Monday, February 27, 2012

Grilled Baby Backs With Sweet Soy Glaze

I made some of the simplest ribs ever today.  The rub was just salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  The sauce was just a handful of ingredients and a 10 minute simmer.  And Alexis dubbed them the best ribs ever*.

The pig cut out was a Christmas present from my two boys for Alexis this year.  It's actually a chalk board with a pig frame. 

But first, how much does a rack of ribs cost at your favorite local restaurant?  Right now in Knoxville they run from $17.95 (from a place where I wouldn't order the ribs) to $22 at my favorite BBQ place.  

For less than the cost of a rack of ribs at your favorite restaurant, you can learn how to master making your own ribs at home.  Ribs that are better than the restaurant.  Ribs that are the best ribs ever.

How so?  In Spring 2012, Steven Raichlen is coming out with his newest book Best Ribs Ever.  


I know that any of my grilling and BBQ readers know exactly who Steven Raichlen is.  For anyone else, he wrote The Barbecue Bible.  That's not hyperbole.  He literally wrote The Barbecue Bible.  

He's a prolific author, wrote a NY Times Best Seller, and is a James Beard Award winner.  I first became aware of him through his BBQ-U and Primal Grill television series on PBS.  Yeah....he's no slouch!  

Here's a little bit more about Steven's upcoming book:
In BEST RIBS EVER, Steven Raichlen gives us Ribs 101, a crash course on the art of grilling and smoking, including how to properly set-up a grill and the rundown of the different tools that can be used (even how to make grill-quality ribs indoors!) He teaches us how to recognize different cuts of meat and what we should be looking for when shopping. Raichlen also goes over several essential cooking methods, as well as how and when to use each of them. And of course there are delicious, finger-lickin’ recipes for rubs, marinades, sauces, and glazes, along with accompanying sides, desserts, and even drinks!
So if it's not available until April 25th, why am I telling you about it now?  Two reasons.  First, you can pre-order it right now for only $13.95.  Second, in April I will be giving away an autographed copy of Steven Raichlen's Best Ribs Ever.  

In the mean time, the recipe that I used today is from one of my favorite Steven Raichlen's books, Planet Barbecue!

Nuri's Ribs:  Grilled Baby Backs with Sweet Soy Glaze

Ingredients
  • 1 cup Indonesian sweet soy sauce (kejap manis), or 1/2 cup each regular soy sauce and molasses
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon minced, peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper, or more to taste
  • 2 racks baby back pork ribs (each 2 to 2 1/2 pounds)
  • Coarse salt (kosher or sea)
  • Garlic powder
  • 2 cups fruit wood chips or chunks (optional), soaked for 1 hour in water to cover, then drained
Instructions
  1. Place the sweet soy sauce, sugar, ginger, garlic, shallot, 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper, the white pepper, and 3 tablespoons of water in a heavy saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Let the glaze boil until thick and syrupy and reduced to about 1 1/3 cups, 4 to 6 minutes, stirring often. If the glaze becomes too thick, add 1 to 3 additional tablespoons of water. The sweet soy glaze can be made several hours ahead of time and refrigerated, covered. Let it come to room temperature before using.
  2. Remove the thin, papery membrane from the back of each rack of ribs. Season the ribs generously on both sides with salt, black pepper, and garlic powder.
  3. Set up the grill for indirect grilling, place a drip pan in the center, and preheat the grill to medium. I urge you to get a charcoal grill for smoking, but you can use wood on a gas grill; you just won’t get as pronounced a wood flavor.
  4. When ready to cook, if you are using a charcoal grill, toss the wood chips or chunks, if using, on the coals. If you are using a gas grill, add the wood chips or chunks, if using, to the smoker box or place them in a smoker pouch under the grate. Brush and oil the grill grate. Place the racks of ribs bone side down in the center of the grate over the drip pan and away from the heat. (If your grill has limited space, you can stand the racks of ribs upright in a rib rack.) Cover the grill and cook the ribs until tender, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. When the ribs are done, they’ll be handsomely browned and the meat will have shrunk back from the ends of the bones by about 1/4 inch. If you are using a charcoal grill, you will need to add fresh coals after 1 hour.
  5. During the last 10 minutes of grilling, brush the ribs on both sides with the sweet soy glaze. When the ribs have grilled for about 5 minutes after being glazed, move them directly over the fire. Brush the ribs on both sides with glaze again and grill them until the glaze is sizzling, 1 to 3 minutes per side.
  6. Transfer the ribs to a large platter or cutting board and cut the racks into individual ribs. Pour any remaining glaze over the ribs and serve at once.
I used the ingredients exactly as written.  I smoked my ribs at a lower temp (250f dome)  instead of indirect grilling them at 350f as the recipe calls for but followed the directions otherwise.  I used cherry wood as my smoke.  The cook was 3 hours naked, 1 hour foil, and another 30 minutes uncovered, when I glazed them.

