Saturday, October 26, 2013

Mandy's Birthday Lamb 2 Ways

For Mandy's Birthday I promised her I would make lamb for dinner, but because we worked on Wednesday, were hanging out in San Diego on Thursday night, and won't confirm or deny Friday... So Saturday night became Lamb night.  I have done lamb a few hundred times, so I wanted to try something a little different this time.

I know, experimenting on Mandy's birthday dinner is risky business, but I am pretty sure I can nail it.  So for this lambtacular dinner I decided I would do two different cuts of lamb, two different ways.  A braised rack of lamb, and a grilled lamb shoulder steak.  Why you ask, why not I say!!

To begin, I trimmed off the excess fat from the rack of lamb and coated it in olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and paprika and set it aside.  I preheated the oven to 375 degrees and placed an oven safe pan on the stove top on high with a tablespoon of oil.  Once the oil was heated I added the rack to the pan and let it sear for 2 minutes on each side, I then carefully added 1 1/2 cups of red wine and 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar to the pan, covered it, and placed it in the oven for 20 minutes.

While the lamb was cooking, I prepped a lamb shoulder steak by trimming off some of the fat and coating it in olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and paprika.  I set it aside until there was about 10 minutes left on the rack.  I preheated the grill on high and seared the steak for 2 minutes on each side.  I then reduced the heat and let it cook for another 6 minutes before pulling it off to rest.

I also pulled the rack out of the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes.  While the meat was resting I added about half a cup of red wine to the already reduced mixture that the lamb was braised in, and turned the burner on high to reduce and thicken the mixture.

I also threw some squash and zucchini into a pan with a tablespoon of oil and minced garlic on medium heat.  Once the reduction and zucchini were ready I plated everything up and paired it with a glass of  South Coast Winery Berenda Road Cabernet Sauvignon.

Mandy thought this was an amazing meal and well worth the wait!! While it was a little too much for 2 people, it was her birthday, and leftovers are never a bad thing....

Friday, October 25, 2013

Beer in the Garden of Stone Brewing World Liberty Station

I have been planning to make a visit to the Stone Brewing World and Garden in Escondido for a while, then about 6 months ago they opened a new location in Point Loma at Liberty Station.  For me that is awesome considering it is only about 5 miles from work.

So yesterday Mandy had a hair appointment in San Diego so after I dropped her off I made a B-line for Point Loma to visit this Mecca for beer lovers.  When I arrived at Liberty Station it took me a few minutes the find the location.  Liberty Station is the former Naval Training Center San Diego (site of the filming for Top Gun) and is a massive complex of buildings with streets and sidewalks weaving in between them so you have to be on your game to find what you are looking for, without running over someone...

Once I found the parking lot I felt like a kid again, and the nervous excitement you felt the first time you went to an amusement park.  Walking through the front door the Restaurant is huge and very modern looking for essentially being in a stucco box shaped building.  The ladies at the reception counter welcomed me in and gave me directions to both bars.  Yes, this massive place has 2 bars, one inside and another outside in the Garden.

I checked out the inside bar, but it was a nice cool day so I wanted to sit outside, and enjoy the day.  Walking out into the garden is an experience in itself, this is not just some cheaply thrown together facade, this place is amazing.  I felt like I was walking into someone's backyard, a HUGE backyard that is, that had tables tucked in between koi ponds, rock walk ways and plants.  Then from across the garden I see it, the bar!  When I got there only one other person was sitting at the bar so I had a beer in front of me fairly quickly.  Then, as is the story of my life, the crowds descended upon me and the lone bartender.  She was amazing and she held her own while dealing with the ever growing crowd of soon to be drunken sailors.  I can't complain, they did provide some amusement and good conversation.

Now the first rule of blogging is to always ensure your phone has plenty of power so you can record the event to provide a visual experience for your readers at a later date.  My phone had a fresh charge when I left the house, but being 2 years old it doesn't last long.  So about 30 minutes into my exploration of Stone's world of beer it died....

Not to worry,  it did not stop me from enjoying a few tasty brews and torturing +PhilCrews  with a play by play of the experience before my phone died.  My first selection was a Stone Ashy Stache Smoked IPA.  This is a beer brewed at Stone's Liberty Station Brewery, and it was a perfect start to my adventure.  It had a nice smooth flavor with a hint of smokiness on the back end.

From there I went to a Stone Great Bowman's Scotch Ale.  Scotch Ales are amazing beers that have a flavor all their own.  While they have a bold flavor, they are not palate busters so you can enjoy it with a meal still taste your food.

