Thursday, December 28, 2017
Sometimes I need to just make some quick and dirty briskets to keep the little barbarians (my growing boys) at bay. For this, I like to get small (about 6 lbs) briskets that have very small points. When I get 10-13 lb. briskets, I typically separate the point from the flat cuts, and save up the points for special occasions. One day I served a couple of points up and my kids were complaining that the meat was TOO RICH! That's the point! They are nearly impossible to ruin, and will turn into melt-in-your-mouth goodness given time and proper treatment. The small flats you see above are a very easy to turn into mouth-watering deliciousness with very little effort.
I start by getting relatively small briskets--these are select grade (a relatively low grade) that were available at my local restaurant supply store. I trimmed off the fat chunks from the bottoms, and trimmed the fat cap to about a 1/4 to a 1/3 inch thickness on top. It helps to have a super sharp, flexible knife for this work, and always cut AWAY from your supporting hand. Cover the meat in a rub (this one is kosher salt, brown sugar, oregano, paprika, old bay, and black pepper), and cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit in the fridge for 24 hours before cooking.
Light a 1/2 can of coal in your chimney, and spread about unlit coals against the far side of the grill. When the chimney coals are ready, pour them over the unlit coals, place your wood chunk on top, put some foil under the grill on the cool side, and the place the meat on the grill above the foil. Open your vents halfway and cover for 3 hours. The internal temp of the grill should be around 300 degrees.
After 3 hours this brisket had an internal temperature of about 185 degrees.
Transfer the brisket to a large sheet for foil and wrap it tightly. Two tips: I double wrap the brisket in foil, and I use folded up newspaper as "hot pads" for lifting the meat from the grill to the foil. Put the wrapped meat back on the grill, and replace the lid and let it cook for another 2 hours. This time the brisket will braise in its own juices in the sealed foil pouch. Once I used parchment paper to wrap the brisket, and it worked fine, didn't leak or anything, but the top of the parchment was brittle by the end of the cook, so foil is my go to for wrapping. After 2 hours, take your wrapped brisket off the grill and let it rest on a baking sheet (to catch any stray juice) for 45 minutes.
After the meat has rested, transfer it to a cutting board and slice against the grain. Pour any accumulated juices back over the sliced meat and serve.
Wednesday, December 27, 2017
Here's the most important ingredient for really great Chinese BBQ pork: Time. The second most important ingredient? Patience. This is a dish that really benefits from a long soak in a marinade so the aromatic flavors of scallion and garlic really permeate the meat. The other parts of the marinade are Chinese rice wine (or sherry), hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and a little sugar. There is no fire engine red food coloring. The redness of this meat comes from the smoke ring, which means Time + Patience.
Two days before you want to eat, pick up either a 2 lb. slab of pork butt or some country style pork ribs (which may just be strips of pork butt--who knows). If you got the slab, cut it into strips that are about 1.5 inches wide and thick. Smash about 8 cloves of garlic and slice 6 scallions into 2 inch lengths, smashing the white part with the flat of the knife blade to release the onion pulp, and add them to the meat in a non-reactive bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, 3 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons of hoisin, 2 tablespoons of rice wine, and a teaspoon of sesame oil to the bowl, and mix thoroughly. Cover tightly and let it sit for a day. Give the meat a mix, re-cover for another day.
After two days of marinating, build yourself on offset fire on your BBQ, with a half can of coal. Place a block of fruit wood on the fire (I use blocks rather than chips because it just lasts longer), and a piece of foil or a foil pan under where the meat will go opposite the fire. Put on your grate and place the meat on the cool side of the grill, reserving the leftover marinade at the bottom of the bowl. Cover the grill and let it smoke two hours with the vents half open (about 275 degrees).
After two hours it will be very tempting to just grab one of the strips and dig in, but wait--it will be worth it. Turn the meat, and pour the marinade over it, re-cover the grill and wait patiently for another hour.
