Monday, November 16, 2009

Pulled Pork Sandwiches


In Texas, beef is king of barbecue, so it was no surprise that my search for the best "Texas Style" pulled pork recipes led me across state lines. I found Carolina style, and North Carolina style, I found pulled pork in Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia and even some recipes that claim to be "southern style", but no true traditional "Texas Style" pulled pork.

I searched Google, I search Wikipedia, I searched food blogs, recipe books and even restaurant websites, but still, no pulled pork recipes claiming to be "Texas Style".

So I ask myself this, What is pulled pork?

Answer: Pulled pork is more of a method of cooking pork, rather than a specific style. The specific claim to style or flavor comes from the sauces and/or the way its served in different regions.



In all the recipes I found, all use pork butt or Boston butt cooked over slow, smoky heat for an extended period of time, slowly softening the connective tissues of the meat so that it can be pulled apart by hand. Once pulled apart, the pork is then mixed with barbecue sauce held warm till served.




Sunday, November 8, 2009

I'll Have Bacon, Eggs & Toast, Upside Down Please!

Tired of the same'ol breakfast? Turn your breakfast up a notch, or at least turn it upside down!


Here's a great French Toast recipe, that's sure to get you Head-Over-Heels!


Upside-Down Apple & Bacon French Toast














Servings: 6 - 8

Prep Time: 20 – 25 minutes

Bake Time: 40 – 45 minutes

 

Utensils:

1 small skillet

1 large oven proof skillet (a cast iron skillet works best, if available) or 1 non-stick baking dish

1 shallow dish (large enough to fit bread slices, while soaking)

Whisk

Vegetable peeler

Knife

 

Ingredients

French toast:

·         5 eggs
·         ¾ cup heavy cream (½ cup for egg mixture, ¼ cup to whip into caramelized sugar)
·         ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon (¼ teaspoon for egg mixture, ¼ teaspoon for topping)
·         6 slices thick sliced bread
·         ½ stick butter, cubed
·         1 cup light brown sugar, plus ¼ teaspoon for topping
·         3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into thin slices
·         6 slices apple wood smoked bacon

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Cut bacon into small pieces. In a small skillet, cook, drain fat and set aside.
In a shallow dish, add eggs, ½ cup heavy cream and cinnamon. Whisk until well combined then lay the bread slices in egg mixture and allow it to be completely absorbed. Make sure both sides are completely coated.
In a large, seasoned, cast iron skillet over medium heat, add the butter and brown sugar and cook, stirring constantly, until sugar is caramelized. Remove from heat and gently whisk in the remaining ¼ cup heavy cream. Layer in the apple slices so there is a flat surface and sprinkle in bacon pieces. Next, arrange the soaked bread slices over the top so it is completely covered, you should be able to arrange the slices in a circular fan style, so there are no gaps. Or, if using a baking dish, lay flat side to side. Sprinkle the top with the remaining brown sugar and cinnamon and place into a 350 degree F, preheated oven. Let, bake on the center rack for about 40 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

Allow to cool for 5 minutes then invert onto a large serving plate. Slice and serve.


Monday, November 2, 2009

How Fast Can You Cook Ribs?





This recipe is so quick and easy even the most novice cook can make tangy, spicy, tender ribs, just as if they were slow cooked for hours. 





Quick & Easy Baby Back Ribs w/ Mustard BBQ Sauce


Servings: 4 – 6
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 – 50 minutes


Ingredients:


3 - 4 Racks Baby Back Ribs


Boiling Liquid:
1 Gallon Water
1 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
¼ Cup Worcestershire Sauce


Mustard Rib Sauce:
1/2 cup yellow mustard
1/2 teaspoon worcestershire Sauce
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon mesquite seasoning (or hickory seasoning)

Directions:



Combine ribs and boiling liquid in a large pot and boil on a high, rapid boil for 30 – 40 minutes.


While ribs are boiling, mix all sauce ingredients together in a small sauce pan and let simmer for 5 – 10 minutes to allow all flavors to combine.


