Sunday, March 31, 2013

Standing Rib Roast for Easter

I've wanted to do a standing rib roast for a long time. We just never had an excuse to o that until now. It's a great main course for Easter and they're on sale. I got a 9 1/4 pound roast for $4.99/lb.

 It's a nice looking piece of meat with lots of marbling.

Weather is beautiful today with temps at about 45° at the beginning of the cook and hitting upper 50s midway through. Wind was brisk at first but mid-cook is stiff at 22mph with gusts to 28.

I wrapped the roast it in clean towels for about 3 days for 'dry aging.'  Rub will be simple consisting of salt, pepper and coriander. The plan is to slow cook at about 225° to an IT of about 118°. Then the meat will be rested while a kettle is fired up to 'nuclear' for a nice hot reverse sear.

The initial portion of the cook will be done on the 18.5 WSM (Weber Smokey Mountain.) Water pan will be foiled and left dry. I'm using the Royal Oak briquettes (the sort of dumbbell shaped ones.) I've got some oak with a little mesquite and black walnut for smoking woods. This was my second opportunity to use my new mini-chimney today. :D

timetemp comment
Lit chimney set on fire lay.
Lit chimney dumped on the coals and cooker closed up, top vent open and one bottom vent open.
11:05 Closing bottom to about 50% of one vent.
11:17?/270°/230°Meat on! Closing the single bottom vent to about 25% and top vent to about 50%
11:2732°/244°/?Temp moderate and dropping slowly. Holding off on further adjustment for now. (Open top vent at 11:31)
1:17 PM75°/230°/200°
1:5391°/257°/220°Temps climbing as wind comes up. 18 mph with gusts to 25. Temperature is now 56°. Closed top vent to about 2/3.
2:16100°/246°/?Closed bottom vent to even smaller than before.
3:10117°/234°/?Meat off to rest!

(meat/grate/lid) => (ET-732 meat probe, ET-732 cooker probe, lid thermometer)

Here is the roast ready to rest.

After the rest, it went on a screaming hot grill to sear, but I did not keep it on there long as it caused grease fires almost immediately.

The roast came out very well for my first attempt. I sliced off the bones before carving it turned out to be pretty rare. It released almost no moisture while resting but did give up bright red juice while carving. I served end cuts for those who prefer their meat a little more cooked, I also offered to throw some on a hot cast iron pan to finish it a little more but no one took me up on the offer.

Flavor was terrific. Exposed surfaces had a pleasantly smoky flavor and the pepper, salt and coriander worked well with the meat.

Cindy made a fancy fruit salad to go with.

We also had (among other sides) grilled asparagus and Duchess potatoes.

I don't think I would do anything during the cook any differently. Instead of trying to sear on a kettle, I might try using the smoker and just firing it up as hot as I can get it. I think it would also make more sense to trim all of the fat that I can prior to dry aging.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Another run at Good Pizza™

And now for something entirely different. I've been working on pizza lately for a couple reasons. First, I like pizza. OK, one reason. I think I can make a healthy pizza too. I've been trying whole wheat dough for the crust. It's a bit of work, but I hope it will be worth the effort. For this batch I'm using a recipe I found at this blog. Unlike the previous recipe I tried, this one uses 100% whole wheat. I started it two days ago and took the two dough components out of the refrigerator at 11:00 AM.  The biga (with yeast) is on the right and even in the refrigerator it has risen.

At about 2:30 PM I combined them (using molasses instead of honey) and then let it rise for a while on a heating pad.

After turning it out, I cut it into four parts and spread one out on my 14 inch pizza peel (my new toy. :D ) The first pizza I made used pulled pork for meat and I added peppers, onions, mushrooms and several kinds of cheese. Before adding the toppings, I spread some EVOO infused with garlic on the dough. I'm not sure if that's the proper way to make a pizza but I like the garlic.

I had lit two full chimneys of lump charcoal in the Performer and preheated the firebrick in the oven to 250°F. The bed of coals spread pretty much across the entire charcoal grate. I threw a couple chunks of oak in for some smoking wood. I allowed some time to preheat the firebrick (while building the pizza) and then it went on the fire. I also tilt the lid a little to provide a gap of about 1/2" on one side. Without that the fire seems to starve for air.

Weather was warm (relatively) at 41°F with wind light at about 10 mph. the sky was overcast but bright.

Below are some time/temp milestones for this cook.

timetemp comment
4:15 PM420°/230°
pre-warmed firebrick on the hot grill
4:35460°/600°Heating up fast!
First pie on!
Cheese melting and toppings curling.

First pie off! (Forgot to check time.)
4:58500°/685°Second pies on (on CI griddles.)

Second pies off!

(lid/brick) => (Performer lid thermometer / IR thermometer reading off the firebrick)

The first pie was slightly burned on the bottom. In fact, it left some charred material on the bricks. Yet the cheese had not yet browned. Toppings were cooked, but not quite to my liking. With the firebrick getting even hotter, I decided to use cast iron tortilla griddles for the next pies. I divided the next lump of dough in half again and built two pies using some smoked chicken. They cooked more evenly top to bottom. The only problem was that one cooked faster than the other and overcooked a bit. Fortunately one was just about perfect (and that's the word that Cindy used to describe it.)