My favorite time of the weekend morning - everything prepped and waiting for the smoker to come up to temp.

My favorite new condiment, totally NOT the same thing as soy sauce. 

The rub is about as basic as you can get, 3 ingredients.   
After glazing, finishing up on the Big Green Egg.

*For the record, an admission.  Alexis loved them because I over cooked the baby backs and they were just starting to "fall off the bone".  While most people love that, I like them properly cooked where it takes a slight bite or tug to eat them.   

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Deano Jalapeno Burger

Last week I received a surprise care package from Brian and Marilyn Meagher from the Hot Sauce Daily blog.  One of the first things that caught my eye was this package...


Crispy fried jalapeno slices from Deano's Jalapenos.  I knew exactly what I was going to do with them.  


Grilled burgers with monterey jack cheese, the jalapeno slices, lettuce and a homemade avocado/cilantro ranch spread to cool off the heat.  

For the full recipe, check out my Fire Day Friday post over at Our Krazy Kitchen

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Penne with Basil and Red Pepper Cream Sauce

Wow, it was a glorious day in East Tennessee today.  Sunny blue skies and 70+ degrees, hard to believe it is still winter.    But the LACK of fresh herbs in my front yard reminds me, yes, it is still winter, dude. 

Here is the pasta recipe that went with the chicken the other day.  Since I don't have any fresh basil, I used Gourmet Garden's Basil Herb blend.  I never tried it before but tasting it straight from the tube, it is not as good as fresh but it is 10 times better than dried basil.  


I learned something while making this dish.  If you try to say "shallot and garlic" and stumble over your tongue, it becomes "Charlotte".  

Penne with Basil and Red Pepper Cream Sauce
source:  NibbleMeThis

Ingredients
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 small shallot, finely diced
  • 2 small cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1/4 cup Gourmet Garden Basil herb blend*
  • 1/4 cup roasted red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup pasta water
  • 3 cups penne pasta (uncooked)
Instructions
  1. Cook pasta according to directions.
  2. In a preheated saute pan over medium high heat, melt the butter and saute the shallot and garlic 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the flour, stirring continuously to form a blond roux.
  4. Whisk in cream and simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the basil and red bell pepper.
  6. Use the pasta water as needed to think the sauce.
  7. Toss the pasta in with the cream sauce and serve. 
Notes
  • According to the package, 1 Tbsp of basil paste = 1 Tbsp of chopped fresh basil, so when it's Summer again and fresh basil is growing in your yard, you can just use 1/4 cup of fresh basil.

Anyone else have the urge to go walk barefoot in grass?

[Standard Disclaimer]  I paid full price for the basil paste and have no affiliation with Gourmet Garden.  

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Fire Roasted White Balsamic Chicken

I wanted to call this one "Grilled White Balsamic Chicken" but technically it is an "indirect" cook so I went with "fire roasted".  Whatever you call it, it was pretty bleeping good and actually very easy.


The chicken was moist and tasty, but I wasn't surprised.  One of the first preparations I ever learned for grilling chicken was using Italian dressing as a marinade.  When I tasted how great this White Balsamic Vinaigrette was, I just KNEW I had to try it as a marinade.   
The pasta was penne with a simple cream sauce with roasted red pepper and basil and it was just as good as the chicken.  I'll post the recipe for the pasta on Thursday but it went really well with this dish.  

