My website is now up and running!! While it is certainly a work in progress there are a lot of photos and recipes already there. I will be continuing to work on the site while moving away from the blog format. The site allows me to more easily organize photos and recipes as well as post news bits like a blog. It will also allow you to more easily access what you are looking for. If you want a recipe... go to the recipe page. If you want to see step by step photos go to the photo album. I hope you like it, please share it with your friends, and I welcome your comments and suggestions.
There is nothing better than a well prepared country ham and for all of you that said "I don't like it... It's too salty." you just don't know what you are missing. To be fair it is saltier than a city ham, but it should not be a salt lick either. Country ham is salt cured-- not to be confused with its sugar cured city cousin. However, to compare some recently thawed, show leather substitute, that was prepared by a teenager that didn't want to be making your breakfast anyway to real country ham is rather unfair. It's sort of like comparing that burger you had for lunch from the drive through window to one your momma might have made. A good Country Ham is a treasure. Slow methods and gentle heat coax sublime flavors from this proud piece of porcine pleasure.
I have been cooking whole country hams for Christmas since about 1989. I have cooked them a number of different ways. Baked is not really the right word as the process is more like a braise, but braise is a click too hot. I did a method that involved cider vinegar, water, and soda pop for a few years--lost that recipe somewhere. Then I tried a few methods from the web all very similar to the soda pop ham. A few years ago I learned about the lard can method. Google it if you like there is plenty of info. Basically it comes from the old way of cooking the hams in a lard can, wrapping the whole deal in blankets after it boils a bit and letting it sit over night slowly cooking the ham. Not bad, but it was essentially ham boiled in water and I always look for ways to get a bit more flavor involved.
So now I do this...
First, get a big country ham. Something in the 15 to 18 pound range-- I cut the hock off, but it isn't a requirement. And don't go buy one of the saline injected medieval weapons in a net bag at the typical grocery. Try to find one that is at least 9 months old, a year is better, and that has been treated with some respect.
Give it a scrub, NO SOAP, to remove any unwanted crud from the outside, and then soak it for 24 hours in cold water. If the salt is a real concern, go 48 hours. I change the water every 6 to 8 hours as well to shed the salt that has been "soaked" out.
Once you are ready to cook, drain the water one more time, rinse the ham, and start with a clean pan if you are using the same one. Add a quartered onion, a quartered apple, a dozen or so black peppercorns, about a half dozen allspice berries, about a dozen and a half whole cloves, a bay leaf, a cup of apple cider, and a cup of bourbon to the pot. Then fill the pot with water to cover the ham.
Bring the water almost to a boil and turn the heat down so that only an occasional bubble rises to the top. Watch the pot because the heat will need to be turned down the longer it cooks. The ham should cook until it reaches an internal temp of 160-165-- be sure the probe does not touch the bone. It is usually done if the end has pulled back and the bones move freely. This one weighed in around 16 pounds, it took about 5 1/2 hours to reach 163, and the small bone pulled out easily.
Drain it and let it cool for awhile. We need to be able to handle it in the next step. Country ham has a large fat layer and skin still on it. You can use a knife to trim it away, but I use a plastic glove and run my fingers under the fat layer to take it off. This way less meat is "trimmed" away. It takes a little practice, but it is by no means hard to do. And leave a little fat, I mean, the flavor is in the fat, isn't it. :)
Once the fat layer has been mostly removed I bring the oven to 450 and pour over the top a mixture of 1/2 C brown sugar, 1/2 C honey, and a big splash of bourbon. Put it back in the oven until the glaze is bubbly-- about 15 or 20 minutes. It will need to rest a bit more before we carve. 20 or 30 minutes or longer if needed-- just long enough to make cornbread. :)
To carve it look at the ends and figure out which side the bone runs closest too. It's pretty easy once you look at it for a minute. It will be one of the 2 smaller curved sides. Carve a slice or 2 off that "short" side and stand the ham on the flat spot. Then, starting at the hock end, make thin angled slices. We are looking for longer and thinner slices as we work back up the bone toward the big end. Once that side is carved, the other produce more slices and some crusty pieces too. I like to use these for breakfast slices the next morning or ham salad, and don't forget to leave some meat on the bone for butter bean soup-- that's another post in the very near future.
