Tag Archives: Meat

Anniversary Dinner

I’m LONG overdue for a food post here, and even this meal was a week ago this evening.

For those who have been following long enough, AND actually reading (RARE), you’ll recall that last weekend was my 2 year anniversary. Thankfully, it was SLIGHTLY less hectic than the actual day.

We had family over and I cooked a big meal for everyone. MOST of it turned out too.

First was homemade Tex-Mex guacamole with tortilla chips as an appetizer:

The main course was Ribeye steaks, slow smoked on the Rec-Tec and then reverse seared on the Weber charcoal grill:

There’s some (turkey) bacon on the top rack that was going to be chopped up and added to the steamed green beans but…

It’s hard to see from the pic, but some of the green beans were bad and turned brown while steaming. So, the beans went into the trash and the bacon got saved for later.

Luckily I had another vegetable in the works at the same time, a combination dish really. I took zucchini and yellow summer squash, sliced them into rounds, seasoned them with a little salt, pepper, garlic, oregano and rosemary, then topped them with Parmigiano Reggiano.

I’ve said it many times but it bears repeating; Parmigiano Reggiano is WORLDS better then plain old Parm cheese and Infinitely better than the gunk in the green can.

The basic recipe i found online just said to go with the cheese only but I knew a light bit of seasoning would help also. Once you throw the cheese on, just bake at 425 (or 218 degees C) until the cheese turns golden. Oh yes, cut the veggies 1/4 inch or .635 cm thickness. The summer squash turns out a little watery, but everybody loved both:

I also had some sliced baby potatoes for a carb:

Oh and if you’re wondering how those steaks turned out:

That’s as close to I got to a picture of a fully plated meal. It kept saying “Eat Me”, so I put down the phone and did. 😀

BUT… Then There was Dessert:

And this was a bear. The core of the dessert was individual sized, double chocolate mini bundt cakes. It took 3 tries to get cakes that would come out of the molds properly, and I had to thicken the batter almost to the point of being brownies:

BUT, we weren’t done there, nooooo. Next I took some Godiva chocolate, and melted it into a ganash, topped the cakes with Mayfield Cookies and Cream ice cream, and then drizzled the ganash all over them:

We ate good, and I think I’m turning my in-laws off the local restaurants with the quality of my cooking, lol.

Meatzapalooza!

Yesterday evening we finally had a break in the never ending rain (I swear I thought we moved to Tennessee, not Oregon), and we dragged the smoker out of the garage to get some cooking done while we can. It’s going to rain the rest of the week.

Anyhow, I smoked a small ham for sandwich meat, 3 chicken breasts for a dish I’ll be making in the next day or two, a turkey breast for sandwich meat, and a nice piece of corned beef brisket for dinner tonight. 😀

Meatzapalooza indeed! 😀

A few hours later…

I had to sneak a little piece of the corned beef also after my mom said it would be tough and I should have boiled it.

Being salt cured, it’s a little on the salty side, and while it was a little bit firmer than my usual brisket:

It was still plenty tender, because my family is from Texas, damnit, and tough brisket of any variety is a crime there!

Seriously, ask any Texan and they’ll tell you that you can talk bad about somebody’s mama before you can trash talk their brisket. 😀

Asian Fusion Smoked Whole Chicken

On a throne no less!

So let’s hop in the way-back machine and go back to the start though. 😁 I had talked last time I tried “beer can” chicken that I was going to do it again as soon as I got a normal sized porcelain ‘throne’, so that it would actually fit in the smoker. Well, the replacements came in a few days ago.

So, it was time to get busy! Since these chicken thrones make for virtually unlimited options in what you use to steam the inside of the chicken, I decided to do something really different. My uncle brought back a marinade recipe decades ago from Korea when he was in the Navy. Looking online, apparently it’s bulgogi, but it’s not anywhere as sickeningly sweet as the stuff I’ve tried from Costco and a few other places. So anyway… Yeah… Insert Hipster joke or meme here.

