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Joined by our passion for meat, beer, cards and meat, we created a compitition bbq team to partake in just that.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Salmon on the Smoker!

Salmon on the smoker!

This is not "smoked salmon". Smoked salmon is technically a piece of salmon that is brined and then cold smoked (under 95F). At the end of the process the salmon is cured. After it is cured it is ready to eat. You are more familiar with smoked salmon as lox or in the gold foil pack that you can get in the Seattle airport or as a holiday gift. This recipe is for smoking salmon - in other words - cooking salmon on a smoker!

There are plenty of ways to prepare salmon - specifically brining the fish. E-mail me and I'll get you some killer brining recipes for salmon but in this case, I didn't have the extra 4 - 5 hours to brine it properly so I used a really great dry rub to get some killer flavor on that fish....

I used Simply Marvelous Apple Rub. It has the perfect balance of sweet and spicy with a hint of apple wood that makes this fish sing. Do yourself a favor - visit this site and purchase a sample pack. You will NOT be disappointed! You can use your favorite dry rub but make sure that it doesn't have too much salt or heat. You want a little sweetness to pull this flavorful fish through.

Sprinkle on a heavy layer of the rub on both sides. Don't be shy with this rub.

Let this rub sit on the fish for 30 or so minutes to let it melt into the fish and let that flavor penetrate a bit.

While you're waiting for the dry rub to melt into the fish, get the sides ready A perfect side for this dish is some bacon wrapped asparagus. It takes about 60 minutes on medium or 275 F grate temp to finish up the bacon. You can't rush bacon!

I used Grill Grates to cook this fish on. Fish can get tender and fall apart during cooking. I realize that on a smoker you usually don't have to flip the meat cooking but I wanted to get some grill marks on the fish - it came out perfect.

I smoked the fish and bacon wrapped asparagus using a blend of apple and oak pellets at a grate temp of 250F. You could also cook these in the oven at the same temp but watch out for the bacon drippings in the oven. On a gas grill you should cook on indirect heat and use the Grill Grates. The fat drippings from the bacon could easily start a flare up fire.

On a side note - get these Grill Grates if you have a propane or charcoal grill and can't cook using indirect heat. They will improve your cooking technique and make you look like a pro!
Here's a shot of the fish after they've been flipped. Looking great!

Let's plate this chow up - salmon on the smoker, bacon wrapped asparagus and some steamed rice.

Here's a shot of the salmon cracked open with a fork. Super moist and really full of flavor. The dry rub and fish oil on the plate mixed with the rice added to the side.

Let's eat!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Rib Eye Steak!

There's not too many things better than a steak grilled to perfection! Rib Eye is a great steak to cook on a charcoal grill - it has plenty of fat marbled throughout, no bones to worry about, not too expensive, easy to find, and usually a large enough cut to satisfy almost everyone.

I think steak preparation should be as simple as possible. Salt, pepper, and some Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Start by drizzling a bit of olive oil on each piece of meat and rub it into the meat so it is even. The olive oil isn't mandatory so if you don't have any don't worry about it. I would NOT suggest using any other type of oil as a substitute.

Shake on a healthy dose of Kosher Sea Salt and then add Course Ground Pepper or fresh ground pepper on top.

I let the salt / pepper rest on top of the meat for an hour or so. The salt melts into the meat getting that flavor deep inside.

Set up your charcoal grill for offset cooking. I use a loaf pan in the middle to keep the coals on one side. You can also utilize the loaf pan to add some moisture for longer cooks or to add a little flavor option like sweet onions. I cut a whole sweet onion in quarters and throw them in the kettle. As the heat reaches the onions, the flavor slowly releases and permeates hints of flavor into the meat.

When the coals are hot it's time to get to cooking.

I sear the steaks directly over the super hot coals for 2 - 3 minutes per side. After the steaks are seared, I move them over to the indirect side. Popular opinion is that searing the steaks seals the juices into the meat. I think this is a wives tale and doesn't have any effect on the juiciness of the meat. I sear it to get the cooking process started and create those grill marks that people like to see as well as some crispness on the surface of the steak to give each bite a little crunch and texture different from the inside of the steak.

