Tuesday, December 30, 2008

NYE Cooking

Happy New Year everyone!!!

I hope all you competition BBQ cooks out there win lots of plastic pig trophies in 2009.

I am cooking for my family tomorrow and will be featuring Cassoulet. I have the duck confit legs (I made a week or so ago) and some garlic pork sausage. I also have some lamb shanks braising in the oven right now as well two stocks on the stovetop - one a dark chicken and the other a clear vegetable. I'm going to serve 4 or 5 courses in addition to the Cassoulet... I have some great Oysters from Island Creek and a small, but prime, piece of tuna loin in addition to some other goodies. I'm going to try to to keep the servings small so we don't get stuffed and pass out early!

For recipe guidance I have been using Michael Schlows cookbook... which I have really enjoyed.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Indoor Cooking

The Big Green Egg is encrusted in a foot of snow. Trying to put out some good eats out of my semi-functional electric stove. Cooked some steak fries brushed with duck fat, and just put a pot of short ribs in the oven which I'll re-heat for Christmas dinner....

Saturday, December 20, 2008

No Cooking Today

I guess I'll just have to sit on the couch and drink egg nog all day.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Duck Confit

There is nothing particularly difficult about making duck confit. It does take some planning and a bit of time though. Basically all you need is salt, duck legs and duck fat. Large quantities of duck fat in particular can be hard to find. Your butcher should be able to order it for you.

I used Thomas Keller's Green Salt recipe which is 1/2 cup kosher salt, 2 bay leaves, 2T thyme, 1/2 cup parsley, 1t black peppercorns all buzzed in a spice grinder. 1 tablespoon of this cure went on each duck leg for 24 hours. I then rinsed and dried the legs, and warmed the duck fat to 190* on the stovetop. Legs and a few heads of garlic were added to the oil and into a 200* oven for about 5 hours. I used a polder probe thermometer in order to monitor my lame kitchen oven... I kept it set at 212* in order to maintain a true 200* in the oven. I now have about 2 dozen duck legs preserved under fat... I'm thinking potato and duck pizza first and then cassoulet for NYE.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A case of ducks legs, sack of potatoes, 10lbs duck fat, pack of beef franks, sauerkraut and two green apples

This was the bounty I  hunted/gathered yesterday.  

Duck and duck fat are for the weekend confit project.  Tonight's dinner may feature taters fried in duck fat.

Last night was a casserole of saurkraut, franks, apples and potatoes.  The meal matched perfectly with a Harpoon and the cold rainy weather.

Monday, December 8, 2008


Final cooking project of the year is looking to be a Cassoulet to be served on New Years Eve. First step will be worked on this week which will be to make some duck confit.  I also plan on incorporating some home-made garlic pork sausage and smoked lamb shanks.   Stay tuned.

Monday, December 1, 2008


The game and weather sucked in Foxborough yesterday... but the tailgate was a good time... our take on Philly Cheese Steaks... I don't think they usually use Shriacca in Philly....

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Deconstructed Turkey

I had Thanksgiving dinner over at my Brother Jamie's house and he did a great job smoking a Turkey on his WSM. But, not cooking a Turkey on Thanksgiving left me feeling a bit empty inside so I went to the market and bought a discounted 14lb hen. The way I like to smoke a Turkey is to separate the back, leg quarters and breast. Back is used for stock, leg quarters smoked low and slow to 180* internal, and the breast cooked to 155* internal. I think these are the ideal internal temps for these bird parts which is impossible to acheive if the bird is whole. Breast and leg quarters bathed in a simple brine overnight. For the stock I roasted the back and wing tips to get a dark color and flavor... I even used some of the last herbs from our herb garden... Pics:

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

An approach to Thanksgiving Turkey

From team-mate John Delpha

The Turkey is presently sitting in a brine of cider vinegar, salt, sugar, apples, onions, sage, peppercorns and bay leaves. Tomorrow evening I will strap it to the roof of my car and drive 220 miles at roughly 70mph to Essex, Vt attempting to air dry the skin as much as possible. Thursday morning I will inject that thing with a combo of turkey stock, butter and salt. Then I will rub butter, herbs and garlic under and over the skin. I will put it in a 375 degree con oven for 45 minutes then turn it down to 300 degrees until a get 138 degree reading on the breast and 148 degree reading on the thigh. I'm hoping for sheer turkey glass crispness on the skin...

