Apr 222011

In the first installment, I seasoned a nice chunk of prime rib and put it in the Big Green Egg. It was started at 210C / 500F to put a “sear” on the outside. Once the meat was in the egg, I immediately closed the vents to get the temperature down to a nice low roast. After four hours of cooking at 150C / 300F (and filling the neighbourhood with a killer aroma) the chunk of prime was ready to come out of the egg.
Note the temperature probe in the side of the roast. When you cook like this you need to work by the internal temperature of the meat and not just do the ol’ “so many minutes per kilo” thing that our mothers loved. Prime rib works best when you cook it to 60 degrees C (135 F) and then pull it from the heat, tent it with thick foil, and let it rest. While it rests, you can gaze upon the glory of the beef and let your mouth water a bit.
After covering with foil and letting rest for a full 20 minutes, the temperature had climbed up to 63 C (144 F) and it was time for slicing.
All hail the meat.
And yes, it is as tender and as moist and as packed with flavour as you would think. This is the only way to cook prime rib, and yet another reason to invest in a Big Green Egg. The ability to sear it way up in the high heat and then drop the fire down and roast for hours at a rock-steady temperature for hours is just something you are not going to get from any other rig.

Bon appetit!

Apr 222011

Just a quickie today – a nice four-rib standing prime rib, roasting away in the Big Green Egg. Prime rib was on sale, $8.80 a kilo, so I grabbed this beauty to wile away the afternoon on a holiday Friday.
I went super simple on the preparation, nothing but letting this gorgeous chunk of protein come up to room temperature, a quick rub with some good olive oil, and a heavy dredging of coarse kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, and granulated garlic.
I fired up the Egg and got the temperature to 260 C (that’s about 500F for you folks down south) and loaded in the beef. Then I shut the vents tight and let the temperature fall while the beef got a nice sear on the outside. When the temperature got down to 150 degrees C (300 F if you count that way) i re-opened the vents and let the temperature settle there. It’s roasting away now, low and slow, and the aroma is incredible. I’ll shoot some more pics when it’s done.

Apr 162011

Once again the readership has some questions about a recipe post – is this the start of a tradition? Or does spring just bring out all of the complainers?

Do you have to use the pork? I’m not a fan.

Okay. First things first. If you don’t like pork then you are probably reading the wrong blog. Just saying. But yes, you can simply substitute another half kilo or beef for the pork. But toss in a teaspoon of dried thyme to add a bit more interest and to make of for some of the sweetness you lose by deep-sixing the pork.

Fennel? Really?.

Yes, fennel. I’m guessing you have never actually met an Italian person. Fennel is the traditional seasoning for pork. Especially ground pork. In fact, if you really want a big hit of old-school Italian flavour, replace the plain ground pork with an equal amount of loose sausage meat. That’s-a nice!

Can I just make this in the oven?

Yes. And it will be great. Just not strong as great. But still, you know, great.

Apr 142011

My friend Shawn has some issues with food. If something has flavour or texture or any sort of culinary interest at all, he won’t touch it. No way, no how. Slabs of rubber and piles of sawdust would be his ideal menu. So these meatballs are like kryptonite to him – packed with flavour and perfect tender texture, they would have him cowering in the corner with his cape over his head.

If he had a cape.

For everyone else – even people without capes – these meatballs were created to be the filling of a nice meatball sandwich or sub. You can obviously use them however you like, but you are cheating yourself if you don’t try these in a sandwich at least once. Fresh bread, fontina cheese, and maybe a few grilled peppers on top. Trust me.

And finally, yes, I know that this one was a long time coming. I promised the final recipe months ago, but I kept dicking with it, assuming that there must be some way to improve on the original. After a number of variants, however, I have always gone back to the “beta test” version so I present it to you here in all of its original glory and with profuse apologies for keeping you waiting. Enjoy.

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Mar 062011

UPDATE: This post is no longer valid, except in an archival kind of way. A curiousity, as it were. And it is still a viable alternative if you don’t/can’t/won’t eat pork. But if the added goodness of bacon is not a problem and you want the best burger blend to date, head on over to this post and get something even better. Okay? Okay.

In a previous episode, I recommended that you use ground chuck for your burgers. I did this because it was an easy way to make sure you get at least 20% fat in your burger blend – distressingly, most grocery store meat counter drones and even some actual butchers no longer know what you are talking about when you ask for “80 – 20” ground beef. Sad, but true.

That advice, however, is now complete passé. The absolute best blend for burgers, as confirmed by a rigorous series of wintertime experiments in my kitchen, is 50% ground boneless short ribs, and 50% ground brisket. And I make a point to say “boneless” for the short ribs because – despite the fact that it should be completely obvious that you want to take the bones out of the short ribs before you grind them – there are grillheads out there who have a hard time with common sense.

