Sunday, December 28, 2008


I've been in a bit of rut the past couple weeks. I've been itching to make some bbq, but have not found the occasion to. I have been waiting eagerly for New Year's Eve so I can make some pulled pork sliders for a party I am going to. As always, I like to do a little field research to inspire some good BBQ mojo. I can think of no better place in NYC than Daisy May's BBQ on 46th Street and 11th Ave.

This place is just hands down the best barbeque in the city. It's location is a little unassuming in hell's kitchen, but it's food speaks volumes. I had the barbequed brisket with creamed spinach and brown sugar sweet potatoes.
The brisket was tender and had a sweet/spicy sauce that perfectly complemented the smoked meat. The sweet potatoes were smooth and creamy. I could eat these sweet potatoes all day long. The spinach was also quite creamy and provided a nice savory balance to the sweet potatoes.
My buddy got this amazing beef rib pictured above. This rib was Fred Flintstone size. I was fortunately that he could not finish it so I was able to get a taste. I was a little concerned that a rib of that size might be a little dry and stringy, but I was pleasantly surprised by how tender and flavorful the meat was. It just melted in your mouth. The sauce was similar to that of the beef brisket and worked well with the tender rib meat.

All in all an amazing BBQ experience. Daisy May's continues to deliver top notch barbeque food. I'm a little worried that their location holding them back, but they have been there a long time so I'm sure they will be alright. It's nice being able to go and not have to wait in the ridiculous lines that plague some of the other BBQ restaurants in the city. The funny thing is that crummy bbq joints like Dallas BBQ have no problem packing the place, just because they are located in times square.

I feel ready to begin putting together my sliders. Recipe to follow in the new year...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Mmmm... Sliders

Well, I have my next cooking assignment. It isn't until New Years though so I will definitely be making something in between now and then. I'm going to be making some pulled pork sliders for a New Year's party I am going to. What is a slider you ask? It is essentially a miniature version of a hamburger. White Castle is a classic example of what a slider is (they are also called belly bombers by some). What is great about sliders is that you get all of the taste and flavors of a regular hamburger in a bite size package that can be enjoyed along with other appetizers.

Why not apply this concept to world of barbeque? Sure it is always good to have a giant pulled pork sandwich that will put you to sleep for the rest of the night. But New Years is about staying up late and if everyone eats a ton of barbeque, it is going to be hard to make it until midnight. With that said, I am going to be making some pulled pork sliders to ring in 2009 properly. I will be coming up with a special spice blend and depending on the timing, may try making my own barbeque sauce again, although after a lot of experimenting, I have concluded that the best and most affordable barbeque sauces you can get are sold in a bottle.

On a side note, while I was home in Boston for Thanksgiving I went back to The Village Smokehouse for some of their mammoth beef ribs. That place delivers every time. Hats off to the pit master over there for delivering unwavering quality in his barbeque.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Tour of BBQ Sauces

Over the years I have tried a lot of different types of BBQ sauce. I thought I would run through a little exercise for myself to decide which one is my favorite. If anyone would like to throw their two cents in, please feel free. I have broken down the competitors as follows:

1.) Memphis Style

A moderately thick, sweeter sauce made up tomato, vinegar and brown sugar base with additional spices ranging from mild to hot.

2.) Kansas City Style

A very thick and sweet sauce with a tomato and molasses base.

3.) St. Louis

A tomato and vinegar based sauce that is essentially a thinner, less sweet version of Kansas City style BBQ sauce.

4.) South Carolina

A mustard based based sauce that is generally paired with pulled pork.

Now I fully recognize that this list is far from complete. I have not yet had the privilege to travel to some of U.S BBQ hotbeds, something I'm hoping to do next summer. I am going off what I have the most experience with for this comparison.

Now I do like Memphis and Kansas City Style sauces a lot. The thicker texture and sweet flavor make both of them a nice complement to any meat. My only issue would be, and this does depend on the sauce, that these types of sauces can sometimes overwhelm the flavor of the rub and the meat and should be used sparingly so that they provide good flavor without masking the taste of the meat you have been cooking for 14 hours.

South Carolina is also a great sauce, especially with Pork, but is generally a little thinner and depending on the sauce can be a little too tangy for my tastes.

What I have found is that I like a good balance of texture, sweetness and just the right amount of tanginess (not sure if this is a word or not, but you see where I am going). In the end my conclusion is that I am a St. Louis BBQ sauce guy. It's not too thick, not too sweet and works well with pork, brisket, ribs and just about any other barbequed meat out there.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Bone in vs. Bone out Pork Shoulder

I have read a lot of articles praising the value of cooking meat with the bone in. In addition to adding a lot of flavor, these sources indicate that cooking meat with the bone in can also help keep your meat moist during the cooking process. It is also pretty cool when the meat has finished cooking to be able to simply pull the bone right out without any type of resistance from the meat itself. Additionally, it is generally cheaper to buy meat with the bone in because it requires less labor by the butcher.

There are some caveats however to buying meat, especially pork shoulders, with the bone in. For one thing, depending on the size of your crockpot, it can be difficult to squeeze in as much meat because you have to contend with an immovable object that is the shoulder bone. I would also argue that while the bone in shoulders tend to be cheaper, you always have to consider that you are paying for the bone itself, which can account for a lot of weight. Buying pork shoulder with the bone in will also require more work on your part to trim away a lot of excess fat which has been left on.

