Saturday, September 28, 2013

Step Into My Dough Joe!

So as with any new toy I was itching to try out my Dough Joe pizza stones with some good old pizza cooked on a hot stone.  I read all the directions and started the grill on low to heat up the stones gradually as to not crack one.  Meanwhile I started on my pizzas which I had pretty much prepped in advance.
y new

I made my own dough for this trial run.  Figured I needed to make it as difficult as possible since I was using a new pizza peel and stone that I have never worked with before.....

The dough turned out pretty good, needs some tweaking to add a little more flavor, but it was good for round one on the Dough Joe.  I went back out and turned up the heat several times to get the grill temp up to 550 degrees.  Once the gauge read 550 I tested the stone with my Nubee infrared thermometer and the stone was at about 580 degrees.  If you don't have a infrared thermometer, go get one.  Well worth the investment!

             Nubee® Temperature Gun Non-contact Infrared Thermometer w/ Laser Sight

 Now that the stone was to temp I rolled out the dough and added the toppings for the first pizza, a wild mushroom pizza with fontina, romano, and mozzarella cheeses.  Once the pizza was dressed I slid the peel under the pizza.... Well after some manipulating I got it on the peel... Then took it out to the grill to cook.  At this point I have thrown out all of the advise my uncle gave me on using a pizza stone, cause, well, I just got in a hurry.... So I finally got the pizza off the peel and onto the stone.  10 minutes later I had a beautiful pizza, well slightly lopsided, and I was ready for round two!

The second pizza was a lamb and feta pizza with caramelized onions, mint and parsley.  This time I prepped the dough and placed it on the peel before adding the toppings, I added the toppings, and then took it out to the grill.  After shaking a few toppings off onto the stone... I got the pizza onto the stone.  10 minutes later I had an even better pizza, but still lopsided...

Lesson learned, start the pizza on a pan for a couple of minutes to get it started and then transfer it to the stone to finish it.  Also I need to perfect my dough recipe before I move on to toppings.  I am thinking I will work on that tomorrow while I am smoking a nice big pork picnic shoulder and a surprise.

Recipes for the amazing pizzas to follow as well!  Over all the Dough Joe Pizza stones are awesome!

Butter Bell'n

I will go for good old fashion butter over chemically engineered margarine any day.  But the inconvenience of a stick of hard butter makes it difficult to use on a regular basis.  That is why centuries ago when ancient barbecue fanatics discovered their innate ability to create earthen bowls, they created a device capable of allowing butter to be kept at room temperature.

Hence the invention of this extremely sophisticated piece of culinary equipment.  The butter bell consists of a ceramic base and a separate bell shaped bowl with a rim and small handle (which doubles as a base).  To use this mystical piece of technology you take your softened butter and jam it into the bell to fill it up.  Then put just enough water in the base to form a seal with the rim of the bell and presto, you have softened butter for dinner or any occasion that doesn't require refrigeration!! You can pick one of these up online on Amazon for under $10.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Pan Seared New York Strip with a Brown Ale Reduction

On the drive home tonight there was quite a spirited debate over what to cook for dinner.  I wanted to do lamb steaks, Mandy wanted steak and fries, but I really wanted to do something different.  So while milling the meat counter at Sprouts Market I decided on 2 New York strips for dinner with a twist.

Since daylight is waning as the year nears its end, I decided tonight I would do something a little different than my typical grilled steak.  I had a bag of potatoes at the house so I knew I was going to do some roasted potatoes to accompany the steak.  Since the potatoes take a while to cook I preheated the oven to 425 and cut up the potatoes into 1/2 inch squares.  I coated them in olive oil, rosemary,garlic, salt, and pepper.  I also sprayed the pan with coking spray to prevent sticking.

