A Wife’s Birthday Dinner – Surf and Coop

25 Jun

Alright, there are a few occasions that force you to think a bit outside the box, well in my case most, but I take this one very seriously.

My awesome wife asked for a strange combination for her birthday, Lobster (in roll form) and Chicken Wings.

So the question, how do you- A) Grill a lobster and B) Make it work with chicken wings…

Old Bay Seasoning = the common denominator

If you’re a stuffy Maine type who doesn’t believe in anything but saltwater and steam for Lobster, I apologize, this violates that, a lot.

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Make an introduction

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Then in the pot. I didn’t have it in me to cut them open alive, so 4 minutes in the steam bath to take care of that problem. Water has lemon, salt, cumin and Old Bay. If you don’t own Old Bay, seriously? Stop everything and go buy some.

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Slice them open across the bottom of the tail, slather with butter and Old Bay mix

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Add more butter/Old Bay and steam juices

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Cover your person in smoke to turn on wife

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Yup, Old Bay and Rose from Provence

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Dammit, this is not a blog about cats, but the little buggers love lobster

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Wings drenched in beer for a few hours and then covered in an Old Bay inspired rub. I’ve gone over rubs, just get creative, salt and brown sugar are what?

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Done. They left a bunch of foamy stuff in my grill, it smelled good

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Wings on while we head in and clean up the lobster. I can’t stress enough that wings should be cooked for a good long time over moderate heat. You want to break down and render the fat so they are crispy. These guys were on for 40 minutes at 350-400.

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Emmmm chicken wing gooooo

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When you’re making lobster rolls, you have to break everything down. These were little chickens so not much meat in the legs, focus on the tail, claws and knuckles

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Dress for success, mayo, scallions, celery, salt and spices. Experiment, this isn’t technically BBQ at this point. Perhaps I shouldn’t post this part….

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If you’re not composting at this point, figure out how. No reason all these nutrients should end up in a land fill

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It was good, the wife was happy and all was good. Go experiment, go make a mess, go get uncomfortable and cook something strange.

Ribs, done right

25 Jun

To all my loyal BBQ’ites, I apologize for my absence. The last couple of months have been full of life, love and loot. I’ve been racing in New Jersey and Washington DC, traveling for work and, in my spare time, going to the beach.

Some say this is “BBQ” or “grilling” season, those who say this are morons, there is no “season” for BBQ or grilling.

If you have the grilling/BBQ bug, go buy a damn Weber Kettle and stay away from all the crap made in China.

OK RIBS DONE RIGHT!

A few weeks back I failed at making ribs and I tried again. Remember, try try until you get it right. Mom always told me that. Love you mom

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Don’t feel like you need fancy ribs. Buy whatever, but don’t buy frozen.

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Here’s a good thing to do- grab a spoon and use it to separate a bit of the skin on the back of the rib. Rip this crap off, it’s a royal PITA, but worth it. It makes the ribs a bit less toothy and helps your rubs to absorb good stuff. It is a PITA, but fun!

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I like my ribs to drink a little before going on the grill. These babies are soaking in a bit of Worcestershire, substitute your own favorite fluid.

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Rub – Mix a bunch of crap in a bowl, experiment. Salt and brown sugar are the only constants.

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Apply rub, sprinkle from on high folks and get these babies coated

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I like warming my wood. Peach and Apple

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You want 3 things when smoking- Low’ish/ offset heat, moisture and SMOKE! Budweiser is supplying the steam and the plate setter is installed for some good offset heat.

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Chill with your cat or head out on the boat. Cook time at 275 is 2.5’ish hours. Sort of depends on your temp gauge, luck, overall state of being and a few other things. I rarely hit it spot on.

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Progress check. Yup, they smelled good.

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Grilling attire

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I don’t think I’ve ever made a rib that looked better

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Nice smoke ring. Serve with your choice of side, fresh beets and greens are hard to beat. Corn, yea it’s a bbq thing, but just fills you with empty sugar calories, that just means less meat in my belly.

Now go try, screw up, make something awesome.

