Saturday, April 21, 2012

Easy Artisan Bread

Dramatic bread!

Oh, Noes! Darren just told me Mr. Tate is coming over for dinner! We are out of bread and I don't have time to get to the store! What am I to do?

After many, many, many failed attempts at yeast-fueled projects, I think I am finally starting to get comfortable. Here is a simple recipe I have created and method for a basic crusty artisan bread.

In a small bowl, mix:

3 cups lukewarm water (100 degrees)
1.5 tbs dry active yeast
1.5 tbs kosher salt

 Then mix in:

3 cups bread flour
3.5 cups all-purpose flour
1tbs malt barley syrup

Mix until there are no dry patches and place in a warm place covered with a tea towel. I like to set the oven to 250 and place the yeast on the range to rise. You need to check the temperature though. The range I am using ends up at about 82 degrees. You definitely don't want it to get too much hotter than that.

Then you go drink a beer or two and wait for it to double.

No....Knead to do any extra work.

It took about two hours to double. Do not punch it down. Be gentle.

Gently remove the risen dough from the bowl and place on to a flour dusted surface. Cut the dough into two parts. Wrap one half in plastic wrap and refrigerate for another day.

Place the remaining onto a 2 foot sheet of parchment paper (or greased aluminum foil). Gently shape the dough by pulling from the top and tucking under the edges until you get a round shaped boule.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees with an empty dutch oven inside. When the oven is heated, carefully pull out the oven rack. Make three slashes on the top of the boule with a sharp serrated blade and by holding the ends of the parchment paper, lower the dough into the dutch oven.

Cover the dutch oven and bake for 30 minutes.

Then remove the lid and cook for 10 minutes to allow the top to brown. Test the temperature and remove when the internal temperature reaches 210 degrees. If the top starts to get too brown, put the lid back on. When the temp reaches 210, remove and let rest 40 minutes before slicing.

and the butter is where?

And that's it. No kneading the dough. No second rise. No fuss- no muss.

Delicious fresh bread in 3 hours.

Kansas City Style Baby Back Ribs

I was searching high and low for a nice rack of beef back ribs, but alas, it was not meant to be. I settled instead for a very good-looking rack of baby back pork ribs.

The membrane had already been removed and there was only a little excess fat and silver skin to trim. So, there wasn't a lot to the meat preparation.

If you find yourself needing to remove the membrane there is no need to panic. Simply insert a butter knife between the outer membrane and a bone about 1/4 from the end of the rack. Work the membrane loose enough that you can get a finger in. The grasp the loose membrane with a paper towel and pull.

This guy knows what's up:
He also may have narrated the Dukes of Hazard. I'm not sure.

In a step that may have been totally unnecessary, I cut that rack in half and then brined it for about 4 hours in a simple brining solution (1 Quart Water, 3.5 Ounce Kosher Salt, 1/2 Cup Honey). I have had such great success brining pork, i figured it was worth a shot.

After patting the rack dry, I liberally applied a coat of mustard. This step gives the rub something on which to adhere. Mustard is used because during the long cooking time, it loses all flavor and thus does not affect the overall taste of the ribs.

The Rub:

2 Cups Brown Sugar
2 Cups Paprika
3 Tablespoons Chipotle Pepper
Dashes of:
White Pepper
Black Pepper
Celery Seed
Cayenne Pepper

The Brown Sugar used in this rub basically starts us off in the direction of Kansas City Style Ribs. The cooking method later confirms it as such. I applied the rub and let it rest in the refrigerator over night.

And then into the smoker.

I prepped the smoker (A half chimney of coals lit with the other half in the coal pan), regulated my temperature to 225 and got the Hickory smoke rolling. I filled my water pan and put on the ribs.

The game plan for the ribs was to smoke on 225 for 3 hours, then remove from the smoker and wrap in foil with a splash of apple juice, then return the ribs to the smoker for 1 hour. After an hour in the foil, I removed the ribs from the smoker. I took the ribs out of the foil and applied a liberal base of BBQS Sauce (more on that in a few). After the base was applied, I liberally sprinkled the ribs with Turbanado Sugar and then applied another layer of sauce. Then I just cooked them until they are done.

