Archive for July, 2010

When you start a BBQ blog, you start to learn just how much of an idiot you can be.  Learning new stuff has a tendency to do that.

And today, I decided to learn how to make my favorite Korean food, Kalbi short ribs.  But, while researching Kalbi , I discovered this little nugget:  Kalbi literally means “rib.” 

Uh oh.  I thought Kalbi was an adjective. As in, Kalbi (style) ribs.

If Kalbi indeed means ribs, then over the past 6 years or so, I’ve been saying “Rib ribs” when describing my favorite Korean dish.   Rib ribs, please.  I love these rib ribs.  Hey, you’ve got to order the rib ribs. The rib ribs here are the best.

Oh, the shame.  So now that my confessional is over, on to the rest of the experience.

The Good News: A Great Kalbi Marinade:

I took a long look at five different Kalbi recipes, and all had the same four base ingredients: Soy sauce, sugar, garlic and sesame (either seeds or oil). But after that, there was some variation. Most called for chopped onions, two suggested the use of ginger, two added rice vinegar, and there were several other ingredients in the mix.

I started with the base, and then made four variations. This recipe, the one that features Mirin (sweet cooking wine) is the one I thought tasted the best.

For 5 lbs English Style short ribs

  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 generous teaspoons of minced garlic
  • 2 Tbs sesame oil
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ cup Mirin

Marinate the ribs in this mixture for at least 4 hours. But I let mine soak overnight.

In case you’re wondering about the taste test, here were my thoughts. Ginger tasted great with the base — but for some other recipe, not Kalbi.  It just wasn’t the flavor I was looking for. Meanwhile, all variations with Mirin were better than all variations with Rice Wine Vinegar. RWV gave the marinade a weird aftertaste. Pepper, meanwhile, improved everything I tried.

The Bad News:  Dismal Short Ribs

Great flavor just isn't enough to overcome the shortcomings of beef ribs.

The flavor of these ribs was amazing.  But the ribs themselves were really disappointing, and sorry beef rib fans, I can’t say I’m surprised.

Beef ribs repeatedly disappoint me. I didn’t like them much as a kid, I have tried to make them numerous times, and today was easily my best effort, and they still weren’t all that great.  Frankly, at this point, I’m not sure why people bother with beef ribs.

I purchased 5 pounds of English Style short ribs from the best butcher in town.  After they marinated for 12 hours or so, I put them on a nice low and slow cook. The grill started at 225, but dropped to 200. 

After 3 hours, the ribs weren’t tender in the slightest, so I wrapped them in foil with a few spoonfuls of marinade.  After 90 minutes in foil, they did come out significantly more tender, but still chewy.

Once out of the foil, I went for a taste test every 15 or 20 minutes.  This was partly for the sake of science, but also I was hungry.  Approaching hour 6, I’d say there was very little progress, and in fact, the ribs started to hint of getting overcooked.

So, I declared them done, just not all that fun to eat. Chewy, sinewy and dry in comparison to pork ribs, just like all the beef ribs I’ve ever had.  I’d much rather get the thinly sliced Kalbi at my favorite Korean restaurant, and grill it fast and hot at the table. 

I’ve posted the marinade though, in case someone else out there is a big beef rib fan. The flavor was excellent.

Meanwhile, if someone thinks they have a beef rib recipe for the grill that really works, I’m willing to give it another go.  Maybe.

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<When I made Tandoori chicken, Mrs. BlueStateBBQ made the naan.  She posted the recipe on her Cozi family journal, and I went to the great effort of using cut and paste to bring it to you.>

Not our naan. I forgot to take pictures. But it looked a lot like this.

Some of you know  (editor’s note: hopefully here, ALL of you know) Adam’s been blogging his heart out at Blue State BBQ.
My job, though, is to be the queen of baked goods. I’m totally self-declared. I think Adam wanted to make the naan. But I shoved him aside and the kids proclaimed it delicious. (Until our 9 year old discovered that yogurt was one of the ingredients. She’s on a yogurt strike.)