Fire Roasted White Balsamic Chicken
Source:  NibbleMeThis

Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Place the butterflied chicken in a 1 gallon sized Glad™ Zipper Bag, pour in the vinaigrette, seal and make sure the vinaigrette gets all over the chicken.  Let marinate in the refrigerator or 4 hours.  Flip it every now and then.  
  2. Remove the chicken from the marinade.  Season the front and back with the salt, thyme and black pepper.  Place in a stoneware pie pan or roasting pan with the chicken stock.  
  3. Preheat a charcoal grill to 350f set up for direct heat.  
  4. Place the chicken on the grill and cook until the chicken reaches an internal temp of 155-160f in the breast and 175-180f in the thighs.  This should take about one hour.  
  5. Remove, allow to rest for 5-10 minutes. 
Notes
  • Absolutely make sure to use a butterflied or "spatchcocked" chicken for this.  It lies flat and cooks evenly this way.  
Can't wait until summer gets here....hate PAYING for fresh thyme.

I'm not dancing....I am jerking back as coal pops when lighting with a MAPpro torch.  Notice my neighbor's  Big Green Egg in the back ground.

Steamy smoky goodness!

When I die, please lay me in a bed of creamy tasty pasta too!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Tennessee Smoky Hot Dog

Spring is just around the corner and that means Spring Training for baseball is right around the corner.  And that makes me think of hot dogs because baseball and hot dogs have been paired since the end of the 1800's.  

Knoxville does not have a Major League Baseball team in our market but we do have the Tennessee Smokies, a Chicago Cubs minor league affiliate.  They play at Smokies Park in Sevierville, which is in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.  The local college baseball team is the University of Tennessee Volunteers whose mascot is Smokey, a bluetick coonhound.

Confused yet?  Don't be.  We just like to keep changing the spelling of Smokie, Smoky, and Smokey in East Tennessee.  

Recently, Clint "Smoke In Da Eye" Cantwell asked us to come up with our idea of a great "ball park" hot dog.  In a perfect world, I think the ultimate ball park hot dog meets 3 criteria:
  1. It is served hot and fresh.  Not luke warm, crammed into aluminum foil.
  2. It is an entire meal on a bun.  We don't need no stinkin' side dishes.
  3. It is based on regional influences and preferences.
Here's what I came up with.  The regional "dog" for East Tennessee, North Carolina, and a lot of the South is an "all the way dog" with slaw, chili, diced white onion, and yellow mustard.  To play along with the Smoky theme, I decided to do a grilled coleslaw and caramelize the onions on the grill.

Messy but delicious!  And look...SMOKY.

No, I didn't throw a bowl of slaw on a hot grill, I just grilled the cabbage used for the slaw.  This is a tip that I picked up from Chris Lilly at Kingsford University last year.  Grilled Veggies - grill the individual components used in making a vegetable dish.  He made a ratatouille that way.


The Tennessee Smoky Hot Dog
source:  NibbleMeThis
servings:  8 hot dogs

Ingredients
  • 8 ea hot dog buns
  • 8 ea beef hot dogs
  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced into 1/4" slices
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 tsp BBQ rub*
  • 2 cups hot dog chili*
  • yellow mustard
For the smoky coleslaw
  • 1/2 head green cabbage, cut into 4 wedges
  • 1/4 head purple cabbage, cut into 2 wedges
  • 1 ea large carrot, peeled and shredded
  • 1/4 cup diced sweet onion
For the coleslaw dressing
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp celery seed
Instructions
  1. Preheat a charcoal grill set up for direct heat to 400-425f.   Today I was using my Smoke Hollow grill and used 6 quarts of Kingsford™ briquettes.  The quantity will vary by the size of the grill that you are using.
  2. Place onion slices on a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil.  Top each with about 1 teaspoon of butter and season with the BBQ rub.  Fold edges of foil over and seal to make an envelop.  
  3. Mix together the coleslaw dressing and refrigerate.
  4. Place the foil packet on the grill along with your pot with the chili.  You will cook both for the whole time, about 20-25 minutes.  Flip the foil packet half way through.  Do NOT flip the chili pot.  Makes one heck of a mess if you do.
  5. Meanwhile, lightly brush the cut sides of the cabbage with olive oil and grill 3-4 minutes per side, just long enough to get a light char.  Remove and allow to cool.  
  6. Slice across the cabbage wedges into very thin slices (think matchstick width) and place in a large bowl.*  Add the carrot, onion and coleslaw dressing.  Toss to coat thoroughly.  Place in the fridge.
  7. Grill the hot dogs to your preferred degree of char.  I like just a little and went about 6 minutes, rotating often.  
  8. Remove everything from the grill and assemble in this order:  bun, dog, onions, slaw, chili, mustard.
  9. Stuff in your face.
  10. Wipe your face....were you raised in a barn?  
Notes
  • Use your favorite BBQ rub.  You can just use salt and pepper, but I like the "zing" that a BBQ dry rub brings.  
  • You can make your own, I like to use Meathead's All Purpose Chili Sauce recipe.  But today I cheated and used Lays Market Chili Con Carne.  They are a local company and we know the family personally.  It's available at Food City stores.   
  • Coleslaw Tip:  Always use a flat bottomed bowl.  As the slaw sits, the dressing will drip to the "bottom".  The wide bottom will keep more of the veggies in the dressing.  
"hobo packs" are a great way to cook veggies on the grill.

