Saturday, November 16, 2013

Weekend Preparations

For a short week this was an extremely long one without a doubt.  Fortunately we ended the week with dinner and drinks with friends.  After a late night, I woke up this morning contemplating what exactly I was going to smoke this weekend, and what I needed from the store.

I've had a rack of spare ribs in the freezer that I set down to thaw so those will definitely make their way onto the smoker.  I also have been planning to do an apple pie with some Granny Smiths that we bought but haven't used.  I don't want to just do any old apple pie, I want to do something with a little extra punch to it that you can't buy in a store.

So while enjoying a taste of Bourbon I had an epiphany, Smoked Bourbon Apple Pie.... Now trying to cook an apple pie in the smoker won't give me the crisp flaky crust that I want so I decided I will smoke the filling for an hour to impart smoke, then fill the pie and cook it in the oven.  I am hoping that this combination will give me the flavor combination that I am going for with a spicy, smokey, sweet dessert... I made enough of the filling to be able to cook some of the mixture down as a side for the ribs.  Apples and pork are great plate mates for a tasty meal.

I am also going to make some Atomic Buffalo Turds for a mid afternoon treat, and I want to also save a few in order to try +Eric Straub's ABT Quiche that he made a couple of weeks ago.  Eggs, cheese,  smoked bacon, cream cheese, and jalapenos... Sounds Amazing!

Check back tomorrow for all of the details on Sunday's smoked Bourbon Apple Pie, spare ribs, and Atomic Buffalo Turds.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Roasted Duck

Duck'in A! I did a roasted duck on the heals of a smoked duck.  For some reason I can never get enough of this tasty bird, and it has so much to offer that I could not resist taking full advantage of smoking and roasting a duck.  Is it wrong that 80% of the reason for me doing a second duck is to fully exploit the rendering of the sweet nectar of the gods from every crevice of this amazing specimen.  I think not! Duck fat is an amazingly flavorful cooking aid that can enhance any meal.

So tonight I did a roasted duck.  To prepare it I rinsed the duck and patted it dry.  I then scored the skin is a cross hatch pattern being careful not to penetrate the meat of the duck.  This greatly aids in the fat rendering processes and helps the spices work their way into the meat.  

For a rub I just used sea salt, pepper, and garlic powder and rubbed it into the skin all over to get good coverage.  I used a roasting pan with a rack so that the meat is slightly elevated allowing the heat to get to all sides of the duck while keeping it out of the rendered fat.  

I also trimmed off the excess skin from the neck and body cavity area.  I set it aside to render the fat from those pieces while the duck is roasting.  I placed the duck in a preheated 425 degree oven breast up for 30 minutes.  At the end of the first 30 minutes I flipped the bird over and reduced the heat to 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  

While the duck was in the oven I put the skin pieces in a pot of water and brought it to a boil to render out the fat.  Once it started to boil I reduced the heat and covered the pot for about 20 minutes.  After I had reduced as much fat out of the skin pieces that I could I poured the liquid off into a measuring cup to separate.  

Now the magic begins!! I cut the skin pieces that I had used for rendering fat and cut them into small squares.  I put them in a pan with a small amount of, you guessed it, duck fat and turned them into crispy little cracklings for a pre-meal treat. 

After the 30 minutes was up I flipped the bird again for another 30 minutes of roasting.  I then cut up some potatoes, coated them in duck fat and placed them in the oven (15 minutes into the 3rd 30 minutes) to roast with the duck.  At the end of the last 30 minutes I brushed the duck in a mixture of honey and orange marmalade on both sides and put it back in the oven for another 20 minutes to finish it off. As long as your internal temp is between 140 and 145 you are good to go. 

Once the duck was finished I let it rest for 15 minutes while the potatoes were crisping up (almost impossible to resist tearing into it...).  

Tonight I went with a Metolious Blonde Ale which was a perfect complement to the duck and potatoes!   

As for the duck fat that had rendered during the cooking process, it was poured very carefully into a container for later use..... 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tasty Smoked Tri-tip

I hate wasting smoke on a half empty smoker so I generally try to take full advantage of smoke day, and any empty surface area to get an extra cut of meat cooked up for either dinner another night, or to share with friends.

Yesterday I did a smoked duck, which was melt in your mouth delicious with cracker like crispy skin.  FABULOUS!  So I figured I would do a cut that could smoke in about the same time frame as the duck so I didn't waste fuel, and have to find some more things to smoke.... Vicious cycle I know, but it is a healthy addiction, I promise...

For me tri tip gets a nice coating of salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic rubbed in the night before to allow the spices to stick to the meat and form a good crust before I stick it on the smoker.  I also prefer to leave the thin layer of fat on the top of the tri tip if it hasn't been trimmed off to allow some insulation and self basting during the smoking process.

When I cook a tri tip I go by weight and heat to determine the length of time it gets left on the smoker.  This was a 5lb hunk of meat so I smoked it for 5 hours.  Easy day...  I also live by the rule of no peaking!! The more you open the lid the more you screw up the temperature and time it takes to smoke.  The only time I open a lid during smoking is if I am doing a large hunk of pork that I am mopping during a long smoke.

