Wednesday, December 8, 2010

It's Organic AND Local, Y'all.

At Labon's urging I swung by What's Your Beef here in Charlotte a couple of Saturdays ago.  It's a local butcher with all local foods and all organic foods.  As the butcher bragged to me the pork chops, ribs and sausage all came from the same pig, from the same farmer from down the road.

I felt like a kid in a candy shop.  I picked up some chicken breasts and a NY Strip which had been dry aged for 21 days.  You can see the results of the dry aging there on the side where it's got that gray coloring.

In order to appreciate the natural flavor of the food I seasoned everything lightly with salt & pepper and a light coating of olive oil.


I got the Egg roaring.  Here's a peek in through the bottom vent.
Keeping me company as the Egg got going was New Belgium's winter ale 2 Below.  Mmm.  Nice and toasty-feeling beer on a chilly night.
I used the T Rex method to cook the steak.  I understand it to be a cooking style geared toward steaks and chops.  But for the first time ever I made T Rex chicken breasts too.  Briefly T Rex is where you get the Egg up to a searing temp.  In this case I was humming along at 650f.  You sear your meat on each side for 60-90 seconds and then throw it on a plate and take it back inside for 20 minutes while you choke the temp back down to around 400f on your Egg.  Get the meat back on there for 3-6 minutes on each side depending on what sort of doneness you want.

You can see that I was interested in erring on the rare side.  I certainly didn't over cook the meat.  Rest assured the chicken breasts got a thorough cook.  In fact, the T Rex method was great on chicken--nice crispy crust on the boneless breast with a tender, juicy inside.  I digress.

I'm a big fan of What's Your Beef.  If you're in Charlotte, you need to pay a visit.  The proof is in the food.  The chicken was scrumptious.  It's hard to describe, but the absence of all the hormones and antibiotics yields a very "clean" taste.  The steak also had great flavor.  I don't have aged meat very often so it was a little difficult to know what flavors to attribute to the organics and what to attribute to the aging process.

Do you eat aged beef?  Is it me, or does it have a bit of a funky taste?  It's not bad, but it gives you a definitive depth of flavor that tends to the musty, old side.  Any insight into what the aging does to the beef?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cast Iron Grate Giveaway

Dang, I'm impressed with the contest over at http://www.nibblemethis.com/.  So much so, that I'm willing to turn my blog into a plug for the contest itself in the hopes of getting my shot at owning one of those sweet Craycort cast iron grates.

This is a firebox ready to sear something on one of those grates.

In other news, I've got some posts on wings, shrimp, and beef that I'm eager to get up here for your enjoyment.  Stay tuned, knuckleheads.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Eggtoberfest 2010, Atlanta Motor Speedway


Before we launch headlong into Eggtoberfest 2010, let's pause to remember the weather at Eggtoberfest 2009.  It was rainy and in the upper 30s to mid 40s. Of course, Labon and I still had a good time. 


 But given the choice I'll take the weather from last weekend.  Upper 70s and sun.  Yes.

I know what you're thinking. "OMG.  Is that Chris from Nibble Me This?"  Yep.  And yes, we're standing in front of the ultimate Big Green Egg accessory: The Big Green Egg pace car.  It was very cool to meet him and  his wife, Alexis. But wait. There's more.
In addition to seeing the president of the Catawba Grill and Brew Club, Matt Underwood, Sweetwater Brewery was there.


The beer line was a bit of a problem.  Can you see the Sweet Water Truck way down there?


I exposed an Oregon Ducks poseur (or a man with a hearing impairment) when I yelled "Go Ducks!" several times and this gentleman failed to turn around.  But I say again, "Go Ducks!"

You see this?  This was a prime rib dry aged for 30 days and then cooked for everyone's enjoyment at Eggtoberfest.  Good golly it was yummy.  And it looked like it would have flipped Fred Flinstone's sedan.
When you're on the cooking team, you get to gnaw on one of the prime ribs.  Dang.  I want.

