Friday, August 26, 2011

What's on the Grill #226: Smores

It's British Invasion time here at Camp APP.  Zoe's college friend, Jenny, and her kids, are here visiting and for the kids, it's their first time stateside.  I last met up with Jenny on our trip to the Isle of Wight last May.  She is always a lot of fun and usually the first person to correct the way I say carmel...or is it kar-a-mel?  Ask the Starbucks Barista.

During their stay, we plan on packing in as many "American" things as we can.

One of the most important American traditions Zoe adores and brings out for visitors are Smores.

Squishing a Smore

Smores involve two of my favorite things: sharp pointy objects and fire.  A marshmallow is mercilessly speared on a stick, skewer or flame retardant finger and plunged into the depths of a hot fire.

A kiss of flame

As the white sweet bomb sucks up the heat and begins to caramelize, it is withdrawn from the fire and released on to pieces of chocolate nestled between two halves of a graham cracker.  In so doing, the heat from the marshmallow melts the chocolate turning the makeshift cracker sandwich into something you may want "some more" of.  As anyone who has had them knows, they are a pure delight.

On Fire

Jenny's kids jumped right in and lapped them up.  We couldn't make them fast enough.  Bean, insisted on savoring every bite.  He's a smore pro.

Smore Pro

In the end, there were a lot of full bellies and an overall desire for the next smores adventure to include either a smaller fire or longer skewers.  Sorry, the smores fire building operation got me a little excited.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What's on the Grill #225: Weeknight Baby Back Ribs

Although I enjoy great BBQ at home, these aren't exactly quick last minute meals to enjoy on a whim.  Dishes such as pulled pork and brisket take some planning.  So, when you are craving BBQ, but either A. Didn't plan or B. Don't have the time, what do you do?  For me, the only middle ground and quasi last minute BBQ meal are ribs.

BBQ Baby Backs

Don't worry, I'm not going all "30 Minutes or Less".  When I say "quasi last minute", I'm talking about 270 minutes...or more.  I doubt that would make compelling television.  Anyway, dinner won't be early, but it will be better and cheaper than going out.

As per my MO, the ribs came from Sam's.  Three ribs in a pack equals two racks for dinner and one stuck in the freezer for a treat next week.

The rub is a standard of mine:

2 Tbls Dark Brown Sugar
2 Tbls Sweet Paprika
1 Tsp Cumin
1 Tsp Garlic
1 Tsp Freshly Ground Pepper
1 Tsp Sea Salt
1/2 Tsp Ground Mustard
1/8 Tsp Celery Seed
1/2 Tsp Ancho Chili Powder

Prep: 15 minutes

Start your grill/smoker.   I would say soak your wood chips, but this is "last minute" and I always have some soaking for just this purpose.  Fear not though, when jammed for time, just throw them on the coals un-soaked.

Remove the ribs from their packaging and then remove the membrane from the back of the ribs.  Cover with the rub.

Cook: 3-4 hours

Grill or smoke the ribs indirect for at least 3 hours. A good rule of thumb for determining doneness is the meat pulling back from the bone.  I find if its moved back around a half an inch or more, they are good to go.

Racks from above

I did something I usually don't do on this cook.  I sprayed the ribs with apple cider vinegar.  Every hour or so, I had Bean give them a healthy dose from the spray bottle.  I know I said "I" sprayed them, but it was really a joint effort.  He pulled the trigger and I made sure he had the right bottle.

As I said, I'm not usually a baster, mopper or sprayer, but I thought this time I would give it a whirl.  The end result was great, but I'm not so sure yet how much the spraying added to it.  At least it gave Bean something to do and me to supervise.

A little spray

The ribs can be served wet or dry.  I typically go wet, so during the last 30 minutes I painted BBQ sauce on them.

Along with some fresh corn and grilled sweet potatoes, we had all of the bases covered.

Spud & Corn

Yes, it's not the fastest meal, but it's the outdoor cook's version of "set it and forget it".  The downtime allows me to knock out some other projects, most notably sampling the new Sam Adam's Bonfire Rauchbier, which is now out in their Harvest Collection Variety Pack.

Bonfire Rauchbier

I love smokey beers and the Rauchbier is just that: smokey, sweet and very smooth, much like some of my late night music collections.

