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Cattlemens Kansas City Classic Sauce

14 Aug
Homemade mop sauce and spritz.

Homemade mop sauce and spritz.

Allen makes most of his own sauces, but I’ve never been inspired to try.  Maybe I’m just lazy, but I’d rather find a really good bottled sauce and focus my effort on cooking the meat and sides.  As a result. I’m constantly buying and trying new sauces, trying to find the best one.

Cattlmens BBQ Sauce

Cattlemens BBQ Sauce

Recently I heard that Cattlemens is the bbq sauce used by most chain restaurants.  If they aren’t using it straight, they are using it as a base for their own custom recipes.   Heck, if you go to their website, they have a whole section about how to doctor up their sauce, so I’m guessing that its true.

We recently tried Cattlemen’s Kansas City Classic with some grilled chicken breasts.  Its a Kansas City style sauce – thick and sweet and tomato based.  Its not excessively sweet and its spice level is mild.  We immediately recognized it as a sauce we’d tasted before – like what you get with chicken nuggets at fast food restaurants.  Its not bad, but its not remarkable.

We used up the second half of the bottle with a pork loin.  But this time Allen doctored up by thinning it with some vinegar and adding some spice.  This made it tangy and hot and pretty darned good.  I think this would be a good sauce if you used it in a recipe (like my BBQ Potato Salad).  It would also be a great choice for someone that is interested in customizing their bbq sauce, but isn’t brave enough yet to start from scratch – like BBQ training wheels.

One a scale of 1 to 10, I would give this a 5.  Its pretty average, but has potential with some hot sauce added.

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Chasing Smoke

12 Aug

I woke up 3 am Sunday morning to the smell of smoke.  After checking to make sure the house wasn’t on fire, I went back to bed.  By daylight, the smell was stronger and a haze of smoke hung in the air.  A check of the internet revealed that a small wildfire had started northeast of Foresthill.

The American Fire.

The American Fire.

I had planned to cook a big Sunday supper, and since it was smokey already, I figured it was a good time to run the smoker. I rubbed a chuck roast with one of Allen’s mixtures and threw it in the smoker for a quick two hours of smoke.  My goal wasn’t to cook it, but rather to give it some flavor before I cubed it and made chili.

Dipping water from Sugar Pine Reservoir.

Dipping water from Sugar Pine Reservoir.

While the chili was simmering, we ran up to the lake to watch the helicopters get water for the fire.  These guys were working hard all day fighting the fire – true heros!  We really appreciate the work they do to protect our homes.

Smoky chili with Texas toast

Smoky chili with Texas toast

After our trip to the lake, we ate chili.  The idea of smoking it was an experiment, and it turned out pretty great.  The meat had the perfect level of smoke and added a richness to the chili. I was worried that I hadn’t made it hot enough, but spice level was just right and didn’t cover the smoke.  There was something missing – Allen thinks more garlic, but I’m not sure.  We have some more work to do one the recipe, but it should be ready to go public soon.

Smiley Guys Smokehouse

11 Aug
Smiley Guys sign

Sign over Smiley Guy’s kitchen

I have a confession: We love Smiley Guys Smokehouse.

Heading into Smiley Guys.

Heading in to Smiley Guys.

We go there every chance we get, which isn’t nearly often enough because it is 40 miles away in Grass Valley California.  We were in Grass Valley last night for the Nevada County Fair (best county fair ever!) and stopped by Smiley Guy’s on the way to grab some dinner.  BBQ is better than fair food any day.

The menu has a good variety of meat choices – including tri-tip and tempeh, which we don’t often see at BBQ joints.  They dry smoke all the meats with a robust pellet mixture.  If you like smoke, you’re gonna get it here.  First you choose your meat,  then your pick how you want it served – sandwich, salad, or  platter.  You can also buy meat by weight.   Oooh, and the sides!!  In my opinion this is what sets them apart from other local joints.  Everything is home made and the portions are large.  Hand-cut fries – yum!  And the home made sweet potato chips are great too.  We haven’t had a side yet here that we haven’t loved.

Honestly – we have really enjoyed everything we have tried here over the years.  It is hard to decide what to order because you have to pick between trying something new and something you already know you love.

HOT!!! wings.

HOT!!! wings.

Last night we started off with some hot wings.  The menu has a few “small plates”, and this was our first time trying any of them.  These may be the best wings I have ever eaten!!! They make their own hot wing sauce and it is HOT!  It includes a variety of peppers, including habaneros, and they have done a great job making it spicy without making it bitter.  And its also not super vinegary like many sauces are.  Its just perfect.  But be warned – its hot.  You’ll want some ranch for dipping and a cold beverage to douse the fire.

