June 30, 2014

Beer Belly

It’s been a bit of a crappy week.  My meat fridge in the garage died.  I know that sounds like a First World Problem, but it really pissed me off.  The reason it really pissed me off was I had to throw away 15lbs of pork belly I was curing for bacon.  My pork belly was not a total loss, though, as I was able to braise a one-pound piece of it for dinner. Considering this one-pound of pork belly cost me $75 it was absolutely freaking delicious. All right, enough crying over rotten pork, lets get on with this week's recipe...Beer Braised Pork Belly.

Beer Braised Pork Belly with Wilted Bok Choy Slaw
Pork belly seems to be the popular girl at the dance these days.  I’m seeing it gracing more menus and the cooking shows sing it's praises in a chorus culinary odes.  Even one of our favorite food vendors at the Rail Yards Market lists it as an omelette option, a mighty tasty one at that.  Since it’s on more menus, it's only reasonable that more of it is making its way into my fat belly.  Partaking of this richly decadent meat treat on a regular basis has given me a better idea of how it’s supposed to be prepared; it's all research in the name of culinary science. But hey, someone has to do it.  You're welcome.  Although, my first attempt at cooking pork belly was mighty fine, there is still a lot to learn in order to get the most out this fatty morsel and the R & D Team at AlbuKirky Seasonings is willing to bite the bullet, in a matter of speaking.   

To begin my culinary adventure, I traveled up the belly and opted to use Pork Side instead. Pork Side is cut a little higher up on the belly and has a higher meat to fat ratio.  I decided to go skinless, but I might leave the skin on for my next attempt.  I started by marinating my pork belly in an Asian dressing prepared by Cheryl earlier in the week.  She got the recipe from one of her favorite food bloggers, Pioneer Woman. I marinated the belly in a ziplock bag with the dressing and placed it in the fridge over night, but I made sure to set aside some of the dressing to serve over the pork belly after braising.

Asian Dressing/Marinade
3/4 cups Canola Oil
3 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
1 teaspoon (additional) Soy Sauce
2 Tablespoons Lime Juice
2 Tablespoons Sugar
3 cloves Garlic, Peeled
1 Tablespoon Minced Fresh Ginger
1/2 teaspoon Hot Chili Oil
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
Lots Of Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Just add all the ingredients in a shaker bottle or Mason jar and shake vigorously.

Browning Pork Belly on Cast Iron Plate Setter
Pork belly doesn’t necessarily require smoke to be delicious, so I opted to only slightly infuse a subtle smoke flavor.  Besides, if I over smoked it, the result would just be bland bacon and even though doesn't sound terrible, it wasn't the result I was looking for. Using the Big Green Egg with my favorite mesquite charcoal, I scored the fatty side of the belly and then browned each side of it on my sweet new cast iron plate setter.  The cast iron plate setter is a "grate" tool, a review will be coming soon.

Pork Belly Braise in Beer
After both sides were browned, I placed the belly in a Dutch oven.  Sticking with my Asian flavor profile I poured in a large bottle of Sapporo Beer.  I placed the oven back on the BGE and cooked it for an hour and a half.  I thought if I left the lid off the top would crisp up a bit but it didn’t and the pork didn’t quite have the unctuous texture I was looking for.  Next time I will cook it with the lid on and maybe I will get that soft fall apart texture.

Pork Belly!
Once the pork belly was done, I sliced it up and served it with a drizzle of the Asian dressing, and some pickled daikon radish and carrots. Cheryl made a fantastic Wilted Bok Choy Slaw that's lightness perfectly offset the richness of the meat. The acid from the pickled daikon and dressing cut through the fattiness to create a surprisingly crisp bite.  Delicious.  Seriously, this stuff is not just good, it's delectable.

Braised Pork Belly with Asian Dressing
Hopefully, I will have a new meat fridge next week and one of my First World Problems will be solved.  But seriously, its a pain in the ass to not have a meat fridge and my barbecuing is suffering.  This morning Cheryl had to proof her sourdough in an ice chest, and you all know what that means.....I believe we have officially reached a crisis level.

