Friday, September 20, 2013

Pecan Encrusted Lamb

This has been a pretty unusual if not down right stressful week for us.  As a result our schedules and plan for the week's meals just didn't work out so we have done quite a bit of improvisation daily on what to eat for dinner.  Tonight was no different.  Pizza, while amazing, just wasn't going to cut it so I decided we needed to do some lamb.  But not just any lamb, the rack that started it all. Well, maybe not everything, but at least a love affair with this delectable cut of meat.

While not technically BBQ, or even cooked on the grill, which I suppose you could, this is a blog worthy meal.

To start, pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees and lightly spray or coat an oven safe pan with oil.  For the rack itself, I used a frenched rack of lamb.  Lightly coat the meat with EVOO, salt, pepper, and paprika and rub into the fat cap of the rack.  For the pecans, I placed them in a sandwich bag and crushed them into small bits.  I then sprinkled the bits over the meat and pressed them into the rack to get them to stick.

Place the rack in the pan, drizzle a little red wine over the rack and slide it into the oven for 30 minutes.  When the timer winds down to 0 remove the rack from the oven to rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes.  While the rack was cooking I prepped some bread by buttering it, adding some sliced tomato, basil, and garlic. I placed that in the oven for 10 minutes at 400 degrees and threw some broccoli into a pot of boiling water.

I also made a red wine reduction by combining 1/2 cup red wine, 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of EVOO in the hot pan in which I cooked the rack.  I let the mixture come to a boil and reduced by 1/2.

During the last 6 minutes I also heated up some pre-made mashed potatoes I had from another night.

At the end of the 10 minutes I cut up the rack (perfect medium), plated the meat, potatoes, bread, and broccoli, then topped it off with some of the reduction.  I paired this meal with a South Coast Winery Berenda Road Cabernet Sauvignon.  Excellent taste and complemented the lamb without overpowering the dish.      

Thursday, September 19, 2013

20 Mile Burger

I know what you are thinking, what the heck is a 20 mile burger.  Well, my aunt and uncle have a rule that they can only have a hamburger after they run 20+ miles.  Makes perfect sense, but I have a rule that if I have to sit in traffic for 2 or more hours I can have a juicy burger. NO, not really, but traffic was hell today and it did take me 2 hours to travel 70 miles...

Tonight was supposed to be barbecue chicken night, but that is another story.... So in an effort to save dinner I made hamburgers a la grill.

You can either buy a package of ground beef or preformed patties from the meat counter.  Tonight I was in a rush so I got the preformed patties from the meat counter.  THESE ARE NOT THE SAME AS THE FROZEN HOCKEY PUCKS IN THE FREEZER ISLE!!  If you are going to do hamburgers, then do it right, fresh ground 80/20.  This will ensure a nice juicy burger that will hold together on the grill.

Just like steak all a burger needs is a little oil, salt, and pepper.  I fired up the grill on high, and let the grill heat up.  You want to sear the outside of the burger just like a steak.  I placed the burgers on the grill over the grease guard to reduce flare ups.  DO NOT, I REPEAT, DO NOT squish your hamburgers.  They are not sponges, and you are not wringing them out! Leave them alone for 4 minutes, then gently flip, and let the other side sear for 4 minutes.  At this point your burger is rare.  If you want medium, yes please, then reduce the heat to medium, and close the lid for 5 to 7 minutes depending on the temp of your grill.  This is medium.  If you want well done, then let it go for another 5-7 minutes.

During the last 5 minutes of the cook I place the buns on the grill to toast them a little.  I place the cheese on about 2 minutes prior to melt it to the meat.  Once you remove the burgers from the grill, let them rest for f minutes covered before sliding them on a bun.  I use this time to chop up tomatoes and rinse the lettuce.

Tonight's burgers were dressed in whole wheat buns with local yellow tomatoes and romaine lettuce with ketchup and mayo.  I paired it with a Rough Draft Eraser IPA.  This was the first time I have tried a beer from this brewery, but it will not be my last.  Excellent choice!


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Steak Night

To me there is almost nothing better than a steak on the grill.  The best are done over wood or charcoal, but on a week night I will settle for propane.  Cooking a steak is not hard, cooking a good steak takes practice. I grew up thinking steak was actually supposed to taste like a gym shoe covered in lighter fluid.   As a result I never ordered it in a restaurant or even thought about cooking one well into my 20's.  The thought of having a sore jaw from gnawing on a meat sponge was not appealing at all....  It wasn't until I actually watched a cooking show that I realized how a steak should be cooked.  After that I went to the store and walked up to the meat counter and took a chance on a ribeye.  I was a little leery at first about biting into this pink juicy hunk of meat, but I did, and I have never been the same since. No, I am not referring to my glowing personality.

The key to a good steak on the grill is buying a good steak for grilling. Chuck and round are not going to make you want to go back for more, unless you like chewing each bite for 20 minutes.  Strips, ribeyes, tenderloin are good grilling steaks. You can also go for a T bone (strip and loin) or porterhouse ( when tenderloin is wider than 1 1/2 inches).

