Saturday, September 15, 2018

Project Maryland BBQ: Part 2, Old Line Barbecue Chicken

The first element of any regional barbecue style, in my humble opinion, is the protein. In the Carolinas, whether eastern, western or southern, it is pork. Whole hogs. In Texas, whether it is brisket or barbacoa, it is beef.  In between, either in Kansas City or Memphis, it may be beef or pork, depending upon the cut. (Go north to Kentucky, it is mutton.)  But, what would the protein be in Maryland, if Maryland had a regional style of barbecue?

The protein for barbecue is defined by what is around you.  If you are in the Carolinas, it is hogs, because there are a lot of pigs.  More than four million hogs are being raised in North Carolina alone.  There are more hogs currently in North Carolina than there are people in the entire countries of Bosnia & Herzegovina or Uruguay.  There are more than 12 million cattle cows (for beef) in Texas.  That means there are more cows in Texas than there are people within the borders of Belgium or Cuba.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, there were only 46,000 cattle for beef production and 26,000 hogs for pork production in the State of Maryland. If there was a barbecue style in Maryland, it would most likely not involve either beef or pork. However, there are 306,700,000 chickens in the State of Maryland.  That's right, there are more chickens in the State of Maryland than there are people in the countries of Pakistan, Brazil or Indonesia.  For a point of reference, there are over 326,000,000 people in the United States.  There are almost as many chickens as there are people in this country. 

The location of large scale chicken farms in the State of Maryland.
So, if there is a such a thing as Maryland style barbecue, then the protein would be chicken.  A lot of chicken. And, if one were to drive through the Eastern Shore of Maryland, he or she would agree.  Drive the backroads of the DelMarVa (the region of Delaware, the eastern Shore of Maryland and the Virginian peninsula), and you will see -- and maybe even smell -- a lot of chicken houses.  Many of those chicken houses are owned and run by hardworking chicken farmers (and, just how those farmers are treated by big chicken companies will definitely be the subject of another post, because I have a lot to say on that subject.)  Many more are large scale chicken operations, either CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) or MAFOs (Maryland Animal Feeding Operations).  (Just what is a CAFO or a MAFO, as well as their impact on the environment, is also a subject for another day.)

Thus, the first element of a regional style of barbecue is in place.  Maryland style barbecue, if it exists or existed, should or would be centered around chicken. Just like Texas style barbecue focuses on beef and Carolina style barbecue focuses on pork.  That is not to say that there can't be beef and pork in Maryland barbecue (after all, there are those 46,000 cattle and 26,000 hogs in the Old Line State).  All it means that we need to nail down a recipe for smoked chicken that could serve as the foundation for Maryland barbecue.

It seems only natural that chicken should be the protein.  After all, there is the Delmarva Chicken, which is a tradition on the Eastern shore. Local groups and firehouses get together, marinate large amounts of chicken, grill that chicken and offer it to anyone willing to enjoy it.  The thing is that Delmarva Chicken is as much barbecue as pit beef is barbecue. The recipes for Delmarva Chicken involve grilling the bird or its constituent parts, as opposed to the low and slow smoking of the meat.

Nevertheless, the recipe for Delmarva Chicken can serve as the basis for Maryland barbecue. It starts with the rub.  Delmarva Chicken calls for a rub of poultry seasoning, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and garlic powder.  Rather than use poultry seasoning, I think that a good substitute could be Old Bay seasoning.  Old Bay is practically synonymous with Maryland because of its use with our beloved blue crabs.  What is little known (despite the advertising) is that Old Bay can be used in other recipes, including chicken.  With Old Bay, and the remainder of the ingredients, I have the basic rub for Maryland barbecue. 

The recipe of Delmarva Chicken also includes the use of oil and vinegar.  These liquid ingredients could work well with barbecue chicken and provide a distinctive character. Most recipes for Delmarva Chicken, such as this one, call for the chicken to be placed into a bowl, with the rub ingredients added, followed by oil and cider vinegar. Those instructions baffle me a little bit, to be honest, but, if they are rearranged, then they could provide a basis for preparing the chicken.  Place the chicken in a large bowl, whisk the cider vinegar with the oil to create an emulsion, pour that emulsion so that it covers the chicken, both on the skin and underneath, and then spread the rub over the chicken both on the skin and underneath.  The emulsion will help the rub stick to the chicken and, if you get it underneath the skin, it will also flavor the meat.

