Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A tale of two Butts

I have been thinking about doing a taste test on butts for a while now (don't laugh, you know what I mean.)  I have never injected anything with well..anything.  I have read and seen a lot of people who inject their butts/briskets/turkeys/chicken with some form of marinade.  On at least 100 occasions I have seen,picked up and read, the cajun injector at any of the stores that I frequent.  Just never bought it.  Well I didn't buy it this time, but I did buy an injector.
Then I had to figure out what to inject.  I decided on a mix of apple cider vinegar and Saw's Sauce.
I put 1 1/2 cups of the marinade into the larger of the butts.  I let it marinate(I guess this is the correct term) over night.  I got up yesterday morning at 5 a.m. to start the fire.  I then rubbed both butts in Rut's Rub.  The one on the right has been injected.  Butt on the left 6.5 lbs, right 7.5 lbs.
I got the fire up to 250 then put the butts on.  If you remember from yesterday I got a new smoker.  This is the first big cook on it.  It was 6 in the morning, dew still covering the ground, I am on my second cup of coffee, a clear white smoke coming out of the smoker, I am in hog heaven (pun intended.)  It will be a great day, well....Here is the short summary of my day:

I noticed quickly the temp started to waiver, it did this early and often.  Then at some point, around 10, I walked outside and heard a noise that made my heart quake.  What I heard was the top rack had fallen, hitting the bottom rack, into the water pan and on into the coals.  I slowly opened the door to the smoker to make sure nothing fell out.  Byrd came running out and helped me take the butts off get them into the oven on 225, while I got the smoke back up to temp and set up again.  I wish I would have gotten a picture of this, but the frustration of the situation did not let me think that far ahead.  All set up, the butts go back on.  I thank Byrd for helping me to see the funny side of this and I get my spirit back.  Then things settled into a nice routine of having about 2 hour breaks in having to do something.  Around 11 last night the internal temp was 175.  It was a long night to say the least.  I wrapped them, in a sleepy haze,around 3 this morning when the internal timer went off at 190.  They stayed on until 6 when they reached 210.  I went back to sleep after that.

I pulled the pork this morning at 8.  I am not sure I have ever gotten out of bed, poured a cup of coffee, and started to pull pork.  What a great morning.  The bones slid right out, great smoke ring, and the bark was delicious for breakfast.  This is my pork plate, you can barely see the pig in the middle, it is only used for pork products.
 Here they are pulled.
As I tasted them this morning, I couldn't decide which one I liked better.  The one with the injection definitely had the little bit of extra flavor, but I still liked the straight pork flavor from the other one.  A very tough decision.  Maybe after lunch I will be able to make a better decision.  I will do the injection again, partly because it was fun to prepare.  Although it was a much longer cook than I had expected, and extremely frustrating on the new smoker, it was still a day/night spent outside cooking.  I also will be able to take pulled pork to friends and family, who are anxiously awaiting.  I will say this about this cook, I envy people with the BGE. There I said it.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

New Smoker and Firehouse Chicken

About a week ago I came across a free smoker.  I know there is no such thing as free, but this truly was a free smoker, thanks Matt.  I love new toys, especially free ones.  It came with all the parts, even a cover, and doesn't look like it has been used much.  It is a New Braunfels Company Smoker, well that is what the cover said, the actual lettering on the smoker itself has worn off.  I couldn't find out much about it, other than NB Smoker Co. sold to CharBroil in 2002, closing its plant in Texas and moving production to Georgia.  This particular smoker was discontinued as far as I can tell.  Here is the new addition to the family.  It was raining the day I brought her home, and I had to take pictures so she was inside.
Now that Byrd likes chicken thighs, thanks to Pickapeppa Chicken, that is what she asked for tonight for dinner.  I am a happy guy.  I recently bought a bottle of Firehouse Subs Captain Sorenson's Datil Pepper Sauce.  It is great on their subs, but I new it had a more potential than just a sub topper.  I marinated 4 chicken thighs in it for about 2 hours.  Removed it from the marinade and let it sit uncovered in the fridge while the fire got going.  
I placed a one grate on the 6 setting above the fire.  I wanted good crispy skin, but did not want the sugars in the sauce to burn.  I placed them skin side down for 20 minutes then flipped them and let them go for about 40 minutes more.  We were having corn on the cob with dinner so I wrapped them in foil and placed them on the grate above the fire when I flipped the chicken, not wanting to make the same mistake again.  The chicken came off when the internal temp of the largest piece was 165.  The corn came off with the chicken.

