Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year and Ribeye Roast

This evening, to celebrate the total disappearance of the year 2008 and the first glimpses of 2009, we had our kids and their kids over for food and drink. The highlight of the evening was the meal: ribeye roast, slow-cooked hashbrowns, whole corn, mixed veggies, and french bread. The wine, red, was from a local winery, Felicitas, which was a Christmas gift from my sister and brother-in-law.

The ribeye was 12 lbs and here's how it was smoked on my Traeger:

* Brought it out of the fridge and let it warm up on the kitchen counter beneath an aluminum tent. 1 1/2 hours.

* Spread a spicy mustard over the entire outer skin to hold the rub.

* Spread the rub over the mustard. (Rub: equal parts Montreal Steak Seasoning, Kosher salt, white granulated sugar, dark chili powder, and a pinch of cayenne.)

* Set the ribeye on a rack inside an aluminum drip pan, to collect any juices, and inserted a remote thermometer prob to monitor internal temperature.

* Set the Traeger at 240 and at approximately 3 hours, poured about 3/4 qt of Coca-Cola into the drip pan. 3 1/2 hours later the ribeye's internal temp was at 115.

* Moved the ribeye into the oven where the temperature was at 400 degrees, and turned off the oven. This to create a little thicker crust on the outside of the meat and to allow its internal temp to raise to 135 - medium rare. Meanwhile, collect the drippings and let stand for 20 - 30 minutes: spoon off any fat that rises to the surface; then add Worcestershire, red wine, salt/pepper, and 1 cup of beef broth to the Coca-Cola and drippings - all to taste. Bring to a boil then let simmer until ready to use.

* Once the meat reaches 135 degrees, remove from oven and let it breath beneath a tent on the counter for approximately 20 minutes, then sliced it into 7 three-quarter to one inch slices. Drench the steaks with the juice, then pour left over juice into a bowl for individual preferences at the dining table.

If you're interested in steak that is tender, juicy and so mouth wateringly good that you can hear the folks you share it with groaning in gastronomical delight, then this is the recipe you want. Wow!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Ribeye with Red Wine Marinade

We found a good buy on some ribeye in the local food store and after some searching, decided to give this recipe a try. The original calls for an aged, prime cut of ribeye that runs for approximately $17 per pound; so I figured this much less expensive cut we bought should do well in a recipe designed for such royal services.


*1/2 bottle of inexpensive, dry red wine
*1 cup of vegetable oil
*1/2 cup chopped yellow onions
*2 cloves chopped garlic
*Kosher Salt
*Fresh ground pepper
*2 Cuts of fresh ribeye steaks
*1/2 cup melted butter
*1/2 cup oil
*2 average sized yellow onions - sliced
*1 cup sliced mushrooms


*Mix the wine, oil and chopped garlic
*Add the steaks and refrigerate for six hours
*Remove steaks from fridge and let them sit for one hour
*High heat on the grill, or charcoal briquets that are white hot
*Mix melted butter and oil in shallow baking dish
*Coat the steaks in the butter and oil
*Apply a heavy coat of Kosher salt and ground pepper to all sides of the meat
*Place steaks on grill directly over the heat
*Cook for 1 1/2 minutes
*Turn steak 90 degrees and cook for additional 1 1/2 mins
*Flip steak and cook for 1 1/2 mins
*Turn steak 90 degrees and cook for additional 1 1/2 mins
*Using an instant read thermometer, medium rare will register 135 degrees
*Remove steak from grill, place on cookie sheet and cover with foil for 10 minutes. (Stack oven mitts on top to help retain heat)
*They are ready to serve

Sauteed Onions and Mushrooms

Reserve 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the marinade for liquid for sauteeing
Bring the liquid to a boil in a non-stick frying pan for 5 minutes or so
Add the sliced yellow onions and mushrooms and saute until desired doneness.
Pile on top of the ribeye steak and enjoy

This recipe modified from one found at

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Christmas Turkey

This 19 pounder waited patiently in the freezer for about three weeks for its turn. During that three weeks I worried and stewed about my promise to the family to "smoke a turkey" for them for Christmas. I knew I was in deep trouble when I learned my sister and her husband had spent more than a hour or two researching the "best" wine at a local winery, Fidelitas, where they are members. Trouble? The temperatures had dropped into the single digits, and it is no secret that the times needed for smoking meat in a Traeger escalate with lowering temps. I had no idea if it would take 4 hours, 8 hours, or 3 days to cook this sucker.

