Showing posts with label barbecue. Show all posts
Showing posts with label barbecue. Show all posts

13 June 2012

Roast Goat Leg

I could call it cosciotto di capretto, but it's just a goat leg. To be more specific, this is the foreleg, shoulder, and ribs of a kid goat from a halal butcher. I don't do a lot of halal cooking, but there's not a lot of other sources for goat around here. Thanks to the Cordova international market, I'm now always a ten minute walk away from such ingredients.

Goat may seem exotic, but it's the most widely eaten meat in the world, and before you quibble, remember that the world includes a lot of places that don't have an Applebee's. There's no major religion with an objection to goat meat, they're not as expensive or labor intensive as cattle, and while they don't eat tin cans, they can survive on scrubland and other harsh environments. They're a good source of meat, leather, milk, wool, and more. Plus, when you're doing subsistence farming, it's easier for one farmer to pick up a goat as opposed to a fully-grown sow or heifer.

I rinsed the leg and marinated it in Wicker's for several hours. Kid goat is pretty tender, but you still want a little acid bath to help it out. I then rubbed it down with a mixture of garlic, olive oil, salt, and a Madras curry blend. Time to fire up the Weber grill...

Using indirect heat and just a little mesquite, I slow roasted the goat on a hot Sunday afternoon for about three hours. The easiest way to cook goat is to chop it all up and stew it forever with a bunch of vegetables. I've had it like that, but the first time I ever ate goat was at a BBQ back when I was a kid. There was a decent amount of fat on this leg, and I wanted to treat it more like a leg of lamb. After all, the two species are closely related, though there are some theological differences between them.

The final product was not gamey, but mildly earthy and aromatic. If anything, it's somewhere between pork and lamb. The meat was tender and juicy, and though I chopped off a few chunks to eat right away, the rest went into taco form with homemade salsa verde. Great combination.

My only complaint is that there's not a lot of meat on this leg, and it's a little difficult to get it all off (hence why stewing is so popular). The whole thing weighed two pounds, cost me $12, and was a lot of fun, but I ended up with about a pound of meat after all the digging and scraping. Unlike pork, the ribs don't offer a lot of succulent meat. Don't let that discourage you, though. Take an opportunity to connect with the rest of the world and serve a healthy, sustainable form of protein on the dinner table.

09 September 2011

2010 Attems Pinot Girgio

The 2010 Attems Pinot Grigio comes from Friuli–Venezia Giulia in the extreme northeast corner of Italy, nestled next to Slovenia and Austria. It's a place where Romance, Germanic, and Slavic languages crash into each other, and the region has changed hands many times over the past twenty centuries. (Indeed, the current borders weren't officially determined until a treaty was signed in 1975.) The capital city Trieste has a fascinating history that includes a 170 year stretch as a free port in the 1720s-1890s and another run as a sort of city state after WWII.

2010 Attems Pinot Grigio
Venezia Giulia IGT
$20, 12.5% abv.

The English version of the site doesn't have a lot of information, but from the Italian one we learn that 15% of this spent some time in oak while the rest was matured in stainless steel. Overripe peach and apricot, with a slight dusky undertone. Low acidity with a medium body and a clean finish. Great when chilled, but it is also enjoyable at room temperature. Quite good if you're looking to upgrade from the ocean of $10 Pinot Grigio, and there's enough depth here to enjoy it with a lot of different foods.

The meal was driven by the weather, not by the wine. But in a nod to italy, I made Memphis-style barbecue sandwiches with ciabatta bread, which is definitely an improvement over the usual cheap hamburger buns. What is Memphis-style? Usually pulled pork topped with a sweet molasses-based sauce and a mayo-based cole slaw. Some places chop the smoked pork shoulder instead (I prefer pulled), some use a mustard-based cole slaw (sometimes fun for a change), and I personally tend to throw a few dashes of hot sauce in there.

On the side, nothing too special... some sliced tomatoes, baked beans, and a couple of hot and spicy pickled okra. Frankly when you get a craving for pickled okra there is really nothing else that comes close. I discovered that pickled okra and good Pinot Grigio are a really wonderful match, with the low acidity wine and the high acidity okra pod.

Note: This wine was received as a sample.

27 July 2011

Cooking Improvisation

Cooking isn't so much about being able to follow a recipe as it is being able to make do with what you've got and work around the complications that arise. I know people that have refused to cook a certain dish because they had everything except for a quarter teaspoon of ground nutmeg. I prefer a more improvisational approach.

