Monday, June 30, 2008

Pork Rib Roast-

Pork Rib Roast. Linda picked it up because it was well priced. When I opened the package, I decided we had gotten a good deal. Seven nice chunks of pig, with an excellent balance between fat and flesh. Only one piece had any significant bone. Two pieces had a beautiful back of fat. Yes, this looked good.

Yesterday I fired up my coals, and got ready to cook. Kingsford Hickory briquettes, started in a starter chimney using rubbing alcohol in a small can as my ignition source. While the charcoal got going I went to the kitchen to prepare the meat.

A nice coating of oil, which in this case is a blend of olive oil and canola oil. I blended Zesty Seasoned salt, salt, and pepper in a bowl and gave the pieces of meat a good rub. Then I took them to the fire. After pouring the coals out from the starting chimney, I set the meat up in the cooking chamber. I placed the thermometer probe in the most distant piece from fire, and started cooking.

I figured that the meat would take at least three hours to cook. The pieces were pretty evenly shaped, and about an inch and a half thick. There was not a lot of connective tissue to break down, so I did not figure for more than four hours of cooking time.

My chair was conveniently placed for enjoying the next few hours. I had my book, and a very nice day. Every thirty minutes I checked the fire, and the cooking chamber temperature. A few briquettes every check, and a handful of hickory chips.

After two hours my temperature inside the meat was 140 degrees. I turned the meat, just rotating each piece in place. Things were looking good.

Thirty minutes later we were at 150 degrees. I checked the fire, and decided that the coals were going well enough for the finish. I added some hickory chips, but no new charcoal. In retrospect, I should have put on another handful.

After another thirty minutes the temperature was still at 150 degrees inside the meat. I needed more heat. I have not yet gotten a bellows, but I found something as good. A battery powered air pump for my air bed. I applied it for a couple of minutes. The temperature bumped two degrees. I applied it a few more minutes. We got 154 degrees.

I waited fifteen minutes, and checked the coals. They were still nice and hot. I checked my thermometer. The meat was at 156 degrees. I ran the air pump for a bit, and we bumped to 158 degrees. I started cleaning up. We were almost there.

Moments later the alarm went off. We were at temperature. I advised Linda that we could put the corn into the boiling water. The beans were already hot. I had a look at the meat. It looked good. Once the corn was ready, so was our meat. I took it off the barbecue and took it up to the kitchen.

Everyone had all they wanted. It was delicious. Great with the beans and corn. Tender and flavorful. I still had lots left over. I wrapped it up for the next day, and placed it in the refrigerator.

Today, I had barbecue pork spaghetti for lunch. Chopped the pork fine, and added it to a jar spaghetti sauce. Quite good. Dinner was chopped pork in the beans. Also quite tasty.

On the whole, a good experiences. Oh, yes. Yesterday's beer was A&W root beer.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Lump o' Beef-

Most of the family is away this weekend. I was picking up a few things to eat over the next few days. Kielbasa and Black Beans and Rice. Oh! There's a nice piece of beef for only five dollars! Grab that!

So, I barbecued it today. Sat in the back yard, read a book, and periodically tended the meat. I used a barbecue rub I found in the Dollar Tree for only a dollar! Not bad. I tried to limit the amount of fuel to play with temperature control. It went alright, but I never reached target temperature. I planned for about two and a half hours, and toward the end it got up to 150 degrees internal. It hovered there for about the last hour. For the last thirty minutes I tossed in a piece of Kielbasa.

I felt fine with the beef sitting at 150 degrees or so for an hour. I didn't want to dry it out, so I decided that it was done. I cut it into four pieces. The ends were reserved for chopping, to use tomorrow. So was the sausage.

I ate one of the center pieces. I gave the other to my son Jon. It was just fine. Good smoke flavor. I used Kingsford mesquite briquettes along with soaked mesquite chips for smoke. The flavor was deep without being overwhelming. I was right about my timing. Any longer and the meat would have started loosing juices. It was just right.

I chopped up the rest for tomorrow. I have a box of Rice-a-Roni Mexican style that will be enhanced by the chopped beef and sausage. I figure that I will stretch that five dollar piece of meat over two or three meals for myself, and one for my son.

