Cooking like a caveman, Dutch oven BBQ Spareribs

There are few things more rewarding and relaxing then spending an afternoon looking out at a gorgeous view while tending to a dutch oven full of goodness.  It seems that is how this year’s installment of caveman cooking begins.  This year the challenge was not breakfast but spareribs; the only requirement I received was they had to be tender.  Mission accomplished.

Cooking in a dutch oven is not necessarily my forte, I mean it is primitive, but sadly my dutch oven is probably the least used weapon in my cooking arsenal.  Unlike the smoker, you can’t just set it and forget it (more or less), it requires constant devotion, and that presents a challenge at home when I usually do not have hours on end to babysit the pot.  Sadly.

Given the opportunity to give the dutch oven a try, I left the smoker at home and busted out the pot.  It is vacation, days are supposed to be spent doing the stuff you don’t have time to do at home like fishing, relaxing and yes, tending to a dutch oven.

Dutch oven with coals

To get started I had to do battle with the wind. First I dug a hole a few inches deep and a few inches wider than the dutch oven, then, grabbed the neighbors fire ring to act as a wind block.  Wind problem solved.

Dutch oven with the wind break

Next, I fired up 22 coals in the charcoal chimney and got ready to cook.  For every coal I put on the lid I put two underneath the oven in a checkerboard pattern.  From there, every 25-30 minutes, I added 6 to 8 or so fresh coals following the same distribution and rotated the oven half turn and the lid a half turn the other way.  There is a handy dutch oven temperature calculator you can find here.

Dutch oven BBQ Spareribs

After two and a half hours of this madness and the constant whiffs of amazing smells coming from the pot, it was time for phase two, the fire.  This was where we were to finish and give the ribs a nice outward texture.  While maintaining the coals on the pot, I had been building up a nice bed of cherry wood coals to finish the ribs on with a bit of BBQ sauce.

BBQ Spareribs on the fire

Once the ribs had taken on a nice set of grill marks and soaked up some cherry smoke, they were ready and tender!  So, when it was all said and done, there was really no recipe it was a cobbled together bit of whatever came to my mind goodness but here is my best stab at it.

Ingredients
1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp chile powder
1 1/2 tsp sage
1/2 c apple cider vinegar
1/2 c apple juice
1/2 can Coca Cola
1 large onion (chopped)
4 cloves garlic (chopped)
1 tbsp oil
mustard seeds
rosemary
black pepper
2 bay leaves
bbq sauce
spare ribs (bones removed)

Instructions
Make a rub using brown sugar, chile powder and sage.  Mix thoroughly and rub into all the meat.  Set meat aside.  Combine remaining ingredients with the exception of the bbq sauce in the dutch oven with a cup of water add meat and top with a bit of bbq sauce.  Cook meat in the dutch oven until it falls apart over low heat (250-300°F), about 2.5 hours and finish over and open fire or on a grill with some more bbq sauce.  Let rest for about 5 minutes and enjoy.

After another successful yearly installment of caveman cooking, the novelty has not warn off.  Cooking with nothing but fire is rewarding, its natural, its primitive and its time consuming.  But at the end of the day, its worth it. Its a blast and you can almost taste the effort in the food.

Happy Independence Day! I have leftovers to eat!

Posted in Dutch oven Goodness, Grilled Goodness, Recipes, What's for dinner Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Truly Pickled Asparagus

Lacto-fermented 'pickled' asparagus

Okay.  So some things are not quite natural to me yet, like putting a bunch of stuff in a jar with no lid and letting it sit and come alive for a couple weeks, scraping the mold off the top (if it did mold, this doesn’t always happen) and then you are supposed to eat it?  Well the more I do it the more familiar it becomes and it is worth overcoming the mental hurdle this stuff is tasty.

Every spring my parents have an abundance of asparagus from their small garden plot out back, an abundance might be an understatement but it is way more than they could possibly hope to eat and still like it at the end of the season.  As a result I usually end up with a bit of it myself, which is fine with me, asparagus is my friend.  This year I thought I would try something a little different.  I tried pickling some asparagus, I tried three different methods and got three different results.  You will have to check back for the other two types of pickles as I have not yet tried all three.

Lacto-fermented 'pickled' asparagus

The first type of pickled asparagus that I got to try was lacto-fermented pickled asparagus.  It was perhaps the most intimidating of the three batches I did, but I had to know.  Lacto-fermentation is a natural process in which the naturally occurring lactobacilli on the surface and in the vegetables (in this case) convert the sugars and starches in the vegetables in to lactic acid.  This lactic acid inhibits putrefying bacteria and preserves the vegetables.  At first glance.  Scary.