1 ham will feed a bunch of people, make several meals, and some variety too. It keeps in the fridge pretty well and can be frozen, but the best slices are the first ones that come off while it is still warm. Moist and tender... sweetness from the glaze... salt from the cure... subtle fragrances from the aromatics... that wonderful slightly citrus and spicy yet sweet undertone from the bourbon... country ham in all its glory.
Until you have tried it this way, why, saying you don't like it cuz its too salty, well, that's just wrong. :)
So hear we are a few days before Christmas and I was waiting for some butter to soften when I thought... "You haven't posted anything in a while." Partly because I haven't cooked outside much and partly because people have been ready to eat when the meal was done. So I looked back at the photos and realized that I had taken some pics of the Pibil style pork I made this summer and never added them to the blog. Might as well add them now.
Cochinita Pibil is a Yucatan peninsula specialty and fits right in with my love of Mexican style foods. I took some to the waiter at our favorite place and he said it was good. Although he added it was "Gringo Style." I am not sure what that means, but I will live with it either way. :)
This dish starts with pork butt so how bad could it be. Instead of a dry rub like barbecue it is a wet marinade made with orange juice, lime juice, onion's, garlic, red wine vinegar, kosher salt, black pepper, cumin, oregano, and achiote paste. Achiote paste is made from ground annato seeds and, trust me on this, buy it ground. I tried to grind them in a mortar and pestle and it was much like trying to grind ball bearings. You can find a nice brick at the Mexican grocery and it is perfect. Roast the onions and garlic a bit and then use the blender to get it all together, put it in plastic bags with the pork, and toss in the fridge overnight.
Looks something like this...
Traditionally this pork is done in the ground, in what is called a pib, without any smoke. It's odd for me to throw something on the smoker and not use smoke, but in this case that's what I did. Wrapping the pork in banana leaves or aluminum foil will hold in the juices during cooking. I suppose with all that wrapping an oven would work too. Just like pulled pork we are looking for an internal temp of about 190 to 195.
Here is what it looked like before it went on the cooker...
I grilled some cilantro lime butter corn on the cob...
Add tortillas, grilled onions, fresh salsa, and the wife's fresh guacamole...
... and something called Mexican chocolate pie. I don't know why it was Mexican, but it was very tasty!
You know... the turkey at Thanksgiving was great and the ham I will prepare in a week or so will be tasty too... but I am ready for this bit of spring and summer to come back around.
My wife is fond of telling me I am the luckiest man in Louisville. And for the record... I believe this to be true for many reasons that I won’t discuss here and for a few that I will. Where I made my mistake, if that’s what it was, was saying that Jeffrey Garten was the luckiest man in America one afternoon. For those of you that are unaware of Jeffrey I will say that he is very accomplished, apparently brilliant, works hard, and his wiki page bears that out. The portion of his life that is pertinent to this discussion is that he is married to Ina Garten-- The Barefoot Contessa.
I said this because she cooks for Jeffrey daily. He comes home on Fridays to Roasted chicken, she makes lunches with sandwiches from past picnics in France, and other things too. The best part is that the food rocks and anyone that has seen her show knows this to be true. Plus, as you have probably guessed I am a total addict to roasted chicken. Yes, I love barbecue and all things beef and pork, but there is nothing quite like a good chicken; barbecued or not. So when we watched the show where she roasted the whole bird and made garlic mashed potatoes etc... For his arrival home every freakin' Friday night... I said "That must be the luckiest man in America."
