Archive for February, 2010

Root Beer

What does root beer have to do with barbecue? Well, that’s my question, too. All I know is that this local root beer — Crater Lake — is the best I’ve tasted in years.  What does a person barbecue to compliment such a thing? Anyone?  I really need an excuse other than “it’s yummy” to buy something that’s 1,000% pure sugar.

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Asian-Style BBQ Ribs

I haven’t been able to shake the idea of trying to cook my own Asian ribs on the Kamado.  And since some victims, er, I mean friends decided to come over for dinner this weekend, I had the perfect opportunity to give it a go.

But building a recipe was a lot harder than I thought.

I found a dozen or so fairly different approaches to Chinese or Asian-style ribs out there on that World Wide Web thing, and they all looked good. Except for the one that sounded too much like ribs covered with spaghetti sauce. Diced tomatoes? Um, no.

But two recipes helped me focus. First, was a family marinade recipe I found on some random blog out there that just looked too good to be bad.  And second, Tom Douglas’ Asian barbecue sauce. These recipes had a lot of common elements, and both included a lot of hoisin sauce and ginger, which I love!

So, I took those, and some advice from a couple of other places, fused it all together, almost as if I knew what I was doing.

(But to be safe, I cooked two whole slabs of traditional bbq ribs, too.  If the Asian bbq failed, we’d still have dinner!)

How did it turn out?  YUM! I confess, I didn’t get the dark, heavily glazed result I thought I’d get. And I was surprised that the marinade alone was definitely not enough flavor by itself – you have to make and use the sauce.

But I polled the table, encouraging the team to be critical: If you were walking down the street, would you again choose to stop into Adam’s Pan-Asian Jewish-Northwest-American Barbecue (‘World Famous’), I got a unanimous yes, definitely! Folks may have been overly polite, but then again, the ribs were gobbled up as fast or faster than the traditional ribs. As was the wheel of mille-feuille a friend brought for dessert.  

Can you stuff a fortune into a French pastry?  Someone should let me know.



First, you will want to marinate your ribs for 1 to 6 hours before cooking.  In this recipe, I used 4 slabs of baby back ribs, which served 6 adults.

The Marinade:

  • ¼ cup Miran (sweet rice wine).
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • Tbs white sugar
  • 3 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • ¼ Tsp Worcester sauce
  • 6 cloves of garlic, grated
  • One inch stem of ginger, grated
  • chili flakes
  • Pepper

Marinate your baby back ribs in a sealed container in the refrigerator. But reserve about 4 to 8 tablespoons of marinade for use during cooking.

Second, follow the same cooking instructions found in my BBQ ribs recipe.  (Short story, cook them in the rib rack for 3 hours at 200 degrees, then 1.5 hours in foil, then a final hour again out of the foil).  Obviously, don’t use the barbecue rub or the apple cider.  And I reapplied the reserved marinade for the foil cook. 

Third, during the last hour of cooking, make Tom Douglas’ Hoisin Barbecue Sauce

  • ¾ cup hoisin sauce
  • ¾ cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • ¾ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 5 unpeeled fresh ginger coins, sliced ¼ inch thick
  • 2 whole star anise
  • Orange zest

Some folks at the table thought the sauce could have used a little more kick, and perhaps more pepper flakes would be good.   Another person suggested a hint of sesame oil might add a nice flavor to the sauce.  And I wish I had put in a bit more orange flavor into the mix.   You might want to experiment a bit more off this base.

When the ribs come off the grill, paint a thin layer of sauce on the ribs, and then put the rest on the table for your guests.

If I figure out ways to make this recipe better, I’ll definitley come back and edit.

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The problem: I couldn’t make a cheeseburger as good as the gourmet burgers fancy restaurants serve these days. The reason: My parents (yeah, lookin’ at YOU mom). I blame them entirely.

My mom certainly makes some great food (Chocolate pie anyone? YUM!) But burgers in my folks’ house were these snowball shaped mounds of meat, firmly smashed together, and well done. Oy!  How the heck was I supposed to go forth into adulthood and cook a good burger after developing a taste for this? And what’s worse is I didn’t really realize how bad things were until my wife spoke up.  She said, “these aren’t my favorite,” which given how tactful she normally is, was her way of saying “This is the worst pile of you-know-what I’ve ever eaten.”

