The Hampton Smoker

What's up wtih what's going down? Does a tree falling on the ocean with no one around make a sound? Barbecue, BBQ, Bar-b-que. It's all in how you sell it.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Double Smoked Ham and the Night Sky

I decided to bring a Smithfield ham up to the in-laws for Thanksgiving. For the last 3 years or so, a ham has been a part of the holiday meal for my family, though last year was the first time that I smoked my own. It could become an addiction. I bought a nice sized Smithfield ham this year and while I used some Oak and Hickory for the fuel in my Char-Griller, I used mainly Pecan and Apple for flavoring. I smoked it about 10 hours, maybe a bit more, just to get a good smoke on it, and I started glazing towards the end when it had gotten dark out and the temperature had started dropping.

It was a clear night, fortunately, the weekend before Thanksgiving. It struck me that it always seems like thousands more stars are visible in the fall. I love making barbecue in the fall, feeling the warmth of the smoker and just letting everything else fade into the background. It's the best time for smoking, as far as I can tell. There was no one out and about in the neighborhood but for the Deer I could hear trotting down the street. There's an occasional railroad in the distance, a fire station alarm across the water, the breeze in the trees and the sounds from the smoker of the wood crackling and hissing in the firebox and sizzling drops in the barrel.

I like using pastry brushes for glazing but spray bottles for basting/mopping. The glaze was a jar of apricot preserves, a little ketchup, and some spices-- ancho, mainly, and a few other ingredients. Still haven't totally mastered keeping a good log of ingredients-- I lose focus in the moment. It finished with a lovely deep glossy red color and a slight kick. Very slight. The smoke penetration was alot better than expected and I tend to think it's because I took so much time scoring the outside that there were more spaces where it could get inside.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2004

A Chill Wind Cometh

Film Threat can be so damn funny. In a similar vein to that issue of Chunklet that came out a few years ago w/ the biggest A-holes in Indie Rock, here's the list of the coldest people in Hollywood. Spot on.

Kudos to Film Threat.

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The Backyard Chef

As a wedding present to myself, I ordered a custom smoker from BBQ Pits by Klose in Houston, TX. As I mentioned in a previous post, some people describe Klose pits as the Rolls Royce of the 'cue world. You may have seen David on the television program BIG on the Discovery Channel, in which he made the world's tallest BBQ grill. Pretty cool, though they depicted Dave as a bit of a talker and (ironic...?) tall tale teller extraordinaire.

Anywho, the Backyard Chef (BYC) is the cooker that I ordered. It is a 20" deep, 48" horizontal grill w/ one and a half shelves that has a built in 24" X 24" vertical slow smoker with three shelves for holding foods or, duh, slow smoking. It comes on 8" tires w/ the addition of a propane burner in the firebox that enables me to cook over gas and/or charcoal/wood. The pit is individually hand welded by one builder out of 1/4" steel (except for the firebox where the wood is burned, that's 1/2" steel). The total weight of this thing is about 1,000lbs approximately. Imagine the shipping cost on that thing from Houston to New York City.

I will be able to cook up a mess of grub on this thing-- for perspective, on my current cooker which is about 18" deep and 30" wide, I'm able to cook a 12lb brisket, 13lb turkey and 10lb ham all at the same time, w/ a little room to spare. The new cooker is much bigger-- you do the math.

I'm as anxious as a kid in a candy store. The pit won't be here till spring, but it's the number one topic of talk for me, my brother and the cue makers in our midst. When my friend Robbie of Big Island Bar-b-que did the catering for my wedding, we spent alot of time daydreaming about the BYC-- though, he has a Lang 84 Deluxe and it doesn't seem to hold him back. His team was the first from NYC to ever be invited to cook at the Jack Daniels Invitational

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Monday, November 15, 2004

Smokin' in the kitchen

The stovetop smoker was a total revelation to me and the wife. It was not long after returning home from our week in Kansas City (we ate bbq every day and wondered, 'is this what heaven is like?') when we came across this device. Basically, it's a metal box that straddles the burners on your stove. Inside the box is a little sheet of metal that rests on the bottom, and a shelf that rests above it. The shelf looks like a small version of the racks that you have in your oven. Wood chips or sawdust go in the bottom, under the sheet of metal and smolder to produce the smoke. A lid slides in along grooves on the top lip of the box to seal it and form a 'box'. This picture might help you get a handle on the design.

