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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Boneless Beef Short Ribs the Old Fashioned Way

As luck would have it, I was shopping for a few things at Costco the other day.  As is the usual MO at Costco, I was drawn in by the meat case.  What's this?  Do I spy a package of beautiful looking beef short ribs winking at me?  Why, yes I do.  The sirens song made me pick up the package and deposit it in my cart.  Damn you Costco!  So, as I wondered through the store, picking up what I needed and a few more impulse buys, I kept intact my streak of not getting out of that terrible place for less than $100 and drove home.  During the drive home I mulled over how to cook those beautiful ribs.  I settled on a blast from the past, grilling.

Growing up, as a young, budding grill master, I had no idea when smoking meat low and slow was.  Ribs, both beef and pork, plus chicken, were par boiled (gasp!) by my mother.  Then, I took the plate of cooked meat and finished it up on the grill with a little sauce.  Oh my, how I have come a long way.  Occasionally though, I love the taste that a grill imparts to smoked meat.  So, with a few changes, off to the grill I went.

What you see above are two whole boneless beef ribs, cut in two.  Diet you know.  The marbling was beautiful.  I was going to go simple here.  Two of them I sprinkled with Oakridge Black Ops Brisket rub and the other two I seasoned the way I would a steak: sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and granulated garlic.

As I waited for the meat to come to room temperature, I fired up the grill, taking care to keep the coals off to one side.  When the coals were ready, I threw a chunk of pecan wood on top.  Once the pecan was burning nicely, I brought my ribs out and started cooking.

I placed them on indirect heat and closed the lid.  The temperature was about 350-400 F inside.  At this point, I walked away and came back after 30 minutes.  A quick check with the thermometer showed that these ribs were ready for step two: a hot sear.

When cooking beef ribs, there are two trains of thought.  Pull at 165 F, rest, then eat.  Or, push through to 195 F.  At the lower temperature, you get a chewier product.  At the higher temperature, you end up with something a little more tender.  Don't get to far past 195 F, or you will end up with pulled beef.  I like them either way, but I was in the mood for tender tonight.

At this point, I lightly sauced the BBQ rubbed ribs with Blues Hog Tennessee Red.  The steak seasoned ribs left naked.  I then moved the ribs to direct heat for a quick sear.

The Devil Dog Ellie Mae was waiting on any grilling mishaps.

The ribs were seared about two and a half minutes a side.  Just long enough to caramelize the sauce and put a nice char on the steak seasoned ribs.

This dinner took me back a bit in time.  Moist, tender, and juicy.  I need to try this method with some pork ribs sometime soon.

Thanks for stopping by,


Friday, September 26, 2014

Mac and Cheese Stuffed Peppers with Bacon and Smoked Onions and Peppers

Rikk over at Shortsville Smokers makes the best macaroni and cheese on the BBQ potluck circuit.  Period.  I've watched him and Deb make a batch.  Lots of secret ingredients, tons of cheese, and jalapeños as well.  I lost track of the method.  But, he did inspire me to raise my game a notch or two.  A few weekends ago, I played around in the kitchen and whipped up a batch of my homemade mac and cheese.  This is comfort food at its highest level.

First, I fried up some bacon.  Once cooked, I drained on paper towel and crumbled.

After eating a strip for quality control purposes, I ended up using crumbled bacon from three strips.

Then, I cut the top off of two, garden fresh bell peppers and removed the seeds and pulp.

My smoker was already at 350 F, so I diced 1/4 of a sweet onion and sliced one jalepeno pepper.  I added a small amount of olive oil, salt, and pepper, then placed in the smoker to caramelize.  After about 15 minutes, this is what they looked like:

With the pre-work done, time to move to the mac and cheese.  First, I boiled two cups of dry macaroni for about eight minutes.  I cook short of the recommended time as the macaroni will finish cooking when you bake the mac and cheese mixture.  When done, drain in a colander and set aside.