At this point I have been joined on both sides by Stone virgins (or at least they acted that way), which is always interesting.  The first one asked me what I thought he should get and I asked him what he typically drinks.  "hefeweizen" he responds, well,,,, you are at Stone, not Widmers so lets try something new.  I referred him to the Suede Imperial Porter which is a collaboration beer between Stone, 10 Barrel, Blue Jacket which he seemed to like as he wined about them having a lot of IPAs.... AGAIN, you are at Stone Brewing Co!!! Drink an IPA and try to expand your palate....

Next I was flanked by the taste tester.... After her third "can I try" I asked her what she was looking for and she said she liked Stone IPA, but the ones she tasted were too strong (I presume she was referring to hoppiness).  Ok, we are off to a good start, so I recommended she try the Sublimely Self Righteous or the Suede Imperial Porter, in an effort to expand her palate.... I'll just have a Stone IPA...  30 beers on tap, some of which will never see a store or bottle and you will have a Stone IPA at Beer Heaven.... Ok, your loss.

By now I am no longer in consultation mode and I am ready for my next beer, Stone Witty Moron, a Black Witbier.  This was an interesting choice and I was not disappointed.  It had a nice smooth flavor and was a nice finish to an afternoon of beer tasting.  While I didn't eat while I was there, I did see some of the dishes as they were brought out to folks sitting around the bar and they all looked awesome.  Especially the quail knots which were a fancy version of hot wings, but better.  I will be getting those on my next visit for sure.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Steak n' Fries

I am not quite sure who is luckier, me for having a wife that loves steak, or Mandy because I love to cook it.  Either way, I think we both benefit from this meat addiction.  For Mandy's birthday I promised her lamb, but that has been pushed to the weekend so we can enjoy it without having to rush it.  With this week being the week from hell, we decided steak and fries was the only medicine that could replenish our drive to push through the rest of the week.

So for this night of meatiness I grabbed two 8oz ribeyes and a bag of sweet potato fries.  Yeah, I know I could do my own and they would be sooo much better, but this was a 30 minute week night meal, so these had to suffice.

The fries took about 30 minutes in a 425 degree oven.  While they were cooking I prepped the steaks with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  During the last five minutes that the fries were in the oven I heated up the grill and tossed the ribeyes on for 3 minutes on each side to sear them.  Because these were thinner than my usual cuts I reduced the heat after they were seared and moved them off of the direct heat to let them finish cooking for another 2 minutes.

I removed them from the grill and let the steaks rest for 5 minutes before plating them.  All I can say is both of us cleared our plates. I enjoyed mine with a Firestone Union Jack IPA which is a very tasty release from the brewery.  I only moderately enjoyed this tasty IPA knowing my uncle, +Phil Crews, is struggling to find a decent IPA in Chicago.  I will also try very hard not to enjoy it too much while I struggle down some freshly poured +StoneBrewingCo brews today while visiting their brewery in Liberty Station. I will be posting MANY, many pictures during the event....

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Who wants Brisket Stew? I DO!

Growing up I was never really a fan of stews, and it wasn't because they weren't good, but mainly because they just didn't have any wow factor.  For me, especially as a kid stews were like a sandwich, boring...  Mainly because as a kid I had no idea what I was talking about, and mostly because I ate with my eyes and not my mouth.

Over the years I have come to realize my taste buds on my tongue are a much better judge of food than my eyes.  Perfect example.... Hot sauce, or lets say pepper spray, tastes way better then it feels in your eyes.  Trust me, I know from experience, and I am not some strange pervert that goes around getting pepper sprayed in parks. At one point in my life I worked in a field of work that thought in order to carry pepper spray you must get sprayed with it periodically,.... Just like we go out and shoot each other every once in a while so that we could be qualified to carry a weapon..NO not really... The real premise is to show the "sprayee" that you can overcome the effects and still defend yourself... Learned that the first time so the 3 subsequent times were not needed. Thanks anyway.

Back on topic, as I have matured, along with my waste line, I have found a new appreciation for the sandwich, as well as stew.  Especially when that stew contains one of the most awesome ingredients known to man, BRISKET!  Fortunately for me, Mandy feels the same way and allows me to keep a "Healthy" amount of the tasty meat on hand for a last minute week day meal.  Benefit of being married to a certifiable meat head I guess.

So as I went down the list of homemade pre-cooked meals in the freezer when I got to Smoked Brisket Stew there was no debating that this was the meal of the evening in the Crews house.  Lucky for me, not so much for my coworkers, I have enough for leftovers to take to work tomorrow.  I have been accused of ruining the microwave at work because now everything that is cooked in it smells like smoked meat.  What's wrong with that???  They should be thanking me for improving their hot pockets...

So I popped the bag in a pan on low to start the defrost process and once loose enough I transferred the frozen block of yumminess to a pot and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, back at the ranch.... (some might not get that, all I can say is I watch too much TV), I buttered up some toast and threw it in the oven for 10 minutes so for a nice sopping tool once I get the bottom of the bowl.

