Looking Back, Looking Ahead ‘07
12/30/07 - 20:59 Filed in: Grilling | Smoking | Retrospective
Well another year has ended and I will repeat something I did last year, Since I am known to be wordy It won’t be Top 10 lists, but Top 5 lists. Once again I’ll discuss the Top 5 Cooks, the Top 5 Things I’ve Learned, The Top 5 Mistakes Made and my 5 Goals for the New Year. This is a great way for me to assess where I am, where I want to be and see how I’m doing in that quest. Plus I get to remember some great food shared with friends and family.
TOP 5 ITEMS COOKED IN 2007
BBQ Smorgasbord (09/02/07) I am cheating a little bit here because there are 5 items in this one meal alone. Also it wasn’t one cook but 2 sessions. I had 3 days off and started smoking and I decided on the fly to smoke the big three of the BBQ triumvirate : Ribs, Pulled Pork & Brisket. Add to that were some Doctored Bush Beans & Smoked Chicken Wings. This meal was special because I will rarely have the time or the opportunity to put that many items on the table at once. The brisket was a challenge, but the best I have made and the ribs were the second best ribs I have made. The best part was being able to share the goodies with in a mega meal with my family.
BBQ SMORGASBOARD Blog Entry
Stuffed Trout (10/18/07) Another great entry from Grill Camp ’08. I awarded it best meal of Grill Camp ’08, I learned that with the right prep, fish on the smoker is quite easy to make. The recipe uses a marinade to help keep the fish moist during smoking. It uses a tasty stuffing on the inside. The two halves were tied together with some bacon which added flavor and basted the outside during smoking.
STUFFED TROUT Fish Picture Entry
Princess Ribs (10/17/07) I made these ribs during Grill Camp ’07 and they were the best ribs I have ever made. Not only was it a great recipe, I cooked them exactly the right time. These ribs have a sweet and spicy rub and a companion sweet and spicy sauce and are very flavorful. Unlike many ribs recipes that have 3 stages of smoking these were 2 stage: smoke uncovered, wrap in foil and finish. When they came out of the foil they are done.
PRINCESS RIBS Pork Picture Entry
￼Cubana Pork Burger (Many Times) I made lots of burgers this summer after I was given the Build a Better Burger cookbook. This one was the best of the best. The patties are a blend of beef, pork and tangy spices and are topped with a home made relish. The smell when you put these patties on the grill was incredible.
CUBANA PORK BURGERS Burgers Picture Entry
￼Barbecued London Broil (10/13/07 & 10/20/07) I’ve always loved London Broil but was afraid to make it myself. I’ve had really good and really bad London Broil, so in my mind it was hard to make. Then I got the Mastering the Grill cookbook which treats cooking like not only art, but science. They had detailed do’s and don’t s for this recipe so I decide to try it. This kicked off my so-called Grill Camp ’07. All I can say is this is one of the easiest recipes to do and it turned out the best London Broil I have ever eaten.
LONDON BROIL Beef Picture Entry
TOP 5 LESSONS LEARNED, RE-LEARNED OR REINFORCED
Use Good Meat / Get to Know Your Butcher This is unchanged from last year, but I feel it is the key to a stress free successful cook. Some people I know make a science of getting the cheapest, but yet best meat they can. I have tended to take a different approach. When I’m learning a new recipe or making an important meal, I don’t want the meat to be a potential variable. I am willing to pay more for a good piece of meat. I want the piece of mind knowing it will be consistently good. Other than hot dogs, hamburgers and say chicken breasts: I get all of my meat at Whole Foods. I don’t know if it is the whole naturally raised thing or not-and I don’t actually care. All I know is I have not been disappointed in any meat I have purchased there. I have gotten to know several of the butchers and they have been great in getting me just the right cut of meat prepped just the way I like it. They have also pointed me towards meats I may not have tried otherwise. A great example of this is Icelandic lamb which is the best lamb I have tried.
Use Good Fish / Get to Know Your Fish Monger I am just getting into doing fish this year and I’m really out of my element. I trust Whole Foods for the majority of my meat, so they seemed like a good place to start. It didn’t hurt that a local magazine had named them Best Fish Market. The fish is always fresh, never “fishy” smelling. They have a great variety and the people there are very helpful. Just like I do at the meat counter: I may show them a picture or two of the last meal I made using their fish. They seem to appreciate it and they will often start making great suggestions for something else to try. While I’m learning something new, the last thing I need to worry about is the quality of the main ingredient.
Brining is the Best Way to Make a Turkey This year I made pastrami several times. Before you smoke it you brine it for several weeks. I’ve been hearing for years that brining was the way to go for your Thanksgiving turkey. I was always a little afraid of ruining the Thanksgiving turkey, but after success with the pastrami I figured it was time to try it. All I can say is what took me so long? I plan to try other brine recipes and not just turkey.
