July 27, 2005

At least it isn't Nestle's

Hershey's is buying Scharffen-Berger.

Not a huge fan of big company take-overs. But Hershey's is a bit more focused on the One Thing (than, say, Nestle's), and they do actually make acceptable dark chocolate when they put their mind to it. Hopefully this will be a mostly hands-off kind of thing.

I like Scharffen-Berger, but it certainly does have a unique and strong flavor (I get lots of fruit). As a result, I sometimes don't prefer to use it when cooking. Truffles, specifically, sometimes can be just overpowered by it.

Posted by dowdy at 08:12 AM

July 07, 2005


Halfway Done
Sausages in the Smoker

William gave a little "sausage class" to the other prep cooks (I think I was busy working on the pies at the time mostly) the day before the big BBQ. Sasuages are fun to make, and especially so since I have a stuffing horn. This makes the filling process go much faster.

Here's the spice blend and basic instructions (again from William).

The post-it note bratwurst sausage spice mix (per 6 lbs of meat):
3 T kosher salt (started with 2 T added about another T after tasting cooked sausage)
2 T black pepper
2 T ground mustard seed
2 t sugar
2 t finely minced garlic (garlic should not dominate the taste)
1 t majoram
1 t mace
1+ t nutmeg (a little more doesn't hurt esp. if you don't have mace)
1 t ground sage
1 cup water

Large plate grind meat w/o spices. Add spice and water and mix thoroughly. Re-grind on small plate. Load up the sausage horn and let 'er rip! (so to speak). Then go "wheee!".

As I mentioned before, we used about 2 pounds of a pork butt, 4 pounds of beef tri tip, and half a package of bacon. This last was added because we all decided that there wasn't enough fat in the other meat. Usually you want about 30 percent fat in sausages to keep them moist.

The other fun thing about sausages is washing out and using the casings. Tim had never done that before, so we made him do the washing. I'd gotten some salt packed casings that were actually fairly mild in odor, but you certainly knew someone had opened them. Lots of comments were also made when threading the casings onto the stuffing horn. Hey, it is what they originally made condoms out of anyway.

Oh yeah. Going "whee". When you make sausages, it's pretty common to "link" them into the individual "units." When you are dealing with 4 feet of filled sausage casing, however, you can't very easily twist each one. Instead, you pinch off three of them (ie, one to the left of your left hand, one to the right of your right, and the one in the middle). You then spin the middle sausage around 3 or 4 times, thus doing two twists at the same time. The appropriate thing to say when doing this is: "whee!!"

Posted by dowdy at 01:03 PM

July 06, 2005

Tequila Shrimp

Shrimp Raw and Cooked
The Raw and the Cooked

William provides this play-by-play of the grilled shrimp dish -- we used U15 shrimp which means there are less than 15 per pound. They were quite large:

The shrimp marinade (nothing scientific, no quantities...everything eyeballed):
- large handful of cilantro (2/3 of a bunch, stems weeded out), chopped semi-finely
- lime and/or lemon juice, enough but not too much to pre-cook the shrimp, maybe 1/2 - 2/3 cup
- a large "glug" of tequila, a cup or so....if you don't smell tequila wafting from the dish then add a bit more
- olive oil
- salt, black pepper (er, to "taste")

Whisk to blend....one *could* taste it (I didn't) but it looked right...slightly emulsified-looking, tequila fumes rising...heh.

Use: Shrimp shouldn't be swimming in it. We had so many skewers that we kind of "slack dominoe'd" them in the pan, poured the marinade over, let them sit in the fridge ("wow, the fridge reeks of tequila"), flipped the skewers to get the parts that had not been down in the marinade, let them sit some more.

Cook: Grilled over an incredibly hot grill...2-3 minutes or until shrimp are pink and "no longer squishy"...bits of charred cilantro are "OK".

Posted by dowdy at 12:59 PM

July 05, 2005

Salsa Shark

"Salsa Shark. Man goes into cage. Cage goes into water. Shark's in the water. Our shark. We need a bigger boat." -- Clerks

A trio of salsas

Salsas always make a nice side for BBQ. This year I made a bunch, and sort of got carried away with the flavors. They all turned out good, however. Clockwise from top: tomato salsa, mango salsa, nectarine salsa.

