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Archive for July, 2011

Duvall: Not that far!

[c/o the Woodinville Weekly] Governor Christine Gregoire signed a proclamation declaring that the Evergreen State BBQ Championship will be held August 21 and 22 in Duvall.

Rotary Club of Duvall and Duvall Safeway will sponsor the event titled Duvall Heat, at the Duvall Safeway.

The BBQ Championship is an event involving teams and judges from the Pacific Northwest. The grand champion of the Evergreen State BBQ will be designated a Washington state champion and will be eligible to enter the drawing for the Jack Daniels Invitational event. $5,000 in prize money will be awarded.

Tastings will be done on Saturday followed by the judging on Sunday. The weekend event will include music and multiple vendors. Proceeds will go to the Rotary Club of Duvall’s community projects and Safeway’s charity of the month, Muscular Dystrophy Association. For more information, go to http://www.duvallheat.com. The public is welcome.

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Saveur's USA of BBQ. Click to see it up close.

I majored in “history of science” – a discipline about which my parents frequently asked, what exactly do you do with that? Well, here’s one answer: You snicker a bit every time Texas is credited with inventing barbecue.

I’m not saying Texas shouldn’t take some credit for popularizing barbecue, which could also be said for a half dozen other states that currently boast obesity rates of 30% or more. What I’m saying is that cooking meat with fire isn’t exactly something that started while Lincoln was in office.

It’s like saying New York is the home of bread, just because you can get great bagels there.  It’s a statement that’s mostly good spirited, somewhat amusing, but still a little bit annoying.

Also good spirited, amusing and mildly annoying is Saveur Magazine’s recent summer homage to barbecue. An entire issue dedicated to the people, places and recipes that make cooking with fire so much fun.   In it, they talk about Texas as if barbecue didn’t exist before the loathsome briquette was first sold at the Houston Piggly Wiggly. 

Again, no disrespect to Texas. I don’t want any Longhorns showing up at my door, chanting “don’t mess with Texas,” and putting me on a spit to roast. It’s just that, on behalf of all the science nerds out there, controlled use of fire to cook meat goes back about 800,000 years, originating in the Fertile Crescent, according to anthropologists.   Other research suggests it might be double that age, coming out of East Africa.

Even the oldest known stone oven dates back about 23,000 years, which means we even have a tangible artifact proving our Webers aren’t all that much different than what the earliest civilizations used.  Granted, I realize there were probably Cowboys fans back then, but nonetheless, Texas was still just a state of mind.

 

Hey, James Oseland! Come out West and try the pulled pork!

All of that is probably on the second most annoying thing about Saveur’s United States of Barbecue. 

It’s that, yet again, another example of reporters failing to examine anything west of Kansas City. Saveur credits the entire western half of the United States with the Tri-Tip Steak in California, and barbecued Salmon in the Pacific Northwest.  Never mind that Nebraska, California and Oklahoma rank among the top five beef producing states in America. And Texas doesn’t even rank among the top ten for pork  (Iowa is No. 1).

I love salmon, I really do.  But I eat salmon about as often as I wear a flannel shirt and listen to Nirvana: Every once in a while.

Perhaps what Saveur was thinking is the history of barbecue sauce.  But according to that bastion of accuracy, Wikipedia, barbecue sauces date back to the 15th century. It even claims that Christopher Columbus picked up some decent sauce in Haiti back in his day.

Hmmm…

Anyway, all this complaining aside, there were some decent looking recipes in Saveur, so I’m going to give some a try.  I can overlook a little re-writing of history if it means a good batch of ribs.

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I wonder if you can order it in a cone?

I’ve already said how much I like the barbecue at RoRo. But how much do we love the fact that there’s an item on the menu called a Barbecue Sundae?

You can’t just put ANY word in front of “Sundae” and make it sound good. Even good, delicious words.  Do you want to eat a Salmon Sundae? Blech.  A Potato Sundae?  No thank you.  Although, just now I thought of a Sausage Sundae, and that may have to be something I try.

