April 13, 2014

Feast of Thrones

Last week was the big Game of Thrones Season 4 Premier so we had a big feast to celebrate and watch the show.  Like an alcoholic always looking for an excuse to drink, we're always looking for an excuse to eat!  And like they say, misery loves company, so we decided to invite a few friends over and turn this gorge-apoloza into a potluck!  

We started the evening with a cheese & cured meats board.  Mrs. AlbuKirky absolutely loves to create festive cheese platters.  It may look simple but I think this probably set us back $60 because we bought everything at Whole Foods.  Do you think they have a very expense health food store in Westeroos? Maybe Geoffrey's anger stems from a gluten allergy??

Appetizer Cheese & Cured Meats Board
For the Feast of Thrones I made a very rustic and medieval whole beef shank.  Look's pretty impressive. The beef was delicious, but my recipe needs a little work before it's blog-worthy.  Best part, after eating all the meat you can use the bone for a weapon.

The Shank of Beef!
Trissi & Sean, who we affectionally refer to as Tron, actually consulted the Game of Thrones Cookbook for their feast dishes.  Sean made the Honeyed Chicken but went rogue and decided to cook it in his smoker.  It was a very tasty chicken with a lot of big flavors.

Smoked Honeyed Chicken
Not to be out done, Trissi had to bring two dishes and a loaf of bread, Castle Black Salad and a very rustic looking Apple Pan Doudy.  With all that meat you gotta have some greens, yah know.

Castle Black Salad
Apple Pan Doudy
Shay, the crafty comedian, actually created placards for her White Walker Cookies.

White Walker Cookies
As you can tell, we had quite an impressive feast. It was a fantastic evening of food, drink and dragons, actually there was not enough dragons.  This season looks like it's going to be pretty epic. I predict there will be plenty of blood, maybe some more beheadings and lots of boobies!  For the Mad Men premier I think were just going to drink old fashions and smoke a couple of cartons of Lucky Strike cigarettes.

April 5, 2014

Hoisin Glazed Spare Ribs

Last week I had hankering for some ribs.  But, I didn't want barbecue because I do that all the time.  I thought about doing ribs with red or green chile but I just wasn't feeling it.  I wanted something exotic with big flavors and something I've never tried before.  Then I had an eatpiphany!  Asian style ribs!!  

Hoisin Glazed Ribs & Asian Salad
I'm absolutely fascinated with Asian foods and spices.  Aside from teriyaki and sriracha sauces I really don't know squat about Asian flavor profiles.  Since my understanding is limited I have to rely on good recipes to teach me how to use them properly. Fortunately,  I found a great recipe on the Weber Grill app that was just what I was looking for.

Although this recipe calls for baby backs I decided to go rogue and use St. Louis Cut spare ribs. Yah, I'm a real culinary bad boy.  Back to the ribs, I removed the membrane from the the bone side of the ribs, then gave them a light coating of canola oil and seasoned them with SPG.

Ribs Glazed with Hoisin Sauce
Since the flavor for these ribs was going to come from the sauce I didn't want smoke them. So I filled my smoker with just plain charcoal, no additional wood chunks. This recipe would be perfect for a gas grill.   The ribs cooked for 3 hours at 250-270º. I temped the ribs in several places between the bones, the thicker ribs temps were 190º, thinner ribs were 195º.  

Hoisin Glaze
1 cup hoisin sauce
¼ cup honey
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons grated peeled, fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Mix all the ingredients in a sauce pot and simmer until well blended.  Brush the ribs with sauce 20-30 minutes before removing them from the smoker.  After removing the ribs allow them to rest for 10-15 minutes so the sauce can set up a bit.  Cut the ribs apart then garnish with sesame seeds and scallions. Serve and enjoy!

Big O Platter of Asian Ribs
These ribs were everything ribs should be, rich, sticky an perfectly cooked.    The sauce was amazing, the hoisin sauce had a really rich deep flavor with hints of honey, ginger and garlic.  Once the ribs hit the table there was not a lot of talking going on, just chomping, chewing and finger licking.  I made the right call on the charcoal, there was so much flavor in the sauce the smoke wasn't missed or needed.  The Hoisin Glazed Ribs were a huge success, they were delicious and I learned a little more about Asian flavor profile.  Sounds like a win-win to me!

March 27, 2014

Grill Ready?