Being bulgogi, it’s intended for beef, but I branched out and tried it on chicken with great success (so long as you don’t over-marinate it). Here’s that recipe, in the quantities he used it for a couple of pounds of short ribs:

Korean Short Rib Marinade (bulgogi)

1/3 a cup of soy sauce

1/3 a cup of water

1/4 cup of white or yellow onion, chopped

1 or 2 scallions (green onions), chopped

2 Tablespoons of sesame seeds

2 Tablespoons of sugar

2 cloves of finely minced or pressed garlic

1/2 a teaspoon of pepper

A couple of quick notes here:

First, the original recipe also called for 1/4 a teaspoon of MSG. Given the bad rap that MSG has, I don’t use it though. I’ve also considered adding a tablespoon or two of freshly grated ginger, but haven’t tried it yet.

I’ve tried this on several cuts of beef such as tri-tip and tenderloin with great results. It works good with chicken also, but marinade times will vary. Beef you can do overnight and have great flavor when you cook. Chicken, you only want to do about an hour to and hour and a half per pound. I suspect it would work well on pork also IF it’s done for the same time as the chicken.

This is also one of those sauces that is best made the day before. It gives the flavors time to blend fully. That gives you the faint nutty flavor of the sesame seeds and the savoriness of the garlic and onion also. If you just throw it together and go, esp without thorough mixing, it’ll taste more like a cross between Teriyaki and Soy Sauce.

Lastly, Soy Sauce: I typically use low sodium soy sauce for food, BUT in the case of this marinade, I use regular soy sauce. The reason being that the marinade acts like a brine and tenderizes the meat. That’s primarily due to the salt in the soy sauce. Besides, with it being diluted with equal parts water, it’s not that strong.

Back to the Chicken!

So, I whipped up the marinade and put it and the chicken into a pot:

the smell was heavenly

Because this was a nearly 4 pound chicken, and the pot wasn’t exactly a snug fit, I had to increase all the marinade recipe portions. I used a full 2 cups of soy sauce and water. I could have used less if I had broke the chicken down but then I couldn’t have put it on the throne. About 2/3 of a cup of the finished marinade went into the ‘throne’ also, instead of into the pot.

I let the chicken marinate 4 hours, then pulled it out of the pot and patted it dry with a paper towel. The next step was to rub some salt pepper and garlic into the skin. Given that I was doing an Asian dish, I added some sesame seeds also. With that, we were ready to go.

If I had been thinking, and had any on hand, I likely would have substituted Chinese five spice for the salt, pepper and garlic rub. I smoked it low and SLOW for two hours, which got the internal temperature to about 125 F. At that point, I turned the pellet smoker up to 350 F and cooked it for another 25 minutes to get the internal temperature to a proper 165 degrees F and crisp up the skin.

It turned out better than I’d hoped. Between the marinade, and the steaming from the throne, the chicken was so moist and tender it was unreal. Add some homemade white cheddar biscuits and mixed veggies on the side, and it was a fabulous meal:

And if you really want to see how moist that chicken turned out, check out this drumstick:

The color is due to a combination of the marinade and being smoked low and slow for two hours. It was properly cooked to 165 F internal temperature (as previously mentioned). 👍

Reblog: Meat Shopping Tips

With the pandemic impacting store inventories, I’m seeing quite a bit of really lousy meat and produce on the shelves. Between that and my being pressed for time, I’m reblogging a post from mid-2019 on shopping for meat. Shop carefully and stay safe.

I’m going to change gears here a little.  EARLY on in the blog here, I made it known that cooking is one of my other loves. 🙂  Anything from near competition level Southern BBQ to baking cakes and cheesecakes.  Am I world class?  No, not quite, but I’m darned good.

Apologies to any non-carnivores here, but since I run into the problem of finding fresh cuts of meat, I thought I’d share some info for readers.

First, let’s address the obvious question; what does it matter?  High end steak houses age their steaks a long time, right?  Yes, they do.  It’s a special process that is different from just leaving food to sit in a store or home refrigerator though.  The final part of that process also involves scraping and trimming mold off the surface of the meat also.  Some folks are OK with that, but the idea of eating meat that used to be covered with mold is gross to me.  What the dry aging process also does is take moisture out of the meat to concentrate the flavor of the remaining meat and juices.  You’re taking the steak part way to jerky for the sake of flavor.