I have made pork shoulder using deboned pork butts and bone in shoulders and couldn't say that I have noticed much of a difference in taste or moisture between the two. This could have a lot to do with nature of the crockpot itself, which keeps the meat moist throughout the entire cooking process. I am also a big fan of dry rubs and barbecue sauces, which could block out whatever subtle flavor that the bone provides to the meat. I'm hoping that someone can shed a little light on this debate for me as I am pretty well stumped.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Looking ahead

I apologize for not making anything in awhile. I have had friends visiting the past few weekends, which generally leads to going out to eat a lot and not having time to plan out a meal. My thinking cap has been on however. It is starting to get cooler here in NYC, which opens up the door to soups, stews and pretty much anything that is hot. I have been reading a little about blended soups. That is, making some sort of soup and then pureeing it in a blender so it has a nice smooth consistency.

I am envisioning a BBQ bean blended soup with maybe some pulled pork or brisket mixed in there to give a little bit of texture variation. I really should be cooking more often because it is definitely a money saver over going out to eat, if you don't mind having leftovers.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

BBQ Nirvana

The Restaurant: RUB (Righteous Urban Barbecue)

While I am not a certified reviewer by any means, I will give you the quick and dirty on a scale for A-F.

Food: A- (Amazing BBQ meats more than compensate for relatively average side dishes)

Value: A- Quite affordable especially if you go the a la carte meat route

Service: B+ (Food came out quickly and waiter had solid knowledge of the food)

Overall: A-

A fellow BBQ enthusiast friend of mine was in town last night and we decided to venture out and try a new place in New York City. NYC is not exactly a BBQ hotbed, but there are some gems for sure. The place we went last night is called RUB, which stands for Righteous Urban Barbecue. I had heard that it could crowded so we went on the earlier side at 6:30pm and had no problems getting a table.

There were a lot of options to choose from, but the best choice in my opinion was to get meats a la carte. This is how BBQ really should be. Why get bogged down in a meal that traps you into ordering a couple of side dishes that take up valuable meat space? This place really had it right. I created a mix and match plate of BBQ burnt ends (these are the ends of the BBQ brisket), BBQ brisket and pulled pork (1/4 lb of each). My buddy got 1/2 lb of burnt ends and a quarter pound of the house sausage. We each also got a side of beans, which we had read in a review were good. We also split a 1/4 rack of baby ribs to ensure that we got a taste of everything.

The meats were all excellent. The burnt ends were really flavorful and did not need any sauce. The balance of meat, fat and goodness was just right. The brisket was also strong and exhibited the pink coloring that true smoked meats all have. The pulled pork, though not as strong as the brisket and burnt ends, was still good and paired well with the house sweet and smoky sauce. All the meat was served on butcher paper in the no frills way that makes BBQ such a great experience.

The sausage was excellent as well, with a crisp outside and a moist and well seasoned inside. The ribs were respectable, although they could have been a little bit more meaty. The beans were average, but I think a lot of that had to do with just how good the meats were on their own.

All in all a great experience. Certainly got some new ideas for things to make at home.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Caramel Crunch Bars

I had taken a pretty long lay off from making desserts. I'm not really sure why, but it may have had something to do with it being summer and wanting to focus more on the BBQ meats. I was inspired to try to do a little spin on one of my favorite candy bars, Nestle Crunch. The question was whether or not I could make this delicacy for myself. I have to say this recipe met and exceeded my expectations. The only thing I need to worry about now is making sure I don't eat the whole thing. Fortunately, I can take a lot of my leftovers into the office where I have a solid group to help me eat all of this.

1 20z squeeze bottle of Caramel Sundae Syrup
2 single serving containers (4.6 oz total) of Cocoa Crispies
6 Hershey's Milk Chocolate Symphony bars (about 26 ounces total)

If you thought this was an easy recipe to make you were correct! Pour the cocoa crispies into the bottom of your crockpot and spread out evenly. Break up the chocolate bars into one or two square pieces and distribute evenly on top of the cereal. Set your crockpot to on hour on high.

After about 30 minutes take off the top and shift the the chocolate pieces around. Some will have melted a little more than others. After another 30 min all of the chocolate should be melted. Test it with a fork because it may still appear to retain some of it's shape even though it is completed melted. Stir the chocolate and cereal with a big spoon until the cereal is evenly coated. Spread the cereal out on a sheet of wax paper about 1/4 inch deep and put in the fridge for an hour to cool.

Top the now cooled mixture evenly with your caramel sauce and you are ready to go! As you can see, the caramel does get a little messy so if you are more of straight up crunch bar fan you may want to hold off.
The results actually tastes exactly like a nestle crunch bar, only more chocolaty thanks to the better chocolate and cocoa crispies. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Fond Memories

In order to be a great cook it is essential to eat a lot. While this may seem counter intuitive, the inspiration and ideas that I have gotten from eating at BBQ restaurants have helped my cooking a lot.

I haven't written about a restaurant in awhile, but I can not continue to write this blog in good conscious without acknowledging my favorite BBQ place of all time. Whenever I come home to Boston my dad and I try to make at least one stop at the Village Smokehouse in Brookline, MA. We only order one thing there. The Beef Ribs!

These ribs are incredibly meaty and are slathered with a thick sweet and smokey BBQ sauce. They are then served with your choice of sides and baked beans for the table. The sides are delicious, but I rarely get to eat much of them because even three of these monster beef ribs is enough to put me away for the night. For two bucks more they'll give you another whole rib that you usually have to take home unless your stomach is a bottomless pit.

