Monthly Archives: April 2012

Pork Steak BBQ: 2012 Practice Session #2

In pursuit of the noble aim of perfecting the pork steak, I assembled my crew and got to grilling.

For the second practice session, I am abandoning the Weber 22″ and moving on to my homemade smoker, Big Blue.

Prior to putting the pork steaks on the grill, I cleaned the grill grate with a heavy lubrication of vegetable oil on a half onion. While a 3/4 full coal chimney did it’s job, I got my full bag of water-soaked hickory wood chunks (as opposed to chips). Once assembled, with the coals in the basket, wood on the coals, and grill grate in place, it looked like this:

Lots of flavor escaping!

On to the meat. This practice session will include two different recipes, though they are not too dissimilar to things I have made in the past.

First, 4 of the pork steaks were coated liberally in a brown sugar-based rub that included paprika, dry Italian herbs, onion powder, and Lawry’s seasoned salt. This rub was put only on one side of the meat, and, when the food goes on the grill, that side will be up.

These look pretty good, but for the raw pork issue

Second, the remaining 4 pork steaks were coated in a mustard-based paste, similar to but thinner than my brisket paste, and with far less paprika and no cayenne pepper. Then they were entombed in aluminum foil for over an hour to absorb the flavors.

Though unappetizing now, these will get better

Everybody on the grill:

Hard to see with all of the smoke

I tried several times to get a better picture than the one above, but the smoke was completely enveloping the steaks. I left them alone for 45 minutes, while the smoker was a shade above 200 degrees.

Less hazy, more delicious

How wonderful these look after 45 minutes! Earlier in the post, I mentioned that the grill grate was well-lubricated with vegetable oil. What effect did that have on the pork steaks, besides providing an effective non-stick coating? Flipping the meat will give the answer:

Grill lines!

The answer is beautiful grill lines! Presentation is one of the scoring categories in the BBQ pork steak competition, so getting them to look good is an important element of the practice.

About 30-45 minutes later, the smoker is at 250 degrees and the pork steaks are done. Each is cut in half for serving.

Pork steak two ways: Delicious and delicious

Personally, I found the mustard-pasted pork steaks to be juicier, and they had a much milder yet smoky flavor, as compared to the rub-covered pork steaks. Each picked up tremendous smoke flavor, while retaining the distinct seasonings applied pre-BBQ.

Perhaps it was the technique, but these were the juiciest pork steaks I have ever made. They were not the most tender (though they were quite tender), but they were wonderful. In fact, all in attendance made it a point to tell me that these were the best pork steaks that I have ever made, which is something to say since I have been BBQing with an eye to the craft for several years.

This brings up two challenges: (1) pick one and run with it, and (2) consistently replicate this.

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Drink This Beer: West Coast IPA

Yet another edition of Drink This Beer and yet another IPA. What can I say; I know what I like.

May I introduce West Coast IPA, from the Green Flash Brewing Company.

Yet another IPA... I need to diversify

Rate Beer gives it a whopping 99 out of 100! I’m amped to give this a shot!

Like most respectable IPAs, this beer has a hoppy aroma and fruity notes. It pours nicely into a glass with an aggressively foaming head and rich amber/orange color.

You really need to get your nose down to the top of the glass and inhale deeply. Let the crisp bite of the hops tingle your inner sinus. Prep that palate for the abuses of the bitter yet fruity beer you are about to fling down your gullet.

Wonderful beer

There’s no lie that 95 IBUs is tons of hops, but this is not as overwhelming as, say, Hop Stoopid. And, how can you not like a beer with an ABV of 7.3%. I can see drinking this along side some spicy wings or a pork-heavy STL-style pizza. It’s both refreshing and biting at the same time. This beer is why I love IPAs.

The bottle advertises the fruity aromas of each type of hops, but I pick up on the grapefruit finish after a large sip. What a great, well-balanced IPA. Definitely a repeat purchase in the future.

I strongly recommend that, when it comes to West Coast IPA, you Drink This Beer.

