Two Men, Two Pits and a Blog

Posts tagged “ambiance

How Not To Look Sexy: BBQ Pork Chops

I found myself the other day, nestled up in the nose bleed seats at a Minnesota Twins home game, versus the New York 20130704_144237_edit0Yankees. The sky was blue, swallows darting about,  and the fans were all of good cheer I should say. Well at least that is until we fell behind five to nothing in the first inning. I didn’t mind the score any. A losing team is something we’ve gotten used to around here. Frankly, it was just good to be there, in the new open-aired stadium. Enjoying the day with other like-minded Minnesotans. I’ve always fancied to come down to the ball park once in a while, and appreciate the ambiance there. The sound of a fast ball to a leather catcher’s mitt. The organ lady pounding out some ditties. The golden sunbeams awash over a green, manicured field. The goofy mating cries of the beer vendors, marching up the stadium steps with an arm full of libations.  And of course, maybe my favorite slice of ambiance from a major league ball bark – the heady aroma of Polish sausages in the breeze.

Ah, glory be to the Polish sausage who’s gastronomic fates fall unto thee, thou ardent baseball fan who resides stalwart, and yonder, up in the cheap, blue seats. By golly, I was having my way with one up there, whilst overlooking the field of dreams. And it was glorious. I’m not sure why, but them ball park sausages always make it worth the trip down town. We may lose the game, but they will never take our beloved sausage! A comforting fact I rejoiced in, as I worked my way through the Polish delight, topped with caramelized onions, ketchup, and spot of mustard. This is the high art of baseball spectating, you see. Not for the uninitiated, and not far removed from the BBQ arts.

Anyways, I gobbled the thing down with a semi-reckless abandon, with no small amount of damage neither,  done to my pride. Leaning back in my seat, a big smile across my face, I was a gentleman at ease, you could say. Nary a care in the world. My bride who sat next to me, after pausing for my token belch of satisfaction, made quick work of pointing out the glob of ketchup clinging steadfastly to my chin. She always does that, when things are haphazardly adhering to my face. In point of fact, most women I suspect do that for men. And I think most men probably would go the better part of the day with it still there, had no one pointed out. And worse yet,  we’d be OK with it. I know, its not how to look sexy, and we ain’t claiming it to be right.  But it is also a badge of honor sort of, to a worthy feast and a time well-spent. That smear of wayward ketchup or mustard, it is a remembrance of recent glory. An emancipation of meat! Even so, I took care of it like a proper man ought to, and resumed to the spectating at hand. Indebted once again to the good graces of a woman.

What has all this baseball and women got to do with BBQ Pork Chops you ask? Well, not much! Probably nothing at all really. It’s just stuff I was thinking about whilst grilling supper this eve. Pit-side ponderments if  you will. I must say tho, supper was quite tasty tonight, as good as any ball park Polish sausage, and not nearly as expensive. Another winner from the pit. Hickory Smoked BBQ Pork Chops. This one is likely to get your slobbers running, so grab yourself a bib, and a lovely beverage, and let’s get after it!

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Whilst the coals matured to excellence, and in true pit keeper efficiency, I let the bone-in chops go for a swim in a teriyaki-flavored marinade. Tho BBQ sauce would still be applied at the end, I guess I  just felt like a touch of teriyaki tonight, to compliment the flavor profile. I tossed on some well-aged  hickory chunks too, for that smokey goodness patron to decent outdoor cooking. Set the meat as is accustomed, opposite the hot coals. You will never kick yourself for using in-direct cooking techniques. But oh how you may moan your name in vain, should in a misguided frenzy, your spoils be rendered into blackened char, because you left them over direct-heat whilst you went to the little pit boys room. Brethren of the smoke you see,  are oft taken by leisure at a moment’s notice, and before we know it, before anybody knows it, we could be drool-deep into a good nap if we’re not careful. Better then to corral our meat on the cool side of the grate, just in case. And let leisure take its course.

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I put the lid on and let the chops smoke for a while. Always a lovely segment of time. A time well appreciated from the vantage of your BBQ chair, watching the thin-blue smoke gently peel into the air. This is the ambiance of the pit, and all pits have their own, unique blend. And its our job, as pit keepers to simply sit back and revel in it. To note, by chance, the baby ducks down by the pond eagerly training to become big ducks some day. Their parents close at hand.  The evening sunbeams, bright and golden on the shaft, and how they strike the full, green, leaves of the Cottonwood trees, which flutter against a gorgeous, blue sky. The Great Blue Heron yonder, across the pond, slowly stalking shallows. And the murmur of the pleasant summer’s breeze mingling through the pines. Oh how I’d fancy to press pause on the download of life right now, and hold that sun steadfast in the sky. Just to freeze it there, casting shadows, and watch the wood smoke gently curl.

Before you know it tho, kind of like life, your meat is done. Flipped once mid-way through the cook, and brushed with your favorite BBQ sauce at the end. We tossed on some corn too, just because.  Because nothing is quite so fine, let it be said,  as grilled corn on the cob, smothered in butter, on a cool summers eve. I plated up this drool-tugging ensemble, took up residence next to my bride, and in disturbingly short order,  we feasted. Declarations of goodness ensued. I plunked a well-chewed bone on to my ceramic plate, and leaned back, smiling like a man ought to in such moments. Patting my tightened belly. It was good, people.  The day was good. And I might have even been sexy too, had not I acquired once again that tell-tale glob of BBQ sauce, hanging from my chin. But I didn’t care. Amen.

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Hickory Smoked BBQ Pork Chops with a Teriyaki Tint, sided with fresh corn-on-the-cob. You could do a whole lot worse people,  and not have nearly so much fun.


How To BBQ For A Baby: Chicken, Steak, and Tin Foil Potatoes

Repairing in the BBQ chair, legs crossed like a gentleman of leisure,  I spied them from afar, ambling head-long through the20130528_194711_edit0 steely grass. A half-dozen little yellow-green fuzz balls, escorted under the watchful wing of ma and pa. Bumbling creatures, but terribly cute,  looking only at the ground, pecking about for what wonders may reside there. It was good to see new families like this. Triumps of unconditional love, and a feathery nurture. They seem to do this every year about this time, along with every one else.  They wandered right up close to my BBQ chair, as if to address me in some formal manner reserved for goose ideology or the like. I adjusted my posture some, and noted how once again, these feathered blokes have ambled by precisely when the first plumes of smoke curl from my old kettle grill. More times than I have counted they have come to share supper with me like this, babies and all. I’d like to think it’s because they like me, and appreciate the ambiance of the pit I strive so hard for. But the truth of the matter is that I’m only being used. For I usually toss them some crusty old bread if I have any, and that seems well enough for them to at least fake a friendship out by the pit. And I’m OK with that.

Spring time. New life. Turns out one of our close friends this week, had a baby too. A wee little thing, neither yellow-green nor fuzzy, and pert near about as cute as they come in baby land.  My bride suggested we do something nice for them, because she’s rather thoughtful like that, and being the fire-lighting, meat-eating man that I am,  naturally the only logical course of action I could come up with,  was to have a BBQ. What better way to introduce a new soul to this ever-spinning world, I thought, than a plate of tin foiled potatoes, BBQ chicken, and sirloin steak! Everything a wee pup needs to make a lasting, first impression. And besides that, it’s never too soon to draft another into the BBQ arts. I don’t know if they make little Weber grills for babies, but they should. I would set one down in front of the kid, just so they could imprint on each other. And it would be a better world because of it, somewhere on down the line.

