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!

November 23, 2014

TestGiving 5.0: A Buttery Delight

We recently celebrated our fifth annual TestGiving.  If you’re unfamiliar with TestGiving, it’s a day when we cook a complete Thanksgiving Dinner with turkey and all the fixings; sort of dress rehearsal for the All American Feast!  Basically, it’s another good excuse to eat more turkey.  As usual, I’m in charge of the Turkey. I’m too much of an ego maniac to let the responsibility fall to anyone else.  Anyway, I wanted to try something new this year, because testing new recipes is what TestGiving is all about.

Butter Smoked TestGiving Turkey
For the past couple of years I have made the Bacon Wrapped Turkey.  While it is absolutely delicious, it was time for something new and possibly better.  I know you’re saying "what on earth is better than bacon"!?!?!  Well, it starts with a B, rhymes with clutter...thats right BUTTER!  And not just any butter...smoked butter!  I got the idea from another BBQ Guru of mine, Ted Reader. I watched his video a few weeks ago when I was doing some R&D and decided that was going to be my TestGiving Turkey.

As usual this turkey started with a brining.  I made a little change in my brine this year and substituted white grape juice for the apple cider.  I really like the white grape juice because it has an even lighter flavor than apple juice that goes well with poultry. The brine consisted of 1 gallon of white grape juice, 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of kosher salt. I mixed the brine in my bucket, dropped in the turkey, placed the bucket in the fridge and let it sit for 24 hours.

Note:  Frozen turkeys have a salt solution in the bag. After the turkey has defrosted I will soak it in water overnight to remove this solution before I brine. This step will keep the turkey from being too salty. Start defrosting your bird a day earlier to give yourself plenty of time.

Turkey with Casa Seasoning
To prep the turkey for cooking I removed the turkey from the brine and patted it dry.  I coated the turkey with olive oil to help the rub adhere to the skin.  Then I gave the turkey a generous dusting of Casa Seasoning.  I just wanted to keep it simple so the rub was not competing with the smoked butter.

I smoked the turkey using a mix of Kingsford Competition Briquettes and cherry wood chunks.  I like the cherry wood because it has a light sweet flavor that is subtle and not overpowering.  I smoked the turkey at 275º for about four hours.  Rule of Thumb for smoking turkeys is 15-20 minutes per pound.

After the turkey had cooked for about an hour I placed a pan with four sticks of butter in the smoker to melt.  I pushed my charcoal and wood chunks around a little bit to get some smoke going to flavor the butter while it melted, about 30 minutes.

Injecting Smoked Butter into the Turkey
Once the butter was melted I pulled the pan of butter and turkey from the smoker.  I filled my injector with the smoky butter and proceeded to inject it into the bird.  Butter was injected into various spots around the breast.  I also injected some in the skin between the leg and breast.  After the turkey was pumped up with butter I brushed it down with what else?  A little more butter and returned it to the smoker.  I still had quite a bit of butter left, so I continued to baste the turkey with the remaining butter every 30 minutes until the turkey was done.

Basting with more of the smoked butter
After 4 hours of smoking and butter basting it was time for the moment of truth. As I sliced the turkey I could see the butter just ooze from the meat.  I cut off a nice piece for my taste test and it was really good!  The meat was moist and juicy with an amazing buttery smoky flavor.  The skin was even better, it had more pronounced smoke flavor with a buttery finish.  Of course it was absolutely fantastic with all the fixings. 

TestGiving is Served!
The rest of Team AlbuKirky agreed ,it was a pretty tasty bird.  They were on the fence if it was better than the bacon wrapped turkey, but it was just as good.  They did agree that they would need a side-by-side taste test to be sure.  I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon, but there is a possibility of a bacon wrapped smoked butter injected turkey in the future.

November 14, 2014

Oooo Mommy!

A few weeks ago Mrs. AlbuKirky and I were dining at Sakura Sushi & Grill.  We usually order sushi, but sushi is more of summer food and we just weren’t feeling it, so we decided to order something off grill side of the menu.  Cheryl had the Bibimbap in a Stone Bowl while I had the Kalbi Beef Ribs.  After eating our salad and meso soup waiter returns and set this huge plate ribs in front of me, and of course being the gluten that I am, I devoured the whole freaking thing.  The ribs had a rich beef flavor that was slightly sweet, but it was the umami flavor that totally fascinated me.  Umami is one of those flavors that not easy to explain but you know it when you taste it and it tasted really good. I knew after that first bite I was going to have to try to make these at home.

Kalbi Beef Ribs at Sakura Sushi & Grill
I have made Korean BBQ Ribs before using a store bought Bulgogi sauce.  But I wasn’t going to take the easy way out and buy a sauce, I was going to put on my big boy pants and make my own.  So I took to the internet to find a recipe.  I started looking for a Kabli marinade but I then I ran across a recipe for Galbi Beef at CrazyKoreanCooking.com.  These ladies have a great site, I really liked their little recipe app that updates as the servings change.  Anyway, the Galbi marinade sounded really interesting, like a cross between the Kalbi and Bulgogi recipes.  I really want to try their recipe for traditional Galbi Beef Rib, they use the regular cut of beef short rib and then did some fancy knife cuts to make it all pretty.  

Korean BBQ Ribs

3.5 – 4lbs of Cross Cut Beef Short Ribs
1 – Asian Pear
2 Tbs – Rice Wine

For this recipe I used a cross cut beef short rib. I laid out all the ribs and cut shallow cross cuts on both sides, I did this to rough of the rib a little bit so the marinade would permeate the meat and adhere to the surface a little better

Cross cutting the ribs
I grated the Asian pear and added the rice wine.  Then I rubbed the ribs down with the pear on both sides

Galbi Marinade
Galbi Marinde
½ Cup – Soy Sauce
6 Tbs – Sugar
¼ Cup – Sesame Oil
2 Tbs – Garlic Minced
½ Tsp – Black Pepper
2 – Green Onion, chopped

I placed one layer of ribs down in a pan and then poured the marinade over the ribs.  I flipped the ribs and really worked the marinade into the meat.  I kept building the layers of meat and marinade until I had used it all.  Oh, be sure to set aside some of the marinade to serve with ribs.

Marinating ribs 
I placed the pan of ribs in the fridge to marinate overnight. Well, I couldn’t cook the ribs the following night because it was raining.  It was one of those rare occasions that it actually rained in NM.  Which probably turned out to be a good thing because it gave the marinade another 24 hours to do its thing. So I flipped the ribs around in the marinade and let them sit in the fridge for another day.

Grilling the Ribs
Since I had so much flavor invested in my sauce I decided to cook these on my Weber gas grill.  There was also a good bit of sugar in the marinade and I didn't want to burn it so I heated up the grill to a med heat about 400-450.  I filled the grate with the ribs and left the lip up while I was grilling.  I cooked the ribs for about 3 minutes, flipped, and brushed the hot side with some of the marinade.  I repeated the flipping and marinade until the ribs had a light char and the dark color I was looking for.  Total cook time was 12-15 minutes. 

Korean BBQ Ribs
Once the ribs were all cooked I served them with a garnish chopped pine nuts, green onions and a drizzling of the sauce. Now it was time for the moment of truth, eating!  UMAMI these ribs were good! They were sweet and savory with just a hint of the onion.  Crosshatching the ribs had allowed the marinade to really penetrate the meat so each bit was just packed with flavors.  What was really nice was the light sweet crunch of the pine nuts every so often.  The only problem with these ribs, they were too good, we ate the entire plate. I hope you all give these ribs a try for yourself, they are absolutely delicious.  Maybe my next Asian inspired dish will be the Bibimbap Bow?!