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Pork Steak BBQ: 2012 Practice Session #1

Although the annual World Pork Steak Championships are no longer being held at the Schlafly Bottleworks, the St. Louis BBQ Society picked up the ball and continued the tradition. Good work, fellas. That means that I am still going to be presenting my best attempt at championship pork steaks on Memorial Day Saturday this year.

In addition to the pork steak and appetizer paired with a craft beer (to be handled by my BBQ teammate), we must also now come up with an entree paired with a craft beer. I have some ideas…

Back to the task at hand. After a long day of hard gardening, I was ready to get some meat on the grill.

Lots of Roma, cherry, & grape tomatoes

Lillies, peppers, & roses

I set up my Weber 22″ for indirect cooking with a heapin’ helpin’ of water-soaked cherry wood chips.

Wow that's a lot of wood

I picked up five center cut 1″ pork steaks from Schnucks. For those of you not from St. Louis, a pork steak is a pork shoulder (a/k/a Boston Butt) cut into 1″ steaks, each steak having a Y-shaped bone in the center.

It can be a tough piece of meat, and many people will drown it in abhorrent BBQ sauce or overcook it. My aim is to excell in three areas: taste, appearance, tenderness.

I decided to try two techniques tonight. Two of the steaks will get a brisket-esque paste and the other three will get a dry rub. All will be smoked on the grill, and then the two sets will tenderize in an apple juice-filled foil boat. I’ve never done this before with pork steaks, so who knows how it will turn out.

Pork steaks w/ yummy paste

To make the paste, I used about 6 oz. brown mustard, 1/3 cup brown sugar, some paprika, onion salt, Lawry’s seasoned salt, and maybe some other dry stuff. Each side was coated liberally.

Just another Sunday at the Simpson House

The other pork steaks got a dry rub, which consisted of 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup paprika, onion powder, garlic salt, Italian seasoning, cinnamon, Lawry’s seasoned salt, cayenne pepper, etc. Each side of each pork steak was generously coated.

All five pork steaks were smoked on each side for about 10-12 minutes.

At the conclusion of the cherry wood smoke, each set of pork steaks went into a foil boat with a little bit of apple juice to prepare for a tenderizing steam over semi-direct heat.

A foil ark

Now would be a good time for a beer. May I suggest one of my favorite yardwork beers – Boddington’s Pub Ale.

Like a little bit of England in my Missouri garden

After about 5-6 minutes of steaming, the foil boats got a 180 degree turn.

The bratwurst feel naked by comparison

Finally, I pulled all the meat. The pork steaks, when the competition rolls around, will need to be cut into two servings. That meansĀ a half that is loaded with fat and meat, and a half with the Y bone surrounded by meat and some outer ribbons of fat. Each half has distinct qualities.

Pork steak carnage

In my opinion, the pork steaks with the paste had more flavor, whereas my wife preferred the dry rub. Regardless, the kids destroyed them.

I felt like the steaming diluted the flavors from the rub/paste. You could definitely pick up on the smoke, but the flavors were not as strong. Perhaps on Practice Session #2 I can pull the pork steaks from the steam and follow up with a little seasoning and grilling to finish. Maybe the short time in the foil did not permit a true tenderization, and the juice/steam took off the flavorings that I had applied pre-smoke. The technique will need improving.

All in all, it was a great meal. Even the terminally-ill dog enjoyed the fat, trimmings, leftovers.

Oh shit more BBQ trimmings?!? NOM NOM NOM!!

I still need to come up with a BBQed entree to pair with a craft beer for this competition, in addition to perfecting the pork steaks. The BBQ appetizer… that’s for my partner to figure out.

For the past few years, we have been Team Shock & Awesome. I thought it was pretty funny, while somewhat distinctive. It was suggested that we change to Team Mesquite-squite-squite and use Lil’ Jon as a mascot. Is this too much?

Ignore the potential copyright concerns, please

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Grilled Apples and Ice Cream

So, your kids don’t eat enough fruit? The only time they get apples is when they trick-or-treat at the house of the creepy old man down the street? I have a remedy for you.