The grill should be on high and heated up, ensure the steaks have been lightly rubbed with oil, sea salt, and pepper.  Place the steaks on the grill and sear for 2 to 3 minutes with the lid open.  Flip the steak and sear on the other side for another 2 to 3 minutes (depending on grill and temp, the higher the temp the less time). Now, if you are like me and like your steak kissed on both sides with a smack on the rear, then it is ready at a medium rare (light red warm in the middle).  IF you are like Mandy and like a just under medium to medium steak, flip it and twist it to the side (gives good grill marks), reduce the heat to medium, and close the lid for 5 minutes.  This will give you a good medium steak (pink throughout). If you like it burnt, I mean well done, leave it on for another 5 minutes (please, don't do this to your steak)...

Once you remove it from the heat, place it on a plate or cutting board to rest for at least 5 minutes.  I add a pat of butter, and parsley to add some richness and color to the dish.  Allowing the meat to rest will allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat and thicken so the steak is actually juicy.  I paired this steak with a Sierra Nevada Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale ENJOY!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Marty's Smoked Armadillo Eggs

Now I did not make these amazing little treats, but I smoked them.  Late last week while churning over ideas for Smokeapalooza, Matty D. (Marty), came across these delectable mounds of meat, cheese, and jalapenos.  We instantly knew it was going to be done, we just weren't sure who was going to put them together.  Matt rogered up to take on the task of putting them together and bringing them over on Sunday.

Now that we had established who was going to do what, I handled the wood and fire and Matt, the other Matt, built the eggs.

These little puppies are made from 4 ingredients sweet Italian sausage, jalapeno peppers, cream cheese and cheddar cheese.  Matt was making these for a get together so he used 22 jalapenos and 6 lbs of sausage. Unless you plan to make and freeze them or feed a small army I would reduce the amounts to the following:

1 lb of italian sausage
10 jalapenos
1 cup of cheddar cheese
8oz of cream cheese

First, mix the softened cream cheese and cheddar cheese in a a bowl. Next, put on gloves!! Trust me, I have learned the hard way...
Cut the stems off of the jalapenos and slice them long ways.  Clean out the seeds was rinse.
The sausage needs to be rolled out until it thin, and depending on the size of the jalapenos cut the sausage into squares that are large enough to cover the peppers. Wrap each of the peppers in the sausage and essentially form them into egg shaped rolls.

Now the fun part!

Place them on the smoker at 225 degrees and close the lid for 2 hours.  Because the sausage is so thin you will not  be able to get an accurate temperature reading, so once the armadillo eggs reach a medium to dark brown remove them from the smoker.

While tasty on their own, Matt added them to his homemade marinara sauce which made them even better!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Smoked Pork Ribs

This weekend I smoked a ton of food not only for myself but for some friends as well.  The main event was a rack of spare ribs that I cut down into a St Louis Rack, Rib tips, and skirt (extra flap of meat on the edge of the rack).  The skirt did not survive the carnivores yesterday afternoon.  Which is kind of the fun part of doing spareribs, the cook gets a treat that generally doesn't make it to a table, but is just as amazing as the rib meat itself.  

To properly reheat ribs without drying them out I place them on a baking sheet in the oven at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes (depending on the size of the rack).  Mine were a little thicker this time so after the first 10 minutes I wrapped them in foil with a little apple juice to keep them moist, and put them back in for 10 more minutes.  

I put the mac and cheese in a Pyrex baking dish with 2 tablespoons of water and placed it in the oven for 15 minutes to reheat it.  The water adds a little moisture to keep it from drying out while in the oven. This method works in the microwave as well for 2 and 1/2 minutes if you take it to work.  

Overall not bad for a 20 minute meal on a Monday night!!  This is definitely a good match with a cold Stone IPA.  For directions on making Smoked ribs see the Smoked Pork Ribs Page. For more on Mandy's Mac'in Mac and Cheese see my post from September 15, 2013.   

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Mandy's Smoked Mac'in Mac and Cheese

With a name like this it can only be amazing, and it is.  Mandy has a recipe for mac and cheese that she has perfected, and subsequently ruined me on any other cheesy macaroni.  This dish was amazing on its own, but we just couldn't leave well enough alone.  We had to take it to the next level.  Now this could really only turn out one way and that was amazing.  Smoke and cheese have shared a love affair long before I started shoveling meat onto the smoker.

This mac and cheese is made using the following:

2 1/2 Cups of your favorite uncooked pasta
6 Tablespoons of Butter divided
1/4 Cup flour
1 Teaspoon salt
1 Teaspoon sugar
2 Cups milk
8 oz of Velveeta cubed
1 1/3 Cups of cottage cheese
2/3 Cups of sour cream
2 Cups of shredded sharp cheddar
1lb of bacon crumpled
1 1/2 cups of french fried onions

Start by cooking the pasta.  While the pasta is on melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a sauce pan.  Stir in the flour, salt, and sugar until smooth.  Gradually add in the milk and bring to a boil.  Cook for 2 minutes or until thickened.

