Wednesday, April 28, 2010

T Rex Pork Chops on Cast Iron

It had been a while since I used my cast iron grate.  In fact, I'd been in a bit of a rut with doing "low and slow."  I had the urge to sear something. 

Not pictured is the floor fan stuck on high blowing up the skirt of my Big Green Egg.  What I hope you can see below is that we were zipping along at about 700f.  That seemed to be about as high as I can get it.  Anybody get your Egg hotter?  Got any tips?
The stinker here is that I guess I got it going too hot too fast and my grate got a crack in it right at the edge.  Rats.  I thought I was bringing it to temp slowly in a way that the cast iron could handle, but alack.  So make sure you don't heat your cast iron too quickly kids.
I cooked these salt-and-pepper-crusted pork chops using the T Rex method.The idea is to sear the meat on each side for 60-90 seconds and then take them back inside to "rest" for 20 minutes.  During this time I put the cap back on the Egg and shut the bottom vent. 

After 20 minutes the dome temp should have dropped to around 400f.  Then you get the chops back on the Egg for about 6 minutes each side.  Using my trusty Thermapen I pulled them off at around 135f on the inside.  Meanwhile I had put some onion halves and apple halves on the grate to cook up as sides.  The apples were an awesome compliment to the pork.  The onions might have been had I started them earlier.  They were still pretty crunchy and pungent on the plate.  But the chops?  Dear me.  They were really good.

On a side note, I had a brush with blogging fame last night.  Kath of the award-winning Kath Eats Real Food was at a Davidson College alumni event that Heather and I attended last night.  Kath and I got to talking food and blogging. I learned a great deal in a very short time.  She was kind enough to mention me on her blog last night, so I want to thank her for the shout out and the wisdom.  Check out her excellent food journey.

Monday, April 26, 2010

On the Hazards of Multi-Tasking

So Friday night I head out for a work function related to Charlotte Food and Wine Week (tough gig).  I figure having done pork shoulder like 5 or 6 times now makes me an expert.  So I'm heading out the door and the dome temp is just a little cooler than I want it to be.  I give the bottom vent a little nudge to open it up--and just another nudge for good measure.

A testament to the loving forgiveness of the Boston butt is the fact that I came home around midnight--8 hours in to what I was expecting to be an 18 hour cook-- to find the dome temp at a fierce 400f and the meat is at (gasp!) 205f.

What to do?!

This post is about ways to totally screw up a cook and still serve it to a bunch of people without getting them ill.

So at around midnight I wrapped the butts up tight in some heavy duty foil--twice.  I wrapped them again in blankets and stuck them in an Igloo cooler.  All night I dreamed about ways I could have avoided such disaster.

The next morning--about six hours later--I stuck my hand in the cooler and inside the blankets to find the butts still hot to the touch.  This seemed like it had to be a good sign.  I wasn't sure what to do next with the pork, so I made slaw.  I have GOT to get a food processor.  Hand cutting all the cabbage, celery, onions, carrots and green pepper took for daggum ever.

So it's 9 a.m. and I still don't know what to do with the pork.  Is it still safe to eat after being wrapped up like this for 9 hours?!  I have no idea.  I stick my trusty Thermapen into each butt.  They're both reading 135f.  So what does that mean?  Dunno.  So I pull both butts.  Being the nice guy that I am, I try to eat a whole lot of pulled pork at 9 a.m. thinking that if it's gone bad, I'll get good and sick before dinner when everyone comes over for Greer's birthday and can advise them to eat the chicken instead.  So it all goes into a storage bag in the fridge.

Aside from tired and worried, I feel fine all day and decide that the pork must be ok.  Really the only thing is that it seems a little chewy.  It's really not bad, but just sort of chewy.

Are you the type of person who likes the idea of Two Buck Chuck (Trader Joe's famously cheap wine by Charles Shaw), but would rather drink beer?  

Behold: Red Oval Classic Lager!  

Available at Trader Joe's for $2.99 per six-pack this beer fits into any griller's budget.  And best of all, it's not terrible.  After our first sips Labon and I agreed, "It has some flavor."

Not only did Greer's birthday feature pulled pork and Red Oval Classic Lager, we feasted on deep fried chicken wings, chicken thighs and some salad (not pictured).