Over the years I have purchase many BBQ tools and I'm sad to say most of them were crap.  But through trial and error I have assemble a collection of essential grilling tools I use to get the job done. This week I thought I would share with you the tools that I use to grill & BBQ.  

Grate Pliers - I thought these were "special" pliers for the BGE, they are actually pizza pans pliers you can find at any restaurant supply store for about half the price.  They are perfect picking up the heavy cast iron grates.

ThermaPen - The one tool I never cook without.  I have said it thousands of times, if you're gonna grill get a good meat thermometer. Properly cooking your meat ensures it's safe and delicious.

Surface Thermometer - This is not a must have, but I like to use it when cooking on my Disc-It. 

Insulated Rubber Gloves - I use these when I'm cooking large piece of meat like pork butts and briskets.  It's a lot easier to move a brisket with your hands than with a set of tongs.  These gloves are also great for pulling apart pork butts.

Grilling Gloves - These are the Mr. Grill gloves I reviewed a few weeks ago.  I'm going to be putting them through ringer this year.  I'll keep you posted how they hold up.

Metal Charcoal Rake - This is just a small gardening tool I use to rake the charcoal in my Big Green Egg.  The hoe side of it is great for breaking up large pieces of charcoal.  Just be sure to get a metal one, obviously the plastic will not work when your trying to redistribute hot coals in your grill.

Wet Wipes & Paper Towels - Grilling is a dirty business, literally. So it's always a good idea to keep these things around.  

Grill Brush - One of my most important tools.  Keeps my grates clean and is the first line of defense against sticking. I replace my grill brush every year and I'll replace the bristles a few times during the season.  

My favorite grill brush is the Char-Broil Hawg.  It's sturdy, with a stiff handle and it has the replaceable bristles.  But now the brush now comes with a plastic bristle head.  Plastic? Really?  Who's brilliant idea was that??  There is even a warning on the packaging about only using it on cool grill.  Fortunately the steel bristle replacements still fits the head.  I found my brush at Lowe's and the replacement bristles are usually found with the replacement parts.

The most important tool I have is tongs.  These tongs are really good, they are heavy and the prefect length for grilling.  Since you're going to used your tongs on pretty much every cook don't be stingy. Spend the extra money and buy a quality set of tongs, you will be glad you did.

I hope that my years of trying cheap grill tools helps you find some quality stuff.  Grilling should be fun and it's a lot more fun when you have the right tools for the job.

March 17, 2014

An Irish Feast

Well, today is St. Patrick's Day and I don't normally celebrate St. Paddy's day, but I thought it would be a good excuse to make some corned beef for Sunday Dinner.  As usual, we had quite a menu for our Irish Feast...corned beef brisket, cabbage, crusty artisan loaf bread, Irish Soda Bread, (cause one loaf of bread is never enough) and chocolate stout cake. 

Corned Beef, Cabbage & Potatoes
This year I made a point to plan ahead and started curing my corned beef last week.  I conducted some research on the internet and my collection of cookbooks.  All the recipes are pretty much the same, but I ultimately decided on Alton Brown's recipe because his called for Juniper Berries, and I just bought a bottle and have been itching to use them.  

Brine Ingredients
Corned Beef

2 quarts water

1 cup kosher salt

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons of pink curing salt
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

8 whole cloves

8 whole allspice berries

12 whole juniper berries

2 bay leaves, crumbled

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
4-6lb brisket flat, trimmed

Add all of the ingredients to a large stockpot and bring to a boil.  Stir occasionally until the salts and sugar have dissolved.  Allow the brine to cool completely.  Place the brisket in a brining bucket or 2 gallon ziplock and add the brine. Refrigerate for 7-10 days.  When using a ziplock back flip it every other day.

Cooking the Corned Beef
1 small onion, quartered
1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
1 large carrot, roughly chopped
1 head of cabbage, quarter
8-10 red potatoes, halved

This is the first time I've made corned beef and I wanted to cook it in the traditional method, on the stove. I like to cook things right the first time before I start screwing with the recipe.  To cook this hunk of beef, start by removing it from the brine and rinsing thoroughly with cold water.  Place it in a large stock pot and cover the meat with water, then add the onion, celery and carrot.  Now bring the whole thing to a boil, then cover and lower the heat and simmer for 3 hours.  If your pot is big enough, you can add the cabbage and potatoes the last half hour of cooking.  After 3 hours I pulled the brisket from the pot and added the potatoes and cabbage to the broth. While the potatoes cooked, I sliced the brisket and ladled the broth over the meat to keep it moist and infuse it with more flavor.