So there is my fait accomplis. I said it... I did it... I meant no harm... no foul... no insult of any kind. I should also add that I never slept outside or on the furniture over this slip of the tongue, but I could tell I had said the wrong thing. It happens. But since I was out of Godiva Chocolate money, it had to stand. :)
I do a lot of the cooking, because I like to cook, but my wife can throw it down too. In this case it might have worked out pretty well. See, she took the comment, internalized it, and waited for just the right moment to turn it around. It’s a female thing... all of the opposite sex does it... I can’t tell you why... I don't even want to think any more about it... it just is what it is. Well. Turns out last night was the night. It had the added bonus of being delicious.
I had plans on Sunday and she had told me we were having Roasted Chicken with Broccoli and Yukon Gold Potatoes. For 2 days she had been working on this chicken. Seasoning... drying the skin... etc... So when we were getting close to eating the aromas were killing me. Chicken, broccoli, taters, lemon, garlic, fresh herbs, and whatever else was going on in there. As a hopefully quick aside, if you have never roasted broccoli and hit it with some lemon juice you need to try that very soon. Anyway, she plates it up and says... "Would you like to take some pictures?" I said sure. Now maybe I should have seen it coming right there, but I didn’t. Many of you are already seeing where this is going. We sit down to eat. The meal is wonderful and I am sure to say so. All of the succulence that is expected from roasted chicken is right there. Plus, the brightness of the fresh lemon and herbs and the pan jus over the top. Wonderful and delicious on every level. I said "Honey, this is definitely a keeper recipe." It’s what we say when we like something. That is when she said... yes, here it comes... "Well, do you feel as lucky as Jeffrey Garten tonight?" :) Ah ha!
Since I am writing this and not consulting an attorney you all can figure out my answer. It’s always been my answer. I am far and away the luckiest man around. Not just for the chicken... for a lot of reasons. But... the chicken doesn’t hurt a bit! :)
Y'all know the old story... The chicken is involved, but the pig is committed. Well, in this case, the chicken was too.
I was making a new dish with roasted chicken and mushrooms with creme fraiche. One of my favorite things is roasted chicken-- done almost any way. Crispy skin, succulent meat, fresh herbs, and a rich flavor that can only be had by slow roasting. Adding shitake mushrooms and morels to creme fraiche, chicken stock, white wine, rosemary, and thyme completes this dish with fragrant notes and woody undertones. Throw in a side of broccoli and dinner is done-- yeah, it is just steamed.
Well... almost. I thought that an appetizer would be nice. I was intrigued by a total chicken concept and decided to make something with an egg. What kind of appetizer can one make from an egg? Hmmm... various breakfast fare came to mind and none seemed appropriate. I recalled an appetizer that was created by David Chang of Momofuku Ko that involved an egg, caviar, onions, and fresh made potato chips. Sad to say, but I didn't have any caviar and wasn't going to make homemade potato chips, but I did have eggs, onions, kettle chips, and time. So I made my variation on the masters theme.
Soft Cooked Egg and Onion Soubise with Potato Chip and Smoked Sea Salt
Pan Roasted Chicken with Morel and Shitake Mushrooms in Creme Fraiche Sauce
These pork chops have become one of our favorite recipes and I use the marinade on many things. It is excellent on the chops obviously, but really good on beef and chicken satays too! Here is the basic process... really simple and so delicious.
1. Put a whole head of garlic and 3T of sugar in a mini chopper
2. Run until it has that "wet sand" look below.
3. Add 1/3C Asian fish sauce, 3T honey, 3T rice wine vinegar, 2T dark sesame oil, 1T fresh ginger, salt and pepper to taste. Then give it a stir to combine all the ingredients.
4. I prefer T-Bone pork chops for this, but it works on any kind. Pour the marinade over the chops in a dish or bag them in a big Ziploc bag if there aren't any bones to make holes in the plastic.
5. I grill them over lump charcoal to get that good crust. Just a note... since the sugar content on this marinade is higher than some, be prepared for the grill grates to get crusty too.
