bowl.  Add mirin, shoyu, and more sesame oil.  Whisk this together and taste.  This marinade should have a slightly sweet and salty flavor.  Again, the rinds should send a citrus floral note to the back of the palate after the initial teriyaki sesame flavor.  Add honey bit by bit until you can just taste the sweetness.  Too much sugar can burn and create an off taste.  Pour the marinade gently over and between the fish pieces and let sit for 20 to 30 minutes reserving some marinade for later.  Touch the fish, and if it is still cold you can leave it out, otherwise, refrigerate during the marinating process.  Start the barbecue.  I used a Weber kettle and a large chimney of Lazzari charcoal.

Albacore is a dense fish, so you can’t really use a hot and fast grill, unless you want seared/charred on the outside and raw on the inside.  This recipe is for cooked/cooked albacore, so I used indirect grilling.  Place the lit charcoal on the bottom grate and arrange    .

Wrap each piece of fish with the bacon.  Be generous, because the bacon keeps the fish from burning on the bottom and keeps it moist.  I wrap the bacon barber pole style, and anchor both ends with a toothpick.  Some longer pieces require two strips.  Place the bacon wrapped fish on either 1 layer of heavy duty foil or a double layer of regular foil, again to protect the bottom of the fish.  Begin cooking the fish, turning to insure the thicker pieces and every surface of the bacon is cooking.  Periodically brush the reserve marinade over the fish.  Once the sides and ends look cooked and the fish has started to firm up (half way to two thirds through the cooking process) take them off the foil, brush again with marinade and place directly on the grate.  Again,  check frequently and turn the fish.  The fish will begin to glaze from the honey and sugar in the marinade and the bacon will get a bit crusty.  The fish is done once it has a teriyaki color, slightly shiny glaze, and some char on the high points and edges.  Cut it open to make sure its cooked through. 

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Saucey thoughts

So, an old friend looked me up and asked what I thought about BBQ sauces and how he might replicate the ones he remembers from when he lived out west.  It got me thinking, I don't use much sauce anymore for cooking and provide it as a condiment when serving.  Sure, I will glaze the occasional rib or chicken (see photo below), it gives it such a nice sheen.  In part, this comes from my preference for tasting the meat (beef, pork, chicken or fish) over tasting a sauce.  Most BBQ sauces are rather simple in taste and overly thickened to provide a compliment to the primary component of the dish.

 When I do use BBQ sauce in a cook, it is often thinned to a consistency of a glaze or reduction type sauce.  Most often I will 'doctor' a commercially available sauce to serve my purposes.  Lately I have been enamored of Blues Hog BBQ sauce and Sweet Baby Ray's.  I will think the BH with bourbon or sherry, the Sweet baby Ray's gets a vinegar boost (more on this down the page).  I find thinning the commercial sauce makes them glaze better, have a lighter more complementary flavor and allows me to taste the meat better. Here is an example of Blues Hog that was mixed with pan jus from the chicken as it cooked, I simply took the warm jus and added enough Blues Hog to replicate a reduction sauce...

I gotta stop getting artsy with the food shots, that looks horrible.  Anyway, back to the idea of home made sauce.  I have been working on this for some time now.  Currently, I am big on assembling sauces to try and create some 'texture' in the flavor of the sauce.  I start with vinegar (apple cider, Japanese rice or champagne) and make a reduction of the vinegar with whatever spices I feel will fit the profile of what I am going to use it on.  I start with 3 or 4 cups of vinegar and reduce by at least half with the spices in it.  After filtering, this gives me a slightly thickened vinegar with pronounced spice and sweet layers of flavor. I then will heat to flowing some honey, molasses, alcohol and ketchup.  These are blended to make the sauce, bearing in mind, I prefer a thinner sauce.  Lately filtered fruit puree has been making it's way into the blend as well.

I don't usually cook from recipes, but, if I start with 2 cups of reduced vinegar, I will use somewhere around the same amount of the syrup portion of this recipe and work up or down the sweetness scale to get where I want.  More sweet for chicken and beef, more sour for pork.  If I want heat, I prefer to use chile powder in the vinegar and not use products like Tabasco as they have a flavor impact all their own.  I only use as much salt as necessary to lift the taste of the sauce.  Honestly, when I can produce ribs like these, I just prefer no sauce...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Carnitas over fire

I decided after the taco episode, that since I was fired up for Mexican-type food, it would be good to try making carnitas in the kettle.  The rules for this cook were simple, prepare a pork butt, over fire, in the kettle and end up with carnitas.  The trick was going to be a way to get some smoke flavor while maintaining the crisp surface which makes carnitas so good.  I decided that I needed to make sure the meat would render and cook in it's own fat, this meant using a pan in the kettle.  That looks like this.

As you can see, indirect fire from both sides of the skillet, I placed onions, garlic, crushed lime and some chili heavy rub into the pan.  The butt was given a similar rub which was rubbed very lightly onto the meat.  Heat was brought up to 325F to make sure the pan remained hot enough to render the fat. You can see some of the rendered fat in the shot below.