Anyway, the problem is I’ve been to RoRo about a half dozen times now, and while I always think about ordering the sundae, I never do because of all the other good choices. Well today, a loyal, barbecue loving friend of the Blue State BBQ saved the day.  I didn’t even suggest the Sundae, and she just went ahead and ordered it, anyway.

Then I find out that, by accident, I had been eating the Sundae all along.  The Sundae is essentially a pulled pork, baked beans and cole slaw parfait.  I looked down at my own plate (pulled pork with a side of beans and a side of slaw), and realized “oh, that’s what I’m eating, just deconstructed.”

So, I piled up all three items on my fork, took a bite, and declared it enjoyable! Just like everything else at RoRo.

Ok, off to think about a sausage sundae.  Kraut? Mustard? What else?

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A BBQ trio from Chandy's

First, an apology to the majority of people reading my blog for this particular post.  One of the effects of blogging about barbecue is getting asked certain questions I feel compelled to answer, even if only 12 people in the whole world care.  In this case: How is barbecue they serve where I work.

This is different from the last time I wrote about this. This barbecue is available at Chandy’s Natural Café, which always serves pulled pork and brisket, and recently added a new type of “mustard style” pulled pork. If you know what I’m talking about you might care. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m surprised you’ve read this far.

For the record, I could have gone my whole life not eating any of these. I do go to Chandy’s almost every day. I build a turkey sandwich, or buy a piece of fish or scoop up some fruit salad. But let’s face it, we’re talking about the food at work.

If I’m going to sit down in front of some brisket, I want it to count.

But yesterday, I went ahead and sampled all three of their barbecue offerings. .

I’d like to start by complimenting Chandy’s for serving pulled pork with a great texture. <Applause>.  They have managed to mass produce pulled pork without serving it mushy, proving once again that the restaurants out there serving mushy pulled pork should be ashamed of themselves.

But after that, the news isn’t great.

I’m sorry to say this, because everybody and I mean everybody at Chandy’s couldn’t be nicer.  They’re nicer than me, and they work a hell of a lot harder than me. So, I appreciate them very much, just not their barbecue.  And it’s not lost on me that I have access to some pretty great food at work, compared to the rest of the world.  I cordially invite them all to come criticize my work, which believe me, is easy. 

The best of their three offerings was the brisket, especially given there’s no way practically speaking they could be cooking brisket the way it’s supposed to be cooked. The brisket was too tough, as though it was cooked too quickly and probably in an oven.  But, the flavor wasn’t too bad, and with some sauce, you can get past the dryness.  I’m not saying I’d buy this over a turkey sandwich. I’m just saying if you simply MUST have some barbecue for lunch, go with the brisket.

The traditional pulled pork could be great.  Again, the texture is really surprising given we’re talking workplace cafeteria.  But you know that Sun Luck sweet and sour sauce you get at the Safeway?  For some reason, this pulled pork has some sort of glaze mixed in that tastes just like that stuff.  Gooey, entirely too sweet, and completely out of bounds for barbecue.  Maybe they were shooting for a honey flavor, or a Carolina style sauce. I’m not sure. But Chandy’s pulled pork would be way better if they just left that glaze out, and let us choose what sauce, if any, to put on top.

Chandy’s third offering, and by far the worst, was the same pulled pork, but covered in a yellow, mustardy, I-don’t-really-know-what-to-call-it sauce.  Bluntly, had the sign not said “pulled pork,” I might have thought it was pulled chicken. I will give Chandy’s credit for trying something new.  We should make room for more ways to serve and sauce pulled pork, and I should probably be more forgiving.  But, sorry. Blech.

On the bright side, Chandy’s serves sweet potatoes every day.  I love sweet potatoes.

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I love science. It’s such a good way to figure stuff out. I appreciate scientists for having invented it.  Today, science and I took on a question I received in the Blue State BBQ Mailbag: How much rub should I rub my ribs with?  (Say that three times fast!)

1 - the least rub. 4 - the most. Note how much darker they get.

That’s a great question because on more than one occasion, I’ve been served ribs that seemed to have little or no rub on them and typically, I tend to use a lot.  I’m also frequently surprised to read rub recipes that claim to be “enough for 4 slabs,” but yield tiny amounts of the stuff.