Remove ribs from the liquid and place them bone side down on a sheet pan. Next, pat dry with a paper towel and brush with sauce, covering both sides.


Place ribs on a hot grill (indoor or outdoor) and cook to add a slight char and sauce is caramelized. Approximately 5 - 7 minutes on each side.



Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Steak: Keeping It Simple


I'm always in the mood for steak. Sometimes I marinate, sometimes I rub, I like steak with sauces and reductions. I like steaks fried and I like steaks broiled, but any true steak lover will tell you, nothing beats the smoky, charred flavor of a great, grilled steak.



Mesquite Smoked, Grilled NY Strip Steak

Ingredients:

NY Strip Steaks
Mesquite Wood Chips
Aluminum Foil
Salt
Pepper
Onion Powder
Garlic Powder
Butter

Directions:

Season the steaks with salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder. Place steaks flat on a sheet pan and allow them to rest unrefrigerated for half hour to an hour. This will allow the steak to relax, tenderize and absorb the seasoning.



Place a handful of wood chips in the center of a piece of foil and fold into a pouch and poke a few holes on the top. Prepare the grill as usual and bring to a low temperature of about 125F - 145F degrees. Place the pouch directly on the flame and allow the chips to start smoking.



Next, place the steaks on the grill away from the direct flame. Tightly close the lid and smoke the steaks for 15 - 20 minutes. Then turn temperature to medium-high and grill steaks till finished, about 5 - 8 minutes on each side. Removed from grill, cover and allow to rest 4 to 5 minutes before cutting.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Quick Smoked Chicken Breast



Most smoked chicken recipes call for lengthy brine and smoke times, and this is true in most cases. However, a moist, smoky, flavorful piece of chicken can be achieved rather quickly, if done right. Its not difficult, but it does take some practice. Get to know your pit or smoker and how to regulate the heat, if you have racks or a smoke box, where is the best placement for the meat? Which woods are better for quick smoking? Will it burn hot enough and is it strong enough to permeate the meat in a short time? Understand how brines and rubs work against the meat, do any of them brine or tenderize faster? And of course choosing the right cut of meat, sure a small boneless, skinless breast will cook faster, but will it hold up to the heat and smoke? and will it remain moist? 

Normally I would plan to brine chicken anywhere from 6 to 8 hours and then slow smoke at 220F for at least 4 hours. However, brining times can be reduced by adding acids such as cider vinegar and/or increasing the salt to water ratio in the brine. Also, smoking with a pungant, hot burning wood like mesquite, will ensure that the smoke flavor will permeat the meat while smoking at hotter temps (240F - 250F) for shorter periods of time.


Ingredients:

Meat/Cut: Large Chicken Breast, Skin & Bone-on
(The large pieces will hold up to the heat better and the skin and bone will keep help keep it moist and add flavor.)

Wood Type: Mesquite and Cherry
(Mesquite is a strong flavored, hot burning wood, capable of flavoring the meat quickly, while the sweetness of the cherry will balance the bitterness.)

Brine: Acidic, High Salt
(A salty, acidic brine will permeate and tenderize quicker and add more flavor.)

Brine Ingredients:
1 Gallon Water
1 Cup Salt
1/2 Cup Cider Vinegar
1/4 Cup Soy Sauce
1 Tablespoon Black Peppercorns
1 Tablespoon Lemon Pepper
1 Head Garlic


Time: Approx. 3.5 - 4 Hours

Instructions:


Mix all brine ingredients together in a large, non-corrosive container large enough to completely submerge all breast pieces in the brine. Mix well for a minute or two until all the salt is dissolved. Place all chicken breast in the container and allow to brine in the refrigerator for 2 hours. A large plate or bowl can be placed on top, if needed to help keep the pieces submerged.

After removing from the brine, do not rinse or dry. Place directly on the racks or grill grates, leaving plenty of room between pieces to allow the heat and smoke to circulate.


Add a handfull each of mesquite and cherry wood chips. Add about 12 ounces of water to a water pan, placed directly under the racks. This will create steam while smoking.