They claim it doesn't smoke out the house, but we don't have range hood, so we hang a sheet in the kitchen doorway when we use it. The first time we used it we thought it smelled just like K.C. in the living room.

It's not large enough to fit big objects like pork shoulder all that easily, but with some creative use of aluminum foil, you can make it work. Getting a handle on how much wood to use and how long to smoke things takes some trial and error. We've oversmoked a few items and, well, not even the neighborhood dog would eat it.

One tip, consider smoking things for a while, then finishing them up in the oven. Hey, I think I've heard of other bbq folk doing that-- even with their big ol' stick burners. I doubt they'd admit it point blank, though.

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Place on your tongue these heavenly balls of bliss

Wait, it's not what you think. That's just part of a haiku dedicated to Atomic Fireballs, that yummy candy that brings a tingle to the lips and tongue as it rots out the teeth. Good stuff. Read the exciting conclusion of the poem, and many others.

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Monday, November 08, 2004

Country Style Ribs = Yummy

Ok, so they aren't "RIBS"-- they are actually sliced up pieces of pork shoulder, but I got a coupla packs of fatty ones at the market on Friday. I had intended to cook them up on the smoker with a couple of hams and some spareribs, but due to some health issues (to be addressed on here later), I was plum out of energy and strength to make a day of it. I scaled back my idea to using the stovetop smoker (a decent solution when you can't cook outside-- more on that later, too) but alas, the best laid plans......

I was truly bushed, and even the meager effort to use the stovetop smoker proved too much, so Saturday morning, I made a dry rub containing some brown sugar, chipotle, paprika, celery seed, black pepper, dry mustard, coriander, garlic pwd, onion, pwd, etc.....and rubbed up them country ribs. I foiled them and refrigerated about 8 hours. Threw the packets on a sheet in the oven at about 250 for an hour and a half.

Meanwhile, I had a jar of Dinosaur Bar-b-que's roasted garlic and honey sauce-- yummy!- that i cut w/ some cider vinegar, (gasp!) liquid smoke, some honey and the remaining rub. I mopped the ribs w/ some o' that, loosely re-foiled and back in the oven another 45 minutes or so. Time to mop again. I spooned up the juices from the foiled ribs, mixed that w/ my sauce, mopped the ribs and let them go with the foil opend to bark up a bit. They was good, tender and moist. Served the sauce on the side, but only my brother (who never met a sauce or garnish, flavor addition or extra he didn't like and use) took me up on the offer.

To go along with all that, I threw a couple cans of pinto beans in a pot along w/ a mix of some Jack Daniels hickory smoke sauce (not so great by itself), some of the remaining dino sauce, a splash of cider vinegar, some honey and some rub, and (again, gasp!) liquid apple smoke, and cooked that all down. Delicioso w/ my wife Amy's slightly german-style potato salad and homemade punkin' pie.

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Tennessee Mountain.....Ooofah

I was down in Soho...Actually, I was flat out depressed. But seriously, folks.....

I left my doctor's office and was on my way home and remembered that there's this bbq joint down there, so figured I'll surprise the wife with some take out. A few people mentioned to me how much they like Tennessee Mountain and this was a chance to check it out.

I ordered the special hickory smoked ribs and some bbq'd chicken (for the wife). The ribs came w/ a sauce called Blackjack sauce that I think had some bourbon in it. It tasted, predominantly like the adobo sauce that some canned chipotles are packed in-- spicy, peppery, slightly oily with a dark tomato-paste-like richness. Not a bad sauce, likeable even, but not all that impressive. The ribs themselves were (no other way to put this) not good--not well cooked, carved poorly-- there were several shiners in the bunch, relatively tough and dry, even mealy. Again, the poor carving-- they didn't trim away the thick bone that runs along the top edge of the rack-- which made pulling or cutting apart the ribs really difficult. In addition, they charged about $16 for what was like 5 or 6 bones-- ouch! They had a decent smoky flavor, on the upside. That's the best thing one can say about them....