Something I really want to get is a bellows. I would like to have the ability to pump up the heat, and I like the personal involvement that a bellows will offer. My wife was thoroughly displeased when her hair dryer failed after I used it on the barbecue. I think it was just a coincidence.

Oh, and the beer of the day was New Belgium breweries Fat Tire. I like this ale. It has a delicate earthy flavor, with mild hopping. It has a very malty finish. Quite tasty.

I must say that visiting the meat counter wherever there is one has become fun. I only regret that I can only eat so much on any given day. I actually am having to cut back. My aging tummy can't face the challenges I gave it in the past. Now, I need to focus on quality, and enjoy anticipating the next dining opportunity.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Cornish Game Hens-

I doubt that they had been anywhere near Cornwall. Cornish Game Hens. Hmmm. Little chickens. I took four out of the freezer two days ago. This afternoon I was planning to cook them. Following directions in several cookbooks I have read (a little) I defrosted the little birds in the refrigerator.

So, I cleaned the Char-Broil Silver Smoker (including knocking off a bit of rust where the paint has burned off of the fire box) and used vegetable oil on my grates. I didn't have any newspaper to use to start my charcoal. This required thought. I did have an empty tuna can.

I put a quarter inch of rubbing alcohol in the can and lit it. Good flame. I let it burn. Good duration. It might work. Once it burned out I put another load of alcohol in the can and put it in the firebox. I racked up some charcoal in my starting chimney, fired up the alcohol and placed the chimney on top of the can.

My charcoal is still Kingsford briquettes, the ones with mesquite wood chunks in them. I only had a little of the hickory chips left, so I would be relying on the mesquite in the charcoal for a larger part of my smoke flavoring.

The alcohol starter worked just fine. Since I can get rubbing alcohol for a buck a bottle at the Dollar Tree, and I used about one ounce for the start, I think that this may be my regular starter from now on. At least until someone can show me it is a bad idea. Then maybe Everclear. More costly, but I can drink Everclear.

Maybe not.

So, coals going, temp rising in the smoke chamber. I opened the packages on the little birds. There was still ice in there! Hot bath, pat dry. Oil. Add my rub. (Equal parts ground black pepper, cheap seasoned salt, salt, and a bit of garlic powder.) Haul the little birds down and arrange them on the cooking surface.

The coals were going good even after forty minutes. I chucked on a few more coals, and closed the vents to about a quarter top and bottom. My cooking chamber was solid, at about 250 degrees. The fresh coals provided some smoke. After another thirty minutes I checked the fire. It was steady, even and had a good color. I added all of my soaked smoke chips.

At this point I turned the birds and adjusted their locations inside the cooking chamber to even out the cooking. I have no idea if this helps, but it makes me feel like I am cooking.

I figured another hour. I spent much of my waiting time talking with my granddaughter or reading my new barbecue book. Eventually my temperature alarm indicated that we were at temperature. I had bumped the target temp to 170 degrees, to insure we were properly done. Since we still had to wait for my wife to arrive from an errand, I closed the dampers and let them continue to cook.

After another fifteen minutes my wife got home, and I prepared to remove the birds. The skins were firm but lacked the crispness that is appealing, so I moved all four birds onto the grill over the fire in the firebox to crisp them up a touch. Just a couple of minutes, including a turn for each bird. I took them out and carried them to the kitchen.

They looked good. Plump, with a reddish brown color. Juicy. Each family member got one, and they were readily devoured. I kept a bit of my rub handy, and added a pinch or two to the meat as I consumed it.

Another winner!

What next? Who knows? I am dangerous, now. I have a little bit of knowledge. I have a modest amount of skill. My eyes are larger than my stomach, and my stomach is HUGE!

(Note: If you wish to use your rub as a table spice, don't use the same stuff you were using when preparing your birds. Use a fresh batch to avoid any cross contamination.)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day-

Unfortunately, I am working today. However, my wife Linda made sure I got my gift before I went to work. The Barbecue! Bible by Steven Raichlen. I had glanced at it in book stores recently, but had not purchased it. Now I have it!