I placed the pan of potatoes in the oven for 15 minutes, then flipped the potatoes around a bit on the pan to brown all of the sides, then stuck it back in for another 15.  I coated the steaks with a light coat of oil, salt, and pepper, then preheated a pan on high with a tablespoon of EVOO to prevent sticking.  Once the pan was hot I seared the steaks for 2 minutes, flipped and seared for another 2 minutes then slid the pan in the oven for 3 minutes.  This cooked them to a perfect medium.

I pulled the steaks out of the oven and placed them on a plate covered in foil.  I turned the burner on high and added 8oz of +sierranevada Autumn Brown Ale to the pan.  With a nylon spoon I stirred the beer to break loose the bits from the pan.  I let the liquid reduce by half then added a tablespoon of butter, 1/2 garlic clove minced, a teaspoon of parsley, rosemary, and thyme to the liquid and shut off the heat.  I continued to stir the mixture and then let it set.

I plated the steak and potatoes and then drizzled the sauce over the meat.  I paired the steak with a Black Market Rye IPA, which was awesome!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Barbecue Withdrawls

Being on the road for several days can throw off your entire schedule. For me it typically takes 2-3 days just to get back into a normal routine.  While I enjoy the adventure of finding great food in new places, I spend that time also contemplating all of the recipes I want to try when I get back.  That said, this weekend is sure to be jam packed with grilling and smoking.  

I returned home to find my Dough Joe Pizza Stones waiting for me.  EXCELLENT! I will try to restrain myself until Friday before I put these stones through their paces.  Also trying to remember all the tips +Phil Crews gave me on cooking pizza on a stone on the grill, and hoping it works.  I think I will throw on a focaccia first to test the temp and time to get perfect crust without ruining a pizza.  

I am also planning on smoking some cheese this weekend for my bro Eric sine he has posed the challenge for some smoked cheddar.  No, I will not be smoking a block of orange fake cheddar, thinking some English Cheddar or Irish Dubliner would be a better candidate. Gouda is always gooda too, but looking to try something you can't buy in the store.  Should be fun!

As for what will benefit from the main smoking chamber, I am thinking it is time for a pork shoulder.  I have a hankering for some tasty carnitas as well as pulled pork sandwiches with some homemade Eastern Carolina BBQ sauce.  This is going to be a smokey weekend so check back for all the details!


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Diamond in the Desert, Indian Wells Brewery and Lodge Restaurant

I have eaten a ton of steak in my life, and a lot of them have cycled through my top 10, but this steak has a permanent spot in my top five.  For now it is top 3.  This masterful piece of meat is a ribeye steak at the Indian Wells Lodge at the Indian Wells Brewery.  Where is this place you ask?  It is set back in a hillside in the middle of the Mojave desert off the 14 in Ridgecrest, CA.

I have been drooling so much over the steak that I haven't even mentioned that they make some spectacular beers.  Tonight I was drinking Amnesia IPA one of their many awesome brews.  Now back to the steak.

The steaks at Indian wells come in Strip, Ribeye, and Sirloin. All of which are extremely generous.  The Diamond Jim Sirloin is 22 ounces of pure gold.  I had this steak on two previous trips to the area and it is amazing.

Tonight I went with the ribeye which was no disappointment. I was so excited to tear into it that I actually cut it before I remembered to document this masterpiece.  But as you can see, it is a perfect medium rare. Perfectly grilled, tender, melt in your mouth goodness.  It is almost criminal that it is 3 hours from home. But worth the trip!

The Amnesia IPAs were crisp, hoppy, and held their own with this amazing cut of meat.  I have also tried all of the other brews on tap and all are fantastic.  Most notably the Lobotomy Bock which is based on a German Dopple Bock.  The best part of all of these beers is the fact that they are made using water straight out of the Indian Wells Spring that is located at this oasis in the desert.    

So if you ever find yourself traveling along the 395 or 14 in California, this is a worthwhile detour.  Beer and a steak for you, or one of their many signature sodas and candy for the kids.  

