• Berkshire Bacon Fried Rice

    frice6frice10frice13Ah, home-cured bacon. The culinary gift that just keeps on giving. Once you start making your own bacon, the possibilities seem limitless. So much flavor, so many textures, so many ways to use it. You can use bacon as a main dish, an accent for salt and/or crunch, a sandwich ingredient, or just serve it for breakfast. And the fat adds flavor to anything you cook with. Good stuff.

    frice2frice3And good stuff becomes great stuff if you use the right pork. Most pork belly will work for home cured bacon, and it will be much better than store-bought, packaged bacon. But if you spend a little more time and money you can order a Berkshire (sometimes called Kurabota) or Duroc pork belly from an artisan farmer. Not only are these pigs more humanely treated, but they taste a whole lot better than “industrial” pigs. While there are a number of artisan breeds, we prefer the sweet, dark and meaty Berkshire for bacon and barbecue.

    frice4frice5Making bacon with Berkshire pork is no different from using regular pork, we just follow our standard bacon recipe. But because this pork is so sweet we prefer to very lightly smoke with applewood or simply finish in the oven. The pork has enough flavor to stand well on its own. Sometimes the best thing you can do as a cook is leave the ingredients alone.

    frice1So what do we do with our Berkshire bacon? Actually, we sell some to friends. It helps cover costs and keeps us from eating too much. And we do serve bacon for breakfast on weekends. But usually we cook with bacon as an accent. And there are few better ways to use bacon than in fried rice. So simple, so easy, but soooo good.

    For this dish we adapted a recipe from “Breakfast for Dinner” a fun cookbook that, not surprisingly, uses breakfast-related ingredients for dinner. While sometimes a real stretch (yes, fried rice has bacon and egg so there is some “breakfast” there…sorta), the recipes are fun and supply some good ideas. That’s enough for us.

    frice11The recipe combines fried brown rice with a mixture of bacon, onion, frozen peas, green onion, a little mirin (or water), garlic and ginger. You can top with a fried egg (our preference) or scramble the eggs and mix them in. Garnish with some carrot ribbons, green onion or sesame and then season with soy and Sriracha. Then you are in business…

    frice12How does it taste? Soft and crunchy rice with nutty flavors, crisp, sweet and salty bacon, savory onion, garlic and ginger, sweet earthy peas and rich eggs. Hard to go wrong here. Just be sure to make your own bacon, or use the best artisan bacon you can find. You won’t be disappointed.

    Berkshire Bacon Fried Rice:

    (Adapted from “Breakfast for Dinner”)

    Notes Before You Start:

    • If you don’t cure your own bacon, look for slab bacon or artisan bacon that is meaty and lightly smoked with applewood. Hickory-smoked bacon will work here but the flavor will dominate the dish.
    • We use left over brown jasmine rice in this dish, as the nutty flavors work well. But any long-grain rice (or really any leftover rice) will work. You need day old rice for this dish- as it will not turn mushy when cooked.

    What You Get: Tasty, easy fried rice at home. What else do you need?

    What You Need: No special equipment required, and you may have the ingredients in your fridge right now.

    How Long? If you already have the rice cooked, about 20 minutes. Anytime dish.

    Ingredients:

    (Serves 4-6)

    • 2-3 cups day-old cooked brown jasmine rice (or leftover rice)
    • 1/2 pound bacon, diced or cut into lardons
    • 1/2 large yellow onion, diced
    • 4 green onions, thinly sliced, plus extra for garnish
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
    • 1 cup frozen peas
    • 3 tablespoons mirin (or water)
    • 4 large eggs
    • 1 medium carrot, sliced into ribbons
    • Salt and freshly ground pepper
    • Soy sauce, to taste
    • Sriracha, or hot sauce, to taste

    Assemble:

    1. Place a large nonstick skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until slightly crisp and the fat renders. Drain all but a tablespoon of the fat from the pan, and reserve. Add the onions and cook until soft, 2-3 minutes. Then add the peas, green onion, and ginger. Cook for 2-3 minutes than add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds, stirring frequently (don’t burn the garlic). Add the mirin, stir and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat and our the mixture into a large bowl.
    2. Place the pan back on the stove over medium-high heat and add the reserved bacon fat. You should have 2-3 tablespoons of fat (add oil if needed). Spread the rice in the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until brown crispy spots form, 6-8 minutes. When done, add the rice to the bacon mixture and stir to combine.
    3. In another pan, over medium-low heat, cook the eggs until the whites set but the yolks are still runny (or to your preference).
    4. To serve, place the rice mixture in a bowl. Add an egg to the top and garnish with the carrot ribbons. Season with soy sauce and/or Sriracha. Serve.
  • BBQ Brisket, Franklin Style

    brisketbrisket2Brisket+Salt+Pepper+Smoke+Time= East Texas Barbecue Beef Brisket, perhaps one of the greatest American dishes. If you get it right, you get true alchemy. A very humble piece of cow turns into a rich, luscious and flavorful meat you can eat just with your hands and really doesn’t need sauce. A little piece of heaven. And it seems so simple…

    brisket3…but it isn’t. Barbecued brisket, at least really good barbecue brisket, is hard. Really hard. Even pros regularly turn out dry, over-seasoned, poorly smoked failures. And while we aren’t pros, we take pride in our ‘cue. But where we succeed with barbecued pork shoulder or ribs, we often fail with brisket. And it is even more frustrating that we can make a great Jewish-style brisket in a dutch oven or slow cooker. Aargh. And after many failures, we were about to throw in the towel.

    brisket4But just as we had given up, we heard about Aaron Franklin and his YouTube barbecue series. Aaron Franklin, it turns out, is considered one of the best (really, the best) pitmaster in Austin Texas. People we trust (friends and pros) sing his praises, and his brisket is the standard by which others are measured. We haven’t been to Franklin’s (yet) but he was kind enough to provide a step-by-step video series on how to make his brisket. So we decided to try just one more time…

    brisket6And it worked. The steps are simple, but detailed. You need to customize for your gear / setup, but if you get the spirit of it, you will have some very tasty brisket. We heavily recommend suggest you watch the series, but here are the basics: get a good piece of brisket (whole brisket, Creekstone or Certified Angus, don’t worry about the cost, this dish feeds an army and is affordable), trim it well, season it evenly with salt and pepper, smoke it over oak for about 12 hours (depending on the brisket), keep water pans in the smoker, wrap the brisket in butcher paper (or foil, the “Texas crutch”) about halfway through cooking, when done let it rest and then slice pencil thick and serve. And if you just have to have sauce, Franklin gives you a good recipe.

    brisket7Oh, and do it 3 or 4 times over the summer. Each time you will get a bit better, and each time your family and friends will eat a bit more. A good project.

    brisket8Now, we will cop to making some changes to deal with our Big Green Egg smoker. We use charcoal and wood chunks, and not just wood. And we use local red oak, rather than Texas post oak (and just a touch of local apple wood as well). And since we smoke on a Green Egg over somewhat direct heat, which can dry out barbecue in long cooking, so we decided to wrap in foil and finish the last few hours on the oven. Many will consider this sacrilege, but we know our Green Egg, and finishing in the oven works better (sorry purists, it does). But if you have a an offset smoker, you should be able to wrap the brisket and finish it on the smoker.

    brisket10What do you get? More flavor than you would ever expect. And the juiciest, tenderest meat you can imagine. The magic of smoke never ceases to amaze. The bark has the complexity of good wine, the meat is sweet and the fat like butter (but way better). It may have taken 12-14 hours, but it will be time well spent. Now just slice and serve with some slaw, maybe some white bread, and sauce if you like. Then serve the large group assembled around you…and take a nap….you deserve it.

    brisket1BBQ Brisket, Franklin Style:

    (Adapted from Aaron Franklin video series)

    Notes Before You Start:

    • You need a “full packer” brisket that includes the “point” and “flat” sections of the brisket. It should be at least 10-12 pounds, if possible (and they go much bigger). Franklin uses Creekstone Farms beef (you can order online) and we do as well. This is the good stuff and worth the money.
    • If you trust your butcher to trim the brisket to your specs, have him (or her) do it. Otherwise, follow the steps in the video.
    • While you can use any wood for smoking, this style really works best with oak. Maybe a touch of fruitwood. But heavily flavors like hickory or mesquite will dominate the basic salt and pepper rub.
    • Always use a water pan (or two) while smoking to keep humidity in the smoker.

    What You Get: A true American classic.