As you can see, the place is extremely low key and easy going. You pass the bar on your right as you walk in and then go right by the fire pit where the pitmasters are hard at work cooking beef ribs, baby backs, brisket and chicken. It's a home from away from home. It boggles my mind how anyone could go there and get a Caesar salad. I guess they just haven't had the opportunity to have the ribs yet.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wings of Defeat

On Sunday I tried to follow through with my original plan to make some buffalo wings for the game. I went to the grocery store with every intention of buying some wings. However, I have to admit I was pretty appalled that the delicious Sunday afternoon snack that I had enjoyed for many years actually looks pretty disgusting in the raw. The wings looked really pale and they still had the tips on them which really creeped me out. They were also set to expire the next day so I didn't feel great about that either.

In the end I scrapped my plan to make fresh wings, but I wanted to at least cook something in the crock so I bought a couple boxes of TGI Friday's pre-made buffalo wings. I tossed them in for about three hours on high. The apartment was filled with a buttery, spicy aroma. I was eagerly anticipating dipping these bad boys in some blue cheese and enjoying and afternoon of football.

Much to my dismay, although the wings looked nice, the texture was terrible. They were pretty soggy, which I guess I should have figured because the crockpot definitely is going to do that to whatever your making. I have to say that I have never really gotten a good handle on how to cook chicken in the crockpot. It never seems to come out the way I like it. I may stick to beef and pork for awhile after this experience.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Wings, Wings and more Wings

Well it's football season, and what better time to enjoy a heaping plate of buffalo wings. As a patriots fan I'm reeling over the season ending knee injury to Tom Brady. But hope springs eternal, and I am optimistic that Matt Cassel (the backup QB for those of you who don't follow football) is going to be able to step in and do a good enough job that the Pats will still be able to contend. I'm also thrilled that the weather is starting to cool down. Most people never want summer to end, but fall is my favorite season by far. I'm looking forward to making some great stews and chili's soon.

In keeping with this feeling of optimism, I'm going to be cooking up some classic buffalo wings. Hopefully tomorrow, but my schedule has been a little hectic so I may need to hold off until next weekend when I'll have some more time. There is apparently quite a bit of history surrounding this Sunday afternoon delicacy. Buffalo wings were invented in, you guessed it, Buffalo, NY. According to Wikipedia, there are four legends on how Buffalo wings came to be. The most amusing of which is that Buffalo wings came to be as a result of the delivery of chicken wings as opposed to the backs and necks needed to make a restaurant's signature spaghetti sauce. However they came to be, the important thing is that they came to be.

I'm going to be keeping it traditional, although I do like teriyaki and BBQ wings, and make some classic buffalo style wings. Just need to find a place to get some top quality chicken wings now...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Touchdown Brisket Recipe

Well the bad news is the batteries in my digital camera (yes I know I need a new camera) were dead and I didn't have time to run out and get new ones so there will be no photos unfortunately. As I had mentioned before I had been asked to prepare some BBQ goodness for my company's fantasy football draft which was held at the office. I precooked the meat at home and then packed it up and brought it into the office along with my crockpot because the thought of microwaving my food after spending 10 hours making it just didn't sit right with me.

The recipe for this is quite easy though and I'm sure you can imagine how it came out.

Touchdown Brisket Rub
6 lbs of beef brisket
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoons liquid smoke
3 tablespoons honey

In a small bowl, mix the Worcestershire sauce, honey and liquid smoke. In a larger bowl, pour the mixture over your brisket and turn over the brisket pieces until it's evenly coated. I bought three separate pieces so if you happen to buy one big piece make sure you cut it into pieces that are small enough to fit into your crockpot. Sprinkle the rub evenly over the brisket and massage it in to maximize the flavor.

Place the brisket in the crockpot and cook on low for 10 hours. About half way through I recommend rotating the brisket pieces around to ensure even cooking. From past experience I have learned that the pieces at the bottom of the crockpot tend to be more moist because they are submerged in the meat drippings for most of the cooking process. Switching the meat around will ensure more even cooking.

After 10 hours take out the brisket let it rest for 15 minutes before chopping it up into bite sized pieces. You could also slice it up as well, but that can get tricky because the meat will fall apart on you pretty easily.

All in all this recipe was a great success. I served it with my new favorite BBQ sauce from Dinosaur BBQ at my company's fantasy football draft and it got completely devoured. You know you have done well when all you are bringing back home are empty containers.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Rub

As promised, here is the rub recipe for the beef brisket. Pretty basic recipe overall, but should get the job done. When you are making food for a fantasy football draft it is best to stick to the basics. Nothing fouls up a good fantasy draft like some funky food.

I also like to hit my meat with a quick mop consisting of 3 parts Worcestershire sauce, 1 part liquid smoke and 3 parts honey before applying the rub. It gives the rub something to stick to and also adds more flavor.

Touchdown Brisket Rub Recipe
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons smoked paprika
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon granulated onion

I'm looking forward to football season. I see a lot pulled pork, ribs and wings in my future.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

An Ode to Brisket

Beef brisket is one of those cuts of meat that was destined for BBQ. It can be tender if prepared in the right way, but must be cooked slowly or will toughen up on you like no other. I never really had too much exposure to it, save the occasional passover brisket. A big part of what holds brisket back is that you need to dedicate a large amount of time to prepare it properly. Steaks can easily be thrown on the grill or even fried up in a pan and come out moist and tender. Brisket responds to this type of treatment by turning in shoe leather. It is for this reason that it makes relatively infrequent appearances as it's lack of convenience scares off many cooks.

