Sunday, May 27, 2012

Hickory-Smoked Chicken Wings

Blimp shot
Hickory-Smoked Chicken Wings and Stilton Potato Skins with Maple-Bourbon Craft Bacon

The name is long, so you know it is good.

Memorial Day weekend seemed like as good a time as any to test out some recipes for tailgate season. I found some good-looking wings at the local butcher. Mariah and I trimmed them with a boning knife and some sheers (discarding the useless tips) and I put them in 5% brine with a couple cloves are thinly sliced garlic, some sweet paprika and a few sprigs of rosemary.

I let that go overnight removed and rinsed it thoroughly before I pat dried and applied my dry rub.

My rub was typical for my treatment of chicken:

Sweet Paprika
Brown Sugar
Onion Powder
Chipotle Powder
White Pepper
Celery Seed
Herbs De Provence

Ambient temperature was over 90 degrees, so I dumped about 15 unlit coals in the pan and lit a half-full chimney. I filled the water pan and got the temperature to a nice and easy 225. I got the hickory rolling and gave the wings 4 hours on the smoke.

After 4 hours on 225 (and lower), the internal temp varied from wing to wing between 135 and 150. I pulled the wings and placed into an insulated container.
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I lightly basted the wings with some Olive Oil and cooked at 350 until the internal temp reached 170.

In the meantime, I washed and dried 6 russet potatoes. Once they were dry, I tossed them in olive oil and liberally sprinkled them with kosher salt. I put them into the oven pre-heated to 400 degrees for 1 hour (until the potatoes give a little if you apply pressure).

Allow the potatoes to cool until they can be handled. Cut them in half and scoop out the meat leaving about 1/4 inch of potato on top of the skins.

Sum bitch...
Raise the oven temp to 450. While the oven is preheating, coat the potato skins with a vegetable oil (high smoke point). Cook for ten minutes, then flip for another ten. Remove and lower the temp to 400.

Then the magic happens. I sprinkled with crumbled Stilton cheese and some diced Maple-Bourbon craft bacon.

I put it back in the oven until the cheese started to brown (about 4 minutes on the middle rack).

Then you basically get this:

Feed me, Seymore!
I added a dollop of Greek Yogurt and some diced green onions from Mariah's freaky Frankenstein green onion reboot.

Mariah put together her amazing Bouron-Coriander BBBQ sauce (the extra B is for BYOBB). I'll ask Mariah for a post on that in the future. It is a warm, tangy and spicy citrus flavor. Top drawer.

Beware tailgate brat-bringers, burger-bakers. There is a new sheriff in town and his name is Hickory. These wings were pink from smoke, but the mild hickory was a perfect flavor to match the rub. The brine kept the meat moist and the low and slow method kept them tender but not fatty. Mariah said the meat was like pork, but not as rich- that sounds like a nice compliment.

The skins were tremendous. The bacon was transcendent as expected and the Stilton added a nice salty funk to the crispy, starchy skins. The greek yogurt is perfect as an accent- I will never use sour cream again. It is more viscous and not as rich, but with a more pronounced sour taste. Perfect. And I only use zombie green onions grown in shot glasses. That is how it is done. :)

Hail to the Victors Valiant!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Hickory-Smoked Maple Herb BACON

Are you performing CPR on a dying patient? Are you recording the life story and charming anecdotes of your beloved but infirmed 90 year old aunt? Perhaps you are putting the finishing touches on that cancer cure? No? This is not the case?

The you should probably drop what you are doing and make some bacon.

I have enjoyed and shared some culinary adventures, some have been wins (see fish, smoked) some have been learning experiences (see pork belly, roasted), but when you look at the value of craft bacon- there is no comparison.


and good.

So I was in the HOUSE OF MEATS! which is basically the independent butcher at Anderson's (grocer) in Toledo. I was looking for a flat iron steak and was met with blank looks. "Top Blade Steak?" I asked but to no avail. Fortunately, I was directed to the on-duty butcher who I assumed was in no mood to tolerate me in the middle of a busy Saturday.

But I was wrong. He asked me the size i wanted and I told him I wanted one to smoke. The man delivered a nice 5 lber.

My interest was piqued.

"Do you guys have any pork belly"

They ordered me ten pounds of fresh pork belly.

The recipe:

Modified from a recipe by my guru:

2 ounces kosher salt
2 teaspoons pink curing salt (don't feel like ordering online?)
4 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
4 bay leaves, crumbled
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 maple syrup
5 cloves of garlic, smashed with the flat side of a chef’s knife
2 tablespoons juniper berries, lightly crushed 
5-10 sprigs of sage
5 to 10 sprigs fresh thyme 
1/4 cup bourbon
3 sprigs rosemary

I did two 5 lb slabs. One had bourbon and rosemary and the other didn't. Both were transcendent.

Basically, you spread the cure over the meat and put each 5 lb slab into a two gallon ziplock. 

Then you flip every other day to ensure that the meat has contact with the flavorful brine created during the curing process. 

On day 4, open the bags and redistribute the cure. 

On day 7, the meat should be uniformly firm and ready for smoking.

Smoking day:

Allow you pork belly to air dry and to reach room temperature.

My ambient temperature was over 80 degrees (but not humid) so I loaded my chimney to about 2/3 full and lit. I poured about unlit 15 briquets into the pan as an homage to the Minion method. 

I was aiming for no water in the pan, but I wanted to maintain a temp of 200 and found myself doing more work and less beer, so i added a 24 ounces of water to the pan from a discarded bottle of Dos Exis. This regulated the temperature.