The chicken was draped in a sweet and tangy sauce-- again, not a bad sauce, but not distinguished. The meat was moist enough but lacking in flavor. Decently cooked, but not a notable smoke flavor. Amy only ate a few bites of the chicken, which is one of her favorite dishes-- so I knew something was up.

I know it's been around since the 80's, but I can't see how. Maybe the drinks are good.

I won't be back.

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Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The Only End, My Friends

So, the election has come and gone (?). I guess it's just the shouting now. Or are those screams of agony? They polled the people of Ohio to determine their biggest concerns for the election-- the economy and loss of jobs, of course. Whose fault is that? Alot of it rests on Bush's shoulders, they said. Who would you trust more to fix the situation over the next four years, Kerry or Bush, they were asked. Why, Bush, of course. Huh?

Isn't that like saying, the sandwiches at the corner deli give me salmonella every time I eat them, but they're the best in the neighborhood? Maybe it's the reality that many of the states in the country feel so differently than I do about the issues (gay marriage bans actually passed in 11 states?) that's making me feel so sick.

Ohio what's wrong with you? You're worse off than you were 4 years ago. I hear they're changing slogans from the Buckeye State to the Glutton State.

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Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Last time I went with my gut.....

Things get ugly when I go out on a limb, but it is 6:30pm in NYC (that's Noo Yawk Sitty, for those at home) and I'm saying what I've been saying for a while, John Kerry will be the next president of the USA. Wishful thinking, you say? Perhaps. But it is the feeling I have and the one I'm going with. I can't think of a single good reason why any one would vote for Mr. Chimpy, although I can think of the bad ones.

Vote your conscience, or so they say, but when you're lying in bed, Bush voters, think of the children, the ones who will be fighting the next wars for Bush, your children, their children, your nieces and nephews. I believe you can be a patriot and choose only to fight when there's more of a reason to fight (or a real reason), some greater cause than just being an American and/or a soldier, or a hapless college student who made the mistake of being born at the wrong time and relying on the military to help pay the way. It's an old argument, and it could be an endless one, but will you be able to sleep knowing that he has lied before, and will lie again, with even more dead bodies on his hands? No draft? Uhm, right.......

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Add It Up

I look to find a reason to believe.

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Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World

It is our civic duty, our right, our responsibility-- democracy in action. For much of my life, I saw election day as apathy in action. Certainly from my perspective as a pre-teen, teenager and later college student. Like many, I said, "my vote won't make a difference."

Alot of that has changed naturally with maturity and time, and watching people like Mr. Chimpy make decisions that can (and have) had a direct impact on my life. Democracy in action.

If you think your vote doesn't mean diddly, just look at New Mexico in the 2000 election. Ok, so you don't live in N.M., why would you care. Well, in this big bad world where there are billions of people and your puny vote won't count, that election was decided by less than 400 votes. Not thousands or millions, but less than 400. If there are 400 of you out there reading this that think your vote won't count, get up off your ass and stop fucking things up for the rest of us.

This isn't a movie or a reality show, this is your one chance to make your stamp on the world, though you won't receive immediate dividends. This isn't the Micky D's drive-thru, this is life.

The American Bar Association web site will have real-time election results available to members of their website starting at 6pm Eastern. The rest of us will have to go elsewhere.....wonder if any one will cover it?

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Hello, Birthday!

It may lose me some macho points to confess how much I love Badtz Maru, Hello Kitty and many of the other Sanrio characters. On the other hand, when you have little to lose, why not? Actually, freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose. Or, maybe being brave enough to put this news out there shows just how strong and manly I really am. Or, who cares.....

The truth is, no one saw quite how big and icon Hello Kitty would become, but she is now one of the most popular and recognizable cartoon characters in the world. Nov. 1st was her birthday.

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