Monday, May 22, 2006 

BBQ by the light of the Firefly

We held our very first "Themed" party this weekend. Ordinarily, we just have parties that center around eating food and hanging out. But my wife and I are a pair of robust geeks and when we find something we like, we do like to celebrate it.

Enter the short lived sci-fi-western-drama "Firefly". This show, given an early death sentence by the brilliant minds at FOX was the third series from writer/producer/director mastermind Joss Whedon. My wife's family introduced us to the Joss Whedon verse about a year ago. We've been through all of the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" series and just loved them. But "Firefly" is what really won my heart. The show has humor, action, drama and deep, well written characters. Once you start watching it, it's hard to stop.

So we invited about 10 friends and family who were all fans of "Firefly" to come to our place on Saturday and have a "Firefly Shindig" with us. There was "firefly jeopardy", some costumes and themed food. The back-story for "Firefly" mixes American and Chinese cultures, so we asked everyone to bring food from either culture. As always, we were not disappointed by our guests!

I smoked an 11lb. pork shoulder and an 8lb turkey as my part of the food. I managed to whip up a fantastic mustard sauce for the pork (I'm a fan of the Carolina mustard sauce) that I think I can replicate. I pulled the turkey and served it in Big Bob Gibson's white sauce. Farmer Girl did up a bunch of deviled eggs in three styles - regular, wasabi ginger and chipoltle. Others brought a couple of Chinese pasta dishes and The Old Bull made fried wontons.

The weather has been pretty darned funky lately, so we set up our 12'X12' tent in front of our garage, put two sidewalls up and arranged my camp kitchen and another folding table with a gas stove on it for cooking. In the garage, we used a computer projector, projector screen, laptop and a small surround sound setup to create a "movie theatre" feel. Everyone gorged themselves on good food and drink, we played a bit o' jeopardy and voted on our favorite episodes. We didn't make it through the whole list because it was getting late and cold, but it was quite a good time.

I'm sure we'll do it again.



Thursday, May 11, 2006 

Bye, bye, money!

The barbecue season has definitely and without question begun. I say this not because of the wonderful food I 'cued two weekends ago, but because I have begun spending money in preparation for the Harpoon Championships already.

Today I placed an order with Cabella's for a new 12'X 12' EZ-Up tent (our old one was destroyed by wind during a thunderstorm) and a Coleman camp stove. Last year I really found that I needed some sort of tabletop stove to cook ingredients and most importantly - to make coffee!

I also sent an email to Seabrisket BBQ, the New England rep for Backwoods Smokers. I have been saving my comp time since February, and I should have enough to finally purchase the grill I've wanted for the past year.

I'm going to buy one of their "Party" models with a BBQ Guru attachment on it. From their web site:
"The Party Unit has six (6) shelves that are 15 1/2" by 16 1/2" in size. This unit cooks between 225 to 250 degrees on approximately 8-9 pounds of charcoal and wood for flavoring. The Party Unit will maintain this heat for 6-7 hours...Handling Capacity: 85 lbs. Boston Butt or 15 Slabs of St. Louis Style Ribs...Cooking Surface Area: 11 sq. ft"

I had the fortune to meet the folks who compete as "Feeding Freindz" at Harpoon last season, and they were using two of these units. They look solid and the added capacity will be excellent. But, the main reason I'm going with this grill is the insulation. I've been using cheap smokers since I started learning the art of "slow and low" cooking. These units are thin single-walled steel and in a breeze I struggle to keep them up to temp. I should have no such problems with the insulated Backwoods Smoker. And, of course, the notion of being able to drop half a bag of charcoal and wood pieces into my smoker and leave it alone for hours is quite appealing. I can't do that with my present models.

And helping me extend the time between fire checks will be the BBQ Guru. From the Backwoods Smoker web site:
The guru base unit controls a fan that is connected to your fire box through an induction tube. The base unit reads the temperature you have set for your pit, then calculates how much air to blow into your fire box to get the heat level in your pit just right. When your pit reaches the desired temp, the guru goes into maintain mode, "puffing" your firebox once every two to three seconds to maintain the right temperature.

Feeding Freindz had these units as well, and aside from one technical problem the night of the competition (which was fixed by Shotgun Fred, creator of the BBQ Guru, who had a nearby booth), they really did the trick.

So, I'm hoping to get a response from Rick at Seabrisket in the next day or so. As soon as I can, I'm going to place this order. Gotta get practicing!

I'm going to be hemorrhaging money for the next month! Ahhh, well. Anything for the 'cue!


Monday, May 08, 2006 

More Eggs

This weekend was a busy one! From Friday evening through Saturday evening I was able to indulge in some of my more geeky passions (poker, wargaming, tabletop gaming), so there was no time for the slow and low cookfest I had last week.

But, one of the joys at having a number of hours of practice under my belt is that I can now set my grill up and virtually walk away from it for three to four hours and will keep on a nice even burn. It allows me to do projects and still cook. So, while putting up fence around my garden area, I cooked the following:

  • a 4lb chicken

  • 16 eggs

  • a small pork loin roast

  • meatloaf

  • I cooked this eclectic collection of foods so we'd have some already cooked meats for lunches and dinner this week. The meatloaf was last night's dinner and it was great! If you haven't tried cooking meatloaf on your smoker, you've got to. It takes the traditional dish up to a higher plane.

    The key to smoking meatloaf, no matter what you put in it, is that you start it on your smoker in either a loaf pan, or on a small sheet pan. Thus far, I've used loaf pans, but I suspect a sheet pan might allow for the meat to have a better smoke flavor if its sides aren't covered (as they are in a loaf pan). Once the meatloaf has cooked enough to hold its form, you take it out of the pan or off the sheet and put it directly on the grill and continue to smoke it. This ensures that all areas of the meat get smoked.

