Sunday, August 17, 2008

Smoking Pork Butts

Duke's bbq is my favorite restaurant back home and one of the few things I actually crave. Last time I tried making pulled pork, I used a crock pot, and it came out well, but was super moist. Now that we've moved and have a grill, I decided it was time to try doing it a more old-fashioned way, smoking the pork shoulder. To celebrate the occassion and to help eat the massive amount of pork, I started inviting people over and just kept mentioning it to other. Somehow, we ended up with an unexpected party of about 18 people.

I went to the local butcher and got a nice 8.5 lb Boston Butt. The night before, I made a pretty typical spice rub and slathered it all over.

I sealed this puppy in some plastic wrap and let it sit overnight.

I'm lucky to have a job that let's me work remotely, and since Wednesday is the unofficial day to work from home, I decided to do just that because I'd rather hog the communal grill all day on Wednesday rather than Sunday. So I woke up quite early and got the grill ready.

So I'll go ahead and complain about our grill now, but I don't really plan on using it much. The main reason is I swear it catches on fire too much because it hasn't been cleaned in god knows how long. There's just too much gunk at the bottom and cleaning off the grates is not enough. This meant I had to keep a close eye on it, so nothing would catch on fire for too long. I say too long because there were a few fires.

Once the meat caught on fire; however, I'll take responsibility for this one as I was just starting out and forgot to turn the burner directly under the meat off. That one halted pretty quickly once I turned the burner off. However, the main problem was with the wood chips. I don't know if anyone else has tried to smoke, especially on a gunky gas grill, but every once in a while the woodchips would stop just smoking and start burning.

The basic setup: keep the burners on the right on, put the woodchips that I had soaked in water on top of those burners in a throwaway aluminum pan, and put the meat over to the left so there was no direct heat under it.

Sometimes the smoking did work really well. To make sure it made it all the way over to the meat, I tried to cover a lot of the extra vents in the grill with tinfoil. I was also a little paranoid about it drying out, so I made a "mop." Basically I took some cider vinegar and apple juice and slathered it on the meat generously every once in a while.

I debated just letting the woodchips burn, as I figured it wasn't that big of a deal, but being my first time and trying not to get in trouble with the home-owners association, I decided to stay out there and watch it closely. Anytime the wood caught on fire, I'd throw some water on it so it didn't get out of hand.

Overall it worked pretty well, and I tried to keep the temperature around 250 degrees while making sure to keep the fires under control. After about 5 hours of smoking, around 1 PM, the fire went out for no reason, and I gave up lighting it, so I wrapped it in tinfoil and moved the cooking in the oven. Coking in the oven's a lot easier as I can just set it (at 275 degrees) and let it cook without worrying about fires.

I read so many different tutorials on how to smoke a pork shoulder, and I watched about 5 different videos on it. Everyone had a different opinion on when to take out the pork. Numbers ranged from 160 to 210. I decided to go for around 190-195, which seemed to be somewhere in the middle. After I took it out, I let it rest for about 2 hours while I waited for dinner time to arrive and to make the other dishes (macaroni and cheese, and cornbread).

When I took it out, it was falling apart, and I couldn't even move it to another tray in one piece.

Apparently smoking it causes the outside to be black. I wanted it to be a little smokier and crunchier on the outside, but it still turned out really well--perfectly moist. The crockpot one was too juicy; this one was much better.

For the sauce, I obviously used the Duke's bbq sauce, which is my idea of heaven in a bottle, but also I decided to make a Mojo sauce (basically citrus + garlic).

For the sides, I made some cornbread, following Alton Brown's recipe. It turned out decent. Personally I like the corn bread a little more moist and with some more flavor (maybe sweeter or with some jalapenos).

I also made some Mac and Cheese. I looked around for some recipes and settled on a Martha Stewart one that seemed to get great reviews.

Because more people were showing up than I originally planned, I multiplied the recipe by 50%. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough sharp cheddar, so I used some extra gruyere (recipe called for gruyere and sharp cheddar). Personally, I didn't like the gruyere and adding more was a mistake. I should've just made sure to keep the ratios between the cheeses proportional. Other, more hardcore mac-n-cheese fans, seemed to like the dish, though. Rather than make my own breadcrumbs, I decided to use panko breadcrumbs. This turned out well, but I think I'll add some butter next time to make sure they get nice and brown on top.

Overall the party turned out really well. Because I only made 3 dishes it was a relatively easy dinner even though we were serving 18. It's a lot easier just making 3 big dishes.

Also, I was shocked at how close I was to estimating everyone's appetite. There was just a really small amount of food left. However, I decided to make some pulled pork because I was just really in the mood for some. Pulled pork always seems to freeze really well, and I was looking forward to leftovers. Sadly , I didn't get any of those, but everyone had a good time and enjoyed the food, so I can't complain too much.

The make-shift party ended up being a success. I guess it was kinda an unoffical housewarming party, just with less people and a dirtier house :-) I'm still waiting to throw a real housewarming party, as I didn't invite everyone, but I need to cleanup some more and hopefully get a pot rack to clear up some kitchen space. I'm also not really sure what to do for the party (just h'oure d'oeuvres perhaps or perhaps a Beaufort boil). If anyone has suggestions, let me know. Also, if anyone's smoked a pork butt before and has some pointers for some of my problems, throw a comment at me.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Typical Dinner

So as we're getting back into cooking around the new apartment, I'm back to cooking a pretty typical dinner for me. Basically it consists of chicken, rice, and some veggies. We've been in a smoothie kick of late and had some yogurt lying around, so I decided to try to make yogurt chicken. It's essentially breaded chicken, but instead of a butter or egg wash, it uses yogurt with some lemon.