Once the shoulder was done to the probe, I removed it and foiled it to rest.  After removing some of the fat and cooked down veggies, I added some coarsely slice onions and Yukon Gold potatoes which were coated with a liberal dose of chili powder and BBQ rub.  I also added 5 peeled cloves of garlic.  This was allowed to pan fry over the charcoal baskets as well.  Once these were also done to the probe test I smashed the garlic cloves and blended it all together.  I then added back the meat and heated it all for serving.

I added a lettuce and cabbage slaw seasoned with Japanese rice vinegar, Thai chili sauce, red peppers and chopped tomatoes. This is my continuing effort to come up with a slaw recipe that I can enjoy with heavier foods.  This one worked quite well and will join the rotation. Once again, I was joined by the Arrogant Bastard. He just keeps showing up.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Well, I had some left over meat from the faux-itas adventure and needed to get rid of it.  I occurred to me that I could make some pretty good tacos from the leftover meat.  I had some fresh tomatoes, some left over jalapeno salsa, and some left over cabbage.  Seemed like a good idea.  When I worked in landscape construction I developed a real taste for the tacos that we would get off the taco trucks, rolling taquerias that produced some of the best tacos you can imagine.

Here is the start of the process, turned on the griddle and put some tortillas on them, these are a Sonoran style corn tortilla, heat em up, both sides, add some cheese and the warmed meat.

These were topped with the leftover salsa freshened up with fresh chopped tomatoes and green onions.  Then I put on some cabbage slaw based upon a Japanese tsukemono recipe that has been handed down to me, finally some guacamole and a squeeze of lime juice over the top.

 This was a great meal, it didn't have any semblance of being a leftover meal, the meat and it's spicing melded nicely with the added flavors.  I did add one more element, a Stone Brewing Arrogant Bastard Ale, this is one of my favorite brews, a classic California style ale, red, malty and hoppy, big and flavorful.  The malt's sweetness allows this beer to stand up to the flavors of the tacos beautifully.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


I need to use shopping lists.  An observation that has been on my non-existent to-do list for ages, my mom used to say that to me when I would call home and ask why I was at the store.  Oh well, old dog now, I made faux-itas today.  I did remember to buy some skirt steak and a red bell pepper.  I did not remember the limes, orange, tequila and tortillas.  No matter, I can work around this.

The veggies were cooked in a hobo pack, sweet onions, red bell peppers and fire roasted Anaheim type green peppers, some seasoned salt, a little oil and a pat of unsalted butter.  Folded up and tossed onto the fire as the coals heated up.  Maybe a total of 30 minutes.

 I marinated the skirt steaks in a  mixture of Amontillado sherry, rice wine vinegar, seasoned salt, Chile powder and fresh cilantro.  After a two hour bath, they were left under a fan for 15 minutes then placed onto the hot Kettle grate.

Off the stove after just about 3 minutes a side over a hot grill, the veggies in the hobo pack along for the ride.  The meat needed to be rare/medium rare, which is to say, red in the middle, just warm to touch.  The skirt steak is such a thin cut, it cooks extremely fast over a very hot coal bed.  Gloves were necessary for this cook.

 Yes, served with Japanese rice, and a little jalapeno salsa.  This was some good dinner for me.  A nice hoppy red ale, like my favorite Arrogant Bastard from Stone Brewing and this is a meal made in Cali!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Heeeerrreee chicky chicky

Since someone has asked, yes, there is a chicken post now.  I received some advice from a fellow BBQ Brethren on how he cooks his chicken and decided to give it a try.  This is more of a high temperature cook, with the chickens sitting in the kettle at 400F, more or less. Here is a photo of the chicken ready for the heat.

The chicken was given a basic rub combo of equal parts poultry seasoning, Mother rub, dry mustard and seasoned salt. I then started the charcoal, one chimney of Kingsford lump and several small chunks of cherry. Once the coals were dumped and the kettle warmed up (more on this later) the chicken was put on, and allowed to sit there for 50 minutes. It was glazed with Blues Hog Sauce thinned with Mirin (sweet sake) and Amontillado sherry (think semi-dry sherry here) for ten minutes.  Here they are resting and ready for the plate.

Now, back to that charcoal, I am liking this stuff, but, it burns hot and fast (and I don't mean brisket hot and fast). I dumped the chimney and went inside to prep the chicken. Went back out and thought the thermo was broke, said it was 0. Tapped it and nothing, opened up the kettle and it was ripping! Well over the thermo's 500 degree max . Closed up the bottom vents a bit, dropped it to 400F and it went like that for the entire cook.  Done and ready for action, look at that crispy, spicy skin.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Today, it was a erroneous chuck roast.  I thought I bought a tri-tip for Labor Day, but, no!  When I finally got around to looking at it, it had turned into a chuck roast.  Well, no fast grilling over oak for this little fella.  Today, I fired up the kettle with some Kingsford Lump and a fist sized hunk of cherry wood.  Indirect heat, somewhere around 270F, with my usual cans of water for thermal mass.

