Ribs for Fathers Day 2016

plated-ribs-fathers-day-2016For Fathers Day this year I did another long cook. Our Jewel store had St. Louis Cut Spareribs on sale two racks for the price of one, so ribs it was.

I started the Weber Kettle early in the day, setting it up with ten unlit coals on each side of a foil pan filled about halfway with water. I added four or five lit coals to each side, along with some apple and hickory chunks. One bottom vent was wide open, one completely closed and one open about halfway. Top vent was wide open as well.

Once the temperature stabilized at around 250 F, I put the slabs on a rib rack over the drip pan. I’d seasoned them the night before with my usual rub recipe. From then on it was a matter of monitoring the temperature and spraying the ribs each hour with a mist of apple juice, cider vinegar and coffee. After three hours, I wrapped them in foil and moved them to the Genesis to finish.

kettle-smokingThere’s something magical and Zen-like about a long cook. The smell of the smoke and the sight of it wafting over the patio is an experience unto itself. It’s satisfying to know that you’ve acquired the skill necessary to maintain an even temperature over several hours of cooking, and the other fairly specific skills needed to turn out a perfect plate of ribs. The pace of the cook affords time for relaxation and proper anticipation of the delicious meal to come.

We’re in the Gray Farms CSA this year, and one of the cool things about it is that we get a lot of produce that we likely wouldn’t think to try otherwise. It’s like this lovely surprise package every week. This week, we had both turnips and collards, which neither of us had ever cooked before. We diced the turnips and roasted them on the plancha, and the collards we cooked in a Lodge cast iron Dutch Oven on the Genesis. I cooked up some onions and garlic in the pot for starters, then added the collards, a dried cayenne, some stock and a couple of smoked ham hocks and let them simmer for a long time.

These turned out really delicious and they’re something we’d definitely make again.

I also melted some Brie on a cedar plank with a little blackberry jam drizzled over the top for an appetizer.

It’s always a pleasure to cook for the folks on Sunday, but it was especially fun to do a full day of cooking for my wife’s dad on Fathers Day. Since my own father passed away when I was very young, I feel especially grateful to have a wonderful father-in-law in my life, and appreciate every chance we have to spend time with him.

Argentine Asado Style Sunday Dinner

asado-dinner

This week for Sunday Dinner I had planned to do a long smoke with a less expensive alternative to beef brisket, a chuck roast. Having recently watched an episode of Barbecue Addiction where Bobby Flay did an Argentine cookout, I decided to try Chimmichurri sauce for the first time. The rest of the meal developed from research on typical Asado sides.

On Saturday night, I prepped the 3 pound roast with my usual rub. Since chuck is similar to brisket with a lot of connective tissue, it lends itself to a low and slow cook, so the plan was to cook it the same as I would a pork shoulder, with several hours at around 225 F on the Weber Kettle, than finishing it up wrapped in foil on the Genesis.

I also baked some polenta with parmigiana in a shallow two quart dish that night. It was the first time I’d ever made it, but it turned out great. I used this recipe from Martha Rose Shulman, adding some shredded Parm before the last stir and bake.

On Sunday morning, I set up the kettle with a water pan in the middle of the bottom grate and ten unlit coals on each side of it. Then I added eight lit coals and some Hickory and Cherry chunks.

water-smoker-setup-kettle

Once the Weber was up to 200 F and the top grate was clean, I placed the roast over the water pan, and kept an eye on the temperature, adjusting vents as needed to keep the grill around 225.

smoking-temp

I opened the grill at the end of each hour, adding coals and wood as needed, and checking the internal temp of the roast. I’d planned to take it up to 165 on the kettle, then wrap it in foil and move it to the gas grill to go up to 195, but I was delayed at the grocery store during the third hour and when I got back the coals in the kettle were completely cold. The roast only registered 135, but I wrapped it and moved it anyway.

The Chimmichurri sauce was dead easy. I put one bunch of flat leaf parsley (minus the stems) in a blender, along with some fresh oregano, ten chopped garlic cloves, 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar, 1/2 cup of olive oil, a little diced red onion and some salt and pepper. Once it was blended smooth, I gave it a taste and it was a little hot, so I added about another 1/4 cup of canola (we were out of EVOO) and that tamed it some. I thought that the heat was coming from the garlic and onion, but realized later that it was the oregano. If I make the sauce again, I’d use dried oregano instead.

While the roast continued to cook, I cut the polenta into squares and grilled it on the plancha in the Genesis for three or four minutes per side with a little olive oil spray.

grilled-polenta

I also cut up a red bell pepper, a couple of zucchini and yellow squash, and the rest of the red onion and grilled them in a veggie basket. This mixed grill turned out to be the best thing about the meal, for me. The only seasoning was salt and pepper, but it was really delicious.