While the Delmarva Chicken provides the basis for the preparation for the Maryland barbecue chicken recipe, I have to say it ends there.  If you look at Delmarva Chicken recipes, there are no mops (after all, it is grilled chicken).  The recipes call for a "sauce," but, in my humble opinion, the sauce is somewhat questionable in the context of barbecue.  Many recipes describe a sauce that consists of 1 part oil and one part salad dressing or mayonnaise. Salad dressing is out of the equation.  That leaves mayonnaise.  However, a mayonnaise-based sauce for chicken that is clearly and indisputably identified with Alabama barbecue (see Big Bob Gibson's Chicken with White Sauce).  This project focuses on defining Maryland barbecue. Thus, Delmarva Chicken can take us far towards Maryland barbecue chicken, but, just not across the finish line.

In any event, the sauce for Maryland barbecue is a subject of its own, and, it will have its own post in this project.   Until then. the basic recipe for Maryland-style barbecue chicken, which I have dubbed "Old Line Barbecue Chicken" ...


OLD LINE BARBECUE CHICKEN
Recipe adapted from Lang BBQ Smokers
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
1 whole chicken, spatchcocked
1 1/2 ups of apple cider vinegar
1 cup of olive oil
2-3 teaspoons of Old Bay Seasoning
2 teaspoons sea salt (or kosher salt)
3 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper 
1  1/2 teaspoons granulated garlic powder
Chunks of hickory, pecan or apple wood
     (I used apple wood)

Directions:
1.  Prepare the chicken.  Place the spatchcocked chicken int a large bowl.  In a separate small bowl, combine the spices (Old Bay, salt, pepper, and garlic powder) and mix well.  In a medium bowl, add the vinegar and then whisk in the oil.  Once the oil and vinegar have been whisked into an emulsion, pour some of the mixture over the chicken, rubbing it into the skin and beneath the skin on the meat.  After the entire chicken is covered with the oil/vinegar mixture, move the chicken to a cutting board.  Apply the rub to all sides of the chicken, both on the skin and under the skin on the meat.  

2.  Prepare the smoker.  Start a chimney and, when ready, place the coals in the smoker.  The desired temperature is 275 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.  

3.  Smoke the chicken.  Place the chicken on the smoker.  Add the wood chunks to create the smoke.  Smoke the chicken until it reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit.  Remove the chicken from the smoker and cover with foil.  Let rest for 10 minutes until the temperature comes up to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.  Carve the chicken into pieces - sliced breast meat, thigh, legs and wings for service. 

ENJOY!

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Project Maryland BBQ: Part 1: The Beginning

Barbecue is regional, albeit the names are more local.  There is Eastern Carolina barbecue, with smoked whole hogs served with a piquant vinegar sauce (perhaps my favorite).  There is also Western Carolina barbecue, which is still pork based, but there is an added tomato tang to the sauce.  Then, there is Southern Carolina barbecue, which goes its own way with a mustard based sauce.  Travel west, and one finds Kentucky barbecue, Memphis barbecue, Kansas City barbecue, Texas barbecue and, even further west, Santa Maria barbecue.  Add to all of these the international styles of barbecue, brought to the United States by immigrants who brought their culinary traditions with them (think, barbacoa, for example).  

I am a big fan of barbecue, but I don't live in the Carolinas.  I don't call Memphis, Kansas City or any part of Texas my home.  I live in the Mid-Atlantic, the State of Maryland to be exact.  These questions got me to thinking about barbecue in the State where I live.  To be sure, there are a lot of good barbecue joints across Maryland, and, I have eaten at quite a few of them.  Those restaurants feature barbecue that draws its inspiration from those major regions ... Eastern Carolina vinegar-based pork; pork ribs with the tangy, spicy Kansas City barbecue sauce; and central Texas style brisket.  

If one were to look past the barbecue joints and ask what is true Maryland barbecue, the first answer might be Baltimore Pit Beef with Tiger Sauce.  But, as much as I love pit beef, it does not fit the definition of barbecue, that is, the low, slow cooking of proteins over wood smoke.  Pit beef is more about grilling, using a higher heat to generate a crust on the beef, which is thinly sliced, piled onto a bun and dressed with the sauce.  Others may say Delmarva chicken (which someday will be a post of its own), but that is really just grilled chicken dressed with a sauce that is one part oil and one part salad dressing or mayonnaise.  To be sure, one could have smoked chicken with a mayonnaise sauce; after all, Big Bob Gibson's in Decatur, Alabama perfected it. (You can check out my effort to make the recipe here.)  However, there is little doubt that Delmarva chicken is more about grilling than it is smoking.  