Plate o' Pork

Plate o’ Pork

Allen decided to go straight for the meat and pass the sides.  He ordered a half pound of the pulled pork and topped it with their homemade Texas BBQ sauce.  Tender, moist, hand pulled and delicious.  I stole a few bites and dunked it in some of the very tasty Memphis sauce.  This is good stuff.

Pulled pork sandwich and slaw.

Pulled pork sandwich and slaw.

If you can’t tell by know, I live with some pulled pork lovin’ boys.  Jake ordered the pulled pork sandwich with a side of slaw.  Same juicy, smoky pork on a freshly sliced french roll.  He topped it with the Anja sauce, which he describes as a mild sweet bbq sauce.  Like all the other sides, the slaw is made in store.  Its crunchy with a mild sauce and a bit of celery seed.  The slaw may be my least favorite thing on the menu, but its still pretty good (I think Allen’s spicy slaw creations have spoiled me).

Worlds Best Cobb Salad

Worlds Best Cobb Salad

Right now they have a cobb salad on special.  I love cobb salads, so I had to try it.  A fresh mix of spring greens are topped with tons of blue cheese, smoked chicken, bacon, avocado, eggs, tomatoes and onions.  I topped it with their delicious homemade ranch dressing.  The smokey chicken pairs perfectly with the blue cheese.  This was the best cobb salad I’ve ever had!  And the portion was huge – you could easily split it with another person, throw in a small plate appetizer and have a very full meal.  I really hope they make this a permanent menu item.

A few more important things to note.  The service is great.  Even though its a causal dining experience where you order at a counter, the staff stopped by to see if we were happy with our food and answered all my questions about how they run their smoker and make their wing sauce.  The also have a big selection of beers, including lots of northern California microbreweries.  Allen loves that they have North Coast Brewing’s Scrimshaw pilsner on tap.  Its yet another thing that keeps bringing us back.

Who needs fair games?

Who needs fair games?

Besides great food, they also have a fun atmosphere.  With a pool table and darts, its a great place to hang out on a Saturday night.  Heck, I almost didn’t want to leave to go to the fair.

I can’t say enough good things about Smiley Guys.  We have eaten there at least five times now and always walk away full and happy.  Find a reason to drive up to Grass Valley and “get yer belly full”.  You’ll be glad you did.

Pork Plundering!!!

9 Aug

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There has been a pig-napping in Auburn!  Super Porky, the mascot of the local BBQ joint, the Flying Pig, was stolen over the weekend.  The local newspaper, local radio station, and a Sacramento TV station have all reported about Porky’s disappearance.  The owners have even placed posters around town and offered a reward for his safe return (I think they are paying in pulled pork).

Flying Pig

Flying Pig

Being a good BBQ hunter, I thought it was best for me to visit the crime scene. I stopped by during lunch to offer my investigative services and grab some lunch.  Well, ok, I just stopped by to grab some lunch, but I did ask a few questions. The Flying Pig is a family owned business that has been operating for about a year and a half.  Their menu is centered around the “Central Texas Market Style” servings of their meats: brisket, pulled pork, ribs, turkey, and polish sausage.  Market style means they sell the meat by the pound, and you can order portions ranging from a quarter of a pound to 40 pounds.  All meat comes with a serving of corn bread.  They also offer a number of sandwiches featuring their smoked meats and three sides: potato salad, coleslaw, and beans.  Lastly,   they serve three kinds of dessert:  pineapple upside-down cake, fruit cobbler and banana pudding.

Pulled Pork Lunch

Pulled Pork Lunch

In honor of Porky, I ordered some pulled pork and a side of coleslaw.  I really liked how I could order as much meat as I wanted, depending on how hungry I was.  Today I ordered ⅓ a pound, which was just right for lunch.  The meat came pre-sauced, but bottles of extra sauce are available on each table.  They only have one sauce here – a red sauce which is lightly sweet and tangy, with a bit of spice.  It was really good – I even dipped my corn bread in it!  The coleslaw is made with a chipotle aioli. At first the flavor seemed a little bland, but the heat kinda snuck up on me and by the end I was really digging it.  The best part, all of that food was just over $6 – about the cost of a fast food combo, but way better!

Rib Special

Rib Special

On the way out, I noticed that Thursdays is their rib special – half a rack for $7.49.  Why didn’t I see that before I ordered?!?!  Oh well, a reason to come back with Mr. BBQHunter.

And I will be back.  This is the best BBQ in Auburn, hands down.  And the best part, the people that own it are super friendly and do a lot for the community – its the kind of local business we like to support.  And hopefully, they’ll find their pig soon.  On the bright side, the theft has resulted in lots of free advertising, and I hope it brings them many new customers.

Ribs Tutorial

7 Aug

Another late night of football practice, and Mama is tired!   I want to get something up on the blog, since I haven’t posted in a few days, so I’m going to be lazy and steal one of Allen’s old facebook posts.  He took these photographs after a few friends had asked how he makes his ribs.  It provides a good instruction on how to make great ribs, so its worth sharing again.

