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.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Having a Coke With You

We've been trying out diners in Queens on the weekend. Old fashioned places are vanishing, unfortunately. The Airline Diner which we visited recently (and for which a review is quite tardy) fit that bill, even though it is part of a mini-chain. The Q Diner in the Queens Center Mall is definitely modern, but has the menu girth to scratch the diner itch. I ordered the conceptually bizarre, Chicken Fajita Panini and they brought me the chicken parm panini in the picture below. While the ground up texture of the contents was startling, the flavor was right on for middle-of-the-road-non-authentic-diner-italian and the sandwich was put together with care. The slaw was creamy-style and uninspiring, but the fries were crisp, hot and creamy on the inside. The basket of onion rings was a good choice-- they were generous in size, cooked just right and not too greasy. For a quick meal between forays of shopping, the Q Diner is worth it.
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Look Homeward, Angel

Now that Amy works nights, I like to have something hot and ready for her to eat when she gets home at 11.  I blanched the onions, green peppers and broccoli then shocked them in ice water and added them in the last few minutes. I made two pies, and woke up the next morning at around 5, and Amy was eating a cold slice and watching the news.  I guess she liked it.
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Sunday, March 27, 2005

Sunday Morning

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Smoked Chicken Thighs with Black Cat Jerk Seasoning and grilled onion.


Happy Easter.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Bring the Noise aka A Tony Luke Jr's Review

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First the rant, then the rave...Ever have days like the one in the picture above? Grey days in which the grey gets inside of you. It feels like there have been too many lately. Now spring is so close that if a good stiff wind came by it would knock it off the vine and I think it's making me antsy. Maybe that's alot of it-- I want to be outside cooking up some brisket and ribs, not sitting here (no offense...) typing away. A couple of hours beside a fire nursing some cold ones might help me to forget my mother's cancer, friends' failing marriages, deaths, the drudgery of work and the general, garden variety free-floating day-to-day questions that put me to bed at night and wake me up the next day. Oh, crap, I have to do my taxes.
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All this will pass, I know, and that's why I'm here to tell you about one of the best sandwiches I've ever been lucky enough to eat (drum roll): the pork and provolone sandwich from Tony Luke Jr.'s in Philadelphia.
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I have to thank my friend, Wai, from work for introducing me to this delight that was packed with thinly sliced, moist roast pork that tasted to me like it was roasted fresh (uncured) ham. I asked for the provolone on my sandwich, no broccoli rabe or anything else. There was a light tang, almost slightly vinegary character to the meat, which had a nice chew to it--not tough or dry, and not greasy or too rich. Thankfully, the meat was not entirely lean. Thin ribbons of fat seemed to instantly dissolve and convey more flavor in each bite.

Of course, a sandwich is nothing but some filling in your hands without the bread...and Philadelphia sandwiches have some damned good bread. We all know that their water is the secret, but I digress. The bread was supple with a pleasant, almost negligible, crust. About as much as one can possibly ask of a real good hoagie.

Tony Luke's is a big name Philadelphia steak sandwich house and people's opinions of Tony Luke Jr.'s, a spin-off, have been mixed, though often positive. Jr's is a barebones operation, so don't go looking for decor, but I'll say this, while Pat's is my preferred Cheese Steak Place, I'd have a hard time deciding which sandwich to have for lunch.

Tony Luke Jr's
118 S 18TH St
Philadelphia, PA 19103-4901
Phone: (215) 568-4630

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Oooooh, that smell

We've all been in a boys' dorm, and have encountered foot funk, right? How bad does it have to be to be named the smelliest sneakers in US?

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Monday, March 21, 2005

Begin the Begin

Who sang "Begin the Begin", and what kind of wood were we splittin'? I'll buy you a beer.

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Friday, March 18, 2005

Corned Beef Conclusion

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Here's the conclusion of the corned beef for this year. Recap: one 8 pound brisket cut into 3 equal sized pieces, trimmed, dry rubbed with a salt cure for 5 days, soaked for about 1.5 hours in cold water, then covered with fresh, cold water and cooked up w/ cabbage, potatoes, carrots. Cooking time was approximately 2 hours at a low simmer.

The Soak
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Simmering Away
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First Slices
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Slices Close
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Time to Eat!
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For the whole story:
Stages of Prep:
Day 2:
Day 4:
Sneak Peek:

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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Pizza Parade Pt. 3

Queens, NY June, 2004

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The Other Side of Pt. 2

Queens, NY March, 2005 -- The underside of the pie shown in Pt. 2

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Pizza Parade Pt. 2

Queens, NY March, 2005

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Pizza Parade Pt. 1

East Hampton, NY Feb, 2005

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Sneak Preview

I took a trimming from the brisket, rubbed it down with the cure and cooked it to get a preview.

