Introducing the Roughrider

In the 2014 film Chef, star Jon Favreau builds a food truck business based on selling awesome Cuban sandwiches. In the film, he and his team are driving the new food truck across country, and stop in Austin. Naturally they go to Franklin’s BBQ, and sample the brisket.

They then make a Cuban sandwich using brisket in place of the pork, and name the sandwich The Austin Midnight. This name comes from the medianoche sandwich, so named because it’s traditionally made at midnight; it also uses a milder egg bread instead of the hearty Cuban bread.

Recently, we were making cubanos for dinner, and I decided to use barbecue pulled pork in place of the Cuban pork. The pulled pork was tossed in a little light sauce and heated, along with the ham, prior to adding. The rest of the sandwich was the normal cubano with pickle, mustard, and Swiss cheese, grilled.

The result was an awesome, all American version that I have decided to name The Roughrider, in honor of Teddy Roosevelt and his troop, who showed their stuff to the Cubans in the Spanish American war.

Feel free to pass the word.

Categories: Pork, Sandwiches | Leave a comment

Pork Ribs

Over the past couple of years I’ve gotten used to the Smoke Wagon, and over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing my experience making different types of barbecue.

First up is pork ribs!

Cuts of Ribs

First, let’s talk about terminology. You will hear about three kinds of ribs: baby back ribs, spareribs, and St. Louis style. Let’s take a look at them:

The baby backs come, as the name implies, from near the backbone. They generally have more meat than the other cuts, and are, correspondingly most expensive per pound. They’re smaller, too. Compare them: spareribs on top and baby backs on bottom.

As it turns out, spareribs and St. Louis cut come from the same cut, with the difference being that St. Louis cut has the flap and sternum removed. 

Which one I buy depends on cost – some stores near me will price them the same, and if that’s the case I go for the St. Louis cut, because that’s my favorite cut. Even if I buy the whole spareribs, I trim off the flap end and the sternum any way. Yes, when I do that I cook those parts any way, but I’m not so needing of them that I won’t let someone else trim them for free.

Preparation 

So now we’ve picked our cut. Next, if I bought spares I trim off the flap and the sternum, but this isn’t a must.

The next choice is rub. Here, it’s totally up to you and your taste. Here’s what I do.

At a minimum I use salt and pepper. There are those who insist on kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper, and given the choice that’s what I use. But to be honest, I also went a few months using table salt and regular cracked pepper, because they were left over from a party and didn’t cost me anything. I can’t honestly say if they changed the taste any.

Of course, you can stop here, and I guarantee no one will be turning down your finished ribs. But I usually go farther. My favorites are brown sugar, garlic powder, and a small amount of cayenne pepper. Sometimes I also add some chili powder. All I can say is try it yourself and find your favorites.

The Cook

Prepare your smoker the normal way and heat to 250ish. Make sure the grills are clean. I also add a pan of water under the ribs to keep the atmosphere moist. 

If you use an offset smoker, place the ribs crosswise if possible so the whole piece sees the same temperature. If the piece is longer than the grill is wide, then lay it at an angle, with the thicker end closer to the heat.Here, I have a slab of spares, and you can see the sternum and flap, because nothing goes to waste at my house. I’ll use the sternum as an appetizer since it will be done sooner. The flap – all meat – goes to the cook as a reward.

Wood choice can vary. I use white oak for sure, and I add hickory a lot of times. I’ve also used a small amount of mesquite, but I have found that a lot of mesquite is too much for pork. 

Turning the Ribs

Just kidding. Leave them where they are. The smoke will get to both sides just fine.

Wet or Dry?

This depends on your preference, and I’ve made them both ways. If you choose to leave your ribs dry, then you don’t have to do anything until the Wrap.

If you like them wet, do like I do and spritz the ribs every so often with some diluted apple juice to keep them moist.

The Wrap

After about 2 hours of cook, I then move the ribs to a large piece of heavy duty foil. If you want them dry, wrap them and put them back on. 

To me, wrapping gets me all the goodness of wet ribs, without all the hassle of mopping every so often. Just coat them with sauce before sealing the wrap. Here again the choice of sauce is up to you, but my experience is that thinner is better than thicker. I’ve gone to using a mixture of thick store sauce and a thinner sauce, diluted down to the right consistency with a little bourbon. Then they go back on the grill for another couple of hours.