June 19, 2014

Don't Let Your Meat Loaf

Recently I've had a craving for meat loaf.  I don't know why, it's never been one of my go-to comfort foods, but I wasn't just going to throw a pound of ground beef in a loaf pan and douse it with ketchup and call it good.  No, if I was going to make meat loaf, it was going to be really good and have the AlbuKirky spin on it.

BBQ'ed Meat Loaf on the Big Green Egg
To elevate this meat loaf, I used ground sirloin and ground pork. I seasoned it with my Red Chile BBQ Rub and topped it with my BBQ Sauce.  But what really took it to the next level was smoking it on the Big Green Egg.  It's amazing what some good spices and a little bit of smoke can do to transform the mundane into something really tasty and comforting.

BBQ'ed Meat Loaf

2 pounds ground sirloin
2 pounds ground pork
2 Eggs
2 Hamburger Buns or 3 slices of white bread
1/4 Cup of Worcestershire Sauce
1/4 Cup of AlbuKirky Seasonings BBQ Sauce
1-2 Tablespoons AlbuKirky Seasonings Red Chile BBQ Rub

In a large mixing bowl add the ground sirloin, ground pork, eggs and worcestershire sauce.  Tear the hamburger buns into pieces and add them to the bowl.  Using your hands, mix all the ingredients together.  During the mixing process, sprinkle in the Red Chile BBQ Rub.   Once the ingredients are mixed, transfer the mixture to an oiled loaf pan.  Pour the BBQ Sauce over the top of the meat.

I filled the Big Green Eggs with mesquite charcoal, fired it up and dropped in the plate setter.  Once it was up to about 375º I put the meat loaf in to cook.  It cooked for an hour and 15 minutes to an internal temperate of 150º- 160º.  Since there were two ground meats, I wanted to be sure they were cooked thoroughly.  Also cooking it a little longer allows for that meaty crust to form along the inside of the pan.

BBQ'ed Meat Loaf, I got a little sloppy with the sauce.
To accompany the meat loaf the Mrs. made mashed potatoes and two beautiful loaves  of whole wheat bread.  I cut myself a nice little slab of the meat loaf and topped it with a little more BBQ sauce. It was really good, actually it was better than good, it was truly comforting.  The smoke and tangy BBQ sauce did it's job and brought this dish to a whole new level.  This meatloaf is now going into my regular rotation of go-to comfort foods.

Cheryl's Whole Wheat Bread

June 10, 2014

Buttermilk Vanilla Ice Cream...That's Right Buttermilk!!

It’s not always steaks and barbeque here at the AlbuKirky Kitchens.  I do occasionally dabble in my other food passion, ICE CREAM!  I’m actually not sure what I love making  more, ice cream or barbeque?  But I don't have to choose, because I can always eat my ice cream after BBQ and enjoy the best of both worlds.  Today I’ve got a recipe that is one of our favorites. It’s sweet, it’s tangy, it’s absolutely freaking delicious!  It's Buttermilk Vanilla Ice Cream.

Buttermilk Vanilla Ice Cream
2 Cups of Half & Half
2 Cups of Buttermilk
4 Eggs
1 Scoop of Vanilla Whey Protein
1 or 2 Cans of Sweeten Condensed Milk
2 Teaspoons of Vanilla Extract
1 Pinch of Salt

I add all the ingredients to the ice cream canister and mix with my boat motor blender right in the canister.  Drop in the dasher, put lid on and put it all in the ice cream maker. I use the salt & ice type maker and it takes about an hour to freeze.

My base is always the same half & half, eggs, condensed milk and whey protein. I’m sure you asking, why the whey protein.  It helps the ice cream hold more air and keeps it from getting all icy when you put it in the freezer to harden.  One scoop or 1/3 cup is about all you need; too much whey will give it a funky after taste.

The perfect vehicle for ice cream is of course cake. Cheryl made a this delicious Chocolate Texas Sheet Cake  with a recipe from Pioneer Woman.  My mom used to make this cake and it was always one of my favorites.  There is buttermilk in the cake so it pairs really well with the buttermilk ice cream. But then again what cake doesn't pair well with ice cream??  It's going to be a long hot summer and 've got some more ice cream recipes coming.