Case in point: I felt like smoking some chicken quarters, and had everything I needed. Yet when I got a chance to start, I realized that I'd mistakingly bought a bag of lump mesquite charcoal. Unlike the compact briquettes pressed from charcoal dust, lump charcoal is made using chunks of wood that have been cooked in an oxygen-free environment. I like the flavor of mesquite, but it's much better for grilling (over flame or hot coals) as opposed to smoking (using indirect heat over a longer period of time). If you do a long smoke on mesquite the food will be nasty. Some woods work better than others for smoking, and if you use pine you deserve the ass-kicking your dinner guests will surely deliver.

So... I wanted to do a slow cook because I was using thigh/leg quarters of chicken, but only had lump mesquite and an assortment of chips (hickory/oak/alder/etc.). What to do? I took about two kilos of lump mesquite, prepped it in the chimney starter, and built my fire in the trusty old Weber kettle. The chicken quarters were marinated in Wicker's* for a while, and then I used a combination of grilling and smoking, including a set of old ceramic grill briquettes** that I've got from way back when. Hot fire, chicken is browned over flame, and moved to cold side of grill. Wood chips in a foil pouch are added, and then the whole mess is covered for a while. Flip, baste with more Wicker's, and then smoke a while longer. I did about 90 minutes of alternating grilling and smoking, just enough to get some good flavor without getting the resinous bitterness of mesquite. Then it was time to take a baking dish and the chicken and cover it with foil, and drop it in a warm oven for another hour. This isn't cheating--it's a common tactic, prompted by weather or the need to kick up the heat and grill something over high flame or you've just run out of fuel and can't finish it all on the grill/smoker/etc. (There's a fun trick involving an ice chest, towels, and hot bricks, but we'll save that for another post.)

I was very happy with the results, but during the final roasting I felt the need to make a slightly unusual sauce. In most of the US, barbecue sauce is basically ketchup and corn syrup with some added seasoning. Often it includes liquid smoke so that those without testicular fortitude can pretend that they've cooked something using the most ancient of methods. Some regions have thin vinegar-based sauces, North Carolina has a yellow mustard sauce, but I decided to go with northern Alabama's weird white sauce, made from mayonnaise and vinegar and some other goodies. It's a classic with BBQ chicken, though the sauce itself is odd: it's not a cream sauce, it's not one derived from béchamel, and it's not ranch dressing. It is its own unique little snowflake. But if you've ever had Buffalo wings with bleu cheese sauce, you're most of the way there. It is really tangy, and some preparations go as far as a 1:1 ratio of mayo to vinegar, sometimes with some added lemon juice to boost the acidity.

I served the chicken simply with some greens and fruits/vegetables, and the white barbecue sauce plus the chicken juices made for a delicious dressing for the greens. Try it out sometime--you've probably got the ingredients lying around the kitchen, and it might be a creative solution sometime when you're dans la merde.

*I have to give additional mention to Wicker's, made in Hornersville, Missouri. That's where my great-grandparents settled, and where my grandmother and my great-uncles were born. My father spent part of his youth there, and I have many happy memories of that small town of barely 700 people. Wicker's marinade is made of "vinegar, salt, spices". Nothing else, and it's been a mainstay in our family for decades.

**Gas grills often use lava rocks or ceramic briquettes in the bottom of the grill. The idea is that the stone retains and radiates heat, resulting in more even cooking. With a good setup you can turn down the flame quite a bit so that most of your cooking is coming from the slow roast of the stones rather than the direct heat of the flame. I've thrown some in the bottom of my charcoal grill to serve the same purpose. It's a very energy efficient method, but don't use random rocks from your yard--they might contain dangerous elements or can even explode when heated.

29 June 2011

Cherry Smoked Pork Shoulder

The terms "grilling" and "barbecue" get bandied about a lot with much argument over the terms. Some people assume that anytime you're cooking outdoors, it's a BBQ. I'm not pedantic about the issue, but in general, grilling means you're cooking food directly over a fire, and barbecue means that the food is cooked indirectly and flavored with smoke.

