Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Forman and Kirkland prepare our dinner-

Sometimes you just don't want your meal to be particularly involved. Sure, fresh ground and blended meats cooked as burgers over an well laid charcoal fire are a fine meal. However, tonight we invited Foreman and Kirkland to provide us with a meal.

My daughter, Beth, did a lot of the preparation. Slicing tomatoes and red onion. "Why didn't you use the mandolin?" I asked. My wife had given us a mandolin slicing tool for Christmas. "I forgot we had one."

I like my onions sliced thin. So, I got out the mandolin. It is a V blade model. I used the safety grip to push the onion through the blades. Ah, nice and thin. Not as well shaped as I wanted. The onion was just a bit wide for the guides on the mandolin, and hit the blades at a sleight angle.

The meat was Kirkland brand ground beef, formed and frozen into uniform patties. I broke off half a dozen meat bricks and tossed three onto the George Foreman grill. We hadn't used this particular cooking tool on the frozen patties. I guesstimated eight minutes, based on grilling experience on the barbecue.

The first three were well done, a bit more than I care for. The next three were done for six minutes. The George Foreman grill does not require turning the meat. The drippings run off into catch trays. Easy-peasy. Paper towel clean-up, most of the time. Not a bad tool. Very little smoke, and set-up is pretty easy.

"Bacon." said Beth. She set up a half-dozen slices on the Foreman. We closed the lid. After a few minutes we peeked. Hmmm. Turning black at the tips, still white and fatty in the middle. I closed the lid and let it go a couple more minutes. The finished bacon was not particularly nice. The middle of each slice was still just barely cooked, the ends burnt (but still edible to a bacon mad eater such as myself).

The components brought together with inexpensive factory buns, honey mustard, ketchup and whatever else anyone wanted, and it was a fast and reasonably satisfying meal. Don't forget those cheese slices that come in little plastic jackets. Great burgers? By no means. A good meal? Unquestionably.

So, what did we learn, Dorothy? Kirkland burgers done from freezer to Foreman are best cooked about six minutes. George does not do bacon well. If you like to slice your vegetables on a mandolin, be sure they are the right size to fit between the guides. The George Foreman grill is not a bad grilling tool for indoor use, quick set up and fast clean up.

I still want to experiment with mixed freshly ground meats. I want to experiment with that for the rest of my life. However, for a quick meal, the team of Foreman and Kirkland make an adequate burger.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Carcass in a bucket-

Holidays. Feasting on holidays can leave you with a lot of garbage. For many it is no problem. Bag it, put it in a can. Take the smelly can to the curb. Bring back the can.

Some of us have to haul our own garbage. I generally make a run every other week. On the occasions I have chicken or turkey carcasses in the garbage the whole mess can get ripe and very unpleasant to handle. I have to load the garbage bags from the cans into the truck, drive to the dump station, and throw the sometimes juicy bags into the transfer pit.

Carcasses can be a problem. I have done this process for years, and only recently took this particular action. I bagged the turkey carcass from Thanksgiving separately, and dropped it in a three gallon bucket. I dropped the bucket into the garbage can, and over the top dropped the rest of the weeks garbage.

At the transfer station I had no problem with moving the nasty thing to the transfer floor. Just tip the bucket and drop the bagged carcass into the pile below. Bring the bucket home, rinse it, and put it aside for future fun.

It is such a simple, elegant solution to a messy problem. Why didn't I think of that earlier?

Those of you who have someone else to manage your garbage might want to reflect on how much of a service is being provided. It is easy to forget how many people are involved in making our lives better.

Imagine what it would be like to have to live with our leavings.

Compost, anyone?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Dorito Pork Pie-

I am a bit jealous of the fine food porn I see on other sites. (Food Porn is a descriptive term I got from Anthony Bourdain, describing photos of food that are, uh, inspiring). This is a phone photo, and the best I could do for the moment.