3 Hours in the smoker- ready for the foil.

In the meantime, Mariah started the sauce.

The Sauce:

Mariah warmed olive oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. She added a small diced onion and sauted until the onion was limp. She then added 3 cloves crushed garlic and cooked for another minute.

Next Mariah added a 1/4 cup of Killians Irish Red because she hates me.

Sam and I took a little nap.

In a bowl, Mariah mixed: 

1 cup of Ketchup
1/4 Cup Yellow Mustard
1/4 Cup Cider Vinegar
1 Tbs Worcestershire Sauce
1/8 Cup Champagne Vinegar
1/8 Cup Molasses
1/8 Cup Honey
2 dashes Habanero Hot Sauce
1/2 Cup brown Sugar

Then she added the wet ingredients to the warm pot and simmered for 15 minutes to marry the flavors.

I intended to give the rack only 1 hour after adding basting with the sauce, but as you know- the road to tough, dry ribs is paved with good intentions. Ribs presented an interesting challenge for me as there is no good way to accurately assess the internal temperature. 

But what's the rush?
My goal internal temperature was 185. I wanted the pork to be moist and tender, but not to pull. Tastes vary, but I prefer to have my ribs give a little resistance in the chew but leave the bone clean. The collagen in the meat starts to break down between 180 and 190, so I selected 185 to compensate for my inability to accurately measure and to keep my ribs from being a sloppy, fatty mess.

But a lot of knowing when the ribs are done is just feel. I am still learning and can't really rely on gut feelings so I need some sort visual indication. 

I inserted my remove thermometer probe into a thick part of the rib meat being careful not to hit a bone. I waited until the ribs started reading 180 at which point I graped the end two ribs on my half rack with BBQs tongs and kind of bounced them. The goal was to see therack bend and give a little (and ideally, to start to break, but with my thick crusty rub, that was difficult to see).

It took three additional hours.

But it was worth the wait:

Thank goodness for warm spring nights

The ribs had a nice wide smoke ring and were moist without being fatty and tender without being sloppy. The mustard rub gave a nice crunch to the chew and a healthy but not devastating heat. Mariah's sauce was tremendous. Tangy and sweet without being sticky. It played beautifully with the rub.

Based on a simple google search, there are as many method for creating ribs as there are people cooking ribs. I think the idea is to read and research how people accomplish ribs that fit their tastes and then borrow and combine do create ribs that strike your fancy.

Kansas City Style ribs are distinguished as such due to the Brown Sugar in the Rub, the application of the mustard and most importantly the sauce basting of the ribs in the final cooking stage.

Memphis Style is a dry rub, mostly paprika based with no brown sugar. I really enjoyed the sweetness of these ribs and the crunch of the mustard rub. I may omit the turbinado sugar step next time (the heat was never high enough for the sugar to caramelize), but in general- these were a win for this style rib.

I may start the ribs a little earlier next time, though...


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Homemade Ketchup

Weird?  I know not what you mean.
A guest post from my buddy John who writes the blog Those Darn Vegetarians:

Before I decided to disappoint my parents by becoming a vegetarian, I loved me some hamburgers...  in fact, some suspected it's the reason I moved to the LA:  a place known for burger joints.
And traffic.
And weirdos- but mostly for burger joints.

Before "making the switch", I'd made it my goal to find the best hamburgers the city had to offer.  I made an attempt some might describe as heroic- others as quixotic.  Before giving up meat (at least for now) I managed to eat at all but two of the burger establishments on my "must try" list (which immediately downgraded my list to a "should try" list).  Sadly,  Umami Burger  was one of the places I didn't try.  I was sure that the fifth taste would elude me forever.   

Then an old roommate called me up and invited me to join her for a bite at Umami.  I relegated myself to the mushroom-edamame Earth burger.  The burger was pretty tasty.  However, what really knocked my socks off was their homemade ketchup.
I wear silly clothes for money. Also, I love you.