And oh, what a difference wood makes. I love smoking meat with fruit woods. Apple is easy to find and delivers a subtle flavor to chicken, but in this case I used cherry with a four pound pork shoulder. For various applications in the past I've used alder, oak, hickory, and some other odds and ends. Mesquite is great for the quick cooking, but tends to get bitter and nasty for the long haul. If you use pine or scraps of industrial lumber from building sites, please close this window and don't darken my virtual doorstep again. In this case, I smoked the pork shoulder with cherry for four hours, and then let it continue to soften in a warm oven for an additional hour and a half.

Cherry gives a beautiful red color, but there's also a slight sweetness and fruity depth that you don't get from the usual hickory smoked pork. After a half hour of resting, I shredded up part of it for use in pulled pork sandwiches.

Now, any Memphis boy that's grown up around barbecue culture and assisted at the World Championship down at Memphis in May should make his own sauce. And I've made BBQ sauce from scratch before, but sometimes it's just easier to buy some pre-made. In this case, I tried one I'd never seen before: McClard's BBQ Sauce from Hot Springs, Arkansas. It looked interesting, wasn't expensive, and was the only one on the shelf at Kroger that didn't include high fructose corn syrup. I'm not militant about HFCS, but it's also worth noting that this had the shortest list of ingredients: tomato puree, vinegar, sugar, lemon juice concentrate, salt, onion, pepper, xanthan gum, caramel color.

It's definitely spicy but not hot, and chunks of onion are present in the sauce. It's thinner than Memphis-style sauces (which are about the consistency of ketchup). It's got a great mouth presence because of the high acidity, which balances out the sweetness nicely. I'm impressed and it represents a good balance between the thick sweet sauces of Memphis and the thin vinegar sauces of some other regions. Check it out if you get a chance.

25 May 2011

Meat, Wine, Man Time

For many years, my friend Paul and I have gathered on a Friday or Saturday night for the Three Bs: beef, booze, and bad B-movies. The definition has shifted a bit over time, with the quality of all three components increasing. Early on it might be hot dogs, Zima, and a film with the production budget equivalent to the cost of a used car. Now it's likely to involve decent wine, ribeyes, and something that at least got nominated for an Oscar, though a recent viewing of the Rutger Hauer grindhouse masterpiece Hobo With A Shotgun shows that we're always willing to enjoy the classics.

On a recent visit, the massive gourmet burgers you find on steakhouse lunch menus were on the menu. From top to bottom, my burger was as follows: bun, lettuce, tomato, Stilton, flame-grilled burger, pickles, Dijon mustard, mayonnaise, bun. Towards the end a fork and knife were necessary as the medium-rare preparation started to fall apart.

2008 Steak House Wine
100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Columbia Valley, Washington
$15, 13% abv.
The wine has dominant aromas of blackberry and black cherry, medium tannins with a full fruit flavor, some smoke and coffee scents as it warms up, and a long, lingering finish. It comes from The Magnificent Wine Company, makers of this as well as Fish House (Sauvignon Blanc), House Wine (white) and House Wine (red--see below). While I'm not a fan of the label design, you can't deny that it's unique and easy to recognize. And true to its name, it is a delicious pairing with good beef.

On the next such occasion, Paul provided a pair of red wines and grabbed BBQ from the Germantown Commissary, a local joint that provides delicious 'Q in a small space. The restaurant was within walking distance of my high school and for a long time I lived and worked close enough to grab a sandwich there when I was in the mood. The movie for this night? The 1988 classic Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

2007 House Wine Red
Columbia Valley, Washington
32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Syrah, 30% Merlot, 3% Malbec, 2% Zinfandel, 1% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petite Verdot
$12, 13.5% abv.
Nose of blueberry and blackberry. Mild fruit profile with a light body and brief but present tannins. Fun flavor for such a broad range of grapes. Nice finish, and it held up well with the pulled pork.

One thing I've always loved to do is eat the sandwich over the beans. Over a few bites enough stray pork will fall in to make the slow-cooked beans even better. Hot sauce is also a must, but tragically interferes with enjoyment of a soft red wine like this. If you like your BBQ spicy, a sparkling wine is often a great choice.

After dinner with cleared palates, there was also the option to try a wine that Paul had opened up the previous night, a higher end Napa selection.

2008 Black Stallion Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley
$65, 14.5% abv.
Leather, licorice, coffee, black cherry, a touch of cigar and beautiful balance. The tannins have mellowed out well, though I imagine the wine would continue to improve for the next few years. Highly recommended if you get a chance.