Anyway, it started with a seven pound pork shoulder roast I barbecued for four hours with Kingsford Mesquite Charcoal. I had to go away for a few hours, so I dropped the roast in a roasting pan and transferred it to the oven. My daughter, Beth, oversaw the finish and serving for the first meal.

Several other meals were cut from this good sized piece of pork. Seasoning had been a simple olive oil rub followed by a generous dry rub of equal portions of black pepper, seasoned salt, and Kosher salt. I think the meat turned out well.

After a few days in the refrigerator I decided the meat could use a bit of sauce to bolster the flavor and provide some moisture. I chopped the meat into bits around a quarter of an inch in dimension. In a pan I heated a quarter cup of soy sauce, a quarter cup of red wine vinegar, and a quarter cup of coffee. I added about a half cup of barbecue sauce from the tail end of two bottles I found in the refrigerator. I added the meat and heated the whole thing to a boil using a medium setting on the burner. Stirring steadily I reduced the heat and let it simmer for about twenty minutes.

My first use was on spaghetti noodles. I plated the noodles, poured a generous portion of the chopped pork sauce onto the noodles, added Parmesan cheese and dined quite satisfactorily. The second application was as above.

It was inspired by the Frito Pie. I had some bags of chips in the cupboard, Dorito Cooler Ranch and Cheesy chips. I tossed a bag (lunch box size) of each on the plate, and poured a generous portion of the chopped pork sauce on top. Onto the lot I placed three cheese slices, just those plastic wrapped sandwich cheese slices. I nuked the plate for a minute and a half.

I thought it was pretty good. This was the very last of the meat, and the dog got the bone. He seemed to like that as well. Beth thought the vinegar a bit intense, but it is a flavor I like and I thought the sauce pretty well balanced.

One of these days, Cheese Doodles.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

BLT Soup-

I some time back discovered Pizza Soup. Cambell's Tomato Soup, Campbell's Cheddar Cheese Soup, and whatever pizza toppings you have and want to add. Make the soup according to the instructions on the can, combining the two soups and adding the appropriate amount of water (or milk.) Add the other stuff.

Pizza Soup.

So, we are having Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato (BLT) sandwiches one day. I think, "What about BLT soup?" I think on this a while. Being a budding late-life foodie, it takes hold of me. Eventually I discuss it with my daughter, Beth. We play with food together in the kitchen, so I propose this. She does an Internet search, and we finally select Paula Deen's BLT Soup.

Yep. Someone else got there before me. That may be the great power and disappointment of the Internet. Original idea? Do a search. Someone else was already there, most of the time. As sad and disappointing as that may be, sometimes the did it better. Paula sure did.

Beth got the ingredients and did most of the prep work. I got to cook up the bacon. It is the bacon that we modified in this recipe. The recipe calls for five slices. Our family loves bacon. So, I crisp up a half pound for topping and crisp up the rest of the pound for the soup.

The rest was according to the recipe as linked. It was strange, cooking lettuce. I had never done that before. It all came together into a nice looking creamy soup. The mayo and sour cream topping seemed a bit strange, but added to a bowl of the soup and topped with a handful of crisp bacon bits and it really is something to experience.

We served ours with grilled cheese sandwiches. The soup looked very nice, with the lettuce and tomato adding color to the cream soup. That topping of mayo and sour cream was just the thing. That, and the crisp bacon bits on top. All of the flavor elements of the BLT sandwich in a hearty soup.

Be sure to prepare your ingredients before beginning. This soup requires constant attention to avoid burning the bacon and to see that the vegetables are properly wilted without over cooking. Being a cream soup it requires constant stiring. The attention is not wasted.

Trying to do preparation while the soup is cooking would invite burning somewhere along the way. Preparation in convenient containers avoids this risk and allows the soup to come together flawlessly.

It went well with conventional grilled cheese sandwiches. It encourages some experimentation in grilled cheese. This time around we were pretty conventional with the sandwiches. Next time we may go for a step or two up the cheese ladder.