Despite my love of burgers, I've never been one for the red stuff.  I mean, I'd eat it every now and again...  but it was just kind of there.  It was more of an obligation than a condiment.  Should I put ketchup on my fries?  I don't want to, but ketchup is right there and I don't want to hurt her feelings.  Fine.  I'll use it.
Umami's ketchup was different.  It had both a sweetness and a vinnegarosity I was unfamiliar with.  It was, quite simply, amazing. "Why don't I make my own ketchup?" I thought.
Why don't I?  

I do.

Yesterday, when I was walking through the farmer's market, I stumbled upon some beautiful tomatoes and decided to take them home- and this ketchup made me happy, happy man.
Sadly, this will not make much ketchup

  • 1 large red onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 stick celery, trimmed and roughly chopped
  • 1 thumb-sized piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 fresh red chili, deseeded and finely chopped
  • Bunch fresh basil, leaves picked, stalks chopped
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 2 cloves
  • Sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds of tomatoes (the type of tomatoes is lady's choice), chopped
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup soft brown sugar
You will want to eat this.  You must wait.
Spray a heavy-bottomed saucepan with non-stick cooking spray (or use some olive oil) and add the ginger, garlic, chili, basil stalks, coriander seeds and cloves. Season with the pepper and a good pinch of salt.  Cook gently over a low heat for 10 to 15 minutes until softened, stirring every so often. Add all the tomatoes and 1 1/2 cups of cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer gently until the sauce reduces by half.Add the basil leaves, then put the sauce in a food processor or mix it up real nice with a hand blender.  (I put mine in my blender, which I do not recommend because it obliterates the solid material instead of leaving sizable chunks...  making the next step tedious).  Strain the mixture with a sieve twice.  Put the sauce into a clean pan and add the vinegar and the sugar.  No matter how much you stir it, it will look like it belongs on Dancing with the Stars.  Do not be put off!  It is delicious and very worth it.
NOT JR Martinez

Place the sauce on the heat and simmer until it reduces and thickens to the consistency of tomato ketchup. At this point, correct the seasoning to taste.

You will NEVER, ever go back to store-bought ketchup again.  Ever.


Smoked Trout

The plan was to smoke some Red Snapper in the fashion described to me by a Jamaican guy at work. He runs the same rig I do and I have picked his brains on multiple occasions as I learned how to control my Brinkmann.  Where do you go in the Detroit suburbs to get fish? You go to Superior Fish in Royal Oak. It is a fish market of superior reputation and made famous (to me) by supplying octopi for Detroit Red Wing Playoff games.

After speaking with my buddy Paul from Glutton for Punishment  (a Florida native), I changed my plan from Red Snapper to Amberjack. Paul suggested an oily fish for a longer smoke. I checked Superior Fish's website and saw the Amberjack was available and started planning.

Well, I went to superior fish at about 11AM on a Saturday. They are open until 1 and closed on Sunday. It was like showing up to a house party at 3AM.
I totally know, brah.

I think there were about 4 fish left.

Well, maybe more than that, but it was slim pickin's. I surveyed the refrigerated cases and ended up selecting about 4 lbs of gorgeous Wild Canadian Lake Trout.

Oily. Firm. A gorgeous yellow flesh. Yeah. I think trout will work out just fine

So what to do with 4 lbs of Wild Canadian Lake Trout and fixin's for a Jamaican Marinade? You just do it.
I do not know this guy.

  • The Trout
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 cup ginger, minced
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1 habanero, ribbed, seeded and small diced 
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup dark rum
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons cane or dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
Mix in a bowl. I opted not to use the scotch bonnet pepper because I am not that @#ing crazy.

I covered the fish with the ginger, garlic and habanero and then mixed the other ingredients with an immersion mixer which ended up looking like this:

 I gave the marinade a couple hours and started getting the coals together to prep the smoker. I cooled the smoker down to a nice 155 and added in the mesquite chips. I could have used apple or alder but I thought the trout could stand up to the mesquite and I had it on hand. I was not disappointed.
Hello, Trout and Mariah

I gave it about three hours on 155 with a steady diet of mesquite chips. I sat back and enjoyed a freshening beer while I waited for the fish to get delicious.