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Corned Beef Day 4

One of the three pieces was packed up for delivery so that 2 VIPs have their beef for St. Pat's.

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Corned Beef Day 2

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Sunday, March 13, 2005

Corned Beef in progress

1 8lb brisket cut into 3 pieces, trimmed, and dry rubbed.

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One rubbed, one not
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The 3 pieces, wrapped with Press and Seal, then bagged
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Friday, March 11, 2005

We're All Irish

Hello, dear friends and reader(s). Here's a piece I planned to run in the NY Press for St. Patrick's Day, but due to some upheaval, my friend and editor, Jeff Koyen quit his post at the paper. I won't rehash the happenings, but I might make some homemade corned beef hash after St. Pat's day using some homemade corned beef. I'll post some pictures of the process, but below is a picture of the one I made last year after it had been cooked, stored and busted out again for leftover sandwiches-- note the loaf of onion bread under the tupperware top. The outside color may seem odd at first, but it's all good. If you're real squeamish, trim it away. As you can see, the inside is all rosy-pink. On a side note, the knife I used to slice up the meat was given to me when I was around thirteen-- my first real knife! It is a Sabatier that has held up amazingly well. Anywho, go get some brisket, cure it, and enjoy!

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Corned Beef and Cabbage

Few meals have the ability to satisfy like corned beef, cabbage and potatoes. There is something elemental about the richness and simplicity of the dish that compounds the satisfaction it provides.

The name actually doesn't have a connection to Corn. It was most likely a reference to the large kernels of salt that were rubbed on meats to preserve them in the time before refrigeration. A dry cure evolved to include salt, peppercorns, cloves, allspice and other seasonings, as well as saltpeter or similar chemicals used to keep a rosy color in the meat. Corned Beef today is most commonly made using a brine--a salty solution in which the meat soaks. Commercial meats are often 'pumped' or injected with the brine, which considerably reduces the time it takes to cure the meat. Pastrami can be made from corned beef by adding a crust of peppercorns and coriander and then steaming, or smoking the meat.

It's surprisingly simple to make corned beef at home with a brisket and ingredients that are fairly easy to come by, but the ones from the supermarket with the little packets of seasonings are cheap and easy, so most people opt to just use them. I make my own using a curing salt rub, which takes at least a week, so get cracking. Otherwise, use the store bought one and cook it according to the recipe below.

Some say that Corned Beef and Cabbage isn't all that common or popular in Ireland, but I couldn't imagine St. Patrick's Day without it.

To cook corned beef and cabbage dinner:

1 head cabbage, cored and chopped
1 corned beef
2 medium carrots cut in 1 inch pieces
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
6-10 small, new potatoes
1 bay leaf
6 black peppercorns
1/4 Teaspoon ground cloves

In a large pot or Dutch oven, add corned beef and enough cold water to cover. If the meat came with a seasoning packet, add that as well. Bring up to a boil; skim off any foam that might appear. Reduce the heat to a simmer; add peppercorns, bay leaf and cloves. Cover and simmer for about 2-3 hours. In the last half-hour of cooking, prepare then add the carrots, cabbage, potatoes and onion--add more water if needed.

When it is time to slice the brisket, run the knife perpendicular to the grain. This helps guard against stringy, fibrous meat. If it helps, make a notch or mark in the meat before you start cooking to help remind you which direction to start slicing.

Homemade Brisket

1 5-7lb brisket (cure 5 days for each inch thick)
5-7 Tablespoons Morton's Tender Quick
1-2 Tablespoons Black Pepper
1-2 Teaspoons Paprika
1-2 Teaspoons Ground Bay Leaf
1-2 Teaspoons Allspice
1/2-1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/4 Teaspoon each, Coriander, ground Cloves

It is important to operate in as clean an environment as possible. The brisket can be cut into pieces to make storage while it is curing easier. Carefully cover the meat on every surface with the seasoning blend. Seal in baggie and cure for time indicated. Temperature must remain between 36-40 degrees for the entire period. When cure is done, soak at least 1/2 hour in cold water to reduce saltiness. Cook as directed above.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

PJ Who?

I love hamburgers.  I like burgers so much that even a mediocre burger can make me smile.  Throw in some fries or onion rings and I might even laugh out loud.  So, it was with great anticipation that I headed over to P.J. Clarke's with Amy to see what all the fuss was about. 

