Yes, it was a few days ago, but I needed time to recover, LOL. As usual, I spent WAY too much time cooking. The results and everybody’s enjoyment make it worth while however. 🙂
I once again cooked the turkey on out Recteq(Formerly Rec Tec; they changed the spelling) pellet smoker. I also had my cousin-in-law (is that a thing? 😀 ) drop off a ham since his kids are not turkey fans. Plenty of room in the smoker for both.
Since cooking low and slow will turn any poultry skin rubbery, I peeled the skin off the turkey before smoking it. At the point this picture was taken, it was looking better than it did going onto the grill. The ham was pre-cooked and spiral cut, so it went on for a shorter time to simply warm it up and add some smoke flavor to it. We’ve had that brand of ham before and it’s overly sweet out of the wrapper.
I had actually started with the desserts, as they’re the most time consuming. Up at 2:30am start also. There were 2 dutch crust apple pies and a Ghirardelli double layer cheesecake.
One of those pies went to the next door neighbor, who was kind enough to bring us over a store bought pumpkin pie. The cheesecake(link to recipe at Ghirardelli) was major work. I didn’t remember to get a picture until after we’d cut into it also, lol.
What you have there is a chocolate graham cracker crust, then a layer of regular “vanilla” cheesecake topped by a layer of chocolate espresso cheesecake, then covered with Ghiradelli chocolate ganash, fresh raspberries and mint leaves as garnish.
Since the layers are both liquid when added to the springform pan, they come out with a marbled look instead of even layers. There are some things I’d change with that recipe, having made it now. That will be a separate post in the near future though. 😉 Overall it was a hit, and almost as rich as my goo-goo cluster cheesecake. Something I just realized I’ve never posted here… O_O
Once the desserts were out of the way, I was able to focus on the actual dinner.
One very easy side dish I did was a giant butternut squash:
All I did here was skin it, dice it into cubes, throw it in a casserole dish with melted butter, and top it with brown sugar and cinnamon, then bake.
It’s an easy, old school recipe for a veggie dish that even most kids will devour.
There was also some homemade dressing, not stuffing. The difference there is that stuffing goes IN the turkey for cooking. Dressing goes in the oven in a baking dish. Unfortunately, I forgot to get pictures of those two items.
Family also brought over some green bean casserole, fresh baked bread and store bought pecan pie. Yes there was as much dessert as there was food.
Note I wasn’t able to get the skin off the drumsticks or wings, as the picture shows.
How did THAT experiment work out? Reasonably well. I won’t call it a huge success because the turkey was just slightly dry. That had more to do with my thermometer breaking on me though. That, in turn, led to the turkey staying on the smoker a little longer than it should have.
And that’s my Thanksgiving dinner recap. With that, I’ll leave you with this important Thanksgiving thought:
My food posts used to have quite a following. The weather here has been horrible though; more rain than I saw in 10 years back in California. Then the last two months has been house / moving / kitty drama.
I had a few food posts ready to go, but the pics disappeared (along with motivation). HOWEVER, I did manage to find my birthday dinner pics from… a while back. 😉
Yes, we started with spare ribs. My go to for MY day… for a few years now. No, they’re NOT undercooked either. THAT is insanely deep smoked flavor as they were cooked as low and slow as I possibly could. I think they took about 10 hours. Most quality rib joints only cook theirs for about 6 hours.
There was also some corn bread:
And some homemade mac and cheese:
The Panko breading on top didn’t brown too well unfortunately. Blame the cheeses.
My world famous, made from scratch guacamole (appetizer):
And salad and veggies also, but the pics seem to have disappeared… Well, all but one:
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.
It’s been a couple of days, but I’m back with a tasty food treat. Last Sunday was Superbowl Sunday. No big deal for me, other than I like to see the commercials. They’re typically more creative than the average advertisement. As with last year, I made some snack type food to nibble on while we were parked in front of the TV.
I kept it a little more basic this time since it ended up being just the two of us. However, the weather allowed for pulling the smoker out of the garage and making some slow smoked chicken wings! 🙂
Step One: Brining
I started by wet brining the wings, and apparently forgot to get a picture of doing so. For those who aren’t familiar with the concept, wet brining is soaking a piece of meat in salt water. This adds moisture to the meat and the salt breaks down (tenderizes) the meat as well. This results in a moister, more tender piece of meat. I find it’s particularly helpful with previously frozen meat. As an added note, poultry and pork brine well, but beef shouldn’t be brined. Beef loses too much of it’s natural juices when brined, which means lost flavor.