Have I been over-rubbing my ribs?

So, I bought two slabs, cut them into four sections, and applied different amounts of my rub to each:

  1. Barely any. This was a sprinkle of rub. I’d compare it to, say, 4 or 5 turns of a pepper grinder.
  2. Stained.  In this case, I put a good sized spoonful of rub on each side and really had to spread it around.  The ribs were red with rub, but there was no density to it. Think of it as staining the ribs.
  3. My Usual.  This is enough rub to make sure all surfaces (including the sides) are completely covered with rub. There may even be a dry spot or two, but no rub pours off when the ribs are moved.
  4. Caked.  Self explanatory!  Somewhere under all that rub were some pork ribs.  There were lots of dry spots, and if I tilted the ribs, some dry rub would roll right off.

Then I cooked them all at the same time, using the 3-2-1 method.

The result?

The first thing I noticed (see the picture) is that the more rub you use, the more burnt the ribs look when they’re done. Note, we’re just talking about appearances.  All the ribs were slow cooked the same way for the same amount of time, and were perfect.  The brown sugar in the rub simply gets dark when cooked, and gets a burnt look to it.  I can see how if I were a restaurant owner, I might shy away from using a lot of rub, or I’d risk having people glance at the ribs and pre-suppose that they were over-cooked.

I tried all of the ribs twice.  First without any sauce, and second with just a small amount of my favorite sauce.

Trying them without sauce led me to three conclusions.

First, that more rub is better, up to a point.  The problem with the “caked on” rub was that I actually got a few sandy bites.  Delicious sand, yes. But let’s face it, that’s not a texture anybody wants.

Second, the ribs with barely any rub were surprisingly good. Shockingly good.  So, it’s not surprising that some great restaurants are serving their ribs very light on rub.  It turns out slow-cooked pork tastes great without much help. Big surprise.  I think I even preferred the barely there rub to the stained version.

Third, the ribs got progressively juicier with more rub. While I didn’t like the “caked on” rub for the reason above, it did have the most moisture. And the ribs with hardly any rub were the most dried out.  I can’t help but conclude that the bark the rub creates helps hold some of the moisture in.

In the end, they're all good, right?

That was deciding factor in the end. The “usual” amount of rub – where I evenly cover the ribs in rub, but not so much as to have it pouring off them – was the best because it had a best flavor while also creating a nice, moisture-trapping skin.

When I tried the ribs with the sauce, I didn’t really come to any different conclusions, other than “wow, I sure ate a lot of ribs just now.”

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Now I'm somebody!

What do you call a business card when you’re not actually in business?  A leisure card?  A hobby card? Another nifty use for recycled paper products?

Well, whatever you call it, I’d like to thank Mrs. Blue State Barbecue for the cards. Now I can stop writing my Web address on people’s skin with a Sharpie.

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May·on·naise is of French origin. So maybe someone can explain why Baja Sauce comes from this place?

We had some killer salmon tacos last night.  I don’t mean that literally, of course, unless we happen to be speaking from the salmon’s point of view.

I wanted to share two incredibly simple extras that make good fish tacos fantastic:  baja sauce and roasted corn.

For the fish, just follow this recipe for alder plank grilled salmon.  That recipe still, consistently, produces the best salmon I’ve ever made.

But then, I wrap the fish in flour tortillas and top them with an onion, cilantro, lime salsa and these two items. What’s great is that both toppings are incredibly easy, but make your tacos or burritos seem out of the ordinary, and significantly more guest worthy:

Baja Sauce:

  • 1 cup mayo
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • zest of at least one lime
  • juice of at least one lime

 

Roasted Corn:

  • Cook the corn as you normally do (I put ears of corn in cold water, bring to a boil, count to 100 then take them out)
  • Slice the corn off, and put the kernels in a frying pan
  • Add 1 Tbs of vegetable oil
  • Add salt, pepper and ground cumin
  • Fry until corn starts to turn brown

Serve with beer.  But you knew that, didn’t you?

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