Monday, December 28, 2009

Catering success

Our first catering job has come and gone, and aside from exhaustion, sore backs, a huge kitchen cleanup and LOTS of leftovers, it was a huge success.

We were offered the job for a party of 60 people at the request of a friend of ours, and after considering the wisdom of committing to a job two days after Christmas we decided to take it. Since this was our first job, we had to purchase a significant of "overhead" (steam table pans/racks, bulk ingredients, extra cookers) to execute the job. We also had to buy all our food in bulk; it was so much that we filled up the Mini twice!

The menu consisted of:
  • Beef brisket: I smoked six briskets overnight on my Caldera Tallboy using oak wood chunks and a variety of rubs.
  • Pulled pork: I smoked four boneless pork shoulders overnight on my Weber Smokey Mountain and apple wood chunks using Chris Lilly's Championship Pork Shoulder recipe. This preparation required a rub and injection marinade prior to putting the pork on the smoker and a mop during the cook. Quite labor intensive, but the results were worth it. We served the pork with Paul Kirk's Memphis style BBQ sauce that we made from scratch using gluten free ingredients at the request of our guests.
  • Chicken: We grilled chicken thighs on a kettle grill in the community center parking lot using Mike Mills Magic Dust rub and the Paul Kirk Memphis sauce.
  • Cowpoke Pintos: We cooked six lbs. of pinto beans using a recipe from Smoke and Spice. Again, we used gluten free ingredients, and I added about a pound of brisket burnt ends to add flavor. I contemplated adding fresh cilantro but ultimately decided not to. I personally love cilantro in beans, but it does add a strong flavor component that some people (and kids in particular) don't like.
  • Corn on the cob: We grilled corn on the kettle grill and basted it with a butter/vinegar/lemon juice recipe from Smoke and Spice.
  • Roasted butternut squash: Sharon really came through on this one. She roasted 10 lbs. of pre-cut butternut squash with brown sugar, butter, salt and pepper. The pre-cut squash wasn't the most cost-effective way to do this, but from a time/labor perspective, it was essential. Several guests said this was their favorite dish, and I suspect we'll be having this at home in the future.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we'd like to give special thanks to our friend Darrin for his help. We couldn't have done this without you, and we mean that. We appreciate your support and we're thinking good thoughts for you right now.

Hopefully we'll get some more jobs from this event. Just not this week, please, as we need to catch up sleep and rest our backs!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Support your local small business!!

This blog is not about politics, but this really got me and I had to post it.

Yesterday, I was visiting Village Hardware in Alexandria VA. I don't live in Alexandria any more, but I gladly drive 15 miles there for Larry and his son's vast knowledge as well as availability of Weber and other great products I can't find elsewhere (Sharon buys all our yard flags there, and I always head to the basement for the Weber showroom). Larry's son told me that Larry was contacted by Fox Business to get his reaction about the President choosing the Alexandria Home Depot as the venue to make an announcement on small business tax incentives and the so-called Cash for Clunkers program when Village Hardware, the epitome of a successful small business, is literally down the road (and closer to the White House. If you don't believe me, check Google Maps and enter "White House Washington DC" in the "from" window and then "Village Hardware Alexandria VA" and "Home Depot Alexandria VA" in the "to" window).

Larry makes some good points in his interview, so take a look. Better yet, if you live in the metro DC area, do yourself a favor and visit Village Hardware at 7934 Fort Hunt Road (tel 703 765 1555). You'll love the Weber showroom, and they will assemble, deliver and set up any Weber grill they sell. And they've got plenty of snow shovels, sleds, de-icing compound and ice scrapers in stock. Good luck finding that stuff at Home Depot or Lowes right now........

Larry Gray of Village Hardware in Alexandria VA talks about the President's announcement of small business tax incentives and Cash for Caulkers at that well known small business Home Depot just down the road

Sunday, December 20, 2009

New Degüello BBQ site

First of all, thanks for reading my blog. The response has been very encouraging, and I especially appreciate the comments and return visits. It seems I may be doing SOMETHING right here. That said, I've decided to start a new non-blog, or main, site. The new site will be where I post Degüello BBQ Team information such as the team calendar, competition results, photo gallery, and info on my fledgling catering business. I'll still post on the blog, but I envision the main site as a repository for information that doesn't necessarily fit the blog format. Here's the link:

As noted on the new site, I am still building it and much, much more content is on the way. However, I wanted to go live as soon as possible so I could get feedback and refine the site as it takes shape. I invested some time (and funds) into the construct of the new site, so I'm really depending on reader comments and input. You can comment here, or send me your thoughts via the "contact me" tab on the main site. Again, thanks for reading. And now you'll have to excuse me as I have a major snowstrom to dig out of......

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

CFC Silent Auction BBQ Basket

Today our office participated in a silent auction for the Combined Federal Campaign here in DC. I put together a barbecue themed basket for the auction that included two bottles of Palmina wine from Lompoc CA, the books Peace, Love and Barbecue and Smoke and Spice, a Weber spatula and tongs, meat thermometer, a jar of sauce and rub that I made (thanks Chris Lilly and Mike Mills respectively for your Memphis style sauce and Magic Dust recipes)and bags of cherry and oak chips and cast iron smoker box (I built the basket for someone who doesn't have a "real" smoker).

We raised the second highest amount of all the baskets, and best of all my officemate won the auction. But the REALLY best thing for the winner of the basket is that I offered to volunteer my expertise to help him utilize the contents. And don't worry Jonathan, I've got bottles of Palmina at home already, so yours are safe. In an abundance of caution though, you might want to put the Barbera and Lagrein in a difficult to find location when I come over for drinks, er, cooking school.....

