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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Montreal Meat Mayhem

A month or so ago, I was in Montreal for 24 hours.  After posing the question to my Canadian friends on where to go for good eats, two places kept coming to the top of the list:  Schwartz's and Blackstrap BBQ.  So, after landing and checking into the hotel, my colleague and I ran to the rental car and started off on our meat adventures.

First, for lunch, we went to Schwartz's Deli in search of the best smoked meat in Montreal. As you can see, it is quite the popular place.  A decent sized line at 3 pm.

What is this?  Hunks of smoked meat.  Beef, turkey, and smoked meat in link form.  This line cannot move fast enough!

Is this heaven?  No.  But, it is nirvana for sure.  So, what is smoked meat?  Well, here is the long answer complements of Wikipedia:  Montreal Style Smoked Meat.  The short answer is that it is pastrami, but not quite.  Corned beef is the starting point, but the rub for smoked meat has less sugar and more savory than New York pastrami.  You can order your meat fatty, lean, or mixed.  I opted for the mixed because I knew I had a date with some top notch BBQ later in the day.

We also ordered a side of pommes frites and some vinegar slaw to cut through the fat.  As an added bonus, some of the local soda to wash it all down.  I cannot remember the last time I had Cott soda.

This was an outstanding sandwich.  Not too fatty, perfect rye bread, and great mustard.  The meat was melt in your mouth good.  It was noticeably different than your standard pastrami.  I liked it for sure.  I may have to try and make this at home sometime sure. 

After a quick nap, we ran off to Blackstrap BBQ for a highly anticipated dinner.  I am happy to report that the recommendations I received were not in error.

Being involved with competition BBQ, I have learned that the best BBQ around is not at a chain restaurant.  You can find the best BBQ around being made by the hard working competition teams on the competition circuit.  But, Blackstrap BBQ is run by Dylan Kier, a fellow competitor in Canada and New York.  I was not disappointed.  

Oh my, what do I see?  Poutine made with burnt ends?  Maybe this is heaven?

Rich, decadent gravy.  Perfectly crispy fries.  Cheese curds and the best burnt ends I have had in a long while.  I shed a tear after trying this appetizer.  Can it get any better?

For dinner, I ordered the brisket along with a side of collards, slaw, and a roll for good measure.  

The brisket was perfect.  Seasoned well with perfect tenderness.  As an added bonus, these collards were in my top five of all time.  Cooked to perfection, they still had some chew to them and the vinegar addition was perfect.  Good collard in Canada?  Go figure.  Well played Blackstrap BBQ.  One of my top choices for BBQ is now north of the boarder.  I may have to schedule a return trip just for the burnt end poutine.  

So, the next time you go to Montreal, head to either Schwartz's of Blackstrap BBQ.  You can't go wrong with either.  Oh, and bring your appetite as well.  You will need it!

Thanks for stopping by,


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Fire Roasted Garden Salsa

It is getting very close to that time of year.  Your garden is at the end, perhaps even been subject to a frost.  Or, your local farmers market is rapidly dwindling in their supplies of fresh tomatoes and veggies.  Time to make one last batch of salsa before you are subject to hothouse tomatoes or salsa from a jar.  We made one last batch with the peppers and tomatoes from the garden.  I always wanted to try a roasted salsa.  So, why not.  Off to the R&D labs we go.

My recipe?  Quite simple.  I took our standard recipe, roasted the veggies and garlic on the grill, then mixed everything up in a food processor and blended until smooth.

First, our basic recipe:

Three Dogs BBQ Garden Fresh Salsa

4 Cups Roma Tomatoes, Diced
¼ Cup Sweet Onion, Diced
2 Jalapeno Peppers, Seeded and diced fine
3 Cloves Garlic , Minced
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 tsp Dried Parsley
1 tsp Cumin
½ tsp Kosher Or Sea Salt
1 Lime, Juiced

So, for the roasting, I prepared a batch of coals and placed them off to one side of my grill.  Then, I wrapped my garlic in aluminum foil with just a touch of olive oil.  I placed the tomatoes on direct heat and I placed the garlic right next to the tomatoes to slowly roast.  The onion was roasted whole with the skin and I stole the jalapeños from a batch of peppers that I was already fire roasting.

As the tomatoes became charred and were starting to burst, I moved them off to indirect heat.  I kept flipping the garlic so that it did not burn.  When I could hear the olive oil in the foil pack bubbling vigorously, about 20 minutes, I placed the garlic on indirect heat as well.  The onion took the longest to roast.  I kept the onion on direct heat for roughly 40 minutes, constantly turning to make sure that all sides were roasted.  Once everything was roasted to my satisfaction, I brought all of my ingredients inside for the final step of the salsa preparation.

First, I skinned the onion.  It was a lot easier than I thought it would be.  The outer skin came right off without any issues.

Next, I removed the cloves of garlic from their skin and resisted the urge to eat one whole.  (As an aside, if you have never eaten roasted garlic, you are missing a real treat.  Roasted garlic has a smooth and sweet taste.  Think caramelized onions.  Great stuff.)  Next, I removed some, but not all of the char from the peppers and tomatoes.  Then, everything went into the food processor, along with the salt, olive oil, lime juice, cumin, and parsley.

Next, everything went for a whirl in the food processor until blended.  I chose to stop my blending while I still had some very small chunks left.  Here is the final product.