    What You Need: A real smoker of some form. A Webber won’t really work here. An offset smoker would be the best choice.

    How Long? Expect about 14 hours for a 12 pound brisket. But it could be more, or a little less. Get started very early in the morning and have beer ready for an all-day event.

    Ingredients:

    • 1, 10-12 pound “full packer” brisket
    • 1/2 cup salt
    • 1/2 cup fresh ground pepper, finely ground
    • Oak wood, chunks or chips, for smoking.

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  • The Atomic California Dog

    The Atomic California Dog.

    The Atomic California Dog.

    Here at the farm, we do more cooking than “assembling” of dishes. In other words, if we can make something ourselves, we usually do, particularly if we can do it better than store-bought. However, if a local purveyor makes it better, we are happy to support their business, we just want our food to taste good. And since it has been extremely hot (like “Africa hot”, to borrow from Neil Simon) we are trying to minimize our cooking time and are happy to do some “assembly”.

    atomic8atomic5Along the way, we created a dawg dish we really, really like- enough to share, and certainly a good 4th of July recipe. We call it the Atomic California Dog. Why? Well, it has a bunch of California-made sauces and condiments and they are spicy…very, very spicy. But somehow, when you are already sweating when standing still, the spice seems to work. And beyond the pure heat, we have some very good flavors to work with.

    atomic6atomic4The Atomic California Dog combines a quality hot dog (try a local source, although Hebrew-National always work), a traditional bun (local), Dijon-style mustard (East Bay), sauerkraut (local, see below), kimchi (local, see below), Sriracha (SoCal) and Pepper Plant sauce (Gilroy). What you get is sweet, savory flavors from the dog and bun and then acidity from the mustard and kraut followed by layers of spice (and funk) from the kimchi, Sriracha and Pepper sauce. Textures? Soft bun, snap from the dog and crunch from the kimchi and kraut. Complete. Dish. Even if it is “just” a hot dog. And sometimes a hot dog is just a hot dog.

    atomic7And we will give a quick shout out to the fermentos at Wildbrine who made the kraut and kimchi we used. We don’t know them, but we tried their stuff, and it is very good. Local fermenting and pickling operations are popping up all over the country and these products are often incredibly tasty. So if you have time or opportunity, try some locally fermented products- you may be in for a pleasant surprise.

    atomic2atomic1

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  • Smoked Chicken With Peanut Coleslaw

    chix1

    Smoked Chicken

    chix11

    Peanut Coleslaw (before mixing)

    Here at the farm we normally post recipes with a mostly well-defined take on the ingredients and process. With this dish there may still be some work to do. But since this version was very good, and we will be tinkering with this recipe all summer, we decided to share it now. The reason for sharing is that the chicken came out incredibly moist and with a sweet, smoky flavor that was enjoyed by all. A winner. (Good enough that we ate it before we could take a shot of individual pieces. Oops.)

    chix3chix4chix5The reason we aren’t “done” is that we consider this a barbecue recipe (serious stuff in these parts) and these recipes require a lot of tweaking on the smoke, rub and sauce. But these pleasant diversions refinements are mostly to fit our tastes. Meanwhile, the fundamentals are already there for everyone to play with: brine the bird and smoke low n’ slow over fruitwood. If this seems like the same basic steps for pork barbecue, that’s because they are. Why not start from a strong foundation?

    chix6chix7chix8But there are a few differences worth exploring. Firstly, chickens don’t cook evenly due to an irregular shape and different target cooking temperatures for dark and light meat. This means you need to alter the shape of the bird for more even cooking (or cook it in pieces, which isn’t a bad idea, btw). You can either truss the bird into a bit of a ball or cut out the spine and flatten the bird as if “spatchcooking”. We flattened our bird, but trussed birds do cook evenly as well.

    chix9Secondly, rather than placing a dry spice rub on the bird, we use a liquid mixture of spice rub, vinegar, molasses and ketchup to baste the bird during cooking. This is traditionally called a “mop” and is rarely used on pork shoulder, but is often used on pork ribs to keep them moist, and this works equally well for chicken. You can also reduce any left over mop into a sauce, if you like. It is also worth noting that we use our standard pork rub on the chicken, but if you have a poultry spice mixture you like, we suggest you try it (this is the area where we will most experiment over the summer).

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  • Pulled Pork For Memorial Day

    Pulled pork sandwich with the works.