I researched the issue on google; at Traeger's website; with Konrad Haskins, my instructor at a recent class on smoking/bbqing; my buddy, Joe from Oly, who kinda got me started with the long, slow smoke style cooking and knows tons of stuff about cooking. No one could really answer my questions about whether or not to even give it a try. I even joined an online forum, "pelletheads," and found some pretty strange comments there.

On the morning of the smoke, out of desperation, I called the 800 number Traeger puts up on their website (I found it the night before, too late to call).

Bruce's first question was, "do you have either a 100% cotton, or 100% wool, blanket?" Fold the blanket and lay it over the lid of the smoker for insulation. (Note: Careful with this - that blanket ended up scorched like a fragile pair of laced silk panties smothered beneath a forgotten iron! But it worked.)

Then Bruce told me to get a remote thermometer ($17 at Target), stick it in the breast, put the bird on when the smoker's temp is 300 degrees. Keep it there until the breast hits 100 degrees on the remote, then turn the smoker down to "smoke" and keep it there until the breast hits 170 degrees when it will be done.

Three hours after setting the temp to "smoke" the breast temp, again, in single digit external temperatures, cotton blanket and all, had risen only 3 degrees; so I cranked it back up to 300 degrees and let'er rip until the breast measured 170. I figured it would more like rubber, or leather, or like Clark Griswold's turkey in the movie, "Christmas Vacation."

Once the temp hit 170, I took the bird inside and let it rest for about 15 minutes before carving it. Also brought in the drippings and made the gravy from them while the bird rested.

The turkey was delicious! Succulent, tender, moist, and smoked with cherry wood pellets, fabulously flavorful. The Gang raved about how good it was. Phew.

Turkey Preparation:

Brine for 12 - 24 hours, then wash thoroughly inside and out, pat dry with paper towels.

Separate skin from meat and spread the rub between these two layers.

Pour Italian Dressing over the exterior, mostly as an adherent for the rub, and spread the rub in all the nooks and crannies.


1 gallon water
1 cup kosher salt
1 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 cup Soy sauce
1 cup Apple Cider Vinegar

Equal parts of each of the following -

Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt
White granulated cane sugar
Dark chili powder
Canadian, or Montreal Steak Seasoning
Pinch of Cayenne or Chipotle for heat, to taste (optional).


Put sliced yellow onions (about 2 to 3 cups) in roasting pan along with 4 or 5 tbls of olive oil. Put in oven at 425 degrees for one hour, or until the onions turn a nice golden brown.

Place the bird on a roasting rack and set it in the roasting pan with the onions. Place bird breast DOWN. Add 3 cups of chicken broth (not organic!), and put it in the smoker. Replenish liquid with chicken broth as needed throughout the smoke.

Once done, puree the collected juices, onions, and oil, in a blender and taste. At that point, as my friend Joe from Oly says, "you can begin praising God that he put Joe on earth to be your friend." It is THAT good!

* recipe provided by Konrad Haskins.
** recipe provided by Joe from Oly.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Another Brisket

Another Brisket
Originally uploaded by bmgarner

This brisket has an interesting story that involves an error in equipment usage that actually caused the lid of the smoker to open explosively when an overabundance of wood pellets filled the firebox. Owner's error!

The meat survived by spending the final couple of hours in the oven. Something we may do on purpose next time as it filled the house with the most wonderful aroma while finishing up.

* Rubbed
* 3 hours at 185-220
* 1/2 hour at 375
* 3-4 hours at one notch below 275 on a Lil Texas Traeger smoker with the meat immersed in one liter of coca-cola.
*15-20 minutes for resting
*thin slice across the grain
* pour au jus from drip pan over the sliced meat
*bbq as individually desired

Friday, December 5, 2008

Croque Monsier Revisited

This delicious recipe came to me from a book entitled, "Paris Crowd: The Select Cafe," which is discussed in an earlier posting found below.

We tried the recipe again today without the gruyere cheese, or the home-made bread (Almost No-Knead Bread) sliced thin and without the crust.

We used good ol' storebought wheat bread and grated cheddar cheese from a grocery store block.

The sauce is only mentioned in the book; the recipe isn't there. In France it is bechamel sauce and I found an excellent recipe here. The sauce is very similiar to the sauce our American mothers made when we were kids. The biggest difference is this sauce calls for a dash or two of nutmeg. It really makes the sauce.

