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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Pulled Bacon

It is that time of the year that everyone who loves tomatoes looks forward to with anticipation.  That time of the year when your local farmers market is bursting with plump and juicy tomatoes of various varieties.  Romas, Early Girls, Beefsteak, take your pick.  For four to five months out of the year, we get to leave behind tomatoes of the hot house variety and feast on sweet a juicy goodness.  There are three things that I look forward to during tomato season:  marinaded and grilled tomatoes with mozzarella cheese, fresh salsa, and BLT's, hold the L.  Lets explore the summer variety BLT.

Some time last year, Gusface Grillah over at gusfacegrillah.com experimented with some pulled bacon.  Basically, he took a pork butt, cured it, smoked it, and turned it into a piece of art.  With fresh tomatoes on the horizon, I decided to make a little pulled bacon for my first BLT of the summer.

First, I whipped up a batch of my Apple Cider Bacon Brine.  I purchased a boneless pork butt, about 4.5 pounds, and allowed the meat to cure in the refrigerator for about two weeks. Normally for a pork belly the cure time would only be 7-10 days, but I added the extra time to ensure that the inside of the butt was cured as well.  After curing, I soaked the butt in an ice water bath overnight, then rinsed well to remove all of the cure.


The next step was easy: just smoke the butt like you are making pulled pork.  I smoked at 250 F with cherry, pecan, and hickory wood until the internal temperature was 195 F.  I wrapped the pork but with foil and a towel and let rest in a cooler for two hours.  Then, Hope removed the foil, vacuum packed, and placed in the refrigerator for a week.


Vacuum packing and letting the meat rest for a week allows the smoke flavor to mellow a bit, making for a better end product.  David, our friend over at Heavy D BBQ gave us that piece of advise and he is spot on.

After the week of rest, I removed the butt from the plastic and started pulling it just like I do for my BBQ pulled pork.



This pulled bacon had a little bit of everything.  There was a little bark from the sugar in the cure and lots of smoky bacon flavor.  I will say, there was just a bit a hammy taste, but bacon was the prevalent flavor.

As luck would have it, the first batch of Early Girls were available at our local farmers market.  So, I took about 1/3 of a cup of the pulled bacon and added to a hot skillet with a bit of cooking spray.  I heated until slightly crisp on one side then flipped to crisp the other side.  Then, I placed my pulled bacon on some crispy white bread with mayo, and sliced fresh tomatoes.



I packed up the rest in smaller portions and froze for future use.  A great use during the winter would be some for chowder or other some other hearty soup.  Maybe even as filling for a hearty omelet.

Thanks for stopping by,

Bill

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Hudson Valley Ribfest - New Paltz, NY

Last weekend, the Three Dogs BBQ road show hitched up the trailer and headed out east to take part in the Hudson Valley Ribfest.  It is very hard to believe that past weekend was our fifth time to compete in the HVRF.  This was our first contest and therefore competing here is somewhat special to us.  This past weekend was no different.

On day one, we participated in the New England Barbecue Society grilling competition, the categories being the usual pizza and apple dessert and the other two being wrapped in bacon and sliders.


Seventh place pulled pork pizza.  Think Mc. Rib on a pizza crust.


Wrapped in Bacon was a bacon wrapped grilled cheese.  Good for 19th place.


Slider turn in.  Beef sliders with sharp cheddar and burnt onion bacon jam.  Yes, we realized too late that the buns were too big for the box and we had to do some trimming.  This entry was good for 16th.


We invited Red Valley BBQ to cook with us and make their famous apple pie cheesecake. I imagine in the picture below Sean was explaining that this dessert was a slam dunk...


Well, we came in last with this entry.  28th out of 28.  We liked it.  Oh well.  Perhaps bigger things were in the cards for Red Valley BBQ...  We finished the day 22nd overall out of 28 teams.

On day two, we competed in the KCBS competition.  This features the standard entries of chicken, pork ribs, pork butt, and brisket.


Chicken is our most consistent category, usually finishing in the teens or higher.  Not this weekend.  This box was good for 37 out of 57 teams.  I thought it was one of our better chicken efforts this year.    It was just not meant to be.


Lots of winter time practice is paying off in the summer with ribs.  We have been surprising strong in a category that was a bit of a weak one for us in the past.  The above entry was good for 8th place.


Pork has been good to us this year as well.  The box above was good for 4th place for the day.


Finally, our brisket.  This was one of the best looking brisket boxes we have turned in this year.  But we live and die by our brisket.  Today was not so good.  Every brisket is different and this one was done real early in the morning.  It was a tad overcooked and we took a well deserved 38th out of 57 teams.  Add it all up and Three Dogs finished 22nd out of 57 total teams.

Huge congratulations go out to Red Valley BBQ for their first GC.  Sean and Adriane have been on the competition circuit for eight years and the hard work is starting to pay off finally.  It is great to see good friends win.  It made the day even better.


Congratulations also go out to Smokin Boys & Hot Grills, our Reserve Grand Champion.  With a GC in Ottawa the week before, Greg is on a bit of a roll.  Keep it going!

