Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Simul-Cask at The Ale House

Last Thursday night Kris and I attended the Simul-Cask of Dogfish Head's 75 Minute IPA at The Ale House in Amesbury, MA. The cask was tapped at 7:50 PM and was empty 45 minutes later. If you're a fan of cask conditioned beer, try and make it to the next release party. You'll be happy you did. The beer was malty and rich with hints of caramel and maple syrup. You could taste the fresh hops but you really had to look for them. I would guess the alcohol level was right around 8%. The beer is naturally carbonated in the cask and served at cellar temperature. It's unfiltered and alive. People who love cask conditioned beer call it: Real Ale. This was how all beer was drank not too long ago. It was brewed, carbonated on the journey to the drinking establishment, set out on the bar, and then consumed in record time.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday Night Food Porn

Braised Pork Belly with Crispy Cracklings

Pure pork flavor. That sums up this dish. The underside of a pig is like a slab of fat with a little meat running through it. It's the place where bacon starts its wonderful journey on becoming bacon. But, in its raw, uncured state it's basically a layer of skin, then fat, meat, fat, meat and so on. The trick is to get the fat to render out and to be left with a rich bite of porky goodness. That's definitely a job for braising. I trimmed a whole belly into some good size square chunks. I seared the belly pieces in my Dutch oven with the skin still on. I removed the pork, then added some aromatics. After I sweated them down I added my braising liquid, added the bellies back into the pot and covered. I braised this in a low oven for about 3 hours. After that time I was able to separate the skin from the belly. While I let the pork rest I made some cracklings out of the skin. Deep fried, of course! After the bellies rested I scored the layer of fat that was under the skin, and placed them under the broiler.

This is a pig lovers cut of meat. It's rich, fatty, and bold. It has an intense pork flavor that will leave you wanting more and more. You'll never buy pork loin again...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

What a Difference a Year Makes

2008 Snowshoe Grilling Challenge:
Lakeside Smokers
12th place with a score of 594.8560

2009 Snowshoe Grilling Challenge:
Lakeside Smokers
12th place with a score of 594.2854

Well, at least we're consistent! :)

Snowshoe Results

Grand Champion
Wildwood BBQ-NYC

Reserve Grand Champion

3 - I Smell Smoke!!!
4 - Transformer BBQ
5 - Porkaholics


1 - QHaven
2 - Uncle Jed
3 - Wildwood BBQ-NYC
4 - Insane Swine BBQ
5 - Shoe City Smokers

Pork Tenderloin

1 - Transformer BBQ
2 - IQue
3 - Wildwood BBQ-NYC
4 - Dr. Frankenswine
5 - Lakeside Smokers


1 - Smokey O's
2 - I Smell Smoke!!!
3 - IQue
4 - Transformer BBQ
5 - Insane Swine BBQ


1 - Porkaholics
2 - Wildwood BBQ-NYC
3 - Garden State Porkway
4 - Boneyard Smokers
5 - Transformer BBQ

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday Night Food Porn

Fish Sliders

Everyone has seen the commercial, everybody knows the song, and for the better half of last week I could not get it out of my head! ...Give me back that Filet O' Fish, give me that fish...Truth be told I even went out and got one. But, after I got done eating it I realized MickeyD's has great advertising, but not such great food. So I set out to make my own. I deep fried some small pieces of haddock that I seasoned and dredged in flour. Then I put them into a small finger roll with some homemade tartar sauce and a little lettuce. The only thing missing was Billy Bass singing me a song.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Shabby Chic A Sweet's Boutique

By Kris

We love to try new places. When we discovered a new gourmet cupcake shop we couldn't wait to try it. This place is an absolute delight! Shabby Chic is located on Cobbett's Pond Road in Windham, NH. It's worth a trip no matter where you're coming from. It's a quaint little place that lives up to it's name. The shabby chic atmosphere complete with chandeliers, porcelain serve ware, and tiered silver trays, is a great place to kick back, relax, and enjoy a latte and a cupcake or two.

The cupcakes are very generous. They are moist, fresh, and flavorful with a wonderful light crunchy glaze on the top. The frosting is light and airy and packed with flavor without being overly sweet. You can enjoy these sweet treats without slipping into a confectionery coma.

Lisa, the owner and baker, has many different cupcake creations that differ from day to day. Part of the charm of a visit to Shabby Chic is that you never know what wonderful indulgence awaits you. So far we have tried a simple and delicious vanilla cupcake with vanilla buttercream frosting, vanilla cupcake with strawberry filling and strawberry frosting, chocolate raspberry cupcake with raspberry frosting, chocolate cupcake topped with a decadent crunchy peanut butter frosting, and banana cupcake with banana frosting. All the fillings are made from fresh fruit and everything is homemade daily.

All this cupcake talk has peaked my curiosity. I wonder what's in store today. I think we should stop by Shabby Chic. You should too. You'll be glad you did.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday Night Food Porn

Home Cured Pastrami

Although making pastrami from scratch does take a long time, it's easy and completely worth it. It's mostly just waiting until the next step. So I figured with St. Patrick's Day right around the corner, now would be a great time to talk about pastrami. Pastrami is smoked corn beef and right now corned beef is all over the markets for St. Patrick's Day. If you want to skip a few steps and still smoke your own pastrami you can go buy some corned beef. It's good stuff. But, if you're like me, and end up buying too many briskets, cure one yourself.

