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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Barrel Junction - Gibsonia, PA

Barrel Junction is a new eatery on the Route 8 corridor in the Gibsonia area of Pittsburgh.  This establishment replaced an old pizza joint of which the name escapes me.  We had been meaning to try  this new eatery for awhile.  With a name like Barrel Junction they have to have good beer, right?  I was not disappointed.  

After being seated, I took five minutes to scan the ample bottle and tap selection displayed colorfully on chalkboards above the wall.



After settling on a Dogfish Aprihop (good beer, but where is the apricot?), Hope and I started to review the menu.  

The menu is small but diverse with something for everyone.  The focus is mainly on burgers and pizza, but they also have a selection of smoked meat sandwiches as well as standard wraps and sandwiches.  They also have a board up by the bar with their specials for the day.  

We started with a caprese salad that we shared.  The portion was more than enough for sharing.  The salad itself was not your traditional caprese offering of sliced tomatoes and mozzarella, but rather chucks of real, fresh mozzarella, diced tomato, and torn romaine with a balsamic vinaigrette.  Very good.  I cannot wait to try this dish when tomatoes are in season.  

For mains, Hope settled on a bacon cheese burger while I ordered the shrimp and pesto pizza.  


This burger was not lacking for anything.  A real hand formed patty of 80:20 ground meat, not some frozen food service hockey puck, was topped with cheddar and four strips of bacon.  The chef in the back also nailed the request for medium.  The nice surprise were the fries along side the burger.  Fresh cut and double fried to crispy perfection.  Ketchup was not needed.


My shrimp and pesto pizza was pretty good as well.  The toppings were basil pesto, followed by mozzarella cheese, diced tomato, shrimp, and spinach.  I was pleasantly surprised that I did not have to go hunting for the shrimp on this pie.  There were shrimp in every bite.  My only complaint was that the pizza was a tad watery.  I suspect this may have been due to the spinach.  The flavor was there though.  I would order this pizza again.

So, overall, Barrel Junction is worth your time.  It is a nice eatery with that local bar feel.  I could definitely stop in for a few pints and watch whatever game is on the TV.  We will be going back.

5560 Community Center Drive
Gibsonia, PA 15044
724-443-0066

Thanks for stopping by,

Bill

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Shrimp Stir Fry on the Grill

Over the winter, we have started to roast various vegetables in the oven.  Cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, even cabbage.  The roasting method adds so much flavor to these veggies while keeping their nutritional value intact.  Since the grilling season has started, I have taken to roasting our vegetables on the grill with a large cast iron skillet.  There is even more flavor with the wood fired tasted.  So, the other day, we had some brussels sprouts in the refrigerator that were rapidly approaching their expiration date and I needed some ideas for dinner.  I was in need of an Asian fix.  So, I decided to try my hand at a stir fry on the grill.

Grilled Shrimp Stir Fry with Brussels Sprouts

20 Fresh Brussels Sprouts of various sizes, about two pounds
1 pound fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 Carrot, outer skin peeled, then peeled into long strips
1/4 sweet onion, sliced thin
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Sauce:

2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp corn starch
1 garlic clove, minced
1 thumb sized piece of ginger, skin removed and minced

Before preparation of the main ingredients, I prepared the stir fry sauce so that the ingredients would have time to mingle.  Then, Hope peeled and deveined the shrimp.  I prepared the sauce and vegetables.  For trimming the brussels sprouts, I just cut off the base then cut once lengthwise.  Then, I laid the halves flat and sliced lengthwise.  When you cut the base off, you can lose whole spout leaves.  Throw those into your bowl.  They become crispy, caramelized goodness.  Once the spouts are trimmed, put them in a bowl and toss with the olive oil and some salt and pepper.


I lit some charcoal and when ready, I dumped the hot coals off to one side.  Then, I placed my brussels sprouts in the cast iron skillet, placed indirect heat, and closed my grill lid.  After 15 minutes, I added the carrot and onion and stirred to incorporate into the mixture and placed the skillet directly over the coals.


I closed the lid and let cook for five minutes.  Then, I added the shrimp, closed the lid, and let cook for five more minutes.


Finally, I added the stir fry sauce and stirred well.  Then, closed the lid and let cook for one more five minute period.


I added hot pepper flakes to my bowl for a little heat.


The shrimp were cooked perfectly.  Not rubbery, nor mushy.  Some of the sprouts were crispy and caramelized and others where that perfect tender crisp consistency.  The amount of sauce added was perfect.  The wood fired taste just added to the flavors.  A great meal for a quick dinner.  If I had the change one thing, I would cook the brussels sprouts over direct heat and cut the cooking time down to ten minutes for the first step.  I feel that this would increase the ratio of crispy and caramelized spout leaves and who doesn't want more of those?

