Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Steak Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers

So; my wife is on a business trip to Mexico, leaving me completely unsupervised for a week.  For the first time in a very long time, I found myself in my kitchen with NOTHING to do and NOBODY to cook for.  I was hungry.  What to do.......

"Why not cook up some of my favorite bacon wrapped stuffed chilis," I asked myself?  "OH, you've got those two beef tenderloin medallions that you need to cook today," I reminded myself.  What the heck?  Fire up the grill and cook them all!

You Will Need:
  • Chili Peppers (I like Anaheim peppers for this)
  • Melting Cheese (Cream Cheese, or Cheddar is fine but NOT "Whipped" Cream Cheese)
  • Bacon
  • Salt
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • 10oz Filet Mignon or Beef Tenderloin Medallion 
  • Preheat Oven to 375
  • Light up a chimney full of charcoal on your grill

I make "Jalapeno Poppers" a hundred different ways.  I've stuffed them with Blue Cheese, Cheddar, Cheese Curds, Cream Cheese, you name it.  I've also used a variety of different peppers, not always Jalapenos.  In this case I chose Anaheim peppers because they're bigger.  You could use two old fashioned Jalapeno peppers though, if you wanted.
Slice off the caps and remove as much of the white pithy membrane as you feel is "appropriate."  Remember, the heat in any chili is in the membrane, NOT the seeds!  This is always a balancing act because you want room for the cheese, but you also want to leave some heat so, prep accordingly.
Stuff your chili with cheese.  This time, I used some fresh cheese curds because, well, because I had some and because they melt like crazy, and because they're super delish... Use whatever you want, but do NOT use "Whipped" (or spreadable) cream cheese!  It expands under heat and will leak out of the chili and make a mess.  Plug the end of your chili with a wad of bacon because... bacon is delicious and it will keep the cheese from leaking out!
Finally, wrap the entire chili with a slice of bacon (or two, depending on how large your chili is), grease a pan, and slide them into the oven for 40 minutes at 375 degrees.
Now, turn your attention to the steak.  It almost seems "criminal" to take a beautiful 10oz filet like this one, and to pound the living crap out of it, but... great "omelets" involve broken eggs, so, take a deep breath and fortify yourself.  You'll need a layer of plastic and some water for lubrication.  Spritz some water on a plastic bag, place the plastic on top of the steak, and gently pound the steak with a mallet, starting in the center and working your way out toward the edges.  TAKE YOUR TIME!  If you pound your meat too aggressively, you'll tear the edges and NOBODY wants that!  Just keep things lubricated, take your time, be gentle, and pound away!  Your patience will be rewarded... :)

You should end up with a nice flat piece of steak that resembles a large flour tortilla.  Excellent!  Season it with a sprinkle of salt, and a shake of Cayenne pepper.
Remove your chili from the oven and place it (while it's still warm) at one end of your "tortilla."  Gently (but tightly) roll it up, and use a couple of wooden toothpicks to pin up the ends.
Place it on the counter to rest while you tend to your fire.  Did you remember to turn off the oven?  Good. This would also be a magnificent time to open a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, and to let it breathe.  You'll need it.  Later...
Dump your coals into half of your pit.  I used an old half-charred hunk of oak wood as a "fence."  The idea is to create an area of indirect heat, as well as a super-hot spot of direct heat.
Once everything is pre-heated (give your pit 15 minutes alone with the lid closed), lay your steak roll on the indirect side.  I know, I know, there is fire on both sides in the picture... but as soon as I closed the lid and dampered down the air supply, things settled down.  Close the lid and leave your roll in there, undisturbed for about 12 minutes.
When you lift the lid, use some long tongs to move the roll to the hot side!  Roll it around over there and give it two to three minutes on each side.  You want a nice char, but you don't want to incinerate it, so be careful!
Take the roll off the heat and wrap it in foil to rest while you get your plate ready.  Earlier, I simmered a small carton of mushrooms in half a stick of butter, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and 1/2 cup of Burgundy I had leftover, for about an hour.  It's time these two met!  Pour a massive glass of the Cab-Sav and get ready, baby...
I dumped a scoop of the shrooms onto a plate and then unrolled and sliced the steak roll into two halves.  The cheese was gooey, the bacon was crispy, and the steak was perfect!  Being "unsupervised," I was tempted to just pick up the roll with my hand and eat it like a "Boss!"  I didn't... mostly because I didn't want greasy smudges all over my wine glass.

Sadly, it was at this moment that I kicked myself for foolishly not thinking about a sauce... Perhaps a Hollandaise?  Bearnaise?  White Queso? Maybe a Green-Chili sauce?  Oh well.  It was pretty damned delicious as it was!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

How to Smoke Baby-Back Ribs

Everyone has a special way to cook ribs.  Some methods are better than others, and some are just downright "odd!"  I was horrified to learn that in parts of the Midwest, they boil them in water before simmering them in cheap BBQ sauce in a crock pot for hours.  Some people grill them, others bake them, still others swear that a rotisserie is the trick.  Me?  I prefer to slow-smoke them!  It may not be the "universally correct" answer, necessarily, but it will certainly earn me an A+ on the rib test...