We also got some great asparagus to go with dinner.  Very simple a little olive oil, cavenders, and balsamic vinegar.  I cooked them under the broiler for about 5 minutes.
The chicken was delicious, I will marinate it a little longer next time, but the flavor of the sauce did come through.  Corn was actually done this time, and the nice crisp asparagus is a great companion on the plate.  I am glad I got a feel for the new smoker.  Right now there are two butts on it.  I am doing a test on the flavor difference of an injected butt with dry rub, and one with just rub.  Should be interesting.  Stay tuned for the results.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Junk Food Sunday

Every once and a while we have what we call Junk Food Dinner.  This is a variety of frozen baked treats.  Tonight that included pizza rolls, yes the kind out of the bag, and chips and party dip.  We always throw in something to make it not so bad, so carrot sticks and sliced watermelon also made appearances.  I did want to try my hand at the stuffed pork biscuits. These aren't really junk food, but they are finger foods so close enough.  I wouldn't call the last time I made these a blunder, more of a wrong use of a key ingredient. So this time I got the store bought biscuits in a can. Much easier to work with.
I folded them and crimped the edges with a fork.
They went in the oven on 350 for 13 minutes.  They came out golden brown and looked much better this time.  Served with a side of a mixture of BBQ sauces I had on hand.  I know the heart plate is pretty.
For dessert we made the caramel custard again.  This has become a house favorite due to the great taste and easiness of the recipe.  Much better this time, I used a real plate instead of paper, and no cracks.
The melted sugar turns into liquid gold.
The pork biscuits were much better this time, but I haven't perfected that one.  I will keep trying though.  The dessert was beyond good.  It was also good for breakfast this morning with a cup of coffee.  As for the rest of the junk food dinner it was great, but I will try home made pizza rolls that I saw on brent's blog next time.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Byrd's Spaghetti

Comfort food.  When you hear the term you automatically start thinking of what it mens to you.  To some it is meatloaf and mashed potatoes, others its a simple mac n cheese, and in Croatia its sarma.  I don't know any Croatians, but that's what Wikipedia said.  I like learning new food facts. And the sarma actually looks delicious. To me it is spaghetti. I have talked of my love of noodles and my love for Byrd's sauce. Well here it is.  I will say the measurements, or the lack there of, are her own.  I will try to estimate them though, I may be off a little.

She starts by browning some ground beef (around a pound), then adds in diced onions(medium white), garlic(4 gloves minced), and mushrooms(1lb. sliced white button.)  Next she normally adds in 2 cans of diced tomatoes, but we didn't have any.  We did have some grape tomatoes(a little less than a pound) so they were sliced and went into the pot.   
Then add in two cans of tomato sauce and 2 cans of tomato paste, then fill all of the cans with water and add in.  So 4 cans of sauce and 4 cans of water.
The seasoning comes next.  Here is everything she adds.  The far right is sugar.
Her measurements are cover the top with everything, then drop in 2 bay leaves.  As far as I can tell it is equal amounts of all, but she is heavier with the oregano.  Probably a tablespoon of all, 2 of oregano.  
Stir everything together, bring to a simmer and cover.  She simmers this for about 2-3 hours.  Stirring and tasting anytime she wants.  I am not allowed to stir or taste without her presence.  I think she fears I will add in a little CRP.  I beg her too anytime this is on the stove.  A great sauce for any noodle.  We used the last of the Tagliarini.  As usual we served with garlic cheese bread.
Even with the pound of mushrooms, I always wish there were more, but it was great as usual.  This is my comfort food.  Heart warming, delicious, filling food, the meal you can eat all the helpings you want. What is your comfort food?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Bacon Wrapped Onions w/ Balsamic Glaze

 I don't think side items get enough credit.  Sometimes they definitely are the star of the show/plate.  Tonight was one of times.  A little back story, when Byrd and I started dating she swore the only thing she could cook was spaghetti sauce. At first I believed her, I had no reason not to, I did most of the cooking when we dined at our respective houses.  When she did, it was spaghetti.  I was ok with this, hers is delicious.  Then one night she told me we were going to have steaks and bacon wrapped onions.  Yes bacon wrapped onions.  I am pretty sure this is when I fell in love.  She stills says she couldn't cook before we met, I don't believe her as much now.  With that being said we used to eat these all the time, but like somethings you eat to often you stop cooking them in order to try new things.  Well they made a come back tonight.  I was glad to see/eat them.  A very simple delicious treat.

To prepare the onion, skin them, but don't cut off the ends.
Then quarter the onion.  Each quarter will give you 3 perfect size wedges.
Wrap the wedges in bacon and secure with a toothpick.
Then cut the end of the onion wedge off.
Place on a baking sheet, lined with tin foil.
Drizzle with a generous amount of balsamic glaze.  If your local grocer doesn't carry a balsamic glaze, buy a cheap balsamic vinegar, put it over medium/low to  reduce by 1/2.  It will become the consistency of syrup, and the flavor is very concentrated.
As a side three per person works out well, although I always want more than we make.
Bake in a 450 degree oven for 15 minutes then flip them.  Back in for another 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of your bacon.  We used a rather thick slice so it took about 35 minutes total.  When the bacon is crisp they are done.

