~ Totally Undeserving of the James Beard Award

~ Completely Undeserving of the James Beard Award ~

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What the...

I thought I would just write a short note to those who are saying what the heck is the “Better to Burp” all about?

That was a saying my Dad would say…”Better to burp and bare the shame than not to burp and bare the pain”…and he would usually say it so fast, as a kid I could not figure out what all the words were.

Behind that in the black, the top saying is from an old record I would listen to over and over, Disney’s Mickey and the Beanstalk.  Goofy is singing this phrase as they are near starvation and he is wishing for all of this food.

“Turkey, lobster, sweet potato pie, pancakes piled ‘till they reach the sky,. Oh I wanna eat and eat until I die. Lots of starches, lots of green, lots of fancy covered beans!”

The bottom saying is from a saying my Father-in-law would say to my wife, something she has also remembered over the years.

“Ham and eggs, chicken legs, a big fat juicy roast, sliced tomatoes, French fried potatoes and a thousand pieces of toast.”

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Fricatum, Fumificus, Aspergo, Pertersum...

Rub, Smoke, Spray, Mop.  Essentials of Barbecue.  A previous post I mentioned I was the lucky recipient of a Traeger smoker grill for an early Fathers Day present...and now I plan on putting it to the test. What to cook for the first trial was easy. I made ribs using my now old method...pre-Traeger, of using my Weber briquette grill, wood chunks, indirect heat, adding more heat and/or wood as needed in an attempt to maintain 225 degrees. I took a picture of one rib and now I had the chance to compare that to my new way.

Usually I use baby back ribs, easy to find and they don't take very long to cook, which is what I used before. This time I would use a St. Louis cut of ribs. I went over to the local butcher and picked up three racks, about 3 pounds each, enough to feed 5-6 people. These are what you typically see in a rib cookoff competition. They are spare ribs cut down to a uniform rectangular size which enables even cooking and people don't need to fight for the best pieces. Baby backs are higher up on the hog, spare ribs are lower. They are meatier, thicker which requires a longer cooking time.
I put together a rub mix which includes brown sugar, cumin, garlic and onion powder, chili powder, paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper. Washed and patted dry, I sprinkled generously the rub using a spice shaker held high to let it rain down which will ensure I get even coverage.
Now some people boil their ribs first, ooh, in beer even! Egads man! Wake up! You just made some nice pork stock...would you first boil your t-bone?

So these St. Louis will take about 5-6 hours. I got my smoke on at 11 AM at 225 using maple pellets , perfect. This is going to be great, I don't have to fool with adding heat or chips, nothin'. It will stay regulated regardless of outside temp or wind. I will spritz them every hour or so with apple juice for an extra layer of subtle flavor and moisture. Hickory, mesquite, fruit woods tend be a bit harsh.  Maple is not over-powering yet it will add a nice sweet smoke flavor layer. I will use the 3-2-1 method, 3 hours on the grill, 2 hours on the grill, wrapped in foil with a bit of apple juice then 1 hour out of the foil with my mop sauce going on. I did not use this method on my baby back comparison ribs so it's not a true side by side. 

While they are basking a way in the smoke, I will prepare my sides. To me, BBQ must have a slaw of some sort, or something like it. I got out my madoline, no not that kind, it's a slicer doo-hicky, perfect for making a lot of thinly sliced veggies evenly and quickly. This salad is great for mixing things up, a substitute for your normal slaw or green salad. Take all sorts of veggies which can be eaten raw, carrots, zucchini, cucumbers, fennel bulb is great, radishes, even beets but add those after you have mixed everything or everything will turn red. With the right combinations it looks fabulous, all the different colors really pop. I made a topping for it made with 1/2 cup cider vinegar and 1/4 cup sugar, salt & pepper, almost like a pickle brine. This works great against the intense smokey, bbq saucey ribs, it cleansed the pallet, fresh and crunchy.  I also threw together some baked beans, another "must-have" with barbecue with a bit of the rub mix and bbq sauce I used on the ribs mixed in to tie it all together.
I got a great bbq sauce recipe from a guy at work, he made it from memory of his grandfathers recipe. It's a Carolina vinegar sauce made with white vinegar, Tabasco, ketchup, pepper, cayenne, pepper flakes...and yes, it has a definite kick.  I used a store bought sauce when cooking the ribs, this other sauce was added as you go per person from a squeeze bottle.

