Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Backyard Brewing Society: February

Sadly, I may have to stop blogging about our Backyard Brewing Society Sessions.  Not because they aren't a lot of fun, but because it really is the same old thing.

Brew 'n Sun

We get together, we brew beer, laugh...a lot, and eat an excessive amount of great food.  This past weekend was no different.

Filling Up

Blessed with temperatures in the 40's, we ditched the jackets and soaked up the sun.  We also discovered the enjoyment of staggered brews.  A total of five of us brewed, but we started off at vastly different times.  (I worked up a pale ale and as a side note, put the primary in glass, something I never do.  I'm looking forward to watching the "process".)

David & Eric

This minor schedule adjustment allowed the rest of us to have downtime and help out the others whereas historically, we would be too busy minding our own operation.  It was a welcome change.

Eric at the Kettle

So, how do you find us?  Easy, follow the bacon road:

Follow the bacon road...

We are talking about coming up with an emblem for our little society.  It was Eric who pointed out the requirement of including a fatty in the artwork.

Mr. Fatty, to you!

It seems fattys are as common at brew day anymore, as is the presence of beer.  This day was no different.  Not only did we stagger the brew start times, I also staggered the fattys.  Number one was sweet onion and pepperjack cheese smoked in applewood:

Hot cheese, coming out.

Number two was feta and spinach.  Put these together with Keith's chicken dip, Brian's wings and David's most excellent ribs and you have a bunch of beached brewers.

David's Ribs

So, once again we have another sucessful brew day.  Yes, 70 degree weather will be nice, but as long as we continue to have great food, great beer

Kegs

and great friends, regardless of the weather, we will continue to have brew days.

The Backyard Brewers

Oh, and more than likely, I will continue to post about them too.

What's on the Grill #206: Bacon Rubbed Chicken

Larding is the process for adding fat into the interior of meat.  By using the aptly named lard needle, small strips of lard (aka lovely bacon fat) is driven into tough pieces of meat in order to make said meat more tender.  However, since I'm not going french tonight and I'm about five steps down from haute cuisine, I'm larding my own way.   How, you ask?  Simple, I'm jamming bacon under the skin of a whole chicken, or as I like to call it: the ole bacon rub.

The weeknight chicken rotisserie is just one more way to grill through the week and more importantly a way to jump on the never ending "I'll eat bacon on anything" bandwagon.

Yes, you can buy a cooked chicken rotisserie anywhere these days, but it is so much more rewarding to make one at home.  Plus, you get to perform the bacon rub.

In reality, it's less bacon rub and more bacon drop, but the idea is the same: baconize the meat.

With the chicken cavity sitting in front of you, use your fingers to work the skin away from the meat.  The skin is fairly resilient and can be worked quite aggressively without being torn.

Once you have the skin pulled away from the meat and can reach your fingers all the way through the top of the chicken, insert small sliced pieces of bacon and rub it into the flesh.

Peek-a-boo-bacon

From there, truss the chicken and mount it on the rotisserie spit.  Now, here's my "how do I season my rotisserie chicken without making a mess" hack.  With the bird on the spit, place the chicken across the sink.

Chicken Sink Prep

Suspended over the sink, it makes it much easier to rotate the spit and coat the bird on all sides with the seasoning of your choice.

A Dash

It's a weeknight chicken...go crazy.  I used a combination of pepper, oregano, cayenne and a touch of salt.  With the bacon already under the skin, I didn't want to overdose on sodium.

Prep the grill and spin the chicken for about an hour and fifteen minutes and voila, dinner.  The rotisserie earns bonus grill points in the winter too, because you have to spend only a small amount of time outside.

The Larded Bird

So, in order to make your next weeknight chicken something special, give it the ole bacon rub.  It's a great bandwagon to be on.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What's on the Grill: Video Pilot Episode

Well, this will either be a new way of bringing content to you, dear reader, or it will be known as the moment Another Pint Please jumped the shark.

I'm hoping for the former.

Consider this the pilot episode.  It's a little rough, it is far from perfect, the audio levels are wonky and the host is a bit of tool.

If this indeed viewed as "watchable", I promise more...but not too many more.  After all, you can only jump the shark once.

So, without any further adieu, I give you What's on the Grill: The Video Pilot Episode.

 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What's on the Grill #205: Planked Duck Breasts

Lake, Sky, Plank, Plate....or what I call, how my dinner arrived.  As I returned to my hunting friend's never ending freezer space, I put together a last minute dinner miles ahead of everyday chicken breasts.

Marinate the duck breasts in two cups of beer, in my case a porter (which I'm surprised I still have left in the keg).  If you breasts are skinless, like mine, the marinade will make up for the lack of fat and skin.  Towards the end of the two hour marinade, prep the grill for indirect heat.

I am using a plank and since I'm not soaking it and cooking it indirect, I placed the plank directly over the flame to heat the plank and release the cedar aroma. Watch this carefully, as dry planks can catch fire...fast.

With the plank marked by the flame, move it to indirect heat.  Remove the duck breasts from the marinade, pat dry and season well with salt and pepper.  Place the breasts on the plank, lower the lid and allow to cook for about 30 minutes.

Planked Duck Breasts

With duck, I shoot for medium rare, around 135 F.

Duck Breast and Veg

My duck was served up with some sauted brussel sprouts and sweet pepper.  The duck was sweet, tender and a million times better than it's land loving friend, the chicken.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Special Delivery: The Tale of Two Kegs

Ring, Ring

Me:  Hola

Zoe: Your keg is on the front door step.

Me: Sweet!