So what is Maryland barbecue?  Is there such a thing as Maryland barbecue?

There is no easy answer to these questions, because there is no accepted concept of a Maryland style of barbecue. That does not mean that it does not exist.  I will need to look around the Old Line State.  I need to go beyond the barbecue joints and focus upon the essence of barbecue: cooking protein over over wood smoke in a low and slow fashion. Even if there is no such thing as Maryland barbecue, I will take the initiative to create one.  Hence, the Chef Bolek's "Project Maryland BBQ" Series.  

A disclaimer ... this entire endeavor is for fun.  Over a series of posts, I will explore those fundamental elements of barbecue -- (1) protein; (2) rubs; (3) mops/sauces; and (4) wood/smoke -- and how they fit into a style of barbecue that could be called Maryland's own. I will also focus on other aspects of barbecue as they would relate to a style. Only time will tell whether or what will come of this endeavor.  Until then ...

ENJOY!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Glen Manor Cabernet Franc (2014)

Wines with a sense of place.  The particular place in question is located along the western flank of the Blue Ridge Mountains. At that spot, there are steep vineyards, where there is soil rich in variety but rocky. Amidst that rich and rocky soil, there are rows of vines, growing a range of varietals.  These grapes include the standard Rhone varietals, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. They also include others such as Sauvignon Blanc, Petit Manseng and Nebbiolo. The grapes that grow there find themselves in the wines of Glen Manor Vineyards. 

The vineyards were started in 1995 by Alpheus White and his three sons. The vines were planted on a farm that had been within the family for five generations and over 100 years.  The first vines were Sauvignon Blanc, which were planted in 1995. In the following years, the Whites planted additional grapes, such as Merlot and Cabernet Franc.

I visited the Glen Manor Vineyards tasting room with my beautiful Angel.  We sampled a variety of the wines, including the St. Ruth, Vin Rouge, Hodder Hill and Sauvignon Blanc. We also tasted the Cabernet Franc and we liked that wine so much that we bought a bottle of the 2014 vintage to have at a later date.  

The Cabernet pours a crimson red, with deep almost burgundy tones in the center that fades to a lighter shade of red around the edges of the glass. The aromatic elements include strawberries, with other red fruit like cherries and raspberries. There is a little graphite in the nose of the wine as well.  

As for the taste of this wine, the elements include those red berries, especially strawberries, providing a certain jammy character with each sip. Other fruits are also present in the taste, such as plums and blueberries. The taste also featured some of the earthiness that was in the aroma, along with a slight hint of pepper in the background.

Overall, this is a very good Cabernet Franc, and it provides a good contrast to other Cabernet Franc wines that I have. For example, this wine was much brighter and fruitier than the Cabernet Franc from Elk Run Vineyards, which is located in Maryland.  While I like both wines, I think that the Glen Manor Cabernet Franc is a wine that could pair with a wider range of food, especially chicken and pork dishes, whereas the Elk Run Vineyards wine would pair better with beef dishes. Such differences even though the grapes are grown and the wines are produced about eighty or so miles away from each other.  Maybe that explains the emphasis on "terroir."  Probably not, but, until next time ...

ENJOY!

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Mauch Chunk Turkey Burger

A caveat at the beginning.  This recipe -- Mauch Chunk Turkey Burger -- gets its name from one fact.  I came up with this recipe during my recent vacation in the Poconos.  We stayed at a cabin in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. The town is named after Jim Thorpe, the Native American football player and Olympian who is buried there. 

Before the town was known as Jim Thorpe, it was known as Mauch Chunk. That is the Anglicized version of Mawsch Unk or "Bear Place" in the language of the Munsee-Lenape Delaware, who were the first to inhabit the area. (Interestingly, Jim Thorpe was a member of the Sac and Fox Nation, a Native American tribe that was forcibly relocated to Oklahoma.)  The reference to bears may be due to the proximity of Bear Mountain, which (before decades of mining) resembled a sleeping bear.  For this recipe, the name Mauch Chunk is a simple recipe to the place where I first divined this recipe.