May 30, 2014

Smoking Hot Butts

Hope you like the catchy title, but we're talking about pork butts here, so get your mind out of the gutter.  Anyway, I was cooking up some pork butts for a little party we had last weekend.  Just for fun I decided to check my blog for any old pork butt recipes and realized I had not updated my recipe in a very long time. So today I'm going to update my BBQ Pork Butt recipe and share all of my tips and tricks for smoking butts that I've discovered over the past few years through diligent research.  See, I do all the hard work so you don't have to!

Smoking a Pork Butt on the BGE
A great pork butt starts with good meat. I like to use a bone-in butt, they taste better and are easier to cook than the boneless cut.  Boneless butts do not stay together in smoker unless you tie them up with butcher twine, they are like a big meat blob on the grate.  The bone also serves as part of the doneness test, if you can pull it out, it's done. I also prefer the packer butts, there's two in each pack.  Why cook one when you can cook two?

Brine or Injection?  For a long time I was brining my pork butts in a solution of apple juice, salt, sugar, vinegar and molasses.  Although the brine added a lot of moisture to the meat, it just didn't impart as much flavor as I wanted.  I have since converted to injecting, it's faster, imparts more flavor and keeps the meat moist during cooking. 

Pork Butt Injection
Injecting through the cryo packaging

2 Qt of Apple Juice
1/4 Cup Molasses
1/4 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar

Mix all the ingredients together in a large pitcher or bowl and set aside a cup of the liquid for spritzing down the butts during cooking.

I like to inject the pork butts while still in the packaging, just push the needle through the plastic into the meat.  Injecting while still in the packaging will minimize the rogue squirts from flying all over the kitchen.  I inject about a quart of the injection liquid into each butt in random spots all around the butt.

Once the pork has been injected, I remove it from the packaging and pat it dry with a few paper towels. Before I put down the rub, I trim off some of the excess fat if it's really thick, but for the most part I leave the fat cap on, sometimes I will score it to help it cook down faster.  I then give the butts a coating of canola oil so the rub will stick, yellow mustard works really well, too.
Pork Butts rubbed and read for the smoker

For the rub, I mix equal parts of my Red Chile BBQ Rub and turbinado sugar.  If you don't have any turbinado sugar, brown sugar will work just as well.  I really like the sweet and spicy contrast and the sugar helps form the bark around the pork.  I give the pork butts a good coating, then rub and all sides and let them sit while I prep the smoker.

I fill my Big Green Egg with mesquite charcoal and light it.  After the charcoal is lit, I drop in the plate setter and drip pan.  On my last cook I fill the drip pan with half water and half apple juice just to try to infuse more flavor into the pork. I close the lid and let the smoker get up to 275º - 300º.  Once its up to temp, I place the pork butts on the grate and let them get to cooking.  At 300º the butts will take about 75 minutes per pound to cook. A 7lb butt will take about 8 1/2 to 9 hours to cook. The only way to ruin a pork butt is to undercook it, so be sure you cook it completely or it will not pull apart. 
During the cook, use a spray bottle filled with the injection solution and spritz the butts down at least once an hour.

Drip pan full of water and apple juice
When the butts reach an internal temp of 195º they are done.  You can also check the doneness by pulling on the bone, if it's loose and pulls out easily, it's done.  Pull the butts off the smoker and let them rest for 20-30 minutes.  To pull the pork apart I have pair of insulated gloves that I use.  You can also use two forks or invest in some claws if you like.  If the pork is cooked right it won't take much effort to pull it apart. Undercooked pork will not pull apart.
Two Pork Butts All Done!
Wrap or not to wrap?  I have waffled on the wrapping for a long time.  I have finally decided, not to wrap.  I just keep my drip pan full of water and let the pork cook.  I know that wouldn't fly in a competition but this is my backyard, not KCBS.