Overall, I was happy with this salsa.  The roasted veggies, especially the roasted garlic, added whole new layer of flavors to our standard salsa.  There was one negative in my opinion.  I like my salsa chunky.  With this recipe, chunky salsa is not possible.  But, the flavors added via the roasting outweigh my preference for a chunky product.  So, we will definitely be adding this recipe into our salsa rotation for next summer.  Not all of the time, but every once in a while.

Thanks for stopping by,


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Keystone Classic BBQ State Championship - KCBS Competition

I dread writing this post.  Why?  It was the last competition of 2014 for Three Dogs BBQ.  The long six to seven month wait until our next time on the BBQ trail.  But, before we close the book on 2014, lets have a look at Three Dogs BBQ's last road trip of the year.

This time, we loaded up the trailer and headed to Harrisburg, PA for the Keystone Classic BBQ State Championship.  This is one of our favorite competitions all year long.  Why?  Farm show food and milkshakes and plenty of horses.

The competition is held in conjunction with the states annual livestock show, billed as the largest east of the Mississippi.

They have show horses that get all dressed up and pull wagons.

Or, they have big Belgian Draft horses that take part in the horse powered version of a tractor pull.  I named this one Pouty.

Some can even be caught dreaming of BBQ at 5 am.  Amazing how they can sleep standing up.  Don't you wish you could do that?

So, lets quit horsing around and review the weekend.  Shall we?

First, we felt like we were back in New York.  Why?  Rain.  Lots.  Twelve hours worth.  Enough to create Lake Three Dogs BBQ, right next to our site.

But, the rain moved and the sun came out from behind the clouds in time for turn ins at noon.

Here were our scores.

And here were the boxes.

Our chicken box came through as always.  This entry scored us a 170.2628, good enough for ninth place out of 53 teams.

Our rib box fell into the tasted better than it looked category.  This box scored us a 162.2856, good for 22nd place.  In our opinion, it was our best tasting, most tender rib effort of the year.

Our pork box was a milestone for Three Dogs BBQ.  This was the first box that Hope ever built.  888899 in appearance proves she did a good job.  We scored 165.7028, good enough for 15th place.

Finally, our brisket box.

Not out best effort of the year and the scores reflected our feelings.  151.3944 was the score and a 39th place.  Our brisket was slightly over done.  A comment card or two would have been nice, but the scores were not low enough to warrant comments.  This will be a focal point for practice over the year.

Overall, our total score was 649.6456, 20th out of 53.  This was our second best point total of the year.  So, ending the year on a high note, check!

We would like to thank the contest organizers and the KCBS reps for running a contest without any problems.  Congrats go out to our Grand Champion Pig Pen BBQ and our Reserve Grand Champion Big Ugly's BBQ.  Big Ugly's also won the MABA Cup for 2014, so an extra shout out as well.

We would also like to thank those who have supported and helped us over the years and in 2014 as well.  It wouldn't be fun and we couldn't do it without you.

So, before we put an "end" to the 2014 season, just a reminder to everyone to check back for more recipes and BBQ adventures in the off season.  Any suggestions or ideas for recipes are greatly appreciated.

Thanks for stopping by,


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Boneless Beef Short Ribs the Old Fashioned Way

As luck would have it, I was shopping for a few things at Costco the other day.  As is the usual MO at Costco, I was drawn in by the meat case.  What's this?  Do I spy a package of beautiful looking beef short ribs winking at me?  Why, yes I do.  The sirens song made me pick up the package and deposit it in my cart.  Damn you Costco!  So, as I wondered through the store, picking up what I needed and a few more impulse buys, I kept intact my streak of not getting out of that terrible place for less than $100 and drove home.  During the drive home I mulled over how to cook those beautiful ribs.  I settled on a blast from the past, grilling.

Growing up, as a young, budding grill master, I had no idea when smoking meat low and slow was.  Ribs, both beef and pork, plus chicken, were par boiled (gasp!) by my mother.  Then, I took the plate of cooked meat and finished it up on the grill with a little sauce.  Oh my, how I have come a long way.  Occasionally though, I love the taste that a grill imparts to smoked meat.  So, with a few changes, off to the grill I went.

What you see above are two whole boneless beef ribs, cut in two.  Diet you know.  The marbling was beautiful.  I was going to go simple here.  Two of them I sprinkled with Oakridge Black Ops Brisket rub and the other two I seasoned the way I would a steak: sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and granulated garlic.

As I waited for the meat to come to room temperature, I fired up the grill, taking care to keep the coals off to one side.  When the coals were ready, I threw a chunk of pecan wood on top.  Once the pecan was burning nicely, I brought my ribs out and started cooking.

I placed them on indirect heat and closed the lid.  The temperature was about 350-400 F inside.  At this point, I walked away and came back after 30 minutes.  A quick check with the thermometer showed that these ribs were ready for step two: a hot sear.

When cooking beef ribs, there are two trains of thought.  Pull at 165 F, rest, then eat.  Or, push through to 195 F.  At the lower temperature, you get a chewier product.  At the higher temperature, you end up with something a little more tender.  Don't get to far past 195 F, or you will end up with pulled beef.  I like them either way, but I was in the mood for tender tonight.

At this point, I lightly sauced the BBQ rubbed ribs with Blues Hog Tennessee Red.  The steak seasoned ribs left naked.  I then moved the ribs to direct heat for a quick sear.

The Devil Dog Ellie Mae was waiting on any grilling mishaps.

The ribs were seared about two and a half minutes a side.  Just long enough to caramelize the sauce and put a nice char on the steak seasoned ribs.

This dinner took me back a bit in time.  Moist, tender, and juicy.  I need to try this method with some pork ribs sometime soon.

Thanks for stopping by,