April 14, 2015

The Ultimate Leg of Lamb

Last Easter I attempted to cook a leg of lamb and it was an epic failure.  My first mistake was only buying 1/2 a leg.  I learned the hard way there is not really a lot of meat on 1/2 a leg, most of it was bone.  The whole thing was kinda puny looking, not the dramatic hunk meat I needed for a blog post, let alone feed four hungry people. It's was definitely not one of my best outings. But I'm a man who learn from his mistakes, I've had a whole year to prepare for this year's Easter Feast.

Leg of Lamb on the Big Green Egg
This year I started with a WHOLE leg of lamb, total weight was about 9lbs. (Be sure to have your butcher remove the H-bone)  First, I removed all the fat and silver skin from the leg.  Then I took my knife and scruffed it up, I made shallow cross cuts in the meat to give the rub and past something to stick too.

To season the leg, I started with a light coating of olive oil the a generous sprinkling of my Casa Seasoning. Then, I let the leg rest and allow some time for the salt in the rub to start penetrating the meat while I make the Dolly's Lamb Paste.  I found the recipe for the Dolly's Paste on Meathead Goldwyn's Amazingribs.comThis is a great paste, it really brings out all the great flavor of the lamb.  I did tweak the recipe a little bit, I added a teaspoon of  thyme.  Meathead has the best BBQ & Grilling blogs on the internet.  Whenever I need information about anything related to BBQ I check Amazingribs.com first.  

Dolly's Lamb Paste
Dolly's Lamb Paste

2 tablespoon dried rosemary leaves, broken or crushed a bit by hand
1 tablespoon whole mustard seeds
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground bay leaves
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
10 cloves of garlic, peeled and pressed, or minced
6 tablespoons olive oil
Add all the ingredients to a food processor or blender and mix.  If it's a little thick just add more olive oil to thin it out.
After mixing the paste I applied good thick coating to the entire leg, really working it into the meat and all those little crevasses from the scruffing.  I used every last bit of the paste, I wanted to pack at much flavor as I could onto this hunk of meat.  Now, I left the lamb to rest while I set up my Big Green Egg.
Leg of Lamb with Dolly Plaste
I filled my BGE with oak charcoal and chunks of pean wood chunks for a light smoke flavor. I dropped in the platesetter and the drip pan filled with water.  Once the Egg was up to 300º I put the leg on let it cook for about 2 hours. I placed a temp probe in the deepest part of the leg and cooked it to 125º.  About 1/2 way through the cook I flipped the leg to get both side browned. After my meat alarm went off, I pull the leg off and let it rest in a pan covered with foil for about 30-40 minutes.
Now for the fun part.  I pulled the plate setter out, opened up bottom vent and let
the fire get smoking hot.  I put the leg back on the Egg and seared each side.  I kept flipping the leg every few minutes. 
After each flip I brushed the hot side of the leg down with olive oil.  During the sear the fat drips off the meat into the coals and really gets the flames going, so it doesn't take long to get a good sear on the meat. 

Alright, so my leg of lamb has been seasoned with a rub, then I applied the flavorful  Dolly paste,  it's been smoked and seared you would think that would be enough?  Nope.  I've got one more trick up my sleeve to add even more flavor, board sauce.  I first read about board sauces in Adam Perry Lang's book Serious BBQ, and let me tell you, it's a great idea.  I started by chopping some cloves of garlic, fresh rosemary, thyme on my cutting board.  After everything is thoroughly chopped I  poured in 2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and a little bit of red wine vinegar.  I worked it around the cutting board to get it all mixed together.  I laid the leg of lamb down in the board sauce and started slicing it.  As I sliced it the meat juices mixed the board sauce, I then dipped the sliced meat in the board sauce.

Leg of Lamb with Board Sauce
Do I really need to tell you how good this leg of lamb turned out?  I'm sure you can tell  by the pics it was pretty good.  It phenomenal!  The leg with the rub and Dolly paste was great, but the addition of the board sauce took it to another level. The fresh herbs in the sauce really brought out all the flavors in the lamb. It was such a good trick Cheryl said I have to make a board sauce with every meat I cook from now on.  If you like leg of lamb give this recipe a try, and be sure to send me your pics if you do.