Next up, the roux.  First, I melt two tablespoons of butter in a saucepan.  Once melted, I add two heaping soup spoons of AP flour.  Then, I cook on medium heat until the flour is crumbly and brown. The more you brown your flour, your roux will have a deeper color and flavor.  Here is what I try and strive for at this step:

At this step, I slowly whisk in three cups of milk.  I use 2%.  You could use any kind you wanted.  I have been known to use half and half when I am feeling evil.  The choice is up to you.  Do not add all of the milk at once or you will end up with a big flour ball.  Once all of the milk has been added, I simmer on low heat while stirring constantly until the roux starts to thicken.  I shoot for the consistency of cream gravy.  This usually takes about 10-15 minutes.  Once the roux is done, I stir in six ounces of shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese and add salt and pepper to taste.  When the cheese is melted, stir in your macaroni and mix to incorporate.  At this point, I pour into a 9x13 pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Today, since I had peppers, the method was a bit different.

To the whole mix, I added my crumbled bacon.  At this point, I removed one cup of the mixture for me and added the caramelized onions and peppers.  I added my mix into one pepper and a cup of the other mixture into another pepper.  The balance of the mac and cheese mixture when into a foil pan to cook.  Do not fill the peppers to the top.  I left about 1/4 of space at the top to allow for expansion.  Both of the peppers and the foil pan were topped with shredded mozzarella cheese.

Then, everything went into a 350 F smoker, along with some kielbasa and hickory wood in the ash pan for smoke.

Bake until your mac and cheese is brown and bubbly on top.  This takes about 30 minutes.  Here was our final product.

Creamy, cheesy, bacony.  Add in the heat from the jalapeño and the caramelized flavor of the sweet onion and this was comfort food in its highest form.  The bell pepper was good a well.  It added a nice sweet flavor.  It was not mushy, just slightly past tender crisp.  Perfect.  

Here is my basic baked mac and cheese recipe.  Feel free to experiment on your own with different flavors.  Just a hint, crumbled Gorgonzola cheese on top takes this dish to new heights!

Three Dogs BBQ Mac and Cheese.  Base Recipe.

2 cups of uncooked elbow macaroni
2 Tbsp of butter
2 heaping soup spoons of AP flour
3 cups of 2% milk
6 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Shredded cheese of choice for topping

Cook macaroni for eight minutes, drain, and set aside.  Melt butter in saucepan, then add the flour.  Stir constantly over medium heat until the flour is crumbled and brown, about 10 minutes.  Slowly add the milk while whisking.  Once all of the milk is added, simmer on low until thickened, about 10 minutes.  Add cheese, salt and pepper, then incorporate macaroni.  Pour into 9x13 pan sprayed with cooking spray.  Top with shredded cheese, then bake at 350 F until brown and bubbly on top.  About 30 minutes.  Serve and enjoy.

Thanks for stopping by,


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

KCBS Competition - Oinktoberfest 2014

This past weekend, the Three Dogs BBQ traveling road show loaded up the trailer and headed to Clarence, NY for our next to last competition of the year at Oinktoberfest.

Uncharacteristic to The Oink, the weather was spectacular for most of the weekend.  No snow or pouring rain.  Only a bit of rain overnight on Saturday with a windy Sunday.  But, nothing we couldn't deal with.

The evenings were a little brisk, but nothing a fire wouldn't keep away.

So, on Saturday morning, the sun rose, the moon set, and the smoke was rolling.

It was time to compete.  Lets review the weekend.

Chicken is our most consistent category and this weekend was no exception.

This box scored a 166.8800, good enough for a 12th out of 66 teams.

Ribs had a bit of a fall off after nice showing at Hudson Valley.

Our score was a disappointing 149.1316, good enough for 49th overall.  I tinkered with the cook time a bit.  Time to go back to our old method for sure.

After a miserable year in pork, our tinkering under the new rules has paid off finally.  This box scored us a 169.1316 and a call at fifth place over all.

Our last turn in was brisket.

Another drop off from our 7th at Hudson Valley.  This box scored a 150.2744 and 41st place.

When you add it all up, Three Dogs came in 25th place overall.  So, a bit of a mixed bag.  But, any weekend you can get a call and a ribbon or trophy is a good weekend.