Reduce the heat and stir in the Velveeta until melted and add the cream cheese and sour cream.  Once it is blended, pour over the drained pasta in a greased 2 1/2 baking dish and sprinkled on the cheddar.

At this point, I stuck it on the smoker, and reserved the bacon and fried onions for later.  After 1 hour on the smoker I added the mixture of crumpled bacon and fried onions to the mac and cheese and stuck it back on for one more hour.

At the end of the smoke I pulled this amazing concoction off of the smoker and put it on the counter to cool. When we were ready to eat I heated up pulled smoked pork I had from a previous meal (What, doesn't everyone have a freezer full of smoked meat??) and put it on top of the mac and cheese with a dab of barbecue sauce.

What can I say, I mean, cheese, bacon, smoke, pulled pork, it speaks for itself.  This is a true masterpiece. I gobbled this dish up while enjoying a Metolius River Yellow Sally Blonde Ale.    


I am not even sure where to begin.  Today was mad scientist day at the house.  I started today at 5am going over everything I planned to cook, and the times needed to ensure I would get it done before dark.  At about 930 I went out and started setting up the smoker.  I placed a drip pan under the coking area with a water/apple juice mixture to add moisture to the air in the smoker. I placed three 1/4 cut logs of pecan wood on the grate in the fire box.  I also started a chimney of charcoal (using the fire pit as a base for safety), once it turns white and the flames die down it is ready for use.  I use the minion method (pouring the hot coals on the wood to start the fire in the box and letting the coals burn down through the wood) which always works well for low and slow cooking.

Once I got the smoker up to temperature I added the ribs, tips, and skirt to the smoker. I then tried my first experiment of the day.  Smoked pizza, yes I took a perfectly good dish by itself and stuck it in the smoker.... This was a first, but will not be the last.  I added tomato sauce fresh basil, pepperoni, mushroom, black olive, mozzarella and feta to the dough and put it on the top rack of the smoker.  Not really knowing how it was going to turn out I crossed my fingers and closed the lid....

After an hour I checked the pizza, and it looked beautiful.  A tear even came to my eye, IT WAS THE SMOKE, there's no crying in smoking!  I heated up the grill to 450 and transferred the cast iron pan over to grill to finish the crust.  After 5 minutes on the grill I pulled the pizza and transferred it to another pan to cool.


This was the most interesting slice of pizza I have ever tasted, the cheese had soaked up the smoke, as did the crust.  It was sensory shock because the normal pizza taste was there, but coated in smoky goodness.  I had Mandy, Matt (the other Matt), and Eric all try it as well.  The consensus, it needs something rich or creamy to accentuate the smoky favor of the cheese.  Eric even suggested adding pear and arugula at the end, which sounded awesome.  (Phil suggested duck... I see a duck getting roasted in the future....)

I smoked my ribs for 2 hours uncovered at 225 degrees and then wrap them in foil with Apple juice.

Just like in the movie Field of Dreams, if you build it they will come....  I was expecting a guest smoker today, Matt or "Marty", and got two, which was great cause you can never have too much meat!  About 3pm-ish Eric brought by some wild boar sausages to throw on the smoker.  I put them on the top rack and estimated about 1.5 to 2hrs of smoke based on Google....

After the 2 hours was up for the ribs I pulled them from the smoker and put them on the grill at 250 to give them some direct heat and flame kisses.  I left them on the grill for about 15 minutes flipping them half way through.  Once I was satisfied that I had them perfect, I pulled them from the grill and took them in to cool (dinner for tomorrow).  I cut up some of the rib tips for samplin', and they were magnificent!

In the middle of the ribs coming off and getting cut up, Marty showed up with a tray of awesomeness.  Friday while discussing smoking options at work he stumbled across Armadillo Eggs. There was no debating we were going to do them.  I know what you are thinking, where the heck do you get armadillo eggs and why the heck do you want to eat one...

Well these have NOTHING to do with armadillos other than the look after they are done.  These yummy little treats are nothing short of magnificent, and if I could hug the person that invented them, I would!  The recipe for this tasty treat will be covered tomorrow, but lets just say it is a combination of jalapenos filled with cream cheese and covered in sausage!

As if ribs, pizza, boar sausage, and Armadillo eggs weren't enough, Mandy made some of her Macin' Mac and cheese which of course, went onto the smoker!!!  This recipe will be covered tonight, as it is too amazing to hold off on trying.

Tomorrow I will be setting up an appointment with the local cardiologist for a an angioplasty...  Thankfully, Eric brought over a Matty Fagan /Matt Douvres collaboration beer named Oaky Dokey Marty. This was an amazing Ale that is finished in oak chips with bourbon and a split vanilla bean to balance the flavor.  OUTSTANDING local home brew!
Thanks for the company, it was a smokin' good time!