Smoked ribs over oak

In honor of last weekend's (gargantuan lines at the) rib fest, I had an itch for my own smoked ribs. I ran out of briquettes and was going to put it off for another time. Then, I felt a little embarrassed. I'm pretty sure ribs were made prior to the age of Kingsford. Given that we now live in one of the windiest climates on the planet and the fallen wood is abundant, I went to get some aged whatever wood is in the pile out back and lit it using a little lighter fluid (pththth, no judging!). Once the wood was on fire, I set up with a water pan, capped the grill and smoked the ribs (lovingly rubbed with brown sugar, paprika, s & p) over indirect heat. I didn't know if it'd be too hot, but I took the plunge, only about $10 for the ribs.

Fire in the hole!

I tossed my datalogger probe in for kicks. With the data collected, in my head, I calculated the mean kinetic temperature confirming it to be a perfect 225°F. I cooked 'em from 9-2 tossing in small logs when I remembered. It seems I got an hour or so per chunk of wood. Maybe if I had smaller more regular chunks, I may have been able to smooth out some of the peaks and valleys. I'm beginning to see the origin of the briquette from this rather primitive trial run.

I wrapped them up in foil on Sunday and we ate them tonight. WOW! It pays to be sloppy and careless. What a fun bbq session. I served these with Ruhlman's Carolina sauce and a bunch of roasted veggies inspired by Persephone (but, sadly without the okra, couldn't find any).


Rolled grain berries, beyond oats

Big food manufacturers use the word wholegrain all over their packaging even though the majority of wholegrain-derived foods have been processed to the point where the carbs are nothing more than sweet, sweet mono and disaccharides.  Then they add sugar to it.  The U.S. grows great grains, why the excessive processing?

Lately, our food interests have to do with aging healthfully, and we're not giving up carbs, we're embracing them.  But, they gotta be the complex ones.  We do savor our simple carb treats, but they must be limited.

Working hard to find the most complete and most palatable grain options led us to uncover a dusty tool purchased by accident years ago, a flaker.  It looks like a pasta machine with knurled rollers.  Using one of the more narrow roller settings, whole grain berries are turned into rolled/flaked grain.  A pound takes about 5 minutes of light duty cranking.

The most familiar food resulting from this type of processing is rolled oats.  Oat berries (or oat groats - dehulled with bran intact) are created with this high pressure process.  Subsequently, the flakes undergo thermal processing (steaming and or toasting) to reduce enzyme activity for added shelf life.  Using a flaker, we can roll our own as needed and not worry so much about shelf life; grain berries can be stored for a long time without going rancid.  Removing the additional thermal processing may make this more healthy (DOI: 10.1021/jf011222z), but the big advantage of rolling your own is that other grains can be used.  There's no reason to eat just oatmeal.

The rolled grain, compared to the berry, is easily hydrated and enjoyed more easily without long cooking methods, e.g., a muesli type cereal; add rolled oats (or buckwheat, wheat, rye, spelt, etc.) some (dried) fruit, nuts, coconut (sweetened is good) and milk, let sit an hour or overnight and bang, wholegrain cereal.  It's really good!


Meatballs. Some refinements, other questions left opened.

I love meatballs.

In fact, when the challenge was announced for the event of the century, The Food Experiments/Columbus, I not only stayed in my comfort zone, I took my passion for the meatball and used it as a substrate for the theme of the event (smoke) to share with all who would attend.

Days before the event, Spilled Milk podcast had an episode on meatballs!  Favorite foodies of mine @Mamster and @MollyOrangette filled my head with information and reinforced much of what I knew about the meatball.  It's not just about the meat; it's about tenderness and fillers.  The term fillers has bad connotations, but in the context of a meatball, the fillers give the meat tenderness and make it a nugget of beauty; something that when pushed with a fork on one's plate, should almost fall apart.  I listened to the podcast, read a zillion recipes, listened to the sage advice of Saucisson MAC and used past experience to assemble my final recipe.  
This is a ground turkey meatball that my family loves.  However, it is only one type, I love all meatballs: pork, chuck, mixtures thereof, etc.  Regarding cooking, I've always been partial to dropping them in gently perking tomato sauce, I think it's called braising (but I don't know the difference between braising and poaching).

Turkey meatballs
Turkey, ground, 1 lb (I used an Ohio Turkey farm, Bowman Landes free range tureky, thighs)
bulgur, fine particle size, 1/2 cup
bread crumbs, 1/2 cup
salt, 5 g
eggs, 2 
pepper, 1 t
onion, finely grated, 2 T
parsley, lots, curly and flat, finely minced, at least 2-3T
garlic powder
milk, 20 g

Mix with hands and make into little golf ball-sized lumps, makes about 54.
I made about 280 for the food competition.  I cooked these in a simple tomato sauce of Pomi tomatoes (900 g), water (900 g), olive oil (30 g), salt (about 5 g) and a whole onion removed after some gentle simmering.  The thin tomato sauce gets thickened when bulgur gets in it from the meatball. 

Regarding the bread: For the competition, I made 20 g mini brioche loaves that were hollowed out for the "bread bowl" for our meatball slider.  They kind of sucked, too tough, not pillowy-soft, but I had no time to improve the bread for this application, I had to lock in and go given the clock.  I love my brioche recipe, but when scaled back to a 20 gram loaf, the dimensions failed to deliver the same texture as observed for the 600 gram loaf - a problem to be explored and reported on in a future post.


The Food Experiments: Columbus (smoke) - 36 hours to go...

Updated during the day leading up to The Food Experiment: Columbus, check back once in a while and buy a ticket, see you at Skully's Diner Sunday July 15th 1-4 pm.
My dish: bulgur/turkey meatball, smoked in tomato served in a mini brioche bread bowl...

We receive an unexpected surprise,
Theo's Prize for Experimentation
We bask in culinary glory all night.
Thanks for bringing The Food Experiments to Columbus Theo

we pack up, we serve 200 treats

Frankie, my assistant full speed counting brioche.

baked at 375, 250 to go

proof and egg wash

risen and ready

6 Kg brioche dough set in fridge for overnight
see you at 5

ready to go

 ready to go to braise, very rare please

smoky braise in light tomato sauce using cherry

 ground turkey, bulgur, etc.  280 of them

 getting coals/wood ready for braising

 smoked tomato sauce to braise the meatballs

using the extender to cook the big pot of sauce


Food Experiment: Columbus Edition, the theme is smoke

The past week has been eventful with the heatwave, no power and various other imminent end of the earth as we know it kind of indicators.  These events have conspired to trip up our efforts to prepare for The Food Experiments Columbus Edn, alas, fear not dear reader, we are back and experimenting our ass off.  In this contest, amateur cheftestants make something that highlights the theme, in our hometown, it is smoke.  We will be competing for glory (and a few material goods), but glory is the biggie - it is what we live for.  The competition will be held at Skully's from 1-4 July 15th.  

Given our fondness for meatballs, we will be compiling said morsel incorporating many layers of smoke-infused goodness.  I can't give too many details, but it will encompass:
  • a grain
  • the fattiest muscle of a certain semi-flightless bird
  • a cheese
  • an herb
  • layers of smoke to taste
  • it will not be kosher
That's it kids.  On the morning of the competition our kitchens will be busy, sous chef at my side, making about 300 of these little nuggets, we're hoping we do not look like we have a snood ourselves.  Judges: please have mercy.