Tag Archives: Sausage

Bacon Wrapped Smoked Meatballs

When you love bacon, meatballs, smoked food… why not combine those things and celebrate Opening Day of the Cardinals season?

Start with the meatballs. I love meatballs.

2+ lbs. ground (un-tubed) salsiccia
1 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/2 to 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 finely minced medium yellow onion
2 eggs
Generous squirt of ketchup
Slightly less generous squirt of yellow mustard
Few jostles of Worcestershire sauce
Multiple dashes of Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
Handful of shakes of Slap Ya Mamma brand Cajun seasoning
Couple tsp. Italian Seasoning
Sprinkle of sage

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Un-balled meatballs

Turn that bowl of mush into a wad of mush with your well-washed hands.

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Wad of pre-meatball

Form into 1″ or so meatballs. I set mine up on baking paper on a cookie sheet.

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Meatballs, just like your stereotypical Italian grandma used to make

You’re going to wrap each meatball with some bacon. I selected National Champion Bacon from Swiss Meats in Swiss, MO. Have you ever been national champ at something? Probably not. If you were, it was something lame like tennis or chess, not freaking bacon. This stuff is awesome.

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Thick Cut Bacon. America.

Toothpicks were necessary to keep the bacon wrapped. One each per bacon strip / meatball.

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Yes.

Onto the 22″ Weber Smokey Mountain you go, along with the extra bacon and a dozen or so chicken wing drummettes.

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What a lovely day for smokey BBQ.

To smoke the meat, I have some Missouri pear wood. Never cooked with pear wood before, but it was free from a friend who decided a pear tree needed to be trimmed and/or die, so into the fire it went. What a wonderful smell that wood smoke generated.

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About an hour in…

As time passed, I watched a little baseball and drank a little beer.

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Good things coming soon.

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About 1/5 hours in.

The WSM kept at about 200-220 throughout the smoke. Since this is ground meat, particularly ground meat that had been thoroughly churned with my bare hands, I needed the instant bacteria death temperature of 165 for the center of each meatball.

Around the 2.5 hour mark, the BBQed meats were about done.

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My experiment is complete!

Things are looking good here.

I never flipped or turned or moved any meatball. Just the smoke and indirect WSM heat slowly brought each one up to the final temperature.

Since the meatballs varied by size and were in different locations on the grill grate, they didn’t all hit 165 simultaneously. A few went into the 170s and 180s while the last stragglers caught up to the safe temperature. No matter – the BBQ wasn’t so hot as to dry out and burn the early bloomers.

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Bacon-wrapped smoked meatball – final product

They looked good and smelled good. But, were they juicy and flavorful?

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Bisected smoked meatball

Yes, they were! I failed to capture it here in the above picture, but there was a very subtle pink smoke ring around the meatballs.

They had very much of a traditional Italian meatball flavor and texture, but had a robust (yet not overpowering) smoke flavor. They were moist and succulent. The bacon sliced nicely with a dull steak knife and didn’t get tough or crispy. Pretty damn tasty if I say so myself, and I am a hard critic of my own food.

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The results

Garnish options abound. I had half of it unsauced, and gave the other half a try with some Sweet Baby Ray’s sauce. I tried another later with some beer mustard. It was all successful.

BBQ leftovers aren’t very common, but a few of these made it to Monday and they held well in the fridge. Warmed at 70% power for 1 minute, they nuked well and needed no sauce garnish – stayed plenty juicy and tender.

This is an easy recipe that produces a unique, flavorful BBQ experience. Everyone who came over for the baseball game enjoyed them (even though the game didn’t go so well).

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BBQ Joint Review: Adam’s Smokehouse

It’s client appreciation week for my solo LLC law practice, so why not take my longest-standing client and his wife out to a nice meal? In other words, I treated my parents to lunch at a new BBQ place: Adam’s Smokehouse.