That, however, is an experiment for another time.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pork Shoulder Roast-

Barbecue has not been at the top of our culinary experimentation list over the past few months. My kids and grandkids moved back home from Texas, expanding our household and shifting various family responsibilities.

Food purchasing and preparation has fallen largely to my daughter, Beth. Barbecue is not her first consideration when purchasing food or making meal plans, especially with so many young family members as part of the dining experience. After working with a few interesting cuts of meat, the focus shifted to practical daily meals.

Recently Beth discovered that Safeway (the store closest to home) can have some very good bargains on meat. However, barbecue depends on my schedule. I am available to cook only part of the week, being away for days at a time for work. So, preparation of most meals falls to her, and that means kitchen preparation.

"We should thaw out and barbecue that pork shoulder roast." she said the other day. Followed by repeated failures on her part and mine to get it out and into the refrigerator to thaw. So, yesterday being a very good day for a California barbecue, we tried a quick-thaw in repeated changes of cold water over the course of several hours.

I got my coals going, and laid the fire. The meat was oiled with Olive Oil and rubbed with my equal portions (Kosher salt/black pepper/seasoned salt) rub, and draped with bacon. I set the meat on a clean, hot grill in the cooking chamber, and placed the probe in the most distant point in the meat. The resistance of probe placement indicated that the thaw was incomplete, and might prove problematic. I continued, preparing to learn something from what might prove an error.

My thermometer did not even register internal meat temperature. "Lo" is all it said for a good part of the first hour. Not a promising beginning. We soldiered on, adding a handful of coals to the fire every twenty minutes or so. As anticipated, it took a while for the internal temperature to come up. All in all the cook took just a bit over five hours on a six pound roast. I moved the probe once the target temperature was reached. It was a few degrees lower, so I gave it another twenty minutes.

I pulled the roast out and let it rest (covered) for fifteen minutes. As I sliced the roast and cut it from the bone I found the lower part of the roast to be a bit rare. Being pork I felt that this was a bit underdone. I oiled a wok and began frying up the slices to finish. They turned out rather nicely, and the family enjoyed them with a potato dish based on Cracker Barrel cheese potatoes and a side of pork-and-beans.

Everyone satisfied I sliced what more I could from the bone and fried the slices to put away in the refrigerator. The odd chunks cut and pulled from the bone were chopped and fried with a bit more olive oil, some red wine vinegar, and a splash of soy sauce. This was put away in the refrigerator for future sandwiches.

Several lessons here. First, thoroughly thaw the meat to insure a consistent starting temperature and even cooking. Second, it is easy to fix undercooked meat. Perhaps easier than fixing meat that is overcooked and dry. Combining barbecue and frying finished this roast quite nicely, and may serve as a planned finish on some future meals.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cheap Pork-

My daughter got a package of pork at a good discount, under six bucks for eight good sized pieces an inch and a half thick. I looked at them and decided to do a short smoke followed by a sear and rest before serving.

I rubbed the meat with vegetable oil and seasoned it with a zesty barbecue blend from the Dollar Tree. This sat for about an hour in the refrigerator while I cleaned and prepared the grill. My grill is a Char-Broil Silver Smoker, and I have enjoyed it for about a year and a half. I have had no failures with this grill, and a lot of successes that exceeded any skill I may actually have in the art.

I loaded a starter chimney of charcoal and started it using rubbing alcohol in a clean tuna can. This is clean and gets a good start every time. I use the 91% alcohol, as it starts easily and burns pretty hot. The charcoal is the Kingsford Competition grade briquettes, purchased at a very good price at Costco. I soaked some Mesquite chips for the burn, as I like the rich flavor of the smoke.

Fire going, vents at about half both top and bottom, I loaded the meat in the center of the cooking chamber and inserted my thermometer probe into the piece farthest from the fire. I checked the fire after twenty minutes, noting that the meat internal temperature was going up faster than I had anticipated. I dropped the vents to a quarter top and bottom and threw on some chips to get the smoke going.