    That's it for this weekend's activity.



    Tuesday, May 02, 2006 

    In which I tell you about the eggs

    WhitetrashBBQ asked me to tell ya'll a bit more about these smoked eggs (pictured in the post below). Well, to be honest, they couldn't be an easier thing to smoke.

    I learned about smoking eggs about five years back, before I even understood the difference between grilling and smoking. One of Farmer Girl's relatives had simply stuck a couple on his smoker, and they came out wonderfully. Not long after that I gave them a shot, but because I hadn't yet learned how to control my heat, they cracked and were pretty much destroyed. Since then, I've learned how to make things cook slow and low, and why it needs to be done that way.

    As I said in my last post, I don't believe in wasting grill space. I have my charcoal shipped from Maine which makes it a bit expensive, so I figure I need to get my money's worth out of each burn. With that massive brisket on the old ProGriller, I didn't have room for a chicken or anything that large. But the eggs! They fit around the edges just fine.

    Cooking them on the smoker is a snap. As long as you're cooking below 250 degrees, they shouldn't crack. I choose to put them as far away from the firebox as I can, just to eliminate any chance of cracking. After that, I just leave them on the grill. There's probably an exact amount of time to cook them, but since I've just started doing it, I can't tell you what it is. Mine were a bit over done, but since they were going to be made into deviled eggs, it didn't matter much to me.

    My wife whipped up some deviled eggs out of the smoked eggs and they were great. But, I felt they needed to be a bit more interesting, so last night I came up with this recipie for Mule's Smoke and Fire Deviled Eggs. I didn't measure any of the ingredients, so you'll have to do it all to taste.

    Mule's Smoke and Fire Deviled Eggs


    12 Smoked Eggs
    Mayonnaise (about 1 cup, I think)
    2 Chipolte Peppers in Adobo Sauce
    1/2 cup of finely diced red onions


    Peel your eggs, rinse and cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out the yoke and mix it in a bowl with the mayo. Dice red onions very fine. Dice chipotle peppers. Mix mayo and egg until smooth, then add the diced chipotle pepper and red onions. Mix again. Refill the space in each 1/2 egg that had a yoke in it with the mixture. Sprinkle with your favorite red seasoning - I used my Triple Chile Rub.

    Depending on your tolerance for heat, clean out the seeds from the chipotle peppers or if you like it hot, add four or five more of them.

    These went like wildfire last night when I served them to my wife and our roomate. Try them out and let me know what you think!



    Monday, May 01, 2006 

    Game On!

    Well folks, I can tell you that up here in Vermont, Barbecue season has officially opened for Howling Hog BBQ. This weekend marked the first sunny and warm weekend we've had this spring, and I wasn't going to let it slip by without cooking up a huge volume of meat!

    I invited family and friends over for a sunday BBQ to help take care of my soon to be created "meat problem" (my friends always seem to be willing to pitch in when it comes to dealing with an overabundance of BBQ!).

    Last Wednesday I stocked up on charcoal. I ordered 66lbs of Wicked Good Charcoal from Maine, and as always it arrived within two days. Thanks to Lee Ann for the great customer service.

    I also called my butcher looking for a pork shoulder - something I hadn't had in quite a while as I've been working on brisket of late. Darned my luck, he was out of pork shoulder. But he had brisket, and that would certainly do. He asked me what size cut I was looking for and I mistakenly told him I didn't care. That got me this:

    Yes folks, that's 13 freakin' POUNDS of beefy goodness. My, my, my.

    So, on Saturday afternoon (I've taken to cooking the day before a get together to allow me more time with guests and less time in front of the stove) I sparked up my grill and got to cooking. Now, I've begun to make it a policy that there should be very little "open real estate" on my grill when I'm smoking a big cut of meat. Charcoal and wood are too expensive, and things can always be frozen for later use.

    As you can imagine, my big honkin' brisket took up a fair bit of my grill, but it still left room for some eggs. I'd seen one of Farmer Girl's relatives smoke eggs in the past, and decided I'd give it a shot. They came out great and made some rippin' smoked deviled eggs.

    I cooked from 2:00pm on Saturday until about 12:00 midnight. Since I wasn't competing, I saw no reason to pull an all nighter, so the brisket got wrapped in foil and I put it in the fridge.

    On Sunday morning I pulled the meat out and popped it in the oven at 220 degrees. Then I re-lit my grill and put one of our homegrown Turkeys on it. This sucker weighed in at 10lbs:

    I stuffed the bird with a few onions, a garlic bulb, rosemary, sage and some apples, all to add a bit of flavor and moisture to it. To fill the unused grill area, I put a bunch of country-style pork spare ribs on it. Those will get used at a later date.

    When it came time to serve the meal, I unwrapped my briskets (I cut the brisket in half to help speed the cooking process) and here's the joy I saw:

    It came out perfectly! The color was really great - note the killer smoke ring. The crust was nice and black, but not burnt. Needless to say it was well received. I pulled one of the turkey breasts and served it in Big Bob Gibson's white sauce. I also made black beans and rice, veggie hobo packs with sweet potato, zuccini and summer squash and, of course my wife's smoked deviled eggs! It was a good feed.

    Aside from being excited to be back into barbecue season again, I'm particularly thrilled about the consistancy of what was once my hardest meat to cook. My brisket has been good every time I've made it since last season. There's no way I'm placing last in Brisket at the Harpoon Championships this season. Mark my words.

    Hope all of you had the opportunity to cook something good and have your favorite drink.