Next up for Three Dogs is the Finger Lakes Fire and Smoke BBQ Festival in Geneva, NY.  Rikk promises to have a great first time competition this year on the lake.  If you are looking to enter a competition over the Labor Day weekend, this event might just be for you.

Thanks for stopping by,

Bill


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Roasted Eggplant Sweet Sausage Pizza

Summer is chugging along and we have started to actually get some weather that is enjoyable.  We have moved past our spring like June and July with 11 inches of rain in six weeks and temperatures in the 70's during the day and the 40's at night.  Mowing the lawn was twice weekly act of desperation rather than a weekly chore.  But, as the weather has changed a bit and the lawn mowing duties are now in a more manageable schedule, the farm markets are starting to sell their summer bounty.  Yesterday at my local market, one of my favorites was siting on the shelf: purple eggplant.


Yes, all eggplant is purple of varying shades.  The eggplant that most people associate with is the dark purple, almost black variety.  Our farm market also offers an eggplant that is a lighter shade of purple and an all white variety as well.  I like the higher shades better.  The skin is thinner, there are less seeds, and the taste is milder than their darker cousins.  For dinner, I was thinking pizza.  Roasted eggplant pizza to be exact.

First, I trimmed the stalk from the top of the eggplant, then cut lengthwise.  Half went back into the refrigerator and the other half I diced.


I tossed the diced eggplant with about one tablespoon of salt and placed in a small colander for an hour to remove the excess water.


After sitting for an hour, I rinsed the excess salt from the diced eggplant, then squeezed dry in some paper towel.  Next, I tossed with about one tablespoon of olive oil, placed into a cast iron skillet, and roasted in my oven at 350 F for about 45 minutes.


Yes George, there was shrinkage.  In hindsight, I should have used the whole eggplant.  Lesson learned.  By the way, I tried a piece of the eggplant at this stage.  Crispy, caramelized, sweetness.  I could have stopped here.  But, no, there was pizza to be made.

While the eggplant was roasting, I browned about 1/3 of a pound of sweet sausage, caramelized 1/3 of a medium sweet onion, sliced some fresh mozzarella, and created a white sauce with olive oil, 3 cloves of minced garlic, crushed red pepper, oregano, basil, and thyme (about 1/2 tsp each).  Time to build the pie.

I brushed my dough with the white sauce, then layered the cheese, eggplant, sausage, and onion.  My creation was now ready for the pizza oven.


Ten minutes later, I had a pretty sweet looking pizza pie!




Good stuff.  In hindsight, I wish I had used the whole eggplant.  The roasted bits added a nice crunchy sweetness to this pizza.  There is some work to be done in the future with this pizza.  I have some ideas.  Fortunately summer is not quite over and there is plenty of eggplant to be had, for now.

Thanks for stopping by,

Bill

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Bacon Pesto Stuffed Turkey Breast

Earlier this year at the World Bacon Championships in Rochester, NY, one of the turn in categories was turkey.  It could be any kind of turkey, it just had to contain bacon in some form.  So, after some thinking and experimentation over the spring, we settled on a turkey breast stuffed with basil pesto and bacon.  Bacon and pesto match well.  At least I think so.  But the judges didn't think so as our entry finished in the middle of the pack.


First, we took a turkey breast and butterflied the meat so that it could be stuffed with the bacon and pesto filling.


Once butterflied, we brined in a batch of our homemade brine solution.

I always use this brine when I am smoking chicken, turkey, or any thing with wings.  It really does tenderize the meat and take out all of those bad juices.  I always reference this recipe in my poultry posts.  So, I decided to make my life (and yours) easier and make a separate link.

BOS's Chicken Brine:

Ingredients:
1 gallon Water
1 cup dry wine
¾ cup Kosher Salt
¾ cup Brown Sugar
2 Tbsp Granulated Garlic
2 Tbsp Chili Powder
¼ cup Orange Juice
⅛ cup Worcestershire Sauce

I placed the turkey breast in the brine and allowed it to soak for about four hours.

As preparation time drew closer, we prepared the bacon pesto filling.  For the bacon, I took about a half pound of bacon and cut it into small cube.  Then, I browned the bacon until slightly crisp, then I drained the fat.  Once this was done, I stirred the bacon into 1/2 cup of basil pesto.  Then I removed the turkey breast from the brine, rinsed well with cold water, and patted dry.  Then, the breast was stuffed with the pesto mixture, rolled up tight, then tied shut with butchers twine.  Then, I lightly coasted the skin with olive oil and seasoned lightly with salt, thyme, and rosemary.


I smoke roasted the breast on a smoker at 350 F with a piece of pecan wood in my ash pan for smoke flavor.  I roasted the bird until the internal temperature reached 160 F, about one hour.  Then, I removed the breast from the smoker and allowed to rest for 15 minutes before slicing.



The meat was tender and juicy.  The flavors mixed well.  The leftovers made a great grilled turkey club of sorts the next day with crusty white bread, provolone cheese, and sliced tomato.  Obviously, this recipe did not work well for us in competition.  But, for at home, I'll be making this again.

Thanks for stopping by,

Bill