Well there you have it.  Good BBQ, good beer, and a relatively small amount of planning on a weeknight.  Remember to tell a friend, ribs aren't just for the weekend.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Operation: Deep-Heart-Texas

A couple weekends ago, we shot down to Houston to visit my youngest brother, Matt.  I was born in San Antonio and although my time in Texas was short (like three months), I still consider myself a proud Texan.  How proud?  Try growing up in the greater Washington DC area in the Redskins hey day of the mid to late eighties wearing Dallas Cowboy memorabilia.  It was rough, but I survived.

I guess my Texas roots impacted more than my choice of sports teams.  Somewhere, somehow, it passed on the taste for BBQ, too.

Fast forward to the present.  So, where are we eating within just a few hours of landing?  If you guessed BBQ, you guessed in Goode Co. Texas Bar-B-Q.

Goode Go

I've been there before, and I love it.  Food is served cafeteria style.  You pick up your tray, grab a beer out of overflowing ice filled chests and then slowly snake your way towards the meat trays, where an employee carves up your BBQ desires.

Goode BBQ

The interior portion of the restaurant holds about 10 tables for indoor eating.  It was a busy Saturday afternoon, punctuated by the lunch line cutting through the small dining room and right out the door.  Inside eating was a premium, as the 100 degree weather outside was something worth escaping.

After staring at the order board for several minutes, I opted for the combo of brisket and pulled pork, with jalapeno bread, baked beans and potato salad.  As I uttered the word brisket, I watched as an entire brisket slid across a cutting board and then waited breathlessly, as a carving knife separated my pieces from the moist, smoked cut.  A handful of pulled pork, a little bit of sauce, beans, potato salad...I was ready.  Could this line move any slower? I was ready to eat.

Outside dining

Since the inside was full, we moved outside.  The overhand provided relief from the sun, which was nice, as Matthew expertly positioned us between two overhead misting neither of them hit us.  It was hot, but frankly, the heat wasn't even a concern.  I had BBQ to eat.

My kind of lunch

It was all amazing.  Smoky, moist and delicious.  If I was Matt, this would be a weekly destination and judging by those in the outside takeout line, I have a feeling my sentiment was shared.  Amazingly enough, not only could you order food, you could buy wood to smoke BBQ at home too.

Smoking Wood

I think I was in love.

Everyone was satisifed, even Bean...although he wished he had more sauce.

Mouth full of Que

It was a fast, fun and unbelievably hot weekend and although the BBQ was certainly a highlight, I think Bean was more excited about the fact he landed in Houston at age 12 and took off at age 13. A thanks to Matt for another great weekend and an added thanks for not having anything in his fridge.  It gave us a great reason to eat out!

Monday, August 15, 2011


Although I haven't talked about it much all summer, my hops are flying.  The Chinook are by far doing the best, quickly followed by the Kent Goldings and then the Fuggles.
Climbing Up
After not expecting much of anything this year, I couldn't be happier.  I imagine in the next 6 weeks, or so, I will think about harvesting.  It's that time of year to start thinking about brewing winter beers.  I see a lot of possibilities before me.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

What's on the Grill #224: Wings & Peppers

This meal was a little bit leftovers, a little bit new and a whole lot of bad.  I "try" to eat fairly healthy...and by healthy I mean non-processed food.  Although every once in a while, I get the craving for something bad and when I think completely unhealthy, the Asian Zing wing sauce at Buffalo Wild Wings oddly appears.

Grilled Wings with Asian Zing Sauce

It's sticky sweet.  So sticky sweet, I regulate myself to eating with only one hand, so as to not "sauce-ify" my beer glass and/or phone.  This process is easy for chowing down a drummette, but requires a little nose intervention when working my way through a wing.  It's just another fun day with Mike and his self diagnosed OCD.

Outside of the eating hassle, I know the sauce is bad from a health standpoint, which is probably why I only "treat" myself once every couple months.  However to make matters worse, when I found an online recipe for the sauce which required me to dig out the Karo corn syrup, I knew I was in trouble.  For the record, the corn syrup hasn't come out of the pantry in years.  In fact, the odds are in my lifetime, I have used Karo more as the base for fake blood than an ingredient in cooking...which is a story for another day...let's just chalk it up to a creative childhood and adolescence.