Zoe: It’s in two big boxes.  How many did you order?!

Me: Two boxes?  Uh, just one, I swear.  Are they both from Kegworks?

Zoe: Yes, are sure you didn’t order anything else?

Me: I don’t think so(Rapidly rewinding brain to make sure…).  Open them up and let me know.

Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to get home and figure out what the hell was going on.  You see, I ordered this:

Pin

And got this:

Pin & Firkin

Sorry to let the wind out of your sails if based upon my sheer excitement you were expecting bright shiny kegs and to answer Eric’s question (who I also thank for letting me know about the keg’s availability), no they were not drop shipped form an airplane. 

Yes, these are dull, banged up and painted kegs, but they are very, very special kegs as they are also known as casks.  As some readers of this blog can attest, I am a lover of cask ale, often known as real ale across the pond.  We have been looking high and low for casks for our homebrewing and Eric stumbled across used firkins (15 gallons) and pins (7.5 gallons) at www.kegworks.com.

Kegworks came into possession of a bunch of old, used kegs and were selling them.  I jumped at the offer and placed my order…for one.

Although they look beat up, they really aren’t.  Here is a picture I snagged outside of a pub on the Isle of Wight last summer.  They are pretty close to the same condition:

Empty Kegs

I contacted Kegwork’s customer service rep to figure out what they wanted me to do with the unexpected firkin and much to my surprise (and thrill), they said keep it.  Thank you very much!

I will have no problem using the pin for my next batch.  In the meantime, I have a lot of reading to do in order to make sure I have it properly cleaned and conditioned for use.  With the addition of the firkin, we will also need to have a collaborative brew to fill the thing up.  I envision a summer party tapping like no other!  Thanks Kegworks, you guys are the best!

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Winter Weather Update

Where do I begin?

It was Monday night.  A snow/sleet/ice storm was preparing to move in and I was, of course, hitting the grill.  I took some pictures, shot some video, drank a beer(s), ate dinner, did some post processing work, marveled at nature and bam...power outage.

Ever since the great wind storm of '08, when the power was out for 9 days and I was forced to make margaritas like this:

When storms take your power...

I vowed to put in a transfer switch and install a generator.  Well, at least when I was sitting in the dark it sounded like a good idea.  So, instead of bringing the house "back to life", we sat in the dark for 48 hours.  Thankfully, it was a short amount of time, but unlike warm September, this week was cold and nasty February.  Time of year makes a big difference.

There is nothing like sitting in the house in dead silence with only the occasional noise of 20 foot elm limbs plummeting to the ground with, certainly, the same resounding thud an airplane stowaway makes when his ability to hold on gives out over Dayton and he spiral towards the Earth, landing in our backyard.

Unfortunately, or rather thankfully, one of these limbs just about took out the 26 inch kettle.

Missed it by that much...

Della Reese must have been looking out, because the kettle came out unscathed. Even the Smokey Joe.

Well, 48 hours later and everything is back to normal, well at least as normal as it gets around here.

You can now read WOTG #204 and laugh as I enjoy the serenity of the weather.

What's on the Grill #204: Bacon Wrapped Grilled Pheasant

"Hug a Hunter" is my new bumper sticker since, if it were not for hunters, I wouldn't have 3 pounds of ground venison and a pheasant in the freezer.  More than once this season my hunting buddies have been gracious enough to lighten the load of their freezers and send their excess spoils my way.

My friend, Steve, goes to the Dakotas to hunt and on his latest trip brought back pheasant.  I have never had pheasant, so Steve knowing my grilling activities was quick to hook me up.  He was also great to hook me up with some beer, but that is a different story!

In order to prove the species of the kill, the law requires the head to be attached to the body to prove identification...which, makes for a rather interesting prep.

Mr. Pheasant

The pheasant is quite small, maybe a couple pounds.  Add in the head and not only do you have a good look at the anatomical look at the bird, you have some great dead pheasant theater.  Heh, it's not every day I have a head attached to my meal.  I'm going to take advantage of it.

Pheasant is a very lean meat and there really is not a lot too it, as seen by this less than flattering pose:

Less than flattering

After doing some review of how to prepare, I found because of the meat it was best to either marinade or lard.  Since I had no time to marinade, I went with low tech larding, ie: the bacon wrap:

Bacon casket

With the pheasant wrapped in bacon and seasoned in salt, pepper & paprika, I mounted it on the spit and went out to prep the grill.

Ice Time

Which, brings me to the ice.  There is a storm brewing and it's been sleety icy nasty all day.  I had to chip the ice off the grill cover in order to get it removed.  Crazy, but not stupid.  The stupid is me.

Any weather...

Anyway, after the grill fired up and melted the ice. It was pheasant time.

Spinning Fat

Going back to the lean nature of the pheasant meat, I opted to baste the bird with butter in an effort to add even more moisture and fat.

Melted Butter

Yes, it is wrapped in bacon, but really, can you ever have enough fat?

I basted about every 10 minutes using a half stick of butter.

It rubs the butter on the skin...

The pheasant spun and cooked until the internal temperature reached 165 degrees, about 45 minutes.  It was still a little dry, but wow, the flavor was great.  It had poultry like qualities, but a much deeper taste.  It is kind of hard to describe, so I will summarize it as: great.

Grilled Pheasant with quasai spanish rice

I peeled back the bacon and added it to some rice I prepped to go with it.  Much like the "head attached to pheasant" is required by law, so is "I shall not waste bacon".

It was a great experience and a really good meal on a crappy night.  As the weather moves in, I hope the power stays on.  (Update: How wrong I was!)