Beer Butt Chicken

29 Apr

I apologize to all my loyal followers… I was not home last weekend and thus did not get a chance to make something tasty to share with you. I’m making up for this by writing this via candle light and enjoying a fine “white whiskey”, no it is not shine, but a fine wheat whiskey un-aged, hence no color.

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Tonight we made chicken with a can of Bud shoved into the butt (ok its the cavity). This recipe is so easy, so good and you don’t need one of those stupid chicken stands to make it. Just a can of cheap beer, butter, garlic and some spices.

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Start with good chicken, don’t buy crap, because it’s crap. I prefer fresh from the local farm, but I’m too lazy most of the time to drive the 10 minutes further than the local market.

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Wash your poultry!

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In this pic is everything you need for the meal, simple spices are what makes this a great meal. Don’t complicate thing- salt, pepper, Lawry’s Season and Lawry’s Garlic Salt.

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Use a can opener to open up the top of the beer. It doesn’t have to be pretty, but be a bit careful because your own blood in the beer is no good. Drink 1/3 of the can before you destroy the lid and add 1/2 stick butter and a bunch of garlic.

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General note: When you season sprinkle from up high, don’t worry about making a mess. If 50 percent of what you’re shakin’ lands on the meat, you’re doing good.

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Seasoned, and there are no blotchy spots via the sprinkle from on high

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Lube up that can and slide the bird over. Think of a tri-pod, that’s how you make it stable.

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My apple wood drawer, some chunk and some direct from the tree. Cut pieces off on the chop saw and enjoy!

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Your grilling area should be beautiful and with these tulips in bloom, mine sure is.

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Handle that bird with care and get it positioned carefully, YOU DO NOT WANT IT TO TIP OVER. If it does, just try harder to get it stable the next time. I’ve had many a bird take a dive on me, still tastes good. You also don’t want to cook the bird over direct coals. I’ve got my plate setter in, but if you have a Weber or other type of grill put some aluminium foil under the bird or just offset heat the sucker.

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Done, takes about an hour at 375-400. If you don’t smoke the bird a bit, it won’t be quite so dark so don’t freak out. If you haven’t grilled a chicken, use a meat thermometer and take a reading. I just know when the sucker is done at this point, one day you will too.

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Me and my little friend. He was yummy. If you have a grill and don’t make this, you are a complete wuss. This is one of the best and easiest things you can make. It will blow your friends away. You should also make sure to keep the carcass and make chicken stock with it…. Nuff Said.

Jeff out.

Shrimp at your friends place

16 Apr

There are many great things about BBQ, but the best is sharing with your friends. Sometimes this sharing has to happen away from home-base on another grill. It’s important to have a conversation with your home grill and explain this isn’t cheating, but that a 250 lb ceramic monster isn’t readily moved from house to house.

Yesterday I cheated on the egg and used my friend’s grill, at his house, where we were doing construction projects. We made some shrimp, wrapped in bacon and grilled to perfection on my old Weber Kettle, on loan from my personal grill collection to friends who’s smoker finally made it to the great grill heaven at the scrap yard. If you skipped last week, go back and read. It is the best grill money can buy. My old girl is still working great and a pleasure to use.

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I miss the chimney starter. There is something so gratifying about burning the news in the process of making some food.

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If you grill, drink. It puts you in the right mindset. The more you worry, the more your food will taste like you tried. It’s Spring, so I’m drinking a Dark and Stormy!

So the shrimp. Buy whatever frozen you can find, fresh is sort of a waste in this meal, but I occasionally do when they are available. Size is important. I prefer 21-25 count, but most of the time these are not available, so 26-30’s will do. If I have to explain to you how to cut a piece of bacon, wrap it around a shrimp and stick it on a skewer, you probably will catch the house on fire lighting the grill… What is important is the type of bacon. I PREFER Boar’s Head Center Cut. For whatever reason it cooks beautifully and evenly with the shrimp, cut pieces into halves or thirds depending on your shrimp size.

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BBQ sauce them and let is soak. Choose your favorite sauce or make your own. Thinner is better than thicker, it won’t clog up the works and has less chance of burning. Remember BBQ sauce is essentially a tasty vessel for sugar and sugar burns/caramelizes over the heat of the grill. Pat’s Ho-Made is awesome, but they don’t sell it up in this BBQ wasteland called New England.