Congrats go out to our Grand Champions Hawg Doctors and to our Reserve Grand Champs Priorville.  Also, we would like to send some good luck to our friends competing at the American Royal and The Jack in the next month: Good Smoke BBQ and Smokin' Hoggz BBQ.  Bring some trophies back to the Northeast!

The Oink is a bittersweet weekend.  It is the last New York competition of the year.  So, it is the last time we get to see our New York and Canadian friends until next year.  We can't wait until Roc City already.  For everyone else, we will see you at The Keystone Classic BBQ State Championship in two weekends.  If you are close, stop on by.  It is well worth it for the state fair types of food as well as come high quality BBQ.

Thanks for stopping by,


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

When Life Gives you Tomatillos, Make Sauce

This past week, a colleague was kind enough to bring me some tomatillos from the bumper crop she has grown at home.

What to do?  Make salsa or make a sauce?  After careful consideration, spurred on by the fact that Costco had halibut fillets on sale, I decided to make a nice tomatillo cream sauce with Mexican flavors.

Where to start?  I had never cooked with or even tasted a tomatillo.  So, I performed some internet research for a baseline to work from.  The recipe that I used was this one from Melissa d'Arabian on the Food Network website: Tomatillo Sauce Recipe.

As I am prone to do, I tinkered a bit.  I wanted more of a Mexican flavor.  I was also thinking cream sauce as well.  So, here is my final version:

Tomatillo Cream Sauce.  Recipe adapted from Melissa d'Arabian

1 pound tomatillos, husked and rinsed
3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 white onion, quartered
2 jalapeño chile, whole
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup of low fat half and half

First I husked the tomatillos, rinsed, and dried.

Then, I quartered my onion, rinsed and dried my jalapeños from the garden, and grabbed the three cloves of garlic.  I place them all in a bowl, added the olive oil and salt, then roasted at 350 F for 30 minutes per the recipe.

After roasting, I removed the stems from and seeded the jalapeños.  Then, I removed the garlic from their husks.  Then, all of the roasted veggies and garlic went into the food processor along with the dry spices and was blended on high.  While blending, I added the 1/4 cup of low fat half and half.  Here is the final product.

I placed the sauce into a small sauce pan for reheating.

Then, after lighting the grill, I took a halibut fillet, cut in half, and rinsed and dried thoroughly.  The fillets received a thin coating of olive oil along with a seasoning of sea salt and fresh ground pepper.  On to the grill they went.  I grilled the fillets for about 5 minutes a side, or until they started to get flaky.

After plating, I covered with the tomatillo sauce that was gently warmed on the stove.  I also served and a side of crispy roasted red and fingerling potatoes.  The potatoes even received a dollop of the sauce.

First, the smell of roasting tomatillos was intoxicating.  They had a different aroma than you get from roasting your standard tomato.  I can't describe it to be honest.  You'll have to try it for your self.  As for the sauce, it was outstanding.  Almost tomato like, it was sweeter than a tomato, yet tart as well.  There was also a deeper flavor than you get with a standard roasted tomato.  I can't wait to get some more tomatillos and start experimenting with salsas.  Tomatillo plants will be in our garden next year for sure.

Thanks for stopping by,


Friday, September 12, 2014

Restaurant Review: Turkey Hill Brewing Co. - Bloomsburg, PA

We decided to break our drive to the Hudson Valley Ribfest up over two days this year.  Our overnight stop was in Bloomsburg, PA, about 2/3 of the way to New Paltz.  After checking into our hotel, we inquired about the brewery we saw on the corner, the Turkey Hill Brewing Co.  The lady behind the counter said we couldn't go wrong with that choice.  So, we made a short ten minute walk over to the brewery for some suds and dinner.

The brewery is modeled after an old style country inn.  It is warm and inviting with a nice pub like feel.  After being seated, we scanned the tap list for a nice draft to quench our thirst.  I must say, the brewery has a nice variety of beers on tap.