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The baby feast started with the potatoes naturally, because they take the longest. Diced up and seasoned tonight with a dash or two of Lipton Onion soup mix. Cause that stuff ain’t just for soup you know.  Over the seasoned and diced potatoes, I added a lovely melody of vegetables for to please the lady folk, along with a few dollops of butter, and wrapped it all up in foil. This in turn placed over direct heat for 20 minutes or so, flipped over once mid-way for even cooking. Whilst the spuds did their thing, the chicken legs were then placed opposite the hot coals, and a small piece of hickory wood added to the fire for some smokey goodness. The legs previous were rubbed down in McCormick’s Chicken Rub, and later, at the end of the cook, painted with a generous layer of Sweet Baby Rays. Now what infant wouldn’t want to suck on one of them!

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As the white clouds idled in a blue sky, and bird song rang from the Alders, I pulled the foiled potatoes over indirect heat. They were done, and so was the chicken. Lastly, and to bring a sense of closure to the meat fest, we seared a nice sirloin steak over a hot bed of orange-glowing coals, and then finished it off indirect. When you set up your grill like this, with the coals banked to one side, you will be afforded much control this way. You will have established in your grill’s fiery bosom, three distinct temperature zones. One for direct heat right over the coals, one for indirect cooking opposite the hot coals, and something of a Switzerland affair, right smack in the middle. The thermal trifecta of modern grilling. Anyways.

I plated up the meats and taters, and bid a farewell to my feathery friends, still pecking through the green grass. Not to be rude to the little geese, nor to point out the shallow nature of our relationship, but it was time to go show the newborn some of the finer things worth looking forward to in this world. Something far removed from a crusty old piece of moldy bread. Amen.

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Hickory Tinted BBQ Chicken Legs, Sirloin Steak, and Tin Foiled Potatoes. Man! And so what if a baby doesn’t have teeth. The parents do!


Out With The Cold….In With The SPRING!!

PhotoGrid_1366982327230This winter in Minnesota was a very long, drawn out winter. A winter where we thought for moment our region of the United States by chance had entered into a new Ice Age. We had a few glimmers of hope, but as soon as we saw fresh grass…… FRUMP!, We were again snowed on. Though we Patrons are tolerable with utilizing out our pits all year long we find Spring to be a sigh of fresh air. Don’t take us wrong, wiping snow off of our pit covers and removing our gloves to light a chimney full of coal is just the way of the bbq force out here. We know that for 5 to 6 months of the year removing our boots and putting them back on to maintain the pit is an expected part of the bbq process. HARK! We are now ready for the luxury of flinging off the flip flops and melting into our favorite patio chair with a cold beverage in hand, whilst sitting next to our hot smoky pits. AH yes, to sit downwind so that the cool breezes can blow the pit smoke directly into our paths becomes a fantasy while sitting in a cubical during our weekly rotating responsibilities. The time has come when we can rightfully say goodbye to a season that I can comfortably say had overstayed its welcome. I love winter and I love snow, but it is that time I welcome Spring.

Grill on – POTP


How To Support Your Team Without Being There: Remote Tailgating

I wasn’t really planning on grilling. It’s not like I have to do it every day or anything.  But if your wife brings home some afterfocus_1364258870716_edit0meat and asks you to grill it, well, isn’t it then our manly privilege to make it so. To ignite fire and lay the meat to it with a caveman-like ease born of the ebbing seasons, hunkered over a smoldering pit. No, it is no hardship to grill if called upon by the fairer species. To ply our craft upon unruly meats with the sweeping efficiency of a chess grand master.  No meat is out range for an accomplished keeper of the flame.  No cut too challenging. “Bring it on!”, I yammered. And she did. My bride henceforth pulled from the grocery bag a lowly pack of ball park franks. Beef franks, as it were. Well, leastwise that’s what it said on the package. Not what I was expecting really, but fair enough. I was not above roasting the humble wiener if need be, to secure supper upon my plate. In some ways I was rather looking forward to it. I was feeling nostalgic you could say.

Once upon a time, you see,  in every grill junkie’s past, he had to start somewhere. That first step unto a brighter future, and a meatier ideal. And for many of us, that point of embarkation into the BBQ sciences started with the lowly hot dog. And make no mistake,  it was an event. It gave us reason to cater to a particular need, seeded deeply within our man psyche. The need to occasionally put meat to flame, and declare that is good.  The poetry here has less to do with the meat, if you can call a tube steak – meat, but more to do with the soul engaging still, over a beautiful bed of coals, and the freshened air out there, and the gentle sunbeams which wax upon thy face. Hot dogs are OK, but the real joy is in the journey. If after all, our only goal was to eat them, then we might as well nuke them in the microwave, and be done in 30 seconds. But we’re partial to the scenic path around here. The slower ways. Come with us now, won’t you, and let’s go back to BBQ kindergarten and roast some weenies on the grill!

Residing pit side whilst supper cooks is one of my most favorite things to do. I love to tip back in my BBQ chair, legs crossed like a gentleman of leisure, and simply watch the day turn by. To enjoy how the clouds slowly idle overhead, and the tweety birds make their acrobatic sorties to the feeders brimming with seed. If there is a fairer way to roast a wiener, I’ve not heard of it. To up the ante a tad, I dialed in the Twins game on the little radio I keep by the pit. Figured if I was going to do some dogs, I might as well do it right, and partake in a little tailgating too. The conditions begged for it. Remote tailgating, I call it. That lofty, yet abiding gesture to the sporting gods, when you’d like to be there supporting your team with your grill all fired up, but you lack the honest desire to drive down to the stadium, and pay for parking there. A little remote tailgating is thus you’re next best option, and couldn’t be more pleasant, out on your own private patio, the serenade of song birds, and a homey bathroom harboring a few back issues of your favorite periodicals. Some thing not privy to a cold stadium parking lot.

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Glory be to the remote tailgater, for you are a curious lot indeed. Nary leaving the house, feet kicked up by a smoking pit, listening to the play-by-play banter on the radio.  Hark, you can almost hear the crack of the bat, and the leathery thwack of a fastball to the catcher’s mitt. The murmur of the crowds morphing  into a boiling frenzy, at a crack deep to the warning track. Indeed, it’s almost like being there. Almost. The aromas of ball park franks drifting past your nose don’t hurt the illusion none either. And the same golden sunlight that is cast upon the field of dreams yonder, falls with great poetry upon your fair patio too, miles removed,  where the chickadees cavort in the fragrant spruce, and the wood smoke lingers in the shafts of a pastel sun. Man.

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So next time you can’t make it to the big game,  why not whip up some dogs on the grill, whilst partaking in a little remote tailgating.  There are other ways to support your team I guess, but none quite so pleasant, nor privileged, than these the glories,  patron to the pit. Amen.


