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Monday, March 11, 2013

You basic ribs cook

Sunday found me at my friend Rob's house, firing up his 26" kettle to get some ribs on. We manage to get together like this from time to time, just to dial back the intensity and keep our hand in the smoking world. In this case, we would end up smoking 9 racks of St. Louis-style racks, and a random Wagyu Tri-tip that found it's way into our shopping basket, when we were supposed to be buying some Swiss Chard. I decided to throw down with a few things that I have not discussed with anyone before, a maple sugar rub, a smoked paprika rub and a gastrique-based BBQ sauce. Some of the basics...

Maple Sugar Rub:
60ml medium grind black pepper
40 ml kosher salt
40 ml maple sugar
20 ml harissa powder
7 ml fresh ground nutmeg
5ml powdered mustard

Combine all ingredients into a shaker. It is best to make this rub just before use. Any time storing it and the maple flavor takes over.

Smoke Paprika Rub:
80 ml medum grind black pepper
60 ml kosher salt
20 ml dry palm sugar
20 ml dried brown sugar
25 ml harissa powder
30 ml bourbon smoked sweet Spanish paprika
5ml each fresh ground nutmeg, ground allspice

Combine all ingredients into a shaker. The smoked paprika is nice, but, what is important is that it is fresh Spanish Sweet Paprika.

Bourbon Peach 'Gastrique' Sauce:
12 ounces peach nectar or juice
12 ounces cider vinegar
2 tablespoons rub (a simple run is fine, it could be salt and pepper)
2-3 ounces (weight) of smoked, barky, meat (I use brisket trimmings)
3 tablespoons of olive oil, rendered bacon lard or other oil
3 tablespoons chopped onion
8-12 ounces pan dripping from kettle
1 teaspoon Red Boat fish sauce
bourbon until it tastes right

1. Make the gastrique. Combine the vinegar, peach nectar, 1T of the rub and the barky meat in a sauce pan and simmer to reduce to 6 ounces total volume.

2. Add chopped onions, oil and pan drippings, simmer to reduce to 12 to 15 ounces.
3. Strain and return to sauce pan, add fish sauce and heat until smell of fish sauce is dissipated.
4. Add bourbon while sauce is simmering, keep adding and reducing through simmer until taste if correct.
5. Makes about 12 ounces of sauce. Note that this sauce is on the thin side, it is not meant to be a covering sauce.

The ribs were cut and trimmed to be St. Louis-style racks. The trimmings and such were also cooked and snacked on. The kettle was settled in at 285F or so. Cooking fuel was lump and natural briquettes, wood was red oak and apple.

Half of the racks

foreground-Paprika rubbed, background-Maple rubbed

Not the proper way to load a kettle

There was some crowding on the 26" kettle, it required some extra moving of ribs through the cook, handling partially cooked ribs without gloves, yay, not. Incidentally, for those who love to fuss, Rob and I took off for lunch, and left the kettle to run unattended except for one check by phone. We asked Rob's wife to give us a report after about 40 minutes. After we returned, I shuffled ribs, then our friend Michael arrived, so we took off to go shopping, so the kettle was left unattended. Upon our return, a Wagyu tri-tip had been procured. It was so nice looking, so it was added to the kettle.

Wagyu Tri-tip, marbled

Since the kettle was going I decided to just throw this baby on top of the coal stack. Yes, I just went for it. And it was fine. I did find out that Wagyu tri-tip behaves differently than my usual Choice and Angus tri-tips, it came up very slowly to 110F, then seemed to just jump to 130F in seconds. Next time, I will know. This learning curve did not cost us at the table though, as the next images will show.

Hmm, looks okay

Yep, that will work

And back to the ribs, which we cooked using our technique of benign neglect, this is what we ended up with.

Too much meat? Noooo...

I think nine racks and a tri-tip are just fine for 6 adults. These looked pretty fine sitting there. And for those that care, no foil, no wrapping, no spritzing, heck, I spend at least 3 hours of the cook more than 5 miles away from the pit.