Clarke's is a notorious NYC hangout with plenty of history, glamour and back-room politics adding to the legend.  When we stopped in, there didn't appear to be any one famous, but the place was packed with what looked to be a few of the privileged neighborhood locals (i.e. people with money that look like they have money), a fair amount of loud, hitting on just about anything, bridge and tunnelers (hello, New Jersey!) and some out of town conventioneers who were charmed with just about everything they saw and were a little flattered by all the attention they got at the bar (see previous mention of bridge and tunnelers). 

The Famous Burger at P.J. Clarke's
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Now, I have to admit, I hate waiting for a table-- I hate lines in general.  In restaurants, I foolishly believe that no meal can possibly be worth waiting for.  Amy does not have this problem.  What bothers me even more, is when a host tells you the wait will be 15 minutes while they have a bar full of people waiting and few seats and they know that 15 minutes is a lie.  Well, after 45 minutes, when I was all set to explore burgers elsewhere, we got a seat.  By the way, the bartenders asked us what we wanted to drink-- when we asked for a minute to think about it, we never saw them again. 

So, the burger......Well, heretically, I ordered mine well done.  As you can see from the photo, it was not.  It was, however, a healthy mound of beef on a pleasantly pillow-like bun.  It had a warm, beefy flavor that reminded me what real chopped meat tastes like-- the homemade burger of my youth.  That being said, the sandwich was only luke warm, and the bottom bun was so soggy that I had no choice but to use a fork and knife or make a mess of myself.  I suspect that my burger had to sit and wait while Amy's finished up.  I ordered cheese and sauteed onions-- the onions didn't bring much but more mess to the party.  Amy's straight up cheeseburger was delectable.  The onion strings were superb, but did cause a grease overload sensation a few minutes later-- but they were worth it.  The fries were crunchy, hot and salty with a nice creamy interior. 

All in all-- a quality burger at a price (over $8).  Amy says it's the kind of burger she might dream of.  I'd go again if I was in the neighborhood, but wouldn't make a special trip.  Can't wait for the Shake Shack to open up in the Spring.

P.J. Clarke's 915 3rd Avenue @ 55th Street (212) 317-1616

Coming Soon.....The Pork and Provolone from Tony Jr's in Philly, and a review of the Airline Diner in Queens.....

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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Running With The Devil

I've been on this kick of using song titles to title my entries. Who knows why I chose this or if it will continue, but there it is. Sometimes in life you feel stuck or like you have been somewhere before (deja vu, in a way) in dealing with others. See a post of my mine a little ways back to to understand why it was named that way. Why am I being cryptic? Well, my mother is sick and will probably mend and be all better in a year or so. All better. Great in medical terms, but different in a way that is not measured by any test they've devised.

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I guess I've been going through some changes as are many of my closest loved ones and family. Some are faced with fantastic news, others difficult decisions or news of the not-so-good variety. Life has its way with us, not the other way around and there are concrete reminders all around us. I don't mean to lose sight of the hope and positivity that makes possible that these ordinary days can be suddenly filled with the possibility of inspiration or discovery, just that the reminders need to be as welcome as any other thoughts....

Good night, my friends. PJ Clarke's review and mo', tomorrow......

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When Does Spring Get Here?

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The Famous Candy Kitchen

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Wednesday, March 02, 2005

I Have Always Been Here Before

Hey Kids, here we go again.  Just got back from a week's vacation and sure could use some time off.  Amy and I went out to East Hampton for some downtime.  It was quiet and sparsely populated, just the way we like it.  There was a nice bit of snow when we got there and we got blanketed with a few more inches while we were there. 
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We took Lois with us, because she needs some r&r, too.  We hit the gates before we left town.

It was pretty cold when we were in the Hamptons, but that didn't stop us from cooking up a storm-- we made chicken, ribs, and brisket on the smoker.  Our wood shipment from Chigger Creek (People's Woods had a limited selection) arrived the morning after we got there while we were out at the Candy Kitchen for breakfast.  We got 20lbs each of apple and peach wood chunks.  Very nice wood-- consistently sized and very fragrant. 

It was tough keeping the temperature up over 215 for any period of time with the wind and the cold weather, so I added a blanket over the pit and double plugged any leaks-- pictures to follow.  The food was worth the work, though.  More on that later....


We ran an all wood fire for the first time ever and added a New Braunfels Diamond Fire propane log lighter to help get the wood up and burning quickly. It might not be needed every time, but on a cold windy day, it helps to limit the amount of time needed outside.  Check it out.


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