Rainy Day BBQ Blues

Through the cold and dark the smoke shall rise
a curling blue mist that burns in the eyes,
Stoked coals heat the patient Patron
with pit scented fleece and a dirty apron,
The smells of spices thicken with rain
the longer he waits the temperature gains,
Hickory heats and odors his jacket
the pit brings peace from everyday racket,
He quietly waits as the rain drips on
and spring ushers out a snow filled lawn,
A flaming pit through its yearly fashion
the ash pan fills with a fiery passion.

“Grill on” – POTP


Dual Patron Cook Out: Chicken Thighs and Beans!

Chickadees lit amid the Alders, chirping and rejoicing, as shafts of brilliant, warm, sun slanted through the stands of Spruce with aplomb. The smell of apple wood smoke tinted the air, as snow melt dribbled from the roof like, cold,  glacial run off, reminiscent of the icy ramparts of the Mountain West.  Like a seasoned man’s hairline, the snow piles around the pit had receded some in recent days, exposing for the first time in a long time, a few sickly looking, tendrils of grass, bent over from a winter’s hiatus. A good life choice I suppose, if you’re a blade of grass in Minnesota. Take the winter season off, and re-group come springtime. A mindset of no such value however, to we patrons of the pit, who have been grilling hard all the winter long. Keepers of the flame, and chickadees alike,  know no such luxury as hibernation. Nor at the end of the day, I wager,  would we want to. It’s a beautiful Saturday. The inaugural first smoke of the spring. The tweety birds are singing. And my fellow patron has come over to share it with me, like any good BBQ crony would.

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Every once in while, if the stars and the orbits of our lives align, my fellow patron and I like to get together to ply our craft. The likely recipients of our exploits, for better or for worse, being our beloved wives.  Sweet girls who have put up with their fair share of experimental BBQ over the years. They have been there for the very best of it, delighting in our victories, and they have been there amid our fool blunders too, politely eating it anyways. Lovely souls, who just so happen today, to be out on the town together, doing what ever it is ladies do when their out together. My fellow patron and I henceforth found ourselves doing what only came naturally, hunkered over my pit, procuring some rather tasty vittles for our women, whilst at the same time entertaining the notion of keeping digital tabs on our credit card accounts. Anyways, on the pit tonight, smoked chicken thighs and peach baked beans. Grab yourself a lovely beverage, and let us get after it.

Whilst the big WSM was coming up to speed, being the efficient creatures that we were, we split up the duties. Divide and conqueror tactics if you will. John took the chicken thighs, and I took the beans. The chicken was amazing, seasoned in a blend of home-crushed spices, and I’ll tell you more about that in a bit, but first let’s get after these peach baked beans. And don’t curl your nose, I think you’ll like them. They humbly are not of our brain thrust, but of Pit Master Myron Mixon, who was at one time at least, the Tiger Woods of competitive BBQ. Say what you will about the man, but he can smoke. And these beans I figured, were at least worth a shot. Here’s how you do it.

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Peach Baked Beans

  • 1 can baked beans
  • 1 can sliced peaches or peach pie filling
  • 1 diced red bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped bacon

Into your grilling pot, empty the contents of your favorite can of baked beans. Then dump yourself in a can of sliced peaches. A little of the peach juice is a good idea, but you may want to refrain from dumping the whole thing like I did, less you fancy a soupier baked bean. Or a better bet is to use a can of peach pie filling, which is what you’re really supposed to use, but I didn’t have any on hand. Next thing is to dice up a red bell pepper and toss that in there too. Finally, and to every meat lovers fancy, add a good handful of chopped up bacon chunks. If you really want to do it right, you’ll do up the bacon on the grill first, and impart a liberal dosage of smoke upon it, because its bacon after all, and bacon is worthy of our highest flattery. So mix all these wonderful ingredients together, and if you have a hankering, sprinkling in a little of your chosen spices of the day, is hardly ever a move soon regretted, and compliments the main course with a quiet, but favorable elegance. Proceed then to let the flavors mingle and stew for two hours out on your pit, stirring on occasion to circulate a little more smokey goodness into your bean pot of glory. Man! Now let’s see how John did up those thighs.

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First order, he removed the flaps of skin common to inhabit chicken thighs, and then rubbed them down in olive oil. This to properly receive his freshly ground melody of spices which include, but are not limited to: Coriander, brown sugar, pink Himalayan salt, pepper corn, onion powder, smoked paprika and ground rosemary. By freshly ground, we’re talking an hour before the cook, in his mortar and pestle. Glory!  It don’t get no better than that folks. Then he sprinkled some over the thighs. A little of this stuff goes a very long ways, he said, so he made work of it with a light hand. Delicately allotting the spices equally over the meat. He was quite proud of his creation, often bellowing in acute joy over how pretty it looked.  The spice he has since coined, Rolling Stone Rub, its namesake inspired in the heady wages of the recent kidney stone he recently passed. A token beam of brilliance wrought from a most miserable circumstance.  Anyways, then he gently placed the thighs out on the smoker, where upon an apple wood fire had already stabilized into a light, easy-going smoke.  There they would stay for the next couple hours, next to the pot of beans. Oh buddy!

So it was, meat and beans on the pit, a light apple wood smoke wafting amid the patio, sunbeams melting in through the windows,  and we menfolk at last taking up the proper BBQ posture, in our man chairs, beverages in hand, and a couple of hours of premium loitering ahead of us. Nothing quite so fine as that, after a hectic week whirling about in the cog of society. And we chew the fat some, as men do when they are waiting for meat, frequently gazing out to the pit, appreciating the curling smoke there. We kick our feet up and get a trifle more comfortable, click on the TV, and settle in for the high rigors of the BBQ life. Somebody has to do it.

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Apple smoked chicken thighs and peach baked beans. If there’s a better way to usher in the spring, I can’t think of any.

*Bean recipe was ultra simplified here, but of you want to see the original recipe, in it’s uncut form as Myron Mixon intended it, let us refer you to the following link:

http://eggheadforum.com/discussion/113365/myron-mixons-jacks-old-south-barbq-beans


Apple Wood Spare Ribs

It’s been a very long time since I’ve felt the sun. Or sat comfortably, and contentedly, in its golden rays.  Up here in Minnesota, the winter can stretch eternal, spanning half a year if it has a mind to. And this year at least, it has a mind to indeed.  But this last Sunday was at once an anomaly, and an idealistic respite from winter’s grip,  as the sunlight astutely flooded my patio with warm, life-giving thermal units.  It must have been 30 degrees out there, which I know doesn’t sound like much to you Florida people, but trust me, to a Minnesotan in March, that is a veritable heat wave worthy of your very finest swim wear. Of course, and understandably so, I was out there, jacket-less,  smoker puffing away, repairing in my Adirondack chair, just soaking up the sun. And it felt wonderful. Besides that, it was my beloved bride’s birthday then, and she wanted ribs.  Thus, it was my privilege, as it would be any man’s, to tarry in the sun a trifle, postulate the drifting clouds and the rabbit tracks in the snow,  whilst smoking some savory meats over a beautiful bed of coals. It is no hardship at all.

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In the big WSM, over a smoldering fire of apple wood, I placed with great care three near perfectly seasoned racks of pork spare ribs. These racks were first sprinkled with a light measure of brown sugar, and rubbed down like a life time member in a fine spa, smearing it all about. Then I let it rest a tad, just until the brown sugar began to liquefy. This created a decently sticky, tactile surface, in which to receive the rub. The rub today, Grill Mates Applewood Rub,  is a long time favorite of my fellow patron who co- hosts this blog, of which I dutifully applied in liberal fashion over the entirety of the ribs. To finish off the pork canvas, I sprinkled another light layer of brown sugar over the top of the rub, which when liquefied,  would seal in the rub, thus locking into the tighter flavor profile of which I was after. Man!