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Clean your grill grate, a clean grate REALLY helps prevent food from sticking. If you haven’t gone to Weber.com yet and bought the stainless steel grate for 30 bucks, stop everything and do it now. NOW! Oh and don’t bother shopping around, no one else sells it.

Grill temp is medium, you’re cooking mostly with radiant, so flipping often to prevent charring is critical. This ain’t a ‘put it on the grill and walk away’ meal. They only need to cook long enough to get the bacon cooked. Shrimpies are done quick! If they start to burn, set them off to the side for some indirect cooking. If you see a lot of smoke coming from the Weber, you’ve screwed up and something is on fire.

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Look to achieve a soft red glow, like what you see above and below. Don’t let it get ripping hot, it will just char and ruin the flavor.

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These are looking perfect, if they don’t look like this, try again another day, but still eat them. Odds are they are YUMMY.

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Eat them and enjoy them.

So that was the appetizer, we were still hungry so I fired up the indoor BBQ. Not really, but this is our commercial grade, low tech stove. Ain’t nothing digital on this monster, but its great. I can repair it with parts from the plumbing section at my local hardware store.

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Emm, blood on the counter.

Wings Done Differently

7 Apr

Chicken wings are not the things you go get for 25 cents on wing night. They don’t come with cheap beer. They are made with cheap beer and enjoyed with good beer. Good beer and good BBQ go hand in hand. Don’t forget that.

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So this is a little combination of one of our favorite meals with one of our favorite parts of that meal. Beer butt chicken, we’ll discuss this later. All you need to know is the wings are the most magic part of that meal. For a few years we thought about how to just make the wings.

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Some have asked me for a recipe. This is not a recipe but an idea. Soak your wings in beer for a few hours before grilling them. Some say add salt, spices etc… Do what you like and feel is right. I just use the beer in a bowl.

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OK wing sauce can be good, but in general it SUCKS. Its overly sweet or overly spicy and its put on after you cook the wings. Give me a break, BBQ is about what happens before and during grilling, not crap in a bowl you toss a pre-cooked thing in. Make a season to put on your little beer wonders and do it before you grill them.

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Here is where BBQ can get fun and creative. Lots of people will add water, vinegar etc… to the BBQ when slow cooking things for hours to add moisture and steam. Wings, while tiny, still should be slow cooked. In this case 350-400, indirect or direct for 40+ minutes. You want to render fat out of the skin and make it crispy, but YOU WANT BEER flavor. So I make a shallow pan out of aluminum foil and fill it with a can of beer. Cheap and good, PBR. If people make fun of you for drinking PBR, kick them out of your house, they are not worthy.

Aluminum foil is pure magic. Often you will here people say that duct tape can fix anything, it can, but aluminum foil can make just about anything better and easier. I will one day open a restaurant based on this, it won’t be original, but it will be my passion.

Its also important to have love while doing the BBQ. Sometimes its my wife, other times one of my little fur balls supply the love. This is Loki, he’s a BIG cat and loves chicken, waffles and maple syrup. He hates lobster and shrimp?

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You should also be sure to have a headlamp. You suck if you don’t.

Tonight I failed a bit. I ran out of charcoal, was in a hurry and didn’t take the time to get the grill to the right temp. This is when you have to improvise to fix your food. I ditched in-direct heat after 20 minutes and used direct heat and the steaming beer. The skin got crisp and looked great all in about 45 minutes. Not exactly what I had planned, but:

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They tasted OK. My wife loved them, I wasn’t happy. I got lazy with the seasoning, didn’t make a proper dry rub and just sprinkled some stuff on. When you make a seasoning, never, no matter who or what is happening, sprinkle random stuff on the meat. You want to mix all spices in a bowl and taste. Who cares what is in the bowl, but just get everything together and TASTE.

Tomorrow I get to race my car. I am happy, it is a sign of spring, which is an early sign of summer, which is the true start to my happy season.

Jeff Out

Easter and the Old and the Older

31 Mar

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Easter 2013 – Old and Older

Today I am smoking a ham, I have never done this before. When I am going to try something new in the world of BBQ I use technology. I get on Google, I ask it a question and I read. I’m not looking for a recipe, but I’m looking for cooking times and temps. I believe it is important to understand a little about the time and temp, but not so much the ingredients. Ingredients and flavors should come from you.