After another twenty minutes I added ten briquettes to the fire and dropped the vents to fully closed. The meat was already at 120 degrees internal, and cooking too fast for my taste. I was concerned that it would become dry. Cutting the air intake slowed the cooking considerably. After another twenty minutes I added the rest of my wood chips to the fire and opened the bottom vent a notch.

I had estimated a two hour burn for this meat, and at just about that time the thermometer alarm indicated that we had reached 165 degrees internal, which was my target. I set my cooking grate into the fire box and put the meat on to sear for a couple of minutes per side. Then a ten minute rest and then serve.

I found the meat to still have enough juice to avoid being called dry, and I thought the flavor was very good. The family had their fill and still I had two good pieces left over. These I planned to eat as sandwiches over the next two days, and so I did.

For the sandwiches I just chopped the meat fine and mixed it with barbecue sauce, sour cream, some coarse mustard and a bit of Sriracha. I have become very fond of the Thai sauce Sriracha, more so than any other hot sauce I have used. The heat is there but does not overwhelm the flavor of the peppers, which is distinct. This meat and sauce blend I spoon onto a slice of bread, fold it over and consume with great pleasure.

Dill pickle slices add a bit of interest to an already delicious sandwich. I did not have any cheese at the time or I surely would have added that, as well.

For the future I have in mind, should I again have such nice slabs of pork to cook, to sear first and then slow cook the meat. Also, since most of the pieces were relatively lean, I would add a bit of bacon or fatback to each piece to add more flavor and perhaps reduce the drying. As I said, the meat had remained reasonably moist but was just beginning to dry when I pulled it off of the fire and served it up.

Another option would be brining the pork before cooking. I have yet to try brining, but my research says it would be a very good idea.

The use of discount and cheap meat is something I like to do in barbecue. Getting good eating out of the smallest expenditure is part of the tradition of barbecue. This is not eating high off the hog, but it is eating well on what you can get.

Once again I failed to get photos. One of these days I will correct this chronic oversight. Until I do I rely on your imagination and personal experiences to fill in the gaps between my blog and the real life experiences I attempt to share.

Good eating!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Holy Mackerel, it's the Fourth of July!

We did some fishing on the Santa Cruz Wharf here in California last week. I froze the Mackerel and single Perch when we got home, since there was not time to cook them prior to the beginning of my work week. I am away from home during my three or four day week, alternating. It is a strange schedule.

So, before I got home the fish were put in the refrigerator to thaw. Thursday I went out and got some fish baskets to use to grill the fish, and got set up to cook when my son-in-law got home from work. He and I went together on the fishing trip, and it was a meal for us to share.

I popped the fish in the baskets and set them on the grill. I had prepared a full starting chimney of Kingsford charcoal and set it up in the fire box of my Char-Broil Silver Smoker. I was using the fire box as a grill for this one. The coals were free of flame and had an even heat.

This was my first attempt at direct grilling fish. They cooked rather quickly, being rather small and the fire being perhaps a bit hot. It was no more than two minutes to a side and they were about done. I gave the Perch a bit more time, but it was only a matter of seconds.

The fish turned out rather nicely. I had done no seasoning since I wanted to experience the flavors unaltered. We are not big fish eaters in our household. None of us had experienced Mackerel before, and most of us were also new to Perch.

I liked both fish. The Mackerel, being small, were hard to eat without getting some bones. The Perch was a bit easier to eat. Most of the family found them too "fishey." I had expected them both to be a bit stronger, actually.

I look forward to catching more Perch and Mackerel, since they are common to our wharf. I suspect I will be eating the larger fish and devoting the rest to serving as bait. I will continue to fish in hope of the rare Halibut or some other special treat, but surely won't be disappointed by a nice mess of Mackerel or Perch.

Two days later and I am grilling again. The Fourth of July! Family and food! Hot dogs and hamburgers, with all of the trimmings and traditional sides. Potato Salad, beans, chips and more. The hot dogs were from Costco, as were the frozen burgers. The dogs cooked up nice in the main cooking chamber. The burgers were pretty good, as well.

