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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Odd Pork Chops

So, the plan was to do a quick smoke on some pork chops.  I had selected the nice thin cut loin chops when the butcher says 'hey, instead of those, you can get the value pack for $1.99 a pound'.  Well, who turns down a bargain.  I really need to look more closely.

What I ended up with were sirloin chops of questionable size and shape.  Oh well, smoking is about making odd cuts into good food. Here they are with some Simply Marvelous rub (40% Cherry/60% Sweet and Spicy).
The pork looks great here doesn't it.  I let it sit like this for 2 hours. Then rubbed again and put on the kettle at 250F for 2 hours.  Charcoal was lump, wood was pecan, smoke was light blue. It came off looking pretty good, smelling really good.  Here is the pile from the kettle.
Upon slicing I found no smoke ring, the flavor was mediocre at best.  I am not sure what happened, smelled great, but no smoke penetration and flavor is just okay.  I suspect that chile verde is in the offing.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Smoked Beef Ribs

Tonight it was beef back ribs, I am loving that I can find these ribs just about anytime I go looking. I decided to work these up with a different flavor, so I coated them with Kagome Worcestershire Sauce, a Japanese version of the venerable sauce and a little Lucky Dog Garlic Sauce.  Here the ribs are after a liberal coating of Dizzy Pig Dizzy Dust.
The smoker was fired up to 280F and the ribs were cooked for 3 hours, then a coating of Big Butz BBQ Sauce and the Kagome Worcestershire Sauce was applied and the kettle was shut down and allowed to coast down for 20 minutes.
And here is the final product, sadly the photograph was over-exposed.  It had a great texture and the taste was excellent. All components really hit the spot.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Grilled Pineapple Chicken

Recently on the BBQ Brethren, a fellow member mentioned Homade Chili Sauce as a great ingredient for complementing smoke flavors.  This sauce has been a go to ingredient for many quick recipes I have made over the years, everything from shrimp dip and grilled oysters to a really good base for chili dog chili.  In this case, I decided it would make a great base for Grilled Pineapple Chicken, a riff on Sweet and Sour Chicken.

I made a rub using Furikaki as a base ingredient.  Furikaki is a blend of sesame, nori, soy powder, bonito flakes and salt, a whack of umami in a bottle with no MSG.  I then added 5-Spice, cracked black pepper and lime powder. Here is what the blend looked like.
After giving the ingredients a quick whirl in the spice blender to incorporate them, I took the chicken and gave it a slather of garlic and canola oil. The oil is primarily to help create a slurry from the crushed garlic.  I then rubbed the spice mix onto the chicken and let it sit for an hour under a fan. The idea being to increase adhesion once the meat goes on the cooker.
I fired the kettle up to 400F and added a chunk of peach wood to the mix. Once temperatures were stabilized, the chicken was put on offset from the heat.  After 45 minutes, some slices of pineapple and red bell pepper were added to the grate.  These were allowed to char up a bit and then all was removed.

Meanwhile, I sauteed up 1/4 cup each of finely diced onion, celery and 2 tablespoons of sugar, added some water chestnut and the Homade Chili Sauce straight from the jar along with 1/2 cup of pineapple juice, 2 tablespoons of shoyu and 1/4 cup rice vinegar.  This was allowed to reduce and cook down the aromatics.  I added the pineapple and bell peppers to the sauce mix.  The chicken was sliced and draped in the sauce.
The overall taste and texture was exactly the sweet and sour taste I was looking for, not the over-the-top version common in most Chinese restaurants, but, a complex mix of flavors accented with the smoke and spice from the chicken.  If I were to improve anything, I believe I would add more shoyu (soy sauce) to the sauce, improve the overall savory quality and balance the sugar a little more.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Ribs Tonight

I found a nice rack of Beeler's pork ribs yesterday at the butcher shop.  This was perfect as I was wanting pork ribs, what a coincidence! And they were already trimmed, membrane removed and flap meat removed.  All I had to do was remove the tips and rub them up.  The ribs were rubbed with Simply Marvelous Sweet and Spicy rub and the tips were rubbed with Dizzy Pig salt-free Dizzy Dust. I wanted to try this product, new to me but highly recommended.

