Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Jamaican Jerk Rib Tips with Rice and Peas

This post was inspired by a fellow Chicago food blogger, Smokin' Chokin' and Chowing with the King.

The posts on his travels to Jamaica and his Jerk Pork recipes looked very tasty so I wanted to give it a try. You can read his posts on Jerk Pork here and here.

I used the rib tips from spare ribs. They are full of meat with little bone tips. Slowly-smoked over a low heat for hours produces a great tasting rib tip.

You can make your own Jerk seasoning but if you don't have the time, I recommend Walkerswood Jerk Seasoning/Marinade.

Jerk seasoning is known for its use of allspice or pimento as it is called in Jamaica and scotch bonnet peppers. It also contains nutmeg, thyme, garlic, cinnamon, and other spices. Jerk is primarily used with pork and chicken.

You want to marinade the rib tips for about a day in the refridgerator. Make sure to rub the marinade all over the pork for even seasoning.

After marinating, you want to prepare the grill. Set the coals up on one side and place of foil pan half-filled with water on the other side for indirect grilling. Once the coals are hot, place a few handfuls of your choice of wood chips. Place the rib tips over the foil pans on the indirect side.

You want to smoke the rib tips between 2-4 hours. Mine were done around 3 hours where it hit 160 degrees of internal meat temperature.

Keep adding wood chips and pay attention to your valves to keep a low internal grill temperature. Chibbqking uses a bottle of whole allspice berries spread over the coals and wood chips to infuse its scent into the meat. I didn't have any whole allspice berries but I imagine that would be a good step to add to the process.

After the rib tips are done on the grill, let them rest for a bit. The smoke creates a nice outer layer of bark and a crispiness flavored by the jerk seasonings.

Get out a large, heavy knife and chop away at the rib tips. There will be little pieces of rib tip bones. Just hack through them or if you prefer, cut around them.

My dream of having a machete or a large meat cleaver haven't come true yet but those tools would be perfect to chop through the bones and meat.

Jamaican rice and peas are a popular side dish for jerk chicken or pork. Peas, however, are not the peas you may be thinking about. They call their red kidney beans...peas. To prepare the rice and peas, you'll need:
  • 1 can red kidney beans
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 cups of rice
  • 3 scallions
  • 5 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • one scotch bonnet pepper or habenero/jalapeno
  • water
Add milk and water to make 4 cups. Place the liquid in a pot combined with the beans, scallion, garlic, and thyme. Bring to a boil and then add the rice. Reduce heat to low setting. Place pepper on top of rice but do not pierce the pepper. You want to add a subtle pepper flavor. Cover and cook until rice is done, about 22-24 minutes.

Combine the chopped rib tips with the rice and peas. To make the experience more Jamaican, serve with Red Stripe, a popular Jamaican lager.

I have to say, all the flavors went well together. A truly, tasty Jamaican meal. The smoky flavor of the pork combined with the jerk seasoning was balanced well with the rice and peas. There was a little heat from the jerk but not overpowering. The lager did a great job washing it all down.

The rib tips were quite meaty while containing nice bits of fat. I have to give a lot of credit to the Smokin' Chokin' and Chowing with the King food blog for introducing me to jerk rib tips. The preparation is not too much to handle and the smoking process doesn't take all day. It is an easy meal to prepare and the results are really satisfying.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin is far off from Negril, Jamaica but this dish brought me a little closer. Thanks chibbqking!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Home-Cured Pancetta Part I

Purchasing the book, Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn has opened a lot of culinary doors that I would have never opened without the book. I highly recommend it to those to want to improve and challenge themselves in the world of aging/curing meats.

I've tried a few recipes and all have been satisfactory. I will make my own fresh bacon from now on because of their recipe and that experience influenced me to try curing pancetta.

Pancetta, Italian bacon,  is similar to fresh bacon where it comes from the pork belly. Cured with salt and seasonings, rolled into a log, it is hung to dry for several weeks. It does not involve smoking but you do need to cook it after it has been cured. It is unlike salami where it is ready to eat after curing. 