Here’s how to do it:

– find a good-sized bowl
– stir together 3 cups of flour with
– 1 tsp salt
– 1 tsp yeast
Then add:
– 1 tbsp sunflower oil
– one teaspoon of honey (I put it in the tablespoon and it slides right out)
– 4 tablespoons of plain yogurt
– 3/4 cup warm water

Mix it all together. It’ll make a ragged dough. The recipe didn’t call for kneading, but I might try that just to see what happens.

Let it rise for about two hours. It should double in size. If it hasn’t, keep letting it rise. Then divide it into eight balls and roll them thin. The recipe suggested 1/2-inch thick, but that’s ridiculous. I went more like 1/4 inch, and wished I’d gone even thinner

I brushed each side with melted butter (into which I stirred some garlic). We grilled it for about sixty seconds a side. The next night, I made some more and cooked it on a pancake griddle. Both cooking methods worked, though we all preferred the grilled version.  Except our 9 year old. Yogurt strike, you know.

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BBQ at the IGA?

Not what I expected.

Here we are, vacationing in the woods of Oregon.  Trees. Heat. Lizards. And the smell of hickory smoke?  Wha?

On our trip to the one and only grocery store for some oatmeal, bacon and more mosquito repellant, there they were. Not one, but two smokers, and a dedicated IGA employee outside tending to business.

“Short ribs, half chickens  and smoked tuna,” she said. 

“We’ll be back,” we replied.   Wow!  Way to go tiny IGA!

Now one thing did catch my eye. Pressed hickory pellets.  Are these any good?  A few sites out there say they don’t require soaking, that they deliver more smoke overall, and create a more intense flavor.

I guess I’ll have to find out.  But if you’ve had any experiences, please comment.

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On Vacation!

Back in a few weeks.  Plans for the late summer include: Short ribs, honey ginger duck, another attempt at chicken satay, a whole turkey and my wife’s favorite, smoked whitefish.   Should be fun.

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Tandoori Chicken

We once made Tandoori chicken where the recipe called for a paint brush and food coloring to dye the meat red before grilling it.  The chicken was fine, but in the back of my mind I just couldn’t help but think, this can’t be right!

That’s why I was pretty excited to see in my newest cookbook (thanks for the Father’s Day present, kids!) a Tandoori chicken recipe that called for a healthy amount of red curry paste, but not a drop of food coloring.  

Ooops. I forgot to take a picture. This is an empty bowl where the chicken used to be. I used foil to wrap up the legs and thighs while the breasts finished cooking.

Yesterday, I made the delicious tasting marinade. But even with the red curry paste, it wasn’t red. At best, it looked like cereal milk after a bowl of Apple Jacks.  What the heck? So, I went to the Web, looked up about a half dozen other recipes, and for chutney’s sake, every one of them involved food coloring or some other tasteless dye. 

Someone correct me if I’ve misinterpreted. After all, I’m from Ohio, not India.  But, GASP! It turns out, Tandoori Chicken is NOT red!  We make it red, but it doesn’t have to be red.   

...but if I HAD remembered to take a picture, it would look like this one I, um, 'borrowed.'

I realize this shouldn’t be so surprising. M&M’s aren’t orange, yellow, brown etc. until they’re dyed. And mint chocolate chip ice cream is as white as a Seattle sunbather until you turn it green.  And don’t get me started on the crime against nature that is the maraschino cherry.  But I just always figured that Tandoori chicken was red for a reason. 

I figured wrong.

So, here is a very satisfying, not-at-all-red, Tandoori Chicken recipe.  We made some naan on the grill, too.  I’ll post that recipe next.

24 hours in advance, cut up a 5 lb chicken and remove the skin, then marinate in the following:

  • 1 cup plain yogurt (not low fat … get the good stuff).
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • 2 Tbs of chopped cilantro
  • 3 tsp of minced garlic
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 2 tsp of red curry paste
  • 1 tsp of ground cumin
  • 1 tsp of cayenne pepper
  • ½ finely chopped mild red chili pepper
  • 2 Tbs peanut oil


Cook between 450 and 500 degrees

  • Legs and Thighs will be done before Breasts
  • Remove from grill when the internal temperature is between 165 and 170 degrees.

