Saturday, September 14, 2013

Pre-Smoke Day Preperation

Weekends for me bring the anticipation and satisfaction of preparing and consuming smoked meat.  I usually do all of my smoking on Sunday so that I can ensure I have properly prepared, and nothing is rushed.  I typically start preparing for a smoke a week in advance.  This includes identifying the type of meat I want to smoke, the type of wood I am going to use, prepping my rub, if it needs a dipping sauce that gets made, and cleaning/prepping the smoker.  I also check the weather for the week, I live in SOCAL, so not typically an issue, except if I am doing a night smoke where temperatures can vary by 20-30 degrees from the daytime.

By Friday I have planned everything out and I am ready to buy my meat on Saturday.  Saturday is a busy day, as now I have to gather up all of the items I have planned on smoking all week and prep them for Sunday.  This weekend I am doing a few items.  If I am going to fire up the beast, I want to take full advantage of the time and smoke so I am not wasting it on one small piece of meat.  

This is an exciting smoke week as I am planning pork spareribs, another bologna (for a friend), and smoked macaroni and cheese.  Oh, yeah, I said smoked mac and cheese.  This ain't your Kraft or powdered mac and cheese, this is Mandy's Mac'in mac and cheese that is already amazing, but we are going to kick it up a notch!  Check back tomorrow for the results....

So prepping pork spareribs for the smoker takes a little work but it is worthwhile.  I start by removing the membrane from the back of the rack.  Some people leave it on, but most people don't really like chewing on cooked rubber, so take it off.  I cut the spareribs down by finding the end of the ribs and cutting along the bones.  I then remove the extra portion of meat from the rib by cutting along the edge of the bones.  This gives your three sections of meat, the "St. Louis rack", rib tips, and skirt meat.  You can pick up pre-cut racks, but they cost more, and the other sections of meat that are part of spareribs are actually very tasty.

Next I select a mustard, whether spicy, whole grain, yellow, etc... and rub a thin layer over the meat on both sides.  I follow that up with my rub for pork ribs which consists of brown sugar, paprika, garlic, pepper, and a little salt.  Once all of the meat is coated I wrap it in foil and stick it in the fridge over night.  

Tomorrow is the big day, so come back and check out the finished product of all this prep work.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Friday Pizza Night Conquered by WootStout

It is hard to believe it is already Friday once again.  But tonight is pizza night, so it is the best night of the week!  Tonight I put together a pepperoni and linguica pizza with mozzarella and manchego cheese.  While this was an amazing combination, and made an awesome pizza, it was not the star of the show.

 No, tonight the star of this meal was a STONE FARKING WHEATON WOOTSTOUT! Yes, a humble Ale brewed with wheat, rye, and pecans and aged in Bourbon barrels.  Sound good.  No, It is FANTASTIC.  This stout from Stone was a collaboration beer that included Wil Wheaton, Greg Koch, and Drew Curtis.  This is probably up in the top 3 of my favorites of all time.  Stone Double Bastard Ale being #1....

I know, this is a barbecue blog and tonight I am pining over beer.  Well, next to meat, beer is king.  Nothing goes better with smoking meat than a tasty brew.  In this case Wootstout with a pizza chaser.  This brew has a dark complexion with the rich and earthy aroma of rye.  As it touches your lips you taste the yummy toastiness that accompanies a brew that is aged in bourbon barrels.  This is a limited release so grab it while you can!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Rockin' Rack of Lamb

A few years ago Mandy and I had a rack of lamb at a local restaurant in San Diego and instantly fell in love with this delectable cut of meat.  So being the meathead that I am I decided I would go buy a rack of my own and recreate this masterpiece at home.

My first attempt, while valiant, just wasn't the same.  So I did some research and threw all of that out the window to go for broke and recreate the dish again.  The dish was walnut encrusted rack of lamb with a pinot noir reduction, mashed potatoes, and green beans.  Since I didn't have any walnuts I ground up pecans instead for the crust.  AMAZING!

I had created an addiction that became a once a week dinner in our house for at least the next two years.  After a while I thought it was time to branch out and try something new.  So I turned to the grill and thought why not, lets give it a shot.  Again AMAZING.  Grilled lamb satisfies my primal instinct to burn flesh over open fire, and Mandy's addiction to lamb. 