I like small buns so I can eat one of each!
After all that hard work it's time to eat!  I like my pulled pork on a bun with some sauce and dill pickles.  It's even better when the Mrs. makes homemade buns. It may look simple but there is a lot of flavors in that pork.  I can taste the apple juice and molasses from the injection, the bark has a nice spicy sweetness from the rub, turbinado sugar and the apple molasses spritz, and finally there is the mesquite smoke.  I have experimented with other woods and charcoals, but I always come back to mesquite.  For me it adds the flavor of New Mexico. So that's my pork butt recipe as it stand now, in two years I'll probably have a new one.

I hope you all find my updated BBQ'ed Pork Butt recipe helpful. If you have any questions or comments feel free to email me or leave a comment below.  I'm always happy to help.  Have a "GRATE" summer!!

May 19, 2014


At least once, sometimes twice a year, my sister sends me a care package of Iowa Chops from Amana Meats.  These aren't just any pork chop either, they are really more like a pork steak. Each steak is about 3/4 lb, 1" thick, bone in cuts of pure porky goodness. Normally, I season these chops with my Green Chile Rub and grill them like a steak but this time I wanted to do something a little different....a barbequed pork chop!!  

BBQ'ed Iowa Chops
Anyway, back to cooking. I wanted to infuse the chops with all the BBQ flavor of a pork butt, so I cooked them like a pork butt. First I brined them, then I seasoned them with BBQ Rub.  Next, I slow smoked them over mesquite charcoal and topped them off with a brushing of BBQ Sauce.


3-4 Cups of Apple Juice
1 Cup of Dark Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup of Kosher Salt
1/4 Cup of Apple Cider Vinegar
2-3 Tablespoons of Molasses.

I combined all the ingredients in a large sauce pan and brought it to a boil.  I stirred frequently until all the salt and sugar had dissolved.  Once the brine was done I removed it from the stove and let it completely cool.  After the brine had cooled I placed the chops in a large plastic container and covered them with the brine.  To keep the chops submerged I placed a plate on top of them.  Then the whole thing went into the fridge over night.

To cook these chops I filled the Big Green Egg with mesquite charcoal, lit it and then dropped the plate setter in for indirect heat cooking.  I seasoned the chops with a good dusting of my Red Chile BBQ Rub and slow cooked them in the mesquite smoke for about an hour, until they reached an internal temp of 120.  Since I couldn't cook these ribs long enough to build a bark, I at least wanted to get a good browning on them.  I removed the plate setter and finished cooking them over direct heat.  I kept flipping and moving the chops around so they would be good and brown.  On the last flip I brushed them down with some BBQ Sauce and let the sauce set up on the meat, I was being careful not to let the sauce burn.

Iowa Chops on the Big Green Egg
The BBQ Iowa Chops were absolutely amazing, it was all the great flavors of a smoked pork butt packed into a hefty pork steak.  The brine gave it a tangy sweetness, the mesquite gave it a rich smokiness and the sauce completed it with a spicy bite. We rounded out this meal with some fresh green beans, a baked potato and a giant loaf of homemade Italian bread.  Looks good doesn't it?  Well that's just the way we roll around here.

I have to admit, I am down right stingy with these chops, Cheryl and I save them for ourselves and don't share them with anyone, including my sister-in-law Trissi and her life partner Sean.  As I see it, if Trissi & Sean were meant to have some Iowa Chops, my sister would have sent them a box.  I guess I was having a weak moment, because I decided to give in and share our precious pork with them. I know they were just overwhelmed with my generosity.

May 8, 2014

Cinco de Ocho?

I had big plans to post all this before Cinco de Mayo but it didn't happen.  I won't bore you with the details, let just say it's a long way too the the top if you want to be a BBQ Mogul. May is National Burger and if you remember last year I did a whole month of burgers.  By the third week we were getting tired of burgers.  I know that might be blasphemy to some, but even something as delicious as a burger does get old.  This year I'm only doing one burger this month, the Chorizo Burger!!