Palmina Wines

Maine Grilling Woods

Peace, Love and Barbecue

Cooking With The Jamisons

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Caldera Del Fuego Cooker

I've added a new smoker to the inventory and it is a beauty. If you've been reading my blog, you're probably wondering why I would need a new smoker when my trusty Weber Smokey Mountain equipped with the CyberQ II temperature controller has served me so well. Basically, it's a capacity issue. I was offered a catering gig for 60-70 people, and after I'd accepted I began calculating how many WSMs I'd need to cook brisket, pork shoulder and chicken for that many people. Four? Five? And then I'd need another CyberQ II and 3-4 more fans......

I eventually found an online deal for discounted WSMs, but there was still the issue of adding more temp control hardware. So I called The BBQ Guru, told them what I was doing and asked if they had a suggestion. BBQ Guru's Bob Trudnak suggested I look at their Caldera del Fuego Tallboy smoker. Bob, I want to thank you for that suggestion, because for the amount of money I would've spent on four WSMs and additional temp control hardware I got a single versatile cooker that serves as a hot/cold smoker, grill, and deep fryer (hopefully I didn't miss any other uses). It holds up to 16 racks and is sized so standard steam table pans slide right in. And of course it's ducted for my CyberQ II.

I've used it twice so far, and I'm really pleased with the results it produces. There's a bit of a learning curve with maintaining a stable temperature, but nothing major. After using Kingsford Competition briquettes on the first cook and having the fire go out overnight, I switched to Wicked Good hardwood lump charcoal the second time and got a much more steady, long lasting burn. So much so that the smoker actually overshot the selected temperature while I was sleeping. Partially my fault, though, as I had the Tallboy "buttoned up" in its cold weather jacket and outside temps didn't drop as much as forecast.

The second cook was a bigger one. 20 lbs. worth of Boston butt, four racks of St. Louis style ribs, one full packer brisket and a brisket flat. I cooked the pork butts and brisket overnight on Wicked Good lump and oak and hickory chunks, and after pulling them around 7:00 AM I topped off the charcoal, added some apple wood chunks and the ribs. The office holiday party celebrants raved about the pulled pork, ribs and brisket, and I even got a few inquiries about whether I'd consider catering. Since I've already got my first job this month, I'm hoping I can get some more.

One more thing I want to mention about The BBQ Guru. As good their products are, their customer service is just as good or better. In addition to BBQ Bob taking time to give me advice on using the Tallboy and preparing for my big catering event, Sarah in sales has been a big help. She's made sure that orders got to me within 24-48 hours if I needed them in a hurry. And she's very nice, too. Thanks Sarah and Bob!

Although I'll still use my WSM for smaller cooks at home, the Caldera del Fuego Tallboy will see plenty of use in 2010 as Sharon and I make our first foray into the world of competitive BBQ.

One of my pork butts. It came pretty much as you see it, and I used my new Misono Ux-10 Gyutou knife to do a little more trimming. The Misono has instantly become my "go to" knife. I read about it in Cooks Illustrated, and it's worth every penny.

Rubbed and injected pork. I used Chris Lilly's Peach Butt injection marinade and rub recipe

Rubbed brisket using my favorite coffee based rub. I have no idea how the (empty) Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale bottle sitting on the sink got there.....

Pork and brisket in the Caldera. Notice the amount of free space in the smoker. I could've easily done 3-4 times as much meat if necessary

Caldera firebox

And now the recipes and product references:

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Elvis is in the building

Tonight we christened our new, $400 Krups deep fryer (thanks to my coworkers who contributed an incredibly generous $370 towards a Williams-Sonoma gift certificate that facilitated the purchase). And what better way to christen that bad boy than to cook my favorite dish from Chuy's Tex-Mex Cafe, Elvis Fried Chicken. It's a pretty simple dish, but done properly, it's a sublime piece of fried goodness.

Use a mallet to flatten four half boneless/skinless chicken breasts into thin pieces

Prepare three shallow dishes with a half cup of flour, two beaten eggs and a cup and a half of crushed Lay's Potato Chips mixed with a teaspoon of black pepper respectively.

Dredge the breast pieces in the flour, eggs and crushed chips.

Place in a frying pan with a 1/2" of 400F hot oil; peanut oil works best. Or just use your super duper deep fryer like me.

Cook for 2-3 minutes per side (or 4-6 minutes if completely submerged in the deep fryer).

Spoon a half cup of green chile macho over the chicken (see recipe below).

Pay your respects to The King and scarf it down.

Green chile macho recipe

4 cup Chicken Stock
2 cups Anaheim Green chiles roasted -- chopped
5 Tomatillas cooked -- pureed
2 teaspoons Onion -- minced
1 teaspoons Mexican oregano -- dried
1 clove Garlic -- minced
1/2 teaspoons Salt
1/4 teaspoons Pepper
2 teaspoons Cornstarch
2 tablespoons Water -- to dissolve the cornstarch

Makes about 6 cups
Combine all the ingredients except the cornstarch and water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer for ten minutes. Add the cornstarch and stir well. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes more, until well thickened. Serve over Fritos or as an enchilada sauce.

Note: you can roast the chiles over a gas flame or use a kitchen torch. Char the skin and wrap peppers in damp paper towels for 10-15 minutes. The charred skin will mostly fall off, and you can easily scrape the remainder away with a butter knife. I'm going to experiment with smoking the Anaheim chiles on my Weber Smokey Mountain in the future. Also, I'm going to add shredded cheddar cheese over the chile macho next time I cook this dish, just like they do at Chuys.