Clearly at an Eggfest you're going to get lots of good food.  Honorable mention goes out to the stuffed baby bell peppers, which I want to try soon (hand modeling by Labon).  




This year the Big Green Egg folks printed up recipe cards ahead of time for cooks who submitted recipes.  This made it easy to grab ideas.  


There was also a fun marshmallow/twinkie thing that was pretty good.  It had crumbled oreos and nutella and stuff.  Very tasty.  They served it with milk which was a nice touch.



Remember how I was just at Edisto Beach a few weeks ago?  Apparently this guy was too at some point.  And he shopped at the Piggly Wiggly just like me.  I'm also big on the Pig. Other cool t-shirts were "Proud to be AWESOME" and "I love the sh*t out of pork."  Sorry I didn't get photos.

So anyway, it was a great gathering.  No doubt it was different having something on this large of a scale.  Last year (and each year prior) it was hosted at the BGE headquarters right on their property.  This year having it in the infield of the Atlanta Motor Speedway was obviously a different sort of a thing.  Labon and I felt like we had to compete more for each sample this time.  Apparently manners were optional.  You'd be in a line as something came off of one of the Eggs and the line would give way to a blob of greedy humanity. Maybe that's also a factor of the rain from last year made for a smaller crowd?  Who knows.  Anyway, it was a big undertaking for the BGE folks to do something like this and I think it was a success over all, but I think they also probably have their own list of things to work out for next year without me nitpicking.  As Labon would say, "Good smoke.  Good smoke."


Monday, October 18, 2010

On Location: Topsail Island, NC

Note to self: Space out your beach trips in 2011, there buddy.

Late September is my favorite time at the beach.  You roll the dice though.  It's hurricane season.  While we didn't get any major storms, we did get to experience Tropical Depression 16 which went by the name of Nicole for a few hours there.

There's no one photo that captures all the wind and rain we experienced.  Wilmington, which was just to our south got over 22 inches of rain.  We "only" got 9.
But there's a limit to how much tv everyone could watch and by Thursday we were climbing the walls.  Literally.

The weather finally broke on Thursday in the late afternoon.  The rainbow was a nice touch.  We ended up having very nice weather on Friday and Saturday.

I missed my Egg. When we got home on Saturday afternoon, we had to hit the Fresh Market for some kabobs.  It was low maintenance, but it was good to reconnect with the fire.
Up next: my take on Eggtoberfest 2010!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

On Location: Edisto Island, SC

During the last week of August we got out of town for some R&R with some of our friends from college.  One day three of us chartered a boat to catch some fish.  Captain Dwayne knew a good spot about a mile off shore for us to drop our lines.  Adam, Bill and I settled in for a nice day of fishing.  Is that redundant?

We didn't expect to catch anything too exciting, but we snagged a handful of black fin sharks and some scalloped head sharks.  Bill got this nice black fin. I'm delighted to report that this was the biggest shark we saw all week.  Even though there was some excitement when he flopped around on the deck (the shark, not Bill) we survived this encounter without a scratch.
Mostly we caught whiting.  In fact, during the 4 hours we were out we caught 44 whiting and one keeper sized scalloped head shark.  There was a restaurant at the marina which fried up some of our whiting to make sandwiches for us while we filleted the rest of our catch. It made for a tasty lunch.  The rest came home for dinner.  We were having fish tacos.
The seagulls took a great interest in our haul.  We kept them at bay by tossing them scraps and guts.
Our house had a decent gasser (propane grill), but we didn't have a grill basket, which you might use for fish or veggies.  We improvised with this cookie sheet having seasoned the fillets with lemon juice, salt, pepper and Old Bay.  We sprayed them with olive oil to keep 'em from sticking.

The other treats that South Carolina provided were fresh peaches.  Heather found a peach salsa recipe online, which she fudged around to suit what we had available.  The gist is that she used fresh peaches, cilantro, diced onion, diced tomato, salt and pepper.  We added some slaw and avocado chunks atop of corn tortillas.