Smoke at a high heat of about 245F - 250F (approx. 1 1/2 - 2 hours) or until the internal meat temperature is about 170F. Remove and cover with foil for about 10 minutes. The temperature will continue rising to about 180F or so and then settle, this will allow the juices to settle and not run out when cut.







Monday, October 19, 2009

"There Ain't No Beans In Chili!"


At least not in Real Texas Chili, Thank You Mr. Fowler!
(More on Mr. Fowler later...)


Google the word "chili" and the descriptions for the top 3 listings will all contain some statement lending to the fact that "there ain't no beans in chili".


A peek into the Merriam-Webster's Dictionary entry, will explain it this way:
Main Entry: chili 
Variant(s): also chile or chil·li \ˈchi-lē\
Function: noun
a : a thick sauce of meat and chilies


And for those who call it "Chili con Carne", that means chili with meat, not chili with beans!

I could research more into the history, origins and debates, but why? Anyone who calls themselves a true "chilihead" is stubborn and passionate about their chili and no-way, no-how are you gonna change a chilihead's mind about his favorite chili recipe.

The same goes for those chili cooks that are steadfast about cooking everything from scratch. Well, unless your grinding your own chili pods, crushing your own cumin seeds or powdering your own paprika, your still using some processed ingredients, so lighten up a bit and save that temper for the chili. Now I'm not saying to run out and grab a little aluminum can of whatever-you-call-it brand, but there is a great way to start off making a tried and tested, real Texas-style chili.


Remember Mr. Fowler? 
Since 1964, Homer "Wick" Fowler began assembling his chili packets as gifts for friends and before long, local retailers were putting in orders. Thus, he launched Caliente Chili Co. One story details how Wick managed production assisted by a team of women who packaged the chili spices with cellophane and sealed them with a clothes iron. 


A more famous story tells how in 1967, Fowler defended the honor of Texas-style chili at the first ever championship chili cookoff, using the same recipe that goes into his 2-Alarm Chili Kit. Although this competition is told to have ended in a tie, and a 1 year moratorium, since the judge was not able to complete the tasting. The next 2 years also ended in debatable circumstances due to stolen ballot boxes and influenced judges. However, it is for certain, that the referee, Frank X. Tolbert , the Chili Appreciation Society International (CASI) and the International Chili Society (ICS) all agree that Fowler is the undisputed winner of the first real World Chili Championship in 1970. Since then, the Wick Fowler's 2-Alarm Chili Kit has become the most popular and widely used chili kit available.



How I Made Fowler's 2-Alarm Chili Kit My Own:








Smoky Texas Red Chili








Ingredients:


8 Lbs. Beef Shoulder (have the butcher "chili-grind" or "course-grind" this for you)
4 Boxes Fowler's 2-Alarm Chili Kits (1 box Fowler's 2-Alarm Chili Kit uses 2 lbs. beef, adjust recipe as needed)
4 8oz. cans tomato sauce
8 8oz. cans water
1 12oz. bottle dark bock beer ( I like Shiner Bock or Shiner Black)
2 Tablespoons mesquite smoke flavor
Salt & Pepper to taste
serve with chopped jalapeno's, chopped onion and grated cheese





Instructions:


In large pot, add beef, salt and pepper, cook beef till brown and drain.

Next, add the rest of the ingredients as directed, including the beer and mesquite powder and simmer at least 30 minutes. The longer the simmer the better the taste. I usually like to simmer the chili at least 2 hours before serving.






Friday, October 16, 2009

Beer & Barbecue, Part I: Not Just Any Beer


For as long as I can remember, the two words "Beer" and "Barbecue" have always been synonymous with each other. However, not just any beer or any barbecue will do, at least at the same time. Although "there are no set rules", it is important to remember that drinking the wrong beer will certainly detract from both the beer and the barbecue and vice-versa.

Trying to decide which beers taste better with which barbecue doesn't have to be a long, drawn out, science experiment. Simply take your time, sip your beer and think about what you are tasting. Then, ask yourself a few basic questions. What is the dominate flavor of the beer? Is the maltiness of the beer sweet, tart or dry, etc? Are the hops flowery, herbal or citric? Does the beer sit heavy or light on the pallet? And most of all, simply ask yourself, what type of barbecue would work well with these characteristics?



