I’m talking to a Hat Grabber at a party in Vegas. Hat Grabber is shorthand for a very young, very pretty, fairly vacant, girl who does things only she can do without getting punched in the face. This includes things like grabbing the hats of the heads of men she’s just met, putting it on her head, and forcing everyone to answer the question, "OH MY GOD, HOW CUTE DO I LOOK?" Hat grabbers.
I’m talking to a Hat Grabber about growing up on a farm, and she asks me if pigs smell like bacon.
"Live pigs? Do live pigs smell like bacon?" I’m a little confused and wonder if I actually heard her correctly.
"….yeah. I mean, I’ve always wondered that."
I’m mostly thinking about how quickly I can exit the conversation without hurting her feelings. "No," I answer, "They don’t smell that good. Also, cows don’t smell like hamburgers."
She laughs. She thinks I’m hilarious. I point to the waiter circulating the party with a silver tray of mini burgers. "How cute are those?! You should eat one!" She grabs her Hat Grabbing accomplice that has just returned from the bar and heads right for the cute food.
I’m relieved, I feel like I’ve been rescued. I owe the remainder of that evening to cute mini burgers. Burgers that actually do smell much more like bacon than live pigs do.
In a large bowl add the meat, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, salt, egg, bread crums, and beer. stir until just combined (about two of three turns with your hands). Over handling the meat will make it tough and mealy.
Place bowl in the fridge for 1 hour and up to 1 day (this will help keep it’s shape during cooking.
Using a cookie scoop, make balls just smaller than a golf ball with the chilled meat.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat until very hot. Add the meat balls, pull the skillet back and forth over the burner to roll the meat balls around in the pan. Cook until meatballs are just starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat and add the barbeque sauce, cover with a lid, cooking at a simmer until meatballs are glazed and sauce is very thick.
Place one to two meatballs inside slider buns. Serve warm.
Falling into the world of craft beer, I lacked a full grasp of the type of people this obsession attracts. Over the years I never cease to be amazed at the warmth and heart that exists in the gatherings of the Craft Beer Enthusiasts, the salt of the earth types that dwell here. It’s hard to explain to people who are outside, how to really articulate how golden the souls, how quickly we connect to one another over a shared fascination. How our celebrities brew beer, and our Mecca lives in various 750 ml bottles.
Over the weekend I was fortunate enough to spend a truly unforgettable weekend in Boston, courtesy of Attune Foods, to marinate in the company of the Craft Beer Crowd. The final night gave me a clear tableau of the heart of this community. In the middle of a large conference space, in the bottom of a Boston hotel, was an impromptu potluck of rare beer, a spontaneous gathering spread out by strangers. People from all over the country packed bottles of beer, rare beer, sacred beer, hard to track down beer, beer that people dream of, in order to share it with strangers. They pulled from their stash of beer that took them months, even years to track down, in order to share it with people they have never met.
I was honored, and so grateful, to be handed beer I’ve only read about, from people I’d never met. "I though you’d like this," or "I brought this to share, do you want some?" It was touching, and even a bit overwhelming, that people who didn’t know me would share, with such enthusiasm, what is often rare and hard to come by. Some bottles weren’t even replaceable, aged for several years. This is craft beer. People who just want to share, in community, what they have come to love.
And all I have to offer in return is my gratitude, and some knowledge about food, and a few recipes. Let’s start with steak. A few tips can give you an unforgettable meal, to serve with that rare beer.
First, is the selection process. Have you ever noticed those stickers on the packages of steak in the grocery store? Prime, Choice and Select? While they should put: Great, Pretty Good and Don’t Bother, they leave it a bit ambiguous. If you know what to buy, you’ll be ahead of the game.
Prime is the best, but of course, most expensive. Choice is runner up to prime, not as good as Prime, but it’s often much less expensive. Select should be labeled: Please Don’t Select, it’s poor quality. If a steak isn’t labeled, it probably was so poor, it didn’t even earn a Select designation. If you see an unlabeled piece of meat that has a sticker that says, Inspected by the USDA, don’t fall for it, all meat is inspected by the USDA. Look for a well marbled steak, about an inch in thickness that’s labeled Prime or Choice.
Second: marinate and dry. Beer is a natural meat tenderizer, using it in a marinade gives steak an amazing texture. Drying the meat well, while it feels counter intuitive, is the only way to get a good sear and avoid 50 shades of gray meat.