During the next three hours, I naturally took up periodic residence in a gamut of my favorite easy chairs, whilst watching out of the corner of my eye, the apple wood smoke quietly curl from the cooker. I don’t know what it is exactly, about a smoking pit, and meats quietly cooking there, but it stirs me. It cultivates a great contentment in me, and for a while at least, I am in need of little else. And as I repaired on the couch with my favorite father in-law, our feet propped up, lovely beverages in hand, I declared that this was indeed the high rigors of BBQ, but more over, that we were undoubtedly up to the task at hand. We raised our beverages with the rising smoke, saluting the BBQ arts, and then I think father in-law may have even nodded off a bit. Bless him and his true BBQ posture!

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At about hour three, I foiled the ribs with a generous splattering of apple juice. At about hour four, I lit up yet another grill for the chicken leg quarters, of which I have grown fond of in recent years. Nothing is quite so stroking to your pit master ego as running dual cookers out on the patio. Smoke bellowing in stereo from multiple fronts, the smells and aromas surround you. Engulf you, and then enchant you. And for a while at least, you are in your glory. Tongs in hand, you are the supreme governor of your smokey kingdom. Or the conductor of a BBQ symphony. I could have I suppose thrown the chicken legs on the smoker too, and been an efficient person, but I was after a crisper skin than one can get in a smoker. Plus I liked the idea of having two grills going. It made me happy. So I rubbed the chicken down with some Louisiana Grill Sweet Heat, and seared them up over direct heat, then tucked them back in-direct for an hour maybe, bathed in light hickory smoke.  At hour 5, I took the ribs out of the foil, and put em back on the smoker, and basted them good with some Sweet Baby Rays elegantly thinned with a splash of apple juice. Oh buddy!

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When dinner was served, we had some savory spare ribs where the smoke ring plum near reached the bone. The brown sugar caramelized some, mingling with the slight kick of the Apple Wood Rub and the BBQ sauce, whilst lightly tinted with the aromas of apple wood smoke. It was a symphony in meat alright. An opus of ribs. And the chicken was spot on its juiciest ideal.

Apple wood spare ribs and chicken. You could eat allot worse I suppose, but not have nearly so much fun. Amen.


How To Impress A Woman: Bread!

Repairing on the couch with lovely beverage in hand, I muse over the weather forecast. The man on the screen says a wintry tempest brews, and a prominent Canadian chill is soon to descend upon us, with no mercy. And the winds will howl, and the temperatures will feel akin to twenty below. Squirrels will fall from trees, and children will openly weep. I crossed my legs like a gentleman of leisure, gazing into the warm glow of the fire-place, whilst listening the weatherman banter, and the cold sleet tap like ball bearings over a frozen window pane. I could almost hear the mercury sink for cover in its fragile, glass tube. Like any opportunist, I knew this was some fine weather to do a little baking. To partake in some quality ambiance. In point of fact, I already had some bread going out on the grill!

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Let it be said, because it’s true, anything you can cook in the house, you can also do on the grill. Take bread for instance. Once thought to be the sole domain and prize of a good oven, we keepers of the pit have been puttering on such matters, and are here to tell you, good bread can be baked right along side your steaks and chicken, if you have a mind to. And why wouldn’t you! Bread is good, and besides that, the lady folk all seem to appreciate it, and take to it with consistent good cheer. Say what you will, but that is no small thing.

First off is the dough. I’ll admit, I’m a man, and I can’t bake bread. I have tried before, the end result resembles something rather like a stale, old shoe. And once upon a time, along with many menfolk I presume, I had given up all together of ever having the sufficiency of skill for baking worthy bread. And I was OK with that. I’ll stick to steaks, and leave the bread to the prettier folk. But then one day, on a visit to my elder brother’s abode, everything changed. I stepped into his house and was greeted by a wondrously pleasant aroma I don’t often associate with my elder brother – that of fresh-baked bread. And he was procuring loaves upon beautiful loaves of it from his faithful oven. A big grin on his face, a tightened belly, and mass quantities of bread lay steaming at the end of a bright sunbeam. Well, he had cracked the code it appeared, and after a sampling, a passing of the knowledge was in order, and of course, I felt compelled then to adapt it for the grill.

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The bread I speak of is from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A day, an excellent book that swept the nation a few years back. I’m quite sure many of you already know about that, but some of you may not. If you’re in the minority and fancy yourself a bread lover, but inept at making it, then you’re in for a lovely treat. Instead of regurgitating some one else’s brilliance, let me instead link you to the masters themselves. This short video will tell you everything you need to know about making this wonderful bread. Then we will show you how to work it on the grill.

In case you didn’t catch the master recipe, you’re going to want to hang on to this for some future grilling adventures here at the Patrons of the Pit. We have but just begun to show you what is possible, where the bread maker and the grill master meet in stride.

Master Recipe

  • 3 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons granulated yeast (1 1/2 packets)
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt
  • 6 1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour, measured with the scoop-and-sweep method

*We have found, through extensive experimentation, that 5 1/2 cups of flour makes for a considerably softer bread, and though the dough is trickier to work with, it does at least save some flour. 

Adapting it to the grill is easy too. Every thing about this bread is easy. Now the grill we’re using this cook is your basic Weber kettle type, on the assumption that’s what most people have. If your working the BGE or other ceramic egg types, odds are since you have one of those, you already know how to set it up for baking. If your working a barrel type grill, the concept we will share isn’t too far off. You’re pit master instincts will serve you well. Anyways, while ideally you’ll want your grill at about 450 degrees, it’s not that big of deal if it’s not. Employ your considerable skills to get it close enough. Next, if you like a crunchy crust on your bread, lay it directly on the grate, in-direct of course. For a more easy-going crust, lay the dough on a pizza stone or in a cast iron pan, and again, over in-direct heat. A pan of water in the grill is also supposed to lend to crisper crust, but having done it both ways, neither seem to make much difference, so I usually just go with out. Put on the lid to create an oven-like atmosphere, and proceed to go draw yourself a lovely beverage.  As it bakes, check in on it from time to time, and rotate it 180 degrees at least once for even baking. At 450 degrees, it should take about 30 minutes. This particular loaf took 45 minutes, none the worse for the journey.  You’re looking for an internal temperature of 200 degrees. After some practice, you’ll know exactly when it’s done by its hollow sound, with but a mere strike of the finger upon its golden crust.

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Artisan bread on the grill. It will amaze your family, and astound the women in your life too. Womenfolk like bread you see, don’t ask me why, they just do. They are drawn to it, and irrevocably so.  To its soft center, shielded by a firm crust. To its deposits of guilty carbohydrates inherent within. They just like bread is all. And if they see a man make it, well, you quickly become their hero. And you’ll just have to deal with it, by and by.

