Thursday, April 25, 2013

Birthday Wings - This Is How We Roll...


Someone had a birthday - I'll let you guess who. A hint - she's the most wonderful, caring, loving, patient, & beautiful woman in the world.

A small gathering of work colleagues was planned for Tuesday - we all still had to show up and take our turn at the Corporate Millstone the next day, so we decided to keep things small: eight people total.

Since we have a couple of picky eaters and we wanted to keep it simple, quick, and delicious, our menu was as follows:

Wings from the grill - Barbecue and Sweet
Crispy Fan Potatoes from the oven
American-style Brownies and Vanilla Ice Cream

Let's begin with the wings, shall we?

We bought 6kg of wings. Some of you may be saying "Holy Piles of Poultry, Batman! That's a lot of chicken!" - I will only say that despite having bought so much, only seven (7) wings are leftover. That's like a light evening meal for one. The wings went over well.

Another thing - we buy our lamb and chicken from the Turkish grocery near our home. The quality is incredible and it is inexpensive in comparison to the big chains. I won't buy anywhere else if I don't have to as we prefer to support local small businesses.

The wings were separated into two groups. The first group was the "sweet" version. I bagged the wings and added about a cup of Raichlen's Basic Barbecue Rub, to which I then gave a generous splash of soy sauce and toasted sesame seeds. Bag closed, I shook vigorously and waited about 30 minutes.

Protip: Using a clean plastic bag for applying rub and/or marinade solves a whole series of problems:

Easy to use
Keeps your paws clean while rubbing the meat
Better distribution of marinade (get all the air out first before knotting)
Simple transport
Don't have to wash a bowl
Easier to put in the fridge overnight

Need I say more? I prefer 25 liter clear plastic bags with handles. Oddly enough, I like to see what's in the bag...

So, the first batch hits the grill:

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I let that grill indirectly for 30 minutes or so until the internal temp reaches 85.C. As this was going on, we tried making "Crispy" Fan Potatoes...

What you do is take potatoes, wash em, and then stick a wooden skewer lengthwise through the spud about a a third of the way down. This will get used as a cutting stop. Cut slices in the 'tater about 6mm apart until you hit the wood. Take out the skewer and bend it open.

Now, traditionally, you should put a small piece of butter between each slice but we were lazy and only put our oil /rub mixture in there.

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With the potatoes baking merrily away in the oven, it was time to brush on the secret weapon:

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Yep, maple syrup.

You would think that the chicken would end up tasting like pancakes but with the rub and the smoke, it only gives a wonderful sweetness to the wings. These are the preferred wings in our circle - so much that I kind of have to force the barbecue sauce version on everyone if I want to have any!

So, brushed and ready, I closed the lid for five more minutes...

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Don't they look great? Our guests descended on the bowl of wings like a pack of hungry wolves on a three-legged cat! Nothing but bones and napkin bits flying everywhere!!!!

The potatoes were done as well:

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Now, they look all crispy and tasty but I can tell you that they were best described as "floppity". Now, the flavor was slammin' but the crispiness was apparently not part of the order, so they were only "edible" I have had worse potatoes...

Honestly, I have had nothing but problems with potatoes as of late. The wedges work and the potatoes from Easter were good but honestly, they usually suck. I think it has something to do with our Bronze Age oven. No circulation = just gets hot. I'm amazed Anna can bake so well...

Moving right along! The second batch was barbecue:

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Oh yeah - sweet, smoky, and sloppy!!!!

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Now to prepare these wings, I used a rub from the book Paul Kirk's Championship Barbecue Sauces - specifically Tommy Byron's rub on page 77. I like the spice combination and the sage in the rub makes it something a touch different.

(Edit: by all means, buy the book. Paul just doesn't give you recipes, he explains to you in detail how spices, herbs, vinegars, etc work and how you can use this to make your own rubs and sauces. It's a fun read and worth the time/money)

For those of you who know me, I like my sauces. The more obscure and difficult to obtain, the better. Here is one of my favorites:

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Bill Johnson's is only sold in Arizona and I have a secret source there! Ok, you can order it online but they don't ship internationally that I am aware of. It's still damned good sauce!

Here's a big bucket of goodness!!!

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And a plate of happiness:

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And as that wasn't enough (I swear that half of everyone was fighting off sleep at the dinner table!) Anna wanted American-Style Double Chocolate Brownies (!) for dessert!

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That's all I have to say about that.

I bid you Peace,


Thursday, April 04, 2013

All In - The Easter Lamb Challenge


Sorry for the long span of time between my last post and this one. A brief hospital visit including surgery (don't ask...) and general lack of anything so compelling that I had to post has led to this information drought.

I say to you, my faithful followers: the dark times have passed! The information (like the Spice) must flow!

So I submit the following for your approval - the Easter Lamb Challenge

Anna's parents have been visiting over the Easter holidays and, despite my horrible cold, I wanted to grill up something memorable. The fun began on Good Friday...

Anna likes fish on the grill. We've done a few variations of this but her favorite is whole Dorade with a Caribbean-style marinade/filling. I consulted Raichlen, How to Grill and found the appropriate passage. Here is the result:

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As a side, we made rice with peas and corn with bacon bits. A bit of Emmentaler mixed in didn't hurt either... ;-) Also, there was spinach from the Biokiste that needed to be used.

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The final result:

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The fish was super tasty, the marinade/filling was the perfect counterpoint to the fattiness of the Dorade. Everything was grand!

Now, I noticed on Saturday night, I wasn't feeling so great but I blew it off and thought nothing more of it....

Sunday morning arrives and at 0700, Kali (Agent of Chaos) decided that she was hungry. After feeding the girls, I figured that I could start with the deep prep - I wanted to have garlic in oil as a garnish instead of making a sauce (difficult from the grill). So, I began the process of peeling and grating 4 heads of garlic:

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Right around this time I noticed that i was starting to really feel like shit. It was not to be ignored - I was officially ill.

This matters nothing to a seasoned grill chef such as myself and I pressed on.

So, we purchased 2 bone-in legs of lamb, each approximately 6 pounds. We knew there would be NO WAY we could eat all that but then we would have leftover lamb and doing two is the same as doing one.

Again, Raichlen was consulted and Anna and I prepped the lamb. Spiked with fresh rosemary and garlic slivers, I rubbed a mixture of olive oil, salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme, and Herbes de Provence.

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I put the legs on the grill and grilled them indirect for 2.5 hours at roughly 120'C. Target temp was 60'C internal which would net us a nice medium rare in the middle, leaving the ends more done for those who wanted it so.

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In the mean time, I'm beginning to feel like I'm dying and the meal needs to continue. Anna and I decided that we would make green beans wrapped in bacon and rosemary oven potatoes as our veg and starch. These were slam-dunk choices: the potatoes go in an hour before the lamb should be done and the beans get done à la minute.

When the meat was done, I realized that I didn't know how to carve such a thing. This is why the Internet was invented. I made a YouTube search and found from the fine folks at a video by Chef Eric Crowley on how to portion out a lamb leg. Armed with this info (and having rested the meat for 30 minutes), I proceeded to carve the meat for serving. As is the chef's right, I snuck in a few pieces for myself.

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The meat was indescribably tender and juicy. Seriously, this is only something that you can experience as words just don't do it justice. People thought I was having a crisis at the cutting board from the sounds I was making.

The final plate:

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A truly epic meal for Easter! I have rarely been so proud of myself but this was something that turned out far better than my expectations.

Damn, that was good.

Until next time, I bid you Peace.