I never get tired of seeing the red glow of coals.

I used my Smoke Hollow combo grill/smoker today.

Grill just long enough to get a light char on the edges.  It really boosts the flavor of the slaw.

The rollers are completely unnecessary.  But does make grilled dogs so easy.  

Smoky goodness!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bahamian Grilled Chicken

When I want to shake off the winter funk, I like to cook what I consider to be beachy or summery foods.

Foods with bright flavors and vivid colors.  Flavors of citrus (particularly lemon and lime), fresh basil and thyme, colorful chiles, ripe tomato, corn, fresh herbs in general, summer squash, and sweet onions remind me of summer.  

Winter blahs - - - BE GONE!

This week I was feeling a bit of the winter blahs so I made Bahamian Grilled Chicken from Steven Raichlen's classic, The Barbecue Bible.  


The chicken filled the prescription for the winter blues.  It was moist with a subtle acidic twang, had a decent amount of heat without being too spicy, and was bright in color and flavor.  Since I knew the habanero would make this spicy, I made up a cooling sauce to go with it.   

Bahamian Grilled Chicken
source:  The Barbecue Bible by Steven Raichlen  (only slightly adapted)

Ingredients
  • 4 ea chicken breast halves, boneless, skinless*
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup vidalia or other sweet onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup green onion, sliced on a thin bias
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 to 2 habanero chile, seeded and finely chopped*
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper, ground
  • More green onion for garnish if desired

For the cooling sauce
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon, ground
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg, ground
  • 1/8 tsp allspice, ground
Instructions
  1. Rinse the chicken and pat dry.  Place it in a non-reactive bowl and pour the lime juice over it.  Let marinate for 15 minutes.*
  2. Mix the cooling sauce ingredients together and refrigerate.
  3. Pour off and discard the lime juice from the chicken.  Mix the remaining ingredients together and coat the chicken with it.  Marinate this for 2 hours  (Make sure you work the paste into all the "nooks and crannies".  You don't want to bite into a bland cranny, do you?)
  4. Preheat a charcoal grill set up for direct heat to 400f (high side of medium).  Once heated, clean and lightly oil your grill grates.
  5. Remove and discard any large pieces of onion clinging to the chicken, it will just burn.  
  6. Grill the chicken 6-8 minutes per side with the grill lid closed.  For nice cross hatch marks, rotate your chicken a quarter turn half way through each side's cooking time.*
  7. When the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 160f, remove from the grill and let rest 5 minutes before serving.
Notes
  • The original recipe called for skin on, bone in.  I only used boneless, skinless because it was what I had on hand.  Bone in would be better, the cooking time will be more like 8-12 minutes per side.
  • I used one habanero and the heat was spicy for sure, but not insultingly hot.  You could use something less capsaicin laden like serrano or a mild cherry pepper.
  • I was tempted just to mix the lime juice and other ingredients together all in one marinade and I'm sure that would be good too.  But I think doing the two separate does give a nicer end result, the "wet rub" seemed to adhere better and you keep the color.
  • Another quick "chicken beauty" trick - I like to brush my grilled chicken in the last few minutes with a light gloss coat of oil/lime juice (50/50 mix).  This reinforces the hints of acidity and gives it a shine.
Tip:  I also made the Caribbean classic side dish, peas and rice.  They use "pigeon peas" which I couldn't find in the past, so I've always used black eyed peas.  Raichlen points out that "pigeon peas" are also known as crowder peas.   Those are easy to find, I had cans in my pantry already!


Don't be worried when your chicken is freakishly orange at first, it's just paprika.

Just after I glossed lightly with oil/lime juice.

The house smelled so good when we brought the chicken in from the grill!