Paradise?  Close enough for me.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Game Hens in the Tuscan Way

This recipe came from Steven Raichlen's Planet Barbecue.  On page 377 I found "Tuscan-Style Chicken Under a Brick."  

I started by spatchcocking two game hens.  All this involves is using scissors to remove the back bone by cutting down either side of it.  This allows you to splay the birds out flat.


I have to tell you what made this recipe is the rub.  I still have it in the fridge and have used it generously on pork chops, chicken and even eggs.

Here's how you do it.

Place 3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped into a food processor with2 Tbs each fresh chopped rosemary and sage.  Chop until fine.  Add salt and pepper and process to mix.

Man it's good.  I just like to open the Tupperware thing up and smell it.

Generously rub the birds down with your new blend.  Oil the grate and then place the hens skin side down using an indirect setup.  I forgot my drip pan (!) but it all worked out.  I just got my plate-setter sort of nasty.  Once you arrange the birds on the grate, flatten them out using a foil-wrapped brick.  Mr. Raichlen doesn't say anything about turning them over, but I flipped mine after about 20 minutes of a 30 minute cook at 350f.
They turned out quite tasty.  Neither my wife nor I thought we would finish our own birds, but sure enough we   ate every scrap.

That's not to say we didn't save room for dessert.  I tried using the Dutch oven for a little cobbler.  Google directed me to this site where I found the following recipe:

The Best Berry Cobbler





  • 5 Tbsp. butter (roughly 2/3 of a stick)



  • 1 tsp. baking powder



  • 1 Cup all-purpose flour



  • 1/2 tsp. salt



  • 2/3 Cup sugar



  • 3/4 Cup milk



  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract




  • 2 Cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)


    Topping:



  • 1/3 Cup granola



  • 1/3 Cup sugar






  • Use aluminum foil to cover the inside of a 12-inch Dutch Oven. Preheat the oven, and then melt the butter in it. To make the batter, mix the baking powder, flour, salt, sugar, milk, and vanilla extract very well. Pour the batter on top of the melted butter. Throw the blueberries on top of the batter. Bake at medium heat for 40 to 45 minutes. At about 30 minutes into the cooking sprinkle the granola and remaining sugar on top. The berry cobbler is done when a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.



    It was so good we're planning on doing it again for company tomorrow night.  Oh and it just doesn't taste right if you don't serve it with a little vanilla ice cream.

    Thursday, August 26, 2010

    brisket: 3rd time's the charm?

    We're coming up on a year since I got into all of this.  It started with a brisket. Most stuff that I've put in my mouth that comes out of the Egg is highly satisfactory.  With the brisket I still simply can't tell if I'm doing it right, or if it's supposed to be a little dry and a little chewy.  Here goes the 3rd attempt.


    Millionaire Brisket with Coffee Mop Sauce:
    (recipe from Steven Raichlen's BBQ USA)

    Rub:
  • 1/4 cup kosher or sea salt


  • 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar


  • 1/4 cup sweet paprika


  • 2 tablespoons pure chili powder


  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper


  • 1 tablespoon onion powder


  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano








  • Mop Sauce:

  • 1 cup beer


  • 1 cup apple cider


  • 1 cup cider vinegar


  • 1 cup coffee


  • 1 cup beef or chicken stock


  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil


  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce


  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce, (recommended: Tabasco sauce)


  • 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt


  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper





  • The brisket was on at 7 a.m. along with some mesquite chunks.  By noon it was time for some refreshment.  Labon showed up with some big beers and when I saw them I could hardly believe my eyes.  He had grabbed two half-liter bottles of Wurzburger Hofbrau Hefe-Weiss.  What he didn't realize is that Wurzburg was the city in Germany where I studied for a while when I was in college.  Score.  What a swig down memory lane.


    The bacon was getting hard to resist.