Results Thursday evening...

Monday, November 24, 2008

"Pork Chops"

Cleaning out the freezer this weekend, I found a Kurabota pork shoulder.  Being sick of BBQ flavors I decided to make "Pork Chops".  I hate your typical overly lean, flavorless, supermarket pork loin chops.  There is tons of flavor in a pork butt, here is how I turn a butt into 'pork chops'...
  • A simple dry rub of salt, black pepper, red pepper, and granulated garlic
  • I cook on the Big Green Egg at 275* for 8 hrs or until internal temp is in the 190's with a couple chunks of apple wood
  • The cooking cook be done in a home oven on a roasting pan and rack (without the apple wood of course)
  • I let the finished pork butt cool to room temp and then into the fridge overnight
  • Slice the cold pork shoulder into 1" thick slices
  • Make a pan gravy: 
  • Roux (2T Butter, 2T Flour)  + 1/2Cup chicken broth, 1/2Cup apple cider, a couple springs of thyme, s&p to taste, simmer to thicken
  • Gentle warm the slices in the pan gravy and serve

Monday, November 17, 2008

Hens, Finished

Well things didnt turn out as well as I hoped. I simply cooked the guinea hen 'ballotine' too long. Internal temps were in the 160's, this meat was very lean and I should of pulled in the 150's. The flavor was great but the meat was dry. Ah well, part of becoming a better Cook is making mistakes.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hens, Day 1

I processed the hens yesterday. The meat and flavor seems like a cross between a turkey and a duck. Today I'll pound the breast into cutlets, fill with the forcemeat, roll and probably wrap em up in bacon. I may be too lazy to fire up the Big Green Egg so I may cook on the stove. I'll use the Guinea Hen stock - which came out nice and gelatinous - for a finishing sauce and when making some risotto. I also have some golden beets and trumpet mushrooms on hand. I think I'll need to stop at the wine shop today for a nice bottle of Pinot Noir.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Guinea Hens

A friend of mine gave me three Guinea Hens he recently slaughtered so it looks like a weekend cooking project is in order. Guinea Hen meat can be tough so I'm thinking about the following method:

  • Bone all the meat
  • Make a stock with the roasted carcass bones
  • Grind the dark meat into a porchetta style sausage meat (garlic, fennel, rosemary)
  • Pound the breast meat into a thin cutlet, and roll up with the forcemeat
  • Wrap in the skin, truss and slow roast on the Big Green Egg
  • Make a gravy with the stock
I'll report back over the weekend with the results

Friday, November 7, 2008

Chicken, Not BBQ

John Delpha sourced some fantastic naturally raised hens for the Jack Daniels contest. After processing for the contest a few of the breasts went into the freezer. Pulled em out last night and the ingredients included salt, black pepper, red pepper, olive oil, butter, lemon and tabasco. Served with garlicky fries and a salad. Man, there is such an amazing difference between this chicken and the stuff in the supermarket.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Hitting the BBQ Wall

To the handful of folks who read this blog, apologies for the lack of updates. Between workfamily, the American RoyalJack Daniels, and Harpoon Helps I've been flat out... and burnt out.  

Also, right around the corner I'll be going on a roadtrip to pickup my new Jambo Pit.

It was an honor and a great time participating in the Jack Daniels event.  Congrats to New Englander's Lunchmeat and I Smell Smoke on their great showings.    Team IQUE consisted of Dave, Jamie, John Delpha and Myself.   We felt we gave ourselves a good opportunity to compete in the BBQ categories with one of our best cooks of the year.  20th overall ain't bad, so no regrets there.  And, I think I have finally turned the corner on chicken with a new recipe (yeah, we'll see about that) so there is no plans to cook practice chicken all winter this off-season... (my family just sighed in  relief).

It rained like hell all day on Friday to the point we needed to move our camp.  We moved into the International area of the contest where us Bostonians with the weird accents fit right in.