Grilling fruit on the grill is an excellent way to get some hot, flavorful dessert. Apples are as easy as it gets.

Start with apple rings: Just core a couple large apples, slice off the tops and bottoms, peel them with a veggie peeler, and then cut into thick slices. Apple rings are a favorite dinnertime side on the kids’ plates in the Simpson House.

The (likely) inspiration behind Apple Jacks cereal

Each was given a generous drizzle of honey, plus plenty of cinnamon and sugar.

I started some indirect grilling with the sweet(er) side up.

The added flavors of pork BBQs past is a bonus

Then I went more direct with the sugary side down. Each side got about ten minutes or less.

Sweet side down

Once finished, no time to let them cool. Put them in bowls and cover with ice cream ASAP.

Hot and ready for ice cream

Dessert

Oh sweet apples!

The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. (“You can make this any night you want!”)

One of the kiddos put some vanilla yogurt on it and we tossed on some whipped cream for good measure. Of course, dessert was preceded by massive whippit injections of pseudo-dairy topping into each child’s mouth until it came out their noses.

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Smoked Easter Eggs

Happy Easter!

The fine tradition of hard-boiling and dyeing chicken eggs every Easter can be adapted for the avid BBQer. Not only will this give you a fully cooked egg, but it will have the richness of barbeque smoke, a luxurious brown hue, and it all happens in one step instead of two.

First, set up your Weber 22″ grill for indirect low temperature cooking / smoking. I added about a quart of water-soaked cherry wood chips to about a third of a coal starter chimney’s worth of charcoal.

Ready for an egging

Simply enough, the eggs go right on the grill grate over indirect heat. Be sure to put the longer diameter of the eggs in line parallel with the grill grate openings, lest these things roll away. Put the vent over the eggs and walk away for about an hour.

None screamed for help

After a hearty smoking, each has a pretty brown coating. A couple have burst, but all are relatively intact, and each has cooked through all the way.

Rich, earthy brown color

Each egg has a unique pattern of white speckles and ribbons of varying shades of brown, yellow, and amber. It’s both random and remarkable.

And you didn't even have to dissolve the Paas powdery dye crap in warm water

Right of off the grill, removed gently with tongs, these make a luscious snack. It’s rich, flavorful, and (if you skip the yolk) it’s nearly cholesterol-free pure BBQ protein.

The smoke fully cooks each egg. There are two membranes that the smoke and flavor must penetrate, the first of which obviously being the hard outer shell. Underneath is the second, a more flexible membrane that separates the egg white from the shell. If you carefully peel the shell, you can rub off the second inner membrane to reveal the perfectly cooked egg white.

Either there's a very sick chicken nearby, or someone smoked some eggs

I sliced one up and put it on a chicken salad sandwich for lunch. The wife declined. Her only concern: “Those had better not give you bad gas later on.” Duly noted.

A smoky, shockingly healthy lunch

What a wonderful way to celebrate Easter and the BBQ. If you like super-easy BBQ recipes that make heart-healthy, smoke-flavored food, then this is a great option for you.

I washed it down with some of the Old Style that I bought for my dad for Easter dinner.

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Drink This Beer: McSorley’s Irish Pale Ale

I’m significantly Irish, and I love pale ales. How could I not buy McSorley’s Irish Pale Ale?

Thank you, Charlie Mopps

Immediately you notice a very rich amber color once it hits the glass, but there’s no fruity aroma or hoppy scents. How hoppy will this pale ale be? Do they have much hops in Ireland?

A long time ago, way back in history
When all there was to drink was nothing but cups of tea
Along came a man by the name of Charlie Mops
And he invented a wonderful drink and he made it out of hops

Just as the aroma intimated, there’s no hoppiness. It’s a fairly smooth beer, but nothing particularly distinctive that makes you remark. That’s a well-balanced beer, with no hint of potato.