6. Plate up with your favorite sides. We chose sticky rice, snap peas, and heirloom tomatoes.
The marinade is what this recipe is all about. Be sure to try it on some flank or skirt or tri tip cut in thin strips and skewered... Mighty tasty! Hope you enjoy it...
It isn't just barbecue that makes me want to cook. While we used to be happy with grilled chicken or a roast in the crock pot our culinary explorations over the past few years have led us to the unmistakable conclusion that there are finer things to eat than that. It is true that this is largely a barbecue blog, but I think I would like to share a bit more. I posted the Chicken Peperonata recipe awhile ago and now I think I would like to share another. This was a meal that I prepared on one of those "Oh My God... How hot can it get?" days we have had here and it turned out to be one of the best things in recent memory.
We started with a cold soup as an appetizer.
Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Goat Cheese
This was a fresh and fragrant cold soup on a hot day that had the sweetness of tomatoes at the peak of their flavor, a little creamy texture from the goat cheese, and the bite of a horseradish undertone. Simply delicious and refreshing.
Then we moved to the main course. Some wonderful Wild King Salmon from the local fish monger.
Grilled Salmon with Bell Peppers, Snap Peas, and Pesto
The flavors and textures made this a real keeper. I think I was most impressed about how well the pesto paired with the fish. The nuts, olive oil, and basil packed a lot of flavor in what I was, at first, thinking of as garnish.
As I enjoy my morning coffee I realize that I have answered one of life's most entertaining questions; at least for a foodie. If you were to die to tomorrow, what would you have for your last meal? Morbid, I know, but not an uncommon question for some. Chefs use that question as a game. A conversational foil whilst blowing off steam after work; with a few beverages to be sure. While I am not a chef I do play one in my spare time. :) The truth of the matter was that I didn't know the answer to that question until now or at least I couldn't settle on one thing. I needed a few more options to be sure... and lets not forget desert! That could be a category in and of itself. But today, this morning, even last night as I sat in total contentment after a wonderful meal I knew this was the answer. I knew the answer came from one of life's most humble cuts. The one that when I mentioned it to my non-foodie friends they said "a what??" "Is that any good?" Even butchers were a little surprised when I asked for it. "What's he want?" "What ya gonna do witit?" That's a word in Kentucky. :) One butcher looked as if he either wanted my address or my hand in marriage when I told him what I was "gonna do witit!" I'm not sure he knows which, but I believe he is still secretly hoping for an invite to dinner. :) I found this humble piece of charcuterie in the town of Bards. Or, Bardstown as we call it... some say bargetown, but they probably say y'all too. Wait... I say y'all... anyway, I digress. :) There is a place out there called Boone's Butcher Shop that is carnivore nirvana! I may have to move closer just to avoid the 2 hour round trip. :)
OK... hopefully I haven't prattled on to the point were you left, but here it is... the piece of meat involved is... Pork Belly! Yes... fresh bacon. You must get it with the skin on and crackle it over a hot fire! Oh... my God! I am getting a head of myself. Here is how it happened and the sandwich that has now garnered my enduring love as life's greatest last meal.
I must also give credit where it is due. The recipe is from the Adam Perry Lang cookbook Serious Barbecue via London and Jamie Oliver. If you love grilling you must obtain a copy. That's all I'm saying... read this and go to the book store and buy it. Today. Don't wait... go now. If only because I have not given you the whole recipe. :)
We got a whole pork belly with the skin on. Uncured, unsmoked, and unaltered in any way-- save removed from the pig. It weighed about 10 pounds and was a lovely flat fatty soft and firm piece of meat. Almost pretty to look at actually.