However, have prepared brisket in the slow cooker a few times now, I can assure you it is worth the wait. Brisket has just the right amount of fat and breaks down magnificently as it slow cooks. The end result is a delicious, flavorful meal that will blow you away. So next time you are at the grocery store or butcher looking over some meats, grab a 4 lb brisket and cook it real slow. Your patience and perseverance will be well rewarded. I am eagerly anticipating my Fantasy Football draft brisket and will be concocting an original spice rub recipe as well out of respect for one of the most underrated cuts of beef out there.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I know it has been awhile so for those of you who have been reading I apologize. Between taking a vacation and work and the heat I haven't done much cooking at all. The truth is I really like cooking for big groups. I only have one roommate so making 5 lbs of pulled pork or brisket doesn't usually make much sense unless I'm going to be eating it for awhile. Nonetheless, I have neglected my blog and for that there is no excuse for that.

I really had every intention of making carne asada tacos. In fact I still have all the fixins for them, but I took a brief vacation and forgot to put my steak in the freezer. Needless to say I was greeted on my return by a brutal stench in my apartment. I definitely need to work on the planning aspect of my dishes a little more.

On a happier note, I will be "catering" my office's fantasy football draft. By catering I mean making a whole bunch of brisket and chowing down on it along with a few folks from my office while we take part in the time honored tradition of fantasy football. I really like the challenge of making food for a large group. I have also gotten really into making my own spice rubs so this will be a nice opportunity for that as well. Looking forward to getting back in the groove and with fall comes cooler temperatures and lots of great opportunities to make soups and stews. Stay tuned...

Monday, August 11, 2008

What the heck is Carne Asada Anyway?

It's been a little while since I've done a "what the heck is that anyway" post so I figure it's high time to do some. I hear the term "Carne Asada" thrown around quite a bit by the likes of taco bell and other restaurants. I have often ordered it because it sounded good, but not really having any idea what made it different from a regular grilled steak.

Well, carne asada translates literally into "roasted meat." Not quite as spectacular as it sounds in Spanish. Thinner cuts of beef such as flank or skirt steak are generally used and are rubbed down with salt and pepper before being grilled or broiled. Now here is the tricky part. Since the term carne asada is so broad, there are many recipes for carne asada that are entirely different from each other.

Some recipes are just meat rubbed with some spices. Others involve much more complex marinades such as this one from Simply Recipes. One theme I noticed was that a lot of recipes use lemon and lime juice as part of the marinade. The sharp acidic taste of citrus sounds like a pretty good pairing for some juicy steaks. With that said I will attempt to conquer carne asada via the crockpot. Stay tuned for the recipe.

I think it's safe to say that if Pacman had the option, he would opt for tacos over dots.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Lazy Man's Hamburger Stew

I got back from a brief trip to CT and while I wanted to make something, I wasn't really looking to put out a whole lot of thought and prep work and as a result, Lazy man's hamburger stew was born.

1 lb Ground Sirloin
10 mini Yukon gold potatoes (quartered)
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 can beef broth
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

In a pan quickly brown the meat, drain and add to the crockpot along with the chopped onions and potatoes. In a separate bowl, combine the spices and stir together until evenly blended. Pour the spices onto the mixture and use a large spoon to spread them around. Add the can of beef broth and cook on low for 4 hours.
Spoon some into a bowl, hit it with some hot sauce and you are good to go. Not bad overall considering I didn't use any recipe for guidance and just kinda threw it together. I think a can of tomatoes would have given it a little bit more thickness, but it certainly wasn't bad as is. I guess if you are going to be lazy about cooking, you shouldn't set your standards to high.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Teriyaki Drumsticks

Slight change of plans here. I was going to make teriyaki pulled pork, but then I got invited to a poker night. I thought it might be easier to play hold em with chicken drumstick in hand as opposed to trying to tackle a pulled pork sandwich, generally a two handed job. However, I stayed true to my mission of making it teriyaki style.

25 skinless chicken drumsticks
3 tablespoons Chinese five-spice powder
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 teaspoons alt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 bottle thicker style teriyaki sauce

According to the label on the spice jar, Chinese five-spice powder is a blend of ginger, nutmeg, allspice cloves, pepper, thyme and star anise. Now I'm noticing that this appears to be six ingredients, but maybe I am missing something here. I also found it amusing that Iron Chef has rolled out a line of sauces (pictured above). Good to see that they are finding some other revenue opportunities. Mighty fine sauce though so it looks like they are on the right track, but back to business here.

Put all of the spices into a shallow container or dish and stir together. Roll each drumstick in the spice blend and then place into the crockpot. Cook on low for 7 hours. After 6 hours open the crockpot (cardinal sin here I know) and pour about 6 tablespoons of your teriyaki sauce over the top.

Cook for one more hour and then transfer cooked drumsticks with a tongs onto a place. Drizzle with a little more teriyaki sauce and then put in the fridge for a few hours before serving. I really think these are best served cold because the meat is almost falling off the bone when they are finished cooking and a little time in the fridge allows the meat not only to absorb a little more flavor but also to reconnect to the bone so it won't completely fall apart while you are eating it.

All in all the drumsticks were a hit and I got third place which meant I got my $20 buy in back so I can't complain.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Getting Ready!

For cryin out loud will this heat just break already. This weather has really just gotten out of hand. I will not be stopped this weekend however. Mark it in your calenders I will be making some teriyaki style pulled pork this weekend. I know that the weather is not a good excuse, but it is hard to get motivated to cook anything when it is unbearably hot and your apartment has very little ventilation in general and no ventilation in the kitchen at all.

