Thursday, August 17, 2017

Big Bob Gibson's Bar-B-Q Chicken with White Sauce

As a recreational (and novice) chef and pitmaster, I have spent a lot of time trying to learn all about the different styles of barbecue.  Much of the barbecue literature is fixated on the well known styles of barbecue, such as Texas brisket or eastern Carolina whole hog.  There are many other styles of barbecue, some of which you have to discover by either going to the locale or trying to bring that style to your kitchen.

One such example of a barbecue style is that found in the State of Alabama.  Pitmasters in Alabama smoke pork, ham and chicken, using sauces that are reminiscent of other southern styles, such as the Carolina vinegar sauce.  However, Alabama has a barbecue sauce that is unique to that State's barbecue.  It is a white sauce, used to dip smoked chickens right before serving.  That sauce originated with Big Bob Gibson, who opened a barbecue joint in Decatur, Alabama back in 1925. 

As the story goes,  Big Bob Gibson served pork and chicken at his restaurant.  Gibson used an Eastern Carolina vinegar sauce for his pork, but he needed something for his chicken.  The sauce had to help keep the moisture in his chickens, which were smoked for about 3 hours.  Big Bob Gibson developed a white sauce using mayonnaise.  The sauce gave the chicken a "peppery, vinegary" flavor that helped to keep the chicken moist.  Gibson served this white sauce alongside the Carolina vinegar sauce when he opened his store in 1925.

More than 80 years later, my beautiful Angel's parents took me to Big Bob Gibson's to experience barbecue in Alabama.  I ordered a sampler, which did not include the chicken with white sauce.  I have to admit that, at the time, I was a little skeptical of the white sauce.  Added to that skepticism was my general distaste for mayonnaise.  Consequently, I never tried it at Big Bob Gibson's restaurant.

But, as I noted above, there is the option of bringing the style to your kitchen.  Recently, I decided to  set aside my general distaste for mayonnaise and try the Big Bob Gibson's recipe.  I spatchcocked a couple of whole chickens and put them in the smoker.  I followed the "simple technique" used by the pitmasters at Big Bob Gibson's, namely smoking the chickens over hickory wood, basting the chickens with oil, and then dipping the smoked chickens in that white sauce.   The flavor of the hickory smoke was present in the chicken, especially in the dark meat.  The skin did crisp up, but not to what I would have liked.  (I always need some room for improvement; and, in this case, it is working on how to crisp the skin better.)  

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the results. The white sauce combines mayonnaise with vinegar, prepared horseradish, apple juice and lemon juice.  The vinegar and horseradish give the sauce the kick that one would expect (in my humble opinion) from a barbecue sauce.   That kick gets a little boost from cayenne pepper, but the horseradish is what does the trick for me.  While I followed the recipe in this case, I think that I would add a little more horseradish the next time.    

One final note, the consistency of the white sauce was a little more like a mop sauce than what I would consider to be a barbecue sauce.  That probably explains why the chicken is submerged in the white sauce.   When the chicken was served, I included some of the white sauce in a ramekin or bowl for dipping.


BIG BOB GIBSON BAR-B-Q CHICKEN
WITH WHITE SAUCE
Recipe from Chris Lilly, Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book, page 119
Serves 4 to 8

Ingredients (for the chicken):
2 whole butterflied chickens
1 tablespoon of salt
1 cup oil (vegetable, olive, lard)
2 tablespoons black pepper

Ingredients (for the white sauce):
2 cups mayonnaise
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup apple juice
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions:
1.  Prepare the fire.  Build a fire (wood or a combination of charcoal and wood) for indirect cooking by situating the coals on only one side of the cooker, leaving the other side void.  Preheat the cooker to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

2.  Smoke the chickens.   Dust each whole chicken evenly with salt.  Place the chickens over the void side of the cooker, with the skin side  up.  When the skin on the chicken is golden brown, about 1 1/2 hours, turn the chickens skin side down, basting both sides with the oil.  Sprinkle the cavities of each chicken with pepper.  Cook the chicken for an additional 1 1/2 hours or until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the thigh reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit.  Add more wood to the fire as needed to replenish the supply of coals and maintain a temperature of 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

3.  Prepare the white sauce.  While the chicken is being smoked, combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and blend well.  