The Irish Feast Platter
I have to admit, I never was a big fan of corned beef.  Up until now the majority of the corned beef I've ever eaten was in a deli sandwich.  Well now I GET IT!  This meal was totally freaking delicious. The brisket was rich with a strong beefy flavor.  The cabbage and potatoes, infused with the flavors of the broth, were the perfect compliment to the beef.  It's really amazing how some salt and spices can transform a hunk of beef into something so tasty.  Oh, I must apologize, I didn't receive the pics of the breads or chocolate stout cake by the publishing deadline.  Maybe they will make an appearance in a later post.

February 25, 2014

Fiery Foods & BBQ Show 2014

I'm so excited, this weekend is the big Fiery Foods & BBQ Show.  Team AlbuKirky is working hard to get ready.  This is our second year at the show and everyone is really looking forward to it.  Three full day's of pimping my products, by Sunday afternoon I will barely be able to repeat my schpeel.  It's a lot of hard work but it's really lot of fun. So come on out to Sandia Casino this weekend and say hello to me and the rest of Team AlbuKIrky.  Visit Fieryfoodshow.com for more info and purchase tickets. 

February 16, 2014

Review: Mr Grill Gloves

I must be moving up in the world!  The good folks at Mr. Grill asked me to review their Grill Gloves.  They sent me a pair of gloves to review and I have been putting them through the paces for the last couple of weeks.  So far I really like these gloves.  

Mr Grill Gloves
For years I have been using leather welding gloves, while they offered great heat protection, dexterity and grip were always an issue.  The Mr. Grill gloves are Nomex lined and provide excellent heat protection. I gave them a heat test by holding them over some hot coals and they worked great.

The Heat Test.
The gloves are a one size fits most, they were a little snug but have stretched out a little bit since I have been using them.  What I like most was the dexterity, I was able to pick up my cooking tools and thermometer with ease. The no slip silicone grip helps keep the tools in my hand.

Can easily grip and use cooking tools
I'm really pleased with my Mr. Grill Gloves.  I really like the grip and dexterity and the heat protection is as good as my leather welding gloves. If your looking for a some new gloves for this year I recommend these gloves.  Mr. Grill Gloves are available on Amazon.

February 8, 2014

Fiesta de Fajitas!!!

While the rest of America was cooking up chicken wings and nachos, I was cooking up beefylicous fajitas.  Wings are nice, but beef trumps chicken every time. These fajitas were extra special, because the Mrs. made homemade flour tortillas. 

I used a choice grade flap steak for my fajitas; skirt and flank steaks also good cuts for fajitas.  I seasoned the steak with my Red Chile BBQ Rub and some habanero salt to give it a little more heat.  After seasoning I placed them in the fridge and let them marinate in the rub for 3 hours.

Flap Steak on the Big Green Egg
The flap steak is thin and it will cook quickly, so I grilled them on the Big Green Egg with the lid open over red hot coals.  To maximize browning and flavor, I kept the steak moving, flipping and turning every minute or so.  After each flip I brushed the top side with garlic butter.  I cooked the steaks to an internal temperature of 125º, a perfect medium rare.

I sliced the steak up then gave the meat a nice drizzle of jalapeño infused olive oil.  The steak juice and the jalapeño oil create a fantastic little sauce for the fajitas.  Just a reminder, when slicing skirt steaks, cut across the grain of the meat or your fajitas might be a little tough to chew. 

Sliced and ready for a fresh tortilla!
The Mrs. here...fajitas are great and all, but what about that soft floury conduit used to get the meat from your plate into your pie hole?  Living in the Land of Enchantment, we have the luxury of being able to purchase delicious, locally made, fresh tortillas right off the grocery store shelves.  Be that as it may, I do have a good chunk of Hispanic blood coursing through my veins, so it's only reasonable that I should make my own from time to time.  ¿Verdad?  On my quest to make flour tortillas, I came across lots of recipes, many only varying by minuscule differences.  I have stitched together what I deem to be the best of the best and added a few tips and tricks as well to ensure tasty results every time.  By the way, these are VERY easy to make.  