The key feature of this recipe is the combined use of ground turkey and turkey sausage.  I know: the combination of sausage and ground beef is almost a regular on the menus of many chain restaurants.  However, in my experience, the typical combination involves a combination of beef and chorizo. I know because I have had a couple of those types of burgers (although not at a chain restaurant).  I wanted to experiment not just with the use of the sausage, but also the use of additional spices to make a turkey burger that went beyond the typical turkey burger.

Let's face it, most turkey burgers are bland.  At best, you get one that is properly cooked and there is still some modicum of juiciness to it.  But, the burger itself remains bland.  The addition of the turkey sausage provides a substantial amount of flavor to the burger, primarily due to the spices added to the sausage.  I wanted to take the recipe one step further, by adding some additional, albeit traditional spices, such as paprika, garlic powder and oregano. 

To help maintain the ideal juicy nature of the burger, I added some very finely diced onions.  The onions have water, which gets released during the cooking process.  Those onions will help keep the turkey moist while it is either in the oven or on the grill. The onions need to be finely diced because, to state the obvious, no one wants to bite into onions in their burger. The only bite from onions should be on top of the burger.   

The Mauch Chunk Turkey Burger was an experiment; a brief cooking experience during my down time on vacation.  My beautiful Angel loved the taste of the burger.  That reason alone means that all future turkey burgers will be built upon this experimental foundation. 


MAUCH CHUNK TURKEY BURGER
A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 5-6

Ingredients:
1 pound of ground turkey
1/2 pound of turkey sausage (mild or hot), casing removed
1/2 yellow onion, finely minced
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon oregano
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 tomato, thickly sliced
6 bread slices, toasted

Directions:
1.  Prepare the meat. Place the ground turkey and turkey sausage in a bowl.  Mix well.  Add the minced onions and garlic.  Mix well again.  Add the spices (garlic powder, paprika, oregano, salt and black pepper).  Mix one last time.  Make 5-6 patties.  

2.  Cook the burgers.  If you are using an oven, cook the burgers at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 25 minutes.  Flip halfway though the grilling process.  If you are using a grill, heat to high.  Cook for about 15 minutes, flip halfway through. 

3.  Finish the dish.  Serve the burger with one slice of toast, cut in half, a tomato slice on the bottom, the burger and thinly sliced red onions on top of the burger.   Serve immediately. 

ENJOY!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Bacon Industry

It seems only natural that a brewer would make a smoked beer for a barbecue contest.  That is what Neshaminy Creek  Brewing Company (NCBC) did for its Croydon is Burning: Barbecue Battle.  The battle took place back on April 15, 2018; and, no, I was not there.  But, from what I have read, local barbecue joints competed in a contest that required, among other things, that the pitmasters use one of two NCBC beers: the Croydon is Burning, which is a Bamberg-style Rauchbier, or, the Bacon Industry, which falls in the "other smoked beer" category. 

While I was not at the barbecue battle, I did have the chance to try the Bacon Industry during a recent visit to Philadelphia.  The Bacon Industry is brewed in the Helles style, using German beechwood smoked malt, American cherrywood malt and 100 pounds of cured, smoked bacon.  That makes the Bacon Industry my kind of beer.  So, I had two of them during lunch. 

According to the Beer Judge Certification Program, a beer that falls within the "other smoked beer" category should have a "pleasant balance" between the smoked character and the basic beer style.  Given the brewers at NCBC brewed the Bacon Industry in the style of a Helles (or Maibock beer), then we should look to what that beer style entails.  Typically, a Helles beer pours a deep amber to a light color, with malt-forward aromas (featuring little to no hop elements), and a strong, but clean malt flavor.    

With that background, the Bacon Industry does a very good job reaching the "pleasant balance" that one would strive between the smoked character and the Helles style.  The use of the beechwood smoked malt and the bacon allow for light smoked aromas and flavors to greet the nose and tongue of the drinker. At first, the smoked elements are the beechwood and cherrywood, which find their way into the aroma of the beer. I did not get as much of a sense of the bacon in the aroma, but it does find its way into the beer. (100 pounds of cured, smoked bacon should at least find its way into the flavor of the beer.) That bacon flavor is nestled among the malt elements of the beer, such as some light toast and bread flavors.  

