Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Smoked Prime Rib

Sometimes, a fly needs the sledgehammer.  Every now and then, you need to assert your dominance in the party world by "slam dunking" a goal/event with so much authority, that people will talk about it for years to come.  I'm talking about something that shakes up your dinner-party patrons with such thunder and trembling, that hosts and hostesses throughout the County will hesitate to even try to plan a menu for a long, long time! You've put this decision off, long enough.  It's time to plunk down $175 (or so) for an AMAZING piece of meat that will send your guests home in a food coma so strong, they may elect to just have a nap on the sidewalk before they ever make it to their car....

I'm talking about Prime Rib, but I'm taking it to the next level!  What about Hickory Smoked Prime Rib??

Don't let the price tag scare you.  Think about it this way, you'd pay $25 for a 16oz cut of great Prime Rib in a restaurant, wouldn't you?  Then why not pay $8 per pound and cook the whole roast, YOUR way?!  When it comes to restaurant quality BBQ, Prime Rib is one of the most expensive hunks of beef out there, but it's also one of the easiest things to cook, so, why not give it a shot?

You Will Need:

  • One Whole Boneless Rib Roast (Mine was 20lbs)
  • 1/4 Cup Bourbon
  • 1/2 Cup "Thick" Worcestershire Sauce
  • Beef Rub:
    • 1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
    • 1/4 Cup Kosher Salt
    • 1/4 Cup Black Pepper
    • 1/4 Cup Smoked Paprika
    • 1/4 Cup Fresh Chili Powder
Ok.  Have a look at the end of the roast you're thinking about purchasing.  Is it well-marbled?  Here's the thing... You'll save some money by buying a "Select" or a "Choice" grade of rib-roast, as opposed to USDA Prime.  You want some good marbling (fat=flavor, right?) and you don't want to pay through the roof to get it so, have a look at as many as you can and get the best one you can afford.  The one pictured here was "Prime" but I've seen Choice cuts that had better marbling.  It all depends on the quality of cattle that were graded by the USDA's rep on processing day.

Once you've made your selection, rinse it with cold water, pat it dry, and lay it out onto your work surface.  Take some cotton butcher's twine (free from your local butcher, or available at a hardware store) and truss it up.  (This video should help, if  it's your first "tie job!").  Do NOT trim it first, leave every bit of fat and goodness that came with this roast, as part of the package!
Mix your Bourbon with the Worcestershire sauce.  Resist the urge to just drink it, pour yourself some of the Bourbon in a separate glass for "fortification" and keep the faith!  Pour the mixture all over the roast and rub it in.  Rub, rub, rub, massaging this juicy goodness into all of the cracks and crevices!  Note where the rib bones used to be on the underside of the roast, make sure you get some juicy goodness in there, too!
Now, mix all of the ingredients together for the rub, and shake it all over the roast.  Don't be shy!  Shake and turn and shake and turn and pat and rub and really go to town on this bad-boy!

Now, wrap the whole thing in a tight cocoon of plastic wrap.  Use a lot of layers and when you think it's enough, wrap on a few more.  I find that it's easiest to take the roll of plastic out of the box, and to recruit a helper for this step.
Stash your wrapped and spiced rib roast into the fridge for at least 12 hours.  I always do this the day before dinner...
On the big day, pull the roast out of the fridge and leave it on the counter, out of the reach of your dogs or any curious children!  Leave yourself a note, to remind you to do this... My smart-phone beeped at me early this morning to tell me, but my wife prefers paper notes!  The idea is to let the roast come up to about 60 degrees before you start cooking it.  If you don't, the outside will dry out and over-cook before the inside is done... you want a nice even and consistent temperature, consistency, and appearance throughout the roast when you slice it, so this step is super-critical!

Preheat your smoker to 250 degrees.  I used a combination of hickory chunks and lump charcoal for this.  You could do this in an oven, but you would obviously lose the smoke flavor.

Lay on the roast, and insert a probe thermometer so that the tip finds its way to the center of the meat.  I can't stress this enough... do NOT rely on that droning Neanderthal urge in your head that is telling you, "You'll just know when it's done."  You won't.  You just spent almost $200 for this piece of meat, spend another $15 or so for an oven-safe probe thermometer that will tell you EXACTLY when it's done!!
Now... you wait.  You'll wait about 4 hours for this beast to come up to 128 degrees.  Waiting sucks, so, during your wait, go find the right bottle of wine!  For my money, you can't beat an excellent bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon to match a Prime Rib.  Find one (or two.  maybe a case.), bring it home, open it, let it breathe, and sample it.  Sample it again while you check the temperature... When it touches 128, get it out of the smoker/oven immediately!!  Wrap it in foil, tightly, and let it sit on the counter, resting, for another 30 minutes.

WOOT!  Unwrap it and slide it onto your cutting board!  Three cheers and a tiger for you, you did it!  It's all over now but for the slicin'  The end-cuts will be closer to Medium or Medium Well, so save those for the people who appreciate that sort of thing.  The biggest prize of all is the cut from the very center... a Medium-Rare thing of beauty that would impress King Henry VIII!

Behold!  The Center-Cut!!  Long live the King!  Slide this onto a plate and dust off your hands.  Bask, as your subjects look at you as though you were conjured up by a sorcerer to do things to a cow that mere mortals can't even comprehend!