If the lamb comes "frenched" (meat and fat trimmed back on the bone) I rub it with oil, salt, pepper, and paprika.  If not, I trim the meat and fat away from the bone and then rub.


Tonight I am doing the lamb with grilled corn on the cob and asparagus.  So I preheated the grill to medium heat and gave the corn a 15 minute head start wrapped in foil with butter, salt, and pepper.  After 15 minutes I moved the corn to the side and turned two of the burners to high.  Once the heat rose to about 450 I placed the rack on the grill, fat side down to sear the meat for 4 minutes, and then I flipped it to the other side to sear for 4 more minutes, and then reduced the heat to medium.  I closed the lid and let it cook at 375 for 18 minutes.  Once it was to a nice medium I  pulled it from the grill to rest and threw on the asparagus coated in olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic.  

I also put 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan on high heat, then added 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup of red wine, salt, and pepper to taste to create a reduction for the lamb.

After the meat had rested for 10 minuted I cut equal size chops by cutting in between all of the bones.  I then plated the meat and veggies, and finished it with some of the reduction over the lamb.  This meal is proof you can create amazing dishes using your grill!!  MAGNIFICENT!  

This goes well with a Metolius River Blonde Ale or a nice glass of Pinot Noir.  


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Luxurious Leftovers Night

The mere thought of leftovers sends most people, Mandy included, running in the other direction.  Growing up you almost never had leftover pizza night, or leftover steak night.  It was usually a mass of gelatinous goop made up of leftovers from a previous meal that is now a casserole. I've become quite the magician over the years finding creative ways to use leftovers combined with fresh items to convince Mandy that leftovers can be just as good as the first time around.

Tonight was leftover night in our house, and Tri Tip was the main attraction. When I fire up the smoker, it isn't going to be just for a rack of ribs.  I usually try to plan out one or two additional treats for later in the week or to freeze for stews, carnitas, sandwiches, etc.... This past weekend I did a Tri Tip for just that reason.  Half was cooled, wrapped, and placed in the freezer, the other half was saved for tonight's dinner.

Since it is already cooked reheating it will only take a few minutes.  I chose to add roasted potatoes, grilled asparagus, and grilled homemade tomato basil bread. Depending on the type and size of the potatoes it can take from 30 to 40 minutes to get crispy on the outside, tender in the middle potatoes.  I cut the small golden potatoes into quarters and lightly coated them in olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Because we like ours crispy I left them in the oven for 40 minutes at 375 degrees.

The only other prep that was required was for the asparagus and bread.  After rinsing the stems I cut off the ends, and then rolled the asparagus in oil, red pepper, salt, and black pepper to lightly coat them before sticking them on the grill.

During the last 10 minutes of cooking I fired up the grill with the burners set to a medium heat.  I placed the asparagus across the grates to prevent them from falling through, along with the bread, and Tri Tip wrapped in foil.  The asparagus needs to be turned frequently to prevent burning and will only take about 6 minutes to cook.  I lightly buttered the bread and set it just on the edge of the "hot" zone to warm the bread and melt the butter.  Just before I pulled them off I placed the butter side down over the flames to add some grill marks.

Once it was all ready, I plated and served a Tri Tip dinner in 40 minutes.  Quick, easy, fantastic leftovers that went great with my Sierra Nevada Pale Ale!  


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Mega Bratwurst

If I have a vice in this world it is a hot.... let me rethink that. There is nothing better than a big.... Well, I suppose I just have to say it and suffer the consequences.... I love meat filled casings shoved in a bun!!! I have always had an affinity for hot dog.  I used to drive downtown after school and eat at the Roanoke Wiener Stand "Hot Dog King" at least once a week after I got my license.  It is a landmark at Center in the Square and there was nothing better than a hot dog and fries while watching the traffic roll by outside.

A few years later I would be introduced to an entire country whose economy must have revolved around sausages because they were sold on every corner in Mannheim and the surrounding cities.  We got 7-11 and Slurpees as far as the eyes can see,  they get bratwurst, knockwurst, blood sausage, and a number of other stuffed creations.  I was in heaven, but also in utter disbelief by the fact that Germans flocked to the American hot dog stand at local fairs.  Guess you can't beat a good mystery meat nitratesicle.  