Tasty food awaits you inside

Tasty food awaits you inside

We learned an important lesson about eating at relatively new BBQ joints: Don’t show up for lunch the same day a glowing review appears in the local newspaper. The line was out the door by 11:30 and we waited a good 20-25 minutes to place our order.

On the west edge of The Hill, south of where Watson splits off of Hampton (5 minutes from the zoo, for the out-of-towners), Adam’s Smokehouse rests in a small south city storefront strip shared with a dive bar.

As a longtime STL resident, the decor was pretty neat. All the walls were covered in 80s-ish baseball and hockey and olympic nostalgia. All those framed posters surrounded a modest storefront BBQ restaurant with 12-15 tables and minimal seating. It’s been open for two months and ripe for an expansion already.

A diverse chalkboard menu awaited us at the head of the line:

So many choices!

So many choices!

Beef brisket is a good measure of a BBQ joint, and I’ve never eaten tri-tip commercially, so that’s what I ordered (the pick two for $12.99). Amazingly, they were sold out of brisket at 11:45, so we were a good 10 minutes late. Unbelievable. Instead, I ordered the well-reviewed (as of that morning) salami. Sides were pit beans and slaw (which I was assured was homemade), and an unsweetened iced tea.

A person ahead of us asked for french fries, and someone said proudly said that they don’t serve fries. If you want your spuds, it’s going to have to be in the form of potato salad.

Dad reliably ordered ribs (1/2 slab, big boi!) and pulled pork for good measure, as well as beans and slaw, and my mother ordered turkey breast sandwich and slaw and applesauce.

Salami and tri-tip

Salami and tri-tip, with pit beans and slaw

Shredded turkey breast with applesauce and slaw

Shredded turkey breast with applesauce and slaw

Ribs, shredded pork, pit beans, and slaw

Ribs, shredded pork, pit beans, and slaw

As I came back with drinks, my parents were already digging in. Mom tasted her applesauce and fondly said it tasted exactly like her (German) grandma used to make. Dad sampled. He said pretty much the same thing. FYI to nostalgic old tyme apple sauce lovers – come to Adam’s Smokehouse.

On to my plate. I haven’t seen a bowl of beans that appetizing in a while. What a rich, deep color. They had it all in a BBQ bean flavor profile – sweetness, smoke, salt, some molasses and brown sugar. The finish as you swallowed was spice. I could eat a tub of these.

The slaw came in a thin cream base with heartily crisp cabbage and carrots. Whoever made it had a heavy hand with the celery seed, which is fine by me. Very little garlic salt, which I’ve seen in overwhelming proportions in other places’ slaw. I thought it was a nice cool contrast to two hot meats and a hot bowl of beans. Mom didn’t care for it. (“I like creamy slaw; I just prefer Schnucks’ slaw.”)

Tri-tip and I have a strained relationship. I’ve made it twice: once at home for this blog, and another time in a BBQ competition. At home it was decent, but in the field was quite sub-par. I don’t know what they did at Adam’s but this was superb beef. Thinly sliced and lightly pink, they cooked it with a big fat cap on top. Like well-prepared beef from well-fed cows, this was very tender and tasted like butter. It was a revelation, and I wish to goodness that I knew how to make it like this.

Everyone was there for the salami, based on our visual survey of the trays on other tables as we walked in. Our cashier said that it was the star of the aforementioned BBQ review in the newspaper that day.  Having been denied my brisket, I would take this salami as a consolation prize any day.

A quick aside about hot salami. One of my all time sandwiches ever and a Top 10 You Must Eat This In STL foods is the hot salami sandwich at Gioia’s Deli in The Hill neighborhood. I first tasted it in my early 20’s when some girls I new hired me to paint their living and dining rooms in exchange for lunch and beer. Gioia’s was walking distance away and we went there on Monday. I demanded return trips as payment the rest of the week. Recently, Andrew Zimmern and his TV show, Bizarre Foods America, visited St. Louis and stopped by Gioia’s. A somewhat unfortunate behind-the-scenes video explained that the hot salami is really salami de testa… hot tubed head cheese. (There’s a reason you never want to see someone make sausage.)