4.  Finish the dish.  Pour the white sauce into a narrow deep container and position it next to the cooker.  Remove each chicken from the cooking grate and submerge it into the pot of white sauce.  Remove the chicken from the sauce, cut each chicken in half between the breasts and then quarter by cutting between each breast and thigh.

ENJOY!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Market Garden Brewery's Citramax IPA

When it comes to the craft beer scene in Cleveland, as one person it, "the word is out." There has been a remarkable growth in craft brewers.  At one time, there was only Great Lakes Brewing Company.  Now, there are breweries like Fat Head's Brewing, Platform Beer Company, Butcher & Brewer, and Market Garden.

The latter brewery, Market Garden, is located next to my favorite spot in Cleveland ... the West Side Market.  THe past couple of times that I have been in Cleveland and I have made a trip to the market, it has always included a side trip to Market Garden.  That side trip was a necessity, because it offered me a chance to try some very good beer.  Beers like the Cluster Fuggle, an IPA, or the Illuminator, a Doppelbock.

The great thing about Cleveland craft beer is that there are so many choices, even within one brewery.  The bad thing about Cleveland beer is that I can only get it when I am in Cleveland.  However, there has been a recent push for many of these breweries to bottle or can their beer.  And, during a recent visit to Cleveland, I was able to find Market Garden's Citramax in a local grocery store.  Needless to say, I bought a six pack and took it back home with me.  

The Citramax is described as a West-Coast style IPA.  The feature of this beer is in the name - Citra.  The brewers dry hopped this West Coast IPA with organic Citra hops.  The goal was to impart intense tropical and citrus fruit aromas in a beer with an aggressive-boldly bright American Hop character that will leave you craving another.

Mission achieved.  The Citramax pours a golden color with a thick foam.  That foam recedes quickly to the edges of the beer, opening the way for an aroma full of tangy citrus fruits, such as grapefruit and tangerine.  As one sips the Citramax, there is a moderate level of bitterness, encasing elements of those citrus fruits with some pine notes on the edges.  This IPA differs a little from most other IPAs that I have had in that the moderate bitterness is also followed by a little sweetness on the palate.  The sweetness helps to balance the beer, making it more palatable for people like my beautiful Angel who are not big hop heads.

As with most Cleveland beers, the Citramax is available in the Cleveland area. If I recall correctly, that six-pack cost about $9.99 or $10.99.  If you see a six pack sitting on the shelf, it is definitely worth trying.

ENJOY!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Fire Roasted Gazpacho with Maryland Lump Crab

My beautiful Angel, Clare, loves gazpacho.   Previously, I made a gazpacho with shrimp based upon a recipe from Patricia Fernandez de la Cruz, who is the wife to Jose Andres. That particular chilled soup was so delicious that it has become one of our favorites.  It was a traditional gazpacho, with raw tomatoes, cucumbers and green peppers being blended into a liquid (with other ingredients, such as stale bread) and served with a garnish.

Indeed, a traditional gazpacho is made with raw tomatoes and vegetables.   The raw nature of the tomatoes and vegetables is what, in my humble opinion, gives this soup its fresh character.   And, it is a very delicious character.  However, I did not want to make just another gazpacho.  I wanted to experiment with this dish.  The only question is what tweeks or twists could I do to make something that is just as delicious as the traditional soup.