Serving

After 4 hours of total cook time, I find most ribs are perfectly done to my liking. To test, the best way is to twist one of the bones slightly – ofthe bone slips and moves, this means they’re done.

Remove the ribs still wrapped. I let them rest a few minutes because I’ve always been told to. Then, cut between the bones with a sharp knife, and serve. 

Enjoy!

Categories: Pork, Ribs | Leave a comment

Now THAT’S an Education

Education

The way to get ahead today is with a great education and I’ve discovered just the course of study to make it the best:

Undergraduate:

Start with a Bachelor’s degree in Barbecue. Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences offers a number of programs in food production, and while you are there, take advantage of the Texas Barbecue Program. Studies include a semester long class in barbecue (you can see the syllabus here) and barbecue camps and retreats, taught by experts like Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue.

Honestly, I have followed this program for a while, and the Brisket Camp is one of my life goals.

Graduate:

Once you graduate, consider an MBA in Bourbon. Kentucky Midway University, set in the heart of Bourbon Country, offers an MBA in Tourism and Event Management which includes a semester in Scotland, visiting distilleries and learning all about their history. Classes include The History and Evolution of Bourbon, Kentucky Bourbon Tourism & Distilleries, and Bourbon Women: Craft to Consumption.

 

Check it out. All I can say is, the graduation parties must be a blast.

 

Categories: Bourbon, Brisket | Leave a comment

Cuban Sandwich


Cuban Sandwich

Thanks to the movie Chef, I renewed my hankering for Cuban Sandwiches. For those unaccustomed, these are grilled sandwiches made on crunchy Cuban style loaves, and are layered thus, from bottom to top:

  • Yellow mustard
  • Dill pickles
  • Cuban roast pork
  • Smoked ham
  • Swiss cheese or similar (provolone, for instance)
  • Yellow mustard

For years I had settled for regular roast pork, but I decided to do some research on Cuban pork. Here is what I have come up with over the past few months.

Makins

Starting with a trimmed pork shoulder, and marinate overnight thus:

  • Orange juice
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • Cilantro
  • Basil

Then, I put all of this into a crock pot and add just enough water to cover*, and cook on high for 4 to 5 hours.

Let the pork rest 10 minutes, then shred for the sandwiches.

I then get the George Foreman grill going, and start out searing the ham and toasting the bread. I then layer the sandwich as listed above, and butter the top and bottom, then grill until done. With a George Foreman, you can turn 60 degrees halfway through the cook for a nice hatched effect.

Serve with crispy chips and a cold beer.

 

*Use this water to rinse out the baggie

Categories: Pork, Sandwiches | Leave a comment

The Swineapple

The Swineapple.   It seems that social media is covered with pictures of boneless pork ribs stuffed inside a pineapple and smoked over indirect heat.   Barbeque aficionados grasped the concept; it seems relatively simple.  Purchase boneless pork ribs and a large pineapple. The actual process to meld the pineapple and pork is far more involved than one might think.

On Memorial Day 2015, my wife and I took on the Swineapple challenge and came out with a satisfying meal.  As background, I am an engineer and she is a designer. We took copious notes on the process from beginning to end.  Photographs and techniques were posted during the day on Twitter.  With a bit of luck, @fillyerhands noticed our efforts and asked for our thoughts. In this article, we’ll cover the preparation of the pineapple, ribs, grill, cedar planks and  charcoal.

Planks

We used standard cedar planks available from Lowe’s Home Improvement. The planks were soaked for several hours in a mixture of apple juice and water.  Soaking the cedar planks serves two purposes; the planks should not catch fire during the smoking process and the apple juice soaked cedar planks add flavor and juiciness to the Swineapple.
1 Soaking Cedar Planks
Charcoal

Living in South Carolina, we are bound by state law to barbecue, grill, or smoke every meal, weather permitting, twelve months of the year.  While grilling, we save larger chunks of lump wood charcoal for the times when we need a longer stained heat which briquette charcoal cannot provide.  Cowboy Charcoal and Royal Oak lump wood charcoal are better for salmon, steaks, chicken, and burgers. The house lump wood charcoal from Publix or Fresh Market provides larger pieces of coal for turkey, ribs or a Swineapple.  For this test subject, we used Western Real Wood lump charcoal and Royal Oak lump wood for the firebox.  During the last hour, we added chunks of Jack Daniels Whiskey Barrels for flavor.

