August 15, 2015

Tostones AKA Fried Plantains in the Disc-It

As you well know, we here at AlbuKirky love movies and food. We especially love movies about food while we are shoveling big hand fulls of food in our face. Last year after seeing the summers sleeper hit, Chef, directed by John Favreau, we were all fired up to make Cubanos & Tostones, the featured dish of John's food truck in the movie. You can read all about it in our Cubanos series of posts Getting Smashed...Tostone Style, Smoking Cubanos, and Let's Make a Cubano Sandwich.  Mmmm..that was a great series of posts, I'm getting hungry all over again.

A few weeks ago my good friend, Nevin Montano, called me and told me to get ready for Season 10 of the Disc-It Cooking Show. I love doing the Disc-It cooking show, it gives me a chance to show off my mad Disc-It skills. Nevin has been doing his cooking show for 10 seasons, I think my debut on the show was in season 5. With all those shows it's a big challenge to come up with something new and exciting, but I'm always up for a good challenge. Truth be told, I cook on my Disc-It all the time, but I have to keep my recipes secret because I'm saving them for the show or the Disc-It Round Up, which by the way is coming up Sept 26th at the Expo New Mexico Spanish Village. I've babbled on long enough, just watch the video and enjoy. Also be sure to check out the Disc-It web site and all the really cool designs available. If you don't see exactly what you want, Nevin will be happy to customize a Disc-It just for you.

August 9, 2015

Me & My Big Green Egg; Part 1

Let me just start by saying that the phrase "life changing" is thrown around a little too willy nilly. For example, "this pizza is life changing". If pizza can change your life that drastically, what kind of life are you leading? Perhaps you need some hobbies. Maybe get out of the house a little more. I don't know, but something is amiss. Another one I hear, "that movie was life changing". Was it really? Did you walk out of the theater and immediately sign up to do volunteer work in a third world country? If you're like me, you went home, petted the cat, brushed your teeth and went to bed. End of story. Not life changing. 

Why am I saying all this? To firmly drive the point home that I would never throw that phrase around lightly and to also leverage the impact of my next statement. Purchasing my Big Green Egg was...well, Life Changing. No, seriously, it was Life Changing. Little did I know, that purchase would mark a turning point in my relationship with fire and meat. 

Prior to that, my experience with barbecue was limited to wielding a set of tongs over a rack of ribs on my gas grill. Certainly they were tasty enough, but I had no idea what they could be. I was not giving them the time and attention to encourage them to live up to their full potential; instead I settled for average. Shame on me. The BGE enabled me to start the No BBQ Left Behind policy in my own backyard and I received an education along the way. I learned that the addition of smoke could elevate almost any meat to epic proportions of flavor. I learned that the meat should not fall off of a rib and that there is no room for a mushy rib at the dinner table. That is not an indicator of quality. I learned that time and patience would render meat so mouthwateringly delicious that folks would lineup to be invited to my backyard soirees. And finally, learning to use the BGE would eventually send me down the path to create my own line of Rubs and BBQ Sauce. Now, I'm not saying the Big Green Egg will change your life, but it could, you never know. If nothing else, it will certainly make your life more delicious.

Cooking on My Big Green Egg
I've got lots of cooking vessels sitting in my back yard. A quick visual inventory looking out my backdoor reveals a Weber Genesis gas grill, a box smoker, and not one but 2 Disc-ITs. The Weber Genesis is a good gas grill and it certainly gets the job done quickly and efficiently, but it's a little utilitarian and doesn't have quite the panache of the BGE. The box smoker is nice and roomy, comfortably accommodating a rack of ribs or a pork butt, with space enough to invite all their meaty friends over, as well. It easily handles the big jobs, but when I'm shooting for nothing short of fantastic, I always fire up the Egg. I bought the Egg with the sole intention of cooking some barbecue and grilling some steaks, but I never in my wildest dreams imagined I would be grilling whole legs of lamb or braising pork belly. Like a custom-fitted set of golf clubs, the Big Green Egg has elevated my cooking game. And the Disc-ITs? Well, those bad boys deserve their own fanboy blogpost. Look for it in the future.  