Gioia’s salami and Adam’s salami have a lot in common, though I’ve only ever had Gioia’s as part of a sandwich. I felt like the Adam’s salami was a little more densely packed, and slightly greasier (maybe they’re the same and the Gioia’s Italian white loaf soaks it up), but it definitely had more complex flavor. You could eat it slice-by-slice, and I must have gotten at least 10 generous slices. I was pretty unprepared for this salami, and anyone who eats it will see why the STL P-D author went nuts for it.

And I stole a couple ribs from Pop.

That's a pretty deep smoke ring

That’s a pretty deep smoke ring

What an impressive smoke ring on those ribs. Deep pink color on both sides. So deep it actually meets at the thin ends of the babybacks. They had a very light bite that pulled the meat in front of your teeth off the rib, but it was smoked well-enough that the remainder of the meat stayed on the bone. I’d consider these perfectly tender, though BBQ competition judges might say they’re just a tad too tender. Whatever. I cleaned those bones and loved every second of it. Get these ribs. I know I will next time.

Our sauce choices weren’t exactly legion like over at Sugarfire, but the three that we had on the table were all really nice and totally distinct from one another.

Tasty triumvirate

Tasty triumvirate

Carolina Vinegar is no lie. It was very thin, a cider vinegar base. It had a great peppery finish and a nice sweet/salt taste. I doused some of my tri-tip and otherwise worthless bread with it and went to town. ¬†Cranberry Cayenne was a thick sauce that balanced sweetness with spice, but I didn’t pick up on any tartness that you might get with cranberries. Nonetheless, it was a nice sauce outside of the mainstream. Sweet Jane Sauce was more like what you’d expect at a local BBQ joint. Nice balance of sweet and spice, with a traditional sauce texture and consistency. My personal bias was towards Carolina Vinegar, but the bottom line of the sauces is that anyone will be happy with at least one of these… or none at all since frankly none of this meat needed sauce.

All that was left was refuse and a sundry half bun. My meal made me quite full, but adding those two ribs got me up to nearly uncomfortably full. I needed a nap badly about 1/2 hour after leaving.

BBQ wreckage

BBQ wreckage

I liked that they served the food, by the way, in a plastic basket lined with a high gauge white Kraft paper instead of butcher paper or something else that either soaks up BBQ meat grease and/or cuts under the serration of my plastic cutlery. A nice touch that enhances the dining experience.

Overall this was a very pleasant BBQ joint experience, and they’ve only been open two months. They need to buy the place next door and knock down a wall for new seating, because it seems like demand is high enough for it. Of course I recommend eating here. I’ll be back soon.

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Tubed Meat Review: Swiss Meat & Sausage Co.

En route to the Gasconade River for drinkin’ in a boat fishing with my family, we pass right by Swiss Meat & Sausage Co. in the eponymous boomtown of Swiss, Missouri , just south of Hermann. I enjoy frequent hot beef injections, especially from competition-tested award winning meat makers.

Pleasant surprise? Buy four, get the fifth free. So of course I got five:

That's a lot of calories. Delicious, delicious calories.

That’s a lot of calories. Delicious, delicious calories.

If you can’t see it in the photo, my five choices were Boudin, Buffalo Italian Sausage, Chicken Bacon Ranch, Jalapeno and Swiss Cheese Bratwurst, and Best of Show Bratwurst.

I also snagged some impulse buys, because my saturated fat levels felt a little low:

Exotic treats

Exotic treats

The Elk Snack Stix didn’t make it very far from the store. It was spicy and delicious, but not that greasy. The Buffalo Summer Sausage was cut up for snacking later that day. It had the gamey savory flavor of summer sausage but included the distinct flavors of buffalo. Another winner.

Over the next couple weeks we found excuses to cook each of the sausages, and even managed a return tip to load up on some favorites and buy some extras for my parents.