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I know, a meatless blog by The Ministers of Meat. It ain’t right. Rest assured tho there was chicken grilled also during this cook, and that this bread makes for amazing, robust,  meat sandwiches if one so chooses. Anyways, gentlemen, if you want to impress your lady, try baking them a loaf of home-made artisan bread. Better yet, go do it on the grill, and you’ll both be happy ever after, I think…


Here and There: The Smoke That Binds Things

two island panorama

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Way up yonder, on the northern tiers of Minnesota, we often press a tent stake patron to some pretty places here and there. Places of exquisite beauty, where the waters run clearly, and the breezes taste sweet, sifted through the fragrant pines.  My fellow patron and I routinely visit these locales, if not even for but one day. One day to inhale that pure, unpretentious air, and to absorb a rarefied tranquility lost, but not forgotten, in the ever-whirling cog of society. Indeed, we fancy to strike off for the wilder places just as often as we can, for to live simply, and abandon all tension there. For we are at home in the woods, by and by, and love to tarry fire-side amid the whispering pines.

Putterers by nature, we are content for hours on end it seems to cook exotic camp food over smoldering coals, repair in our chairs, and simply watch the smoke rise unto the standing pines. To tell story, and play song,  whilst dotingly poking at the fire. Bannocks baking in blackened skillets, chickadees flirting, and all the many phone calls at once escaped in our own personal, wilderness sanctum. Oh the places, the beautiful places, that we have loitered in, here and there.

Campfires of Birch and Balsam often flicker in camp, as the lake serenely laps upon our shore, and the Savory_Ribs_edit0stately pines sway gently in the breeze, like a thousand and one fly rods, nay, make that a thousand and two. Oh how we love to cook over the open flame in these places, to ply our craft, turning our spoils into shore lunch. The stars, the moon, the forest glade, we love it all, even the smoke in our face! And here is the thing I have noticed, and maybe some of you have to; every time back home when we thus light the grill, and we smell that campfire-like smoke lofting towards the heavens, are we not at once, and irrevocably so, reminiscent, and smitten deeply for these places. Because smell is at once patron to memories, and memories thus flood back of those quiet campsites nestled aside shimmering waters. And for a moment,  we can taste again the simple life we had once aspired to there. Because here it is again, deep in an urban sprawl, working over this old kettle grill;  and there are blackened skillets, and chickadees even, and the sweet fusion of memories gently forged, both here and there, over the swiftly ebbing seasons, and the smoke which curled there.  Amen.


The Super Bowl: No lights out on my BBQ!

afterfocus_1359991161859 The Super Bowl, a game that draws crowds together in front of TV’s across America. To bring families and friends together and carry on with banter of who might win the big game and discuss what their team should have done better that season. All while eating sloppy barbecued cuisines that make us men proud because we spent that afternoon over an open flame, a cloud of smoke and a bed of ash. Some areas of the country under a warm sun, in my part of the country it was spent in a warm winter jacket.

Though Kick Off might have started for most at prime time, it started for me around 12:30. A last-minute Super Bowl party was set in place and so I had to pull out all the last-minute calls. I had to be picky with the plays I was going to make and how I was running the ball, for I had only four and a half hours to come up with a menu. Game on!

My day started off with cutting chicken breasts into chicken tenders and giving them an hour bath in apple cider vinegar and apple juice. During that time I gathered my ingredients for the Carolina Mustard BBQ Sauce. BOOM… 1:30 exactly and my coals were nice and hot. Into the smoker they went, water pan filled and lid closed to heat up to the blessed 250 degrees. Back inside to prepare the North Carolina Coleslaw, a recipe from Steven Raichlen BBQ bible cook book. Hark, the clock hit 2 pm, 3 hours until my door bell starts to ring, chicken now hits the grill. The chicken was dusted with Grill Mates Apple Rub and was blasted with a heavy dose of mesquite wood smoke. The chimney of the smoker quickly puffed with a thick bellow of smoke and as the smoke rose, the snow quietly began to descend with big flakes turning my pit into the scene from a snow globe. AHHH…2:30, as much as I want to sit outside in my backyard wonderland, I’m on a time crunch and I have people to cook for.

The Carolina Mustard Sauce was fun to cook. I like doing sauces because I’m a sort of mad scientist when reading recipes. I rarely stick to the main recipe, and though I can’t take credit for the idea, I’ll post how I made it.

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup Ballpark Yellow Mustard
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup distilled white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup of orange organic blossom honey
  • Coarse salt (kosher or sea) to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup of apple juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon of horseradish

Bring to a simmer, turn to a low heat and let it simmer for about 5 min. Take it off the heat a settle until room temperature. This will last about 2 weeks in the fridge. Your house will become overwhelmed with the scent of mustard, but the taste is worth is. This one is great over pulled chicken and a great baste for ribs.

OH MAN…3:35, time to take the chicken off the smoke and put in a tin foil pan to speed up the cooking process. It’s a nice trick for doing pulled chicken in a crunch. After putting the chick in the pan, I gave it another splash of apple juice.

Clock check…3:45, Time for the slaw. Whisk in a large bowl mix…

  • 1/3 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup distilled white vinegar (I used apple Cider vinegar)
  • 2 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 5 tablespoons of mayo
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

To speed things up I used pre-shredded cabbage, carrots and other junk for the slaw. Once everything is whisked together, pour it over the cabbage mix. Stir and chill.

Star Date 4:15…45 minutes until the doorbell goes nuts. Time to make the Caramel Fudge Sea Salt brownies! Ok, I will admit, I’m not good at baking. I won’t pretend either for the blogs sake. I went to the store, bought a box of mix, added eggs, oil and water and baked it as directed.

5pm and the brownies are pulled out of the oven. Let them cool for whatever time you want, pour on caramel and sprinkle on your desired amount of Sea Salt. I tend to be generous with it. It’s an amazing combination if you have never tried it.afterfocus_1359991423482

5:15 took the chicken off the smoker and began to pull. I poured out some of the greasy fat juice and replaced with more apple juice. Last, I finished it off with a good dusting of the Grill Mates Apple Rub.afterfocus_1359991244170

5:30…DING DONG… company arrived late. WHEW!

Though, I was a little bummed at the outcome of the game, MY game was on for the day. When everyone dove into the food that I had made, I felt that I chose the right plays. That’s right, I ran the ball at the exact time I needed too and the outcome was a victorious culinary win. I can only hope the rest of you enjoyed your day and evening as much as I did.afterfocus_1359991329969

Please, share any of your game day creations. We would love to hear!


How to NOT smoke a Brisket! Battling the Beast.

20130126_181826Before I go on to explain the “beast”, I will hang my head low and admit that the one I was wrestling with was only 3 pounds. It was my humble first smoke of that cut of meat and I walk away with more knowledge on smoking a brisket. I don’t know what go into me. My father-in-law was heading over for dinner and I wanted to impress him, as all son-in-laws do. You see, I know I can cook a good rack of ribs with sweet and tangy sauce dripping from your chin and elbows while working your way to the bone. I’m confident that my smoked chicken will flake apart at the press of a fork and my burgers come out oozing with a savory smoky flavor. I know that on Saturday I was not confident in smoking a brisket and I probably pulled out all the rookie moves. So, I’m writing this to share with you what not to do if like me, you are a rookie at the brisket.