We are making a double smoked Butt Ham, this is the upper portion of the ham shank, if you have had a Honey Baked Ham, same cut. Its pre-cooked, but not fully cooked. We made a simple rub utilizing ingredients we know and like. More later. We are smoking it with a combination of fresh and local cut apple wood from an orchard in the area and a tiny bit of alder. It is an experiment.

Old – The Weber Kettle is a staple in the world of grilling. My father taught me to use one of these when I was very young, 6 or 7. Our gas grill conked out and he took a magic little grill out of the attic. It was the Weber Smokey Joe. No human who calls themselves a grill man is one until they have used the Smokey Joe. It is magic and small. I have one permanently with me on my boat.

The above picture is a Weber Kettle I bought on Craigslist for 15 bucks. I used it for 3 years until I gave it to my office and bought myself a newer “Green” Weber Kettle. I love green, I also love Orange. It was a proper Weber Kettle, old, well seasonsed and abused. The abuse makes it taste better. When looking at grills and especially Weber Kettles you can assess the age by the material of the handles. The real old ones were made of wood, see below. No matter how hot you had the grill cranking, you wouldn’t burn your hand when you grabbed the handle. Today they are made with plastic. I’m sure a Google search could tell you when they changed. To me it doesn’t matter, I miss the wood and I wish they would bring it back. Plastic sucks.

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The Weber Kettle is a testament to American ingenuity and invention. Odds are you know the story, but I will put it in text on my page. I love the story.  The kettle came from a man at a company that made navigation buoys for the Great Lakes. Grills sucked and this guy looked a buoy and said hey, this might just work. It did and 60 years later the design is un-changed, except the damn handles. The Weber Kettle is a wonder of a grill. Its relatively cheap, its versatile, its durable, its good looking and it uses Charcoal as a fuel. If you use a propane or gas grill, go buy one and learn. Don’t ask questions, it is your first step towards REALLY understanding how to BBQ.

I don’t believe that anyone should learn on a different grill. I spent 20 years cooking on these and while there are limitations, you should find them before believing what others say. I still think it is the best grill on the planet for cooking a hamburger. Sorry Big Green Egg, but nope, you don’t win here.

Older – The Big Green Egg – The company is younger, sometime in the late 70’s a guy who was importing Japanese kamado grills realized he could make a better version in this country.The basic design of the BGE is thousands of years old. Its taken a long time and a slow adoption, but today Big Green Egg is exploding. So why are they better? Go search on Google, many people smarter and more experienced then me can tell you. All I can say is that outside of the venerable American backyard tradition of the hamburger, it does everything better than just about any other grill.

The damn thing just works and if you are patient and creative you develop a relationship with this grill. I am sold, through and through. Things this old that still exist do so for a reason.

My co-workers gave me this grill as a wedding present. Needless to say we were surprised.

Easter Dinner:

Deli Mustard

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Dry Rub on Top

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Me and My Egg along with a Maple, Bourbon, Home made Apple Butter, Allspice and garlic salt glaze

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Smokey Ham

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This is all done with no electronics or fancy stuff. The fire is started with a MAP gas torch. The grill is regulated by feel. Today it was cold, I live north of Boston, I adjust the dampers a bit to suit. I did not keep a consistent 225-230. I guess with a fancy damper system I would have. Oh well, I walk out and check it. I burns calories doing this so I can use more brown sugar in my recipes!

Dinner is ready

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More later

Jeff Out and Hoppy Easter!

BBQ Should Be Simple

30 Mar

This blog is going to follow my attempts to explain simple and fun BBQ. Our lives are full of technology with devices that can damn near do anything for you. Why should the simple act of cooking meat, on a grill, over charcoal be infiltrated with computers, wifi and apps? If you can’t do it by gut feeling and a true human/grill relationship, then you are missing the point of BBQ. Its about love, patience and occasionally getting it wrong.

This is my tool:

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Here’s to spring and a host of recipes, techniques and love. This blog will be low key, simple and non flashy – just like my BBQ creations.

Jeff Out