So. Get to the butcher, ask for a 50-50 blend of ground brisket and ground short ribs. The fat content is going to come in at a very respectable 20 – 25%, and the flavour profile is out of this world.

Trust me.

May 262010

If you are not from California, there is a very good chance that you have no idea what the hell tri-tip is. In California they love and revere this particular cut of beef. In Texas they consider it dog food. And in the rest of the world it gets cut up and sold as stewing beef, which is the worst sort of tragedy. Tri-tip is easily the second-most flavourful cut of beef, trailing only brisket in this regard and miles ahead of the second runners-up like prime rib and top sirloin. The cut is an odd triangular chunk from the very bottom of the sirloin. Your butcher probably knows what it is. If he or she doesn’t know what it is you should either get a new butcher or whip out your phone and show the mope this handy diagram. I vote for the new butcher.
Remember this layout and memorize it. Later this summer we’ll do some tri-tip here and hopefully introduce you to a new world of beefy goodness.

So what does this have to do with the reader mail? Easy – today’s comment and question comes from Tammy (apparently no “awesome” in her signature) sunny California. She points out that the Basic Chicken For Dipping also reheats just fine after freezing (this I did not know!). She also wonders just how many pieces of that insanely good dipped chicken she should make for guests. A good rule of thumb here is to never ever (eeeeever) come up short. The average joe will eat two pieces of chicken as part of a meal. So put on three per person – this gives you more for the folks that crave another piece (this is crave-worthy chicken!) and if you do have any extra its no chore at all for you to heat the leftovers up the next day and indulge again.
Just remember that you want the dip to be hot, and you dont want to dip your chicken pieces until they are about to hit the plate. If you are serving informally, put the platter of chicken out beside some sort of vessel containing the hot dip, and instruct your guests on the process. Don’t forget to provide tongs! They can dip each piece as they take it, they’ll have a bit of fun, you’ll look like a star, and the leftovers will be in their pristine and un-dipped state for easy reheating the next day.

Win, win, and win. You’re welcome.

May 032010

It’s a pretty safe bet that you love a nice meatball sandwich. Why? Because everyone loves a nice meatball sandwich, that’s why. Unless you a vegan or something, in which case you are totally on the wrong web site anyway.

With that in mind, my current project it so make insanely good meatballs specifically for sandwiches. This is the recipe as it stands so far – in a break from the tradition here I am posting the “work in progress” before deeming it 100% complete. If you were so inclined, feel free to give it a whirl and dump in some feedback before I commit this to its final form. This weekend I will repost this with any changes and with the requisite silly pictures. If you want to have your say, do it before then.

Quick and dirty instructions after the jump!

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Feb 042010

This started out as a quest for a dipping sauce for chicken, and ended with a super simple bit of liquid love that you can dip damn near anything into with delicious results. The name, if you were wondering, is a reference to the old T-Rex song “Get It On” (the original, please, not that defective Power Station remake) and specifically the line “you’re dirty and sweet, oh yeah.” This sauce is dirty and sweet at the same time – it’s as sweet as your grade 9 girlfriend and it’s as dirty and skanky as that nasty Kate Gosselin chick.

If you were wondering, no, you don’t have to play the song while you cook this. But it doesn’t hurt, either. Marc Bolan was a genius.

So – you may not know that “dipped” is a classic way to serve fried or roasted chicken. And I don’t mean dipped in little fork-bites at the table (a la Swiss Pigeon), i mean dipped as whole pieces in sauce when those pieces are just hot out of the oil or the oven. If you have never had chicken this way – a method that was inspiration for the first “buffalo wings” – then you are missing out on one of the great taste explosions of our time. But don’t stop there – and don’t shy away from making this if you aren’t planning on piece-cooked chicken. I have been dunking and/or exposing all sorts of things to this little concoction, and when push comes to shove you can pair this with pretty much any meat that is served hot and has any sort of salt in it’s seasoning profile.

Best of all, this is super simple. It has a a mere four ingredients (if you are like me and count this as one ingredient) and takes 5 minutes to make. Full details, some ideas on use, and random ranting after the jump.

Let’s get saucy!