I’m getting a bit off topic though.  My point is it’s a different deal getting an aged steak at a restaurant and having something sit around in the store forever.  I will quickly add that if you’ve ever had freshly butchered meat, there’s a world of difference between that and store bought or aged meat.

Hopefully the stores in your area are better than the ones in my city, but using food coloring or nitrogen to make meat look fresh longer is getting to be a very common trick as grocery stores try to stretch profits.  You can potentially end up with something that looks good on the surface, but is brown and starting to rot inside.

IMG_0374 - Copy

The above picture was meat I was going to cut up for fajitas…  Until I saw the brown in the middle.  What you have there is food coloring, probably injected as well as surface dunked.  Hence the weird ring of brown

Food coloring is easy to spot.  When you’re inspecting the meat, does it look to be a natural color of red?  That meat above was borderline on looking right color-wise.  One of the most blatant examples I personally found though was this:

IMG_1317

No, you’re not seeing things, that $18 a pound filet Mignon IS indeed fire engine red…  Even the fat!  So are the beef kabobs next to them.  Talk about food colored to death.  That’s the meat counter at Sprouts; a supposedly upscale grocer that prides itself on fresh and natural.  Lesson for the day; even “high end” grocery stores can try to pull a fast one on you.

Food coloring is getting to be out of favor though.  There’s a new technique used by grocers and meat distributors; spraying the meat with nitrogen gas.

Contrary to how that may initially sound, it’s not inherently a bad thing.  Nitrogen will slow the natural oxidation of the meat, which is a big part of what makes it spoil.  It’s similar to the reasons athletes and body builders use nitrogen based supplements and some places put nitrogen in car tires instead of air.

The problem comes when grocery stores ignore and refresh the pull dates because the meat still looks good on the surface.  Nitrogen won’t penetrate all the way through the meat so the center decays while the surface looks good.  Since the nitrogen is also rarely applied to every square inch of the meat, careful examination can turn up brown spots before you buy:

IMG_0563 - Copy

Now, note that is a USDA Prime cut of Brisket, which is the highest quality available.  More there in a bit.  This Brisket was also being sold by Costco, which used to pride itself on high quality and doing right by it’s members.  Does that big stripe of brown look quality to you?  It’s an indication that there’s more brown under the surface though.

So how do you find good meat if it’s all treated with Nitrogen?  It still comes back to color.  Nitrogen chases the oxygen out of the tissue and fluids, and oxygen is what gives meat it’s red color when it’s fresh.  SO, when it’s still early after it’s treatment, the meat will have a bit more of a pinkish color but still look fresh.  After it’s sat a while, the meat will get permeated by oxygen again, and turn more of it’s natural color:

IMG_0567 - Copy

THAT is probably a good tri-tip.  It’s red, the color is even and where the color varies, it’s more of a pinkish color like the bottom center.

What you want to look for and avoid is this:

IMG_0570.JPG

See how it looks red at first glance, but the steak that’s second from the top is showing brown in the left 2/3 of it?  The steak right below that one is faintly showing some brown also.  A discerning eye can save you some heartache and even more stomach ache.

If you have any doubts about the quality of the meat when you get it home and open it, cut a small slit in it and look inside.  Yes, you may lose a bit of juices when you cook but it’s better than eating iffy meat.  Better safe than sorry.

To be fair, meat like those Sam’s Club steaks above may not be far enough gone to present a health risk, particularly if you have a reasonably strong system.  With steaks costing $10 a pound though, don’t you deserve to get reasonable value and the most flavor for your money?

One last thing.  I mentioned above I’d talk about the differences between the USDA’s grades of meat.  This won’t apply outside the U.S. but many other places have similar systems.  A quick internet search can turn up info for you

In the U.S. we have three grades of meat:

Prime is the highest grade, and is the the most tender with the best marbling of fat.  It’s also the most expensive.  Typically it’s only found at better quality restaurants.  Real butcher shops and a few places like Costco will also have it usually.