A couple of things before you start.  First – this is not a quick process.  You will be layering flavors on the ribs in a number of steps.  Plan to take the time needed to prepare the ribs and cook them for a few hours while providing close oversight.  Second – buy good quality meat.  I recommend finding a butcher you trust and will get you the cuts you want, even if its unusual or special order.  Here in Auburn, we go to Longhorn Meats.

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Step 1 – Marinade

Before you cook your ribs, you need to prep them.  Trim the ribs to lengths that will fit in your smoker and remove the silver skin from the underside.  Place them in your marinade and let them rest for a good while.  How long you ask? Well, it depends.  In this instance, the ribs marinaded for about 4 hours.  Other times, we have let them soak overnight.  The nature of your marinade and how much flavor you want will influence your decision about how long to keep the ribs in the marinade.  Because we are talking process and not recipes in the post, I’ll leave that decision to you.

Step 2 - Rub

Step 2 – Rub

Now its time to get the smoker ready.  We like to use milder wood for smoking ribs – like apple or pecan.  After soaking your chips/chunks, get them going in the smoker.  While you are waiting for the smoke to develop, remove the ribs from the marinade, pat them dry and apply your rub.

Step 3- Prepare your glaze and use it.

Step 3- Prepare your sauces.

While the ribs are smoking make the sauce and the spritz/mop. If you’re ok with settling for mediocre ribs you can skip this step and just buy store bought sauce.  But we highly recommend doing this step, as it will really improve your ribs.  Besides making your own sauce is fun.   Spritz or mop the ribs every half hour to keep them moist and give them another layer of flavor.

Step 4 - Finish the Ribs.

Step 4 – Finish the Ribs.

We have found that about 2.5 hours is plenty of time to cook the meat and give a good smokey flavor.  At that time, they go in a pan and are covered liberally with the sauce. Cover the pan in foil and throw them back in the smoker.  After half an hour, turn the smoker off, but leave the ribs in for another half hour as they slowly cool down.

Ready to serve.

Step 5 – Ready to serve.

You’re ready to eat.  Slice them apart and serve them up.

Chow Time!

Chow Time!

BBQ Potato Salad

5 Aug

I spent some time over the weekend reading about how to improve my food photography.   Apparently flashes are bad, which explains the odd lighting and reflections I’ve been struggling with.  Close ups at odd angles seem to be good, but I haven’t figured that out yet.  Generally, most of my pictures have been crap, like this.

An example of my bad food photography

What do you mean adding a cloth napkin doesn’t help?

On Sunday I decided to practice some of the tips I had learned.  I was planning to grill a couple of chickens for dinner and thought I should whip up some potato salad to go with them.  I wanted to try something a little different, so I decided to make a BBQ version.  I didn’t really have a recipe, but improvised with things I found in the fridge.

It starts with ptatoes

It starts with potatoes

I bought a monster size bag of red potatoes at Costco this week, which inspired the potato salad.  I boiled and cubed about three pounds of potatoes.  I took this picture to see if I could get decent natural light from the windows near the kitchen counter.  I think the lighting is much better than when I was using a flash, but the composition isn’t great.

Lots of onions.

Lots of onions.

We love onions, so I wanted lots in the salad.  I chopped an entire bunch and added them to the potatoes.  This picture was another attempt at using the natural light from the nearby windows.  I think the lighting is good, but the focus is terrible.  I’m struggling to get close and keep my hands steady.  Next time I’ll use the mini tripod.

Peppers - jalapeno and bell

Peppers – jalapeno and bell

I wanted to add some spice, so I diced a jalapeno pepper.  Note the pepper corer in the picture.  If you cook with a lot of jalapenos like we do, you need to invest in one of these.  A corer makes is easier to get the seeds out while minimizing the amount of juice you get on your hands – which in turn minimizes the risk of rubbing your eyes and crying for the next 30 minutes. (Not that this has ever happened to me).  I had half a red bell pepper hanging out in the fridge, so I diced it too.  This picture was my lame attempt at an interesting layout.  I wanted to feature the corer next to the peppers. The camera focused on the red peppers instead –  so my focus point is out of focus.  Maybe its time to learn how to manually focus the camera. 

My favorite store bought sauce.

My favorite store bought sauce.

Now for the dressing.  I mixed up some mayonnaise and sour cream and thinned them just a bit with some milk.  Salt and pepper to taste and a healthy shot of barbecue sauce.  I had a bottle of Rufus Teague in the fridge with not enough sauce for the grill, but too much to throw away – so I dumped it in the dressing.  By the way, Rufus is my favorite store bought sauce.  Sometimes you don’t have time, or just don’t feel like bothering with making your own sauce.  On those occasions, we use Rufus.  Its no too sweet and the “Touch of Heat” has a nice level of spice.  This is the best photo of this post.  That’s because Allen took it for a future blog post reviewing BBQ sauces.  I like the lighting and aspect.  Maybe I should just let him take that the photographs.