I chose The Mathmematician's Apology and Hope settled for a Barn Dance Blonde Ale.  Both drafts were outstanding choices.  Mine was a full bodied English Style Ale with a rich caramel flavor.  It starts strong and finishes crisp.  Surprisingly light considering the dark color.  Hope's blonde ale was light and refreshing.  A very nice summer ale.  While we were enjoying our first drafts, we could not help but to see the plates being delivered to the tables around us.  Everything we saw looked outstanding.  After some hard decisions, we placed our order.  

First off, we chose the Charcuterie Plate for an appetizer.

Sharp white cheddar, homemade sopressata, sausage, sweet gherkins, crusty bread, and horseradish mustard strong enough to take the varnish off of a cabinet.  It was a great start and a sneak peak at what was to come.  

Hope ordered the Flat Iron Steak.  

The steak was marinated with Stout, molasses, worchestershire, soy sauce, brown sugar and roasted garlic, and served with wild mushroom brown sauce with mashed Yukon Gold potatoes and steamed broccoli on the side.  Hope ordered with out the mushroom sauce, but it didn't matter.  Hope knows her beef and she stated that this was the best cooked steak she has ever eaten outside of a steakhouse. It was cooked to a perfect rare with just the right amount of caramelization on the outside.  The potatoes were light and creamy.  The broccoli was steaming perfectly with just the right amount of crunch.  

I ordered the Braised Pork Shank.

It is a one pound pork shank, braised with root vegetables, stock, demi-glace, bloody mary mix and red wine served with roasted red potatoes.  Outstanding.  Every bite.  The pork was fall off the bone tender and the root vegetables were not mushy at all.  The only thing that would make this better would be to remove the potatoes and serve on some polenta or some garlic mashed potatoes.  I will be trying to recreate both dishes here at home.  

We loved the place so much, we stopped for dinner on the way home.  After being around BBQ and smoke all weekend, the last thing you want is something grilled or smoked.  What is the perfect meal?  These bacon cheese fries hit the spot.

The menu is diverse and everything we tried was top notch.  The beers were excellent as well.  If you are driving through Bloomsburg on I-80 looking for a place to stop, we would definitely recommend stopping here for something to eat and a frosty pint.  Overall grade, A+.

Thanks for stopping by,


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tailgating Eats: Stuffed Biscuit Fattie

The leaves are changing and it is starting to get brisk in the morning.  That can only mean one thing, football is upon us.  We follow the Pittsburgh Panthers.  Unfortunately, there are a large amount of Noon games scheduled.  Lets face it, they have not clawed their way back into the national spotlight. So, Noon games mean a breakfast themed tailgate.  I was trying to come up with an idea for an easy, make before dish that I could easily cook at the game.  So, after careful consideration, I came up with the Biscuit Fattie.  What is a Breakfast Fattie?  Well, lets just say it is scrambled eggs all wrapped up in a convenient hand held package.  Off to the R&D labs we go.

First, I fried some bacon and some bulk breakfast sausage in separate pans.  The bacon, I cooked, crumbled and set off to the side.  The grease was disposed of and a clean pan used for the next step.  I heated some olive oil, sautéed some pepper and onion, then added two well beaten eggs.  When cooked, I added the bacon to the mixture, then placed in the refrigerator to cool.  For the sausage, I cooked until crumbled, then added diced bell pepper and onion and cooked until translucent.  Then, I added two well beaten eggs.  I also placed the cooked mixture in the refrigerator to cool.

While the mixtures were cooling, I made a batch of my homemade buttermilk biscuit dough:

Homemade Buttermilk Biscuits

¼ Cup Cold Butter, Cubed
2 ¼ Cup Self Rising Flour
1 ¼ Cup Buttermilk
Flour, For dusting

1. Add butter to flour and use a pastry blender (or two butter knives) to cut the butter into the flour until crumbly and mixture resembles small peas. Cover and chill 10 minutes. Add buttermilk, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.

2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead 3 or 4 times, gradually adding additional flour as needed. With floured hands, press or pat dough into a ¾-inch-thick rectangle (about 9 x 5 inches). Sprinkle top of dough with additional flour. Fold dough over onto itself in 3 sections, starting with 1 short end. (Fold dough rectangle as if folding a letter-size piece of paper.) Repeat entire process 2 more times, beginning with pressing into a ¾-inch-thick dough rectangle (about 9 x 5 inches).

