Sunday, February 28, 2016

Roasted Root Vegetables and Smoked Tritip Stew

3 to 4 lbs of smoked tritip
1/2 Stick of butter
2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
1 large onion sliced (petals)
3 cloves of minced garlic
3 Tablespoons of tomato paste
2 Tablespoons of Worcestershire
2 Tablespoons of Balsamic Vinegar
1 Teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons of unbleached all purpose flour
3 Sprigs of fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons dried
3 Sprigs of fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons dried
1 Tablespoon of Paprika
1 Tablespoon of sage
4 cups of beef broth
3 carrots chunky chop
2 Parsnips chunky chop
2 beets cubed
1 1/2 lbs red or golden potatoes cubed
1 cup frozen peas
1 dark beer (porter, stout, or dark ale)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 Degrees
Place the cubed beets, parsnips, and potatoes in a large cast iron skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil
Place the skillet in the oven for 25 mins
Add 1/2 stick of butter, the onions and garlic to a dutch oven or soup pot and saute over medium heat
Add in cubed tritip and flour
Cook until onions are browned and rue is thickened
Remove the roasted root vegetables from the oven and add the remaining ingredients (except the peas)
Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 2hr to allow ingredients to blend
Add the frozen peas during the last 20 mins of the cook to keep them crisp.

This stew has a nice blend of sweet, smokiness, and savory. Enjoy with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon or a Pale Ale.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Makin' Bacon!

Just the thought of bacon gets my mouth watering, so taking the leap into making my own at home was a challenge I have been wanting to take on for a while. When I made an impulse buy and picked up 9lbs of pork belly, I figured there is no time like the present to figure it out.  Doing research on how to make bacon is like searching for advice on weight loss, there are a million ways to do it, and ten more on how the others are wrong.

There are a couple of schools of thought when it comes to making "curing" bacon.  You can take the traditional route and use a curing salt often referred to as pink salt or prague powder #1 which is a quick cure, but is loaded with nitrates.  This is not the same as store bought "pink salt", you have to buy this at a specialty shop or online.  Or you can go with a "nitrate free" method often referred to as uncured bacon which uses an alternative such as celery salt, which still contains some level of nitrates...

I chose to go with an uncured bacon, and really didn't follow any school of thought on the process other than deciding to hot smoke the bacon vs attempting to cold smoke in Southern California....  I cut the slab into four 2.5lbish chunks and prepped four different rubs.  The first was simply salt, pepper, and paprika. The second followed suit adding cayenne pepper.  To give a little sweet to the savory, I added sugar to the third chunk along with salt, pepper, and paprika.  For the fourth I used all five ingredients to add a little heat to the sweet.

Once I finished adding the rub to the pork belly I used the food saver to vacuum seal the slabs and put them in the fridge to "cure" so to speak for four days.  On Sunday I removed the pork belly from the bags and let them set at room temp for about 30 mins while I fired up the smoker to 225 degrees.  Some of the posts I read had you wash off the coating prior to smoking the meat, which had I used a curing salt I would have, but I decided to leave it on while the meat was on the smoker.

Unlike bacon you buy at the store, this is hot smoked so the bacon is technically cooked to 165 vice cold smoking which is not safe to eat until cooked.  I was concerned that by hot smoking the pork belly it would be either hammy or taste too much like a pork chop, but to the contrary, once it cooled and I sliced it, it fried up just like bacon and tasted quite amazing.

During the slicing process I ended up with chunks of smoked pork belly, which when baked in the oven for 20 mins turned into an indescribably awesome treat!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Pork, Beef, and Chicken Oh My!!!

As I planned out my New Years weekend smoke I couldn't decide what I wanted to cook, but I knew I wanted to cook enough to have meals for the week plus a little treat.  Smoked Bologna is my guilty sin that even in the midst of weight loss I had to have (Just means I gotta work out even harder this week). So I grabbed a pork tenderloin, tritip, chicken wings, poblano peppers, and of course BOLOGNA.

