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.

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It’s time to step up your game.

8 Aug

If you’re good with a grill and have decided to take the next step and start smoking, I would highly recommend starting with this book.

Backyard BBQ: The Art of Smokology

Backyard BBQ

This is an excellent book if you’re just learning how to run a smoker, and it’s still my go-to book for smoking recipes.   I have a large stack of cookbooks for grilling and smoking and find myself coming back to this one all the time.  Along with his great recipes, he explains the basics of smoking for you.  There are bigger and fancier books out there, but Richard W. McPeake’s recipes are just plain good.

My bacon and bourbon bean recipe started with a recipe in this book that I modified to give more bite.

His twice smoked recipe for pulled pork is the best pulled pork I have ever had, and I’ve had a lot.

Smoked Bacon & Bourbon Beans

8 Aug

I remember when I was growing up my grandma was famous for her baked beans.  They were a staple at every family reunion and in high demand at functions she attended.  I love baked beans and have tried hundreds of different kinds in my lifetime but hers were the standard that none other lived up to, that is until I discovered a recipe and modified it to this.  I have to admit, this recipe is cheating a little bit.  Unlike hers, they start with beans from a can so there is a lot less time just getting the beans ready, but I think she would still be proud of the result.

Adding the finishing touch to the beans.

Adding the finishing touch to the beans.

Ingredients:

1 lb.           bacon sliced into 1/4″ pieces

1                large onion

4                jalapenos, seeded

1                28 oz. can Bush’s Country Style Baked Beans

1                small can pinto beans (drained)

1                small can great northern beans (drained)

1/4 cup    molasses

1/2 cup    brown sugar

4 TBS       plain yellow mustard

1/4 cup   BBQ sauce (I tend to favor Carolina style sauces with lots of vinegar)

1 tsp        paprika

1 tsp        garlic powder

2 tsp        cayenne

1 TBS      BBQ rub

Bourbon

Directions:

Fry the chopped bacon until the fat is mostly rendered out.  Without draining, add the onions and jalapenos.  Continue cooking until onions are translucent.  Stir in the brown sugar until everything is nicely caramelized.  Transfer to your dutch oven.  Stir in all other ingredients except the bourbon.  Place your dutch oven, with the lid off, in your smoker.  If you have a vertical smoker put the beans right under your smoking meat so the juices drip down into your beans.   Doing this with different types of meat just adds a little variety to your recipe.  I’ve done it with both beef brisket and pour shoulder and it’s just a slightly different flavor of delicious.  Because the recipe uses canned beans it will be ready much quicker than if you started from scratch, 1-2 hours depending on how thick you like your beans.  I like mine nice and thick so they get the full 2 hours.  When your beans are almost done, add some bourbon to taste.  It doesn’t take much, a TBS or two.  Take your beans out of the smoker and let them cool and thicken a little before serving.

If you don’t have a smoker, or just want to cook some beans when you don’t have your smoker going, just dump all your ingredients in a crock pot and add a couple drops of liquid smoke.  They won’t be quite as good as if they were smoked, but still damn tastey.

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.

Matambre a la Pizza

2 Aug

Not your ordinary flank steak.

Two of the foods they love in Argentina are beef and pizza.  In matambre a la pizza they have found a way to combine these two favorites into one delicious dish.

Ingredients:

Flank Steak

Whole Milk

Fresh Mozzarella Cheese

Pizza toppings of your choice

Pizza Sauce

Parmesan Cheese

Salt

Pepper

Directions:

The trick to grilling flank steak is not making it tough.  To overcome that you can just boil your steak in milk and let the enzymes break down the meat.  In a pan large enough to hold your steak, bring some milk to a low boil.  Be careful or the milk will scorch to the bottom of your pan and it’s a real bitch to get clean.  Boil your steak for about 45 minutes.  Remove the steak from the milk, rinse it off, pat it dry. This wasn’t included in the original recipe but I found that when you boil the steak it kind of shrinks up so it’s smaller and thicker.  So what I like to do is just carefully slice it into two thinner pieces.  On a grill that has been preheated to high cook your steak on one side for about 5 minutes.  Flip it and reduce heat to medium.   Lightly salt and pepper each side as it’s cooking.  After flipping, cover your steak in pizza sauce, fresh mozzarella, and your selected toppings.  You already have plenty of meat that is going to be your crust so I generally just add some veggies.  One of my favorites is sun dried tomatoes, minced garlic, onions, peppers, and some fresh basil.  From this point it’s just like cooking any other pizza, close the lid and cook it until the cheese starts to brown up around the edges.  Remove from the grill and sprinkle some Parmesan on top.  This is a great recipe for when you’re trying to keep the carbs low but still have a craving for some tastey pizza.

The next time I make this I’m thinking of trying something a little different and instead of boiling it in milk I will throw the steak in a crockpot with some marina before grilling it.

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