March 31, 2015

Beef Cheek Barbacoa Tacos

Where the heck did March go?  It's been a busy month at AlbuKirky Seasonings. We've done two big events, a corporate demo and we're getting ready for another show tomorrow.  As hectic as it has been I have not forgotten about my blog.  I actually have a fantastic recipe for you all today, Beef Cheek Barbacoa Tacos!  Trust me, these tacos are the bomb!

Every time I go to Sam's club to pick up briskets and pork butts theres always a big package of beef cheeks in the meat case.  For years this package of beef has taunted me but I had no clue how to cook beef cheeks.  This year I really want to break out of my comfort zone and try different cuts and experiment with new flavors, so I finally pulled the trigger and bought it.  Now, I've got a 7 pound package of beef cheeks that I need to cook luckily, I found a great Barbacoa Beef Cheek Taco Recipe on Food52.  I've got a pack beef cheeks and a recipe, let's get cooking!

Barbacoa Tacos
Once of my favorite items on the salsa bars at the taco shacks is the pickled red onions.  They add a nice pickley onion flavor yet I never knew what made them so red, until now.  The secret is adding a quarter of a red beet to the picking juice and you get a beautiful bright red pickled onion.  The recipe is really easy and the onions are great on burgers and sandwiches too.

Pickled Red Onion

1 Red Onion, thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon of Salt
2 Tablespoons of Sugar
1/4 a Beet
2 Cups Cider Vinegar
1 Cup Water
1 Handfull of Chopped Cilantro (Optional)

I used a mandolin to get my onions really thin.  Once they onions were sliced I added them and all the  remaining ingredients in a microwave friendly bowl and nuked it on high for 1 minute, stirred and nuked it for another minute.  Allow the onions to cool, cover and refrigerate overnight.  In the morning the onions will be a beautiful red color.

This mise en place thing really works
Barbacoa Marinade
4 Cloves of Garlic, peeled
1 Tablespoon Creamy Peanut Butter
1 Ancho Chile
1 Teaspoon Instant Coffee or Espresso
1 Tablespoon of Honey
2 Teaspoons of Cumin
1 Teaspoon of Smoked Paprika
1 Teaspoon of Salt
2 Cup of Beef Stock, can use chicken broth

Start by cutting the top off the ancho chile and removing the seeds. Then chop the chile in to chunks and rehydrate about 1/4 cup of warm water.  Now through everything, including the water with the anchos, in the food processor and blend to a paste.  

Beef Cheek in Barbacoa Marinade
Now I didn't know this, but the beef cheek I bought was not cleaned.  There is a lot of fat and silver skin on the meat that needed to be clean before I could cook it.   The package was 7 pounds and when I was done cleaning there was maybe 4 pounds of actual meat.  Next time I'm just going to buy the cheek from the butcher already cleaned.  Now add the barbacoa marinade to the cheeks and thoroughly coat each piece.  Place the cheeks in the fridge and allow them to marinate over night. 

Barbacoa with Beef Stock
To cook the barbacoa, I was supposed to brown the meat on each side and then braise it in the a dutch oven with the beef stock.  I was a little anxious and I skipped this step, I just put all the beef cheek to the dutch over and added 1 cup of beef stock and cooked uncovered in the Big Green Egg, for about 1 1/2 hours at 350º.  This allow the meat to brown and pick up some smoke.  Then I added another cup of beef stock, covered, and cooked for another 2 hours.  The meat really needs to be fall apart tender, when it was done the internal temp of the bigger chunks was 200º-205º, but if you can easily pull it apart with a fork it's done. I shredded all the meat with a couple of forks then gave it all a good stir to get each piece covered in the rich barbacoa sauce.

