Saturday, November 2, 2013

Breaking Down a Beef Shoulder Clod

Today was another day of firsts for me in my quest to  conquer all things meat.  You are probably thinking what the heck is a Beef Shoulder Clod? Well, it is part of the Chuck on a side of Beef.  What or where is the Chuck you ask?  The chuck is what is known as a Primal cut, and is located on both the front and left sides of the cow just below and behind the neck.

The clod is one of two sub-primals in the chuck, and is located next to, and below the Chuck Roll, but above the Brisket.  The clod is typically used for creating roasts and hamburger, but it holds so much more value....  The clod holds the second most tender cut of meat on the cow, the Beef Shoulder Top Blade, which can be cut down into flat iron steaks.  It can also be cut down into Ranch steaks, stew meat, and kebab meat.  If you are inclined, you can also cut London Broils from the Clod heart, which is the center muscle group from the shoulder clod.

Now this is the first time I have ever touched this cut of meat, so this was a learning experience for me, with some definite take-aways for next time. Number one being that I will have someone to take pictures and video for me so I can provide a better blow by blow of the event.  But for round one this was a pretty good showing and I have a lot of meat.

First things first, your knife has to be extremely sharp, a dull knife is a dangerous knife!!  

I started by removing the Top blade, and then separated the Shoulder Center into two pieces, saving half to smoke, and I cut the other into Ranch steaks.  I cut the petite center, which is a muscle that runs along the top center of the Clod, into cubes for use later in a stew, or for skewers. I also cut a few pounds of trimmings and smaller cuts into cubes to be ground into ground beef.

At this point you are probably thinking why, why spend the time breaking down this huge cut of meat when you can have a butcher do it for you.... Well, for me the nearest butcher is 40 miles away, so an 80 mile round trip is not in the cards.  Also, I picked up the Clod for $2.53 a pound which is half what it costs for these cuts at the meat counter (if you can find them). So at $46, 18lbs to start, I ended up with 16lbs of usable meat.  

I ended up with 6 flat iron steaks, 8 ranch steaks, stew meat, ground beef, and a roast to smoke.   This was a fun experiment and I learned a lot about cutting down a large cut like the Shoulder Clod. I am really looking forward to smoking the chuck roast and grinding up some burger tomorrow.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Scaretacular!

Tonight is Halloween, and it was fantastic!  We've had an amazing night of tricks and treats that echoed through the neighborhood. For Mandy and I this was a new experience that we jumped into headfirst this year.  Historically we have either been working, out of the country, or asleep so this was kind of a big deal for us and it was well worth the effort.

 Taking note of some of our lessons learned this year, look out, cause next year is gonna be even bigger!  Thinking maybe a haunted house....  For this year we started off with a blow up cat (which was a hit with the youngsters), blinking skulls, and spider webs.  Next year will be fun for sure!

I am sure you are thinking, what the heck is this guy doing writing about Halloween on a food blog? Well sometimes you have to deviate from the formula to build momentum.  Taking a couple of days off from cooking has given me some time to think about what I want to do this weekend, which is to break down a beef shoulder Clod, smoke the chuck roast, and use the steaks, and other parts for burgers throughout the week.

Tonight Mandy and I had the perfect setup, she set up the candy dish on the front porch and used her charm to lure the kids in, while I hid behind the truck and popped out to scare them as they received their candy.  It was a true trick to complement the tasty treats.  Fortunately for both of us they wiped us out, so there will be no temptation for eating the leftover candy....

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Preparation for All Hallows Eve

The day is almost here and last minute preparations are in effect at casa de Crews.  This is the first time in about 15 years we have decorated for Halloween and we are excited! After a disappointing visit to a "Halloween" store Mandy decided to fabricate a number of her own creepy crawly decorations.

I on the other hand have been responsible for spookifing (just made that word up) the approach to the candy delivery zone. I have a large lighted blow-up cat, flickering skulls, webs in the window with spiders, lights on the door, Jack-o-lantern, and a huge web and spider on the door.  I think we are off to a good start.

I am going to be a werewolf and Mandy is going to be a witch.   Should be fun!

So as we prepare, Mandy has been working feverishly to build spiders for our offices as well as our home.  She is also getting a head start on thanksgiving by building some turkeys.

As I contemplate candy strategy I am wondering, could I give out burnt end lollipops?  Come on hear me out, I am pretty sure every guy in the neighborhood would be knocking on my door to get another burnt end on a stick.  I know I would....