Sliced and served with peas and rice.....crowder peas!  
Note about The Barbecue Bible

I bought this book a few years ago and reference it frequently.   It has a wide variety of excellent tasting, easy to follow recipes.  But better than just a recipe collection, The Barbecue Bible is also loaded full of grilling skills, tips, and techniques.  My favorite and most often used features are the time/temp charts for various types and cuts of meat and veggies.  The Barbecue Bible is a must have for any newbie griller or any well seasoned pit monkey like myself.  It is easily one of my top 3 of ALL my cooking related books (not just bbq/grilling books).

For rib lovers, here is a head's up.  In May 2012, Workman will publish a revised edition of Raichlen on Ribs: The new title will be The Best Ribs Ever. The new book will feature three regional American rib menus with sizzling new recipes


Winter Blahs
So how do you deal with winter blahs?  Do you embrace them and make a lot of stews, casseroles and comfort dishes?  Do you "cook your way back into summer" with summer dishes?  Or do you just hide under a heavy blanket until spring arrives?  

Standard Disclaimer:  I received no compensation for this post.  I paid full price for Barbecue Bible although Workman Publishing Company did give me a review copy of Planet Barbecue in 2010.  

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Fire Roasted Chile Relleno Rice

This dish is extremely flexible....and seriously delicious.

A blend of 3 different chiles gives a complex level of "heat" instead of just "one note" flavor.

It's flexible for several reasons.
  • Purpose:  It could be served with bagel chips or pita chips as an appetizer or dip. Or it can be a side dish to complement a variety of TexMex or Southwestern main dishes. 
  • Adaptable:  Use your favorite cheeses and fire roasted chiles.  
  • Serving:  You can serve it in individual ramekins or family style in a casserole. 
The recipe is adapted from Tyler Florence's book - Family Meal.  Back in November I was lucky enough to win an autographed copy from Amir and Chrystal at Duo Dishes courtesy of Alexia Foods (thanks guys!).

Notice all of my "try this" tab markers.
I've made several Tyler Florence recipes in the past and they have always been successful.  His ultimate roasted chicken is insanely good and my go to hollandaise sauce is his version.   So I was thrilled to win this book.

But before I could make it, I had to trudge through knee deep snow drifts on my deck to get to my grills.

Ok, that might not really be me.  It MIGHT be a toy soldier BUT it IS knee deep on him.  Sorry...we haven't had much snow this year.  This is only the second "dusting", humor me.

The main differences between the book version and what I did are
  • I fire roasted mine on my Big Green Egg (Best grill/smoker/wood fired oven....just saying) instead of baking in an oven.
  • I used a blend of three chiles (poblano, cherry, and habanero) instead of using canned green chiles.
  • I added a little panko bread crumbs and smoked paprika.

Served family style ala Tyler Hamilton's book.

Fire Roasted Chile Relleno Rice
adapted from Family Meal by Tyler Florence

Ingredients
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 8 oz monterey jack cheese, shredded*
  • 1 cup fire roasted chiles*
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 1 can condensed cream of chicken soup*
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
Instructions
  1. Preheat a charcoal grill set up for indirect heat to 375f. 
  2. Mix rice, cheese, chiles, sour cream, condensed soup, salt and pepper together.  
  3. Spoon mixture into a greased casserole dish (or greased ramekins) and top with the bread crumbs and paprika.
  4. Bake on the grill until the top crust is browned and the cheese is bubbling, about 30 minutes.
Notes
  • That is not a cup of shredded cheese.  It is an 8 oz block of cheese shredded which was almost 3 cups of shredded cheese.
  • I used 2 poblano, 4 cherry, and 2 habanero peppers.  [How to fire roast chile peppers]
  • Yeah, I know.  But if Tyler can use a can of cream of chicken soup, then I can too!
Fire roasting adds smokiness and tames heat just a little.

Switch to indirect heat for roasting the chile relleno rice.

It's done when the top browns and the cheese bubbles up.



Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tsunami Spin Wings with Sweet Tamarind BBQ Sauce

Remember that sauce I made for the Asian Mini Tacos the other day?


Yeah, the one with sweet soy sauce, tamarind, and black pepper.  In that post I mentioned it would be a great sauce on wings.

Not to say I told you so, but I was right (wait....I guess I AM telling you so! ha ha) 


This isn't a recipe post, just a quick follow up to the previous idea.  Since the sauce has Asian influences, I seasoned the wings with one of my favorite commercial rubs for chicken and seafood - Dizzy Pig's Tsunami Spin.  It is loaded with Asian flavors like ginger, galangal, fenugreek, and sesame seeds in addition to other spices.  