Third: excessively salt your meat. Don’t be shy with the salt, it’s imperative. Liberally salt the steak on all sides, it’s pretty difficult to over salt a steak and salt is extremely important to the final flavor.
Fourth: buy a meat thermometer. If you cook meat a lot, you get used to the feel test and you can vibe it. But until then, testing with an inexpensive meat thermometer is a foolproof way to get the exact doneness that you want. You really don’t want to spend all that time and money only to over cook your steak because you didn’t want to spring for the $7 meat thermometer.
For this recipe I love a smoked porter, it’s one of my favorite go-to beers when it comes to cooking with beef.
Beer Marinated Steak with Porter Gorgonzola Butter
In a small bowl, whisk together the beer, Worcestershire, onion powder, paprika and salt.
Place the steaks in a baking dish, cover with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 6 to 12 hours, turning at least once while marinating.
While the steak is marinating, make the butter. In a saucepan over medium high heat, add the ½ cup porter. Cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 2 tbs, 8-10 minutes.
In a food processor add the butter and reduced beer, process until well combined. Add the Gorgonzola and pulse to combine.
Add butter to a sheet of plastic wrap, roll into a log and refrigerate until solid, about 1 hour.
Fifteen minutes before cooking, remove the steaks from the marinade. Place on a stack of paper towels, top with additional paper towels, pressing down firmly. Allow to dry for about ten minutes.
Preheat the grill to medium high.
Salt and pepper the steak liberally on all sides.
Brush the grill with olive oil.
Place the steaks on the hottest part of the grill until grill marks appear, flip. Once grill marks appear on the other side, flip again. Flip a total of 4 times to create a diamond grill pattern, keeping the grill closed between flipping. Test the temperature and remove when desired doneness is achieved.
Allow to rest for at least 5 minutes.
Slice the butter into 1 inch pats, add one pat to each steak.
Preheat oven to 350.
Salt and pepper the steak liberally on all sides.
In a pan over medium high heat add the olive oil, heat until hot but not smoking. Add the steaks (two at a time) and cook on each side until a brown seared crust has formed, about 2 minutes per side. Avoid crowding the pan, cook in batches if necessary. Move steaks to a sheet pan or baking dish.
Cook in the oven for 5-7 minutes, or until desired level of doneness. Allow to rest for at least 5 minutes.
Slice the butter into 1 inch pats, add one pat to each steak.
Temperatures for doneness: 126°F Rare,131°F Medium Rare,145°F Medium,154°F Medium Well,
Beer Brined Corned Beer Sliders with Pickled Cabbage Slaw
I just turned my completed book into my publisher.
One hundred recipes, along with sixty-five photos, are now out of my hands. You’d think I’d be relieved, so did I, but I’m worried. I just let go of the summation of 90 percent of my waking hours from the past 4 months. It’s in someone else’s care, and that scares the crap out of me.
I have these momentary panics:
Did I make the pavlovas enough, do the directions make sense?
I say jackass in the book, will people hate that?!
Was I clear about how grateful I am for this, or will I come off as smug?!
I even worry about whether or not you’ll like it, as if I’m just an insecure school girl. I thought I would be relieved and elated, but I’m more anxious than I’ve been during this entire process. I want people to love it, to leave me glowing reviews on Amazon and tell their friends about how much they love it. I hope that happens, but for now, I’m still losing sleep.
For the time being, I have a St. Patricks Day recipe for you. I posted my veggie lovers St Patricks Day offering last week, but this one is about that corned beef we all associate with that Irish Holiday.
So if you will, drink a pint and say an Irish prayer for me and my forthcoming book.
Beer Brined Corned Beef Sliders with Pickled Cabbage Slaw
3tablespoonscuring saltthis will make the meat pink
3tbswhole allspice berries
312 ounces bottles of stout
½red onionthinly sliced
2cupsapple cider vinegar
2tbswhole dried allspice berries
12soft potato dinner rollssplit to resemble hamburger buns
In a large pot or Dutch oven, add brown sugar, 3 tbs curing salt, 1 cup kosher salt, 3 tbs allspice berries, 1 tbs cloves, ginger, mustard seeds, 2 tbs peppercorns, along with 2 cups of water.
Cook on high just until the salt and sugar dissolve, remove from heat. Add 2 bottles of stout (reserve the last bottle for cooking) and 8 cups of ice, stir until ice has melted and brine is cool.
Add the brisket, cover with lid and refrigerate for 3 days and up to 10.
Remove from brine and rinse well. Discard the brine and clean the Dutch oven well.
