Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve Yule Log of Lamb

If there is one thing you can count on in our house anytime of the year it is lamb at least once a week.  So to make it special for Christmas I decided to change it up a bit and have a little fun at the same time.

I just bought a couple of racks lamb to throw in the freezer since they seem to be more abundant this time of year, so I decided I would do a play on rib roast, but with lamb.  Deboning  a rack of lamb is not hard, just time consuming to ensure only the bone is removed leaving as much of the lamb behind as possible.  Use an extremely sharp knife, and only use the tip, hehehe... to work the meat and fat away from the bone.

Once you have a beautifully deboned rib roast it is time to add some seasoning.  Since I was going for a certain look and taste I used oil, balsamic vinegar, paprika, salt, pepper, and garlic to season the meat on all sides.  I then rolled it into a cylindrical form and tied it up with butchers twine.  I then coated the exterior in ground pecans to add flavor, and to give it a log-like look.

I placed the log in a pan coated with olive oil and placed it in the oven at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. Since all ovens seem to cook differently, you are going for an internal temp of 125 to pull it from the oven.  Remove it from the pan, cover it loosely,  and set it to the side to rest.

While the lamb was resting I mashed the potatoes I had boiled earlier, and started my reduction.  Using the pan I cooked the lamb in (stainless steel oven and stove top safe) I set the heat to high, added in a tablespoon of butter, and poured in about a cup of Pinot Noir to break the bits away from the bottom of the pan.  I let the mixture reduce until it started to thicken, but not a syrupy consistency.

Once everything was ready I sliced the roast into eight even pieces for us to share, plated the meat, mashed potatoes, some asparagus, and some homemade Texas toast. I then drizzled some of the reduction over the potatoes and meat.  The rest is history! It was delicious.    

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Grilled Pork Ribs and Chicken

Ever since the move I have been craving a nice meaty rack... OF RIBS.... So since lighting off a smoker in our complex isn't possible I set out to come up with a rack of ribs that was as close to my smoked ribs as possible without a good dose of smoke.  I have a small smoker box that will create a small amount of smoke for a short period of time to add a little extra flavor instead of just the flavor of a gas grill.  I fired up the grill on the lowest setting with only two burners on for the cook.  I covered the two stacks with foil to keep the heat and smoke in the grill.  The grill should should be set to 300 degrees.  I also placed a hand full of wet apple wood chips into the smoker box and slid it under the grate over the lit burner to generate a small amount of smoke.

While the grill was heating up I prepped the ribs by removing the membrane from the back of the ribs, trimming off excess fat and rubbing the ribs with salt, pepper, and paprika.  This is different from smoking where I would normally rub the ribs with brown sugar, when grilling, you don't want to burn the sugar cause it will ruin your ribs.

I also prepped a whole chicken by cutting along the breast bone and pressing it flat.  I coated the skin in salt, pepper, garlic, and lemon juice.

Now the smoke won't be enough to completely smoke your ribs, but it will add some depth to the flavor. I placed to the ribs on the indirect side of the grill and the chicken on the main rack over the burner so the chicken would cook a little quicker than the ribs.  

The ribs will be the most labor intensive, but they are worth it.  I let them grill for 45 minutes then wrapped them in foil with a tad bit of beer (or Dr Pepper if you prefer) for another 45 minutes.  I then placed them back on the grill for another 30 minutes half over the lit burners. At the 1.5 hr mark I checked the chicken and it was 168 so I removed it from the grill.  165 was the target, but, it was still very juicy.

At the end of the 30 minutes I put the ribs over the lit burners and after a couple of turns, I added a layer of sauce to the rack.  I repeated this several more times at 10 minute increments for the last 30 minutes of the cook for a total of 2.5hrs at 300 degrees. This process could take longer depending on your setup and temperature.  The ribs came off the grill without falling apart, which is a good thing, but they were extremely tender.

This is a process that will become a frequent flyer at home from now on.

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Trip to Urge American Gastropub

As we get settled into our new community we have made it a priority to seek out new great places to eat every weekend.  There have been some winners, and a couple of losers, but this was a home run! The Urge American Gastropub is an amazing spot located off of Bernardo Center Dr in Rancho Bernardo about 20 miles north of Downtown San Diego.

When we arrived brunch was just ending and while the the menu looked amazing, we had our eyes, and stomachs set on the duck poutine fries.

