Sunday, July 24, 2011

Potimarron soup, day 150.

This may take longer than expected. I had some lovely squashes on the way -- nice little bubs all fertilised and ready to go, then I go out in the garden and find...


and this!!

Freaking squirrels. They are the mosquito of the rodent world. If only they weren't so damned cute.

ANYWAY, my dear squash plants have been chugging along undeterred.  In fact, they may take over the garden. Here is one blasting up through one of my bean tee-pees.

Luckily, the squash vines are continuing to set fruit, although they have chosen a few interesting places to try this.

In the tomatoes for one.

Way up in the air for another.

And tucked into the beans for a third.

My hope is the (evil) squirrels will have something else to eat by the time these babies are moving along. Actually, I shouldn't hope that too much because my figs are just starting to set fruit (well, flowers actually -- did I ever tell you that a fig "fruit" is actually just a big unopened flower? Cool, eh?).

See? (They always get my figs.)

Be that as it may, fingers and toes are crossed that at least one or two of these little squashes make it through the rodent onslaught and into the fall when their glorious fate in the soup pot awaits!!

Take care all of you. Here's to good eats, peace, love, and happiness.

(Oh, and if you're wondering what on Earth I'm talking about, the links to this saga are here.) ;)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Righteous 'cue

I decided to head down to Gananoque on Saturday to check out a bbq joint that I had heard about through some friends. Man, was it ever worth the trip! If you're ever in Gan, or anywhere remotely close for that matter, be sure to stop in at the Pig Iron Barbecue. I met the pit boss Jay Cameron and his crew, and they were kind enough to show me around and talk 'cue with me before they opened. Then I had the best pulled pork sandwich ever, perfect pit beans, sweet slaw, and they even snuck me a slice of their brilliant brisket. I washed it all down with a great beer served in a mason jar, and rode away with my smoke-lust rekindled! (The decor rocks too, btw.)

The restaurant had just been written up in the Kingston Whig Standard, and as I read the article I saw that they had taken some of their inspiration from the Memphis Blues restraunt in Vancouver -- and they just happen to have a cookbook. I decided to pass through Kingston on the way home, stopped at Chapter's just in case, and lo' and behold, they had a freakin' copy! Destiny. I knew what my Sunday would be about then and there!!

The Memphis Blues cookbook is a great combination of story, technique, and recipes. What makes it most useful for the average person is that it gives instructions for smoking on a gas grill in addition to the charcoal instructions. I note though, the gas cooking is at a slightly higher heat so things go a little quicker than on my barrel smoker. Their chicken recipe, for example, is supposed to be done in 2-3 hours -- mine was in the barrel for more like 5-6 (I lost count after the second lemonade...). The other book in the photo is Smoke & Spice and it is my go-to book for smoker recipes (my other go-to book now). I went for their "birds of paradise" a Carribean chicken dish, and I am still in paradise!

If you're using a barrel smoker, you have to get the rig up and running. Check back here for the lighting technique, and back here to see the modifications I made to this puppy so it will work properly. You can also do this on a gas grill by only lighting one side, setting up a chip smoking box, and cooking the food on the unlit side, but since I have no experience with gas (grills, that is) that's all I'm gonna say on that subject -- check out the book if you're keen to give it a go!

I decided to go for two chickens since I wanted some leftovers.

I took them out of the fridge about half an hour before the smoker was ready and rubbed them down with a spice rub. Actually, four spice rubs -- I just kind of mix them up on the birds until they look great. I also put some sprigs of rosemary inside since that could only make them better.

By then the grill had reached about 400, so I shut down the firebox vent. The temp drops when the food goes in, and you want to keep the fire pretty starved so the barrel stays around 200 F.

Put your wood chunks in the firebox just before the birds go in. I used a mix of mesquite and hickory.

Lay the chickens breast side down, close the lid, and leave them alone for an hour. Remember from our ribs cooking that the first hour is critical for smoke penetration, so don't bug them while they're busy getting all delicious in there!

While the birds are smoking away, get your mop sauce ready. This one is from Smoke & Spice and has two tablespoons of orange zest, 3/4 cup of orange juice (two big, juicy ones), 3/4 cup of lime juice (6 juicy ones), half a dozen minced cloves of garlic (I just ran them through a garlic press -- mincing garlic sucks), 3/4 cup of olive oil (pretty easy quantities to remember, eh?), 2 teaspoons of ground cumin, 2 teaspoons of oregano, and 1 teaspoon of salt. (The recipe also called for cilantro, but I don't dig that stuff very much, so I left it out.)

Put all that stuff in a pot and mix it around. Then save about a cup of it for serving, add a cup of water to the pot to top it up, and get the pot out on the smoker to warm up.

When the first hour is over, flip your birds :D

I find it best to use tongs, and pick them up by the tailpipe. Aren't they wonderful already?!

Give them a good dose of mop sauce, close the lid, and settle in to a comfy chair. Keep an eye on the temp (stick to about 200) and mop the birds every half-hour or so.

To keep you company, I highly recommend some John Lee Hooker (The Healer is wonderful), some Creedence (Chronicle!), and a tall glass of Lynchburg lemonade. This was a choice discovery at the back of the Memphis Blues book -- it's just lemonade over ice with a splash of Jack Daniel's thrown in (for every cup of lemonade, use an ounce and a half of Jack). Dee-lish!

Right near the end of my smoke fest, a massive thunderstorm dusted up -- I had to haul the smoker to the edge of the garage for protection (keeping the business end outside, of course). This storm was so big, it completely demolished the stage at Bluesfest while Cheap Trick was playing. Some friends of mine were there and said is was pretty freaky -- luckily no one was killed. Some thunder must have cracked just as I took this picture. BOOM!

ANYWAY, after 5 hours or so, the birds were done. And yes, they WERE birds of paradise! Serve with napkins and don't forget the reserved mop sauce in the fridge like I did. Leftovers have so far been used on sandwiches, and mixed into some leftover spaghetti bolognese (brilliant!). Other plans include nachos, maybe a salad, maybe a pizza, and of course the carcasses will make a brilliant smokey stock.

Here's to you and your 'cue. Wishing Jay and the gang all the best too. Now, I could use another lemonade.