Sunday, March 18, 2018

I Want That, and That, and That! HPBA Expo 2018

 I recently attended my first Expo put on by the Hearth, Patio and BBQ Association (HPBA). The Expo is a trade show primarily geared towards retailers in the hearth, patio and bbq industries..... hence the name.... duh!   The Expo is billed as the largest indoor/outdoor trade show where exhibitors and vendors, large and small, converge in one place to educate, network and showcase the latest innovations in Hearth, Patio and BBQ products to HPBA members and retailers.  I must say it was GLORIOUS, and that the HPBA, as well as, the City of Nashville know how to put on a show. 
Big banner at the entrance
Although I am not a vendor, retailer or member of the HPBA I was able to attend the Expo as a member of the press due to this blog and my social media presence, and I was so excited.  You know how sometimes in sports you hear coaches tell players to not act a certain way, but rather "act like you have been here before"? Yeah..... that was NOT me!! I could hardly sleep the night before attending and I noticed I became more and more anxious and giddy with each passing stop light as I edged closer and closer to downtown Nashville.  Anxious because I was not 100% sure they would actually let me in the door.  I was convinced, that although I was approved for press credentials, someone, at the last minute, that had read my blog, would see me and laugh at the thought of me be considered "press" and denying my entry.  I had a plan and a disguise though.  I wore two shirts, and a fake goatee, and if I was stopped at the door I was going to exclaim "Look! Oh my God is that Alan Jackson?" and dart through the door as the guard looked for the famous country singer.  I would stay low and blend in with the crowd until I could get to the bathroom and remove my outer shirt, and take off the fake goatee.  Making me unrecognizable to the posse that was sure to be searching for me.  I know to some of y'all this may seem a bit extreme, but I had traveled too far and would not be denied!  Alas, it did not come to this as I was scanned in without incident, although I imagine a trained TSA agent would have spotted my darting eyes, excessive nervousness and those two shirts and that fake goatee were hot! 
Just prior to going in!
As I walked into the exhibition hall I was immediately in awe, this room had to be bigger than a football field, and it was packed to the gills with exhibitor booths containing shiny displays, flashing lights, playing music and staffed with folks ready to chat with you about their products.  
I had to take a moment to catch my breath and collect my thoughts as my head was swimming trying to process all I saw.  I had a plan, I was going to go to one corner and calmly and methodically go up and down each aisle until I got to the other side of the building.  I started out this way but quickly found myself looking ahead, and zig zagging, and booth hopping like I was General MacArthur island hoping my way across the pacific.  Thinking to myself I want that, and that, and that! Again I had to collect myself, I had to remind myself, that I was not there only for me, but to cover the Expo for y'all, so I started over and worked very hard at maintaining good aisle discipline, and spent the day looking and products and talking to exhibitors.  
It would be impossible to report everything that I saw,  so rather than even trying that I will instead give you the highlights, as I saw them, in a category format, much like yearbook superlatives.  Note, I did not take as many pictures as I should have, rookie mistake, and I will supplement with manufacturer pictures as needed, to tell the whole story.  So if it doesn't look like a photo I took then, it is from the company website. 

MUST HAVE PRODUCT:  Kick Ash Basket If you own a kamado grill, this is a "must have" product.  I bought one of these years ago, for my Big Green Egg, and and it makes charcoal management a breeze, while at the same time improving air flow and making clean up easier.  The makers of this product, have recently switch the production of theses baskets over to stainless steel likely making the next one you buy, the last one you buy, unless of course you buy a different size grill or brand of kamado.  This company has several other items that may interest you, as they did me, but the basket is a MUST HAVE! They also win BEST SLOGAN, although it was not a formal category, "Shake That Ash, Light That Fire"


 BEST NEW CHARCOAL LIGHTER: Grill Torch by JJ George There are more ways way to start a fire than you can shake a stick at, but how many of them can you also use to kill weeds and seal cracks in your driveway?  This lighter is new to the market and my favorite things about it are it's portability, self ignition system, and that is temperature adjustable up to 1300 degrees.  This lighter also allows you to light your coals from 20 inches away which enables you to keep your propane canister safely upright, and has the added advantage of not requiring you to blow air on your coals which reduces sparking potential.

