Category Archives: BBQ

There’s A FIRE! Sale.

Okay, so today was Labor Day. Big time BBQ day. Perhaps the last traditional BBQ day of the year. (Granted, I prefer grilling in the Autumn, when it’s not as buggy out, and I’m more interested in eating meatstuffs, but that’s beside the point.) So I decided to do my civic duty and make Pookie’s favorite pork and bacon kebabs, since this is also kind of a birthday dinner for her. Pookie decided to take The General out back while I was cooking, on the off chance there was some cool fire action to take pictures of.

It’s almost like she’s prescient.

Things started nicely enough.

The grill lit up well enough, considering the false starts I had when I put too little newspaper in the chimney starter, and The General was kicking ass taking pictures of the leaping sparks. Fun!

I built my usual massive fire, and then brought out the meat.

I thought nothing of the fact that I’d put double the bacon in the kebabs, until, well… until all hell broke loose.

Uhhh… that’s a lot of flare ups.

Holy crap! Everything’s on fire!!

The fire trucks are going to be here any minute now!!

Our entire driveway was choked with smoke, but our neighbors managed to stay calm (even though I might not have. There was much freaking out while trying to minimize the fire without sacrificing grilling the meat). And in the end it was worth the drama.


Filed under BBQ, Meats Meats Meats, Pictures Worth A Thousand Words

4th Of July? Guess It’s Time For BBQ

Here at Maple Hoo we’re not much for making a big deal of holidays. Even our Christmas celebration isn’t normally much more than putting out tons of handmade decorations and opening presents. I kind of have one level of cooking in me: everyday. I think I do a good job of making it so we eat well on a sort of “weeknight dinners” kind of way, but when it comes to the big feast days, it’s normally just more of the same from me. There’s only so much effort I’m willing to expend in the kitchen, and that’s a level of effort I’m willing to expend all the time. Our fancy meals are never really that fancy. And our holiday meals are never really that holiday-appropriate. So imagine my surprise when, as I went to assemble my weekly menu plans last Monday, my brain said, “Hey! 4th of July weekend is coming up! We’re gonna BARBECUE!!!”

So, in the wee hours of last Sunday night I flipped through Cheryl and Bill Jamison’s Smoke & Spice to find a holiday-worthy recipe before heading off to the grocery store after work on Monday. (This is why we don’t eat well on weekends. I do one grocery run a week, and normally I only have the energy on Sunday night or Monday afternoon to think of a handful of meals, and I figure, “Oh, I’ll come up with something on the weekend.” Of course, come Saturday, there’s nothing in the house to eat, so we just have frozen pizza. But I digress.) What I found was a “Sweet and Fruity Pork Tenderloin”. This sounded perfect:

“Sweet Sensation Rub”
1 tbsp ground allspice
1 tbsp packed brown sugar
1 tbsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp dried thyme

Two 12- to 14-oz tenderloins
Vegetable oil

Now, the recipe also called for an optional mop that sounded really good (it was made with extra rub, chicken stock, cider vinegar, and honey), but I use an electric smoker, so mopping really isn’t that productive. I regretfully opted out, but once the meat was in the smoker, I was just as happy to be parked in front of the TV with my stitching rather than trotting out to be mopping away at it.

So, the deal is that you mix all the rub ingredients up on the night before you’re going to barbecue, and then massage the tenderloins with a thin layer of oil followed by a couple of tablespoons of the rub. Then wrap them up tightly and refrigerate overnight. (The rub smelled exquisite.)

Then the day of the barbecue, you fire up your smoker to 200-220 degrees (F). While that’s getting up to the right heat, let the tenderloins sit at room temperature, unwrapped, for about 30 minutes.

Before tossing them in the smoker, sear the tenderloins on all sides in a skillet over high heat. Then cook them in the smoker for 2 to 2 1/4 hours; they’re done when they register 160 degrees (F).

The recipe also calls, though, for a choice of two spicy-sweet barbecue sauces, that you baste the pork with 30 minutes before it’s done in the smoker, and which you then serve on the side with the meat. The one I picked was “Jalapeach Barbecue Sauce”, a delightfully Semi-Homemade-sounding sauce:

16-oz can peaches in heavy syrup, undrained
1/4 cup minced onion
3 tbsp minced pickled jalapenos
2 tsp pickling liquid from jar or can of pickled jalapenos
2 tbsp peach chutney, or mango in a pinch
2 tsp packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cumin

You just mix all the ingredients together in a saucepan, bring to a simmer, and then let cook on low until the onions are tender and the sauce thickens, about 25-30 minutes. Serve it warm or chilled. It should be noted that I am highly suspicious of pickled jalapenos, so I used a fresh one, but I did use the pickling liquid from some pickled peperoncinis that I happened to have in the fridge. I also couldn’t find any peach chutney, so I went with mango. And I misread the recipe and put in two tablespoons of brown sugar (something I only noticed just now writing the recipe out). I also bought halved peaches in heavy syrup and chopped them pretty finely before mixing them into the sauce — I figured the peach halves probably weren’t going to be breaking down enough on their own to be sufficiently saucy.