Serve with

Grilled onions and slices of lemon. And grilled naan (recipe to come).

(Btw: I also used the leftover yogurt to make a nice, accompanying cucumber salad.  Chopped cucumber, chopped onion, chopped tomato, 2 tbs of white wine vinegar and salt & pepper.  It could have used some mint, I think, too. )

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Korean taco grill off? This I may have to go see … If I go, I’ll report back. if YOU go, come back and post your comments.

“The popular food-cart extravaganza Mobile Chowdown returns at 11 a.m. Saturday at Seattle Center, with about 20 street-food vendors from Seattle and Portland.”



The Chowdown was great. (But a few suggestions)

On the good side: A barbecue van shaped like a pig, a great short rib sandwich with horseradish sauce (note to self: try to replicate), an even better spicy hoisin pulled pork sandwich with slaw (note to self: try to replicate that, too), and one nice shady spot to eat.

On the bad side: An hour long wait for the tacos I wanted to try (note to Seattle Center: long lines for $2 tacos means you don’t have enough choices), not enough shade on such a hot day, and a bunch of chair hogs sitting around picking crud out of their ears while people with food in both hands were doing their best to eat while standing (note to Seattle Center: More chairs next year).

A great way to spend a Saturday

 any way you look at it.  Here are some pictures:



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Cincinnati Chili.

I was born and raised in Cincinnati, which is best known for its chili, not its barbecue. This is something of a questionable bit of culinary fame, because Cincinnati chili is something most normal people find, shall we say, disgusting?

Having grown up in Cincinnati, I love it.  During my weekend trip to Cincinnati over this July 4th weekend, I went to Skyline Chili not once, but twice. 

I recognize that to a person NOT from Cincinnati, the chili appears to be a weird, diluted batch of smelly ground beef soup. Like someone mixed a well-done burger with water, and blended it into brown slurry. If it weren’t for the sign that said “chili,” a normal person might easily think of another word for it.  

Well, too bad for them.  Eating Cincinnati chili, with a pile of cheese and onions on top, and a coney on the side, is a delectable culinary tradition for those who grew up there, and not one I’ll ever choose to skip.

For me, the same can be said for the barbecue ribs across the river.

There’s no such thing as Kentucky chili, as far as I know. But on the other side of the Ohio River, there’s a barbecue spot called Walt’s Hitching Post.  And like the chili, many BBQ ribs lovers in Cincinnati grew up eating there.

I haven’t read a menu at Walt’s since I was too young to read.  In other words, never.  Here’s a phrase memorized by every member of my extended family: Whole slab, extra sauce, home fries with onions, and tomato garlic dressing on the salad.

As I mentioned on my ‘About’ page, over the years, I’ve learned to make better ribs than Walt’s. Much better, honestly. And since making barbecue a more serious hobby of mine, I’m sure I’ve been to better barbecue joints. And I just have to laugh when Walt’s serves up a small bowl of iceberg lettuce absolutely swimming in red salad dressing.  

Walt’s is good, not great. But so what!?

Walt’s, with its outdoor barbecue spit smoking up racks of hanging ribs, is the reason I even know about good barbecue in the first place. Walt’s is the reason ribs are about my favorite food in the world. Their sauce is terrific.  And most important, Walt’s is a family tradition.  There’s nothing quite like looking up and down a long table crammed with food, and seeing every nephew, niece, brother, sister and parent gnawing on ribs, drinking beers, and talking too loud, just like we always do when we go to Walt’s. Like the chili, I wouldn’t miss it.  No way. And so, Walt’s I’m raising a warm can of PBR in your direction, and thanking you for many decades of great barbecue experiences. 

And then I’m using using one of those chemical-smelling wet naps you give me before touching anything else.

Toothpick anyone?

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