My first mistake… When I was at the local hardware store a few months ago I needed to stock up on my coal supply. It was around the same time I installed the offset firebox on my smoker. Being it was around the Christmas season I was holding tight on my wallet privileges and so I decided to go with Lump Coal instead of my usual brand Kingsford. I have nothing against Lump coal, but I know that I can get my Kingsford coals to heat up and hit a steady temperature for a good 3 hours in the winter. As I filled my firebox with lump coal, it quickly heated up my smoker. It hit the trusty worthy temperature of 250 degrees and kept going. So I adjust my vents accordingly to bring down the temp. Again it hit 250 and kept going down. So, I repeated the process until I was able to zero on where I needed it. One thing I also noticed with the lump coal was that the slightest breeze, I’m talking a sneeze from one of my annoying hibernating pocket gophers would cause the smoker to raise a good 20 degree and then back down 20 and then teeter off in the middle somewhere. I almost didn’t need the wireless thermometer. I was outside enough to look at the gauge itself.

My second mistake…Never take two different theories on how to smoke a successful brisket and put them together (unless you really know what you are doing). I started off with throwing the brisket on the grate and leaving it there. My brisket was going just fine and then I had to open up my BBQ bible by Steven Raichlen. I read an excerpt from Steven’s book that tells me to wrap the brisket in tin foil a good 3/4 th of the way through, and so i did. As much as I respect Steven Raichlen’s knowledge of the grill and his years of cooking over a flame, I also have learned that some of his techniques are not always the only way. He has tv shows and books, but there are other ways of doing it. Wrapping your brisket in tinfoil wasn’t the rookie move. No, the rookie move was the I changed up my method right in the middle of a smoke. If something is going fine, leave it.

One my goals for the process was seeing bark on the brisket. However, I was informed later that my absence of bark was because I had wrapped the brisket in tinfoil. By wrapping it in foil, I allowed too much moisture to collect and therefore, no bark. I know, a rookie mistake I have made. I shouldn’t change methods in mid-cook and I humbly lay my head low because of it.

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Pulled Chicken, Hickory Smoked Brisket and Salad

In the end, my result was a fully cooked brisket. I achieved the tenderness I wanted. In fact, it was so tender you could cut it with a fork which I believe is the goal from what I hear. The smoky flavor had a great impact with every bite taken. I was complimented greatly from my father-in-law, little did he know of the rookie mistakes I made.

I think I’ll wait until I enter the ring with another brisket. I will then throw it on and leave it. No foil, just intense smoke and a solid 250 degrees.

I don’t like looking back. I’m always constantly looking forward. I’m not the one to sort of sit and cry over spilt milk. I’m too busy looking for the next cow. ~ Gordon Ramsay


How To Win Over A Man: Steak!

We are men. And we are moved by meat. Don’t ask us why. We don’t know. Difficult perhaps to articulate, but easy to appreciate, whence our incisors have pierced the hallowed surface of that perfectly seared steak. Ah yes, steak. A good one will settle a restless man’s soul,  and in turn draw him closer to thee, and unto his meatiest ideal. Hark, the world and it’s cares fairly ebb to a faint hush, and the pendulum of the sun at once holds stalwart in the sky, when at last we lay big meat to flame, and simply cook it there amid the rising smoke. Oh how we favor a good steak, abiding in it’s juices, sizzling quietly over a beautiful bed of coals. It moves us.

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It was one of those vintage winter afternoons, under skies of sleet and falling snow, where the call of the grill was at it’s most primal. It’s most basic, I should wager. Nothing fancy today, as fancy would only ruin it. Nay, when bridled in the heady thralls of meat lust, let there just be meat on flame, and let hunger be our spice. The rest will sort itself out, by and by. For today, as in days past, we are smitten for the rib eye. The bone-in succulent sort known to send grown men into slobbering fits of idiocy. Plunk one of these down on a man’s plate, and plop a potato along side it, and he is at once and for all the world, a contented species. Gobbling quietly by himself, with no apparent no need for conversation. Like a pacifier to a new born, for a time anyways,  he will require little else. Indeed, for a few fleeting minutes, and maybe even more than that, all the world is right. For let it be said, nothing is quite so efficient at setting a man straight, than grilled meat on the bone,  and a fashionable side of potatoes.

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So next time your looking for something simple off the grill, or have a restless man on your hands, well, ain’t too many things better suited for both, than a perfectly grilled Rib Eye, and the space in time to devour it.


Chocolate?? Are you NUTS?

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Dunking your brand new white mop into a fresh batch of homemade sauce goes against everything mother had taught you. OK all rules ascend out the window when you begin to baste a half-done smoky rack of ribs. The aromatic mix of spice, vinegar, and smoke waft into the air, and you can’t help but to apply more.

I’d like to share a recipe I found online and tweaked a little for my taste. It’s a Chocolate Infused BBQ Sauce. I know what you’re thinking, “What is he thinking?” Chocolate and BBQ? Chocolate and Smoke? Don’t get me wrong, it sounds weird, but tastes very good. Here’s how it’s done!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper – See Note Below
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped – See Note Below

Preparation

  1. Combine ketchup and next 9 ingredients (through pepper) in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring with a whisk. Reduce heat; simmer 8 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; add chocolate, stirring until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth.

I decided to make a few notes for the interested reader.

  • If you’re going to use Chocolate, go big! OK, I didn’t look too hard at the grocery store. I went with what cost more than Hershey’s or Nestle. I decided to go with Guittard’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips. I felt the flavor stood out more when I have baked with them in the past.img_7972
  • Also, when a recipe calls for freshly ground pepper, then ground your pepper freshly! I have a mortar and pestle. I love going with a rainbow mix of Peppercorn.
  • For those of you who have ever tasted chili infused chocolate, go ahead and throw in some chili powder to taste. The sweet of the chocolate and brown sugar really compliment the kick of pepper and chili powder.300-111-3605
  • Lastly, I usually begin basting the meat with the sauce as soon as I throw smoke on the coals. The smoke flavor really sticks to anything that is wet on the cut of meat. So if you want that hickory flavor to stand out, start basting right away. All opinion of course!IMG_20121118_164651

Bean Muck!

MUCK       /mək/

Noun

Dirt, rubbish, or waste matter.

Dirt….Rubbish….Waste Matter?? I’m slightly appalled at this definition of the word “muck”! Bean Muck is far from that. Though, the effect of eating too much of it could leave you feeling mucky, the dish itself is at best genius. Let me explain.

There was a time, a few years back, my Patron and I were up in the Northern bearings of the SHT. No, this is not a misspell for a foul word, it’s simply an acronym of the Superior Hiking Trail. The Superior Hiking trail is a footpath that extends the northeastern ridge line of Lake Superior for about 275 miles. It’s decorated with pine, birch, aspen, fir and cedar. On occasion you will hear the chickadees sing, the squirrels squawk and the lonely wolf howl. The breeze whistles through the pines in an airy lullaby at night, and you can get lost for days without running into your own species. Back to my point… It was the end of September, early October, and we had the itch to get out alone into the woods. Had a name for our trip, and we decided on the selfish title of Camp Glutton. We title our small adventure because we realized we had enough food to feed ourselves along with 10 other hikers that might cross our trail. So there we sat, 3 long, relaxing days cooking over a campfire. The air in our camp was thick with the odors of brats, steaks, a couple of loaves of French Bannock (story to come) and onion. My patron and I rarely go anywhere without a fresh onion. We cooked eggs for breakfast and soups for lunch. We often retreated to our camping chair and hammock, our guts full and domed high to the heavens waiting for the next round of meals.