Someone loves their parents (me)

Someone loves their parents (me)

I don’t know about you, but if my adult son showed up with award winning tubed meat, I’d be thrilled.

Having sampled the braunschweiger in the store, I can tell you it’s awesome. What is the stuff? Pork liver sausage. If you can get past that description, you might enjoy it. The sausage is loosely packed and spreadable, but I only remember eating it in big slices on wheat bread and saltines with processed American cheese and deli mustard. It’s a serious childhood taste… I felt a flood of memories come back with that greasy, savory sample. Not quite Anton Ego eating Ratatouille at Gusteau’s, but close.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve sampled (and re-sampled!) each of the aforementioned meats, always grilled.

Happy moments before dinner

Happy moments before dinner

Boudin

Without seeing Duck Dynasty, I’d have never heard of Boudin. When I went to check out, I only had four packs of sausage in my cart. The clerk told me I got a fifth free, and I made that fifth the Boudin.

Each tube is loaded with pork, onion, rice, milk and spices. It was tender and savory, each bite full of onion flavor. My kids weren’t very interested in sampling the Boudin, which probably prejudiced their bites. I, on the other hand, enjoyed it quite a bit. I’m no poet so I can only tell you it’s a flavor profile unlike anything I’ve ever had before – one that was quite delicious. My only gripe, if it can be called that, was that the sausage casing was particularly thick and didn’t cut cleanly unless I had a very sharp or serrated knife, and even then it was prone to tearing when sliced. No sauce of any kind was needed on this, or any other Swiss meat for that matter.

Buffalo Italian Sausage

This was, besides the Best in Show, the #1 kid favorite. Buffalo, being so lean, is mixed with pork and spices to create a gamey, tender sausage. Bites contained very little grease, despite the presence of the pork. I’d imagine that making a quality sausage out of buffalo that doesn’t dry out or lose flavor takes skill, and Swiss seems to have mastered this skill.

I’m surprised and thrilled that this is one of the sausages that my kids have requested the most. We’ve made a return trip to seek out (at least in my son’s mind) this specific meat.

Chicken Bacon Ranch

The only disappointment for me, but it turns out my wife loved it. I thought the sausage was quite dry and too heavy on the dill, with very little bacon to speak of. It wasn’t my thing, either from a texture point of view or taste-wise. I thought this needed something else, but it’s hard to say what. Again, it’s totally subjective because my wife thought it was superior to the Buffalo Italian Sausage.

Jalapeno and Swiss Cheese Bratwurst

Everyone loved this sausage. It’s my wife’s favorite, I think it’s amazing, and even my very picky children tried and liked it. My seven year old son had two, a spectacular feat because the jalapeno bits were visible green chunks! The key to the success of this sausage, as agreed by the adults that sampled it, is the perfect size and selection of the cheese. Each bite of meat included a tongue-enveloping morsel of semi-molten cheese, well seasoned and proportioned. These are clear winners in a strong field.

Best in Show Bratwurst

When I first ate these, I remarked without hyperbole that these might be the best bratwurst I had ever eaten. I think to well-known commercial bratwurst (such as Johnsonville), baseball stadium brats from Busch III, and even hand-crafted bratwurst from local stores (Schnuck’s and Sam’s Club, notably) and there’s no comparison. Swiss brats somehow had zero superfluous grease. They were tender, well-seasoned, perfect tubes of pork.

When you buy “Best in Show” bratwurst, you expect some really tasty meat. I was genuinely surprised at just how good these bratwurst were. I’d buy these again in an instant.

In sum, my trips to Swiss turned out to be well worth the detour. Certainly as long as my family is fishing on the Gasconade River, our route will pass through or near Swiss. Besides, we only bought a few different varieties. There’s several dozen other kinds of bratwurst alone for the sampling… many of which I’ll be eating this summer.

If you love tubed meat like I do, take the trip to Swiss. If you can’t make it, they ship nationwide, so you have zero excuse.

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