You can find the recipe for the bechamel sauce here, at Mario Batali's site.

Try this, it makes a lovely lunch. Eat with fork and knife.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Diego's Texas Brisket

My first attempt at brisket was a couple years ago. I had purchased a fairly cheap charcoal bbq unit and had been learning about direct and indirect heat, how to cook salmon on alder planks, how to use a charcoal chimney, and how to manage heat.

The brisket attempt was abysmal: completely black and charred on the outside and bone-dry inside.

I tried it again yesterday.

I bought a 13 lb. brisket; rubbed it with some hot, spicy, mustard; spread a rub over the entire surface; and once the temp was at 185-200 degrees on the smoker, I put the meat on the grille and closed the lid. For three hours. This temp heats the meat above the threshold temp for danger (140) and produces a most impressive smoke ring once the meat is done.

At the three hour mark, I pushed the temp up to about 375 degrees for one half hour where it develops a "crust;" then lowered the temp to about 275. At this time I also put the meat into a foil pan, poured in almost a quart of Coca-Cola*, tented the meat with foil, and let it cook for about 4 more hours. When the meat reached 195-200 degrees, it was declared ready to take off the grille.

Covered with foil for another half hour, it was then cut across the grain and plated. The meat was sliced thin enough for sandwich style preparation on hamburger buns, choice of sauce was left to each individual.

The brisket was excellent, with just a bit of dryness which I am going to research and try to do a little better next time. I think the answer may be to cook it just a bit longer at the top temperature.

* Actually, I used diet-coke because that was all we had; but afterward I was reminded that diet-coke has aspartame in it and at 140+/- degrees it converts to formaldehyde, a carcinogen...ouch...Never again! Bad mistake! I learned the coke tip in a bbq class a couple weeks ago and the teacher then told us not to use diet-coke; but I forgot! shit

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Country Style Ribs

We bought some country style ribs at Costco yesterday to cook today. At first we thought we would just grille them on the gas grille, but then I decided I would rather put them on the smoker.

I started the smoker by putting it on "smoke," and let it run for about 15 minutes before putting on the meat. In a class I took recently by Konrad Haskins at the BBQ Institute, I learned the best way to turn a good cut of pork into ham is to put the rub on the night before and leave it in the refrigerator over night. So, after starting up the smoker, I put the rub on and when the smoker had a good start, I put the meat on the smoker grille.

Konrad promotes the use of a hot, spicy, mustard spread over the pork, followed by a liberal sprinkling of rub. The meat doesn't have a mustardy taste. Konrad says the mustard simply adds to the complex of flavors the meat will have once cooked. It also provides a medium for the rub to stick to; so, I promptly forgot to use the newly purchased bottle of mustard I bought yesterday......

The meat was smoked for about an hour, then I turned the pellet feeder to the notch just below 275. (Konrad's suggestion for Traeger's.) The meat smoked at this setting for about an hour, then it was put into an aluminum pan, coated with apple juice, covered with aluminum foil and left in the smoker for another hour because we had invited our daughter and her family over and it was getting late. I originally thought I would be able to cook this meat in about 3 hours.

The meat was tasty, but it was not tender. Pork is "done" at lower temps than where it needs to be to be "fall of the bone" tender. For that, the internal temp needs to be closer to 180-190 degrees. When I measured the temp, it was running in the low 170's; but as I said earlier, we were running out of time.

Next time, we'll get'er done perfectly!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Diego's "Un-Texas Beef and Beer Chili" (5 stars)

Chili, the American staple from Mexico? At the "History and Legends of Chili, Chili Con Carne" website, it is reported, "If there is any doubt about what the Mexicans think about chili, the Diccionario de Mejicanismos, published in 1959, defines chili con carne as (roughly translated): 'detestable food passing itself off as Mexican, sold in the U.S. from Texas to New York.' " Most reports indicate chili arose somewhere, but flourished in the Southwest, particularly in Texas.

When I was a kid we lived in Texas and we ate a lot of chili; and it all came out of a can. Dinty Moore made the best chili available, back in those days, from the grocery store. It wasn't until we moved to Washington state and my dad began making Texas Chili with mainly ground beef, tomato sauce, or paste, or chopped tomatoes, a few spices, and lot of chili heat!!