The highlight of Jack was we took 1st place in Cooks Choice.  In our 7 years at the Jack we have a 3rd and two 1sts in Cooks Choice.   John masterminded this years entry which we dubbed a "Hunters Brunch" featuring Pork Cheeks and Quail Eggs.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Royal

Just got back from the American Royal in KC.  Andy, Jamie, Kenny, Dave and Heather Chittum made up the I-QUE squad, we had a blast and had some good results.  A 15th place Rib ribbon in the Invitational event (30th Overall out of 90 teams)... in the Open we hit an 8th place Chicken ribbon and 8th overall (!) out of 475 teams.

Its a pretty brutal challenge spending 4 days in a parking lot and cooking two KCBS competitions back to back. First day ribs and brisket were real good .  The pork had great flavor but I had sourced a natural farm raised pork I had never cooked before. The butcher had taken a slightly different bias on the boston butt portion of the shoulder and as a result I had a hard time with presentation.  Chicken deservedly bombed (82nd).  Dave and I conferenced Saturday night and worked out a completely different chicken recipe for the Open.  We were pretty proud of the big turn around in that category.   Andy did very well with the side dishes and we came in 5th Overall in the side categories. 

I feel pretty tuned up for Jack Daniels and can't wait to get down there for another cook.   Congrats to I Smell Smoke for the Chicken call and Transformer for Ribs.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Two Briskets, One Egg

I know there are a variety of two level cooking rigs out there for the Egg, but I don't have one. I wanted to cook a couple briskets (~14lbs each) for a party and the Large BGE is my only cooker right now, so I decided to stack em. Bottom brisket went flat down and top brisket went flat up so I could get a good crust. I flipped them a couple times during the cook.

I was worried about the large mass of meat where the fat caps laid together sitting in a danger zone temp for too long. So I made sure to let the briskets come to room temp before putting on the cooker. Also, I started things at 300* and after a few hours when I had the meats at about 140* I turned down to 225* and went to bed. Came out real good!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Looks like its Absinthe, Currywurst and Carp for Dinner Tonight

From the 100 Things You Should Eat Before You Die list that is circulating around the food blogosphere...  

81/100 ain't bad.  But I've really got to fix the tasting at a three-Michelin-star and I don't think Horse will ever be on my 'Had' list