Enough of my whining though. Let's talk teriyaki. Teriyaki is a Japanese cooking technique that entails broiling or grilling foods in a sweet soy sauce marinade. I'm going to switching things up a little however. I'll be working with some pork loin with a Asian style spice rub topped off with some teriyaki sauce. Looking forward to hitting the grocery store and getting this show on the road finally.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Talkin about Spice Rubs

When it comes to crockpot cooking or any kind of cooking for that matter the use of spice rubs is a surefire way to ratchet up your meat without having to add any additional fat. There are plenty of great store bought rubs to be had, but there is definitely a cool feeling about making it yourself. The downside of this is that there will be a little investment up front to put together a spice collection that will allow you to create a variety of different and tasty rubs. I have compiled a quick list of spices that will help get you started and shouldn't set you back too much.

The Spice Rub Shopping list
Smoked Paprika
Chili Powder
Kosher Salt
Ground Black Pepper
Cayenne Pepper
Granulated Onion
Granulated Garlic
Brown Sugar
Dry Mustard
Dried Thyme
Dried Oregano

This list here will get you started and as you experiment with new rubs you can add more spices to your arsenal. The great thing is that spices have a pretty long shelf so you won't have to worry about spoilage. You may want to look through every year or so. Opinions vary a good deal, but the main thing is to check whether your spices still have a strong flavor and aroma to them. To get you started here is a solid recipe for a great Texas style dry rub I like to use on brisket.

1 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
2 teaspoons granulated onion
2 teaspoons granulated garlic

I would suggest finding a rub you really like and whipping up a good size batch so you don't have to remake every time you do BBQ.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Too hot for cooking today

Was hoping to make a new Asian style pulled pork recipe today, but this heat is really challenging my will to cook. I don't have central air conditioning in my apartment and not too much airflow either and while I love the smell of pork, it can really hang around the apartment for awhile, especially in the heat. I hope everybody's kitchen is a little more forgiving and inviting. In the mean time, I'm kinda getting into this new angle for my blog though. More new ideas and recipes and breaking away a little from the tradition. I made a little sketch using a basic paint program to express this revolution. It's a pig in a Merlin-like costume stirring up a pot. My friend and I brainstormed that I should be calling this blog "The BBQ Alchemist." In a way crockpot cooking is kinda like alchemy, turning tough cuts of meat into gold, or rather better tasting meat anyway. Really can't draw that well, but it will have to do. Look for the Asian style pulled pork recipe this weekend.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Washington DC Recap

Well, it wasn't the BBQ weekend I had planned, but a good weekend anyway. I had done a little bit of homework and found that while Washington, DC is not known for it's great BBQ restaurants, that there was one little spot in Chinatown called capital Q that I thought might have some potential. After carefully studying the menu, I decided that I would go with the brisket as the restaurant's website indicated that their focus on was on Texas BBQ, which is known for it's emphasis on beef.

I was looking forward to it all weekend, but made the regrettable decision of not checking the hours beforehand. Had I done so I would seen that they were not open on Sunday. However, all was not lost. My friend who I was staying with had a great book about BBQ with lots of different recipes for rubs, sauces and BBQ recipes. He gave me this book as a parting gift and I look forward to using to come up with some more interesting and exciting variations on BBQ cooking. So while I didn't to eat any BBQ while I was in DC, I did get some food for thought with a endless supply of new ideas to share.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Capitol City

Heading down to Washington DC for the weekend. Hoping to find some good BBQ while I'm down there. I went to college in the area and I recall going to a place called Old Glory in Georgetown which was pretty good. This was long before my days of making my own BBQ. I do remember that they used to call their sides "heaping helpings" and ironically the sides were ultimately served in a tiny little dish with a portion that was hardly heaping.

Nonetheless I do remember the food being pretty so I may go there one night unless anyone has any suggestions. Granted I don't work in the restaurant business but sometimes I don't understand why restaurants try to nickel and dime you at the risk of having you leave unsatisfied and not coming back or worse yet not recommending it to others. One of the great things about cooking at home is that you can make as much as you want for much cheaper than going out to eat and the portions are always heaping.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Independance Day Brisket

Well it does not get much more American than Beef Brisket on the 4th of July. This recipe is really easy and comes out tender and delicious. It was a great success at my friends BBQ and would be a welcome addition to any summer gathering.

I was a bit bleary eyed when I put in the crockpot (it was about 1 am), but the beauty of the crock is that you just put the meat in and forget about it and the crockpot will do all the heavy lifting for you.

5 lbs of beef brisket (trimmed of most of the exterior fat)
3 tablespoons of Worcestershire Sauce
6 tablespoons of you favorite BBQ rub
1 bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce

Do not fear if you do not have any store bought rub in the house. You can make your own rub really quick using this recipe:

2 tablespoons kosher salt
3 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon crushed oregano
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon cumin

In a large bowl pour the Worcestershire sauce over the brisket and turn the meat over until it is evenly coated. Sprinkle your store bought or homemade rub evenly over the brisket and put in the fridge for 2 hours to marinate. Set your crockpot to 12 hours on low. No need to peek in the pot as the brisket will need the whole time to get nice and tender. Once 12 hours is up (which in my case was about 1 pm, but some of you earlier risers could probably make this same day) take the brisket carefully as it will start to fall apart as you try to lift it out. I use a tongs which seams to do the job. Let the meat rest for about 15 minutes and then use a sharp knife to slice the brisket into 1/4 inch think pieces.