Grill

We have a Chargriller with an offset firebox for smoking.  The primary ash pan of the grill was emptied of any old debris.  The grill grates were scrubbed with a stainless steel brush.  The secondary firebox was emptied of old ashes and the pan was lined with aluminum foil.  The top vent and side vent were both opened to allow maximum air flow over and around the meat while it is cooking.

8 Grill

Pineapple

Now we’re getting to the core of the project (no pun intended).  The pineapple selected should be the largest one available in your market.  Take a sharp knife and remove the outer layer. Remove the stem. Leave the top and bottom covered by the scaly exterior.  Placing the pineapple on its side, slice the pineapple parallel with the core.  I cut our first one with a 90/10 ratio.  The second one was 85/15 ratio. Don’t throw away the lid. You’ll need it shortly.

Using a serrated knife, gently cut the core from inside,removing the top and bottom. The pineapple flesh between the edges will be relatively simple to remove. The flesh along the core, as well as the between the core and the bottom of the pineapple, is a bit more difficult to remove.  Remember that to maximize the available space for the pork ribs; cut as aggressively as possible while retaining the structural integrity of the pineapple.
3 Hollow Pineapple
Ribs

I purchased seven pounds of boneless country cut St. Louis style pork ribs from Publix. I could only fit five pounds into two pineapples.  I used my standard Pulled Pork rub; the mix was too salty for this technique. Rather than post a mixture I will not use again, I’ve adjusted the ratio for what we will use in the future.  The ribs can be coated in the following mixture:

1 tbs kosher salt
1 tsp black ground pepper
4 tsp paprika
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbs brown sugar

The eight spices were blended together and then liberally applied to the ribs.

2 Boneless Pork Ribs

4 spice mix

5 Ribs with spice rub

I was able to fit between 32-40 oz of ribs into each pineapple.  The side of the pineapple was placed over the boneless ribs and secured with kitchen twine.  I recommend soaking the twine in water before smoking so that it does not catch fire during the process.
6 Ribs in Pineapple7 Ribs with lid
We covered the outside of each pineapple with thick sliced honey bourbon bacon.
9 Pineapple on Grill10 Bacon on Pineapple
The planks were placed perpendicular to the grill grates next to the firebox vent. The Swineapple was placed parallel to the fire, to allow for the most even exposure to the heat possible.

We closed the lid at 3pm and checked the firebox every 45 minutes, adding chunks as needed. The temperature remained between 225-250 degrees.

Two hours in the process, we used wooden spatulas with a large surface space to rotate the Swineapple,  The pineapple was soft and fragile; metal tongs were a mistake.

A meat thermometer was used four hours into the process; once the meat reached 160 degrees, we removed them from the heat.

Following standard grilling procedure, the meat was placed on a wooden cutting board and covered with aluminum foil, allowing the pork to rest.

11 After12 Finished Product
Final notes:

This was our first attempt at Swineapple and we will do it again.  That said, the procedure takes almost as long as smoking a turkey or racks of ribs.

We found that the citrus enzymes marinated the pork nicely.

Coring the pineapple and then removing the outer layer of pineapple might allow for more flavor infusion instead of a horizontal cut and scooped out the pineapple.  Another thought is to cut the pineapple down the middle and place the boneless pork ribs in either half, then tying the halves together before placing them on the grill.  Lastly, we would add the bacon much later in the smoking cycle.

I used too many Jack Daniels chunks in the firebox at once; the fire spread rapidly to the cedar planks, hence the blackened planks in the photographs.

We did not add barbecue sauce to the Swineapple. We used traditional offset heat, smoke, and a rib rub for flavor.

Good luck!
@gt24880a

Categories: BBQ Pr0n, Deck, Pork, Prep, Ribs, Smoker, Wood | Leave a comment

Introducing a New Contributor – Johnny Bravo

Some time ago, during my musings on the Twitters, I became acquainted with a fellow Yellow Jacket who goes by the handle of Johnny Bravo, or @gt24880a. Besides our common love for the Ramblin Wreck and hatred for the dwags, we soon found a common bond in the nurturing and consumption of smoked meats.

In fact, I will confess here, that it was his photo of his CharGriller Pro that led me to choose my own.

