Friday, September 30, 2011

Some like it HOT!

Not all cooking is about BBQ or even a gas or charcoal fired grill. I'm fooling around with some Habañero recipes. Mostly I'm posting just to show off their incredible colors.

The red peppers in particular look great but the orange Habañeros are no slouch either when it comes to intensity of color.

The first recipe I tried was a simple recipe from Rick Bayless which included carrots, onions and some garlic in addition to the Habañeros. It really packs a punch. I had some on reheated beef and chicken Fajitas for lunch and it was pretty good. (One change - I used shallots instead of onion as that's what I had on hand.

For the next recipe I wanted to try something that would be good with chips. For that I went with a fruity concoction called Aunt Lindy's Habsolutely Mango. It uses a lot less Habañero for the volume of salsa. It has a nice fruity flavor and the heat doesn't gob-smack you when you first taste it. Instead the heat builds as the fruit flavor fades. It eventually gets fairly hot but not unbearably so.

I've got some canned peaches so tomorrow I'll have a go at some Habanero Peach salsa. And with all of the tomatoes that are ripening I might make some of that. I might even add some Jalapeños to the mix. I have one Jalapeño plant that suddenly decided to set a couple dozen fruit. I guess the weather a couple weeks ago was conducive to Jalapeño fruit set.

The red peppers above? Those are for drying. They're Red Rockets and I've strung them on some string and they're hanging in a warm oven to dry.

Update:  I figured I better do something with the remaining Habañeros. I split them in half, seeded them, boiled them for about 15 minutes and pureed them. Wow! Just seeding them I had to open a window as the fumes were making me cough and sneeze and my nose was running!  The particular variety of capsaicin found in Habañeros is subtle but potent. When I boiled them I had to turn on the exhaust fan or I couldn't stay in the room. It makes me wonder what kind of protection they use in plants where they process these commercially.

I also made some peach salsa. I used:
  • 1 15.5 oz can of peaches (drained)
  • 2 medium tomatoes peeled and seeded. (*)
  • about 1/4 C sautéed onion.
  • 2 Tbsp frozen orange juice concentrate.
  • 1 Tbsp white vinegar.
  • a small amount of the following spices:
  • cinnamon
  • allspice
  • cumin
  • powdered ginger
  • 1 Tbsp of the pureed Habañeros. That's probably between one and two Habañeros.
That was plenty of heat for something that I didn't want to be particularly hot. Again, it starts with the fruity flavor and the heat comes on slowly and builds to a nice hot crescendo.  (That's on the initial tasting. The flavors may change as the spices meld.) Now I wonder if I should have put some vinegar in the salsa. I'll have to try some with a little vinegar added. ... Yes! About 1 Tbsp white vinegar and 2 Tbsp frozen orange juice concentrate brighten this up nicely. I'd consider adding lime or lemon juice, but the peach flavor is subtle and I don't want to overpower it totally. I'm going to call this salsa done. Now I guess I need to run out and get some more chips.

I've got two cups of pureed  Habañeros on 4 oz. containers in addition to the hot sauce and two fruit salsas I've already prepared. I think think I have plenty of "hot stuff" to last me a while.

(*) I dropped the tomatoes into boiling water for a minute or so to loosen the skin. I also stroked them with the back of a knife to further loosen the skin and they peel easily.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

ABTs for a party.

I decided to bring some ABTs (Atomic Buffalo Turds) to a party as a side dish. I started by going to a local Mexican grocery to buy a dozen jalapeños. I figured that if I went there, I'd be most likely to get some hot (picoso) ones. Some that I've gotten at regular groceries have been disappointingly mild.

I followed pretty much the recipe I used previously including the spicy sausage. this time I chopped the sausage and mixed it in rather than quartering them and pressing them into the cheese mix. I sprinkled with a little Ancho chile powder.

Outside conditions are 61°, sunny and wind at about 10 mph.