3. Press or pat dough to ½-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface; cut with a 2-inch round cutter, and place, side by side, on a cookie sheet or baking stone. (Dough rounds should touch.)

4. Bake at 450° for 13 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven; brush with 2 Tbsp. melted butter.

*To make your own self rising flour, simply add 1 ½ tsp baking powder and ½ tsp salt for EACH cup of all purpose flour. 

Fresh buttermilk makes for a fluffier biscuit.

A baking stone is best, but a pizza pan or cookie sheet works just as well.

I don't brush with butter.

Original recipe calls for ½ cup of butter.  ¼ cup works just as well.  

Let just skip the baking part for now.  I split my dough in half to make two fatties.  When rolled out on a well floured surface, I layered with thin sliced sharp cheddar, then for the second layer I placed my egg filling.

Next, I rolled it up, and sealed all of the holes so the cheese would not run out.  Then I wrapped in wax paper and placed in the refrigerator until the next day.

The next day at the tailgate, I started a fire in my grill and placed the lit coals off to one side.  Then, I placed a piece of aluminum foil on the grill grate, then placed the unbaked fattie on the foil.  I covered the grill to bake.  Every 15 minutes I rotated the fattie so that it did not get too brown on one side.  After about 45 minutes, it was ready to eat.  

As you can see, the cheese always seems to find the holes in the dough and run out.  But, who doesn't like toasted cheese?  After sitting for 10 minutes, I sliced and served.

Not bad.  Fluffy biscuit wrapped around cheesy scrambled.  The perfect tailgating meal that lets you walk around with a frosty beverage in your other hand.  Next time, I think I am going to make mini-biscuit shaped sandwiches to cut down on baking time.  If you wanted to make this at home, no problem.  Just bake at 450 F per the biscuit recipe until golden brown on the outside.  

Thanks for stopping by,


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Grilled Feta with Pickled Peppers, Tomatoes, and Garlic

A few weeks ago, when I posted about the bacon wrapped feta, a good friend of mine now working in Germany reminded me how Germans will grill certain types of cheese with a high melt point.  The first time I tried this as an appetizer at a German restaurant, I fell in love.  The only problem was that I couldn't find out the type of cheese it was due to being lost in translation.  My German friends were calling it schafkäse.  Loose translation is sheep cheese.  After some digging, I have learned that it can either be Halloumi or Feta.  Whatever it is, this dish is good eating.  When we have fresh peppers and tomatoes over the summer, I always try and make this for dinner a few times.  So, here is our method.

First, I pickled some hot and sweet peppers with garlic cloves and olives.  My pickling liquid was just a basic pickle brine:

1 1/2 cups of white wine vinegar.  I used the white wine variety as I did not want the vinegar to be overpowering in the dish.
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp of sugar.  I used Turbinado
1 tsp of kosher salt

While the above was coming to a boil, I cut some sweet and hot peppers, then packed into 1/2 pint jars with:

2 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp oregano

Once the brine was boiling, I poured into the jars and sealed and let pickle for 24 hours.

The next day, after I lit my grill, I drained my peppers and placed in a bowl with some sliced onion, quartered tomatoes, and some pitted kalamata olives.  I also sliced some 1x3 inch slabs of feta cheese and placed those in a bowl.  Both bowls received light drizzle of olive oil.  I also made sure the feta blocks were lightly coated on all sides with the oil.

Once the grill was ready, I put the pepper mixture in my trusty cast iron skillet and placed the skillet on my grill to start a very quick sauté.  

Next, the crazy part.  I placed the feta blocks over semi-direct heat for grilling.

Eventually, I placed the cheese on direct heat because I was not seeing the crispiness that I wanted.

One I was starting to see a nice brown color on my cheese, I made some room in my skillet to place the cheese for serving.

I served the Feta and veggies with slices of crusty baguette.

This makes a great summertime dinner or appetizer while grilling.  It is also a nice use for all of those peppers and tomatoes you might have from your garden.  Enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by,