Barbacoa on the Big Green Egg
For the tacos I like to use 2 white corn tortillas, a single corn tortilla will tear too easily and everything will end up on your lap.  I filled the tortillas with the rich and delicious barbacoa and then topped it with the tangy pickled red onions, a few slices of fresh radish, a good squeeze of lime juice and lil bit of flat leaf parsley. (I'm not a cilantro fan).    The barbacoa has a really deep rich flavor from the ancho, garlic and beef stock with just a hint of mesquite smoke.  The pickled onion, radish and lime add a bit of tang that cuts through all the richness of the meat.  I was really surprised how good these tacos turned out, they were just as good if not better than other barbacoa tacos I've eaten over the years.

Barbacoa Taco Ready to Eat!
That was a great culinary experience.  I broke out of my comfort zone and cooked something some completely new and de-freaking-cious!.  Cheryl said it was definitely in the top five of things I've ever cooked, and she don't just hand out compliments like that.  I already have a big head and she doesn't really want it to get any bigger. This definitely a great recipe, so give it try, I'll definitely be making them again!

February 28, 2015

Smoking & Curing Salmon

I'm snowed in.  We got a whopping 6" of snow last night and the entire city is practically shut down, at least until the sun comes out and melts it all.  I've been cooking up some good stuff lately and I thought today would be perfect for catching up on my blog.  As I promised, this is going to be the year of the fish and I'm going to kick it off with a cured and smoked salmon.  I've not been a big fan of salmon, but I thought if I smoked and cured it myself I could learn to like it again.  Everything always tastes better when I make it myself.

Salmon on the smoker
I'm using the recipe from "Where There's Smoke" by Barton Seaver.  His recipe includes some great instructions for setting the smoker for a cold smoke.  This is a pretty basic cure recipe but does call for Mace, no not the pepper spray.  Mace is the sibling spice of nutmeg and actually from the same fruit. The pit is ground for nutmeg, mace is the outer fruit that has been dried and ground.  Mace has a much bolder flavor than nutmeg and really makes a difference in the cure and flavor of the salmon.  Now, I had a hard time finding this stuff but it was well worth it. But if you can't find it, fresh ground nutmeg will work.

Salmon Cure
3 1/2 Cups of Kosher Salt
1 Cup of Sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons Ground Mace
1 1/2 Tablespoons Ground Coriander
1 1/2 Tablespoons Onion Powder

Add all the ingredients in a large bowl and thoroughly mix.

I started with two big salmon filets and then made 4-5 shallow slices in the skin of the salmon then removed any stray bones.  Slicing through the skin will allow the liquid in the salmon to escape during the curing.

Salmon filets prepped for curing
I poured about 1/2 cup of the cure on a cookie sheet then placed the salmon filets on top skin side down.  Then I covered the filets with the remainder of the salt cure. 

Salmon filets covered in cure mix.
I placed the whole thing in the fridge, uncovered, for 18 hours.  Below you can see just how much liquid came out of the salmon. 

Salmon after 18 hours of curing
After washing the cure off the salmon I dried and brushed it down with some vodka.  The recipe called for Pernod,  sambuca, bourbon or vermouth.  I didn't have any of those, so I used vodka, which I really liked because it didn't impart any flavor to the salmon. After brushing the filets down with the vodka, I returned the salmon to the fridge uncovered for another 24 hours. The alcohol will evaporate the moisture on the surface of the fish and forms a tacky film that the smoke will adhere to during cooking.

Brushing the salmon filets with vodka
Since my Egg tends to run a little hot I decided to use my box smoker.  I built a small fire with a mix of Kingsford Brickets, lump oak charcoal and some chunks of pecan wood.  To try to keep the heat down I filled the drip pan with ice, barely cracked the top vent and placed a foil ball in the vent tube on the back to limit the airflow and keep the heat low.   The smoker never got over 150º, so it was more of warm smoke than a cold smoke.  I put the filets on the very top shelf of the smoke far away from the heat.