He introduced his chili to the family one Christmas Eve and it remained a staple of our annual Christmas Eve celebration for a number of years, even after he was gone. Sometimes his chili was almost unbearably hot with chili powders and hot chilis; and it never had beans in it. Texas chili isn't Texas Chili if it has beans.

I made a pot of Un-Texas chili today, and I think the recipe deserves a place here in "Squeeet." There are almost as many chili recipes as there are people who make chili; but since it all mostly "looks" the same, I chose not to take any pictures with the exception of the cilantro I chopped for garnish.

Here's the recipe:


1 1/2 C chopped red onion (1 medium)
1 C chopped red bell pepper
8 ounces extra lean ground beef
2 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 tbl chili powder
1/2 tsp dry cayenne pepper, minced and crushed
2 tspn ground cumin
1 tspn sugar
1/2 tspn salt
1/2 tspn dried oregano

2 cans (15 oz) beans: pinto, kidney, etc.
1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (8 oz) tomato paste
1 can (14 oz) low sodium beef broth
1 bottle beer (Bud Light)

1 tbl yellow cornmeal
1 tbl fresh lime juice


Combine first 4 ingredients in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook 5 minutes, or until beef is browned, stirring to crumble. Stir in chili powder, cayenne, cumin, sugar, and salt: cook 1 minute. Add oregano and next 4 ingredients (through the beer) to pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, with lid on but with very small crack to allow steam to escape, for 3 - 4 hours. Stir in cornmeal; cook 5 minutes. Stir in lime juice.

Garnishes: chopped cilantro, fresh guacamole, sour cream.

Yield: 4 servings at 1.5 cups.


Everyone loved this chili. What really gave it an authentic "Mexican" taste was adding the chopped cilantro (to individual tastes) with the guacamole and sour cream.

Recommeded Modifications:

Next time I am going to try red wine rather than beer; not because the beer wasn't good because it was very good. This recommendation is due to the excellent result with red wine in the Coq Au Vin recipe from last week. Also, the addition of a tbs of either honey or molasses might really knock this recipe up a notch or two.

The red wine didn't give the anticipated results and ended up rather ho-hum.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Coq Au Vin/Chicken with Red Wine (* * * * *)

My fascination with Paris has a tendency to transfer over to the french cuisine. A couple days ago, on an episode of "The Take Home Chef," the meal prepared was "Coq Au Vin." This looked like something I might be able to pull off, so I googled the chef's recipe, then a few others, and settled on one I read about at Simply Recipes.

Coq au vin translates to, "rooster with red wine." The concoction was originally developed as a way to prepare the tough and sinewy meat of an old rooster whose prime had come and gone, by cooking him under a rather long and low heat, until the meat is - "fall off the bone" - tender. The acidity of the wine adds to the process; and the sauce that is produced with bacon, mushrooms, and the wine, is sublime.

Since old roosters are difficult to locate in our modern grocery stores these days, and since most of us don't raise chickens anymore, best used are stew hens, if one can be found. The chicken used for this recipe was neither an old, worn-out, rooster, nor a stewing hen, and it all turned out quite well anyway.

Here it is:


1/2 lb bacon slices
20 pearl onions, peeled, or 1 large yellow onion, sliced
1 chicken, 4 lb, cut into serving pieces, or 3 lbs chicken parts, excess fat trimmed, skin ON
6 garlic cloves, peeled
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups chicken stock2 cups red wine (pinot noir, burgundy, or zinfandel)
2 bay leaves
Several fresh thyme sprigs
Several fresh parsley sprigs
1/2 lb button mushrooms, trimmed and roughly chopped
2 Tbsp butter
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish


1 Blanch the bacon to remove some of its saltiness. Drop the bacon into a saucepan of cold water, covered by a couple of inches. Bring to a boil, simmer for 5 minutes, drain. Rinse in cold water, pat dry with paper towels. Cut the bacon into 1 inch by 1/4 inch pieces.

2 Brown bacon on medium high heat in a dutch oven big enough to hold the chicken, about 10 minutes. Remove the cooked bacon, set aside. Keep the bacon fat in the pan. Add onions and chicken, skin side down. Brown the chicken well, on all sides, about 10 minutes. Halfway through the browning, add the garlic and sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. (Note: it is best to add salt while cooking, not just at the very end. It brings out the flavor of the chicken.)