The chuck was rubbed with a blend of my usual mother rub, some kosher salt and curry powder.  I decided it would be interesting to put a 50/50 blend of rub and Madras curry powder onto the chuck.  Here is an action shot of the chuck roast...

The cook went for 5 hours at 270F, then got foiled and placed in a cooler for another hour. I added 1/2 cup of Eel River Brewing Double Dead Red, a nice, malty, double red ale to the foil before sealing. And yes, the rest went into the cook, it was a long wait.  Upon pulling it from the foil, the probe slid in like it was going into softened butter.  Very tender.  Sliced up, tried a few slices and this was some good stuff with some mustard on a roll.  You gotta love BBQ'ed chuck roast.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Of Spice and Men

Spices are at the heart of great BBQ.  The rubs, mops and sauces that we all know as familiar parts of BBQ find their base in the use of spices and flavorings to complement the meat and smoke flavors that define the experience we all seek when we fire up out smokers and grills.  The old sterotypes that men cook on the grill because they cannot cook in the kitchen is belied by the number of genuinely flavorful and complex concoctions that are available to outdoor cooks.  I certainly fall into the category of a person that has to buy and try any new rub I can get my hands on.  But, sometimes I want to get out the spices and herbs and do it myself.

Below is a brisket showing a simple rub of kosher salt, medium coarse pepper, dried lemon peel and some Mother rub.

When using my own rub, I use a basic rub blend (the Mother Rub) as shown below, that has no sugar or salt added. Then I add additions that I think will complement the meat and method of cooking that I plan to use.  My use of the term 'mother' hearkens to the concept of mother sauces from traditional French cuisine, a sauce that is rarely use alone, instead it is a base from which to begin.

Bob’s Basic Mother Rub Mix
1/4 cup ground black pepper
1/4 cup Gebhardts chili powder
1 tablespoon lemon, lime or orange zest (dried)
1 teaspoon powdered garlic
1 teaspoon powdered toasted onion

From here various ingredients can be added, such as kosher salt, additional pepper or chile powders based upon the meat to be cooked.  Some other favorite additions are dry mustard, poultry seasoning, maple sugar or turbinado sugar, cinnamon and dried herbs.  One the the great things that develop from use of dry rubs and a little low and slow is a tasty bark, as seen in the brisket show below.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Back to the 'Que

Decided to try cooking some beef ribs, I love these things when they are attached to a rib roast, but, have never actually BBQ'ed them well.  In the past, I have found them to be fatty and oddly tough, which never happened when I did a prime rib roast.  I kept reading about how great beef ribs are, decided I needed to give them another shot and take it low and slow.

Today things went well, got a nice end product.  The ribs were rubbed with a home made rub using seasoned salt, coarse black pepper, pork rub and a little powdered chili.  The ribs turned out very tender and not at all fatty.  There was a good prime rib taste, some nice heat from the chilies and the smokiness that tells you it was done over wood smoke.  Some pics here...

This cook was performed over lump charcoal and oak chunks.  I was using Kingsford Lump Charcoal, which worked well, although I felt it burned down very fast while I was warming up the kettle.  It actually lit off the unlit charcoal that I had set up for a minion style burn.  It was a new product and I am still undecided as to whether I am going to keep it in stock.

Friday, September 4, 2009


Today, I had the opportunity to visit a couple of wineries while performing some legwork for an upcoming party that a friend is organizing.  It will take place at a winery in Napa, California.  This party will involve the opportunity to actually bottle the wine that we will then be able to take with us.

A shot of the vineyard showing a small portion of the property in the beautiful foothills just above the valley floor...

The garden and house that will serve as our HQ during the party. I have committed to preparing the food and drink to feed the crew. I hope they like water and crackers...

A few beauty shots, Italian plums and roses along the edges of the vineyard, part of the new ideals of using IPM for vineyard management..

I am also in hopes of buying at least one used barrel to be cut up into chunks that I will be able to use for smoking meats.  I have high hopes that I will be able to use this wood to make some very interesting beef and chicken dishes.  At least I will know what wine to pair with it.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Fatty Pizza

Finally got around to making a pizza on the Weber, decided to combine two new projects on this one.  First, I cooked up a fatty, essentially a 1 pound sausage chub, rolled in a BBQ rub, then smoked low and slow.  This creates a nice flavorful crust over the sausagey goodness inside.  In this cook, I used my Mother Rub for the rub, a pound of Italian sausage, formed into a log shape, cooked at 225 over lump charcoal with Jack Daniels barrel chunks for smoke.

ready for the smoke:

and cooked, see the nice bark?

This done, I decided to slice it, and add it to a pizza.  I ramped the kettle up with more lump charcoal and get it up to 450F.  In this case, I used a perforated pan to put the pizza on.  The dough was some premade pizza dough, a tad over dressed with crushed tomatoes, parmigiano reggiano and mozz.  Once the cook was underway and the cheese melted, the slices of fatty were place.  I did have some issues with getting the pizza off of the peel, so there is some deformation.  Bummer.

Pretty clearly, there is some work to do on this one.