Setting up for cold smoking
 The salmon smoked for a good 2 hours.  Since I've never had good smoked salmon I'm not sure what the texture is supposed to be, cooked and flakey or soft like lox? My salmon was cooked and flakey, the internal temp was 130º when I pulled it off.  Regardless of the texture it was delicious.  After smoking, I allowed the salmon to cool then wrapped it with plastic wrap and refrigerated it overnight.  The salmon will last up to 2 weeks in the fridge and up to 4 months in the freezer.

Salmon smoked for 2 hours
After 3 days of curing, drying and smoking, its finally time to eat this fish.  As you know by now we never do things half-assed at the AlbuKirky Kitchens and to accompany my exquisitely prepared salmon Cheryl made a batch of homemade bagels.  They were absolutely spectacular.  And, yes, they were poached and then baked, imparting a chewy texture to the crust just like the real deal.  Maybe she'll hijack my blog and share the recipe on a future post.

Cheryl's homemade bagels
Here we have our homemade bagel, smoked salmon, thinly sliced red onion, cornichons, capers and a good schmear of cream cheese.  Up until this last week I have never in my life eaten a bagel with cream cheese and salmon, as of this posting I have now eaten four of them.  If Cheryl would make some more bagels I would probably be eating another right now as write this blog, they were that good.  

Bagel with smoked salmon and all the toppings.
It took a bit of time to make the salmon, but it totally blew me away.  The curing really concentrated the flavor and I was able to get a really good smoke on it.  I'm going to work on the cold smoking technique and try to get the salmon a softer texture like lox.  I think I like salmon again, but what I really liked were homemade bagels.  I need to get Cheryl to make some more of them!

Follow up...since we devoured these bagels in 2 days time, I picked up more at a popular bagel chain so we could enjoy more of this delicious salmon. I won't name names, but it rhymes with Schmeinstein Schmagels.  Not as good, Cheryl has forever ruined the store bought bagel for me. Thanks...thank a lot. 

February 22, 2015

A Grilled.... A Grilled Lobster

Last weekend was Valentines Day and I decided to cook up something special for my Hunny Bunny.  Cheryl has been threatening me with divorce if I don't make smoked lobster for her birthday, so I thought I would surprise her and make it a whole month earlier.  Kind of like a little insurance, if it's good I'm off the hook, if not I've got another month to regroup and cook it again on her birthday.  I think she's pretty serious about this divorce thing.

Lobster Tails seasoned with olive oil, cracked pepper and sea salt
I was at my favorite store in the world, Costco, and saw some really nice, big lobster tails.  These were some big freaking tails, you know the kind you would pay $50 in a restaurant for, only this package of 2 was $25.

I consulted my Myron Mixon cookbook for the recipe.  It was so simple that I felt really stupid for not doing it sooner.  Start by splitting the tails down the middle and season with olive oil, salt and fresh cracked pepper.  Be sure to pull the shell apart a little bit and season all the meat.

Lobsters cooking on the Big Green Egg.
I heated up the Big Green Egg to 350º.  Since lobster is a fairly delicate meat, I used a mix of oak charcoal and pecan wood chunks for a light smoke that would compliment the flavor and not overwhelm it.  Once the grill was up to temp, I placed the tails on the grate and cooked over direct heat for 20 minutes to reach an internal temperature of 140º.  I plucked those bad boys off the grill, removed the tails from the shells and served them immediately with melted butter.  How easy was that?

Dinner is served!
The lobster was absolutely delicious.  It was sweet and tender with just a light smoke flavor. My Hunny Bunny was so happy she made us this lovely dessert, a brownie skillet with salted caramel gelato.  I think I might have avoided divorce for at least the remainder of this year, but I'm pretty sure I'll be cooking the lobster again for her birthday in a month.  Not much to improve upon here, but a nice juicy steak on the side couldn't hurt.  A little surf and turf is a beautiful thing!

It's not Valentine's Day with out chocolate.