The burgers I tossed on frozen. Once the juices were flowing on the top of the burger I gave them a flip. I liked the well-shaped patty, and the flat surfaces rather than the thick lumps most home made burgers have. However, the flavor proved rather monochromatic. It was a burger, but just a burger.

The main cooking chamber has a greater distance between the coals and the cooking surface. I used the firebox as a place to keep the starter chimney going. Prior to cooking I laid out a layer of charcoal in the cooking chamber. I then got a chimney of charcoal going. Once it was well started I moved most of the coals over onto the unlit charcoal in the cooking chamber.

I left a few hot coals in the chimney. To this I added enough charcoal to fill the chimney. In short order I had plenty of hot coals to add to the fire, as required. I kept cooking as long as people kept eating. When necessary I pulled either the left or right grate, loaded in coals, and dropped the grate back in place. I really love my cooking gloves for this. Lodge brand, in my case. With reasonable care I can handle some pretty hot stuff with these gloves.

Today I just fired up a double handful of charcoal in my chimney. Once they were started I popped the grate from the fire box on top of the chimney and cooked a burger right there. This worked fine, but I think I would add another hand full of charcoal next time. I was getting workable heat, but a little more would have been nice.

So, a week of lots of cooking, and some new experiences. It was fun, and tasty!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Reheated Baked Beans for lunch-

Day off. Doin' stuff. Quick breakfast. Do more stuff. Gettin' hungry. Hmmm. What's in the 'fridge?

A bowl of baked beans left over from a previous barbecue. Canned beans. Good, but it needs something. Dig a little more in the 'fridge. Hmm. Some cheese here.

I placed two pieces of provolone on the bottom of a bowl. I nuked the beans for two minutes while I grated some Parmesan cheese onto the provolone. Checked the beans. Two more minutes.

What else do I have here? Oh, some Doritos Nacho cheese flavored chips in the little lunch sized bags. I broke up some chips and dropped them in the bowl with the other cheeses. The beans were hot, so I added some to the bowl. More broken chips. More beans. More chips. More beans. Top with Parmesan (grated) and give it another quick nuking.

Mix. Eat. Pretty good. Not hungry anymore.

Time to do more stuff. Like clean up the kitchen and contemplate why bloggers think anyone wants to know what they are eating.

Got blog?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Car Camping Barbecue-

I do a lot of camping in my truck. I use a Sportz II truck tent, and camp at least three days each week to avoid a morning commute following a night shift. I do this for safety, mine and everyone elses. I do not drive well after being up all night.

Travel is a dream for me, far more often than a reality. However, the prospect of camping to cut costs has opened up some travel ideas that I had not previously considered. Truck tent camping is not quite stealth camping. A tent in the back of a truck just stands out in a parking lot, and any camping in unauthorized locations is just plain out. Still, cost for camping often comes in much lower than motels, and any dollar saved can be used to extend the journey.

So, I think often on matters of travel and camping. I have looked at a lot of different grill options as a result. The best solution was demonstrated by Alton Brown, on his show Good Eats. In the particular episode to which I refer he was preparing to grill some lovely pieces of fresh Tuna, cut from the loin. He prepared the meat, and got his coals started in a starting chimney.

Ready to grill, he just placed a grill on top of the chimney, and grilled the Tuna right there. Brilliant! Instead of taking a starting chimney and a barbecue of some kind along, the chimney can be the whole barbecue! All that is needed is a suitable grill to place on top!

Since I have been exploring the prospects of adding dutch oven cooking to my camping repitoir, I would need a starting chimney as part of my kit. Now I have more cooking options without adding another item to my kit. The dutch oven I presently have has legs below, for cooking on coals, and legs on the lid. It can serve as a small griddle.

On the whole, a lot of travel cooking options. Now I just have to get out on the road, instead of camping in a parking lot where outdoor cooking is limited to a small propane burner and a pot or two.

I can hardly wait!