The asparagus pickle recipe I used was adapted from a recipe found over at Awesome Pickle.  Because I was using a pint jar and had enough asparagus to fill the entire jar I adapted the recipe a bit.  I did however find the technique  they used to submerge the asparagus in the jar simple and effective.  You can view that technique at the bottom of the page linked above.

Ingredients
asparagus (enough to fill a 1 pint wide mouth jar)
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1 c water mixed with 3/4 tsp kosher salt

Instructions
Wash asparagus.  Trim asparagus to fit into a 1 pint wide mouth jar, heads down, with about an inch of head space.  Thinly slice garlic cloves and place them in the jar, add in the spices.  Pout in the water until it entirely covers all of the asparagus.  Use the method shown in the third picture here to keep the asparagus from rising up during the process.  Put the jar in a cool place dark place with a towel underneath and another towel draped over the top to keep the dust out and forget about it for a week or two.  Once its ready in a week or two remove the jar, remove any surface mold and store in the refrigerator.

I initially had hoped to try these before I headed out on vacation a week ago but for some reason they just didn’t seem ready.  So instead I just took off and left them be in the basement and another week later they were ready to go.  These little guys are pretty tasty and still had a good crunch so far.  We’ll see how they are by the end of the jar.  If you can get over the initial intimidation of allowing nature to run its course on a jar of veggies.  Lacto-fermentation yields a delicious product that I am told is easier for the body to digest.

Posted in Preserving the Harvest, Recipes Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Filippi’s Pizza Grotto

Its worth the wait, that is what I saw over and over again on Four Square when I checked in while waiting in line and what everyone who had been there before kept reminding us.  And once we finally made it inside and sat down at Filippi’s Pizza Groto, in San Diego,  it was worth the wait.

The atmosphere was authentic, it wasn’t wedding receptions nice but it was close but not cramped, dimly lit and fairy noisy.  All characteristics of a restaurant I would typically never want to come back to, however, Filippi’s managed to combine all these things into a tremendously enjoyable atmosphere.  The service was a cut above out waitress was fun and full of attitude, she was a riot.  And then there was the food.  Wanting to keep things simple we went with a pepperoni, extra cheese pizza and we were rewarded for out simplicity.  It was perhaps one of the best pizza’s I have ever had.  The salty oily cheese on top and the subtle but magical sauce on the crispy crust made this pizza something to long for.  It was awesome I would not hesitate to visit again and we just may yet this week.

Filippi’s Pizza Grotto in San Diego, it’s worth the wait.  It also has a neat deli and carry out available.

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Grilled Mexican Roadside Chicken

I came into this with high hopes.  I have been infatuated with how tasty it looked.  I kept counting down the days until Wednesday to give it a try.  I found this recipe last week for Grilled Mexican Roadside Chicken, and it looks delicious and sounded interesting.  So I whipped it up today per the recipe, but in lieu of a whole chicken used several drumsticks I had in the freezer, same concept.

Grilled Roadside Mexican Chicken

And I have to say it was not bad chicken, but it wasn’t chicken that left me wanting more either.  It let me down.  It was juicy, but I attribute that more to technique than the recipe.   I had high hopes for it and it just fell short, flat on its face at my feet, I was disappointed but when piled onto of a salad with some taco-ranch dressing it was almost just like any other chicken, but perhaps with just a hair more Mexican flavor and eaten that way it was quite alright.  So here is a copy of the recipe should you wish to try it.  I did use half the amount of cinnamon because that was all I had around.

Ingredients
1 1/2 tsp ground ancho chile pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
pinch of ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 garlic cloves pressed
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 c fresh orange juice
1 tsp Kosher salt
chicken (parts or a whole)

Instructions
If using a charcoal grill, get some charcoal going in a chimney (I used half a chimney full).  Mix all ingredients except chicken together in a bowl to create a wet rub.  Once the charcoal is ready place all of the coals on one side of the grill to set up a cool zone and a hot zone.  Place the chicken on the cool side of the grill, brush healthily with the wet rub.  Turn chicken and brush the other side with the wet rub.  Cover the grill and cook until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken reads 165°F; basting with any remaining rub throughout the cooking period.  Remove chicken from grill and allow to rest for a while 5-10 minutes for parts or 10 to 15 minutes for a whole chicken.

The original recipe called for green onions to be grilled once the chicken was done, maybe this is where I went astray.  It also called for a whole chicken and not for parts, maybe that was the problem.  Either way it wasn’t bad, but like I said it let me down, it wasn’t all I had hoped for and the process of making the rub filled my kitchen with a heavenly familiar aroma of Jerk Chicken and made me think, why am I not making Jerk Chicken?  Well I may just have to do that soon.