I really like the top rack in this shot, perfect in every way

This was also a meet and great as there was a BBQ Brethren in town, Jeff Jenkins was in from Ohio, so we had him swing by for some ale and BBQ. The beer of the table was from Almanac Brewing, a seasonal fennel ale that was the right thing for the ribs and tri-tip.

The Tableau

This meal did not suck, several other Belgians died that afternoon, so we were all happy campers by the end of the meal. The beans were a riff on the beans made by Paul Height from No Excuses BBQ, cooked under the ribs. There was a great salad as well, a nothing fancy meal of BBQ and ale.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Pizza on the Kettle

I have been pondering my lack of a wood stove or dedicated pizza cooker for some time, and have been playing around with different configurations for making pizza. I have tried fires on the bottom of the kettle, offset, in the middle, and decided I would try building the fire on the back side of the cooking grill, to see if that worked. It did not work well enough, the pizza stone, in this case a cast iron version, never got hot enough to cook the crust as I would like. But the overall pizzas were still pretty good.

The Dough:
To start off with, I had planned to do this cook on Saturday, then Sunday, but, plans kept evolving, so I ended up with cooking on Monday. The Biga, basically a packet of Red Star dry yeast, 1.5 cups warm water, 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 cup of flour was started on Thrusday afternoon, and was refreshed with water and flour on Saturday and Sunday. By Monday afternoon, it looked like this.

Biga at room temperature

By Monday, the Biga was bubbled up nicely and upon turning out, I could see that the overall texture was that of, well, batter. But, this was encouraging, as the gluten had clearly matured during the long rest, witnessed by the bubbles and gasses entrained throughout the battery Biga.

Batter Biga Baby

To this, I added another 1-1/4 cups of Antimo Caputo 00 flour and worked the dough lightly to incorporate the flour. Although cooking by feel, I was still shooting for a ratio of water to flour of 70% to 80% water versus total amount of flour. Once the dough was well incorporated, I gave it a few minutes of kneading to 'wake up' the gluten. I was hoping for a very soft dough. I think this was the most successful part of the cook.

Dough Balls

As you can see, the dough balls were quite soft, spreading just a bit when just formed. I did a quick proof under a kitchen towel, the dough actually went through a soft rise to about, gaining about 50% more volume. These four dough balls would eventually be enough for four 9"-10" pizzas. In terms of toppings, the basic list.

Toppings Available:
Ricotta Cream, fresh ricotta whipped with whey liquid
Fresh Bufalo Mozzarella, shredded by hand
Wild Arugula, tossed with a little olive oil
Curly Kale, salt wilted and well rinsed
Sliced Mushrooms
Melted Onion
Sliced scallions
Tuscan Olive Oil
Pomi Tomato Sauce

Basically, all things were tossed onto the pizza crusts before shoving into the kettle. The higher fire, as you will see, got some of the toppings and crusts done nicely, but, the bottoms were too soft. The cool stone complicated and lengthened cooking times. Here are the pies.

Arugula and Pancetta

Arugula, Melted Onion, Scallion 

Kale, Pancetta, Melted Onion

Pancetta, Melted Onion, Mushroom

All of these were delicious, although I found the Arugula was a little too bitter for my taste. I have to say, the idea of some Meyer lemon juice or a Meyer lemon preserve drizzle might have helped. I would have eaten all of these, but, by the time I was done, I really just wanted a bit of each.

Piece of the Arugula

Piece of the Kale

The sliced pictures show the crust texture, which was amazing. A crisp crackle on the top side, a springy, tender interior, a thin but resistant bottom (which, if the stone had gotten hot would have been even better). I did brush the crusts with a high quality extra virgin Tuscan olive oil and a random sprinkling of kosher salt, which made the crusts the best part of these pies.

As for the kettle experiment, it continues...