The first pie looks OK on top, but the bottom is a little charred.

This one baked on the griddle was just right.

(It looks a little burned at the edge in the picture, but that is just how the whole wheat dough browns.)

If I'm going to use a peel, I really ought to get a second one. It would be nice to have one free to build the next pizza on before I remove the previous one from the grill. I'm not eager to move the assembled pizza (on raw dough) any more than absolutely necessary. The other thing I need to do is get the heat balance between top and bottom right. That means either more heat on the top or less on the bottom (firebrick.) One thing I might do is just continue to use the cast iron griddle. I can get a 14" CI pizza griddle (not Lodge, unfortunately) at Bed Bath & Beyond. I might also try modifying the arrangement of the firebrick and coals. I could leave one of the side bricks out and mound the fire toward that end of the cooker to put more heat over the platform and less on the platform itself. Of course that would result in less even heat and I would have to rotate the pie for more even cooking. I still have half the dough left so I'll have an opportunity to take another shot at this Friday.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Pastrami for St. Patrick's Day

With St. Patrick's Day a couple days away I thought it would be good to get a corned beef brisket and smoke it - commonly known as Pastrami (though it is not technically a Pastrami, it is close enough and darn good!) I'll be following the guidelines I found at Playing with Fire and Smoke and which come highly recommended. I started with a 4 lb brisket I found at Sam's and which happens to be the brand recommended in the blog. Today (Friday morning) it goes in a cold water soak so I can start leaching out the excess salt. The actual smoke will be done Sunday morning. I also bought a second brisket to use to make the more traditional corned beef and cabbage. We will be serving both.

Weather conditions - TBD

Preparation and recipes - per the link described above. First soak the brisket in cold water, changing several times. For smoking I will use the following rub.
  • 4 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper (more if you like it peppery)
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons Canadian/Montreal Steak seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme, dried
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
and instead of Montreal Steak Seasoning, add:
  • dill
  • Cayenne flakes
(Montreal Steak Seasoning. <sigh> This is one of those things like Chili Powder that gets my undies in a bunch. It contains  garlic, coriander, black pepper, Cayenne pepper flakes, dill seed, and salt. Note that everything except Cayenne and dill is already in the recipe. Why not just list appropriate quantities of dill and Cayenne and be done with it! So I did.)

Pre-smoke prep

datetime comment
2013-03-1510:00 AMBrisket rinsed and put in cold water soak.

7:00 PMChanged soak water.
2013-03-167:00 AMChanged soak water.

4:00 PMChanged soak water.

10:15 PMDried off the brisket and applied the rub.
2013-03-178:20 AMIn crock pot with spices and 2 qt water. Crock Pot set to low.

3:20 PMAdded carrots, onion, celery and potatoes.

4:45 Not satisfied with progress. Put cabbage in a large pot and moved the rest of the stuff from the crock pot to the stove. 

5:25At light boil - Meat at 176° and still probing pretty firm.

6:00Meat ready to serve. Carrots still firm but cabbage a bit overcooked.

I plan to smoke this on the mini - perfect size for that. Looking at previous brisket smokes, I need to plan about 6 hours for this so I think I need to have it on the fire no later than 6:00 AM. Going to be an early morning! I'll use some of those new Royal a Oak briquettes and some pecan and oak for smoking wood, I think. Desired serve time is 5:00 PM. Allowing an hour for resting and 5 hours for smoking, I want to get it on the smoker at 11:00 AM.

Argh! Remote thermometer woes. The new ET-732 is reading all over the place on the cooker probe. The ET-73 is not receiving inside. I'm recharging some batteries for the 73 to see if that helps.yu

timetemp comment
11:10 AM
Meat on the smoker!

12:13191°/124°meat moving so I'll leave it be for a while.
2:17192°/154°Still going OK. Threw another piece of oak on the coals which seem to be mostly gone. And the ET-732 seems to be reading the cooker OK. Lid temperature is now approaching the thermometers so I opened the bottom vents to 1/2 each (was one at 1/2)
Added some more briquettes
5:26255°/171°Should be done now. Still probing pretty firm. (Water pan now dry.)
6:00250°/172°Meat off to rest while boiled corned beef is sliced.
(grate,meat) => (ET-73 cooker probe, ET-732 meat probe)

Might as well document the plans for the other brisket. I bought two. The plan is to smoke one and to boil the other with cabbage, carrots following Alton Brown's recipe except that I'll be doing it in a crock pot. That should take about 9 hours so I need to get the brisket in at 8:00 AM. Veggies will go in about an hour before the meat is done.

Both briskets were taken to an internal temp of just above 170° and both really needed more cooking. They were both pretty firm. I sliced as thinly as I could but they were still too chewy. They were also a bit heavy on black pepper. The cabbage still wound up overcooked. Potatoes were also falling apart.

There is a lot of room for improvement on this one. I need to plan more time for the corned beef next time. Getting it to 170° was not sufficient. I will also back off on the pepper in the rub and boil. And I need to stage the veggies. Carrots first followed by potatoes and once the brisket is done, add the cabbage. 15 minutes extra for the corned beef is not going to matter while an extra hour for the cabbage leaves it pretty limp. I also need to check