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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).