Wet brine recipes are all over the internet, and the standard ratio is one cup of salt to one gallon of water. Personally, I think that tends to be a bit strong, and I go roughly 1/2 that. It will take a little experimenting for you to find a ratio that works for your individual tastes. You want the meat tender, but not too salty tasting after cooking.
You can also add other ingredients to your brine mix. I vary mine a bit, but minced garlic always makes it into the brine.
There’s also dry brining. That is basically putting the meat into a bed of salt or dry rubbing salt on it. I’ve yet to try this method for fear of the meat being too salty. HOWEVER, it’s supposed to be good for poultry. Wet skin tends to turn rubbery during cooking, and dry brining is one way to help prevent that. More on that in a little bit. 😉
Step Two: Prep
The next thing to do is dry off the wings as best you can,with some paper towels, for the reason previously mentioned. Before we get to putting a dry rub on the wings though, let’s mention another trick to getting crispy skin on your grilled chicken. That being to dust it lightly with either baking powder or corn starch. Baking powder is an old restaurant trick for this situation since it’s relatively flavor free in light doses.
After drying and possibly dusting with baking powder, there’s the dry rub.
I personally use a simple mix of Salt, Pepper and Garlic most of the time. Options are almost endless here however. Most stores carry several flavors also. Other favorites of mine are Greek, Chipotle and Lemon Pepper. There are thousands of recipes all over the internet also if you want to make your own.
My only two pieces of advice there are use fresh spices, and avoid sugar. Well, also if you make enough to have extra, store it in an airtight container. It’ll last longer. Sugar is really unnecessary though if the rest of the flavors are properly balanced. Some cooks like it because it caramelizes and helps produce a bark on the meat, but good grilling technique can eliminate that need also.
Step 3: Onto the Smoker!
After putting some sort of dry rub on the wings, they’re ready for the grill:
The big lesson in the picture above is to space them out. This gives the smoke as much surface area as possible to soak into the meat and flavor it.
Cooking the wings is a little tricky. The lower the temperature, the more time the smoke has to get into the meat. HOWEVER, to ensure a nice crispy skin on the wings, they need to be cooked at a minimum temperature of 275F to 300F or 135C to 148C.
If you cook at 200F, it will take roughly 2 hours and 15 minutes to get to a proper internal temperature of 165F (74C), which is the temperature the US government says is needed to kill all possible bacteria in the chicken. If you cook at the 275F to 300F range mentioned above, you can reduce that cooking time to roughly an hour and a half total.
A compromise option I use, and have mentioned here before, is to get the meat to an internal temperature about 30F below finished, then put it onto some direct heat like my Weber charcoal grill. This will put a nice sear on beef or pork, and help crisp up the skin on chicken.
As a side note, searing a piece of meat after slow cooking it is technically called a reverse sear. A normal sear occurs at the beginning of cooking. A normal sear is done to lock in moisture. Slow cooking does the same thing however, and will allow smoke and rub flavors to penetrate the meat.
That difference in temperature I found via experimenting. It seems to allow just enough time for the meat to develop a sear without drying it out. The reverse sear step can go fast regardless, so I advise closely monitoring the meat at his stage to avoid drying it out.
Step 4: EAT!
Serve with whatever dressing or sauce sounds exciting OR enjoy as is to truly savor the smoke flavor.
The above pic from Sunday reflects me skipping the reverse sear step. The weather was lousy, and my back was hurting. I crisped them up in our air fryer after this picture which made them much nicer.
They definitely turned out better than the game, or the commercials.
I’m overdue for a food post here. 🙂 I did this one a while back, and have just had too much drama to deal with.
Almost as fun as the cooking for me. It all started with the bottle of spice in the upper right corner of the picture. We found a cute little shop that sold spices for just about every kind of cooking you can think of. One of the bottles we bought was for fried chicken seasoning.
When it came time to do the chicken for dinner though, we were already behind schedule for the day and stressed out. I just plain didn’t feel like the mess of creating a batter dredge for the chicken. The end result is we decided to put the chicken on the smoker just using the seasonings without all the extra flour and oil.
Chicken that tasted exactly like fried chicken but with a deep smoke flavor also. It was really juicy and tender. Total winner; all the flavor of fried chicken with none of the fat and carbs!
We had it plain the first night, but the leftovers got served with veggies and topped with a bit of cream of mushroom soup as gravy:
This one was a fun experiment that turned out much better than I expected. It just goes to show that there are options for making classic unhealthy food into something healthy that still tastes great. It’s a process of discovery I’m enjoying more and more.