The balance between the smoke and the malt in this smoked Helles beer is near perfect.  The Bacon Industry provides an interesting, albeit different, approach to a smoked beer.  Most smoked beers that I have tried in the past, like the Ola Dubh or the Sunturnbrew, achieve the smoked character solely through the use of malts.  The Bacon Industry sets itself apart with the use of 100 pounds of cured, smoked bacon. Given how much I liked this beer, I will keep my eye open for other bacon beers.  In the meantime, if you find yourself in Philadelphia or nearby NCBC, you should stop and see if this beer is available.  And, if you can, pair it with barbecue, as the brewers initially intended.  Until next time ...

ENJOY!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Smoked Beef Ribs

One of my objectives during this smoking season is to try smoking new proteins.  There is a wide range of proteins that could qualify for a first time smoke.  However, there is one that I have wanted to smoke for a long time ... beef ribs.  I've watched barbecue shows, like Project Smoke and Barbecue Pitmasters and have watched others work with these ribs.  There is something about the large bone and the hunk of meat at the end that just appeals to a carnivore like me. 

But, as I mentioned at the outset, this is a protein that I have never cooked before.  I needed to learn a little about beef ribs before I undertook this cook.  The first thing I learned is that a cow has 13 ribs on each side. The first five ribs are the chuck cut.  This happens to be the most common rib cut in grocery stores.   I can attest to this fact because, after going through the beef section of a couple nearby grocery stores, nearly all of the ribs were chuck ribs.  There were also plate short ribs, but there seemed to be less meat on those ribs than the chuck ribs.  So, I decided to buy a couple packages of chuck ribs and get home to work my smoke project. 

There was one wrinkle.  The chuck ribs came cut into individual ribs, as opposed to a slab or plate of ribs.  This complicated the smoke for me because I am not used to smoking individual pieces like these ribs.  To date, I have smoked pork shoulders, brisket, whole chickens, etc.  Large pieces of meat where by I can calculate the cooking times by the pound.  While I have been wanting to smoke chicken thighs in the muffin tins (as I noted, I have watched quite a few barbecue shows), I have not done that yet.  I searched far and wide for recipes that could address the issues that I saw with cooking individual portions, but I found none that directly answered my questions.  Nevertheless, I took a couple of the better recipes and decided to work on my own. 

As for that recipe, I decided to approach the cook using a Texas-style barbecue.  The phrase "Texas-style barbecue" is actually a generalization, because the State of Texas is so large that it has its own regional barbecue styles: East, Central, West and South.  Eastern and Southern Texas barbecue are defined by the use of sauces, a tomato based sauce in Eastern Texas BBQ and a thicker, molasses based sauce in Southern Texas BBQ.  I found few, if any, recipes that included a barbecue sauce of any kind.  Most of the recipes focused more on trying to bring out the taste of the beef, rather than potentially covering up that taste with a sauce.  This leaves either the Central or Western Texas style of barbecues.  Both styles eschew sauces or even complex rubs.  Instead, pitmasters use simple rubs consisting primarily of salt and ground black pepper, with a possible addition of only a couple of additional agreements, such as garlic powder or cayenne pepper.  One difference between the two styles is the type of wood used.  Central Texas BBQ uses pecan, oak or mesquite wood, while Western Texas BBQ uses primarily mesquite wood.

For this recipe, I decided to draw upon Western Texas BBQ.  I kept this very simple ... the rub consists of equal parts kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  That's it, nothing else (except for a little olive oil to keep that rub on the ribs).  I used mesquite for the smoke.  As for the spritz or mop, which all beef rib recipes require, I used beef broth.  (I also used a mop because I don't have a sprayer.) The simplistic approach to these ribs was perfect ... every bite had a great beefy taste with a slight kick from the roughly ground black peppercorns.  

For my first time, this smoke was a tremendous success.  Beef ribs may supplant pork shoulders for me.  Only time will tell if that happens ....


SMOKED BEEF RIBS
Recipe adapted from Hey Grill Hey
Serves several

Ingredients:
3-4 pounds of beef chuck ribs
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt
1 cup beef broth
4 chunks of mesquite wood

Directions:
1.  Prepare the ribs.  The ribs will probably not need any trimming.  Rub the olive oil over the meat and cover with salt and black pepper.  Wrap the ribs with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.