Pancetta can be used like bacon in dishes but it has its own distinct flavor which separates itself from bacon.

Begin by trimming the belly of its outer skin and clean up its edges so it is nice and square.

Next, combine all the seasonings for the cure. The dry cure consists of:
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 tsp pink salt
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 2 tbs dark brown sugar
  • 4 tbs ground black pepper, 2 tbs reserved
  • 2 tbs crushed juniper berries
  • 4 crumbled bay leaves
  • 1 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 4 springs fresh thyme

Evenly distribute the ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Rub the mixture all over the pork belly.

The smell of the dry cure is amazing. Like fresh bacon, place the pork belly in a Ziploc bag and refrigerated for 7 days. Flip the belly over every other day and redistribute the seasonings by rubbing it.

After a week, check it for firmness. If it is firm at its thickest point, the pork belly is cured.

Remove from bag and rinse it thoroughly under cold water and pat dry. Sprinkle the meat side with the reserved 2 tbs black pepper. Starting from the long side, roll the pork belly up tightly trying to avoid any air pockets inside the roll. Tie tightly with butcher's twine every 1 to 2 inches.

This process took me a few times to get it right. It does take some practice. I added a few extra tied loops to secure it better. Now it is ready to be hung.

Hang the pancetta in a cool, humid place. Ruhlman stated that 50 to 60 degrees with 60% humidity is ideal but that a cool, humid basements works just fine. I hung mine in the basement.

Pancetta can be hung to dry for 2 weeks but the more time you dry it, the more flavors intensify. I chose to hang it for three weeks. Check it daily for firmness. If it gets too hard that means it is drying out and you must wrap it and refridgerate it. It should be firm but pliable, not rock hard.

Here is the pancetta after one week.

The colors are darkening yet the pancetta is still firm and not hard. But something else has developed, mold. This is getting me a little nervous. Some types of mold are not harmful but Ruhlman's rule of thumb regarding mold is that fuzzy mold, no matter the color, is bad, as is any mold that is not white.

Here are some photos of my pancetta mold. I'm sorry that they look unappealing. Some are fuzzy and some are not. I have no idea if this is a non-harmful mold or bad mold.

This section of the pancetta has me worried. Right by the cross section of the twine appears to be green fuzzy mold. This type of mold can damage the interior and to be cautious, Ruhlman recommends to throw away the meat.

You can see the speckled white mold on the top of the pancetta. This to me appears to be the 'good' mold which prevents bad mold from growing.

I am not very experienced in drying meats and sausages and at this point, I am not sure what to do. Ruhlman suggested wiping down the pancetta with a clean cloth that has been soaked in a brining liquid.

I cleaned off the moldy areas and it looks better but I am not sure if cleaning it recified the problem. I will continue to monitor it daily and clean it if need be. I have two more weeks of drying to do so I'll see what happens.

If anyone has dried meats or sausages and has some helpful tips, please let me know. Thank you. Stay tuned to Part II of Home-Cured Pancetta.

Midwestern Ribs

Saturday was a perfect day to smoke some ribs. I had a full day to prepare it and I was hosting a celebration for a friend's recent engagement. The rain stayed away so it was great to just hang out in the backyard and tend the grill.

I call them Midwestern Ribs because I used a St. Louis-style cut of Spare Ribs combined with a Kansas City-style BBQ sauce. The K.C sauce is classic for having a solid base of tomatoes as opposed to Carolina sauces which are heavy in vinegar flavor. The St. Louis-style cut of spare ribs is known by the removal of the brisket and/or ribs tips. I believe I left some of the tips on one of the ribs though.

