Barbecue

Here are some recipes from last weekend’s barbecue. Severed digits optional.

NC-style barbecue rub:
1 cup of Spanish paprika
1/4 cup of kosher salt
1/4 cup of coarse-ground black pepper
1/4 cup of brown or turbinado sugar
4 tablespoons of garlic powder
4 tablespoons of onion powder
2 tablespoons of oregano
3 tablespoons of yellow mustard
2 tablespoons of cayenne pepper (or to taste… I like it hot)

Mix all ingredients together thoroughly in a large bowl.

NC vinegar finishing sauce:
1 1/2 cups of apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1 tablespoon of salt
1 tablespoon of black pepper
Red pepper flakes (to taste – I used almost 2 tablespoons)
3 tablespoons of Hot sauce

Combine all ingredients in a 1-quart Ball jar. Shake well and refrigerate overnight. Shake before serving.

Memphis-style finishing sauce:
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup yellow mustard
4 tablespoons of NC-style dry rub
2 tablespoons molasses or dark corn syrup

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan. Whisk over medium-low heat until thoroughly combined. Pour into Ball jar and refrigerate overnight. Serve at room temperature.

“Columbia Gold” SC-style finishing sauce:
2 cups prepared yellow mustard
2/3 cup cider vinegar
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon hot sauce
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon celery seed
3 teaspoons mustard powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a bowl. Refrigerate overnight. *DO NOT USE GOURMET MUSTARD* French’s yellow mustard is perfect.

For the meats, I used Boston Butt (masa de cerdo here, basically a boneless pork shoulder) and both St. Louis and baby-back ribs. I rubbed them liberally with the dry rub, covered them, and put them in the fridge overnight. They went straight from the fridge onto the smoker.

I have this smoker. She does me well. I used apple and pecan wood chunks for the smoke. 9 hours for the Boston Butt, 7 for the ribs, with the last 2 hours of each in double-wraps of foil. The pulled pork topped out at 190 degrees. Essential for pulled pork.

If you have the time and patience, I highly recommend making real barbecue. The results of spending hours in an indirectly-heated smoker make the “cheating” versions (i.e. crock-pot, oven, etc.) pale in comparison. Barbecue is also a good excuse to invite over several friends for several hours. The end results are always worth it, and the hours of conversation spent waiting for the food are the reason barbecue was invented, IMHO.

Food

I just sent this email to a dear friend of mine from college:

How did I only now discover your wonderful blog? And only by reading about it on the “50 Best Food Blogs in the World” list from the Times Online?

Your bagel post has me excited, as there are 2 breakfast staples I miss here in the Dominican Republic: bagels and english muffins. I made some good english muffins a few weeks ago, but have been dying for bagels since then.

I have been thinking about adding a food section to my blog only because I am constantly forced to re-create our cravings from memory and from scratch because Dominican cooking is just so bad. It’s not that their cuisine is bad, it’s just how they make it. So many dishes have such potential, but like the Irish and the English, they only have 2 condiments in their repertoire: salt and salt.

So, thank you, Luisa. Happy to find your blog, happy to subscribe to the RSS feed, and happy to know that at least one person I know is doing something worthwhile with their love of food.

The blog is The Wednesday Chef, and my friend is Luisa Weiss.

While this blog has earned a reputation of being a Foreign Service blog, that was not my original intent or purpose. I had wanted this blog to be kind of a collection of all of my idiosyncrasies and passions: music, food, political discourse, drinkin’ and spittin’ and cussin’, and potty humor. Being included on the state.gov careers forums’ blog roll, however, has made me clean up my act considerably.

My top three passions are music, food, and inappropriate humor. My 350GB iTunes library, 25 extra pounds, and subscription to the RSS feed for Texts from Last Night speak volumes about me, and anyone who knows me can confirm this. My wife both loves and hates me for my constant efforts in the kitchen. I cook almost every night, running the gamut from simple comfort food to decidedly more gourmet endeavors.

My big problem in the D.R., as mentioned above, is the lack of any kind of flavor profile in their cooking. I also can’t stand that Indian food is non-existent, Chinese and Thai food both suck, and at times finding basic ingredients is like pulling teeth. There is also the problem of ingredients being a little “off”, for lack of a better word. Beef here is close, but just not the same, even when I spring for the “USDA Angus Select”. Pork is alright, but thick-cut chops are non-existent and the pork is decidedly leaner than in the States. Chicken is absolutely the same (is it really different anywhere in the world?), but the birds are kind of scrawny – the average roaster is 3-4 pounds. Local cheeses taste weird too. They have this really grassy flavor to them, i.e. I can taste what the cows eat when I drink their milk and eat their cheese. That’s good when I’m eating the cow’s flesh (grass-fed cattle makes some tasty steaks), but doesn’t really work the same magic for their milk.