A BRINE TIME WAS HAD BY ALL Blog Entry
The FoodSaver Actually Improves Some Meals I have been using my FoodSaver for a year and a half now. This year I made an accidental discovery that has changed the way make pulled pork. When I was not eating the pulled pork right away, I used to FoodSave the pulled pork dry and put the sauce in a separate container. I would add in the sauce upon reheating. I had some pulled pork finish way early and decided to add the sauce as I bagged the pork. When I reheated the pork I found the FoodSaver had acted as a super marinater, infusing the meat with great flavor in and out. This has changed the way make pulled pork. Instead of trying to hit an exact time window to have it be ready, I now make it ahead of time when it is convenient for me to cook it.
FOODSAVER Blog Entry
Get to Know Your Grill This past year I have been doing more multi meat or multi item cooks. I have also been trying new and different items. I am cooking year round in all kinds of weather. All of these have reinforced the importance of getting to know your grill. Even though I have been doing more difficult cooks, the grilling or smoking aspects of it have gotten easier. This is a wonderful feeling because I can concentrate on the new aspects of the particular recipe, not the mechanics of grilling. I have gotten to be as one with my smoker. I used to have to go outside to tweak the vents to fine tune the temperatures. Now the temperatures run so steady that I still have been making trips outside, but this time it is to make sure the remote thermometer is still sending signals to m indoor unit.
TOP 5 MISTAKES NOT TO REPEAT
Read twice, chop and mix once Several times this year I was in a hurry and mis-read the directions. I started mixing ingredients and found that I had measured in tablespoons instead of tea spoons. Fortunately I caught it in time, before I rubbed the meat or served the sauce. But I wasted other ingredients and had to start over. So slow down a bit and take time to read it right.
Leave Extra Time for Prep This item remains true and I still run into trouble in this regard. I’ve moved it higher up on the list as it remains something I am guilty of. I never seem to leave myself enough time for the prep: Something(s) always take a little longer than expected and I end up in a race with time to make my schedule. Even when I start a little early I seem to fill up the time. I’m going to try to do better, because sooner or later I will make a mistake from rushing or badly miss a schedule
Grill Tongs Can Get Hot Don’t put them down on a surface that can melt, such as oh say your grill cover or a plastic tray. Don’t ask me how I know this.
Your Grill Lid Can Get VERY hot Don’t put items that could malt, like say a grill light to close the the lid. Once again, don’t ask me how I know this..
Have Spare Batteries Around I had my remote thermometer batteries die at 3:00 in the morning on a holiday in the middle of an overnight smoke. If you live in the suburbs like I do, having to leave the smoker unattended while on a battery quest is not the ideal situation. By the way: An all night gas station saved the day.
FIVE GOALS FOR NEXT YEARr
Continue to Learn More About Grilling and Smoking This a repeat item from last year, but it is a good sentiment for any year. I feel like I accomplished that goal in ’07, And for ’08 I want to continue to expand my horizons by trying a variety of recipes. Oh and to have lots of fun doing it.
Make My Own Hamburger Rolls I took a class this past summer at King Arthur Flower called Bread 101. My goal is to make my own hamburger rolls. I am going to get a baking pan designed for baking the buns. Since winter is not exactly burger season, I will make some test runs in the next few months and use the results as sandwich rolls. Come burger season I should have the kinks worked out. If this is successful I plan to try New England style hot dog rolls too.
Start Making More Vegetables I let this one slide last year I need to try harder this year. Grilled vegetable can be very good and I’ve had my share at restaurants and friend’s houses. I’ve now made smoked potatoes, smoked sweet potatoes, hand cut french fries and twice grilled potatoes but I want to expand into other vegetables. Now that I’ve gotten to the point where I feel I have a working knowledge of my grill and smoker, I’m ready to try my hand at these.
Start Making Desserts This is another one I let slide last year. I want to try making desserts on the grill. But only if the grill adds something to the mix. I don’t want to waste my time if the item could be cooked in an indoor oven with the same results.
Grill & Smoke More Fish This item was on last years list, but I’ve moved it down on the list since I did get to some fish. The last few months of the year I tried making 3 different fish dinners. I found that fish is easy to make with the right recipe. I was always scared of drying out the fish, but the recipes I used took several easy steps to help keep the fish moist. The other nice thing about smoked fish is it is a relatively short smoke, an hour or two at the most.
Just as I said last year: If you’ve made it this far, let me just close by wishing you a happy and successful new year. May there be lots of good eats great grilling and good times in it for all of us.
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