I put a couple of portabella mushrooms on the grate right outside of the direct heating zone. A great way to make an appetizer or to add to the steak.

After the steaks are all seared, move them over to the indirect zone and put the cover over the grate so the steaks can slowly come up to the desired internal temp.

Lots of "real men" can tell how a steak is cooked by pressing on it or comparing the resistance to your palm or nose. I say another wives tale. Get yourself a reliable meat thermometer. I use a super fast Pink Thermapen. A standard dial thermometer is more than fine. The Thermapen is instant and easy to read so this is an indispensable tool for me. When the temp hits the desired temperature, pull the steak and place on a plate for 5 - 10 minutes and let it rest.

Time to eat! Throw that steak on a plate after it rests for a few minutes. Add your favorite sides - garlic mashed potatoes, grilled vegetables, and maybe some onions and mushrooms.

Let's eat!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

BBQ Tools - Charcoal Chimney Starter

BBQ Tools - Charcoal Chimney Starter

Remember the days when your dad used to see how much lighter fluid he could squirt on top of a pile of charcoal placed in the middle of the grill? Then throw a match from 5 feet away so the 15 foot tall flame wouldn't burn his eyebrows off? OK - maybe it was just my dad - but I doubt it. The coals still took years before we could finally put the meat on because they had to be white - it was a rule. More wives tales - these days are over!

Enter the charcoal chimney. Now, this isn't a new device. In fact - my original BBQ mentor - Biggest Daddy Black - or Grandpa - used an old coffee can with all kinds of nail holes poked in it. Of course, he still used lighter fluid and had to use some crazy horse shoe tong things to pick the coffee can up so he wouldn't burn himself.

Today we have it easy. Run down to any hardware store and pick up a charcoal chimney. There are all kinds of brands but they all look basically the same - a large coffee looking can thing with all kinds of holes and a handle. I use the Weber model because - well - it looked the coolest and was still around $15.

Why use one of these contraptions? Two reasons:

  1. No one - and I mean no one should be using easy light, match lite, or whatever kind of charcoal rookies use that are pre-soaked in some type of accelerant so they don't use too much lighter fluid and burn their eye brows off.

  2. No one - and I still mean no one - should use lighter fluid. Period.
Why not? Because I don't care how cool Myron Mixon looks on the TV squirting a half bottle of lighter fluid on his coals - you don't want to have any of that lighter fluid flavor in your food. It's disgusting!

Other reasons:

  • It doesn't speed things up.

  • It costs money (that you could spend on beer or meat).

  • Now you have to store a hazardous fluid around the house.

  • It could ruin an otherwise great piece of meat.

  • It's cooler to use a BBQ "tool" - aka toy.

So if you can't use lighter fluid and you can't use charcoal pre soaked in lighter fluid, then how do you get the coals going?

A charcoal chimney of course! Doesn't matter if you want to light 1lb of charcoal or a whole 20lb bag. The charcoal chimney does the trick.

There are several ways to get the coals lit. You can see the bottom of the chimney is wide open and there is a space under the wire bottom to place some type of lighting device. Some people use newspaper or a paper plate but the thing that works best for me is two paper towels with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil poured into them. I like this set up because no matter how windy it is, the oil soaked paper towels don't go out. The oil also acts as an accelerant (food grade) and helps the paper towels produce a large hot flame that really gets the coals going quickly. The paper towels also don't produce the ash that news paper does.

The charcoal chimney holds about 5 lbs of charcoal when filled to the top. Once the paper towel is lit the charcoal will lite in just a few minutes. As soon as the charcoal is lit - you'll know because it will be on fire and hot - you can dump it into the grill.

The old rule that the coals have to be white is not true. Most people probably used this rule of thumb because they wanted to make sure the lighter fluid was burned off. Since we are no longer using lighter fluid, this rule is no more!

A full chimney of charcoal takes about 15 minutes before the flames reach the top and the entire chimney is ready. A few coals only take a few minutes before they're ready.