Now not wanting to totally rot my soul, this meal was a twofer.  When one has pulled pork, it is a requirement to work it into every dish imaginable.  In this case, my favorite Pulled Pork Stuffed Peppers.

But first, here are the wings:

Grilled Chicken Wings with Asian Zing Sauce
Sauce from Meemo's Kitchen

12 Chicken Wings
salt and pepper

2 t cornstarch
4 t rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup corn syrup
2 T dry sherry
1 t minced peeled ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 t dry crushed red pepper
2 T soy sauce
1 T asian chili-garlic sauce
1 t lemon juice

1.  In a small bowl, combine rice wine vinegar and cornstarch.  Stir to disolve.

2.  Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce and simmer and until sauce thickens.

3.  Rings the wings under cold water and with a pair of scissors or a sharp knife, remove the wing tip.

The Wing Cut

It should look like this:


4.  Pat, pat, pat the wings dry.  Season with salt and pepper

5.  The wings can be grilled direct, or indirect.  Since I was grilling multiple things, I opted the indirect route.

Low Clearance

6.  Over indirect medium heat, grill the wings about 30-35 minutes, turning once.

Grilled Wings

7.  When the wings are done, remove them from the grill and place in a large bowl.  Pour the sauce over the wings and mix well.  Serve.

Sauce Away

As I mentioned before, this was a twofer.  Pulled Pork Stuffed Peppers are the second act of this two part heart clogging show and they are about as simple as it gets.  Cut the caps off of 3 or 4 peppers and hollow out the insides.  Mix together the pulled pork, your favorite BBQ sauce and shredded cheese (and really anything else you want: beans, herbs, small children...whatever).

Placing the Peppers

Place on the grill and cook.  The Saffire's raised grill grate extension worked well for maximizing my indirect space.  Ideally, I would have had to fire up the 26 inch kettle if I were to attempt this on something other than the Saffire.

A Twofer

In order to keep the peppers upright, wrap aluminum foil around their base.  When the peppers start cooking, they may appear stable, but after a few minutes of heat exposure they tend to lay down on the job.

Pulled Pork Stuffed BBQ Grilled Peppers

Prevent disaster and give them a safety ring.  It's what friends do.

The Home Stretch

The peppers take about 30 minutes or so to heat up.  When done, carefully remove them and serve.  They are an ultimate last minute left over.

Although I chanced fate and shaved a few years off my life by making the wings, they were really, really good.  I also figure they are about 10 times better than what I would get at BW3s.  Most importantly, at home, I can let up on my one handed wing eating rule, which is a good thing.  I can only take so much sauce dripping off my nose in public.  At home, it is just considered normal.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Outdoor Beer Dispensing Phase 1.5 w/Beef

This post should really be titled: Outdoor Beer Dispensing Phase 2, but time got away from me and in the end, the people holdings cups didn't care about the missing .5.  When you last left me, the stock tank was drilled, tapped and filled.  The only thing missing was the lid.


Although my temporary tarp solution was certainly easy, I wanted something solid for the top that would not only be a great place to store glasses, but provide better insulation for the ice.  The height of the corny kegs, with their connectors attached, unfortunately sat a few inches higher than the rim of the stock tank.  Dropping a piece of plywood across the top was not an option.  I needed to build a collar.

In order to make the lid secure, I cut 4x4s to match the oval shape of the stock tank.  From there, I used a dado blade to cut channels in the 4x4s. Once completed, the 4x4 ring sat over the top lip of the tank providing a stable solid base for a piece of plywood across the top.

So, why isn't the project complete?  First, the 4x4s looked horrible from the side. I need to wrap them with a thin piece of wood to make it more presentable.  This, coupled with some varnish for the exposed surfaces will give the wood some protection too.  The second reason?  I had to add two more taps!  Yup, the Outdoor Beer Dispenser isn't for 3 beers, it's for 5.

Party of 5

Thankfully, I can just fit all the kegs in...barely.  Once the final two taps are installed and the top finished, the project will be complete (the bar towels are providing a temporary wood covering).  In the interim, Phase 1.5 still aimed to please, which is great because when the Backyard Brewing Society hangs out, they like choices...and facial recognition homebrew labels.  As the evening wears on, it might be hard to remember which tap you liked most.  It is, however, much easier to remember you liked Dave, Mike, Drew or squatting Eric.