BEST GRILL TECHNOLOGY: TEC INFARED GRILLS Located in Columbia, South Carolina Thermal Engineering Corporation (TEC) has taken gas grills/infrared grills to a new level.  Through patented technology the inventor,  Bill Best, found a way to transform the heat and energy from a traditional gas flame into infrared energy.  As a former Chemistry teacher I could talk for hours about this conversion and how infrared energy is different but don't worry I won't do that here!  However, to make a make a long story short,  cooking via infrared allows the food to remain juicer as the food is not being cooked with hot air, like on a traditional gas grill, which tends to dry the food out.  TEC technology also inhibits flare ups and charring, and can cook anywhere between 250 and 850 degrees.  All of this using 50% less fuel.  TEC grills have been around since the last 70's and the current versions have evolved since the early days.  Interestingly enough many of the current infrared grills in the marketplace license Mr. Best's early generation technology, but he still holds on to the current technology for the sole use in TEC grills. Needless to say a TEC grill is not your normal gas or infrared grill, in fact there is nothing else quite like it!
 MOST NEW PRODUCTS: Big Green Egg Y'all the folks at BGE have been busy.  So busy in fact that I may forget something.  Lets start with the easy stuff, BGE has at least one new table design that uses a new wood, acacia I believe.  This new wood is also used as a new wood for the nests mates and lid handle.  Speaking of the lid, BGE also introduced a new vent cover to replace the familiar daisy wheel design. This new design can open up bigger than before, as well as, serves as a rain cover.  The lid also got a newer, "easy open" spring design which greatly reduces the force needed to open the lid.  BGE also redesigned the nest itself which makes it easier and safer to move/roll the egg and nest from place to place.  Wait I'm not done!  As if all of the changes so far were not enough, maybe the biggest change as more of an addition rather than a change.  BGE will soon make available to the public their version of of a multilevel-multi-purpose grid/cooking system.  Rather than try and describe it, I can tell you it is like a mix between the Kamado Joe "Divide and Conquer" system and the "Adjustable Rig" system from the Ceramic Grill store.  

MOST LIKELY TO BE SOCIAL: OFYR I'm not sure how long this idea has been around, but I first discovered this way of cooking a few years ago when looking for a fire-pit.  Since then a handful of companies have started making these types of grill, heck I'm not even sure what to call them collectively (like ceramic grills are generally classified as kamados), but I do know that I really like them.  Basically it is a large wood burning griddle or plancha.   You put wood in the middle and as it burns it heats the thick steel cooking surface.  What I love about them is that the the cooking surfaces are large enough, and at a height that several folks can stand around and cook at the same time.  This is a very social way to cook and I imagine that if you entertain very often that your guest will want to use this grill more than any other.  Obviously this grill cannot do everything that say a kamado or a gas grill can do but it is not trying to, I don't believe.  This grill's purpose is to bring folks together, around a fire.  It is extremely low maintenance and looks like a piece of art sitting in your yard.  

Well that about does it for now, I could go on and on with this, and maybe I will do another post on some of the other products that I found interesting.   The products here were only five of literally dozens that I could have written about.  Now if you will excuse me I have to go work on my disguise for the 2019 Expo in Dallas, maybe I will go as J.R. Ewing or MacArthur! I am open for suggestions!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Traditional vs Newfangaledness: Sous Vide Pork Butt

Have I ever mentioned I'm from rural South Carolina, and that my family has been in the Palmetto state for quite a while? I am proud of this and if you know me, or are around me for very long, you know I am quick to point this out, and can work it into almost any conversation whether it actually fits there or not.  "Oh so you like the color red?" Then I might add "you know in South Carolina there is a red dot on every liquor store, goes back to the repeal of Prohibition, and the stores were open until sunset, they are often called 'red dot stores' rather than liquor stores." It's a little Cliff Clavin from Cheers, but with a Palmetto State flavor, and I realize this! Anyway I'm getting older now and my palmetto pride is not likely to change even though I now live in Tennessee.  One of the burdens of having an old family from an old state are the many, long-held ideas, that often come with it.  In many things you do, you are reminded of the way daddy (pronounced deddy) did them.  In fact, the way deddy's deddy, and deddy's deddy's deddy did things are often how things are still done today.  So for better or for worse I would say that I am a very much a traditionalist. I still call ALL carbonated beverages "Coke", say "it's coming up a cloud" when I hear thunder off in the distance, and use "dadgum" for all sorts of things.  I still drink sweet tea like my grandma made, make syllabub at Christmas and cook steaks like my Granddiddy Greene taught me.......WAIT no I don't, not since Meathead Goldwyn (@meathead) introduced me to reserve sear, and it has changed my life!
Red Dot Store! Photo from

Speaking of changing my life, I remember this like it was yesterday.  I was riding bikes with Toby, a buddy of mine, we were in the second grade.  Out of the blue Toby says "hey you wanna go watch the Dukes of Hazzard?" I instantly stopped in my tracks, my 7 year old mind racing! How could this be? It was Sunday afternoon, and everyone knows The Dukes air on Friday nights, just before Dallas, which I wasn't allowed to watch but, I always loved to get a peek of Pam Ewing, in that Mercedes convertible during the opening credits of the Dallas intro,  before hearing "Jeff go to bed!" from my Mamie (great grandma)! Dadgum, at least I got to see Daisy, even though honestly, I was not yet aware of why I was so curious about Pam and Daisy...... but I figured it out in a few years, but enough about that!  Okay so back to the story,  my brain was racing, how could this be? So I said "Dukes aren't on right now", in somewhat of a bless his heart tone,  and Toby's reply was "I have it on beta."  Again my world was churning and swirling trying to process all of this new data..... and the best I could muster was "what the heck is a beta?" After his explanation of the newfangled early generation VCR, I'm sure my eyes were huge in disbelieve,  I had to see it! I have not looked back since.  I have gone on to embrace each and every iteration of recorded video devices, albeit always a few years behind everyone else as I could never afford the latest tech when first introduced! So I guess I am not a traditionalist at everything, and I really do embrace more newfangledness in my everyday life than I thought I did.