    UPDATE: This is a reblog from last year. But Memorial Day is coming and this is still our favorite BBQ recipe. Enjoy!

    We’re posting a number of summer food and cocktail recipes for Memorial Day weekend, so let’s get going. We will start with our favorite “summer” dish, pulled pork. Also simply known as pork barbecue, pulled pork is one of the most tender, succulent and flavorful meat dishes you can find. Nothing feeds, and pleases a crowd, like a brined, rubbed and slowly smoked pork shoulder. And it is pretty easy to make. You just need one ingredient: time. Lots of time (some planning and patience help too). But it is worth making this dish, particularly for a holiday weekend.

    Pulled pork sandwich.

    In case you are unfamiliar with pulled pork, it is a pork shoulder (also known as Boston butt) that’s smoked at a low temperature for a long span of time. Usually, though not always, the pork is also brined and a spice rub is added for extra flavor. The long, low-temperature cooking breaks down the fat and connective tissue in the shoulder into gelatin that bathes the meat and provides the tender “finger-licking” flavor of great barbecue. Pulled pork is cooked everywhere in the US, but its spiritual home is the southeast. Texas has beef brisket, the Mississippi river region has ribs, but the Carolinas have pulled pork. We like the Carolinas.

    As for making the pulled pork, it can be a 1-day or 2-3 day operation, it simply depends on the time you have. The most basic approach is to get a pork shoulder and rub it with salt and pepper. Then smoke it with hickory or applewood at about 210 degrees for at least 8 hours or until the internal temperature of the pork is at least 190 degrees (shortcut included below). Let the meat rest for an hour and then “pull” or chop it. The meat will shred easily. And this will be good, real good. But it can be so much better.

    Pork shoulder ready to brine.

    To take pulled pork to the next level requires a few extra steps and a few extra days. The frist step is to brine the pork shoulder. Pork isn’t as fatty as it used to be, so added moisture is a good thing while cooking, as is extra flavor from the brine. The brine is just a combination of salt, sugar and water (plus seasonings if you like). Pork will benefit from as little as 6 hours of brining, but up to 48 hours will help without making the pork too salty. 12-24 hours is about right. And making the brine is as easy as boiling water with sugar and salt and letting it cool. Once the brine is cool, you place the pork in the brine and keep it in the fridge.

    “Rubbed” pork shoulder, note the liberal application of dry rub.

    The next step is to add a dry rub to your pork shoulder. Spice rubs add flavor to the meat and develop an attractive and tasty, “bark” on the outside of the meat while cooking. And if you let the rub sit on the least overnight, the flavor will penetrate deep into the pork and add a new dimension of flavor

    There are literally thousands of pork rub variations, and you can make most of them at home. While purists my scoff, you can also buy pork barbecue rubs at the grocery store. We make our own, but also use store-bought with success. We include a recipe based on a combination of a Alton Brown’s and Steve Raichlen’s (good BBQ writer, btw) rubs with a few tweaks of our own. But, in general, if you like a flavor like thyme or cumin, add a little more.

    Pork shoulder in the smoker. Grab a beer this will take a while…

    So once you brine and rub the pork, you are ready to smoke. If you have a dedicated smoker, that is great (we use a Big Green Egg- very good tool). If not, most grills have instructions for smoking, please follow them. Weber kettle grills are easily adapted to smoking and do a great job. Gas grills also work. The key is to cook low and slow and get good smoke. We use a mix of 50/50 applewood and hickory and soak the woodchips or chunks for at least 30 minutes. Soaking the wood is critical, you want the wood to smoke, not burn. The other critical element is temperature control. You want to keep an even temperature at about 210 degrees. It usually takes some time to control the airflow on your smoker to reach, and maintain, the right temperature, but it’s worth it. The goal is to slowly build the internal temperature of the pork to at least 190 degrees- this is what gets you the “finger-licking” texture of great barbecue. Normally this will take 8-10 hours, but there are other ways that save you a little time.

    Optional shortcut- finish in the oven. Just get to at least 190 degress internal temperature.

    Again, traditionalists my be horrified, but it is generally accepted science that the pork will absorb most of the smoke flavor in the first 3-4 hours of smoking. So after 3 hours of smoking you could move the pork shoulder into a lidded Dutch oven or covered roasting pan and cook in a 300 degree oven for 3-4 hours, or until you reach 190 degrees internal temperature. If we have time we will smoke the full 10 hours, but we use the oven method quite often. And if you are entertaining, the “finish in the oven” method is much more convenient and lets you control the timing.