3 Spoon off any excess fat. Add the chicken stock, wine, and herbs. Add back the bacon. Lower heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, or until chicken is tender and cooked through. Remove chicken and onions to a separate platter. Remove the bay leaves, herb sprigs, garlic, and discard.

4 Add mushrooms to the remaining liquid and turn the heat to high. Boil quickly and reduce the liquid by three fourths until it becomes thick and saucy. Lower the heat, stir in the butter. Return the chicken and onions to the pan to reheat and coat with sauce. Adjust seasoning. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Serves 4. Serve with potatoes or over egg noodles.

RESULTS: The problem we had was time. You have to start in plenty of time ahead to allow the sauce to reduce down. We had another engagement for 6:30 pm and starting preparing the meal at 4:30. There wasn't enough time to fully reduce the sauce. However, it was delicious! We did have to hurry our meal and that wasn't fun; but we learned about making this dish and will make it again.

NEXT TIME: More time, yes. Brown the chicken in the iron skillet and put the entire chicken in the dutch oven. Browned it this time in the dutch oven and there wasn't enough room for all of it to brown well on the limited bottom surface of the pan. Once a whole chicken is browned, it doesn't matter once it is in the oven because that's when the chicken stock, wine, etc. is added.

A recommendation for a side dish, in addition to the mashed potatoes and steamed carrots is mustard greens. With mashed potatoes the sauce can be ladeled across them. Leftover sauce goes well on pasta for lunch the next day.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Chicken Enchiladas with Red Chili Sauce

A long, long, time ago, in a far away time and place (40 years ago and 3 or 4 miles from here) my father would throw together some of the best Mexican food ever eaten. At least that's the way I felt about his enchiladas. I don't know where he bought his tortillas for we had no Mexican influence here then, but I do know he deep fried them, probably in Crisco oil. I don't know how he made the sauce, but I'm reasonably sure he fried the hamburger in a skillet. We had never had food like this before and it was wonderful. I remember eating seventeen of them once. I was a teenager then and my stomach went down into each leg.

So, thanks to my good friend, Joe's, recommendation for this recipe, found at Cooks Illustrated online, I had to give it a try. My wife and I worked most of the afternoon making the tortillas from "scratch," bbq'ing the chicken; and cooking the sauce, also from "scratch." We agreed that we didn't think this would be as good my dad's enchiladas were; but we were wrong. These babies were scrumtious and we'll definitely have them again.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Our First "Croque Monsier" Sandwich

This recipe emerged from the pages of a fancy little book called, Paris Cafe - The Select Crowd. The book outlines the history of French cafes in general and cafes in Paris specifically; but we'll save the history and character of Le Select for another time.

The recipe for the Croque Monsier is one of three basic meals served in Le Select and having been to Paris a few times, there was no way the recipe could be avoided. We decided rather than making a closed sandwich, to use only one piece of freshley made no-knead bread. It was tasty, but we think maybe we should go ahead with the second, more thinly sliced piece of bread next time.


1 slice Poilane bread (or Almost No Knead Bread)
1 slice cooked ham (we recommend 4-6 slices of Black Forest ham)
1 thins slice Gruyere (Emmenthal) or Swiss Cheese
1 Tbsp grated Gruyere or Swiss Cheese
1 pat butter
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions for Open Face:

Lightly toast and butter the bread (iron skillet, or griddle); place the ham, then cheese, on top of bread. Cover with grated cheese and heat until the cheese bubbles. Serve immediately with lettuce garnish and a favorite wine.


A richer version uses 2 thinner slices of bread (crusts removed) with ham and cheese between. Place bechamel (white) sauce and grated cheese on top, and heat.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed peppers have been a staple in our family for three decades. Whether on a cool autumn evening, or a freezing winter one, this meal satisfies the craving for not only something good, but something warm and fulfilling. This recipe serves 2.


