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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Fire Roasted and Smoker Roasted Peppers

I was at Ambrose Farm Market in Cabot, PA last weekend picking up my weekly fix of bread and butter corn.  Ambrose is by far my favorite farmers market.  Their prices are outstanding and they get even better if you choose to pick your own vegetables.  Everything is grown by them and is not sourced from other places.  They have a wide range of veggies, ranging from multiple types of zucchini, eggplant, cabbage, peppers, melons, and tomatoes.  Upon walking into the store last weekend, it became apparent that pepper season had hit its height.  So, with winter use in mind, I picked up a quarter flat of poblano, jalapeño, and Italian sweet peppers ($2.50 ea for a quarter flat) and headed home to the grill and smoker.

First, I fried up my trusty grill, then I went inside and prepared my peppers.  I cut off the tops, removed the guts, rinsed well, and dried.

I split the batch in half, some for roasting on the grill and some for roasting on the smoker.  First off, the grill.

I spread my coals and then started grilling the peppers on direct heat.  The idea is to blister the skin on the pepper so it is easy to remove before freezing.  They pop and sizzle, plus the water does start to come out of the pepper.

I turned and flipped the peppers for about 10 minutes on direct heat so that they did not burn from sitting too long in one place.

Some of the peppers were started on indirect heat, then rotated over direct heat as others were done.

Once all of my peppers were done, I piled them all over indirect heat and put the lid in place on the grill and allowed them to cook for five more minutes to promote some caramelization on the flesh inside.

After removing the peppers from the grill, I brought them inside, placed in plastic bags, and covered with a towel to help hold in the heat.  This promotes some extra steaming of the pepper, helping to remove the skin a little later on in the process.

Now, the dirty work.  Pulling off the skin.  By roasting and allowing the peppers to steam in the plastic bags, removing the skin is easy, but it is a dirty job.  I recommend wearing gloves to help with the heat and to protect yourself from the pepper seeds.  As you can see, the skin comes right off with minimal effort.

While I was cleaning up my grill roasted peppers, I placed the other half of my peppers in my smoker.  The smoker was at 400 F and I had some hickory wood in the ash pan. I placed the peppers on the hot side of the smoker.  During the process, I flipped them every 20 minutes.  After about 45 minutes, I pulled the peppers and repeated the bagging and sweating process.

The skin was not quite as easy to remove from the smoker roasted peppers as they were from the fire grilled peppers.  The next time, I will let them go for about an hour before removing to ensure the skin will come off of the pepper with minimal effort.

I then separated my peppers into recipe sized portions, vacuum sealed, and froze for the winter months.

You will be seeing these in the upcoming winter months making appearances in soups, stews, and chili.  I can't wait.

Thanks for stopping by,


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Reuben Style Pizza

Before we were DQ'd at Hudson Valley, we made this beautiful Reuben Pizza for turn in that afternoon.

We have had some requests for the recipe.  None more vocal than fellow food enthusiast Gusface Grillah.  So, Gus, this is for you.  Quite simple.  By the way, the credit for this pie goes to Hope, she did all of the research and R&D.  Perhaps we will use this recipe next year.

First, make some bread machine rye pizza dough.  The recipe is at Burp Recipes.  The only modification to the dough is that Hope added about 1-2 teaspoons of caraway seeds to the dough mix before starting the bread machine.  After allowing the dough to go through one raise cycle, pull from the machine and allow to sit for 30 minutes covered by a towel.  The recipe will make two standard sized pizza skins.

After pulling the dough and stretching to fit your lightly oiled pizza pan, pre-bake your crust at 425 F for 10 minutes.  Remove from your oven and let cool for about five minutes.  Then, for your sauce, spread out your favorite style of Thousand Island salad dressing on the crust in the proportions you desire.  Then, take a 12 oz can of sauerkraut and drain thoroughly.  You may even consider squeezing the kraut to get all of the liquid out to prevent a mushy crust.

Next, add 1/2 pound of chipped deli corned beef as your next layer.  Hope tore the meat into bite sized pieces.  Don't know what chipped style deli meats are?  Well, it is a Pittsburgh Thing.  Is is usually done with cheap, boiled ham around here.  But, you can chip any deli meat.  Here is a link to anything you wanted to know about Chipped Chopped Ham.

Finally, for the cheese, we used shredded Jarlsberg cheese.  Add as much as you like.