1. Venison - Yes

2. Nettle tea - Yes  

 3. Huevos rancheros - Yes

 4. Steak tartare - Yes

 5. Crocodile - Yes

 6. Black pudding - Yes

 7. Cheese fondue - Yes

 8. Carp

 9. Borscht - Yes

 10. Baba ghanoush - Yes

 11. Calamari - Yes

 12. Pho - Yes

 13. PB&J sandwich - Yes

 14. Aloo gobi

 15. Hot dog from a street cart - Yes

 16. Epoisses- Yes

 17. Black truffle - Yes

 18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes - Yes

 19. Steamed pork buns - Yes

 20. Pistachio ice cream - Yes

 21. Heirloom tomatoes - Yes

 22. Fresh wild berries - Yes

 23. Foie gras - Yes

 24. Rice and beans - Yes

 25. Brawn, or head cheese - Yes

 26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper - Yes

 27. Dulce de leche

 28. Oysters - Yes

 29. Baklava - Yes

 30. Bagna cauda

 31. Wasabi peas - Yes

 32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl - Yes

 33. Salted lassi

 34. Sauerkraut - Yes

 35. Root beer float - Yes

 36. Cognac with a fat cigar - Yes

 37. Clotted cream tea - Yes

 38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O - Yes

 39. Gumbo - Yes

 40. Oxtail - Yes

 41. Curried goat - Yes

 42. Whole insects - Yes

 43. Phaal - Yes

 44. Goat's milk - Yes

 45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/€80/$120 or more - Yes

 46. Fugu

 47. Chicken tikka masala - Yes

 48. Eel - Yes

 49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut - Yes

 50. Sea urchin - Yes

 51. Prickly pear - Yes

 52. Umeboshi - Yes

 53. Abalone - Yes

 54. Paneer - Yes

 55. McDonald's Big Mac Meal - Yes

 56. Spaetzle - Yes

 57. Dirty gin martini - Yes

 58. Beer above 8% ABV - Yes

 59. Poutine - Yes

 60. Carob chips - Yes

 61. S'mores - Yes

 62. Sweetbreads - Yes

 63. Kaolin

 64. Currywurst

 65. Durian

 66. Frogs' legs - Yes

 67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake - Yes

 68. Haggis

 69. Fried plantain - Yes

 70. Chitterlings, or andouillette - Yes

 71. Gazpacho- Yes

 72. Caviar and blini- Yes

 73. Louche absinthe

 74. Gjetost, or brunost

 75. Roadkill

 76. Baijiu

 77. Hostess Fruit Pie- Yes

 78. Snail- Yes

 79. Lapsang souchong

 80. Bellini- Yes

 81. Tom yum

 82. Eggs Benedict- Yes

 83. Pocky

 84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant

 85. Kobe beef- Yes

 86. Hare- Yes

 87. Goulash- Yes

 88. Flowers- Yes

 89. Horse

 90. Criollo chocolate- Yes

 91. Spam- Yes

 92. Soft shell crab- Yes

 93. Rose harissa - Yes

 94. Catfish- Yes

 95. Mole poblano- Yes

 96. Bagel and lox- Yes

 97. Lobster Thermidor- Yes

 98. Polenta- Yes

 99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee- Yes

 100. Snake- Yes 

Friday, September 19, 2008

Brisket Hunting

Well those of us with off-beat hobbies often find ourselves doing things that are, well, slightly sad and pathetic.

The movie 'Best in Show' comes to mind.

My obsessive-compulsive activity is brisket hunting.

Instead of spending a Saturday afternoon playing golf, or relaxing on my lunchbreak at work I'm out stalking my favorite markets (the locations of which I cannot reveal) for the perfect brisket.

Not all briskets are created equal. The main characteristics I'm looking for are even, thick briskets with a good fat cap. A lot of briskets are thick on one side and then thin on the other, which in my opinion are almost worthless when it comes to competition bbq. There are a few other things I look for, but I'll get into that in detail in my upcoming competition bbq cooking class. ;-)

I have three more events to cook this year, American Royal Invitational, American Royal Open, and the Jack Daniels Invitational. So I've been on the hunt for six perfect briskets for those events. I found two really good ones recently (yeah, Restaurant Depot is one of the stops on my hunting trail).

Friday, September 12, 2008

Harvard, MA

Mass State Championship this weekend in Harvard, MA! The venue reminds me a lot of the old Pig N Pepper contest in Westford, MA that ran for about a decade starting in the early 90's.

At the Pig N Pepper the cooks would often hi-jack the merry-go-round in the middle of the night...

Friday, September 5, 2008

Lucky # 7

Well, yesterday was a big day.  For the 7th year in a row we were selected to cook in the Jack Daniels Invitational BBQ.  "The Jack" is the one of the most prestigious and certainly the most difficult contest to get into out on the competition bbq trail.

The Jack invites only the teams that have won a Grand Championship in each state.  Problem is some states have a bunch of state championships.  I think Missouri has about 40 state championship contests.  So what Jack Daniels does is have a draw for each state by putting a numbered whiskey bung into a big whiskey barrel and pulling out the numbers of the lucky teams. 

Full rules here.

Full results here.

In past years we have won contests like Merrimack, NH or Windsor, VT where these were the only contests in that state so we had an "automatic".  This year though I Smell Smoke!!! swept the automatic New England contests (MA, VT, NH) and as a result 'draw day' was a bit more dramatic for the IQUE team.  

We won two qualifying contests in NY: New Paltz and Troy.  There were three other NY contests though:  Buffalo (won by Lunchmeat), Sayville (won by BBQ-Brethren) and Lake Placid (won by Jacks Down Home).  So we had a 2 in 5 chance of getting drawn.  The Jack also randomizes the order of the state draws so we were hoping that PA went first because Lunchmeat won a PA contest.  If Lunchmeat was drawn in PA they would not be part of the NY draw.  Turns out NY was up before PA so we were really lucky and got drawn for what we hope is Lucky #7.    

The team had pretty much thought we were not going to the Jack so all of our travel arrangements and time off has been focused on the American Royal.  Looks like it might be only myself and my brother Jamie cooking this time.  If so, we'll skip the extra categories like Chefs Choice.  Here is a pic of a lobster pot pie preparation we turned in for Chefs Choice a few years ago and earned a 3rd place jug.  As always our goal for the 2008 Jack is to get a call to the stage.

Congrats and good luck to all the teams going to the Jack.