2.  Smoke the ribs.  Soak the mesquite wood in water for about 1 hour.  Prepare the fire and coals in the smoker until you have a temperature of around 250 degrees Fahrenheit.  Oil the grate and place the ribs in the smoker.  After about two to three hours on the smoker, spritz or mop the ribs with the beef broth.  Continue to spritz or mop the ribs every forty-five minutes to one hour.

3.  Finish the cook.  Cook the beef ribs until you get an internal temperature of about 203 degrees Fahrenheit.  Remove from the smoker and set side to rest for ten minutes.  Serve immediately.

ENJOY!

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Sprecher Series, Part Four ... The Quadrupel

It is the last of the Sprecher Series. In the past, I have previously reviewed the other three beers in that series: the Enkel, the Dubbel and the Tripel. The final beer is the Quadrupel, which is the last in the line of the Belgian style of brewing.

As it turns out, the Belgian Quadrupel is probably my favorite style of beer.  I have also drank some mighty fine Quads in my time, such as the La Trappe Quadrupel.  In other words, the bar is very high.  And, after the somewhat disappointing experience with the Sprecher Tripel, I would not be completely honest if I did not say I was wary of this particular offering.  Nevertheless, I committed myself to trying and blogging about all four of the Sprecher Belgian beers, because I wanted to go through the exercise of thinking about and writing about each of the Belgian beer styles.  So, here it goes ....

The brewers describe the beer in the following words: a "massive mouthful of malt goodness balanced by warming alcohol with a whisper of bitterness and playful spice."  They add that there are "[p]redominant flavors" of "caramelized sugar, toffee, dried fruits (fig, cherry, raisin, plum), molasses, light spice (clove, pepper, nutmeg) and a slight hint of citrus."  That is a very tall order. 

It is also one that falls a slight bit short.  The Quadrupel pours a cola brown in color.  There are aromas of raisins and plums, which are also featured in the flavor of the beer.  The caramelized sugar also features prominently, hence the Belgian candy taste.  While there is a slight tartness to the beer, I do not think that falls in the category of either a "light spice" or "citrus."  Nevertheless, it is present against the booziness of the beer in the background. 

The Belgian Quad was a good quadrupel.  Certainly a better example of a quadrupel than the tripel was as an example of a Belgian Tripel.  With this beer and review completed, it draws to an end my Sprecher Series.  But, it is no La Trappe.  If I ever make my way back out to Wisconsin, I may find another Belgian Quad to double check my impressions.  Until then, 

ENJOY!

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Around the World in 80 Dishes: Guyana

My next personal culinary challenge takes me to South America, but, for an experience unlike any of my prior challenges on the continent.  To date, my challenges have involved making a main course from Ecuador, Paraguay and Uruguay. All of these challenges involved dishes that, for some reason, I associate with South America, whether it is the Ceviche de Corvina (Black Sea Bass Ceviche) from Ecuador, or the indigenous Guarani dish of So'o-Yosopy (Beef Soup) from Paraguay or, one of my all-time favorites, the Chivitos al Pan of Uruguay.  This challenge is different from my prior ones, because it involves preparing a main course from the country of Guyana.  And, Guyana is far different than most of South America, walking to its own ... calypso beat.

That different beat plays primarily because of history.  The present day Co-operative Republic of Guyana was previously known as British Guiana.  The years of colonization left its mark on the country and its people.  The largest segment of the Guyanese population are the Indo-Guyanese (also known as East Indians).  These individuals descend from the indentured servants brought by the British Empire from the Indian subcontinent to work the plantations of Guyana. The Indo-Guyanese make up forty-three percent (43%) of the population, which is substantially more than the next largest group, the Afro-Guyanese, who make up thirty percent (30%) of the population.  Like the Indo-Guyanese, the Afro-Guyanese trace their lineage to African slaves who were brought to the country.  Guyanese of mixed heritage are approximately sixteen (16%) of the population, while the natives (first nations) are slightly more than nine percent (9%) of the population .

The large segments of Indian and Africa descendants, as well as the history of Guyana as a colony of the British Empire, has had its effect on the cuisine of the country.  Guyanese curries are very popular, as are rotis, dal and rice.  These dishes and meals speak to the Indian influence on the cuisine (an influence that is similarly shared amongst former British colonies in the Caribbean). This influence served as the inspiration for my personal culinary challenge.  The main dish would be one that reflected the cuisine of a plurality of modern-day Guyanese.