We are crushing these fine Irish-style beers with some greasy pizza – what else would you each with a bunch of beer.

Nice color, nice flavor, but nothing that will make you remember the beer. If you are interested in having some generic ale with a dearth of hops, then this is the beer for you. I’m comfortable taking this down since it is an easy drink with a nice ale finish that pairs well with a robust pizza, but don’t plan on buying it if your evening will be sitting back to relax and enjoy a sippin’ ale.

Nonetheless, my recommendation for McSorley’s Irish Ale: Drink This Beer

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Brussels Sprouts on the BBQ

We have a couple massive brussels sprout plants going nuts in the back yard garden.

I laugh in winter's face

They began as a row of tiny seeds a few years ago, having never produced any veggies. The plants stayed hardy all winter, particularly this last mild one. Suddenly, in the past few weeks, the plants got huge and grew some yellow flowers. I’m excited to see what happens next.

Probably one of the only flower pictures you will ever see on this blog

This brings me to my brussels sprouts evolution. I used to hate them. When we ate them as a kid, they came in a frozen brick. The green little spuds were thawed out in a CorningWare with some butter and served to us as a mandatory veggie. We all resisted, much to the annoyance of my parents.

Fast forward to a couple years ago. My wife and I were watching Top Chef, and one of the contestants made brussels sprouts with bacon and butter. The judges like it, so we tried it with great success.

The other day I came across an article on Slate Magazine about roasted brussels sprouts. Therein, the author presented an anecdote about some famous brussels sprouts at a high end restaurant. Checking the link, I see that it’s pretty close to how we make them.

On the grill, the sprouts can pick up some smokiness that you might not otherwise get on the stove top.

Wash and quarter two pounds of sprouts. Chop up a white onion and a pound of bacon. Put all of this and a stick of butter, salt, and pepper into a BBQ-friendly saucepan. Ours were accompanied on the grill surface with some bone-in split chicken breasts and beer bratwurst.

A full BBQ grill - what a nice sight

It takes a certain refined skill to turn a healthy, green, leafy vegetable into a particularly unhealthy decadent side dish.

Stir frequently over semi-direct heat.

The smell of the bacon and butter crisping the little green leaves and carmelizing the onion is a wonderful mix of aromas. I tossed on a couple of soaked hickory chunks for some smokiness.

Eat your (not so healthy) vegetables

It looks great, and tastes even better.

While this cooked, I took the time to get some veggie gardening done. In went with some cayenne, jalapeno, and sweet banana peppers. Make some good stuff for me, plants.

Marigolds for color, and to keep the bunnies away

The rose bush in the background went berserk during the mild March. Last year it was very meager, but it has gotten huge. Later in the week, I will drop in my cherry and Roma tomatoes, as well as the cucumbers and other pepper plants. Maybe I will mix in some yellow squash, which has always done well. Rosemary, basil, and other herbs will follow.

Back to the sprouts. Stir often or it will burn on the bottom and make a mess of the pot. Trust me.

YUM

As good as these were, and they were really, really good, the wife preferred them on the stovetop in a wide, deep skillet as opposed to the grill. They got tons of smokiness and BBQ flavor from the wood and coals, and I think she preferred the milder mix of flavors you get on the range. Either way, this is a spectacular way to get some greens and pork fat into your body. Give it a try; you won’t be sorry.

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BBQ Mahi-Mahi Sandwiches

Eight years ago this June, my wonderful wife and I got married. We took a flight the next day to Miami and drove three hours to Key West, Florida for an amazing week-long honeymoon. While there, we stayed at the Pier House and ate dinner at their excellent restaurant. Pier House, incidentally, makes the best Bloody Marys that I’ve ever had. Ever.

During a walk around the island, we came across a bar that was only accessible by walking on the docks past the many boats that were moored. It smelled great, had a wonderful atmosphere, and we saw some wild chickens running around on the chat rock floor of the outdoor dining area. Some 100 year old Dominican guy was hand-rolling cigars while his grandson peddled them to patrons. We had discovered Schooner Wharf Bar.