As it turns out, I was planning to smoke a pork shoulder when I was thinking about this issue.  The thought of lighting the chimneys for the smoker got me to think about grilling the tomatoes and vegetables.  I then did some research and came across a recipe for a Fire Roasted Gazpacho.  The recipe comes from Steven Raichlen, the professor at Barbecue University.  The recipe calls for grilling the traditional ingredients to a gazpacho -- tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers -- along with onions.  It also calls for roasted garlic (which is not an ingredient in the traditional soup).  After all of the grilled vegetables are cool, then you remove the skins and blend them just as you would if they were raw vegetables.  The end result is just as delicious as the traditional recipe.

But, I wanted to experiment a little further.  Rather than using traditional gazpacho garnish, such as diced tomatoes, peppers and stale bread cubes, I decided to garnish this dish with some jumbo lump blue crab.  A nod to Steven Raichlen's roots of growing up in the State of Maryland, where the blue crab is king. It was definitely a great final touch to this recipe.  (It was a bit of a splurge, so you can use lump crab or even claw meat, but don't use special or backfin because the pieces will be too small for the soup).  


RAICHLEN'S GAZPACHO ON FIRE
WITH MARYLAND LUMP CRAB
Recipe adapted from Food & Wine
Serves 4

Ingredients:
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
3 large tomatoes (1 1/2 pounds)
1 medium cucumber
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 medium sweet onion, unpeeled
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, unpeeled
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup chopped mixed herbs, plus more for garnish
1 cup cold water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Directions:
1.  Grill the vegetables.  Light a grill.  Wrap the garlic cloves in a sheet of foil.  Grill the tomatoes, cucumber, green and red peppers, onion and garlic until the vegetables are charred all over and almost softened, about 8 minutes for the tomatoes, cucumber and bell peppers, about 10 minutes for the garlic and 15 minutes for the onion.  When the vegetables are cool enough to handle, remove the charred skins as well as any stems and seeds and chop them coarsely.

2.  Prepare the gazpacho.  Transfer all of the vegetables, including the peeled garlic to a food processor and puree.  With the machine on, gradually add the 1/4 cup of olive oil, then blend in the vinegar.  Add the 1/4 cup of the herbs, then transfer the mixture to a bowl.    Stir in the water and season with the salt and pepper.  Refrigerate until chilled.  Ladle the gazpacho into bowls, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with herbs and serve.

ENJOY!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

A Head Trip

It is the beer with the "kaleidoscope eyes."  That fat-headed man, wearing a monk's robe, who adorns a label that asks you to "[p]icture yourself in a worn tie-died t-shirt" and "your head in the clouds."  All you see is "Belgian malt in the sky." You hear "somebody tells you to sip it quite slowly."  You oblige, and you experience, "spicy phenolics with yeast, fruit and clove.  Showering over your head."  The experience is such that, "you can't help but smile when it drifts past your nose."  You take another sip.  "The aroma so incredibly fine.  Complex fruit, hops, yeast and more clove.  A rich mouthfeel and a slightly sweet finish."

That is quite the description for a Belgian Tripel.  I could just see a bunch of Trappist Monks at Westmalle (where the style is said to have gained its popularity), strolling around the brewery wearing their tie-died Rassaphones, Stavrophores, and even Great Schemas.  All looking up in the Belgian sky while those spicy aromatic compounds rain down on their hooded heads.   

The Belgian Tripel style has its traditional characteristics. According to the Beer Judge Certification Program, a tripel should be deep yellow or deep gold, with aromatic fruity esters of pepper, cloves, and citrus or banana.  Those phenols find themselves in the taste of the tripel beer.  a combination of spicy, fruity, and alcohol notes.  The spice comes from pepper notes, the fruit comes from the banana or citrus elements, and the alcohol comes from, well the ABV, which can fall within the range of 7.5% to 9.5%.

The brewers at Fat Head's have created a Belgian-style Tripel that fits neatly within the BJCP guidelines and worthy of an award.  The Head Trip pours a mellow golden color, with a thin foam that sits like lazy clouds on a warm summer day.   The aroma of this beer speaks of malt, with some banana, clove and yeast.  As for the taste,  with a thin level of foam. Aromas of malt, some banana and clove, yeast.  Those phenols find themselves in the taste of the Head Trip. Clove, banana gum, allspice.