Thanks for stopping by,

Bill

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Spring Gobbler PSA: Porchetta, Turkey Style

It is that time of year in the Northeast.  It is getting warmer and the morning frosts are fewer and far between.  We have even had a thunderstorm or two roll through.  But, there are two sure signs that spring is upon us: Spring Peepers and the mating call of wild turkeys.

On a nice evening, I can sit on my deck and hear the creek running down in the valley behind our house along with a symphony of Spring Peepers.  Then occasionally, the chorus is interrupted by the loud gobble of a Tom Turkey, loudly proclaiming to the hens, "I am here and I am ready".  Then on my drive to work, I will see a Tom, tail feathers proudly fanned with his butt in the air.  Around him are 20 or so hens, pecking away at the ground looking for something to eat, completely ignoring the pick up attempts of the proud Tom.  It is a pick up bar scene carried out in nature: one proud male and 20 disinterested females.  Nature imitates life.  Or, is it the other way around?

Spring gobbler is probably the second biggest hunting season around here.  Second only to Whitetail Deer.  I have friends that are fairly successful during the spring season.  So, for the turkey hunters out there, or even those like me that hunt for their turkey in the butcher shop with a debit card, I give you an idea of what to do with your next turkey: Porchetta, Turkey Style.

Porchetta in short is the loin roast of a pig, butterflied, then stuffed with various types of filling or spices.  The loin is then rolled up and tied, then roasted to crispy perfection.  I have wanted to try one for awhile.  But, after visiting my butcher some time back, the opportunity was presented to me in the form of a turkey.

Available to me was a half turkey, boned and tied up for roasting.


I cut the butchers twine to see what was hidden within.  As you can see, I had an assortment of various pieces to work with.


Next, I trimmed up the meat, removing excess fat and some bone.  Next, I pounded out the meat with a tenderizer.  Once complete, I placed in a batch of my Poultry Brine.  In addition, I also added 1/2 cup of dry white wine to the brine from some extra flavor.  I allowed the turkey to brine overnight.

The next day, I set out to make my filling.  I was looking for something simple, so I settled on a paste made of Italian spices, roasted garlic, and olive oil.  I roasted four cloves of garlic in the oven.  Wrap the cloves in aluminum foil with some olive oil.  Wrap tightly and roast for about 45 minutes.  When the garlic was done roasting, I made my paste.

4 garlic cloves, roasted
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper

I lightly ground the spices to break up the rosemary, then placed in a bowl.  Then, I added the roasted garlic cloves and started adding enough olive oil until I had a spreadable paste, about 1/4 cup.




Once the paste was done, I removed my turkey from the brine, rinsed well with cold water, and patted dry.  Then it was time to assemble.  I placed the turkey, meat side up on the counter and started spreading.  Once I had a thin layer of herb paste on the meat, I rolled up the pieces and tied with butchers twine.




While the meat prep was finishing up, I lit my smoker and brought to 350 F and added some pecan to the ash pan for smoke flavor.  Before placing my bird on the smoker, I lightly coated with olive oil and some salt and pepper.  One quick note, you can cook your bird in the oven at the same temperature.  You'll just miss out on the smokey flavor.

I smoke roasted the bird until the internal temperature was 165 F and the skin was nice and crispy.  This took about one hour.  Here is the final product.



I served with some steamed cauliflower and sautéed spinach.


I was very happy with how this experiment turned out.  Crisp skin and tender juicy meat combined with the Italian spice blend to produce a great smoke roasted turkey.  If you bag yourself a bird this spring, either in the store or in the woods, you just might want to check out this recipe.

Thanks for stopping by,

Bill


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Brisket Philly Cheesesteak Pizza

Making pizza around the Three Dogs household has become a bit of a family event around here.  With the new BBQ toy, everyone comes over and it is a build your own pizza party.  A few weeks ago, with some leftover smoked brisket in the refrigerator, I decided to try my hand at a Philly Cheesesteak Pizza.  Off to the kitchen we go!

As always, Hope whipped up a batch of dough in the bread machine.  While the dough was rising, I sautéed some onions and peppers and then slowly caramelized some mushrooms at low temperature.  Once that was done, I cubed up some leftover smoked brisket as well.    


Once the dough was ready, Hope spread the dough out on our cast iron pizza pan and built the pizza.  We placed a very light coat of olive oil on top of the dough.  Then, that was followed up with thinly sliced provolone cheese, followed by the peppers, onions, mushrooms, and smoked brisket.


Next, the pie went into the hot pizza oven for about 14 minutes total, with a flip after seven minutes.  Strange when all you can smell coming from the pizza oven is smoked brisket.



I like my cheesesteak sandwiches with a little mayo when I buy them from the local sandwich shop.  For experimentation, I whipped up some sriracha mayo to try as a secondary experiment on one slice.  while the taste was ok, I don't think I would do this again.  It was a good idea that did not live up to expectations.  


This is good stuff folks.  Give this one a try the next time you have some leftover brisket.  

Thanks for stopping by,

Bill