Monday, September 23, 2013

Beer and Barbecue

Beer and barbecue go together like apple pie and baseball.  Before there was a craft beer brewery on every corner people drank flavorless mass produced beers by the 18 pack and provided nothing of value to the meal.  Then came the beer magicians like Greg Koch and Steve Wagner to save the backyard barbecue and to return beer to the dinner table.  This craft beer revolution has relegated the color shifting labels from Colorado and Clydesdale carted beers to the golf course and softball field opening a new door for what is possible for beer.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a couple cans of Coors on the course to help improve my swing, but when it comes to food, I want to enjoy all of the flavors and how the beer and dish compliment each other.  Just like a bottle of wine, different beers go better with different foods.  Fortunately for me Double IPAs, especially Stone Double Bastard Ale, go great with smoked foods.  In fact any of the Bastard Releases from Stone go great with smoked meats.  The bitterness of the hops cuts through the smokiness, but the meat is flavorful enough to not be overpowered by these massive brews.

If you are going for some carnitas and a spicy kick of hot sauce, an IPA is a good choice.  I really enjoy Ballast Point Big Eye IPA.  It provides just the right balance to accent the spiciness of the carnitas while cooling the palate before your next bite. I know what you are thinking, I am crazy, Mexican food and American IPA, isn't that yellow beer with a lime hanging out of it the best beer for tacos?  If that is your thing, then yeah, but give an IPA a shot, and you may never look back.

Next is the Burger, oh the glorious hamburger smothered in sauteed onions, cheese, avocado (hey its California, it has to have it), and well  bacon of course. You could pretty much go either way on this one, a good porter (my aunt will be smiling) or a Red Ale.  If you are going to go with a Porter, then Stone Smoked Porter is your best friend.  If an Amber Ale is your choice then a Green Flash Hop Head Red is your choice.

I could pretty much go on forever, but I have to save something for next time.  We are in the midst of a beer revolution.  Beer is reclaiming its spot at the table of not only mom and pop restaurants, but fine dining institutions that used to scoff at the idea of serving beer in a fine dining establishment.  This sweet hoppy nectar has a firm grip on my palate and I look forward to introducing more flavor combinations any chance I get, and sharing the experience with my fellow foodies.    


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Food and Family

Nothing goes better with good food than time spent with friends and family.  After all, the entire restaurant industry has been built around the concept of bringing people together to spend hours eating, drinking, and sharing stories.  Growing up, our family gatherings,dinner out at a restaurant, and cookouts with friends were something we all cherished, and still do to this day.

In the time before smart phones, Ipads, and other personal distractions we sat around in lawn chairs chatting with cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and close friends catching them up on our latest adventures and interests. Playing games in the yard, and spotlight or catching fireflies after the sun went down. When it was time to eat it was an endless smorgasbord of casseroles, meat, rolls (Granny's school house rolls), and desserts that we all packed ourselves with until we were in a food coma.

Over the years no matter what country, situation, or reason for coming together, food is the centerpiece for any occasion.  It provides comfort when you are down, elation when you create a dish that others love, and satisfaction of successful meal when the end of the night comes, and guests are asking for leftovers to take home.

This weekend we went to a dinner theater called Medieval Times in Buena Park, California.  It is a dinner show based on knights, horses, jousting, and sword fighting.  All the while you are stuffed with Dragon's Blood, half a chicken, pork ribs, potatoes, and pastries.  The show is very interactive and encourages the audience to share in the experience as horses and riders demonstrate their skills and compete for favors from the princess.

The show was great, and time with family was priceless, but the food.... while enough to feed an army, was not the best.  The tomato soup was watery and flavorless, the chicken was dry, the rib was boiled (yuck) and covered in a gelatinous coating, and the potatoes were under cooked.   While this is a major production that requires hundreds of people to be fed through the course of the show, better quality controls should be implemented to improve the dining part of the experience.

Overall it was a fantastic night and we enjoyed spending time with the family!