While I did mine on our Rec-Tec pellet smoker, this could just as easily be done baked in an oven. I’d recommend on a wire rack to let the skin crisp just a little as it bakes.
Yes, a 2 for 1 here. After trying the Korean Bulgogi recipe that’s been in my family for a good 40 years on chicken, I threatened to try it on pork as well. When I did spare ribs yesterday, I did just that. One one rack of ribs anyway. The other was old school Texas.
All that was missing was a little green onion added to the Asian ribs as garnish, and some sauce for the regular ribs, but that came later. 😉
The flavor was heavenly on both. I’ve seen a ton of complicated recipes to get ribs to turn out flavorful on a pellet smoker. Nothing beats plain old LOW and slow at 185 for 6 hours however. The only extra is a light basting with apple juice every 45 minutes or so to keep them moist. Results? Judge for yourself:
Magnificent smoke ring on both of them, and deep flavor. The Bulgogi ribs tasted like the best Chinese (well, Korean) restaurant food you’ve ever had. 🙂
OK, this is something I thought I’d never do. This sauce has been in the family for four generations now. I’d thought about keeping it secret too in case I ever opened a BBQ resaurant. With my hearing loss and back / neck problems though, that seems unlikely. I also got a Keto focused blog as a follower and realized this could help people on a quest to cut sugar and similar empty carbs out of their diet.
You see, this is an OLD school Texas sauce. That means there’s no sugar or molasses in it. I *hate* commerical sauces because that’s all they are. This sauce is savory, smokey and with just a LITTLE heat to it. Anyway, if Aaron Franklin can publish his sauce recipes, I suppose I can too. Franklin’s sauces have a good bit more heat too BTW.
So here we go. Licensed for private use only, LOL.
13 ounce bottle of catsup
5 ounce bottle of Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce
Juice of Two Lemons
1 Tablesppon of Yellow Mustard
6 Heavy Dashes of Tabasco Sauce
2 Medium Yellow or White Onions, Diced
3 Cloves of Garlic, Diced Fine
Salt and Pepper to Taste
2 Catsup Bottles full of Water
My great grandmother used to add a half pound of butter to the sauce to keep it from “breaking” and keep it smooth. My mom and I both agree that just makes the sauce too greasy though. Try it if yout want but I’d advise against it. Simmer the sauce for a half hour to an hour to allow the flavors to fully meld and blend together. Cooking it slow does matter.
The recipe above makes about a quart. Plenty to add to a dinner of ribs, chicken or brisket after it comes off the grill. It doubles fine if you really like your BBQ sauce. Keeps fairly well in the fridge or freezer also.
If you want to truly make absolutely sure there’s no sugar, replace the catsup with tomato sauce or better yet, cook and puree your own tomatoes into an equal amount of tomato sauce. Yes, catsup and even some canned tomato sauce have sugar added to them. Almost any commercially made food product does nowadays.
Even using the catsup however, there should be minimal sugar compared to commercially bottled sauces. The carb count on almost all of them is off the charts, esp if you consider they typically measure by the teaspoon as a serving size.
Once you’ve made the sauce once, it’s easy to tweak to personal tastes. I use one larger onion that would equate out to about 1 1/2 medium onions for example.
Note this will be a thinner sauce too; authentic old school Texas before everybody started using mollasses to turn their sauces into overly sweet gunk. It’ll stick to food fine however. 🙂
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:
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. 🙂
It’s FINALLY time! Yep, the pictures are downloaded and I finally have time to tell the tale. Easily offended vegetarians, vegans, kosher and halal eaters may want to leave now. 😀
That said, here’s the run down on the BBQ a couple of days ago. St Louis style BBQ ribs were the main course.
For anyone who doesn’t know the difference, St Louis style spare ribs (keeping it simple) are from the thicker belly ribs on the pig. Baby Baby back ribs (a.k.a. loin ribs, back ribs, or Canadian back ribs) are taken from the top of the rib cage between the spine and the spare ribs, below the loin muscle. St Louis ribs are flatter, have a slightly higher fat content (which can make for good flavor), and brown more evenly. Baby Backs do come from adult pigs, and some people think they’re more tender. It’s more about how either is cooked though.