The top rib is the Weber version, basically one color. It tasted fine. 
The one on the bottom is the Traeger, the pink is not under cooked meat...is it?...could it be?...YES!, it's a smoke ring, yeah! Mission accomplished! These ribs were miles above the Weber version, a huge difference. They didn't fall off the bone, they came off the bone...just where you took a bite and nothing else. :-)

    Well worth the new smoker honey!

Music of choice to cook by: Elvis, blues.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Hello, you've been Spammed...

Those of you who have been lucky enough to travel to exotic or far away locals, you are lucky.  When I travel, I really enjoy digging and searching out what the locals eat and like.  Take Hawaii.  Most might think of teriyaki, pineapple or that ever popular side...poi.  No thanks.  But by paying close attention you will find those may be a typical part of meals, other lesser known items are very much a big part of the island's food stuffs.

"Plate Lunch" is a mainstay in the islands, consisting of a protein such as fish, pork or chicken, always a scoop of mac salad and always "two scoops rice". It's fun to find some hole in the wall place, off the tourist trap area.  If you see cops, construction workers and/or area restaurant crew eating there, pull over. Although this place is not one of those, it's one we like, beachside, good food and cheap-"er" than most places.  Another staple is "poke'", which means "small pieces"in Hawaiian which is raw fish mixed with other ingredients, typically ahi tuna with perhaps onions, seaweed, spices, soy sauce.  The tuna could be substituted with raw salmon or cured "tako" (Hawaiian for octopus).  Another popular food is Spam musubi, what looks like a form of a poor man's sushi, made with seaweed, rice, spices and grilled Spam in a sauce.  Spam is huge in Hawaii, made popular after WWII when the GIs ate it and it became a local staple.  Spam musubi is so popular in Hawaii, it is the only place where you will find it for sale...in McDonalds!

Today, we have a special rare treat as I was lucky enough to contact a world traveller who has spent much time on the Islands, and I asked her to come into the studio as a guest blogger.  All the way from Pullman Town, Miss Kayla.

Me: "Welcome Kayla, thank you so much for stopping by"

Kayla: "Well thanks! Glad to be invited."

Me: "So I understand you are going to make something for us today"

Kayla: "Ya, this one's an adventure for the taste buds! We're going to be cookin' up Spam musubi."

Me: "Spam?...um, greeaat.  Where do we start?"

..... Alright, well just to start us off let's not have any preconcieved notions about Spam. Think of it like a hotdog! Riiight?! Now you're coming around to it. You will need sticky rice, nori (seaweed), low fat and low sodium Spam, furikake, and teriyaki sauce mixed with sugar (to fry the Spam in). Furikake is an asian spice that is traditional to use on musubi's but can be replaced or added to. Basically you'll want to lay down a piece or nori and in the middle of it layer some rice, sprinkle that with furikake, slap on a piece of fried Spam, and then add more rice. Wrap the ends of the nori around it and you're good to go (the sicky rice will hold it snug)!

Me: "Fantastic...but how does it taste?  I mean, Spam...and seaweed? Really? Sounds like a salty, fishy, gotta grow up with it taste.  Us haoles gonna like it?"

Kayla: Well I too was nervous at first, but because you fry the Spam in the teriyaki and sugar mix that is a big factor to what the musubi is going to taste like. In terms of the seaweed, it is definitely a salty/ocean taste but is very subdued in this dish because of the Spam, while the rice adds nice texture to pull it all together. A motto I like to live by "don't knock it till you try it".

Me: Sweet. Totally awsome. My bruddas are gonne like da chow and get a chock of Span mushubi, poke' for da beach...latta.

I served this up with a plate lunch...for dinner.  Some teriyaki kalbi ribs on the barbie which are beef ribs cut across the ribs, macaroni salad and of course, two scoops rice.