Next, think about how you would like the beer to relate to the food. Keep in mind the "3 C's", complement, contrast and cut. The roasted, nutty characteristics of porter is a nice compliment to smoky, hearty meats. While the malty sweetness and hoppy bitterness of pale ale will contrast well with the spicy, charred, smoky flavors of barbecue. And a light hoppy beer like the classic pilsner, will cut the flavor of a rich, tangy barbecue sauce.   


There are many great beers on the market and doing barbecue right takes time. So why spend the money on great beer or take the time to barbecue your favorite meat or mix a great rub or sauce, just to end up with a wrecked  kaleidoscope of flavors. Next time, don't just rush out to the grocery store and grab any meat and beer combo. If you really want to enjoy the "Beer & Barbecue" experience, simply take a few extra minutes, think about the flavors and ask a few questions. You'll be glad you did!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Types Of Wood For Smoking


As a rule, any hardwood that is free of resin (or sap) is good for making smoke. Some woods, however, make better smoke than others. The most common woods used for smoking are mesquite and hickory. And wood from fruit and nut trees make excellent choices as well. Most fruit woods like apple and cherry have a mellow flavor and won't flavor much during short periods, but are excellent in medium and long smokings and add great flavor without overpowering the food. Woods like mesquite are very strong and flavor quickly, but can become overpowering and even bitter if smoked too long, especially when using lighter meats like poultry and fish. Mixing two or more woods that compliment each other can balance flavors and create a greater range of uses. 




Remember to use the wood as a flavor enhancer. Don't place too much emphasis on producing a deep "smoke ring". The ring of color ranging from dark pink near the outer edge to pale pink towards the center is not really a smoke ring at all. The pink color is a chemical reaction of the meat's water content reacting with the heat and smoke. The depth of color depends more upon the moisture of the meat than upon the density of smoke and has little or no bearing on flavor.

Use the list below as a general guide to choosing wood types:

Alder:
Very delicate with a hint of sweetness.
Good with fish, pork, poultry, and light-meat game birds.


Apple:
Very mild, with a subtle fruity flavor, slightly sweet.
Good with poultry and pork. Adds a dark brown color to poultry skin.



Cherry:
Mild and fruity. Similar to apple, but slightly bitter because most Cherry wood comes from chokecherry trees.
Good with pork, poultry and beef. Adds a dark brown color to poultry skin.

Hickory:

Very popular, highly used wood. Has a strong, heavy, bacon flavor.
Good with pork, ham, and beef.

Maple:

Smoky, mellow and slightly sweet.
Good with pork, poultry, cheese, and small game birds.

Mesquite:

One of the hottest burning woods. Predominately honey, earthy flavor with a slightly bitter aftertaste.
Good with beef, fish, poultry, and game.

Pecan:

A cool burning wood, nutty, mild, and sweet with a flavor similar to hickory, tasty with lots of subtle caricature.
Good with beef, poultry, pork and cheese. A real compliment for steaks & ribs

Red Oak:

Red oak is quite similar to mesquite.
Good with ribs and beef.

White Oak:

Hot burning, long burning wood. A lighter, milder version of mesquite.
Good with red meat, pork, fish, and heavy game.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Cherry Wood Smoked Catfish Tacos


Smoke-cooking fish is fast & easy!


No time to brine, a quick, savory and flavorful rub will work nicely with catfish.




Ingredients:


Meat/Cut: Catfish Fillets
Wood Type: Cherry Wood Chips
Rub: Light/Savory


Rub Ingredients: (for 8 large fillets)
1 Tablespoon Yellow Mustard
1 Tablespoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Black Pepper
2 Teaspoons Lemon Pepper
2 Teaspoons Thyme
1 Teaspoon Paprika
1 Teaspoon Light Chili Powder 


Total Time: Approx. 1 1/2 - 2 Hours


Friday, October 9, 2009

Jack Daniel's Whiskey Wood Smoked Pork Chops



Today is a short journey to the smoky goodness of Jack Daniel's Whiskey Wood Smoked Pork Chops. Although the total time should take around 4 hours, its relatively a short time when considering that most recipes require brining and smoking meats for 2 or 3 times as long. Using an acidic brine and butcher cut pork chops instead of working with a whole bone-in pork loin will allow for the total brining and smoking time to be cut in half.