I grilled a few Andouille sausages as well, meant to be appetizers, although we ended up eating them with the meal instead.

The final side was a hunk of Provolone cheese, melted in an iron skillet on the Genesis with some Herbs de Provence. It turned out to be a combination of gooey and crispy goodness that we spread on slices of baguette.

provoleta

Mrs. Noe made a nice salad, and I also used some of the Chimmichurri as dressing for that.

The roast was tender and flavorful, although if I’d left it cook just awhile longer it might have been a little better. I’d hoped for fork tender so we could shred it, but settled for slicing into servings and bite-size chunks. In any case there weren’t any complaints around the table.

What Asado would be complete without Malbec? We served a 2011 Alambrado Gran Seleccion that was the perfect pairing – deep and fruity with nice soft tannins.

I’ve not smoked brisket because it’s so damnably expensive, but I can’t imagine it being more flavorful or tender than the chuck roast, at nearly triple the price. Perhaps once I have the technique down pat I’ll be tempted to try one, but in the meantime roast will be my go-to cut of beef for a long cook.

Rotisserie Chicken on the Genesis

rotisserie-chicken-genesis

We usually light the Weber Kettle for rotisserie chicken, but last week I cooked one on the gas grill and it turned out perfect. I used a couple cups full of hickory chips, which helped. I took the bird off the spit after about an hour, and then put it on a foil pan to finish indirect.

Smoking Pork Shoulder

For Sunday Dinner this week, we thawed a 5 1/2 pound pork shoulder roast and smoked it.

I used the same rub as usual, but varied the process a little this time. It turned out much easier to maintain a constant temperature between 200 and 250 F.

I put ten unlit charcoal briquettes on each side of a drip pan filled 3/4 with water. Then I lit six briquettes, and put three on each side, along with some apple and hickory chunks. One bottom vent was completely closed, another was about half way open and the third was slightly open. The top vent was wide open this time. I checked the roast every hour, turning it over each time and spraying it with a mop of apple juice, cider vinegar and brewed coffee. I also added some unlit coals and a couple more chunks of wood after about two hours.

After four hours, it was up to around 130 F at the center. I wrapped it tightly in foil and put it on the gas grill over indirect low-medium heat. After another couple hours it was between 195 and 200, and ready to come off and rest for an hour before serving.

This turned out really tender, but not quite as flavorful as usual. I think this was because the roast wasn’t completely thawed until morning on the day of the cook, so I didn’t get a chance to rub it down the day before. It still had a decent bark, but needed some sauce to kick it up a little.

We served it on buns with mustard potato salad, tangy slaw, bean salad and pasta salad as sides. I’d picked up a bottle of J. Lohr Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon (on a great sale – only $13) and it paired well with the meal.

I’ve been wanting a Weber Smokey Mountain water smoker for quite awhile, but I’m beginning to think that it’s really not necessary. I’ll be tempted to try a beef brisket again before long.

Mini Apple and Pork Festival

Apple Glazed Pork Plated

For Sunday Dinner this week, we had our own mini Apple and Pork Festival. I used another recipe from our go-to source, Dad Cooks Dinner. This time it was boneless pork chops with apple cider brine and apple butter glaze. For sides, I cooked potatoes in a foil pan on the grill and made some wilted greens with balsamic vinegar on the stovetop. Then for dessert, I layered some thin Granny Smith Apple slices in a pan with brown sugar and cinnamon and baked it on the grill, topped with Cheddar Cheese and served with vanilla ice cream.

This is how the chops looked on the grill. They had some of the best quadrillage I’ve ever gotten.

Apple Glazed Pork Chops on the Grill

In the upper right corner of this shot, you can see my technique for getting some smoke flavor into the food on a gas grill. I simply put a chunk of wood on the grate above one of the burners. If it starts to actually flame, I move it down into the smoker box after snuffing. This seems to work better than soaking chips and putting them into the box, which is the recommended method from Weber.

Grilling Jack Daniels Pork Chops

Grilling Jack Daniels Pork Chops

For Sunday dinner yesterday, I grilled pork chops, marinated in Jack Daniels brine and finished with Jack Daniels glaze.

It’s another one of Mike Vrobel’s creations. I substituted Jack for the Jim Beam in his original recipe.

We served this with Wulff Salad, mustard potato salad and a wonderful cauliflower with mustard and cheese sauce that my wife makes.

We also had a growler of Lumpy Dog Brown ale from Rock Bottom to add to the fun.