My Kansas City-style sauce consisted of:

  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 1/4 cup salt

  • 2 tbs garlic salt

  • 1 tbs onion salt

  • 1.5  tsp celery salt

  • 1/4 cup paprika, any kind you prefer

  • 1 tbs chile powder

  • 1 tbs. freshly ground black pepper

  • 1.5 tsp rubbed dried sage

  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice

  • 1/4 tsp cayenne

  • Pinch ground cloves

Combine all the ingredients and mix to a fine consistency for a dry rub.

Prep your spare ribs by removing the membrane or silverskin that covers the ribs. Also, you want to trim off the skirt on the bone side of the ribs. It is a loose flap piece of meat. Trim any other bits of fat. Then apply dry rub all over the ribs, front and back side.

After applying the dry rub, cover the ribs in foil and place in the refridgerator for at least an hour. While the ribs marinate, prepare the sauce. My sauce consists of:

  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar

  • 1/4 cup white vinegar

  • 2 tbs Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 tbs yellow mustard

  • 1 tbs chile powder

  • 1.5 tsp ground ginger

  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice

  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

  • 2 tbs honey

  • 2 cups tomato ketchup, I added a little bit of tomato paste as well

Combine ingredients into a sauce pan and cook over low heat for 20-30 minutes. Stir to mix ingredients and to dissolve spices.

Time to prep the grill. Here is my makeshift grill station. Start the charcoal in the chimney starter. I started with 50 briquettes. Let them burn until they are a soft white and place into grill. You also want to soak your wood chips in water for at least 30 minutes. Another important note; get those beers cold in a cooler near your station!

A good set up for smoking your ribs is to place the coals on one side for indirect grilling. Place a foil pan that is 2/3 full of water next the the coals. Place your ribs on a rib rack over the foil pan. Spread wood chips over hot coals.

I forgot to cut my ribs into half slabs in order to fit them in the rib rack. I did so after about an hour of smoking.  The foil pan is key because the ribs will be dripping of fat and it protects your grill from getting all messy.

Lots of smoking going on. You want to place the vents over the ribs so the smoke will travel through them. Now I smoked these ribs without a grill thermometer and I know they come highly recommended in order to achieve a slow, steady internal grill temp. Many wouldn't grill without one. It is the key for long smokes at a low level. Spare ribs contain a lot of meat and need to cook over a long period of time and at a low temperature. A grill thermometer makes it much easier. If you don't have one, you need to adjust the vents to lower the internal temperature.

Here are the ribs after several hours. I only added a few briquettes of charcoal once during the time to maintain heat and added wood chips throughout the process to continue the smoke. The ribs will tell you when they are done. The meat shrinks back from the bone and when you can easily remove the bone from the meat. Ideally, ribs should smoke for 5-6 hours at a temperature of 225-250 degrees.

The ribs turn black from the smoke. They looked like they are charred or burnt but indeed they are not. The outer layer is called bark. The smoke creates a crispy bark that is flavored from your dry rub. It tastes so good.

You want to apply the sauce within the last 30 minutes of the grilling. Slop it on both sides of the ribs.

When the ribs are done, it is important to let them rest for at least 30 minutes up to an hour. Wrap them tightly in foil. You can also add more sauce to the ribs at this point.

While the ribs were resting, I grilled some corn on the cob, a great side for ribs. I soaked them in the stalks for over an hour. Grill on all sides for about 30-40 minutes.

Served with grilled corn, potato salad, and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, here are my Midwestern Ribs!

The ribs lived up to what I expected. The meat separated nicely from the bone and the smoke flavor really enchanced the all-around great taste of the ribs. The rub and sauce had a little bite to it but not too much heat. The ribs must have been good because my friends and me weren't really talking during the consumption of the ribs. We were just slamming them down.

There is a lot of preparation that goes into smoking ribs but I think it is all easy work. You just have to watch the grill and pay attention to the heat. It is a perfect thing to do when all your work is done and you have a free day to celebrate with family and friends.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Self-Indulgent Chef's Snack

When I am cooking and preparing food, I like to leave some scraps on the side and make a little chef's snack or treat. Usually it is trimmings of meat or scraps of fat that I will season and toss in the pan for some quick, tasty bites.