Since that is a lot of bacon and there were only 4 of us I cut it in half. It was marinated over night with ingredients like olive oil, lemon juice, cider vinegar, fresh thyme, fresh rosemary, chopped garlic, Serrano chiles, coarse salt and black pepper. Then some water and butter, as if this thing needs butter ;), was added to the marinade. The belly was placed skin side up in a foil pan, the marinade was poured over top, and the package was sealed tightly with aluminum foil. It got braised for 5 1/2 hours at 275, rested a bit, and put on a hot grill to crisp the skin. If you try this be very careful at this point as it will be soft and jiggly on a level I have never seen before. Well... there was that one college... uh... never mind. :) Just be careful. Once it was crispy it got a bourbon glaze and then rested in some olive, chives, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Sliced thin, well as thin as you can, against the grain. And all the angels said yum!! In glorious harmony of course. :)
I had put together, in the mean time, some home made applesauce from the grill and the wife had prepared a field green salad with a tart vinaigrette as well as a loaded tater salad. I don't have pics of all this, but trust me its important. Oh yeah... and we got some Coleman's mustard and ciabatta rolls. Some of you have jumped ahead... that's OK.
So there is the sandwich. A fresh ciabatta roll, spread one side with some Coleman's mustard, spread the other side with a little homemade applesauce, pork belly on the bottom slice, and a pile of the tart greens on top. Close it up and be prepared for a flavor profile that is crispy, salty, sweet, spicy, tart, and unctuous. No other way to put it... it just was perfect. As you bite slowly through, and you should go slowly, a complex wave of flavor rushes over, floods, and tingles your tongue unlike any other. It was slap and tickle for your mouth. :)
...and as we now know...
So Juju... If you were to die tomorrow what would your last meal be?
Without a doubt... The pork belly sandwich. Let me tell you about it...
I have been remiss in my posting as life has kept me fairly busy the last few weeks. I have however, been taking photos and keeping track of a few things along the way and I think its time I get back to sharing those with you.
This was a very simple recipe and tasty too! Its based on a standard in Italian cooking with a few liberties required for the American market. I hope you enjoy!!
6 T olive oil
2 T fresh lime juice
1/2 t ground coriander
4 skinless boneless chicken breasts
2 bell peppers (1 red & 1 yellow)
1 lg poblano chiles
1/2 med red onion
whisk 4 T olive oil, lime juice, and coriander in a medium bowl
season with salt and pepper to taste
heat remaining olive oil in skillet
season chicken breast with salt and pepper
cook chicken breast until brown and cooked through
transfer cooked chicken to plate
turn skillet up to med-high
add vegetables to skillet
toss vegetables until tender and beginning to color
cover and cook 1 minute
mix in 2 T of dressing
mound vegetables on top of chicken and drizzle with remaining dressing
I served the chicken with creamy garlic polenta, aka Italian grits, but most anything could be substituted. A little crusty bread, sliced on the bias, with some olive oil, salt, and pepper is mandatory in my opinion too.
The 4th has come and gone. We gave thanks as a nation to all of the troops yesterday, today, and tomorrow that have preserved our freedoms. I thank you all! As a nation, most of us anyway, did it as best we could; by cooking a small feast and setting fire to several hundred dollars worth of powder and paper. I don't have any photos of fireworks... I didn't even have fireworks... I watched the race and listened to others. However, I do have photos of the food-- surely you aren't surprised. ;)
This is called Watermelon Pork Loin with Watermelon Salsa. Yep... that's what I said. It was absolutely delicious too. That sides weren't so bad either... :)
After the rub...
We served it with Sweet Potato Salad
Grilled Corn and Avocado Salad
It was one of the most colorful plates I have ever put on the table... judging by the silence it was pretty tasty too. :)
What is Barbecue? That question has been asked many times and the answers are as varied as the people who give them. A tool... A methodology... A gathering... I suppose an argument can be made for all of those, but I like to think of it as a little more. I think it's magic. It's that feeling you get when you share good food and good times with even better friends. I hope you get that feeling while you are here. So... come on in... sit a spell... enjoy yourself.