The duck poutine fries are made with their house-made fries topped with shredded duck breast confit, house brown gravy and Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery white cheddar cheese curds. Then to make it even better they topped it off with a coating of mango-apple and diced applewood smoked bacon chutney.  

To wash this amazing amalgamation of awesome down I had a trio of tasters starting with an Oskar Blues Old Chub on Nitro Scotch Ale, Rodenbach Grand Cru Flanders Red/Sour Ale, and Stone Arbalest Ale Aged in Bourbon Barrels.  All of which are fantastic.

To follow the fries we had the Firecracker Shrimp which is on a bed of their house-made cole slaw, topped with applewood smoked bacon and pop rocks, yes, that is correct.. pop rocks candy.... I don't think coleslaw will ever be the same without it again!  My next trio of tasters were Pizza Port Pale Rye'der, Legacy Chesty Irish Red on Nitro, and a Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin.  All were delicious, but the Grapefruit Sculpin was my favorite this round.

We also ordered some of the Serrano Sculpin Hot wings to add a little heat to our lunchtime festivities and they were even better than they sound.  These wings aren't coated in a generic red hot sauce, this is a home-made sauce that is spicy with a hint of sweet thrown in for a bone cleaning combination of meat and sauce.

Ok, so if all of that doesn't do it for you, then this will.  Home-made Butterscotch Bread pudding, that is all I should have to say, but smother that in a vanilla bean sauce that was phenomenal, and you have perfection.  For my final pairing, and desert round I chose a Belching Beaver Peanut Butter Milk Stout (a dessert in itself), a Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin Ale, and Craftsman Heavenly Hefe. The Peanut Butter Milk Stout was awesome, but the Pumpkin Ale paired nicely with the bread pudding.

That completed our journey, and that was only the appetizer menu... They have an amazing selection of entrees that hopefully I will be able to chop through down the road, but the best part is what seems like an endless list of beer to choose from to expand your beer palate!! So next time you are in RB give this place a visit and you will not be disappointed.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Phenomenal Lamb, Bacon, Sirloin Burgers

As the pavement bubbled and we slowly melted under the 102 degree sun, we spent most of yesterday packing and moving boxes to help Mandy's parents start moving.  It was so hot that the orange Gatorade I was drinking evaporated as soon as I removed the cap... No, not really, but you get the point.... It's damn hot!!!

When we finished Mandy said we deserved a treat for working through the heat, and I agreed, but had no idea that I would be concocting these phenomenal burgers.  I haven't used my grinder since we moved, so I have been itching to pull it out and shove some meat through it. I also hate buying ground "meat" at the store just because you never know what is in it, so I decided to pick up a few cuts of meat to make some super burgers.

Mandy said she wanted my lamb and beef hamburgers with maybe some bacon on top, so I decided to take it to the next level. Mix all three in equal parts and grind it together to make an amazing burger.  I bought 1.5lbs of bone in lamb shoulder neck meat (about a pound after cutting it off the bones), a pound of sirloin steaks, and a pound of bacon (thick cut) and cubed them up to make them easier to grind.

Prior to grinding I always season the meat and stick it in the freezer for 20 minutes to cool it down and make it easier to grind.  I also stick the grinder parts in the freezer for a couple of hours so it stays cold while grinding. Once the meat was ready, I ground it using a course plate and separated out  about a pound to make a couple of burgers.

Now comes the magic....  I pressed out half of the meat into two patties with a divot in the middle, and added smoked Gouda to the middle of the meat.  I then pressed on the other two patties as a lid for my burgers.  Without overworking them I ensured the cheese was sealed in tight, and would not escape while on the grill.

I grilled the burgers on high heat for 4 minutes on each side, and then reduced the heat and cooked them for about 16 minutes.  Since there is bacon in the mix, it has to be cooked through, unlike my usual medium rare. That said, there is no lack of fatty goodness to keep these bad boys moist on the grill.

Once they were ready, and the buns were toasted, I built the burgers by adding goat cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes to the towering mass of meat and cheese.

All I can say is WOW! These are some amazing burgers, unlike any combination of flavors I have ever put together,  Rich, creamy, savory, meaty, beefy, bacony awesomeness paired with sweet potato fries and a New English Brewing Brewer's Special Brown Ale!  I'm just glad I made enough to freeze for another night...

Saturday, August 23, 2014

A taste of Georgia... Copper Pig BBQ and Smokehouse

On a recent trip to South Georgia I was set on finding some good Georgia barbecue to satisfy my bbq bone.  I spent a couple of days researching barbecue joints in the Brunswick area before I left home and had a couple of locations nailed down to check out.