Last week, I prepared a pork belly for an upcoming post on Home-Cure Pancetta and I trimmed the edges for a clean square of belly. I don't like throwing away bits and pieces so I saved an edge of the pork belly. For a self-indulgent lunch, I decided to use my homemade bacon and wrap and tie it to the saved pork belly scrap.

Yes I know, some may think of it as over-indulgence in pork, fat, salt, sodium, etc....I see it more as an exciting experiment of pork on pork, a true intoxication of pork.

Seasoned with black pepper, I wrapped the belly with bacon and sloppily tied it together. I browned the meat in a cast-iron skillet for about a minute a side while I preheated the oven at 425 degrees.

I roasted it in the oven for about 15 minutes at or around the temperature of 425. I basted the pork belly with soy sauce (more salt/sodium) afterward and garnished it with fresh sage leaves from my garden.

I'd say the pork belly was well cooked. I guessed right on oven temperature and time. The salt from the bacon seasoned the belly well. Next time, I would omit the soy sauce and accompany it with something that would pair well with the bacon, perhaps a guacamole or salsa. The sage leaves gave it a nice herbal balance.

I'm not sure if you would see Bacon-Wrapped Pork Belly on any restaurant's menu but it fits well for home cooks who like to experiment or who simply like pork. I've seen recipes for "pork bombs" and bacon-wrapped "insert cut of pork here," and they all seem to be fun and tasty. This entree fits right into that category.

I would normally recommend serving with a beer but I have to work yet today so no beer with lunch!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Winning a Dog's Heart with Ears

My brother and his wife acquired a dog from the Humane Society a few years ago. Since first introduction, the dog is very weary around me. So I thought if I make her some good eats, she may come around to me and we could be friends.

I had some pig ears in my fridge and those seemed like a suitable treat for the dog.

I'll be honest, these don't look to appealing to me, hence, I'm making them for the dog. Sure, I've seen pig ears being cooked and served on the tele and it looked good but I haven't looked for a recipe I like.

I boiled the ears in a pot for 30 minutes to tender them up a bit. The smell wasn't too great by the way.

After boiling, I cut the ears into little strips. Again, the smell isn't good. Smells like what you would think a pig ear smells like after it was boiled.

At this point, the ear is real rubbery and chewy so I wanted to crisp it up a bit for the dog, trying to match pork rinds that pet shops sell for dogs.

I set up a large cast iron skillet and heated up some oil. It is a good idea to prepare this food outside as it is smelly and the frying can be a bit messy.

The pig ears crisped up real nice. They were starting to look edible to me. And I totally thought that the dog was going to love these crispy pig ears.

I allowed the ears to cool down a bit after frying. I sampled one topped with some salt and pepper and although it was crunchy, it was void of any flavor. For me, no thanks, but for the dog, I thought it could work.

My brother's dog arrived at the house and I greeted her with a fried crispy ear. I knelt down and she gingerly crept up to me. Her nose was sniffing the whole time as she neared the pig ear. She snatched it from my hand it and was chewed in seconds flat. Success! Not quite so....

She is still scared and distrustworthy of me. oh well, she enjoyed the pig ears at least.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Cali Burgers - Pork Drunk style

As you all know, summer time is grilling time. Burgers on the grill are a large part of it. Beef burgers are good but I had to incorporate pork into the dish. My favorite burger is the California style,  avocados piled high on a juicy burger sandwiched in a toasty bun.

The creaminess of the avocado pairs well with a nice charred burger. I put a little spin on the California version here at Pork Drunk and spiced it up.

Chipotles, adobo sauce, and garlic are mixed into ground pork to create the burger. The toppings are mashed avocados, cilantro, and sliced tomatillos. Melted muenster cheese rounds out the flavor.

