Smoked Pork Spareribs (with some sauce, too)

DSC_0009I never really had excellent barbecue until I moved out of the Pacific Northwest for a while.  While going to graduate school in Nevada, I was educated regarding my ignorance of this fine branch of Americana cooking by my colleagues.  The pulled pork and smoked ribs that we were able to get at the local Gate’s Barbecue was unlike anything I had really ever experienced growing up.  Sharp, sometimes sweet flavors from the rubs that they used combined with clean sharp flavor of smoke to make an unforgettable combination.  Sadly, I moved away a never really thought to try and emulate these flavors myself.  A couple of years ago that changed…… 

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Spiced Habanero Pepper Sauce

Habenero Pepper SauceI have an unbalanced relationship with habanero chilis.  I love the flavor, but they are simply way  too hot for me to deal with let alone subject anyone else too.  The problem is that they really are unique in their flavor and pretty hard to live without in the types of dishes that call for them, primarily dishes from the Caribbean and West Africa.  The solution that I have adopted in dealing with these orange bundles of flaming flavor is to build a sauce that gets the flavor I want, and then use that in my cooking.

This sauce is one such example, although it contains a lot more flavors than just habanero.  Here, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg provide a backdrop for the heat contributed by the crushed black pepper and the habanero.  A little bit of rum and the tartness of cider vinegar finish off the flavor profile.  In making this, I use pickled habaneros because, frankly, fresh ones frighten me.  I think next time I make it, I will give the fresh ones a shot.  When adding the chilies, simply adjust the number used to the upper limit of your heat tolerance.  You want the sauce to be pretty hot and the heat from the habanero will settle down a little with time, so be a little more adventurous than you feel is prudent.  Oh, make sure to be careful in handling the chilies.  In fact, don’t handle them at all.  They really are insanely hot and the juice, once it gets on your hands can play havoc with eyes and other sensitive areas.  Remember, safety first…. 

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Mint and Citrus Smoked Chicken

Mint and Citrus Smoked ChickenI love smoked chicken.  It isn’t the flavor that is added from the smoking process, it isn’t the succulent, moist flesh from slow cooking in the smoker.  It’s the quality of the fat and skin chunks.  I know that it is not popular to be a fan of succulent, tasty, greasy fat; but I really don’t care…it’s good!  As it turns out, the fat doesn’t cook away during the smoking process, but it fully cooks, and it sort of crisps up.  Gobbling it down is a sublime experience.  I don’t get much fat in my typical diet, so I love this stuff.  The only thing better than well-cooked fat is flavored fat, and that is exactly where this recipe fits in.

In order to build this beauty, the chicken is marinaded in a blend of cilantro, mint and garlic and then basted in a mop of orange juice, lime, garlic, chili, cumin, and oregano while it smokes.  After a couple hours in the smoker, your bird is both beautiful and tasty.  The mint comes through as a mild to moderate accent to the pronounced citrus and spiciness from the blend of cumin, chili, and garlic.  It’s pretty much wonderful and the best version of smoked chicken that I have cooked.  This recipe finds its roots in a similar dish presented in the very good book Smoke & Spice: Cooking With Smoke by Cheryl and Bill Jamison.  It is a great study of the techniques behind smoking and barbecue.  Highly recommended if you like this type of food.

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