This beer is not available where I live, because Fat Head's does not distribute in my area.  However, if you happen to be in the Cleveland, Ohio area, or in another area where you see it sitting on the shelves, this beer is definitely worth a try.

ENJOY!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Oaxacan-Style Grilled Sirloin

I am a very big fan of Steve Raichlen, who is the author of the Barbecue Bible and host of shows such as Primal Grill.   Maybe it is his straightforward presentation of recipes that are easy to understand and replicate.  Maybe it is the line of grills and smokers that are in the background of his shows.  Maybe it is understanding that, during the process of  following recipes, it is okay to make mistakes.  After all, Steve Raichlen has said, "there's no such thing as a mistake in a kitchen, just a new recipe waiting to be discovered.

In the end, I think it is the undeniable fact that Steve Raichlen is synonymous with grilling and barbecue, both of which are among my favorite cooking methods.  Many of his recipes have inspired my cooking, especially when it  comes to my Steak Night meals or Savage Bolek BBQ recipes.  (The Baltimore Pit Beef recipe, which is Steve Raichlen's take on the quintessential Maryland "BBQ" ranks as one of the most popular recipes on this blog.)

One particular recipe, Oaxacan-Style Grilled Sirloin, grabbed my attention and did not let go.  The reference to Oaxacan cuisine was one reason, because I am intrigued by regional Mexican cooking.   For examples, you can check out my Pollo a las Brassas, which is based on street food from Sinaloa, or my Mole Verde Zacatecano, which is based on the green sauce from Zacatecas.

Raichlen's recipe is a nod to a under-appreciated fact about Oaxacan cuisine.  While Oaxaca may be known as the land of the seven moles, simply grilled meats wrapped in tortillas -- carne asado -- are as quintessentially Oaxacan as any of those seven sauces. Luke Pyerson, of the Boston Globe, recounted the experience of searching out carne asado at the Mercado Noviembre 20, a market locate just off the the zocalo or main square.  He described following the scent of grilled meat to the vendors, who served it in corn tortillas along with roasted onions and peppers, guacamole, and anything you purchased from the vegetable vendors at the market.  

If you want to transform the whole experience from print to video, I would assume it looked something like this: 


(Note: the first two and a half minutes are about the market, the rest of the video is about Oaxacan crafts and folk art, which is interesting too.)  After reading the article and watching the video, I wished there was an alley of smoked meats in my neighborhood.  Not just for the carne asado, but also the music.  

So, with a very hungry stomach, I made Steven Raichlen's Oaxacan-Style Grilled Sirloin.  Needless to say, I was not disappointed.  It was the best I could do without standing in the middle of the Mercado 20 Noviembre.  Given the ease of the recipe, as well as how tasty the results are, this recipe is going to be added to my quickly growing "go-to" recipes.   It is definitely a great summer recipe and, quite frankly, it is also a recipe that is worth standing in 3-4 inches of snow during the winter time just to grill the meat.


OAXACAN-STYLE GRILLED SIRLOIN
Recipe from Steven Raichlen's Barbecue Bible
Serves 8

Ingredients:
2 bunches scallions, white and green parts trimmed
8 chiles de agua, cubanelle peppers, jalapeno peppers or poblano peppers
Coarse salt
2 pounds of boneless sirloin steak, cut into broad sheets 1/4 inch thick
16 corn or flour tortillas, or more as needed
4 limes, cut into wedges
Guacamole
Salsa

Directions:
1.  Prepare the grill.  Preheat the grill to high heat.

2.  Prepare the vegetables.  If using charcoal, toss the scallions and peppers right on the coals.  If using gas, arrange the scallions and peppers on the hot grate.  Cook, turning with tongs, until nicely charred and tender, about 5 minutes.  