Johnny's Smoker

I am happy to say that I have met Johnny (honestly, in these days of Twitter, something I cannot say about many of those I follow), and sampled his home smoked bacon, and it is all I had hope it would be. Wonderful.

++++

Then, a few weeks back, a phenomenon took the interwebz by storm – Swineapple. Like most things from the social media world, I tried to ignore it, thinking it would soon end up on Snopes.

That is, until Johnny Bravo took it, and I saw that it, indeed, was A Thing.

So, I have invited Johnny to post about it here, and he graciously agreed, and I think you will agree the results make me want to give Swineapple a try.

Further, I invite him to share as he wishes on these pages in the future.

Welcome, Johnny!

Categories: Admin, Pork | Leave a comment

My Humble Bourbon Beginnings

Jack Daniels

There was a time when the only whiskey I drank was Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7. I first started on Jack when in college, and continued through the years. I did add a couple of scotches to my cabinet (another blog post altogether) but for the most part, my glass was filled with Jack.

But recently I became aware of the growing tide of new bourbons. I began to consider trying something new, but I hesitated on deciding which one.

Then, on Twitter, and about a year ago I saw this:

Alton loves Woodford

Well, despite his choice of colleges, I find his temperament and pastimes to be in line with my own . . .

alton-brown-gun

. . .  so I gave Woodford Reserve a try. (After all, I cannot afford Pappy Van Winkle, even if I could find some.)

And that has led me to here:

 

Woodford

and here

Knob Creek

and here

Bulleit

and here

Ancient

and here

Old Crow Reserve

and, most recently, to here.

Buffalo Trace

 

As you can see, I have tried to cover a wide spectrum of bourbons, and I have sampled enough now, and compared enough, to announce that I will be publishing reviews of these bourbons in the coming weeks.

 

A note on one thing I insist on, that you may notice from the photos:

Few things annoy me more than a food review or drink review from someone, based on only one sample of the thing being reviewed. So know this: I won’t publish my review until I have visited an establishment at least twice, or until I have finished a whole bottle of the beverage.

More to come . . .

 

Categories: Bourbon, Review | Leave a comment

Giving Thanks – Part 2

Turkey smoking

Thanksgiving Day here in Georgia turned out to be a little breezy with temperatures that eventually climbed into the low 40’s F. Fortunately I have a water heater insulating blanket that I was able to use, that helped keep the Smoke Wagon at temperature.

The menu included a whole smoked turkey, and some smoked chicken breasts.

As this was my first whole turkey to smoke, I ended up going a simple route: 24 hours in a fairly simple brine of salt, sugar, and peppercorns; towel dry the bird and let it rest; cover with a light coat of olive oil. Next, smoke with oak at a chamber temperature of 250 to 275, to an internal temperature of 175 in the thickest part of the breast. After that it rested a good half hour before I cut it for serving.

Turkey smoking 2

You may note a couple of pans under the grating. One, on the left, was under the chicken breasts, and contained hot tap water, to keep the atmosphere in the cooking chamber humidified. The one under the turkey was originally empty, to catch the drippings, mostly to keep them out of the bottom of the grill, but also to provide drippings for a gravy.

Some observations:

  • The olive oil was used to help to keep the skin from getting mushy, which was a problem some have noted. From what I can tell this worked.
  • As this was my first smoked turkey, I will note that carving the bird was much different that carving an oven-roasted bird. Almost like brisket, I found that the turkey almost fell apart. This was not a bad thing at all, once I got used to it and switched to a smaller knife.
  • The wood I used, from the fallen branch, while not green per se,  wasn’t dried or seasoned by any means, either. In my observation it burned a little hotter with less smoke than the seasoned wood I have used previously.
  • The insulating blanket was a life saver, and based on reactions I got when posting on Twitter and Facebook, not an option that many had considered previously. I imagine this will change.
  • Everyone in my home thought the turkey and chicken were awesome.
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Giving Thanks – Part 1

Turkey wood 2This year I plan to put my new smoker to good use by smoking a turkey for the family Thanksgiving. But my reasons to give thanks came early, last Sunday, in the midst of some welcome but torrential rain. While I was off at TopGolf with some friends, the good Lord laid at least two, maybe three smoking sessions worth of oak into my yard. I am very thankful.

Second item to be thankful for is that it missed the new deck!