Boned Leg of Lamb and Memorial Day Brats-

Last week we fired up the old Char-Broil Silver Smoker and cooked up a nice boned leg of lamb. Due to our chronic lack of detailed planning we got it out of the freezer and thawed it for two days, but did not have much in mind after that.

So, I fired up the coals and rubbed down the meat with olive oil and gave it a dose of my quickie rub. (That's equal portions Kosher salt, black pepper and seasoned salt). I cut slits in the meat to insert slivers of garlic, three cloves worth. Then into the cooking chamber.

I have gotten better at managing my fire and temperatures over the last year of using this particular barbecue. In the firebox I start with one chimney of charcoal. This run was Kingsford Mesquite, with an occasional dose of soaked mesquite chips. I get the fire going and dump the coals into the firebox. I press them toward the wall nearest the cooking chamber. Every twenty minutes I check the coals, generally finding that I need about ten new coals.

About every other check I add some wet wood chips. This continues until we reach target temperature, which was set on my probe thermometer at 160 degrees. I projected about four hours and was pretty close. I had sufficient Blue Moon wheat beer to see me through the whole process.

Once at temperature I placed the meat in a foil lined insulated box to rest for twenty minutes. The lamb finished moist and tender, and quite tasty. A more delicate fruit wood might have been better for smoking, but Mesquite is what I had, and I rather like the stuff. I sliced it thin and served it to the family. Everyone seemed to enjoy the lamb, and I was pleased.

Though it was quite moist, I wanted a bit of dipping sauce for mine. I mixed up my usual soy sauce and vinegar sauce, this time using red wine vinegar. It was quite good with the lamb, but I think that I would like to come up with a lighter sauce next time. This sauce can overwhelm the delicate flavor of lamb. I dipped the meat and shook off most of the sauce before eating each morsel.

Move ahead a week and we are into Memorial Day and a nearly spontaneous barbecue. Burgers, Brats and Hot Dogs were purchased. I used the cooking chamber for grilling this time, since I needed the room. I started my coals in the firebox, using a starting chimney. These coals I poured into the cooking chamber, and immediately refilled the chimney. I set it down in the hot coals for a few minutes to start it, and then moved the chimney to the firebox.

I formed the coals into a hot zone and a medium zone, reserving some space for warming. Due to a delay in getting the party started I had to rebuild the coals. When cooking started I had a bed of coals beginning to reduce in heat. The hot dogs and Brats cooked up fine. I also did my first grilled ears of corn, prepped with salt, pepper and butter and re-wrapped in the husks.

With several people started on dogs and Brats, I turned my attention to the hamburgers. I kept some corn going on one side just about all of the time. The burgers were cooking very slowly, which isn't bad but I did not care for the degree of shrinkage. I lost a lot of volume as they sat long on the coals.

In retrospect I should have had a third chimney of coals going to refresh the overextended bed I was trying to use. These particular coals were Kingsford competition grade charcoal, purchased in a double pack at Costco. They were satisfactory, and I think I could come to like this charcoal if I work with it a bit more.

I simply need more time doing direct grilling with a purpose. Not just building a raging fire and overcooking things in flames and flare-ups. Planned cooking with a masterful control of heat and time.

Better preparation is another factor. Having all of the preparation done before starting so there is no waiting. I waited on elements of the barbecue being prepared as I nursed the fire. I waited on party members, still nursing my fire. I waited too long before refreshing the coals, and lost some of my valuable heat.

That being said, we had fun and ate well. Everyone loved the dogs, Brats and burgers. Good times and good eats. I can't complain.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Simple Fatty-

"Let's do a Fatty." That's what I suggested to my daughter, Beth. Since she, her husband Dave, and their three children returned to live with us once again, Beth has been in charge of the food department at our extended household.

This was my first effort in the realm of the Fatty, a thing I read about only months ago but have admired from afar. Though the concept of the Fatty is open to many interpretations, I decided to make this first one simple. Pork, lot's of pork. Cheese. Sausage.

I gave Beth a short list, and a few hours later I had what I needed to begin.

