Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Lambtastic Brunch

I have been trying to cook up this rack of lamb for several days, but something always got in the way and by the time I was able to cook, it was to late and we weren't hungry.  So yesterday morning I decided to do a lamb brunch to kick off the day.

Since I had some time to think about how I wanted to prepare the lamb I decided I would debone the rack, and cut it into medallions.  I started by removing the rib bones and cutting out some of the small bones that are located at the end of the rack.  I also trimmed the fat cap to make it even before rolling the and cutting the meat.

For seasoning I used a little paprika, garlic, rosemary, salt, and pepper. I massaged it into both sides of the meat, and then rolled the meat to capture some of the spices inside of the roll.  I cut the lamb into 1 inch medallions and rubbed a little of the remaining spice mix on the freshly cut sides.

I preheated the oven to 425, and an oven safe pan on the stove top with a 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.  I seared the medallions for 2 minutes on each side and then slowly added a cup of red wine (will splatter so use a lid) to the pan.  I covered it and put it in the oven for 15 minutes.

For a side dish I boiled and smashed some small red potatoes.  When the lamb was done, I removed it from the pan to rest and reduced the liquid in the pan to make a sauce.  Once the liquid had reduced and thickened I drizzled it over the lamb and added a couple of spoon fulls to the potatoes.

The lamb was super tender and melted in our mouths.  It was an amazing way to start the day!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Grinding The Day Away

I have been wanting to start making my own sausage for a while, and yesterday I was planning on grinding some beef for dishes throughout the week, so I picked up some pork shoulder to grind up as well for hot Italian sausage.  I have checked out a few recipes looking for something that would have a good balance of sweet and heat, but won't overpower a dish when added.

For my ground beef I used 2 1/2 pounds of chuck roast and 2 1/2 pounds of tri tip.  I think half of California probably just had a heart attack, how dare I grind up tri tip of burgers!!  I chose these two cuts because they are both packed with beefy flavor and have enough fat to hold the burgers together without having to add additional fat to the mix.  Before I started grinding I cubed up the meat and mixed it together in a gallon bag before sticking it in the freezer for 30 minutes.  Partially freezing the meat helps it move through the grinder easier.

For the sausage I used 5 pounds of pork shoulder that had been cut down into country style ribs since I didn't want to pay for a bone-in roast.  I cubed the pork and put it in a gallon bag in the freezer as well.

Once I was ready to start grinding, the beef went quickly and I had a huge bowl of ground goodness in less than five minutes.  I usually like to make 1/2 pound balls that can be pressed into burgers, or cut down to make smaller patties.  They are also perfect for dishes that we make for 2 people.  Once I plan out dinners for the week I will freeze the remaining portion for later.

Now it is sausage time!  I am not going to start stuffing meat into casings until I have solid recipes.  Otherwise I will be wasting a lot of casings on sausages that no one wants to eat.  The good thing about grinding bulk sausage is I can add a little more spice or mix it with another meat for dishes that don't need a link.

This was my first go at it. and the recipe I used was for 100 pounds of sausage, so I had to do math to try and guesstimate the mixture...  I started by grinding the pork, and then worked the meat to mash it together and ensure my spices would blend well.  In a separate bowl I poured in all of the spices for the sausage, and mixed it up to aid in distribution when added to the pork.  I poured the spice mix over the pork and kneaded it in for about five minutes until everything was blended together.

Now for the moment of truth... I always do a test patty after I grind to ensure it will hold up and taste good, so I did a small burger patty and a sausage patty and tossed them on the grill.   The burger was fantastic!! The sausage was very good, but a little sweet.  Not bad at all for my first attempt.  It will be awesome for sausage gravy, chili, or even cut with some burger meat for meatballs!

A few tweaks and I will have it perfect for next time!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Unlucky Lucille's Smokehouse

Mandy and I don't eat out very often, and when we do, it is usually for sushi or something that is special.  Last night we were invited out by some friends to dinner at Lucille's Smokehouse in Temecula.  The company and conversation were amazing, the beer (not their's but bottled for them by Bayhawk Ales) was fantastic, the service was great, but the food, well not so much...

I am not one to typically bag on food from a restaurant when I am not a "professional reviewer," but I know enough about barbecue to speak intelligently on the topic.  Ultimately, you are never going to get good barbecue from a chain restaurant simply because it is not made with the same level of care and true passion in mass quantity. Unless you are in Texas, and in a Bill Miller BBQ.  While it won't knock your socks off, it is damn good for a chain restaurant..

As you can tell I am not a fan of chain restaurants but I will say that some have menu items that are consistently good, and these chains have a place in the market for fairly priced sit down meals.  My ultimate gripe is when a restaurant claims to be a barbecue joint or the like, and doesn't deliver, then over charges for crappy food.  I will give it to them that they have a packed house on a regular basis, and last night was no exception as we waited an hour to get in, but that is typical in Temecula for a weekend.

To start we had a sampler platter which had a variety of fried foods, the fried green tomatoes were my favorite.  I ordered a two meat combo of baby back ribs and hot links, and Mandy ordered catfish and shrimp.  The others in our group had a variety of steak, tri-tip, and chicken.  When our food came it actually looked very good.  But as soon as I grabbed the ribs I knew they were not cooked properly. Hell, I don't even think they were smoked....  When you grab ribs and it comes off the plate like a 2x4, then you didn't do it right. When you take a bite and you have to gnaw at it like a rabid dog, you didn't do it right... When you have to hide the fact that you didn't smoke your ribs for 4-6 hours (as claimed) under a thick layer of sauce, you didn't do it right!

Now I will give them some credit, the hot links, while not spicy, were juicy and had a good flavor, but were not smoked. Maybe grilled at most...   Their hot and spicy barbecue sauce had a good flavor that added a little kick to the links that I wouldn't normally dip, but I wanted to taste the sauce.  I looked over at the pile of batter on Mandy's plate and knew instantly what had happened... Batter on frozen fish that didn't stick.  The catfish wasn't bad, but the batter was not the best, and the coating on the shrimp was the same, and was flavorless.

As for side dishes, I wanted to go traditional and have mac and cheese with bbq beans, the mac was crusty and didn't have any flavor, the beans didn't taste like bbq... They could have used Kraft mac and cheese and done a better job... Mandy ordered grits as a side, but they weren't grits.. Whatever it was had a good flavor, but was a "mystery dish" cause it wasn't grits.

I believe the consensus was the same from around the table, crappy ribs, dry overcooked meat, mediocre at best.  Don't get me wrong the whole point was for us to get together and have a great time, which we did, it is just a shame that the food was not up to par.

I think the most amazing point is that people continue to line up out the door to get in, and eat what they think is good barbecue...  Sorry folks, this ain't it.  Guess this ole' hillbilly is going to have to eventually throw my hat in the ring and provide the residents of Temecula with real barbecue, the kind you can actually smell down the street, and smacks you in the face when you walk through the door!

So if you are looking for good barbecue, Lucille's isn't it, so save yourself the trouble and the money.  If you are in the area and want some good ole' southern Q, drop me a line and we'll do it up right!