Toss the slices onto a platter and you are good to go. I like my brisket on a roll doused with some of my favorite BBQ sauce. Dinosaur BBQ, where I went for dinner last week, makes a great sauce which is available at some grocery stores in NY and of course on line. Check my post for more details.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Brisket on the Brain

I have been dreaming of making some succulent brisket this whole week. It has been hard to concentrate at work as I am scheming different variations and spice combinations. Fortunately for me July 4th is probably the biggest day for BBQ of the year. I'm going my friends apt in Brooklyn with 5 lbs of brisket in tow. I think I'm just going to keep things simple and basic this time. In the end that is really what BBQ is all about.

Another funny little tidbit I picked up was apparently "Memphis style" means with coleslaw on top. So, a pulled pork sandwich served Memphis Style is just a pull pork sandwich with a big dollop of slaw on top. Sounds like a pretty good combo to me. Probably gives the sandwich a nice crunch.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


I went to Dinosaur BBQ last night with a few friends for a late dinner. I'm usually starving by 6pm and our reservation wasn't until 9pm. Apparently, if you want to eat at a normal dinner time on the weekend at Dinosaur BBQ you need to make a reservation at least a week in advance. I was lucky that I had a piece of pizza after work to hold me over because we did not sit down to eat until close to 10pm. However, it was certainly worth the wait.

I got the pulled pork and brisket platter with baked beans and Syracuse Salt Potatoes. I had never heard of Syracuse Salt Potatoes before but they are essentially mini white potatoes with a salty butter sauce. The pork was excellent and the brisket was pretty good although my friend commented that it wasn't that flavorful.

This raises an interesting question that has been a long standing debate among BBQ enthusiasts whether it is appropriate to use sauce on your meat. Some will call it sacrilege to mask the natural flavors of your meat by slathering it in BBQ sauce while others will challenge that a good BBQ sauce can only enhance the experience. I am from the sauce camp and always put a lot of sauce on my meat.

Overall, Dinosaur BBQ is a great spot, but I would plan on having a snack before going so you aren't starving by the time the food comes. Check it out at

If anybody has a favorite BBQ spot out there I would love to hear about it. One of these days I want to do a BBQ road trip and hit all the major areas such as North Carolina, Memphis and Kansas City.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Cherry Walnut Ginger Clusters

It continues to be pretty hot in NYC which makes it hard to justify heating up the kitchen when there are lots of cheap alternatives on your block for dinner. However, I promised myself I would make something so I followed up on the recipe my coworker gave me. I have to admit I was a little skeptical about using ginger. I like ginger, but I usually think of it as what you get with sushi to cleanse your palate between pieces, which doesn't sound like it would be good when covered in chocolate. Crystallized ginger however, is a whole different ball game and makes for some pretty tasty candy if I don't say so myself. My office devoured these creations so you can expect that your coworkers or loved ones will do the same.

1/2 lb of crystallized ginger, chopped
1 lb of walnut pieces (don't bother buying the whole halves, waste of money if you ask me)
25 oz of Milk Chocolate (I chose Symphony bars because they were on sale)
10 oz of dried cherries

This is crystallized ginger for those such as myself who had never seen it before.

Chop the ginger into m&m size pieces. I know there is a better way to describe the size, but that is all that comes to mind right now. Add the walnuts, cherries and chopped ginger into your crockpot and mix together until evenly distributed. Break up your chocolate bars into it's individual squares and spread evenly on top of your other ingredients. Set your crockpot on low and leave it for 1-2 hours depending on if your chocolate is at room temperature. Keep a close eye on this though because it can burn if you aren't careful. Once you can see visible melting turn off the crock and stir your mixture. The chocolate should offer no resistance as you are stirring.

Line a cookie sheet with tin foil and spread your mixture out evenly (about a half inch layer is good). Refrigerate overnight and break apart into whatever size you like and you are ready to go. If you want to get fancy you can toast the walnuts ahead of time in a 350 degree over for 15 minutes for a little extra flavor and crunch.

Variations to this recipe are endless. You can switch any type of dried fruit, nut or chocolate in and out. Now that I look at the picture of the candy I realized I got my feet in there at the bottom of the page. Photographer I am certainly not. Almost looks like the candies are bigger than my feet (which are size 13).

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Cook's Block

Having a hard time deciding what to make next. I do like making main courses like pulled pork and chili, but I also enjoy making desserts. I regret to say that a lot of the chili I made will be going in the freezer because a guy can only eat so much (I ate it for about a week straight).

A co-worker gave me an interesting recipe for some chocolate sour cherry, walnut and ginger clusters. A little more brainstorming led to the idea of soaking the cherries in port or some other sort of liquor. Desserts are great because even if you have leftovers you can bring them into the office and they will get taken care of so you don't feel like you have to eat them all.

Busy weekend with Birthdays and an Engagement party Sunday, but I think I can squeeze something in on Sunday hopefully.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Three Meat Chili

The heat wave finally broke in NYC so it was high time to make some chili. This recipe has a larger number of ingredients than I usually use, but is quite simple to make.