The tomato salsa had tomatoes, serano peppers, green onions, cilantro, and lime juice (ie, a basic salsa). Canned tomatoes had to be used as those I found in the market were disappointing.

The mango salsa was mangos, jalapeno and serano peppers, maui sweet onions, cilantro, mint, and lime juice. In addition, some chopped sweet fresh cherries were also added.

The nectarine salsa was nectarines, habanero peppers, red onions, cilantro, and wine vinegar.

Who says salad is lettuce?

From top right to lower left, tomato and mozzarella, jicama salad, curry cous cous salad.

The tomato and mozzarella was a basic Italian style salad. We used grape tomatoes and bocconcini with thin strips of basil. Derrick whipped up a vinegarette of balsamic and olive oil.

The jicama salad was diced jicama, two kinds of bell peppers, red onions, fresh corn, and black beans. I made a quick dressing of lime juice with chilli style spices and a combination of olive and vegetable oil.

The cous cous salad was simply cous cous that had some curry powder added to the water used to re-hydrate it. After it cooled a bit, I added pecans, dried cranberries, red onions, and a quick toss of lemon juice and olive oil. I also mixed in some bitter salad greens to give things a bit of a kick.

Unseen is the potato salad that I made with lots of hard cooked eggs and mustard in the dressing (I don't like bland potato salad dressing).

At the top of the photo you can just see that yes, I in fact did have one salad made with lettuce. It was just greens, a dijon vinegarette, and some Maytag blue cheese. Oh yeah, and some croutons that I purchased! Oh no!

The other interesting sides just visible sort of in the middle are the pickled carrots (made with habanero peppers in the brine), and pickled red onions.

Posted by dowdy at 04:04 AM

July 04, 2005

Fill your smoker with meat

Full smoker
That's a lot of meat, sir

The first image (taken by Melissa) from this year's summer party could be entitled "Pack your smoker with six dozen slabs of meat." This is a fun game that everyone should play, although you need to invite over a few guests to help you dispose of the remains. Either that or eat leftover BBQ for the next several months.

From top to bottom we have:
- 3 pounds of homemade bratwurst (smoked for two hours)
- 4 slabs of pork ribs, trimmed to a Saint Louis Cut, rubbed with my standard BBQ rub (see below)
- 2 slabs of beef ribs, rubbed with salt, black and red pepper
- 4 trimmed sides from the above mentioned pork ribs, same rub
- 2 whole beef briskets (13 pounds each), same rub as the beef ribs
- 1 Huge pot of beans, simmering away for the entire time, with meat juices dripping in for the last three hours of cooking. This is my standard addition to just about all smoker runs.

Started the fire at around 4 AM, and the coals were ready by 4:30. Briskets and the beans went in first, with the beef ribs and pork sides being added about 5 hours later, and the pork ribs an hour after that. The sausages only needed a few hours to cook through, so they went on around noon or so.

This is, in case you can't tell, quite a bit of meat for my smoker. I had a tough time keeping the temperature up, and also had a difficult time with the air circulation as a result. I normally never try to cram this much food into it, so it was an interesting challenge.

My standard rub is (I don't give quantities, since I have no idea what they are, but list in order of most to least):
- salt (maybe about a third of the total volume)
- ground black pepper
- onion powder
- garlic powder
- paprika
- cumin
- chilli powder (dark)
- ground oregano
- ground red pepper
I mix all of this up in a large leftover spice container, and it's good for probably three or four BBQ runs. I know that many people use sugar in their rubs, but I've found that for longer smokes, it's too easy for them to burn on me. I don't have the heat on this rub too high, so the sugar doesn't really seem needed.

More images and recipes from the party are forthcoming. But until then, I leave you with "Your Moment of Zen." William and two helpers doing the 2nd grind on the sausage meat (4 lbs beef tri tip, 2 lbs pork butt, 1/2 lb bacon). And yes, anne is in fact holding a beer while working.

Grinding the meat
Never watch how laws are made

Posted by dowdy at 09:53 AM