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!