Smoking a Pork Butt the Big Green Egg

Why the love affair with the Big Green Egg? The list is long, but let me hit the high points...

  • Versatility - The BGE out performs all of the tasks of a backyard grill, smoker, or oven and let me tell you, we have run it through the gambit. We have smoked, grilled, cooked, steamed and baked almost every meat or vegetable imaginable. There are no limits to what this beast can do.  
  • Consistent Temps - The shape of the BGE and its ceramic construction lend itself to consistent heat temps. Set the vents and it maintains the desired temp over time. The Big Green Egg website boasts that it's more accurate than most home ovens and I have no reason to doubt them.
  • Improved Heat Circulation - The addition of the plate setter allows the heat to circulate around the dome and the meat for a perfect indirect cooking environment. This combined with the ability to maintain the perfect temp means your completely in control.   
  • Great Flavor - The BGE uses lump charcoal which imparts delicious flavor to whatever sits atop those fiery grates. No charcoal briquets, no lighter fluid. Smoke is an essential ingredient in outdoor cooking, so I've experimented with various lump charcoals and the addition of different woods. My personal favorite? Mesquite lump charcoal and pecan wood chunks. This combination is delicious and in my mind, perfectly represents New Mexican flavor. 
  • No Wasted Charcoal - Done with your dish? Just close the vents. Without air flowing through the vents, this shuts the heat down and there's no need to burn off the charcoal. You're basically ready for the next cook.  
  • Dazzling the Tastebuds of Friends and Family - What's the best shower? The one that consists of accolades. The BGE is bigger than the sum of it's parts and the food prepared on it consistently turns out far better than what I am expecting and let me stress, I set my expectations pretty high. And what's the best side dish for a perfect meal cooked on the Egg? Rave reviews from those folks sitting around the dinner table. I guess you could say the BGE is good for my Big Green Ego. 
 Here is the low point...there's just one (in my opinion).
  • That Bullshit Nest - The BGE is heavy, very heavy. When you plunk down nearly $1,000 on a Big Green Egg the Egg Dealer will invariably try to sell you something to sit it on. The economical choice is the Nest made by Big Green Egg. The Nest is bullshit. Read on for a sad little story sure to bring tears to your eyes. 

June 12, 2011,i t was the best of times, it was the worst of times. We had spent several weeks in limbo waiting to close on our new home. During the sale process, the sellers kindly allowed us to move all of our stuff into the garage of the new place, where it sat for roughly 3-weeks. Once all the red tape was taken care of, the sale was complete and we could finally move things over the threshold and into the house. On the morning we signed the paperwork and took possession of the keys, I joyfully attempted to roll my Egg to it's new home in the backyard. I was carefully rolling it across the cement when a wheel on the Nest caught the expansion joint in the concrete. I felt the egg start to tip over, but there was nothing I could do, it fell to the ground and shattered like Humpty Dumpty. I was so mad I screamed a certain profanity that starts with "F" and ends in "uck" so loudly that it brought Cheryl running from the other end of the house expecting to see me covered in blood or missing a limb or both. 

Humpt Dumpty had a great fall....
The moral of that story? The Big Green Egg is very fragile and dropping it is not covered by the warranty. Big Green Egg has  since come out with a new nest that is a little wider and slightly more stable, but I wouldn't waste my money on it. It cost me $400 to replace the base of my egg.  I seriously considered buying something else but I couldn't bring myself to do it, so I decided to put my Egg in a nice big table surrounded by granite and wood to keep it safe. This baby is never tipping over again. Save up your pennies for a Big Green Egg, but skip the Nest. Instead have your handy brother-in-law custom build you an awesome table to sit in on. And if you don't have a handy brother-in-law. Get one. Seriously.  

BGE is safe & secure

I've got a lot more to say about the Big Green Egg, this is just the first of a series of posts.  If you have any questions about the Egg, feel free to post them in the comments below, on our Facebook page or email me at I am always happy to talk about the BGE.

July 28, 2015

Guacamole with Casa Seasoning

Thought I would try something new, more content!  Seriously, today I've got a new video with a  quick easy guacamole recipe.  All you need is 3-4 ripe avocados, the juice of 1 or 2 lemons, a few chopped tomatoes and some dice red onion. And no recipe would be complete without some AlbuKirky Seasonings, and today we're using the ultra versatile Casa Seasoning. So simple and delicious, there is absolutely no reason you shouldn't have it tonight!