I'm cooking in the mini using briquettes left over from a previous smoke to which I added some lit lump I used to roast some red peppers for another recipe. I used some Mesquite chips and a couple chunks of Hickory for smoking wood. The ABTs are going on the top grate with no water pan. This is a kind of indirect cooking due to the distance from fire to grate. Temperature was measured with a Maverick probe just below the grate.

timetemp comment
ABTs on. I closed the bottom vents to about 1/3 and left the top vent full open.
3:01321°Should peek in soon.
3:14325°And they're done. Probably could have taken them off sooner, but I do like the bacon a bit crisp.

They seemed to be well received by the party goers. I put them in a large cast iron skillet and reheated them on a stove top. They weren't as good as when they came off the grill, but none were left and I did get compliments on them. They varied in heat from pretty mild to hot.

For the benefit of anyone not familiar with the mini-WSM, (Weber Smoky Mountain) this is a Smoky Joe to which a middle section has been added using a Tamale steaming pot with the bottom removed. It's a very convenient size for cooks like this.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Beef today

Today's primary project is to make some  Gaucho Beef ribs for family. Before I got those on however I started with some beef heart. I was going to braise it (w/out flour) in the small Dutch oven but once I started, I decided to put it on the smoker for a bit. This is a tough piece of beef that is going to take a lot of cooking before it is ready to eat. I'll smoke it for a while and then bring it inside and simmer it in the Dutch oven until tender. Prep was simple. I cut it into cubes approximately 1.5" across. Pieces vary in thickness up to about 1" thick. I added no seasoning as there will be plenty of time to do that during the simmer. Eventually I'll either make soup or chili with the meat.

Cooking is on the mini-WSM, top grate with water in the bowl. It's fired with Stubbs briquettes (and some Kingsford Blue left over from a previous smoke.) Smoking wood is a couple pieces of Mesquite.

Weather at present is a very pleasant 61° and sunny with winds at 7 knotts. Temperature is expected to get up to 70° this afternoon.

Beef heart is about 3-4 lb that was frozen and thawed in the refrigerator.

Temperature is measured with a probe inserted through the lid and a Maverick ET-73 probe at the grate. The Maverick provides a remote readout. I'm not sure there is any benefit to the lid temp. The probe is short and I don't think it reflects smoker temp in any meaningful way.

timetemp comment
10:17 AM
Beef Heart on

11:19272°/170°Grate had been holding pretty steady at ~240° F and seems to have jumped. I put another thermometer in the lid vent to project about 4" into the cooker to see if I can get a better reading. I'm about ready to start the beef back ribs and want to use the Maverick to monitor temperature in the Platinum.
11:30284°Removed the Maverick probe to move to the Platinum for the ribs.
12:50250°/275°Meat off. Temp measured in the lid using two thermometers which read 250° and 275° (longer one.) The meat is in the Dutch oven and back on the stove to continue to cook.
The chunks of beef are still simmering in the small Dutch oven and are still pretty firm. They're going to take a bit longer to finish! Perhaps adding some tomato sauce will help things along. The acid in the tomatoes may help to soften the meat.
Added a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes to the meat in the Dutch oven.

After simmering for about half a day I gave up on the beef heart. It was still pretty firm and didn't even taste good. I pitched it.

Today's main event is going to be beef back ribs prepared Gaucho style. Those will be cooked using indirect method in my Platinum (which has the sort of standard 22 1/2" kettle.) I'll be fioring that with some lump (Steakhouse and Mesquiite) and using Mesquite and oak as smoking woods.

timetemp comment
Lump in the basket and grate in place. Bottom vent about 1/2 open. Almost within seconds the temp shot up to 400°. I closed the vent to 1/4 while I prep the ribs.
11:45395°Ribs on! I also threw some oak and mesquite chips on the coals. Temp dropped to about 290° with the lid closed but looks like it's climbing back up.
12:50300°Ribs look well along. They're just starting to pull back on the bone. I think I'll turn them now. I also closed the bottom vent to a bit less than 1/4.
1:30268°Turned the ribs back up. They're pretty much done and I'll just leave them on a bit longer to color up part of one that was covered due to overlap.
1:45270°Ribs off to rest. While they do, I'll spread out the coals and roast some spuds.