Here the ribs are, raw and naked, then all rubbed up.
On the kettle, which was locked into a nice 300F, yes, 300F for a higher heat cook than I normally would do with ribs.  The smoke was provided by a nice chunk of peach wood, which I can not acquire from a local BBQ pro-shop in Livermore, CA, not very far from me.  Charcoal was Wicked Good lump mixed with a little pre-used Kingsford charcoal.
These ran in the heat just like this for 3 hours, then the tips were moved into a pan with some BBQ sauce, butter and water to cook similar to how Burnt Ends are made when cooking a brisket point.  I did leave a few tips dry to taste the Dizzy Pig and I can now also highly recommend it as a good rub.  It was excellent on the rib tips. And no, I have to buy all the rubs and sauces I use, nobody is sending them to me for free. Dangit!
Almost done, there is a light bark to the ribs, the tips are tender with some nice caramelizing happening on the edges, just what I was hoping for. This shot was made just before I shut down the cooker, the 'pig honey' has rendered out, the rack was not quit done and I decided to try a shut down technique I learned from a fellow Brethren Donnie T down in Texas. I let the kettle cool down from 300F to about 150F and checked for the bend, the bend test proved the ribs were done.
Now, I can't say whether it was the seasonings, the new technique or just a great piece of meat, but, these ribs killed on the plate.  The rib tips were sweet and sticky, the Dizzy Pig worked great with the sauce. The ribs, served dry, as ribs should be served, were tender, juicy and cooked just enough to pull clean from the bone.  I am one happy 'Quer tonight.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Grilled Shrimp Po' Boy

As much as I love a Po' Boy with some deep fried shrimp or clams, there is no getting around the fact that eating breaded deep fried food is probably not an everyday diet strategy.  Thus, I turn to my trusty kettle and cooked up a grilled shrimp Po' Boy.  The shrimp were wild caught 'Gulf' shrimp, why not go for the real thing as long as I can get them.  From there, they got shelled, veined and dusted with a healthy coating of Todd's Cajun Dirt, yes, I could have made up some fancy rub cocktail, but, I had Todd's ready to go. Here they are skewered and ready for action.
The veggies were prepped, a basic preparation of shredded organic green leaf lettuce and sliced tomatoes.  I also decided to melt some onions on the grill in a little butter, this along with the dressing would add some additional flavor.  The onions and butter were brushed onto the bread and then toasted while the shrimp cooked.
To me, a Po' Boy with some fresh veggies for crunch is just an excellent combination.  I decided on a quick 'faux' remoulade consisting of 1-1/2" tablespoons, 1 teaspoon dill relish, 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce and 1 teaspoon mild vinegar.  Whisked until smooth and pourable.  Here is the finished product.
This sandwich lacks for nothing in terms of crunch, texture and depth of flavor, it just lacks the deep fried breading.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Cajun Food Out

One of the most unique cultures in the United States occurs in the Cajun homes of the Louisiana Coast and surrounding areas. The cuisine that originates in the meld of French, Spanish, Indigenous and American traditions results in an incredibly flavorful style of cooking.  One of the really interesting aspects beyond the complexity of melding these cultures in the nature of simplicity in life and direct rural style of the food that has come to be known as Cajun food.  It is a style of food and eating that I truly enjoy.

For a variety of reasons, I had cause to eat out far more than I normally care to, in one case it was due to a meeting in Berkeley running rather longer than I had expected.  No time to do that perfect roasted chicken. Darn, I knew it was going to be perfect too.  Instead, I finally followed the recommendation of my friend Brian, manager at the Zocalo Coffeehouse in San Leandro, He has en excellent palate, and he recommends Angeline's Cajun Kitchen to everyone.

I had a Shrimp Po' Boy, a grilled boudin and some mac-n-cheese (more on that soon to follow).  I loved the Po' Boy, the only miss was that they did not ask if I wanted it 'dressed' or not.  This is, I think, a flaw in service.  A Po' Boy dressed means with the remoulade, lettuce and tomato, undressed means just the fried meat selected.  As it happens, I prefer dressed, so I enjoyed my sandwich anyway.  The shrimp was fresh tasting, the seasoning bold enough to stand out and the coating perfectly fried and crunchy.  The grilled boudin was a true boudin, tender with rice, meaty with pork and very flavorful.  Rather than steamed, the grilling gave the sausage a crisp bite through skin.  This also passed the test.

Now, to that mac-n-cheese, the real problem was that I did not order it, I ordered hush puppies.  When I got home I discovered the error to late to correct it.  I love macaroni and cheese, and this was a very good version, quite similar to my own efforts.  But, I ordered hush puppies as I consider them a good way to measure the quality and skill of a Cajun cook.

Still, I will go here often.  And I will make sure my nuggets of fried corn mush are in there.