A great side item, tonight we served them with a NY strip and a spinach salad.
It was a great meal, but I would have shared a steak in order to have twice as many onions.  I am glad Byrd brought these up for a side item, they are very versatile and can go with just about anything, but also it was a great taste down memory lane.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pizza Night

Pizza is alway fun to make at home and I love thinking of new combinations.  Byrd and I couldn't agree on just one type of pizza so we made two.  I was going to make a thick crust pizza with the left over rib meat from a previous cook, Byrd a more traditional style. I say I was going to make mine thick crust, but when I tried to get the dough out of the tube it came in, it basically fell apart.  I am not sure what happened, but it was bad. Byrd very easily rolled her thin crust out of the tube and it was perfect.  I persuaded her to let me use 1/2 of it, stating that "we don't really need to make two large pizzas."  She agreed then noticed the huge ball of dough that I rolled up and tried to hide. She asked why I didn't just throw it away, I said it would still be good for something.  After she was finished laughing at me, she cut hers in half.  After the dough was out of the oven from the proofing stage, stated on the tube, we began to build our pizzas.

I started mine with a mix of two BBQ sauces I had on hand.  One was too sweet and thick, one too thin.  Together they made a fine base for my pizza. Byrd used some left over spaghetti sauce from the fridge.
After the sauce was down, I added rib meat, cheese, diced jalapeno, cilantro, onion, mushrooms(on half), and cheese.  Byrd made a cheese, pepperoni, onion, jalapeno, and mushroom pizza.  

After the 8 minutes in the oven at 425,  they were ready to eat. Here is the BBQ Rib Pizza
Byrd's traditional pizza
The pizzas were delicious like most pizzas are.  I was happy that my combination worked. Now back to the discarded pizza dough.  I just couldn't throw it away and had a thought of a recipe for pork stuffed biscuit dough, well this was like biscuit dough, so I went for it.  I cut the ball down into workable pieces then put a little bbq sauce, rib meat and cheese inside.  Not the prettiest of things, but the idea was great.

Not really sure how long to cook these, we threw them in with the pizzas and checked them every 5 minutes.  They ended up taking about 20 minutes total.
Not near as good as the ones from the site would have been, but they were good. The thick crust pizza dough made them a little to bready.  But at least I tried. And they were fun to eat.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Roast Pork Loin Stuffed with Spinach, Bacon and Onion

I've had stuffed pork on my mind for about a week now.  There were a couple of blogs that I read that really got my mouth watering.  Both Nibble Me This, and My Year on the Grill had different takes on stuffed pork recently.  I had to have one.  I have been reading Frank Stitt's Southern Table for a couple weeks and guess what I came across last night, right there on page 223, a stuffed pork loin.  A pork loin stuffed with rosemary, bacon, and onions of all things.  Pork stuffed with pork.  What a great idea. There was only one problem with the recipe from the book, Byrd does not enjoy rosemary.  So I had to make a few changes.

The original recipe calls for:
1/2 lb. slab bacon, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 medium onions, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cups 1-inch cubes crustless day-old French bread
2 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped
2 rosemary sprigs, leaves removed and finely chopped
1 small bunch flat-leaf parlsey, leaves removed and finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil or chicken broth, if necessary

This is what I used for the stuffing:
3 slices of bacon, diced
3/4 medium white onion, diced
3 slices day old white bread, crustless
3 cloves of garlic, crushed and finely chopped
1 frozen package of spinach, drained of all liquid
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons of olive oil

Other than those changes to the stuffing, I followed the recipe exactly.
I sautéed the bacon and onions.  Then set them aside to cool.  Once cooled I added the spinach, bread, and garlic, in with them.  The bread was a little dry, even with all of the delicious bacon drippings, so I added the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. I added salt and pepper to taste. Then I put the stuffing in a pastry bag, well the only pastry bag I have is a zip lock bag with a hole cut in one of the bottom corners.
I took a knife and inserted it in the center of the loin, turned it in a circular motion to create a hole.  Then with the back end of a wooden spoon, I widened the hole by pressing against the sides until it was about an inch in diameter.  Then stuffed it, by piping the stuffing into the whole in the center of the meat.  Then seasoned the pork with salt and pepper.