Note to self: Remember to use a drip pan with these ribs. Otherwise when the coals are spread for direct roasting, the grease ignites and must be left to burn off before anything else can be cooked.

The ribs were a bit of a disappointment meat wise. They had been trimmed a bit too diligently by the processor. In fact, there were complete gaps between some of the bones. Flavor was otherwise very good.

The ribs and roasted potatoes were served with a tossed salad which rounded them out very well.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Chicken Liver => Smoked Liver Pâté (plus ABTs)

I got several pounds of frozen chicken livers so I decided to try some smoked chicken liver pâté. I put some on the counter for a bit and then in the fridge overnight to thaw. Unfortunately in the morning I found that I had thawed some chicken hearts. :( I grabbed a bag (2 lb?) of frozen chicken livers and put them in warm water to quick thaw. By this time I had already started my fire so I was in a bit of a bind. Eventually I decided to put the partially frozen livers in a Corning Ware casserole in the smoker at as low a temperature as I could muster. After they were thawed and separated, I could raise the temperature.

Seasonings included a fairly large thinly sliced shallot. I forgot the garlic, but I think the shallot may be all I need. I also added three bay leaves and a sprinkle of dried thyme. Inspiration for this recipe came from Jacques Pépin. I modified it of course, using the chicken livers on hand, not so expensive brandy and not nearly so much butter.

Smoking will be done in the mini-WSM using briquettes and some hickory and a little mesquite. I figured the liver was strong flavored and should stand up to a strong smoke flavor.

Weather is a very pleasant 66° and sunny. Wind is light at 10 mph.

Fire started using the Minion method and left to burn about 10 minutes before putting the meat on. At that time I closed the bottom vent about 3/4. Temperature is monitored via a lid thermometer and the Maverick remote.

timetemp comment
meat on!
4:45215°/155°Tried to separate the meat. Still frozen so I put it in a larger casserole.
5:17222°/155°Separating again. All livers are thawed.
5:45262°/155°Stirred the livers up a bit to expose more to the smoke. There's a fair bit of liquid in there now which I'll leave there. It's bloody now but should look like cooked liver when the liver is done. Grate temp seems to be coming up nicely w/out any adjustment necessary.
6:09302°/180°Starting to look more done. Not cooking so evenly so I stirred them about a bit to even things out. I also note that the water in the bowl is gone but that's no big surprise since the temperature is climbing. (Water helps to keep the temperature down.)
6:25331°/190°Stirred again - almost done.
7:06328°/190°Looks done - I'm taking the liver off.

Next food on...

I pureed the livers with some brandy and butter and a little water until smooth. I'm sure I didn't use nearly as much butter as Pepin recommends, but that's too much for me anyway. I got nearly 4 C of pâté out of the process and it tastes good!

While I've got the smoker fired up, I'm going to make another batch of ABTs. I picked up some Jalapeños at a Mexican grocery (Rosita's? La Rosati's? Across from Menards in Bloomingdale at North Avenue and Bloomingdale Road.) I hope that this way I'll get hot jalapeños and not really mild ones like at Meijer in Owosso, MI. I'll use the Neufchâtel cheese that's been in the refrigerator for months? Years? Still tastes OK or I'd use the no-fat cream cheese I bought today. Again I'll mix in some shredded sharp cheddar and honey. Instead of onion flakes, I'll use chopped shallot. (Yes, I have extra shallots left over from making Salsa Verde over the weekend.) This time I have some Chile Ancho powder that I'll use to dust on the ABTs before cooking. I also have some pulled pork to chop and mix in the cheese spread. I did come up 4 ABTs short of having enough bacon to wrap all so those got some bacon bits (TVP) instead. The ABTs will go on the smoker when the liver is done.

7:10330°/190°ABTs on!
7:59302°/190°ABTs coming along nicely. maybe another half hour or so.
8:35310°/190°ABTs off!
ABTs came out good again. They're a little on the sweet side but that's not really a bad thing. The jalopies are hot and a little sprinkle of ancho chili is nice. The ones with the bacon bits were good too.