Outdoor Beer Dispensing Project Phase 1.5

The Brewers also like meat, and along with the beer, we had plenty of both.

26 pounds of love

Since you never cook BBQ for just one meal, I spread out 26 pounds of Brisket and Boston Butts across two grills to not only last the afternoon, but the coming weeks.

Loaded and Ready

Although I've been using the Saffire religiously to smoke, I needed more space and had to put a kettle to use too.  Both grills performed great and I feel as though I'm getting more used to the kamado process versus my modified kettle smoking.

Friends of the Grill

It ended up being a 13 hour affair, but that's OK when you have all day to smell your work.

Sliced Brisket

The brisket was sliced, the pork was pulled and just about everyone spent a good amount of time going from tap to tap to tap.  As usual too, everyone brought some hellacious sides to go with the main course. It was a foodpocalypse.

Trays of BBQ

Is there really any better way to spend an evening than enjoying good food and great beer?  Uhh, no, in case you actually had to consider another answer. I could probably call the beer dispensing project completed without a peep of a complaint, but I still think it needs a few more tweeks.  The next time we get together, I promise to complete the last .5 and probably have some more BBQ too.


Sunday, August 07, 2011

What's on the Grill: West Coast Edition

One of my favorite things to do is travel and with summer, we pack in as much as we can.  I believe in quantity versus size, too.  I would rather go three different places over a week, than just one.  So, to maximize our experiences, we plan a number of three night get aways.  An added enhancement?  My siblings all fled the midwest for the coasts and the south.  We have great places to visit with the all so added benefit of free lodging!

Our first getaway was to Anne's in LA.  True to form, even though it was 11 PM at night, I had to go to In-N-Out Burger...immediately, like minutes after leaving LAX.  Although I opted not to order off the secret menu, I did marvel at the machine process like kitchen procedures and savored every last bite of their out of the world burger and fries.  It was a magical treat.

Free family lodging really means "lodging in exchange for manual labor".  Earlier this year, Matthew and I installed Anne's new kitchen.  We left things 90% done, but 100% awesome (or so we believe).  Since then, Anne was able to get the floor, countertops and appliances in.  They look great.  There is still some work outstanding, but for the most part I consider the project a success.  Success, that is, noted by the fact nothing has fallen off the wall causing property damage or personal injury.

With the kitchen complete, Anne still had time to add one more culinary enhancement: a grill.

She is the proud of owner of a Weber Genesis.  Although I was miserably depressed with the location she stored it, I am more than impressed with her use of it so far.  I can proudly report that since this picture was taken, she has rectified the "grill in a field" motif she originally created.  It now sits on a weed free pad.

Anne really likes grilled deep dish pan pizza.  She even made her own dough, which brought tears to my eyes...or wait, was that when Matthew took off his shoes?  Regardless, she is doing more than I could have imagined.  So, in honor of the new grill, we made our own Mexican Deep Dish Grilled Pizza.

I made dough and than added a base of sour cream mixed with diced chipotles and adobo sauce.  The base was topped with grilled chicken, onions, grilled corn, black beans and topped with cheese.  It took about 20 minutes to cook.  Speaking of, I really like how the new Genesis has the burners running perpendicular to the front of the grill versus their old parallel route.  It makes indirect grilling and burner awareness much easier, at least in my opinion.

The other highlight of the trip, was my first visit to Disneyland, where memories begin...and your money disappears, as in before you are even out of the parking lot.  Somehow, we managed to spend 12 hours at both Disneyland and California Adventure...on a Saturday.

You know Saturdays, those days were everyone stays home because the weather is great and can only be enjoyed indoors and not at a popular theme park.  So, how did I survive?  Beer.

Although only served in California Adventure, it was a fabulous treat.  As I sipped and enjoyed, I realized the best way to see the parks was either in a stroller, which isn't entirely practical for a "normal" adult, or on a scooter, which I could definitely get away with.  I wouldn't have to walk and I would have a great place to store my lightsaber.

All in all, we had a fabulous time.  I love visiting Southern California and the fact Anne now has a grill, simply adds yet one more incentive to make a return trip.  Hopefully Anne's next phone call is inviting us back for a visit and not lamenting over a kitchen cabinet that detached itself from the wall.