At 225 degrees all of the above items will take less than 3 hours to smoke, so I started in the early afternoon, so I could accomplish some yard work in the morning.  I used dry rub on all of the meat, adding some cayenne pepper to the chicken wings to kick them up a notch without sauce.  For the tritip and pork tenderloin I used a mix of salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder.  I used salt, pepper, garlic and cayenne on the wings, and salt, pepper, garlic and ancho chili (which is made of dried poblano peppers) on the chunks of bologna.

When I set up for this smoke I placed the two meats that needed the most exposure to heat (tritip and pork tenderloin) closest to the fire box, Followed by the wings, peppers, and lastly the bologna.  This will vary depending on your style of smoker. The bologna essentially just needs smoke, it is fully cooked, so pop it in for as long as you want, just don't burn it.  Pretty sure if you burn bologna you have to turn in your address is......

This is my third smoke on the new smoker, second since I sealed up some of the leaks, so maintaining my temp for a short smoke was easy, The challenge is getting used to a fire box that is the size of my last smoker's main chamber... Bigger smoker = more fuel so I have to adjust my reload times to ensure I keep enough fuel in the box to maintain temp and smoke.

I put everything on at 230 pm , and pulled the last hunk of meat off at 545 pm.

Meat                                Temp
Tritip                                 135
Pork Tenderloin                150
Chicken Wings                 165
Bologna and Peppers       Awesome    

The pork tenderloin was like eating amazing little bites of pork heaven!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Oklahoma Joe 1060 Smoker

After a recent move I decided it was time to get a new smoker.  I loved my Chargriller Duo, but I was ready for an upgrade.  After scouring numerous sites and peering at an endless array of smokers at both ends of the spectrum I took a step back and thought about what I really needed as a backyard dabbler in smoky meatiness. I had outgrown the limited space of the Chargiller, and I have a separate grill now so I now longer need an "all in one" unit. I also am not ready to drop a couple of grand for a smoker, so keeping things in perspective I decided I would check out the Oklahoma Joe 1060.  The smoker is pretty well built and at 252lbs, pretty easy to maneuver around the patio. I believe it took me longer to find a sales associate to get it off the shelf than it did to put it together.

Having read some posts prior to putting it together I knew a tube of high temp RTV would come in handy while assembling the fire box and attaching it to the main cooking chamber.  I also added some to the smoke stack to ensure a good seal.  Once I had it all together I let the RTV set for a couple of hours prior to firing it up to season it. Prior to heating it up I used cooking spray to coat the inside of the cooking chamber, and then fired her up.

Since I offered up a hunk of meat for the Christmas party at work I decided doing a brisket was a perfect way to break in the new beast.   I also grabbed  a tritip for us to enjoy!

I put the brisket and tritip on at 0850 in the morning knowing I would probably not be pulling the brisket off until 9 or 930 tonight.  Brisket is a labor of love, especially if you are running a stick burner. Smoking a GOOD brisket is not an easy task, so throwing one on a brand new smoker is probably foolish, but I like a challenge.  Thinking back, I am pretty sure brisket was the first meat I ever smoked right next to a pork butt.

The tritip came off the rack about 3 1/2hrs in at 135 degrees with just enough smoke to be amazing. That will be our dinner, with more than enough left over for lunches and sharing at work. The brisket came off at just over 14hrs (fighting wind and rain) and looked absolutely amazing. While it wasn't quite as smoky as I like, it was tender, juicy, and delicious!!!
I learn something new every time I fire up a smoker, meat placement, fire management, and timing (patience) are all vital to ensuring a successful smoke. The biggest take away from this smoke was fire management.  The smoke box is much bigger than my last, and the cooking chamber is 2x as big, so sufficient fuel x proper placement = amazing food!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Barbecue Training Day

It has been a while since I set aside a day for smoking, but this was a special occasion.  My brother in law just got back from a deployment and has been itching to fire up the smoker I gave him right before he left.