If you have a smoker, and you're ready for a "no short cuts" approach to slow smoked BBQ ribs, then read on!

You Will Need:
  • As many racks of Baby-Back ribs as you can fit on your smoker
  • Rib-Rub (more on this later)
  • Yellow Mustard
  • Honey
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Apple Cider
  • 1 Tbsp Adobo Sauce from a can of Chipotle Peppers 

First things first, go outside and start your smoker.  It needs to be fully pre-heated to 225 before you lay on the ribs, so... get that going!  Also, this is going to take 6 hours so get some beers on ice and find a comfortable chair.  Let's Prep!

Before you prep the ribs, you'll want to get your sauces ready.  Mix a generous glob of honey with a hefty squirt of yellow mustard.  Stir it and set it aside.  You just made honey-mustard for a fraction of the cost so pat yourself on the back and have a beer!  Mix a Tablespoon of honey with an equal amount of adobo sauce, stir it into 1 Cup of your favorite BBQ sauce.  Stir it and set it aside.  Mix about a Cup of Cider Vinegar with a Cup of Apple Cider and pour it into a squirt bottle for spritzing.  Set it aside.

You'll need about a cup of dry rub for three racks of ribs.  Personally, I don't like to buy store bought rubs.  They're expensive and even if you find one you like, it may not be on the shelf next time so... you might as well learn to make a rub that you like.  Here's mine, feel free to tweak it to match your own taste:
  • 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Chipotle Chili Powder
  • 1/2 Cup Sea Salt
  • 1/2 Cup Coarse Ground Pepper
  • 1/2 Cup Smoked Paprika
  • 1/4 Cup Onion Powder
Ok, NOW you can finally take the ribs out of the pack!  Rinse them and pat them dry.  There's a membrane on the back side of the ribs and debates rage about whether to remove it or not.  I consider three facts when it comes to the membrane: 
  1. It will not break down during the cooking process.
  2. It tastes just like paper.
  3. It will inhibit smoke and heat from penetrating the back side of your rack of ribs.

It is for these reasons that I choose to remove the membrane.  Use a sharp filet knife to flick this membrane loose on one side or the other, and grab it with a paper-towel.  Now, pull!  Pitch it in the garbage or give it to the dog, but rest easy and smile, knowing that it's no longer on your menu!

Slather both sides of your ribs with your honey mustard.  Make sure you have enough for the dry-rub to stick to.  Once you have both sides coated, and your dry-rub mixed, you can shake on the rub!  Be generous!

Once your ribs are rubbed, wrap your rubbed ribs in a layer of plastic wrap.  I roll mine up on top of each other, as shown here.  Get them wrapped up nice and tight, and leave them to rest on the counter for about an hour!
Don't skip this step!  The rub and the mustard are getting to know each other and they're making a marinade together.  The salt is waking up the meat a little and it's all starting to come together at this point.  Shhh.... let them be.
Ok, once your cooker is up to temperature, and you have a nice thin line of blue smoke puffing out of your stack, it's time to lay out the ribs.  Lump charcoal burns a bit cleaner than traditional charcoal, and the bark of many hardwoods can burn off with a bitter white smoke that can taint your meat.  I like to use good clean, well seasoned, pecan or oak for my ribs, with the bark peeled off.
Lay your ribs out on the smoker, close the lid, and LEAVE THEM ALONE for two hours.  No peeking!  Have another beer, take off your apron, sit down in a comfortable chair, put your feet up, set a timer, and take it easy... two hours.  GO!
When two hours is up, it's time for a spritz!  Spray them down well with your bottle of apple/vinegar.  Now, close the lid to your smoker and leave alone for another hour. 
During this hour, pour about two cups of apple cider into the bottom of a foil half-pan.  When this third hour is up, transfer the ribs to the pan, spritz them again, and put the lid on, or wrap the pan tightly with foil.
Return the pan to the smoker, ribs, lid, and all, for two hours.  Keep the temp at a steady 225.  Have another beer, things will get exciting soon...
After these last two hours are up, you should definitely see the rib bones starting to peek out!  Take the ribs out of the pan and lay them back onto the rack in your smoker.  Brush a nice layer of your honey-chipotle bbq sauce all over them and leave them in the smoker for a final (6th) hour.  During this hour, the sauce should "set" to a nice glaze.
At the end of this last hour, you should have some shiny sparkling amazing looking ribs!  It's all over but the slicin' !!
Slide the racks onto a cutting board and draw a sharp knife keenly, between the bones.  Delish!