I have only just begun reading it. I already know that I will enjoy the reading. I love the subject matter, and the little I have read indicates that Raichlen has a very pleasant style of writing. The subject is essentially cooking with live fire. Techniques and recipes from all over the world.

Oh, yes. This is going to be fun!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Pork Shoulder Ham

This was a bone-in piece. Pretty much a shoulder joint. I have never prepared one of these, so it was an adventure. Just the ticket for this blog!

I rubbed it with oil and my salt and pepper mix. I set it in the very center of the cooking chamber, and fired up the coals. I am using Kingsford Mesquite Briquettes at the present. They fired up nicely and I got a good even burn right from the start. I poured out the coals from the lighting chimney, and spread them about. A few handfuls of charcoal on top, and we were off.

My temperature setting was for 160 degrees. I planned on a four hour run. Every half hour or so I added a few handfuls of charcoal and some soaked hickory chips. At two hours we were up to 140 degrees internal temperature, and the chamber was at about 250 degrees. I turned the meat, tended the fire, and anticipated another hour or so before achieving target temperature.

We reached target temperature at three hours. I had to damp down the air inlets quite a bit to keep the temperature in the cooking chamber in the zone. I decided to close it way down, letting the fire smolder with a lot of hickory chips. I closed the chimney to about 1/4 open. I usually run full open on the chimney, but I was going for optimal smoke for the next half hour.

At three and a half hours I deemed things done. I brought out the ham, and had a look. It had the skin on, and the skin was almost black. The meat exposed by the butcher's cut looked a deep red. The skin had done some shrinking, making the finished piece appear smaller than the original cut of meat.

This cut was hard carving. I cut close to the bone, but was unfamiliar with the bone structure. It took some time to separate the meat from the bone. There was a lot of fat, especially under the skin. The skin was a bit tough, as would be expected. Some of the connective tissue within the meat was still a bit tough in places.

I would like to have smoked this piece of meat for another half hour or more. However, some of the thinner bits were beginning to dry. As it was, the meat itself was juicy and tender. The fat had a deep smoke flavor. The bits of connective tissue that remained tough were few. Even discounting the bone, skin and fat, this was not a bad $4 cut of meat.

Not my best barbecue experience, but a good experience. I will consider this cut again if it looks meaty enough and the price is right. The bone would make good stock for soup, if one were so inclined. I think I would make preparations for that should I barbecue this cut again.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Gringo Burritos-

I have lived long on throw-together meals. Barbecue has become a part of my disordered culinary lifestyle.

Take, for example, the recent chuck steaks. Those turned out great. However, the household is most often three people. My youngest son still lives at home, but he has his own life and is not always present to consume the bounty his father provides. So, most often it is three people eating. My wife, her mother, and myself.

I have left-over barbecue in the refrigerator most of the time. A good thing, not bad.

So, I wanted a quick meal the other day. I grabbed a chunk of barbecued chuck and chopped it fine. I threw it in a sauce pan. A dash of soy sauce, a splash of rice wine vinegar. Hmm. Needs something else. Ah! An opened can of Hunts Spaghetti Sauce is in the 'fridge. I chucked some in with the chuck, and started warming it up.

We had some tortillas in the bread box. I threw a half dozen on a plate and microwaved them a bit to get them soft. Wheat tortillas, they were.

I stirred the meat and when it was steamy hot I began loading and rolling. I had enough to share with my son, who had followed his nose out to the kitchen.

Pretty quick. Very tasty. Gringo Burritos.

Fresh Meat-

I went over the shopping-freezing-barbecue thing in the prior post. This is a factor in barbecue due to the way many people live. You shop near payday, so that you have food when the money gets thin. I have always lived among people who experienced an ebb and flow in their money.

So, on thin money days it is hard to just run down to the store and pick up a nice piece of fresh meat to barbecue that afternoon. However, you don't always know when you will have a good day for barbecue. When that day comes, you may not have defrosted that fine cut of meat you want to cook up.

I did a bit of thinking. How about purchasing some of those store gift cards when shopping? Invest part of that meat budget in cards that will insure funds are available on barbecue day! Brilliant!