The recipe I used was . I then cooked some rice-a-roni and veggies with some butter and garlic salt. Everything turned out pretty well. I decided to cook the chicken on a cooling rack based on a commenter's recommendation so it wouldn't cook in any of the fat. The chicken came out well, but the rack was a bitch to clean. I let it soak for a while and tried my best. Sticking it in the dishwasher seemed to do the trick and get everything out.

Double Chocolate Cake

I was cleaning out some photos, and I found some from a really delicious cake I made. This was for my 1 year anniversary at Adobe (woohoo!). After making red velvet cakes and cupcakes, I decided to go with something much more typical, so I looked for a particularly sinful recipe, which I found from epicurious:

Here are all the ingredients in the recipe. I stole some coffee from work that day since I'm way too lazy to make my own. One thing I did find out when I made this was just how expensive the ingredients are, especially the chocolate.

Here are the two layers after baking. The recipe called for 10 inch pans, but unfortunately, all I have are 9 inch pans. These puppies barely fit and one spilled over just a teensy bit. I haven't made many layer cakes, but I've found they never come out perfectly circular and the top is always bigger than the bottom, so I end up doing some trimming (and still have a somewhat lopsided cake).

Unfortunately, this is where the photos stop. The end result was amazing. I recommend refrigerating the icing before trying to ice the cake because mien end up dripping a little bit. It still covered everything and stayed put, but there ended up being some extra goop down at the bottom.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Grilling 101

So two months have passed, and I haven't blogged here. I'll try to do better :-)

I've noticed I motivated a friend of mine to start blogging about food, but from the look of his blog he actually knows what he's talking about. He's doing a much better job posting than I am as well. Check out HungryKyle.

One of my excuses is that I moved to a new apartment near Alamo Square (near the Full House houses). Once we get a pot rack, and I get some stuff for my room, like a bookshelf, I'll take some pics and post them up(so like 2 more months).

So I've got no photos about food, but I do want to tell some things I've learned about cooking.

So I really love a good steak. I've been to a few expensive restaurants, and the only one I'd really consider going back to is Bobo's steakhouse because it was probably the best steak I've ever had. I'm sure I'll go back and realize it was a fluke experience, but for now, I consider it the best steakhouse in the SF.

I had been bummed before about being in an apartment and having to cook steaks inside, but I started cooking and experimenting with different ways to do it, and now, I can honestly say I like cooking them indoors more than outdoors (and we have a communal grill at our new apartment). I watched Alton Brown cook steaks inside once, and after trying his method, I'll never go back to anything else.

I like a good, peppery and well seasoned steak, so what I do is brush the steaks in a little vegetable oil, and then I use a generous amount of Montreal Steak seasoning (kosher salt and black pepper works as well). I put a cast iron (really needs to be cast iron as regular stainless steel doesn't seem to work as well) in the oven for about 15-20 minutes at 500 degrees (or however hot the oven goes...mine goes to 550). Then I take it out and put it on the stove at high. I throw the steaks on for about 1 minute each side, and then I put it in the oven and cook for about 2 minutes each side for medium rare. You gotta let it rest for about 10 minutes after that. I always know how long to cook the steak when doing it indoors, and they come out absolutely perfect.

I also learned how to make an amazing hamburger this weekend because I did a little more research online. Key things I really didn't know: you need about 20% fat for hamburger meat, and you don't want to squeeze the meat want to make the patty light and fluffy.

So I went to costco and got 12 lb's of beef. The problem was it was only 12% fat, so I threw in some butter to get it more moist and juicy. A few hours before cooking, I tossed in some garlic salt and some worstershire sauce. I was afraid the garlic salt would dry out the meat, but I didn't want to have to mix them at the bbq. It ended up being perfectly fine, but I'm not sure if it's really recommended to salt a lot before cooking meat. Anyways, the other thing about hamburgers is you should only flip them once, or they might fall apart on the grill, especially since the patties aren't particularly dense. It takes only about 4 or 5 minutes on each side to cook them.

The burgers came out absolutely perfect. Inbae had some spinach and grilled onions with balsamic vinegar. He also made some homemade bbq sauce, but what I really loved on the burger was some garlic aioli sauce I made. Garlic aioli is essentially garlic mayo, and it's absolutely delicious. The recipe I followed was one from Emeril. I didn't really like the way it came out initially (I realized after the fact that our olive oil might actually be going rancid because it's gotten too much sunlight). To doctor it up, I threw in some dijon mustard, extra lemon juice, some cayenne pepper, and some garlic powder. Our kitchen wreaked of garlic, but the sauce was delicious. I don't think I've ever had anyone ask for the recipe for a hamburger before, and this time atleast 3 people asked me how I did it. Christine even asked for some extra raw meat and sauce to take home, so she could make it herself.

One problem I've had at bbq's before was when I tried making chicken, I felt the marinade made the chicken juicy but didn't add much flavor. However, Inbae made jerk chicken, and I think it was the right move. He used a recipe I sent him off of epicurious, which is one of my favorite food websites because their recipes are top-notch. Anyways, the chicken was probably the best grilled chicken I've had in a really, really long time. The food at the bbq this weekend was just all-around fantastic.

Anyways, I hope to start taking more photos of the food, and I'll try to post here a little more frequently :)