Posted in Grilled Goodness, Recipes, Reviews, What's for dinner Tagged with: , , , , ,

Gizmos and Gadgets for better BBQ – Thermometers

Smoker Cooking Temperature Thermometer

Smoking and grilling are expensive habits.  Not only do you get to cook some prime cuts of meats occasionally but there are lots of gizmos and toys that make smoking so much more cool easier and more consistent.  But perhaps the most important aspect of all of these are those gizmos that help me know when my food is done!  And for that I rely on my thermometer(s).

Smoker Cooking Temperature Thermometer

The first and perhaps most important thermometer in my arsenal is the one I have affixed to the top of my smoker.  It is an expensive, non fancy 2″ thermometer I picked up off of Amazon.  It was simple to install just had to drill a hole in the top and of the smoker dome, insert the thermometer and tighten the nut on the back.  When I initially go it I calibrated it with boiling water and it was dead on.  I have been using it for a little over a year with no complaints.  This is a must have in my book.

Maverick ET-84 Thermometer Next on my list is my Maverick ET-84.  For a long time this was my bread and butter thermometer, I have two of them and they both rock.  You can get replacement probes for them with either a silicone encased or braided stainless steel type wire.  It also has a nice back light for outdoor after dark cooking.

The talk of replacement probes may scare some away but I have been using both of mine for well over a year and have had to replace the probes once, as a result of a terrible mishap in the oven.  The silicone probes do not survive extreme temperatures, greater than 500°F.

Ordering new probes was easy and inexpensive via email through the Maverick Industries website.

I use these with meat on the grill, in the smoker and in the oven.  Its nice to be able to see where the meat is at temperature wise without having to lift the lid or open the door.  In addition these thermometers talk, kinda creepy when you aren’t expecting it but they will remind you to baste.  This can also be turned off.

As I said I have used these thermometers for quite a while in hot weather, in cold weather and in nice weather.  Typically in unfavorable I have increased the geek quotient of my smoking operation by adding a wireless webcam to the set up to monitor the smoker from the comfort of my home.  With the proper set up it is possible to monitor both the thermometer on the smoker itself and the ET-84 positioned near it (the probes have a 48″ lead).  With the webcam I am also able to see if the smoker is well smoking, this is a bit more difficult in the bitter cold because you have a bit more steam, but smoking is after all an instinctual thing.

I calibrated or rather made sure they were properly calibrated using the same method as for the grill top thermometer above, dunked it in boiling water and it checked out.  It is important that when calibrating this way you are sure not to touch the probe to the bottom of the pan.  The pan will be much hotter than the water inside of this, you could zap a probe.  Its not nearly as scary as it sounds

Maverick ET-901 Receiver Unit

Finally the latest and perhaps coolest addition to my thermometer arsenal, the Maverick ET-901.  Like the ET-84 above the ET-901 is an electronic thermometer that allows you to monitor the temperature of meat you are cooking without opening the door or raising the lid.  But it has the added benefit of being wireless it consists of two pieces, the transmitter seen below that will sit with the smoker, grill or oven you are cooking with and a receiver you take with you.

Maverick ET-901 Transmitter with smoker

This is the newest addition to my arsenal and it was met with some skepticism.  The internet is full of bad talk about wireless thermometers and their range, so I was quite skeptical when I got it but wanted to give it a try for monitoring temperatures when I am away from a computer or don’t feel like hooking up the webcam and want to know how my food is cooking.  I could not be happier with the results,  this thing is money and well worth the money I spent on it.  I am currently using it as I cook up some pork to pull and it has limited my trips to the smoker drastically.

Maverick Industries ET-901 Transmitter RangeJust to get an idea of the range at which I am using the remote thermometer, the image above is an action shot of my set up today.  The transmitter is sitting next to the smoker outside the garage and I am in the house with the receiver.  I am well within the 150′ range touted by the manufacturer, I am passing through a brick wall and have had no problems thus far.  It also works well from behind my condo, which suggests it would work great next to my bed for overnight cooks, more sleep less worrying.

In addition being wireless the ET-901, like the ET-84, has a back light for after dark cookouts and like the ET-84 it has user programmable doneness levels.  So for instance when cooking pulled pork to 205°F, I can set it for 205°F and it will alert me when my food has finished cooking, instead of at a preset doneness level, of which it also contains several.

Like the ET-84 replacement probes are available for this model from Maverick Industries.

So after all that which one do I use the most?  Well that is a tricky question, inevitably the thermometers mounted directly to the smokers and grill get used the most.  But of the electric ones it is a trick question, they wireless ET-901 is the newest and will get used the most on single piece of meat cook I imagine.  But like today where I have two pieces of meat on the smoker the ET-901 is in the smaller of the two pieces of meat to give me a heads up when they are getting close to being done; while the ET-84 is in the larger piece of meat just so I can periodically check on its progress.

With that I will leave you with a picture of my setup today and a question.  Do you have a thermometer you you can’t live without and why?

The smoker thermometer setup today

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