1.5 lbs of ground meat (pork, veal, beef)
5 cloves of garlic chopped
2 medium onions chopped
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 green pepper chopped
1 150z jar of pasta sauce
2 15oz cans of red beans drained
1 150z can of refried beans
1 150z can diced tomatoes with jalapenos
7 tablespoons chili powder
3 tablespoons cumin
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons hot sauce
6 oz of beer

In a pan, cook the onions, garlic, salt and pepper in the olive oil for about 3-4 minutes. Add in your meat (you can definitely use only beef or turkey here too) and cook until the meat is fully browned. Use your spatula to break up the meat into small pieces as you go. Once all the meat is browned remove from heat and set aside. I had planned to use only ground sirloin here, but when I saw the 3 meat pack at the grocery store I figured it was worth a shot.

In a large bowl, add all of the remaining ingredients and stir until fully blended. Add in your meat and onions and stir again until fully combined. Pour the mixture into your crockpot and cook on low for 6 hours.

Based on my research it seems that most folks advocate refrigerating your chili overnight to allow the flavors to meld together. I went with this recommendation and it was worth the wait.
Microwave a portion of chili for about 1.5 minutes. Top with some shredded cheese (I prefer cheddar) and microwave for another minute until the cheese is melted. If you like it a little more spicy add some hot sauce and you are good to go.

If there was ever a dish made for the crockpot it would have to be chili. The slow cooking really allowed all of the flavors to merge and resulted in a rich, meaty chili that will probably feed me for the next week or so. I'll definitely have to do some more experimenting with chili as I am a big fan of both turkey and white bean chili as well.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Riding out the heat wave

While the heat wave in NYC rages on, with temperatures approaching 100 degrees, crockpotting is a bit of a challenge. However, that does not mean I can't plan and look ahead to when things will start to cool off later this week. I've had chili on brain for quite some time now. I had some great chili when I was out to dinner a few weeks ago. I paid about 15 bucks for it, which is somewhat steep considering I can make a couple quarts of chili for not too much more. That said, I will be making some chili this week.

While it is tough to make pulled pork or brisket into a healthy meal (they are both loaded with fat and cholesterol unfortunately), chili has the potential to be a pretty healthy alternative. At some point I will probably do a "what the heck is that anyway?" with chili, but for now I will focus on the task at hand as explaining the origins and different types of chili is quite a task that will involve a little more research.

The chili that most of us know and love is generally made up of ground meat (beef, turkey, etc) ,beans (red beans, kidney beans, white northern beans etc.), chili peppers of some sort and that's where the similarities pretty much end. There are a lot of recipes out there that use tomatoes, onions and a wide variety of spices. Perhaps the greatest challenge when making chili is getting that nice thick consistency that chili is known for.

I have elected ground sirloin as my base meat as it is both lean and flavorful with the right amount of fat. I also will use fresh vegetables whenever possible as they are key to making fresh and great tasting chili. Finally, I will make my own seasonings. I have used pre-made spice rubs a fair amount primarily because they are pretty cheap and have been pretty good. It is time for me to step out there and control my own flavor destiny. More to come on this once this heat wave breaks.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Big Apple BBQ Recap

It was a scorcher out there today at the Big Apple BBQ at nearly 95 degrees. This did not stop folks from coming out to try some great BBQ from around the country, myself included. The lines were long, but the food was well worth the wait. I had set a goal to make sure that I ate pork, brisket and ribs before the day was done.

The first stop was Salt Lick BBQ from Austin Texas for some beef brisket.

Their offering was a plate consisting of a brisket sandwich, piece of smoked sausage and coleslaw:

The brisket had a great smokey flavor to it. I thought it could have been a little bit more tender, but it was definitely good. The sausage was juicy and had an almost crispy outer crust, making it the highlight of the plate. The coleslaw was vinegar based which I prefer to mayo based and was a great palate cleanser after eating the flavorful meats. The line for this was so long that I left my friends to go search for some pulled pork, leading me to to my next stop at Ubon's of
, MS.

I'm sure the people of Yazoo City must eat well because the pork shoulder from Ubon's was amazing!

I quickly tossed away the roll because the meat was so delicious and flavorful that to interfere with it's goodness would have been criminal. The pork was moist and tender with a great spice rub and a dynamite sauce. The sauce was sweet and tangy, most likely from a combination of brown sugar and vinegar. I wish I could make it myself, but my guess would be that the folks at Ubon's keep that recipe safely guarded. The coleslaw was great too, with just the right amount of mayo.

Having gathered together our spoils of victory we sought out shade as quickly as possible as it had become unbearably hot. It was unfortunate that it wasn't a slightly cooler day because after awhile it was hard just to be outside. We took a pretty long breather at which point I summoned the energy to make one more trip out into the heat to complete the last leg of my mission, pork ribs. I made my way over to 17th Street Bar and Grill of Las Vegas, NV.

I had to wait about 30 minutes in line but I was rewarded with some top notch ribs and the best baked beans I have ever had in my life.

Again, I tossed the bread aside. I was already feeling pretty full and did not want to waste valuable room with bread. The ribs were outstanding, with the meat falling right off the bone and a smokey sweet flavor that did not require any BBQ sauce at all. The beans were a mix of many different kinds of beans in a tangy sauce which complemented the ribs perfectly.

Here are some other shots from the day:

A gorgeous beef brisket right out of the smoker waiting to be sliced and served.

A view inside the smoker of Salt Lick BBQ. Hats off to the pitmasters and crew who worked tirelessly to prepare and serve some great BBQ in scorching heat.

Racks of ribs rotating in the smoker at 17th Street Bar and Grill. The perfect end to a great day of BBQ.

While I love to make my own BBQ, it is always great to go out and sample BBQ from different places. It is an excellent to pick up new ideas and try things that you may not be able to make at home. I will certainly be back again next year, hopefully it won't be so not next time.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

What the heck is Liquid Smoke anyway?