Choice is the mid grade of meat.  This is what most grocery stores and low to mid quality restaurants typically carry.  While not quite as tender as prime and not having quite as even a level of marbling of fat, it’s still a good quality of meat, especially in the hands of a good chef.

Select is the lowest grade of meat.  It’s edible but won’t be as tender as the other grades, and will have less fat or more uneven fat marbling, meaning a higher potential for it to be dry after cooking.

Thanksgiving Delayed

Yes, I’m still alive, lol. It’s just been one of those weeks.

I didn’t want to ruin others’ Thanksgiving complaining about how mine went though. After that, sleep and health issues caught up with me for a few days. I’m largely functional now however. 😀

Thanksgiving… As I mentioned before, we were originally scheduled to have at least 12 people. I went out and brought a 23 pound (10.5 kg) turkey so as to have plenty for all. Most canceled with other plans at that last minute, my mom got sick and chased off the rest. Apparently my brother and I were still supposed to brave snow and ice along with her cold or flu though.

I finally had enough of the lack of cooperation on last Wednesday and stopped asking. I told everyone we were postponing Thanksgiving until Saturday or we were canceling altogether. Mom and my brother agreed. Big surprise; the weather and my mom were both better, along with travel conditions. I nagged about re-inviting others, but that didn’t happen. At least I managed to take some control of the insanity though. That was a victory in itself.

When I returned to California after my divorce, I sensed that part of it was a need to resolve things with my dysfunctional family. I think Thanksgiving was the final step there. I realized I may not be able to completely change their insanity, but I can still assert enough control to minimize it’s impact on me. So, I may not have been able to make my mom re-invite people or get the ideal final Thanksgiving in California that I wanted, BUT I was able to refuse to drive in a snow storm to a sick person’s house for a holiday that nobody was attending. There’s balance in that, and finding balance is what life is all about.

The cooking was split up. I did the turkey, dressing and gravy. Mom handled the rest. I slow smoked the turkey and the result speaks for itself:

Now for new followers (welcome BTW. 🙂 ), who are not familiar with slow cooking via a wood smoker, that pink color is not a sign of raw meat. It’s a result of the smoke flavoring penetrating the meat. With poultry though, it’s always important to verify the meat is done via a thermometer when smoking.

My only disappointment was that since I only low smoked, the skin on the turkey never got crispy and cooked with a kind of rubbery texture. Last year, I did a half slow smoke and half normal 350 degree F (or 177 C) cook. Not as much smoke flavor, but the skin was golden and crispy.

Fun fact: That meat fork and the platter belonged to my great grandmother originally. 🙂

It’s a toss up which route I’ll go next year. The smoke flavor on the turkey this year is amazing. The drawback is the same issue with briskets; an insanely long cook time. The standard formula is 1/2 an hour per pound of turkey. So for this bird, that meant a 12 hour, all night cook. That after brining it for a day. Something I should do another article on. 🙂

As it was, the turkey finished at 11 hours. Wrapping it in foil and keeping it in a insulated “cooler” kept it warm till meal time though. That’s an old Southern trick for keeping a brisket warm and fresh till meal time

This is the actual cooler we own too 🙂

Now, since there were only four of us and we ate at the smaller kitchen table (as opposed to the dining room), the food stayed on the counter for space reasons. Here’s the final spread though:

Working clockwise from the top, we have green beans, sweet potatoes, chickpea (garbanzo bean) salad, cheesy mashed potatoes, stuffing and gravy, and the turkey of course, lol.

BBQ Time Again! Beef Tri-Tip!!!

In between all the chores, I did find time Monday to apply my tasty slow cooking techniques to some beef Tri-Tip from Costco. It’s just taken a couple days to get to blogging about it.