I covered my counter with a sheet of parchment paper and opened the three packages of prepared pork sausage Beth had brought me. Safeway Select. I formed the ground meat on the parchment into a rectangle of porky goodness, about an inch thick. I then laid out on it the variety of cheese slices Beth had procured. Pepper Jack, Sharp Cheddar, Swiss, and Colby Jack. I alternated the slices so that a bit of each would melt into every section of the Fatty.

Onto this foundation I set a smoked Turkey Kielbasa. It seemed a bit long, so I cut about an inch off of each end. I then rolled the whole thing using the parchment in order to form a great log of meat and cheese. I formed the ends around the exposed Kielbasa.

This meaty assembly I set aside and put down a second sheet of parchment. Onto this I began to weave a blanket of bacon. Two pounds of bacon interleaved to form a sheet of bacon goodness. I trimmed the few bits that did not form well into the bacon blanket. These bits I set aside with the Kielbasa ends. These bits provided the cook with something to quick fry and snack on while the cooking was going on.

Onto the blanket of bacon I set the prepared log of cheese and sausage. I rolled the whole thing in the parchment to wrap it in the bacon blanket. I found the bacon bound sufficiently to the pork sausage so as to need no skewers to hold it in place. I moved the parchment wrapped Fatty to a tray for transport to the Char-Broil Silver Smoker.

The smoker was prepared with a single starter chimney load of Kingsford Mesquite Charcoal. I always ignite my charcoal using a small pan of rubbing alcohol placed in the fire box and set ablaze. I put the starter chimney over this, and in very short order the charcoal lights and gets going very well. There is no residual flavor as often results from starting fluids, and no ash mess that comes with the often frustrating use of newspaper.

I seldom have newspaper, anyway. I get most of my news off of the Internet. It is hard to start a fire with the Internet.

Once the coals were going well I dumped them into the fire box and pushed them together near the cooking chamber. Once the chamber was hot I brushed the grill clean and slid the Fatty from the parchment onto the grill. I placed my thermometer probe into the end of the Fatty furthest from the fire, making sure that the probe was embedded into the Kielbasa.

Ordinarily I set a timer and return to my cooking every twenty minutes. Each visit I check the fire. If it is still going well, I add some soaked Mesquite chips. If the coals are burned past half of their original mass, I add about six briquettes. This day I had the grand kids outside with me, and remained in attendance to my fire more than I usually do.

Consequently, I was fussing excessively with the fire and got it too hot. I checked the cooking chamber and we were over 350 degrees. Way more than my usual target of around 200 degrees or so. I vented the heat back to around 200 degrees. However, I noticed that the bacon wrap was cooking nicely with the higher heat, so I let it stay a bit hotter than usual.

How to crisp the bacon wrap had been a concern. The Fatty was too large to easily move to the fire for a finishing crisping. I considered a torch to do the finish, but the outer wrap crisped rather nicely due to the higher cooking temperature.

When the Fatty reached an internal temperature of 160 degrees I proclaimed it done and moved it to a tray to rest for fifteen minutes under a foil tent. It looked so good that it proved to be a very long fifteen minutes. Finally, it was ready. I sliced it into one inch thick sections. These I placed on a serving tray, along side a bucket of beans.

The Fatty was a big hit with the family, though there were many comments about the impact such a meal would have on the blood pressure. The prepared sausage provided a nice degree of spice, without being overwhelming. The Kielbasa provided some tooth, and smokey goodness. The bacon, well, it is bacon! The melted cheeses were a very positive addition.

Lessons learned:

Don't build it quite that big, next time. Make several smaller Fatties. It was hard to handle, and the bacon on the bottom could have used some crisping. Smaller Fatties could be cooked a bit more slowly, and still be crisped over direct heat toward the end.

Use more cheese, and more aggressive cheeses. The delicate flavors of the Swiss and the Colby Jack were lost in the bold flavors of the rest of the Fatty. A lot more Sharp Cheddar would be good. Perhaps a goodly amount of Pepper Jack and Cheddar would work, as well. Something to experiment with. Maybe even some Stinky Cheeses, to make a Stinky Fatty.