When I arrived on Monday I was exhausted and really wasn't even hungry so I just grabbed a snack from the hotel and called it a night.  When Tuesday rolled around I was determined to find some good barbecue.  I asked the front desk about a couple of the places I had looked up on line and they weren't familiar with them but recommended a new place that had just opened up down the street.

I am always hesitant of "new" places especially when the first thing people mention is a buffet.  So when I left the hotel I drove around a little while looking for something that caught my eye and just happened to see the Copper Pig BBQ Smokehouse that had been recommended by the hotel staff.  So I decided to give it a shot, I had a few days left so if it had been a bust I still had some time to find a good place to eat.

When I got out of the car I could smell the smoke, and it was all I could do not to run to the door.  Once inside the place was pretty cool it had a full service meat and seafood counter on one side, a bar in the middle, and a bbq joint on the far end.  I scoped out the hog trough, I mean buffet... and while everything looked good, it wasn't what I wanted.  They have a full service menu as well that has the staple barbecue dishes, pulled pork, pork ribs, chicken, and interestingly enough brisket.

This is Georgia, so I went straight for the ribs, with a side of mac and cheese, tomatoes and okra, and a biscuit.  I was worried that maybe I should have gone for a whole rack, but when the half came out I knew it was going to be perfect.  As I dove into the rack the meat had a nice smoke ring and the meat came off the bone easily, but was not overdone.  I ordered it dry, which was a good call, these ribs were awesome without the sauce, but of course I tried several of their homemade sauces as dippers.  My favorite was their vinegar based sauce, while not typically what you go for with ribs, it complemented them very well, and I thought it was perfect.

Needless to say I cleared my plate and most likely drank their entire supply of sweet tea during dinner, it was a great combination of food and drink.

The only regret I have is not going back every night that followed to go through the rest of the menu, but that will have to be saved for another trip..

Friday, August 1, 2014

Grilled Chicken a la Virginia

As of lately I have become quite the frequent flier, and it is often to places I'd rather not be, but this time it worked out in my favor. I had to fly to Norfolk for a meeting and took advantage of the opportunity to spend a little time with my mom, brother, and his family. It has been a while since we last saw each other, and they just recently bought a home in the area so it was great to spend some time with them and catch up. My brother got a Chargriller Akorn last year and I have been interested in how it performed as a grill in comparison to other kamodo style grills. 

As soon as he opened it I was impressed. He was using natural lump charcoal and it came up to temp rather quickly and maintained a consistent temp throughout the cook.  The chicken he grilled came out amazing. I was a little worried at first cause grilled chicken can often get over cooked, but as soon as I cut into it and juices rolled out onto my plate I was excited. The taste was just as amazing, and paired with green beans and cheese potatoes this was a fantastic dinner.  Often I am relegated to airport food or fast food on these short trips, so to be treated to such an amazing meal and spend time with family made this trip worthwhile.  Now as I sit in yet another airport, I am wishing I had another piece of that chicken....

Yes Jason .... You made the blog....

Friday, June 20, 2014


Only 2 of us will ever know what it means to be a "son of Dawson". The determination and tenacity to complete a project in record time, or strive to succeed when others say you'll fail.  There is something about a person telling a citified hillbilly "you can't do that by yourself in one day", that drives us to not only do it, but in record time.  

So as I sit on my patio and relish in the fact that I not only laid 2000sqft of sod by myself, and I did it in half a day.  Now I have never laid sod before in my life, so I am assuming that is pretty damn good, and if it lives, then well, bonus for me! As we continue our quest to sell our home it seems I am working harder than ever before to do projects that I haven't done in the 2 years we have lived here.  Doesn't seem right, but the real estate agent assures me it is worthwhile.  Besides, how better to spend the deposit of the buyer that backed out on us the day before close.... THANKS!

I digress, today was a busy day, started off with a fresh layer of insulation in the attic, some new carpet in the former gym now den, and a butt ton of sod. I am not going to lie, when the truck showed up and the guy dropped 4 pallets of sod on the curb, I had a little bit of a panic attack.  It was 1030 and it was already pushing 80 outside so fighting the clock to get it laid (in record time) without it drying out I started at almost a running pace, that is until I realized that only the exposed layer was getting dry, so I decided to pace myself and drink plenty of water/Gatorade so I didn't fall over and pass out on my brand new sod.