For Christmas I got an Anova sous vide machine and a Food Saver vacuum sealer from my family!  Yes yes they love me and I love them for it!! I was anxious to use both and I was cooking a butt for a Superbowl party and I had heard of folks cooking a butt sous vide style with positive results.  As you may know cooking a butt this way is barbecue blasphemy in some circles.  So much so that I was afraid to mention it to my super hard-core, smoking traditionalists "low and slow for life" friends.  So under much secrecy and heavy security, I set about making this happen.  Newfangled here I come!! 

I basically followed J. Kenji Lopez-Alt's recipe, of The Food Lab fame,  for cooking the butt, with a few exceptions:
  1.  I injected with Chris Lilly's Championship Butt Injection recipe prior to vacuum sealing
  2. Did not use Liquid Smoke (for added smoke flavor) or the Prague Powder that was suggested as an optional addition to aid in developing a red ring under the bark to simulate a smoke ring. 
  3. I rubbed first with Meat Church's Honey Hog hot, then with my own personal rub I have been working on.  Obviously I rubbed, after injection and before vacuum sealing.  
  4. After 20 hours in the sous vide bath, then cooling, I put on the green egg for 3 hours at 250.  I played this by ear and took it off when the bark was where I wanted it.  I sprayed with apple juice occasionally trying to maximize the uptake of the smoke.  

Conclusions: As I mentioned I cooked this butt for a Super Bowl party and everyone loved it.  Of course I did not tell them how I cooked it until afterwards, as to not let any anti-newfangledness bias, which is a real thing, effect the results.  The butt had a decent amount of smoke, was tender, easy to pull, and one of the moistest butts I have ever served.  So it was a success without a doubt.  I personally could have used a bit more smoke flavor, and there was not as much smoke ring as I like to have.  In fact, I almost had my cover blown as one of my buddies said "not much smoke ring on that butt, you sure you smoked it?" I tensed up for just a moment, then he chuckled and said "I know you would never cook that in the oven." I just smiled and said "you got that right," and my insides relaxed enough to walk away!

Moving forward:  Next time I am going to try Meat Church's recipe for cooking a sous vide butt, which rubs and smokes the butt first, in the traditional way, until the internal temp is 150 degrees, then sealing it up to finish in the hot water bath.  I probably should have tried this method first if the truth be known, but I was concerned with losing the bark while cooking in it's own juices for 18+ hours.  I am not as worried about this as I once was, as I have talked to other sous vide disciples and it seems that is not something to worry about, and once pulled no one will ever notice. Don't get me wrong it may be a while before I try it this way again.  I still like to smoke on my egg as often as life allows, but I could not get the sous vide method out of my mind until I tried it! I don't expect the true BBQ purest to ever try this method, as cooking meat via sous vide is on the front lines of the traditional verses newfangled war,  and it will take a complete paradigm shift to make sous vide the norm.  

So in my younger days I fancied myself as a Renaissance man! When I went to college, after serving on submarines in the Navy, I majored in Biochemistry and minored in Theater.......I know it's odd..... long story (maybe I'll bore you with it in an upcoming blog).  So some of my useless talents are that I can draw you a diagram and explain Glycolysis, which is the mechanism our cells use to make energy from the breakdown of sugars, then turn right around and quote you some Shakespeare or recite Robert Frost's The Road less Traveled.  I guess that means that I have always been a mix of traditional and newfangled, and I bet many of you are the same.  You are? Well you know that in South Carolina......

Friday, August 4, 2017

Book Review Assist: Pitmaster Recipes Techniques & BBQ Wisdom

Liz, my wife, is a cookbook collector.  She loves them! Small ones, large ones, old ones, new ones it does not matter to her.  Church cookbooks written by God fearing  Southern Baptist ladies, a small book of Halloween treats for busy moms, and a bit of everything in between.  As I write this I am looking at our "cookbook" cabinet in our kitchen, with multiple shelves and a couple of things occur to me.  First is the sheer number of her books that fall into two main categories.  Southern or "country" cooking themed books, and Coastal cooking themed books, both of which make sense as I was born and raised in South Carolina, and Liz, originally from Tennessee, considers herself South Carolinian by marriage.  Wait a minute.....this totally explains my expanding waistline and my foray into the XL size shirts of late.  This realization is actually quite thrilling for me because for a while now I have been told, by Liz, that this expansion was due to a lack of any real exercise beyond walking out to the beer fridge, and the bicep curls I do when I lift the lid on my Big Green Egg.  Boy I cannot wait to tell her it's not actually my fault, but rather her fault, and she should take responsibility for her actions.  I will let you know how that is received in a later post.