I will save hot dogs for another day. This is an ode to the bratwurst.  In this case pork bratwurst I purchased at Sprouts.  These weren't Johnsonvilles, these were Wisconsins (ok, Johnsonville is based in Wisconsin).  You would be pressed to find a roll worthy of these sausages, but we will get to that.

I know there are people who swear by boiling them in beer and finishing them on the stove top or grill, but I prefer to cook them on the grill start to finish.  These suckers are fully of yummy juices that will try to escape if you toss it on a flaming hot grill so start them on medium heat and let them cook slow to avoid splits and loss of awesomeness.  If you get flare ups, move them to another spot so they don't get charred.  Let them cook for about 25 minutes, you can test with a meat thermometer through the end, NOT THE CASING.  Make sure they are at 160 degrees.

Now to the roll.  You can use your standard store bought hot dog bun, you can step it up with a nice roll from the bakery, OR you can pimp that sausage out on a homemade pretzel roll with your favorite mustard.  For this meal I chose Stone Pale Ale Ground Mustard with Chipotle. You may deduce that the roll is simply a carrier for the bratwurst, and I typically would agree, but in this case Mandy's pretzel rolls are part of the main event and compliment the bratwurst nicely.

However you roll, these bad boys were worth the wait on the grill, and go great with your favorite brew.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Smoked Tri Tip

The Tri Tip is a triangle shaped cut of muscle from the Bottom sirloin primal cut.  It has been made famous in California as Santa Maria Tri Tip which relates to a style of barbecue originating in Central California.  Santa Maria barbecue is cooked on a open grill using red or white oak.  The temperature is controlled by turning a wheel and raising or lowering the fire box which is directly under the grilling surface.  

Tri Tip is a very tender cut that is best served medium rare when cooked on the grill.  I have found that smoking the Tri Tip takes it to another level of flavor while maintaining an extremely tender cut of meat.  Tri Tip is a lot more forgiving than brisket and is certain to impress your guests when served.  

I coated the meat lightly with olive oil and then rubbed the meat with salt, pepper, dried oregano, and cayenne pepper.  I only did a light rub because the meat is very flavorful on its own.  The rub just compliments the meat and smokiness that will be imparted in the smoker.

I wrapped the meat in foil and let it sit in the fridge for 2 hours.  When I was ready to start smoking, I pulled it out and let it sit at room temperature while the smoker was heating up.  I put the Tri Tip on the smoker at 225 degrees for 2 hours, then wrapped it in foil and placed it back on the smoker for another hour.  

At the end of that hour I pulled the Tri Tip off of the smoker and opened the foil to let the meat rest for 10 minutes before cutting it (I know, this is the hardest part, but it is worth the wait).  When I cut the Tri Tip I stared at one of the ends and cut slices at a 45 degree angle for a great presentation.  

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Holy Smokin Bologna

Ok, I know what you are thinking... Smoked Bologna? Our favorite childhood lunch meat pimped out and pumped up with smoke until it takes on a life of its own? YES, only better than you could ever imagine!

Read further at your own risk of becoming addicted to this delectably tasty treat.

I first learned of this crazy idea from my aunt and uncle when discussing mustard and how I only liked spicy brown and whole grain, but could not stand yellow.  They told me to try it with smoked bologna on white bread.  I said "Excuse me, did you just say smoked bologna??"  Yes, I heard them right.  So I waited patiently all week until I had an afternoon of smoking meat planned and made my move.  I went to Sprouts Supermarket and asked for a about 2-3 lbs of bologna uncut.  I brought home this beautiful hunk of processed mystery meat and prepped it for the smoker by turning it on its side and cutting it in half (if it is wrapped in red casing make sure you remove it completely). I then cut slits long ways about 1/4 in deep every inch around the meat and then cross hatched the ends.  This was to allow the smoke to get into the meat.  

I placed it on the top rack (furthest from the heat) of the smoker at 225 degrees for about 2 1/2 hours to let the smoke penetrate the meat.  Since it is already cooked, you don't need to leave it on for a long time. Once it is to the desired degree of smokiness, remove it and slice it to your desired thickness.

Place the slices in a pan (cast iron if you have one) and fry the puppy up until it is a little crispy on both sides. Slap it on some white bread with yellow mustard and Devour. Goes really good with an ice cold beer.  ENJOY!