2 green peppers
1/2 lb. hamburger, fried
1 8oz. tomato sauce
1/4 C chopped green pepper (chopped tops)
1/3 C raw rice
1/3 C chopped onions
1 Tbls Worchestershire sauce
1/2 C water
1 Tbls Brown Sugar
Shredded Cheese - enough to cover the tops of the peppers

Mix all ingredients except the peppers,and the cheese, and simmer for 25 mins.
Cut the top off the peppers. Boil the peppers in salted water for 5 mins, then fill them with the mixture, top with cheese and bake for 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

salt to taste

Suggested Side Dishes:

Strawberry Almond Salad

Home-made No Knead Bread

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Diego's Smoked Cabernet Brisket

Last September we enjoyed some brisket in Branson, MO., that just knocked us out! When we got home I tried twice to smoke some brisket on the charcoal grille we had at the time. If you've ever tried to smoke brisket on a charcoal grille you know exactlly what I mean when I say keeping a constant temperature was a challenge. Six hours of reading the thermometer, opening the lid, dumping more charcoal, adding more wood chips for flavoroing, etc., was a bigger six-hour job than what I wanted.

Day 1:

Now I'm feeling ready to try it again, this time on the new Traeger smoker. I found a recipe at the Walla Walla Village Winery site for a wine inspired smoked brisket, so today I bought a slab of brisket and put together the marinade. I had to modify the recipe some, therefore I gave it a new name, "Diego's Smoked Cabernet Brisket." (I'm a bit partial to the name Diego and like to use when I can, mostly "just in fun.")

The marinade contains the following ingredients: merlot-cabernet wine (Columbia Crest, 2005, merlot-cabernet blend); orange juice, Worcestershire sauce, water, sea salt, fresh ground pepper, crushed garlic cloves, and bay leaves. The meat will be marinated for about 16 hours in the 'fridge.

The BBQ sauce for this masterpiece also calls for merlot-cabernet wine, orange juice, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, minced ginger, dry mustard powder, red chili flakes, Salt, and Pepper.

More posting tomorrow when we go into full production.

Day 2:

Poured the marinade off the meat this morning, cut slits in the fat side and embedded the garlic, salted and peppered both side. The smoker was turned on a few minutes earlier to set the temperature at 200 to 220 degrees and when ready, placed the meat on the grille and started the timer. This cook should last 7 hours being ready at about 5:30-6:00 pm later today.

We called some friends to join us for brisket, corn on the cob, baked beans and some good red wine later today. Let's hope it all works out.

Here's a closer shot of the meat, fresh off the grille. You can clearly see the slits where the meat was cut about 1/2 inch deep and the garlic inserted.

Our friends, despite being fully informed that we needed them as guinea pigs for this meal, showed up right on time and brought a wonderful bottle of cabernet savignon to go with the brisket; and this beautiful bouquet of

The wine was superb, smooth, with low acidity and it didn't have that strong oaky taste that so many cabs I've drank have. Of course, I pay bottom dollar for cab, so that may demystify this wonderful bottle they brought.

The brisket was a hit; even though I forgot to add the slices of provolone to the finished product for our guests. We tried the left overs on the next day with the cheese and agreed it didn't really seem to add much to the overall experience of a pretty damned good brisket.

Definitely a repeat recipe!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Salsa With True Mexican Flavor

Too many times when we purchase salsa in the grocery store, it tastes mostly like we think it should taste rather than what it really should taste like. I figured this out yesterday after doing some grocery shopping at a very large Mexican grocery called Fiesta Foods across the river. Going there brings back memories of Tijuana.

While casually walking the aisles and discovering the similarities and differences with what we find in our local groceries, I noticed a row of small bottles across the top of a produce bin full of tomatilloes; small bottles filled with what appeared to be some kind of rub. On closer inspection I found they were spices specifically developed for tacos, burritos, and other Mexican fare.

The one that caught my eye read, "Salsa Mix:" two tbs of the mix, 2 cups of chopped tomatoes, some fresh cilantro, and a bit of green pepper for color.

I tossed in some minced green onion, and a minced garlic clove, stirred it all together, laid a cilantro sprig across the top, and put in the fridge to cool for a while.

Later we had taco salad for dinner and placed copious amount of the salsa on top. It was delicious. Cilantro really helps make it Mexican, too!!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Grillin' Some Rib Eyes

We love rib eye steak. Grilled up just right, it tastes wonderful with some creamed spinach, corn on the cob, maybe some fried okra, a crunchy salad with a tasty vinaigrette, and a bottle of some local red wine. Wow.

Steak doesn't need smoking. It can be grilled in a matter of minutes, so here's what I did to "dress it up" a bit. The rub was Traeger's Salmon Rub. I think this stuff might be good on peanut butter sandwiches. I put copious amounts of the rub on both sides of the meat and put in the fridge for a couple of hours, cleaned the grill, spread a little vegetable oil on the grill, turned it on high and closed the lid.