After a few hours, I pulled the fish off the grill to finish in the oven at 220. My goal was to get the internal temp to 145 and I opted not to start over with the chimney. Was this a coward's move? Perhaps- but I stand by my results.

In the mean time, Mariah got the rest of the meal together
Plantains in Michigan? Super.

Mariah got some plantains together to fry up to go with our Carribean Canadian Trout. A little arugula on the side and we almost have a meal. Someone had the bright idea to add the left over marinade to some rice to make a delicious rummy, spicy, rice pudding-ish creation. I think it was my idea, but ideas were flying out fast and furiously and I could be wrong. At any rate, Mariah was the one who knew how to make it.

And she did.

From Mariah:

I'm gonna be honest with you, when it comes to cooking I often throw things together (wiz! bang!) and veer away from the directions as often as possible (kind of like when I would stubbornly color outside of the lines in Kindergarden-ON PURPOSE!).
Most things come out fabulously- but that's cause I have a general idea on what I'm doing. There are a few things, however, that I do follow pretty strictly- and thats only because they would end up in total kitchen failure if I winged it. FAILURE!

Rice is one of those things. Rice needs enough liquid to soak up and soften up- but it also doesn't need to be swimming in it by the time it's ready. So- the general consensus is the ratio 2 parts liquid to 1 part rice. Boil. Simmer about 25-30 minutes or until tender. I always end up throwing more water in towards the end to keep it from sticking from the bottom.

It was Ron's idea to use the rest of the coconut marinade to cook a side dish of rice. MMMMM. 

He's so smart. This rice comes out more "risotto"/ rice pudding than fluffy rice and you will be pleased as pie about it.

Mesquite Smoked Wild Canadian Lake Trout with Fried Plantains, Arugula Salad, and Coconut Milk/Habanero Rice.

This is how we do.

Wait. Fish is where?

Saturday, April 7, 2012



This was my first adventure into curing meat. I am dog-sitting for my parents have have free reign of their ample counter and refrigerator space. I planned and executed several projects this the week but I directed most of my efforts to the curing, smoking, and enjoying of this magnificent beef brisket.

2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons hot red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons allspice berries
1 tablespoon ground mace
2 small cinnamon sticks, crushed or broken into pieces
2 to 4 bay leaves, crumbled
2 tablespoons whole cloves
1 tablespoon ground ginger.

Toast your Peppercorns, Mustard and Coriander seeds on medium heat until they are fragrant. Be careful not to burn them. If they start to pop like popcorn, you've gone too far. Once they are ready, let them cool a bit, crack them and add them to the rest of the spice mixture.
Smashy Smashy.

The Brine

In a large stock pot combine:

1 gallon of water
1-1/2 cups kosher salt
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons pink salt (sodium nitrate)
3 cloves garlic, minced

Bring the brine to a simmer, then remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

The Waiting Game

Once the brine has cooled, put the brine in a container large enough to hold your brisket fully submerged. Add the brisket and refrigerate. Put a plate on top of the brisket to weight it down and wait 5 days, turning the brisket daily. At the end of the 5th day, remove the brisket (save the brine) and rinse thoroughly. Place covered in the refrigerator over night: this allows the cure to equalize.

Smoking Day:

After a long week, joyous smoking day is at hand!

Step 1:

Place the brisket in water for 3 hours replacing the water every hour. The cure used here for the pastrami is a corned beef brine. Corned beef is of course boiled which pulls a the salt out of the meat. Because we are smoking, we need to soak some out here or we will end up with overly salty Pastrami.

Step 2:

After removing the brisket from it's bath, pat it dry and allow it time to warm up near room temperature. In the mean time, toast 2 tablespoons of coriander seeds and 2 tablespoons of peppercorns. Once toasted, grind them in a spice grinder. This will be your dry rub.

Get in the smoker.

Step 3:

Prep the smoker. I aimed for 210-220 with a steady diet of apple wood chips. I put my brine in the water pan for good measure. I'm not sure that this id anything to the flavor, but I figured it couldn't hurt.