Several hours later, which seemed like an eternity I came to the end of the yard and set what I intended to be my last row.  As I contemplated what to do with the 3/4 pallet of sod that was left, I decided what the heck, I'll rake up some of my wood chips and lay a few more rows... I did say,  I am a son of Dawson....

Once I was satisfied that I had gotten my money's worth, and my body said "you are done moron". I stopped, cleaned up and took a couple of pictures.  I then washed 2000sqft worth of dirt from my body and cracked a cold beer.  

As I sit and contemplate my plan of action for tomorrow, I've wanted to do nothing more than to be able to call up the old man and tell him what I did today. I know that even though I can't call him up and hear him tell me what he thinks of it, while scolding me for overdoing it (I am a son of Dawson...), that he would have loved it, and immediately told me how to cut my grass :).   Miss you dad, cheers!


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Memorial Day Smoke

The month of May has been a blur, starting with the listing of our house for sale, repeatedly being kicked out in hopes that the next walk through would be the one, and when it finally happened, we are now under the gun to pack and move before closing on the 5th of June.  All that said, I had to get in one last smoke before we move so we could have enough reserve on hand to enjoy for a while until I can find an acceptable alternative that will be allowed in an apartment.....

The beast isn't going far I am giving it to my brother in law to use at his house, so I am pretty sure it won't be a problem to go fire it up once in a while at his place.  For today's smoke I wanted to do a couple of favorites along with something new. As I pursued the meat case I saw a package labeled lamb breast, and was immediately interested.  It looked a lot like a mix between a rack of pork ribs, and pork belly, so I figured I would give it a go.

I also grabbed a 14.5lb brisket, 5lbs of bologna, and some brats.  I figure if I am going to fire it up, I might as well fill it up!  For the brisket I did a rub of salt, pepper, garlic, and paprika, I used the same combination on the lamb as well.  For the bologna and brats I rubbed them in salt, garlic, and cayenne pepper to give them an extra kick.

I put the brisket on first knowing that it would need a solid 13+ hours on the smoker.  At 9am I added the lamb over top of the brisket to allow the juices to seep onto the brisket.  After 3 hours I wrapped the lamb for 2 hours, and then a final 30 minutes unwrapped.  While the brisket and lamb were smoking I added the bologna and brats.  I left the bologna on for 2 hours to give it a nice mahogany finish and smoky flavor.  Pulled the brats after an hour, they were small to start, more like smoked Vienna sausages when they were done OOps..  Can't win them all!

The lamb, need I say more, was unbelievable. I can't remember ever having tasted any meat that was ever as good as this lamb.  Seriously amazing!  It is like the bacon version of lamb if that is even imaginable.

The bologna once sliced, and some frozen, will be used for amazing lunches over the next few weeks.  All in all this has been an amazing day of smoking.  The brisket is phenomenal as per usual, so once I can cool it down, slice it, and freeze it, we will be eating good for a while.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Smokin' Week of Meat

It has been a few days since my last post.  The past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind working around the house, and preparing a load of stuff for what hopefully will only be a couple of yard sales to downsize some of the junk (I mean high quality items...) that seems to accumulate in the garage.  But all of the hustle and bustle did not prevent me from smoking 30lbs of brisket and pork butt last Wednesday for a going away luncheon at work.

Barbecuing at home for friends and family is one thing, but cooking for a crowd of coworkers and people you don't know is a different story.  As long as you stick to your method and don't try to get fancy or use a new rub, smoker, etc... it is a breeze.  The reward for all of the hard work comes when the trays are empty, and everyone is seeking you out to tell you it was great.

I am pretty sure the icing on the cake were the burnt ends.  Most people have never heard of, much less tasted a burnt end, but the pile in the corner of the tray disappeared almost as quick as the salt and pepper chicken wings at the end of the table.  I take that to mean they were a hit since I have seen people almost fight over the last salt and pepper wing at these types of gatherings... (They are essentially fried meat crack on a bone...)

Unfortunately I was in such a hurry to get the meat cut, packed, and on ice for the ride in to work that I didn't take any pictures of the finished product, but it was BEA-utiful.  I have some smoked armadillo eggs planned for this weekend.  Mandy asked me to do up a batch for her to take into work since the last time she had one half of the building smelled like smoked meat!!

Speaking of smelling like smoked meat... I used the microwave in the office yesterday to eat up some eggs and the when I popped open the door the smell of smoked meat seeped from the machine. I have officially imparted the smell of smoked meat into the microwave... My job is done here!