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.

Recipe from Steven Raichlen's Barbecue Bible
Serves 8

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

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.


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.


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. 

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

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

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.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017


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.