Just a few humble ingredients are all you need to start.  Nothing fancy, but when they combine...delicioso!  Flour, lard (yes, it HAS to be lard!), baking powder, salt, and warm water.  I bet you have these items in your pantry at this very moment!   

In a large bowl, we begin by dropping the lard into the dry ingredients and gently crumbling the lard and flour together with our hands.  This is going to get messy.  Warm water is next, so if you thought it was messy before, well you haven't seen anything yet.  I like to use one hand to combine the ingredients, so that I have a clean hand free at all times.  Once the dough begins to come together (it will be a bit shaggy) we dump it out on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth.

Next, we use a bench scraper to divide the dough into 24 balls to make fajita size tortillas or 12 burrito size tortillas.  Let these little beauties rest on a tray and cover with a damp cloth for approximately 30 minutes.  This will ensure that the dough will hold its shape and not snap back when rolled out.  

Again, on a lightly floured surface, roll out each ball of dough into a paper thin round disc.  You might be inclined to roll your pin back and forth across the dough, but this will leave your tortilla misshapen.  Instead, use your rolling pin and roll "up" towards the top of the dough disc with one stroke and then turn the dough disc 90º.  We repeat this step until we have a lovely round uniform paper thin disc.  Next, we cook the tortilla in a cast iron skillet or griddle heated to Medium High heat.  It will be pretty darn hot.  It takes only a a few seconds to cook on each side, so you don't want to step away.  As soon as you see pockets forming, flip the tortilla and cook for a few seconds on the other side.  Anything longer and we'll end up with chewy, tough tortillas.  No me gusta.     

Once these bad boys are finished, stack them high and send pictures of them to family and friends.  You'll have uninvited dinner guests beating on your door in no time flat.  On second thought, pile them up with lots of meat, cheese, and salsa and start stuffing them into your pie hole.  Nobody needs to know, it'll be our little secret.  And when you're done with the main event, take one of these delectable, still warm, tender rounds...slather it with butter, drizzle it with honey, and call it a day.

Flour Tortillas 

4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt (heaping)
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 tablespoons lard
1 1/2 cups water

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl.  Add the lard and crumble the mixture together with your hands until it is uniform and resembles the texture of cornmeal.

Heat the water in the microwave for 1 minute and add it to the flour mixture.  Still using your hands, mix the water and flour until it starts to come together.  It will be a bit shaggy.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for several minutes until smooth.  Shape it into a ball and divide into 24 pieces (fajita size) or 12 pieces (burrito size).  Roll each piece into a ball.  Place the balls of dough on a tray, cover with a damp towel, and let them rest for 20-30 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out each ball of dough into a paper thin disc.  

Heat a cast iron skillet or griddle over medium high heat for several minutes.  Gently lay a tortilla in the skillet and cook on each side for a few seconds.

Serve immediately and refrigerate the leftovers.      

January 31, 2014

Silence of the Lamb Ribs

For several months I have been eyeing packages of lamb breast at my local grocer.  Needing something spectacular for a Sunday dinner I decided it was time to pull the trigger. We take our Sunday dinners pretty seriously, so it had to be something exceptional and I think it was.

Marinade & Mop

2 cups of apple juice
1 cup of apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup honey
3 cloves of garlic,
1 sprig of rosemary

Mix the apple juice, vinegar and honey in a large bowl.  Chopped the garlic and add to the bowl.  Pull the leaves needles off the rosemary, chop and add to the marinade.

Place the ribs in a large ziplock bag or large dish, meat side down, and add half of the marinade.  Save the remainder to mop the ribs during cooking.  Allow the ribs to marinate for 2-3 hours.  After marinating remove the ribs, pat dry and give them a dusting of AlbuKirky Red Chile BBQ Rub.

Mopping the Ribs
The lamb ribs were pretty thin and not as meaty as a pork rib.  Since they were small I want to cook them low and slow.  I filled the Big Green Egg with oak charcoal with chunks of apple wood and heated it to 225-250º.  The ribs cooked for a good 3 hours with a mopping of the marinade every 20-30 minutes.  After each basting I gave the ribs a light dusting of BBQ Rub.  After 3 hours of cooking it was time for the finishing glaze.

Finishing Glaze

1/2 cup of apple jelly
1 jalapeño, grated
2-3 sprigs of mint, finely chopped.