Grilled them with my normal wing technique - 30 minutes indirect at 375f.


Flipped them and cooked another 20 minutes.  I tossed them in a big bowl with some of the Sweet Tamarind BBQ Sauce, put them back on the grill and cooked another 5-10 minutes.


Topped them with some toasted sesame seeds and some red pepper flake for some delicious chicken wings.


[Standard Disclaimer]  I pay full price for my Dizzy Pig rubs.  They are a favorite of barbecue and grilling guys and gals everywhere, especially with the Big Green Egg folks.  They use fresh ingredients, use no MSG and are gluten free.  Most importantly, they taste great.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Book Review: Barbecue Lover's Guide To Austin

I wanted to make some Texas style chicken wings for this post.


But I couldn't find such a thing - "Texas hot wings".  Even on the Google-net-web-thing.  That's not to say they don't have great wings in Texas, just not a particular style that I could find. 

So instead I just fire roasted some wings and a basic butter/hot sauce buffalo sauce.  I won't do a recipe since it is such a common recipe but I will give my one tip -

Wing Tip:  Take the leaves from your celery and finely dice them.  Add a tablespoon to your buffalo sauce and use another tablespoon for garnish.  It bridges the flavors between your wings and veggies.

What this post is really about is a book.

You can find great BBQ all over the country but there are a few locales that are considered "Destination BBQ".  Kansas City, MO.  Lexington, NC.  Decatur, AL.  Memphis, TN.  And of course, Austin, Tx.  

Austin, Texas is the mecca of Texas BBQ and is the focus of Gloria Corral's book...



This book is not a collection of subjective reviews of BBQ restaurants in the Austin area.  You can get that on Yelp, TripAdvisor, or a million other review sites.  And then you don't know if the review is by someone that is neutral, works for the restaurant or works for the competition. 

Instead Barbecue Lover's Guide focuses on the facts about these establishments.  Locations, operating hours, specialties and peculiarities.   That might sound like standard fare for any website but not with these joints.  For example, Snow's BBQ is only open on Saturday's at 8am and can sell out as early as 11am.  Some places only have outdoor seating.  Some only take cash.  Some have special sides that you have to try.  

In other words, you need a guide.  And Gloria Corral's book can be that guide for you.  I recently was able to interview Gloria about her book.

NMT:  Who is the intended audience of your book and how is it to be used?
Corral:  The book is intended for locals and tourists. When I moved to Austin and asked new friends where to eat they would suggest BBQ joints. It seemed they each had a favorite, so I set out to try them one by one and soon realized that it would be a fun project to put them all in a guide.

NMT:  Did you personally visit each of these locations?  On average, how many times did you visit each?
Corral: I personaliy ate at each and every one. Sometimes more than once and sometimes multiple times. I learned I love BBQ more than I thought!

NMT:  How did you find all of these places?
Corral: Research! I looked on the web, in phone books, on web sites for dining options. But most discoveries came from people I met along the way. If you ask anyone in Austin where’s their favorite BBQ joint you will get plenty of recommendations. 

NMT:  While writing this book, how often per week were you dining on BBQ and did you ever get tired of it?
Corral: I often ate BBQ every day. Once I started I just kept going. I spent my first 6 months researching in the library. I read every book they had on BBQ. The history, legends, books on meat, smoke versus fire, how to build a pit, different types of wood, the different cultures, styles and techniques across the United States. (Even BBQ styles and techniques from Argentina, Africa, Australia!)

NMT:  Was Rudy's REALLY the "worst BBQ in Texas" as they proudly proclaim on their sign?
Corral: I like Rudy’s for lots of reasons. Like the book says, it’s a clean well-lighted place for BBQ. If you happen to have a team of rowdy 11 year olds with you celebrating their most recent football victory, it’s the place in Austin. Plus, their chopped beef sandwich tastes like old fashion sloppy Joes.