If you are a crockpot cook you are well aware by now that giving your meats a smokey flavor without using some sort of flavoring is next to impossible. That said, you are given a number of options of how to compensate for this. Your primary weapon is your use of spices and sauces to give your meat flavor. Liquid smoke falls into this category and is the closest thing to actual smoke you can get when you are working with a crockpot. I have a bottle of liquid smoke and it has been effective in giving my meats a smokey flavor. However, as with everything I use, I want to make sure that I fully understand what is in liquid smoke.

Liquid smoke is made in a surprisingly straightforward way. I would have envisioned a complex blend of chemicals, but in fact liquid smoke is made by burning wood chips in a controlled setting and then using water vapor to absorb the smoke. The water vapor then condenses and presto, you've got liquid smoke. Another interesting aspect of liquid smoke is that during the preparation process significant amounts of tar and ash that are typically present in foods smoked over an open flame are removed during the process, greatly reducing the level of carcinogens food flavored with liquid smoke as opposed to foods smoked over burning wood.

There are many different types of liquid smoke, most of which focus on a particular type of wood such as hickory or mesquite. It really adds a great flavor to your meats and is a nice alternative for those who do not have the facilities to smoke their own meats. So give liquid smoke a shot next time you are making a marinade. You will not be disappointed

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Big Apple BBQ 2008!!!

It will be a great weekend for BBQ enthusiasts of New York City. The Annual Big Apple BBQ will be taking place. Pit Masters from all over the states will be setting up shop and providing their specialties. There will be brisket from Texas, pulled pork from North Carolina and ribs from Memphis and Kansas City.

If you live in NYC and are going to be in town this weekend it is really a must see. It can be a little crowded, but there are plenty of places to sit down once you get your food. $8 for a small plate may seem like a lot, but this is all top notch BBQ. I recommend going with a few friends and splitting many plates so you get a chance to taste everything.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Going Hog Wild

Sorry for the lapse between posts. Don't think I haven't been working on some new things though. As I mentioned before I planned to test out the concept of flavor injection. That is, using a syringe like device to inject liquid marinades deep into meat prior to cooking. With memorial day around the corner, I opted to go with the classics and make some pulled pork along with a homemade BBQ sauce.

I also was able to find a bone in pork shoulder at the supermarket. This was especially nice because I have heard a lot about how the bone flavor the meat during the cooking process. Let's start with the Pork.

1 bone in pork shoulder (about 4-5 lbs)
2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon of liquid smoke
1 tablespoon of water
1 tablespoon of honey
4+ tablespoons of your favorite bbq rub

You can make your own rub if you like. I usually buy my own because I'm pretty limited on space but I have made one quick recipe which works fine.

In a bowl or measuring cup, mix the Worcestershire sauce, water, liquid smoke and honey until even blended. Fill your flavor injector up as shown above and push the needle into a thick part of the pork shoulder and press down on the syringe to release the flavor into the meat. I recommend making about 5 to 6 insertions. Pour the remaining liquid over the meat and turn it a few times to make sure it is evenly coated. Apply your dry rub even over the meat and put the meat in your crockpot on low for 12 hours.

If you have been able to find a bone in pork shoulder (this recipe works fine with a pork butt or pork loin) you will be able to literally pull the shoulder bone out cleanly as can be seen above. Take the pork out of the crockpot (be careful as it will fall apart) and use two forks to shred the meat. Using a spoon or turkey baster, apply the juices left in your crockpot to the meat to add back little moisture.

You can pick up a flavor injector at any kitchen store for about $5-7 and it is definitely a worthwhile investment. If you don't have one on hand, pouring the mixture over the meat works fine as well.

Now for the sauce...

2.5 cups of ketchup
1.5 cups of brown sugar
5 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon of molasses
1 tablespoon of honey
3 teaspoons hot sauce
1 small onion chopped

Saute the onion in a pan with olive oil. Mix together all the remaining ingredients until evenly blended. Pour the mixture over the onions and simmer for about 15 minutes. Stir one final time and pour the sauce into a bowl and container and put in the fridge for a few hours to cool. Definitely a little wiggle room here. I like spicy food so if you prefer a sauce that is a little sweeter, you may want to cut back a little on the mustard and hot sauce and taste test your sauce until it suits you.

Here are my results. While I didn't wind up with any leftovers to take home, as long as people enjoyed it that is good enough for me.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Flavor Injection

I haven't much reason or time to make anything of note lately. However, Memorial Day presents a golden opportunity to fire up the crockpot. A friend of mine is having a BBQ and what better way to celebrate than with some pulled pork.

Flavor injection is not something I have tried yet, but the concept in and of itself makes a lot of sense to me. It is hard to get the flavors of your rubs and sauces deep into your meat. Even after long periods of marinating you will not get all the way to the core of your pork butt or brisket. This is where I'm hoping flavor injection can help. Basically, I am going to get a syringe type device and inject my pork with some of my spices and marinating ingredients.

I seem to recall one of those late commercials for this rotating oven being pitched by Ron Popiel. One of the giveaways I remember was a flavor injector. In the ad, they used it to deposit garlic and spices deep into a roast beef. It seems logical that if you want your meet to have a lot of flavor that you should inject the center of the meet with the same rubs and sauces that you are using on the outside of it.

Here is a picture of Ron with the Showtime Rotisserie Grill. Can't say I have ever bought one of his products, but he certainly introduced me to the concept of flavor injection.