    Wit about an hour left to go, it was all looking pretty good.  Those aren't baked beans down beneath.  That's the drip pan and its roiling goo.






    Out of nowhere we got one of those summer downpours.  I used a sheet of foil to try to protect my remote thermometer from getting soaked.  It worked.  Whew!


    Finally, after about 8.5 hours the internal temp was up to 195f.  I gotta say.  Awesome flavor, nice smoke taste.  But dang if it wasn't a little dry and a little chewy.  What am I doing wrong?  My co-worker from Texas assures me that even when you do it right, it can wind up being a little dry and chewy.  And that's part of my frustration.  I don't know exactly what good brisket is supposed to taste like. 

     I've had it in restaurants where it's all tender where you cut it with a fork, but that's almost like they take the slices after they cook it and stick 'em in a crock pot with barbecue sauce.  Surely that can't be the way you're supposed to do it.  Any help?

    Sunday, August 15, 2010

    Car Wash Mike: A Tribute

    On July 4th, the world lost a rib master.  "Car Wash Mike" McKernan won awards for his ribs.  But his generous spirit was what impressed me.  I knew his technique before I encountered Mike.  But once I started asking questions about rib prep on www.eggheadforum.com I was stunned to find that Mike himself would patiently field questions from me and other newbies.  The takeaway I got from Mike is that the ribs that you like are the best you'll prepare.  Don't try to cook them to please a judge or other crowds.
    It was only this week that I realized Mike had passed.  I was catching up on Dave's awesome blog: My Carnivorous Habits when I saw he'd done ribs in memory of Mike.  What?!  I had sort of taken a hiatus from the online community while I was doing some traveling during July, so this all went right under my radar.  Of course when I went back to the Egghead Forum I saw the outpouring of support. 

    Saturday Labon and I did a 2 rack salute to Mike.  As his technique suggests, we gave the ribs a light coating of yellow mustard.  We then rubbed 'em with a Kansas City style rub I picked up at the Carolina Eggfest.


    Mike believed that cold ribs took on smoke better, so while the Egg settled in around 200f, the ribs chilled in the freezer wrapped in foil.  For the smoke I was using some gorgeous apple wood chunks my dad gave me.  They soaked in water for a couple of hours Saturday morning prior to getting started.

    The ribs went on right at noon.  We poured a little out for Mike as the ribs went on and his beer sat on the table throughout the cook.  After 5 hours we took the ribs off to get the temp up to 275f and slapped on Stubb's spicy barbecue sauce before putting them on for the finish.


    We left these going a little longer than usual--nearly 6 hours by the time they came off.  That meant they were a little less juicy than some that we've done lately, but I honestly like the texture better this way I think.  They were not yet fall off the bone, but they were getting close.  They were mighty tasty.  I think Mike would have enjoyed them.

    Thank you, Mike.

    Sunday, August 8, 2010

    Bone In Pork Chops

    The T Rex method is becoming my favorite way to do thick cuts of chops or steak.  By the way, you can see in that picture that I've been doing enough searing that I had to get a Rutland gasket after frying that which my Egg came with.  The Rutland gasket is rated for temps over 700f so I went for it.

    So the T Rex.  It's so simple.  You get the Egg roaring somewhere north of 600f.  After coating the chops in coarse cracked pepper and salt you drop them on the hot grate.  I go about 30 seconds before rotating the chops about 90 degrees.  That gives the cross-hatched sear marks.  After another 30 seconds I flip them. On the other side I go 30 seconds, rotate.  Then 30 seconds before taking them back inside to rest.

    You bring the Egg back down to around 400f which takes about 20 minutes.  Once it's cooled down you bring the chops back out to cook for about 5 minutes on each side or until you get an internal temp of about 140f.  Take them off and rest them for about 5 minutes and you're done. 



    This method really gives you tasty crust on the outside and nice tender juice on the inside.  I'm a fan.  These chops went down with one of my favorite beers: Sweetwater 420, brewed down in Georgia.  Mmm.