Heat the apple jelly in a small bowl in the microwave.  Use a micro plane to grate the jalapeño into the jelly, stop grating when you get to the seeds. Grating the jalapeño creates a pulp that infuses the jelly with heat and it sticks to the ribs better. Finely chop the mint and add the glaze.

After the ribs have cooked for 3 hours, brush the ribs with the finishing glaze.  Let the ribs cook for another 15 minutes and then glaze the ribs again.  Pull the ribs off the smoker and allow them to rest for a few minutes before cutting.

Lamb Ribs with Finishing Sauce
OK, cutting these ribs was a little difficult. The package said lamb breast and I thought it was the same as ribs but its not.  The bones are much closer together and there is a bone at the top that runs perpendicular to the other bones.  I managed to cut them apart and they weren't the prettiest or ribs but they were still delicious. Before serving I gave them another drizzle of the finishing glaze.

After all that work it was time to finally eat these bad boys. There was a lot of flavors going on here, there was a tanginess from the marinade, the apple wood smoke and the sweet and spicy finishing glaze. All of it was a perfect compliment to the rich flavor of the  lamb.  Like I said they weren't the prettiest but they were some of the tastiest, an taste is all that matters.

January 16, 2014

Pastrami, The Most Sensual of the Salt Cured Meats!

Okay, it's official! I'm back to cooking.  You can probably guess from the title that I've made my own pastrami as well as ripped off another Seinfeld episode.  Needless to say, I've been watching a lot of Seinfeld reruns lately.  After a month on the injured reserve list I wanted my comeback cook to be spectacular. What is more spectacular than a big ol brisket?  A brisket that has been cured and smoked, a.k.a. PASTRAMI!!

Homemade Pastrami
Homemade pastrami is actually really easy, but does take a few days.  First step in making pastrami is preparing the brine.  I start with a large stock pot and add all the brine ingredients.  Bring the water to a boil, stirring occasionally until the salt and sugars have dissolved.  Allow the brine to cool completely before adding the brisket.

The Brine
1 gallon of water
1 1/2 cups of kosher or pickling salt
1 cup of sugar
6 teaspoons of pink curing salt
1/2 packed cup of dark brown sugar
1/2 cup of honey
5 cloves of garlic, minced

While the  brine is cooling it's time to prep the brisket.  To save a little time I started with a 7 lb flat cut that was already trimmed.  The brisket had a thin fat cap that I removed as well. I placed the brisket in the bucket and filled it with the brine, covered it and placed it in the fridge for 3 days.  After 3 days of brining, I removed the brisket and rinsed it thoroughly with cold water, then patted it dry.

To season the pastrami, I made a rub of 3 tablespoons of black pepper and 2 tablespoons of ground coriander.  I gave each side a generous coating of the rub.  I then placed the brisket on a rack and set it in a roasting pan.

Coated with Coriander & Black Pepper
I smoked the brisket uncovered for 3 hours at 200º.  I really wanted to get a good smoke on it, so I tried to keep the heat low and let the meat get as much smoke as possible.  After 3 hours the internal temperate was 150º and it was time for the steam.

Pastrami after smoking
I filled the roasting pan with about an inch of water, covered it with a large piece of foil and sealed the edges to keep the steam in.  I opened up the vents on the Big Green Egg to get the temp up to around 300º and let the pastrami steam.  After 2 1/2 hours, the pastrami was done, the internal temp was 200º.

Steaming the Pastrami
While I was cooking the pastrami, Mrs AlbuKirky was kind enough to bake up a couple of loaves of rye bread that made for some fantastic sandwiches.

Fresh Rye Bread
For my first sandwich I keep it simple, a fresh slice of rye bread, a few thick slices of pastrami and a generous smear of course ground mustard.  There was nothing simple about the flavors from this sandwich.  The pastrami was very rich and peppery, the caraway seed from the soft rye bread, and the tangy mustard was the perfect compliment.  Sometimes simple is better.

Sandwich #1 The Purist
My 2nd sandwich was a little more rubenesque.  I added a slice of cheese and some sauerkraut made by my sister in law, Trissi.  It was absolutely fantastic.

Sandwich #2 The Rubenesque
So that's it folks, my homemade pastrami.  I had been planning on cooking this for over a month and it came out better than I expected.  Although it a took a few more days than a regular barbecued brisket it wasn't any more difficult.  So what do you think, am I back or what??