Everything is better with bacon or cheese...or both!

Everything is better with bacon or cheese…or both!

After stirring the dressing into the potato, onion and pepper mixture, I added the last two ingredients:  bacon and cheddar cheese.  Everything is better with bacon.  I even put a little of the bacon grease in to the dressing to add a smokey flavor.  I figured at some point I would need to photograph the mixing bowl, but I have no clue how to do that artfully.  Seems like maybe a bit closer would have been better.

BBQ Potato Salad

BBQ Potato Salad

The finished product.  It tastes great.  I even like this photo.  But I played around and took another one from a slightly different angle:

More potato salad.

More potato salad.

I think this one is ok – I’m starting to get a feel for the lighting.  But I like the first one best – its a bit closer, a bit more focused, and I think the fork is more interesting than the dish towel.

So I learned a few things, but need much more practice.  Maybe that will inspire me to create more recipes.  In the meanwhile, here is the recipe for the potato salad:

BBQ Potato Salad

4 slices of bacon

3 pounds of red potatoes

6-8 green onions, chopped

1 jalapeno, diced

1/3 red bell pepper, diced

1/2 c mayonnaise

1/2 c sour cream

1T bacon grease

splash of milk

1/4 c BBQ Sauce

Salt

Pepper

1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

  1. Fry the bacon, drain, and crumble,  Save some of the bacon grease for the dressing.
  2. Boil the red potatoes whole, and when tender, drain.  Cube into bite-sized pieces.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the potatoes, onions, and peppers.
  4. In a smaller bowl, mix the mayonnaise, sour cream, bacon grease, milk, salt and pepper (to taste).
  5. Add the dressing to the potatoes and stir till well coated.
  6. Mix in the bacon and cheddar cheese.

Serves 8 – 10.

Restuarant Review – Bam Dazy BBQ

3 Aug

We were running some errands in town and decided to grab some food at Bam Dazy BBQ in Auburn.

Bam Dazy BBQ

Bam Dazy BBQ

I was a little worried when only one other car was in the parking lot at 5:30 on a Saturday night.  I also couldn’t smell any smoke and the bbq outside didnt look like it had seen fire in quite some time.

The menu consisted of platters and sandwiches featuring ribs, pulled pork, brisket and chicken.  The had a variety of sides, including cole slaw, potato salad, fries, onion rings, beans and macaroni and cheese.  The full menu can be viewed on the Bam Dazy website.  I ordered the brisket platter with cole slaw and sweet potato fries.  Allen orded the pulled pork sandwich with macaroni and cheese.  And Jake ordered the pulled pork melt with fries.

Sauce choices.

Sauce choices.

While we waiting for our food, we sampled the sauces provided at each table.  The Hog Sauce was sweet and didn’t have much in the way of spice.  The Southern Heat was spicy and tangy – kind of like a Carolina style sauce.  And the black berry was kinda gross – this sweet, fruity syrup might work on vanilla ice cream, but I didn’t want it near meat.

Brisket platter

Brisket platter

I was really disappointed in my platter.  The brisket was very dry and lacked flavor – no sign of any rub and zero smoke flavor. I poured on the Southern Heat sauce, which made the meat a bit better, but it still wasn’t great.   I was looking forward to the sweet potato fries, as Yelp reviews raved about them.  But they were disappointing too, as they were under-cooked and mushy.  The slaw was probably the best thing on the platter, but the sauce seemed to be little more than mayo with some celery salt.

Allen had eaten half his pulled pork sandwich by the time I was done photographing my food, so I didn’t bother with a photo.  His pork was also very dry and lacked smokiness.  He said the mac n cheese was “decent” but reminded him of the Stouffers brand I used to make.

Pulled Pork Melt

Pulled Pork Melt

I thought Jake’s sandwich was pretty gross, but he said it was “just ok”.  He didn’t like it well enough to eat more than half of it, which I think says something when an active, teenage boy passes on food.  The sandwich had the same dry tasteless pulled pork, swiss cheese, slaw and a spicy pineapple sauce.  Jake thought the pineapple sauce didn’t go well with the slaw and wishes he had asked for the slaw to be left off the sandwich.  I didn’t see or taste any sign of the cheese, which was probably best because I don’t think it would have meshed well with the pineapple sauce.  Jake did manage to eat all the fries, which he thought were pretty good.

As we were walking back to the car, Allen said the simple review would be “Don’t Bother.”  I really wanted to like this place – we love to support local businesses and wish we had a really great BBQ place near home.  But Bam Dazy isn’t it.  In the end, I wished we had saved our time and money and grabbed a take out burger on the drive home instead.

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