I have used substitutes for a good number of things while here that are widely available in the U.S.: 1 cup whole milk plus 2 tbsp. lemon juice (buttermilk); 1/4 cup cornstarch plus 1 3/4 cups flour (cake flour); 1 cup white sugar plus 1/4 cup molasses and decrease the liquid in recipe by 1/4 cup (1 cup packed brown sugar). And food shopping is harder than it has to be. There are days where I can find almost any ingredient I could need, then when I *actually* need the ingredient, it’s gone (read: sage for Thanksgiving dinner).

So, basically, I’m going to try to write more about food. I’m going to share recipes from time to time of dishes I can’t find in restaurants here, but have managed to recreate in my kitchen. Some will be adapted from other cooks, some will be based on my memory of what things taste like.

Maybe I should change the name of the blog to Foreign Service Chef.

Methi Murgh

Thanks to my friend Nab for the recipe and last minute help…

I ate this dish at Haandi Restaurant in Falls Church a while ago, and thought it was fantastic. It’s called Methi Chooza there (literally fenugreek young one), and I really wanted to be able to recreate it. So, knowing that Nab is a resourceful mofo, I asked him to ask his Ma if she knew the recipe. He came through. I used this more or less, adding and subtracting to my own personal tastes, and not using the casserole trick at the end.

Chicken pieces in yoghurt, salt, and cayenne, spent the next 3 hours in the fridge.

Cinnamon, cloves, and cracked cardamom in 3 TBSP ghee

2 yellow onions over medium high heat with above spices

This is what they should look like after 8 minutes

In between these shots, I sauteed the ginger, garlic, and green chiles for a couple of minutes, then in went the tomatoes, turmeric, cumin, and ground corriander

This was about as close to “bhunnoing” as I got

Chicken in (with marinade)

“Bhunno’d” again. Right after this I added about 1/2 cup of fresh fenugreek and 1/2 cup of cilantro. I’m going to use less fenugreek next time… and it’ll be the dried kind

Finished product on the plate with the Murgh Vindaloo I made and some jasmine rice (sans a few bites). That’s a glass of Riesling in the upper corner

Very interesting dish to make. It didn’t come out like the restaurant’s, but I may be taking a sample to them to find out where mine differs. Mine was definitely good for a first try – but there’s room for improvement and some extra heat.

New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival

The lineup has been announced. Now I need to figure out how the hell I’m going to swing it.  I’ll be in the middle of Spanish Language Training at the Department of State, but I need to go.  Haven’t been to Fest since 2001 when I literally had one of the best times of my life, despite the company I was keeping that year.  From one-armed Ecstasy dealers (I swear to God she was fucking following me), to late-night fatal car accidents on Canal Street, taxi drivers who throw bags of charcoal at you from moving vehicles, about 3 hours of sleep over 4 days, and a huge NOLA Police Department shakedown of unsuspecting hippies outside of Tipitina’s complete with police brutality, drug-planting, and evidence-tampering, Jazz Festival is one of the greatest spectacles in the world.

Think of it this way:  fan-fucking-tastic music, fan-fucking-tastic food, and fan-fucking-tastic drinks in a city where nothing can be considered a vice, per se.  And now that I’m all growns up, I can do it in style and not stay in a ghetto-ass Roach Coach Motel in Gretna, all the way across the fucking river.  Oh, and not abuse myself quite as badly as last time.

First weekend seems to be the one to do this year (and it’s WAY more local-oriented and for those “in-the-know”), and I haven’t had a po’boy in who-knows-how-long.  Also, Sunday morning Gospel Tent is about as close to religion as you’ll ever see me.  It’s like atoning for the sins of 3 days in NOLA.

I want to – no – NEED TO make this happen this year.

Beef Stew for the Soul

Made this the other night.  ZOMG YUM.

2 12-oz. bottles of your favorite Porter
3 lbs. chuck roast, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 lg. white onions, diced
5 celery stalks, chopped
6 carrots, chopped
3 lbs. white potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
salt
pepper
thyme
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 bay leaves
2 qts. beef stock
1/3 c. all-purpose flour

Heat 3 tbsp. of oil over medium-high heat in large, heavy dutch oven (pref. cast-iron).  Add cubed meat and stir.  When meat is thoroughly browned, drain fat and add salt, pepper, and thyme to taste.  Pour in the two bottles of porter, reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.  While simmering, heat 2 tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  When oil is hot, but not smoking, add onions, carrots and celery.  Sauté until onions are very translucent, about 10 minutes.  Add vegetables and beef broth to dutch oven, cover, and simmer for another 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, adjust seasoning to taste, and add potatoes.  If there isn’t enough liquid to cover, add water.  Simmer, covered, until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.  In a large measuring cup or bowl, add 1/3 cup flour to 1 cup very warm water.  Whisk to blend thoroughly.  Add to dutch oven, stirring well.  Bring back up to simmer.  Feel free to adjust thickness with more flour and water in 0.25:1 ratios.

Ladle stew into bowls and serve with a good, crusty bread.  “Instant” comfort on cold winter nights.