Ok, maybe not for everyone... So I will stick to chocolate bars, Reese cups, and kit kats.  That's right no crappy dum dum lollipops at this house!  Hopefully you are all as excited for this celebration of fun and candy as we are and have a Happy Halloween!!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Dinner or Dessert, Maybe both!

All day I have been distracted by what waited for me at home tonight, hot smoked salmon.  I made enough for me to be able to take a piece to work today to share, and for dinner tonight.  The salmon was a success, and was confirmed by the fact that the piece I took to work disappeared in a matter of minutes....

So for dinner tonight I made a side dish to accompany the smokiness of the salmon that was sweet, and added some garlic toast for a little saltiness.  For my side dish I made a sweet potato and apple dish, which if paired with a crust would be an awesome pie, but this was no dessert, it is a "side dish".  

To make this tasty dessert.. Dang it, I mean side I boiled 2 sweet potatoes for 20 minutes until soft.  I then let them cool, peeled the skin, and cut them into slices.   I then peeled and thinly sliced two granny smith apples.  I layered the two in a baking dish alternating layers of apple and sweet potatoes.

To bring the two together I put 3/4 cup of water, 1 tablespoon of corn starch, and 1/4 cup of sugar in a sauce pan and brought it to a boil for 2 minutes.  Once it started to thicken I removed it from the heat, added 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon to the mixture and blended it all together.  I then poured it over the potatoes and apples.  Because I like cinnamon, I sprinkled some more over the top of the mix, covered it and placed it in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

This unusual combination is so sweet and flavorful it is like eating cobbler or pie with dinner.  It accented the smokiness of the salmon and saltiness of the garlic toast without overpowering the meal.  Thankfully I have enough leftover to take to work tomorrow.  Maybe I'll even share.....

I am not a big white wine drinker, but Mandy's Barefoot Pinot Grigio was a perfect choice for this meal!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Smoked Salmon

There have been many times that I have walked past the meat counter and saw a huge Salmon filet in the case and thought, I could smoke that and it would be amazing.  But for some reason I never have, until now.

Yesterday I was shopping for lamb for Mandy's Birthday Lamb 2 Ways and saw a slab of fresh Keta Salmon in the case.  Keta is one of the most abundant types of Salmon harvested in the NW. While it doesn't get the recognition of King or other Salmon, it is extremely mild and tasty.  I didn't have anything planned for smoking so I figured, what the heck, I'll give it a shot.....  When I woke up this morning I started looking for a marinade that would be good on the salmon but not overpower it.  Low and behold all of the recipes call for marinading the Salmon overnight for 24hrs before drying it, and then smoking it..... Well I don't have 24hrs because it is Sunday already....  So I found a mixture that I liked and put it together.  I prepped the Salmon by pulling out the pin bones. Take the time to do this, it is worth it, and those that are eating it will appreciate it.

Once the Salmon was ready I put it in a vacuum bag with the marinade, sealed it, and put it in the fridge for about 5hrs while we took care of some things around the house.  When I was ready I pulled the bag out of the fridge drained the marinade, patted the Salmon dry and let it set on a rack for about an hour lightly coated in a paper towel so it could dry out.  I also started the smoker and let it get up to 200 degrees.

I put the Salmon on parchment paper before I put it in the smoker because I didn't want to have to fight to get it off of the rack when I was done smoking it.  After the first hour I used a brush to remove the white protein build up that likes to ooze out of salmon as it cooks and then brushed on a light coat of maple syrup.  I closed the lid for another hour, repeated, and pulled it off of the smoker to cool.

This method is considered hot smoking, it is not the same as cold smoking and the consistency of your salmon will not be the same.  It will be more flaky, but no less tasty than cold smoked salmon. For us in California, cold smoking is pretty much relegated to the winter months at night to prevent the temperature of the smoker from exceeding 86 degrees.  Anything over 100 degrees is considered hot smoking.

For my marinade, I mixed 1/4 cup of brown sugar, 1/4 cup of maple syrup, 1/4 cup of kosher salt, and 1/2 cup of water and mixed it up until it was smooth.  As a helpful hint buy a pair of needle nose pliers to keep in the kitchen for pulling out the pin bones if you plan on cooking salmon.  It will save a lot of time and not tear up the meat as you pull out the bones.  My biggest lesson learned is start it the day before in a marinade to allow it maximum soaking time!

Smoked salmon can pretty much be added to anything and be amazing.  I like it both hot and cold, thinking I may need some ritz crackers, cream cheese, and PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon) to gobble up some of this tasty fish!

Some will disappear tonight, some will go to work, and the rest will get vacuum sealed and frozen for later.... maybe...