You're Welcome!  :D

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Peach Crumble Custard Pie!

For my money, few desserts are as impressive as homemade pie!  There are so many different acts in this particular circus that need to be perfectly balanced in order for the show to meet its potential for "spectacular!"  The crust should be tender, yet flaky... The filling should be sweet, but not overly so.  Fruit filling should be moist and naturally sweet without a gummy texture, or an artificial "pectin-like" flavor.  This, "Peach Crumble Custard Pie" brings all of that to the table!  Soft, yet crunchy.. Fruity, and slightly sweet.  The perfect "Crème brûlée marries Peach Cobbler and has a baby" sort of thing!

You Will Need:

  • The Pie:
    • About a dozen small fresh peaches 
    • 1 9" Deep-Dish
  • The Custard
    • An Egg
    • 1 Cup of Heavy Cream
    • 1.5 Tbsp Flour
    • 1 Tsp Vanilla
    • 2/3 Cup Sugar
  • The Crumble
    • 1/2 Cup of all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 Cup brown sugar
    • 1/4 Cup butter, melted but not "hot"

Now; this recipe is easy, but it takes time and love.  If you're short on time, pick another pie; do NOT take shortcuts with this one!  If you're short on "love," well, you should eat a slice of someone else's pie and then see a therapist... If you're ready, preheat your oven to 425, grab your cutting board, set out your frozen pie crust to thaw, and let's do this thing!

There is probably not another fruit in the world as complicated as a peach.  If you were to pick 3 different peaches from the same tree on the same day, they'd all have a different flavor and texture.  Canned peaches are consistent, but they don't really taste like fresh peaches, do they?  Not even close!  They taste like "peach syrup" or pectin or... I don't know, but they don't taste like fresh peaches, that's for sure. 

This recipe calls for a dozen small peaches, but you won't need all of them.  You'll only need the good ones, so be prepared to taste them!  Peal the skin off of each peach, then slice the flesh in half and peel it off of the pit.  Now, slice each half into the crescent peach slices we're all familiar with and taste one!  Is it sweet, delectable and peachy?  If so, push all of the slices into a bowl!  If it's a little "bitter" or "blah" or just not "peachy" enough, then scrape all of the slices into a compost bin, or into some breakfast oats and move along to the next peach!

Eventually, you'll have enough slices of the perfect peaches to fill your pie crust!  Stop for a moment to take stock; what you have in front of you is an amazing thing!  Fresh fruit, none of the overly sweet syrupy "ick" to clutter nature's perfection, and you have it in a PIE!  Granted, it's a rapidly thawing frozen pie shell, but... you're still MILES ahead of your competition at this point!  Wash your hands, pour some wine, and gird your loins for the custard,  The messy, sticky, peachy, juice-ridden, counter-top messing moments are behind you!

Toss an egg into a large bowl and beat it to death with a good whisk.  Beat it some more.  You want a nice bright yellow uniform egg to start your custard with.  Add the Vanilla and the sugar and beat, beat, beat until you have a nice, smooth consistency.  I probably could have used my KitchenAid mixer, but I wasn't in the mood to wash it, so... I grabbed the whisk.  Lightly sprinkle the flour on top and beat it some more.  The flour is here to help thicken the custard so the pie will stand up to slicing so, don't forget it!  Add the heavy cream, a dollop at a time, and mix it slowly with the egg batter.  Your goal is to dissolve all of the sugar and to come up with a smooth custard.  You'll know its ready when you scrape your whisk across the bottom of the bowl and you don't get any sugar residue sticking to the wires of your whisk.  Set the custard aside....

Now, "Let's get crumbly!"  Mix the 1/2 Cup flour with the brown sugar, using a whisk, until you have a homogeneous mixture that looks like beach sand.  Slowly drizzle in the warm melted butter and keep whisking away until you have a nice brown crumbly mixture of heavenly goodness.

Warm heavenly goodness looks like this.  It should feel like wet sand, and it should crumble, easily, when you use your fingers to break it up.

Ready for assembly?  Slowly pour the custard over your peaches.  Do this in batches, allowing time for the custard to work its way down among the peaches... You may not need all of the custard, just keep pouring and settling until the mix comes up just blow the edge of the pie-crust.  Now, grab a handful of the crumble and "season" the pie with it!  Like a little crumble?  Add what you want... Like a lot of crumble?  Add it all!

Now put the pie onto a cookie sheet (I line my sheets with a silicon sheet or with foil, to catch any spill-over), and send it into the middle of your 425 degree oven.  Shut the door, and IMMEDIATELY drop the temperature to 350.  This initial heat blast will help brown the top of the pie and the edges of the crust, without burning the custard later.  Set your timer for 45 minutes and give the pie a "peek-a-loo!"  It should be golden brown all over, and the middle should show a little bit of jiggle (but not too much) when you gently shake the corner of the cookie sheet.

Cool the pie for slicin' and you're ready to go.  Some like whipping cream on this pie, but the custard is "cream heavy" so I think it stands alone!  Either way, it's an awesome way to do a peach pie.  When people ask you the secret?  Just say, "I found some good peaches!"