Another thing I noticed is that my grilling & BBQ cookbook section is trivial in comparison to Liz's allotted space.  I have like part of one shelf, way up high in the cabinet, almost like Liz is trying to marginalize my cookbooks.  I have more books than the ones on the half shelf, where are they? I want to know! I know she loves my cooking, so I'm sure it's not about her being some sort of "grill-ist", and discriminating against my collection..... Right? Oh my gosh! Oh the HUMANITY! Could this be true, in my own house?  No, no it can't be, I don't think so.  Although I can't be 100% certain, or one hundy, as the kids say these days, but I feel good about it, about her not being a "grill-ist" because a few months ago I was asked by my friend and mentor,  Chris Grove (@nibblemethis) to help him review a new cookbook, and she did not recoil at the thought of another grilling/ BBQ cookbook in the house.  In fact, she acted as if she was excited for me, although she mumbled some things about being somewhat perplexed as to why Chris would ask me for an assist....... I ignored those comments.  Even though I knew where she was coming from, as Chris gets asked to review things all of the time.  However, this was a first for me, and I walked around with my chest out farther than my belly, which is tough nowadays as I mentioned earlier, like I was Foghorn Leghorn strutting around the barnyard.  Although I had a small role, I was proud, and guy has to start somewhere right?

I cannot thank Chris enough for the opportunity to help him.  He asked me to cook a few things and write about it, as well as, to write about the overall feel of the book and any thing else that so moved me about the book.  The book is Pitmaster - Recipes, Techniques, & BBQ Wisdom by Chris Hart (@WickedGoodBBQ) and Andy Husbands (TheSmokeShopBBQ), and it is a great read and wonderfully well thought out and put together.  Although these guys hail from a different part of the country than I do, I don't hold that against them, they know BBQ, and that is a language we all can speak without an accent getting between us.  I will refrain from reviewing the review here, but please go to for the full review.  Chris did most of the heavy lifting while I played a minor role chirping in here and there, which as I said, I was more than happy to do.  So go check it out!

While you're checking things out on the interwebs,  follow me on twitter @Grill_Porn and on Facebook at Grill_Porn (JeffGreeneBBQ)


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Let's Roll One Up!

If the title just piqued your interest, you may have been, or possibly still are, a Cheech and Chong fan.  Sorry but it's not directly that kind of post, although from what I have heard you might enjoy having the food a bit later, as this recipe is way better than potato chips or pizza.  This post is more about my recent obsession with rolling things up in various kinds of meat, and smoking it........ yep, that just happened!  Now for the purist we are actually rolling meat up and grilling it, not smoking it, but that isn't as fun to say, and sometimes one has to take a bit of artistic license to keep the flow of ideas going.

A while back a mentor and friend of mine, Chris Grove (@nibblemethis), turned me on to roulade making.  A roulade is the french word for roll, and can be savory or sweet.  Savory versions generally include meat, stuffed with various things then rolled up and cooked.  Sweet versions often involve sponge cake, stuffed with cream and fruit filling and rolled up, and we called them jellyrolls when I was a kid, they probably still do today.  I bet those still reading thinking it was an "Up in Smoke" type of post could answer that question for us.  Anyone?  Anyway, the savory versions that I have cooked over the last year or so have become my "go -to' dishes for when friends and family come over, and the main two cuts of meat I have been using are beef flank steak and pork loin.  You could do this with a beef tenderloin, but why would you do that to such a special cut of meat? For this post I want to focus on the flank steak roulade, everyone seems to love them and I have probably cooked more of these in the last year than just about anything else.