Later in the week, we would have dinner there before a booze cruise. Unfortunately for my new wife, she boozed in advance of the booze cruise and was a wreck by the time the sunset boat ride was over. Oh well, you only live once.

On the Booze Cruise... plenty of booze in

The Schooner Wharf waiter recommended Kalik, a mediocre, thin beer. Being so watery, it was quite refreshing. Among the many specialty items, the waiter recommended Dolphin. Yes, he said dolphin.

Now, my knowledge of protected animals is not strong, but my initial inkling was correct: You cannot kill and eat dolphin in the US. Still, I was down for chowing on some Flipper. The waiter corrected me, as he probably has corrected at least one idiot tourist per hour. Dolphin fish is another term for Mahi-mahi.

Coryphanea hippurus

I checked out their menu and it sounded appetizing.

Menu Item of Choice

It was more delicious than we could imagine. Not sure what was in the sauce or how they got it to cook so nicely, but it was exquisite. We came back several more times for this sandwich and some Bahamian beers.

Why not try to replicate or at least come close to this honeymoon experience? I think I’ll pass on the Kalik, though.

I’ve got some really nice Mahi-mahi filets from Bob’s Seafood in U. City, MO. They will get a healthy dose of cracked pepper and salt, followed by a place on a wood soaked, Pam-coated, cedar wood plank. This is set over medium direct coals on the Weber 22″ grill.

Alongside the fish, I made a foil pouch for the chopped mushrooms and sweet onions, with some butter to help cook. I can toast some buns on the side, and we have cheddar cheese ready to go. I prefer the flavor and texture of cheddar over the oiliness of American.

BBQed toppings

Now for this mango sauce. I remember it being a mango aioli. I have a pretty good idea what I want to do, but to get some input from the internet, I did a quick Google search. Who would have guessed that Mango Aioli is also the name of some techno DJ from Germany. He’s an, um … distinguished-looking gentleman.

Aioli is really just a mix of olive oil, egg, garlic, spices, and other stuff. If I can get some mango preserves or jelly and mix in some mayonnaise, dill, pepper, olive oil, etc., perhaps something appetizing can be made. Most unfortunately, my lovely wife’s trip to the store did not result in any mango preserves. Instead, I was given some mango salsa. We were also out of olive oil and garlic. I tried to make something out of mayo, the salsa, some dill, lemon juice, hot sauce, etc. It was utterly deplorable. I guess I can do without the sauce.

Each side of the fish got some salt and coarse cracked pepper. I added some sprigs of dill and oregano for a little extra flavor. It all went on a water-soaked cedar plank.

Ready for the grill

The fish is cooking nicely. I let the cheese melt over the fish, right on the plank. What a wonderful combination of smells from this BBQ.

Tastyfish

A huge slice of cheese went right over each piece of fish for a few minutes to finish. Once it was all done, I toasted each bun half for about 60 seconds total.

Cheesy fish, burnt-assed aluminum pouch

Sandwich time.

Mahi-mahi sando

I’m pleased to report that these did not need any mango sauce. I have to wonder what enhancement could have been made by adding them, but the sandwiches were delicious. The cheese and the fish both picked up some great smokiness, while the mahi-mahi itself remained flavorful and flaky. Salt and pepper were enough for seasoning, though I suspect that Schooner Wharf put on some kind of jerk seasons.

What an amazing dish. We stuffed ourselves while having some Schlafly Summer Helles Lager. I didn’t miss the Kalik at all, or the mango sauce. I did keep a small dollop of tartar sauce on the side, but didn’t use much at all.

Amazingly, the last filet, after being wrapped up into a sandwich, held wonderfully overnight in the fridge and made an excellent lunch.

To complete our honeymoon experience, in lieu of a booze cruise on a 200 year old wooden clipper ship, my wife and I chugged some beers and went on a Forest Park paddleboat ride around the lagoons that surround Art Hill. Okay, not really, but that would have been cool.

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