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.