I used hickory because i love it with pork, but i think i will use a milder apple next time. I gave the belly about 4 hours on smoke until the internal temp of the belly reached 150.

Then, my friends- you have BACON.

Mariah made some delicious biscuits (post to follow) and we began the process of enjoying and distributing said bacon. If you, as I had, never experienced craft bacon- DO IT IMMEDIATELY. It is like a cross between store bacon and corned beef. It is flavorful and rich and complex. If you don't make it immediately you a just a fool.

A DAMN fool.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Umami's Earth Burger + Baked Sweet Potato Fries

A Guest post from John of Those Darn Vegetarians:

Nine months after I married Bacon...
As was previously established, I have a problem when it comes to burgers.  I love them...  I mean, not enough to marry them (it's not like they're bacon)...  but I did like them so much that I was certain that they were the only delicious meaty food I would miss once I became a vegetarian (please note: I was wrong).

However, I wanted to give this vegetarian thing a fair shake so I set my sights on creating a delicious meat-free patty..  after all, I live in a big city and I know about things and I have been known to enjoy a spicy black bean burger from Chili's every now and again.  Besides, I reasoned, if I slathered enough ketchup and mayonnaise on anything in between a bun, it would kind of taste like a hamburger.  Right?

Chickpea Willy is...  pleased.
The first burgers I attempted were almost completely chickpea based.  The results were mixed.  I had my favorites.  I created a smoked jalapeno patty that turned out to be delicious.  Most of the chickpea based burgers were pretty bland though...  even with herbs, spices, and peppers, there is only so much you can do to give a chickpea flavor.  They're versatile and mooshy.  They don't really have a flavor so you can mix them with just about anything and have the meal turn out "more full of chickpeas" than had you not added them...  but overall, they left me wanting.

Then, after a trip to mecca...  er...  Umami Burger in Santa Monica, I was inspired to try to create a new type of burger...  Umami offers a traditional-style veggie burger.  However, they also offer an "Earth Burger"- which is, as far as I can tell, edamame and mushroom based.  The combination of flavors was perfect.  It was earthy and mellow and just a little salty.  And the consistency was interesting...  most veggie patties are dry- but this one was malleable...  I can't explain it other than saying, have you ever had a Jimmy John's sub sandwich?  You know how it's so full of delicious meat and toppings that if you don't squeeze the back of the sandwich shut when you take a bite, the filling will come out the back?  Yeah- it's like that.  Delicious earth burger filling all over your hands and your plate.

I won't be back until they return my shirt.
Surprisingly, it was difficult to find a recipe for their burgers online.  (I've become kind of accustomed to finding recipes for anything and everything I wanted via Google searches).  Never fear.  While I was unable to find Umami's recipe, using some ingenuity and some good-old-fashioned-sticktoitivness, I was able to find a pretty good substitute.  Local chef Dana Slatkin created a recipe that, like most recipes I've been making lately, requires two ingredients that you will need to obtain from a specialty shop or order online.  (Wholefoods might also have them...  but currently I'm fighting with them, so I haven't been inside to root around their shelves).  Because I am getting married in a few months and need to lose a few el-bees, I've modified this recipe to take out some of the fat (find the original here).  

OK.  Enough of the boraphyl.  Now what you really care about: how to make the burger and fries happen.

3 sweet potatoes
Sea salt
Olive oil cooking spray

1 small onion, sliced
1 pound assorted mushrooms (I recommend using at least two different kinds)
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup white miso paste (specialty store this bad boy)
1/2 teaspoon mushroom base (and this one, too)
1/2 beet, sliced
1 cup shelled edamame beans
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 pinch salt

Baked Fries: Not as good as their deep-fried brethren.  
1.  Preheat the oven to 450.
2.  Have an assistant peel the potatoes.
3.  Cut the potatoes into wedges of equal thickness.
4.  Coat the potatoes with olive oil cooking spray and toss with salt.
5.  Spread the fries in an even layer on a cookie sheet and place them in the oven for 35 minutes.

1.  Spray the bottom of a saute pan with a non-stick cooking spray and place the pan on medium heat.  
2.  Add the onions, mushrooms, beet, and pinch of salt and poke with a spoon, occasionally, until browned.  (About 10 minutes).
3.  Whisk together the wine, miso paste, and mushroom base and fling that in with the mushroom/onion/beet mix.
4.  Deglaze the pan, being sure to stir up all the delicious bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Cook until almost all of the liquid is absorbed.
5.  Transfer the mixture to a food processor and add the edamame beans.  Pulse, chop, and frappe until the mixture is about the consistency of ground chuck.
6.  Dump the beet pate into a bowl and have a trusty assistant mix in the bread crumbs by hand.
7.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
8.  Once the burgers are done chillin' out, maxin', and relaxin' all cool, spray the bottom of a saute pan with non-stick cooking spray and place the pan on medium-high heat.
I don't always relax all cool.  But when I do, I prefer West Philadelphia 
9.  Form the burgers into patties.
10.  Brush hoisin sauce on each side of the burgers and throw them into the hot pan and cook them until they are well charred on each side (about 3 - 4 minutes per side).

PROTIP: These patties will fall apart when you try to flip them, so be careful.

If you want to toast your buns, now's the time to do it.  Put your burgers on the buns, fix as usual, and enjoy.  I recommend making the homemade ketchup featured here.

Is Good.