February 7, 2015

Cleaning Out My Freezer

Over the years my freezer has basically become meat purgatory. I'll buy plus packs of meats, cook half and freeze the rest for later.  Well, later never happens and after a year or two I end up throwing the frost encrusted, freezer-burned meat"cicles" away.  This year, I have resolved to clean out my freezer and actually eat some of these meats and save myself some serious cash in the process.  

This is my freezer, aka Meat Purgatory.
If you're a loyal reader you might remember the Cowboy Cut Ribeye Steaks I cooked a few years ago, I had two steaks left over that I had vacuum sealed and frozen.  I have known these steaks were in the freezer and I had every intention of cooking them sooner, but I never got around to it.  After two long years, I'm finally going to eat these bad boys.  Allegedly vacuumed sealed and frozen beef is good for up to three year. I guess we're about to find out.

Slow cooking the Rib Eye Steaks
I recently read some articles about the perils of defrosting frozen steaks before cooking them. The jist of the articles was to just cook the steaks and not defrost them.  Since these steaks were pretty thick I decided a reverse sear would be the way to go.  Cooking the steaks at a low heat would be perfect for defrosting/cooking the steaks and then finishing them off with a good searing to build up that flavorful crust.

Searing the Steaks
I fired up the BGE and dropped in the plate setter for indirect cooking. I placed the frozen steaks on great and inserted the thermometer probe and set the alarm for 115º.  The BGE was cooking at 250º and it took about an hour for the steaks to defrost and reach the internal temp.  I pulled the steaks off and allowed them to rest for a bit.  I removed the grate and flipped the cast iron plate setter over and let it get smoking hot.  Once the plate was good and hot I threw the steaks back on to sear.  When searing, I like to keep the steaks moving, flipping and turning until I get a good sear all over the surface of the steak.  

A perfectly cooked medium rare steak.
I had a lot riding on this steak, vacuum sealing, no defrosting and a reverse sear.  It could be a succulent success or a total freaking disaster.  The steak looks great and got a nice crust from the sear.  I sliced it and it's looking pretty good, almost all of the meat is a perfect medium rare.  Now, for the moment of truth, the taste...and it's delicious.  The slow cooking gave the steak a really good smoke flavor.  The texture and flavor of the meat was as good as a fresh cut steak.  Although, I wouldn't serve it to dinner guests, I doubt anyone would be able to taste the difference.

I will call this a succulent success.  I really like the low and slow reverse sear with a frozen steak.  It's really convienent to just throw the steak on the grill and let it start cooking.  This is definitely a technique I'm going to perfect and there's a ton of meat in my freezer to practice with.

January 13, 2015

The Cooking To-Do List for 2015

The New Year is upon us and it’s time to make some plans for 2015. I’m not going to do anything stupid like promising to post every 5 days, because we all know that ain’t going to happen. But there are a few things I would like to cook or improve upon this year.  Basically, this is my cooking to-do list for 2015.

Grilled Halibut
For me this is going to be the year of the fish.  Over the years I have struggled with cooking fish.  Fish is very delicate meat that requires a lot of fineness and is not well suited for my bull in a china closet style. I’ve never been much of a fish eater either, so it will be an adventure trying different fish and finding ones that I like.  Then learning to cook it properly, and in one piece will be a challenge.  It should be a lot of fun though, and I might actually get a little healthier in process.

Grilled Lobster
Last year Cheryl asked me to make the Smoked Lobster from one of Myron Mixon’s cookbooks, well I never got around to it. Kind of like how she has never gotten around to washing my running shoes that have been sitting the garage for 6 months, but I digress.  She has now demanded that I make it for her birthday. Her birthday is March 25, so look for the Smoked Lobster Post or the I’m Getting Divorced post in early April.


I love tacos!  Rolled, fold, hard, soft they are all delicious.  With a plethora of Mexican restaurants here in Albuquerque I eat them all the time, I just never make them at home. This year I'm going to change that!