3.  Continue preparing the vegetables.  Transfer the grilled scallions to a serving plate and set aside until ready to serve.  Scrape the charred skins off the peppers with a sharp night (don't worry about removing every last bit.  Cut the peppers in half and scrape out the seeds.  Transfer the peppers to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

4.  Grill the steak.  When ready to grill the beef, brush and oil the grate.  Generously salt the beef and place it on the hot grate.  Grill, turning with tongs, 1 to 4 minutes per side for well done (the way Oaxacans like their beef cooked).  While you are at it, arrange the tortillas, a few at a time, on the grill for a few seconds to ehat them, then keep them warm in a cloth lined basket.  Transfer the grilled beef to a cutting board and cut it into thin strips or 1/2 inch dice.  

5.  Serve.  Set out the bowls of lime wedges, guacamole and salsa, along with the scallions and peppers.  To eat, place a few pieces of beef on the tortilla.  Place a grilled scallion and half pepper on top.  Top with spoonfuls of guacamole and salsa, and a squeeze of lime juice.  Roll the whole thing up and eat it.

ENJOY!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Bunkhouse at Waredaca

One of the highlights of the craft beer scene in the Free State is the growth of "farm-to-brewery" movement.  I've written about this movement in a past blog post.  The movement grew out of a bill passed by the Maryland legislature that allows farms to brew beer on their premises and sell the beer on premises provided that the beer is brewed with ingredients grown on the farm.   Farmers began to grow hops on their farms, and, with those vines, came a host of new brewers, including Waredaca Brewing Company.

Waredaca has been known more for its horse farm.  The farm consists of about 220 acres of pastures, hills and woodland.  The farm also is the home of about 80 horses.  The drive up to the brewery takes one through those pastures where the horses roam to the brewery, which sits near a small pond or lake, and, which is near where the hop vines grow.  Once at the taproom, customers can try seven or eight beers, such as the Bunkhouse. 

The Bunkhouse is  Waredaca's saison or farmhouse ale.  The Beer Judge Certification Program defines the style as a pale, moderately bitter and moderately strength Belgian ale with a very dry finish.    The aroma and taste of a saison typically has a low fruit or spice, opening the way to the malt and the hops providing the character of the beer. 

To comply with the Maryland law, Waredaca brews the Bunkhouse with hops grown on the farm.  The brewers describe the beer as having an "expressive yeast" with a "super dry finish."  The beer pours a pale gold color, with a decent foam from the carbonation.  As the foam recedes, the combination of malts and hops provide a balanced aroma.  The aroma suggests a very drinkable beer, which is the case.   The Waredaca hops shine through in both the aroma and the taste.  The hops provide a moderate, piney bitterness that one would expect from a saison.  That bitterness is smoothed out by the malts, with a dry finish.  The beer has an ABV of 5.0%, which is standard for a saison.

The Bunkhouse is available at the Waredaca tap room, where you could get a pint for about $6.00 and sit out on the grounds.   You can do what we did and buy a crowler to take home and enjoy while the sun sets.

ENJOY!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Carolina Chicken Bog

The story of chicken bog begins during the 1800s in Horry County, South Carolina. According to CraveFW, who recounted passages from a book on Southern barbecue written by Eric Spigner, Captain Henry Buck owned a plantation along the Wacamaw River, not too far from the Pee Dee River.  Buck owned 100 individuals as slaves; and, according to the accounts, he compensated these people for their work.  Buck also allowed these individuals to plant their own vegetables and raise their own livestock.  With that livestock, the made their own sausage, ham and bacon in a building that they used as a smokehouse. 

Two of the slaves were said to be extraordinary cooks.  These slaves -- Gibby and Pody -- boiled chicken, sausage and spices in a cast iron pot.  After the chicken was done, the cooks removed the meat and separated it from the bones.  They added rice to the pot.  Once the rice was done, the shredded chicken was returned to the pot.  The result was a delicious, moist dish of chicken bog. 