I spent this afternoon making it useful. Turns out there were also enough limbs to feed to fire pit for me and my brother in law as we tend the smoker and the bourbon.

Turkey wood

 

More to come as we make preparations . . .

Categories: Wood | 3 Comments

The Barbecue Deck

I’ve written off and on about my plans to build a deck at the back of my house as a home for the new grill the Smoke Wagon. I am happy to report that Phase 1 of the deck is complete, and the results are great!

Deck complete

This all started as an extension of the landing for the stairs down from the back porch, which was sorely in need of repair, and eventually, replacement. The stairs lead down into an area surrounded by a chain link fence, where our dog lives in the warmer months.

Step Zero: Design

So, how big to make this deck? Without taking the fence down, after rebuilding the landing I would have about 14 feet from the current 4-foot wide landing out to the fence.

One thing to consider, of course, was whether I needed to have a building permit, or have the work inspected. As it turns out, in Cobb County, GA, I do not need a permit or inspection if

  • The deck is 144 square feet or smaller
  • The deck is not connected to the house
  • The deck is less than 30 inches off the ground
  • The deck does not have electrical power run to it

So, I decided to build the deck 12 feet by 12 feet, with the deck boards laid perpendicular to the house.

Of course, then the thing to consider was how to support the deck. Living in the South, I have the advantage of no ground movement to speak of, and that is made doubly sure by the nature of the Georgia red clay. So, I really didn’t have to dig any support footers, or pour any concrete, unless I wanted to. I did not.

So some on-line research led me to a really neat product, concrete deck blocks. There is even a web site that will design the deck, and give you the amount of materials needed. So, with the design web site open, and the local home center web site open in another tab, I copied and pasted materials, placed an order, and went to work on the ground while my order was being readied for pickup.

Here’s the tally:

  • (18) Deck blocks
  • (8) 2×10 joists
  • (30) 2×6 floor boards (yes, 2×6, not 5/4 x 2. These are stronger and allow longer joist spans, saving in joists and deck blocks)
  • (4) precut stair stringers
  • (4) joist hangers for the stairs

All told, probably $700 in materials.

STEP 1: Clear the site

Deck Before 1

My first work was to remove the old grill site, made of concrete blocks, and use a string trimmer to knock all the grass down to nothing. It’s not really necessary to strp the whole area, since it will soon be in the dark, and nature will take care of that.

Once I had it clear, I got an email from the home center, and went off to the store to pick up all the materials.

 

STEP 2: Set the corners

Deck corner stone

I first set the cornerstone of the deck, and made sure it was where the plans said it should be.

Deck second pier

 

 

Next came the second corner, which is leveled with the first. There are 2 ways to level the corners, either with 4×4 support up to the joist, or by digging the high corner in, which I chose to do here.

Deck thrid pier

The third corner is then added from the second. As you can see, in this case I used the 4×4 method.

The fourth corner is added the same way, leveled from the first corner.

STEP 3: Set the joists

Deck all joists

Once all 4 corners were set and the joists leveled, I added the two end boards, then all the intermediate joists. Since my deck is 12 feet by 12 feet, using 12 foot boards meant no cutting, and no fitting. Thank you to the mill personnel who keep 12 foot boards exactly 12 feet long – you made my job easier!

STEP 4: Set the remaining deck blocks and level the joists

Deck all piers

 

Next, the rest of the deck blocks were set in place, and 4×4 supports were cut to bring them all up to the joists, so all the joists were level in both directions. Once they were in place I could start on the easy part, laying the decking, using 2-1/2 inch self drilling deck screws.

STEP 5: Add the decking

Deck decking 1

It went pretty easily from there, except for 4 days of rain in between.

Dek decking 2

Finally, one board remained.

Deck decking 3

STEP 6: Enjoy

Deck complete

Finally, with all the deck boards in place, out came the Smoke Wagon and supporting equipment. Then came the true test on Father’s Day:

Deck fire in the hole

 

Deck cooking

 

All in all, a successful project.

++++++

IN SUMMARY

The deck took longer than I thought, cost more than I thought, was harder to do (mostly because of lifting everything over the dadgum chain  link fence), but I am very pleased with it all. Looking forward to Phase 2, the stairs (already bought) and Phase 3, the landing.

Categories: Deck | Leave a comment

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