The pizza then goes back in the oven for 15 minutes at 425 F, or until the cheese is thoroughly melted.

That's it.  Plain, simple, and tastes pretty good.  Next time, I may try with a corned beef that I have smoked until fall apart tender.  Enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by,


Friday, August 22, 2014

Hudson Valley Ribfest 2014: NEBS Competition

Most BBQ competitions in New York are a two day affair.  One day is the traditional KCBS competition.  KCBS is the traditional smoked chicken, ribs, pork butt, and brisket.  Rules do not allow for much variation.  But, day two is usually a New England BBQ Society competition.  These contests consist of four entries that change from year to year and contest to contest.  Garnish is open and creativity is encouraged.  Basically, it is a throw down between teams.  Whose backyard recipe is the best.

While the KCBS part of the weekend was successful for us, NEBS was not so successful.  

The categories this year were Pizza,Wrapped in Bacon, Salmon, and Apple Dessert.  The Pizza and Apple Dessert categories are traditions at New Paltz.  The other two categories rotate from year to year.  

We were hopeful entering this contest.  But, success was not to be.  Why?  Keep on reading.

Our first entry was a Reuben Pizza.  Fresh made rye crust, Thousand Island dressing, homemade sauerkraut, corned beef, and shredded Jarlsberg cheese.  A delicious entry if I say so myself.

It was just not meant to be.  We were DQ'd for turning in 19 seconds late.  Why were were late?  Well, the clock the contest reps use is radio powered.  It syncs with the same time signal your cell phone gets.  Service is spotty in New Paltz and at the 8 am time check, my phone was a minute and a half fast.  No problem.  Mental note.  Someones clock must have found the signal along the way and synced to the correct time, hence we were late.  Our first DQ in three years.  It happens to the best of us and it was our fault for cutting it close.  My only comment is that there were five DQ's for late turn ins on Saturday.  It is rare to have one.  Five is unheard of in competition.  Who knows what happened.  Lesson learned.  

Our Wrapped in Bacon turn in was our Mega Meat Dog.  This time we used ground round, seasoned with brisket rub.  It looks quite good.

This box was 20th out of 27 teams.  The ground beef ended up a bit dry.  I think we will be retiring this recipe for competitions in the future.  

Next up was apple dessert.  We entered an Apple Bourbon Bread Pudding with Butterscotch Bourbon Sauce.  

We loved it.  The teams around us loved it.  The judges, not so much.  This entry came in 22nd.  Time to retire this recipe and go back to our Apple Blondies next year.  

The last entry of the day was our Grilled BBQ Steelhead Salmon.

We had a little bit of redemption on this entry.  Our salmon was good for 11th out of 27.  The skin did not get a crispy as I would have liked and I think it hurt us.  With some tweaks, I think we can do well with this in the future.  

Overall, we finished 26th.  While we did not fair well in the standings,we did have a fun day.  Our friend Ben who has moved to the area came up for the day to hang out with us and help when needed.  He was quite impressed at how serious the teams are that compete.  He thought we drank beer and cooked stuff on a Weber kettle grill.  Ben now has an appreciation for what competition teams do to succeed.  

Even though we did not do well, Ben did help us to be more stylish as you can see.  

Congrats to our Reserve Grand Champions Blazin' Butts and to our Grand Champions Good Smoke BBQ.  Brian and Kelly have been tearing up NEBS competitions this year.  We are going to have to make it a point to stop by their restaurant and sample their menu.  Keep up the good work!

Thanks for stopping by,


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Hudson Valley Ribfest 2014: KCBS Competiton

The Three Dogs BBQ road show packed up and headed to New Paltz, NY this past weekend to compete in the Hudson Valley Ribfest for the weekend.

So, after picking up some provisions at Dave's Country Meats...

... and some other odds and ends, we hit the road for the long drive out east.

We were the first team on site Friday, so it was easy to back into our site.  Was this a good omen?

The smoke was rolling on Sunday morning...

And we had a rather large dancing chicken next to us as well.

How did we do?  Well, the scores tell the story.

In the "it tasted better than it looked" category was our chicken box.

I've never had so may legs with split skin.  These were our best looking six legs.  But, the taste and tenderness was good enough to net us a 9th place out of 60 teams.  A good start to the day.

Next up, our ribs.

We switched to baby backs for this competition and the change paid off for us.  We garnered our best KCBS score of the year, good enough for a 12th place.

