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.