First is buying the flank steak, I usually get the biggest one I can find, the closer to 2lbs you can get the better.  I have had to ask the butcher to go in the cooler and see if he/she has any that are bigger than the ones that were in the display cooler.  Now the next step or two can vary depending on your knife skills, and the level of tenderization you are seeking.  However you decide to accomplish this you ultimately need the flank steak butterflied or completely sliced in half, and tenderized.  My knife skills are awful, in fact I chop things only slightly better than the comedian Gallagher does with his Veg O Matic.  I typically ask the butcher to do this, and every now and then I will get one that happily takes it and grabs a knife and slices right through the middle without hesitation.  I am always impressed by this as flank steak is a thin cut of meat to begin with, and some of the "chain store" butchers balk at this practice.  In fact, I often send my wife, Liz, to get the flank steak sliced, typically because most "chain store" butchers always look at me like I have just slapped their momma when I ask them to do it, and often act like they can't.  This refusal rarely happens to Liz, I get it, she is much prettier than I am.  She has learned that if they even look like they are thinking about balking at the request she is quick to smile and suggest they put it on the slicer, you know the one that looks like its used for slicing deli meats.  Then after the slicing, she will get them to run each slice through the tenderizer.  The tenderizer runs along the direction of the grain of the meat.  This works out perfeclty because when you roll it up, and cut it after cooking, you are slicing against the grain, which also helps with making it more tender.  After slicing and tenderizing, don't worry if it's quite thin in places, as long it's more or less intact.  From this point on be careful handling each slice because if you pick up these slices like you would a normal flank steak, some of the meat fibers could pull apart causing a hole, it is that thin sometimes.  Now for the marinade.
Here is a flank steak that has been sliced in half, and tenderized.  The two halves are stacked in top of each other and that's why you can only see the top slice here.
2lb beef flank steak (butterflied, or cut in half, and tenderized)
1/4 cup soy sauce (consider low sodium soy if using a rub with salt)
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tps of favorite beef rub (we like to make our own rubs that are salt free to use with soy sauce)
8 oz thinly sliced provolone cheese
4 slices thick cut bacon
1 6-8 oz bag of fresh spinach leaves (we love the baby spinach)
8 oz box of fresh sliced mushrooms (we have used all types of mushrooms)
1 red bell pepper seeded and cut into pieces (we often roast it on grill before seeding and slicing)

In a ziplock bag combine the soy sauce, olive oil, and the half the rub.  Mix well, then add the flank steak one slice at a time ensuring each slice is covered (remember to be careful handling the meat).  You may be tempted to add more soy here, as it may not seem like enough......don't, trust me, it will be too salty.  The slicing and tenderization really increases the surface area of the beef and it really absorbs the soy.  Now remove as much air as possible, put in fridge for as long as possible, shoot for at least 4 hours.  Squeeze, squish and turn bag occasionally while marinading. 
About an hour before you want to put on the grill, slice your bacon into small pieces and cook the bacon.  When the bacon is almost done add the mushrooms.  When the mushrooms have cooked down, add the bag of spinach and stir it all around in the bacon and mushrooms while wilting the spinach.  After all has cooked down remove from heat.  Time to light the grill!
For a traditional grill light a full chimney starter, and prep grill for 2 zone cooking.  I typically cook this on my big green egg, and I usually use any leftover lump in the grill assuming it is at least half full.
While the coals are getting ready, remove the flank steak from the marinade and lay out the two slices, aligning and overlapping the sides.  Sprinkle the rest of the rub over the slices.  Place the provolone slices over the beef slices leaving an uncovered edge all of the way around.  Now cover the cheese with the bacon, mushrooms, spinach and red pepper slices.
Lay the two slices side by side slightly overlapping so things stay together when rolling.  Spread out all of the ingredients as evenly as possible.  You can see in this picture we typically lay out the strings underneath the slices, the strings help keep everything rolled up.
Now start at the end closest to you and begin rolling away from you (think rolling up a sleeping bag), taking a large bread or brisket knife keeping it in front of where you are rolling to try and keep everything in.  This may take two people, I have tried it by myself and I needed one more hand to get it all done, so I used my foot! Just kidding just wanted to see if you were still paying attention, I actually ended up waiting until someone else got home to help.  Try and keep as much of the stuffing in while rolling, but if some stuffing falls out its no big deal just stuff it into the ends after you get it rolled.  Use the stings to tie it shut, so to speak. 
Get it rolled up and start tying tight knots with middle string being first, then the two end ones (tie one end then stuff anything that fell out into the other end before tying it), then one or two more strings between the middle and the end, should hold it all together.
It's finally time to cook, and I promise that all of this work will be worth it.  I sear it all over on the hot side first, then move it over to the indirect side.  When using my egg, I get the grill up to 450 degrees or so, and sear it all over then I take it off the grill and put in the plate setter and finish the cook, indirect at about 300 degrees, turning occasionally.  This usually takes around 45 minutes or until my Thermapen (not a sponsor, but they could be, they do make first class thermometers) reads at least 135 degrees all the way through the thickest part. Note: my experience is that the roulades have very little, if any, carryover cooking.  Meaning that they will not continue to cook after taking them off of the grill, so in this case 135 degrees means 135, and not 130 coasting up to 135.  Let rest just a few minutes and it's time to eat. Slice it so that the width of each piece is just under an inch or so, like the "pinwheels" you sometimes see in the butcher's display case.