July 23, 2015

Smoking Brisket with a Butcher Paper Wrap

Wrap or not to wrap, that is the question.  I have struggled with this dilemma for years.  For those of you that don't know, I'm referring to the barbecue trick known as the Texas Crutch. Basically, you smoke the meat for a period of time, then pull it off and wrap it in foil with some liquid and put it back on the smoker to finish cooking.  It's a great technique and I have used it many times.  While it keeps the meat moist and cuts cooking time, the meat does not pick up anymore smoke and the brisket tastes more like an oven roast than barbecue.  On the other hand, cooking a brisket unwrapped does have a true smokey barbecue flavor, but it can be dry and the bark is very hard.  While I like a hard bark on my pork butts, I don't really like it on my brisket.  How can I get a brisket moist and still have a good smoke flavor? 

My New Wrap, Pink Butcher Paper

I was doing some brisket research and ran across a YouTube video with Brisket Guru, Aaron Franklin, the video is at the bottom of this post.  Aaron cooked 3 briskets, one wrapped in foil, one wrapped in pink butcher paper and another unwrapped. The foil wrapped brisket was really moist like a pot roast with a hint of smoke.  The unwrapped brisket had a crunchy bark with a lot of smoke flavor.  The butcher paper brisket was moist with a good smoke flavor and a softer bark, which is exactly the way I want my brisket.  I immediately scoured the internet for pink butcher paper.  I found some good deals on a 900ft roll but, I thought that might be a little much.  I found a 18"x150ft roll on that was better suited to my needs.  Note:  Be sure to get unwaxed paper that is FDA approved for food.

Brisket Seasoned with Casa Seasoning

I got my roll of butcher paper in the mail and now all I needed was a brisket.  I picked up a nice 13lb choice grade packer brisket from Sams.  I trimmed off the fat on the meat side and trimmed down the really thick parts of the fat cap, but was sure to leave plenty of fat on the brisket.  I really wanted to just test how the butcher paper wrap was going to work, so I kept it simple and used my Casa Seasoning for the rub. I was going to do this old school, just meat and smoke.

Brisket before the wrap

For the first stage of the cook I smoked the brisket unwrapped for 4 hours.  I was trying to cook it at 275-300 but my temp got away from me and the BGE got up to 350.  So my brisket cooked a little faster than I wanted it too.

Just like rolling a big burrito!

After the smoke, I pulled the brisket off and wrapped it with the pink butcher paper.  I laid down two sheets and placed the brisket fat side up and rolled it like a big burrito. I flipped it once, tucked in the corners, flipped it again and then placed it back on the smoker to finish cooking.  After 3 hours, I unwrapped the brisket and put it back on the BGE unwrapped for 45 minutes to bark up a little bit. Since my brisket cooked a faster than I wanted and dinner was a few hours away, I wrapped it in foil and placed it in an ice chest to rest.

I started slicing the brisket and I could tell it was going to be good.  The bark firm but easy to cut through.  The meat was really tender and very moist.  As the for the was spot on, the meat was beefy with a good smoke flavor.  It was exactly what I wanted.  I was really impressed how good it came out, no fancy rubs, no injections or marinades, just smoke, meat and a little bit of spice.  In my quest to pack more flavors in my barbecue I sometimes forget that sometimes simple tastes best.

Mrs. AlbuKirky made some great sides, Mac & Cheese,  Broccoli Slaw and of course homemade bread.

My brisket was served with some delicious high-end sides prepared by Mrs. AlbuKirky.  She made a rich and creamy Mac & Cheese, a crunchy and tangy broccoli slaw and, of course, her homemade bread. Dessert was provided by my sister-in-law, Patricia...a delicious cream cheese cherry pie.  When it comes to Sunday Dinner the AlbuKirkys don't mess around!

June 21, 2015

A Big Ol' Steak!