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We had made it to our last day of camp. Waking up as the sun hits our tents, stretching to the skies and hungry as bears out of hibernation.  We knew we didn’t want to leave camp with food still in our packs so we got creative. I had one large can of Baked Beans and a couple of Apple Gouda brats left. My Patron pulled out of his pack an entire onion. We decided to get creative. So, over the fire the brats went. The onion diced up into small squares and the beans simmering over the flames in the pit. Once all three were done, they all ended up in the same pot. There is nothing pretty or attractive about this dish. There is no right or wrong way of making it. Why in Bean Muck you can add really whatever you want. Its Bean muck! We have flirted with the flavors of peppers, spices, honey, syrup, ground beef, and rabbit meat. There is only one key ingredient that one needs to start with and I’m sure you figured it out by now, a can of beans.

Now, the POTP cannot take credit for inventing Bean Muck. We are sure many of you others out there have been creative with your own can of beans. So let us know what some delicacies you have added to your Bean Muck. Share your secrets and lets prove that muck isn’t always dirt, rubbish or waste matter.

**WARNING** When experimenting with Bean muck make sure it’s on a weekend when you’re not around loved ones. If you do, you may find life can be lonely for a week or two. Carry on…


8-Below Beef Po Boys On The Grill

Dateline: January 20, 2013

Temperature: -8 degrees Fahrenheit .

Mission: Po Boys on the Grill!

That is probably what the neighbors were thinking anyway, when they glanced out their dining room window this morning and saw me  yonder, tending my grill. Po boy. Poor boy indeed, having to BBQ when it’s eight degrees below the blessed zero mark. Who would be so daft to grill in temperatures so obscene, they ask, as they shake their head, and sip their fancy coffee. Clearly they have never made the acquaintanceship of this blog.

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The Po Boy is a shredded beef sandwich invented and forged in Louisiana, patron to my southern roots, where true BBQ is not only a given, but a way of life. We have been in a sandwich mood here at the pit lately, so why not pay homage to the homeland of my kin down yonder, and do up one of the finer culinary contributions of the south, the Po Boy sandwich, on the grill of course. Granted if a Louisianan were to have stepped out on my patio today, and felt that bone-stabbing cold, they surely would have locked their eyeballs to the tip their nose, and keeled over in a fashion suitable for a coronary thrombosis. Best to let us northern boys handle this one, mates, and show you how it’s done this side of zero. Life at the edge, of fire and ice.

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The journey began with a lightly seasoned 4 pound chuck roast, of which was dotingly seared over a hot bed coals, a couple of minutes per side.  Since it was colder than Frosty’s carrot out there, I made the fire extra big, and employed the minion method to boot, a tactic essential for this epic, arctic cook. Then get yourself a pot for the roast, (not your wife’s good cake pan) along with some lightly sautéed onions and garlic. Lastly, flood it with a rather copious quantity of beef broth, enough ideally, to cover the meat. Position the pot indirect, put on the lid, tip your hat to a job well done, and make way for your nearest beverage of choice.

The next step is not to be in a hurry. These big roasts take time. Time for the internal temps to crest high enough to start breaking down the connective tissues and collagen, and enter the food realm better known as savory. You want this meat to fall apart easily. In point of fact, old Po Boy folklore has it, the meat should fall apart with a” hard stare”.  And that’s easy to do if you take your time.  There is no haste in a pit master’s mojo. For we know the world spends fast enough as it is, thus let our meat at least, tarry back in the quiet eddies of life. Back with the slowly ebbing sun in a pastel sky, and the gentle smoke which rises serenely from our pits.

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Eight degrees below the zero mark ain’t exactly the optimal weather for loitering pit side, but it turns out if you can see your pit from inside the house somewhere, well, that’s good enough. And since the football playoffs were on the TV, it didn’t take much coaxing to take up residence in the man chair, and while away a few hours, whilst the grill puffed away in the deep, penetrating cold. Oh how I reveled at the intense labors of being a pit master, with my feet at the fireplace, swaddled in blankets, my eyes drooping on and off, and the football game bantering in the back ground. Eventually, after some fashion, I even woke up, with a trail of drool spilling out of my left lip pit. Glory, this is the life!

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After about 5 hours, the meat was done, and falling apart like an alcoholic at a moonshine conference. No hardened stare necessary. It was then time to toast the French bread. Apparently you will be frowned upon if you use anything other than French bread for your Po Boy, so be warned, less you stand at the receiving end of some unruly Cajun ridicule. So French bread it was. We put a little mayonnaise on the bread, and packed it full of the savory meat, and a little lettuce for good measure to suit the lady folk. Man! There are plenty of high-end sandwiches in the world, and let it be said, this is one of them.

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Next time you’re in the mood for something different, and have a little time, try grilling up some Beef Po Boy Sandwiches. Subzero temperatures optional.


Testament of a Grilling Geek

I went out to the grill the other night, in routine fashion to tend the meat, and found myself for a time just standing there, staring into the hot, glowing coals. It was a crisp night, and the heat from the fire felt good on my hands. And the sky was dark, and scattered with stars, shimmering vanward to a blackened infinity. I turned up the collar on my smoking jacket, and noted momentarily how pleasant it was – this fire, this night. The simple pleasures of loitering pit-side, while lovingly doting over a piece of meat. I just love it. But why. Why would a grown man of apt intelligence forsake a perfectly good stove top, and a heated house, to go instead outside, into the cold, and cook his supper in the humbling style of hobos and passing vagrants.  I pushed the meat over indirect heat,  paused, and thought about it for a while.

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The reasons reside I suspect, with the soft-rising tendrils of smoke, and the waving mirages of heat against a pale, crescent moon. With the dancing flames, and the aromas of smoldering wood. It might also be because of all the many campsites  beneath whispering pines I am thus reminded of, every time I strike a match, and kindle a fire. Because meat cooked over an open fire is at once a pleasure, and akin to something deeper in our souls than electric skillets or microwave ovens. Because of the freshened air which expands my chest, and the Black Capped Chickadees which flirt yonder, in the stately trees.  Because BBQ is a fickle pursuit, and you are not always so sure how it will turn out. And because good BBQ takes time,  lots of time, and loitering over a beautiful bed of coals, with my tongs in hand, is at once a stand of small defiance, in a falling world wrought with haste. And that is no small thing.

Because one day I might smoke the perfect rack of ribs.

Indeed, the reasons are many I suppose, of why we do what we do. And I suppose too there are plenty of other ways to cook a cut of meat, that will taste just as good, and surely a might more comfortable than standing out in the cold. But scarce any of them, let it be said, are nearly so much fun as this; with this fire, this night out-of-doors, under magnificent skies, and over fiery beds of glowing coal.  Ah yes. The simple pleasures patron to the pit, and to those who tarry there. This I suspect, is why I grill by and by, and why it is we do what we do.

That, and I like to eat! Amen.


Hickory Smoked Rib Sandwiches

Game day in the National Football League Playoffs. 9 degrees of mercury registering. What do you think we’re going to do! Lets light the smoker!

