Archive for May, 2015

Country Style Pork Ribs

For today’s entry, there’s a new piece of equipment. For two upcoming camping trips, I want to be able to smoke something, anything, for dinner one night while we’re there, but all the campsites have are fire pits and those grills that are so wide open and shallow that you can only grill things on them fast and hot like burgers and hot dogs. But whatever goes has to be small and lightweight.

Enter the Brinkmann Smoke’N Grill portable charcoal smoker. I had considered one of the many DIY plans online for smokers using things like a Weber Smoky Joe kettle grill and a 32 qt. steamer pot, or a terra cotta pot and an electric hot plate, but one takes metal fab skills I haven’t used since 8th grade shop class and tools I don’t have and the other requires electricity where you should be at least roughing it a little bit. Not to mention both ended up costing more than the $50 of the Brinkmann because of all the parts and extras you have to buy. So I grabbed the last one The Home Depot had, some Kingsford hickory briquettes, lighter fluid and hickory chunks.

Once I had it out of the box and assembled, I couldn’t wait for the next morning. Kind of like the reverse order of a kid with a Christmas present.

2015-05-30 17.28.03When I smoke meat it’s almost always pork butt. But since this was a new cooker whose personality I hadn’t yet learned, I decided to go with something smaller in case it didn’t come out right. So I settled on a small tray of country style pork ribs. They’re almost entirely deboned, so there’s more meat to one than some others, and already in individual pieces that you don’t have to break apart to fit on the grill surface or peel anything off of. The rub I chose to use this time was from Bud’s Custom Meats in Penngrove, CA, about an hour north of San Francisco. It’s a little sweeter than the Head Country rub I usually use, which is also a little spicier with more garlic and onion flavor.

2015-05-30 13.51.14After getting the charcoal lit, I applied the rub, which didn’t take long enough for the Kingsford to burn down to coals, but who’s in a hurry? There was plenty of time to enjoy the cool breeze of a rainy Arkansas day while visiting with a neighbor, who would be my guest, smoking chicken leg quarters on the lower grill surface. Once they had burned down enough, we added a few small, dry hickory chips at first just to get the smoke started, followed by some chunks that had been soaking for about half an hour. Finally, it was time to add the meat, close the lid and sit back for a 5 hour visit, occasionally stoking the fire adding more charcoal, adding more wood, and refilling a beverage, always careful not to let the smoke stop and keep the temperature in the “Ideal” range on the gauge.

2015-05-30 17.04.41Note to self: shop for inexpensive aftermarket temperature gauge that fits the same hole, but has numbers on it.

The final half hour or so, we removed the water pan to let the meat cook faster and all the way through. That was also the opportunity I took to turn the ribs,  slop some 2015-05-30 17.28.26sauce on them, and turn them again halfway through to get the other side. Nothing like a good cooked-on glaze. My choice this time was Head Country’s hickory flavored sauce.

You can point the finger of blame at me for forgetting to get baked beans when I was at the store the night before, so frozen tater tots were the best available candidate for a side. Leave it to my girlfriend to come up with something to step it up a notch. Some people would be satisfied with salt and/or ketchup.

Others go for cheese tots. She came up with a whole new creation: Ro-Tel (seasoned, diced tomatoes and diced green chilis) and Velveeta. So, is this a new twist on an old favorite that Sonic and other fast food places will eventually offer, “Southwest Cheesy Tots?” Or has moving to Arkansas turned her full redneck? You decide. I’ll say they were really good!

The ribs were a bit on the salty side, but I suspect it was the combination of the rub and the cooked on sauce. One or the other by itself would probably have been fine.

So this time around you not only got my account of smoking ribs, but a long winded story and a bonus recipe!

Dr. Pepper-Bourbon Brine

chicken and brine in a bagI’m trying a new brine tonight. I’ve cut two chicken breast fillets into skewer-size pieces and put them in a Ziploc bag. They’ll be in the refrigerator for about 48 hours, due to plans for dinner out tomorrow night, but the alcohol should keep any bacteria at bay.

In a mixing bowl I combined:

1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup Dr. Pepper
1/4 cup bourbon (I used Evan Williams)
a few shakes of salt
a few shakes of black pepper
a few shakes of ground cloves

I stirred it all together with a fork, put the chicken in the bag and then poured in the brine. Looking back, it would’ve been easier if I’d used a large Pyrex measuring cup instead of a mixing bowl, or just poured all the brine ingredients into the bag, sealed it, mixed it by mashing it with my hands until blended and then added the meat. Oh, well. Next time.

The final product was tender and flavorful, but not overly juicy, so I may have just cooked them too long. First I got the grilling surface good and hot on both sides, with some hickory chips in the smoker boxes on the right. Then I turned them both down to medium and put on the skewers. They got a few minutes on one side, then the other, then back and forth one more time each. The second round is when they got basted with a good coat of the Dr. Pepper barbecue sauce. Some folks like a mustard-based sauce, some like vinegar. Others like sweet and smoky, or maybe even molasses or honey. I definitely fall in the sweet category. But still others prefer it hot and peppery. That was my impression of this sauce, and I couldn’t really tell that there was any Dr. Pepper flavor to it. So it made an okay glaze, but I definitely needed a refill on my iced tea before it was all said and done.

Beer Batter Grill-Fried Chicken

in the panI had a craving for some beer batter fried chicken but, as usual, wanted to cook on my grill. What’s a southern boy to do? Aluminum pans to the rescue! This way I can fry chicken for real (not bake pre-fried, frozen stuff on a cookie sheet in the oven), not fill the house with that stale fried grease smell for hours or days to come, not make a mess on the stove, not have to wash a pan afterward, and (BONUS!!) I get to use my grill.

Now granted, it had been a coon’s age since I’ve fried chicken myself, so I forgot one important step in the process. But it still came out alright, and I’ll remember next time.

For the batter:

1 cup plain old bleached flour
1 egg
1 12 0z. bottle of beer
seasonings of your choice

I used a “French Fry Seasoning” from the store that smells and tastes an awful lot like the stuff they have on the table at Steak N Shake restaurants.

Instead of filling the pan with a couple of inches of vegetable oil, I melted two sticks of real butter over low heat, so not to scorch it.

Paula Deen would be proud.

crunchies on the plateI wanted to see if this method will work for camping trips later this year. I’ll remember for next time, but I forgot that after dipping in the batter the chicken should be rolled in another, dry mix of flour and spices so it’ll stick. Also, I had the burners on medium to prevent scorching the butter, but it took forever to start sizzling. Once I set them to about three quarters, it went just fine. So I got fried chicken minus a lot of its crust, but a lot of really good crunchies. (Yeah, just like the crumbs at Long John Silver’s.) Flour, seasoning, beer, egg, butter. It’s practically buttered french toast. Minus syrup plus beer.

I asked my girlfriend if she wanted to try some of the crunchies with me (and they were soooo good!), but she kept saying something about arteries… or some such nonsense… I couldn’t hear over the crunching sound.

drumsticks, crunchies and iced teaMore for me.

Gave her neighbor one of the drumsticks, as he was getting home just as they finished, so I had three legs, a lot of crunchies and sweetened iced tea. I love being southern! Now for a slice of lemon icebox pie…