    “Pulling” the pork just before service.

    There is one last step that cannot be ignored, regardless of how you cook the pork. After reaching the desired temperature the pork needs to be covered, or wrapped in foil, and rested for at least an hour. The pork will keep cooking but the juices will set in the meat for a better, juicier texture. After the hour is up, just “pull” the pork apart with 2 forks or lightly chop with big knife. The pork will fall apart easily.

    Tasty, easy sauce. Lots of acid, sweet, sour and hot flavors to cut through the rich pork.

    To serve the pork we place a big pile of the meat on an everyday hamburger bun, add some sauce, pile on some cole slaw and finish with a few bread and butter pickles. As for the sauce, we use an adapted North Carolina-style vinegar sauce that is very piquant, but is a bit sweeter and not as bracing. But we suggest you use a style of barbecue sauce you like. And, if you are so inclined, an ice-cold beer is a nice compliment to the pork. In the end, you can serve the pork almost any way you like, you and your guests will be very happy. There is no other dish that says “summer is here, and the living is easy” like pulled pork.

    And a nice cold beer, too….

    Pulled Pork:

    Notes Before You Start:

    • You can use bone-in or bone-out pork shoulder. Bone-in may be a bit juicer, but you can get rub into the center of the bone-out shoulder for more flavor.
    • If you order the pork shoulder from your butcher, tell them not to take off too much fat. It will mostly render during cooking, but helps keeps the meat moist.
    • If you see a red ring near the outside of the meat, this is OK. In fact, it means you did a good job smoking the meat. The red color is a chemical reaction to the smoke.

    What You Get: An American classic and one of the best pork dishes in the world. Period.

    What You Need: A smoker or grill that adapts to smoking.

    How Long: At least 1 day and if brining and rubbing the pork, at least 3 days. Pulled pork is a “special occasion” dish that requires planning. We posted on Monday so you can get ready for the weekend.. ;-)

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  • Brined And Spiced Pork Tenderloin

    Brined and Spiced Pork Tenderloin.

    GO GIANTS!

    Ok, now that we got that out of the way….If you’ve read this blog a bit, it becomes pretty clear that we are big fans of low-and-slow pork dishes here at the farm. And while we would smoke and pull pork every week if our schedules and waistlines allowed, sometimes we need other options. And for quick(er) pork dishes we look to chops and tenderloins. There are few easier dishes to prepare than pork tenderloin. Put a quick sear on it, pop it in the oven for a few minutes and you’re done. And sometimes it’s pretty good, and sometimes it bone dry and lacking flavor. And there are a number of reasons why things don’t always work out. Basic overcooking is the obvious reason for dry and flavorless pork, but also the size, shape and liquid content of the tenderloin come into play. But there is a simple way to make leaner pork cuts tasty and tender every time, brining.

    A brine is simply a combination of water, salt, sugar and your choice of herbs and spices. But when you add meat, the brine performs some pretty cool magic chemistry that greatly improves the tenderness, juiciness and flavor of almost any cut. (Here is a good link that describes the science without getting too geeky). The only issue with brines is that they will dry out meats if you brine them for too long, but as long as you follow the recipe or the standard times for brining, it isn’t a  risk. Many cooks think of brines helping with large roasts like turkey or pulled pork, and the brining lasting for days. But for small cuts like pork tenderloins, even 45 minutes will help, and a few hours will do wonders.

    Opinions on the times for brining pork tenderloins vary from forty-five minutes to four hours. The shorter times will still make the tenderloin juicy and tender, but not impart much extra flavor. The longer times will add some salt and flavor, perhaps too much salt for some. Two hours is a good starting point. The other variable in the brine is adding extra flavors. Technically, all you need is water and salt, but sugar, herbs and spices will boost flavor. We suggest you tune the brine based on the type of meat and your tastes. But, in general, sugar, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf seem to work in most brines. Black pepper and chili peppers add some extra bite. We do suggest caution with strong or “piney” herbs like sage, oregano or rosemary- as they may add bitter notes to the brine. Best to save them for any rub or marinade you put on the pork.

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