MAIN COURSE

The Indian influence means that the main course will be a curry.  However, it is not just any curry.  As it turns out, my beautiful Angel bought me nearly fifteen (15) pounds of goat meat.  As I perused goat recipes on the Internet, I found a few recipes for a goat curry from Guyana.  The recipes followed a similar path as curry recipes from India.  There were the spices -- toasted whole spices such as coriander, cloves, and black peppercorns -- that were ground together with turmeric.  The ground spices were then incorporated into a paste of onions and garlic, and then sauteed before the protein is added. The curry then cooks for a couple of hours, until that meat is fork tender and ready to be spooned into a bowl with rice.   While there are an abundance of curry dishes in Guyana, using the entire range of proteins, it was the goat curry recipes that both captured my attention and were the most useful.  After all, I had 15 pounds of goat meat.

The main course, Goat Curry, not only reflects the food of a significant portion of the Guyanese people, but also underscores some important notes about the role of agriculture in the Guyanese economy.  The agricultural sector accounts for 50% of the foreign exchange earnings and about 40% of the workforce.   While sugar represents the largest crop, rice accounts for 18% of the agricultural sector and livestock accounts for 16% of that sector, both of which are significant amounts. (All of these stats are courtesy of the South American Commission for the Fight against Foot and Mouth Disease.) With respect to the livestock, there are approximately 82,000 goats in Guyana. While 82,000 goats would place Guyana somewhere around the 126th country when it comes to goat production, those 82,000 goats, taken together, are significant to Guyana.

In the end, this is a dish that draws from various aspects of Guyana, its people and its economy.  It also reflects the common bonds that the Guyanese share with the Caribbean, especially the English-speaking islands, such as Trinidad and Tobago.  For these reasons, the challenge is to make a main course of Guyanese Goat Curry.


GUYANESE GOAT CURRY
Recipe from The Nasty Bits
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:
2 1/2 pounds goat meat for stewing
1 lemon
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 teaspoons fenugreek
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 onion 
A few cloves of garlic
A few tablespoons of oil

Directions:
1. Prepare the goat meat.  Rinse the goat meat under cold running water and place in a pot or large bowl. Squeeze the juice of one lemon into the pot, toss in the lemon rind and fill the vessel with water so that all of the goat meat is covered.  Let sit for 30 minutes.  

2. Prepare the spices.  Place all of the spices except the ground turmeric into a heavy skillet.  Over medium heat, toast the spices, moving the seeds around so that the surface comes into contact evenly with the heat.  The spices will be done when the mustard seeds begin to pop and the cumin seeds are a shade darker, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Immediately remove the pan from the turmeric powder to the pan.  Stir around.  Place all of the spices into a spice grinder and process until finely ground. 

3.  Prepare the spice paste.  In a food processor or blender, puree the onions and garlic with just enough water to create a thick paste.  A few tablespoons of water should suffice.  Transfer the paste to a small bowl and add the toasted and ground spices.  Mix thoroughly to make a thick paste. 

4.  Cook the goat meat.  In a medium sized pot, add a few tablespoons of oil as well as the spice paste.  Toast the paste in the oil for 30 seconds to a minute, taking care not to burn the mixture.  Then add the goat meat and stir around, cooking the meat for a minute or so in the fragrant oil.

5.  Continue cooking the goat meat.  Add enough water to cover the meat.  Bring the water to boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 2 1/2 or so hours, until the meat is tender.  Toward the end, de-fat the broth by skimming the surface with a broad spoon.  Alternatively, if you are making the recipe in advance, refrigerate the curry and allow the fat to solidify at the top.  Serve with plenty of rice to sop up the goat broth. 

*          *          *

This challenge represents my fifth challenge that involves a curry or similar dish (to date, I have made Bhutanese Pig Trotter Curry, Mauritian Duck Curry, Indian Rogan Josh, and Pakistani Karashi Gosht).  This may speak to the ubiquitous nature of curry dishes. It has also helped me to gain experience in making a type of dish that I really like.  (I eat a lot of curries, when I can.)  Overall, the Guyanese Goat Curry was very good, although the curry "sauce" was a little too thin for me.  Still, the flavors were there and the dish was a very good first effort at cooking with goat.  Given that I still have about twelve (12) pounds of goat to cook.  So, this won't be my last effort or, for that matter, my last personal challenge to cook a dish from a country using goat.  Until next time ...

ENJOY!
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