Then, the pork box...

We should not have put the money muscle in the box.  It was underdone.  But, my heart won out over my brain and we paid for the decision.  We took 45th place with this box.  Lesson learned.

Finally, our brisket.

After a bit of struggling this year, we changed our cooking method this time around and it helped for sure.  This box came in 7th.  Add it all up and we came in 17th place overall out of 60 teams.  Our pork definitely kept us out of the top ten and maybe even the top five.  It was just not to be.  What can you do?

Hudson Valley was our first competition in 2011.  This competition holds a special place in our heart since it was our first.  Also, Rolf and Stephanie do a wonderful job organizing this competition.  Keep up the good job guys.

Finally, congrats to all who walked.  Team Eatapedia, nice to see you end your mini slump and Shortsville Smokers on their top 10 overall.  Also, big congrats to our Grand Champion Ack-Que and Reserve Grand Champion Blazin Butts BBQ.

We are already planning our trip for next year.  See you then.

Thanks for stopping by,


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Grilled Flank Steak with Orange-Ginger Marinade

We are currently running a Chest Freezer Dysfunctional Inventory Reduction Project.  I found this steak towards the bottom of the freezer.  Bingo.  Dinner!  We love flank steak around here.  Our butcher always has good looking steaks of high quality and low fat.  So, whenever he has them on sale, we stock up for those nights when we are looking for some good beef without all the fat.  The only problem is that a flank steak can turn into shoe leather if not cooked properly.  A good marinade is the solution.

I am partial to Asian flavors when cooking flank steak.  I just like how the Asian flavor mingles with that rich beefy taste.  Today, we are looking at a concoction with orange and ginger flavors.

First, I thawed the steak, rinsed well, and patted dry...

Then, I mixed my marinade:

1/2 cup Orange Juice (the acid helps to break down the proteins in the meat, helping to tenderize)
1/4 cup of Moores Beef Marinade.  We like this as it is one of the lower salt marinades on the market.  Soy sauce will work here as well.
1 Tbsp of Garlic Ginger paste.  Available at any Indian market.
1 Tbsp of Sesame Oil

I whisked it all together and combined in a plastic bag with my steak...

Every time I walked into the kitchen I flipped the bag over to ensure an even marinade.  The longer you let the meat sit in the marinade, more flavor will be imparted in the end product and the meat will be  more tender.  This one marinaded for about 5 hours.

To cook, I got a screaming hot grill and placed the steak directly over the coals.  I closed the lid, then flipped after 5 minutes.  After 5 minutes on the second side, I pulled from the grill and let the steak rest on a cutting board for 5 minutes before slicing...

Still medium in the middle.  I could have pulled this one a little earlier.  But, still moist and tender with hints of orange, garlic, and ginger.  We served this with a side of ginger accented rice pilaf.

For the pilaf, I sauteed sweet onion and celery in some olive oil, then added 1/2 tsp of ground ginger powder to the saute at the end...

This mixture was placed in 2 cups of beef broth and 1 cup of uncooked rice.  Brought to a boil, covered the pot, and simmered for 20 minutes..

While the rice was cooking, I lightly toasted some pine nuts in a skillet on low heat.  You do not need to add oil to the skillet, but you do need to keep your eye on them so they do not burn...

When the rice was cooked, I added the toasted pine nuts and served with the sliced flank steak...

Thanks for stopping by...


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Smoked Bacon Wrapped Feta Cheese with Pickled Banana Peppers

John Thomson is the pit master for Team Eatapedia, a competition BBQ team based in Ottawa Canada.  He was preparing a wide range of bacon dishes for his appearance in BaconFest that was held in Ottawa a few weeks ago.  In the interest of public health, one of Team Eatapedia's offerings was a bacon wrapped cheese curd.  In this evil concoction a cheese curd, not known as low fat by any stretch of the imagination, was wrapped with bacon and then smoked until the cheese was gooey and the bacon was crispy.  My heart skipped a beat just looking at the picture.  It was a sheer genius pairing of porky goodness and creamy dairy.  I wanted to try this creation at home as a smoky treat.  Unfortunately, I have no idea where to find cheese curds in the Pittsburgh area, other than at an A&W where they are battered and deep fried.  So, I did a little research on what cheeses have a high melt point.  After scanning my options, I settled on feta cheese.  Creamy, tangy, and a very high melt point.  Perfect for my little experiment.