If you have not made this stew yet, it is a must, and you will not regret it! Just ask Eric....

Monday, October 21, 2013

Personal Record

Today is a pretty exciting day for me.  For the first time since starting the Small Batch Barbecue blog I broke 80 visits in one day.  Normally I wouldn't brag about page visits, but this was pretty cool considering I have only been blogging for a little over a month.  So for me this was awesome.

Tonight on the way home I was contemplating what to make for dinner but just couldn't decide.  When I stopped at Sprouts I made a B-line for the meat counter to try and make a decision on a late night dinner.  It only took about 30 seconds for me to decide.  Once I saw those massive brats I knew exactly what I was going to be cooking for dinner.

BRATWURST!!!!! Instant flashback to my walk home in Germany from work and the 5 DM  (about $2.50 at the time) Bratwursts that were sold at the stand by the Trolley station in our housing development.

I followed my normal process as outlined in "Massive Bratwurst" for making grilled brats and they were fantastic!  I grilled them at about 350 for 25 minutes and threw the buns on for the last 4 minutes, creating juicy brats and toasty rolls.

For an impulse buy this was a pretty spectacular choice. This brat, with a pretzel roll, and Stone Pale Ale Ground Mustard with Chipotle, coupled with a Stone Russian Imperial Stout made for an awesome combination.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Smoked Beef Chuck Roast and Smoked Beef Phatty

Today was a day of firsts for me, and both were a success. As I posted earlier I was smoking a beef chuck roast and a special smoked beef chub concoction.  These masterpieces were both low cost and extremely tasty!

The first was the Smoked Beef Chub.  I am just going to call it a Smoked Beef Phatty. I started by placing a pound of ground beef in a gallon size bag and rolling it out flat until it filled the bag.  This serves to purposes, it gives you a nice flat square, but it also prevents you from ruining your rolling pin by rolling it around on raw meat.

I used a knife to cut back the bag to expose the meat.  I coated the meat in a thin layer of cream cheese, crumpled cooked bacon, green chilies, and cheddar cheese.  Now comes the fun part, I started at the zipper end and started rolling the meat into a log.  When I got to the end, I folded the ends in to prevent the cheese from oozing out as it cooked.

This meat roll is not going to hold up to a lot of tossing around, so I rolled the bag around it and used it to carry the meat around.  I set this one aside and started on the Beef Chuck Roast.

For the Beef Chuck Roast I used my standard rub of paprika, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Because of the thickness of the roast I covered all of the sides with a good coat of the rub.  While I was prepping the meat, the smoker was heating up.  Once I got it to temp I added the Beef Phatty and Roast to the smoker.

I gave it a good two hours and then pulled the Phatty off the smoker.  I put the beef roast in a pan and wrapped it with a about a cup and a half of apple juice in the bottom, and threw it back on the smoker.  I let it go for another two hours and then I pulled it off to rest.

Needless to say, both of these bad boys were awesome and hopefully I will be doing them again soon.

For dinner tonight I cut some slices from the beef roast and cooked up some green beans.  For the green beans I put a tablespoon of water and a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan on medium high and  stirred it to prevent the beans from burning.  After 6 minutes I added 1/2 teaspoon of paprika and garlic and let it go for another minute.  Once it was done I pulled it from the heat and added a tablespoon of Red Wine Vinegar to the pan, stirring the mix to blend all of the flavors together.

Once everything was ready I plated up a couple of slices a piece of the smoked roast and added the green beans.  I paired this succulent combination with a Stone Collaboration Suede Imperial Porter. This brew was magical, if you are a fan of the Stone Smoked Porter, then this will knock your socks off.  The Stone, 10 Barrel, Blue Jacket collaboration is the shiznit.

Smoke, She is a Rollin'

Today I am doing two new meats that I have never tried before, and hoping for success.  The first is a Beef Chuck Roast, and the second is an experiment in flavor combinations and pure desire for a positive return.  If successful, it will be amazing, if not....well, that is why it is an experiment.

My hope with this weekend's smoke is to develop a few inexpensive, but awesome dishes that can be done in a relatively short amount of time.  It is fall, and in Southern California that means desert season, and thousands of "desert rats", myself included run to the deserts for off-road entertainment.  Along with that comes a need to eat, and most pack the usual campfire fare of hot dogs, hamburgers, and a SOCAL favorite of Carne Asada.   For me, I want to be able to have a couple of easy treats I can slap on a smoker in the morning, and enjoy that afternoon after a day of riding.

Fun dishes like Smoked Armadillo Eggs, Atomic Buffalo Turds, and (hopefully) this Smoked Burger Roll will be great for the desert and are sure to please your hungry herd.  Check in later for all the tasty details!