There are a precious few alignments in the human condition so fine, as football and BBQ. Don’t ask me why. All I know is one shouldn’t tamper with the good things in life, nor try to analyze it much, less it evaporates, like the morning mist over still waters. No, we shall not try to figure out why, but instead be emboldened to embrace it. To put meat to flame, and declare the day is well.  Thus to salute the rising smoke,  and for a while at least, maybe even to live the dream.

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As I repair by the fire-place, in my favorite man chair, the game quietly on the TV, a glance out to the patio sees the brand new 22 1/2 inch WSM puffing gently that fine-blue smoke patron to a good and established, hickory fire. It’s maiden voyage, if you will, like a big ship slipping slowly out to sea. On board today, a rack of maple syrup glazed beef ribs, and a good matter of country-style pork ribs, both dusted in a sweet but spicy,  home-made rub. The country-style ribs, which are really cut from a pork butt, took a bit further journey tho, pampered long over-night in a custom marinade adept at improving pork. Like all good journeys, the journey of BBQ starts with an idea, and is done when it is done, never quite positive of where you may end up. Or how you may get there. And I do not think we would have it any other way.

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The spoils are on the smoker now, for a two and one half hours I should wager, bathed in light hickory smoke, at a modest 250 degrees. The keen wind chill, of which it must be subzero, slices with ease, and not-so-compassionately through the trees, and over the frozen land: but the WSM holds stalwart in the face of bitter inclement. A victory affording myself the high pleasure of taking up residence “belly up” in the man chair, feet propped up by the fireplace, dosing peacefully amid the banter of Sunday football. There are few naps finer than football naps, save for perhaps golf naps, tho that would probably be up for debate I suppose.  My brother likes to take naps under his truck, but that’s a different story. At any rate, as cozy as I was, eventually I knew I had to get up and foil the ribs, of which I did.  A labor of love, by and by. It was no big deal.

Another hour and half in the foil, with a dose of BBQ sauce and splash of Dr Pepper, just cause. This loosened up the meat with aplomb, and took it by the hand, escorting  the unruly meat to the next level. Taming the beast, as it were, swaddled in tin foil. Pampered with love.

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Lastly, a toasting of the french bread, over the remaining, tho still softly-glowing embers, for that finishing touch savored by the lady folk.

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After the bones pulled freely, we then plated the ribs, and chopped them into lovely man-sized chunks, and served them lightly basted in BBQ sauce on the toasted french bread. This was it. We had arrived. The maiden voyage of the new smoker had landed, nudging the fateful shores of a meat utopia. A land where the slobbers run freely, and a good burp is considered high praise.  If ever you want to one-up your standard pulled pork sandwich, this is how to do it. Man!

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Next time you’re in the mood for some tasty football food, and wanna do something a little different, try yourself some slow-smoked rib sandwiches. Ain’t too many things finer.

-POTP


Patrons of the Pit Playlist

I can’t go often in life without music. Creating playlist or soundtracks as I like to call them has become a hobby of mine. Matching music up to what I’m doing at that moment. To become the musical director for my life is something I take serious. Being that I’m a musician, I’m very picky and biased when doing so. To go into the many avenues of life and tell you about my music selections would probably force me to start another blog, so I’m going to focus on sharing of my music stations I have created when dedicating an afternoon at the BBQ pit.

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First off, who could go wrong with a B.B King station. How often is it you walk into a BBQ joint and they have classical music, or rap playing on their overhead speakers? What music is better associated with BBQ than blues music. The crying guitars whine as your basting your meat. The harmonica calls out while the hickory smoke curls into a dimming orange sunset. The singer cries as they have lost their lover over, perhaps over someone else’s BBQ. My B.B. King station of course is always my first choice of serenades when standing next to a smoking pit.

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My second choice is my Elvis station. I grew up listening to Elvis and have many fond memories of establishing myself on a sunny afternoon. Our backyard patio packed with Aunts and Uncles. My dad sat with his banjo and my Uncles sat with guitars, often livening up the family with classic rock and roll tunes and old country western songs. This station is often listened to because of the strong feeling of nostalgia it brings on.  I can remember words of songs I hadn’t heard in 20 years purely because I fell in love with the moment I first heard them. Thus, Elvis often joins me when BBQing for large groups of people.

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Now there is a station I don’t often brag about. This station is played in my headphones so many people don’t judge my geeky side of life. But here, I hide nothing about my BBQ experience. So I would like to publicly announce the third choice of station is my Lord of the Rings Soundtrack station. I use this station when having a full day ahead of me – of a long drawn out smoke. When smoking a cut of meat that may need a little more effort. From the point of lighting the flame to pushing a sharp knife through that saucy, sweet, smoky, spicy side of meat. You then know your efforts have paid off and the epic journey of BBQ was fulfilled. No other station encourages such BBQ geekiness as my Lord of the Rings Soundtrack Station.

So, my question is to you who have read this, what music do you like to listen to during an afternoon at the pit? What might be on your BBQ playlist?

Have a good day – POTP


Allies of the Ash

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Though the snow may be cold

And the wind chills the air

Associates gather to bend their wit

These two logs have held the cheeks

Of Patrons of the Pit

Conversations of brisket cuts

And ribs that drip with flavor

To watch your cronies eat with joy

And sacrifice dietary behavior

The culinary dares may bet and fly

To see who alters the plan

The recipe changes from bloke to bloke

Yet still fill the greasy drip pan

Though our pits don’t always look the same

The outcome still comes together

To give your smoke some bragging rights

Because you have smoked in astringent weather…


The Smoking Jacket

afterfocus_1356992921119_edit0No, I do not speak of the kind of smoking jacket you’re probably thinking of. The purple-velvet sort worn by gentlemen of high leisure, who own a humidor, and pace about in front of their fireplace with a pipe in hand, attempting to look thoughtful. No, the jacket I speak of is more humble than that, but equally as enchanting. And if you tend the grill year-around, and live in the colder places, you probably have one too. Indeed, it is the jacket we dawn most when favoring our spoils over a beautiful bed of coals, pit-side, amid the rising wood smoke. It is our smoking jacket, and it is well with our souls.

My go to grilling jacket is a thick, red and black, checkered affair, and made entirely of wool. It has just enough pockets to hold the various spices allotted for the cook, a book of matches, and a couple of cold hands. But what it holds best, is smoke. Something about the woolen fibers which absorb and record a tapestry of cooks in the out-of-doors. Grill-side gems I am reminded of every time I slip into its heavy sleeves, and I smell the aromas patron to the good life, and the memories procured there. It all tarries quietly in the smoke.

Memories of a thousand and one heady cook outs, on crisp, autumn days and frigid, starry nights. Of blizzards, and Christmas hams. And tho I never wear it in the warmer months, it even reminds me gently of Memorial Day cook-outs, and long Fourth of July smokes, beneath a balmy sun. Oh yes, if smell is linked with memories, and science has proven this to be so, then a smoking jacket proper beholds a lifetime supply of them.  A cornucopia of moments, doing something we love, preserved in smoke.  And tho I may not have the fanciest smoker, or the biggest grill, nor the covetous meat budget of some other guys, even so, every time I put on the smoking jacket,  and smell the gloried past upon it, I know that I am favored, and a considerably a rich man. Amen.