I put it in the oven on 450 for 20 minutes, then turned the oven down to 325 and cooked it for 25 minutes. When the internal temperature reached 145 degrees I then pulled it and set it aside to rest for 10 minutes.  I might have over stuffed it, but it looked and smelled great.

Still trying to go easy on the carbs, I made some steamed broccoli and carrots.  All together it made quite a meal.  This is my plate, I am not a huge fan of cooked carrots.
This was exactly what I wanted.  The stuffing was great, the flavor from the spinach, bacon, onion and garlic worked perfectly with the pork.  I am sure the original stuffing from Southern Table is divine, but I am pretty proud of what came out of my kitchen tonight.  Plus now that I have this under my belt the possibilities are endless.

Smoker Fun

Byrd and I set out yesterday to spend time with some family.  My cousin Matt and I wanted to fire up his smoker and try out a few new rubs and well, just cook.  This is an original smoker built by Matt.  He documented the entire build on The Smoke Ring.  Here is the link to his build.  You can tell by the size, this isn't a cooker you fire up to do a little cooking so we had big plans for the day.  Matt lives across from a pecan orchard so having plenty of it, that is what was used for the heat and smoke.

We got the temperature up to 250 and put on a brisket.  It looks so lonely all by itself.
One of the reasons for this cook was to get our cooking times down for a competition in April.  The Bodagetta BBQ is in its second year and is held at Auburn University.  Matt and I both are Auburn graduates so what better place to enter our first competition.   We tried a new rub that Matt has been working on for the spare ribs.  It has a cast of the normal rub characters.  

Now on to join the brisket

After the spare ribs were on, some family members dropped  by to get a few items smoked while it was hot.  Added to the spare ribs and brisket were 2 slabs beef short ribs, 2 pork tenderloins, 5 split chicken breasts, and 1 slab of pork baby back ribs.  Like I said no reason to fire this behemoth up unless you are going to cook an obscene amount of food.

Both trays pull out for easy loading and unloading.
This is the brisket after it reached internal of 165.  Then it was wrapped in foil and put back on till internal of 195.
The brisket sliced.  Great smoke ring and flavor. 
One of the slabs of spare ribs.

Matt's wife Erin, made some great sides.  A marinated slaw and spinach Madeline.  
The tenderloins, beef ribs, chicken, and baby back ribs went home with there respective owners so no pictures of those meats.  They all looked great when they came out though.  The ribs had a great flavor, and the sides were delicious.  Spinach Madeline was new to me.  I did get the recipe from Erin and I will be having it again soon.  Once again we came out on top with no big errors on the cook.  We got our times down and close to the flavors we wanted.  We also got to sit around and enjoy the first day of spring by cooking and drinking beer.  Not a bad way to start off the BBQ season.  Not that the season ever really stops around here.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Caramel Custard

Every once in a while my mother will send me recipes in the mail.  They are usually something she saw in a newspaper or magazine that she thinks I will enjoy making.  She knows me all to well.  I love these packages.  We got one of these the other day, it contained three desserts.  Knowing we are having to watch what we eat, due to Byrd's doctor, one was a "Dessert Without the Guilt".  It is a caramel custard.  The picture of it made it look too tempting not to try.  I would link it to the magazine it was from, but there is nothing on the bottom/top/sides of the copies I have.  I will look into this more and give the creator their due. Start by placing a 1/2 cup of sugar in an 8 inch non stick cake pan, melt the sugar over med. heat until golden.   Take off the heat and let it sit for 5 mins.

While that cools put 2 egg yolks, 1 large egg, 1(14 oz.) can fat free sweetened condensed milk, 1(12 oz.) can evaporated fat-free milk, 3 oz. 1/3 less-fat cream cheese, softened, and 1 Tbsp of vanilla extract into a blender.  Blend well.  Then pour on the sugar in the cake pan.
Place this in a water bath and into the oven at 350 for 1 hour.
My mom always writes notes on the recipes that she sends.  These are things she added, removed, or thinks is a better way to make the printed recipe.  I don't want to discredit the very talented chefs/cooks that come up with the recipes in the magazines, but they should consult my mother before printing.  I say this because I forgot to "cover with foil before baking" which my mother wrote 2 different places on the recipe.  So it turned out looking like this.
But after the 3 hours in the fridge I flipped it out onto a paper plate.  Paper was not a smart choice on my part.
It cracked, but it was delicious.  I have learned that desserts, when they don't come out pretty, are easier to eat.  You don't have to worry about cutting the perfect wedge, you can just take a hunk and go.  Or just eat right from the plate, this is frowned upon when you are not at home( like rolling your corn on the cob directly on the stick of butter). This will definitely be made again.  I think next time, I will pour into small muffin pans, and after cooled top with sugar and broil them.  Like mini brulees.