Sometimes I put a chunk or two of hickory in with the lump and get just a touch of a smoke ring.
 Making this roulade is simpler in practice than my description makes it out to be, so do not be intimidated, you can do it.  It is worth all of the steps I assure you.  Your family and friends will be impressed not only with the taste, which is awesome, but with the presentation.  The look of "pinwheel" slices when plated will make even a novice griller look like pro!  I hope you will consider adding "let's roll one up" to your vernacular, and I don't mean Willy Nelson style!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Bulgogi: Korean BBQ

A couple of years ago my wife, Liz, mentioned to me that we should find a bulgogi (pronounced bull go gee, with hard g's) recipe, and I was like Bull-whatty?  She rolled her eyes, and said "bulgogi, it's Korean".  My stomach instantly dropped as my only real previous experience with Korean food ( I was a picky eater growing up, but that is a story for another day)  involved kimchi, and I was not a fan.  Look my intention here is not to infuriate all of my Korean readers, but rather to relate my opinions and experiences.  When Liz was in grad school she had a Korean friend named Yeoung,  and her dad was a minister and the family was a very traditional Korean family that often got together, at the church or the Korean market,  and made traditional Korean dishes.  Once Liz tagged along on one of the gimbap making party's, and along with the gimbap she brought home kimchee, and a lot of it.  For those that don't know, kimchi is a very traditional Korean dish with many variations, but basically it is fermented cabbage, that smells and taste about like you think it would.  Many westerners propagate stories of Koreans putting cabbage in jars and burying them in the ground in the fall and leaving it there until the spring.  Now I do not believe this is actually how it is made but after smelling and tasting it, initially, you would have had a tough time convincing me otherwise.  She loved it, but me....not so much, in fact I was glad when it finally made an exit from the fridge.  Not sure if it actually went bad, if that is possible, or if she ate it all.   Liz still remembered this "kimchee incident" when she suggested we find a bulgogi recipe, and then very nonchalantly added "it's Korean".   She also knows me well enough to know what I was thinking when I replied, "nah I'm good" and walked out of the kitchen.  "It's Korean barbecue you goofball", and she knows I love it when she calls me a goofball! Wait.... what?  I mean she knows I love it when she utters those three magic words.... Bar-B-Cue! I stopped in my tracks! It all was slowly coming into focus, as my BBQ brain was racing trying to process all that I had just heard.  Could it be? I began to realized this whole interaction was a set up, she knew how I would react, she knew just what to say to get the responses she wanted.  She was toying with me, like a cat will do to a lizard sometimes, rather than going straight in for the kill,  and I loved her for it.

A quick google search told me all I need to know.  It is beef, spices, marinade and involves a grill.  That was all I needed to know, I just had to try it, so I started searching for recipes.  I found a recipe that I could start with which began my bulgogi evolution.   I have tried many different recipes and various cooking techniques, and the recipe I share here with you is the culmination of several years of trail and error, well mostly trail as I never really had a version that was unfit to eat, just some versions that were better than others.

I always start with a decent cut of meat, as using good meat is good foundation to any recipe.  On this particular day I chose a couple of good looking sirloin steaks which I know isn't always the most tender of cuts, but for this recipe it's fine, tenderization, is a major part of the recipe.  First I covered the steaks with some plastic wrap and pounded them into submission with my meat mallet.  After being taught a lesson the steaks were immediately sent to the freezer for 30 min!  Why? You may ask, especially since the steaks had already been punished, with a mallet, for some unknown transgression.  The steaks need to be cleanly sliced, against the grain, into thin strips.  This is hard to do with room temperature meat, so I like to put the steak into the freezer for about 30 min, which allows it to firm up just enough to slice with ease.  Now the meat is ready for the marinade.  Now here is your chance to "Dean it up", that is a reference to my last blog post, which only my family read apparently, but it basically means that you should feel free to take what I give you, and do your own thing with it.  My recipe is a combination of several different ones that I have found over the years. 
Tip: Put the steaks in the freezer for about 30 minutes to firm them up.  This should make it much easier to cleanly slice into thin strips, which is a must for this recipe.  Always slice against the grain for tenderness.

RECIPE: (serves 4)
1-1.5 lb ribeye or sirloin steak
1/3 cup soy sauce (use less if worried it will be too salty)
1/2 cup of crushed Korean or Asian pear (a Bosc pear will do.  Don't skip this ingredient, as pear is a natural meat tenderizer.
1/4 of a medium yellow onion, halved and sliced into medium moon shaped silvers.
2 tbl of toasted sesame oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tbl white sugar
1 tsp ginger, minced
3 chopped green onions (use all of one except the roots, including the white, for the marinade.  Use the green parts of the others for a garnish before serving)
1 pinch of black pepper
2 tsp roasted sesame seeds

Combine all of the ingredients, except the steak, into a med sized mixing bowl.  After that mix it all up and add the meat, making sure all of the strips are covered.  Now I typically pour all of this mixture into a gallon size zip lock bag and remove as much air as possible.  Squish it around  or give it a squeeze and refrigerate for at least 30 min but the longer the better, I typically shoot for at least 4 hours.

