• Five-Spice Baby Back Ribs

    spice14So say you made some southern collard greens, what should you serve them with? Well, collards are a natural with barbecue, so how about some ribs? But what if it is cold outside (or, like me, you are just feeling lazy) and you don’t want to fire up the smoker? Easy, just make some Asian-inspired ribs in the oven. Takes about the same amount of time, doesn’t make much of a mess (until you eat them), and you get to play around with some interesting flavors.

    spicespice1And in this case the “interesting” flavor is Five-Spice, a Chinese spice mixture that usually has star anise, cloves, Sichuan pepper, cinnamon and fennel seeds. It may also contain just about any other Asian spice, but you get the idea. Five-Spice is a lovely mixture of spice, heat, bite and funk that works particularly well with rich ingredients, accenting flavors but cutting through the fat. Not surprisingly Five-Spice is often used with duck or pork. A perfect fit for rich, juicy ribs. Just don’t use too much spice…a little goes a long way.

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  • 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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  • 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.. ūüėČ

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  • Easy Oven Ribs With Sriracha Barbecue Sauce

    Easy Oven Ribs With Sriracha Barbecue Sauce.

    Easy Oven Ribs With Sriracha Barbecue Sauce.

    We do love our ribs here at the farm. And, without a doubt, we love Memphis-style barbecue ribs with a dry rub, mop and slow smoking over applewood and hickory. Toss in some hot, vinegary Carolina barbecue sauce and Nirvana awaits. But we just made it into spring, the rains come and go, it’s still cold and the smoker needs to be set up (and we are tired from working in the garden). Time to turn on the oven.

    orib2oribs3And there is nothing wrong with making ribs in the oven. In fact, some would argue that it may be a better place to cook ribs, assuming you use the right tools/technique and choose the right seasoning and sauce. The one thing that is really hard to do is get the deep smokey flavor and “smoke ring” color from the oven. But you can get very flavorful, tender ribs.

    oribs5oribs6As for the tools and technique, the main thing you need is some time, sauce (we will get there) and aluminium foil. The big thing with ribs is that they need to cook low and slow and, preferably, in a moist environment so they don’t dry out. This is particularly true for baby back ribs, which don’t carry much extra fat. But if you season and sauce the ribs and then wrap in a packet of foil, you can trap the juices from the ribs and gently steam the ribs for a few hours until they reach the desired temperature of 185 F. You need the temperature to get at least to 185 so the collagen in the meat turns to gelatin (that luscious texture) and the ribs get tender. Then you open the foil packets, add some more sauce and finish the ribs under the broiler for a few minutes to get a nice crispy, caramelized crust. Easy, but like most good things, you need a few extra steps.

    oribs7oribs9And now for the sauce. Since we don’t feel we can get a southern-style smokey flavor, we look more to Asian flavors. Instead of a base of ketchup, cider vinegar,¬†Worcestershire¬†and hot sauce, we go with ketchup, onion, garlic, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and Sriracha. You get a familiar texture of barbecue sauce but the more Asian-inspired notes and some heat. And you can control the heat to your liking by just adding or subtracting Sriracha and/or some red pepper flake. Good stuff and good fun.

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  • Memphis-Style Barbecue Ribs

    Memphis-style ribs (with our house-made pickles)

    There are few American foods that elicit more passion than barbecue. Questions like pork vs. beef (even lamb), “wet” vs. “dry”, ribs, butt or brisket, mustard or vinegar in the sauce all make for dozen of varieties of barbecue. Depending on where you are from, passions can run very, very high. Particularly in the American south if you ask for the “wrong” thing in some areas you may get the “around here we serve “real” barbecue and we use…X”. ¬†The only thing most aficionados will agree on is that barbecue may be the perfect summer meal.

    As a Californian, we don’t really have a regional style (unless you count Santa Maria-style Tri-Tip, which is more of a roast), so we get to “pick and choose” a bit. We will cop to a preference for Carolina-style pulled pork– the hot vinegar sauce variety, but mustard-based is good, too. But the kids and many of our friends prefer ribs, and they do take less time, so we make them pretty often. And when we barbecue ribs, we go for Memphis-style.

    Simple ingredients + time = deep flavor.

    “Mop” sauce.

    Put “rub” on the ribs and let “marinate” for 6-48 hours.

    If you are unfamiliar with Memphis style ribs, they are ribs prepared using a dry spice rub and a vinegar-based “mop” during smoking. Unlike ribs from St. Louis or Mississippi / Alabama that feature a sweet, “wet” sauce, Memphis-style ribs develop a nice dry, spicy “bark” and a very light glaze from the “mop”. Sauce is usually tangy and served on the side, although like all barbecue, opinions on sauce vary. You can use either baby-back ribs or St. Louis-cut ribs (middle of the ribcage) and get good results. Memphis-style ribs are more like pulled pork than most ribs. Good stuff. Really good.

    Get your charcoal ready.

    Let gray ash form on the coals and you are ready.

    And relatively easy to make. One of the misconceptions about making barbecue is that it is difficult. In fact, it’s easy, and requires relatively few ingredients. But the main ingredient you need is time, and there is no substitute. It isn’t an accident that barbecue mostly gets made, and consumed, on weekends. If you need an excuse to laze about with friends for an afternoon (perhaps with a beer or cocktail), making ribs will certainly do the trick.

    Add liquid to a drip pan- the extra moisture helps in smoking.

    Smoke your ribs until internal temp reaches 185 degrees.

    The steps are pretty basic. Get some baby-back or St. Louis-style ribs. Make or buy spice rub (recipe here and below) and rub into the ribs and let them rest in the fridge for at least 6 and up to 48 hours. Soak some wood chips or chunks- we like a mix of hickory and fruit woods like apple or cherry. Get you smoker or grill ready at a temperature about 210 degrees (follow the instructions for your grill or smoker). Set up your smoker with a drip pan, and it helps to put some liquid like beer or apple juice in the drip pan, and then start smoking the ribs. Meanwhile make the “mop” with some vinegar, salt, apple juice and a touch of your dry rub. Liberally “mop” the ribs with the sauce every 30 minutes or so.

    Brush ribs every 30 minutes with “mop” sauce.

    Rest for 20-30 minutes and then slice the ribs.

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