I kept watch on the temperature with my handy remote digital thermometer and sat back and a had a refreshing beverage. After 5 hours on smoke I checked the internal temperature of the brisket. Finding that the brisket had reached 156 in its thickest parts I removed it from the smoker and brought it into the house to finish.

There is quite a wide range of opinions as to how a pastrami should be finished. I opted for a steam/roast conglomeration which is supposed to be more NYC Deli authentic.

Step 4:

I placed the brisket on cooling racks over a cooking sheet with 2 cups of water and placed in the oven at 225 with some foil tented over the brisket. I am not sold on this method yet, but necessity is the mother of invention.

Then I let it cook until the internal temperature reach 165. I read a few different opinions as to optimal internal temperature (165 for deli style- 190 for pulled pastrami), but I was getting hungry so I went with 165. Getting the temp above 180 will liquefy the connective tissues and make the meat very tender, but a thin cut pastrami cut against the grain will not be tough at all.

I let it rest wrapped in foil for 30 minutes.

                    Pastrami, it turns out is simply                 


Tochter aus Elysium,
 Freude, schoener Goetterfunken,

Himmlische, dein Heiligtum.
Wir betreten feuertrunken,


This started out as a 6 lb brisket. I did not measure the weight after cooking, but I do know from looking that I have a lot of meat and a lot of options for how to enjoy this pastrami. For the first meal, we kept it simple.

Thin-Sliced Hot Pastrami on Caraway Rye with White Wine Dijon Mustard (and Bleu Cheese Fries)

 The most sensual of all the salted, cured meats 

The process to reheat the pastrami is to thinly slice and steam in the oven. This morning I did a little breakfast sandwich and I pan seared it like a ham steak- this was also excellent (with horseradish and honey mustard, swiss cheese and an egg). The next lunch sandwich I make I will try the steaming, but honestly this meat is so good, as long as you slice against the grain it is going to be delicious.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

St. Patrick's Day

Pulled Mesquite Smoked Boston Butt over Irish Soda Bread Scones with Whiskey Braised Leeks

In a perfect world, I would have started brining the corned beef on Monday. In a perfect world, I would have driven to the store to buy the brisket and the ground mace, whole cloves, the all spice berries and the coriander seeds I needed to begin my first curing experiment. In a perfect world, my job wouldn't be so soul-suckingly awful that I spent Monday night chewing on ice and staring at a bare wall in the dark until my blood pressure stopped making my neck hurt.

But alas, this is not a perfect world.

But in this world, things are looking up. It is summer in the winter time! What to do with an 80 degree Saturday in March that just happens to be St. Patrick's Day?

Faith and Begorrah!

What is this delicious mess?

It begins with a Boston Butt. I brined the 7.5 lb Boston Butt overnight in my regular brine:

  • 1 quart water
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 3 1/2 ounces kosher salt, approximately 3/4 cup
In the morning, I pulled the pork out of the refrigerator and let it warm up for about an hour on the counter. Then I slathered it with some whole grain mustard and applied a dry rub of paprika, cumin, white pepper, fresh ground black pepper, thyme and brown sugar.

Then I filled the water pan and ran the smoker at 225 degrees and fed it steady diet of mesquite chips. It was a relaxing, fragrant, sunny early after noon. The outside temp was a little higher than my winter smoking adventures, so i had to do some tweaking to get the temp down to 225- but i think I am starting to get the hang of this thing.

After a couple hours, it mopped the pork with some of this guy:

Guinness Extra Stout

Then I retired to the kitchen to see what Mariah was up to. Mariah says:

Caramelized onions are a science, but not a hard science. It's like when you tie dyed t-shirts in chemistry class at the end of the year kind of science. It's simple, but things need to be "just so" in order to achieve the proper results. You will need onions (any will do, but go for a sweeter kind if you can... and that includes the red ones). Slice them thin across "the belly" (mid-way between the tuft at the top and the nub at the bottom) of the onion.