I started with a 15 pound aged brisket. I separated the point from the flat and trimmed most of the fat away.

The brisket goes into a brine. I used water, salt, sugar, Tenderquick, pepper corns, and bay leaves. Other popular things to use in this brine would be juniper berries, coriander, and cloves. Basically use what you like, I like simple. Make sure you have enough brine to cover the entire brisket; it needs to be completely submerged. Keep this in the fridge for about ten days. After ten days take out the beef, throw out the brine, rinse everything down, and fill up your container with ice cold water. Place the brisket back into the container and store it back in the fridge for another 2-3 days, changing the water twice a day. Don't skip that. If you do you will have very salty pastrami...I found this out the hard way.

So, you've basically made corned beef at this point. Now it's time for a rub. Again, I like it simple: heavy pepper, garlic powder, and coriander. You can add whatever you like but don't skip the coriander. It's a key flavor that makes pastrami taste like pastrami. After rubbing down your corned beef, fire up the smoker and smoke (lightly) with your wood of choice until you get an internal temp of 170 degrees. Time for a sandwich right? No. Wrap in foil, cool it down, and store it in the fridge overnight. The next day get set up for some steaming.

In my opinion a crucial part. It was technically pastrami after you smoked it the day before. But this step takes it over the top and turns it from pastrami to New York deli pastrami. I did this in batches. Cut your pastrami so it will fit into your biggest steaming vessel, but don't cut the pieces too small. Steam them until you get 200 degrees internal. Slice thin, serve on rye bread, with spicy mustard, and baby swiss cheese. I know...where's the picture of that?? On the day I served this I had a bunch of people over and it was gone before you knew it.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Congratulation Dave and Kate

Our friends Dave and Kate (Kris' sister) tied the knot yesterday. It was a tiny ceremony at Town Hall with only their daughter Madison in attendance. The three of them walked into Mr. John Cena's office, got married, and then headed off to Madison's horseback riding lesson. Awesome! Good luck guys.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Friday Night Food Porn

Braised Flank Steak and Risotto Arancini

Kris and I love to think outside the box for a grilling competition. When we saw flank steak for a category at The Bailout and it was open garnish, we both knew we were not just going to grill up some flank steak. We've been on a real risotto kick lately; Kris wants me to make it almost every night. One night I made it with a pan seared steak shaved thin and mixed throughout the rice. We thought this would make some great arancini. So at last weekends comp, we braised the flank steak until it shredded apart and made some risotto. Kris mixed the two together, rolled into balls, and breaded them. Then I deep fried them until golden brown. I salted them and shaved some good parmesan cheese over the top. The judges didn't exactly love them. But anytime I can deep fry something at a grilling contest I get very happy. Now, the problem with doing this is very simple: sometimes the judges will actually be looking for grilled flank steak, not deep fried rice balls. Fair enough. But still, I had fun cooking them and even more fun sharing them with my fellow competitors.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Cooking on The Qube

The Qube made it's competition debut last weekend at The BBQ Bailout. It was only the third time I cooked on it and all three times I cooked chicken. When I started to design and build this thing, chicken didn't even enter my mind; this was a charcoal oven. As the build continued it was obvious that it would be great for cooking chicken. So far so good but I still have a learning curve to figure out. One big thing for me is taking into consideration the weather. With my other smoker weather means nothing. It cooks the same if it's 10 degrees or 110 degrees outside. I designed it for the long New England winters. But not The Qube. It's only one layer of stainless steel and no insulation, so the wind/rain/cold will have a major effect on this cooker. The two times I cooked on it before the competition it was 35-40 degrees out with no snow. I formulated a time line according to those conditions. Well on the day of The Bailout it was snowing and the temps were in the low 20's, not ideal. I adjusted my time line slightly, but not nearly enough. As chicken turn in approached everything was going fine until I started to probe the chicken for doneness...my heart sank and my mind started to race. The chicken was cooking, and it was in the safe zone for chicken, but I knew I wanted more time. I was not going to have time to do a final step that we do on chicken. So I didn't touch the chicken and left it to cook another 10 minutes forgoing the last step. I handed the chicken off to Kris at 2:01, she did her magic, and was off to the turn in table at 2:03...the latest Lakeside has ever turned in. Now fast forward to the awards.
"Third place chicken...Lakeside Smokers." Ken announced.
"You kidding me?" I ask Kris, as I take a walk up.
I should be happy right? 3rd place is good. Well, I am happy, but the first thing I think of is skipping that last step. Now what do we do? The judges liked the chicken as it was but would they have liked it better with the final step? Maybe less? I don't know, and now I don't know what to do. But I do know one thing: there will be some chicken dinners in our future.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The BBQ Bailout

Grand champ: I Smell Smoke
Reserve: To Que a Mockingbird
3- Lakeside Smokers
4- Decepticon BBQ
5- Q Haven

5- 2bq'd
4 –Decepticon BBQ
3- Q Haven
2- Lakeside Smokers
1- To Que a Mockingbird

Flank Steak:
5- Q Haven
4- Cousin Eddie and the Dickies
3 -I Smell Smoke
2 -To Que a Mockingbird
1 –Autobot BBQ

5 –Lakeside Smokers
4- Q Haven
3- 2bq'd
2 -Smokey O's BBQ
1- I Smell Smoke

5-Low iQue
4- Autobot BBQ
3- Lakeside Smokers
2 -I Smell Smoke
1- S & M BBQ