Now, no more problem if pre-planning did not happen, and the meat is still frozen. Grab the "meat card" and scoot on down to the store. That perfect cut can be purchased, prepared and cooking in an hour or less! No ready cash? No problem! The "meat card."

Don't leave home without it.

Frozen Meat-

Our general shopping practice is to buy all of our food at once. We get paid every other week. We shop every other week. Generally, all meat products are purchased at this time. The items that are not going to be cooked in a day or two are frozen. This is a relatively common way of managing food in a household.

Defrosting now becomes an element of the barbecue. How do I get the meat from frozen to fabulous? I did a few searches and learned that the best method is to move the meat from the freezer to the refrigerator. Out on the counter is out. Too much risk of bacteria growth. Microwave is out, due to uneven thawing and pre-cooking of parts of the meat. Submersion in hot or cold water is out, since it can make the meat soggy and impact the cooking process.

The general rule I found is about a day for every five pounds of meat. This means that the meat must be moved into the refrigerator about twenty four hours before cooking begins, in most cases. A bit longer won't hurt.

This requires planning ahead. You will have to decide what you wish to barbecue, and when. Then, in a timely fashion, the meat will have to be moved to the refrigerator.

For me, and many people I know, this is a major lifestyle change. I will try to record my success (or lack of success) as time goes on.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Soy sauce and vinegar-

I discovered soy sauce and vinegar some years ago when I had an illness that severely restricted my diet. I was, for several weeks, eating mostly rice. Not that I was unfamiliar with soy sauce and rice. I had used soy sauce on rice before. However, blending it with vinegar had not occurred to me until I found myself in need of something to make the rice more interesting.

The combination was very good. I tried malt vinegar, rice wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and red wine vinegar. I suspect that I would have become quite an expert on vinegars, but my digestion got better and I was able to expand my diet.

What I learned about soy sauce and vinegar stuck with me. Now, when I chop up some barbecued meat to use in a sandwich or wrap, I chop it fine and put it in a sauce pan. To this I add a bit of soy sauce and vinegar. It is a light sauce to add moisture to the chopped meat.

I have yet to get going with marinades, but I see real potential in soy sauce and vinegar as a base. That, and beer. These just seem right. I have visions of marinades including a cornucopia of vegetables and fruits. Herbs and spices. Marinades and sauces.

Yes, I have only just begun. I see great adventures ahead.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Chuck Steak

Yesterday it was Chuck Steak. About an inch thick, plate-sized slabs of meat. It had nice color, and the fat seemed to be about right. So, I oiled them up and seasoned them with my usual mix of salt, seasoned salt, garlic sea salt and black pepper. I mix these in roughly equal proportions and rub them liberally into the oiled meat.

I set them up on the racks in the smoke chamber, and inserted the thermometer in the middle one. I guestimated about an hour and a half to two hours would be about right.

Since I did not have any more lump charcoal, it would be Kingsford Hickory and Kingsford Mesquite briquettes. A little harder to start, but they got hot pretty quickly when they got going. I poured them out into the fire box and threw in two more double handfuls of charcoal.

At my thirty minute check the smoke chamber was a bit over temperature. I closed the wide-open vents to about an eight open, top and bottom. The bed of coals still looked good. I threw in two handfuls of soaked hickory chips and set my timer for thirty minutes.

Thirty minutes later I was at 140 degrees, with the temperature in the chamber in the red on my dial thermometer. I turned the meat, and moved the piece closest to the fire to the far end of the smoke chamber. This brought the piece of meat that was farthest away up closest to the fire. I figured that things would balance out this way.

I bumped the bottom vent to about a quarter open, and closed the upper vent. I added some more charcoal and set my timer for twenty minutes.

The temperature was 158 degrees when I returned. I tossed on some more hickory chips, and opened the lower vent all the way. Within ten minutes I was at temperature. I closed the vents and shut down the chimney opening to about an eighth. I thought we could go about twenty more minutes with some intense smoking.

The meat looked excellent when I pulled it out twenty minutes later. It proved to be very tender and flavorful. The smoke intensity was just right in the flavor of the meat. The moisture in the meat was just right. On the whole, another successful barbecue experience.

The dog got some very nice bones. He was ecstatic. I tried to get him to post his comments, but he was too busy gnawing.