It might be fun to play with the sausages used in the center. Perhaps replace the sausage with some previously smoked cuts of meat. Pickled meats or fishes could also be placed in the center, providing additional aggressive flavors and a variety of textures.

With regard to textures, I think strips of grilled vegetables would go nicely in the Fatty, as well. Peppers, in particular, would provide flavor and texture. They would also add color to the plated slices.

The ground meat used to create the bulk of the Fatty also provides ample opportunity to experiment. Rather than prepared pork sausage, the cook can grind and blend a variety of meats and spices to create something truly unique.

The Fatty is a barbecue format that provides the cook with opportunities to experiment. It is delicious in the simple form, and has the potential to be magnificent. I look forward to the adventure.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Barbecue Cheater-

We don't have much weather in our part of California. Winter for us is a couple of days of freezing temperatures, largely at night, and some rain. Combine the rain with other pressing family needs, and I haven't gotten my Char-Broil Silver Smoker running for weeks.

Last week I cleaned it and did a good cleansing burn. The weather was still a bit wet, but I wanted to clean out some of the unpleasantness that finds its way into an idle barbecue.

This week the weather finally broke. My daughter, now in charge of food purchases and menu planning for the clan, had purchased two beef steaks so thick as to look like roasts, and a packaged marinated pork roast. The meats came from Costco.

Having the pork processed ahead of time was a bit of a cheat, but that didn't prevent me from getting it on the grill yesterday. It was a garlic and pepper marinade, and smelled pretty good right out of the package. The steaks I rubbed with olive oil and my general purpose rub made from equal portions of salt, pepper and whatever seasoned salt I have around. This seasoned salt was a barbecue mix from the Dollar Tree.

I set up for a three to four hour cooking time, got the fire going and got the meat on the grill. Just short of four hours the steak furthest from the fire achieved an internal temperature of 168 degrees, three degrees over my target of 165. I pulled the meat off of the grill and let it rest in an aluminum foil lined cooler. I liked the cooler idea, which I got second hand from my friend Keven Fisher. It lets the meat rest as long as you want (within reason) while sides and other items are finished up.

The cheater pork was really good. The steaks were pretty good, as well, but the meat had been a bit leaner than I generally select for slow cooking. In retrospect I think they could have used a bacon wrapping to provide some fat to improve the cooking process and add depth of flavor.

I need to sit down with my daughter and go through the Barbecue Bible, selecting some recipes and discussing meat selection. This is becoming a team effort, and I think we can all have some fun at the grill.

Well, it is almost lunch time, and I chopped up and blended some of that meat last night. I added some soy sauce and rice wine vinegar to the mix, and it has been waiting patiently for me in the refrigerator all night. I think it might be quite ready and very tasty.

Yep. Time for lunch.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Barbecue Budget-

Yep, the Christmas season was fiscally draining. I literally have not had enough money to barbecue. Oh, we have had a little rain. Nothing to stop barbecuing. It got a touch cold, but nothing like most people have to face.

No, the problem was money. Some genius decided that it would be a great idea to have people pay their property taxes just before Christmas. Wonderful idea! At the very time we are spending in excess for unnecessary things to give to each other, we have to make a contribution to the government.

Living on a budget is nothing new in my family. However, with the smaller amount available for food purchases (after the massive spending on the holiday meals) I just can't squeeze out the funds for charcoal and a lovely slab of meat. Add to that the fact that someone else usually spends the food funds before I get a chance to make my input regarding a nice barbecue, and the season becomes barbecue free.

So, I am proposing to the management that a gift certificate for the grocery store be purchased on a semi-regular basis. That way the meat money will be available when the proper time for a grand barbecue presents itself.

You know, like because it is Thursday. Or because the sun is shining. Because the sun isn't shining. Mostly because barbecue just tastes good!

Yep, gotta get some coals burning and some smoke in the wind!