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Feb 022010

First things first. The name. This is called “Saturn 5” chili because, like the legendary booster it is named after, it has three stages. And trust me, despite this not being a “hot” chili, there is a definite “rocket effect” the next day. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

So – the main deal here is that this chili uses already cooked beef – either a traditionally smoked brisket or the world-famous True North Emergency Brisket – to build the basic beef flavour without having to sit there and brown the chunks of beef all afternoon before you even get started. And – in my humble and pretty-much-correct opinion – you get a bigger and better beef flavour this way than any traditional browning method. The flavour experience is more “warm” than “flaming hot” but the heat does sneak up on you, so don’t poo-poo this as some sort of gutless white-bread wet-lettuce chili. After a full bowl you will have a nice roast going on. Promise.

No pictures in this one, because once you get the stuff in the pot it pretty much looks all the same. Full details and some notes about the ingredients (there is one that you might not be able to find) after the jump.

Ready for launch!

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Jan 252010

So a few people had a few questions about the whole brisket thing. And I thought I would be a helluva guy and take the time to impart some wisdom on the whole subject. You’re welcome.

What is up with cooking to 195 degrees? I thought beef was well done at 160 and after that was a burnt mess?

Yes, those would be accurate statements – for regular old beef for the masses. We are talking about something special here – a cut of meat that has huge ropes of connective tissue running all through it. That connective tissue makes the meat tough – really tough. But, at about 175 degrees fahrenheit, something interesting happens: The collagen in that connective tissue turns into gylcerine, and the fat that surrounds it starts to render into tallow. The combination of glycerine and tallow running through the meat is the magic combination that turns an otherwise leathery chunk of cow into a butter-tender hunk of meat that has more beef flavour than anything you will have in any other way. Getting the meat to this temperature for as long as possible is what lets you violate the universal rule of beef – the tougher the meat, the tastier. In this case the toughest cut of meat on the whole animal retains every bit of its flavour but becomes as tender as the best prime rib.

What is really interesting is that the process of collagen-to-glycerine uses up literally all of the heat energy that you are pumping into the beef mass – at that point in time, there is no energy going into the cooking process at all, and the internal temperature of the meat will “stall” here, sitting at 175-180 degrees for a startlingly long time and sometimes even dropping down despite the heat input remaining constant. This is good, the longer you keep it here the better. Once it crosses this plateau the temperature will run up to 195 pretty quickly, so using a remote thermometer probe is a must.

The only reason we take it to 195, if you were wondering, is to make sure that all of the places where there are little fat pockets inside – which can be somewhat insulated – have a chance to get the full benefit of the process.

So why isn’t all dried out like my mom’s pot roast?

It’s because we protected the meat. First we put a sear on the outside to seal in the moisture, and then we took it through the rest of the roasting process at a temperature that was low enough that we didn’t drive the moisture past this barrier. Low and slow, kids, low and slow. Note that if you are doing the brisket in a real barbeque pit and cooking it with smoke, you dont need the searing step. The natural smoke ring protects the moisture in the same way.

So why do I need the “whole” brisket? What is wrong with the piece that they sell at the supermarket?

The fact that they sell it at the supermarket is the first thing that is wrong with it. Besides giving you the wrong cut, there is a very good chance that they are injecting it full of salt water before they sell it to you. Look for the key word “seasoned” on the sticker. This is not meat you want to cook, and not and industry that you want to support.

However, and to be less preachy about it, you need the full brisket cut (both the point and the flat) because the interface between them is where the biggest share of the above-mentioned collagen is hiding. You need that layer, and you need it to be attached to the two other pieces of meat. This is key.

So quit arguing and get yourself a proper butcher already!

Where the hell am I going to find a butcher?

Oh, I don’t know, maybe you could search the freaking internet? Sheesh.

What am I going to do with all this meat?

Make friends with your neighbours – you never know when you are going to need a favour, and buying some goodwill with free brisket on a bun never hurt in that regard. After that, slice up some for your own sandwiches and freeze it into individual servings. And take at least a kilo and a half (three pounds for you colonial types) and make it into chili. And yes, I will give you a recipe.

Do you cook it fat up or fat down? Does it matter?

Wow! A good question! Actually, in the long run it doesn’t matter all that much for the overall taste. If you can, cook it fat up so that the fat renders off more evenly and you get a better crust on top without washing all of your rub away. Do that if you are oven roasting or cooking in a smoker where the fire is off to the side in a seperate chamber. BUT – if you are cooking it in a veritcal smoker (where the heat comes from below, like a Weber Smokey Mountain) or in a ceramic cooker like a Big Green Egg or on a grill with the burners on the side turned on, then you should put it fat side down. The fat cap will protect the meat from some of the inevitable hot spots that develop on the bottom side of the meat. Mail me if you aren’t sure which way to go.

Do I have to do that part with it sitting in the foil and wait for it? I’m hungry!

Then eat a carrot or something. You can’t rush this. If you’re in a rush, you are in the wrong place. Close the door on the way out, you heathen.