Take the meat off, cover, and let it rest for about a half hour. Finally, cut the meat against the grain in 1/4 inch slices. Spread them on a platter with some toasted sesame seeds and hot mustard, or enjoy the delicious medallions on their own. I use them in fried rice, and in stir fried Shanghai style rice cakes with bok choy.
Monday, December 11, 2017
The first time somebody suggested that I make my own pulled pork, I thought they were crazy. Smoke an 8 pound pork butt? No way--not me. How in the world would I get a monstrously huge slab o' meat to cook all the way through low and slow? What about that big old bone on the inside? How would I shred up that much meat?
The task seemed completely daunting, and I was not up to it. For super bowl that year, I bought a bag of pre-smoked, pre-shredded pulled pork from a restaurant supply store. The taste was okay, but the texture was not. To say it looked like cat food would be generous. I served it, but I wasn't happy about it, and vowed that I would make my own.
Let me give you a spoiler alert: Making pulled pork is just about the easiest thing you can do, but there are definitely pitfalls that need to be looked out for.
The first time I made pulled pork, I did one 8-pound pork butt. I smoked it in a foil pan, then covered the pan and finished it in the oven. The result was great--fully cooked steamy, smoky pork that was fork tender and shredded just by looking at it. The main thing I learned from making that first 8-pounder was that I could make 15 lbs at the same time, just as easily. I also learned that with proper fire tending, I could finish braising the meat on the BBQ instead of using the oven.
Okay, enough talk--make with the pictures.
First off, I got a couple of pork butts from a local restaurant supply store. These ones come in two packs, so I just looked for one that was between 15 and 16 pounds. It doesn't really matter if you get bone-in or boneless--the bone will slip out effortlessly when the pork butts are cooked. These happen to be boneless. Also, buy a deep full size foil chafing pan. The half size pans are fine for 1 pork butt, but the full size pans can hold two, and when folded properly, can fit onto a 22.5 inch Weber kettle. Dry off the meat when it comes out of the shrink wrap, and apply a rub. Refrigerate the meat for a day. My rub is heavy on paprika, chili powder, and cayenne, with bunch of other things thrown in for good measure.
I heat 3/4 of a can of charcoal in a chimney and strategically put a layer of 20 unlit coals below the lit coal.
I use my coal baskets to make a wall for the lit coal to rest against.
Here's where we are after three hours--a nice bark had formed (an outer crust) and the fat is starting the render. At this point I cover the pan with foil, and add some hardwood charcoal to the fire. This point is critical--if you don't seal the pan with foil, the meat will not braise properly, and it won't be fully cooked in the next step. It's a little tricky sealing the pan, but do yourself a favor and get a restaurant sized box of foil and use two big sheets of it. Also, you'll be working right in front of the live flames, so BE CAREFUL. To insure the meat can't poke through the foil, I add a layer of parchment paper between the meat and the foil.
The pan is sealed, and hardwood coal is lit.
Another angle on that fiery goodness. Cover the grill and let it go another 2 and a half hours. The heat can be between 275 and 325 degrees, and for this braising step, I prefer the heat to be closer to 325.
Take the foil pan off the grill, and let it sit for an hour. After that is the big reveal--TADA! The fat has rendered, the bone (if it's in there) is ready to slide out, and big sections of muscle are going to just fall away.
Put big sections of meat into a bowl, and then go at it with either forks, poultry shears, or some bear claws.
After not much work, here's what you've got--a whole mess of pulled pork. An 8-pound pork butt will cook down to about 4 and a half pounds of delicious meat. I bag the leftovers by the 1/2 pound in ziploc sandwich bags, and make sure to add about 2 tablespoons of the rendered fat back into the bag. Leftovers are perfect for pulled pork sandwiches, carnitas tacos or tortas, nachos, or whatever. A half pound makes 8 street tacos (4" size) or two generous pulled pork sandwiches. Enjoy!
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