I wanted to do a project that was fun, with meats that are easy to do as an introduction to the process. I started by walking him through how to set up the smoker and start a fire without lighter fluid using charcoal and almond wood.  I always use the minion method and find that I can get away without having to constantly fiddle with the fire to get and keep it going.

Once the coals were hot and the smoke was rolling I closed the lid to let the temp come up to 225 prior to loading it up with meat.  While the smoker was warming up I walked him through prepping the ribs (removing the membrane, trimming straggling bits for uniform ribs), I bought 2 racks of St. Louis style ribs so I didn't have to do much.  As for the rub, I brought my "secret" blend and showed him how to coat the ribs prior to putting them on the smoker.

We went through the same process with the tritip, which was cool because it was something he has never tried before.  Tritip is awesome because whether you want to grill it or smoke it, it comes out amazing.  I typically smoke my tritip for about 2 hours at 225 to get max smoke without over cooking the meat.

The bologna and Braunschweiger were easy,  we cut the chubs into one pound chunks, and gave them a good rub.  For Ron's we did a coat of sriracha prior to adding the dry rub from some extra heat. I have never smoked a braunschweiger before, but it looked interesting, so I said what the heck and threw it on with the rest of the meat...

Before I opened the lid to put in the meat I went over the load plan with him so he understood how to set up the meat without having the lid open for a long time.  The ribs went in first furthest from the fire box, the tritip went on the main rack next to the fire box, and the rest went on the top rack.  The beast was loaded to the max!

Now that the lid was closed I taught him the most important rule, DON'T PEEK....  If you are lookin' you ain't cookin'...  The heat loss from opening and closing the lid causes the temperature to fluctuate and extends the cooking time.

After the first 2 hours I pulled the bologna, braunschweiger, and tritip off of the smoker.  After the third I wrapped the ribs in foil with some brown sugar, and put them back on for another 2 hours.  I usually follow the 3-2-1 method for ribs, but these things were perfect after 5 so I pulled them and added a light glaze of bbq sauce before serving them up to the family.

This was an exceptional training day smoke for Ron, and we both came out with a load of meat to keep us going for a couple of weeks..  I think I will take him through a pork shoulder next time before stepping up to brisket.  12 hours can be a long time for a beginner to be patient with the smoker and the meat.
Cheers, happy smokin'!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve Yule Log of Lamb

If there is one thing you can count on in our house anytime of the year it is lamb at least once a week.  So to make it special for Christmas I decided to change it up a bit and have a little fun at the same time.

I just bought a couple of racks lamb to throw in the freezer since they seem to be more abundant this time of year, so I decided I would do a play on rib roast, but with lamb.  Deboning  a rack of lamb is not hard, just time consuming to ensure only the bone is removed leaving as much of the lamb behind as possible.  Use an extremely sharp knife, and only use the tip, hehehe... to work the meat and fat away from the bone.

Once you have a beautifully deboned rib roast it is time to add some seasoning.  Since I was going for a certain look and taste I used oil, balsamic vinegar, paprika, salt, pepper, and garlic to season the meat on all sides.  I then rolled it into a cylindrical form and tied it up with butchers twine.  I then coated the exterior in ground pecans to add flavor, and to give it a log-like look.

I placed the log in a pan coated with olive oil and placed it in the oven at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. Since all ovens seem to cook differently, you are going for an internal temp of 125 to pull it from the oven.  Remove it from the pan, cover it loosely,  and set it to the side to rest.

While the lamb was resting I mashed the potatoes I had boiled earlier, and started my reduction.  Using the pan I cooked the lamb in (stainless steel oven and stove top safe) I set the heat to high, added in a tablespoon of butter, and poured in about a cup of Pinot Noir to break the bits away from the bottom of the pan.  I let the mixture reduce until it started to thicken, but not a syrupy consistency.

Once everything was ready I sliced the roast into eight even pieces for us to share, plated the meat, mashed potatoes, some asparagus, and some homemade Texas toast. I then drizzled some of the reduction over the potatoes and meat.  The rest is history! It was delicious.