I have cooked bulgolgi several different ways.  The first was right on the grill grate over med-high heat coals with the juices dripping down on to the coals getting vaporized adding flavor to the meat as it cooks.  The down side to this is you loose all of the tasty juices that my family likes to add back to the meat and over the rice when it's time to eat.  I know many folks frown on cooking with the marinade that was used to flavor the meat.  I get it, it is likely contaminated.  However, I did this time, but I made sure that the marinade more than boiled the appropriate amount of time while cooking to be safe to eat.  However, if this practice concerns you please please please do not try it at home.  I would suggest making double the marinade and holding half of it in reserve to cook with, or cook the strips using a totally different method than I describe.  

Once you have decided on your cooking method, it is time for the FIRE! I usually fill a chimney starter full Kingsford Charcoal (not a sponsor but, I am open to negotiation for the right price, just have your people call my people to set up a meeting of all of the people), and light it.  When the coals are ready I dump them out on one side of the grill, like any other 2 zone cooking set up, that I'm sure you have done before.  Then I dumped the ziplock bag of bulgogi strips and marinade into a sheet/baking pan as I was ready to cook.  Once the coals are ready and the grill is good and hot, place the pan full of meat slices and marinade on the indirect side to the grill and shut the lid.  I left things alone, except for the occasional "stirring", for about 15 minutes and came back to the grill.  The marinade was boiling like crazy.  I stirred the meat around and then spun the pan around 180 degrees, and let it cook for another 10 min with the lid shut, all the while the liquid is boiling vigorously. 
Place the beef strips and marinade on the "cool" or indirect side of the grill and close the lid

Now the real fun begins!  I used tongs and pulled out the meat and spread it all out on the grate, right over the coals on the hot side of the grill, and it immediately starts to steam, sear and sizzle, and I truly love all of the sights and sounds this generates, I bet you do too! After the initial fun the work begins, start moving the strips around trying to get as much of each strip seared as possible.  You have to keep moving, it is a fine balance between searing for the taste (think maillard reaction and grill marks), and getting the meat over done.  The meat is plenty cooked before you even put it on the hot side of the grill, and this quick searing is for flavor only, rapid moving and flipping of the strips allows for the meat to not get well done.  When you are satisfied with the doneness/browness of the bulgogi, remove from the hot side and place back into the pan.  This helps with moisture as the bulgogi strips have likely dried out some from the high heat.  If you did not use the original marinade in the pan, you probably now want to use your reserve marinade in the pan (new/clean pan), and place the bulgolgi into the liquid of the pan, still on the indirect side, and let simmer just another minute or two.  Remove pan from grill.  It is easy to see why this method works so well, it is the best of both worlds really.  The meat basically "braises" in the pan which makes it tender and moist.  Then with the searing you get the vaporization of the juices, and the browning of the maillard reaction, combining to producing oh so tasty goodness.  
The real fun is all of the sights, sounds and smells of the beef when placing on the "hot" or direct side of the grill, right over the hot coals. I love all of the steaming, searing and sizzling that goes on.
Now it's time to eat.  We like to eat ours over rice, using the cooked juices poured over the bulgogi and rice, then garnished with the reserve green onion.  Although this is all I need, my wife insists on vegetables to accompany the bulgogi and rice.  We typically use some form of steamed or sauteed vegetable or vegetable medley of whatever moves us on that particular day.  We have a nice balanced sweet and smokey Asian rub that we lightly sprinkle on the vegetables.  I will leave the sides and such up to you, I basically wanted to share with you my experiences cooking Korean BBQ, and let you decide your path for this wonderful dish.
Side Note:  In the years since I was first introduced to bulgogi, my palate and my belly have expanded, and have discovered that Korean food is generally wonderful, with many flavors that I love, and use often at home in the kitchen.  However, I still have not developed a taste for kimchee.  I'm still trying, I'm hoping it will grow on me, like the taste of beer did as a teenager, I mean in my early 20's! See y'all next time. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Recipe-Meisters Unite

Raise your hand if you are a recipe-meister.  Maybe you are a master blender of recipes.  I bet many of you are recipe synergizers!  It's okay! Own it! Stop cowering, rise up and step out of the cookbook shadows.  Quit minimizing your culinary accomplishments just because you didn't write the recipe from scratch.  I bet many of you have a knack for taking an ingredient here, and a technique there from multiple recipes to form delicious culinary delights.  My buddy Dean (@DeanGercharRLS) has his own term for it, he likes to take a recipe or multiple recipes and "Dean it up", and I am pretty sure Paula is not involved, but I imagine butter may often be in the mix..... umm so to speak.