During the finale of Mad Men I was thinking, What Would Don Draper Eat?  WWDDE, if I had to assign an acronym to it.  The question crossed my mind even though I've never actually seen him eat anything on the show.  Most of meals seem to be spent gazing at dinner through the bottom of a glass of Canadian Whiskey and a haze of Lucky Strike cigarettes.  And even those moments were wedged in between seducing women and delivering smack your forehead genius advertising gems.  BUT...if he did actually eat a meal, I would assume a Don Draper Dinner (Triple D...In your face, Guy Fieri) would consist of a big thick medium rare steak, a piping hot baked potato with butter and sour cream, and fresh salad with crisp, cold iceberg lettuce topped with a nice pungent bleu cheese dressing. And for dessert, he would probably skip it and just have another glass of whiskey and a couple of cigarettes.

A Manly Meal
When I want to grill something special, I start by visiting my local butcher.  On this occasion I asked him to cut me a 2" thick porterhouse steak.  When the butcher returned with my custom cut steak and dropped it on the scale it was almost 3 pounds.  He seemed to beam as he exclaimed "Now THAT"S a steak I'm proud to sell!"  Yeah, I was proud to cook and it eat it, too!

Now That's a STEAK!
When it comes to seasoning my steaks, I like to keep it simple...salt, pepper and garlic, which just so happens to be the ingredients in my Casa Seasoning.  How convenient is that?  

To cook a steak this big you can't just throw it on the grates and hope for the best, the outside will burn before the middle even begins to cook.  Nope, this was a $35 steak and I didn't  want to screw it up. A little reverse sear courtship was in order.  I was going to be spending a bit of time with this beauty, so it was my intention to make the most of it. I set the stage by filling the Big Green Egg with mesquite charcoal and dropping in the plate setter and a drip pan with a little bit of water in it.  I cooked the steak for about 90 minutes at 200ºF and let it just bask in the smoke.  When the internal temp hit 100ºF I pulled it off, covered it in foil and let it rest for about 30 minutes while I set up my BGE for the sear.  I like the long rest time, it helps me control the temp of the meat and not overcook it.  Mrs. AlbuKirky gets really pissed off when I overcook her steak.

The Perfect Steak Rub
At this point, the only thing missing on this bodacious hunk of meat was that flavorful crust needed to bring it all home and make it plate-worthy.  My cast iron plate setter was just the tool to get the job done.  When searing I like to keep the lid open to keep the plate setter smoking hot and the heat on the bottom of the steak.  If you don't have a cast iron plate setter you can use a cast iron skillet.  Besides putting a great crust on my steak the cast iron keeps the fat from dripping onto the charcoals which keeps the flare ups down.  

After each flip I brushed the hot side of the steak with melted butter and crushed garlic.  
I didn't really keep track of the number of flips, I just kept working it until I achieved a nice dark mahogany color on the crust. There is a fine line between charred and burnt and I didn't want to cross it. There's a school of thought that you should flip your steak only once, but if that's the case, you miss out on a lot the flavor created in the crust.  At a certain temperature, the denatured proteins recombine with the sugars on the surface of the meat to create that "meaty" flavor we all know and love.  This is known as the Maillard Reaction.  Multiple flips ensure that most of the surface area of the meat will connect with the grates/grill at some point and maximize the potential for the Maillard Reaction to work it's scientific magic, thus forming a bold, flavorful crust. 

Searing the Steak
Let me start by saying, I did not eat this steak by myself, although it tasted so I good I could have eaten the whole thing, I did let Cheryl enjoy a few slices. The steak was perfectly cooked: a thin layer of delicious crust and almost 2 whole inches of medium rare beef.  The slow cooking also allowed me to get more mesquite smoke infused into the meat.  To round out our Draper-esque dinner we had a big baked potato with butter and sour cream and a cool crisp salad with some of Cheryl's homemade blue cheese dressing.  We decided to forgo the whiskey and cigarettes. Maybe another time.

Dinner is Served

June 1, 2015

Big Giveaway for Dad!

Father's Day is just around the corner and we've got a big basket of barbecue stuff to give away.  What better way to honor the man that grilled your first burger than with a basket of AlbuKirky Seasonings products and a few choice grilling tools.  All you have to do to win is leave us comment below and tell us why your dad deserves this sweet basket.  On June 14, I will randomly select 1 winner from the blog comments and the AlbuKirky Facebook page.  You can also get and additional entry by leaving comment on our Facebook page.  Good luck and happy grilling!!