It really doesn't matter how you slice the onion, actually. It's just a preference thing. Meanwhile you've got your butter melting in the pan on medium-high heat. And once it's melted throw in the onions and stir so they get coated. I throw in about a teaspoons worth of sugar at this point too( for good measure). And I let 'em do their thing for about 15 minutes poking at them once and a while with a spoon to move them around.

In the mean time- mix up the wet and dry ingredients in a cup or bowl- some kind of vessel. 2 Tbs of Balsamic Vinegar, one Tbs of brown sugar, and 1/2 of red wine (look, sometimes you've got to sacrifice for good things to come). After 15 minutes or so you should drizzle the now completely wet mixture into the pan to play with the already caramelizing onions. Keep this little charade up for another half hour and you got a nice little caramelized onion jam. They should be sweet and they should be sticky. It's jam, foo'.

No- there should not be any liquid left. If things seem to be moving too fast (like liquid disappearing too quickly, or onions burning) feel free to turn down the heat a little or add more balsamic- it's not going to hurt anyone.
Unless you sniff the heat activated vinegar- then KAPOW! that's gonna sting a little bit.

Then Mariah made:

Irish Soda Bread Scones:

These were just delicious. From Smitten Kitchen-

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for work surface
1 cup cake flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon table salt (this is 2/3 the original amount, which I found too salty)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter (4 tablespoons softened, 1 tablespoon melted)
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup currants or raisins
1 tablespoons caraway seeds (optional)

Heat oven to 400 degrees with a rack in the upper-middle position. Whisk dry ingredients (flours, sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt) in a large bowl. Work the softened butter into the dry ingredients with a fork, pastry blender or your fingertips until the flour mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Add the wet ingredients (buttermilk and egg), currants or raisins and caraway seeds, if you’re using them, and stir with a fork until the dough just begins to come together. Turn out onto a work surface (CI says you need a floured one but I didn’t agree) and knead until the dough just becomes cohesive and bumpy. You’re not going for a smooth dough — CI warns that this will make it tough.
Pat dough into a round and use a knife or dough divider to cut it into 8 wedges. Form each wedge into a round and place on a parchment-lined or greased baking sheet. Cut a cross shape into the top of each.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees (this is especially helpful in this recipe, where doneness is hard to judge from the outside). Scones should be golden brown a skewer should come out clean. Remove from the oven and brush with butter before cooling to room temperature
We will be important later.

Whiskey Braised Leeks

On the Irish theme, I pick ups some leeks. Apparently, prepping these guys is a big deal. I cut below the dark green and just above the roots. Then I cut them in half lengthwise and washed the holy hell out of them.

Brown them in 1:1 olive oil/butter blend. Add the leeks when the oil is hot enough to make water droplets hop. The brown each side for about 2 minutes. After the leeks are browned, add solution of water, a shot of irish whiskey, some thyme and a few pinches of sugar. Throw in a pinch of kosher salt and grind some pepper.

If you like cabbage, try the leeks. The whiskey adds a bit of sweetness to a subtle and delicate dish. Leeks makes cabbage look stupid.



Then it was all about the pork.


I finished the butt in the oven again because it was getting late and we were getting hungry. The water pan kept this very moist but didn't seem to interfere with the smoking of the meat. Per usual, I got the internal temp up to 190 and let it hang out there for a little while to allow the collagens to dissolve. I pulled the pork with a couple of forks and served over the Irish Soda Bread Scones  topped with the Caramelized Onions with the Leeks on the side. Mariah was so kind as to add some fried smashed potato fingerlings.



The cold light of day.

Morning has broken and what do I have in the fridge for a sunday breakfast? Well, pulled pork. I have 6 pounds of smoked pulled pork. I know that's in there. Let's make some hash. I started with infusing some olive oil with garlic, then I added the potatoes on medium heat.

I softened and brown the potatoes, then added some red wine and the pork, lowered the heat and covered.

I added some rosemary, white pepper, cayenne pepper, thyme and some cinnamon and let it cook. At the very end I added some nutmeg and pulled the pan off heat. I fried an egg over easy and added to the plate with a pinch of kosher salt served over the soda bread scone.