NMT:  Honestly, I had a preconception that Texas BBQ was all brisket, sausage and white bread.  The amount of turkey and pork ribs in these joints surprised me.  Did you have any preconceived ideas about Texas BBQ going into this project and if so, how did this experience change that?
Corral:  Being new to Texas, I was delighted with the smoked brisket. The smoked mutton was a new taste and I guess I saw the many ways the BBQ operators could make a buck with all the other meats. Many of them moved here from other parts of the country, not to mention the guys with their heritage from Germany and Czechoslovakia, making killer sausage. I was familiar with southern style pork BBQ with the tangy vinegary sauce as my family is from Alabama, so I didn’t have any preconceived ideas about Texas BBQ. 

NMT:   With all of this exposure to great BBQ, have you caught the bug and thought about trying to smoke some of your own?
Corral: I love the romantic notion of smoking meat. I think of it as a craft and something that I greatly admire. I know my limits and sadly smoking meat is not in my scope of talents.

If you are traveling through or living in the Austin area and want to navigate the rich BBQ fields of Central Texas, I recommend checking out Barbecue Lover's Guide to Austin

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Smoked Pork and Lima Beans - Simplicity Shines

This post is for my mom.  She had surgery on three discs in her neck this week.

So as a tribute to her, I smoked some pork neck bones.  You know, to send some BBQ karma her way.

Earlier this week, as soon as I got home from work, Trevor was bored and wanted to shoot baskets.  Alexis came home from work and saw us at the front of the neighborhood and snapped a few shots.  I sent a few to my mom, thinking it would cheer her up in her recovery...


My mom's neck bones may be recovering but there's nothing wrong with her funny bone.  Her reply was, "How many times have I told you to change your pants before you go out to play?"

This is also my third and final post about McCormick's 2012 Flavor Forecast, their annual focus on food trends and flavor profiles.  This time I set my sights on the trend: Simplicity Shines.
The most memorable food is often the simplest.  As cooks focus on highlighting quality ingredients with simple preparations, they have moved away from the clutter of complex presentations and flashy innovations.  Their creativity is mindfully balanced with a dose of restraint.  Clear, unpretentious flavors are an approachable celebration of the basics - and remind us what real food tastes like.
I took this one about as simple as one can get.  Just a handful of simple ingredients and a good dose of hickory smoke.

This process lets the pork take on the smoky flavor in a short smoke on the grill but saves some of the fat and connective tissues to break down during the simmer, adding flavor to the beans.

Smoked Pork and Lima Beans
Serves: 6

Ingredients
  • 1 lb pork neck bones 
  • 4 tsp kosher salt (divided)
  • 1 1/2 tsp McCormick's black pepper (divided)
  • 1 lb large lima beans (dried)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/3 cup carrot, finely diced
Instructions
  1. Preheat a charcoal grill set up for smoking with indirect heat at 275f. (see notes for options)
  2. Season pork with 2 tsp salt and 1 tsp black pepper.  Place on the grill to smoke for 1 hour.  For any thin strip pieces, fold them over to make them as thick as the other pieces.
  3. Meanwhile, use the "quick soak" method with the beans according to package instructions.  Drain the beans.
  4. Remove the pork from the smoker.  
  5. Place the pork, drained beans, bay leaf, 2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper in a 3 quart pot.  Add 6 cups of water, bring to a simmer and cook (gentle simmer but be careful NOT to boil) with the pot lid on, but slightly open for an hour.
  6. Remove the pork shred the meat using two forks, discarding any bones or cartilage. 
  7. Return the shredded meat and add the carrots to the pot.  Cook another 30 to 60 minutes, until the sauce is thickened.  
Notes (options for smoking)
  1. Easy:  Use a standard charcoal grill with Kingsford Hickory briquettes banked to one side.
  2. Easier:  Skip the smoking and buy a smoked ham hock.  
  3. Gas:  Use Patio Daddio BBQ's tips for smoking on a gas grill.  
  4. Egg:  I used my Big Green Egg loaded with coal and two fist sized chunks of hickory buried near the top of the coal.  Platesetter in legs up, drip pan, neck bones on top of the cooking grid.
Pork neck bones shown are NOT in the anatomically correct position on the cutting board.

They are "cooked" at this point, but not "finished".  The magic happens as the connective tissue breaks down and mixes with the beans. 

Serious good comfort food that isn't a pain in the neck to make.

[Standard Disclaimer]  I received compensation from McCormick's representatives for promoting their 2012 Flavor Forecast but the opinions stated are my own.  I did NOT receive any compensation from the NBA for the mad basketball skills I display in the action shot.  Shame, isn't it?  I could have my own line of Nike dress shoes.