Once the coals are ready you can dump them into the grill. In the above picture, I have the grill set up for offset cooking - all the coals are on one side for a direct heat zone and the other 2/3 is set up for offset or indirect cooking.

Remember the white coal rule that is no more? Since we are not using lighter fluid or charcoal that is pre-soaked in accelerant, you can pour a few lit coals on a pile of unlit coals for a longer burn. This is called the minion method and the coals that are lit will slowly light the coals that are next to them. A 20lb bag of coals in the proper set up can burn for up to 18 hours.

Now you never have to buy lighter fluid or pre-soaked charcoal ever again!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Smoked Armadillo Eggs

Smoked Armadillo Eggs is another easy to make appetizer or side that looks difficult to make and is so impressive looking when you slice them open - but the best part is - they taste fantastic! A perfect blend of jalapeno, cream cheese, sausage, and the secret ingredient - hard salami!

There are only a few ingredients for this recipe. The following quantities will make about 6 armadillo eggs:

6 large jalapenos

1/2 block of cream cheese

6 slices of hard salami

2lbs or so of Italian Sausage

Your favorite dry rub - I would choose something on the sweeter side to offset the heat from the peppers and the sausage. It will help create a great blend of flavors.

First scoop a small spoonful - or about a teaspoon - of cream cheese onto a slice of hard salami.

This process is identical to the first part of making ABT's (Atomic Buffalo Turds).

Next - core the jalapenos. You can use an infant spoon - this works perfect to core out the peppers because the spoon fits into the pepper and is rigid enough to scrape all the seeds out. Lay the pepper on the cutting board and slice along the length. Slip the spoon in and scrape the seeds out.

You can hold the pepper in one hand and it will pop open so it is easier to get access to the seeds.

Next, fold the hard salami into a taco shape and it will slip right into the pepper. This is easier than trying to spoon in the cream cheese and a lot less messy. This trick not only makes stuffing the pepper easier but adds a little flavor layer inside the pepper.

After the pepper is stuffed they are ready to be wrapped in bacon for ABT's or surrounded in a layer of sausage for Armadillo Eggs.

The trick to getting an even layer of sausage around the pepper is starting out with an even layer of sausage. I used Italian Sausage so I slit the casing and squeezed the meat out and into a 1 gallon zip lock bag. If you use a sausage chub - a tube of sausage meat available near the breakfast meats at your supermarket. Flatten out the meat inside the gallon zip lock while getting all the air bubbles out.

You now have a perfect, even layer of sausage meat. Open the zip lock and cut the two sides to expose the flattened layer of sausage meat.

Cut the stem off the pepper and lay the pepper onto your layer of sausage meat. Cut the sausage meat in a large enough piece so that you can wrap it around the pepper. Try and keep the sausage meat as even as possible around the pepper.

Finally - sprinkle a heavy does of your favorite dry rub over the entire egg. I used Simply Marvelous Sweet Seduction. The great thing about this rub is it is slightly sweet and adds some savory flavors that creates a nice flavor layer that blends perfectly with the rest of the ingredients.

I smoke these on the smoker or on a charcoal grill by cooking indirect at 225F for about 60 minutes. Since the ingredients on the inside do not require cooking, you only have to make sure the sausage meat is fully cooked. Since it should be a fairly thin layer, it shouldn't take too long. If you want to be sure, then you can make sure the internal temperature is at least 165F.

DO NOT cook these over a direct flame! The fat rendering out of the sausage will cause flare ups. If you are using a gas grill, turn the burners all the way to one side on low and cook the eggs on the opposite side. You can bake these in the oven too!

Your rub should give the outside of the eggs a nice color. You can glaze them with a sauce if you want but they probably don't need any.

The final result is really quite stunning looking. They are called Armadillo Eggs probably because they were developed in Armadillo country - otherwise known as Texas - and when you slice them open, the appearance of yolk from the jalapeno and cream cheese is obvious.

You can see the Scotch Eggs cooked at the same time in the background.

These were incredible tasting! Now - Let's eat!