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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Beef Spareribs

Soooo, I love pork ribs, porky porky goodness!  But, it turns out that not everyone I knows is about pork.  When recently talking about food, specifically BBQ, the mention of ribs brought up a comment about a real treat would be beef ribs. Yes, it turns out that Tim, the owner of my local java hut, Zocalo Coffeehouse, does not like pork ribs.  Well, I have been tossing a few scraps of pork ribs, brisket and BBQ stew at his barrista type folks for a while and I decided I should toss a little 'Que to Tim as well.

Here they are, Niman Ranch Beef Spares, not only do these look great, but, they are cheap. Yes, despite being cut from the rib roast, being the best part of a prime rib, these suckers set me back less than $3 a pound. Look at that marbling!
These were given a slightly different treatment than I normally do for BBQ in that I used a wet treatment to start the process. Not a slather, but, a rub down with Worcestershire sauce, rubbed in and allowed to get a little sticky.  I then added some pork style rub, followed up with an hour tightly wrapped in plastic.  The kettle was fired up and set to run at 250F or so, there was good old Kingsford Blue Bag and some apple and hickory tossed in for yucks. Here they are ready for the second layer of rub, a medium grain sized rub that consists of black pepper, kosher salt, orange rind and granulated garlic.

I let them run for 4 hours, or so, at the aforementioned 250F with really very little other than the occasional peak at the thermometer. I need to get batteries for that remote thermometer, I really do. The kettle just continues to amaze me with it's ability to function as a small capacity smoker, grabbing onto that 250F to 300F range with little effort.  Finished product you ask?
I did hit them with a little of my home made sauce/glaze and the ribs were served with that glaze and some sauce on the side.  This was a maple/Worcestershire sauce/cider vinegar base with some sugars added in.  I prefer a thin slightly acidic sauce with beef ribs, as it cuts the fat a bit. They seemed to be a hit.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mea Culpa thread

Well, first off,  no pictures. Bummer.  But this thread is about some revelations I have recently had in regards to BBQ in the Bay Area.  I have eaten some very bad BBQ over the years, over-cooked to the point of falling apart, undercooked to the point where I wondered if they even knew how to cook, boiled and steamed...and always over-sauced.

Over the past year, I have come across three BBQ joints that are serving what I consider to be good BBQ.  Meats that are properly cooked by people that care and are confident enough in their products to serve them with the sauce on the side as a condiment, not slathered over the meat like a blanket.

I don't do reviews and have never Yelped.  But, Paradise BBQ in Castro Valley is cooking up some excellent pork and links, worth the drive just for that.  Great American BBQ puts out a really good meaty brisket, cooked to tenderness with an excellent bark and nice smoky flavor, the brisket sandwich will bring me back there again and again.  And finally, Phatt Matt's BBQ in Oakland.  The biggest surprise for me was that they cook without any added salt, yep, no added salt, in any of their rubs or sauces.  I just had a terrific meal there and brought home more than I ate.

I now have three locations, three distinct styles, that I know I can hit up when that BBQ jones rises too late for me to fire up the kettle.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Hangtown Part 2

Well, I am no longer sickened by the thought of BBQ or the smell of smoke, a curious side effect of spending two days in a haze of meat and smoke, tasting BBQ until it is just right, whence you stop eating it.  This was my first time at a BBQ competition as anything other than one of the public wandering through watching strangers cooking meat.  I got to reconnect with some friends and meet new folks, a great community of people with a connection in the smoke. Which is not to say that there wasn't some friendly wagering going on.

Once again, the guys from Humboldt Smoke, this time trying to select the perfect 6 ribs for judging.  It turns out, despite cooking 2 full racks, St. Loius trim, of course, getting 6 perfect specimens is a bit tricky. Here are the candidates.
There were four turn ins, chicken, pork ribs, pork and brisket.  In each case, a discussion and review of the various aspects of each meat is considered and then 6 servings are selected, placed in a box and the judges get one or two bites to judge the quality of the meat.  An interesting result of this process is that you are submitting chunks of meat with no sense of the actual chunk of meat being turned in (oh, that bite, I decided to test the turn in ribs for you first, ignore the bite marks,,,haha).  In that picture above, the one closest to the lower right corner was tested by me, it was perfect.  One bite, full of flavor and just enough pull to leave a feather of meat on the bone.  I thought it was nailed.  They ended up getting 5th as the judged pieced were slightly under-done, bummer.  The 4 or 5 I ate while they were not paying attention were excellent.  Here are the guys, making that all important choice for judging.
 I hope you can see the care going on here, each piece hand selected. trimmed and sprayed with shiny stuff.  No fingerprints on these ribs, no way.  Al (holding the sprayer) was the brisket man, he ran the brisket cook and turned in the #4 place brisket in his first competition ever, Matt was the presentation man, and he nailed perfect 9's throughout the 2 days and here is Devin, the team founder and head drum manager.  He kept a $70 ugly drum smoker rocking a 225F temperature for 24 hours straight, managing to put out a steady stream of excellent BBQ the whole time.
Dontcha' love that sign, if you knew where Crannell, CA (pop. 8) is, you would understand how perfect that sign is. Oh, 22nd in chicken, 5th in pork ribs and brisket, 11th in pork butt and 5th overall in their maiden competition.  Between them and their Humboldt compatriots Finger Pickin Good BBQ, these guys were the talk of the competition, all of the folks enjoyed their presence and admired their efforts.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Hangtown Winterfest

I went to the Hangtown Winterfest over the 4 day weekend of February 12 through February 14th, presented by the California Barbecue Association (CBBQA) and had the opportunity to reconnect with some friends and meet some new people as well.  One of my purposes of being there was to meet up with Devin Theobald and his new BBQ team Humboldt Smoke BBQ.  These three guys are competing from the far northern corner of the state and travelled a fair distance to participate in their first competition. Here is a shot of the crew and their UDS.

Here is the team at the start of  the competition, getting their UDS primed up and loading in the meat.  During the early part of the competition, I also had time to meet up with John Chips of The Drunk Uncles (also his first comp.) and his son Tom, who was there to judge the BBQ.  John had his CBBQA famous 'Sticky Pickles' and 'Cherry Bombs' and a aperitif called Apple Pie Spice schnapps. I had to leave John's site before I had too much of that apple pie spice schnapps.

First up was chicken, one of the tough categories for many competitors.  Here is a shot of the preparation of the turn in box and the actual box, which got even more touch up after the photo shoot.

I thought this box ended up looking good and it did garner a few 8's in appearance, a very good first effort. The taste was there as well.  Sadly the skin was a little chewy on one side and it came down to what side was bitten that gave the judge a sense of the texture of the chicken.  This was good for 22nd, the one category that the rookies finished out of the top 20 in a field of 39 teams.  More to follow...

Monday, February 8, 2010

Chicken kara age

 Kara age, Japanese style fried chicken, in this case wings, make a great bar food or appetizer.  The slightly sweet and savory flavor combined with the crunchy exterior lends itself to the flavor of a good sake or ale.  My favorite with this kind of snack is a pale ale with a nice crisp texture and mild flavor.  It just makes for a good football snack or something to munch on while waiting for the smoker to do it's job.

I make mine by using my standard teriyaki marinade, 'amping' it up with a bit more garlic and ginger and letting the wings marinade for a couple of hours at least.  Then dredge in a mix of corn starch and fine flour, which gives it an exceptional crunch and pan-frying until done. No sauce necessary, these were packed with flavor.