Half the time, I’ll use my dual grill method and slow smoke until the meat hits an internal temperature of 100 degrees, then put it on a hot charcoal grill to put a nice sear on the meat and get the IT to 135 degrees. This time, I didn’t feel like fussing with two grills. I slow smoked at 180 degrees for a little over an hour to get the meat to 100 degrees, then I just cranked up the heat on the pellet smoker. So, no grill marks, but it did turn out very tasty:

Perfect medium rare with great smoke flavor

And for those who are curious… Yes, just basic salt, pepper and garlic for a rub. That’s almost all I ever use. Good meat doesn’t need sugar and other fluff. 🙂

After Brisket Report!

I’m a bit late paying this one off, but I was exhausted after babysitting the brisket 16 hours and cleaning house, etc… Overall the brisket turned out pretty good, but was probably my least successful yet. It was still far better than anything I could buy at a restaurant here. It reached 210 internal temperature and was a little on the crumbly side. Flavor was there though and it was moist too.

Major smoke ring as you all can see, but I’m a perfectionist with my cooking. I’d give it an 8 out of 10.

4 Hours Down…

12 to go…  What am I talking about?  My writing distraction for the day.  We’re having dinner guests who have all but demanded my brisket:

IMG_1544 (1) - Copy

But 16 hours?!? I hear some of you saying.  A good brisket is slow cooked over wood to give it maximum smoke flavor and tenderness.  Beef brisket and pork ribs are weird critters anyway.  To get to a proper Texas competition tenderness and flavor, you have to cook them to a higher internal temperature than something like a steak.  Ribs are done at about 185.  Brisket can be anywhere between 195 and 210 depending upon the individual piece of meat.  When slow cooked properly, both should hold together but the meat should tear with a gentle pull and still be tender and juicy.  Something like this:

IMG_1547

That lovely red around the outer edge is a smoke ring.  The darker the better.  🙂

Oh and another reason a brisket takes so long; a full “packer” cut of brisket starts at about 14 pounds.  You can count on having to trim a couple pounds of fat away though.

I’ve been told by Texas competition BBQers and judges that they like the look of my brisket.  I’ve been told by other Texans that mine is the best they’ve had since leaving Texas.  DivaQ eat your heart out, hehehe.

And for those of you who don’t get the Texas references, brisket is solidly a Texas thing, and they take it serious.  You can talk bad about a Texan’s momma before you badmouth their brisket, LOL.

So yeah, a little food bragging to take my mind off the neighborhood, the way nobody listens anymore, and having to clean house for tonight.

Oh and since I’m bragging…  Remember I said I bake too?  Here’s a Goo-Goo Cluster cheesecake I made last year:

IMG_1550 (1)

Now, as far as offering any Brisket lessons; just check out Aaron Franklin’s youtube channel or get his book “Franklin Barbeque; A Meat Smoking Manifesto”.  His BBQ is so good people line up at his restaurant at 4am for a noon opening.  He’s free with his secrets too, unlike many professional chefs.

Cooking Tip: Meat Shopping

I’m going to change gears here a little.  EARLY on in the blog here, I made it known that cooking is one of my other loves. 🙂  Anything from near competition level Southern BBQ to baking cakes and cheesecakes.  Am I world class?  No, not quite, but I’m darned good.

Apologies to any non-carnivores here, but since I run into the problem of finding fresh cuts of meat, I thought I’d share some info for readers.

First, let’s address the obvious question; what does it matter?  High end steak houses age their steaks a long time, right?  Yes, they do.  It’s a special process that is different from just leaving food to sit in a store or home refrigerator though.  The final part of that process also involves scraping and trimming mold off the surface of the meat also.  Some folks are OK with that, but the idea of eating meat that used to be covered with mold is gross to me.  What the dry aging process also does is take moisture out of the meat to concentrate the flavor of the remaining meat and juices.  You’re taking the steak part way to jerky for the sake of flavor.

I’m getting a bit off topic though.  My point is it’s a different deal getting an ages steak at a restaurant and having something sit around in the store forever.  I will quickly add that if you’ve ever had freshly butchered meat, there’s a world of difference between that and store bought or aged meat.