The Return of the Chorizo Burger
I'm going to come clean here, I have tried twice in the last five days to cook make a new chorizo burger recipe and they have both failed miserably.  My problem was using a store bought chorizo and it didn't bind with the hamburger and I was left with hot mess.  It was still edible but not very photogenic. Like I've said before, the best thing about grilling is you can eat your mistakes...most to the time.  So, I'm going to rerun my old recipe from 2011.

Mexican Chorizo
2 lbs of ground pork
3 1/2 teaspoons of salt
6 tablespoons of pure red chile powder
6-20 small hot dried red chiles crushed
4-6 cloves of garlic minced
2 tablespoons of dry oregano 
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar
4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons of water

In a large bowl break up the pork and add all of the ingredients.  Knead the ingredients together with your hands until evenly mixed.  Place in an air tight container and refrigerate overnight and it will last up too a week in the fridge.

To make the burger patties I mixed about 1/2 a pound of chorizo with a pound of ground sirloin. I didn't mix the meat too much because I wanted chunks of chorizo throughout the burger. I make 1/2lb patties, don't forget to press a divot into the middle of the patty to avoid the dreaded burger bump.  I cooked the patties to an internal temp of 140º.

Can you smell that??
For this burger I wanted a nice crust around the outside of the patty, so I broke out my Disc-It.  The Disc-It is the next best thing to having a flat top griddle.  The surface gets really hot and will put a nice crust on the outside of the burger and lock in all those juices. Chorizo really needs that crust to bring out it's flavor and it creates a really amazing red chile juice that permeates the entire burger.  It's a fusion of Mexican and American flavors in one big meaty patty.

Chorizo Burger's on the Disc-It
If I have learned anything this week it is, that I should read my own blog.  The main reason I started this blog was so I could keep track of my recipes.  Oh well, you live, you learn, you burn a few burgers and move on.  I hope you all enjoy this rerun of the chorizo burger.  Next time I try to redo an old recipe I'll consult my blog first.

April 28, 2014

All Kale is Breaking Loose

The NM spring winds are in full force this weekend and pretty much put the kibosh on any outdoor cooking. While the winds have extinguished the fires in my pits it didn't blow away my desire to cook up something tasty.  This weeks creation is something that is actually good for you.  And being the meat guy that I am, you're not going to believe what I made, Green Chile Kale Chips!

New Recipe Card!
These kale chip were really easy and delicious.  I've been eating on them all day and I feel uber-healthy.  I'm sure I will live to 100 now! Give them a try and let me know how they turned out.  I'll be back next week with a special Cinco De Mayo post.

April 21, 2014

It's Not You, It's Me

A little over a year and half ago I was singing the praises of the brand-new-used Beef Eater gas grill I purchased from Craig's List.  But today, I'm sad to say the Beef Eater has been replaced by a newer, shinier and much sexier grill.  Don't get me wrong, the Beef Eater was a great grill, but we never seemed to gel.  I guess my heart always pined for the Weber Genesis that was tragically taken from me so many years ago.  

The New Grill!
Most guys my age are purchasing exotic sports cars to cope with their mid-life crisis.  Not me, my sports car money is all invested in AlbuKirky Seasonings, so my mid-life-crisis purchases are a little more affordable and practical.  Although, a new Porsche would be nice, can you cook dinner on it? 

Acres of Grilling Space!
A few weeks ago my grill lust got the best of me and I couldn't take it anymore.  I marched my fat ass into Lowe's and bought myself a brand new 2014 Weber Genesis Grill.  I didn't even ask my wife for her permission. I'm such bad boy.  Actually, I had to order the grill because they didn't have a green one in stock and I wanted it to match my Big Green Egg.  I cannot have a hodge of un-color coordinated grills in my backyard!

Cooking Up Some Flank Steaks for Fajitas!
I really like my new grill and have been cooking on it all the time.  You will be seeing more it in action this spring and summer.  As for the Beef Eater, he's back on Craig's List looking for a new home.  It's still a great grill and has lots of good summers left in him.  I even cleaned and seasoned the grates, so his new family can start cooking right away.  And to sweeten the deal I'll throw in a few bottles of rub & sauce!

The Beef Eater in need of a new home.

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!