One of our best sandwiches ever, The Cubano!
Last year we made some great sandwiches, the Cubano and the pastrami on homemade rye, it was a delicious trend that I want to continue in 2015.  Cheryl will continue to bake beautiful loaves of bread, I’ll keep smoking the meat and we'll make ever more spectacular sandwiches.

Just a few of my cookbooks
I have amassed quite a collection of cookbooks over the years.  I do consult them frequently for ideas and inspiration but I never quite follow the recipes.  I always have to put my own spin on it or take shortcuts.  This year, when I pick a recipe I'm going to stick to it, should be a good exercise in culinary discipline and I might actually learn something.

Along with my usual BBQ I think I've got plenty to work on this year. If there is something you would like to see me cook, just leave me a comment below.  If I use your suggestion I'll give some free AlbuKirky Seasonings products.  Send me some suggestions and let get cooking!

January 1, 2015

Giving the Gift of Bacon

Hello there loyal followers!  I apologize for being MIA again but it's been a really busy month for AlbuKirky Seasonings.  Team AlbuKirky has been busy with craft shows and demos all month. I also have been busy packing gift boxes for some big corporate orders.  It's been a lot of work, but it's also very exciting to see our business grow one bottle at a time.  2014 has been our best year ever and we can hardly wait for 2015!

Homemade Bacon and Pancakes
Unfortunately, I have not had much time this month for cooking, which means I don't have anything to write about.  You would think after 4 years of blogging I would have a inventory of backup posts, but I don't.  Maybe I'll work on that next year.  Anyway, due to my lack of posts this month I think I'm going to have to make up for it by playing the bacon card.  Yes, I'm going to resort to pictures of homemade smokey pork goodness to restore reputation and get back into your good graces.  Actually, this is not a totally shameless bacon post,it is a story of giving and Christmas Spirit.

This Christmas Cheryl and I decided we wanted to give some really special gifts to some of our friends this year.  We harnessed our combined culinary powers to make homemade bacon, bread and beer jelly.  Cheryl was responsible for the bread and beer jelly and of course, I would make the bacon.  Hopefully Cheryl will share her beer jelly recipes, maybe if you leave a few comments below or on our Facebook page she'll post them sooner.

Casa Bacon

Casa Bacon

10 lb Pork Side
1 cup Kosher Salt
1/3 cup of Sugar
1 tablespoon of Pink Curing Salt (Optional)

Coat the entire pork side with the salt cure.  Place in a large stainless steel pan, glass dish or ziplock bag and refrigerate for 7 days.  After curing remove from the pan and wash the salt cure off with cold water.  Pat the pork dry and give both sides a light coating of oil.  Season both sides liberally with Casa Seasoning and coarse pepper.  Slow smoke the pork side at 225º for 3-4 hours, internal temp of at least 160º.  The bacon is now ready to slice, fry and serve.  Bacon will last a good 2 weeks in the fridge.

A few months ago I made a batch of bacon with using my Casa Seasoning and it was really good, the garlic and pepper made for a really unique flavor combination. I usually use brown sugar in my bacon cures, but this time used regular sugar.  I needed to offset the salt with some sweet but I didn't want the molasses in the brown sugar to clash with the garlic and pepper in the Casa Seasoning.  

Casa Bacon on the Big Green Egg
For the smoking I used oak charcoal and some big chunks of cherry wood. I wanted a light and slightly sweet smoke that would compliment the garlic and pepper in the cure.  My usual mesquite charcoal would have been too much for the flavor profile I was looking for.     Once it was all done, I though it was perfect, it peppery, garlicy and slight sweet.  I hope our friends enjoy it as much I as I did.

Now that the bacon is done its was time for Cheryl to get to baking.  She baked up some beautiful loaves of Italian bread.  It's a big and dramatic loaf of bread that was sure to impress. Cheryl has been perfecting her bread making skills and these were the best loaves she's baked all year.  

The Gift of Bread, Bacon and Beer Jellies
So far I have delivered our Christmas packages to a few of our friend and they were super excited.  The were all like little kids with a new toy.  But this was better than a toy because you could eat it!