Smoked Beef Brisket

Smoked Beef Brisket

There are several cuts of meat that are almost synonymous with “barbecue” depending on region. In Texas, they’re known for brisket. Considered by some to be “The Mount Everest of Barbecue,” this was the last of the large cuts that I was determined to cook this Summer. As it turned out, we sat down to Sunday Dinner just as Autumn rolled in for 2013.

I prepared the 7.5 pound flat-cut brisket on Saturday evening, salting it, slathering yellow mustard and Worcestershire Sauce on it and then applying a homemade rub of 2 t paprika, 1 t black pepper, 1 T turbinado sugar, 1 t cumin, 1 t garlic powder, 1 t onion powder, 1 t nutmeg and 1t Herbs de Provence. Come Sunday morning I removed it from the refrigerator and set up the Weber Kettle, putting a foil drip pan full of water on one side of the charcoal rack and spreading a chimney full of unlit charcoal on the other side. I then lit about a third of a chimney of additional coals, and poured them on top of the unlit ones, adding some Hickory and Cherry chunks for smoke.

Once the grill was up to temperature, I put the brisket on over the drip pan, fat side up. Using a dual probe thermometer I received for my birthday, I did my best to keep the temperature in the grill to around 250 F, adjusting the vents as needed during four hours of cooking. Every hour or so, I sprayed the brisket with equal parts brewed coffee, dark beer, apple juice and cider vinegar. I also rotated and turned the meat to ensure even cooking. After four hours the meat was measuring 160 degrees, so I pulled it off, wrapped it in foil and put it in the gas grill on indirect heat (again, at 250) to finish. After another hour-and-a-half, the meat had risen to 195 degrees and was ready to come off. We let it rest inside the foil for another hour prior to serving.

It turned out moist and flavorful, though at this point I made a rookie mistake, cutting it with the grain to serve it. My wife noticed this later as she removed the fat cap to store the rest of the brisket. The part that she carved against the grain was much more tender to chew. She poured the juices that we had reserved from the foil packet over the leftovers. The beef was still delicious today for lunch.

We served the beef with grilled asparagus, and a wonderful green bean & red potato salad with Dijon dressing that she made.

Other than proper carving, next time I would use more smoke, more pepper and more salt. Also, I think I might be tempted to cook it just a bit longer in the foil to get it “melt in your mouth” tender. This was good for a first attempt though, and I wouldn’t be intimidated to cook this cut again.

Pork Loin Char Siu

Pork Loin Char Siu

My Mother-In-Law had brought me a nice pork loin awhile back for cooking on the rotisserie, and this past week we decided to get it out of the deep freeze and cook it for Sunday dinner. I began researching recipes and ran across several for Char Siu, which is a Chinese pork barbecue. The literal translation is “fork roast” meaning roasted on a skewer. This sounded like just what I was after.

After a little refined searching, I found Trader Vic’s recipe for the dish. Although obviously Americanized (the marinade includes ketchup), it seemed easy enough to prepare with ingredients that were readily available to me, and recipes from Vic’s have always pleased my palate in the past.

The loin was about 5 3/4 pounds, so the first problem that presented itself was that I didn’t have anything large enough to marinate it in. I had seen in one of my reference books (Weber’s Way To Grill) that you can tie two pieces of loin together with butcher’s twine to make a properly sized roast for the rotisserie, so I cut the pork in half, removed much of the fat cap, and placed it in a gallon ziplock bag with equal parts ketchup, sugar, Soy Sauce and Hoisin (about half a cup of each). It marinated in the refrigerator overnight.

About an hour before cooking, I removed it from the fridge, trussed it together with the fat toward the outside and put it on the skewer, taking care to get the tines into both pieces of the roast. I cooked it over indirect high heat on the Weber Kettle with some Hickory chips on the charcoal.

Char Siu on Rotisserie

After about 50 minutes, it was getting close to 140 degrees (my target temperature was 140-150). At this point I removed it from the rotisserie, cut off the twine, and placed it fat side down in a 9×13 pan on the gas grill over indirect medium-high heat (about 450). I kept a close eye on the probe thermometer, and when the internal temperature of the meat topped 140, I removed it and brought it in to rest at room temperature. I toasted some sesame seeds and sprinkled them over the top of the roasts as a finishing touch.

We served this with mustard and sweet/sour sauce as condiments, with awesome garlic mashed potatoes and sweet corn that my wife had prepared as side dishes. She said later that it was the best pork she’d ever tasted in her life.

The flavor was quite a bit more subdued than I had anticipated. It was just sweet enough and just savory enough, with none of the strong flavors in the marinade overpowering the dish. The meat was perfectly done, juicy and tender. This is definitely a recipe that I’ll make time and again.