The minced chipotle peppers along with a few teaspoons of adobo sauce give it a good heat but not too over-powering. The muenster cheese, a great melting cheese, and the mashed avocados bring the creamy texture while they temper the spicy chipotles. Clipped cilantro from my garden gave it a nice fresh taste to it. The tomatillos added a slight sweetness as well.

I grilled the burgers over a real low flame, probably cooked for a half hour or longer. The slow-grilled pork fat really flavored the burger resulting in a juicy, moist experience.

It is such an easy recipe and preparation, I don't see how any backyard summer griller could mess it up.

Serve with many beers and choice of side(s).

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Bratwurst- Sconnie Style

We are known for bratwurst in Wisconsin. We are known for our beer in Wisconsin. Both go real well together, especially when you cook the brat in the beer. With a strong German heritage in my state, bratwurst is common and real popular.

You'll find beer brats in the parking lots at Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewer baseball team. You'll find beer brats at 8 am from Packers' tailgaters at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. You'll find beer brats on smoking grills in the backyards of most Milwaukeens and Sconnies. It is a part of our food culture.

Us Wisconsinites take our bratwurst seriously and you may find yourself in a discussion/argument on how to prepare them. There are many different styles and ways to make Wisconsin bratwurst but I have always made them a certain way and no one has turned them away.

Here in the southeastern part of the state, the most well-known bratwurst companies are Johnsonville, Klements, and Usingers. All are fantastic as there are also many local meat markets and butchers supplying great tasting homemade bratwurst.

Bratwurst become popular in Sheboygan, WI in the 20s and was first introduced to sports stadiums in 1953 at Milwaukee County Stadium. Ok, enough history, lets get to the food.

The ingredients are basic, the brat, bun, beer, and condiments. The latter is important. As with the many ways to prepare brats, there are many condiments to use but in Milwaukee, we primarily use:

  • Frank's sauerkraut
  • Koop's mustard -Dusseldorf style or spicy brown mustard
  • Secret Stadium Sauce, famous sauce from Milwaukee County Stadium/Miller Park
  • beer, I chose a Schlitz Tall Boy
You can certainly use most any type of beer. The beer cooks the bratwurst but also flavors it. I highly recommend using Guinness beer too. It is like cooking with wine, if you like to drink a certain type or brand, use the same to wine to cook with too.

I like to start to prepare Beer Bath for the grill. Fresh cut white onion, beer, and globs of butter are poured into a tin foil pan.

Next, I prepare the sauerkraut and Stadium Secret sauce. Drain kraut and combine with sauce in a small tin foil pan.

Get your bratwurst ready on a plate.

You want to set up your grill with a two-zone fire, direct heat on one side and indirect on the other.

Place the bratwurst into the beer bath and place over direct high heat. Occasionally turn brats to achieve even cooking. It should take about 20 minutes to get rid of the raw look of the brat. You want a consistent gray color over the brat. Set the sauerkraut on the indirect side.

Slide the beer bath over to the indirect heat side and sear the brats over direct heat for about 6-8 per side.

I like to sear the brats and then put them back in the beer bath over high heat and repeat again until I achieve a nice color and char. You can simplify it by just doing this process once but I sort of like to "play" with the brats while being careful not to explode them by cooking them too hot or blackening them by keeping them over a hot flame for too long.

I'm sorry but G-Damn that looks good!

Secret Stadium Sauce sauerkraut Beer Brat and Dusseldorf Mustard Beer Brat with Beer-Braised Onions.

These brats go well with a cold beer, an local IPA from Lakefront Brewery, a ballgame on the radio, and company of friends.

The key is to grill the brats low and slow, not over a high uncontrollable flame where they could burst open and lose all the juice. There isn't much better for a summer backyard grillout then slow-grilled bratwurst in beer, juicy and tender, charred, accompanied by the right condiment, washed down by a cold brew.

I am Sconnie and this is my Bratwurst!