You know what? I should make holiday barbecues more often. This pork? Was out of this world. It was, as promised, fruity and sweet, but marvelously, delicately smoky. The meat was tender and perfect, and the sauce was sticky and glaze-like, with the perfect balance of super-sweetness and a fun jalapeno kick. I loved this. I could eat it every single day. And what was especially nice about it was that my Bradley smoker makes it so you just plug the thing in, toss in the meat, and then go about your way. I know there are people who like messing with feeding fires and maintaining temperature and what-have-you, and having smoked things that way in my Webber, I can say with some confidence that, while I’m glad I’ve tried the analog smoking method, I’m happy to have a machine that does it all for me.

For sides, I decided to make corn muffins (just from the recipe on the back of the Quaker corn meal):

And the posole verde recipe from Rancho Gordo. I’d never eaten posole before, but when Pookie and I decided to buy a smorgasbord of beans from Rancho Gordo (ostensibly so we could taste the calypso beans we’d just planted in our garden), I saw this recipe on the site and decided to buy some posole just to try it. I don’t know what I was expecting it to be, but I know I wasn’t expecting it to be this:

The posole is just a dried corn, and as it rehydrated, I expected it to taste like the sweet corn we get here in Jersey. It was not like that at all. It was chewy and starchy, like a cross between corn flour and barley. It was delicious. I also was, stupidly, not really expecting this recipe to yield a soup. I guess I was thinking all that liquid was going to be absorbed like in a bean dish, so once everything came together, it was like, “Surprise! We’re having soup with dinner!” Of course, it was scrumptious. The roasted tomatillos make this magnificently tangy and tart, and there’s a sharp edge from the chiles, with a nice sweet base from the roasted onions. And then everything is brightened up with a hearty dose of cilantro. I used just about every bowl and utensil in my kitchen to make this, but it was really worth it — it seemed like something you’d get in a restaurant. If that restaurant served surprise soups.

So on a holiday we observed by sitting around stitching, drinking Rhode Island Reds, and watching MacGyver, I managed to plate a pretty fancy dinner for us:


Filed under BBQ, Celebratory!, Hearty Meals, Meats Meats Meats

Mmmmm… Pulled Pork Tacos

Because I’m a red-blooded American, I have no choice but to barbecue on Memorial Day weekend. And because I’m a red-blooded American, I love tacos. So I figured this was a great opportunity to combine those two elements, and make pulled-pork tacos. With a delighted resolve to break out the smoker, I chose the recipe for “East L.A. Pork Tacos” from Cheryl and Bill Jamison’s Smoke & Spice cookbook.

The recipe starts with a “Borracho Marinade”, which of course should be followed with a hearty chorus of “Citizens of Borracho!” or “Now can you give a man some fightin’ room” (assuming you’ve seen The Great Race as many times as we have). This marinade is made up of:

2 cups of orange juice
2/3 cup of tequila
Juice of 2 limes
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 medium onion, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1 teaspoon achiote paste
1 teaspoon cumin
Several dashes of hot sauce (the recipe stipulates “fiery habanero hot sauce”)

For the record, I didn’t have any achiote paste, nor did I have any hot sauce, so I just tossed in a teaspoon of adobo instead. Then I combined all that in the food processor, then poured it over the pork (the recipe calls for 6 shoulder pork chops, 12-14 oz each, but I went with two 4-pound Boston butts) in a plastic bag and let it marinate in the fridge overnight.

In my experience with the standard Mr. Brown’s Pulled Pork (or whatever it’s called), I’ve learned the rule of thumb to give 1 1/2 hours for every pound of pork you’re smoking. That meant I needed my smoker warmed up (to somewhere between 200 and 220 degrees F) and ready for these bad boys to do the whole “slow and low” thing for six hours. What a welcome change from the previous smoked items I’ve made, where I’ve been looking at a nine-pound butt that needs to be ready for a lunchtime crowd. Suddenly I was combining my love of tacos with my love of sleeping in — this was becoming the best meal ever!

When the meat was done, it looked like something that would dress the sets of a caveman movie or something. It seems like meatstuffs that get roasted on sticks over fires in the movies always end up with this dark color and sheen. Frankly, they looked fake to me.

They tasted, however, amazing. The marinade gave the edges a nice citrusy zing, and the meat in the center was moist and lightly imbued with the bright flavors of the citrus and garlic and spices. It was just fantastic. And more than that, it was deliciously aromatic while smoking, so I can only hope our neighbors were really jealous.

The recipe then suggested you serve the shredded pork in tacos with all the standard taco fixings, along with a “Sauce Ole”.

The Sauce Ole is made as follows:

3/4 cup canned crushed tomatoes
2 small tomatoes, chopped
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped roasted green chiles (preferably New Mexican, Anaheim, or poblano, fresh or frozen)
2-3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine all the ingredients with 1/2 cup water in a saucepan and bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the sauce has thickened a little, but so the vegetables are still crisp-tender. Refrigerate for at least one hour to allow the flavor to develop.

And just because I was feeling all kinds of gung-ho, I did roast and peel the poblano peppers fresh.

The other sides/fixings I made to go with this were some frijoles, some red rice, and some guacamole. And when it all came together, this dinner was insanely good. The Sauce Ole is out of this world, and paired with the pork, it tasted like something you’d get at a restaurant. I have rarely been as proud of a meal as I was of this one. And after laboring over it for two days, I ate it, of course, in about 35 seconds. I can’t wait to have this again!


Filed under BBQ, Hearty Meals, Meats Meats Meats, Zesty Seasonings and Crazy Condiments