Ingredients:

Meat/Cut: Pork Chops, 1" - 1 1/2" Thick Cut
Wood Type: Jack Daniel's Whiskey Wood Barrel Chips
Brine Type: Acidic

Brine Ingredients:
1 Gallon Cold Water
1 Cup Salt
1 1/2 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Tablespoon Mustard Powder
1 Tablespoon Whole Black Peppercorns

Total Time: Approx. 4 Hours


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Basics Of Brining

Brining meats before you cook them adds flavor, tenderness, and reduces cooking times. 

The chemistry behind brining is actually pretty simple. Meat already contains salt water. By immersing meats into a liquid with a higher concentration of salt, the brine is absorbed into the meat. Because the meat is now loaded with extra moisture it will stay moist while it cooks.

Simply put, a brine is nothing more than a salt and water mixture. The typical brine consists of 1 cup of salt for each gallon of cold water (or other liquids).  It is important that you have enough brine to completely submerge the meat without any part being left out of the liquid, weigh it down to stay under, if necessary. Brine the meat for about an hour per pound in the refrigerator or at least keep adding ice so as to keep the temperature about 40 °F.

Once the meat is properly brined remove it. You do not need to rinse unless you were using a high salt concentration in the brine or if there is a layer of visible salt on the surface. Otherwise you can take cuts of meat straight to the smoker or grill. However, whole poultry is the exception. To get a crispy, brown skin, whole birds should be removed from the brine, wrapped in foil or plastic and allowed to sit in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 12 hours to allow the meat to soak up the excess moisture from the skin.

Keep in mind that any flavoring added to the brine will be carried into the meat with the saltwater mixture. Therefore, more flavor can be added by substituting some or all of the water with wine, beer, fruit juices or vinegars as the liquid base for your brine. Apple juice and apple cider vinegar are very popular in many pork and chicken brine recipes.  Also, adding spices, herbs and fruit to the brine will add plenty of flavor throughout the meat. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Little About Smoke-Cooking, Hot Smoking & Cold Smoking

"Smoke-Cooking" is the method most referred to as "barbecuing." At temperatures above 185°F, food begins to cook. Most "low & slow" cooking occurs at temperatures between 225°F - 240°F and for times ranging anywhere from 2 - 12 hours. However, some cooks will smoke at higher temperatures, for shorter periods of time. Remember, there is no standard for temperature and/or time, just so as the meat is cooked hot enough to reach a safe edible temperature and long enough for the smoke to penetrate and flavor the meat and for the meat to soften and cook tender.


"Hot Smoking" at a temperature range of 165°F - 185°F will cure the food safe enough to eat.  However, usually foods that have been hot smoked are often reheated or cooked, like hams and sausages (such as those found in many grocery store coolers).


"Cold Smoking" at temperatures below 100 °F is mainly used as a flavor enhancer for items such as cheeses and nuts. However, other items such as pork chops, beef steaks, chicken and fish can be cold smoked for a short period of time in order to give it a touch of smoky flavor, and then finished on the grill, sautéed or finished in some other method.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

First Things First: Barbecuing -vs- Grilling

OK, before we get too far into this venture, lets get something straight,  barbecuing and grilling are not the same thing. In my opinion, and for the purpose of this blog, this topic is not up for debate. However, all opinions and/or comments are welcome.


To the real practitioners of the art, barbecue refers to a low heat, slow cooking process using indirect heat and/or hot smoke, whereas a method of fast cooking over direct heat is referred to as grilling.


That said, Smokilicious is achieved from the smoky, spicy, "low & slow" cooked goodness of your favorite meat, fish, fowl or other delectable item.