Place the brisket back in the cleaned pot, along with the onion, pour the remaining bottle of stout and then cover with cold water until the brisket is fully cover with one to two inches of water above the beef.
Bring to a low boil, cover and reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Simmer for 3 hours or until the meat if fork tender. Move to a carving board, thinly slice against the grain.
While the brisket cooks, make the pickled slaw. In a sauce pan over medium heat, add the lemon juice, vinegar, salt, sugar, ginger, allspice, cloves and peppercorns in a pot. Bring to simmer just until the salt and sugar dissolve, remove from heat. Allow to cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, add the cabbage and onion. Pour the cooled pickling liquid over the cabbage and onion, refrigerate for one hour.
Slightly warm the buns, fill with corned beef and slaw before serving.
I’m so glad I can share this recipe with you. I’ve been working like a crazy person to develop and test recipes that I fall in love with but I can’t share them with you because I need to save them for the cookbook.
And, of course, I’m putting a tremendous amount of pressure on myself to make each recipe a home run.
Because once you buy the book, and actually pay for the recipes, I want them all to be amazing. This, my friend, is a huge amount of pressure on me and the limits of my culinary creativity.
But then I get these crazy ideas, like putting crushed Chicharrones on top of chili and I can’t even wait to share it. I have to post it as soon as possible, even pushing back a more "seasonally appropriate" post because I want to show you this.
And Chorizo, with its spice and fatty goodness, is perfect in chili. In fact, I pretty much raided the "C" section of my local Mexican food market (there isn’t a "C" section, by the way, but there should be) to bring you a dish with chipotle, chorizo, chicharrones, cilantro, cheddar and cumin.
And then I ate three bowls before I could even share it with anyone.
If I was planning on tailgating anytime soon, I would make this in huge vats.
And if you are a "beans in your chili" kind of guy, go ahead and throw some in, I won’t mind.
Or add some sour cream, if that’s your thing.
Chipotle Stout and Chorizo Chili Topped with Pork Rinds
1chipotle pepper in adobofrom can, minced plus more if desired
2cupsChicharronespork rinds, lightly crushed
Makes 4-6 servings
In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook until onion softens but isn’t browned, about 5 minutes.
Add the chorizo and beef, cook until meat starts to brown. Add the garlic and stir.
Add the beer, diced tomatoes, one chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, smoked paprika, pepper, cumin and Worcestershire sauce. Allow to simmer for about 30 minutes, until thickened. Add additional chipotle peppers as desired to raise heat level.
Pour into bowls, top with cilantro, cheddar and Chicharrones.
I hate to break it to you but you have probably never barbecued in your life. How dare I say such blasphemous things, you toss burgers and steaks on the grill every weekend?!
That’s not Barbecue, it’s grill. And I would never take away from the fantastic results we can get with a backyard grill, and the amazing flavors that can work their way into your food, but it’s not barbecue.
Barbecue is long, slow and low and the temperature is usually between 240 and 270 degrees. Grill is short, fast and hot, a nice char with a juicy middle.
I wanted to see if I could use my oven to get close the flavors of true barbecue, and while I was missing the smokey flavor, these were some of the best homemade ribs I have ever had. The trick is long, slow and low.
Meat choice is important as well, I used Choice ribs. You know that cute little sticker that sits beside the label on your steak packages, baffling you to some degree with the designation of Prime, Choice or Select, as to why they can’t just be honest and say, "Great," or "Pretty Good," and, "Not that great, but it’s cheap!"
Here are the Cliffs Notes:
Prime: The best and most expensive
Choice: Still great, not as good or as expensive as Prime
Select: Not good, don’t bother
Unlabeled: Bad, didn’t even earn the lowly title of Select.
Inspected By The USDA: Don’t be fooled, all meat is inspected by the USDA. Some stores use this to distract you from the fact that it is an ungraded piece of meat, and therefore not any good. Prime is obviously the best, but also the most expensive. When I experiment with a recipe, I usually go with Choice because it is a good cut of meat, but if the recipe doesn’t turn out well I didn’t waste $50 on the venture.
Oven Roasted BBQ Ribs With Stout Beer Barbecue Sauce
4 lbs Bone In Baby Back Beef Ribs (Choice or Prime)
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, place ribs on top. Sprinkle ribs with salt on all sides. Brush with BBQ sauce and roast in the oven at 250, turning ribs and brushing with BBQ sauce every 30-45 minutes until fork tender, about 4 hours.