Since I cooked it yesterday, when I pulled it off the smoker I wrapped it in foil and let it rest for 20 minutes.  I then placed it in the fridge to cool overnight.  When I got home today I pulled it out and cut off the slices I needed for dinner.  You don't want to fully slice it unless you are going to eat it right away, this helps keep it from drying out.  I heated the slices in a pan on the stove top with a little liquid courage (beer) until it was hot.

I also prepared some sauteed mushrooms and corn on the cob to go with this barbecue spectacular. I used a Sam Adams Boston Lager to help wash down this magnificent meal.  I vacuum sealed the remaining portion of the tri tip and placed it in the freezer for future use.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Smoked Duck

One of my favorite things about the fall is the availability of duck at the supermarket.  Some specialty shops may offer it pretty much year round, but short of driving 50 to 100 miles for a duck, this is the next best thing, plus it makes it special.  

This was only my second time smoking a duck, but I was pretty confident that if I treated like a chicken with a few extra steps, it would work out just fine.  To start I trimmed up the duck by cutting away the excess skin at the neck and from around the body cavity.  I removed the neck and sack of goodies from the body cavity and rinsed the duck under cool water.  When they are processed they never get all of the feathers out and it is worth while to go over it for a couple of minutes pulling out any strays that were left behind.    

I patted it dry and pricked the skin randomly along the breast not piercing the meat.  Duck has a very thick layer of fat under the skin that will render out while being cooked.  Pricking the skin aids in the process and helps to ensure a crispier skin.  As for a rub, I used a simple mixture of salt, pepper, and garlic powder rubbing it into all of the crevices.  

Since the duck is about 5lbs I estimated a smoke time of about 4 1/2 to 5 hours.  I put the duck on when the smoker reached 225 and placed a catch pan under it to catch the liquid gold that would render from the duck as it cooked.   I let the duck smoke for about 4 1/2 hours, tested the temperature, and it was pushing 155 so I removed it from the smoker and placed it on the grill at medium heat for a few minutes to get the skin crispy and render some of the remaining fat.  

I pulled the duck and let it rest for about 15 minutes before cutting into it.  Unfortunately I got a little to ahead of myself and cut into the breast before taking a good "after" photo.  It happens....
I cut the breasts from the duck just along the rib cage and removed the legs and as much of the remaining meat as possible. I will not let any of this tasty bird go to waste.

Duck skin is interesting, it will get crispy, soften back up when cooled, and then get crispy again if you hit it with some heat.   So right before I plated it up I threw the breasts in a pan with a little butter until the sin was crispy and the meat was hot.  I also added some Pinot Noir to the pan after I pulled the duck out and let it reduce.  

I cut the breast on a bias for presentation and poured a little of the reduction over each of the breasts.  This dinner was amazing and went well with my Lost Coast Downtown Brown Ale.  

As for the liquid gold, yes the duck fat, I strained the bits out and placed it in a container in the fridge.  If you have never used duck fat, it is amazing for cooking potatoes, making duck confit, and just about any other creation you could imagine.   

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Templeton Rye Whiskey

In addition to great barbecue and beer, I truly enjoy a couple of fingers of good Whiskey.  Be it Single Malt Scotch, Irish Whiskey, Bourbon, or a Great Rye Whiskey I am building quite a collection of these tasty spirits.  My latest is a Small Batch Prohibition Era Rye Whiskey out of Templeton, Iowa. It is the Templeton Rye Whiskey.

This is a recipe that came to fame following the prohibition and was made famous by Al Capone. Templeton was known as "The Good Stuff" to those who sought out spirits in that era. It was the drink of choice from Chicago to New York and is making a comeback in small batches and is well worth a try.

A taste of the Templeton carries the aromas of spice and an earthiness that is followed by the taste of caramel and a hint of butterscotch.  This Rye Whiskey has a good mouth feel to it that is followed by a smooth finish.

This will be a great addition to my ever growing collection of Whiskeys. It is good to see so many American made Bourbons and Whiskeys that can rival a well aged scotch any day...

If you are an aficionado of Whiskey, this is a must have, as you will not be disappointed.

Ranch Steaks

Last night I tried a new cut of meat (for us anyways) called the Ranch Steak.  It is a cut of meat that comes from the Chuck Shoulder Clod.  From everything I read prior to cooking it I made the assumption that it was a flavorful cut, but tends to get tough when cooked so it is best to marinade it.

So based on that assumption, and using the advice from some other sites I marinaded the steaks for about 30 minutes in a mixture of soy sauce and garlic.  Then based on the time last night that I started cooking dinner I decided it would be best to pan sear them and finish them in the oven.  I placed the steaks in a hot pan with olive oil and seared them for 2 minutes on each side, and then placed them in the oven for 4 minutes to cook at 425.  These were thin cut steaks, it didn't take long to cook them.

I let them rest for 5 minutes prior to cutting them.  Contrary to what I read, these were very tender steaks (not a filet, but tender).  I also cut them across the grain to aid in the tenderness of the steaks.  I am not a huge fan of marinades for steak, and in this instance I probably could have grilled them without it and they would have been perfect, or I could have done them carne asada style for a marinade.

As far as the flavor of the steaks using the soy/garlic combination came out good, but it was missing some depth in flavor.  Some lessons learned for sure that I will incorporate the next time I cook these steaks.  They are definitely an under-rated cut that can hold their own against any of the popular cuts.