First, I purchased a block of feta and measured out my cube width before cutting with a strip of bacon.

I cut off my row, then cut into cubes that would accommodate one strip of bacon.

I placed my feta cube on one end of the bacon, topped with a pickled slice of banana pepper, rolled up, and held it all in place with a toothpick.

I placed these future nuggets of joy on a wire rack, then placed on the middle rack of my smoker.  The smoker temperature was 225 F and I had some hickory wood in my ash pan for some flavor.  Then, I cooked until the bacon was crispy.

One hour:

Two hours:

Done, about two and a half hours.

The cheese was hot and creamy on the inside.  The feta also formed a nice smoky crust on the exposed edges.  The banana pepper added some acid that helped to cut through the creaminess of the cheese and a nice spicy bite as well.  The bacon brought it all together like a nice crispy bow.  This appetizer will be making frequent appearances in the future when our smoker is chugging along on those long cooks.  Thanks for the idea John!

Thanks for stopping by,


Sunday, August 3, 2014

"Jet Engine" Steaks

I have seen a lot of talk lately about "Cowboy Style" steaks.  This is where you light your lump charcoal, and when the coals are red and ready to go, you place you meat directly on the fire to cook. Generally it is for two and a half minutes a side.  Word has it that your steak comes out crispy on the outside and rare on the inside, just the way we like our steaks around here.  While it sounds good in practice, I am not that you do not get ash on your steak.  Wouldn't that be a little off putting?  Then, I remembered an episode of Alton Brown's Good Eats where he cooked porterhouse steaks under a chimney of lit coals.  Fast forward to today where, after some research, I have heard of the Jet Engine method.  Basically, it is the Alton Brown chimney method, but you just put a grate on the top of your chimney full of lit coals, and cook your steaks for two and a half minutes a side.  That, I was willing to try.  So, ladies and gentlemen, please buckle your seat belts, return your tray tables and seat backs to their full and upright locked position, it is time for this flight to takeoff.  Sitting in cattle class is encouraged.

The first time I tried this our butcher, Dave's Country Meats, had a great deal on some beautiful beef fillet.  Nice and thick, I thought there would be some leeway for mistakes and help prevent over cooking.

I brushed the outsides with melted butter and seasoned with granulated garlic, salt, and pepper.  Then, I let the meat rest on the counter top to come to room temperature.

I filled the chimney full of lump charcoal, and let them get nice and hot.  When ready, I shook the chimney to settle the coals, then placed the rack from my Smokey Joe on top to get hot as well.

Then, the moment of truth.  I placed the fillets on the grill.

Big time sizzle.  But, after two minutes, I was a bit afraid they would be undercooked.  So, I decided to go three minutes a side.  Here they are after the flip.

When done, I brought them inside and let them rest for about five minutes, then we dug into this meaty feast.

We paired with some sautéed collard greens and kale.

Mine was perfect medium.  A bit past what I was looking for, but still, very good.

Hope's was perfect medium rare as her steak was a bit thicker than mine.

Both were very good.  And, all of that talk about steakhouse quality is true.  You could have put that in front of me at Ruth's or Morton's and I would not have complained one bit.  The plus is that we had  steakhouse quality steaks for two for under $25.  You can't do that at a mega-chain restaurant.

So, after some talking in the BBQ community, I was told you have to put them on refrigerator cold.  That would get you the rare cook that I was looking for.  So, the steak special of this past week was NY Strips.  I am ready to take this flight again.

Brushed with butter, seasoned with granulated garlic, salt, and pepper, then placed the meat back in the refrigerator.

Started my charcoal and placed my rack in place.  A friend of mine was even kind enough to provide me with a round grilling rack that fits nicely on my chimney starter.

Since NY strips are thinner than fillet, I decided upon one and a half minutes a side and I was sticking to it, period.  On the steaks went.

After the flip.

Inside and resting.

This time, we served with some grilled tomatoes topped with mozzarella cheese.  It is a big meaty smile!

The verdict?

Perfect rare.  Crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside.  The high heat really helps to sear the outer layer of meat, locking those juices inside.

I am very happy with the "Jet Engine" method for cooking steaks.  I may never cook one any other way.  The Internet rumors are true, you do get steakhouse taste and quality.  Adjust your cooking times to get the doneness that appeals to you.  Now, go buy a chimney starter and some lump charcoal and enjoy your flight.

Thanks for stopping by,