The same can be said with the meat content for either rib. St. Louis style come from the belly, so the thicker the meat on the ribs, the less bacon and pork belly you get from the pig. It all depends upon how both pieces of meat are cut and trimmed. I look for packages with nice thick ribs. 🙂
THAT is the bone side of the ribs. You want to cook the ribs with that side facing the heat to avoid drying out the meat. That layer of white across 2/3 of it is called silver skin (at least it is in cooking circles here). It’s a connective membrane that helps keep meat together and connect fatty tissue to meat. Now if the silver skin is thin, you can ignore it and let the cooking weaken it. THIS is really borderline, and I probably should have skinned it off. If it’s thicker or especially if you’re doing a competition, you want all silver skin gone. It can not only be tough, but it also blocks flavor from smoke or seasoning from getting through.
Now this is the other side. Almost all the meat on St Louis ribs are on this side or between the ribs. This side rarely has any silver skin, BUT…
That’s a perfect example of way too thick silver skin. I had to get my trusty Cutco fileting knife and cut that out. It would have been like having a piece of rubber in the ribs otherwise.
There was a little left further under that fold of fat and meat to the right but it was thinner and I didn’t want to cut away half the meat to chase, so I left it.
After that, it was time for the rub:
There’s BBQ folks that put 20 different seasonings in secret combinations to create a fancy rub. Almost all of them have brown or white sugar also. I believe in keeping it simple. Just like with my last few food posts, it was salt, pepper and garlic, then some of Costco’s mesquite flavoring.
With my family’s roots in Texas, I’m not big on sugar in cooking (baking is another story, hehe). Never mind it’s unhealthy, and hidden in everything we eat too. Even my BBQ sauce recipe (four generations old at this point) is only tomato, water, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, onion, salt, pepper, lemon juice and a little Tabasco. Tangy and savory without being sickeningly sweet like the bottled stuff at the grocery stores.
Once all three racks of ribs were done, into the smoker they went:
Yep, it’s a big smoker, but we wanted one that would let us entertain.
Now in competition, the big thing with smoking ribs anymore is the “3-2-1” method. You start out low and slow for 3 hours, misting the ribs as you go, then at the 3 hour mark, you pull them, put them in a ‘boat’ of aluminum foil, add some apple cider, seal it up and throw the ribs back on for 2 hours. This lets them steam in the apple cider. Pork and apple are a good pairing, so if you want to do sweet, that’s a good option. This also supposedly keeps the ribs from drying out due to the prolonged cook. Then the last hour, you pull them back out of the foil and cook them “naked” again to finish cooking and hopefully put a little bark on the ribs.
Me… I have to be different, LOL
Here’s what I don’t like about the 3-2-1 method. First, the few times I tried it, I tasted more apple than pork. No bueno. Secondly, the time spent steaming in the apple cider tended to make the ribs a little mushy. Yes, I went fairly light on the cider too. 🙂 The mushiness wasn’t horrible, but you just couldn’t get a good looking bark or crust to the ribs. Lastly, the method is really intended for an old fashioned ‘stick burner’ smoker. Those are designed to operate around 250 degrees F (121degrees C) or so. Using a pellet grill, I am able to keep a very constant heat as low as 180 degrees. I just do a straight cook through, spraying the ribs every half hour or so to keep them moist. When they’re within 30 or 40 degrees of done, I turn up the temperature on the pellet grill and finish them off, putting a nice bark on them:
Do those look dry at all? LOL Because I go low and slow, I’m able to get smoke flavor and coloring all through the ribs also. I had one guest as me if they were done because of that even pink color. 😀
One thing I didn’t cover was the “spritz” AKA what I spray them with while cooking. Apple cider is again a common choice. Too sweet though, especially if you’re doing the 3-2-1 method also. What I use on either beef or pork is a mixture of broth, water and pepsi or coke. 1 part Pepsi to two parts water to 4 parts broth. Using broth as a primary ingredient keeps the flavor pure. Just use beef broth for beef and pork broth for pork. The water keeps the broth weak enough that the meat doesn’t taste like soup, and helps with moisture. The soda pop helps the spritz stick, adds a little browning and just a touch of sweet without overpowering the meat’s flavor.
One last note: Ribs are properly done when they have an internal meat (not bone or fat) temperature of 185 to 200 degrees. At that point, the meat should stay on bone, but still come away easily with a light tug of the fingers or teeth. If it’s tough, it’s undercooked. If it falls apart, it’s been cooked to death. My own personal experience vs conventional wisdom is that 185 to 190 is about the ideal temperature.
And that’s it for Silk’s scrumptious Southern style BBQ ribs. 🙂
We also had leftover Brisket and chicken, along with that homemade BBQ sauce I mentioned, green beans and bacon, smoked portabella mushrooms sauteed in marsala and garlic, biscuits, a green salad and raspberry and yogurt fruit salad sort of thing I found on Pinterest.
All of that would take an entire second post however, lol.