Music choice to cook by: Jake Shimabukuro. We saw him at a Jimmy Buffet concert in Maui one year, a fantastic ukulele player...ever heard Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" on a uke?     

Monday, June 13, 2011

Well, now I've done it..

I have officially fallen off the deep end, checked out, gone berserk, rabid, maniacal...spinning out of control, running pell-mell to a space where few ever escape.  I got my Fathers Day present early...a Traeger "Texas" smoker grill.  Yes, the bigger one...with a digital thermometer. Full tilt boogie. Thanks kids (and my bride), I hope I can re-pay you with tender morsels of 'cue.

And yes, I have a Weber 22" briquet grill...and yes, I have a nice Weber gas grill.  There is also the smaller Weber briquet grill but we wont include that, it's never used.  

Why?  Why has this happened to me?  Why did I want yet another grill and why this one?  Well, I guess it is an attempt to improve on barbecuing.  See, barbecue is not cooking a steak or burgers, that's grilling.  Barbecue is like playing an instrument...you never really learn how to play it, you are always learning, trying something new.  Barbecue is like sex...there is no bad barbecue just better barbecue.  Barbecue is like sitting in a lounge chair on the beach in Kauai sipping on a mai-tai as you listen to the waves, plunking on your ukulele as a gentle breeze blows by...man this is good.

For many, it's an addiction.  Attempting but never achieving perfection.  Getting just the right mix of dry rub, smoke, wood type, time, heat all goes into the BBQ blender and you hope it works.  Then, after you have smoked some ribs a few times, a pork butt or two (which is actually the shoulder...go figure, the pigs hind end is the ham), maybe a brisket you think...hey, I got this, I know how to barbecue.  No you don't.

Why place the fat side up on your chunk-o-meat?  What is happening to the collagen?  What the hell is it anyway?  What about getting more bark...the not-burnt, burnt looking crust. Spritz or not to spritz?  A little Texas crunch anyone?  How's your smoke ring?  Sauce?...which kind?  A vinegar based like Virginia or mustard based like Southern Carolina or tomato based like Kansas City? You can check that out here.  Anyway, there is a lot going on and you either pay attention to it or ignore it all, throw some protein on and pour a glass.  To see what one guy has to say, check out my link to "Amazing Ribs" on the left, and this one is good too.

Don't forget to vote on the right! I am sure I will be 'cue-in' it up this weekend.  Drop by and I'll save you a few ribs. Maybe.

You might be a redneck if...

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ah, Houston...we've had a problem...

This part is about having the right tool for the job and if you have the correct equipment your productivity and quality will go up...at least in cooking.  If not, you duct tape and bailing wire the mess together and what you have is a perfectly executed duct taped/bailing wired assembly.  Can you even get bailing wire anymore?

Now in an emergency you may need to rely on duct tape and bailing wire which is what Apollo 13 had to do.  Hopefully, your cooking isn't an emergency, unless of course your brother and sister-in-law from California unexpectedly shows up to spend the weekend because their house is being fumigated for bears.

Think of a mechanic. I suppose a mechanic could repair your car with a screw driver, pilers and a hammer...but would you want him too?  And would he want to?  Then why go though a process with many steps, prep work, learning, selecting, examining and executing just as a mechanic does without the proper tools?

I thought I selected the proper tool for baking pizzas, which perfecting the pizza crust I want is somewhat of a thorn in my paw for some time, although the pain is less now.  I knew to get the crust I wanted I needed two things: a pizza stone and high temp.  No prob I thought, I'll just use my brides Pampered Chefs cookie baking stone!  Ha, in your face pizza crust!...one down, one to go!  Except...that stone isn't made for 500+ degree heat on the lowest level of your oven.  Max: 450.  It worked okay 2 or 3 times, then I heard an unfamiliar "pop!" which radiated from the bowels of my Bertazzoni stove ( a love/hate relationship).


Although, the pizzas didn't come out too bad I must say.

a margarita...

                               and a prosciutto/arugula/roasted garlic.