May 16, 2015

Maple Glazed Salmon on a Maple Plank

The biggest problem I have with cooking fish is breaking the filets.  Nothing pisses me off more than my fish breaking up and leaving huge mess all over my grill.  But I have solution, don't move it.  And how do I cook fish without moving it? Plank it!  Planking is my new favorite way to cook fish, it keeps the filet intact and infuses it a light woody flavor. This week we'll be cooking up a nice salmon filet with a sweet maple glaze and cooked on a maple plank.

Maple Glazed Salmon
When cooking with planks, the first thing you do is soak them in water for at least 30 minutes, this will keep them from catching fire and burning up during the cook.

Soaking the Planks
While the planks were soaking, I mixed up a glaze of equal parts olive oil and a maple balsamic vinegar.  If you don't have maple balsamic vinegar you can use regular balsamic and add a couple of teaspoons of maple syrup.

Salmon planked, glazed and seasoned.
I got this really nice filet from my favorite store, Costco.  I cut the filet down to fit my planks and brushed the down with the glaze.  I then gave each filet a sprinkling of AlbuKirky Seasonings Red Chile BBQ Rub.  

Grilling Salmon Planks
I fired up the Weber Genesis and heated it to 400º.  I placed the planks of salmon directly over the gas burners and cook them for about 20 minutes to an internal temp of 140º.  During the cook the planks burned around the edges just enough to give the salmon just light smoke flavor.

The salmon turned out great.  The maple glaze and the BBQ add a spicy sweet layer of that complimented to the rich flavor of the salmon.  The filets also got just a kiss of the smoke from the planks.  And the best part they came off the grill in one piece!  

April 30, 2015

Coffee Braised Beef Short Ribs

Last month we were at the Southwest Chocolate and Coffee Fest, since I don't sell chocolate or coffee I thought I should at least have a recipe that fit the theme of the event.  I searched the AlbuKirky archives and found a beef short rib recipe with a coffee rub, it was a delicious recipe but it needed a little updating.   The new recipe has more coffee flavor and of course some AlbuKirky Seasonings Red Chile BBQ Rub.

Coffee Braised Beef Short Ribs

Coffee Braised Beef Short Ribs

4-5 Beef Short Ribs
2 Tablespoons AlbuKirky Seasonings Red Chile BBQ Rub
2 Tablespoons Fine Ground Coffee
1 Tablespoon Turbinado Sugar
1 Cups Beef Stock
1 Cup of Brewed Coffee
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

In a small bowl thoroughly mix the BBQ Rub, ground coffee and turbinado sugar. Give the ribs a light coating of olive oil and then generously season all sides of the ribs with the rub mix. Allow ribs to rest and allow the rib to marinate in the rub.
Also in another large bowl mix the coffee and beef stock.

Start by grilling the ribs over direct heat and getting a good crust on all sides of the meat, 1-2 minutes on each side.  I love to use my cast iron plate setter for searing!

Searing the Beef Short Ribs on the Big Green Egg
Place the ribs bone side down in a Dutch over or pan add 1 cup of beef stock & coffee and cook uncovered at 250-300 for 1 hour, I like to do this so the ribs can pick up some smoke.
After cooking for 1 hour add another cup of the stock, enough to cover the bones of the ribs, cover with lid and continue cooking for 1½-2 hours or till the internal temp ribs is 195-200º.  When the ribs are done they will have pulled back from the bone, might even fall off.

Braising the Ribs
If you’re cooking in the oven, brown the ribs in the Dutch oven on the stovetop.  Then add 1 cup of broth, cover and bake at 350º for 2 hours. After 1 hour, add more broth, if necessary.

When I served them, I poured some of the braising stock over the top and they were absolutely fantastic.  The ribs had a really rich beef flavor that was infused with the the coffee from the rub and the braising liquid.  Beef and coffee is a great flavor combo.  I'm thinking next time I'm going to inject the coffee & beef stock into the meat before cooking and see how it turns out.  Hope you give the recipe a try and if you do, send me some pics!  

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 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!