Hopefully the stores in your area are better than the ones in my city, but using food coloring or nitrogen to make meat look fresh longer is getting to be a very common trick as grocery stores try to stretch profits.  You can potentially end up with something that looks good on the surface, but is brown and starting to rot inside.

IMG_0374 - Copy

The above picture was meat I was going to cut up for fajitas…  Until I saw the brown in the middle.  What you have there is food coloring, probably injected as well as surface dunked.  Hence the weird ring of brown

Food coloring is easy to spot.  When you’re inspecting the meat, does it look to be a natural color of red?  That meat above was borderline on looking right color-wise.  One of the most blatant examples I personally found though was this:

IMG_1317

 

No, you’re not seeing things, that $18 a pound filet Mignon IS indeed fire engine red…  Even the fat!  So are the beef kabobs next to them.  Talk about food colored to death.  That’s the meat counter at Sprouts; a supposedly upscale grocer that prides itself on fresh and natural.  Lesson for the day; even “high end” grocery stores can try to pull a fast one on you.

Food coloring is getting to be out of favor though.  There’s a new technique used by grocers and meat distributors; spraying the meat with nitrogen gas.

Contrary to how that may initially sound, it’s not inherently a bad thing.  Nitrogen will slow the natural oxidation of the meat, which is a big part of what makes it spoil.  It’s similar to the reasons athletes and body builders use nitrogen based supplements and some places put nitrogen in car tires instead of air.

The problem comes when grocery stores ignore and refresh the pull dates because the meat still looks good on the surface.  Nitrogen won’t penetrate all the way through the meat so the center decays while the surface looks good.  Since the nitrogen is also rarely applied to every square inch of the meat, careful examination can turn up brown spots before you buy:

IMG_0563 - Copy

Now, note that is a USDA Prime cut of Brisket, which is the highest quality available.  More there in a bit.  This Brisket was also being sold by Costco, which used to pride itself on high quality and doing right by it’s members.  Does that big stripe of brown look quality to you?  It’s an indication that there’s more brown under the surface though.

So how do you find good meat if it’s all treated with Nitrogen?  It still comes back to color.  Nitrogen chases the oxygen out of the tissue and fluids, and oxygen is what gives meat it’s red color when it’s fresh.  SO, when it’s still early after it’s treatment, the meat will have a bit more of a pinkish color but still look fresh.  After it’s sat a while, the meat will get permeated by oxygen again, and turn more of it’s natural color:

IMG_0567 - Copy

THAT is probably a good tri-tip.  It’s red, the color is even and where the color varies, it’s more of a pinkish color like the bottom center.

What you want to look for and avoid is this:

IMG_0570.JPG

See how it looks red at first glance, but the steak that’s second from the top is showing brown in the left 2/3 of it?  The steak right below that one is faintly showing some brown also.  A discerning eye can save you some heartache and even more stomach ache.

If you have any doubts about the quality of the meat when you get it home and open it, cut a small slit in it and look inside.  Yes, you may lose a bit of juices when you cook but it’s better than eating iffy meat.  Better safe than sorry.

To be fair, meat like those Sam’s Club steaks above may not be far enough gone to present a health risk, particularly if you have a reasonably strong system.  With steaks costing $10 a pound though, don’t you deserve to get reasonable value and the most flavor for your money?

One last thing.  I mentioned above I’d talk about the differences between the USDA’s grades of meat.  This won’t apply outside the U.S. but many other places have similar systems.  A quick internet search can turn up info for you

In the US, we have three grades of meat:

Prime is the highest grade, and is the the most tender with the best marbling of fat.  It’s also the most expensive.  Typically it’s only found at better quality restaurants.  Real butcher shops and a few places like Costco and Sam’s Club will also have it usually.

Choice is the mid grade of meat.  This is what most grocery stores and low to mid quality restaurants typically carry.  While not quite as tender as prime and not having quite as even a level of marbling of fat, it’s still a good quality of meat, especially in the hands of a good chef.

Select is the lowest grade of meat.  It’s edible but won’t be as tender as the other grades, and will have less of more uneven fat marbling, meaning a higher potential for it to be dry after cooking.