Because of all the other work (and worry) that had gone into the rest of our feast, the wings featured 3 different sauces from Buffalo Wild Wings.  We had the Honey BBQ, Mango Habenero and Caribbean Jerk.  All were very tasty, but I preferred the jerk sauce.

In fact, I used some jerk sauce on the chicken thighs which I rubbed with Papa's House Rub and cooked up using Papa's now-famous recipe.

The pulled pork actually got rave reviews.  If anyone got sick they didn't tell me about it.  The wings were a great treat while we waited for the thighs.  The thighs themselves were really very tasty too.
I'm sorry that some of my recent posts all look to be centered around pulled pork and chicken thighs (butts and thighs, huh?), but Greer specifically requested them for his birthday.  Besides this seemed like a great excuse to post about a major goof with the pork butts and see if anyone had thoughts or input about food safety when it comes to keeping something wrapped in foil for long periods.  Is 9 hours a record?
While I don't want to do that again, the pork is totally edible--enjoyable even.  Maybe I use a little extra sauce, but it made for good leftovers for dinner tonight.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Greer's Birthday: By the Numbers

Boston Butts: 2
Pre-cooked weight: 7.25 lbs
Outdoor temp: 77f
Grate temp: 190f (and rising)
Internal meat temp: 46f (and rising)

Cook began: 3:40 pm Friday
Dinner: 5pm Saturday
Greer's age: undisclosed.  Happy birthday, old chum.  Bring your appetite tomorrow.

Monday, April 19, 2010

On Fish and Fire Starters

Let me start by saying two things:
1. I know I'm a little behind for still talking about cooks I did on Easter weekend.  Sorry about that.  I'm working to catch up.
2.  My dad is so much cooler than I am.  He uses a Mapp torch to get the coals going.  I use dinky little fire starters, which require much more of a Boy Scout approach to fire building.  It's the difference between whether you aspire to be Mr. Wizard or Clint Eastwood.  I'm not saying either way is wrong, but I've been doing it the Mr. Wizard way.  My dad is always good for teaching me things.

So another thing he taught me is this cool way for cooking tilapia.  We just laid out a bunch of lemon slices on a grilling tray and then covered them up with the tilapia.  We sprinkled the fish with some Dizzy Pig Tsunami Spin and cooked it all up at 350 degrees indirect for about 15-20 minutes.

Sorry not to have a shot of what it looked like on the plate.  Sometimes I get a little too hungry for photos.

Good times.  Coming soon: Spatchcocked chicken, dutch oven bread and t-rex pork chops.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Papa's BBQ Chicken Thighs

Over Easter I was able to spend some time with family.  My dad and I got to take on a number of cooking projects on the Big Green Egg.  Perhaps my favorite was Papa's BBQ chicken thighs--a recipe that my dad (a.k.a. Papa) had come up with on his own.
First we mixed up the rub and marinade:

House Rub:
2 Tbsp kosher salt
1 ½  Tbsp fresh ground black pepper
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
2 Tbsp Sugar 

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (to consistency shown above)
2 Tablespoons of house rub 

BBQ Sauce
2 Tbsp. onion chopped
1+ Tbsp butter
1 cup ketchup
½ cup water
¼ cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 Tbsp of honey
Sauté onions in butter until brown. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer for 15 minutes 

Big Green Egg Setup
400 degrees indirect raised with drip pan (½ water ½ apple juice)
      Cook time about 2 hours +
(Direct method – 400 degrees – raised to the felt gasket)
Start with - Skin side down
Baste at least every 30 minutes with apple juice
Brush on BBQ sauce the last 15 minutes.
Pull with internal temp of 180+
Let rest 10-15 minutes before serving. 

These cooked up pretty quickly compared to what my dad was used to, but they were outstanding.  My kids ate it up with pretty good enthusiasm, but left good, meaty bones behind for me to clean up.  We served with the bbq sauce on the side, some slaw and fresh veggies.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Geeked Out

On the egghead forum I'd heard about custom handles from the Lawn Ranger, but when I'd gone to his site previously I'd discovered that he wasn't currently accepting new orders.  For some reason or another I found myself checking him out again recently and found that he's back in business.  So my Egg now proudly displays this handsome new handle made from live oak.  Mike Schweitzer was a real pleasure to work with.  Check out his site and shoot him an email.  Give him my regards.