Please make no mistake, I have much admiration for the cookbook authors of the world.  The cookbook originalist, so to speak, the chefs that have the knowledge, skill, and imagination to craft their own unique dishes out of thin air.  In fact, if it weren't for many of them I would still be fumbling around overcooking shrimp, drinking unpalatable cocktails and making shoe leather out of prime grade brisket.  Folks like the Lee Brothers (@LeeBros), Chris Lilly (@ChrisLillyBBQ),  Martha Hall Foose (@MarthaFoose),  Chris Grove (@nibblemethis), and Meathead Goldwyn (@meathead) just to name a bunch, but not nearly all.  Every one of them are geniuses in their on right, but when God was handing out their gifts I was in the wrong line.  Apparently I was in the line that received the gifts of hating both yard work and exercise, because I excel at hating both of those, and challenge anyone to a battle to prove my aversion.  I also have a few other talents mostly related to BBQ and cooking outside, as well as, the ability to weave together several recipes to make my own tasty dish, but at what point does it become my own creation?

Like any self respecting researcher I Googled this very topic, and was amazed that this is actually a topic of discussion for many.  Some say that if you change at least three ingredients or change a technique then it is yours.  While others have an even lighter standard and say it's yours when you cook it enough or someone asks you for it.  Then some go as far to say that  you can't copyright ingredients and it's all fair game to copy without credit.  Not sure I buy that but it's out there.  Maybe it is my scientific background but I was always taught to cite cite and cite them again if in doubt.  When I am using a recipe, and write about it,  I always try to give credit where credit is due, and if I do change the recipe, a little, I will use words like "inspired by so and so".  I do feel strongly that those with that gift, should get credit.  While doing my extensive Google research on page 3 of the results, I discovered the most disturbing information concerning this topic.  Information that could rock the foundations of cookbook publishing if unleashed and empowered.

It seems there is a whole culinary sub-counter-culture dedicated to crafting quality foods for their friends and families.  This group reportedly hides in plain site as your neighbors, friends and I don't want to alarm you, but they may be in your house as well.  Apparently it starts with a recipe idea that gets fed into Google, or maybe Bing for the hipsters.  These folks search through dozens of recipe results all while looking over their shoulders hoping no one will walk in on them.  It seems they are scared that they will be discovered combining multiple recipes or worse, I hear,  taking one recipe and adding many new ingredients.  Apparently this group fears that the cookbook originalist are looking down their noses at them, or that they will be considered less of a kitchen ninja. Oh the shame! Well I say this has to end! It is time for those of us that think less of our cooking because we blend recipes, or edit a recipe, to stand up and say enough is enough! Time to take to the streets proudly proclaiming we are good cooks while chanting "WE ARE RECIPE-MEISTERS!!!!"

Now get out there and DEAN IT UP!!!!

Shameless self promotion:
Follow me on twitter (@Grill_Porn) or on Facebook (Grill_Porn or @JeffGreeneBBQ)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The First One

Well I have done it, I have gone out and started a blog.  I have been threatening people with this for a while now and I have finally followed through.  Like many "firsts" I don't expect that it will be pleasant for all involved, nor do I initially expect to be all that good at it!  In fact, I do not fully know why I'm starting this, other than I do get a sense of catharsis when I express myself in written form and can release much of my pent up sarcasm.  I mean I write one hell of an email.  You know what I mean?!  When something or someone has gotten me all riled up and that first draft of an email is blistering, full of hyperbole and genuinely how I feel at that moment.  Then come the revisions, I realize I could have more clear here or there, and sadly I am not gifted at grammar, nor do I spell well.  Many drafts later, I feel better, and oftentimes much of the venom is gone.  Heck there have been times when the email is never even sent, but I feel better about it, I still have that feeling of "I told them".  I'm sure no one else does this, am I right?

So why blog about grills and BBQ?  Well for better or worse I think it's sexy.  Stop being weird! I mean it's like some guys have a thing for cars or sports, while some get into gambling or making their own beer.  It's just my thing, my vice, if you will, as it goes beyond just a hobby.  It's fascinating and timeless really.  Cooking on the grill with fire is primal, but yet some of the newest grills are state of the art.  I love the old ways of cooking meat, the way my deddy, and his deddy, did things.  While at the same time I try to be opened minded about new methods.  Ways that my granddeddy would have scoffed at; until he tasted it and then he would have been like "dang Jeff that sous vide thingamajig and that reverse sear deal makes for one heck of a steak".   Also I have a degree in Biochemistry, so naturally I enjoy science and appreciate data.  I realized years ago that cooking is nothing more than chemistry when you get it down to it, you know, down to the bare bones of it.... sorry I couldn't help myself.  When you think about it much of cosmetology is the same way, but you don't want me doing your hair, but I'll cook you a mean flank steak roulade!

I have a twitter dedicated to all things grilling, smoking and barbecuing (@grill_porn), but sometimes 140 characters is just not enough to express myself fully.  I don't have a plan that is set in stone for this blog experiment, so I'll likely be all over the place.  I do know that I want to write about my cooking adventures, share some tips, make observations and see where that leads me.  Although I'll never be half the cook these guys are, I try to model myself after the likes of Meathead Goldwyn (@meathead) and Chris Grove (@NibbleMeThis), my mentors in this BBQ journey!

Let's get started!!!