I’d love to say I went on some kind of burger quest, and after years of research, developed the miracle recipe. But that’s not really how it happened. A lot of the following came from a page out one of the Naked Chef’s cookbooks, except for few fairly significant tweaks I later added.

Naked Chef guy made a point that densely packed meat bombs could be avoided with onions and eggs. The onion makes it lighter and sweeter, and the eggs help to hold the thing together, so there’s no point or need for squeezing the oxygen out of a meat patty. In fact, you could and should very loosely form your patties.

But here’s the problem. Even the Naked Chef’s recipe had one flaw, which is egg or no egg, it still crumbled on the grill (vs. a pan).  Half the burger would end up on the coals. Hmmm….   But after a few experiments, I finally found a cooking formula that works perfectly, every time. 

So, here’s my fully-clothed set of adjustments to the Naked Chef’s approach:

(BTW: Just looking for pictures of cheeseburgers? Click here.)


  • 1.5 lb of ground beef.  (FYI: I’ve been grinding my own beef lately.)
  • Half a large onion (or even more) chopped medium-to-fine. Do not worry about too much onion; I’ve found the risk is really too little onion, not too much.
  • 1 extra large egg
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Cumin
  • ¼ cup of Show-Me sauce
  • Minced garlic

Prepare the cheese of your choice in slices. I like swiss, personally.


  1. Get the grill up there – 450 degrees, or so.
  2. While the grill is heating, mix the ingredients, but take care to avoid mashing up the ground beef. Mix just enough to get the onions evenly distributed.
  3. Create thick, but flat patties big enough to cover whatever you’re using for a bun.
  4. But DO NOT squish these patties. You want to apply as little pressure as you can to form and keep the patty shape.
  5. Use the big ol spatula to gently slide the burgers on the grill.  Avoid plopping them on.


So, you’ve purposely made some pretty loose burgers here, so that they’re light and airy when done. Now the trick is preventing them from disintegrating on the grill.

The error, I’ve found, is when you imagine yourself “flipping burgers.”  That is an evil phrase invented for the poor sucker who is making fried burgers at fast-food joint, and is the TOTAL opposite of what you want to do. Here, you’ll flip each burger one time, that’s it.

I discovered that if you let the grill heat thoroughly do its job on one side of the burger, that this fully cooked side will do the heavy lifting in holding your patty together.

So after the patties hit the grill, close the lid, and suppress that instinctive barbecuer’s urge to flip em.  You can do it! Will power, friend! When you DO get that first urge to flip,  grab two spatulas —  use one to hold the burger in place, and use the big ol spatch to carefully slide under each patty just to prevent stickage.  But don’t flip. Give the patties a full extra minute or even two if they’re thicker, anticipating that once they’re flipped, they’re flipped for good.

Have your cheese ready.  Using the two spatula method again, this time go ahead and flip the burgers as gently as possible. Chances are some will still crumble a little, but for the most part, you should have a nice seared crust on top holding the thing pretty well together.  So, cement time: Add the cheese, close the lid, and by the time the cheese is melted, that burger is done and ready to come off the grill (unless they’re really thick…use your best judgment).

Finally …

The one thing I haven’t figured out is how to make a great hamburger bun. That statement would be slightly more impressive had I ever actually tried to make a hamburger bun. Still…. When I get a really great gourmet burger, the buns are usually big, buttery and toasted, but not too heavy and don’t overpower the sandwich.

If anyone has a fresh-baked, homemade hamburger bun recipe, please do share.

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Speaking of good pizza

Another good use for pork butt

(Local Recommendation: Sorry out of town friends.)

Everyone has their own favorite pizza joint, so there’s no point in starting on that topic. But I will say this: Flying Squirrel Pizza offers a pulled barbecue pork pizza, and honestly, what else do you need to know?

They have other good pizzas too (figs and goat cheese, anyone?).  But their pizza topped with pulled pork, red onion, cilantro, lime juice and grated parmesan is the pie we order every other visit. Lime Juice!! Genius!

My next grilled pizza will definitely be an attempt to recreate this.

Here’s my thorough review: Flying Squirrel is really good, you should go.  But don’t go on weekends after 6 p.m. unless you’re happy to wait in a very long line for a table.  I can vouch for Tuesdays at 5:30.   (Yes, add ‘going out to dinner early to beat the crowd’ to the already long list of nerdy things I do).

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