When the grill was "smokin'," I dropped the steak on and let it sizzle on each side for about 3 1/2 minutes. The steak was almost an inch thick, so this gave us the perfect medium-rare steak we love. Oh yeah, about two minutes into the sizzle, I turned the steak 45 degrees to give it that beautiful cross-hatch.

It was simply, to die for!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Tuna Steak

We purchase most of our salmon at Costo because the prices are hard to beat. For some time now I've noticed their tuna steaks just down a few feet from the salmon. Now I've never been a great fan of tuna, having eaten it only as a sandwich staple; but these steaks look intriguing. They are the color of ... red wine?...and they are about an inch thick. But how do you cook them?

There are only two recipes in Smoke & Spice. I looked online and found it difficult and tiresome finding a "smoked tuna" recipe . . . nothing looked, good. Then I took another look at the Traeger cookbook and found "Dave's Great Tuna Steaks" recipe.

The marinade calls for olive oil, lemon juice, lemon peel, garlic clove, a bit of dry oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Marinade the steaks for 30 mins while the Traeger heats up to max temp . . . about 420 degrees. Cook for about 7 minutes until the fish turns white, the turn the fish over and cook a few more minutes. BE CAREFUL NOT TO OVERCOOK.

Well, I don't think I overcooked because the interior of the steaks were too rare.

Next time: Wait for the smoker to reach an even higher temp and wait until the fish is more white than it was this time. I noticed that it was white'r,' but it wasn't really "white." So just a few more minutes on a higher grill; that oughta work.

Bourbon-Glazed Ribs

The recipe is on page 69 of Smoke & Spice, the pre-mo smoken' cookbook of the age. Yesterday was my second attempt at this "smokin'" meal, and I think it came out like, "wow."

I didn't use the rub in the recipe, the one that calls for paprika and chili powder. I used Traeger's "Salmon Rub." Salmon rub on a slab of ribs? I licked my finger and touched it to the rub and rubbed it across my tongue. Yeah, it was good, real good. I checked out the Traeger site and found since they developed this rub, they have found it works on pork, beef, veggies and just about everything else. Next time I use this recipe, I'll use it again!

The mop is fun! 3/4 cup bourbon and 3/4 cup cider vinegar mopped on at 1 1/2 and 3 hours. What I like is the odor of the bourbon and way it sizzles when added to the meat.

In the past I have tried to use intuitive judgement as to how to manipulate the temps as Smoke & Spice always calls for 200 to 240 degrees, and Traeger recipes move from a few minutes on "smoke" (140 to 180 degrees), to starting on medium (225 to 300) or high (325 -450). I've decided to go with the Smoke & Spice temps until I know better.

What I really like about this recipe is the sauce: it calls for butter, vegetable oil, onions, bourbon, ketchup, cider vinegar, orange juice, maple syrup, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. The recipe is created for 3 slabs of ribs and that's probably close enough. Yesterday, for some odd reason, I was thinking last time it wasn't enough. Well, the reason is because rather than cook on low for "about 40 minutes" to thicken the mix, I cook it on low for about 4 hours, stirring frequently and getting it thick; like those bbq sauces you buy in the store.

At about 3 hours and 15 mins of smoking at 220 - 240 (as called for in Smoke & Spice) you apply the sauce at least once, maybe two or three times, until 4 hours. It carmelizes beautifully. I brushed the sauce on three times.

At 4 hours, I took the ribs off the smoker and into the kitchen where I let the meat rest for about 10 minutes before cutting the individual ribs and stacking them in a plate. Once stacked, I brushed on more of the sauce and had plenty left over.

Was it good? My oh was simply, to die for.

Apple City Baby Back Ribs

Ok, so I have a little experience under my belt with the new Traeger Smoker. I've done ribs a few times and received rave reviews from family and friends. A few weeks ago, using a recipe from the Smoke & Spice cookbook, I put together one fine bunch of ribs called, "Apple City Baby Back Ribs."

The soak is made up of 1 1/2 cups of apple juice; the Rub has brown sugar, ground cinnamon, and dry mustard; and the mop contains 1 1/2 cup of apple cider or juice and 1/2 cup of cider vinegar.

Apple pellets light the fire and the smoke was heavenly to smell.