A classic South Carolina chicken bog is a simple dish to make.  The principal ingredients can largely be counted on one hand: chicken, smoked sausage, rice, salt and pepper.  With that handful, cooks have created a wide variety of chicken bog recipes.  I chose one from Cooks Country, which relies upon the main ingredients and makes a few adjustments. For example, the recipe calls for chicken thighs, which have more flavor and hold up to cooking better than chicken breasts.  The recipe also calls for the use of onion and garlic, along with chicken broth, which helps to develop a deeper, more flavorful cooking broth.  That depth is a good thing because, depending upon the smoked sausage you use, the smoke can often rival, if not overpower the chicken.

Other bog recipes use additional ingredients, such as fresh herbs, bell peppers and other vegetables. Some recipes go further, calling for the cook to add gizzards, cockscombs and chicken feet to the pot. For this effort, however, I think simpler is better (and tastier) in this case.  

After all, simplicity is the key.  That is how the Gibby and Pody would have made it for their families back on that plantation.  I'll save the gizzards, cockscombs and chicken feet for the next time. 


CAROLINA CHICKEN BOG
Recipe from Cooks Country Eats Local, pp. 98-99
Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:
6 (5 to 7 ounce) bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
8 ounces smoked kielbasa sausage, cut into 1/2 inch thick rounds
1 onion chopped fine
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups long grain white rice

Directions:
1.  Brown the chicken.  Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until just smoking.  Cook chicken, skin side down, until well browned, 6 to 8 minutes.  Transfer chicken to plate.  Discard skin.

2.  Continue cooking.  Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from pot and return to medium heat.  Add sausage and onion and cook until onion is translucent and sausage begins to brown, 3 to 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add broth, chicken, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and bring to boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until chicken is tender about 30  minutes. 

3.  Cook the rice.  Remove chicken from pot and set aside.  Stir rice into pot, cover and continue to cook over low heat until rice is tender, about 20 minutes.  

4.  Finish the dish.  Shred chicken into bite size pieces, discard bones.  Gently fold shredded chicken into rice mixture.  Remove from heat and let sit, covered for 10 minutes.  Serve immediately.

ENJOY!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

O.T.W.O.A.

The message is clear on the can: "[a]nd so it was written ... According to the Mayan and Hopi Calendars, the 'transition from one world age to another' will happen on December 21, 2012."  Well, that was over four years ago and, if I am not mistaken, I am currently typing this blog post.  So much for the transition that the Mayans and Hopi predicted.  

Nevertheless, the brewers at DC Brau paid homage to that single date with Imperial India Pale Ale called On the Wings of Armageddon or O.T.W.O.A.   It is a single hop Imperial IPA brewed with Falconers Flight hops.  These hops are known for floral, citrus and tropical fruit elements, with an emphasis on lemon and grapefruit flavors. These characteristics of this hop varietal are matched with Pale, Cara-60, and CaraPils malts and malted wheat.  This blend of a single hop with these malts provide a very hop-forward beer that has a good malt backbone.  

The O.T.W.O.A. pours a hazy, orange color.  The haze of the beer is capped by a light foam, which dissolves into thin strings resembling a galaxy.  (The Mayans and Hopi always looked to the stars.)  The aromatic elements highlight the features of the Falconers Flight hops, particularly the citrus notes.  The brewers also note there are elements of white grapes, grapefruit, light bread and biscuit notes.  I get the grapefruit (as that is citrus), as well as the bread and biscuit notes from the malts.  As with any Imperial IPA, the taste of this beer is hop-centric.  There is a significant lemon and grapefruit presence, but some piney notes. The ABV of 9.2% is present with some subtle boozy tones, but it is not overwhelming.  Just a reminder that this is a beer to be sipped and enjoyed slowly.  

I am a big fan of DC Brau beers.  After all, I have reviewed five of them in the past.  I have to say that, of all the DC Brau beers that I have tried, On the Wings of Armageddon is the best beer that the brewers make.  It is so good that it is worth the $14.99 to $19.99 that you have to pay for a six pack. 

ENJOY!
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