The ribs were, what can I say, marvelous. The apple brought out a flavor not many have tasted and it was worth all the effort.

All that being said, we agree the Bourbon-Glazed Spare Ribs are the BOMB!! Check the next post to find out more about them.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

To Smoke, or Not to Smoke

That question in the title of this post became moot as soon as I tasted my buddy's ribs which he had smoked on his Big Green Egg. As soon as I got home and ordered the cookbook, I started my search for smokers here where we live. It didn't take long. I found the Green Egg and looked the multiple styles and sizes over; then I went home and let that information slosh around in my head for a week or two. Once it began to settle like so much sediment in a dirty, slow moving, river, I asked my wife if she would like to go look at them.

So here we are, checking out the Green Eggs. These smokers originated in China. They have thick porcelain walls that act as perfect insulators so that temperatures can be held at almost perfect settings for hours and hours, by utilizing small amounts of charcoal. They are expensive, but now that I have tasted the milk and honey, I am convinced they would be worth that price and more. I have a model picked out, my wife likes it too.

"Are you guys going to buy a Green Egg?" the tall man said as he approached us.

I looked at him and replied, "Certainly thinking about it."

"Have you seen the Traegers?"

And that's where our plan went askew; and to make a long story short, this guy, who was a customer like ourselves, "sold" us a Traeger smoker. Though I have lamented in earlier posting that I was interested in going back to charcoal, the thing that fascinated me about the Traeger is that it uses no charcoal. It uses wood pellets: pellets made of apple, maple, cherry, hickory, mesquite, etc., trees - all the smoke, none of the potentially harmful chemicals found in briquets.

I have fired it up four and five times now and we have had some delightful ribs, steaks, and chicken.

In future posts I'll be telling you about some of them!!

Grillin', Barbecuein', and Smokin'

Way back when we were first married, we started purchasing the cheapest barbecue sets we could find. Back then we couldn't afford much; but even before that, in college I once set up a barbecue using the lid off an aluminum garbage can, some briquets, and a rack out of the oven. The chicken I burned on that set-up was delicious!

My dad started barbecueing in probably 1955/56. I was in the second, maybe, third grade. He was a plumber-pipefitter and had access to more than anyone's share of 55 gallon drums. He laid one on its side, cut it in half, put a couple hinges on the backside, added some flattened iron around the edges, put in a couple of shelf holders to hold the rack, inserted an exhaust pipe (about 2 1/2 inch diameter that was elbowed about the same distance from the edge of the barrel and pointing upward to a point just above the top of the barrel), put a small hinged door on the side so he could add and remove charcoal as needed, put the whole thing on a stainless steel stand with two wheels and brought it home. We ate off that ol' boy until I was well past college and married. In fact, not long after the unit finally gave up the ghost, so did my dad.

One year for Christmas, my sister and her husband and my wife and I all went together and bought him a gas grille. He never put it together. I remember checking his face for some degree of acceptance of the gift when he learned what it was. All I remember is a look that said, "What the hell is this for?" It was almost like we had offended him and his old black barbecue. I guess it was just that gas grilles had become all the rage and we thought he would want to be up with the times, like we were. Ha.

So, now, my wife and I have purchased the cheapest units we could find, for over thirty years. Back before gas grilles we had a few charcoal burners. The one I remember most was the small one. It had probably a 20 inch diameter and was about 3 inches deep. I had one of those funky electric starters that you put in the bowl, poured the briquets over and hoped for the best. Our front porch had a long overhand and I would set the unit up out there and run a cord out the front door and burn the hell outa chickens, steaks, and hamburgers. Man, it was good.

But a couple years ago I began hungerin' for the old charcoal briquet way of cooking food. So last year I spent a couple hundred bucks on a nice unit. It had a large bowl and I did some research and learned about indirect grilling and how to put hickory, maple, and mesquite chips into the embers. Something my dad had done 50 years ago. We began eating some pretty good food. I learned it is quite difficult to burn meat when it is cooked indirectly. I watched the food network, read a couple books and began to get excited about this type of cooking; then I went to visit an old high school buddy that I hadn't seen in 24 years.

He taught me the difference between grilling and true barbecueing (smoking). He showed me his Big Green Egg and he smoked up some of the finest ribs I had ever eaten; and he showed me the cookbook he uses. When I got home, I bought the cookbook off Amazon for an amazingy low price (check out the "new and used" section); then I started looking at smokers.